Thursday, June 5, 2014

23 Mobile Things: Thing 23

Evaluate 23 Mobile Things

I'm really glad I did this. I can't say it changed my life or anything, but I found some really useful apps and feel much more familiar with my smartphone now. I don't see myself using a huge number of the apps I tried, but there are certainly some. I'm saddened that Springpad is shutting down next month. I'm glad someone tweeted about it on the main 23 Mobile Things page, as I don't sign into Springpad all that often, and I would have hated to lose what I do have there. I really don't like Evernote nearly as well - it's not anywhere near as versatile as Springpad, but it'll hold the information until I don't need it anymore. Why does it always feel like the things I like are the ones that go away?

I think my main reason for not using many of these apps is the limits under which they operate. For example, QuickOffice is the palest shadow of the real thing. Since most of my Word, Excel and PowerPoint work is for work, I just do it with the full versions. Almost any other time I need to create documents, I'm home, and, again, use the full version. It's too hard on a phone - I might feel differently about a tablet. And I'm used to the full versions and feel these fall really flat in comparison. I wasn't all that wild about the photo editing software, either, but I must admit that may be user ineptitude.

I'm probably not the best audience for this kind of project, as I consciously choose to not be engaged online all the time. I'm online enough, and don't want all my free time sucked  up by my phone. I'd far rather interact with real people. I don't have Facebook on my phone, even though I'm a reasonably active user. I'm going to own my phone, not the other way around. I also don't want all my social media apps connected to each other - I protect my privacy more than that.

That said, I probably will continue to use Flipboard, and I absolutely will use the app that locks my mail and messaging behind another layer of security. I'll continue to use my library app, and likely some of the connecting to community apps. I think this program has mostly expanded my knowledge of what my phone can really do! I feel more confident in trying things. But I remain cautious in what I download to my phone. There's too much dangerous stuff out there to download everything under the sun. I'd try something similar again. My recommendation would be to not get stuck on 23 things. I'm not sure why that number, but I think making yourselves stick to it is an artificial limit that can mean you include things not necessarily worth including, or not that different from other things.

My one sentence summary?

You'll never know what you can do until you try!

23 Mobile Things: Thing 16


I gave ipadio a try. It took a while to figure it out, but it was fun. We have a librarian here who's having a baby soon, and we're throwing her a shower. We know it's a girl, and somehow everyone working here is female, so I'm going around to the staff and asking them to say something short and sweet about their favorite book growing up. I'm adding a picture of the book cover to each short audio track. We'll get her exposed to all kinds of stuff she may not have thought of.

I have a couple of quibbles. First, I had hoped to be able to add pictures to specific sections of audio, so I could change book cover images as the recording went along. While you can add multiple images to a clip, they're just all there. But at least I can do four at a time, instead of just one!

And even though the app says it supports jpeg files, I couldn't get those to work. Fortunately, it takes .png files, so it was fine.

I like that ipadio has fairly detailed instructions easily accessible on my phone. For too many of these apps, you have to go on the full web version, or search somewhere else for help. That kind of defeats the purpose.

This could be a quick way for teens to create quick and easy book reviews.

23 Mobile Things: Thing 14


I gave Viddy a try. I'm not a fan. In some places it says you get 30 seconds; in others, 15. It's 15. I was able to record without issue, but editing was another issue. You can add a few filtering effects, you can add some sound tracks, but I couldn't figure out how to do much of anything beyond that.  Supposedly you can change the volume of the soundtrack vs. the recorded audio, but I never found the controls to do so.  Just about all the instructions I saw were for iPhones, not Androids, and you can hardly tell the interfaces are for the same product.

I went to the website and looked at the help page to see how to delete a viddy. It said to go to my profile page. I tried that 3 times, and the app crashed every time. I never got there. That was the chief complaint I saw in the Google Play Store. Perhaps it's the age of my phone? I have the Galaxy SIII. At any rate, I uninstalled it, with my crummy little test videos still there, unable to do what I'd hoped to do. 

Not only would I not recommend this app, I'd discourage people from using it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

23 Mobile Things: Thing 21


Boy, do I have an app. My daughter started us on it, and after seeing how it worked for both her and my husband, I decided to give it a try. It's called MyFitnessPal, and it's helped us do something none of us have really been able to manage on our own: lose weight.

