Dec 23, 2011

RunPee: Finding Out Whether to Stay for the Credits at the Movie

When  I wrote about the RunPee app in my The Right Time to the Movies post, it was for it's practical purpose of letting you know when to take care of your biological needs while not missing an important part of the movie you paid so much to watch. If you don't order a large drink like I do and don't need the app for the primary purpose it's intended, there is another reason to have it.

Dec 20, 2011

Preview Tracks in Naturespace

Naturespace, an app I've written about a couple of times already and one of my favorites, has undergone a major update. If you've never heard of Naturespace before, it's an app that plays ambient nature sounds that are of a quality that is unrivaled in any other similar app out there.  It's a free download so if you don't have it, download it and try the five free tracks that come with it. Try them with headphones to appreciate the quality.  The huge catalog of tracks beyond the free ones range from $0.99 to $2.99, most being $1.99.

Back to the update: In addition to fifteen additional tracks, which would make for a really nice update, Naturespace now offers non-looping shortened previews of tracks. The previews are available if you make an in-app purchase of a "Visitors Pass". The Visitor's Pass is free if you have purchased five or more tracks. Otherwise it is $1.99. If you have the Visitor's Pass, you simply click the Visit button for a track for which you want to download a preview.

Dec 13, 2011

'Tis the Bowl Season

It's December and you know what that means...the beginning of Bowl Game Season.  OK, that pales in comparison to Christmas, but it still makes for a lot of football enjoyment.  With games starting on December 17, how can you prepare and what can augment your bowl-watching experience?  ESPN produced an app for your iPhone for that, and it's free.

ESPN Bowl Bound for the iPhone is a wealth of information and news for the upcoming bowl season.  Prior to the games, you can use it to check up on news, schedules, season highlight videos, rankings, game previews, and Twitter commentary from select sports commentators and colleges.

During the games, follow the game stats and check the rosters.  You can also follow, or contribute to, the discussion.  For quick access, you can set your favorite team.

For the price, ESPN Bowl Bound is a great way to keep bowl info at your fingertips, whether watching the games or just checking the bowl schedules.

Dec 8, 2011

For My Android Friends...

No, this is not a post for friends that are androids.  It is a post for my friends that own Android phones. Although I much prefer the iPhone for it's usability, software design, and huge app store, I realize that the choice of smart phones is largely a personal preference. So, in the spirit of unity around Christmas time, I offer this list of my past posts which I think are also useful to Android phone users.  Most of these posts mention apps that are available both on iOS and on the Android operating system. To find out about one of those app, simply search for it followed by the word "Android" (e.g., "grocery iq android").

Dec 6, 2011

Apps as Gifts or Stocking Stuffers

Did you know you could buy iPhone and iPad apps from iTunes and give them as Christmas presents? By default, iTunes (on your Mac or PC) will email a redemption email with a gift.  While this is great for someone far away, that you won't see at Christmas, there is a better option that is a little more personal. You can print the gift and iTunes will create a decent-looking page with who the gift is to and from, what the app is, and instructions on redeeming it.

Since only the "Redeem Code" on the printed sheet matters, you can simply write that on your own, more personal card if you want and put it in a box or in a stocking.  For a stocking-stuffer you'll want to use a small card.  If you are the creative type with graphical talents, you can create a business-sized card with the apps icon, a special message, and the redeem code.

Nov 22, 2011

App Sales Around the Holidays

In one of my early posts this year, I mentioned that you can often find iPhone and iPad apps on sale (sometimes for free) and I gave you some advice on to find them.  Although there are always apps on sale, they tend to increase in frequency around any given holiday.  Also, around the holidays, the big names like Electronic Arts and Gameloft tend to put a lot of games on sale, many for only for $0.99.  Check out AppShopper to find out what's on sale this Thanksgiving week.  While you are at it, download the AppShopper app to get notifications when apps you want go on sale.
Tip: Never buy an Electronic Arts or Gameloft app for full price if you can wait. Mark it as "Want It" in your AppShopper app and you'll get an email when it comes down in price.

Nov 10, 2011

Up to Date Fantasy Football Information on Your iPhone

If you play fantasy football with me, please stop and don't read the rest, because I'm giving away one of my secrets.  When you realize, like I did today, that Thursday night football for the season is already starting on the NFL Network, you know it's a narrower window during the week that you have to set your lineup.  This means that it's critical to be able to do that anywhere. That's one of the reasons I wrote Fantasy Football: What You Can Do on Your iPhone and Why.

However, to set your lineup on the go you need to be able to do some research on the go.  You need to know the latest about players and teams (especially roster changes and injuries) to decide who to start, who to sit, and who to pick up out of free agency.  So what's the best ways to get the information you need on the go, on your iPhone?

Nov 8, 2011

Don't Have Siri but Want to Talk to Your Older iPhone?

Most of us don't have an iPhone 4S but may look semi-covetously on those who are able to talk to Siri and get a response to almost any question.  We know we can talk to our phones with the iPhone voice control feature, telling it to call a phone number or play a playlist.  But those people with the new iPhones can search the web, find a restaurant, and even send an email. You can't do those things with the voice control feature.

This is where Vlingo comes in.  Vlingo is the Siri for the rest of us.  Although it's not built into iOS, like Siri, once you launch the app, it is super-easy to use.  You just press a button and speak, starting your sentence with certain keywords.  For example, you could say, "email Tim, subject testing vlingo" and it would create an email to Tim, whoever that is, with the subject "testing vlingo".  It will update Facebook and if you say something like "update Facebook I'm writing a blog post right now."  You can even send text messages (SMS) and update Twitter.

Nov 1, 2011

Reminders on iOS 5: A To-do Alternative?

Reminders on iOS 5 are pretty nice.  They sync along with your calendar to iCloud if you do that sort of thing.  (I sync my calendar to the "Google cloud" so I don't use iCloud for mail, calendar, or contacts.) The most compelling thing about Reminders though is that they can be location based, allowing you to set a reminder to alert you when you leave a location or arrive at a location. For example, you could set a reminder to "Buy milk" that alerts you when you leave work.

Oct 27, 2011

More on Free Audiobooks

Earlier this year I wrote Listening to Audiobooks on Your iPhone and Where to Get Them Free.  One of the places I mentioned getting free audiobooks is through's free book of the month. If you sign up to be contacted by email, you'll know what each month's free offer is.  Occasionally, like this month, will offer a second book for free.

Oct 25, 2011

Your iPhone as a DSLR

There is no way, even with the new iPhone 4S, that you will be able to get as good a picture with an iPhone as you can with a digital SLR camera. There's also no way to set aperture on an iPhone to get a narrower depth of field. Fortunately, there is an app that gives you the ability to give this appearance to your iPhone photos after the fact.

