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.

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.

Would You buy a 12 Inch “iPad Pro?”

apple logoCoverage of tech industry rumors has really turned into a cottage industry in recent years. Nothing fuels the rumor mill more than anticipated new products or product updates from Apple. It seems like every time a tech blog gets the tiniest shred of information about a potential new iThing, dozens of websites then kick into overdrive with endless reaction and speculation pieces.

I tend to ignore most of this cruft but one rumored item that’s being tossed around by tech pundits has me somewhat intrigued. That item is the so-called “iPad Pro” (also referred to sometimes as the “iPad Plus”). The iPad Pro is believed to be a 12 or 13-inch iPad. This would be the largest modern iDevice Apple has ever made, eclipsing the size of the iPad Air 2 by about three inches. It’s even been suggested that the iPad Pro will come with a built-in USB port, a first for Apple touchscreen devices.

2015 does seem like the year for the iPad to go Pro. Traditionally, Apple has rolled out new additions to its existing product lines slowly. And while the original iPad has seen a number of upgrades over the years, its overall form factor hasn’t really changed. iPad Mini, the successor to the original iPad has gone thru some iterations of its own, but like the original iPad, its overall size hasn’t changed much since the premier edition. And while the first iPad pretty much ushered in the era of modern tablet computing, competitors have been quick on Apple’s heels to design comparable devices. Walk into any retail store that carries electronics and you’ll see larger-sized tablets running the Android and Windows Mobile operating systems. But nothing from Apple.

I’ll admit, I’m usually a sucker for new Apple things. I’ve owned a total of four iPhones over the years, one iPad 2 and one iPad Mini. After a year of living without a cell phone, relying only on my iPad Mini for mobile computing/communication needs, I recently got back into the iPhone game, and its caused me to do some reconsideration on the role of mobile devices in my life. Overall, I find I’m using the Mini less and I’m leaving it at home more often. I’m still using the Mini as part of my audio production toolkit, and it’s nice to have around the house for things like looking up recipes or the occasional game of Flight Control. But for things like e-mail or listening to podcasts, I find I’m using the iPhone more. Given that the Mini is becoming more of a “stay-at-home” device, I don’t really need the smaller form factor, which is incredibly convenient when traveling. That led me to consider swapping the Mini for an iPad Air 2. That’s when I started seeing the iPad Pro speculation.

I’m legally blind, so I tend to prefer larger screens anytime I can get them. In a lot of ways, the iPhone Six Plus is really the first smartphone I’ve had that I can truly use. And while the Six Plus display is unquestionably big at 5.5 inches, the Mini’s display is still bigger, coming in at nearly eight inches. But even with that extra real estate, the Mini is still light and relatively easy to hold in one hand. This is important for me as I have to hold the device relatively close to my face in order to really see what’s on the display. This was really difficult to do with the iPad Air 2, not only because the device was too big to hold in one hand but also because it was kinda heavy. This gives me some pause in ditching the Mini for a larger iPad, as I don’t want to wind up with a device that’s awkward or difficult to use at times when I might need to hold the device in order to see it properly.

Which brings me to the iPad Pro. Apple has made great strides over the years in making its devices thinner and lighter. So while the Pro would still be the largest iPad ever, it may actually weigh less than the iPad 2 I used to have, thus making it a bit more manageable as a handheld device. There’s also an ever-expanding market of third-party stands, mounts and cases that allow mobile devices to be used in different environments while freeing users’ hands from having to hold those devices. If the iPad Pro turns out to be real, a plethora of these accessories will surely flood the market. And it almost goes without saying that a larger-screen iPad would be great for someone like me. I often have to rely on the zoom function built into iOS to see things on my iPad Mini’s screen. A larger screen could make that unnecessary. At the very least, I might not have to zoom in as much to properly see what’s on the display.

