Saturday, March 01, 2014

MY IPAD APPS, PART TWO

 

Part two of a two-part series. Part one is here.


Gaming

Although I'm on record as being more about game mechanics than visuals, some games are more fun if you can see the characters facial expressions and some are too complex to work well on a smaller device. I can play Chuzzle or Bejeweled Blitz fine on the iPod Touch, but Plants vs. Zombies is just more fun on the iPad. World of Goo is hard to do on a small devices as you end up pinching and zooming a lot.

I've been playing tabletop role-playing games for several years now (Current game: Interface Zero 2.0). I started old-school with pen and paper, but now I am almost fully digital thanks to the iPad. I still enjoy the feel of rolling real dice, although my co-gamer Rawen uses the Real Dice Roll app.

For my character sheet, I use a fill-able PDF and the PDF Reader app. I tried other PDF apps and none were as good, they were hard to move around in and blurry, PDF Reader has a nice folder organizing system (as a librarian, I do love organizing) and you can import from Dropbox, Google Drive, or from a URL. That makes it worth paying $2.99 for.

Most game books these days come offer a .pdf version as well as print, with the smaller indie ones being e-book only. I use iBooks for reading. The searching by keyword or page number is pretty fast and you can organize your books by collection. I like the virtual bookshelf, although it's too bad they got rid of the fake wood effect in iOS 7. I use Dropbox to transfer the the character sheets and game books from the computer to the iPad, which doubles as bonus storage. When you open a .pdf in Dropbox, iOS detects the format and offers you the option to open it with any app that can read .pdfs.

Having a camera in your device is also nice if we have to end our session in the middle of an epic battle, I can take a picture of everyone's location so that Game Master Jthbeaux can recreate it next time. And if I need to search the game forums for tips, the Internet is right there. Chrome is my browser of choice on mobile, it's light and fast.

Productivity

Yes, iPads are super-fun, but they can be useful for work too. For taking notes, I like to keep it simple, so I use Simplenote. Just text and URLs, that's all I need. I look at things like Evernote or Diigo and say, that's waaay too complicated for me. Simplenote is available as a web app too, so you have access to your notes wherever. Digital notes make it a lot easier for me to write conference reports or meeting minutes later, just copy and paste. I also use Simplenote for to-do lists, packing lists, movie/book/TV/music recommendations, etc. I am not the fastest typist in the world, but it's easier for me to type on the iPad than the iPod Touch.

For collaborative projects I use Google Drive. It's easy to make simple documents or spreadsheets like grant proposals or program budgets. I so rarely use more than 10% of Microsoft Word's bells and whistles anyway (and if I do, like making flyers, I tend to regret it.) Dropbox I tend to use more when I just need files for a presentation or outreach event, so I don't have to carry a bunch of paper (I have them on a flash drive too, 'cause I'm a belt-&-suspenders kind of gal).

I export my work schedule from our scheduling software and keep it in PDF Reader, along my bus schedules.

 


Video

Except for Vines and very short YouTube videos, I only watch video on the iPad when traveling. It did save me when I had to spend the night at the Detroit airport. If you want to watch a bunch of YouTube videos while on the plane, VideoCache makes it easy to download them, although it does stall occasionally, so I'd do it a little ahead of time. Of course, I have Netflix, Huluplus, and Amazon Instant Video, along with Crackle, MUBI, Google Play Movies, Vudu, and Crunchyroll, just to cover all the bases. Searching on the Blu-ray player is awkward, so I have my iPad by my side when watching TV so I can do all my searching in the relevant app. If I don't know which service has which movie or TV show, Can I Stream It? lets me check all of them at once. If it's not there, you can set a reminder for when the title is available.

Social Media

Most social media apps work the same on the iPod Touch, so I'm not gonna get into them. Rest assured, I spend my share of time on Twitter, Facebook, & Tumblr.

 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

JFRO'S BEST OF 2013 MIX






This was a pretty diverse year for my music listening, so I hope people enjoyed their New Year's mix CDs. For those who didn't get one (free by request), here's a mix of recent stuff (2012-2013).


