APP TEST DRIVES

  • STUFF I’M IN TO (JANUARY 2013)

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: App Test Drives, Cocktails, Life Lessons, Other Cool Stuff...

    No Comments

    It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I realize I’m probably losing any loyal following I may have built up…  The holidays were awesome to me with a lot of time around family, a trip to see my parents in their amazing Florida habitat and a quick trip out to Colorado for a little snowboarding with good friends.

    Being perfectly honest, I have a draft of a post that I can’t seem to hit the publish button on so this is a lame attempt at keeping the conversation going.  Rather than just ignore my blog completely, I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a quick list of some cool stuff I’ve encountered in January…here it goes!

     

    Thought Leader:  Larry Page

    Larry recently gave an interview to Wired Magazine (the best interview in that magazine since last month’s WILD expose on John McAfee).  I tore through it with enthusiasm learning a little more about his leadership styles and vision for Google.  He’s definitely a one of a kind guy and it’s encouraged me to seek out some more information on his career.  Larry is a true leader and isn’t looking to make incremental changes to how the world operates.  He instead looks for ways to make 10X improvements in the projects he works in, fundamentally changing society in his wake.

    Reports of his health issues are concerning and I hope that his chronically hoarse voice is something minor because he has a lot of impact left to make.

     

    App:  Bike Race

    A friend of mine showed this app to me in the last week and I can’t seem to get enough…this game evokes memories of excite bike with awesome physics and simple game play.  To make things even better it has a turn based multi-player challenge mode that allows you to compete with your friends across platform (Android, iPhone/iPad)…  Think Excite Bike meets Words With Friends!

    If you already have the app, click this link on your phone to play me:  http://bikerace.me/ACIXhw

     

    Liquid Culture:  5 Cocktails Everyone Should Know How to Make 

    Imbibe Magazine (something you should probably subscribe to) covers all things liquid culture…Coffee, Tea, Cocktails, Beer and more.  This month they published a list of 5 drinks every aspiring cocktail aficionado should be able to perfect.  So far I’m tight on the first 3 (Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Last Word), but haven’t dipped into the Sidecar or a real Whiskey Sour but will be working on that soon.

    Check out their article for the recipes and click on over to the subscribe link if you’re looking for a really interesting magazine that you’ll read cover to cover each month.

     

    TV Show:  Justified

    I accidentally discovered Justified 3 years back after going through some severe Jack Bauer withdrawals.  My craving for twisted plot staring a bad ass American law man was fulfilled with the acting of Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens.  It’s honestly hard to pick my favorite actor in this with habitual bad guy Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) playing the antagonist and a good buddy of mine from college (Abby Miller) playing a growing role as Ellen May, a back woods prostitute who has lost her way but now finding Jesus.

    As a bonus…I discovered that the series is based on a few short novels by Elmore Leonard and have made it through 2 1/2 of them so far.  Season 4 just started and it hasn’t disappointed yet.

  • MY DISTRACTED DRIVING SOLUTION

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: App Test Drives, Mobile Tech

    No Comments

    Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field……blindfolded

    -Department of Transportation Study

    Let’s be honest, it’s happened to all of us at one point….  You’re headed somewhere, your phone makes a noise, you reach over to just take a quick look and by the time you look up the situation on the road has changed drastically.  In fact, the stats like the one listed above are straight up ALARMING!

    After a few too many close calls, and some prodding by my employer I’ve decided that it’s time to swear it off completely.  While no one in the industry has come out and supported an all-out ban on their products while in a motor vehicle, Sprint has taken a stance that any distraction on the road is un-acceptable and AT&T has even started running PSA’s that are extremely powerful.  I applaud all of these efforts and I hope more follow the lead.

    It’s embarrassing to admit, but sometimes my phone is just too tempting…  I set out to find a more direct method of blocking my obsessive behavior.  There are a number of apps out there for Android that restrict phone usage, some of them like Sprint Drive First even automagically lock your phone when they detect movement over 10mph.  The application sends all calls straight to voicemail and auto-replies to incoming text messages when enabled.  I opted for a more passive approach and went with “Safely GO” a similar app that requires the driver to manually enable the lock screen before heading off on a trip (I like to be in control…)

    To create a visual reminder, I now have an NFC enabled sticker* on my steering wheel that will enable the Safely GO app when I tap it.  Within the first week of setting all of this up, I found that I grabbed my phone an average of 6 times per trip to and from work….once picking up my phone and seeing the lock screen, I’m reminded to put it down….who knows what I was really looking for.  Email, text messages, Facebook updates????  None of that is really that important and can wait until I get to my destination.

    I’ve found that the sticker is now a permanent reminder to keep my eyes on the road and my phone sits happily in my pocket.  Nerds like myself will continue to hack solutions together like this, but it’s only a matter of time before the government steps in and figures out a broader solution.  Challenge yourself on your next car ride.  Count the number of times you reach for your phone, I think you’ll be surprised.

