Archive for Software I use

Cloud Gazing: Pic Monkey – College Maker

Last week for my Mobile Monday post I shared a Collage app for Android today I thought I’d share an online Collage application.  Of course PicMonkey is a lot more than a Collage maker. It’s a full online photo editor, something I’ve been looking for since Google shutdown picnic in the spring. I have used Pic Monkey before, but it’s lake of integration with any of my online storage services has kept it from becoming a regular part of my work flow. It’s still a very powerful application with one of the best Collage options I’ve ever worked with. I do want to do a full review of PicMonkey, but I haven’t had time to really look into all the features, and I want to do  that before I review the.

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Mobile Monday: BATTERY WIDGET? REBORN!


Today I thought I’d share an app I’ve been using for a couple of months that I use to keep track of my battery.  Batter Widget? Reborn provides a window into the inner working of your phone’s battery. It’s primary feature is to provide a circular battery status. Beyond that it includes also includes a usually fairly accurate time remaining plus provides a very good interface to see Android’s battery stats.  There are 2 sides to the app, the quick view that are provided by the Widget and Notification Area,  and then the detailed view in the application itself.

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Mobile Mondays: CallTrack

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Today we have a simple app that I sometimes forget I have installed on my phone. CallTrack can record every call you Make, Receive or Miss to a Google calendar. The event shows who you called and for how long you talked. For me it’s probably a little silly, I don’t need to track my usage that much, but if I used my cell for more business calls it would be really useful. For now it’s just something cool my phone does.

Mobile app: WordPress

DSC_0127Ever since I got my Milestone I have wanted to start writing reviews of the different software I use on it. My drafts folder has half a dozen half-finished pieces on different apps. Today I start clearing out those reviews. First up is one of the apps I use the most, WordPress. It’s an editor for my blog and most of my posts start their life in it.

The interface is simple, when you first launch the application you choose which blog you want. It supports both WordPress hosted and self hosted blogs. For each blog you have 3 tabs Comments, Posts, Pages.

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Software I use: After the Deadline

When After the Deadline was first released for Firefox in the beginning of February, I thought it looked interesting. So I installed the Extension to see how it would hold up to day-to-day use. In the 3 weeks that have followed it’s become integrated with my day-to-day work flow. I even find myself taking chunks of text from desktop applications and coping them into a web form so I can use it. Of course if you’ve never heard of After the Deadline you are wondering what I’m talking about.

After the Deadline is an open source server software that provides spelling, style, and grammar checking. The service is free for personal use, and commercial users can run their own server. It has an open API so Plug-ins can be developed to integrate its functionality into almost any application. Right now I’m running both the Firefox Extension and the WordPress Plugin.  It’s moved me out of Microsoft’s Live Writer for writing my posts because I want to use it to check my writing. I’m thinking that it might be an interesting exercise to try to write an After the Deadline plug-in for Live Writer, though after using the built-in editor in WordPress for the last few weeks, I’m wondering if it’s worth it. Perhaps I should move to the web for my writing.

What makes this different from most spell checkers is that it’s very context aware and so it can spot the wrong use of words like ‘meat’ and ‘meet’ or ‘know’ and ‘no’. This is one of my biggest issues when writing, I spell the word right, it’s just the wrong word. Another great feature is that when it shows you your errors it has an option to see an explanation. For example this last sentence I had a hidden Verb, I had know idea what that was but a quick check of the explanation and now I do:

Though as with all automated checkers it’s not right 100% of the time, I’ve found it right most of the time. Add to that the ability to prompt you when you are submitting a form without running a check, makes it a great tool if you do any writing online.

A new way to look at the clouds

Today while going through one of my inboxes I had an email from Live Labs with a preview code for Pivot, an experimental way to look at large amounts of data. As I sat looking at the email on my phone I found myself wondering what was Pivot.  I recalled requesting an invitation, but that was it. While I was considering that I was trying to think of what to blog for today and I realised that when I started my Cloud Gazing series the plan was to write about this very thing. An interesting Application or service that I happened to have signed up for. I’ve done some of this, but I still find myself waiting way to long from using a new service to writing about it. That ends today. First with my First look at Pivot, and next week when I write about my experiences with Threadsy, Inbox2 and how I hope Mozilla’s Raindrop will wash them away. I’m also hoping to get to some follow ups, but that is for another day.

Toronto Blue JAys Players from 2009

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Software I use: Evernote

I first signed up for an account for Evernote last year, at the time I wasn’t impressed. I’m not sure what it was I didn’t like. Maybe it was the interface, have all the notes on a single page didn’t work for me. Maybe it was the limitations in the Windows Mobile Standard addition of the software. So after using it on and off for a couple of weeks I set it aside and went on to other note applications. But with the failure of my Mobile note taking a few weeks ago, I thought why not give it a second try.

evernote

It’s been 2 weeks since I reinstalled it on my computers and phone and I’m loving the simple-ness of the interface. To be fair I’m not doing much with the more advanced features, but the simple ability to take a note and have it synced with the web so that I can access it from any web browser or computer, I have the portable Evernote client on my memory stick, is just great. I highly recommend Evernote for anyone looking for a connected notepad.