This was a year where my taste actually matched the general public at a few points (Daft Punk, M.I.A., Janelle Monae). Shoegaze continued to be big, with new bands (Chatham Rise, A Place to Bury Strangers), a new album by the codifiers (My Bloody Valentine), and even an all-Japanese cover of Loveless. Speaking of covers, DJing in Johnny Urgh's 3-D House of Covers on the late, lamented Turntable.fm got me back into my weird covers obsession (SHONEN Knife, Melvins, Martha Wash). I hope to get back into it on Plug.dj

Stoner rock continued to be big (Windhand, Vista Chino, Dark Earth, Devil to Pay, Orange Goblin, The Quill, Nightstalker). I was glad to discover Red Desert, the Twin Cities' own contribution to the genre. I hope to see them live in 2014.

I now have Pandora access on my living room media system via both networked Blu-ray and Chromecast, but it just doesn't do it for me, I still prefer human-curated radio. Listening to internet radio has not been publicized as a big selling point for Apple TV, but I do it all the time. Mostly Radio K and Sanctuary Radio, but I also discovered Heavy Handed Radio via the Tunein app. Tunein has become my favorite radio app on the iPod Touch, it has the most stations and the least drop-outs.


Spotify has improved this year, allowing web access with no download, making the app more useful for non-subscribers, and eliminating listening limits for the free version. I'm still mostly using it to try out albums to see if they are worth buying, as I hate the commercials, but not enough to pay for it. I did make some playlists, which is always fun. Here's the Spotify version of Jfro's 2013 for Spotify fans. It's missing a few songs (Why no mbv, Spotify?)


I uploaded all my music to Google Music, since my 13,000 songs don't all fit on my iPod. It's also always nice to have another backup.






Track Listing:
 
  • M.I.A: "Y.A.L.A." 
  • Janelle Monae: "Q.U.E.E.N." 
  • Daft Punk: "Get Lucky"
  • Pomdexter: "Call Me a Hole" 
  • Zynic: "Dead End"
  • Diana: "Perpetual Surrender"
  • Windhand: "Orchard"
  • Vista Chino: "Dargona Dragona"
  • Dark Earth: "Time Warp"
  • Red Desert: "Slow Kill"
  • Devil To Pay: "Yes Master"
  • Orange Goblin: "Aquatic Fanatic"
  • Nightstalker: "Soma"
  • The Quill: "Freak Parade"
  • Tar: "Walking the King (Peel Session)"
  • Ted Leo: "Return to Crap Kingdom"
  • My Bloody Valentine: "Only Tomorrow"
  • A Place To Bury Strangers: "Leaving Tomorrow"
  • Chatham Rise: "Oncoming Daze"
  • SHONEN Knife: "When You Sleep"
  • Melvins: "Female Trouble"
  • Martha Wash: "Dream On"











Monday, January 13, 2014

ALL YOUR STREAMS ARE BELONG TO ME



So, Jthbeaux and I are now officially an all-streaming household.  Those Netflix discs were just sitting there for months lately, the evil Comcast finally turned off my cable entirely, the antenna doesn't get NBC, and the EyeTV just stopped working.

The Apple TV is working fine, but the first generation has only YouTube and Flickr as apps, so it's mostly an iTunes content delivery device. I thought I'd try something new, so I bought a Chromecast, since it was only $35. I have my iPad Mini by my side all the time, anyway. 

We decided to get Huluplus, since the Chromecast supports it and it's actually $2 less than the Netflix disc subscription, so a net savings. Finally, I can watch new shows on my schedule without the risk of the recording going wrong, and without a lot of space taken up on my hard drive. You do have annoying commercials, but the HD is great, and since I'm addicted to The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, it also saves me money not having to buy them from iTunes. Netflix also looks better than on my old Blu-ray player, and it's much easier to search for things using the mobile app. 

