Suunto Core Classic Watch Review

I bought my first outdoor watch a few months ago and Deskbound Girevik asked me to write a review so here it is!

This is the Suunto Core Classic Watch in ‘all black’.

Suunto-Core-All-Black-504

Functions:

  •  Time
    • Day and Date
    • Alarm
    • Time in another time zone
    • Sunrise/Sunset times
    • Stopwatch
    • Timer
  • Barometer
  • Temperature
  • Storm Warning Alarm
  • Altimeter
  • Compass
  • Depth Meter for Snorkeling

I bought this watch for hiking. In particular I thought the altimeter, sunrise and sunset times, and storm warning alarm would be useful.

It turns out the compass is useful too. On a recent trip to the New Forest I used it, along with a map, to navigate to the pub off piste through the woods. Worked like a dream. Even got me back again after a pint of cider.

The temperature reading is fun. I tend to check it a lot and inform people how hot/cold it is, I’m sure they’re interested. On a cold morning in the tent it’s a good indication of madness.

Last weekend I used the alarm and it was discrete and yet woke me up. I don’t like too loud an alarm when I’m camping near other people as I like to get up early and don’t want to disturb others.

The controls and menu are intuitive and easy to navigate. One of the Suunto Core’s best features in my opinion.

The second best feature is that, despite its size, the watch is very comfortable to wear. It’s light and has a low profile. It’s something I wear often, even when I’m not hiking, so that’s a good indication of how wearable it is as I rarely wear jewellery.

It is possible to change the battery yourself on this new version. (I think this was a problem on previous models.)

All in all, a useful piece of kit and I’m very glad I got it.

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Waterproof document bags and phone screens don’t mix!

Super quick post.

I use a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone as a GPS as it has a nice big screen. To keep it dry I bought an Ortlieb A5 waterproof document bag to keep it in.

Recently the phone became difficult to remove from the bag. The screen stuck to the plastic and, after a few struggles, I gave up keeping it in the case. Afterwards I noticed that the screen was unusually dirty but thought nothing of it, just developed the habit of frequently cleaning the phone with a soft cloth. However, after a few weeks, I took a closer look and noticed something weird.

There are permanent marks on the screen which are only visible when the screen’s dirty. They look like regular greasy patches but after a clean they reappear, identically, as soon as I touch the screen. In sunlight they make the screen very difficult to see.

A google search revealed that smartphone screens (including Samsung’s) have an oleophobic coating that’s lipophobic and hydrophobic. i.e. It repels fingerprints. These coatings can become damaged and it sounds like this is what’s happened to my phone. This kind of damage isn’t covered under warrantee but I’ve managed to save my phone. Cleaning the screen removed the marks and adding a screen protector covered up the damaged areas so they can’t get greasy and reappear. Phew!

Although I can’t be 100% sure that the document case caused the damage it’s the most likely explanation. Ortlieb don’t advertise this case as a phone cover or protector so the product can’t be blamed for what happened. I just want to let people know, probably best not to use these document cases as waterproof phone cases, just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Backpacking Gear May 2014

I’ve written this blog post because… everyone else is doing it!

Osprey Exos 46 backpack.

Backpack:

I’m currently using an Osprey Exos 46 to carry my gear. The Exos has been updated this year and I picked up this, older version, in a sale. I actually prefer it as there’s plenty of room for all my gear and the newer version has a capacity of 48 litres rather than 46 and hence is heavier. The large number of outside pockets makes grabbing things on the run nice and easy. I keep my waterproofs, the tent, a drinks bottle, snacks, cash, and first kit all on the outside of my bag so that the gear I don’t use during the day is safely tucked away in a waterproof liner in the main compartment and doesn’t get disturbed.

It’s not the lightest backpack on the market (I have the “S” back size and it weighs just over 1Kg) but it does have a solid frame and is of the build quality you’d expect from a company like Osprey. Besides 1Kg is a very reasonable weight. (You’ll notice this is a running theme with my gear: not the lightest but still, reasonably light.) Osprey don’t make a women’s specific version of the Exos but I’ve found this unisex version very comfortable. Some people criticise Osprey for adding too many features which raise the weight unnecessarily. In the Exos I quite like the gimmicks. You can get a drinks bottle out of the side pocket and stow your trekking poles without stopping.

