Top Ten App Rappin’

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Enjoy.

Christmas Tech

Snappy Holidays

The recent snow and creeping intrusion of holiday ornamentation heralds the annual War on Christmas, so I thought I’d toss in my two cents on where folks interested in stockpiling personal electronics for the upcoming apocalypse ought to be heading.  This all assumes you have at least a bit of money left from all the necessary weapons upgrades.

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Under the Tree

First off, if you don’t yet own a tablet device, the Apple iPad or iPad mini is the big winner in this year’s Christmas kerfuffle.  I predict the iPad Mini will be the hottest gift of the season.  I have a call in to Santa for an iPad Mini.  It will be an upgrade from my iPad Micro (Iphone 4)  Avoid the Microsoft Surface at any price.  The Microsoft device is so underdeveloped there aren’t even apps for Facebook and Twitter, and the O/S is so fumbled I have actually seen screen shots of their tablet O/S giving those insane error messages Windows is famous for.

The new Apple iMac is the perfect desktop machine.  The Apple TV is an inexpensive gift for a tech oriented family and might qualify as a stocking stuffer in some realms.  Any iPhone is a treat, but the newest model is always the most cherished.  That said, my iPhone4 is fantastic, so even if you can’t swing for the latest greatest iPhone5, there are cheaper options that don’t involve tremendous sacrifice in features or usability.

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A Christmas Story (Ghosts of Christmas Past)

And to the many children of the cheapskate parents, I give my condolences in advance for the $99 Android monstrosity of a tablet your folks grabbed at the check-out line in Walmart the day before Xmas. Don’t swear about it in front of your folks or you might end up like Ralphie above. Lots of us didn’t get what we wanted because some knock-off product conned our parents into buying it instead of the real deal.  I used to be THAT kid.  When the Red Ryder BB gun was “the shizzle”, you could count on my parents getting me the cheap plastic version that shot soft rubber pellets.  One of the best early gifts I remember as a little kid was getting a battery operated tow truck (with motorized lift and flashing red light!!)  It was called the Big Bruiser.  I saw one for sale on Ebay the other day.  New in the box.  Priced to sell at $1175!  I was never one of those kids who treated his toys with the dignity of display quality handling.  I could have sold my old Tonka truck for a small fortune, but it got pretty well ground down using it as a wagon to race down the sidewalks (and streets) in it’s day.  Kids of my generation used the toys they got and then left ’em out in the rain.  I guess that is why the small amount that remain command such high prices on Ebay.

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Stocking Stuffers

Spotify Pro account.  About ten bucks a month.

Apple gift cards.  Available in various amounts starting at about $10.

Bluetooth headphones.  From about $80 to $400.  I own a pair similar to this that work well for me.

Bluetooth Speakers. From about $50 to $350, with sound quality generally increasing with price.  Brands of note.  Jawbone Jambox  and Logitech.

Hitler and the Ipad

The Sad Little Ipad

An honest appraisal of the Apple Ipad from somebody who guessed the name correctly (see my previous post).

What they got right:  10 hour battery life.  Iwork software looks promising.

Dishonest criticisms: It won’t run Photoshop.  The bezel is too wide.  It costs too much.  There’s no stylus input.

Honest criticisms:  No camera.  No multitasking.  A crippled O/S tied to the App Store.  No SD card slot.  No USB port.  No support for Flash.  4:3 aspect ratio.

This is hardly the game changing piece of equipment that Steve Jobs thinks it is.  Since the prime use of this device will likely be living room surfing off home wifi, the lack of Flash support is really a deal breaker.  Not having a camera for Skype/Ichat support is so totally weak that I’m both shocked and disappointed.

I’m just not interested in the feature set of this product.  If this product had come out at $999 and included not only a camera, but also flash support and a decent O/S, it might be tempting.  Toss in an embedded pico LED projector and you’ve got something that would have set the world on fire.  I never thought I’d say this, but the Microsoft Courier tablet that I’ve seen on Youtube makes a mockery of the Ipad.

I still love my other Apple products (Itouch, mini, Imac), but I’m going to pass on the Ipad.  Perhaps Apple will surprise us with a truly useful tablet offering in the near future?

Enjoy.

On the Night Before iPad


And when I come home cold and tired
It's good to warm my bones beside the fire

Enjoy.