The main issue I have with Chromecast is that using the iPad Mini as a remote is not as smooth as my trusty Logitech Harmony remote, It could also use more apps, though it's still new, so I'm sure they will come. 

Then, my old Blu-ray player was getting wonky, but my parents were kind enough to get me a new Samsung for a present, It has Amazon Instant Video (I already had an Amazon Prime subscription for the sweet free 2-day shipping) in addition to to Netflix and Huluplus, not to mention many other apps, and the streaming interface is much better than my old one. I think I'll use it for most of my viewing, because I can use my universal remote. It also lets you cast from the Youtube mobile app, which is good because typing with the remote to search for a video is a pain. 

I still like my old AppleTV for streaming Internet radio, listening to my music, and sharing my photos. It's weird that neither the Chromecast or the Samsung have radio apps other than Pandora. It's also nice to have in case there's something exclusive to iTunes.

I'd still recommend Chromecast to someone who wants streaming on their TV but doesn't want to spend much.  I'll keep it to see if more music apps come along (Spotify would be good). 

For movie and TV shows not on streaming, we get a lot of them from the library anyway, so we'll keep doing that.  If I'm OK with waiting, Can I Stream It? will notify me when it's available. 


 


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

JFRO'S 2013



Format once again ripped off shamelessly from the Librarian in Black:

Books--10th of December, NW, Code Name Verity, The Night Circus, Eleanor & Park

Comics--Rachel Rising, Ooku, Genshiken Second Season

Magazine--The New Yorker

Movies (theater)--Pacific Rim, American Hustle, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Movies (DVD)--Tai Chi Zero, Dredd, Wreck-It Ralph, The FP, Upstream Color, The Sound of My Voice, Kiss of the Damned, Thale, A Band Called Death, Drug War, No, Byzantium 

TV Shows (streaming)-- Nikita, Lost Girl, Being Human (UK), Call the Midwife, Alphas, Continuum, Adventure Time

TV Shows (live)--Community, Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, Mad Men, Almost Human, Agents of SHIELD

TV Shows (DVD)--Archer, Leverage, Justified, Homeland, The Walking Dead, Falling Skies, Enlightened, The Bletchley Circle, Orphan Black, Children's Hospital, Sons of Anarchy, Person of Interest, Nurse Jackie, Defiance

TV Shows (web) -- Burning Love, BAMF Girls Club, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, Tabletop

Items of Clothing--marled v-neck sweater, slouchy shirt, little black dress, John Fluevogs

Tabletop Games --Interface Zero, Takenoko

Computer Games -- Plants vs Zombies 2

Albums -- Windhand: Soma, Various Artists: Yellow Loveless, My Bloody Valentine: mbv, Melvins: Everybody Loves Sausages, Janelle Monae: The Electric Lady, Devil To Pay: Fate Is Your Muse, Wo Fat: The Black Code, Troubled Horse: Step Inside, Red Desert: Damned By Fate, A Place to Bury Strangers: Worship, Nightstalker: Dead Rock Commandos, Grand Magus: The Hunt, Jess and the Ancient Ones: Jess and the Ancient Ones, The Vaccines: Come of Age

Songs-- Zynic: "Dead End", Martha Wash: "Dream on", Diana: "Perpetual Surrender", Owl City: "When Can I See You Again", Ted Leo:"Return to Crap Kingdom", M.I.A.: "Y.A.L.A", Daft Punk: "Get Lucky", Adele: "Skyfall"

From the vault--Tar:1988-1995

Radio--Radio K, Sanctuary Radio

Web sites--TV Tropes, Good Show Sir,  Hyperbole and a Half  

Twitter Twerps--@SnarkeysMachine, @libraryyeti, @loather, @GreatDismal, @FakeLibStats, @robdelaney, @JosephScrimshaw

App-- Brushes, Photoshop Touch, Aviary, Colorsplash  

Devices -- iPad mini, Chromecast

Events--Anime Detour, Library Maker Fair, parent's 50th anniversary 

Concerts –Magnolias, The Melvins/Die Kreuzen/Negative Approach, Austra, Droids Attack/Tonnage, Blind Shake/STNNNG

