General Notes

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2008 by andrewjoslyn

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Units (TheMacBox)

Posted in Free Apps, Utilities with tags , , , on September 22, 2008 by andrewjoslyn

Cost as reviewed: FREE

For some reason I’m obsessed with unit conversion apps. I’m guessing it’s because when you spend 4 years as an engineering student, you do a LOT of unit conversions!! Having one place to do all your conversions so you don’t have to do them manually is awesome.

This app has a wide selection of unit conversions and they are well organized. Of course there will always be some you need that are left out, but this one has a lot of the most common ones. In addition, I never fully trust these apps and I always suggest that if you are using it for something important, you should always check at least one of each unit conversion type against a trusted source. This will give you more peace of mind about using the app and it will save a bunch of time.

Units Website

SyncRSS (Julian Jee)

Posted in Free Apps, Utilities with tags , , , , on September 21, 2008 by andrewjoslyn

Cost as reviewed: FREE (now $0.99)

This app does exactly what the name says – it syncs RSS feeds. Well, to be more exact, it caches RSS feeds – as far as I can tell it doesn’t exactly “sync” with anything.

This app is one of those utilities that makes so much sense on the iPhone. One of the great things about the iPhone is that it can access the Internet from everywhere … well, from almost anywhere. So what happens when you’re in one of those situations where you have no Internet service at all on your phone but you want something to do? Well, you can download some RSS feeds to read and this app allows you to that quite nicely.

A few feeds come preloaded but adding your own is a cinch. Once you choose a feed to cache, you just tap that feed and then hit the refresh button at the top. One thing that would be nice here would be an option to sync all feeds at once. When connected to the Internet, this app will display photos from the post but it will not cache them, so when you move to an area with no connection, what you’re left with is just the text of the article.

Of course, if you follow a lot of RSS feeds then you’ll know that many sites don’t include the full post in the feed (probably because they want your traffic on their main site where all the advertisements are). If you read a lot of those kinds of feeds, you might get frustrated with this app because you will only have cached the shortened post that is provided in the feed. It would be awesome if the app could go out and pull the full text for you somehow.

One thing I am very pleased about is that the app understands landscape mode and functions just like Safari. I often find it easier to read text in this mode. However, one drawback of this app is that it doesn’t sync with an online reader. I love Google Reader and I use it all the time, but if I start using this app when on the go, Google won’t know which items I’ve already read and it will get confusing for me. Plus, if I add new feeds when online, I have to also manually add them to this app if I want them to download. Also, it looks like you can’t set up folders or categories of feeds in this app. If I have a ton of feeds it is often useful to organize them into groupings based on their content. It would also be great if you could set up a schedule for this app to auto-update at certain intervals, but since apps can’t run in the background, I guess that wouldn’t really work.

Over all, this app is very simple but does its job quite well. Of course, the version number is 0.1 so I’m sure there is much more on the way in the future. If you know you’ll be offline for a while and you want something to read, find some good full-text RSS feeds to add to this app so you can take them with you.

Break Classic LITE (bootant.com)

Posted in Free Apps, Games with tags , , on September 20, 2008 by andrewjoslyn

Cost as reviewed: FREE

This app is a version of the classic block breaking game, and a pretty good version at that. Although I find it somewhat difficult to control the pong-like platform with my thumb, it probably just takes some getting used to. It might help if there was a symbol of some kind below the platform that I could actually use to slide back and forth, rather than having to keep my finger relatively close to the platform itself (in which case I can’t see it well enough to gage where the edges are). Of course it would also help if I could make the tips of my thumbs smaller but I don’t think that’s happening any time soon.

One thing that makes this game more interesting is that certain blocks drop items when they break. I’m not quite sure what they all mean, but one of them is a green plus sign that makes your platform wider if you catch it, which is awesome. Some blocks drop additional balls so you can sometimes have two or even more blocks flying around breaking blocks at the same time. It can get a bit crazy but inevitably I’m not able to maintain them for very long and I’m quickly back down to only one. You would think that having more of them gives you a better chance of at least hitting one of them, but for some reason my mind gets easily confused and it leads me to miss all of them! This makes it a bit more challenging.

I’m not sure what factors to into the score you receive, but the main way to challenge yourself in this free version of the game (only 8 levels I think) is to try and beat your high score. I played through all the levels with only one ball falling off the screen. Pick up this free version and give it a shot. If you like it, it might be worth buying, but you might want to consider if it has enough replay value to actually purchase the app.

Break Classic Website

Midomi (Melodis Corporation)

Posted in Free Apps, Music, Utilities with tags , , , , on September 19, 2008 by andrewjoslyn

Cost as reviewed: FREE

Although this app is similar to Shazam, which I reviewed previously (see here), Midomi is currently in the top 25 on iTunes so I thought I should give it a try to see if it improves on what I love about Shazam.

What can I say?  I’m amazed at the people who can put together an app like this (or Shazam for that matter).  Being able to search a database of music to find a specific song is awesome.  The main difference between Midomi and Shazam is that Midomi gives you more ways to search for music.  You can sing or hum a part of a song, or you can speak the song’s title.  You can grab a bit of music that is playing on the radio (much like Shazam) and you can also simply type in an artist or song to search using text.

