My Smartphone has Replaced these Things

I’ve noticed that I use my iPhone for a bunch of stuff that I used to have another device or system for. Here’s what I mean:

  • Paper plane tickets: I recently started using e-tickets with the iPhone’s Passbook. Works great, and I don’t have to carry rumpled-up paper tickets anymore.
  • Guitar tuner: I use Guitar Toolkit for that. It’s actually the most accurate tuner I’ve ever owned!
  • Metronome: I now have lots of app-based metronomes, so there’s no need for a hardware-based metronome anymore.
  • Drum machine: I tend to use drum machines for metronomes. On my iPhone, I use DrumTrack8, and on my iPad, I use DM1. Both are fabulous.
  • Alarm clock: I use the built-in Clock app, and it works great. No need for a travel alarm clock, or a hotel wake-up call anymore!
  • Bible: YouVersion from Lifechurch.tv. Coolest Bible app ever.
  • Camera: I still use fancier cameras, but for a simple point-and-shoot? My iPhone is great at that – as long as I don’t need to zoom.
  • Encyclopedia: What’s that? I have Google/Wikipedia/etc. In my pocket.
  • Newspaper: There are a TON of news apps. I do most of my iOS news reading via the Flipboard app.
  • Weather radio: I live in Kansas. I need to know when those tornado warnings go off. My TWC Max app from The Weather Channel goes off when the weather does.
  • Notebook: See my last post on iA Writer and Byword. But I still like a good Moleskine notebook and a pencil, too.
  • Calculator: the default iOS calculator app is always with me…
  • Calendar/Daytimer: Currently using Tempo and Any.DO for these.
  • Exercise book or video: Currently using the brutal YAYOG (You Are Your Own Gym) app. Pretty handy!
  • Voice recorder for reminders: There are a ton of apps for this, too. I frequently use Evernote for this.

Do you use your smartphone or tablet for things you used to carry around? Extra gadgets that did unique things for you? Share in the comments!

CILDC: Mobile Apps & Mobile Web Development

Six speakers in 45 minutes! Here are some highlights…

MIT App Inventor and jQuery:

MIT App Inventor – a web-based Android app development tool. Store your code at the site, can test what you’re building by using the site. Has a designer that lets you add components, modules, etc.

Has an AppToMarket that uploads your app to the Android app stores (some registration and a small payment is required for that).

jQuery: mobile framework that’s completely web-based. Basically a cross-browser javascript library that could be pretty handy for web design, including mobile design. Also check jquerymobile.com – a mobile framework. Sweet.

Next up: what’s a mobile framework? Gave an example of mobile design and redesign… they used jquerymobi

Playing with Dragon Express

dragon expressI recently loaded Dragon Express on my laptop, with plans for my son to use it as a tool for his writing-based school work. What’s Dragon Express? Here’s the blurb about it from the App Store:

“Dragon Express is an easy and fun speech recognition utility that introduces … customers to voice-recognition for the Mac. Put your words to work without the hassle of typing. Just speak and amazingly accurate results instantly appear in the Dragon Express window. You can dictate anything – even words that wouldn’t be found in any dictionary – since Dragon Express is customized to recognize your voice and the words you use.

Simply open the Dragon Express utility and start talking. Your words will automatically begin to appear the Dragon Express window. When you’re done, Dragon Express will place the transcribed text into the application of your choice and refresh itself for the next time you’re ready to speak.”

That description is a pretty good one! Here’s a transcription of my first test (corrections noted in [brackets]):

Okay, this is a test. I would like to test out Dragon Express. It’s a pretty cool program that is taking my words that I’m saying that I’m speaking out loud, and transforming them into text. For example, this post is being written as I speak in Dragon Express.

Once I am done speaking, I will copy and paste this text and post it into WordPress as as my post, [I started saying comma – Dragon Express inserts punctuation when you speak the word. So my fault here!]. Looks like I’ll have to do some cleanup work first because of my arms and on those [Ha! I actually said “because of my ums and ahs … I said nothing about my arms. Really.] and saying things and then rethinking what I’m saying.

