App Review: aTimeLogger 2 for iOS

aTimeLogger2 logoAs a freelancer, time tracking is essential to the work I do. I’m always looking for ways to improve that tracking, so I’ve been trying out different apps lately to help with the task. One of this apps is called aTimeLogger 2. There are some previous versions of aTimeLogger for other platforms. But aTimeLogger 2 is only currently available for iOS and I’ve used it exclusively on my iPad Mini. The app sells for $2.99 in the App Store but I was able to pick it up for free during a special promotional period.

aTimeLogger 2 is pretty straight forward when adding a task. The app opens with a screen that allows you to select from different task categories. aTimeLogger 2 is designed to keep track of EVERYTHING you might do in the course of a day; working, eating, exercising, sleeping, etc. I’m only interested in using the app for work projects, so I selected the Work option from the menu below.

aTimeLogger2 screen

This automatically added a new task at the top of the screen with a new timer that had already started rolling.

aTimeLogger2 screen

 

Tapping the task takes me to a screen that allows me to add some details to the task. The “Type” section was already set to Work, as I selected that on the previous screen. If I wanted to change it to something else, I could do that here. The “My plan” feature has something to do with combining different tasks into a plan. This feature seemed confusing and since I really didn’t need it, I didn’t try to figure it out. I did however use the “Comment” field as a way to give my tasks unique names that made them easier to identify.

aTimeLogger2 screen

This screen also keeps track of any time I’ve added to the task so far and it also has a delete button for removing the task completely from the app.

Tapping the Save button in the upper right-hand corner took me back to the main aTimeLogger 2 screen. I added an additional task just to show that the app allows you to keep track of multiple projects at the same time.

aTimeLogger2 screen

Note: While you can keep track of multiple tasks as shown above, aTimeLogger 2 can only one run timer at a time. I think this is by design, since the app breaks everything down into task categories and the assumption is you probably won’t be doing more than one task at a time.

From here, you can pause tasks and restart them again as needed. This is crucial for the type of work I do, as projects are not always done in a single block of time or on a single day. This is really all I used the app for, and for the most part, it did this well. However, I did notice sometimes that the timer would jump ahead in time when adding details to the Comment fields of tasks. It was easy enough to fix this when it was caught right away. But it was confusing at first, as I noticed some tasks had already logged more minutes (sometimes even hours) than I could’ve possibly used since adding the task to aTimeLogger 2. Once I figured out it was doing this, I just had to tap on the timer and reset it with the “Now” button. Fortunately, this problem only seemed to appear when initially setting up a task. This problem never arose when adding more time to an existing task.

At the end of a tracking period, aTimeLogger 2 will allow you to export all of your tracking data to a CSV or HTML file. Again, all I wanted the app to do was track my time in the Work category. But because it’s designed to track all of your time, there’s no way to remove that pesky “Other” category from the export results.

aTimeLogger2 screen

aTimeLogger 2 has settings and feature beyond what I used it for. For example, you can connect it to Twitter if you’d like the app to tweet when you’ve started/completed a task. You can also change the theme of the app if you’d like it to look different from the default layout (which was perfectly fine for me).

I used aTimeLogger 2 for one month’s worth of task tracking. And while the app is OK, I have trouble recommending it, mainly due to the timer issue I mentioned above. But, if you don’t mind a little babysitting when you first add tasks to the app, or if you’re super interested in timing EVERYTHING you do in the course of a day, aTimeLogger 2 might work well for you.

ECBC Lance Executive Daypack Review

lance2As I have written before on how brutal I am on Backpacks, Rolling bags you name it. Rarely does a year go buy in which I don’t have to buy a new one. Part of the reason is I am on the go continuously and I am bit of over packer stuffing the bag full and then shoving bags in airplane bins, back of my SUV or working at the beach. I am the right guy to really stress test bags In fact my wife laughs ever time I tell her I broke a wheel, busted a strap, ripped the fabric, broke a zipper etc and I have the dead hulks here to prove it. So ECBC took a big chance on letting me put one of their bags through my abuse.

My first impressions of the ECBC Lance Executive Daypack upon unwrapping the bag was this is a nice bag. It has a nice smooth outside finish with sturdy straps. The way the bag sits on your back and across one or two shoulders has me convinced that they really thought about the guy or gal on the go. Some backpacks have a tendency to slip when your wearing it on one shoulder, and I did not experience this. The padded straps make for a comfortable wearing experience. The Back of the bag has what I am going to call cooling channels when you are wearing the bag segments of the back of the bag have small pockets where the air can flow. Everyone hates a backpack that sticks to your back. The material that ECBC used insures this is not the case and the cooling channels is a help.

