Eight Android Apps for IT from Gearhead

Over the last two weeks in his Gearhead column , Mark Gibbs has been checking out Android apps that IT people really, really need. Check 'em out … (also read the column version )

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Overlook Fing

Overlook Fing is a neat and straightforward tool for running network IP address and service port scans. It's fast, provides a lot of information, and you can email the scan results directly from the app. One of the other great things about Overlook Fing is it is a cross-platform product with sibling versions (also free) for Windows, OS X and Linux. Overlook Fing gets a rating of 5 out of 5.

Overlook Whiz

Overlook Whiz is an Android widget for testing servers. After installation you simply press and hold on any open spot on the home screen and the "Add to Home screen" menu appears. Click on widgets then scroll down and click on Overlook Whiz. A configuration screen is displayed where you enter your target machine and service and select the refresh rate and other test attributes. The widget can sit on any of your home screens (I have a screen dedicated to monitoring the various services I rely on). Another hit! Overlook Whiz also gets a rating of 5 out of 5.

WiFi Analyzer

Another useful free tool I love is WiFi Analyzer . This app grabs the Android phone's WiFi service and looks for access points and displays their details including signal strength, channels in use, AP SSIDs, encryption systems used, and Mac addresses.

Five views are available including Channel Graph (plots channels in use against signal strength), Time Graph (channel signal strength against time), Channel Rating (a simple bar graph of channel use), AP List, and a Signal Meter that shows current signal strength as a conventional needle and dial display. I'd like to see the ability to capture snapshots and email data but for free, there's really nothing to complain about. WiFi Analyzer also gets a rating of 5 out of 5!

Mag Flashlight

You need a flashlight; an app that uses the screen or camera flash LED for task illumination. But how necessary is an app that turns your $200 or $300 smartphone into a $6 flashlight? The answer: incredibly necessary because what's always in your pocket? A flashlight? Nope. Your smartphone? Yep. Of course, if you have a phone such as the Verizon HTC Incredible which has a camera flash this works great. For other phones, such as the T-Mobile Galaxy S G4, the only choice is for the screen to be the light source.

My favorite free flashlight, because it's simple, is Mag Flashlight which looks like what it claims to be, a Maglite Flashlight . Click the on-screen on/off switch to (doh) switch the light on and off and click the Dimmer and Brighter labels on the onscreen flashlight to (doh, again) brighten and dim the light. Rating: 5 out of 5.

Color Flashlight

I also like the free Color Flashlight which can control the camera flash (if your phone has one) and or the screen. Even so; I'm not sure how and when I'd need to have the screen display a word such as "HELP", act as a strobe, or flash police colors. On the other hand, the animated spiral might be useful for hypnotizing users into believing that everything is working fine and that they should move along as this isn't the droid they're looking for. Rating 4 out of 5 (I also get 5 out of 5 for my Star Wars reference).

Ulysse Gizmos

An Android utility that I love is Ulysse Gizmos , a free multifunction app that includes a compass, a speedometer, GPS status report, a bubble level, a clinometer, and a magnetometer. You can set waypoints on Google maps and share your location by a number of methods including Bluetooth, email, and other installed communications services (though it doesn't work with Dropbox). I actually used the bubble level to level a 19-inch rack but what I really love about this app is its terrific user interface and its sheer geekiness. Rating: 5 out of 5 (I’d give it 6 if I could).

GPS Essentials

If you are seriously into tracking where you go, you will have to discover the wonders of the excellent mapping apps on Android and, for many of them, their excellent integration with Google Maps. Among the many free tools I've tried there's one that appeals immensely to me not just because it's incredibly geeky and ambitious in its functionality but also because it's actually useful. The tool is GPS Essentials .

This app reports on all the stuff you want to know about including GPS accuracy, altitude, speed, battery charge, bearing, climb, course, date, declination, distance, estimated time of arrival, latitude, longitude, maximum speed, minimum speed, actual speed, true speed, sunrise, sunset, moonset, moonrise, and moon phase. There's also heads-up display that uses the phone's camera to show you waypoints, Google Maps integration, and waypoint import and export in Google Earth KML format! Another 5 out of 5 rating.

GPS Test

For the real GPS junkies among you, I also have to recommend the free GPS Test app. If you want a simpler summary of GPS measurements, this app is excellent! Yet another 5 out of 5 rating!