I've used several "paint-on blur effect" apps in the past but Big Lens seems to work the best. With this app you can paint the part of the photo you want to be blurry or clear with your finger and then set the aperture for the blurry part. You can pinch to zoom to do more precise "painting" and the app even has an "auto" option that will attempt to determine what you are trying to make clear and paint that for you.

I had mixed results with the auto option. It seemed to work better, the less busy the picture. However, by manually painting on the object in focus, I was able to get a really good focal effect. It's important to note that the amount of blur is based on setting an aperture setting as you would when taking a picture with a DSLR.

Oct 20, 2011

Multi-day Calendar View: A Surprise iOS 5 Feature

I upgraded to iOS 5 the first night and it went pretty smooth but took a while due to the number of apps I have on my iPhone 4.  I've been exploring the new features, some of which I may talk about in the weeks to come.  However, one of them I found completely by surprise.  I was looking at my calendar, turned my head, and when I turned it back to my phone, I noticed I was now holding it landscape-style.  In landscape view, my calendar had changed to a multi-day view, showing three days at a time and allowing me to scroll up & down and right & left. It was a much more practical way of looking at the week than even the List view, which is what I use the most.

What other less obvious iOS 5 features have you found?

Oct 11, 2011

Preparing for and Using iOS 5

Tomorrow is the much anticipated release of iOS 5 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.  GigaOM has some things you can do to prepare, including preparing for iCloud.

iCloud looks very promising when it comes to keeping your devices and your Mac or PC in sync, especially documents and camera roll photos. However, I don't think I'm going to use it for mail and calendar.  I'm already using the cloud for these with Gmail and Google Calendar. It will be hard for Apple or anyone else to beat Gmail for search and for spam filtering.

Reminders also looks interesting but I don't know that I'll replace my Toodledo-Todo combination for to-do lists with it.  Toodledo and Todo have recurring to-dos and other features that I use and I frequently use the Toodledo website itself to manage todos, especially if I'm sitting at a PC instead of a Mac. What Reminders in iOS has that my current system doesn't have is location-based "to-dos".  I may simply augment my own system with Reminders.   In other words, I may use reminders for those "urgent, can't forget before I leave or once I get there" things.

What features do you plan on using? What features do you plan to skip using?

Oct 4, 2011

Use Your iPhone to Memorize Scripture

As a Christian, at past points in my life I've memorized verses from the Bible.  Effectively memorizing Scripture requires going over it during the day.  In the past, I would write verses on index cards and then go over them during the day.  The cards made it possible to carry them around and review them whenever I had down time. The cards also made it possible to review verses that I had already memorized without having to look them all up in the Bible individually.

Sep 29, 2011

Learn the Prime Numbers the Fun Way on Your iOS Device

I don't often write about games because, after all, this is Practical iStuff.  However, learning is always a practical thing and there are a lot of games out there that are designed to educate you rather than simply provide you with the satisfaction of knocking off a few green pigs with some angry avians.  (You could make the argument that Angry Birds teaches you physics but that might be a stretch.)

Not all of the education games out there are both worthwhile and well-designed. However, I caught a an app called Factor Samurai for the iPhone and iPad on sale for free and decided to try it.  It's clearly patterned after Fruit Ninja in the sense that you are slicing things with a sword but it's rather well done.

Sep 27, 2011

Better HDR on the iPhone

The iPhone 4 has a camera app that will create HDR photos automatically for you when you snap a picture.  The iPhone's HDR feature takes two pictures at different exposures then combines them, often into a better picture than you can take with any single picture.  An HDR picture taken with the camera app will make both bright areas and dark areas of a photo stand out. However, you can create a much more artistic HDR photo if you simply move beyond the camera app to an app that is dedicated to taking HDR photos.

The pictures I took for this post were taken with Pro HDR for the iPhone.  Not only does this app give your photos a richer appearance it even gives you the ability to tweak brightness, saturation, warmth, tint, etc. It's definitely a great option if all you have is an iPhone 3G because you don't have HDR with the built-in camera app unless you have an iPhone 4.  It actually even works with the iPad.

Sep 23, 2011

Listening to AudioBooks on Your iPhone and Where to Get Them Free

I may be a little ADD.  I have a hard time focusing on long books but I love to listen to Audiobooks, especially when doing tedious things like mowing the lawn or driving a long distance.  In fact, listening to an Audiobook or something interesting keeps my mind engaged and awake when driving. I always have my iPhone with me and it's a great tool, because of its size, for listening to these.

Sep 15, 2011

Listen to Police, Fire, and Emergency Radio on Your iPhone

If you like to listen to police, fire, or EMS radio, you used to have to buy a scanner. You can easily pay $100 or more for one of these. However, many of these stations are also streamed over the internet, which is OK if you are at home.  If you are out and about and are trying to find out why there are three fire trucks and a police car near your favorite store, you need something more portable.

This is where scanner apps such as Scanner 911 for the iPhone come in.  It gives you a directory, by state, of police, fire, and EMS radio stations.  It also has airport control tower radio and a number of amateur radio stations. Scanner 911 even has a handy reference list of codes typically used by police and emergency workers so that you can understand what is being said.

I found Scanner 911 useful during recent flooding due to Tropical Storm Lee, listening to where people were having to be rescued after going into too-deep water.  It definitely convinced me not to venture out.

Sep 13, 2011

Fantasy Football: What You Can Do on Your iPhone and Why

One of the great things about football season, besides the imminent cooler weather and the excitement of watching football, is getting to play fantasy football with friends.  In the old days, that was too much work for me to enjoy, but now with a multitude of web sites handling the scoring, your team management, etc., it's a lot of fun and a whole lot less work.  However, when web sites began to keep track of your team and your scores, participating in fantasy football still involved getting in front of a computer to set your line-up, add or drop players, and check your scores.  At least that was the case until until the smart phone.

Now there are apps for all the major fantasy football outlets:
  1. Yahoo! Fantasy Football '11
  2. ESPN Fantasy Football 2011
  3. NFL Fantasy Football 2011
  4. Fanstasy Football Monster '11 - If you are in more than one of these leagues, this is the one to get.

Sep 6, 2011

"Envelope" Budgeting on the iPhone

I really like Mint, especially the Mint iPhone app. It's traditional budgeting software that allows you to set monthly spending limits and alerts you when you go over them. (The iPhone app is nice for the alerts.) The web site and the iPhone app are both well designed and powerful.