I have yet to experiment with the Sharing and collaboration options, I’m thinking of seeing if I can get Melissa to use it. Then maybe I’ll be able to give them a try. I’ve also been looking for reasons to try the clipping options, but so far it’s mostly been a connected notepad for my phone. When I’ve sat down with more of the features I hope to revisit this useful app.

Setting up the Desktop from the Cloud

Over the last week I have done 2 clean installs of windows 7, one for my Work computer and one for my home desktop. The process of setting up a computer can be time consuming, but for these installations I used two different tools to help make it easier. Ninite and AllMyapps, though I like the idea of both I found that each had its issues.

Ninite Categories
Web Browsers
Messaging
Media
Imaging
Documents
Anti-Virus
Runtimes
File Sharing
Other
Utilities
Compression
Developer Tools

Ninite

www.ninite.com

Its all about being simple, the website lets you choose applications by categories. Each category has between 3 and 9 applications to choose from. When you are done your section you download a single executable. You run it and it installs all the selected applications. There are a limited number of apps but they have all but one of the applications I included in my Apps for a new system post back in may. The only one missing is a commercial application so that isn’t bad.

The installs themselves seem to be done in sequential order and seem pretty fast. There also seems to be plans for a business orientated version with additional features and of course a fee. It will be interesting to see what the looks like.

Some of Categories on Allmyapps:
Internet
Office
Graphics
Audio
Video
Games
Education
System
Development
and many more….

Allmyapps

www.allmyapps.com

Is a much more ambitious concept, instead of being just a way to build a custom installer for your favourite programs. Its a site for managing and installing applications. It consists of the website for selecting the application and a desktop client that does the actual install. You can install all the applications in your List in one go, it also provides allows you to do one click installs for all the applications in its repository. Which seems to contain a lot of programs, including games.

Another added benefit is support for multiple operating system.  The site also supports Ubuntu Linux, and though I don’t have a computer running Linux to test it on, there seems to be more Linux applications then windows.  If face as I looked over the blog and other parts of the site, it would seem that Windows isn’t there primary focus, which could explain why some of the Windows applications I installed weren’t up today. There also seems to have support for commercial applications in the interface, though everything I looked at for windows was free.

Conclusion

Both of these sites make setting up a new computer easier, Lets look at each and what I liked and didn’t like. I want to touch on one of the biggest strengths and weaknesses of these tools. They are both wrappers for installers. For both you choose the applications you want download the wrapper and execute it. It then goes online to get each program you selected and installs them using default selections. These is great in theory but in practice it can fall short. First off if the repository used by the application is out of date you don’t get the newest versions. Second the thought of adding another few hundred meg to my post install downloads seems like it could be excessive if you are setting up more then one computer. These could be solved if there was a cache that could be used instead of always pulling from the Internet.

In the end I’m impressed with both these Sites and will be watching them in the future to see what surprises they have in store for us.

Software I use: Facade

Today I thought I would talk about a piece of software I probable interact with more with then any other. Its also the first look at software I use on my Windows Mobile Smartphone.

Facade from SBSH Mobile Software, It is a replacement ‘Home’ screen. It adds a bunch of functionality that is just so very useful. It’s more customizable then the ‘Home’ screens that come with the phone and with the release of version 2 it goes from being a good application to a great one. The interface is slicker, with improved graphics. It seems much more intuitive.

Facade adds tabs to your Home screen, Home, Schedule, Tasks, Calendar, Weather (If you have SBSH’s Pocket Weather installed) and Programs. Plus it allows for the addition of third party tabs, which I haven’t tried yet. There are also Skins you can get that change the look and feel. For my review I’m talking about the default layout.

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My Online addiction…

Tonight I was checking my email and I a new message from Clicker.com. It seems I have 5 beta invites I can share. I thought cool… What is Clicker again? This isn’t the first time I’ve received that latest news about a Application or Service and found myself scratching my head trying to remember what the service was and when I signed up for it. I seem to sign up for every beta I see, regardless of need or something real interest. I could be just surfing along see some information about a new website or application that has a free beta and the next thing I know I’m signing up for it. It’s new, it’s exclusive, I want in. That’s all that seems to mater.

Sometimes this works out really well. I signed up to both Ping.FM and Digsby without thinking about it and both I now use everyday.  But others like Hellotxt and Robo.to I can’t remember the last time I logged into, let alone used the services. I must have hundreds of accounts scattered around the web on different services. Most of them I’ve forgotten about, or have forgetting the username/password combo I used when I signed up.

Just last week I found myself creating an account on cliqset.com and my primary username was taken so I looked up the profile of the user who had it. Sure enough I had signed up for it the week before. It was then that I knew I had a problem. So over the last week I have been trying to think of what a solution to that problem might be. All I have come up with are 2 Questions;

  1. Why do I sign up to so many online sites?
  2. Now that I know I have a problem what do I do about it?

As I write this I don’t have the answers, and I’m not even sure they are the right questions. Stay tuned for a a follow up in the next couple of days.