I bought a new phone today. No, that's not an April Fool's joke; the screen on my droidbrick went wonky earlier this week, and finally died stone cold dead in Central Square the other day, right as I was about to text my boss about whether I needed to put in an appearance at the office that afternoon.

I put a lot of effort into convincing myself that I could buy the cheapest thing I could find on Amazon and wait for the Pony Express to drop it off. If I ordered it with overnight shipping it would show up on Monday. People who call on Friday are okay with having calls returned on Monday, right? I could survive some errands without it.

This charming idea lasted until I got to Kenmore, when I realized A) I can't work the alarm like this, B) I can't text my roommate or get any of my messages bounced from Twitter or Facebook, and C) I will murder the three teenagers screaming at each other in the seats behind me if I do not have music to turn up very very loud.

[It's still mostly Placebo, for the same reason I still read Kindle porn on the bus: Because that works better when I get the satisfaction of ignoring people with media I'm not supposed to be consuming in public. I'm convinced that everything Brian Molko does is NSFW. Brian Molko is NSFW. Unrepetantly so. I mean, he'd be fine in my workplace, but I work in a home office full of nerdy smut peddlers and cats.

I feel that if I someday snapped and shouted at the teenagers to sit down and shut the fuck up, he'd be on my side. And also, his band plays really loud.]

I got off the train at Park and bought another phone at CeX. Apparently, $60 is about what I am willing to pay for a small portable chat window that plays MP3s. There are now zero phones with QWERTY keyboards out there, at least not that run Android, so I am now stuck with a touchscreen. I grumble, but at least the music player works.

It's an Alcatel... something. I wasn't paying attention. It was the cheapest GSM phone in the case, and it ran Android, I didn't care all that much. An Alcatel One Touch 5020T, says the Settings page, running v. 3.4.0 of the kernel.

Loyal readers! I still refuse to turn the data plan on. It would make my monthly phone bill more than double, and I have to look away from the internet sometime. SO. Everyone give me your favorite apps that don't require 3G/4G data service. Free preferred. Cheap considered. Games included.

Also, do any interesting chatbots exist? Via Twitter, maybe? I have unlimited SMS service, because I do use that a lot, and fond memories of playing text adventures with InfocomBot over AIM while I was still in college.


  1. I liked Simon Tatham's Puzzles. Free.

    And Shoot the Apple - it's a geometry game, not the visual novel kind you like, though. Not sure if that was free.

    1. I enjoy most kinds of puzzle games, although when they're on portable widgets I tend to lose interest if the puzzles get too time-consuming or finicky to complete whilst stuck on a moving train.

      I am rubbish at pool/billiards/snooker IRL, but reasonably good at calculating ricochets when I don't have to deal with actual cues. Shoot The Apple is indeed free, and there are in fact a category of puzzles in the Layton games that are essentially that. Thank you for the suggestion!

  2. I guess you could want to install F-Droid.org free/libre software repository…

    I am not sure Google Play works on my phone after all the jailbreaking etc so my list is purely via F-Droid.

    Dimmer or Red Moon may be useful to you if you ever want to lower the screen brightness below the minimum.

    Galaxy Zoo can download some data for offline use, not not very much (200 galaxy photos to classify)

    OsmAnd~ is a nice OpenStreetMaps app (it downloads the maps for offline use)

    I like Quill for handwritten notes (I know that there is some opensource release that F-Droid built, not sure whether it's free in Google Play)

    Pretty Good Music Player seems to be nice if you still think that an hierarchical file system is nice (as opposed to trying to extract track names from files residing in some specific locations).

    Forecastie will download weather forecast when there is WiFi available so that you can look at it when there is no WiFi available.

    uRecord is a simple sound recorder that lacks arbitrary cutoffs like «15 minutes for a segment»


    Obviously, I second Simon G Tatham's puzzles, there are many types and the difficulty is configurable for most types.

    Android version of LiquidWars is real-time but simple. Desktop version has more interesting weak AIs, though (and no version has strong AIs).

    I advise trying something like Hayai Launcher or FAST or Quickdroid (search by name with the previous choices for quick selection) instead of normal homescreens, no idea if you will like it, though.

    Text/PDF viewers and text-to-speech etc. probably do not warrant a list, as you will end up trying a lot of them and choosing due to inexppressible personal whims.

    The same goes for on-screen musical instruments, of this is something that you want.


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