January 2009 Archives

my must-have iphone apps

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After a month with my new iPhone, I've managed to load it up with a bunch of apps that have become "must haves" for me. (I've also downloaded and then deleted quite a few more that weren't.) At the request of several friends and colleagues, here's my top ten list:

1) TruPhone: Excellent VOIP app that works beautifully on the iPhone. Free calls between TruPhone users, very inexpensive calls from TruPhone to a landline or mobile. I used this a lot while traveling in Australia, and was able to call home inexpensively wherever I had decent wifi. Call quality was generally excellent. Today I got email from them saying they're about to support Gtalk voip, and that Skype is coming soon. If you travel internationally and don't want to pay outrageous roaming costs, I highly recommend this.

2) Things - I've been looking for a productivity app that didn't require a huge rampup, and would work equally well from my phone and my computer. Entourage and Google Tasks both fail in terms of the phone integration, but Things is a wonderfully elegant solution. It's not free--the desktop app is $40, and the iphone app is another $10. But it's beautiful, easy to use, rich in features if you need them, and the sync is flawless (no cables necessary--just have both devices on the same wifi network and it automagically syncs). Highly recommeded.

3) Evernote - I was already using this nice little app before I got my iPhone, because it lets me sync my notes via "the cloud" and access them on nearly any device. I love it for easy access to everything from my frequent flyer numbers to my travel itineraries to photographs of whiteboards.

4) Files/Files Lite - App that lets you easily store and also view a variety of files on your iPhone or iPod Touch. I use it primarily for PDFs--from conference programs to travel guides to crochet patterns. I'm using the free (Lite) version because it's all I need, but it's become indispensable for me.

5) Tweetie - There are lots of free Twitter apps, but I didn't like any of them. I used Twinkle for a while, until I discovered that even though my Twitter feed is protected, anybody near me using Twinkle could see my updates. Erp. So I dropped it in favor of Tweetie ($2.99), which I love. Very clean interface, easy to get to replies/dms, overall a good user experience.

6) Shazam - Who doesn't love this? It's magical. Identifies songs that are playing. Even with my fairly eclectic tastes it's very good.

7) Griffin Clarifi case + Snappr software - Standard (1D) barcode recognition at last! The Clarifi case has a built-in sliding macro lens so you can get good photos of small size text (or barcodes). The improved text capture is great for Evernote (which does OCR), but the barcodes are what I was after. You can download the free Snappr software and use it to decode barcodes and get product info. This means I can finally reboot development on PULP. Stay tuned for more on this!

8) Mobile Fotos - Great little app for sending iPhone photos to Flickr. I tried Shozu and was disappointed (I've had trouble with my Shozu account for ages now, and no amount of new account setup or tinkering seems to make things right again). Even better, it has a feature that lets you see photos taken near where you're current located, which is very fun from a sightseeing perspective.

9) SnapTell - Super cool app that lets you take a photo of the cover of a book, CD, or movie and get product information back on it. Like Shazam for printed stuff :)

10) Assorted Games: I'm grouping these together so that I can fit everything into the list of "ten" :) But all of three of these games are things I've got on my first screen, and play regularly (there are other games I like and keep on my iPhone, but these are currently my faves):

Drop7 - My newest addiction, courtesy of the awesome area/code: what happens when you combine Tetris and Sudoku? No, I'm not kidding. Yes, it's the mobile game equivalent of crack cocaine. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Solebon Solitaire - The best solitaire package I've found, with a wide range of games available.

Satori Sudoku - There are lots of Sudoku apps, but I like the interface on this one the best in terms of things like pencil marks.

brief sydney update

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I'm having a wonderful time! The conference was great, the sightseeing even better. While I haven't been blogging, I have been photographing, and have uploaded quite a few pictures already. More are going online as soon as I post this and go to bed (the connection is somewhat slow, so I do the uploads while I'm sleeping).

I'll write a long travelogue on my way home Sunday, and will post it when I get home. Suffice it to say that the trip has been everything I hoped it would be, and I'm already plotting ways to come back to Oz in the near future :)

this land belongs to you and me

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(Changed to a version that HBO hasn't [yet] yanked offline for "copyright violations"--and how ironic is that? A government-sponsored concert, restricted outside of the US and pulled down from YouTube due to DMCA. Bah.)

It's hard for me to describe how much that video moved me.

I grew up listening to Pete Seeger, and like David Weinberger, have always thought of him as a true American patriot. Seeing him sing that song on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial today was something I never thought would happen.

