Global TV Tech Buzz: Back To School/Work Apps

It’s not just back-to-school season, it’s back-to-work season. A long summer of vacations and stuttering and stopping with overlapping schedules is coming to an end, and it’s safe to say it’s almost like the “office new year” starting this week.

So whether it’s a new grade, new class, or new fiscal starting up, here are a series of apps to help you get on board with GTD – that’s not Gym. Tan. Drinking. I’m talking about Getting. Things. Done.

CourseNotesMac App Store / iOS App Store ($3.99):
The days of carrying around different notebooks for each class are long gone. With CourseNotes, you can take notes on your MacBook Air and access them on the go from your iPad. You can even track assignments and sync due dates with your calendar, and quickly search through all of your notes. You can also dump them to Dropbox of Facebook to share with friends.

A few weeks ago we talked about whether or not you can use a tablet to take notes in class, this app is great because it can sync across iOS and your MacBook, and is available in both the iOS and Mac App stores.

pomodorablePomodorableMac App Store ($4.99):
This is a Mac App that is going to use a ninja approach to help you GTD – get things done. The Pomodoro Technique is a task management approach that breaks things up into 25 minute sections and forces you to take breaks. It was named after a little tomato timer, a pomodoro. The Pomodorable app helps you with the Pomodoro Technique in a digital way. It takes some commitment, but those who use it swear by it.

iTunes UiOS App Store (free):
You don’t have to be going back to school to go back to school. iTunes U is a HUGE library of course materials from Universities around the world that you can take – for free. If you’re stuck in a long commute on the C-Train everyday, or if you have an hour to kill while the kids are at hockey or swimming or gymnastics every night, why not go to school. You can audit classes from Stanford, or Yale, or MIT – all on your iPad or iPhone. It’s genius.

Graphing CalculatoriOS App Store ($1.99):
Now I don’t know how many profs will let you bring an iPhone in to a test situation, but I do remember how much a scientific calculator cost when I was heading to university. It was always one of the bigger line items in my student budget, now you can get it done for $2. It does all the fancy calculus stuff that nobody expects you to work out in your head, just don’t expect to necessarily be able to use it for your test.

iBooksiOS App Store (free):
If you are taking classic literature courses, remember a lot of those books are public domain. You don’t need to go and buy the Penguin Classic paperbacks, many times you can get them from free in the iBooks Store – so double check. This advice also holds true if you prefer a Kobo, Kindle, or other eReader.

MintMac App Store / iOS App Store (Free):
Here’s an app that Alberta’s Finance Minister, Doug Horner, might find useful. Mint is an award winning budgeting app that tracks all your money coming in, going out, and gives you updates on your budgetary situation. For students on tight budgets, this is a great tool to help you manage your money. It’s also very useful for families, or perhaps even government officials. Warning – you do need to give it a lot of your banking information to make it work and some may not be comfortable with that. More than 8 million people use it, you can take that for a lot of suckers, or it’s very trustworthy.

Since we talked about all apps this week, here’s an iOS tip for an app you already have. Reminders has a great little function in it that will give you a nudge when you go or leave a place. Need to remember to pick up milk on the way home from work? Set a note that when your phone leaves the office (presumably with you) a ping will come up reminding you to get the milk. Similarly, if there’s something you need to ask a client at a future meeting, just set the reminder for their address and the notification will pop up. Here’s a good how-to for geofenced reminders.

Global TV Tech Buzz: Home Decorating Apps

Houzz is a free, targetted version of Pinterest. Flipping through the app you will see nothing but beautiful interior design images. You can find specific pricing and purchase info on some items or save the pictures you like for further reference. More than 65 000 design professionals have uploaded about half a million images to the site and app that is described simply, as house porn.

A spin-off to Houzz exists for just kids. Houzz Kid Rooms will have you planning nurseries and beyond for hours.

Finding the perfect colour palette for your room can be a challenge. If you’ve got a place you’d like to start, Color Smart by Behr and Benjamin Moore Color Capture each have colour capture apps to get you started. Both apps simply let you take a picture of the object, and then it will match the colour exactly with one from their library.

Be sure to have the best light possible when you take the picture, remember you’re just using a camera phone. While both apps are very similar, I like the layout and use of the Behr app better.

If a more detailed renovation is underway this summer, taking accurate measurements Magic Plan is a great free app that will let you grab complete floor plans of your rooms so you can plan out furniture purchases, or designs. You could also use this app to compare homes you’re touring and looking at buying.

magic plan screen shot

If you’re doing a full scale reno and need some specific measurements to take to a store for advice, Photo Measures [$4.99] lets you take a picture of, say, your kitchen cabinets, and drop in the specific measurements right on the photo. It’s an easy way to keep what you need sorted so you can easily reference it at the design centre, at the store, or with your contractor.

