Do you often keep your phone on silent and then forget where you have kept it? Maybe it is under those files in the office or in the some nook of your home? Or maybe your kid has hidden it among all those innumerable toys. How you wish your phone itself can ring aloud and flash its flashlight to let you know where it is! But alas….it is on silent mode!
Does it happen on a busy morning when you rush to your office only to find out that you are not carrying your mobile and then you wonder if you have left it a home, or did you forget it in your car or if your kid has taken it from your bag and put it in those toys or carried it to his/her school instead! Or you worry if it was snatched quietly by some pickpocket while you were on that crowded bus or local train. How you wish your phone itself could somehow let you know its location?
Well, I (Orisys Software) have launched an app ‘Find My Phone‘ that could fulfill both these wishes and take care of the situations such as those mentioned above. Find My Phone is a simple, free android app that offers just these two features -
- If you have kept your android phone/device on silent/vibration only, and can’t locate it in the room, you can easily locate it in the room by sending a command SMS text from another phone and your phone will start ringing (even if it is on silent) and if the device has a flashlight, it will be turned on as well. You can then pick up your phone, and turn off the sound & flashlight (if available) by clicking the “OK” button that will pop up in the dialog box.
- You can also find location (either address or co-ordinates on the map) of your android device/phone by sending it another command SMS text from a different phone. The app will try to find address of the phone/device and will send an SMS to the phone from which the command SMS was sent. If it cannot find the address, it will send SMS with co-ordinates (latitude/longitude) of the phone/device along with map link.
The app is intentionally kept simple and it allows you to customize both these SMS command texts so that they are as easy or as complex as you want them. You can customize the SMS text when you install the app and change them whenever you want. The app will respond accordingly to your customized commands. This app is absolutely FREE! No advertisements either!!!
You can download & install it from Google Play, and feel free to share it with your friends as well!
Why develop such trivial, tiny apps?
Well, I have also stumbled across this question and that’s what has kept this app ‘almost done‘ for almost last one year. This question needs a bit of investigation and I am exploring my own thoughts & feelings in the process as I am articulating them here.
To start with, having a preschooler at home, I have also faced these situations when life is hijacked with innumerable, unpredictable events/demands and you wonder where you’ve lost your mind! So reasons for developing the app were obvious, and I didn’t want a free app that bombarded me with those ads whenever I tried to use it. So I made this tiny app for myself and found it quite useful in such situations. In the process, I discovered some very useful insights about how android actually detects location via GPS or WiFi or using your own mobile service provider aka Network (this is a topic for another long technical article itself) and that helped me iteratively improve this app to get best possible location accuracy within given constraints that each individual android device may pose depending on its hardware & user settings. Of course, learning and exploring something new has its own excitement and intrinsic rewards!
However, after working as a hard-core programmer/coder for almost 14 years and after developing big enterprise products/solutions (some 325,000+ SLOCs) for so many years; I did struggle with the decision of making it available publicly. I know that this is a tiny, extremely simple and a trivial application with similar ones already available out there on Google Play. Yet, these are my reasons for developing such tiny apps and making them available publicly -
- I have been working on J2EE products for last 10+ years, and working on mobile apps (Android or otherwise) is exciting for me.
- There are similar apps available already, but mine is without advertisements & it is absolutely FREE. And this app will remain that way. Moreover, I think I can always have my own, different perspective about the same problem and implement it my way. I like to do my own thing!
- Since these apps will remain free and I don’t like to put ads in them either, I can only develop something small in the available time.
- Putting it up on Google Play compels me to package it properly with decent GUI, customization options, icons and detailed help text as well; which I wouldn’t have bothered to do otherwise. It actually gets the ‘half-done’ stuff ‘completed’ since it needs to be available to someone who has no idea about what it is! It helps in getting some visibility as well.
- Putting it in the public domain for free allows me to get feedback and opportunity to have it installed on a variety of devices and discover any unforeseen bugs & problems. It helps my development process immensely.
- It allows all those small experiments, explorations on the way to get documented and persisted somewhere so that they are available for future reference/use to build something bigger or complex, which otherwise would have been lost in the digital oblivion. Luckily, with software you can easily share such experiments with others!
- No matter how simple or trivial it is for me; but I know it can help many people with their problems & inconveniences. I know I am being useful, and it adds to my Karma count!
I work with a very small group of people and it has remained that way for almost a decade now. It has its own advantages & disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is the reach or visibility – very few people know what I do and the quality of work that I do. It must have been good; for I have managed to retain those clients for almost a decade across continents with several big & complex enterprise projects! Of course, due to NDA and proprietary nature of these projects, my work remains mostly invisible. Nevertheless, I am always fascinated by the idea of developing something that can reach large number of people. Given the limited spare time I have these days to develop something of my own, I am left with two options. One of them is not to do anything of my own and continue only with the consulting projects. And the other option is to develop something small, trivial but useful in its own way. I have chosen the later option and decided to publish this app FWIW!
My teacher narrated this interesting story long ago. He wanted to meet a renowned scientist & author who happens to be an Ex-IITan who has opted to remain outside corporate culture to do the things that he loves doing. He got an appointment and went to meet the scientist at his residence. He was amazed to see how many small experiments he had carried out in his home as well. One of them was the door closing device – he had used a small spring from his two-wheeler stand to make that door closer and his wife told my teacher that he had spent several days to get it right; to ensure that the door closes smoothly but perfectly. The scientist was more than happy to spend significant amount of time with my teacher to teach him how he could do that himself with a similar spring. My teacher was surprised to see how could a busy scientist of his caliber spend time on something so trivial, whereas he could’ve easily bought one door-closer from the market. So he hesitantly asked this question to the scientist himself. He laughed and said, “मै दुनियादारी से जो भी टाईम बचा सकता हूँ, बचा लेता हूँ. ताकी ये सब कर सकूं!” (Translated from Hindi: “I save all the time I can from mundane daily chores, so that I can do all these things”).
Though not in the same league & caliber, I am relieved to know that I am continuing this lineage through such trivial, tiny experiments! :-)