Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Adding user to Sudoers file

I remember my first time exploring Linux distros outside the safety of Ubuntu. One of the very first things that confused me was when I tried to use the sudo command I was greeted with the message:
kevie is not in the sudoers file. This incident will be reported.
In the community we are often guilty of assuming things we do regularly are known to all users, but we all lacked knowledgable at one time. Well the first thing that is important is how to add the user to the sudoers file.

1. open the terminal

2. type su (then enter your password)

3. type visudo

this will then bring up a screen full of characters, you can scroll around, but you'll notice that we can't start typing right away, we are in the editor called vi

4. scroll down to the line root ALL=(ALL) ALL

5. press i to start editing the file

6. below the line in step 4 enter {your user name} ALL=(ALL) ALL

7. stop editing by pressing the escape(esc) key

8. assuming everything went alright* enter :wq to save and exit the file

*if you accidentally changed something you shouldn't have :q! will exit without saving the file. If you need to do this type the command and go back to step 3.

You are now in the sudoers file and can use sudo to gain superuser privileges. But remember:
With great power comes great responsibility
The second question you'll be asking yourself is "Who does the first 'illegal' use of sudo get reported to?" Well the following illustration should help:

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Not so much a blog post

This isn't much of a proper blog post, more of free promotion really. I found this on another site and felt it just had to be shared. Anybody that knows me, knows I'm not a fan of facebook, so this was too good not to share. A great anti-facebook graphics.

You can also download a variety of stickers/buttons/banners for your site, these are all released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

SVG available here

SVG available here

Monday, 13 December 2010

Exporting Diaspora posts to

With the recent release of the open source social site Diaspora, a flock of us from have gladly accepted invitations. Most Linux users are more than happy to pilot software at an early stage.

On the initial setup, as a lover of open source, I felt let down by the 'open source equivalent of Facebook.' After confirming email addresses and some basic information, the setup wizard asks if you would like to connect to other sites. To my horror the options are 1) Facebook 2) Twitter 3) must be, right? Well that's the problem there's only two options, but never fear fellow denters there is a simple way to overcome this problem.

In the spirit of this blog, I always try to keep everything open source, I'm going to link the accounts using a free, open source project by Michele Azzolari or @macno on Whilst is a free service; you need an invite, ask @macno on who, for those who don't know him, is very obliging and helpful.

Once you have received your invitation log in to your new account at We'll do the destination first, trust me it's easier. I'll now break this into steps to make it easier to follow.

Before we can setup properly, we need the feed for your Diaspora posts.

1. On Diaspora, when you are about to make a post, you should see a text box similar to the one shown below:

Click on the orange RSS icon.

2. This will take you to a new page showing all your posts, take a note of the address:

In this example my address is https://joindiaspora/public/kevie
*if there is .atom at the end of the address then leave it off

3. Go to the website.

4. On the welcome screen you'll see the number of feeds and destinations you currently have setup. Click on Add/Edit beside destinations, this will lead you to a new screen.

5. Click on Add new destination

6. Click on Identica

7. This will take you to, log in (if necessary) and the site will display the message:

Click on Allow

8. Now go back to, this time click on Add/Edit beside feeds

9. In the first box add the address of your Diaspora feed that we noted in step 2. In the second box give this setup a name (I have imaginatively called it 'diaspora')

10. Now it's time to choose what you wish to export, for text only enter %t, if you want a link to be posted then add %u (only needed if your posts exceed the 140 character limit)

11. On the next screen, put a tick beside your username and click on Save

12. Now log out of and your done, your posts from Diaspora will be updated on your timeline.

Please note that when you post on Diaspora you must tick the box make public for it to be posted to

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Gentoo DVD drive setup problems

This is not meant as a guide that will fix everybodies DVD/CD problems, it was the solution that worked for me, if you still have issues then I recommend consulting the Gentoo Forums.

After gaining some recent bad advice from a 'well meaning' helper on a forum I recently managed to totally render the portage setup useless to the point where I couldn't install anything. After hours and hours of consulting with others on line and attempting a variety of fixes, the conclusion was reached that I would probably be just as quick rebuilding Gentoo from scratch.

Having completed this task already in November 2009 and with a years experience under my belt and a lot of extra libraries etc on my machine I figured that a fresh install would have my Gentoo system running even faster.

