Top Ten App Rappin’


The internet is currently abundant with “top ten” app lists. This is likely due to the rush of after Xmas holiday app downloading from the huge spike in tablet sales this year (not to mention the perennial need for content creators to stuff the intertubes with as much fluff as humanly possible).  I try to make a point of perusing all the lists I can, in hopes I will see something new or exciting, and on occasion, I am rewarded for my efforts.  Any list produced will vary by selected task, and there are often multiple great apps within the same category.   My list focuses on what I consider a standard example of apps an average social user would find useful.  I may do some specialized app lists (e.g. photography, videography, blogging) in the future that will drill down to more specialized functions.

The Breakdown

Precious few app lists will overlook Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Beyond that, it is a crap shoot of tremendous proportions. The  “Big Three” are considered de rigueur in any respectable app list, though to be honest, the only one of the three I’d miss (or have trouble finding multiple suitable replacements for) is Twitter.

Aside from the big three, opinions seem to vary.  I’m all too often left simply scratching my head and wondering if the author of a list I’m reading isn’t secretly just pimping an app for a friend or favored company.  When an already truncated top ten list includes all the usual suspects, but manages to squeeze in one or more obscure paid gaming apps (while failing to note the myriad available (and hugely popular) freebies), it is the obvious mark of an internet shill.  Everything on my list is FREE with optional premium upgrades noted where appropriate.

And Away We Go


I originally joined Facebook for the ease of being able to comment on other sites without having to manually resubmit all my id info for every site where I wanted to comment. It can also be useful for connecting with old coworkers and friends as well, but in my mind it is mostly an overhyped and confusing jumble of everything.  If Facebook has a “focus”, I haven’t been able to figure it out.  Recent reports suggest that my move to the platform, along with a lot of other old geezers, has ruined Facebook for the kids.  I don’t know about that, but will note that the other old geezers who have recently moved in seem to have a proclivity towards duck hunting, gay hating and rightwing Tea Party politics.  Bad enough when these righting Jeebus slobberers were just posting random Bible verses all over creation, but now I have to wade through the constant noise and confusion of “Bullshit Mountain” in between all the pictures of cute puppies and kittens.  Note to the old geezers gumming up my Facebook:  Go back to Fox websites or stay in your pews.  Either way is fine with me, just STFU already.


I was late to the Twitter bandwagon (by ubergeek standards anyway!) but I have done a helluva job of catching up!  Twitter is still a mystery to a lot of folks, even though it gets a lot of press coverage, so I couldn’t help but take a whack at figuring out what the hoopla was all about. So what the hell is Twitter? Probably a lot of different things to different people, but I think of Twitter like Google News on steroids.  It is the finest source of breaking news on the planet IMHO. The fireball incident over Iowa last week is prescient to me because it reminded me of the fireball I spotted (and documented) here in Germany a couple years ago on Christmas Eve.  As soon as I witnessed it, I started searching Google for info on what I had just witnessed to no avail.  Then I did a Twitter search and confirmed others had seen AND posted videos as I had.  Google noted it the following day.  If there’s a news event going on live anywhere in the world, people are Twittering it as it happens.  We are the new journalists.

instagInstagram.  They say it is the thing to have for pictures, but is that really true if you have Twitter and Facebook, since they handle pictures too?  Outside of the fixation on filters to make your pictures look more like ass…err..artisan creations, the popularity of Instagram seems to be the simplicity.  Now available with added Vine-like video capabilities.

More Meat and Potatoes


YouTube is nice for posting videos. With the option for paid content creation, you can become the next James Cameron.  Great resource for watching old movies and TV shows.  Lots of niche categories of interest.


Camera+ is a companion app for your smartphone.  Plenty of sharing options and more control over framing and exposure than provided on standard camera app.  The built-in lightbox feature allows for simple editing.


Spotify is my favorite music app.  The ad-supported free version was recently sweetened to cover mobile devices.  Off-line usage is still limited to premium subscribers ($10/month).  Cannot recommend highly enough!!!  WiFi response to service is outstanding.  Cellular access more dependent on service environment and plan.  I use wifi at home for browsing new stuff and my mobile pro account for offline/travel.  I dump a couple gig of songs onto my phone.  You get to create playlists just like every other media player and with the premium level access you get syncing of selected playlists/songs for offline use.  The iPad app is a truly brilliant piece of work.


Shazam is an app that uses your smartphone mic to listen to music and identify the title and singer of songs you don’t know or can’t remember.  It will then offer you links to purchase the music off iTunes or Amazon.  Since I’m a die-hard Spotify user, I paid a one-time upgrade fee for Shazam Pro ($9) to get access to the direct Spotify links for identified songs (so I wouldn’t have to search for them separately on Spotify).  I keep Shazam fired up and handy when I’m watching television to identify background music I like but am unable to identify.  I use it when I troll the hipster hangouts in Holland so I can zero in on what tunes the locals are groovin’ on.  I’ve even stuck my phone out the living room window to catch music playing off a neighbor’s jam box and gotten positive results!  It’s scary smart.  NSA scary.


Yelp is one of the two shopping/check-in apps I use, the other being FourSquare.  I tend to think of them as restaurant location and public opinion rating services.  Their in-app photo feature allows for inclusion of suitable food porn shots.  I’ve written a fair number of restaurant reviews on the Yelp website which may be of use to English speaking locals and tourists to Munsterland.  Click on the Yelp icon to access them.