The problem with Mint is the problem with traditional budgeting software; it's reactive instead of proactive. Whenever I asked myself "how much money do we have for, for example, landscaping?", it was never easy to tell. I could tell how much I had spent on landscaping and what my monthly budget limit is for landscaping but not how much is available. I needed something akin to envelope budgeting, where I could set money aside every month for what I planned on spending, and that money could carry over to the next month if I didn't use it all. This method is actually the simplest and makes it the easiest to understand your financial shape with less surprises. It is the equivalent of giving every dollar a purpose before its spent.

I had used Mvelopes at one time, before they had an iPhone app. It uses envelope budgeting but I can't recommend it. It's clunky flash interface has been slow and buggy. In fact, not realizing all my options, I signed in and tried to launch it and all I got was a "General Error" page. They didn't want my money, I suppose.

In the process of searching I found a program called MoneyWell in the Mac app store. It had good reviews and met my requirement of having an iPhone companion app. I bought both apps (still less than the price of a year of Mvelopes) and haven't regretted my purchase. MoneyWell takes the envelope budgeting concept and implements it well. It uses the concept of "buckets" instead of envelopes. After you are paid, you fill up each bucket with money from your paycheck and then pay for things out of it throughout the pay period. If you come up short in one bucket, you can move money from another bucket, forcing you to make a deliberate choice, rather than simply overspending and hoping "it all works out".

The Mac app will download transactions from a large number of financial institutions with very little effort. If you have a smaller bank or credit union, like I do, and it's not on the list, you can import OFX or QIF files that you download from your bank's web site. This was easier than I thought it would be. You can set up "favorites" that allow you to automatically pull money from a certain bucket for a certain payee. This allows me to skip categorizing Publix as "Food" for example. It just automatically pulls the money for Publix from my Food bucket.

The MoneyWell app for the iPhone gives you your bucket balances on the go and let's you even enter manual transactions on the go that you can reconcile to your bank later. I have chosen the route of simply downloading the transactions instead of manually entering and reconciling for time's sake. MoneyWell syncs with the Mac app but you have to have your Mac and your iPhone on the same network to do that (which generally means being at home when you sync.)

So far, with MoneyWell, I feel like I have a better understanding of my financial situation than I ever did with Mint. Although I prefer something web-based like Mint, MoneyWell is better meeting my needs to get a hold of my finances rather than simply react to overspending. I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, MoneyWell's desktop app is only available for Mac so, if you have Windows, you'll have to choose something else, such as You Need a Budget (which also has an iPhone app).

Aug 30, 2011

Live Fantasy Football Draft on the iPhone

Update for 2012:
The Fantasy Football Draft Monster '11 app is no longer available and has been replaced by the Fantasy Football Draft '12 HD - for Yahoo/ESPN iPad app and the Fantasy Football Draft '12 - for Yahoo/ESPN iPhone app. Because it's a new app, it's a new purchase, but even at $4.99 or $2.99, respectively, it's worth it if you need it. This year adds support for auction drafts in addition to snake drafts. Both apps are rated 4-stars as I write this.

I mentioned an app for the iPhone called Fantasy Football Draft Monster '11 - Yahoo/ESPN Live Draft App when I wrote the Prepare for Your Fantasy Football Draft with Your iPhone or iPad post last week.  I mentioned how you can use it to rank your players before the draft and, as an aside, that you can even use it for your draft (for Yahoo! and ESPN leagues).

Tonight I needed that live draft functionality. I had a fantasy football draft that both myself and my wife were participating in. My wife was using our only computer for the draft so I used the app instead.  I was initially concerned that a fantasy draft app wouldn't work well on the iPhone because of the small screen real estate. To my pleasant surprise, it worked incredibly well.  The screen was divided well by tabs and had a very intuitive user experience. I wish that I'd taken a screen shot during the draft to show you but instead you'll have to settle for the after-the-draft results tab.  I highly recommend it if you find yourself needing to draft your team away from the computer.

Aug 25, 2011

Print to PDF on Your iPhone or iPad

Update: Unfortunately, Print to PDF was removed from the app store by Apple. The developer has posted a workaround if you already have the app as well as a Mac app that makes the the app work again. Unfortunately, if you didn't download the app before it disappeared from the app store, neither of these things work.

One of the things you can do on a Mac natively is "print" to a PDF.  In other words, any application that has the ability to print can be used to create a PDF.  You simply choose the print option in that application and then "Save as PDF...".  This outputs what would be otherwise be printed to paper as a PDF that you can store later.

You can also do this on Windows by installing a program like CutePDF Writer.  It works nearly the same way except that you choose CutePDF Writer as your printer and click the Print button.

Why would you do this?  You can do things like:
  1. This allows you to do things like save bills as PDFs.
  2. You can save you airline boarding pass as a PDF for reprinting (if you lose your hard copy, for example).
  3. You can go paperless by saving anything you can print as a PDF and uploading it to a service like Evernote, a service I wrote about in this post.

Aug 23, 2011

Prepare for Your Fantasy Football Draft with Your iPhone or iPad

I debated whether to or not to write about this before my fantasy football league draft.  I knew that it might help my competition.  However, most of you are not in a fantasy league with me but may play fantasy football nonetheless.

The most time consuming part of fantasy football can be researching players in preparation for the draft. Given that, it would be very convenient to be able to easily do that when you are away from the computer, waiting in line, waiting in the doctor's office, waiting to meet a friend for lunch, or just waiting. You can with the help of one of the new apps that help you do the research wherever you are.

One of these is NFL Fantasy Cheat Sheet 2011.  It claims to have a "pick recommendation engine" and ranks the players accordingly.  It will even adjust the rankings according to the scoring system you use in your league.  It lets you add players to a wish list but doesn't let you change the rankings.

Aug 18, 2011

Reading RSS Revisited

In RSS Readers: Your Reading in One Spot on Your iOS Device, I wrote about RSS readers, of which there are many in the app store.  At the time, I told you that I prefer to use Google Reader in Safari rather than a dedicated app.  All my feeds are in Google Reader which I can read on my Mac, on other computers, etc. so I prefer having one place where I set up all of my feeds.  Plus, Google Reader in Safari on the iPhone works pretty well.

Since i wrote this, I've found something else that I think I like a little better.  Feedly is a universal app that can be run on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.  Feedly doesn't require that you subscribe to RSS feeds via the app itself.  It simply uses your Google Reader account and presents it in a more attractive way. It also uses gestures, one of which I really like.  Most pages show four entries.  On a given page, I read the ones that interest me and swipe down to mark the rest of that page as read.  That and the more attractive interface make this my go-to app for reading RSS feeds on my iPhone.

