It’s Monday and I’m sat in bed when I should be in the shower, I have started to write this blog post in Evernote I haven’t used this app in a long time as I just couldn’t get into it. I originally signed up in 2012 and because I haven’t used it I was offered the premium version to try, therefore I have decided to give Evernote another go. I have recently watched a video by the adventurer Alastair Humphreys who mentioned that he was going to write his next book in Evernote so there must be some useful features involved. (Since writing this post Evernote have made a huge change and I no longer will be using it)
So apart from writing the blog in Evernote this blog is going to be about the apps I use and why I use them, I’m also hoping that from this blog I can narrow down the amount of apps I use to a small selection which can fulfill my travelling needs.
Just before we get into the list of apps I want to let you know that I prefer apps which don’t have adverts all over them, I’ll try the free version for a few days to see if the features fit my needs and then I buy the full version. I think the developers deserve to get hard cash for their work, however some app developers produce poor apps and I would like to see a better refund policy from Google as some of the features offered by the premium versions just don’t work. All the apps in my list are available in the Android Play Store.
Tasker isn’t really an app it is a really cool way of automating a smart phone or tablet and has the ability to make stand alone apps (plugin required). Tasker has a steep learning curve and teaches you programming in a methodical way. I would recommend you check out the hundreds of YouTube tutorials and start with the simple profiles and work your way up to building apps. In short Tasker makes your smart phone or tablet smarter, for example: plugging in my headphones opens a menu of media apps. I set Tasker to lower my media volume, reduce my screen brightness, turn off notifications and if my phone rings, pause my media turn the screen to 100% for 30 seconds. The sky is the limit, you can set Tasker to do any tasks you require automatically. This app is extremely powerful and it’s only restricted by your imagination I intend to use Tasker to build apps specifically for my journey.
If you plan on trying Tasker then I recommend you decide what you are going to use it for before you download any plugins. Although plugins extend the capabilities of Tasker most require an internet connection to function correctly.
I have been a Google advocate ever since Gmail appeared on the scene, I signed up for a Googlemail account the day of the launch, I actually have a few issues with some companies as Google changed Googlemail to Gmail and although Google accepts both email addresses lots of things I signed up for with my Googlemail address don’t work with my gmail address. I suppose I need to revisit those places and change my email address. GDrive seems to me to be the umbrella to all other Google document services incorporating anything I do in docs, sheet, slide, calendar and photo. I use Google Drive as my cloud storage solution as it gives me 15 GB of free space, the ability to upload all my photos automatically and if I do need extra storage space it’s inexpensive.
The Google calendar app has recently proven to be invaluable, I don’t normally use a calendar app but have discovered that when used with Tasker it becomes a powerful and easy way to store information regarding my journey, the main reason for this is it works offline and incredibly well. I can have more than one calendar and have them either private or public, I set up a new public calendar for my cycling adventure and imbedded it into a page on my website. I can now add information to my offline calendar and as soon as I’m connected to the internet it syncs and updates my website. I use this calendar to record my location, mileage and weather. When I look back on this information when I return home, I will know at what date and time I made the entries. Google calendar also syncs with Google Drive so all my information is easily shared with my friends and family as well as providing a backup of my data.
I’ve not been a big fan of spreadsheets since I stopped using Microsoft office 2007 in approx 2007 but now I can use a Google Sheet to store more technical information regarding my journey. Once again using Tasker to trigger an entry I can record Date, Time, Location, Mileage in a format that will allow me to produce graphs of my journey. The only downside I have found is sheets doesn’t want to work offline, there of course is a possibility that I have it set it up incorrectly and need to spend a little more time on it.
I haven’t used this app to its full capabilities mainly because it takes a while to understand what the information you are looking at means. I run several websites and Google Analytics enables me to see what people do when they’re viewing my sites. Information like what posts visitors read, where visitors are viewing from, what device there on and how long visitors hang around. There are literally hundreds of data points and by using this information I should be able to tailor my posts to what visitors want to read. Although sometimes it is very depressing to see that a post I spend hours or days working on isn’t read by anyone.