Something, something Google.  The Plus app is more socially targeted, but at a minimum, you want a search engine you can talk to that understands you better than that crazy girl Siri*.  It’s high time you get used to chatting with your devices, and using Google’s state of the art voice recognition system is a welcome introduction to our new machine overlords.  *Full disclosure.  I’ve not really attempted to chat up Siri that much.  I’m still getting used to the idea of talking to my phone and it’s a bit easier with Google since Google doesn’t add a creepy anthropomorphizing name to their voice response system.  Besides, Siri is the kind of name you give the cute girl who does nothing but stand around looking cute.  The kind of girl you really don’t want to interrupt in the first place.  Maybe if Apple had named Siri something like Jenny, a good hardworking farm girl kinda name, I would feel differently.

That’s a list of ten apps already (if you count Foursquare), and I haven’t even touched on the other oft-noted must have apps you should be aware of.  Weather and mapping apps, cloud based storage apps, as well as all the free Angry Birds you fancy are all awaiting immediate download at your app store, and if they’re not, you bought the wrong smartphone.


Maximizing the iPad Mini II

Seemed like a good time to update my original iPad Mini review to share some of the experiences in content creation I’ve gained having now fully broken-in my iPad Mini.

I’m still composing most of my posts on my Mac Mini, but that’s mostly out of habit and familiarity and not any inherent limitation of the iOS WordPress app (or the lack of other useful blogging utility apps). There are some niggling issues with the app itself, but nothing that is a deal breaker. For one thing the app will drop the HTML code for the pictures I upload into the bottom of the post I’m working on, forcing me to cut and paste it to where I want the pic to appear in the post, but that is a rather minor perturbation.

Biggest Issue

I’m not a big fan of virtual keyboards and I’ve yet to make the plunge into a bluetooth keyboard like I use on my Mac Mini. I’ve definitely got one in mind for my iPad though. A Logitech cover, case, keyboard and stand combo that runs about €80 here in Germany.


The main issues I have with my current iPad mini cover/stand are its lack of magnetic auto-power switching and the flimsy nature of trying to stand it in portrait mode on my lap, with the latter being a huge issue to me. Logitech has both those issues covered.

The cover/stand I currently use is just not stable enough to stay upright against the pressure of finger input without stabilizing it from behind with my other hand. It’s simply a function of the high center of gravity of the tablet and the narrowness of the stand.

It works fine on a flat surface, but my lap isn’t flat. The Logitech keyboard has a much larger footprint. Even allowing that the keyboard will save me a lot of “surface” input to the device, I imagine it will not totally eliminate the necessity of direct screen finger input. When mated to the iPad, the Logitech stand looks to be a lot sturdier option than what I am own now.

If this Logitech keyboard also had backlit keys (like some of the other keyboard-cases out there) I’d already be an owner. I keep hoping and waiting on that upgrade, but if it fails to materialize soon, I’m going “all-in” on this Logitech unit as it currently exists.

Software (Apps)


I use a combination of photo editing apps to tweak my photos. Camera+ makes quick work of cropping and rotating, as well as enhancement and filtering (I don’t use much), though there are at least a half dozen other apps you can use to accomplish the same thing.

For text over graphics I’m a big fan of Over. For composing collages I use Collage or one of the other free photo compositing apps. I used to use Photolettering for text overlay of graphics, but the free font list is too restrictive. If you can do multiple text layovers without saving and re-opening for each new line, I must have missed it.


For video I use iMovie. For screen capture and white boarding, I use the free watermarked version of Doceri software on both my iPad and Mac Mini.

Other Apps

I rely on the Google search app with voice recognition to do quick fact or link searches. I often run Spotify (mobile Pro) in the background for sonic accommodation.


Maximizing the iPad Mini

Setting the Stage

Since my first glance at an iPad it has been a long term goal of mine to switch from content creation on my Mac computer to a portable tablet device.

It is repeatedly stated that the iPad is a poor content creation tool (often in the same sentence that praises the content delivery aspects of the device). This is a claim that has had a fair amount of validity in the past, but it is my viewpoint that the case against the content creation capabilities of Apple’s tablet devices are now being wildly overstated.

There is no debate over the lack of such capabilities in the early iPad and iPhone iterations. The lack of access to a true file structure is an honest and recurring challenge to be sure. About a year ago, I got my hands on an iPhone4. WordPress had just released a free app for content creation and I downloaded it onto my iPhone (and older iTouch) to test the limits of the app. I did at least one or two WordPress posts using nothing more than my iPhone. The biggest challenge for me at the time was the small screen of my iPhone which exacerbates the issues of both my aging eyesight as well as my fat fingers.

Other than the ergonomic challenges of tinkering around on such a tiny device, the WordPress app seemed to work quite well early on and subsequent iterations have no doubt improved and expanded upon that functionality. Aware that I would eventually take the plunge and buy an iPad, I started loading up my iPhone4 with as many content creation and photo apps as I could find. A complete list is too expansive for purposes of this post, but suffice to say that if there is a highly rated content creation app (free or paid) there are better than even odds it is on my iPhone, and by way of Apple magic, now installed on the Mini I am using to compose this post.

The iPad Mini


If the iPad Mini had not arrived on the scene when it did, this post would be constructed on a full size iPad instead of the Mini, but given the special blessings that providence seems to continually toss in my direction, the Mini was released just in time for me to get it instead of its larger sibling. My most excellent wife took pity on me and picked one up in the US on a recent visit to the states, using the awesome buying power of the Golden Euro we now use in place of the weaker dollar. Apple sees fit to offer the same dollar/Euro price for the entry-level Mini at € or $ at 329. This translates into being able to buy an entry level US iPad Mini for €250, a hefty savings over buying it here in Europe @€329! At the end of the day, given the high demand and limited availability during the peak holiday season, she was forced to go with the thirty two gig version @ $429. (€ 326)

The Verdict
The jury is still out on the ability to completely abandon my desktop for a tablet, but there is little doubt in my mind that as time passes the challenges of doing so will become even easier than they already are. Expect future glimpses into this process as I spend more time getting acquainted with my new iPad Mini.