33 votes

What's a cool and not-well-known thing that people can do with their phone/computer?

We have these incredible devices at our fingertips -- what are some of the most interesting things we can do with them?

39 comments

  1. [3]
    Deimos
    Link
    I don't know if it's not-well-known, but I thought it was a great idea when I first saw it: you can download smartphone apps that make it so you can look "through" your phone screen at the night...

    I don't know if it's not-well-known, but I thought it was a great idea when I first saw it: you can download smartphone apps that make it so you can look "through" your phone screen at the night sky, and they can highlight and label significant stars, constellations, planets, satellites, etc.

    Because your phone knows your location and can track its own orientation, it's fairly straightforward to use the relative positions of everything to figure out what you're looking at. That's really neat to me.

    There are a lot of these apps, so if anyone knows a particularly good one to use, please recommend it.

    19 votes
    1. autumn
      Link Parent
      I use Sky Guide on iOS. I can’t remember if I paid anything for it, but I use it fairly often to look for constellations or figure out where the moon is on any given night if it’s not visible...

      I use Sky Guide on iOS. I can’t remember if I paid anything for it, but I use it fairly often to look for constellations or figure out where the moon is on any given night if it’s not visible right away. They also have a list of upcoming sky events which is always neat to look through.

      7 votes
    2. Eric_the_Cerise
      Link Parent
      IDK how good they are compared to Google Store apps, but I've got both Planisphere and Sky Map on my phone, via F-Droid. I like 'em both.

      IDK how good they are compared to Google Store apps, but I've got both Planisphere and Sky Map on my phone, via F-Droid. I like 'em both.

      4 votes
  2. [6]
    teaearlgraycold
    Link
    Depending on what kind of computer you have and how it’s connected to the internet it might be able to be turned on by another device on the same home network. The networking hardware is actually...

    Depending on what kind of computer you have and how it’s connected to the internet it might be able to be turned on by another device on the same home network. The networking hardware is actually on when the computer is off, but only listening for the wake signal.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wake-on-LAN

    15 votes
    1. [5]
      Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      <oldmanvoice>back in the day, when I used to operate LAN centers</oldmanvoice> Was really cool to have this configured, and someone would walk in, pay for some time, and I could say "sure, go...

      <oldmanvoice>back in the day, when I used to operate LAN centers</oldmanvoice>

      Was really cool to have this configured, and someone would walk in, pay for some time, and I could say "sure, go ahead and take PC #10" and #10 would startup as they where walking toward it.

      12 votes
      1. [4]
        teaearlgraycold
        Link Parent
        Was the end-of-session shutdown just as imposing?

        Was the end-of-session shutdown just as imposing?

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          Omnicrola
          Link Parent
          Sometimes. Especially if they where being a jerk to other customers. Also amusing was the craigslist hookers that came in. Always a girl in her 20s with a guy who was at least 35. I don't know why...

          Sometimes. Especially if they where being a jerk to other customers.

          Also amusing was the craigslist hookers that came in. Always a girl in her 20s with a guy who was at least 35. I don't know why people ever assumed that I couldn't see everything they where doing if I wanted to. I had 2 scripts. One popped a message warning them that adult content had been "detected" (It was me, remote screenshotting). The second said something about "multiple incidents", locked the kb/m, counted to 10, and shut the PC off.
          Never once did they complain or ask for a refund, they just quietly left.

          5 votes
          1. [2]
            teaearlgraycold
            Link Parent
            What kind of setup did you have? Was there actually enough privacy for that not to be extremely weird?

            What kind of setup did you have? Was there actually enough privacy for that not to be extremely weird?

            2 votes
            1. Omnicrola
              Link Parent
              It depended on the time of day. Usually this would happen in the early afternoon, when there weren't a lot of people in the place (it picked up later in the day, or on weekends). So they would...

              It depended on the time of day. Usually this would happen in the early afternoon, when there weren't a lot of people in the place (it picked up later in the day, or on weekends). So they would pick a PC that was in the back, facing away from most of the room.

              I actually worked at/ran several places over the span of about 10 years, so there were a variety of configurations.

              3 votes
  3. suspended
    Link
    Open up channels of information from the 'ivory towers' down to us lay folk. There are many examples of people that are doing this that are too many to chronicle at the moment. I am one of them...

    Open up channels of information from the 'ivory towers' down to us lay folk. There are many examples of people that are doing this that are too many to chronicle at the moment.

    I am one of them with academic biblical scholarship. I never dreamed, as a young person, that I would have any access to academia.

