Why Beavers are Better than Computers

Wily water-critters with their smacky tails, beavers can dam things.

Flashy control-centers with the wacky apps, computers can damn things worse.

Chunks of my past days have been spent trouble-shooting both my phone (Who knew IOS stood for “Your phone will become a paperweight”?) and my computer. The computer issue is not yet resolved, and it revolves around my Evernote application. I have nothing bad to say about Evernote, which is generally slick as can be. But my program seems to be locked up by a PDF I tried to upload on the weekend.  Multiple opens and closes have solved nothing. A re-load might be next.

Most of this is relevant to this blog only because I use Evernote to collect all my Six-Pack candidates.

And that’s why I’ve now missed a second edition of the struggling-to-be-weekly feature.

So I will continue to pound away at the Evernote elephant. And if that doesn’t work, I’m hiring out all my tech needs to beavers. If things are going to be this plugged up, there might as well be some buck-teethed furry fellows running the show.

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Three iPhone Apps You Should Consider

The old adage encourages, “Shake what your mama gave you!”

Beyond the mamas and the shaking lies a sentiment about using what you are given.  But what if what has been given is not all that it could be?

This is the question for many iPhone owners: Which of those preloaded apps could be improved upon? Which upgrades are worth the change?

Here are three moves that I am glad I made:

1) Camera
One of the most significant upgrades from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 4S revolves around its photographic capabilities.  That said, why not push that progress even further?  My experience at trying to do this revolves around two apps:

Camera+
This is one of the most highly-reviewed apps in both the official App Store and in other sources I have read.  One review I read said that Tap Tap Tap, the app’s developer is so skilled at advancing the photography of iDevices that Apple frequently incorporates their developments into later releases of their own stuff.  What’s that quote about that the highest form of flattery?

If you plan to use your phone for any form of image-capturing, spend the buck on this one.  Seven million people are already on the wagon!

Camera Awesome
If I didn’t already use Camera+, this would likely be my next choice.  For the cheapies out there, this one rings in at the optimal price of FREE.  I am not a huge fan of the generic “awesomize” feature, though if you are looking for a mindless way to improve most photos in a single click, this may meet your desire.  Something I DO like is that Camera Awesome allows you to toggle over to video mode, whereas my app of choice, Camera+, leaves you stuck in strictly-stills mode.

2) Calendar
Initially using the built-in Calendar on my 4S, I had no real issues with the app.  More than anything, it was the multitude of alternative calendar apps available that got me to wondering how many different ways there were to design a digital calendar.  Make no mistake, there are MANY, my friends!

After some online homework, I settled on Week Calendar, primarily because I agree with their premise that the primary look that most of use in day-timers or agendas is… wait for it… a WEEK.  Surprisingly, this feature is not available on many of the calendar apps.  With some minor tweaking of the settings, one can craft this app into exactly what you need to stay organized, without having any unnecessary features cluttering up the process.  I have continued to check out other apps but have settled quite happily on Week Calendar.

If you want other alternatives, you could start with investigating Calvetica Calendar or QuickCal Mobile, to name but two of the options out there.

3) Twitter
My Twitter frequency and  usage increased markedly when I purchased my iPhone.  For starters, Twitter is just a lot more enjoyable to use on my phone, so much so that I seldom even check it on my computer anymore.  A couple reasons come to mind: 1) I love being able to rifle through the latest tweets when I just have a minute or two to spare.  Those quick peeks, spread through the day, allow me to stay on top of the pile, quickly starring favourites for later, and never feeling much burden in the task of keeping up.  2) Tweetbot.

Like my journey with Calendar, I had no real beefs with the pre-loaded official Twitter app, aside from wanting the ability to schedule and disperse tweets over time.  The search for that feature led me to Tweetbot, which does NOT possess that feature at all!  (If Tweetbot ever adds the ability to schedule tweets, they will have perfected this creation.)  However, if there is a better app for my Twitter-life than Tweetbot, I have yet to find it.  The cheapskate in me balked at paying a couple bucks for an app to replace  the  free-and-not-obviously-flawed Twitter app.  The rest of me has never looked back since growing accustomed to the sleek design and smooth usability of Tweetbot.  If you’re looking to enhance your Twitter experience, join the Tweetbot team.  You will not be disappointed.

How about you?  Any “app upgrades” that you would deem most worthy?  Any moves you made that you ended up undoing afterward?

Comment below to share.  I would love to learn from you.

 

Tuesday Trick: Ten Awesome Things to Do with Gadgets You Already Own

In an age of rapidly changing gizmos and quickly accumulating gadgets, one may wonder what productive ventures can be pursued with such supplies.  Enter Lifehacker, with this Top Ten list of creative ideas.

I confess that I am not geeky enough to execute a number of the items on this list.

I also confess that I am geeky enough to have read the entire thing.

Why Texting Is Dangerous

While on the “hardly likely list”, this video shows one serious deterrent to texting as you walk.

Top Five Use-Everyday iPhone Apps

In my last post, I expressed my affection for my new iPhone.

Today I want to share five apps that I use every single day.  As far as this user is concerned, these are must-haves.