The first time I compiled my first Gentoo OS I made a lot of written notes, these were very useful and I would highly recommend anybody starting Gentoo for the first time to do this as these were invaluable the second time around. These can save time and help avoid falling into the same pitfalls twice.

Upon launching into my new Gentoo system complete with Gnome graphical environment I thought that everything was just about back to normal. One major problem though: both of my DVD drives were listed as Unnamed Drive. Neither were behaving like a DVD drive, any time I tried to eject they simply shut again immediately and I couldn't use any programs that made use of the drives eg Brasero, mplayer etc.

To compile the kernel I took the chickens way out and used Genkernel so I assumed that a lot of the default settings would be right and that the Gentoo Handbook would guide me. At this point can I please state that the Gentoo Handbook is an invaluable, well written guide when installing Gentoo. However there is one point that needs updating:

When using Genkernel with IDE drives the default setting selects:
Device Drivers ---> <*> ATA/ATAPI/MFM/RLL support (DEPRECATED) --->

This is obsolete and causes problems with udev which is designed to make your life easier. For udev to function properly we need to move to libdata. As I had already created the kernel I had to edit it by typing the command:
genkernel --menuconfig all

To rectify this I removed the * by highlighting it and pressing N.
Secondly I moved the cursor down to highlight
SCSI device support --->

and setup as follows by pressing Y to select (* will appear) or N to deselect

│ │ < > RAID Transport Class
│ │ -*- SCSI device support
│ │ < > SCSI target support

│ │ [*] legacy /proc/scsi/ support

│ │ *** SCSI support type (disk, tape, CD-ROM) ***
│ │ <*> SCSI disk support

│ │ < > SCSI tape support
│ │ < > SCSI OnStream SC-x0 tape support
│ │ <*> SCSI CDROM support
│ │ [ ] Enable vendor-specific extensions (for SCSI CDROM)
│ │ <*> SCSI generic support
│ │ < > SCSI media changer support
│ │ [*] Probe all LUNs on each SCSI device
│ │ [ ] Verbose SCSI error reporting (kernel size +=12K)
│ │ [ ] SCSI logging facility
│ │ [ ] Asynchronous SCSI scanning
│ │ SCSI Transports --->
│ │ [ ] SCSI low-level drivers --->
│ │ < > SCSI Device Handlers --->
│ │ < > OSD-Initiator library

I know that your thinking, wait a minute, my drives are IDE/PATA not SCSI. The IDE command set was evolved from SCSI and is now being merged back with it.

now exit genkernel and wait for a few minutes for it to complete. Then I entered the command:
nano -w /etc/fstab

Now comment out anything that includes the DVD/CD drives by placing a # at the start of the line. Then change all of the drives labelled hda, hdb, hdc... etc to sda, sdb.sdc.... etc. If you have a combination of IDE and SATA then the IDE will be labelled first and the SATA drives second. So if you previously had 2 IDE and 2 SATA drives then previously they may have been labelled hda, hdb, sda, sdb. However this will now be changed to sda, sdb, sdc, sdd with your IDE drives being labelled sda & sdb and your SATA drives now getting labelled sdc & sdd. Exit and save.

Finally the last step is to modify your GRUB menu entry if you've set a separate partition for /boot.

If you are using Grub Legacy then type:
nano /boot/grub/menu.lst

On the line it will have the command The (real_)root=/dev/hda... this will need to be changed to /dev/sd...

Restart your system and all of your DVD/CD drives should now be functioning as expected. This problem caused me three days of grief. Hopefully it may provide the answer that some of the other users may be looking for.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Customise the Gnome menu icon

After a recent major error forced me to rebuild my Gentoo system, I was reminded of some of the small annoyances. Things that should be so easy, yet they can prove incredibly frustrating. One of these is the awkwardness of changing the menu icon in the Gnome desktop. I don't know why it cant be as easy as in the KDE environment; a couple of obvious clicks and then you are asked to select the new icon, dead easy.

First of all create the icon you want in my example I'm using Larry the Cow taken directly from the Gentoo site. Rename/save the file to start-here.png

The next step is to find the folder of the current icons your using. If your not sure which set of icons you have then click on system > preferences > appearance this will open up a window, select customise and then icons, note the name of the highlighted set.

The folder is /usr/share/icons/{name_of_icon_set}/22x22/places/ we need to move our icon into this folder, but the problem is that it is restricted access, so simply dragging the file won't work.