Amazon Kindle App
I am ashamed to say that growing up I very rarely read a book and I have realised that I’m missing out on adventure, education and all the amazing things that come from reading a book. I have therefore decided to read at least 1 book a month for the next year. As books are heavy and I will be on the road for that year I opted to download the Kindle App so I can stock up on books before I go and on the road.
As of yet I haven’t used the app, I know I have to go to the Couchsurfing website and set up a profile for people to be able to know who I am and what my plans are. I intend to use this app to meet up with local people throughout my journey. There is a huge community of digital nomads and people travelling the globe, this app helps like-minded people get in touch. Couchsurfing is part of the sharing community and although I may not let the same person use my couch, others will, therefore I feel that this is a good way to share stories as well as have somewhere to rest my head.
Very similar to Coachsurfing but something to do with showers.
I hope that Google will extend this apps offline capabilities as this is perfect for finding that secluded camping spot. Throughout my journey I will mainly be wild camping both to keep costs down and to stay true to raising awareness for the homeless. I want to avoid sleeping in an area close to towns or places where groups of youths hangout.
I can’t think of a journey that doesn’t need a map of some kind, so I use Google maps to obtain an overview of my route before referring to a detailed paper map. The app is able to cache an area for offline use but really comes into its own when connected to the internet and becomes useful for finding places to buy food or sleep. I have discovered that I can search for things I want to avoid too, meaning I can give them a wide berth. I can also embed Google Maps into my website very easily making it easier for visitors to see where I have been on my journey.
Google My Maps
This is a great addition to the Google Maps app it allows me to store my own maps and routes. I’m not quite sure why Google has both the Maps and My Maps app as my maps works like a plugin for maps, odd!
Navigator by Map Factor
This is my go to offline map and navigation app, although it took my a long time to discover how to use it correctly. I download the maps of areas I’m travelling in and then can plan routes or use navigation without an internet connection. Navigator uses both Open Street Maps which are free or the Paid Tom Tom Maps. Once you get used to the nag screens and the constant updates it turns out to be a good and useful app. I have discovered that when someone updates Open Street Maps whether the add a point of interest or even a tree at the end of their road, the app wants to update that particular map. I have therefore decided to upload the maps I require and then turn off updates.
Early days yet but I am going to use it until the Premium version expires and then decide if it was useful or not.
Exchange Rates App
First impressions of this app are good, it just tracks foreign exchange rates across multiple currencies. I intend to use this to ensure I get a reasonable exchange rate for my cash.
Flights by Skyscanners
Skyscanners has always been a great way to search for good prices, especially by using the month view. The app will make it easier to search for flights if and when I need them, I can also delay flying to save money if required. I want to try to avoid flying but if it makes sense to do so I will.
I would love a DJI Phantom 4 quadcopter on this journey but that is very unlikely, I can however attach a GoPro to a helium filled balloon attached to some fishing line, for those unusual views. This app has proved itself in the past I can set up shots in advance, this way I know what is being filmed and can operate the GoPro Camera remotely. Having remote operation of my GoPro camera and the ability to have a live view will help me save valuable storage space. I am still using a Hero 2 camera with a wi-fi pack, this means the Live view isn’t that responsive and both the tablet battery and the GoPro batteries go flat quickly. I would invest in another GoPro but if I am going to splash out on a new sports video camera I would rather go the whole nine yards and buy a DJI Phantom 4.
This app is a bit of an oddity in my collection, some days I love it and use it and other times I delete it and live without it. Hootsuite schedules posts to social media, however most social media platforms now restrict what this app can do. I can write a new app in Tasker which might be a little more refined but for now it keeps my social presence active until I’m on the road. One issue is that it doesn’t post to instagram it only reminds you to post to instagram which defeats the object of setting things up and forgetting them.
I have had an instagram account for several years now but recently heard that by using the app I am giving them the rights to use my images. I have therefore decided to restrict what I post on the platform. Instagram is a good way of researching a country and it’s culture but I want to start to protect my images of my journey.
