Applications

Now Testing: Wubi

Since I was thirteen years old, I’ve dabbled in Linux.  Very lightly dabbled, as there hasn’t been a strong motivator or catalyst to keep me interested.  I’ve installed Linux on some old desktop hardware before, but I never had the desire to sit on an ancient computer when I need to get something done.  The boot-Linux-from-a-USB-drive approach is so painfully slow, & just seems hokey from a true usability standpoint.  I’ve also used VMWare Player and booted up a virtual desktop with several flavors of Linux.  The trouble for me is that it’s too easy to alt-tab into a familiar windows app if I run into even a small roadblock.

The catalyst may have presented itself.

I’m shocked that I haven’t heard about Wubi before today, but I tell you, I’m pretty geeked about the app.  It’s a Windows application that gives the option (after a shutdown or restart) to boot into Linux instead of the Windows OS you already have.  I’m too much of an Excel guy to move away from Windows, but there are plenty of times I’m not playing spreadsheets and I’m annoyed with the general bloat of Windows.

For my first crack at Wubi, I’ve chosen the Ubuntu Netbook Edition release to go on

Ubuntu Netbook Edition Desktop Screenshot

After a few hours and a change of the background

my little Acer Aspire.  Should be nice and lightweight, as well as reasonably-tuned for the smallish screen.  Once I had the Ubuntu .iso downloaded, the install took about 15 minutes, which included installing the Wuby app, selecting my distribution, then rebooting into Linux and waiting for the first-time-boot to grind through.  Now I’m cold-booting in under a minute.

It recognized my wireless adapter right away–which is nice–and I was able to connect out to my network with little trouble.  Actually, my biggest roadblock was that Firefox was pretty fussy about resolving websites.  That’s fine, it gave me a good reason to download Chrome for Linux, which doesn’t have the same problems I was seeing.

We’ll see how things go, but so far I couldn’t be happier.  If anyone else out there is interested in installing Wuby, but wants a little how-to, check out this guide at the how-to-geek.

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Now Testing: Handbrake

After six weeks of iPhone use, I’ve found myself wanting to have more video loaded in the (unlikely) case that I find myself with some downtime.  You know, load on a few episodes of Arrested Development and MacGyver.

Yep, the logo is a flaming drink and pineapple...

Yep, the logo is a flaming drink and pineapple...

I’ve been a long time user of DVDFab for ripping my DVDs onto my computer, and I’m quite happy with the overall experience…that is…until I tried transcoding to a format that works on the iPhone.  Yuck.  Time to try something else.

After some online research, Handbrake rose to the top of my list.

I installed the Windows GUI and took my first crack at it last week.  The interface was intuitive enough, though as is the case for most video conversion applications, it’s pretty easy to get lost in all of the different options.  For now, I’ve stuck with the basics.

More to come as I play with things a bit more.

**Note: Anyone reading this hoping they may have found a good DVD ripper, you’ll want to look elsewhere.  Handbrake is not your answer.  It’s doesn’t break copy protection, and doesn’t try to…so if that’s your goal, don’t waste your time here.

Off to the Boneyard: Daily Burn

Daily Burn (dailyburn.com) is a web app that helps users track fitness and nutrition goals in an online community.  It allows you to set goals and offers an interface to track progress.

Honestly, this isn’t a bad app, but there are a handful of gaps that meant a trip to the Boneyard.

It’s a hassle to log in and navigate around to enter the appropriate information:

I’ve dilligently tried to remember to log in every day to track the food I’ve eaten, the workouts I’ve done, and my current weight, but it’s just not an enticing proposition.  First off, the interface requires a large number of clicks per operation.  Oh what’s that, 3 days behind eh?  It’s really going to be a hassle clicking here, there, and everywhere to get caught up again.

Additionally, I’d like to see some deeper flexibility in the type of information I really care about tracking.  Give me some distinct options for how detailed I need to get when logging my progress.

A spreadsheet on Dropbox is as effective of a solution:

Yeah, good ol’ Dropbox (dropbox.com) giving me easy access to a document created in my old standby Excel.  I’m able to track my nutritional and fitness goals and customize to my heart’s content.  Also, though the data sits in the cloud, the format (and ultimate portability) is in my control.

From a security perspective, I encrypt the Excel file that I keep in my Dropbox.  Maybe this is overkill given the low-sensitivity of the contents, but I’m already doing this as my best practice for tracking my finances (more on this another time).

My experience with the community left me unsatisfied:

Even if I’m a bit frustrated with the UI and a little nervous about security, the community isn’t something that gets recreated if I go it alone.  Then again, I never really felt a sense of community when I made my goals public or attempted to participate in group goals.

I connected with “motivators” (other users I found online or recruited to help keep me motivated and on track), however, the motivation I received was stronger from mild acquaintances who commented on my apparent progress.

All said, the DailyBurn community as a whole seems to be meeting their goals, and it is a great place to help get some direction on improving health.  I can say that it was easy to set up, and did not require a bunch of up-front work on my part as a user; I appreciated that, but I ultimately found that I was best off  going this one alone.

New iPhone Apps: Sound Grenade & Alarm Clock

Free versions of both (paid versions available for added features).  Alarm clock is a digital clock (with nice Matrix-ey green old school LCD style numbers).  Sound Grenade was recommended by a co-worker of mine.  A devious little program that uses the speaker to emit a high pitched tone that’s remarkably difficult to track down.

While I’ve continued to download Apps, I’ve purged nothing from the iPhone as of yet.  I suspect some will come soon, but given my pickiness of what I install, I don’t see a mass deletion on the horizon.

I haven’t shelled out money for any apps, which surprises me.  I was not under the impression that there were a wealth of worthwhile free Apps in the iTunes store.  Additionally, I’m pretty excited that I don’t need to hook up to iTunes on a computer to download Apps.  Surprising that I’m as in tune with tech as I am, however I had no clue the experience would be this slick.  Perhaps this is something Apple can improve upon a bit.

My most used App has been Evernote, in fact, it’s now more useful than I’ve ever found it to be.  Perhaps the topic of an upcoming post…

iPhone Apps

I take great pride in keeping my computers clutter-free; challenging myself to think and rethink any questionable install.

Enter the iTunes App store, a Mecca of cool little installable gadgets just waiting to be downloaded. Many if which seem to be quite useful, while scores more are simply a bad idea.

Talk about testing my resolve…

Here’s what I’ve installed so far:

  • Google Mobile
  • Evernote
  • WordPress
  • Flixster
  • Pandora
  • DropBox
  • Gorillacam
  • FlyCast
  • Shazam
  • ESG
  • Facebook

…so that makes it quite a few. It’s taken all of my resolve not to install a bunch more.

I’ll see how these serve me.

**note, this post was entirely crafted in the iPhone wordpress app and I hope it comes out looking okay.

Verdict: Visual Subst is off to the boneyard

I had my doubts even as I installed it…and Visual Subst didn’t last very long.  Very simply put, why should I install an always-on application that could be replaced with a single line of (extraordinary simple) code?

Adios.

Now Testing: Eye Defender

I’ve been a bit freaked out lately that my eyesight is slowly degenerating because I stare at a computer screen 12+ hours a day.

computer monitor

EyeDefender is an app that will cue you every 45 minutes (or custom interval) that it’s time to give the ol’ peepers a rest.  I just hope I can actually take the time to follow through…