Open a terminal and navigate to our custom icon. Type:
sudo mv start-here.png /usr/share/icons/{name_of_icon_set}/22x22/places/

Some users have also had success putting the icon in the scalable folder instead of 22x22, if you wish to try this then simply replace 22x22 with scalable in the above command. Please note that the 22x22 is a size, the icon should have been resized previously to 22x22 pixels.

So the file is in position and nothing happens, you can even restart and there will be no effect. We need to input a couple of commands before it will change:

sudo gtk-update-icon-cache --force /usr/share/icons/{name_of_icon_set}

and finally:

sudo killall gnome-panel

The screen will flicker and you should have your customised menu icon.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Jamendo - download Ogg files directly

*****Due to Jamendo restructuring it's file archives, this method no longer works in order to obtain albums in ogg vorbis format, I will post an update when I find an alternative method****** 

If your anything like me then you'll be very annoyed with the constant offer of an Ogg Vorbis torrent on Jamendo and then the severe lack of any seeders for the album. Indeed I've one album in particular that I've been trying to download now for 6 months without a single seeder. Given that the files are there, the lack of seeders is very frustrating. However a solution is at hand: download them directly.

This does not appear to be an option from the Jamendo site, however I noticed that the Android app is able to download any album I want in Ogg format. After some research and questioning, there is a way to directly download the albums in Ogg Vorbis format to your PC.

It is not as simple as a one click, however it is not overly complicated.

1. First go to the page of the album you wish to download, in my example I'm using the band I reviewed in my previous blog post: Roads and Lakes by Crazy Evolution.

2. Take a look at the address bar, take a note of the numbers at the end. This is the Album ID, in this case 77507

3. Pace this into the address bar of your browser:{album ID goes here}/?are=ogg3

so for my example to get the Crazy Evolution album it would be :

4. From the pop up window select Save File and then click OK

Once your downloads have finished; sit back, relax and enjoy your music in a free format.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Crazy Evolution - Roads and Lakes

A new band has appeared on the scene at Jamendo; Crazy Evolution. The band are stuck firmly in the punk rock genre, there is no grey area here. This is a genre that you either love or hate and this is right up my alley.

Drawing on influences from a variety of bands such as The Offspring, Sum 41, Blink 182, Bowling for Soup and a variety of others, Crazy Evolution have produced a great début album; Roads and Lakes.

The guitars and drums are top notch and the singing and backing vocals are very well performed throughout. This band would not appear out of place on a best of punk rock album with some of the bands mentioned earlier.

Whilst this genre does get pigeon holed to the skateboarders of society, the cover does little to help this stereotype, this is album is definitely worthy of a listen.

Jamendo Page
Official site
MySpace Page

Sunday, 17 October 2010

geek test results

My computer geek score is greater than 83% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

Overall, you scored as follows: 16% scored higher (more computer geeky), 1% scored the same, and 83% scored lower (less geeky).

Compared to those in the same age group as you: 23% scored higher (more computer geeky), 1% scored the same, and 76% scored lower (less geeky).

What does this mean? Your computer geekiness is: High-Level Computer Geek. All of those below you are envious of you! (...Well perhaps not the cool people)

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Removing Facebok & Twitter from the Nexus One

*This guide will not work with Android 2.2.1, Universal Androot is not compatible with 2.2.1 due to root restrictions

**If you are not confident with using the terminal please do not do this, I am not responsible for any damage to the phone

A lot of posts have been written on various forums about removing some of the default apps that come supplied with the Nexus One phone. Two that particularly grate on me is the automatic inclusion of Facebook and Twitter apps, I do not have an account with either and neither do I want one.

Given that Android is based on a Linux kernel then it should all be about freedom, so removing these was high on my list of priorities when I received the phone. As Android is based on Linux then you can use the same commands that most Linux users use on a day to day basis in the terminal.

First of all, from your Nexus One, select Settings > Applications and make sure that there is a tick beside Unknown Sources. This allows us to use software other than the apps in the market, very useful for trying beta packages that are not yet in the marketplace (Fennec etc).

We now need root privileges. Most ways of rooting your phone affect the bootloader and the mobile companies claim that this nullifies your warranty. I am using Universal Androot which can be downloaded here or by scanning the barcode below, this grants root privileges to applications, not your bootloader, so a factory reset should wipe this out.