(In other news OMG I GOT TO HANG WITH TEH KOALAS!!!1! 4 REAL!! First photo already up on Flickr, many more of my wonderful trip to Taronga Zoo will follow in a few hours.)

happiness is...

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Lane's old bedroom cleared out, my stuff (antique desk, comfy rocker, bookshelf, yarn, ipod+speakers, tv) moved in.

Scented candle eliminating the residual olfactory traces of former teenage boy and pet lizard resident.

60gb iPod loaded with my entire music library playing in speaker dock on shuffle, serenading me with music I forgot I love.

Productivity app loaded up with all projects and to-dos, and tagged with context for quick retrieval.

Bright sunlight shining through windows, lovely bare tree branches against a perfect cerulean blue sky.

Bliss.

iphone + mac + Things = productivity!

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For years I've been wanting to implement a GTD-like system for tracking the dozens of projects I'm juggling at any one point in time. Everything I tried, however, was too daunting in terms of data entry and access, so I continued to muddle along trying to fit everything I needed to remember in the oh-so-random access memory of my brain.

Then I got an iPhone 3G for Christmas and everything changed.

Back when I first got my iPod Touch, I downloaded a pre-release version of a productivity tool called Things. It was free at the time, and it had gotten some good online reviews. But because I seldom carried my Touch around with me, it really wasn't particularly useful.

Now that I carry the iPhone with me everywhere I go, including to bed (the charger is in our bedroom), it makes a lot more sense to have the to-do list on it and easily accessible. (I find that I most often remember that task I simply must do today when I'm in the bathroom drying my hair in the morning.)

It turns out that not only have the developers improved and updated the mobile application (which now costs $9.99 if you didn't grab it when it was free), they've also just released a Mac desktop version. Both have clean, simple, easy to use interfaces. Even better, they sync perfectly over wifi--if both apps are open, and both devices are on the same network, they'll sync automatically without my having to remember to do a thing, or hook up any cables.

So far, the only real downside to Things that I've found is that it doesn't support the GTD concept of "context", which allows you to see all the tasks associated with a given physical or virtual context. They do support tagging, but there's not a quick and easy way to view everything with a given tag on the iPhone version. (A quick perusal of the forums seems to indicate that an upcoming update will support tags, so that may well fix the problem for me!) [Update: I figured out how to do it, though it's still not quite as nice as having it available from the first screen.]

So, maybe 2009 will be the year when I finally get at least a little bit organized! So far, it looks promising.

(I plan on doing a series of posts about the iPhone apps that I find most helpful; I've added a new iPhone category to the blog to collect them.)

seeking sydney travel tips

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In less than five days I'm leaving for Sydney, Australia! I'm super-excited about this trip. I've been invited to give a keynote at the Information Online conference, and since it didn't make sense to fly that far for only a day or two, I'm spending a full week in Sydney. I leave Rochester this Friday (1/16), and arrive in Sydney on Sunday (thanks to crossing the date line). I'll be there until 1/25, when I head back home.

I'll be staying at a hotel in Darling Harbour, but during the last several days of my stay, when my conference obligations are over, I'd really like to take some day trips out of the city (by train or tour bus...I don't think it would be wise for me to try to drive while I'm there).

Any suggestions for must-see places in town or outside the city limits? I'd like to see the beaches and the mountains and the opera house and the koalas in the zoo and...and...omg I'm so excited!

this just in: city living damages your brain!

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After years and years of reading about how urban life is so intellectually and socially invigorating, and how the suburbs in contrast are soulless and cold and isolated, I can't help but feel just a little bit smug myself after seeing this article from boston.com:

Now scientists have begun to examine how the city affects the brain, and the results are chastening. Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it's long been recognized that city life is exhausting -- that's why Picasso left Paris -- this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.

skewed sociological perspectives

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I'm re-reading Ray Oldenburg's The Great Good Place tonight for class tomorrow. I find his discussion of "third places" useful for my online identity class, and there's lots of juicy stuff there.

But I found myself really taken aback by this passage, which I guess I never really paid attention to in past readings:

At home and work, topics of conversation have little novelty and points of view vary hardly at all. To have a good talk at home usually means a serious discussion, not an entertaining one; it is a conversation that resolves some marital or financial problem. Indeed, to have an entertaining conversation at home usually requires the addition of outsiders. Good conversation becomes the host and hostess's reward for the effort and expense put into drinks and dinner.(p. 46)

Wow. That makes me wonder what Oldenburg's home life is like. Not like mine, that's for sure. I'm very grateful that conversations in our house aren't only to resolve "some marital or financial problem." In fact, in our house, we even have conversations with our kids! :)

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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