Saturday, March 26, 2011

Free Android apps for living with rolling blackouts and aftershocks

There has been a bit of discussion here regarding the earthquake alerts. It appears some smartphones are getting them and some aren't. I am not well versed on the technical details. If you're not getting the alerts, or if you want to know more about the blackout schedules, check out the apps below.

なまず 速報 β Recieves earthquake push notifications

Version: 0.2.5
Requirements: 1.6+
Dev: @ayunyan
Misc: Don't change default keep alive settings.
Features: Wake on notification; cancel silent mode on push; restrict notifications by richter magnitude, Japanese "shindo-scale," and/or distance from epicenter

The Dev warns that this app is very experimental, so your milage may vary. It worked but killed my battery because it appeared to open a sustained connection to an external server and prevented the phone from sleeping.

Based on this comment by Yin Lung Lee and the app's excellent rating, I recommend downloading it and giving it a try.

Using Spare Parts, go to Battery history and select "Other usage" and "Since last unplugged." Clicking "Running" will tell you how long your phone has not slept. If you have the same issue as I did, to uninstall, you may need to go Settings/Applications/Running services and kill it first.

東京電力供給情報ウィジェット TEPCO Power Supply Widget

Version: 1.0.1
Requirements: 1.6+
Dev: Shin1201
Misc: Not an official TEPCO app
Features: Uses the TEPCO power supply API

I saw this come across the @OffcialTEPCO the other day. It gives a pretty good idea if there will be a need for major blackouts that day by showing a comparison to the current usage relative to the previous day's usage, as well as the total capacity.

The widget.
The usage.

As far as apps for searching which areas are scheduled for blackouts, there are a bunch, but I haven't found any of them particularly useful. Much of this is likely due to TEPCO's scheduling. (This is why I've been using the above widget.) Here are a few of the more popular ones on the market:

Developer: @patorash
Version: 2.3.1
Pro: Uses GPS
Con: Has permission to make phone calls (for calling TEPCOs blackout info center according to the dev), which I personally don't like.

Version: 9.00
Pro: Has no scary permissions
Con: Has no special permissions at all - no GPS.

Developer: inc.
Version: 1.2
Pro: Uses GPS
Con: Don't know. New app. Haven't used it.


  1. About the settings for the namazu/なまず app, this may differ depending on your location but from testing in Tokyo it seems to work best at Shindo 4+, Magnitude 6+ and 1000km from epicentre (I have it set at 2000km just out of curiosity).

  2. I have not followed up on these apps yet, but thanks to softbanksucks for making this blog entry. They do look promising. One note on this, one of the earthquake apps I had installed said that it used the push system google used for gmail and the like, but this was only available on android 2.2 and up. The docomo Xperia is still stuck at 2.1 with no prospects for an upgrade short of the developers at xda cracking the bootloader.

    To my point here. I have found that my hometown, Zushi, does have an emergency notification page that can be used with regular email:
    (the top link is for email sign up, the second for alteration of an existing account, and further down is an address you can use from a mobile...)

    When you go to the next page, you get four categories:
    防犯 : bouhan : crime prevention
    防災 : bousai : disaster prevention
    伝染病 : densenbyou : infectuous disease / epidemic
    国民保護 : kokuminhogo : civil defense (from armed attacks (missile strikes, for example))

    I set up separate gmail accounts for each of these categories and subscribed. I'm not sure if the earthquake warnings are included in the bousai category, but I'm testing it out now. If anyone in the Zushi area wants to help me check this out, please send me one or several email addresses. I'll add them onto the forwarding filters. But I only want to try this with a few others for now. I'm thinking a few gateways like I have set up will be good for those who don't understand Japanese well.

    For those outside of Zushi, please check your city's page for similar services.

  3. Can't guarantee it will hit Docomo, but SE says they are going to update to GINGERBREAD

    I didn't see anything about Namazu needing 2.2. Maybe try it and see, but watch out for battery drain.

    Is it just me, or is today the first quiet quake day since the 3/11?

  4. Namazu works fine with push on the Xperia X10. It uses the SMS notification system, so you do need to go into the SMS settings and allow push messages from your operator. It doesn't seem to affect my battery life at all, and I get the notification at the same time it appears on NHK.

  5. It seems this is true for me as well. It is always running in my notification area, but the battery life seems relatively unaffected. And the app is not showing up in the battery statistics as using much of the battery.

    I haven't been able to check its speed on earthquake warning though, as there have been very few in the last few days. Once it buzzed and I wondered, looked up, and could see my light swinging slightly.

  6. Greg, the app itself isn't going to the battery consumer. Since the system won't sleep, the consumer will be "Android OS" (at least this was the case for me).

    If the phone is in your pocket all day not getting used, you'd expect phone idle to be at the top. Conversely, if you are using it a lot, you can expect display to be up there...

  7. OK. Thanks, SBSdroid. I had wondered if it might not show up in some other category, but I didn't know which one it would have been, and I haven't taken the time to turn it off for a day and compare with a day turned on. I have not noticed a big hit on overall battery usage.

  8. That! was interesting. My android app, namazu, sounded the alarm, and then about 2 seconds later Akiko's docomo keitai sounded with her area mail / SMS-CB warning. Namazu said the earthquake was a 6.8 ( richter scale) off the cost of Miyagi. Then we both sat there and waited.

    It took maybe 30 seconds, then there was a rumbling, then a little shaking, then more shaking, it was going on much longer than I had guessed. But by knowing it was a 6.8 (a major earthquake in itself, but, what 100 times less than the 3/11 quake?), I knew the shaking would pass with no damage locally.

    So, there is my test of the android app (on android 2.1). And it was an example of what purpose the keitai/mobile phone warnings serve.

    Nothing from Zushi City, though, and their local warning system.