Install the the app, make sure the Android version is set to 2.0~2.2 and click Go Root. The next screen should give you the message: Woot! Your device is rooted!

Now go to the marketplace and download a terminal, I used the Android Terminal Emulator; it does the job and it's free, but feel free to choose any you wish.

Open the terminal and type:


An Android head with crossed bones below it will appear asking if you wish to grant this application Superuser permissions, select Yes. At this point I had to restart the terminal app, but this may not be the case for all of you.

Now type, pressing return at the end of each line:

mount -o remount,rw -t yaffs2 /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system
cd /system/app

At this point you will get a list of all the pre-installed packages, they will all have .apk extensions. Take a note of the exact names of the package files you wish to remove. Please be careful not to remove apps that are necessary to the basic function of your phone. We will rename these instead of deleting them, this means that we can retrieve them later if we wish. In my example I will be removing the Facebook and Twitter apps:

mv Facebook.apk Facebook.bak
mv Twitter.apk Twitter.bak
mount -o ro,remount -t yaffs2 /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system

Now exit the terminal and reboot your Nexus One and the unwanted apps will be gone.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Fedora 14 - a preview

With the release of one of my favourite Linux distros imminent I decided to try out Fedora 14 beta release candidate for a sneak preview. The one thing I will say is that Fedora have concentrated on speed, this distro is fast, a quick install and boot up times. The usual slick blue design is there, but as with 13 I do think they may have stripped the core system back a bit too much, I felt that selection of applications upon installing a bit limited.

Firefox, Pino, Shotwell and Rhythmbox are all very useful but no word processing or graphics packages at all??? Stability, as Fedora releases love to be cutting edge, may be a bit of an issue. I tested this on two laptops (HP & Lenovo), both with similar specs 2GHz processor, 2GB ram, both capable of running the 64bit versions. The only major setup difference was that I used the entire hard drive on the HP, but only a partition on the Lenovo. The HP worked perfectly from the install, this could quite easily have been the final version. However the same install disk produced a very different outcome on the Lenovo. Almost nothing worked as it should; nautilus kept crashing, I couldn't get the wireless working properly and I couldn't burn a CD or DVD. The software started up but then hung for a while before crashing. I thought to myself this could be an error during installation but sadly on a re-install I was greeted with the same problems. This appeared to be more like an alpha edition than a release candidate.

Anyway we shall wait and see what the final release will bring, I hope that if these bugs are not sorted then Fedora will push the date back rather than releasing an unstable system.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Irn Bru - Classic Ads

Having lived in Scotland all my life, I tend to forget how uncommon Irn Bru is outside of our wee country. I'm not saying it's impossible to get, but very often when I'm away on holiday I struggle to find my favourite soft drink.

Before Irn Bru's marketing campaign was about shock and controversial tactics, there theme was always boys doing mens jobs. I have to confess that I loved watching this when I was a boy and recently I started scouring the net for some of the ads from the classic campaign. Here are three of my favoutrites:

1) Road works:

2) Shipyard:

3) Sweeping :

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Fedora - annoying issues

Before I start with this gripe can I please make my stance clear: I love Fedora as a Linux distro, although I change the distros on my PC almost every week there are two partitions that do not change: Gentoo (my primary distro) and Fedora (my secondary choice).

However there are two things that really annoy me about the last couple of Fedora releases: the nouveau driver and grub.

I am personally very glad that the open source community is making great strides in developing an open source alternative for graphics drivers, it's even better to see them working. However the nouveau driver does not work well with my current Nvidia AGP card; 3D games do not work, neither does Compiz. So why have they made it so annoyingly awkward to uninstall the nouveau driver? Surely this could be done in a much simpler manner than following a guide like this.

Now we come to the Grub issue. I actually don't have a problem with Grub. I like how it can be edited quickly and once you get the hang of it, the Grub menu is highly customizable. However whenever Fedora performs an update and a new kernel image is installed Fedora automatically makes this new entry your default choice at booting time. I may be a cynic; but I feel that this is trying to force you into making Fedora your default distro. The main reason most Linux users hate Windows is due to how restrictive and closed it is and always complement Linux on it's freedom of choice and openness. Anything that tries to force you into making a specific choice is going against freedom in my issue.

Fedora is a great distro, anybody with a bit of Linux experience should give it a try (not for complete newbies though). But these two points in the latest releases really have got under my skin.