1) Things
This is the Cadillac of my app collection, costing me a whopping $10. That value, however, has been quickly returned.  Things, slick to operate and a pleasure to use, serves me multiple times per day as my daytimer, to-do list, project planner, and general note-taker.  It lends itself particularly well to anyone attempting to implement “Getting Things Done” order into their lives, though it is easily accessible for anyone unfamiliar with that particular system.

2) Evernote
This may be the most valuable, free app available anywhere.  As a note-taking and organizing system,  Evernote comes with nearly infinite possibilities.  If you have any need for “catching” information, sources, ideas from the vast flow of ideas that most of us live within, then Evernote is your tool.  Upon starting an account, one can feel overwhelmed at where to even begin.  But there are numerous great blogs on how to effectively use Evernote.  Several bouts of late-night reading have helped me hone my system to something quite usable.  As starting points of learning, you might be served well HERE or HERE or HERE.  As well, Evernote runs a blog that often contains helpful bits on how to best use their program.  If you want a steady stream of Evernote tidbits, follow @michaelhyatt on Twitter.  He’s been a great source in trying to craft a fruitful Evernote system.

The thing that truly sets Evernote apart is its search capabilities.  It’s one thing to have a giant bucket to collect things in; it is quite another to have the ability to locate a given “piece” with nothing more than a keyword or two.  Evernote provides this cataloging ability.  I’ve had Evernote on my computer for nearly a year, but teamed up with the iPhone’s camera and dictation capabilities, the chore of inputting such data, the essential first step to any collection system, just became a lot more fun and a lot more simple.

Evernote is quite simply one of the very best apps out there.  If you’re not already using it, you might be soon!

3) Twitter
I don’t know why, but I think keeping up on Twitter is just more fun on my iPhone than it ever was on my computer.  For that reason alone, this app gets frequent use.  In my exploration of the app world, I have researched a number of alternative options to the comes-with-the-phone Twitter app.  While intrigued by a few of them, I have yet to pull any triggers on paid apps.  If anyone out there has opinions on superior apps to Twitter’s own, I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

4) Buffer
Speaking of Twitter, this freebie can significantly enhance the tweeting experience. It allows you to schedule your tweets throughout the day, in an effort to avoid flooding your followers or to maximize prime times within your Twitter universe. There are limitations on what Buffer‘s free service can provide, so diehard tweeters may wish to explore the paid options.  But for some, myself included at the moment, this app is pretty sweet.  If you sensed a tone of hesitation in my previous sentence, it is because I am still exploring for any superior alternatives to Buffer, specifically more flexibility in number of tweet “slots” each day AND more freedom on the time selection process.

5) AppAdvice
When I first got my iPhone, I flipped through several months worth of MacWorld back issues at the library.  Much of that was in the quest to read app reviews and locate those that might be most useful to me.  For a couple bucks, I now have just such a resource, updated frequently, on my phone with me.  AppAdvice is a joy to the geek within me.  Some of you may wish to buy a coffee with your toonie, but me, I’ve got AppAdvice–a bargain for any app-freak.

What apps do you use everyday? 

Please add to my list by commenting below.  I’d love to learn more.

I Love My iPhone

Yes, this is more than infatuation.

I love my iPhone.

I confess that it feels ridiculous to speak of such affection toward an electronic device. Technologically speaking, I don’t tend to be either savvy or swift. In fact, I prided myself on milking six years out of my previous cell phone. I had purchased it when we lived in China in 2004. It was a phone–nothing more. When I purchased it, the very fact that I was joining the “cell phone world”, with a couple billion members at that point, felt like a quantum leap in my technological posture. When that phone finally gave out, I asked my wife to buy me the cheapest, plainest phone she could find. Bells and whistles were neither wanted nor welcomed. Part of the motivation behind moves like this is to minimize the learning curve typically associated with new gadgets. The other part is that I’m a cheapskate. Even when I had a cell phone, I was a pay-as-you-go, my-bill-is-$100-per-year customer, and quite proud of it.

You can imagine the shock of those around me then when I confessed just before Christmas that I was considering an upgrade to an iPhone. Continue reading

Sacred Spaces and Cracks for Creativity

The times they are a-changing.  And so are the ways we think… and don’t.

Interruption-free space is sacred. Yet, in the digital era we live in, we are losing hold of the few sacred spaces that remain untouched by email, the Internet, people, and other forms of distraction. Our cars now have mobile phone integration and a thousand satellite radio stations. When walking from one place to another, we have our devices streaming data from dozens of sources. Even at our bedside, we now have our iPads with heaps of digital apps and the world’s information at our fingertips.

There has been much discussion about the value of the “creative pause“–a state described as “the shift from being fully engaged in a creative activity to being passively engaged, or the shift to being disengaged altogether.” This phenomenon is the seed of the break-through “a-ha!” moments that people so frequently report having in the shower. In these moments, you are completely isolated, and your mind is able to wander and churn big questions without interruption.

However, despite the incredible power and potential of sacred spaces, they are quickly becoming extinct. We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for disconnection. And our imaginations suffer the consequences.

The above comes from an article titled, “What Happened to Downtime?”  It contains some fascinating reflections on the distractions of the digital age and the hit that human creativity and focus are taking in the process.  It’s a short read, but the whole article can be viewed HERE.