My Favorite Free iPad Apps

I’ve been increasingly using my iPad since the applications are becoming comprehensive enough to almost be a PC replacement.  There are still two areas where the iPad falls way short of replacing my laptop – 1) directory based file access and integration with email attachments (I’m surprised DropBox hasn’t solved this issue or maybe they have?) and 2) “power” work sessions, times when I need to do a lot of typing or editing and need a larger screen.

In any case, here are some of my new faves right now:

Evernote.  Comprehensive notes application that syncs across platforms and devices.  This is an incredibly powerful tool that now has an ecosystem of plugins to make it even more useful for topically capturing and archiving just about anything.  Be sure to download “Ron’s Evernote Tips”.

Skype for iPad.  Finally, Skype’s application for iPad is out, enabling the iPad2 as a chat and video phone platform via WiFi.

FlipBoard.  Centralized news and social media aggregator with a unique interface, turns everything into a page-turning magazine layout, including your Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Zite.  Similar to FlipBoard, but becomes more personalized and “smart” the more you use it by aggregating more of the type of news and stories that you actually read.  This “personalized magazine” space is getting crowded, other very similar apps include Editions by AOL, SkyGrid and News360.

Zinio.  Basically full PDF-like versions of your favorite print magazine subscriptions.  You actually subscribe to your favorite magazines through Zinio (usually at reduced rates) and the full print edition is accessible from your iPad.

Rdio.  Streaming music, on demand and unlimited.  I’m still waiting for the Console.fm and Turntable.fm apps, although both are available through Safari’s web interface.

Join.me.  A GoToMeeting or WebEx competitor and absolutely free.  In fact, you don’t even have to register and there are no software downloads.

360Panorama.  (iPad2) This mobile photo application allows you to take 360 degree photos with your phone by simply turning in a circle, the application automatically snaps the photos and stitches them together.  Here’s Venice Beach.

What’d I miss?

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My Favorite Things Right Now

Thought I would share some cool stuff thats made its way into my life most recently.  This is a random walk of technology, books, apparel and music.  Take what you like, leave the rest.  Here goes!

Books

  • Born to Run by Chris McDougall.  For those of you that count running/jogging as a hobby, this is a fantastic read.  Very well written non-fiction about the ultra-distance running phenomenon focusing primarily on the Tarahumara Indians from Mexico’s Copper Canyon Region.  Humorous, educational read that inspired the barefoot running movement in the US.
  • The Big Short by Michael Lewis.  Incredible read inside the 2008 mortgage collapse, focusing on the big Wall Street firms, mortgage banks, Moody’s and others involved in the debacle.  Also includes some individual and small firm stories that made the right bets and raked in jaw-dropping profits, in one example 3 guys trading out of their Berkeley house made $80M on a $100,000 investment.  Crazy.
  • The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.  I am just now making my way through this 600-page reference manual that is a result of Tim’s personal 10-year quest to find “For all things physical, what are the tiniest changes that produce the biggest results?”  Pretty incredible claims in this book, many of them counterintuitive but personally experienced by Tim and almost always defended by scientific explanation.  Really interesting stuff especially if you’d like to lose some weight or massively increase endurance or strength by spending the least amount of effort and time to do so.

Technology, Music

  • Vitamix 5200 industrial strength blender.  Renee and I are breakfast smoothie freaks – protein, veggies and fruit blended at supersonic speeds to produce an incredibly healthy meal.  Traditional juicers filter the fiber from the ingredients taking out substantial nutrients.  With the Vitamix, you pile it all in and let the jet engine take it from there.  For $500, this blender should create the most heavenly and healthy smoothie ever.  And it does!  Not to mention the 7-year warranty.
  • Google Reader RSS Feed Aggregator.  After getting to the point of subscribing to way too many blogs and news feeds via email, I’ve now aggregated them all into an automated RSS aggregator and have all of my reading in one view.  Since I use Google for email, calendar and contacts (Gmail), its a natural choice for me.  There’s a ton of options out there for RSS aggregation and reading.
  • Polar RS800CX Multisport w/ GPS wrist computer for running and cycling.  This is a pretty awesome device that measures and tracks just about everything – Heart Rate, Speed, Distance, Route (Google Earth), Calories, and on and on.  It’s a wrist mounted device so you can use it for both running and cycling.  The only downside for cyclists is the inability to program routes and see them before and during your ride (like the Garmin Edge 705), but that’s the tradeoff to get a non-clunky, wrist mounted device.
  • RockMelt social browser.  This product is really cool, particularly if you are an avid user of social media, Facebook and Twitter specifically.  It’s actually an entirely new browser, a replacement for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc. and it rocks!  It functions just as your current browser does, except it integrates your social media applications around the border of the browser.  No need to have a separate tab for Twitter or Facebook, you can see with a glance all of your social media feed information and which of your contacts are online.  There are mobile apps as well so you have a seamless experience no matter where you are and which platform you are using.  A friend of mine just took a leadership role at this company, which recently closed a $30M round of funding from tier 1 VC’s.
  • Turntable.fm shared music experience.  This is a brand new service where you can create your own rooms by music theme, invite your friends to join, and jam out by DJing, searching for and playing your own music.  You can also join other rooms based on the type of music you are in the mood to listen to.  This is an incredibly social music experience, with real-time chat, avatars, points system and just great music.
  • Uber car service in SF and NY.  If you travel to SF, Palo Alto or NY and want a fantastic, hassle free car service (50% premium to taxi fares), download the Uber app and enjoy the experience.  Create your profile with credit card information, then simply request a car through the app.  It will tell you precisely how far away the driver is, provide her name and ratings and when your ride is finished, you jump out no payment or tip required.  Your credit card is charged automatically and receipt emailed to you.  SF is an awful city to hail a taxi, particularly when it rains.  Uber to the rescue!  Watch out for these guys they are about to expand into Seattle, Chicago, Boston and DC.
  • Quora answers everything, and does it intelligently through crowd sourcing.  I’ve been really impressed with the quality of topics, answers and discussion on Quora – a more opinionated but real-time wikipedia.  You can follow topics or people and because answers can be “voted up” by the community, it ensures the most valuable, useful answers are seen first.