Welcome LibreOffice

The Document Foundation announced today that it is forking OpenOffice and creating LibreOffice. To be honest this comes as no major surprise following Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems last year. Oracle have never been a major contributor to open source software and seem more interested in proprietary solutions. This is not to say that they are not welcome to contribute to the project, in a press release the Document Foundation stated:

"Oracle Corporation -- who acquired assets as a result of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems -- has been warmly invited to become a contributor to the new Foundation."
This does not appear to be a standard fork by a couple of disgruntled employees, rather it appears that a substantial number of the developers from the OpenOffice have planted their flags with LibreOffice, for the full details of the members of The Document Foundation click here. On their website when asked if LibreOffice was a breakaway project the answer given was:

Not at all. The Document Foundation will continue to be focused on developing, supporting, and promoting the same software, and it's very much business as usual. We are simply moving to a new and more appropriate organisational model for the next decade - a logical development from Sun's inspirational launch a decade ago.
From initial screenshots (below), LibreOffice looks very similar to OpenOffice; hardly surprising given that the fork has just been announced. The company state that it is fully compatible with the majority of other office suites, this will be a major plus if it can maintain this feature.

This will undoubtedly get the attention of Microsoft, who already claim that OpenOffice infringes on several areas of their copyright, they may see a small company as a much easier target rather than locking horns with Oracle. OpenOffice also uses Java, which is still owned by Oracle. Given that Oracle are currently suing Google over the use of Java in Android then this is another litigious issue that the Document Foundation may be faced with in the early stages of it's existence.

I personally am glad that the office suite has moved to a more open source state without the limitations of one company. With the community driving the project, features and enhancements will come at more regular intervals than previously with Sun Microsystems and Oracle. This change from company to community driven project in itself may attract more users than OpenOffice did.

All the best to the Document Foundation with LibreOffice and any other projects that they undertake. I hope that they become (and remain) a mainstay on every Linux distro for years to come.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Flashrom Logos

Here are the first of the mock ups for the flashrom logo designs. Am I on the right track guys?

Feedback please.

OK then a bigger chip with the text and the logo separate:

Reposition chip below flashrom:

Incorporate the lightning 'h' from design 2 with previous design:

The chip seems a bit far away, moving it a bit closer:

32 pin chip, making it as wide as the writing:
Different style of bolt:

Name on the chip:

Reposition h so it is not touching:

Saturday, 11 September 2010

TinyOgg - capture your favourite clips

Update: as of the 15th July 2011, TinyOgg has closed down this particular web service, it is a shame but they have put a statement on the website:

"We believe that YouTube has made enormous efforts in making its videos accessible using free software."

I have been using the TinyOgg website for some time now and suddenly realised that it is not that well known, but it is a very useful tool.

TinyOgg, which has been in beta version since I started using it, allows you to save flash videos to your hard drive, the site converts the video into an ogv or oga file depending on whether you want your output in sound or video format.

The user interface is incredibly simple; put in your website, select video or audio and then click on the convert button, it really is that easy. After a few minutes the file is on screen and savable to your hard drive.

I have found it particularly useful for saving the background sound, especially useful when you have been looking for a track for a while and then it appears as background music to a video you happen to be following on YouTube.

It does have it's limitations though, so far I've not been able to save any videos other than ones from YouTube. Also for windows users (you may have guessed from previous posts that I am not one) you will need to download VLC or a similar player in order to watch/listen to the saved media.

Overall a very useful web based tool, it would be better if it were compatible with more sites. However converting a locked down media type into an open format is also a nice feature.

Absent Feet - Soonrise

A new band has just appeared on the scene at Jamendo and I am very impressed with them. They are called Absent Feet and have released a five track mini album called Soonrise. This is available to download for free and legally here or you can listen through the widget at the bottom of the post.

After Googling the band, I couldn't find much information about them at all so I'm taking for granted that this is their first album. I wasn't disappointed; this is fantastic. A chilled out rock band, this is great music for any-time; whether passing the time on a long drive or sitting chilling at the end of the week.

They are reminiscent of a lot of indie rock bands, especially those from the UK. An excellent first album, I hope that there will be many more.

Please don't forget that these artists on Jamendo are releasing their work for free, so a donation is always appreciated, no amount too small.


Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Well done Alun Parry

This is a bit outdated now, however I feel that it is still worth a mention. It only came to my attention after Dan Lynch mentioned it during a recent episode of Rathole Radio.