One thing I’ve noticed to be a particularly British trait is to keep the tent on the outside of the bag. This enables pitching in the rain before opening up your rucksack and packing everything away inside the tent on a rainy morning, minimising gear getting wet and/or dropped in mud. It’s a mystery why Brits in particular would be mindful of this. I keep the tent pegs in an outside pocket, the poles in the side pocket, and the tent itself attached to the bottom of the rucksack.

There’s one waterproof liner in the main compartment, a Exped 40L Folding Ultralite Drybag, and some smaller waterproof bags in the outside pockets.

Wild Country Zephyros 1 tent.

Tent:

*** This tent had a failure! Please read blog post Terra Nova Customer Service ***

I wrote about it in my last blog post and here it is again, the Wild Country Zephyros 1. I’ve done some research and can’t find a better deal on a reasonably light solo 3-season tent. I’d like to replace mine with the updated, lighter version but for now it does the trick. My set-up weighs about 1.5Kg including pegs, poles, and bag. (The new version is approx. 300g lighter.)

I don’t bother with a groundsheet. The tent was so cheap and the floor so tough I don’t worry about putting a hole in it, I can always patch it if I do.

Top Row: Toakes Ultralite Solid Fuel Ti Cook System (stove, mug, windshield (not shown), Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Women’s Mattress. Middle Row: Sawyer Mini Water Filter, Headphones, Titanium Folding Spork, 2 x 12″ Nite Ize Gear Ties, Swiss Army Knife, Petzl e+lite Headtorch. Bottom Row: Decathlon Inflatable Pillow, Platypus 500ml Water bottle.

Stove:

Experts say that there are 3 big items you should focus on to reduce the weight you’re carrying. Firstly the backpack itself, secondly the tent, and thirdly the stove. In this third category I’m doing pretty well. My favourite stove is a titanium solid fuel stove, a titanium mug, and a titanium windshield weighing in total about 100g. (Pictured above top left.) It’s made by Toakes and sold as the “Ultralite Solid Fuel Ti Cook System” and it comes with a titanium folding spork and some little bags to keep everything in. It’s only good when I’m solo backpacking due to the size of the mug/pot but it’s a lovely little set-up.

Mountain Equipment Xero 550 down sleeping bag, occupied.

Sleeping System:

Currently I’m using a Mountain Equipment Xero 550 down sleeping bag which weighs 1.04Kg on my scales. I really could do with a lighter one for the summer. Currently it’s used as a quilt in the warmer weather or paired with an Alpkit bivi bag for sub-zero temperatures.

A Thermarest NeoAir Xlite inflatable mattress (355g) and an inflatable pillow from Decathlon which was stupidly cheap and works really well (81g) finish off my sleep system and altogether they’re extremely comfortable.

Viewranger app with OS map and route tracking running on Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Other Bits and Pieces:

Those are the key items but obviously there are lots of other things in my backpack. I mainly use Viewranger maps on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as a GPS. There’s an mp3 player and headphones to help me sleep if a campsite’s noisy. A spare water carrier (either a 1L or 2L Source collapsable water container), lighter, money, toiletries, etc.

In terms of clothes I take a lightweight Rab waterproof jacket and, if rain is forecast, waterproof trousers. In the summer months I wear a Tiley hat to keep the sun out of my eyes and the rain off my head. In the winter I’ll take a warm hat, gloves, buff, and merino thermal layers. Wet feet on a weekend in Norfolk taught me to always pack a dry pair of socks. Recently I’ve added a cheap pair of cotton shorts to the list to wear inside my tent when my walking trousers are particularly wet and muddy. I also have a Rab insulated down vest that packs down very small and is a real comfort on a chilly evening.

Well there you have it, my kit list. In total it weighs about 6Kg before I add water, food, and fuel for the stove. Definitely not ultra-lightweight but it is on the lighter end of the scale. I’m too fond of my comfort items (mp3 player, tent socks, pillow) to ever get down to ludicrously lightweight so I’m reasonably happy with my reasonably lightweight set-up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wearables

“A terminal, in the shape of a ring, button, bracelet or pen or whatever, was your link with everybody and everything else in the Culture.”

– Iain M. Banks, “A Player of Games” first published in 1988.

I’m certain Mr Banks was spot on with this prediction. The next evolutionary step for ‘mobile phones’ is the tiny wearable (badge, ring, bracelet) that provides your personal connection to the internet, establishes your location, and records health-related data.

