Friday, February 27, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Content: Rocketron's news content is updated continuously, and unlike the NYTimes application, there is no long extended wait for the content to update, somehow it seems like Rocketron is updating in the background - I like this magic! There is a refresh button in the upper right corner of the UI, it is used to update the content while you are perusing news articles. One nice touch I did not notice during the first day of use is that each article is time stamped and displays how long ago it was added (days, hours, minutes), making it easy to determine freshness of the news. Although interestingly it does not appear that the articles are sorted and displayed with the newest content always at the top of the page, it looks like there is an algorithm placing the popular/important articles as the headliners. Thus, you may find an article with an age date of 4 hours ago, followed by an article that is less than 10 minutes old. I guess if I had it my way, I would rather have the articles sorted strictly by post time, with the freshest at top, this consistency would make it more difficult to overlook/miss an article.
Sound quality/Listenability: First off, the text to speech is very good, with some inflection added, pausing at sentence breaks and decent reading of numbers. This technology has really improved over the years. Don't get me wrong, it is still apparent that this is computer generated audio, but it is nowhere near as monotonous to listen to as TTS was just a few years ago.
In my last post I mentioned that the audio seemed fuzzy/lispy via earphones, it is interesting, it seems like after the first 30-60 seconds of listening the "lisp" goes away? Not sure if it is acclimation or somehow the audio improves? Either way, it is not a show stopper.
General Use: Beware! If you are using Rocketron to read the news traditionally, be aware, that each time you launch a new article a short audio advertisement will play through the external speaker of your iPhone if you do not have headphones attached. This could be disruptive depending on your environment! It is easily remedied by turning the volume down on your iPhone.
I do not have feedback on the "customization" feature, I added a couple of terms to "news I want" and "news I don't want", but it is difficult to tell how well the filters are working, I guess time will tell. The stability seems to be good for a 1.0 release, I did have one application crash when launching an article, upon relaunch of Rocketron everything seemed OK.
Since you need to keep the iPhone from going to sleep while listening to Rocketron news, you will see a drain on your battery, this impact can be lessened by dimming the screen brightness or if using Rocketron while driving, getting yourself an iPod power adapter for the car.
A unique and useful feature of Rocketron, is the ability to record your feedback and send it back to the Asyncast from within the application with the touch of a button, the feedback process is well implemented on the About page of the application.
I have not yet had a chance to trial Rocketron on my wife's first generation iPhone via the Edge network, I hope to do that soon. Overall, I plan to keep Rocketron on my iPhone and move it to my news screen with the USAT, AP and NYT news applications. Rocketron will be my "go to" news provider when I want news on demand while driving!
R E C O M M E N D E D
Monday, February 23, 2009
- Get the latest headlines for World, US National, Business, Politics, Entertainment, Sports, and Technology.
- Hear any article in spoken form, just press Play.
- Play Mode is like an iPod loaded with news! Skip and repeat individual stories, and change news categories faster than switching albums.
- Customize your news by specifying “News I Want” and “News I Don't Want.”
My daily routine includes browsing news from the NYTimes, USA Today and AP Mobile News applications, at first glance, it appears that Rocketron has solid news content, at least on par with USAT. The interface is logical, select a category, (World, Sports, Tech, Business, etc) then select an article, after a brief advertisement the text article appears, to have the article read to you, touch the "Play article" button, wait 10-15 seconds and the article is read to you - the reading is on par with OS X's Alex TTS reader. In other words, listening to a 10,000 word thesis is probably beyond the scope of this application, but listening to a typical news article is tolerable. Rocketron also has a cool "Play Mode" I suspect that this feature will be great for use while driving. In the 5-6 articles I have listened to so far, I did find that you should go into the iPhone settings and set "Auto-Lock" to never, otherwise Rocketron will stop reading to you when the screen blanks.
I am looking forward to using this application over the next few days.. and sharing my findings, for now the price is right! The content looks solid... and the TTS is tolerable... initially it looks like a step in the right direction!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
My wish list for 2009, peripherals and Touch OS 3.0:
- Copy/Cut & Paste. Several applications have included this functionality within the application. The iPhone Spreadsheet "Plus" has copy and paste and it is a pleasure to use.. Apple we need Copy & Paste at the OS level across applications.
- HomeScreen/Application Management. Ever try getting from the homescreen to screen six, seven or eight quickly? No a lot of fun. I am not sure what the answer here is, maybe nested icons that open a new screen directly from the main homescreen. Hopefully Apple has some UI magic up its sleeve to provide the iPhone power users with a better experience.
- Text to Speech at the OS level. I mentioned this in a previous post, since then Amazon has announced the Kindle 2 with text to speech. The idea of opening an article in Instapaper, Safari, AP Mobilenews or having newsfeeds/twitter posts read with the touch of a button is very appealing, perfect for the car or gym. Hopefully the Amazon Kindle 2 will push Apple to a degree.
- User Selectable background processing. This is one rumor that is making the rounds with regards to Touch OS 3.0. The idea is that you select one or two additional applications that are allowed to run in the background, similar to Apple's mail.app, the iPod application or the Nike+ application on the Touch G2. I hope this rumor has some substance behind it! I would use it to set Trails to geotrack my location when shooting photos, and not have to worry about the phone state.