One of the first thing I check on a bag are the zippers, as they seem to be the first things I bust. Examining the zipper lining is important to me as I hate it when internal material gets caught in the zipper, this is usually from the vendor having excess material in the pockets. Under close examination I do not see any catch points, and the zippers are isolated well in the pockets from the material. Internal material has been stitched tight and their is no fluff that you sometimes see. Stress testing the pockets purposelessly putting to much stuff in the pockets over the month I have been using the bag did not stretch the zipper or cause the zipper, to not open all the way.

lance1Lets talk about compartments This is a two comnpartment bag. The aft compartment is TSA approved, you can unzip the compartment all the way down and lay your laptop flat with it still in the bag. The laptop compartment has a restraining strap and a unique modular insert that can be removed in the bottom of the compartment to accommodate a larger laptop. Padding was about standard and provide adequate protection for an older 17″ Macpro around what I call the edge strike zone. Unique to this bag was a sort of barrier between the zipper and the compartment. The design team at ECBC put a lot of thought into this bag design.

The forward compartment shocked me a bit. The compartment would easily hold one day of clothes and even a separate pouch for the tablet. Yet it does not make the bag look big. The way they incorporated two external water bottle compartments allow for the forward compartment to have the extra room. This bag just went up in usability for me, and I see why they named it the Executive Daypack. There are an assortment of pockets some lined some with mesh to store all the little stuff.

lancebatteryThe front pocket though is where my OCD kicks in, I want stuff organized and easy to find. Internal to the front pocket are two zippered pockets and two Velcroed pockets and plenty of room for Glasses, Passport, Pens, Business cards, cables etc. The team even included an really sexy 4500mAh battery with a finish which is executive worthy.

Overall I am very impressed with this backpack, and it is worth every penny of it’s $149.00 price point. It has many of the qualities of a bag that is 2-3 times more expensive. This was my first exposure to ECBC the design team has really done their homework, and built a bag that is super functional and yet durable. See their product Video. Based on the build quality they is no reason this bag will not last the average person 3-4 years.

Kanex Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock Review

For the past several weeks I have been using the new Kanex Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock, that allows the connection of up to 8 devices on your Macbook or Thunderbolt ready device. In my case I have been using it with my Macbook Pro, and it has made easier to just unplug the thunderbolt connection between the Macbook and the dock and roll out of here. Another added benefit the Kanex Dock has alowed me to organize my cables so that I have much cleaner desktop.

The Kanex Docks is in a sleek Aluminum housing featuring 2x Thunderbolt 2.0 Ports, 3x USB 3.0 & 1 charge ready USB port, Ethernet connection, Audio / Mic, and a 4k/HD HDMI dual display port. It has a 12v external power supply to power the unit. With the number of devices we are hooking up to our computers these days, the dock provides the extra USB connections I need along with the ability to charge a device via the dock versus the computer.

I have been looking for a dock for quite some time so the footprint form factor are a big deal for me. This doc measures approx 6x3x1 fits the bill perfectly. I tested the interconnections with both Thunderbolt drives and USB 3.0 drives and had no issues. The 4k/HD dual display port sync’d and worked without issue. The team at Kanex have put together a fine dock, retailing @ $249 if your looking cleanup your desk and quite messing with cables this is the product for you. More details can be found here at Kanex.com

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Line 6 brings Amplifi Remote app to Apple Watch

Line 6 logoLine 6 is a musical instrument and audio equipment manufacturer that’s been a real industry innovator for nearly two decades. I bought my first Line 6 guitar amp back in 2001 and have been hooked on the company’s products ever since. At this point, it’d be a neck-and-neck battle between Line 6 and Apple as far as which company has made a bigger dent in my overall net worth.

One thing that Line 6 has done recently that’s really intriguing is the development of “remote” apps that work wirelessly with its various products. The first of these connected-app lines is the Amplifi guitar amp/smart speaker system.  Amplifi was designed to bridge the gap between practicing at home and jamming with other musicians. At home, the Amplifi could be used as a speaker for entertainment systems. At the rehearsal space, Amplifi also works as a full-power electric guitar amp.

Amplifi is also the first Line 6 product to use a remote app to control different features of the device. The app originally launched for Android and iOS, running both on iPhone and iPad. Now, Line 6 has brought its Amplifi Remote app to Apple Watch:

The new AMPLIFi Remote v2.11 update enables guitar players to control and access guitar tones via Apple Watch. Guitarists can now access tones, control levels, search the Line 6 Tone Cloud, and use the tuner, right from their wrist. AMPLIFi Remote works with the entire AMPLIFi family, and provides guitarists with unprecedented control over every aspect of their guitar tone and effects.

Amplifi Remote features such as Tuner, MyTones and master/instrument level controls will be accessibly directly on the Apple Watch version of the app. Users will also be able to do a “dictation search” of Line 6’s Tone Cloud service, which will allow them to use vocal requests to search thru guitar tones saved to Line 6’s cloud service. Tones can then be quickly loaded onto an Amplifi device for immediate use.

It’s great to see Line 6’s continued development of things like the Amplifi Remote App. The company has also started rolling out other products that work with similar apps. I’m definitely excited to see what else Line 6 comes up with this year.

Solo Stick Premium Review

When the Solo Stick Premium (Selfie Stick) arrived the first thing that happened was my 18 year old snapped it up, and for the past three weeks she has had it. I asked her to write down her thoughts and I am passing what her inputs are including my own summary.

