Must Have Android Apps For Activists

13 Jun

Activists use technology differently.Image Sure, we have a lot of the same apps as other people. I mean, who doesn’t have Google+Facebook, or Twitter installed on their phone these days? But the activist doesn’t settle for posting pictures of their lunch on Instagram, or watching videos on YouTube, and while it’s nice to be able to check the weather, and fun to throw birds at pigs in outer space, we just have different needs that aren’t always listed in the staff picks on the Google Play Store.

So here’s my “Must Have’s” list for activists, and everybody else for that matter. Because, let’s face it, you might not be an activist today, but you’re almost certain to find out why activists exist at some point in your life.

Waze Social GPS Maps & Traffic

Chances are, you’ve heard about this one. There are lots of apps out there that let you report police traps, but Waze is the most popular, which means you get the most reports, and your reports reach the most people. Not only that, but Waze helps you navigate while traveling, which activists tend to do frequently, and if you’re traveling, you’re going to want cheap gas, and Waze helps you find that too. The only thing that comes close is Trapster, a good alternative if you’re at all concerned about Google buying Waze, given that whole NSA surveillance scandal.

Now, not too many people are happy about the government spying on us, but I really like to spy on the government, and people who want to keep their eye on the government, frequently want to listen to their radio transmissions. There are several apps for this in the Google Play store, but the most popular one, and the one I use, is Scanner Radio, by Gordon Edwards. No need to download multiple apps, they all use the same feeds, most of which are available at, or The only real difference between any of these apps is the interface and how they organize the feeds. Scanner Radio let’s you browse by geographic location, choose favorites, and even install widgets of the feeds you like most. You might also want to install the Signals app, to help you understand codes the police are using over the radio.

After we find out where the criminals, I mean government agents are, and what they are doing, the next thing we want to do is confront them. The problem with confronting government agents is, they are violent criminals with a bad habit of destroying cameras and other property. That’s why I installed UStream. UStream let’s you live stream video from your phone straight to the internet, it can post the link to your stream on Twitter, and Facebook automatically for people to find, and it will store the video there after your stream ends, whether it ends because you stopped it, or because the police bounced your camera off the curb. Qik is another alternative, and there are several – differentversions of it, but I found it does not work with some Android phones. UStream also has a social networking aspect to it, it provides a chat for people viewing live, allows people to follow your channel and get email updates when you go live, and if what you’re doing is popular you can be listed in trends on the UStream website. I particularly like the widget shortcut, which allows you to begin broadcasting with a single press on your home screen.

Now, as we’ve seen way too many times, people who confront and record the police run the risk of getting arrested, and there is not yet an app to prevent this. But we do have the next best thing, an app to tell everybody about it. I’m Getting Arrested was developed for Occupy Wall Street protesters. It sends a pre-scripted SMS message to a pre-determined list of phone numbers with a link to a Google Map of your GPS coordinates (Be sure to include 40404 for Twitter, 32665 for facebook, and 33669 for Google+ after you’ve configured these services to recognize SMS messages from your phone!). Remember to set the app up well before you might run into government agents, so it is ready to go when you need it, put the shortcut on your home screen, and for extra credit, load the app before your confrontation with agents of the State. It will bring up a target icon on your screen, long press that target and it will send out the SMS message with your location. Mine says “Chris Cantwell has been detained by agents of the State, the next message contains a link to his approximate location”, and a few dozen numbers are instantly notified of my problem, including my facebook, twitter, and Google+ audiences as well as my family, some lawyers and several well known people in the liberty community who can help get the word out. I cannot stress enough how important it is to call attention to your detainment, governments are like other criminals, they hate witnesses.

Our phones these days are expensive, and carry a lot of information, so if they are lost, stolen, or otherwise fall into the wrong hands, it’s good if we can maintain some measure of control over them, and that’s where Cerberus Anti-Theft comes into play. This app will help you in several ways, like allowing you to track your phone via GPS if it is lost or stolen via the Cerberus website, through the Cerberus website or an SMS message, you can also trigger a loud alarm on your phone, wipe the internal memory and SD card, take photo/video, record audio, lock the phone, get a log of recent calls/txts, and more. It can also be set to take a picture and send messages when a certain number of incorrect unlock codes are tried, as well as a host of other features. You did lock your phone, right? I use this app, and you should too.