Mobile phones have morphed into delicate, pocket-sized computers and it’s not always practical to carry one. Especially if you’re exercising or somewhere that isn’t mobile phone friendly, like the beach.

It makes a lot of sense to separate out the network-connecting part of your phone, the GPS, and the motion tracker and to carry these in one small wearable device. Any gadget that needs an internet connection can just tether to your Wearable. Admittedly it would be useful to also have some basic functionality. So you could send and receive messages for example. Or check the weather or traffic. Or get directions. However I don’t expect you’d want to take photos (looking at you Samsung) or watch television or read a book.

So, if you went for a run, you’d just wear your Wearable. It’s a badge or a bracelet or a belt clip or whatever. You’re still connected to the world, able to receive messages. Streaming music. Still tracking your exercise so you can analyse it later online. You can make your location visible to others, or get directions, or track your route. But there’s no mobile phone bouncing around in your pocket or strapped to your upper-arm.

Later on you watch live streaming TV on your 10 inch tablet – which is tethered to your Wearable. You decide to call your Mum on your 5 inch handset using the network connection provided by your Wearable. You take some photos on your digital SLR camera which automatically upload to Facebook via the Wearable’s internet connection. Neither the tablet, handset, or camera need to have an internet connection themselves.

Smart watches are heading in the right direction but with one major flaw, the network connection’s still in your mobile phone. They still need your phone within bluetooth range for them to have an internet connection.

Whoever makes this Wearable isn’t going to be making money from the software. This thing’ll run on the most basic OS. It doesn’t need to be all-singing and dancing. It’ll be the smallest, best looking bracelet with the best connection and reliability. Hardware and design will be key.

I’m looking at you Apple. The last few iPhones have been iteration not innovation. But then maybe this is already on your radar. Perhaps i-Wearables are already out in the world being tested?

Perhaps I’m way behind the times? Maybe this has already been done? Please comment!

And where does it go from there? Iain M. Banks predicted a future where a planet’s computer would detect that you were falling (location, speed of descent) and would send a drone to catch you before you hit the ground. Of course, only if you’d remembered to wear your terminal.

Next-Gen Games Consoles pre E3 – What do you think?

The 80s called, they want their VCR back.

The 80s called, they want their VCR back.

Apologies to outdoor walking enthusiasts who follow my blog and have absolutely no interest in gaming. Please skip this post which will most likely just sound like complete nerdy gadget babble (which of course it is).

So, now we’ve had both Sony and Microsoft’s announcements for their new consoles which will be launched later this year. A new generation of consoles is an exciting time, full of promise and hope. I just thought I’d write down where my head is at this stage and hopefully hear what your thoughts are. It’s all very well listening to journalists but I’m interested to hear what my friends think.

Where I’m at with the current generation.

Currently we have both a Xbox 360 and a PS3. It wasn’t a conscious decision to own both, we got the PS3 very late in this generation’s cycle for two reasons;

1) Playstation exclusives like Uncharted, Flower, and Journey that we’d heard a lot about and wanted to play.

2) Free online multiplayer without a monthly paid subscription.

Since plugging in the PS3 we haven’t turned on the Xbox. The main reason why? Free online multiplayer and 4 friends who also have Playstations. There are other reasons too. I prefer the interface and find it surprising that Sony have taken flack for it, for me it’s much more intuitive (and pleasing to the eye) than the current Xbox UI. The machine is also way quieter than our Xbox which has always sounded like a dying aeroplane engine. The controllers don’t require batteries which is a little thing but boy is it great. Lastly Sony, at the moment, seems to me to be more customer-orientated. It’s not, ‘pay a subscription or get nothing’ it’s, ‘pay a subscription to get more’ and that’s a completely different tone.

As an aside, what a generation we’ve had! I’ve never been as excited and into video games as I am now. Assassin’s Creed 2, Fable 3, Tomb Raider (2013 reboot), Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning, Borderlands 1 and 2. Some of my favourite games of all time and all in this generation.

You're holding it wrong.

Dude, you’re holding it wrong.

How I’m feeling about the next-gen.

So yes, I’m a little bit of a Sony fangirl at the moment and I expect this has skewed my view but this is where I’m at.

