Monday, June 23, 2014

. . . Living the Organized iOS Life

Back in October 2013 Apple officially announced that more than 1 million apps were available for pretty much all iOS devices in the App Store on Apple's Marketplace - and that more than 1 billion songs had been played on iTunes radio.

The question of how many songs have been played via iTunes radio is an interesting one but, within the grand scheme of things far less important than the statistic of 1 million apps being available thru the App Store.

Seriously - one MILLION apps?!  Who would have thought that there would be a sufficient number of ideas for apps that would even grow close to approaching the idea of half-a-million, let alone the full one-million apps that make up that burrito of app goodness?  Certainly not I!

What are these App Things Anyway?

If you think anything like I do, the first question that popped into your brain was "what sort of apps do most users download - let alone pay for - and if there are a million apps on that service, what does that translate to in terms of basic revenue?

A brief and unscientific survey of my mates - and my own iOS devices - offers up the first half of the question - the majority being in the area of 75% games and 25% utility and productivity.  That seems to bear out when it is compared to statistics that are offered up by Apple and in some articles.

The second half is simply impossible to answer because Apple obfuscates that information in its quarterly filings.  They admit to $10 Billion for fiscal 2013 but who can say?

The Organized Life

Early on I decided that if I was going to have to carry around an iPad due to work needs, the very least that should happen as a result is that the device should help me organize my life.  Right?

And it is not as if I did not NEED organizational aids either - in fact it is fair to say that I was getting a lot of heat from multiple directions about my disorganized ways. 

I mean heck, you are looking at a guy who ended up custom building and deploying a personal Wiki server on their home network just so that they have a key word searchable central depository for all of information and data that they accumulate on a daily basis due to being a writer!

So with that in mind I started to evaluate different apps to see what was truly useful to me, and what was largely not - and now I am happy to share my findings by telling you about the apps that I have found to be very useful indeed!

Depending on your situation and needs and any special issues, the following apps get my own personal vote of approval - in short I recommend them.

Life Apps

Do you have diabetes?  During my time as a volunteer first for my son's Scout Pack, then his Scout Troop I spent a lot of time with the parents of his mates - and somehow I caught diabetes from Peter, one of the fathers of both my sons best mate and a scout in our WEBELOS Den.  Well I must have caught it from him - after all HE had it, and I did not, then I did.  Makes sense to me.

The thing about diabetes is that it is majorly disruptive for regular life.  It also happens to be one of those diseases that you really have to get in front of and own if you are going to survive it without getting seriously damaged by it.

DiaConnect (AKA DiabetesConnect)
After having tried a dozen different aps to find help in managing my diabetes this one rose to the top of the bucket like good cream always does.

Not only does it make recording my glucose levels as well as dose information, it also facilitates meal tracking, lets you see statistics, and has a form generator that allows you to create a report to pass on to your physician - which makes the evaluation process dead easy to help in determining what your optimal therapy should be.

First Aid
Created by the American Red Cross, the First Aid app has all sorts of useful information in it - and really if you think about it there is no good reason not to have this sort of thing on your iPad! 

Divided up into sections like Learning, Prepare, Emergency, Tests, and Hospital, the app contains info like allergies and anaphylaxis, how to use an Epi Pen, understanding and dealing with asthma attacks, and the entire range of emergencies you may encounter from bleeding to broken bones, shock, stings, a heart attack, you name it!

The prepare section provides advice for dealing with a variety of emergencies - what you should do to prepare for them - and even offers advice on how to kit up for things like earthqukes, drought, flooding, a Flu Pandemic, and hurricanes to name a few.

Does it sound like I think this is a really good app?  Yep, well I do!  And it is free, so what is your excuse?

Do you have a lot of books, CDs, games, movies, and other household stuff?  Do you know where it all is?  Put it this way - can you put your hands immediately on any book you own?  I couldn't but that is mostly because we have something like a dozen different book shelves in the house!

What MyStuff2 does is allows you to build a complete inventory of your stuff.  It comes preset with a variety of useful databases, and all you need to do is fill them!  What databases?
  • Art
  • Books
  • Electronics
  • Jewelry
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Video Games
That is the starting point but the idea is you can add the things you collect - like comics or coins - and the other stuff that gets scattered through your life.  Not only does it let you keep track of what you have and where it is at, but should the worse happen and your house burn to the ground, you have a list of stuff to give to the Insurance agent...  Knock on wood.

Technology Apps
While your needs in running your own home network probably are not as complicated as my own, because in addition to being a games journalist I am also a business and tech columnist and freelancer in the computer and network tech area, I am constantly reviewing hardware and software, and creating different configurations on my network at home, and the result is usually chaos.

To help address that I have found several very useful utilities in the tech apps area that I am happy to share with you!

A clever little app that allows me to complete comprehensive port scans on a single host or a selection of hosts on the network.  Why is that important?

Well partly for evaluating the security level of a machine or appliance - the port scan is the best way that I know of to complete an initial analysis of potential security weaknesses.  With Scany I can target a specific host by IP address and the app will return all sorts of useful info, including (but not limited to) the following:
  • UPnP Name
  • Host Name
  • Open TCP Ports
  • Open UDP Ports
  • Connection Status
  • MAC Address
  • Vendor Name
The app also allows me to ping the target host and traderoute it, determine if it is dropping packets.  I can scan one host, a group of hosts, or an entire network, all with a few taps on the screen using my iPad - and that is pretty spiffy indeed!

Another network utility, Fing helps me to organize my view of the network structure, and quickly identify the systems, their type and whether they are up or down now.  It lists them both by IP and MAC address, and over time as it is re-run builds a list of systems on the net past and present.

The program includes customizable data areas so identifying information about a system can be added to its entry, and it offers a set of basic interrogation tools that includes services, while also allowing the quick and dirty evaluation of a target in terms of potential exploits.

Gaming Apps
The game apps covers games and, well, apps that relate to games...

Xbox SmartGlass 360 and Xbox SmartGlass One
These turn your iPad into a remote control and gamepad for your Xbox 360 and Xbox One - and they provide access to special bonus features built into enabled titles - like the most recent addition to the Fable series - that turn your iPad into an instant reference tool that adds to the game fun.

Both are free, both allow your iPad to interface with your console, and both are highly recommended by me.

The following games are more fun than the law should allow and make my short list of games you should have available at all times:
  • Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff - freemium grinder and city-building game. 
  • Farmville 2: Country Escape - a farm and farming simulator.
  • Minecraft PE - building and survival adventure
  • The Simpsons: Tapped Out - freemium grinder and city-building game.
  • The Sims: FreePlay - simulation and city building-game.
Media and Social Networking

If you had asked me about this before I started really using the iPad I probably would have scoffed...  But it turns out that there really are a handful of apps you can get that will make your life if not more efficient than more interesting, starting with the following:
  • Facebook
  • Hulu Plus
  • Netflix 
  • Skype
  • Twitter
A free app that turns your iPad into a media reading device that also happens to have access to a store for buying books and a bunch of free ones!

I was skeptical about this when I first downloaded it, but it turns out that there are some excellent books available - free - as well as books I liked enough to pay for.