I no longer use Flickr, although I had a Pro account for several years it has become unnecessary to pay for photo storage. Well pay for photo storage more than once, I have my own server and Google Drive storage
IF App (ifttt)
WOW! This is really an online service with an app to simplify things. IF really stand for IF This THEN That a reference to programming and I wouldn’t be surprised if this app could make a cup of tea. I set it up and forget it, in fact I set up a recipe to record tweets from a company in 2013 and forgot about it, when I looked recently I had every tweet for 3 years, which led to some interesting reading. I also record the weather at several locations around the world and get notifications if it’s going to rain tomorrow in my location. This app does a million different things and is well worth checking out. IF has partnered with a lot of companies and services making it impossible for me to do it justice here.
Marine Traffic App
This app is useful but annoying at the same time! I use it to see what cruise ships are coming into the port I work near, I intend to use it on the road to possible find a lift between continents. It has a poor user interface and experience and needs updating, the main issue is you can’t do the things you need in the app and are referred to the website constantly. So there is really no need for the app you just use the website.
Minimilistic Text App
This is really just a way of displaying information on your home screen in a different way. Gimmicky really and although good fun serves no practical purpose.
Pocket makes reading articles offline easy, it’s free and works extremely well. Once you are on a Web page that you want to read later you share it to Pocket. Once you have time to read the article even if offline just open the app and there it is. It’s worth checking how the article is displayed whilst you are still online. Pocket creates an article view which is clear of distractions, I have found that articles which can only be viewed as web view can’t be seen offline so I don’t bother to save them. Also check that the websites you wish to view offline display the whole article on one page, otherwise you have to share each page to pocket. An issue which has nothing to do with Pocket but is annoying is articles which are click bait, an attention grabbing headline which just leads to adverts or a top 5 but each item is on a separate page covered in ads, I’ve just learned that it is best to avoid these sites.
Pocket Cast is without a doubt my most used app, I subscribe to around 10 podcasts and this app downloads episodes so I can listen to them offline. The app is easy to use and once setup you can let it download the latest podcasts automatically in the background. I will be filling my SD card up with a huge back catalogue of podcasts to listen to whilst I’m on my journey.
I have used Prey for a long time now and never had to actually use it, which is a good thing. Prey helps you find and remote wipe a lost or stolen device, you can even take a photo remotely to see who stole your device. Once set up Prey runs in the background until activated and can not be deleted easily. If you need to locate the device you simple log in on any computer and see where it is, wipe the device or have fun with the thief, recording everything they do.
Google Device Manager
I use this as an additional layer of security on top of Prey, Google provides the ability to locate your device if it’s lost or stolen. It is really easy to use and has a few simple features to locate your phone, including making your phone ring. Maybe your phone has dropped behind the sofa or you have forgotten where you left it, all you do is hop online on another device or computer and log in to your Google account to trigger the options.
RSOE EDIS (Emergency info)
This app notifies you of disasters worldwide or in your location only snag is you need to be online.
Connecting to wi-fi on the road can be a bit hit or miss, so Speed Test is just one of the apps in my network tools box. There’s nothing worse than buying a coffee, snack or meal then go online to find that the wi-fi is rubbish, so I test it first.
If I’m going to sleep on a beach I want to know I’m not going to be washed out to sea! Tide Times provides me with the information I need in a very simple format only problem is you need to be online.
An app for recording my spending habits and monitoring my budget in multiple currencies.
I know I should learn the lingo but if stuck there’s always Google translate. This app also helps with translating road signs, menus and legal documents.
I upgraded to premium years ago and haven’t really travelled enough to justify TripIt. Although when I have travelled it has worked well collating all my itineraries into one neat package.
I’m trying Tunnel Bear for a year as my VPN of choice, early days yet but looks good!
I am surprised at how often and how effective this app is, all it does is play ambient background noise of a coffee shop. The idea is that we are surrounded by sound all the time and having a familiar ambient sound playing helps productivity. It works really well, very simple to use and makes a difference to my focus.
I’m not very good at remembering passwords so opted to use a password manager. Over the years Lastpass has worked well but it still requires some user interface updates and improved functionality. An issue is the app is supposed to fill in the password fields automatically, however you have to copy and paste the details from Lastpass. This maybe a restriction applied by other apps and not necessarily a fault of Lastpass. I have subscribed for another year but after that I may save money and just reset my passwords every time I log in to a service. Continue reading