Shortly before Ogg Camp earlier this year Alun Parry announced that he was releasing his latest Album; We Can Make the World Stop, in ogg format. I was pleased when I heard that another artists was adding ogg to their file formats when releasing new media.

However what I did not expect was that Alun released these as free downloads, this is an album that he sells on the net including on his website and on Amazon. Not only has he made this available for free in ogg format, he has also given his permission to distribute the album with others.

I hope that he continues to release future albums in ogg form, however I want to see him make a living so charging people for ogg albums is not unreasonable. Pay the money and get the media in a free and open file format, a world without DRM wouldn't that be lovely.

The album is available to download in ogg format here. Have a listen, pass the link on, promote the ogg music format.


Saturday, 21 August 2010

Link Grub legacy to Grub 2

I'm a big fan of trying out Linux distros, as a result I've had my own custom Grub (Legacy) menu for quite a while so that I do not have to continually edit the distro's own version. Recently Ubuntu and some of the Ubuntu based distros have started using Grub2; this can be a bit of a pain as it, by default, tries to wipe whatever is on the MBR and replace it with Grub2. A big NO in my opinion; Linux is all about freedom. I always install the distro's Grub to the partition where the distro itself is going.

After a while of going through various ways of working around this I was started going through the net to find a simple, universal command to chain load from Grub Legacy into Grub2. This does exist, however I really did have to look hard to find it and so far it has not let me down. Simply enter this into the menu.lst file (this is located in /boot/grub/):

title Grub2
root (hdx,y)
kernel /boot/grub/core.img

You will need to replace x and y with the appropriate position of your Grub2 menu, x is the disk and y is the partition number. So for my specific computer I use root (hd0,5) the first hard drive (0) and the sixth partition (5) remember that Grub Legacy starts counting at 0.

I hope that this post will save some others the unnecessary trawling that I had to endure for such a simple task.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

My top Android apps

Shot of Jaq may now be gone, however they have inspired me to write down my own thoughts on the Android apps available in the market place. At the end of the day the Android community is all about open source, it is Unix based, and sharing. So here are my top day to day apps (please note that I am not including apps that came pre installed on the phone, just 'found' apps)

1. Mustard
Mustard is an open source micro blogging client that I use day to day for posting on , it has a full range of features mainly accessed by long presses on the users dent or for more general options you can simply press the menu button. I've been using Mustard from a very early stage, at the start it was limited and lacked some very basic features but over the last 8 months a lot has been added and I would confidently describe this micro blogging tool as 'full featured.' These include repeating and replying to posts, viewing the thread conversation and users' personal timeline, subscribing to users, adding favourites, bookmarks, url shortening, searching, tags, groups, attaching files (posting pictures etc), multiple accounts and probably a lot more that I don't use.

Support is fantastic; mustard and it's creator can be contacted directly on with the @macno or @mustard and response is quick. I was particularly impressed with my bug reporting whilst trying a new version. Bug reported on Sunday at 9am, @macno reported by 8pm that the bug had been sourced and now fixed and by 8am the next day it was announced that a new release was available with the bug fix. Now that is quick work, open source community at it's finest.

The only feature that I would like to see incorporated is the ability to send private messages, but as not all users support this function it may be a slight stumbling block. With Twidroid I tried several times to send messages to other users on but the app froze for a time and then reset so it may be a slight issue.

2. K-9 Mail
Why a mail client? The default Android app made by Google is great isn't it? Well it's fine, if you want to use a Googlemail account only, but a lot of other email address, especially free ones, will not work with it. K-9 mail imports accounts from Google, Tiscali (now Talk Talk) and Yahoo free. I've never tried hotmail but I've heard that it works. The main feature I like about K-9 mail is that you have the option to see each email account individually or as one integrated inbox which I think is a great feature. It is incredibly easy to use, as an email client should be. The app also comes with a notification, this can be turned off. Attachments can be viewed, saved and forwarded and emails can be deleted from the server, not just your phone. All in all I would recommend K-9 Mail to anybody, but especially users with multiple accounts.