- External Peripherals - Blue tooth or via the dock connector. Specifically an external portable keyboard, either wireless or connected to the dock connector! I have no problem with the onscreen keyboard for emails, texting or twittering. But the idea of editing an Excel or Word document in Documents To Go with half of the screen real estate occupied with a onscreen keyboard is not appealing. Palm had a fold able portable keyboard that connected with their Tungsten series of PDAs in the early 00s... I wish Apple would follow suit! Soon... Increased screen real estate for editing and true touch typing! Leave your laptop at home.
- System Settings Profiles. The ability to create & save profiles with specific system settings, for instance: dim screen brighness, shut down wifi and shut down the cell radio all with one selection. The current state, a user must go into Settings and set each item separately, and then reset to the prior state.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
- Install a GPS datalogger application on your iPhone 3G, I can recommend using "Trails" ($2.99). The data logger is used to create a GPS track of your movement, placing the data into a GPX file.
- Make sure to sync your camera's clock to the date & time on your iPhone.
- Launch the datalogger on your iPhone, the iPhone will have to remain in "awake" mode to track your movements, I suggest shutting down wifi, 3G and dimming the screen brightness to save battery life if you are planning to shoot for several hours.
- If you are using "Trails" touch the "+" to create a new track, place your iPhone in your pocket and...
- Start shooting digital images as you normally would, you can pause and re-start datalogging at anytime. Keep in mind, as long as Trails is logging your location to a track and you are simultaneously taking photos, the GPS data can then be synched up to your images.
- When you are done shooting, halt your GPS tracking in Trails and email the resulting track file (GPX) to yourself.
- The last step is to sync the GPX file with your digital images, resulting in location aware digital images. There are a few applications out there, HoudahGEO ($30) is very popular, I use Maperture Pro beta (currently $0) as a plugin for Apple Aperture. If you are an Aperture user, I recommend using Maperture Pro as it fits in nicely with Aperture workflow, you import your images (RAW or jpeg) as you normally would, then you select the images that you want to geotag. Then launch the Mapeture Pro plugin and drop the GPX file onto the Maperture Pro interface... and presto your images are updated with location information. No need for a separate $100 GPS data logger.
- In conclusion: 3 easy steps... 1. TRACK (iPhone 3G with Trails) -> 2. SHOOT images(your camera) -> 3. Sync GPS data to Images (HoudahGEO or Maperture Pro).
What can you do with you location aware digital images? With Aperture or iPhoto you can display your images on a google map and sort/organize by location. Additionally, there are a number of photo sharing web sites that support displaying geotagged images on a map such as Picasa Web Albums, Smugmug, Flickr and Panoramio.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Veronica posed the question, such that a majority of the replies do not include games, you get a sense of the productivity/social/communication applications that iPhone users are using. In my opinion,cutting through the junk apps the clutter the "top tens" on the App store. I think the results are probably skewed with regards to twitter applications, since the survey was conducted exclusively with twitter users. Other than that, To Do applications are big: Things, Remember The Milk (RTM) & Omnifocus all have a presence; Facebook is on a lot of lists, again many people see a real value with Evernote!
I found it worthwhile to browse the replies.. looking for Apps I may have overlooked, you may too!
Thursday, February 5, 2009
IStayfit is now at version 2.4 and has added the following enhancements:
- Workouts and exercises are now fully customizable, with exercises you can create your own data entry scroll wheels to collect whatever data (numeric or text) you feel necessary for the given exercise (go to http://lootiinc.com/ to view the video). As an example, if you ride a stationary bike you can setup a scroll wheel that collects time, miles, average speed, and percieved exertion level (light medium, hard, crazy!).
- You can now add exercises to a workout in real time - ultimately allowing you to modify your workout on the fly!
- The ability to email your logs and import into Numbers or Excel for further analysis is now available. This email export function allows you to selectively choose via date range the workouts to export.
- The developers have also added a rest period stopwatch that you can customize to your preferred length of time for each individual exercise and if you so choose you can have the timer beep when it is time to start the next set.
- You can now track your weight in iStayfit and view a graph from within the application (note: the developers promise additional graphing in future releases).
- Additional sets can be added to an exercise on the fly by double tapping the "next set" arrow, thus if your exercise is setup for 3 sets and you decide to do an extra fourth set - recording that set is now possible.
- iStayfit tracks your workout time and workout progress via a pie chart (for example: 6 of 11 exercises are complete) displayed on the set entry page.
- Bottom line, this application is all about recording your workout/exercise session in real time. With each release iStayFit becomes more customizable to your workout needs, true some of the new features are bloat.. such as weight tracking and graphing. But overall, in my opinion this application is many times better than carrying around a notebook at the gym, you always have the results from your previous workout at your finger tips! You can always push your self to top your previous best!
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... after 2 solid months of use!
Choose a topic, let's browse History...
While browsing you are presented with title, author, year published, number of pages and a thumbnail of the book cover. Once you select a book you are presented with the reader interface and book content.
Considering that this is a web application (note, internet connection required to read, thus reading Google books on a flight will require prior planning, such as loading into Instapaper) the reader interface is sparse but acceptable, the navigation bar provides a contents button and page numbers (forward & backward navigation). The text is readable, touch once on the paragraph to see the original scan from the actual book. Photos and diagrams from the original text are also included and displayed via the web interface.
As noted earlier, you have access to over 1.5 million books, the texts are all public domain books, thus most of the texts are rather dated, you aren't going to find Grisham's latest here. But you will find many of the classics from authors such as Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London and Nikola Tesla. Once again, another great reference for your iPhone, be sure to bookmark it in Safari or add as an icon to your home screen.