If you’re out house hunting this weekend, just start by driving around a neighborhood you like. The free app will geolocate you, show you the listings nearby, the open houses nearby, and then kick open the MLS page with the details. I love snooping on the neighbours and what they have their houses listed for, this app lets me do that from the kitchen table :)

amazing alexAPP OF THE WEEK:
The sequel to Angry Birds has arrived from the gang at Rovio. Amazing Alex (99c) is a fun physics based game that borrows from a few other popular apps. It’s a little bit of Bubble Ball, Civiballs, and Cut The Rope all rolled in to one. You help Alex set up fantastic apparatus in his room to get balls and balloons from A to B. It’s not quite Angry Birds addicting, but it is a fun game to kill a few minutes, and my 5 yr old loves it.

Global TV Tech Buzz: How To Geocache

downtown calgary geocache mapNow that the weather is turning for the better, it’s time to get out and explore Calgary. One of the best ways to do that is by geocaching.

Geocaching is a game of hide and seek that combines GPS coordinates with real-life treasures that kids (and kids at heart) can find.

Start by visiting and typing in your home address. Instantly little flags will pop up showing you where geocaches are. There are more than 1.7 million around the world, and hundreds in Calgary, so finding one near you won’t be tough.

Once you know where the caches are, getting to them is the next step. You can get the geocaching app for your smartphone [$9.99 iTunes].

Just open the app when you want to find a cache and it will use your location information to show you all the caches around you. You can then zoom in to navigate directly to the cache. Some of them are small, and cleverly hidden, so you might need the hints and description found with each cache.

2010-08-21 geocache Patterson hillYou can also use GPS devices, the kind you might use to navigate the backcountry with. If you don’t have one, you can borrow GPS devices from any City of Calgary library. They have 34 of the units spread across the 17 libraries and anyone with a library card can borrow one for a week for free.

The City of Calgary has gone into the geocaching game the past year or so. They celebrated the Parks and Recreation’s 100th Anniversary by hiding 100 caches around the city with coupons for community facilities.

This year, they’re back at it with a fun intro to geocaching event this afternoon at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. On May 26-27, there’s a huge event to start the season called Calgary Cache and Release.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll start hiding your own caches. They can be as clever or as obvious as you like. My son and I have hid some in and around our favourite neighborhood playgrounds. It’s our way to introduce people to our area. It’s also a great way to explore the city, and find the secrets of parks, pathways, and more.

If you missed the segment, here it is:

55 Apps To Preload For Kids

The surveys are in and kids want something from Apple for Christmas.

If you’re obliging them with an iPod Touch or the family an iPad, don’t just give them the box to open on Christmas morning. Pre-load it with a few apps, so there’s something to do.

The devices come built in with stock charts, email, and a camera, but that doesn’t cut it on Christmas Day

Here’s a list of 55 apps to get on your kids’ iDevice before they unwrap the excitement.

Tickle Tap Apps has over a dozen apps that they bundle into collections [$3.99 each] of fun games that are perfect for toddlers.  They’re interactive and make silly sounds.  They help them count, explore, sort and laugh.

grover.jpgThe Monster At The End Of This Book [$3.99] and the sequel Another Monster At The End Of This Book [99c] are must installs if you have children under 5.  My two boys play them over and over and over again.  The classic book starring Grover (and the sequel with Elmo joining) is beautifully re-imagined as an interactive story.  You still “turn” pages, but the way interaction has been woven into the game is hours of giggling fun for the kids.

Another incredible book app is The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore. [$4.99]  It’s a book that reads like a Pixar movie and each page has another interactive element for the kids to take part or a puzzle to solve.  This one has been “read” dozens of times by my boys.

Wood Puzzle Maze HD is a great old school toy given the iPad app [$1.99] experience.  Your child can practice problem solving with over a dozen different mazes that have them dragging puzzle pieces on a board as if it was a slot wood puzzle.  My boys took to this app immediately doing them over and over and over again.

Balloonimals brings the fun of our favorite family restaurant to our own kitchen table for $1.99 (or a free trial app).  All you have to do is choose a balloon, blow on the microphone and shake and twist the device to make your own Balloonimal.  You can touch them to perform tricks and of course pop them to start fresh again.

Buld A Train is a fun way to play witih an old school train set anywhere. Your kids choose the engines and cars they want on their train and then can swipe through a variety of track environments from mountains to islands to towns and cities.  They control the speed and the horn as the train travels in loops. They can even flick the switches to change the path of the train to pick up and deliver cargo.  Recent updates to this app make it worth the $1.99

For more, check out the 36 apps I use the most on my devices.

This article was originally published at The Future Shop’s Tech Blog.