    Have a better solution?  Let me know in the comments!

    *For my Mom…NFC is Near Field Communication.  The technology is built into certain phones (all Sprint Android phones going forward) and is a short range wireless communication that can enable tasks on your phone.  With a blank NFC sticker you can program it to do certain tasks when you touch your phone to it….I programmed this one in my car to enable Safely GO’s driving mode.  It’s the same technology that enables “tap to pay” applications like Google Wallet.

  • MY 3 FAVORITE SPORTS APPS FOR FALL

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: App Test Drives, Mobile Tech

    2 Comments

    Fall is a beautiful time of year…  After the horrible summer we had, the weather has been a treat and my inner-Nebraskan is overjoyed by the fact that football is in full swing.  Aside from a bit of a rough start for my Huskers and two weeks of heart-breaking losses for my fantasy football team, I’ve caught every moment with some help from my mobile phone and these three awesome apps:

    1)  ESPN College Football:  FREE (Android/iPhone)

     Nebraska law dictates that nothing shall interrupt a Husker game, unfortunately the occasional wedding or trip to Runza for a half-time snack may interfere.  Luckily the folks at ESPN were on point with top notch reporting and a really slick interface to fulfill all of your College Football needs.  I’ve found that even while sitting in front of my TV, I’m getting more information than the on-air talent (i.e. the Bo Pelini heartburn scare of week 3).  Simply log in with your Facebook account and add your favorite college teams….timely notifications can be customized to deliver news, game start/end, scores and more.

    2)  Yahoo! Fantasy Football ’12:  FREE (Android/iPhone)

    While I definitely bleed Husker Red, Fantasy Football has turned into an obsession over the last few years.  With the KC Chiefs completely embarrassing themselves again in 2012, it’s nice to have a fake team that I can root for.  We’ve used Yahoo! over the last couple years and their app has slowly become one of the more capable on the market with live scoring, roster changes and more available at your finger tips.  A must have companion when watching NFL Redzone in the basement.

    3)  THUUZ Sports:  FREE (Android/iPhone)

    While the ESPN CFB app definitely takes the cake, this sleeper pick is a MUST DOWNLOAD….  I’ve been watching THUUZ for about a year as they’ve developed from cool app to necessary utility.  The wizards at THUUZ watch every single game going on and will send you a notification if there’s something on TV that you shouldn’t miss.  It’s a brilliant concept made even better by the fact that they now can integrate your fantasy football teams with the click of a button.  By logging in with my Yahoo! credentials, Thuuz knows when Vick is tearing it up and gives me a quick nudge to flip the channel….nice work guys.

    How about you?  Any favorites that I missed?  

     

     

  • LONG-TERM TEST DRIVE: GOOGLE VOICE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: App Test Drives, Mobile Tech

    No Comments

    As part of an ongoing series, I’m going to review some of my favorite apps that have been on my phone for a long time (I have hundreds clogging the memory of my phone….some are wonderful, some are one hit wonders).  The app du jour, Google Voice.

    I’ve been a bit obsessed with Google Voice from the beginning.  Originally developed as the service “Grand Central” and later acquired by Google; the founders have always had a vision of connecting multiple devices to a single number.  The initial intent was that users could sign up for a phone number and have it intelligently route phone calls to the appropriate location (home, office, mobile, etc…) based on conditions like time of day, day of week, incoming contact, and more.  “The last phone number you’ll ever need.”

    While this was interesting, I’ve found that Google Voice is far more valuable as a utility to extend my one phone number to other devices in my life.  With Google Voice enabled, I can send/receive phone calls, text messages and voice mail from anything with an internet connection (mobile phone, laptop and tablet)*.  In addition, Google Voice enables some pretty snazzy features like call recording, customized voicemails, and the ability to search all of that content in the cloud.

    *With some special behind the scenes “magic” in the Sprint network and the servers in Mountain View….you can use your current phone number!  No need to distribute a new phone number to your friends, just use your Sprint number like you always have.

    To be perfectly honest, the mobile application that enables all of this functionality has been a bit of a roller coaster ride….  Over time it’s definitely become much more reliable and something I have come to use as my daily driver for texting but still could use some modern usability enhancements (i.e. better message threading).  In addition, the Android application is FAR superior to the iOS application due to the locked down nature of Apple’s OS….so iPhoner’s beware.

    Google Voice is doing for carrier grade voice/messaging what IMAP did for email.  It would be ridiculous to think that your personal laptop is the only place you can send/receive email….  Google Voice proves that your phone number doesn’t have to be locked to your phone.

    So Google Voice:  MUST HAVE or SAVE SOME SPACE?

    MUST HAVE!!

    This is the first app I download on every new phone and tablet I get…I can honestly say I probably send more text messages from my laptop each day because the Google Voice window is always open through a slick extension in my browser.  If you’re a Sprint user and would like to get a little more control over your communications…go get this now!