Bar--Turf Club, Grumpy's, Triple Rock, Cause

Sweet relief -- getting rid of Comcast, getting reimbursed by my insurance

Treat -- Raspberry Explosion at Cosmo's, Popeye's Biscuits, dumplings at Evergreen

Boyfriend -- JSeux (10th anniversary!)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

WHY I'M A MOBILE GAMER


My reply to these articles:


Why I'm a Mobile Gamer:

1. It's cheap.
2. Touch is a great control for some games, and it's free with the device.
3. No monthly charges for social gaming.
4. Game companies can't disguise poor gaming mechanics with fancy graphics.
5. Lots of games for iOS & Android, so only a few people will have angst related to choosing a gaming OS.
6. Is your fancy-schmancy $30 game better than World of Goo? Is it really?
7. No creepy uncanny-valley people.
8. Did I mention it's cheap?

Friday, November 15, 2013

MY IPAD APPS, PART ONE



 Yes, my folders are in alphabetical order.

Due to overwhelming demand (by which I mean, two of my Twitter Twerps asked their timeline for app recs, I replied, and they said, "thanks") I am finally posting my recommended apps for iPad.

The main things I use my iPad mini for are art, reading, games and social media, with the occasional information look-up. I guess it's a big debate as to whether iPads can be used for content creation, to which I answer - I can, so who are you to tell me differently? I don't write on my iPad except for the occasional blog edit, but at work I use it for note-taking and file storage.

Art/Photography

I've never been able to do any kind of drawing with a mouse. I used to idly think of buying a Wacom tablet, but as a non-professional, couldn't justify the expense. When you buy the iPad--BOOM! You have a freehand art input device. A stylus is needed for details, but they're pretty cheap. Sure, the iPad's not sensitive to 100 levels of pressure,  but you can still do a lot. Brushes is free (but the $2.99 layers upgrade is definitely worth it) and just takes a few minutes to learn. It's easy to export to the Photos app or to social media. Check out my gallery here

Colorsplash does just one thing, but it does it really well. It makes a photo black and white, and you touch parts of the photo to bring color back to the selected area. You can add photos from the iPad, Flickr, Instagram, Picasa, etc. and send them to social media. It also looks really, really cool.

 Photoshop Touch is pricey for an app at $10.00, but it's a lot cheaper than $20/month. You have a lot of options from the desktop version - eraser, lasso, magic wand, stamp, levels, curves, layers and 36 filters. The main thing it lacks is paths for easier removal of unwanted elements, but that's a lot to ask for in a mobile app.  I was able to do this quick and dirty photo manipulation on my lunch hour.  If all you want to do is punch up your photos a bit, Photo Editor by Aviary is easy and free.


Reading 

I've started to realize just how much I read online. It is just not comfy to read for hours on a desktop. For reading books or those long New Yorker articles I find the e-ink of my Nook Simple Touch much more easy on the eyes, but for short articles or blog posts, the iPad is good, as long as you have some way to get rid of all the ads and links cluttering up the average web page.

I was mad as hell about Google Reader going away, but now I like Feedly better for all my many blogs, webcomics, and Flickr groups. The killer feature is the "remove clutter" button which makes web pages so much nicer to read. It also lets you organize by topic, save posts for later, and send posts to social media or article-saving sites like Instapaper or Pocket. The one issue I have is that it crashes occasionally.

For saving articles from Twitter and Facebook, I like Instapaper. It has nice fonts and a soothing beige background and the Twitter app allows one-click export (sadly, not Facebook, but it's pretty easy to copy the link--Instapaper will automatically ask if you want to add the last link copied when you open it). Once articles have been downloaded, you can read them even if you don't have Internet access. Sadly, I am always behind in my articles, but that was true even in paper-&-ink days.

For magazines, Zinio is good, and, depending on where you live, you might get free magazines with your library card. Again, it has a "text" button, so you can read uncluttered, then toggle back to the regular page view for all the shiny pictures.


