Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gadget Goodies 7

It's been awhile since our last Gadget Goodies post.  We'll be doing them on a randomly rotating basis on Wednesdays, alternating with guest posts and videos.

Our first item isn't an app or a piece of hardware, but a website.  Some of you may already use it. It's http://lifehacker.com.  They define hack as any modification and their hacks range from modding a piece of Ikea furniture to repurpose it, to asking to travel on repositioning flights for a greater discount, to how to use Evernote to its fullest.  There are hardware and software hacks, too, to tweak them for maximum benefit.  Let me give you some more examples after the break.

One of Lifehacker's ongoing series is an article where they'll name a particular item or situation and ask the readers to write in with their best hacks for that.  A recent one was for paperclips.  Although it wasn't the winner, one of my favorites for the paperclip hack was a privacy one.  A paperclip is bent so that part of it acts as a handle, the rest is formed into a "U" so that two wires will fit over the top of a laptop screen, then one side is wrapped in black electrical tape.  The whole thing can be placed with the electrical tape blocking the laptop camera.  That doesn't sound like much, but picture staying in a hotel and using the hotel's wifi.  It's not very secure, you don't know who might get past your firewall, or what they might then do.  This is an inexpensive way to keep from being secretly spyed on with your own laptop's camera.

One more.  I was due for some Spring cleaning, but dreading the disorder while doing it.  A church friend, Kathy, made an awesome suggestion that I thought was worth resharing for the Spring cleaning hack.  I thought it was great, but I never expected it to be deemed the best one, which it was.  Here it is:

Bill Kraski discovered a great method for tidying up a home—getting all those misplaced objects back to the rooms where they belong. Here's the idea. Start in one room with an empty laundry basket. Whatever items don't belong in that room go into the basket. Move on to the next room, where you unload items from the basket that belong in the room and load back up on items that should be elsewhere. Keep at it, moving room to room, keeping the cycle going as long as you need to until everything's in place. For Bill, cleaning this way has almost turned into a game.

Lifehacker is prolific.  There are numerous posts, pretty much daily.  I don't always agree with some of their reviews or, sometimes, readers' choices for top 5 in various tech categories.  But Lifehacker has so much great content that I have it feed into a reader on my phone.  Check it out.  I think it'll be one of your regular sites.

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I spent many years working for a company whose business was based on the weather.  So, I gained an interest in weather and weather software.  And there's one that stands out.  I'm speaking of Weatherbug.  There's a Windows version, one for Mac, as well as versions for all four major mobile OSes, although there's presently only a version for Blackberry legacy devices.  BB10 can use an Android version till a native app arrives.

Why do I like it?  There are a number of reasons.
  1. As already pointed out, WeatherBug is cross platform.
  2. It gathers a lot of weather data and displays it in ways that the average user can understand.
  3. It's more locally accurate.  WB has lots of sites to get weather data.  Many are schools and colleges where the weather station is run as a science project.  So, it's often easier to find a close WB weather station than with other weather apps.
  4. When there are weather alerts, WB displays the National Weather Service alerts in real time.  My phone often has alerts before the local newscast tells me there is one.
Both the iOS and Android apps have an Elite version that eliminates ads and has more features.  In both cases, that'll cost you a well spent $2.99 US.  There's an enhanced version for Windows that they say would normally cost $19.99 US.  However, WB made it into a Trialshare piece of software. Basically, the Trialshare sponsors pay for the pro version.  The user gets to order from one of the sponsors for $19.99 or higher and that covers the licensing fee.  The customer gets his copy of WeatherBug upgraded within 24 hours.  The nice thing is that there are enough companies involved that it's very easy to find something you want, even if it's something you really needed an excuse to buy.  The computer versions are available at http://weatherbug.com; the mobile versions are available in the respective app stores.

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There's one other weather app I'm learning to like.  It's strictly Android, called (oddly enough) Android Weather.  The app itself displays the weather like a better Google Now weather card.  The display is nicer and there is more info.  The widget is well laid out and displays day, date, time, location, and weather.  Android weather has a number of things that make it ideal for me.
  1. I live in a 6x4 block area that actually has its own name.  Android Weather pinpointed that named area when I set it up.  Precision.
  2. The widget is customizable.  The background is transparent, but you can adjust the text color.  Also, while tapping the weather info brings up Android Weather, the user can select what apps open from the time and date info.
  3. While many weather apps will allow multiple locations, Android Weather is the only one I've seen that  the widget takes advantage of that.  If you follow the weather in more than one location, tapping on the location info on the widget lets you cycle to the next location.
  4. This one's probably the most important for me.  If you try out enough weather apps and widgets, you realize there are multiple places where they pull weather data from.  And each of those sources have different locations for getting weather info for a given city.  As a result, a weather widget might have temperatures wildly varying from another app or widget you use.  Android Weather usually has the same info as WeatherBug.  When it varies, it's usually only by one or two degrees F.  That's what I consider a livable difference.  With other apps and widgets I've tried, I've seen as much as eight degrees difference.
You can find Android Weather in the Google Play Store.

That covers it for this time.  More to come in the near future.

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