Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cisco Global Internet Speed Test (GIST)

Cisco released a new application on the App Store, Global Internet Speed Test (GIST), this free application allows you to measure your connection speeds over Wi-Fi or via your cellular provider.  GIST lets you compare your network speeds with those of other users, showing your fastest speed, average speed and slowest speed.  Each speed test is added to a DB and graphed on your iPhone, the interface is pleasant and the results give you insight into the network performance of your iPhone.  The application is free and deserves a place on your screen of utility applications.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Off Topic: AmazonMP3 Store Beware!

Prior to the iTunes Music store announcement at Macworld 09, with regards to DRM free 256k iTunes plus availability for all music on iTunes, I had been using the AmazonMP3 store. The external drive that held my iTunes library crashed 2 weeks ago, I had a backup, but it was ~30 days old, thus I had a gap of about 30 days of missing purchases from Amazon. I had heard that Apple will replace your files in case of a disaster, so I thought, surely Amazon will have the same policy, but as I dug around the music store I found out that they don't!

    From the AmazonMP3 store FAQ:
  • Your Amazon MP3 Music purchases can only be downloaded once. After you have successfully downloaded the file to your computer at the time of purchase, we recommend that you create a backup copy.
    We are currently unable to replace any purchased files that you delete or lose due to a system or disk error. If you encounter a problem with an MP3 file immediately after purchase, please click the Customer Service button in the Contact Us box in the right-hand column of this page so we can determine how to help you.

I was not aware of this policy and just assumed that they had a record of your purchase and would allow a second download. In the end, I did not lose any purchased music, as I used Senuti to pull the songs off my iPod back into my iTunes library, but this finding along with the iTunes Plus aanouncement, I will be returning to the iTunes Music store as a customer.

Buyer Beware!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

100 Apps per Day! How to keep up?

The sixty-four thousand dollar question... How to sift through all of the new iPhone applications and find the gems? For me, it is a three step process.

  1. First, I review the new additions to the App Store on a regular basis (daily), for one reason or another, Apple removed the ability to view new applications by release date across all categories. Thus, I now use newsfeeds via NetNewsWire, the feed I use is from Pinch Media at www.pinchmedia.com , they have 4 feeds available, I subscribe to the "NewApps" & "Updated" feeds. These feeds gives access to a quick listing of all the new apps loaded since the last time you checked. The feed lists the title of the app, with a link to the description from the App Store. I go through the list and look for interesting and/or familiar titles and research from that point.
  2. Second, the Mac/iPhone blogosphere is where it is at, I have a dozen or so blogs that I follow religiously (TUAW, Macworld, Gruber, Arse, etc). If there is a fancy new useful iPhone application, it does not take long to be covered by the above mentioned blogs. Also the Blog roll on this website (right column) is a handy reference as well.
  3. Lastly, from time to time, I will check the App Store from my phone and review the categories looking at top paid and top free, to make sure I have not missed anything that may have bubbled to the top. If I see something interesting, I read the reviews and google for more information. I must say, I usually do not find the reviews on iTunes accurate or helpful, too much clutter!

The signal to noise ratio is still high with the App Store, it seems like there are a lot of "me too" applications, flashlights, tip calculators, & more recently - fart applications! But there are also real productivity tools available today! Things that were science fiction 5 years ago! Explore & Enjoy!

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year Resolutions? iPhone to the Rescue!

Big plans for the new year? Are you planning to lose weight, eat healthier, save money, exercise, budget your spending - any or all of the preceding? If so, there are some excellent tools for the iPhone/iPod Touch that can help you achieve the goals you have set for 2009! This list is not meant to be exhaustive in nature, the following tools are the tools I have been using and that I have found helpful.

Livestrong App(free) - This iPhone native application is tied to the Livestrong "daily plate" website, use the app/website combo to record your daily calorie intake and exercise. I have found the best method to watch your eating is to actually track the calories and nutritional value of the foods you are eating. As a former Palm user I was a paid subscriber to CalorieKing (note: not currently available as a native application for the iPhone, you can access their web interface from the iPhone and it is usable, but I found the Livestrong application to be a better experience especially when inputting exercise), I have been waiting for CalorieKing to be released as an iPhone application, but, a few weeks ago the Livestrong application showed up in the Health & Fitness category. I downloaded it, registered as a Livestrong user and have been tracking my calories since. When searching for foods, the number of entries is numerous and complete, the more precise you are - using trade names - the better your results are. The app displays your recent foods and you can setup meals as well. All of the data is synced to the website and you can use the web to analyze your eating with graphs and weekly views. The price is right and having the ability to look up the nutritional content of just about any food at any time is good news in the battle against the bulge!

Weightbot ($0.99) - "Tracking your weight has never been more fun!" Weightbot is a simple, single minded application, weigh yourself and input the data into weightbot. You are presented with your BMI and a nice graph of your progress, you can set your goal weight and review as you get closer to your goal. The interface is elegant and fun. Checkout the website for screenshots.

iStayFit ($5.99) New gym membership for 09? iStayfit is the tool you need! You can use the prefab workouts or create your own. I tried a few of the iPhone workout applications and ended up using iStayfit because of its logging functionality. This is the perfect tool to use to keep track of your fitness routines (the app remembers the last set you performed for a given exercise), and the developer is updating on a regular basis. You will soon be able to export your workout logs and review on your desktop. Go to the website for more details... I highly recommend this application.. $5.99 may seem high for an iPhone application, but if you are into logging your workouts.. this is money well spent!

NIKE+ (iPod Touch 2G) I have been using Nike+ to track my walking/jogging on a Nano since it was released, yes it is an expensive pedometer, but Apple and Nike have put together a nice community at the Nike+ website. Plus, anything that motivates me to get out and run is a positive! Nike+ on the Touch has a certain "wow" factor missing from the Nano implementation. The full screen view is nice, the app will run in the background while running other Touch application.. all very well done, and the receiver is built into the Touch 2G.

Joesgoals.com (Website $12/year) While not an iPhone application, this is a website that allows you to setup daily goals, such as exercise for 60 minutes per day. Once your goals are setup, use the site to motivate yourself! In the example above each day you exercise for 60 minutes you check it off, on the iPhone pull up the website and touch the box in question. The site tracks the number of days in a row ("break the chain" motivation), total points for the day, etc. The flexibility and simple starkness of this website are what makes it such a useful service. Check it out at http://www.joesgoals.com/

Mint (free) The iPhone Mint application combined with http://www.mint.com/ give you command of your finances. Use the Mint.com website to setup all of your cash, credit and investment accounts. Then Mint syncs with your accounts and imports all of your transactions into one place. Setup budgets and alerts. The iPhone application gives you access to your spending habits etc. I do suggest that you lock your iPhone if using this application. I just started using Mint the week before Christmas, with the start of the new month I am really beginning to see the value of this application/web service, it takes some effort to setup, although, nowhere near the effort required in the old days of Quicken/Money, but the budgeting and daily download of your transactions is handy.