What do you use for reading feeds on your iOS device?

Aug 16, 2011

Why Does This Movie Have This Rating?

School is starting, the summer movie season is coming to a close, and those summer movies are starting to come to DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix, iTunes, etc. After a long week of work and school, you may want to watch a movie on the weekend, maybe even with the kids.

As a parent, you wonder if a given movie is safe for your kids.  More often than that, movie ratings won't give you the right answer.  The PG-13 movie rating, for example, is on such a wide range of content, it's often impossible to tell.  Don't you wish you knew what to expect? Fortunately, there are apps for that.

Aug 11, 2011

Football is Here: Keep Up

It's football season--or at least the NFL preseason.  The NFL is back playing and college football is starting soon. There's also major league baseball and major league soccer going on.  No matter your sports preference, you probably won't get a chance to watch every game you care about.  Fortunately, that's where your iPhone can help.  There are a couple of good apps for that.

Aug 9, 2011

Never Miss a Bill

There are a lot of ways to avoid missing bills if you have an iPhone or iPad: You can add them to your to-do list. You can add them to your calendar. You can download one of the many apps that allows you to enter each bill manually with the day of the month it is due, and then reminds you as the day approaches.  Or you can do something much more automatic.

Aug 4, 2011

Refill Prescriptions the Easy Way on Your iPhone

When I'm thinking about what next to tell you that you can do with your iOS device, the answer often comes unexpectedly as I use mine to do something I haven't told you about yet.  Tonight was one of those times.  As I wondered which of the many next things I could write about, my wife said something that reminded me I needed to refill a prescription.  So of course, I went to my iPhone.

That might be an obvious choice because, after all, is a phone.  I could've used it to call the pharmacy, navigate through the options until I got to the place I entered my prescription number, entered the time I wanted to pick it up on the phone keypad, etc.  I chose a simpler route.  I opened the Walgreens app.

Aug 2, 2011

Track Hurricanes on Your iPhone or iPad

With Tropical Storm Emily bearing down on the Dominican Republic, where I have friends living, I've been paying more attention to the weather in the Caribbean.  If you live on the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, or the even the Pacific Ocean, this is a time of the year you want to pay attention to tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons.

Fortunately, if you have an iOS device, there are a number of apps that let you track hurricanes and forecasts their position, strength, etc. on a map.  Hurricane on the iPhone and Hurricane HD on the iPad may be the best ones.  Both are from the same developer and show forecasted position and strength, satellite images, radar, etc. for both current tropical depressions, tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons.  They even show tracking maps for past storms so that you can see where they went and how strong they were along the way.

Jul 28, 2011

The Easy Way to Make a Genius Appointment

I had some trouble with my MacBook Pro that required an appointment with someone from the Genius Bar at the Apple Store.  The  "geniuses", as they are called, at the Genius Bar, are Apple's in-store technical support specialists.  They provide tech support for everything from Macs to iPhones to iPads to iPods. To get a chance to show them your problem and hopefully get it fixed, you do the following:
  1. Make a Genius Bar appointment online.
  2. Go to the store at the appointed time.
  3. Check in with an Apple employee.
  4. Wait for them to call your name.

Jul 26, 2011

Check Your Heart Rate with Your iPhone...Seriously

OK, that sound's crazy, doesn't it?  Can your iPhone tell your heart rate, your pulse?  How's that possible?  It turns out there is an app for that and how it does this is seriously innovative...and it doesn't need any additional hardware.

Jul 19, 2011

Google+ on the Go

It's only been about three weeks since the new social networking application, Google+ launched.  So why another one and what does this have to do with what you can do with your iPhone or iPad?

First, let me answer the first question.  I've heard it said that Google+ is what would be born if Facebook and Twitter had a child. I'm not sure that's a fair description though, given it has features that are not even present in the other two but are incredibly powerful as social tools:
  1. Circles - These are a central concept in Google+.  Put simply, the are groups or categories that you put people in that allow you to share different thing with different people.  For example you might want to share Suzie's piano recital with your Friends circle but not with your Coworkers circle.  This is actually quite powerful.

Jul 14, 2011

Essential iPhone Apps

With this blog, I typically write about things that you can do with your iOS device (your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch).  Though I don't review apps, per se, I talk a lot about specific apps because apps are what give you the ability to do so many things.  Over the past seven months since this blog started, I have mentioned a lot of iPhone apps. Below are what I would consider the twenty more essential apps that I've written about:

Jul 12, 2011

Podcasts: An Alternative to iTunes on iOS Devices

If you are unfamiliar, a podcast is a series of audio (or video) episodes that you can subscribe to and listen to using special software, sometimes called a podcatcher.  There are podcasts on nearly every subject from news to politics to sermons to sports to education to technology to old radio show...I could go on.  Some are short, just a few minutes or so.  Some are over an hour.  My own church has a podcast of each Sunday's sermon.  On my drive home from work I listen to MacOS Ken, a podcast with the latest news on the Apple world.

So how do you enter the world of podcasting?  You need a podcatcher.  If you are reading this blog, chances are good that you have one of the most well-know podcatchers in iTunes.  With iTunes, you can subscribe to podcasts (which are listed in the iTunes store) and then sync those podcasts to your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.  I used to subscribe to podcasts via iTunes and then sync them to my iPhone.  I got away from this and turned to other options for two reasons:

Jul 7, 2011

Watch the Final Space Shuttle Launch on Your iPhone or iPad

As I write this, it's about 12 hours from the last launch of the Space Shuttle program with the final mission of the Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-135).  If everything goes as planned, the Atlantis will launch at 11:26 EDT on July 8, 2011.  But what if you are away from the television and the computer for this historic event?  What if you're sitting in an airport, relaxing on the beach, or drinking coffee at Starbucks?

There are a couple of apps that will let you watch this event.  Both apps are free and will show live streaming video from NASA TV. The first one is Ustream for iPhone. With it you will need to search for the NASA TV channel, though it should be listed on the Live tab of the app once the countdown begins.

Jun 30, 2011

Capturing Notes on the Go

Having a notepad with you at all the time, with all your notes, is very convenient.  If you own an iPhone or an iPad you probably already know this because it comes with a Notes app.  It's fairly basic but works well for just capturing simple ideas that don't take a lot of text. But what if you want to capture longer notes and your near a PC, or what if you want to record a voice note, or want to simply take a picture and keep it with your notes?

This is where Evernote comes in.  I've tried many notes apps, including Appigo Notebook and Awesome Note but finally settled on Evernote.  If you've read my Apps with Web Components post, you know I like an iOS app that syncs with a web app that I can use when I'm in front of a computer.  Evernote was a web app before it ever became an iOS app.  The two sync seamlessly.