Well, this is getting a bit long, so I'm gonna continue this in another post. Feel free to post recommendations in the comments.




Friday, August 30, 2013

THEY CALL ME THE LAZY LIFEHACKER

So, I've had Lifehacker in my RSS for a while, at first to keep up with new technology and software mostly. I liked that they told you what you could with it, rather than the "OMG-OMG-MUST-HAVE-IT-COOL-COOL-COOL" of sites like CNET and Gizmodo. Then I started trying their home improvement tips, because there were enough that were in my wheelhouse (binder clips and adult Play-Doh yes, soldering and sawing no). I'm a librarian, so I love organizing things. A holiday gift planning Google spreadsheet? Why, yes sir I think I will.

I don't think of it as a lifestyle and try to convert all my friends to the Way of Lifehacking or anything. It's not inherently better than Hints from Heloise or Everyday Cheapskate, it's just that the latter are more likely to tell me to save money by using things I don't have on hand or want to purchase. Your mileage may vary. It can be funny to see the kind of tips women have shared for millennia suddenly become cool because the word "hack" makes it OK for dudes to talk about laundry and housework, but whatever.

Of course, if lifehacking is a movement, there must be the inevitable backlash. This guy seems to think lifehacking is an evil plot to take our sleep away and turn us into the worker-robot tools of Capitalism. Hey, my goal to sleep as much as possible has not changed a bit since I started reading Lifehacker. The nature of lifehacks is that there are always going to be some I think are just insane, but might be right for you. There's no way I will spend time making my own laundry detergent or use a computer to turn my lights off and on, but you might find it enjoyable. It is possible I suppose that a large part of the population is being brainwashed into a scary deviant lifehacking lifestyle that forces them to do things they don't enjoy, work more and sleep less, but Mr. Morozov fails to convince me of it. It's true that there are strains of Dale Carnegie and Frederick Winslow Taylor in lifehacking, but there are also strains of Buddhism, The Whole Earth Catalog, Punk D.I.Y.,  Good Housekeeping, Popular Mechanics, and the Maker movement. It reminds me of the way hardcore punk pioneers The Bad Brains were inspired by Think and Grow Rich. That's the United States for ya, we like to mix and match our philosophies.

And another thing, it's fun to see what's on other people's desks and in their bags. Here are mine for your perusal:



My 24/7 belt bag:

1. Kiplinger belt bag
2. Wallet
3. Dongle
4. Cell phone
5. Calling cards
6. Pocket watch
7. iPod Touch
8. 30-pin and Lightning adapters for back-up battery
9. Freedompop 4G hotspot
10. Back-up battery
11. Flash drive
12. Stylus/pen
13. Pen
14. Change purse
15. Keys
16. Swiss Army knife

My weekend bag: 

1. Backback
2. Nook
3. Pencil case
4. Wet wipes
5. Sunscreen
6. Sunglasses
7. Umbrella
8. Beauty case
9. Bandages
10. Concealer
11. Lipstick
12. Antacid
13. Cuticle repair
14. Moisturizer
15. Powder paper
16. Ibuprofen
17. Clothing tape
18. Sunscreen for the face
19. Perfume
20. Pens
21. Tissues
22. Tissue case
23. Camera
24. Shopping bag


My workday bag:

1. Backpack
2. Shopping bag
3. Headphones
4. Ziplock bags
5. Checkbook
6. Nook
7. Sunglasses
8. Heating pad for the back
9. Sticky notes
10. Lunch bag
11. iPad Mini
12. Tablet case
13. Grid-it organizer
14. Tissues
15. Hi-Chew candy
16. Sunscreen for the face
17. Hand sanitizer
18. Back-up headphones
19. Umbrella
20. Bandages
21. Beauty case
22. Comb
23. Lipstick
24. Lip balm
25. Tea tree oil
26. Another lipstick
27. Lip liner
28. Blemish concealer
29. Mascara
30. Concealer
31. Ibuprofen
32. Cuticle cream
33. Powder paper