Category Archives: Droid

Changing Timesheets II: The finalists

After a long quest of installing and uninstalling literally dozens of apps, I have narrowed it down to Four programs.

  • All four have one-touch widgets for one-touch clocking in and out.
  • All four widgets display clock-in status and information about hours worked.
  • All four have clean, easy-to-use interfaces.
  • All four are free, or have free versions with sufficient functionality for my needs.

So without further ado, here, in alphabetical order, are the finalists:

  1. Clock Card: (Free Trial Version, <$3 for the full license) The developer has been very helpful in importing data from my old system. Due to the low price of the full version (€1.99=about $3, I have actually shelled out a few shekels to unlock the full version of the program. The interface was very clean, with big, friendly buttons for clocking in and out. This was one of only two apps where the developer replied to my e-mail requesting help in importing data from my old system. Likes: This has a one-touch widget for clocking in and out that works beautifully. The widget drops you into and out of the program. The developer considers that a fault that needs fixing, but I kind of like it, as it is a great way of providing feedback that the widget actually functioned. Dislikes: Fonts are a little small in Days/Weeks/Months view, and the font used in the widget is just a bit too small… or maybe my eyes are just getting old. Also, “rebuilds” took a little while…
  2. Hours Bank: (Free) An elegant little program that works quite nicely. The interface is very clean: the main screen has four tabs — Today/Week/Month/Blotter (entire database of clockings). Likes: Has a little clock-shaped widget for one-touch clocking. The widget changes color when you press it; red = clocked in, blue = clocked out. Dislikes: Duplicate clockings are not automagically removed. No help/FAQ menu item. There does not seem to be a way to add clockings retrospectively
  3. My Work Clock: (Free) This was one of the first apps that I discovered. It was also the first that I encountered that had a widget — a very informative two-slot creation that displayed time at work and a punch-in/out button. Unfortunately the widget did not always work, necessitating entering the program manually to check. And sometimes when it did work, it often did not update to show the new status.
  4. Time Recording: (Free basic version, <$3 for the full version) I nearly dropped this program from my shortlist, as the widgets did not seem work as I would expect — selecting one simply invoked the program. Then I read the manual (always a good idea), and there, tucked away in a sub-menu of an obscure tab in the preferences menu, was a “widget click action” setting that allowed the widgets to work in the way that I wanted. This should have been the default behavior. The author was also very helpful; he provided detailed technical  information regarding how to open up the database file so that I could merge old data. I eventually decided that it was not work the bother, but at least I know how…

Stay tuned for the winner.

Power Hungry

Having canvassed many smartphone-owning friends, one universal complaint that I heard from all of them was that battery life is never good enough. My previous phone – a Motorola W755 – could go for several days between charges. My new Droid X2, on the other hand, can barely get through a single day without needing to spend some quality time in the company of a charger. So, in the spirit of public service, here some hints and tips to maximize battery life and minimize the chances of running out of phone at an inopportune time:

  • Turn the screen off or down: The screen uses more power than anything else —  so turn it off while not in use, and minimize the timeout before the screen switches itself off. While in use, turn the brightness down as much as possible. Alternatively, if the phone has an auto-brightness setting, use it.
  • Bluetooth: Milady never uses Bluetooth. On the rare occasion that her phone chews its way through a fully-charged battery in half a day, it is confusing to Bluetooth is invariably switched on. After investigation, we usually find that this is due to her throwing her phone into the den of chaos that is known as her handbag. If you don’t use it, turn it off!
  • Wi-Fi: Most smartphones also have a built-in Wi-Fi transmitter. While this is a boon to have when you need added bandwidth, it is a power hog when you don’t, and should be turned off when not in use. I recommend a free app called Y5, that turns Wi-Fi on and off depending on if you are in the same location
  • GPS: The GPS Location system is yet another transmitter, and like all of the above transmitters, it uses power. If you are not going anywhere, or do not need GPS-related services (such as navigation of local weather) you can save a little power by switching it off.
  • Auto-Sync: This feature is found on some smartphones. It is useful to have when you need e-mail updates in a hurry. If you don’t need it, turn it off.
  • Apps: This is a contentious issue. Some contend that no unnecessary app should be running (why, for instance, is IM always running on my device when I never use it?), while others contend  that running-but-dormant apps use next to no power, and the system’s habit of automatically restarting some manually-terminated apps can cause more problems than it solves.