Jun 28, 2011

A Better Way to Share Contact Information

Sometimes you need another person's phone number, email address, or home address. This happens to me a lot because I keep all contact information in my iPhone (which I have synced to Gmail's contacts).  I often need someone's phone number or email address to get in touch with that person later. More recently, I sometimes have to go to someone's house that I've never been to and don't have an address for.  I don't want to type all that information into my contacts on the little keyboard (or into my GPS for that matter). Fortunately, there is a better way...and it's built into the iOS Contacts app that is on every iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

If you are getting contact information from another person, and that person has an iOS device, just ask him or her to share the contact information.  At the bottom of every contact is a Share Contact button. When you tap that button, you have the option of emailing or sending via MMS that contact as a file called a vCard.  If you are the recipient of that file, you can simply click on it and it will open it.  At the bottom you'll see two options:

Jun 23, 2011

RSS Readers: Your Reading in One Spot on Your iOS Device

One good thing about having an iPhone in your pocket or an iPad by your side is that it's available whenever you have time for a quick read.  One of the things I like to read are blogs, blogs of all kinds: friends' personal blogs, news blogs, technology blogs, blogs by pastors I respect, political blogs, and even other blogs about iOS devices.

As you can imagine, I couldn't bookmark all those blog sites and hope to figure out where I left off reading. That's where RSS readers (or Feed Readers, as they are sometimes called, since some feeds are ATOM, not RSS).  RSS readers are aggregators of all of the content of your favorite blogs so that you can look at them all in the same place, either with the latest posts first or organized into folders or categories.  By the way, RSS is not just for blogs.  Most sites with any kind of news or reviews provide RSS feeds.

Jun 21, 2011

Send a Real Postcard...from Your iPhone

I sent a postcard with a picture I took a couple of weeks ago...and I didn't even have to mail it.  In fact, I sent it from my iPhone.  With an app called Postagram, it was incredibly simple and not too expensive.

The app takes you through simple steps to creating a postcard.  You choose a picture (from Facebook, Instagram, or your camera roll), type a personal message, add a recipient (or as many recipients as you want), and then click a button to order it.  The recipients can be typed in individually or chosen from your contacts.  Ordering a postcard is an in-app purchase for this otherwise free app.  Each postcard you send is $0.99.  Since it includes the postage, it's not really too bad of a deal.  Your first one is free.

Jun 14, 2011

Send a Fax from Your iPhone

Fax machines are so last millennium...but strangely, even in 2011, I find myself having to send one on rare occasion.  Given the infrequency of sending faxes and the fact that I don't have a land-line, owning a fax machine isn't really practical.  However, there are just some times that you need to send a fax.  (It seems like it's always to banks, mortgage companies, or doctor's offices, but I digress.)

Today was one of those days.  I needed to sign a document and fax it to a number.  (There was no option to email it, just to fax it.) Not owning a fax machine and not wanting to make a trip out, I decided to try my favorite scanning app, JotNot Pro.  It's not only the best document scanning app for the iPhone of the one's I've tried, it also has the ability to fax documents.  I took a picture of the document, had it converted to a scanned black and white image with JotNot Pro, and then used the Fax feature of JotNot Pro to fax the document. It sent my fax without a hitch.  It did cost me a $0.99 fax credit but that was cheaper than spending $4/gallon gas to go to the nearest UPS Store...and it was far more convenient.

Jun 9, 2011

Easy iPhoneography: Seemingly Endless Filters

As I mentioned in The Best Camera is the One You Have with You, the iPhone 4 takes some pretty good pictures, but even if you have an earlier iPhone, you can still turn pictures into a work of art by the use of filters.  Apps with filters are an easy way to add a lot of interest to a photo you've taken, giving it any number of looks such as aged, cross-processed, black and white, sepia, vivid color, etc.

I've always loved the ease of Instagram, an app which allows you to apply a filter to your photo and share it in mere seconds.  The only problem with Instagram is that it only has fifteen filters.  Even though the filters are pretty good ones, it leaves you longing for more. Today I discovered my new favorite app for filtering, and best of all, it works well with Instagram.

Jun 7, 2011

PayPal: Don't Take That Check to the Bank

I've use PayPal for a number of years, mostly for buying online and giving to my church.  However, I never really use it to transfer money to someone else or to receive money from someone else. Recently, though I did do that, though in a little different way, and with my iPhone.

We had a couple of other families over one Friday night and ordered pizza.  I paid for the pizza initially but we split the cost. One person paid me back in cash and another paid me with a check.  Rather than take the check to the bank, which would require a special trip for me or for my wife, I decided to try something new.

Jun 2, 2011

Posting to Craigslist on the Go

I recently helped some friends have an estate sale where they sold almost everything they owned in preparation to move to another country as missionaries.  Since it was important to get people out to the estate sale, I needed to post an ad for it to Craigslist.  At the time I needed to post it, doing that from a computer wasn't really an option.  Since Craigslist doesn't have a mobile-friendly web site I immediately went to the app store to see what my options were.

If you search for "craigslist" on the app store you'll find a number of apps.  I looked through the reviews for each app that had the ability to post an ad and settled on one that was free but had high ratings.  This one, Craigslist Pro, served my needs well.  The interface was OK, not great, but at the price did everything I needed, including letting me upload up to four photos to an ad. It let me update the ad later, which I did after adding the photos.  I knew it worked immediately because, within minutes of initially posting the ad, I started getting emails asking me about the items that were being sold.

May 28, 2011

Knowing When to Go to the Airport

When your flying, once the door is up and electronics are turned off, unless you pay for onboard wifi, you can say goodbye to all communication for the duration of the flight.  This includes communicating to whoever is going to pick you up at the airport or is waiting for you at home.  Fortunately, there is an app that helps with that.

When I wrote Tripping with the iPhone, I spoke mostly of using your iPhone to hold your itinerary, find out what gate to go to for a connecting flight, find out if your flight is on time, etc.  I use an app called Flight Update Pro for this.  However, one feature is particularly practical for the person who is not flying but is picking up the flyer from the airport.

May 24, 2011

Play a Game, Get Free Software for Your Mac?

It won't be often I talk about games.  After all, this is Practical iStuff, not Entertaining iStuff.  But sometimes, playing a game is a practical thing.

MacHeist is a site that has been around for a while and sells bundles of Mac software at a discount.  Every so often they do what they call a "heist", where people are invited to solve puzzles to get a free bundle of Mac software.  In the past, this was done via the MacHeist web site.  The latest heist though is different.  It's done with a new iPhone app, called The Heist.