    However, I found my self in a position (accidentally) to engage with this content. After five years of exposure to this material, I was able to get to know that academic biblical scholars are very generous and receptive.

    Dr. Andrew Mark Henry, from the popular Religion for Breakfast channel, has been very receptive to my inquiries. He agreed to be interviewed by me years ago before he became Internet popular.

    In conclusion, I've used my computer in order to advance our understanding of ourselves. Much of this content would fall inside of our studies of humanities.

    10 votes
  4. [2]
    petrichor
    Link
    Being able to be connected virtually with almost anyone, almost anywhere, at almost any time is undervalued. I ran into a comment on Hacker News the other day that rekindled my sense of...

    Being able to be connected virtually with almost anyone, almost anywhere, at almost any time is undervalued.

    I ran into a comment on Hacker News the other day that rekindled my sense of appreciation for living in the twenty-first century. Things like "telecommunication" were staples of older-ish science fiction, and now we live in times where it's possible to do that with two computers and an open video connection.

    (the comment, for anyone not interested in clicking through, is about someone who set his parents living in different countries up with a "virtual window" of sorts.)

    9 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      When I was working we had video between Mountain View and Seattle that we left on all the time (muted). Someone would wave when they want to talk. I got a Google Nest Hub Max for my mother...

      When I was working we had video between Mountain View and Seattle that we left on all the time (muted). Someone would wave when they want to talk.

      I got a Google Nest Hub Max for my mother thinking that maybe we would try leaving it on all the time, but it didn't work out that way by mutual preference. I call for breakfast and we do leave it on for a bit afterwards while doing something else, though.

      4 votes
  5. [2]
    hamstergeddon
    Link
    This is super common knowledge to musicians, I'm sure, but having just recently dipped my toe into being a musician, I've found Garageband on Mac to be a really neat piece of free software. I...

    This is super common knowledge to musicians, I'm sure, but having just recently dipped my toe into being a musician, I've found Garageband on Mac to be a really neat piece of free software.

    I recently bought an electronic drum kit and started taking lessons. I didn't really like the samples that came with my kit (everything sounded obviously e-kit) and the interface for manually tweaking settings was a huge pain in the ass. Plus I needed to be able to pipe my kit audio to Skype for my drum lessons.

    That's where Garageband comes in. It has a bunch of high-quality samples for a variety of instruments, all for free. And my kit has MIDI output, so I just let Garageband do all the audio processing. The coolest thing is that I can record the MIDI output and play it back with whatever instrument/sample I want. Of course all I can really do is basic rudiments and some little beats since I'm only a week into lessons, but I've had a ton of fun playing around with the tech side of being a new musician.

    9 votes
    1. joplin
      Link Parent
      Oh you're going to have a lot of fun! Be sure to check out the delay and reverb plug-ins. You can get some killer sounds with the right filters.

      Oh you're going to have a lot of fun! Be sure to check out the delay and reverb plug-ins. You can get some killer sounds with the right filters.

      5 votes
  6. Pistos
    Link
    (Not really cool or not-well-known, but...) One thing I quite like about commonplace, modern-day technology is that, as consumers, we have so much more power to control and curate what we watch...

    (Not really cool or not-well-known, but...)

    One thing I quite like about commonplace, modern-day technology is that, as consumers, we have so much more power to control and curate what we watch and listen to compared to the past. It wasn't too many years ago when people were totally at the mercy of the media "powers that be" as far what content we were offered, in what order, and at what frequency. Television and radio were programmed, and watched and listened to live. You subscribed to newspapers and magazines. Now, you choose your viewing content, whether navigating in your favourite streaming services, or surfing around YouTube. You play it any time you want, on your choice of a myriad of possible devices. You can binge watch whole series. You can zero in on whatever topics and genres you want. You can download podcast episodes and bring them with you into the kitchen, on your bike ride, in your car, on a plane ride.

    8 votes
  7. [7]
    skybrian
    Link
    The Pixel 4a’s camera app has an astrophotography feature that’s kind of neat if you like to have stars in your night pictures. (It helps you do long exposures.)

    The Pixel 4a’s camera app has an astrophotography feature that’s kind of neat if you like to have stars in your night pictures. (It helps you do long exposures.)

    8 votes
    1. admicos
      Link Parent
      And there is a chance your non-Pixel Android phone might have a port of it's camera too! Just search for "GCam port <device>" on your favorite search engine (or just browse through this site and...