1. Very Light and folds up to fit in backpack, purse.
2. Syncs to Bluetooth very fast once turned on.
3. Battery has long life even when left on continuously 3-4 days.
4. Phone snaps in fast.
5. Very sturdy.

While me personally is not the exact demographic to be snapping selfies, I did use it to capture some video where my view was obscured, and it worked perfectly to get my phone above the crowd. I like that I could put it in my back pocket and have it deployed in seconds if need be. I also used it for crowd control on a video shot where we were doing. Not the designed feature but it worked great for blocking people from walking into a professional video shot. The Solo Stick retails for $39.99 currently at SoloStick.com

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IFTTT Brings Apps to iPad and Apple Watch

IFTTT logoIf This Then That, better known as IFTTT, is a popular service that ties a plethora of online apps. services and devices together to perform specific tasks. For example, you could create an IFTTT “recipe” (the term that IFTTT uses for actions created thru the service) to automatically save your Instagram photos to Dropbox. IFTTT can also be used to work with things like smart sensors, home automation systems and more.

The IFTTT interface itself is accessed mostly thru the company’s website. There, you can search for recipes created by IFTTT staff and users. Once you find a recipe you’d like to try, just add it to your own IFTTT account where you can then configure the recipe to specifically work with your own user accounts across whatever services are referenced in the recipe. Along with that interface, IFTTT also offers its own apps that work in complementary ways to IFTTT’s core functionality:

  • Do Button: This app gives you a simple one-button interface to trigger the recipes that you’ve made thru IFTTT.
  • Do Camera: Create a “personalized” camera that will automatically share your photos with services like Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote and more.
  • Do Note: Use this app like a “digital notepad.” Make a quick note and then use IFTTT recipes to share it with Evernote, Google Calendar and more.

All of these apps were originally available for iPhone only. But IFTTT recently brought all of these apps to iPad and Apple Watch. The company is touting this move as “small, medium and large” versions of its apps for the different devices. Now it’s easier than ever to access and activate your IFTTT recipes.

I’ll admit, I’m still kind of an IFTTT newbie. But with the ease of use provided by these new apps, I’m definitely going to be looking into using the service more.

Special Needs Customers Can Make Apple Watch Demo Appointments

Apple LogoApple has made a point of adding accessibility features to its products for years. Everything from the Mac to iOS devices has user-enabled controls and configurations for things like voice-to-text, alteration of the screen thru focused zooming in and more. And while it seems like the company’s new Apple Watch wouldn’t necessarily be that useful for customers with visual or other kinds of impairments, Apple wants to prove that misconception wrong right out of the gate. That’s why users with special needs can make appointments to test out an Apple Watch, with specific guidance from an Apple Store employee that can demonstrate all of the watch’s accessibility options.

Customers who are interested in making one of these appointments can do so thru the Apple website, the Apple Store iOS app or by calling 1-800-692-7753. When making an appointment, it’s a good idea to note that you’re a disabled user and you’d like to try out the Apple Watch’s accessibility features. This way, the store can have an iPhone preloaded with the full Watch OS and paired with an Apple Watch ready when you arrive. (Apple Stores don’t normally have their watches fully set up like this for customers who just walk in off the street, that’s why it’s important to make an appointment in advance.)

Anytime you’re going to purchase a new item (especially something that can be pricey like an Apple Watch), it’s a good idea to try it out and really see if its right for you before handing over the credit card. It’s great that Apple is continuing its commitment to disabled users by allowing them to make these special appointments. Hopefully, the Apple Watch will prove to be a true asset to those who are in need of assistive technology.

Archos Fusion Storage OTA Incoming

Archos Fusion StorageBack in March at MWC, French firm Archos announced “Archos Fusion”, an Android storage technology that seamlessly joins a smartphone or tablet’s internal memory with an inserted memory card. Archos Platinum 52The merger of the two memories is invisible to apps and other services, with Archos Fusion automatically managing and moving files around. Apps tend to stay on the internal memory and media gets moved to the external card.

The clear advantage here is that there’s loads more space made available to the user with almost zero effort. Another advantage is a reversibility of the process: the fusion of internal storage with the external storage card is seamless and the user can return to the original separated settings at any time.

GNC covered the announcement at the time, but the good news is that Archos are delivering on the promise and a free OTA is expected very shortly for owners of the Archos 101 Oxygen tablet, along with the 50 Oxygen Plus, 50 Diamond and 52 Platinum smartphones.

By pure coincidence I have an Archos 52 Platinum smartphone on review at the moment so I’ll be reporting back on the OTA and the Archos Fusion technology, which looks really clever and a huge benefit.

Archos Fusion will be available on the new 62 Xenon and 59 Xenon out of the box.

GNC #1029 Personal Principles

In the social world we live in I think it is important to maintain personal principles. I go into my thoughts, challenges on the topic, while also talking about all the tech news and info. Including a good dose of science information.

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