This new iPhone app is a puzzle game with a series of puzzles that you can solve to remove all the security around the vault and open the vault.  Once you solve all the puzzles, MacHeist promises to give you a surprise that they say is worth much more than the $0.99 payment for the app.  That's practical.

May 19, 2011

You Need a Weather Radio: Your iPhone Can Be That

The tornado Super Outbreak of 2011 was a reminder of the importance of having a weather radio for waking you up during severe weather. The morning of April 27, it was our weather radio that had us down in the basement as an EF-2 tornado passed just four miles north of us.

If you don't have a weather radio, or need one while traveling, your iPhone (or even your iPad) can be that for you, thanks to a couple of apps:
  1. iMapWeather Radio - This weather radio app sounds an alarm and then speaks the type of weather alert out loud (e.g., "The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning."), according to the apps web site. It allows you to turn on and off specific alerts so that you are not awakened by alerts you don't care about. This is the app is recommended by Birmingham, Alabama's, metereologist James Spann. In many markets, you can watch streaming video of local severe weather coverage. I haven't had it alert me yet because I only bought it today (May 19, 2011).  I waited until today because it was put on sale for free to the first 100,000 users.  It is normally $9.99 and may possibly never go on sale again.

May 17, 2011

Throw Away Your Discount Cards

You know those discount cards that you carry in your wallet or on your key ring, the ones that you want with you because they actually do save you money. Get more than a couple and they start to get in the way, making your wallet fat or your keyring bulkier. There is a better way.

You carry your iPhone wherever you go already. What if there were a way to store them on your phone, where they wouldn't take up any more space? Imagine going into Best Buy and at the register, instead of fumbling for your Best Buy Rewards card, pulling out your iPhone instead and having the cashier scan that. Well, there are apps for that.

I have used a couple of apps that do this, and either one of them is a good choice. They both allow you to scan cards into the app by scanning the barcode.  They also both have logos for a multitude of companies that show up on your virtual cards. They both even offer deals at stores for which you have cars. In fact, they are both free.  (I said both a lot of time, I realize.)

May 13, 2011

Tips for Listening to Naturespace on the iPhone or iPad

In my original post about ambient sound, I mentioned an app called Naturespace for the iPhone and iPad.  Since then I've begun using it even more than when I wrote the post, especially for going to sleep at night.  I also use it to help focus whenever I've got a lot of work that requires that I sit in front of my PC for a long period of time.  This increased use for a variety of situations has taught me a lot that I thought I'd share as tips.

General Tips

  1. When choosing to purchase sounds, read the reviews and/or listen to what a friend has.  NatureSpace doesn't have free samples of sounds and has their reasons for it.
  2. Turn on Earbud Optimization if using earbuds, like those that come with the iPhone.  Otherwise, leave it off.  In the picture above, Earbud Optimization is on, as you can see on the third button from the left on the bottom.  If you listen with regular, over-the-ear headphones or with speakers, you want to tap that button to turn that feature off.

May 10, 2011

Twitter: Why Should You Care?

When I mention Twitter to someone unfamiliar with it, it's not uncommon for that person to say something like, "Why do I care about the fact that Suzie is shopping for groceries or that Bill is sitting on his front porch watching cars go by?".  I don't care about those things either, but then again, those have not been my Twitter experience.

What It Is

If you are not familiar with it, Twitter is considered a "microblogging" service where individuals or organization.  In other words, it started as a way to update your friends with what is going on in 140 characters or less (much like Facebook status updates, except with a limit on how much you could type).  It has evolved into much, much more than that though, as many types of organizations started tweeting.

May 5, 2011

Old School Radio: Vintage Radio Shows on the iPhone and iPod Touch

The Green Hornet, Flash Gorden, The Lone Ranger, Abbott and Costello, The Adventures of Superman, Sherlock Holmes.  These are some of the old radio shows that families would gather around the living room to listen to before television.  While you're not likely to do this at home anymore since you own a television, the lack of video makes old time radio programs a good choice when doing things that require the attention of your eyes elsewhere (driving or exercising, for example).

The app that I use for this is called Vintage Radio Lite.  Despite the name, it's actually a $0.99 app.  However, for the price of a big bag of chips you get over 1,000 old time radio shows like the ones mentioned above (and many, many more).  You might be surprised by how much your kids like these shows.  My kids love the Abbot and Costello "Who's on First" episode, and think that it's hilarious...but who doesn't?

What's your favorite old time radio show?

May 3, 2011

Spotting Tornados on RadarScope

It's been a week since I wrote my post on weather apps and almost a weeks since tornados ravaged much of Alabama and the Southeast.  One of the apps I wrote about a week ago was RadarScope, an advanced weather app that shows several different types of radar data for radars all over the U.S., Guam, and Puerto Rico.  It is a universal app that works on the iPhone and the iPad.

Apr 28, 2011

Pray for Alabama and the Southeast

I'm going to depart from my usual "what you can do with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch" type of post this time.  When I wrote my last post, I knew severe weather was coming here to Alabama the next day.  I just had no idea it would be this bad.  Last night Alabama experienced a historical and deadly tornado outbreak.  It included an EF-4 or EF-5 tornado that traveled across the state from Mississippi and into Georgia, killing many and destroying property.  Hard hit were Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.  Yesterday was tragic for much of the Southeast United States.

Pray for Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia, especially for those who have lost loved ones, who have had homes destroyed, or who are injured.  Please also consider giving or volunteering to help those who are hurting.  It will be a long recovery for some.

Apr 26, 2011

Weather and iOS: Why Are You Still Using the Built-in Weather App?

I'm not quite a weather geek but I'm interested in severe weather.  I like to know when its coming for safety reasons but also find it interesting to track in general.  Whatever your motivation, if your still using the built-in Weather app for iOS on your iPhone or iPod Touch you are really missing out on a lot of information.  If you have an iPad, it didn't even come with a weather app.

Apr 21, 2011

Identify That Song...or TV Program

In 2008, Apple did a commercial that featured Shazam, an app that will identify a song simply by listening to it for a few seconds through your iPhone's microphone (a process called "tagging").  What it can do is very useful when you're out and about and hear a song you like but don't know what it is.  It will even link to the song on iTunes if you decide you like it and want to buy it.

Apr 19, 2011

Kid-proofing the iPod Touch or iPhone

The iPod Touch is a great gaming device for kids compared to the Nintendo DS and the Playstation Portable (PSP) because the games are so much more affordable.  Many kid-friendly games are free or $0.99 while top-rated titles tend to be no more than $9.99, but often much less.  Also, sales on games are very common.  That's not to mention that the iPod Touch is great for video, music, web surfing, etc.  But with all these capabilities, you need to protect your kid and yourself from things unwanted.