6 Wine Apps For Holiday Parties

Tis the season to go to Christmas parties. Whether its a celebration with sales and accounting, or just an open house with your best friends, here’s a list of apps to help you get the fuel for those parties.

natalie_maclean_sm.jpgNatalie MacLean’s Food and Wine Pairing [free]
This is an update to the NatDecants app which used to be in the App Store for $2.99.  Now the app is free with the option to subscribe to MacLean’s newsletter for $2 a month.  

This app is a serious upgrade over the original.  You can scan barcodes of wines and instantly pull up reviews.  You can sort your own tasting notes, keep track of wine’s you own or have tasted in virtual cellars.  When you find a wine you like, not only is a list of 4 or 5 pairing menu items presented, but you can click through to complete recipes!  The free portion of the app will give you access to MacLean’s decade plus backlog of reviews.  The paid portion will open up more recent content.

wineaccess.pngWine Access Magazine [free]
Canada’s authority when it comes to tasting notes has a gorgeous and easy to use app.  You’re presented with a few options at the start.  You can select a wine name, varietal or winery, you can choose a wine colour, type or country or you can search through the magazine’s top rated wines.

Again there’s a portion of the app to help you store your own personal tasting notes, and keep a shopping list of wines to get when you’re next out shopping.

Sommelier Wine [free]
This is an app that is starting to power wine lists in restaurants in Calgary.  Already Catch is one restaurant where you will be presented with an iPad 2 to help select your wine with dinner.  The app has a great back end for restaurants to manage inventory and sales so you’ll never get a “Sorry sir, we’re out of that selection.”

The app itself helps you drill down through the specific menu items to find perfect pairings as selected by the local sommelier.  You can also do your own sorting by varietal, region or price.

You’ll also want to check back on Tris Hussey‘s review of Wine Guru and a similar list of wine apps I wrote up earlier in the year.

This article was originally published at the Future Shop’s Tech Blog

First Apps For Your New iPad

It is iPad season.  The second edition has been flying off the shelves in the US all weekend and Canadians will get their hands on it starting on March 25.

The iPad is a beautiful blank slate and the first thing you have to do is load it with apps to truly feel the power of the tablet.  Here’s a list to get you started:

Kindle-icon-150x150.pngKindle – while the Kindle device is actually a better e-reader, you can get the Kindle app to have full access to the Kindle store and a wider variety of books than is available through Apple’s propreitary eBook store.

zite-ipad-icon.jpgZite is the new personal magazine app in the store.  Created by a UBC team this free app will serve up content in categories you preselect and then learns your preferences based on what you read to even better serve you up brain food.

flipboard.JPGFlipboard is an elegant way to access your Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook feeds – as well as a number of other categories of content.  I end up reading more stories since they appear as excerpts in Flipboard instead of a shortened URL like on Twitter and Facebook.  If you follow a lot of news makers, Flipboard is a great way to dig deeper.

instapaper_logo1.jpgInstapaper helps you curate your content to read when you want.  Whenever a social media strategy piece shows up or there’s a longer article in my stream I can’t chomp on in seconds, I send it to Instapaper.  Then, when I have time to curl up on a Sunday afternoon, I can access all of my articles offline through the iPad.  It’s a personal newspaper of articles you find interesting to read on your own time.

nationalpost.jpgPostmedia is the umbrella name for the National Post and it’s newspapers across Canada (including the Calgary Herald, Vancouver Sun and Montreal Gazette).  They have specific iPad editions of their newspapers that are udpated throughout the day.  The content is easy to read, the layout elegant and it’s a fast way to stay in touch with traditional media.

angrybirds.jpgAngry Birds – there’s a reason it’s been the top selling iPad/iPhone app since it was originally released.  It’s challenging, it’s easy, you can play it for a few seconds or a few hours.  If you’ve yet to experience the obsession that is Angry Birds, now is your chance.

bubbleball.gifBubble Ball is the app that knocked Angry Birds from its perch on the free app download charts (for a time).  It was designed by a teenager and it’s a fun physics game that my 3 year old son loves tryin to solve.

orig_iphone_youtube_logo.jpgHere are another few reasons why it’s getting easier to cut the cable and maybe eliminate a bill landing in your mail each week.  The major players across Canada offer iPad apps.  Not only can you get recent newscasts available through the apps or as podcasts, but you can catch some of the most popular shows on tv on your iPad.  Yes, you will have to sit through some ads, but when City TV, Global, and CBC  are giving you a chance to watch them for free, that’s a pretty safe trade off

I mostly use my iPad to consume content – it’s a passive device for me, so my list of apps reflects my use case, your mileage may vary.  If you’re diving into the app store for the first time with a new iPad, ask friends with iPhones some of their faves – most apps work on both devices.  Toss it up on Facebook to ask for suggestions or just spend an afternoon poking through the top Paid and Free lists in the iTunes store.  It’s a crazy wonderful world that’s about to open up with your iPad, uboxing it was just the beginning.