3. Web Browsers: Dolphin & xScope GL
Up until a few weeks ago there was only one web browser for Android that I used: Dolphin. The logo is reminiscent of a Mozilla project and this does behave very much like a mobile version of Firefox. Dolphin uses tabs which can be switched between and closed, however when you have more than three open every time you switch between tabs they continually seem to revert back to the home page. The home page is actually quite a useful site with a google search bar at the top and a list of the days recommended apps for the user to try. All the menus are accessible from the menu button, with some further options available on a long screen press. You can program the app to recognise different gestures, eg drawing an H sending the user to the home page. You can flip between tabs with a finger gesture, however this is a bit slow and clumsy looking. Dolphin has a lot of features that you would expect to see on a desktop browser and because of that it can slow it down when several of these are being used. Don't get me wrong it is still a quick mobile browser, a lot quicker than the default, but it seems to try and cram too much in. Fine if you own a Nexus One, but I currently run the HTC Magic and you can see a significant difference. Another annoying thing is when you install Dolphin it makes itself your default browser. But even more annoying when you select another as your default, every time you start Dolphin it will ask the user to make Dolphin the default browser.

I came across xScope GL in the marketplace and have been using it for the last few weeks. How does it differ: if Dolphin is the mobile equivalent of Firefox (in appearance anyway) then this is definitely leaning towards Chrome for it's design inspiration. The user is given the web page and a tab bar at the top, scrolling your finger down the screen gives the user an address and toolbar, although this isn't immediately obvious to a new user as scrolling up hides it. The main menu can be found by clicking on the Android icon next to the address bar, but again this is well hidden and took me a while to figure out as it doesn't actually look like a button. Another issue is stability, xScope is prone to freezing and crashing.

Both browsers come without the use of flash so some websites are unusable. Both have the ability to send out a variety of signals regarding what they are eg desktop, iphone or Android (default). For full desktop sites I have found xScope to produce better results, but for mobile sites then Dolphin seems to deal with them better. I would personally recommend having both, why: at present xScope is a bit too unstable to use all the time, however it does handle full websites better than Dolphin.

4. Timeriffic
There is nothing more annoying to me than the phone going off at 3.30am only to find it is one of your mates on night shift sending you a joke. I always preferred the phone was on silent during the night, but at times I would forget. Timeriffic is a great app that should become a standard feature on every Android phone sold. You decide when it rings, vibrates or goes completely silent. Standard setup is Sunday-Thursday nights the phone is set to vibrate only, with an extended 'Lazy Morning' setting for Sunday. You can also set the phone to be on silent during working times, you can set 3 different blocks, for example mine is currently set as:
1. Night: Total Silence
2. Work: Vibrate only
3. Unused
This may seem like a really simple app, but now I couldn't live without it.

5. Appmonster
Why use another app for installing/removing software? Isn't the market place app just as good? No! This app is a lot quicker than the marketplace, but when you uninstall an app, don't you just hate the fact that you must answer a question before the app is removed. Appmonster removes apps very quickly, it also scans the phone and card for apps and lists them, a simple click is all you need to install any of these, great if you are installing some apps not available in the marketplace (beta versions etc).

6. Laputa
A very well presented app, this ebook reader contains a wide variety of well known books, all arranged in your bookcase with the covers. Well at the end of the day the app looks nice but it is the amount of free books available that impressed me. Authors ranging from Charles Dickens to Dan Brown. Bookmarking facility is available along with day and night modes. A truly great app.

7. Txt Reader
Or to give it the full title Android Txt ebook Reader. I use txt files quite a lot and this is a simple txt reader that doesn't take up much memory. Nice simple interface; press the top of the screen for page up and the bottom for page down, add bookmarks and invert colours (black & white only). I like the simplicity of this app, not pretty but it does what I need.

8. Superlist
Not an app I've heard of many people using, however this is one that I can't do without. The Superlist app allows you to put in the info, create custom lists and then tick them off as you go along. Once the duties are ticked they move to the bottom of the list. A nice and simple to do list.

9. Jamendo Player
I love the Jamendo music site, thousands of songs, most of them are available for free. Like the artist? Donate button supplied. The Jamendo app allows you to play music from the site. The interface is user friendly, I like the fact that you can also listen to the Jamendo radio stations. A very well made app, streams the music well and have had no problems with freezing or crashing.

10. XBMC Remote
A great app that allows me to control the media centre from the comfort of my armchair. OK so this is not going to be top of everybody's list (how many people use XBMC?) but it is fairly easy to set up and works well. All of the XBMC functions, including settings, can be accessed via the remote.