Sony talked about supporting game developers and especially indie developers. Making it easier for them to code for the PS4 and to get their games to market. Horay! More of this please.

All of Microsoft’s TV talk completely missed the mark with me. Why would I choose to pay Microsoft (an Xbox Live subscription would be required) to turn my Xbox into the portal through which media gets into my home when I can access it without any additional cost via a laptop, set-top-box, or smart TV? If they want the Xbox One to be the only thing under the TV, replacing cable boxes and Apple TVs, then these features have to be subscription free. Xbox 360 online gamers are acclimatised to paying Microsoft a regular subscription but to me it’s just throwing money away.

Technically, on paper, the PS4 is a more powerful machine although Microsoft have apparently said some processing power could be off-loaded to the ‘cloud’. This probably won’t have any noticeable effect except on Playstation exclusives but still… vroom vroom.

The Xbox One’s Kinect microphone freaks me out. I know, I know. Every-time I sit in front of my laptop, like I am now, I’m sitting in front of a camera and microphone and connected to the internet BUT the thought of having an always-live internet-enabled microphone in my living room above the TV is creepy.

There’s been no definitive answer to the Xbox One’s rumoured ‘always-on’ requirement but a Microsoft representative has said that it’ll need to connect to the internet at least once a day. As a family who switches everything off at the plug when it’s not being used (to save on electricity and for fire-prevention) what happens if we leave it unplugged?

I love the promise of being able to start playing a game while it’s still downloading. If it works Sony have addressed a major frustration with the current generation of consoles.

Call of Duty with a dog. Even pulling a Molyneux won’t get me interested in that game, sorry.

And finally, perhaps the most important thing, that shiny bit on top of the Xbox is going to be a bitch to dust.

Sooo…

It looks like I’m pretty anti-Xbone! Didn’t realise how much so until I wrote it down. Sony haven’t addressed a lot of things that Microsoft have (DRM, paid subscription services, what the box will look like, etc.) so I do feel they’ve let Microsoft fall on the sword first. The more we know the more there is to dislike. If the PS4 requires a paid subscription for online multiplayer then my tune will definitely change.

Soon it’ll be E3 when Microsoft will be bringing their game face and Sony will get the last word. In the meantime, please tell me what you think…

Gamer Girl by Samuel Deats

References

IGN’s PS4 Xbox One comparison chart here

The Weekend Confirmed audio podcast, Xbox One episode here

Adam Sessler’s first impressions video and others from Rev3Games here

How to make a Pinterest live wallpaper for your Android device

This is a slightly manual process but free and fun.

First download the Photile Live Wallpaper app by Joko Interactive from the Google Play store to your device. There’s a free and a pro version. (The pro version has more options in settings.) Photile turns any picture you choose into a grid of floating, fading, sliding tiles. Requires Android 2.1 and up.

Now go to your Pinterest app and find the images you want displayed in your Pinterest live wallpaper slideshow. Save these images to your Android device. (On my Samsung Galaxy S3 I do this by pressing the menu button and then selecting “Save to Device”. This saves the image to a folder called “Pins” in my phone’s picture gallery.)

Open up the live wallpaper settings. On my phone running Android version 4.1.2 this is under…

Settings – Display – Wallpaper – Home screen – Live wallpapers

Select Photile and click on Settings.

Select “Picture” and then “Choose Image”. Pick any image from the folder on your phone that contains the Pinterest saved images. On my phone this is under “Gallery” and “Pins”.

Back in the Photile Settings, go to “Picture” and then “Slide Show Options”. Check the box next to “Slide Show (Beta)”. This will add the other pictures you saved in the same folder to the live wallpaper as a slideshow.

Also in Photile’s Settings you can adjust the interval between pictures, the background colour, and adjust things like whether the tiles move or fade or react to being touched etc. Have a play around to find what you like.

When you’re happy with your live wallpaper click “Set Wallpaper” and you’re all done!

Of course this app will work with any images on your device. I just like using my Pinterest pins the best 🙂

What’s the Point of an iPad?

The Top 10 things I use my iPad for.

Filofax

In the olden days I had a hardback diary, an address book, a scribbled to-do list. A notebook. A scrapbook of cuttings and notes for my latest project. Later on this became a filofax (a really nice one with a green leather cover). Nowadays everything is held electronically and kept in-sync between my computer, phone, and iPad wirelessly. I use the tablet most of all. It’s faster to start-up than the computer, more portable, and has a bigger screen than the phone. (This’ll be a running theme.)