What apps are mandatory equipment on your iPad? List them below!

catch the buzz … pass it on.

buzz bishop future shop tech blogThis post was originally published at The Future Shop Tech Blog.

An App For Mayor

For politicians gearing up for civic elections across Canada this fall, now is the time to door knock, glad hand and cake cut.  It’s the time for serving pancakes, cutting ribbons and kissing babies.  It’s a time to get in the community, show your face and get in the places where people live. 

Naheed Nenshi is running for Mayor of Calgary this fall and while his campaign includes attending community events and getting face time with the electorate, he has also spent time Tweeting, blogging, Facebooking and iPhoning.  Nenshi is the only horse in this race (and perhaps the only one in Canada) with his own iPhone/iPod/iPad app.

Yes, while his competitors find their way into people’s phones through automated dialers, Nenshi is going for a more personal approach.

“We want to reach voters where they live,” said Nenshi in an email interview. “And for many iPhone/IPad/iTouch addicts (like me!) where you live is on your device. To me, increasing citizen engagement is vital, and this app allows people to access policy and join discussions when they’re on the bus, or out with friends, right in their hands.”

Lawn signs are another traditional way for local supporters to advertise to neighbours and for candidates to dress up the vacant lots and centre medians in the city.  In the last federal election, Jack Layton‘s NDP took a bold step by opening up all his party’s graphics and logos for supporters to remix and post on blogs and websites.  Consider them virtual lawn signs.

Nenshi won’t divulge all his secret plans, but it’s safe to assume someone innovative enough to launch an iPhone app, would also allow the public to take the lead in spreading his message.

“You will see a significant DIY component of the campaign, allowing people to create and run their own campaigns, on- and off-line,” he promised.

4741i0F9AE55A145BC052For now, Nenshi has Twitter, Facebook and his app running overdrive.  The app is a simple aggregator of his content.  With just a few swipes you can see video, tweets, news releases and photos.

The app is simple and complete with bullet points of his policy, a calendar of events he will be attending as well as a message board for constituents to pose questions and engage in debate.  A pop up asks for people to volunteer or donate but only shows up the first time you launch the app.

“Fantastic,” adds Nenshi about the response since the launch a few weeks ago.

“Not only has the media been all over this, users have as well.  We’ve had hundreds of downloads in the middle of the summer, and gained lots of new supporters and volunteers.  Some people have even donated money as a result of seeing the app!”

Hmmm .. I’m guessing with that kind of response the next time a big election rolls around there will be an app for all of them.

buzz bishop future shop tech blogThis post was originally published at The Future Shop Tech Blog.

iPad As Gaming Console

I’m in danger of disappearing.  A decade ago I sold my PS2 after a wasted weekend jamming Metal Gear Solid constantly.  I quickly became absorbed by the game and disappeared for days at a time to my living room to conquer the next challenge.

I quit cold turkey. I had to sell it.

Hopefully the same won’t happen with my iPad, because it is quickly turning in to a gaming centre.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour from EA Sports, Scrabble, Backgammon, We Rule, Plants vs Zombies and now Angry Birds are sucking me in.  It starts innocently enough – there’s a few minute wait at the optometrist or dentist.  Then it’s a quick attack of a level before bed and then next thing you know I’m up all night trying to get my eggs back from those nasty pigs.

It just took me a couple of days to master the Tiger Woods gamePlants vs Zombies remains a puzzle on the potted plant roof level and I’m trying to quit We Rule before I end up in a Farmville cult.

Backgammon and Scrabble I rationalize as helping me to exercise my brain and expand my vocabulary, but really it’s just more hours spent staring at a screen.

Apparently I’ve already knocked out 3 of Mashable‘s 5 most addictive games, and I’m trying to avoid the article to find the other two.

When the iPad launched, many dismissed it as a big iPad, or just a touch computer.  But it’s different.  It’s become this multifaceted leisure device.  It’s the ultimate in content consumption, and for many that means gaming

Could this device kill console gaming?  Perhaps not, but with most games less than $5 and extreme portability and versatility, it will (combined with the iPod Touch) put a serious dent in the handheld gaming market.  My 3 year old son is already well versed in the iPhone and iPad and I don’t see him moving to a Nintendo DS like many of the other school aged kids in our neighborhood.  He’s a touch interface kid.

Console gaming is more social, with many people playing in one room or networked over the web.  The iPad doesn’t do that to the same level as Xbox, Wii and PS3 – yet.

What are your favourite games to play on the iPad?

catch the buzz … pass it on.

buzz bishop future shop tech blogThis post was originally published at The Future Shop Tech Blog.

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