And really, display size is just the tip of the iceberg as to how an iPad Pro could be useful to me. All of the current prognostication is placing the potential release of the new device to happen during the fourth quarter of this year. There’s still a lot of time for this particular rumor to turn into digital vapor. For now, I may go out and take a look at some of those other 12-inch tablets on the market, just to get an idea of what the form factor is like. Of course, none of those devices will truly replicate what an iPad Pro will be like, but it’s a start.

iStick Flash Drive at Gadget Show Live

MyiStickFlash drives and smartphones have never really gone well together for the simple reason that full-size USB is only present on desktops and laptops, making it tricky transferring files from PC to phone. Android has a love-hate relationship with SD cards and micro USB OTG is only present on a handful of devices. As for Apple, one of their camera kits is needed to view external USB storage but only handles photos and movies. Whether original Apple connector or newer Lightning, there’s no easy solution.

Fortunately, salvation is at hand for Apple owners with iPhones and iPads equipped with Lightning connectors. The iStick is a flash drive that has both a USB and a Lighting connector with a clever sliding mechanism that pushes out one or other of the connectors. Movies, music and documents can be accessed directly from the iStick without copying the files to the iPhone.

MyiStick Range

Available in a range of capacities from 8 GB (£49) to 128 GB (£199), the iStick colour denotes the capacity and the aluminium body compliments the Apple range. Check out the interview to learn more about the iStick.

iSketchnote Brings Pen & Paper Sketches To iPad At CES

iskn logo

The iPad is the perfect tool for creativity, productivity, and innovation. However, it’s often difficult to draw and write on an iPad using your finger or stylus. The folks at ISKN have developed a solution that will make creating digital art and notes much easier.

Jamie and Nick interviewed Claudia Vance from ISKN about iSketchnote, a product that instantaneously transfers your pen-and-paper notes and drawings to your iPad. Just place a notebook or sheet of paper over the Bluetooth-connected Slate and use the included pens to draw or write whatever you want. As you sketch, your creations will be digitized instantly, and you can view and edit them using the free iSketchnote app on your iPad.

You can purchase the iSketchnote pack, which includes the Slate, two pens, and a kickstand-enabled cover for just $179.99 on the iSketchnote website. They are accepting pre-orders now and will begin shipping later this year.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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Perfect Bake with Connected Scales at CES

Perfect BakeAlthough the Internet of Things is very much of the moment, sometimes all you need is a connected device. In this case, the device being connected is a set of kitchen scales. Todd and Todd start cooking with Darin Barri and Perfect Bake Scale and App.

Targetted at cooks and bakers, Perfect Bake combines digital scales with a tablet app to make sure that the weight (or more correctly mass) is just right. Connected via the audio jack, scales can weigh in real-time, showing the quantity on the tablet screen. The app has hundreds of recipes and can walk the baker through the steps with mixing times and instructional videos. The scales come with colour-coded preparation bowls to help too and the app can adjust quantities to suit appetite.

There’s an even an oven thermometer to make sure the temperature is right, so whatever’s baked, it’s baked perfectly every single time.

The app available for both Android and Apple devices, the Perfect Bake Scale and App is available now for $69.99 from Brookstone. A Bluetooth wireless version will be available later in 2015.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Todd Aune of The Elder Divide for the TechPodcast Network.

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Jamstik Guitar For Your iPad

Zivix LogoLearning to play a musical instrument is both challenging and rewarding but fitting practice into today’s busy lives can be difficult. Zivix Jamstik – the guitar for iOS – could be the answer. Chris Heille from Zivix shows the two Todds a few riffs.

The Jamstik is 16″ lightweight, portable guitar with six real strings and five frets designed to fit into modern life. It’s also a MIDI guitar controller which wirelessly connects with the iPad, iPhone and Mac. The Jamstik gives you the ability to use all of the nuances of guitar playing to control your favourite music creation iOS apps or Mac software.

Jamstik is a new idea in guitar controllers because it uses infrared light to “see” what your hands are doing in real time. Unlike other MIDI guitar solutions that rely on audio analysis and conversion to MIDI, the Jamstik scans the fretboard to detect what your fretting hand is up to before your picking hand ever hits a string.

If you want to learn the guitar, the included JamTutor iPad app will get you going through the basics of playing guitar without the hassles of tuning, lesson scheduling or expensive guitar teachers.

The Jamstik is available now for $299 from a range of retailers including select Apple stores. If buying direct from jamstik.com, look out for the limited time discount code CES2015JSSAVER.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Todd Aune of The Elder Divide for the TechPodcast Network.

