Business Software Selection for Android 4.0 Tablets

March 15th, 2012

My background in mobile computing began in ernest when I first acquired a Palm V. From there I moved though a Palm M515, to a Palm Tungsten T3. After this line of PDA’s I then jumped ship to smartphones – first on Windows Mobile via a XDA Stellar (aka HTC TyTN II) and latterly on Android via a Motorola Droid2.

Now I’ve made the jump to tablets and I’ve recently took delivery of then started using a Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime (TF201 – 32GB, Champagne model) (Amazon)

It’s a beast of a machine – quad-core 1.6GHz Nvidia Tegra3 chipset, 1GB RAM, 32GB storage, micro SD reader, mini-HDMI port, 10.1 inch screen and a 12hr battery life. It can get even crazier when I get the keypad dock.

But… this isn’t a unit review – there’s plenty of those out there if you want to Google for them. This isn’t even an OS review (it runs Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich – and looks very fine doing so) because they are out there too.

This is a software suite selection blog – namely for Android business apps I’ve decided upon.

As background, I work for a US-based IT managed services company in the Network Operations department. This means that when setting up Android for my work purposes I had some fairly wide-ranging software requirements – everything from standard MS Office-style word processing, through corporate email and remote desktop access and ending up with to Virtual Machine monitoring.

As of today (15 Mar 2012) I’ve got the bulk of software I need now to replicate the tasks I perform day-to-day with my work laptop. There are a few outstanding issues though – and I’ll cover them too.

So, without further adieu…

Office Suite: Polaris Office
I’ve been a bit cheap here and I’ve kept the default installed app that comes with the Transformer Prime – it’s OEM only and is more than sufficient to allow me to edit Word and Excel documents on the go. If you’re looking for an independantly purchaseable app, though, then you can not go wrong with DataViz’s Documents to Go app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dataviz.docstogo) which I’ve used since my first PDA. Polaris fills the need though, and I’ve had no real complaints.

Email: Moxier Mail (for Tablet)
My company operates an Exchange environment and so I started happily setting up the tablet for access to the server accordingly using the built-in email client. I was, however, presented with a notification that I would need to hand over security settings and remote wipe capability to Exchange. While this would be no issue with a work-supplied device, this was a little more than I was willing to do for a personal device.

So, I started shopping around for a seperate app – one that would allow the remote wipe/security features but for that app only (leaving the rest of my data alone!)

In the end I located and plumped for testing of two applications – Moxier Mail and Touchdown HD. Touchdown appears to be the older of the two applications and unfortunately it showed a little in the UI – although it was certainly usable, it was less intuitive than the newer Moxier Mail.

I can’t say enough good things about this app – it has a nice selection of good looking widgets for your homescreen, and the application itself has a clean and very intuitive UI while retaining all the power of a full-featured Exchange client.

Connectivity: Cisco AnyConnect ICS
So, for anything else my company operates I was going to need to get behind my corporate firewall. Luckily, Cisco have an AnyConnect client for Android 4.0 to compliment the one on my laptop. I’d previously tried installing AnyConnect on my Android phone (2.3, Gingerbread) and unfortunately it would require me rooting my device to do so.

No such worries here – straight and simple install, and after mirroring the settings from the desktop version, I’ve placed the included widget on my homescreen and can now log on to my company network securely wherever I can get wifi access.

Remote Desktop Access #1: Splashtop THD
Bit of an impulse purchase this one but it has served me extremely well (and likely to only get better in future versions). This is a high-performance remote desktop solution, that requires a local streaming client to work. You install Splashtop Streamer on any PC you need to access, enable your Google account log in (optional), and then so long as that PC is powered on you can remote into it and do anything you like.

And I mean anything – it’ll stream video and audio played locally on the PC and even allow you to play the PC version of Skyrim if you have it installed (with more games support coming).

From a business perspective, I have the streamer installed on my laptop which enables me to quickly switch to my desktop via the tablet when I’m on the datacentre floor, without heading back to the Operation Centre.

