We have contacts everywhere: on our phone, in Facebook, in Twitter, even in an old paper address book we left sitting in a kitchen junk drawer years ago and never look at. Even though it’s the 21st century, when you’d think we’d be organized in the digital world, keeping track of who we want to keep track of has only gotten more confusing and disorganized than ever. It gets even worse when we upgrade our phones and have to transfer everybody we know from one device to the next, using tools that are complex and unreliable to do so.
One of the reasons I switched from my iPhone to Android was the home screen. On an iPhone (and iPad), all you can have are app and folder icons, all neatly arranged in a grid. While that kind of structure works for some people, I wanted more. With Android, I can put widgets on my home screens to get more information and functionality without opening apps. Still, I wanted more, especially after dealing with LG’s awful interface. Nova Launcher to the rescue!
Growing up in the Cleveland area, back when I actually watched local news, one of the feature segments on WJW Channel 8 was that of roving reporter Neil Zurcher and his “One Tank Trips”. The segments were exactly that: trips in Zurcher’s vintage automobile to various parts of Ohio which one could drive to and back home on just one tank of gas. Zurcher looked for hidden gems, historical locations, and places which still held a small town Americana feel to them, but none of these trips featured a location that felt “touristy” in nature.
Zurcher is still driving all over the state, featuring his trips on his website, http://www.onetanktrips.com/, articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (http://www.cleveland.com/), and is containing his feature segments on WJW’s morning show, New Day Cleveland. I’ve always enjoyed learning about the places he visits, as well as his laid back story telling style and deep, friendly voice, and there are some places I’ve been to which I’d love to let people know about. Since one of my friends jokingly told me I could be the next Neil Zurcher thanks to my plugs of these locations on Facebook, I thought it was time to shine some light on my own trips, though they may take more than one tank of gas to visit.
Heartbleed is big in the news right now and, with that, focus towards online security is strong. Websites and online services are getting hacked on a regular basis. As a traveler on the information superhighway, how do you protect yourself from the black hats who want access to your identity and finances? Fortunately, there is an excellent service which is both free and extremely secure.
The simple fact that there is a popular website called “Damn You Auto Correct!” tells you all you need to know about the curse that is the auto correction function of your mobile phone or tablet. It doesn’t matter if you use iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, or whatever mobile operating system is out there, there comes a time when you text your parents and the next thing you know they think you’re pregnant when all you were doing was going to the store to buy milk. It’s funny for everybody else but mortifying for the texter.Fortunately, there is a great app which comes to your rescue and actually saves you time typing on your tiny phone screen.
My phone comes in very handy when I’m driving. Here are two apps which help.
Waze – I love Google Maps on Android. One thing it is not good at, however, is adjust to traffic on the fly. Never was this more apparent than yesterday morning when I was sitting in almost standstill traffic and I hadn’t even reached the highway. This is where Waze comes in very handy. Waze is a free navigation app with a twist: crowdsourcing. Waze users can report traffic issues they experience. This both alerts other Waze users and allows the service to make adjustments to routes which may be delayed by these traffic problems. The app also monitors the speed which users are going to get a more accurate estimate of how long a trip will take and will even reroute a user if it sees a better route during the trip. Google bought Waze earlier this year so it’s a matter of time until the functionality of Waze moves into Google Maps. Until then, Waze is my GPS app of choice.
GasBuddy – One function Waze has that could use improvement is finding gas stations. Specifically, the pricing of said gas stations. I’ve found the price information in Waze, submitted my users, is either too old and incorrect or just plain missing. As a result, I use the GasBuddy app when I need to fill up the gas tank and want to keep my budget intact. Like Waze, the gas prices in GasBuddy are user reported. Unlike Waze, there are many more users reporting prices, meaning the prices are more accurate. Once I choose the gas station to go to, I can send the address to Waze and get directions. The app is simple to use and free, both excellent selling points.
Today is when I pay the bills and balance the check book. Here are two apps which help me do that.