Apr 14, 2011

Making the Most of iOS Audio: The Car

In my last post, Making the Most of iOS Audio: The Bedroom, I talked to you about the best way to listen to audio, sans headphones, in the bedroom.  But what about driving?  Wearing headphones, unless you have the volume low enough, is dangerous when driving and is even illegal in some states.  But driving is the best time to listen to music, podcasts, audio books, and even internet radio.  What are your options?

Apr 12, 2011

Making the Most of iOS Audio: The Bedroom

The iPhone and iPod touch are great audio devices for listening to music, radio, ambient sound, or audio books.  The headphones that come with these devices actually sound pretty good, especially if you are a non-audiophile, like me.  However, in your bedroom, wearing headphones is inconvenient when you are getting ready in the morning and want to listen to music, catching a podcast while changing out of work clothes, or listening to a gentle rain in Naturespace as you drift off to sleep at night.  (See my Ambient Sound post for more information about that last one.)

Mar 31, 2011

Ambient Sound: Going Somewhere Else without Going Somewhere Else

There are settings that, when you are in them, you feel better, even more relaxed, no matter what you are doing.  Whether it's a day at the beach, a spring morning with birds singing, or a rainy day, a big part of being immersed in those environments is the sounds you hear.

Mar 29, 2011

HDR After the Fact on iOS

I mentioned in my The Best Camera is the One You Have with You post that the HDR feature on the iPhone 4 produces some pretty good pictures.  But what if you have an earlier model iPhone or an iPod Touch 4G? What if you simply didn't have HDR turned on? What if you used a point-and-shoot camera and only took one shot? Is there a way to get the an HDR-like shot after the fact?

Mar 17, 2011

Embracing Lo-fi Photography

I explained in my previous post, The Best Camera is the One You Have with You, that the iPhone 4 takes pictures that are quite good for being taken with a phone.  I also gave you some tips for taking better pictures with it.  But what if you can't get a good shot due to lighting conditions or what if you have an iPhone 3G or 3GS, which each have only a three-mexapixel camera?  What if you have an iPod Touch with an even lower resolution camera? Can you take good pictures then?

Mar 15, 2011

The Best Camera Is the One You Have With You

I took a week off of blogging due to being on a school field trip with my son to Washington, DC and the historic Virginia cities of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.  During that time, I took a lot of pictures so my next couple of posts will have to do with photography and iOS devices.

Mar 1, 2011

Emergency Document Retrieval

Imagine this scenario: You're out and about when you realize you forgot to email that important document before you left the computer.  Now it's sitting at home on the computer and you are nowhere near home.  What if everything that was on your computer at home was easily accessible on your iPhone or iPad.  You have a couple of good options for this.

Feb 24, 2011

Tap and Hold iOS Keyboard Shortcuts

I've had an iPhone since 2008 but it was only recently that I learned of all the keyboard shortcuts that are available by tapping a key and holding it down.  When you hold a key down, a menu will pop up with the other variations for that key.  I mentioned some of these and gave you a link in my Tips for New iOS Users post but here is a more complete list.

Feb 22, 2011

Serious Content Creation on the iPhone and iPad

I'm typing this blog entry on my iPhone with my new Apple Wireless Keyboard. The Apple Wireless Keyboard is a bluetooth keyboard that is about the size of a notebook keyboard and can be used with a computer, an iPad, or an iPhone (iPhone 4 and, I think, iPhone 3GS).

Feb 16, 2011

The Better Way to Listen to Radio

If you like to listen to the radio, whether talk or music, you are typically limited to what stations you can get locally or you have to pay to subscribe to satellite radio.  If you have an iPhone or an iPad (or an iPod Touch with access to wifi) there is another option and it's actually a very good one.

Feb 10, 2011

iPhone Voice Control

One of the not-so-obvious features of the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 is Voice Control.  One of the reasons it's easy to forget about, if you know it's there at all, is that there is no app icon for it and there is very little in the way of settings for it.  Voice Control is extremely useful in the car, when you don't want to take your eyes off the road to place a call or play some music.

It works quite simply: Just hold down the home key for a couple of seconds and let go.  The Voice Control screen will appear and a sound will play indicating it's time for you to speak.  Just say something like "Call John Deaux mobile" and a nice lady will reply back, "Calling John Deaux mobile".  You'll soon be talking to John Deaux without having to take your eyes off the road.  After you've talked to John long enough and want to listen to music, press the button again and say something like "Play playlist eclectic favorites".  (Substitute whatever playlist you are in the mood for.)

Feb 9, 2011

For My Verizon iPhone Friends: Some Essential Posts for New Users

Tomorrow is the big day when Verizon iPhones start showing up in a brick and mortar store near you.  Those of you who pre-ordered on February 3 are beginning to receive your iPhones shipments at home.  For those of you who are just getting started with your iPhones, hear are some of the more essential posts from the short time Practical iStuff has been around.  These should help you get started.
  1. Tips for New iOS Users
  2. Google Sync: The Poor Man's Answer to Mobile Me
  3. App Sales: The Way to Score Some Great Apps on the Cheap
  4. Apps with Web Components
  5. To Doing: To Do Lists on the iPhone and iPad

Feb 3, 2011

Taking Measurements with You on the iPhone

My wife and I often needs to write down measurements to take with us.  Sometimes with her it is measuring a space for a piece of furniture, measuring a table for a table cloth, measuring a window for curtains, etc.  I've had to measure closets to put in shelves.  In the past, we would write these down on paper.  When we got iPhones, we started recording these measurements electronically as notes on the iPhone...until we found a better way.

Feb 1, 2011

Scanning on the Go with the iPhone

At work, when we submit expense reports for a business trip, we have to attach images of our receipts to those expense reports. Typically, I take the receipts, scan them with our big scanner/copier/printer, and then email them to myself from this mammoth machine.  One time one of my receipts failed to make it back with me.  Fortunately, it was a small one but it could've easily been one that would've caused me big problems.  On my most recent business trip, I tried something different.

Jan 27, 2011

The iPhone Mommy: A Guest Post

By Rachel

The adjustment, sleeplessness, and busyness of being a new Mom can really take up a majority of one’s mental processing space, and then when you add to that trying to keep up with feedings, diapers, naps, and every other event in your baby’s life that you must control and time, it’s nearly impossible.