Newspaper

Flipboard is a great little app that pulls in content from all over the web (you pick and choose) and turns it into a personalised electronic newspaper. Headlines from the BBC, local news from the Reading Chronicle, tech news from Wired, etc.

Web Browsing.

Pretty much anything I can do on the web I can do on my iPad. Managing our movie rental list. Paying bills. Checking if that guy in BSG is Badger from Firefly. Without waiting for a computer to boot up or reading webpages on a tiny phone screen. It’s an instant web interface.

Phone Calls & Social Networking

Before breakfast each day I sit down with a cuppa and catch up on my messages and social circle news via email, Twitter, and Facebook. Using Skype’s free phone calls and video conferencing we’ve called friends and family who, inconveniently, live all over the place. (Even though we only have the wi-fi version, with apps like Skype and Beluga, the iPad can be used as a phone.)

E-book Reader

Rather than buy a separate device I use the Kindle and iBook apps on my iPad. It works for PDFs like Grand Prix Plus magazine and my knitting patterns from Ravelry too.

Portable T.V.

Whilst away from the lounge I use BBC Iplayer and TV Catchup to watch live and on-demand television. Dr Who during the ironing. Sky News when I’m brushing my teeth.

Set-top Box

By connecting the iPad to our TV we can watch movies, shows, and video clips from the internet. For example, we regularly watch The Totally Rad Show in HD. We can view You Tube, our home videos, and any shows we have digital copies of too.

Recipe book and stand

I’ve moved all my recipes to a free online cloud service called “Evernote”. Adding more to this homemade database by typing them in, photographing them, or clipping them straight from the web. Once in there they’re fully searchable by tags I’ve added (like cheese, salad, main course, etc) or by text in the recipe, including the photgraphed recipes. I can look at them on my iphone when I’m shopping for ingredients but when I’m at home I use the iPad as my recipe book and use the cover as a stand to prop it up in the kitchen when I’m cooking. Evernote is awesomesauce.

Hand-held Games Machine

It’s my go-to device for portable gaming above and beyond simple mobile phone games. Meaty games, fab graphics, at extremely cheap prices. Often with lengthy free playable demos. All directly downloadable to the device. Currently I’m having trouble putting Dragon Vale down as I’m busy cross-breeding dragons to discover new dragon breeds.

Digital Photo Frame

On paper the iPad has a 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi). In reality it makes photos spellbindingly beautiful. Included in the operating system is a little photo frame app. When the iPad’s screen is ‘locked’ press the photo button to start a slideshow of photos stored on the device (configurable in Settings). Used with the Apple iPad cover that works as a stand, the whole thing easily converts into a digital photo frame when it’s not in use or charging. A wireless, wi-fi enabled photoframe. Photos can be added by email, wirelessly over the home network, or saved directly from the web (e.g. From Facebook). I use an app called PhotoSync to send photos straight from my phone to the iPad.

App Review – A Smattering of iPhone Apps

It’s difficult to know what it would be like to own a device without seeing what it’s like to USE a device and, for me with the current generation of smart phones, that’s all about the apps.

So here are some of my top apps on my iPhone. This is in no way an exhaustive list of what comes pre-installed and what I’ve added. This is just a smattering of apps excluding, for example, all games (I have a LOT of apps on my phone).

Phone Calls & Messaging:

Phone (included) – The stories about bad reception with the iPhone seemed to dry up the moment it was available on more than just the incredibly poor AT&T network in the States. I’ve never had issues with dropped calls or bad reception using my phone in the UK. FaceTime (free video calling) is fun if you know someone else with an iPhone but as it’s not cross-platform it’s not that useful.

Messages (included) – Traditional text messaging. For me this has been replaced by Beluga, WhatsApp, and Twitter DMs. Probably an issue with my network provider (O2) but I find that text messages can get significantly delayed before being delivered which makes them totally pointless whereas Beluga, for example, is consistently fast. Plus with other messaging services I don’t need to worry about monthly limits and I can text my friends who live abroad.

Beluga (free) – An app I’ve written about before here. Free international cross-platform group text messaging. Brilliant.

WhatsApp (59p) – Another free text messaging app. This one has a Blackberry app (rather than Blackberry users needing to use their web browser) so it’s more BB friendly than Beluga. However the design isn’t quite as clean.