If those hints don’t do it for you, it is time to roll out the big guns.

  • Chaaaaarge! Having chargers at home, work and in the car are a good way to ensure that you are never caught short.
  • Extended Battery: Many phones have the abililty to replace the stock battery with high-capacity one. Unfortunately extended batteries usually add size to the phone, and the resulting bulk make it impossible to fit the phone into some cases and cradles. iPhone owners don’t have this problem; their phones are sealed and the batteries are safely out of the reach of their grubby paws.
  • The Hot Spare. Before I got my smartphone, Milady and I both had the same phone. So I purchased an extra battery and a wall charger. An exhausted battery could then be swapped with the “Hot Spare” in a matter of seconds. Since she used her phone a lot more than I did, having a hot spare on standby was a boon for her. Once again, iPhone users, you are out of luck here.

This has been a public service announcement. I hope that it has been of service.

Changing Timesheets I

In my day job, I have to keep a record of hours worked, so that I can correctly fill out my timesheets at the end of each week. For the past six years I have been using Jody Sankey’s excellent “Timesheet” program on my Palm T3. Now I am looking for something similar for my new Android-powered Droid X2. And so I have been trolling through the offerings available on the Android and Amazon app stores.

There are literally scores of time sheet, time-punch, clock-in and similar apps available. You would think that seven years of progress would mean that they would all blow the creaky old Palm app into the weeds, but that has not proven to be the case.

Perhaps because of the much-ballyhooed “Zen of Palm”, the trusty old app was extremely elegant; I had set up my trusty T3 so that pressing one of the hard buttons bought up the app, and then the center button was used to clock in and out. This meant that clocking in and out was a one-handed operation that could be done without looking at the screen. Having played with dozens of Android apps I have yet to find one that works as well, and with so little effort.

My needs are simple:

  • I need something to track clockings-in and -out, and total hours worked per day and per week.
  • I need to be able to manually insert and adjust entries if I forget to clock in or out.
  • Sometimes, I forget to clock-in on time; so I need to be able to adjust the clock-in time after clocking in.
  • Sometimes I forget to clock-out when going home; so I need to be able to easily add a clock-out for the previous day without jumping through all sorts of hoops.
  • I do not need a project planner.
  • I do not need the ability to track multiple jobs at multiple locations.
  • I do not need the ability to create and maintain multiple tasks – just log the time that I am at work.@I do not need to track multiple concurrent tasks.
  • I do not need to be able to track mileage.
  • I don’t need something that tells me when it is time to go home.
  • I don’t want something that tracks overtime (OT is at standard rate)@I do not need — or want — a calculation of earnings.
  • If possible, I would like something that can accept the data from my old system.
  • It would be really nice to have widget — an on-screen button that allows me to clock-in and out quickly without having to enter the app and fiddle around while I am trying to do other things.

I am perfectly willing to pay for something that I know will work — and will pay handsomely for something that works perfectly — but one of the biggest problems with the app market is that they only have a 15-minute refund window, enforced by the app store.

For some apps, such as games, 15 minutes is more than enough to ensure that the app runs on your machine and meets your needs. For a timesheet app, that period is at least a week; given that this app has a lifespan measured in years, two weeks or a month would be better. In my opinion, that decision should not be made by the app store; the developer of the app is the best judge of how long a user needs to evaluate the program.

Some have a free version that is time-or functionality limited, and those were the first ones I looked at. None of them was as elegant as the Palm Timesheet program. My initial favorite fell out of the running after the program stopped running when the trial expired; suddenly I could not even view previous records without buying the full version — NEXT!!

Another app didn’t make the cut when I realized that I had to purchase the full version in order to manually adjust entries. Sorry boys, but that ain’t what I would call an “advanced feature”.

Still another app — one that I really liked — fell out of contention when I found that there was no way to contact the author to ask a simple question about the possibility of importing data.

So… where do we go from here? Stay tuned for the finalists and the winner.