Apps Gone Free is like Goldilocks: not too much, not too little

apps_freeI’ve tried a couple of different apps whose purpose of existence is to alert users to the existence of other apps that are temporarily discounted or free. So far, the standout for me is Apps Gone Free.

I’m not a big games person, and several of the “free stuff” apps I tried out are fairly games-oriented, so I ended up deleting them within a day or so. Other such apps seem to list every app that is on discount or is free–and I found that I just didn’t have time to go through them all and filter out what was of interest (and held some minimal promise of basic functionality–which is not necessarily a safe assumption at the app store).

“Apps Gone Free” is the Goldilocks of these apps for me–it’s not too many, not too few. Continue reading

NextBus

If you’re a transit user (I generally love transit here in Toronto. At least on the TTC, I can study during my commute in, so even if there’s bad traffic, I can make good use of my time), then the Nextbus iphone web app is a life changer (for those with smartphones that don’t have a proprietary app, the website provides most of the same information and features transit info for a number of different cities in the US and Canada. This information is of course checkable from your computer as well so long as you have an internet connection).

I’m actually not joking, when I say it’s a life-changer: this app has improved my quality of life in a significant way, by allowing me to minimize my wait times for the buses and streetcars. It does this by providing real-time updates on when you can expect the vehicle to arrive.

Another additional, supremely useful, piece of information provided by the app consists of little arrows, indicating where the buses or streetcars are, along the route you’re looking into. This of course means that if there are a whole lot of streetcar arrows clustered in a row further back along the route, you can assume there’s an accident and take a different route. Similarly, you can see if you’ve just missed your bus, and check back along the route, in order to make an informed choice about whether to wait for the next one or move on.

It may seem like minutiae, but on a miserably cold or rainy day the fact that you can walk down and only wait a few minutes in the nasty weather can make a real difference to how you view the rest of your day (dry shoes, non-soaked pant legs, etc.). Similarly, being able to make note of delays and decide on alternate routes can also make a difference in preventing the commute from eating up a ridiculous amount of time, particularly if you live near a few alternative routes that you need to decide between.

(Aside: sorry for the long lag time in posting more reviews–school has kept me swamped for the past few months. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to posting here more frequently once the semester is over… at least for a little while. I do have many apps I’d love to review–I’m as incorrigible as ever in that regard!)

A powerful app trinity: Snapseed, Phoster, PencilSketch

Final Product: Crow Girl Poster

So, as my few crossover readers already know, I started a publishing company recently, in furtherance of my self-pub projects. It’s called Crow Girl Publishing. I needed an image to associate with it. Enter: my old friends, the apps that I know and love.

I’ve blogged about Phoster before, of course. Despite its limitations (e.g. text boxes that are limited to a certain size, and the inability to add or remove text boxes), it comes with a nice variety of poster designs that look good and are customizable enough that they look reasonably diverse once you’re done with it.

The other two apps mentioned in the title are new to me.

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iPhone 3Gs Surgery: Replacing the Battery

Those of you with older iphones may be familiar with my steadily worsening predicament: the loss of battery life about a year or so in. I’ve now had mine for about 1.5 years, and the battery was getting pretty dismal–I’d plug it in all day at work, to use my docketing app (and sometimes listen to music). I’d leave work with it charged 100%. And by the end of an evening of light use at home, I’d be down to 60% battery.

So, about 1.5 years in, I ended up faced with the kind of dilemma that is either the result of extraordinary fortuitousness or very shrewd product planning on the part of the designer: get a new phone (endure the bad battery life until the iphone 5 comes out, in my case) or shell out money for the Apple people to fix it. In both cases, they win, and in the former case so do the phone providers, since the phone upgrade is usually accompanied by an extension of the contract, if you want any kind of subsidy.

But I wasn’t mad about either of the choices. I don’t think I’m eligible for a phone replacement, I feel sad about the wasted electronics that are still perfectly good but are set aside for the next generation, both in our culture and in our house (old palm pilots, laptops and cellphones, in our case). As for going to Apple–it rankles to do that. It’s expensive (about the same cost as a warrantee that we didn’t get). I also remember hearing that in the past, they had gratuitously replaced parts inside devices they were servicing, so that they became more difficult to tamper with. To me, that’s like a dealership mechanic replacing a bunch of parts in my car without my knowledge, when I take it in for service–if the changes are simply to make it more difficult for me to get into, rather than to help it work better as a gesture of goodwill or for safety, then that’s just annoying. So, my husband and I looked into replacing the battery ourselves.

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Dramatic EULA-gies?

A friend sent me this link and I just had to share. I was crying with laughter by the end of these…

http://www.cnet.com/8301-30976_1-20068778-10348864.html

They are fabulous, dramatic readings of excerpts from one of Apple’s EULAs, by Richard Dreyfuss. Fabulously brilliant. Even more amazingly, he actually manages to make them sound interesting, and infuse them with some intriguing and gleefully ominous subtexts. Do give them a listen!

The excerpts begin with a gentle admonition, but then acquire a more sinister aspect… There are a couple of others as well. Click through above to hear the rest of them.

App Review: 3 Time Tracking Apps

Eternity Time Log Lite icon

Please note: I have posted an update as of July 9, 2011, to this review, comparing Eternity with two other time tracking apps. Please click through at the bottom of this post for the full commentary. Thanks!

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons…”

So, working at a law firm this summer, I’ve needed to track my time. My husband did a quick lookabout and found this app–Eternity Time Log Lite–designed for some productivity tracking purpose or something.

I’ve looked at other time measuring softwares (or at the reviews, at least), but have been unable to summon up the wherewithal to actually test too many of them out. The reason? Because I really like Eternity. It does pretty much everything I need it to do.

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Copyright and the Digital World Part III: The Experiment

So ultimately, if us creatives want to figure out what will work and what won’t, we need to start figuring out what the actual state of the culture is out there. Of course, that’s difficult, given that culture is elusive, constantly shifting, and therefore difficult to pin down.

But, we’ve got to start somewhere. So, I’ve decided to try something. This idea is in part inspired by the old storyteller model. The storyteller would tell his tale and those who liked it would pay, based on what they could afford and based on how much they liked the stories told.

Basically, I want to see if we actually do value writers, and their creations. I will do this by offering one of my novels–a Regency Romance (think Jane Austen, but without the zombies) called An Immodest Proposal. It’s a drawing room comedy of manners.

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