Chase Bank – Really, I recommend any bank’s mobile app if yours has one and you have a smart phone and/or tablet. I have Chase and use their mobile app on both my phone and tablet. In both cases, I can check my current balances for my checking, savings, and credit card accounts. I can also play bills and transfer money between accounts. With my phone’s camera, I can deposit checks just by snapping pictures of both sides of the check. If I need to hit a Chase ATM or branch office, the app locates the ones closest to my current location. I can then use my phone’s GPS to navigate there. It’s like having my own personal banker in my pocket.
Mint – While the Chase app does a lot for me in terms of maintaining my finances, the Mint app helps me track my finances so I do a better job with them. The Mint service will access all of my financial accounts, including investments, and categorize my spending and income so I can see exactly where my money is going. The app will also alert me when spending in a category is higher than normal and point out ways I can save money. I can even put together a budget plan which Mint can also track and help me stick to
Friday night is out night. What better way to celebrate than to share it with friends? With these apps, you can share with those friends who aren’t with you and maybe even entice them to join you.
Foursquare – I like using Foursquare for many reasons. I like people to know about the places I go to because I’d like them to go, too, and help support these businesses, especially those which are local in nature. This is easy as check ins are posted to Facebook and Twitter. I also like Foursquare because some of these businesses offer specials for checking in. Buffalo Wild Wings, for example, offers 10% off your bill if you show your check in to your waiter/waitress, while Sheetz gives you a free donut. You can also leave tips for other users, such as great meals to order or recommendations about the best time to visit a location. Badges are earned for visiting certain types of locations, adding to the game aspect.
Untappd – This app is like the Foursquare for beer lovers. You can use this app to check in with your beer of choice. Check ins can include a picture, a rating, a review/comment, and even where you’re drinking. Like Foursquare, you can also earn badges based on the types of brews you imbibe. I’m using this app to track my progress on the Winking Lizard World Tour of Beers. Also like Foursquare, check ins are posted to Facebook and Twitter. Unlike Foursquare, you cab check into your location on Foursquare via this app.
Today brings another pair of apps which have nothing to do with one another but which I use and need every day
Jump Desktop – Yesterday, I posted a remote access app for when I needed to work on my own PC. Today, I needed to connect to a client’s server. All I had was my phone and my Verizon data plan. I also had Jump Desktop, what may be the best remote access app for Android. Once I entered in the server address, username, and password, I was able to connect with just one tap. I had full mouse and keyboard control of the server with just this little screen. I even had sound although, with a business server, that’s not very useful. I was able to get in, look at the problem, and fix it as if I was in person at the client’s office, very useful for an IT consultant always on the road
Chrome – My phone, the Galaxy Nexus, comes with a web browser. Unfortunately, that browser sucks. Enter Google’s own Chrome web browser, based on the same browser made for PCs. With Chrome, I have access to ask of my bookmarks and web history linked to my Google account. I can open pages already open on my other devices running Chrome. I also have multiple tabs so I can access multiple pages at the same time. It just makes sense to have Chrome running on a Google device.
Today’s apps are not Indians related. This is a good thing as they are sucking big time right now. Instead, I figured on two apps which are unrelated but both useful in their own ways.
Genius Scan – You have a document which needs to be signed, sealed, and delivered TODAY. Mailing isn’t an option and a picture isn’t good enough. Chances are you don’t carry a fax machine with you, either. Genius Scan has your back. Take a picture of your document with this app, crop out anything that’s not the document, and convert it into a PDF of a scanned document which you can email or upload wherever you need. You can even take the picture at an angle and Genius Scan will adjust the final result as if you shot the picture head on. You can even combine single documents into multiple pages of a single PDF file, perfect for when you have to send back more than just the signed page.
TeamViewer – I sometimes need to access a file or application on my home or work PC. Since I am on the road so much, the best way to do this is via remote access over the Internet. TeamViewer is a service that allows me this access. I install the application on the PCs I want to access remotely, log into each with my free TeamViewer account, log into the account on my TeamViewer app, and I have full access to each PC on my phone. I can control the mouse by sliding my finger on the screen and can even hear the PC’s audio on my phone. Of course, the phone is significantly smaller than my PC screen, but I can zoom in with a pinch of the screen. This app also comes in handy when friends and family need tech support.