How to utilize your Android when there's no internet?#
Current technology is inherently connected. You need a connection to text someone or to to check your e-mails, and that's completely okay. What isn't that okay though, is that you need a connection to consume any sort of media from music to news. But, in contrast with communication, media consumption is and has been very much possible on phones in the past decade, we were just trained to stream instead.
The concept of streaming is completely fine, it gives you the media you need and does not stress your data cap or bandwidth more than it should. However, there is a downside that's only felt when we cannot help it: without an internet connection, your phone becomes a useless brick, and there isn't anything there to do with it.
So, the next time you end up on a digital stranded island without internet, you won't be playing around with the stopwatch to pass time.
Your device is very capable of providing you fun and useful activities without any sort of internet connection, the only thing you need is some preparation. Before moving on to the list, there is a need for a disclaimer: my preferred mobile OS is Android (until the GNU+Linux community comes up with a daily-drivable alternative), and the ideas listed here have only been tried and tested on Android, and the apps I will recommend are all available on F-Droid, the truly open-source app repository. With that out of the way, let's get into the interesting stuff. The list goes from basic, everyday things to remember all the way to some really tech-savvy stuff.
1. Media you already own#
This is very straightforward idea, but one that people around me seem to forget to do when getting a new phone: put your media on it! This is understandable in a world where any piece of content can be streamed on demand, but it is still a good idea to copy a few favorite music albums, ebooks, or even movies on your device. On the 64–128 GB phones that are fairly common these days, using up 10 GBs is not a big deal, but can make a huge difference offline. VLC is one of if not the most capable media players out there, and it will play any audio or video you can throw at it. For reading, I would recommend Book Reader, a very polished and minimalistic application. It will make plain text files look good and well-designed EPUBs even better. Where to find such EPUBs? Take a look at standardebooks.com, you won't regret it.
A number of apps/services allow downloading their content for consumption later down the line. If you're into podcasts, AntennaPod is a winner in that category: it lets you download and stream nearly any podcast you can think of. My personal recommendations are Moore's Law Is Dead for the tech nerds and Carpool Critics for the movie lovers, I'm a huge fan of both.
The next application in this category is NewPipe, a completely functional libre YouTube client that offers background playback and downloading virtually any piece of content on the platform, and you can even choose to download the audio only.
3. Game emulators#
We are getting closer to one of the coolest points in this post. When most people think about gaming on their phones, they think Temple Run, Asphalt or maybe some SNES emulation. What if I told you that your very on smartphone can also play Gran Turismo? And... God of War, or even Burnout, Lego Star Wars and Dungeon Siege? It is true. PPSSPP, a completely open-source PlayStation Portable emulator can do that, and on phones from the last few years, not only in the originally respectable but nowadays dated 480x272 resolution, but in full 1080p! These titles were meant for a handheld console, so the gameplay is a bit simplified when compared to the PlayStation 2 originals, but the textures and effects are surprisingly good, and the depth of the conceptual depth in these titles runs circles around anything you can find among native Android titles. Gran Turismo offers more than 900 cars and almost all of the tracks from Gran Turismo 5. Burnout Legends feels and plays very much like Burnout 3 Takedown, a fan favorite, also featuring the amazing soundtrack and many tracks from all of the first three Burnout titles. The Need for Speed titles are also decent, especially Carbon. The two God of War games are somewhat shorter and sometimes might feel a bit restrictive in terms of camera positioning, but they are God of War through and through. Some sort of a controller is recommended for the best experience possible, but in most cases, touch control input gets the job done too. Of course, to do this legally, you need to have your own PSP and original games as well. If you do, you can download and play the corresponding ISO backups from cdromance.com. It is so good to see how far we've come. And how good these games were to begin with, just hidden behind the low resolution.
4. Learn the Linux command line#
In order to have the best experience in terms of typing, you should definitely get a bluetooth keyboard. Queuing up a few e-mails is easy and simple while offline, that's not a novel idea... On the other hand, opening a Linux terminal and writing some fun scripts is much more interesting. Download Termux, and a near-complete Linux terminal will be at your fingertips, including awk, grep, as well as vi and nano, and a number of other tools can be downloaded using pkg.
- You can start out with playing around the terminal itself, making new directories and text files, getting used to the concept of terminal-driven computing. Although, if you are already familiar with these things, you can even get your hands dirty with more intricate scripting, like writing FizzBuzz from scratch or finding the largest composite number in a given range or printing all divisors of a given number. For this, you will need to know a few commands, including but definitely not limited to echo, if, as well as for and while loops. For offline use, the Bash Reference Manual may come in handy.
- Another interesting usecase is reading the man pages of various tools. From descriptions to examples and explanations, there is a lot to learn about the commands that enable the power of "you can do anything" in Bash. After running
pkg install man, you can enter, for example,
man awkto learn about awk, or even
man manto learn about man itself.
- I saved the best for last... If you
pkg install fortune cowsay, then you can use fortune to make the terminal tell you some legitimately funny jokes and stories, fortune-cookie style. However, the aspect ratio of most phones isn't ideal for using fortune, because the text wrapping doesn't work properly. This is where cowsay comes in:
fortune | cowsaywill pipe the jokes to cowsay, a tool that lets you output any text in a text bubble over an ASCII-drawn cow's head. Cowsay can be used just like echo, so you can spice any script's outputs with it, and it also fixes the layout issues of fortune. For bonus points, you could even try writing a script that gives you a new cowsay-joke every time you press enter.
I hope that you will be able to utilize some of these tips, and keep yourself entertained even if your connection is dead, and maybe even learn a few new tricks in Bash. Or get a new car in Gran Turismo?
–Thomas Hastings (Read more)