      And there is a chance your non-Pixel Android phone might have a port of it's camera too! Just search for "GCam port <device>" on your favorite search engine (or just browse through this site and try it all I guess)

      4 votes
    2. [5]
      ali
      Link Parent
      iPhones do that too. I saw starlink passing my bedroom window (roof) the other day, and I took a few photos of it. Even worked handheld

      iPhones do that too. I saw starlink passing my bedroom window (roof) the other day, and I took a few photos of it. Even worked handheld

      3 votes
      1. [4]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        I don't think it's the same feature because Starlink satellites are moving too fast to take long exposures. You'd just get streaks. But they are also bright enough that you don't need a long...

        I don't think it's the same feature because Starlink satellites are moving too fast to take long exposures. You'd just get streaks. But they are also bright enough that you don't need a long exposure.

        The astrophotography feature I'm talking about isn't the same as night vision and definitely doesn't work handheld. I was able to make it work by setting my phone on a stone wall and holding it very still until it decided to turn on, and a tripod would be better.

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          ali
          Link Parent
          I actually did get streaks. I’m sure both work similarly by using long exposures. I think Apple just uses software Processing to help with slight wobbles when holding it?

          I actually did get streaks. I’m sure both work similarly by using long exposures. I think Apple just uses software Processing to help with slight wobbles when holding it?

          3 votes
          1. psi
            Link Parent
            Google's astrophotography feature works slightly differently from a long exposure. A long exposure, as you said, will produce streaks. The astrophotography feature, in contrast, uses long exposure...

            Google's astrophotography feature works slightly differently from a long exposure. A long exposure, as you said, will produce streaks. The astrophotography feature, in contrast, uses long exposure plus a method borrow from astronomy known as stacking. In short, by taking multiple long exposures and lining up the brightest stars between shots, you can increase the signal-to-noise ratio of you image. Thus you get brighter stars in your photograph without streaks.

            That's also why the astrophotography feature works much better with a tripod than handheld. If you move your phone between shots, you can no longer guarantee that you'll be able to stack your exposures.

            4 votes
          2. skybrian
            Link Parent
            I’m sure whatever it did worked well enough. It looks like an explicit astrophotography mode is rumored for iPhone 13.

            I’m sure whatever it did worked well enough. It looks like an explicit astrophotography mode is rumored for iPhone 13.

            1 vote
  8. [3]
    TemulentTeatotaler
    Link
    scrcpy (GUIs optional) is one of the handier things out there. This lets you connect to and control an Android phone from your computer, including wirelessly/remotely. Especially convenient for...

    scrcpy (GUIs optional) is one of the handier things out there.

    This lets you connect to and control an Android phone from your computer, including wirelessly/remotely. Especially convenient for troubleshooting relatives that aren't great with technology, once you get it set up.

    Tasker is a pretty handy and accessible tool for automating a lot of things in Android. One early use I had was using a motion detector to set up a phone to say "cat cat cat" when a housemate's cat jumped on the kitchen table, if that counts? Turning a page of a book using by simulating a tap, sending an SOS SMS to a number of people with location information, or setting up custom voice commands are all reasonably easy with a bit of coding experience.

    More on topic, there are a lot of "hidden numbers" used for a variety of things. Many are model/carrier specific. Similar codes are often present in a lot of technology like flip phones, vending machines, elevators, etc.

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      helloworld
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      On note of scrcpy, KDE Connect has been the Killer App™ for me. I get notifications from to phone to PC and vice versa, I can respond to messages, send files over network, run commands remotely,...

      On note of scrcpy, KDE Connect has been the Killer App™ for me.

      I get notifications from to phone to PC and vice versa, I can respond to messages, send files over network, run commands remotely, heck it automatically pauses my movie when a call arrives and resumes afterwards, and all of this while preserving my privacy!

      Using KDE Connect was my future is here moment.

      Edit: KDE connect works with other phones too! There are other features, like automatic clipboard sync, media controls, slideshow remote, using phone display as PC mouse/keyboard!

      13 votes
      1. Ayax28
        Link Parent
        It sounds amazing! Tho' I have to say, when I tried KDE Connect on windows I felt it was behind the linux version.

        It sounds amazing!

        Tho' I have to say, when I tried KDE Connect on windows I felt it was behind the linux version.

        1 vote
  9. Amarok
    Link
    I found Bands In Town to be quite useful. The app is a bit annoying during setup, but it can import all the artists you follow from most streaming services. It uses that data to give you a...