Our phones can do a lot these days, but sometimes we still need to use our laptops or tablets that do not have cellular data enabled on them. That’s when “tethering” comes into play. Tethering is using your phone as a modem for your other devices, you can do this via WiFi, BlueTooth, or USB connections, it allows your PC or other devices to access the internet via your phones data connection. Chances are, this is against the terms of service for your data plan, so use with caution, but I’ve been doing this with all my phones for years and have never had a problem. I use WiFi Tether for Root Users, but if your phone isn’t rooted, you might be better off with FoxFi or PdaNet+. You really should root your phone though.

Don’t be at the mercy of your cell provider for signal, if you have no signal, but you are near a WiFi hotspot, you can always make calls and SMS through VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). There are several apps for this in the Play Store, but I use Groove IP because it connects to my Google Voice account. (There is also a free version, Groove IP Lite).

If you don’t have a WiFi signal, Wigle Wifi Wardriving can help you find one, or help you get closer to the signal you’re using. This app will show you WiFi signals that are too weak for you to connect to, it will show you if the signal is encrypted, and constantly update the signal strength as you move around. As you get closer to the signal in question, the signal will get stronger, and once you’re in the -70 to -60 range, it should be usable.

If you need a cell tower, try OpenSignal. It will help you find towers in your area, and tell you how strong your cell signal is.

I think those are probably the “Must Have’s” for activists, I could go on and on of course, about how you need a bitcoin wallet, or how Dwolla has lower fees than PayPal, or how LiteCoin is the silver to Bitcoins gold. I mean, you probably already have a Barcode/QR code scanner, right? If you’ve bought tickets to events, you probably already have EventBrite. If you’re involved in any groups you probably already have the Meetup app. Who doesn’t have Caller ID w/ name in 2013? If you buy stuff on eBay, you probably already have a Package Tracker.

That’s all beyond the scope of this article, I only wanted to go into the Must Have’s for activists…


How To Set Up Group Text Messaging

3 Jun

In my previous article, I mentioned setting up the Suffolk County Cop Block Helpline, and idea I got from the Keene411 service uses. There are many applications for this, but here’s the basic idea behind it.

Someone sends an SMS to a phone number,
That SMS gets posted as a tweet,
Subscribers sign up for mobile notifications from that twitter account,
One text message is received by an entire group of people.

My use of this process has been in relation to my activism and participation in activist communities, but the same process can be used for any imaginable application. I’ll explain in the simplest terms possible, how to set this up.

(You may want to do this in an incognito window/private browsing session, so it doesn’t interfere with your existing accounts)

First, create a GMail account,
With that account, request a Google Voice number,
Create a Twitter account,
Follow @voteforcantwell (you don’t actually have to do this, this is my shameless twitter plug),
Go to,
Where it says “Check your own Twitter stats – it’s FREE!” Enter your twitter handle and click  “Show me”,
A pop up should appear with twitter asking you to authorize the app (perhaps asking you to log in first),
Click “Authorize App”,
Uncheck “Discover interesting people” and any other notifications in the next window,
Scroll to the bottom of the screen, and under “Free Tools” click “Twitter Mail”,
Confirm you want to set up Twitter Mail,
Copy your randomly assigned Twitter Mail address to the clip board, paste it into a notepad or something for now,
Uncheck “Post an attached image to Twitpic”,
In the box next to “Cut off phrase” put 5 periods like “…..” but without quotes
Click “Save Settings”,
Log into GMail,
Click the gear symbol near the top right corner,
Choose settings from the menu that appears,
Click “Forwarding and POP/IMAP”,
Click “Add a Forwarding Address”,
***You might want to make your tweets private before you do this***
Paste in the Twitter Mail address you copied early and send confirmation email,
Check the tweets of your twitter account and copy the confirmation code,
Delete that tweet,
If you set your tweets to private, set your tweets back to public,
Paste the confirmation code in the confirmation box in GMail,
In GMail, click the hyperlinked portion of “You can also forward only some of your mail by creating a filter!”
In the filter settings, put “SMS From” (without the quotes) in the subject line,
Click “Create filter with this search”
Check the box next to “Forward It” and select the Twitter Mail address you just confirmed,
Click “Create Filter”
While logged in as a different twitter account, go to the twitter account assigned to your group texting,
Click the button to the left of the follow button, looks like a person with a down arrow,
Select “Turn on Mobile Notifications”, (If you don’t have this option, check the mobile settings in your twitter account)

Send a text message from your cell phone to your Google voice number, in under a minute you should receive that message as a text from twitter.

