Monday, June 9, 2014

thing the twenty-third | evaluate 23 mobile things

The 23 Mobile Things initiative was a pretty cool experience. I would have considered myself an expert app user/downloader/discoverer previously, but I still learned about some new ones I'd never before encountered. In my library there were at least a half dozen staff participating in 23 Mobile Things, so it also provided me an opportunity to assist some of my colleagues who were less comfortable or tech savvy in their own discovery.

My favorite part of the experience, as one might guess upon reading the bulk of my blog entries and sensing something of my personality, was the documentation process. I do like to document things, particularly a project that has a defined beginning and end -- it's satisfying to look back and be able to see the visual confirmation of my experience. I do regret that, due both to projects at work and a general habit of procrastination, I really had to scramble these last three weeks to finish on time. It would have been nicer not to feel so rushed, but that's my own fault. If 23 Mobile Things v2.0 were offered, I'd definitely consider participating again, depending on my other obligations.

Thank you, 23 Mobile Things organizers! It's been fun!

thing the twenty-second | discovering apps

apps gone freeI didn't have to download anything for this thing -- I already use Apps Gone Free. I try to remember to check it daily, and I have discovered a number of new apps that I would not otherwise have learned about. I also use it to spot highly-rated apps that would be appropriate and educational for my four-year-old, and watch for others I already know about but am just waiting for the opportunity to get them free. I've acquired Grandpa's Workshop, Grandma's Kitchen, Grandma's Garden, Lulu in Polynesia and Lulu in the Amazon in this fashion. They are absolutely fantastic and have proven to be some of her favorite apps. I love Apps Gone Free!

I may or may not check out the Quixey website. There have been times when I'm wondering if there's a good app for a particular task or purpose I have in mind, but since I find myself so often battling the iPhone storage limit daemons the last thing I need is to find a million more apps I really, really want but don't have room for. I'll keep it in mind.

thing the twenty-first | free-for-all

I have a couple of apps I'd like to recommend:

First, for managing the family calendar, shopping lists and to-do lists, I've found nothing better than Cozi. There are a number of apps that do one or two of these things really well, but Cozi does them all at least well enough that I have abandoned the alternative apps I once used. The calendar, in particular, is really where it excels. Have all your family members install it and log in using the same credentials, and you have convenience at your fingertips.

I think I already mentioned it in a previous thing, but My Fitness Pal is also a fantastic all-in-one app for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is completely free and tracks weight, food and exercise, adjusting your daily "allowed" calories accordingly depend on your goals. It also has a (slightly clunky) recipe nutrition calculator you can use to save frequently made meals into your own personal database.

When I had a newborn, the Total Baby app satisfied my need to document everything. We used it religiously the first four months of my daughter's life to track diapering, nursing, sleep and doctor visits, up until she started daycare. I still keep it installed on my phone (she's now four), for nostalgia and also because we still use it to track her vaccination history. (Amusingly, according to the app today, it's been 1,464 days since she has eaten, slept or had her diaper changed.)

A few other apps I use frequently include The Weather Channel, AP News, Care Care (documents gas/service history), Kids Media and BigOven. I think I paid a fee for it, but I also highly recommend (for women) the app P-Tracker for keeping track of period cycle/fertility. The future prediction calendar is also invaluable for vacation planning!

thing the twentieth | games

I'm a gamer, so I was both anticipating and apprehensive about this thing. I was looking forward to trying out some new games on my phone, but my experience so far with mobile games has been disappointing. Many of them are time/turn-based -- i.e., you are granted only so many "lives" in a given time period. If you use them up, you have to wait a set amount of time for a new one to generate, or pay a fee for instant gratification. I understand that this is how the app developers make money, but it's such a turn off for me and such a different format from other games I've played previously in my life that I would rather not play at all.