Apparel

  • (Near) Barefoot running with Vibram FiveFinger shoes.  After reading Born to Run, I gave barefoot running a go more as an experiment that a convert.  So far its been good and pointing out how under-developed certain muscles, especially calves, have become using cushioned running shoes and (arguably) improper form.  I’m still using a mix of barefoot and traditional running shoes in order to keep my mileage up as I ease into the new process and attempt to avoid injury.  Another “how to” book for barefoot running is The Barefoot Running Book by Jason Robillard.
What are your favorite things right now?

Your Phone Will Control Your Home

We knew it was coming, but Google finally today announced Android@Home, Google’s new open framework to allow your Android mobile device to (eventually) control everything in your home – music, lighting, security, cameras, doors, appliances, you name it.  I think the “home” is a next big frontier of unexplored opportunity and is going to create an entire new ecosystem of startups and companies focusing on the intersection of mobile and home.  While Microsoft (Kinect), IBM and HP have been in this home sensor space for years, Google has a history of changing the game and bringing new technologies to the masses through their open development platforms.  Google Chrome OS, with 160M users and Android, with exponential growth and now the leading mobile operating system in the world, are two examples of Google’s ability to create explosive products and platforms.

Over just the past decade, we’ve seen a migration in opportunity from initially web only, then to mobile smartphones, then to mobile connectedness to others through applications and social media, which by the way is not nearly fully exploited yet.  It seems with Google’s announcement today, at least one next evolution of connected technology is our mobile device as a true connector to everything in our lives – people, home, car and every activity that fills our day.

Consistent with other Google applications, Android@Home is an open platform that encourages any developer to create applications that operate on the platform.  Google with their worldwide influence, has a unique ability to define and lead game changing technologies by first defining the platform standard, then opening it up for developers everywhere to create applications, increasing consumer adoption and ultimately leading to exponential scale.  Google’s vision in this case is to create a “smart home” by having millions of developers building applications that over time will completely automate your home through your mobile device.  Pretty cool George Jetson stuff that he might have developed at Spacely’s Sprockets!

I’m excited to see what will happen over the next 12 months in the home automation space now that Google has officially entered the market.

Now, if only Google could create a platform for increasing home values to 2005 levels, I’d really be impressed 🙂

NY Times Paywall Just Might Work

There was an article Monday in ReadWriteWeb analyzing the traffic drop in the online version of the NYTimes in the recent two weeks after they instituted a confusing, laborious payment scheme.  There’s been a lot of negative press by prominent personalities on the decision and the most recent article, while comprehensive in its analysis of dropping traffic by 5-15%, does not address the potential INCREASE in subscription revenue that is being realized.  Obviously the NYT expected some sort of traffic drop – a “pay” v. “free” model is inherently exclusionary – but made the bet on a higher quality, paying consumer.  And most of the negative press or blogging I’ve seen ends something like “While its the highest subscription rate for news on the Web, I hate it, but I’ll probably pay it”.

The other x-factor in all this is the proliferation of hacks and workarounds that are popping up all over the web to avoid the subscription fee.

I actually like the Times, but I’m not a subscriber, I instead consume most of my news on my iPhone through their App as well as other news sources like CNN, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, numerous blog sites, CNBC and others.  Using the Times App, you can still access “Top News” and “Most E-mailed” news for free, but digging deeper into Section headings will cost $3.75 per week, or $195 per year.

Not sure this price point makes sense to me personally given all the various free news sources out there, but I could see if you were a loyal Times reader where this might make sense.

What do you think?

iPhone is changing my life!

Wow, received my iPhone yesterday after a long unsatisfying union with Blackberry. I was always wary of switching away from the button keyboard since I’m such a heavy email and text user on my mobile device. But here I am on day 2, writing this post on the plane and, by the way, doing so on the airline’s wifi. Try doing that on your Blackberry. The keyboard is actually pretty good due in large part to Apple’s autocorrect technology. The iPhone web experience is captivating especially compared to the unusable interface on the BB Tour. Literally unusable.

And the apps! Some of my favorites:

Dropbox – a must for accessing and syncing all of your files

Yelp – especially if you travel. A great location aware app.

Tripit Pro – for road warriors keeps track of all travel and points and monitors flights real time.

Google – pretty cool picture recognition technology that enables search.

Google voice – read or listen to your voice mail, for free of course.

Nirvino wine and beer ratings – separate apps with huge databases

I have much more to explore but I’m hooked. Here’s a (humorous) good review of how I’m feeling.

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