Cool, huh? There are a couple of interesting options, too. Through voice commands, I can copy/paste, do a Spotlight search (searching my computer), I can search Google or open up email (using Mac’s email program … which I don’t use). I can also configure Twitter and Facebook, and then post to those using my voice rather than typing.

I can use the internal microphone on my laptop, or I can plug in an external microphone and use that. The app shows which microphone I’m using, and displays my audio level.

Cool tool!

Twitter Apps for the iPhone

I have been using Twitter’s iPhone app for iPhone tweeting … but since their recent update, the app hasn’t worked well for me. I just tested it – it took 5-6 seconds to open, then when I clicked on Connect, it took about 1 minute to actually show me any tweet replies. Every page of the app has been irritating that way.

So a couple nights ago, I asked some Twitter peeps what their favorite iPhone Twitter apps were … and received some great responses, including:

  • Tweetbot – this is the one I settled on for now. Why? The layout works for me, and Tweetbot does one thing I’ve wanted for awhile – have the main screen default to a list (see the accompanying screenshot) instead of the full timeline. I rarely follow the timeline feed. Instead, I created a shorter list of people I want to follow (ok – actually a few different lists), then follow that list. Makes twitter much easier to handle.
  • Echofon – I have used this early on. It’s still a really nice Twitter app.
  • Hootsuite for iPhone – I have this, but haven’t used it much. As far as I can tell, there is no Push setting. So, to see new Twitter replies using Hootsuite, you would need to open up Hootsuite and refresh to see if you received anything new (rather than just letting the Twitter app handle this via a Push). Not useful to me!
  • Osfoora – heard of it, never used it.
  • Twitter – the app made by Twitter that I just complained about…
  • Seesmic – never used the iPhone app.
  • Tweetdeck – I have it, but it’s been pretty buggy for me so I rarely use the iPhone version.
  • Tweetings – never heard of it.
  • … and the Twitter app for android, with a smiley face attached. I’m sure it’s dandy for all you Android users :-)

Is your Twitter app working for you? If not, try out one of these, and share what you like/don’t like about them!

Topeka’s Mobile App

Topeka has it’s first mobile library app – brought to you via the fine folks at Boopsie!

In the pic on the left, you can see the icon as it displays on my iPhone. It’s the one that’s titled “Topek….brary.” Apparently, “Topeka Library” doesn’t fit underneath the icon on an iPhone. “Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library” certainly wouldn’t fit! Oh well – not completely unheard of – I’ve seen a couple other app icon titles that do that, too.

So go ahead, download it, and play with it. There’s an iPhone, Android, and Blackberry app. Or, pretty much any phone with browser capabilities can go to tscpl.boopsie.com and you’ll either be directed to download the appropriate app or you’ll be dumped into the web version of the app.

Either way, pretty cool stuff for us!

Here’s what we’re doing with it. Check out the screenshot at the right (larger version here) – it’s the main page of the app. When creating the main functionality of the mobile app, our thinking went like this: when would someone use our mobile phone app, and what would they want to do with it?

We decided they’d be in line at the grocery store, or picking up their child from school. Or they’d be wherever, but have maybe a couple of minutes to quickly check on something. In those scenarios, how might they want to interact with the library?

Here’s what we came up with:

  • Library Catalog: search for something, put it on hold
  • My Account: see what’s due and renew it, etc
  • Ask a Librarian: ask a question – links provided for phone, text messaging, and email questions
  • Locations & Hours: links to addresses and maps for our main building, our bookmobile stops, and our book drop locations
  • Connect with us: links to our Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Flickr accounts
  • What’s missing? We wanted to know what our patrons wanted this app to do that wasn’t there yet, so we provided an easy way for them to tell us – it’s a simple form that sends an email to me.

What do our customers want to do that we’re not yet providing?

  • paying fines from their phones
  • checking out our calendar of events
  • checking out movies from our Mediabank DVD dispenser (it’s a separate catalog)

Otherwise, everyone that we’ve heard from has liked the app – we’re getting comments like “so cool! I already think we have the best library and then u show us just another reason to love @topekalibrary.”

Not bad at all!