Monday, June 2, 2014

23 Mobile Things - Thing #23 - Evaluation

What I enjoyed about this round of 23 things:
  •  Thing 2 - I knew some of those tricks were things that I could do, but I had never bothered to learn how.  It was good to have an excuse to slow down and get all of the little tips that make using your device easier.
  • The BookLook on Buckham library's app
  • Playing with making infographics
  • The variety of apps that were listed in the course of the program
  • Having the chance to recommend an app in Thing #21 (although I started to do this in some of the other categories too) - would it be possible for the organizers to gather all of these posts together in one spot for the rest of us?

Things that were less enjoyable:
  • So many of the apps wanted you to create a user profile.  And I'm not sure if I will use those apps again.  It just felt like everyone wants to be the Facebook/Twitter alternative and have you share all your information (and friends' list) with them. 
  • Siri and Dragon Dictation seemed like they should be so easy - you just need to talk.  But I found both fairly frustrating to actually use ... my pronunciation or the level of speech recognition software?
  •  I didn't start really working on this early enough and did it all in a big push over a couple of weeks.  This had some positives as it let me compare my experiences more from one Thing to the next, but I would have liked to have had the time to try ALL of the listed apps.
  • Filling my personal device with some apps that I probably will never use again.  I did start taking some off, but for a while it was pretty full up.

Some things that surprised me:
  •  I hadn't really thought about the fact that apps go out of business too (particularly when they remain on your device).  This was a surprise when I was going to write about my cool iFlow ereader.
  • There was a lot less interaction between participants (including me) this time around - no comments on other people's blogs.  Could this be encouraged more in a future round?
  • My tourist-heavy town was not included in UpNorthExplorer.  I did give the name of this app to our local chamber who also acts as the local tourism board; they plan to look into being listed as well.

Things I expected to learn about and was happy to finally have (and would have been willing to pay for):
  •  Cloud On from Thing #6 ... I was sure something like this must be out there and not as expensive as the other products that I'd seen.
  • Some fun photo editing apps from Thing #9 ... I expected this would be included after the great online ones that were included in the first round of 23 Things.
  • Haiku Deck from Thing #13 - Like CloudOn, I figured this was out there and just hadn't found it yet
  •  Duolingo from Thing #18 - I just wish (as I mentioned in that post) that it included more languages.

Apps that I don't understand the hype (I guess they just don't suit my personality type):
  •  Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Vine
  • Audioboo

And, one more suggested app from me ... I couldn't find another good place to mention it along the way (perhaps utilities?). 
I use a little app on my iOS devices called "Convert Units for Free" more than I ever expected when I added it.  Want to change metric to standard American units, this is your app ... does a huge variety of types of conversions ... and it's free.

23 Mobile Thing - Thing #22 - Discovering Apps

I downloaded AppsGoneFree for this thing.  I have had it long, but I also went back and looked at past day sales.  There have been a few interesting apps, but I haven't added any from the site yet.  My devices are a bit full at the moment, so I need to make some priority decisions.  Plus, many of the interesting apps I saw were purely entertainment, and my life is really busy right now - adding distractions is not a positive move.  I will probably continue to monitor this app and see if something really great comes along.

Although you didn't mention it, some participants out there may have Amazon Prime.  If you do, there is a free app of the day as part of your subscription ... I've gotten several great apps for my KindleFire through these deals.

23 Mobile Things - Thing #21 - Free-for-all

Zombies, Run! 

Like some of the other participant blogs I’ve looked at, I’m using My Fitness Pal to track calories and try to lose weight.  It’s a great app; however, it’s nuts and bolts of weight loss.  Zombies, Run! is what motivates me to exercise.  EVERY DAY!!!  And, I really am not fond of exercising.  It is developed for runners, but can also be used by walkers, on a treadmill, or (as I use it) on an exercise bike.  Each mission is part audiobook, part your own music playlist, and part low level computer game.  You start the first mission in the middle of the zombie apocalypse as the helicopter you are riding in is shot down in the middle of hostile zombie territory … run!!!!!  It is surprisingly motivating to get moving when you hear the voice say “zombies, 10 meters behind you” and the sound effects of moaning and heavy breathing kick in.  Plus, I love the character of Sam, the radio operator who guides you through the zombie infested English countryside.

This is a paid app - how much depends on the mission pack that you get.
Some screen captures from the game -on the left is the base builder, on the right is run highlights screen

23 Mobile Things - Thing #20 - Games

Oh …. This is a dangerous thing for me to explore.  I have such a hard time staying away from those addictive little time-wasters.  I have Temple Run in various forms on all of my devices (I like it best on my Kindle Fire – the size of the screen to swipe and control of the tilt seems the easiest on that device).  I tried to find DrawQuest, but that company appears to have gone out of business. 

So, I’m going to do another post about some of the favorite apps that I already use in this category …

·         Solitaire Victory (free) – I know, solitaire has become something of a joke about being how a newbie learns to use the mouse on their first computer.  This app has more than just the best known solitaire game though – there are currently 87 different types one or two deck solitaire games included.  My current favorite is Lady Jane – quite challenging.

Pirate Waters (free/lite version or $0.99 for full) – Can you sail your ship through hazardous waters while avoiding enemies and picking up treasures?  Get enough loot and you can upgrade your ship!  Control your sailing by tilting the device.  Great fun – particularly for kids – but it tends to eat the battery power.

Cat Physics ($1.99) – Something like Angry Birds but using cats that are rolling a ball to each other.  A good teaching tool about vectors and other physics.  You need to get a minimum score to advance to the next puzzle.