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Rapoo announces new tablet cases for Samsung and iPad at CES

rapoo-caseIf you listen to recent analyst reports then you’ll think tablets are falling out of favor. However, reality seems to state otherwise, as devices continue to be released and sell. And where these exist, so exists a market for accessories, in this case….well, cases. A good case can protect your tablet from harm and even make you more productive by providing a physical keyboard.

Rapoo, known for mouse and keyboard, is also in this market. And, at CES 2015 the company unveiled a line of new tablet cases that are just waiting for a buyer.

The company starts off with a new line for your Samsung gear (not the watch). “Rapoo’s Keyboard Cases for Samsung Tablets are compatible with the Samsung 8”, 8.4”, 10.1”, 10.5” and Tab Pro 12.2” models. The protective cases feature a unique multi-model case system in a convenient ultra-slim, lightweight design. The Keyboard Case is paired with the tablet in seconds by way of Bluetooth technology. The cases are available in black, gray, red or blue”.

This is followed by a set of iPad cases to protect your Apple investment. “Rapoo offers two variations of its Keyboard Cases for the iPad, both compatible with iPad mini 1, 2 and 3 and iPad Air. The first variation, the Keyboard Case, features the same design, functions and colors as the Samsung tablets, while also providing an auto on/off function to conserve battery. The second variation, the Keyboard Cover for iPad, is dressed with the sleek iOS aluminum housing. The Bluetooth keyboard cover boasts a 4.5 mm ultra-thin design and features special iPad keys”.

All of these new cases are expected to be available in the spring of this year, with prices ranging from $49.99 to $99.99. You can head to the Rapoo site to keep an eye one things.

Capti Narrator Comes To The Desktop

Capti LogoFor most people it’s usually faster to read than it is to listen but there are times when it’s better to listen than it is to read; while driving or at the gym, or even for pleasure to nod off to sleep. If this sounds of interest, take a look at Capti Narrator.

Capti Narrator is a popular app for the iPhone and iPad which takes text and reads it out. It’s sophisticated with features such as playlists and it can read from a range of textual formats (.pdf, .doc, .rtf, .epub, etc.) sourced from a variety of locations – Google Drive, Dropbox, Instapaper, local storage and more.

At this year’s CES, Charmtech Labs LLC has announced Capti Narrator v1.0 for Mac and Windows computers which greatly increases the flexibility of the app. If Capti is installed on more than one device, the playlist can be synchronised via Capti Cloud and seamlessly switched between devices. Capti makes it easy to add webpages to the playlist and it skips ads, menus, and other clutter and reassembles articles spread across multiple pages. Without installing Capti, the Capti Bookmarklet can be added into any web browser on Windows, Mac, or Linux to add webpages to Capti Cloud.

Capti can be downloaded for free from www.captivoice.com.

Gazelle Sells “Previously Enjoyed” Tech

Gazelle LogoGazelle’s trade-in programme for unwanted smartphones, tablets and other gadgets is well known and has featured in GNC before. If ebay doesn’t work for you then Gazelle is a good way to generate a bit of cash from stuff you don’t need any longer.

In addition to buying gadgets, Gazelle are now in the business of selling with “Gazelle Certified Pre-Owned” which offers a small range of gently used phones and tablets. At the moment it’s mostly iDevices, with the iPhone 4 from $159 and the iPad 2 from $249. The Samsung Galaxy SIII is there too at $159 and I imagine they’ll be extending the range of devices over time.

Store

The phones and tablets are graded and are described as “Certified Like New” or “Certified Good”. On the devices I checked over, the condition doesn’t appear to make any difference to the price but I assume that in some instances the price goes up for the like new ones. Gazelle say that all the devices go through a 30 point inspection to ensure the devices are fully functional and back this up with a 30 day no quibble money back guarantee.

I think the prices aren’t too far away from what you’d pay on ebay and Gazelle offers a much better proposition when it comes to getting what you paid for. A previously enjoyed smartphone or tablet can be ideal for a careless child or tough environments such as the kitchen where you might not want to risk your shiny new top-of-the range iPad Air.