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10 Great Free Apps for Blackberry

10 Great Free Apps for Blackberry

10 Great Free Apps for Blackberry

    Blackberries may have been overshadowed lately by the success of the iPhone, but they still offer and incredibly powerful platform.Plus, since the Blackberry operating system is build on Java and has always been open, there are a slew of useful and mature applications, many of which are free. Since I’m a cheapskate when it comes to software, I’ve loaded up my Blackberry Curve with a boatload of free programs. Here are the ones I use the most:

    1. Google Mobile

    Google Mobile is an all-in-one package combining Google’s excellent mobile apps (Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Sync) with links to Google’s mobile-optimized web services (search, Picasa, Reader, Docs, Google Notebook, etc.). Although Blackberry’s already handle email fairly well, I find the Gmail application a much more comfortable way to access email. The Maps application does everything you can do with Google Maps on your PC (search, get directions, switch to satellite view, and so on), plus it will use either the nearest cell tower or, if you have a GPS-enabled phone, GPS to pinpoint your location. The Sync app lets you do a two-way synchronization between the calendar on your Blackberry and Google Calendar. The rest of the links open services in Blackberry’s integrated web browser, although in some cases with limited functions compared to their PC-based equivalents (Google Docs, for example, are read-only). All in all, this is an incredible piece of productivity software, one I use probably a dozen times a day.

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    2. iSkoot

    iSkoot puts the power of Skype on your mobile phone. You can send and receive voice calls to and from other Skype users or using SkypeIn and SkypeOut services, and believe it or not the sound quality is pretty good, even on AT&T’s slow 2G network. iSkoot gets all your contacts from Skype, making it a breeze to use. Of course, you can also IM with text. Calls received are handled by the Blackberry exactly like traditional cell calls, using the same controls and the same ringtone, so it’s really indistinguishable from using your mobile phone normally. I have a SkypeIn phone number for my professional life; iSkoot lets me stay connected even when I’m away from my computer.

    3. Viigo

    Although I generally use Google Reader for my RSS feeds, Viigo is a nice alternative – and adds several nice options Google Reader (and most other RSS readers) don’t. The new beta lets you set up weather, sports, finance, and travel alerts, get updates from local Kijiji classifieds (if it serves your area), even get free book feeds from DailyLit. And there’s even a space – inactive for now – for podcast feeds, which developers promise will be enabled soon, letting you download your favorite audio podcasts over the air. All this in a beautiful and very easy-to-use interface – what more could you ask for?

    4. BeeTag

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    Scan it and see what it says!

      This is a new addition to my Blackberry and, I admit, one that I haven’t found much use for yet – but it’s only a matter of time. The app is called BeeTag, and it is a 2-D barcode reader that uses your Blackberry’s camera to scan those square-shaped codes (like the one next to this paragraph) that are popping up on more and more products, as well as in ads and other places. Already huge in Japan, these 2-D codes can contain a URL, product information, or other material; BeeTag reads the code and sends you to the website indicated or displays the text. Even though you have to get quite close to fill the frame enough for BeeTag to read it – which means a blurry image – BeeTag could read everything I threw at it, including codes captured from my laptop’s screen.

      5. Vlingo

      Voice-enable your Blackberry with Vlingo, which goes beyond voice-dialing to voice-texting and even voice-emailing. Vlingo takes over one of your Blackberry’s application keys (my Curve has two, one on each side; I’ve assigned it to the one on the right, the one that controls the camera by default). Hold the key down, say a command, and Vlingo goes to work. For example, I say “Send email to Bob Smith subject You’re an idiot Message You forgot to take the coffee off your car’s roof as you drove away” and Vlingo creates an email reading “You forgot to take the coffee off your car’s roof as you drove away” with the subject line “You’re an idiot” and the email address from Bob Smith from my Blackberry’s address book. You can search the web, update your Facebook status, create tasks and memos, even open built-in applications and a handful of third-party Vlingo-enabled apps, all using your voice.

      6. WebMessenger

      You can IM through Skype using iSkoot, but if your contacts aren’t mainly on Skype, WebMessenger allows you to chat on just about any major IM network: AOL, Google, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Skype, and Yahoo. Contact lists are imported from the appropriate service, and just like a full chat client, you can see who’s online, set your status, and of course chat all you want. You’ll need to set up a master login account with WebMessenger; after that, it will stay logged in and run in the background.

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      7. Mobipocket Reader

      Blackberry screens aren’t the best for e-book reading – that’s one thing I miss about my old Palm Zire 72, with its great big color screen – but Mobipocket Reader makes the best of what it has to work with, providing a decent if not brilliant reading experience. The .mobi file format is becoming the de facto e-book standard for mobile devices, so there are lots of titles available for purchase, as well as the normal range of classic texts available for free. Or you can convert PDFs or Word files on your PC and transfer them over. The program is easy to use and fairly easy to read, though not many lines fit on the Blackberry’s screen at once. You can also add annotations, although strangely you can’t add bookmarks to return easily to important passages. Still, Mobipocket lets me keep a couple of e-books available for those times when I get caught with time to kill and nothing to do, and for that I’m grateful.

      8. Twitterberry

      Blackberry’s are great for sending text messages, so of course they’re great for sending tweets on Twitter. Twitterberry makes it easy, letting you access your friend’s timelines – collectively or individually – as well as all your replies and direct messages. Of course, sending messages is a piece of cake, too. My only complaint is that messages are previewed, with only the first 40 characters or so visible in each timeline screen, so you have to click them individually to read them in their entirety. Even with that, though, Twitterberry is still a far better experience than using the Twitter site through the Blackberry’s slow browser.

      9. Poynt

      Poynt is a slick local search app now in beta for the Blackberry. Poynt does local yellow page searches so you can find businesses near you, and has an excellent movie listings feature that lets you find movies near you, theaters near you, or browse by genre or review the current top 10. You can enter your location manually or, if your phone has GPS, let Poynt pinpoint your location automatically. Poynt also integrates with Blackberry Maps to provide directions – alas, AT&T, in its infinite wisdom, has determined that I (and the rest of its customers) should not use Blackberry Maps. I’m sure it’s very cool…

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      Fortunately, Google Mobile includes Google Maps so I can get all the directions I need!

      10. Facebook

      You like Facebook, right? C’mon, admit it – you want to Facebook all the time. And well you should – you have a Blackberry, after all! The Facebook app makes it easy to send messages, see your updates, and poke poke poke all day long, and that’s pretty darn important, isn’t it?

      Your favorites?

      Those are the apps I’m getting a lot of use out of – what about you? What are your favorite Blackberry apps, free or paid? Let us know all about it in the comments!

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      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

      This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

      The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

      The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

      Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

      Curiosity

      Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

      People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

      Patience

      Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

      When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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      Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

      A Feeling for Connectedness

      This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

      A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

      The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

      How to Self-Taught Effectively

      With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

      1. Research

      Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

      Learning the Basics

      Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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      Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

      What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

      Hitting the Books

      Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

      Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

      Long-Term Reference

      While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

      My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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      2. Practice

      Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

      A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

      Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

      Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

      3. Network

      One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

      These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

      Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

      Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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      4. Schedule

      For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

      Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

      Final Thoughts

      In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

      If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

      At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

      More About Self-Learning

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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