Mail (included) – A basic email app which can handle multiple accounts.

Social Networking:

Echofon Pro (£2.99) – A great Twitter client and I’ve pretty much tried them all. Stable app with regular updates. Echofon wins over the others for me as it includes push notifications so @replies, direct messages, new followers, etc. are pinged to you even if the app is closed. Free ad-supported version available.

Facebook (free) – The standard free Facebook app. It’s buggy as hell, notifications are unreliable, and I hate facebook’s poorly designed rambling complexity but until everyone’s on Twitter, or a better social networking site takes off, resistance seems futile.

Foursquare (free) – The number 1 geolocation check-in social network. I love Foursquare although there are obvious security issues with saying “I’m not home” so I’m only Foursquare friends with close friends and family. It’s useful for bumping into people in town (I fancy a coffee, oh look my friend’s at Starbucks), letting friends know you’ve arrived at a venue, finding hints & tips about places, and keeping track of when you visited somewhere. Plus there’s the whole competitive points-scoring, mayorships, and badges side which makes it a fun game too.

Music:

Spotify (free) – With our premium Spotify account I can stream music from Spotify’s servers to my phone ad-free and download music to listen to offline. Plus I can create, amend, and delete my Spotify playlists. Requires a paid Spotify account.

Sonos Controller (free) – A free controller app for the Sonos stereo we have. Used more often than not with our Spotify streaming service by creating playlists with the Spotify app and then playing them on our stereo using our Sonos app.

iPod (included) – Not used for music anymore (see above) but I do listen to audio podcasts. Formula 1 podcasts, audiobooks, beer podcasts, comedy shows. Podcasts are awesome.

SoundTracking (free) – A music check-in social networking app that I’m trying out. Seems fun so far. (Replaces my #nowplaying tweets.)

Productivity & Organisation:

CalenGoo (£3.99) – An excellent google calendar app. A solution we found when Nev and I were looking for one shared calendar without syncing headaches between Apple’s iCal and Microsoft’s calendar. Works perfectly syncing over the air with both of us able to create, amend, and delete events.

Notes (included) – Very simple note making app.

Contacts (included) – Address book. For me this syncs with my main address book as I use a Mac so it’s perfect. For PC users probably not so helpful.

RE.minder (£2.39) – I’ve raved about this app before on twitter. It’s a very simple app that allows you to set yourself a reminder to go off at a time of your choice. Recent updates have added more functionality without impacting usability. Free ad-supported version available.

Evernote (free) – I use my free Evernote account, amongst other things, for all my recipes. This app lets me access my recipes on the hoof. Evernote is just free and fabulous.

Dropbox (free) – Access your Dropbox on your phone. Dropbox is an online service for saving files to a ‘cloud’ and accessing them from all your computers. Dropbox is also free and fabulous.

Wunderlist (free) – Simple list making app that sync between devices. Very useful for shopping lists and packing lists.

Momento (£1.79) – Diary app that imports entries from Twitter, Foursquare, blog entries, Flikr, etc. I’ve written about Momento before here, it’s one of my favourite apps.

Blogging:

Tumblr (free) – A simple app with barely any functionality from the Tumblr team. It’s just enough to post a Daily Walkies photo though.

BlogPress (£1.79) – A better blogging app than the WordPress one which often crashes. Still not brilliantly designed though. A bit unintuitive and scruffy looking. Still on the look-out for something better.

Posterous (free) – Simple app for posting to Posterous blogs. I use it for Knotty Knittings.

Photography:

Camera (included) – 5 megapixel camera with 720p HD video recording. My only camera these days.

Instagram (free) – A simple photo editing (filters and tilt-shift) and social networking app for iPhone users. Great fun and immensely popular. I just wish they’d develop an Android version to widen its accessibility.

Camera+ (59p) – I only use this to crop photos so when iOS 5 is released later this year with simple photo editing included I probably won’t use this anymore.

Hipstamatic (£1.19) – Brings the quirkiness of old school photography to your digital pics. By choosing different lenses, films, and flashes you essentially add filters and effects to your photos. A great app for lo-mo style photography lovers.

Super 8 (59p) – An app to promote the new Super 8 movie, this adds old school effects to your movies. Well designed app and another one for the creative types.

