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.