Remote Desktop Access #2: PocketCloud Remote Pro
Of course, the Spplashtop Streamer isn’t something I’d be installing on our corporate servers, so I needed another solution as well. The bulk of our (Windows) servers can be controlled via RDP so I had to find a decent RDP client. I went through a couple but when I discovered this one, I stopped looking. I’m currently running the free edition of the above but will be upgrading in the very near future as it has one of the best UI features for pointer interaction I have ever seen! Try it, you’ll like it!

Terminal Access: ConnectBot
This is an application I brought over from my smartphone – it’s a basic, but fuctional, SSH client – great for when I need to dive into one of the companies’ Cisco firewalls or switches to check or monkey around with the config.

Ignore the reviews that state there’s no landscape support – it’s just not enabled by default (Settings > Rotation mode > Automatic).

Network Tools: Fing
Not something I’m going to need every day but I absolutely wouldn’t be without it – Fing is a tool to allow not just network discovery, but also pinging, traceroutes and more. When things go wrong, I want a tool like this in my bag of tricks!

Now, for the (little) downside – there are three applications that I absolutely need in my line of work that I have not yet found acceptable or working versions of. Here they are…

VoIP Telephony: Cisco Jabber
While the application I need exists, it can not be installed on a tablet that has no phone functionality. I’m currently researching if there are any viable alternatives for my corporate VoIP infrastructure, but no joy yet.

As a VoIP app it should have no requirements to need the phone functionality – and I remain hopeful that it will be “fixed” in the near future.

IM/Teleconference: Lync Mobile 2010
Another case of an existing app, that can not be installed on a tablet that has no phone functionality. More infuriatingly, research has showed that previous versions had no such requirement and ran perfectly fine.

As such, I’m hoping that it too will be fixed in the near future (since in this case, it has been working fine!)

Server Management: VMware vSphere Client
Unfortunately, this is a case of being available for the iPad but not for Android-based devices. The article does mention, however, that “supporting Android tablets is on our radar.” so one year down the line I’m hoping that an official tool emerges soon.

In the interim, I’ve looked at a few third-party apps and while there are a few out there, they are not quite ready for prime time (either limited UI, or require outside connectivity to verify a license). You can check them out here.

Feel free to let me know what your favourite business/productivity/server management applications for Android are, and I hope this list helped you find a few new favourites!

Anti-Abuse Theorycrafting

October 4th, 2011

Ahead of the WildStar Community Uplink tomorrow/today.

Taking a cue from Gazimoth over at http://www.manaobscura.com/2011/09/22/claiming-sanctuary-from-griefers/, defining the causes of ingame abuse is indeed a key step to identifying solutions. Additionally, each type of disruption can be categorised. You’ll see why later.

Audible
- Flooding chat channels
- Flooding direct messages (PM’s, Emails)

Visual
- Spamming visually intense abilities
- Out of context emotes/appearance

Physical
- Blocking movement
- Killstealing
- Unwanted item trades

So now with the majority of disruptions defined, we need to consider the tools needed to deal with them. GM’s have Unlimited Power ™ so there is little need to define their tools (for the purposes of this discussion).

I’ll be focusing on player initiated tools and actions.

Since we’re dealing with players, I believe we need to limit the actions that can be taken – the simpler the better for players to understand and for game tracking purposes.

Phase One: First Infractions
This is here the categories come in. My concept is to provide a singular tool for each category. In other games, when you ignore a player for email messages you certainly don’t want to hear from them over any other channels, however they’re not necessarily going to be a visual impediment or physically in your way.

Therefore, to start with I’d propose a series of player commands…

/disable_audible
Will stop all textual communication from a player from reaching the initiating player. Fairly standard /ignore function in other games.

/disable_visual
Activating this against a player will, for the initiating player, switch off the visual appearance of all powers the targetted player is using and additionally set the appearance of the targetted player to a generic one for their level/class/race/faction (will not work in PvP zones/areas or on teammates).

/disable_physical
Activating this will actually stop the targeted player from interacting with initiating player. This will disable collision between the two players, and stop the targeted player from selecting the initiating (thus stopping trades, etc). It will also stop any aggro transference between the two (as well as disabling targeting of such mobs by the initiator so it can’t be used as an exploit).

Phase Two: Multiple Infractions
Secondly, we now need to define how to deal with offenders who are “targeted” by multiple players.