With my first child, I kept a ridiculously detailed and arduous notebook about everything related to her well-being.  Although it took quite a bit of effort to keep up with, I don’t know that I could have survived without it – at least without my daughter being fed hours too late because I lost track of when she last ate.

Jan 25, 2011

Tripping with the iPhone

I just got back from a business trip to a very cold place.  While my iPhone wasn't able to keep me warm, I had tools on my iPhone that made travel a lot easier.  The most useful thing I did was something I did last year: I got a Tripit account.  Tripit is a free service that, when paired with the free Tripit app for the iPhone, allows you to take your itinerary with you in an easy-to-read, easy-to-access form.  The beauty of Tripit is how easy it is to get your itinerary into the app.  Once you've registered you simply email your itinerary to

Jan 23, 2011

Blogging on the Go with the iPhone

One of the real benefits of a smart phone like the iPhone is its portability. It's the computer you have when you don't have a computer. It's even possible to blog on your iPhone while on the go. While the small iPhone keyboard makes it difficult to write anything of considerable length, there are apps that help in other ways.

Whenever I'm away from the computer and need to blog, I use an app called BlogPress. It works with all the major blogging services, allows you to schedule publishing, and even allows you to tag posts. It even shows previous posts if you need to make a quick change to an already-published post.

By the way, I created and published this post with BlogPress.

Jan 18, 2011

Losing It: Losing Weight with Your iPhone

I could stand to lose some weight, so like many I started doing something about it. I'm not a fitness or diet expert but I've found out a few things about myself. I don't like to "go on a diet" and major restrictions on what I eat don't help me because they are unsustainable. There are things I like to eat that I don't want to completely give up. What I want is to bring moderation to what I eat and how much.
Losing weight ultimately is about taking in less calories than you burn. This is where Lose It! comes in. Lose It! is a free iPhone app that allows you to log your meals and your exercise, a technique that I've found works and allows me to eat mostly what I want as long as I don't overdue it. It's not following a diet as much as it is following a caloric budget. For me it works. When I make a reasonable budget (based on losing a pound a week) and stay within that budget, I lose weight.

Lose It! is very feature rich, more than many apps that will cost you money. It has:
  • A huge database of foods and exercises so you don't have to find out and enter calories.
  • Let's you add and reuse your own foods and exercises if you don't find them in its database.
  • Allows you to add friends for accountability and encouragement. Friends can see how you are doing against your budget, how much weight you're losing, etc. (Only friends can see this stuff so you can restrict it to just yourself by just not adding friends.) It even will email you and your friends a summary or detailed report eac week if you want it to.
  • Let's you combine common foods into recipes for quick entry.
  • Let's you add a past meal as a current meal if you're eating the same thing again (leftovers, for example).
  • It is one of those apps that has it's own web site, where you can log your meals if you are already sitting in front of a computer. In fact you could just use the web site exclusively but logging on an iPhone is convenient when you are out and about.
If you need to lose weight, your iPhone can be a tool to help you. Although losing weight is never easy, using an app like Lose It! definitely helps.

(I've lose 2.4 pounds using Lose It! in the first two weeks of 2011. Last year I lost close to 10 pounds. I would have lost more had I kept up the discipline of logging my food and exercise.)

Jan 14, 2011

To Doing: To Do Lists on the iPhone and iPad

I'm slammed with stuff to do, both at home and at work.  You have been there before, if you aren't there right now.  I can't keep track of everything I need to do without a list.  My memory just isn't good enough.

One of the reasons I got an electronic organizer years ago (a Palm PDA back then) was because keeping up with what I had to do was superior with it than with paper.  There are several reasons for this:
  1. Paper cannot alert you when you have something time-sensitive to do.  If you forget to look at your list at the right time, you can miss doing something very important.
  2. It is difficult to keep up with recurring to-dos on paper.  You have to rewrite them on your to-do list every time they come up.
  3. It is sometimes helpful to put something on your list for the distant future.  With paper, it is difficult to know where to put these items so that they appear on your radar whenever you get to that distant date.
The iPhone and iPad don't come with a built-in to-do list app.  Fortunately, however, there are a number of really good ones in the app store.  Which one you chose is largely a matter of personal preference but there are some things that are good to look for in any of these apps:

Jan 11, 2011

The Right Time to the Movies

Over the holidays I saw a couple of movies.  Since I don't get to the movies much, I like to take in the whole experience, including the popcorn and the large Diet Coke.  As you can imagine, I'm at some point in the movie presented with the dilemma many movie-goers face.  How do I get relief from the pain of having drunk a large caffeinated beverage while not missing anything important?

Jan 8, 2011

Tips for New iOS Users: Speeding Up Your Typing on the Touch Screen

If you just got your first iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad for Christmas, you are still learning your way around it.  Every now and then I will post some quick and simple tips that might help you learn your way around the device.

The first thing that will speed up your typing may be the most difficult to train yourself to do, or at least it was for me.  If you make a mistake in the middle of a word, keep typing.  Your iDevice is really good at correcting words that are miss-typed.  It took me a while to train myself to do this but once I did, it really sped up my typing.

There are also a great number of keyboard shortcuts that will speed up your typing.  Rather than go into them all here, I will point you to a really good list at Mashable.  The double-tap of the space bar tip is life-changing.

Jan 6, 2011

App Sales: The Way to Score Some Great Apps on the Cheap

Most anyone with an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad realizes that there are a lot of apps available for free in the App Store. Some of them are very good, including such well known ones as Pandora, Lose It!, and Google Earth, etc. Go up to $0.99, less than a twenty-ounce Coke at a convenient store, and you find some other quality apps. But what happens when you find those apps that are $4.99 or $9.99 or more that you want but don't want to spend that much for?

Apps go on sale in the app store all the time. Electronic Arts and Gameloft put top-rated games, such as Madden NFL 11, on sale for only $0.99 during the holidays. As of this writing, Runkeeper Pro, which is regularly $9.99, is free. The key to finding deals like these is to know right away when they go on sale. I have a lot of apps on my iPhone. Most of them I got when they were free or when they were $0.99. There are two things I use to help discover apps on sale:
  1. I read the AppAdvice blog, which nearly every day posts free iPhone and iPad apps.
  2. There are apps for that...for tracking sales, that is. The best ones not only show you what apps went on sale, but let you keep a wish list of apps you want and notify you when those apps are on sale. I have used BargainBin With Push (free), which lets you create a wish list and say the price you are willing to buy each app at. If an app meets its target price, a local alert will notify you. I'm currently using AppShopper, which has the added benefit of a web site for maintaining your wish list and what you currently own. It sends you an email when an app on your wish list goes on sale.