It's no miracle app. It's a calorie counter, really, when you get right down to it. But it's so easy. That's what makes it great. If I remember the numbers correctly, it has over 3 MILLION foods in its database. You can scan them in by barcode, you can look up restaurant food, you can create your own foods - all kinds of ways to track the data. Like any food diary, its success completely depends on how diligent you are in tracking every bite you eat. But doing it on your smartphone makes it so convenient that it takes little effort, and I'm convinced that's why it works. Mine is generally close at hand, so every time food goes in my mouth, out comes the phone and in goes the entry.  I'm getting a lot bettet at estimating what my intake is, and I think that's key to long term success, along with being far more conscious about what I'm eating. I'm missing cheese...  I still eat some, but nearly as much as I'd like!

 The app asks you for your starting weight, your goal, and how fast you want to to get there. Then it sets a daily calorie limit. When you enter your foods, it keeps a running tally of how many you have left. You add in exercise and it takes those extra calories earned into account.

I do have some quibbles about the exercise portion. I think some of them are really too, too generous in how many calories they say you've burned. So I adjust my minutes to get to a more realistic total. I must not be too far off, as I'm losing at the rate I set. I didn't have a lot to lose - just 10 pounds - but I've been unsuccessful in previous attempts over the years. I'm seeing numbers on the scale now I never thought I'd see again! And my husband weighs less than he has in more years than I'm going to mention here.

I've started a few more people on this app, and they seem to like it, too.

23 Mobile Things: Thing 22

Discovering Apps

I tried out Droid of the Day. There's some fun stuff out there, no doubt about it. I even found some I thought I'd like. But I'm married to a tech guy. So maybe I'm a bit more cautious than most about downloading stuff when I don't know anything about it. How do I know there's not a Trojan horse hiding somewhere in that free app? I don't think it's possible that whoever puts out DOTD can dig deeply enough into the code for any given app to make sure there's no malware lurking. I'm also pretty protective of my privacy, and don't feel like letting any little app know all the things they seem to want to know.

So I looked at these for a few days, but decided to uninstall it. I'll take my app downloading a bit more slowly, and only download those I'm at least somewhat sure won't come back to haunt me.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

23 Mobile Things: Thing 6

Creating and Editing Documents

I really wanted to try SignNow. While not a frequent occurence, every once in a while it would be  most useful to have access to an electronic signature. But then I started to wonder about just how secure my signature would be. I'm pretty protective of my information, and decided I didn't want to take the risk of putting my signature in an app I doubted I'd use a lot. And while you can uninstall the app, I can't imagine that SignNow doesn't, somewhere in the depths of their data, keep a copy of it for a long time indeed.

I'm not quite sure of the audience for QuickOffice, the app I ended up trying. While I really like the ability to access documents in my GoogleDrive account, they're already accessible through (what a shock!) the GoogleDrive app. No need to duplicate that.

To my mind and fingers, creating files in QuickOffice is 1) too difficult on such a small screen and 2) too limited in the options available.

Too difficult - this would probably work far better on a tablet than a phone (can you tell I'm not a member of the generation that pretty much grew up texting?). But unless the tablet didn't have the software (and those I've seen pretty much do), why work with this version instead of the full one?

Too limited - yes, you can put together a passable document or presentation using this. And it would do in a pinch. But they're pale imitations of the full versions. Word only has about 6 fonts, and I couldn't figure out how to highlight words to change the font, or bold it or whatever. Again, probably far easier on a tablet. PowerPoint doesn't have any animations or transitions - at least that I saw. It had only one theme, too, without any color or graphics at all.  That made the little presentation I made very, very bland.

So maybe in a pinch - but I think I'll stick to my laptop or work computer for ease of creation and available options.

23 Mobile Things: Thing 20


I tried out Take Ten!, as it looked to be more of a logic kind of puzzle than one that relied on speed or excellent hand/eye coordination. While I love games, I'm not into video gaming, in large part because I find the rushing necessary to complete a task in a given time most stressful. I thought having to pair up numbers to clear the screen would be fun.

Not so much.

For one thing, there's a time limit. For another, from what I saw in the few games I played, there's often no way to win. The game presents you with several lines of numbers. The object is to clear the screen, either by pairing identical numbers, or adding two numbers together to get to 10. Those numbers must be next to each other, either horizontally or vertically, or only separated by blank spaces. If you get stuck, the game will give you a clue - if there's one to be had. If not, your options are to quit, add more rows, or shuffle the existing numbers. I tried adding more lines, but not the shuffle. I didn't come close to winning. When I stopped, I realized my shoulders had risen to ear level in the 5 or 10 minutes I'd been playing! I've left it on my phone for now, but rather doubt I'll be doing much with it.

I see so many people on Facebook who spend all kinds of time playing Candy Crush or some such game. Frankly, it gets annoying, to see all the posts asking for one thing or another, or proclaiming the level reached. 

Perhaps I'll look for some other game - maybe crossword puzzles, where I can take my time...