This will be a game system – when a single player is targeted by enough other players (to be determined by datamining) then the relevant /disable_ command is triggered on behalf of all players in the area.

The area, to be determined through testing, will likely be based on a slightly larger visual radius from the originally targeted player.

Phase Three: GM Interventions
The third stage will be a GM intervention. This should only be automatically triggered by multiple Phase Two infractions, and not be available by direct petitioning (a solid system stops the need for GM investigation).

Achievement Unlocked: USA Resident

June 28th, 2011

So, been a while since my last update it seems.

In no particular order I am now married, an official Green Card holder (at least for the next two years before I have to do the next batch of paperwork), got a US driving licence, got a car (with the license plate ZAP ROBO) and I got myself a job with a local IT services company. Oh, and bought a PS3. So that was all nice.

Been difficult hooking up with (tabletop) gamers locally – managed to get along to a local groups’ monthly event through Meetup.com once but my shifts aren’t conducive for a weekly session.

Otherwise, married life here in America is great! Just wish I got more holiday time from work so I could visit the UK in the near future (going to have to save days up for my sister’s wedding next year)

Quick Update

November 24th, 2010

Marriage License ClippingMarriage License has been applied for (and will be available in a few days) – and it randomly appeared in the paper! Have a look!

Next step is to find a Judge and make an appointment to do the actual wedding-y bit!

Living in the USA – Week Four

November 19th, 2010

Well, it really doesn’t feel like I’ve been in the USA for only four weeks – I’m as comfortable in the apartment as to feel I’ve always lived here. Of course, the problem being with a lack of nearby/reliable public transport and the whole city being more spread out I am more-or-less housebound until I sort out a driving license.

The first thing to do, however, is to sort out a different kind of license. The Marriage License. Which means a trip to the Probate Court of Mahoning County next week, and then to see about getting officially hitched (so we can start in the paperwork which will allow me to legally work at last!)

I thought I might freak out more about being away from the UK than I have. Maybe it hasn’t hit me yet? Or maybe I was never that attached to the country (though I do miss easy access to friends and family).

First Site Update for Years!

November 8th, 2010

Well, I’ve made a quick site update – my age and location is now up to date for About Me, the contact details are accurate for Contacting Me plus the pictures on Self Photos are now more recent, and even show a few of Heather!

Random Internet Musings

November 7th, 2010

I’ve just finished watching an episode of the MMO Report after stumbling across it and was thinking how many web-based shows and animations I used to watch but don’t any more. It’s perhaps a shame, since the quality is getting progressively higher (even if the MMO Report stole their theme from the News at Ten in the UK!)

So, anyone have any suggestions? Xombie, Ninjai, Zero Punctuation and Neurotically Yours have all been watched and enjoyed in my time…

Living in the USA!

October 31st, 2010

Well, as planned after 24hrs (ish) of travel I have moved to the USA to be with Heather on the 19th and all is great!

This last week I’ve purchased a new PC (rather than shipping my old one I bought a new one) and set up my new office area. This pleases me – since much of my social life is online, I didn’t feel like I was properly moved in with only a laptop.

I might even start posting more to this blog since I have so much time on my hands!

Moving to the USA

September 22nd, 2010

Yes, you read a-right. I will be moving to the USA on October 19th 2010. To marry Heather. That is all!

Yearly update? Oh go on!

June 12th, 2009

Well, it seems I best make a post on the ol’ ZRN Network to let you know that I am still alive and kicking.

Life has been good, despite a worry this month that I may have to seek new accomodations (my housemate lost their job, but has managed to get timely new employment!) so I’m all good on the home front.

On the relationship front myself and the beautiful Heather remain very much in love and things couldn’t be happier (apart from that ocean thing!)

On the tabletop roleplay front, the WHFRP has stopped for the most part even though the campaign remains unfinished since we can’t all seem to get into the same room at the same time. Mike has started a new 4E Forgotten Realms campaign that runs almost once a week so I’m sated on the tabletop front (L4 Elf Rogue right now).

On the Live Roleplay front, I’ve not been to a single event this year as I can’t come up with a good character concept to suck me back into the game. Mike has the same problem but we’re planning on the Big G so need a concept sharpish. Anyone out in LARP Land got ideas?

Other than that, yeah – still here!