Photos (included) – Access the photos on the phone.

Tools:

Calculator (included) – Standard and scientific calculator.

Parcel (£1.19) – Neat parcel tracking app which sends push notifications when a parcel’s status changes. Simple and useful. I’ve paid for the no ads version but a free ad-supported version’s also available.

Dictionary.com (free) – Dictionary and thesaurus that works without an internet connection.

My Convert (free) – Unit conversion tool.

Flashlight (no longer available to buy but many alternatives, free and for 59p) – Turns the camera flash into a torch. Not something you value until the day you need it and then it’s invaluable!

Tally Counter (free) – A simple tally counter that I use to count stitches when knitting. Beautiful retina display graphics.

Guitar Toolkit (£5.99) – Digital tuner that I use for my ukulele.

Knitminder (£1.79) – A knitting project app that allows you to track projects, yarns, needles, and patterns. Includes note-taking, photos, a stitch counter, and more. I only wish it synced with the Ravelry website. Free trial version available.

Clock (included) – Multiple timezone clock, alarms, stopwatch, and timer.

So there you have it, a smattering of my top apps. Hope this gives some impression of what the iPhone is like to use.

App Review: One Momento


£1.79 in iTunes

Not sure how I found this app but I’m so glad I did. Momento is a diary for your iPhone allowing you to write entries and add photos and tags to them. However it also has a little addition that makes it really useful.

Momento will pull in feeds from your Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare etc. accounts and add them into your diary.


Any RSS feed will also work, i.e. a WordPress blog feed. So Momento creates daily entries automatically from your status updates, check-ins, blog posts etc without any manual labour on your part. So lazy. So brilliant.

The functionality’s there to export it all via iTunes file sharing so you can back-up/restore to Momento and also view the entries and photos outside of the app on a pc. I like the confidence this gives that, even if in future the phone and app go the way of the dinosaurs, the content can be kept and viewed elsewhere.

Since I set up & configured Momento, I’ve kept a regular diary with practically no effort on my part. In my view the best apps add value to life with minimal work and hassle. They enable us, free us, and bring enjoyment. Momento hits the spot.


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Review: Why Beluga?

Beluga is a new service available for all phones with a downloadable app for iPhone and Android.


In essence it’s a messaging service that includes the ability to geotag messages and add photos. You can chat with groups of people at once in private “pods”. It’s available internationally and it’s free.

Friends are asking me why they need Beluga when they already have messaging apps. So I thought I’d blog why it’s got me hooked so quickly and, in particular, how it compares to the stuff already on your phone.

1. Facebook.
Facebook allows you to create events and send private messages to groups but the app has limited functionality so you can’t do all that from your phone. Beluga is much simpler and works from your phone.

2. Twitter.
Twitter doesn’t have group private messaging functionality. Beluga does.

3. Instant Messaging.
Instant Messaging with your client of choice (MSN, Yahoo, Skype, etc.) requires the other person to be online. With Beluga it doesn’t matter if they’re not “there” when you send them messages.

4. Text Messages.
Group messaging requires sending multiple messages. It can cost money (especially picture messaging), international friends are generally unavailable, and there’s no geotagging. Also I’ve had issues with messages being delayed. Beluga is free, global, instantaneous, built for group conversations, and has geotagging.

5. Other Mobile Apps.
Before Beluga I was using Whatsapp. It’s also apparently very similar to Blackberry’s BBM. The advantage of Beluga is it’s cross-platform so you can contact friends and family using other types of phone.


Just like text messages, you don’t need to check Beluga or log-in if you have the app. It will tell you when you’ve received a message with push notifications so you can download it and forget about it unless a friend gets in touch.

I’m using it as a replacement to texting. Quicker delivery times and I don’t need to worry about going over my text message quota per month or being charged for picture messaging.

Also I’ve got an social group chat going with three friends in the UK and one in the US.

Most useful of all is using it to ping a handful of people to arrange getting together. It allows you to add an event date, location, and time to a pod.


It does need people to download and register with the service otherwise you can’t include them in a conversation. Ignore the bad reviews in the iTunes app store, the app does work. When registering you need to enter your mobile number without the first 0. (When I registered I also added +44 and that worked for me.)

In summary, it’s a brilliantly simple replacement for texting and IMing. Unless Twitter add private group messages to their service soon I shall mostly be Belugaing!