Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Pop!

This post is a birthday tribute to my dad, aka Jon and Pop.

Not everyone knows this, but he is as much of a gadget fan as I am.  He even had an iPad before we bought one!

I've been dreaming of a post about "apps for grownups" and this seems like the perfect occasion.  Here's my list for him, and anyone else who would like to join him.  He already has some of these, but I'm making a few more suggestions in his honor.  Tap on the links to be taken to the app in the app store.

Media basics:

It is fun to watch and listen with the iPad.  Netflix and Pandora are must-haves, for the traditional media brought over to the iPad.  In addition, however, the iPad supports new forms of media browsing (I'll call it, for lack of a better word).  TED is full of brilliant people giving engaging, big-picture talks that are wonderful, intelligent diversions and inspiration.  Aweditorium is a visual treat that blends the old "pop up video" experience with music discovery.  VLC media player is a port of the application for Mac that plays almost any media file that other things won't do.  Dropbox allows for cloud-based synching of media and other files across gadgets effortlessly.


"Browsing" might be a better word for some of these apps, too.  The iBooks app is doing well, alongside the Kindle app (they are free, so why not have both?).  Stanza is a really nice reader that serves the smaller ebook outlets.  Flipboard is a favorite of Apple's, which turns the media links from social media into a readable electronic magazine-like experience.  Pulse (which I mentioned recently) does a similar thing with RSS feeds from websites and blogs, similar to what one might use feedburner or google reader for.  Andrew says it doesn't handle his 500+ feeds very well, but for most of us mortals it is a pleasant way to keep up with things.   Instapaper is an eternal favorite of mine, I have mentioned it on this blog before.  It takes those long-form posts from anywhere that you discover but don't have time to read, and strips out all the gaudy gee-gaws that hurt your eyes when you try to read real stuff on the web.  In addition, the NY Times and NPR both have apps that provide their high-quality content in a new form.  Both have had stability problems over time, but I think they are tuned up and their editorial quality can't be matched.  If I can pick on Dad's age just once, I bet he'll remember a lot of the photos in the Life Magazine photo archive app :-)


Andrew's recommendation of Art Studio is a great one, Jonas and I have used it some now and it really shines.  Particularly when you master the functions of using multiple layers and importing photos (that got your attention, didn't it, Pop?).  Another good recommendation from Andrew is Beatwave, which allows even musical newbies to make fun compositions in a pentatonic scale environment (which means almost any combinations of notes sounds good).  I would put synthPond in there with it, which is really made for the iPhone but is fun on the iPad, too.  It is a crazy mix of bell choir, astronomy, and pebbles in a pond. iThoughts HD is a *great* mindmapping tool, for those of us who like to organize our thoughts that way.

Reference and research:

The internet movie database (imdb for those in the know) is a great reference when one is watching something and thinking "who the hell is that actor?".  WolframAlpha has a very cool app which is like a google search plus artificial intelligence (as inspired by Wolfram's TED talk, try asking it "am I drunk?").   Zillow is great for you real estate junkies, although the pictures aren't very hi-res.  Kayak HD is excellent for researching travel (those last two are beginning to look like a list for Jodie for a moment!).  

A sub category of reference and research would be "cooking".  Dad's birthday dinner is coming out of the Wholefoods app, which I used to compose a shopping list and email the list and recipe to Sam's iphone while she was on her way to the store.  Epicurious also has a gorgeous iPad-specific app which is a treat.

Guilty pleasures:

Dad, you know all those fast little cars we dream about?  Real Racing HD is as close as we'll get to test driving many of them.  It makes riding a recumbent on a wind trainer positively exhilirating (which is saying something, isn't it?).  And we can compare time trials online ;-)

Happy birthday, Pop!  Thanks for all that you do, and all that you are!

the Cameras