As one might expect, the mobile games that are actually worth playing are purchased with a single fee upfront without multiple in-app purchases or add-ons. One in particular I'd recommend is The Settlers, a mobile version of the popular (at least in Europe) strategy/building series of the 1990s and 2000s.

candy crushThat said, I did actually download and play one of the recommended games for this thing, Candy Crush Saga, just to see what the fuss was all about, and I admit with no shame whatsoever that I spent most of my weekend playing and progressing to the point where I must now wait 24 hours before having another opportunity to advance. That might mean I'm now at the end of the road and my interest will wane, but I'm not sure yet. It was addictive, though that isn't necessarily a good thing, and I did enjoy the strategic aspect of gameplay.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

thing the nineteenth | hobbies

RoadNinja icon.jpgThe new app I downloaded for this thing was Road Ninja. I was searching for an app like this a few months ago and ended up with something that left a lot to be desired. I can tell immediately that Road Ninja is superior -- to start with, it's pretty! Visual appeal and intuitiveness is huge when it comes to mobile apps. It's hard to forgive an app for being ugly and difficult to use. Road Ninja appears to be accurate and well-organized, and I can't wait to use it on my next roadtrip!

Spotify is an app that I've already been using ever since it became available to U.S. citizens (it was available in Europe for several years prior, it seems). I use the free version only, which means that I can't choose a specific song and play it immediately, but I have created a starred list of the favorite tunes I like to sing along to and that is great for listening in the car when I'm not listening to a podcast of some kind.

I would like to recommend another hobby app, Geocaching. It is a paid app, unfortunately, but absolutely essential for finding and logging geocaches on the go, especially if you didn't take the time to load up your dedicated GPSr unit or are stopping to find a cache spontaneously while out and about.

thing the eighteenth | education

I downloaded just one new app for this thing, but I have already downloaded and used several of the other suggestions. I'm going to mention only a few, because the 23 Mobile Things project deadline is next week and I don't feel like I have as much time as I would have liked to mess around.

bill nyeThe new one I picked: Bill Nye the Science Guy. We are enthusiastic about science in my household, and I love encouraging my 4-year-old in critical thinking and scientific thought. This looks pretty cool, and it will be fun to try out some of the experiments.

fooducateI have used the Fooducate app before. It's helpful to get a quick snapshot of a product in terms of just how healthy it is -- not only in terms of calories and vitamins, but also if there are ingredients in the product that are concerning. For food logging or calorie counting, Fooducate wasn't compelling enough to pull me away from my old favorite app, My Fitness Pal.

project noahProject Noah is a nature app that I had installed for a few years, but I never seemed to find a way to incorporate it into use. It's possible that it has changed or expanded, so I might give it another try.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

thing the seventeenth | connecting to community

From the start of this endeavor, I have completed each of the things in the same order they are listed on the index page. As I've watched it creeping ever closer on the list, I have been looking forward to working on this thing for quite a while now!

superior hikingMy first download was the Highlights of the Superior Hiking Trail app. My husband and I have long dreamed of hiking the SHT, but so far life has gotten in the way and we have yet to complete even a single leg. As advertised, this app is pretty high-level, so you probably wouldn't be able to use it as a tool while actually on the trail itself, but it could definitely get someone excited about a SHT adventure and learn more about some of the high points.

I next attempted to download the Minneapolis Skyway app, just to see how in-depth it was. I don't work downtown, but if I did I would certainly appreciate a handy skyway map. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the app in the app store, so maybe it's been removed?

Next up was the Minneapolis app. It looked pretty. When I downloaded it it failed to produce any content whatsoever. I tried selecting both "Explore" and "Events," but each time the results list came up completely empty. I went to the search utility and entered simply "Minneapolis," but it just spun and spun, never ultimately returning any results. I may try again later.

going outThe next app that I thought might have some potential was the Going Out app created by the Star Tribune. So far it looks pretty decent for finding a bite to eat while out and about. Since I have theater tickets for this coming Saturday, I thought I'd see if I could cause my show to appear among the search results. Sadly, when I tried to search the venues for "Guthrie," it said nothing by that name was found, despite it being perhaps the most famous theater in town. I do like the Family Entertainment search option, and I could see myself using that during one of those "what should we do today?" moments in the dead of winter. Would be nice if it were a bit more comprehensive.

I would have liked to experiment with the Explore Minnesota app, but it opened each time with an error message, indicating some kind of conflict with the API and Google Maps. Sad.
mn museums
I next downloaded the MN Museums app, and so far it looks pretty cool. It's definitely helpful to know where all of the children's museums are! I could see this being handy while traveling out-state and encountering a rainy day.