    I found Bands In Town to be quite useful. The app is a bit annoying during setup, but it can import all the artists you follow from most streaming services. It uses that data to give you a ridiculously complete calendar view of all the live shows in or near your location from those artists, with a tweakable radius. It'll suggest other artists that match your tastes if you want.

    If you use this app it's just about impossible to miss a live show, at least in the states. They show up in the app within days of being announced even for artists that are total unknowns. Handy if you enjoy live music and want to be able to find a show on a whim to pass some idle afternoon.

    7 votes
  10. [3]
    samideano
    Link
    You can sample a small slice of life in every country in the world by exploring this virtual globe filled to the brim with local radio stations. Early 90's me with his little walkman would have...

    You can sample a small slice of life in every country in the world by exploring this virtual globe filled to the brim with local radio stations. Early 90's me with his little walkman would have his mind blown if he knew this would be a thing in the relatively near future.

    6 votes
  11. Grzmot
    Link
    The latest cool thing I did with my computer is change back the horrendous UI decisions that Spotify made with a plugin: Spicetify. Because of the way Spotify is coded, you can customize it to...

    The latest cool thing I did with my computer is change back the horrendous UI decisions that Spotify made with a plugin: Spicetify.

    Because of the way Spotify is coded, you can customize it to hell, and now my Spotify is pretty again. :D

    The set-up is a little finnicky, so if anyone needs help with that, hit me up! :)

    6 votes
  12. [2]
    Kuromantis
    Link
    A lot of phones have a feature called a "text shortcut" where you type a small amount of text like "formbox" and type in what you want Samsung to put in your autocorrect like the formatting of a...

    A lot of phones have a feature called a "text shortcut" where you type a small amount of text like "formbox" and type in what you want Samsung to put in your autocorrect like the formatting of a details box. As someone who finds typing stuff like <details><summary></summary></details> very annoying in a mobile keyboard and literally made a post asking Deimos to change the formatting to be less annoying (I admit that's going overboard), this is very convenient.

    5 votes
  13. Eric_the_Cerise
    Link
    It still kinda blows my mind that I can be walking down the street (almost anywhere on Earth), and I can ssh into my computers at home and work on them thru my phone. But then, it also kinda blows...

    It still kinda blows my mind that I can be walking down the street (almost anywhere on Earth), and I can ssh into my computers at home and work on them thru my phone.

    But then, it also kinda blows my mind that I can talk to people halfway around the world while walking in the woods (I grew up back when our phones were still tethered to the walls of our houses).

    5 votes
  14. [4]
    Omnicrola
    Link
    If you're using Firefox on both your desktop and phone, you can see tabs on your PC that you have open on your phone (or vice versa). So in case you where working through a long video or article,...

    If you're using Firefox on both your desktop and phone, you can see tabs on your PC that you have open on your phone (or vice versa). So in case you where working through a long video or article, you can continue on the other. Really great for some of the longer video-essay YouTube channels.

    4 votes
    1. [3]
      Weldawadyathink
      Link Parent
      I know this is also true for safari, and I think it is also true for chrome.

      I know this is also true for safari, and I think it is also true for chrome.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        joplin
        Link Parent
        Most apps on an iPhone can use HandOff to show the same thing on your mac or watch and vice-versa. It works with Mail, Calendar, Messages, Safari, etc. I think any app can implement it if they want.

        Most apps on an iPhone can use HandOff to show the same thing on your mac or watch and vice-versa. It works with Mail, Calendar, Messages, Safari, etc. I think any app can implement it if they want.

        3 votes
        1. Weldawadyathink
          Link Parent
          Oh yeah, and it’s pretty smooth. The same feature also shares the clipboard of all your Apple devices to each other. I know PCalc (awesome app) supports handoff, but I have found very few other...

          Oh yeah, and it’s pretty smooth. The same feature also shares the clipboard of all your Apple devices to each other.

          I know PCalc (awesome app) supports handoff, but I have found very few other non-Apple apps that support it.

          2 votes
  15. 3_3_2_LA
    Link
    Do stuff like discover people on your Wi-Fi network (like nmap) and even kick people off the network! Requires a jailbreak btw: https://repo.packix.com/package/com.midnightchips.harpy/

    Do stuff like discover people on your Wi-Fi network (like nmap) and even kick people off the network!
    Requires a jailbreak btw:
    https://repo.packix.com/package/com.midnightchips.harpy/

    3 votes
  16. krg
    Link
    turn it off.

    turn it off.

    9 votes