Once of the greatest things about this app is that once it searches the database and returns the possible matches to the song you’re looking for, it will allow you to play a preview of that song from right inside the app so you can determine whether it found the right song.  In my testing, it always listed the song I intended as the first result, although it also listed a whole bunch of results that seemed to make no sense (see my screenshots).  Once you find the song you want, you can click on the arrow to get more information and it will let you bookmark the song, buy it from iTunes, or search for videos on YouTube.  You can also access artist and album information from this interface.

Although this app does give you a lot of information and it provides a lot of ways to search for music, I think I like the interface of Shazam a little better.  Midomi seems a little too cartoony for me, whereas Shazam looks a bit more modern with the black background.  If you’re into music and sometimes find yourself humming a tune that you can’t identify, then Midomi might be able to help you.  If you just hear things on the radio or playing in a store or bar and want to know what the song is, then either of these apps will probably work for you (although I didn’t test Midomi in a noisy setting the way I tested Shazam).

Midomi Website

Sportacular (Jeff Hamilton)

Posted in Free Apps, sports, Utilities with tags , , , , , on September 18, 2008 by andrewjoslyn

Cost as reviewed: FREE

For those of you out there who know me, you’ll understand why it’s so strange that I’m reviewing this app.  Some of you might even say that I’m not qualified to review it because I don’t even like sports, but … I thought I should give it a shot since it is in the top 20 on iTunes right now.

Wow!  I didn’t think there was any way that I could actually be excited about a Sports app for the iPhone.  I do follow baseball to a small degree because I’m a Phillies fan, but I definitely don’t follow much more than that (certainly not football, although the SuperBowl is always a good time).  This app allows you to follow a ton of information for a number of sports.  Baseball (MLB) is covered as are football (NFL and NCAA FB) and basketball (NBA and NCAA BB).  Hockey (NHL) and soccer (MLS) have also been included in the app and I imagine more sports will be added in the future.

For each sport, there is a series of “tabs” along the bottom that you can select to get various bits of information.  On the Scores tab you can see final scores for previous games as well as the current score for games-in-progress.  The scores tab will also reveal the schedule of future games if you choose a date in the future.  The Standings tab gives you all the summary details you would expect for the standings listed in the sports section of the newspaper.  It will even give you details on the status of playoffs (including the results of playoffs for sports that are in the off-season).  There is another tab for player stats, which lets you look up details on a given team, or it lets you search for specific players to get their stats.  It even lets you create a custom “fantasy” team (although I didn’t test this feature because I don’t really understand the whole “fantasy” sport thing …).  Finally, the other major tab that is included is a News tab that gives you, well …, news!  It selects just news related to the sport you have selected.

Since the information in this app loads really quickly over WiFi and the app is still quite fast over Edge, I think I’ll hold on to this app if only to periodically check the MLB standings and scores.  Anyone out there who is a sports fan should definitely try out this app, even if you only follow one sport or if you only want to check a few things once in a while.

(I apologize for including so many screenshots, but this app has SO MUCH to see in it, that I thought I had to put at least this many photos in my post.)

Sportacular Website

Flashlight (John Haney Software)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 17, 2008 by andrewjoslyn

Cost as reviewed: FREE

When I saw that this app was in the top 20 on iTunes, I was a little shocked.  I wasn’t quite sure the the appeal of the app was, but I felt I owed it to all of you out there to download it and give it a shot.

As I expected, I’m not a huge fan of this app.  I should caveat that by saying that this is by no fault of the developer or the app itself, it’s just not something that I see myself using.  When I think of a flashlight, I think of something with a pretty significant beam of light that I can shine on something.  Due to the nature of the iPhone screen, this app can really only be used to illuminate a relatively small area relatively near the phone.  That having been said, there is quite a lot that has been built into this app.

The main feature of the app is to display one solid color on the iPhone screen (pretty much any color is possible since you can create your own custom color) including white and black (not sure why you would want black since you would save battery power by simply locking the phone instead).  In addition to this simple solid color feature, the more interesting part of the app is its “strobe” effects.  You can select from several different strobe types (such as emergency, S.O.S. and trippy).  You can then customize the strobe effect with the frequency and brightness (I assume that’s what “Light on” means).  I suppose these could be pretty useful if you were in a very dark situation and needed to alert someone to your presence.  I wonder how far away you could see this if set to the brightest setting (of course, you’re giving up longevity for brightness since the battery will drain faster).

All-in-all, I think the app is well-executed with quite a few customization options, but I don’t see myself using it very often.

Flashlight Website

Graphing Calculator (Gabor Nagy)

Posted in Free Apps, Utilities with tags , , , , on September 16, 2008 by andrewjoslyn

Cost as reviewed: FREE

This is a great app for plotting up to 4 graphs at a time. It has all the standard functions and variables you would typically want to graph. It plots the graphs much more quickly than my old TI-83 and it is obviously much prettier (hello! It has color!!).

You can zoom in and out and pan by using familiar iPhone touch commands (pinching, sliding, etc.). In addition, you can double-tap to engage the tracking feature where you can slide your finger along the screen to see the y value results on each line at various x values. The settings tab lets you manually set your min and max x and y values, which is a welcome feature. There is also very good documentation to go along with this great app.

I have two suggestions that might not be too difficult to implement. One would be to have a button on the graph screen that would allow you to automatically recenter on the origin. The other awesome feature would be if it would calculate the intersection points between lines. This is a feature I used quite frequently on my graphing calculator.

I highly recommend this app to anyone who would like to occasionally graph a few lines.

Graphing Calculator Website

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