            Luxor ($0.99) – The addictive Egyptian themed marble shooter game that I had to conquer all of the levels on before I could make myself put it down.

·         100 Floors / 100 Exits (both free) – These two games are manipulation puzzles – try to figure out what will open the door so you can get to the next level.  Some solutions seem obvious and others take a long time to figure out.  I’m at about level 70 in “Floors” and stuck at about 25 in “Exits”.  Great for to exercise your brain with a little sideways thinking.

23 Mobile Things - Thing #19 - Hobbies

I briefly tried RoadNinja.  I think it would have been a more effective trial if I had actually been driving on an Interstate rather than sitting in my living room, but I think I got the general idea.  It seems quite useful for road trips … particularly if you would have a loyalty card for a particular chain of gas stations, etc.  I did note that it listed some businesses which have either changed names or no longer exist, so accuracy of the information may not be 100%.

I didn’t try any of the other apps listed, but here are a few that I use regularly for my own hobbies:

·         Star Walk ($2.99) – great for astronomy.  You can hold it up to the sky and the location services will exactly match what stars you are looking at.  It will change directions as you spin around.  You can see the constellations even during the day cycle , move the time forward or back, zoom in and out.  It lists major satellites and will give alerts about upcoming events like meteor showers and eclipses … definitely worth the price if you are at all interested in the night sky.

    Silk ($2.99) – a fun little app that lets you make symmetrical drawings with your touch.  Very cool as a time waster and can be used as a Rorschach test after you finish drawing!

Here's one of the drawings I did with Silk
·         Epicurious (free) – The best recipe app that I’ve found.  I’ve only tried a few recipes, but they have all turned out well.  It will create a shopping list for a recipe that you choose, so you can use it for advance menu planning.  

·         Metronome - reloaded (free) – If you play an instrument, this is a handy little app that does one thing well.  You can choose time signatures and beats per minute.

Bartender Flashcards (free) – This app is part quiz game, part recipe file, and part quirky facts about alcohol.  It lets you learn more about different liquors and their characteristics.

23 Mobile Things - Thing #18 - Education

I already use Wikipedia, iTranslate, and the dictionary app that are listed on this thing.  So, I tried some new apps as well. 

First, the Eat This, Not That game.  Well, I didn’t do as well as I hoped.  Sigh …  however, I only played the speed rounds.  My poor score with this app has nothing to do with the design; I just don’t eat at any of those places much so I have very little knowledge beyond the photo of what each dish contains.  I was surprised that some of the quizzes were so short – one only had two questions.  Okay as a quick distraction – maybe to win a bet with a fellow weight loss buddy.  Not very helpful if you want to learn more about each dish and why one is better.

Second, Duolingo.  I decided to do the German course to begin.  (I took German in college and Spanish in high school, so I figured for a quick review of the app, one of those choices would be best).  I did the first two lessons and think that this would be a great way to learn language for basic purposes. The addition of having you speak with the computer checking your pronunciation was a fabulous unexpected bonus.  I wish that the choices included Latin because that’s a language I’ve always wanted to learn, but have never studied consistently.  When I have more time (or if I know I will be traveling), I will probably go back to this app and brush up both my German and Spanish just for fun.  I can see this as a good recommendation to supplement language learning in students without needing a personal tutor –particularly since it lets you set daily goals.

Third, I put the app for TED talks on my iPad.  I’ve watched a couple of these talks on YouTube in the past, but it is nice to have them all in one place – sorted and searchable.  This is another app that I will probably go back to at intervals when I have more time.  I think that this is more of what the news should be like – a look towards technology and the future.

23 Mobile Things - Thing #17 - Connecting to Community

I tried two of the apps for my region.

The first was UpNorthExplorer.  I have a good time looking through the events listing until I realized that none of them were located anywhere near me (even though I know of upcoming events and festivals  nearby).  So, I moved on to looking at some of the other categories – dining, lodging, etc. – and found the same thing.  I was left wondering how the towns that were included in the app were chosen.  It kind of felt like something produced jointly by a number of tourism boards (Grand Rapids, Duluth, and a number of Wisconsin towns) with only those events included.  Or that businesses needed to pay to be included.  Since I live in Ely where tourism is a huge part of the summer economy, I expected to see – at the very least – a mention of the Blueberry Arts Festival in July in the events section … not there.  And neither was Land of the Loon in Virginia in June.  Also, none of the many, many lodges and resorts of the area were listed in the lodging section.  I stopped checking after I went through the shopping section and found nothing local there as well.  So, I guess this app is okay if it includes a place that you want to visit.  However, for a general guide to the WHOLE region of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, it has some big gaps.

The second app that I tried was the Highlights of the Superior Hiking Trail.  This was okay.  I liked the setup, but the information was not very in-depth, and I couldn’t find a way to zero in on sections of the trails (which makes it less useful).  Having the parking directions listed separately was a nice touch.  If someone was asking me for a guide to north shore hikes, I would point them towards Hiking the North Shore by Andrew Slade instead – which is available as an e-book, so it could travel along on a phone while you are hiking.

Another app that I would recommend for this section is Minnesota Museums.  I originally got it on iTunes, but when I went back to look to see if it was free (pretty sure it was) I couldn't pull it up again.  I did find the Android version listed on the Google play store for free.  Great for if you want to plan a little day trip or will be somewhere and want to find a way to spend an afternoon.  And, it's surprising to find how many little museums there are in Minnesota.