If you don’t receive the message on your phone, check the twitter account that you created for group messaging, did it tweet the message? If so, there is probably something wrong with your mobile settings on twitter. If it didn’t tweet the message, then something broke between GMail, twitter mail, and twitter.

Do you have a message from Google Voice in your gmail account with “SMS From” in the subject line? If not, log into Google voice, click the gear near the top right, choose settings, then choose “Voicemail & Text”. Make sure “Forward text messages to my email:” is checked.

If you’re still having trouble, ping me on twitter @voteforcantwell and I’ll try to help.

Once this is set up, explain to your users how to subscribe to mobile notifications from the aforementioned twitter account. It is also important for them to understand that they cannot reply to the text messages they get from twitter if they want those messages to be received by the group, when they receive the message from twitter, they have to send their reply to the Google Voice number you configured earlier.

This might sound a little involved, but once it’s set up, it’s really easy to use and if you have a community that needs to stay in touch on the go, this will really make things run a lot smoother. Again, if you have any trouble with it, Contact Me

Why You Should Join Twitter

3 Jun

For the longest time, I didn’t “get” twitter. I used to say it was just facebook for people who can’t think past 140 characters. The concept of “followers” instead of “friends” didn’t jive with my experience from facebook and the good ole days of MySpace, and when I did join, and I did get followers, they just weren’t as engaged as my facebook friends.

The first thing I found twitter to actually be useful for, was getting the news. I wasn’t so much using it as a social network as much as a news feed. I followed influential people, politicians, prominent bloggers and the like. They certainly didn’t give a damn about anything I had to say, but I would find out about news often hours before it hit the TV or radio, and that was before I even understood hashtags.

Hashtags, trending topics, and searches in general are what make twitter powerful. Your enjoyment of twitter is not dependent on followers. Followers can certainly make things more interesting, but what separates twitter from facebook is that you communicate with people from outside your own circle. When you tweet something with a hashtag, everyone following that hashtag sees your tweet, not just your followers, and since there are half a billion twitter users, you can see how that might lead to some interesting interactions that you wouldn’t find dealing with your circle of friends. It might be about serious things like politics, or about funny things, like, well, politics.

For example, the other day, #NewObamaTVShows was trending, so I tweeted
The Walking Debt #NewObamaTVShows
Curb Your Malthusianism #NewObamaTVShows
Let’s Break A Deal #NewObamaTVShows
Law & Order: IRS Targeting Unit #NewObamaTVShows

People retweet, favorite, or reply to them and you interact with those people, and you of course, retweet, favorite, and reply to the tweets of strangers. It’s a blast, and doing that is how you gain followers.

During the Boston martial law incident, twitter was where you got your news. People in Watertown were tweeting pics/videos with the hastags #Watertown #Boston and #Manhunt

You saw martial law in real time, along with updates from the police scanner. Several online police scanner feeds were taken down and even main stream news outlets were unable to keep up with what was happening. But savvy twitter users got access to several lesser known scanner feeds, and had real time text, image, audio, and video coverage of the entire ordeal.

If you were following me on twitter, facebook, or Google+, and watching the news at the same time, you would have found out about the alleged capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from me before you would have from Fox, MSNBC, or CNN. That’s because I was following the story on twitter.

Twitter allows you to receive SMS notifications from certain twitter users if you choose, and this makes it a very useful tool in a number of circumstances. I recently set up the “Suffolk County Cop Block Helpline” where people can send an SMS to 631-50-9-BLOCK (631-509-2562) and it will be tweeted by @CopBlock631. I receive an SMS every time @CopBlock631 tweets, as do other Cop Blockers in the area, so if somebody for example, spots a checkpoint, activists and cameras will descend upon the scene and warn motorists. I originally got this idea from when I lived in the area. They have “Keene 411”, which operates in a similar fashion to the Suffolk Cop Block Helpline, but it is used more widely and more frequently by the activist community there.

Last but not least, there are some really funny twitter accounts you just have to follow, here are some examples…

@callmypenis 18h
I call my penis Religion because I like to shove it down people’s throats.

‏@KimJongNumberUn 31 May
Given the risks of genetically modified food, our policy of no food is looking pretty golden.

Condescending Wonka ‏@OhMrWonka 9h
I’m not saying you’re a slut, I’m just saying if your vagina had a password, it would be 1234

Then there’s @iLikeGirlsDaily… They aren’t very funnny, but, well, just follow them 😉

And of course, follow me for the best of it all. @voteforcantwell