What's this 'installing' stuff?

Posted by Ed King on 7:22 PM in , , ,
You're a PC user and the words 'install program' cause you to break out in a cold sweat. I've seen that look of dread on the face of many a Mason when discussing their need to add a program to their system. There's no need for me to recount those horror stories here: we've both lived them far too often. The short, simple, and complete story is that when you purchase an app from iPhone's app store, it installs ALL BY ITSELF!

REALLY. There's nothing more to it than that. I've installed about a hundred programs so far without a single problem, compared to my hundred problems per program install disasters on my PC. With your iPhone, you see the icon appear on your screen, watch a tiny progress bar, and then it's ready for use. Done. Believe it!

It's yet another reason why you'll love your iPhone!

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WoW, George! Here's your reason....

Posted by Ed King on 7:50 AM in , ,
Or perhaps "excuse" would be the better word in that heading.

My Lodge's Secretary, a Past Senior Grand Warden, has a secret. Now since he hasn't told me that it's one I should keep as a Mason, I'm going to tell all of you: he's a World of Warcraft addict. Oh, he won't admit it but if you ask his wife, she'll probably tell you. His father, a PGM, has no idea what this is all about but for George, it's a way to keep in contact with his (blood) brother, cousins, etc. who all romp about in this, ostensibly the biggest online game ever. (Me? I'm still back in the days of the original Zork - but that's another whole story.)

Now there may be a reason for George - and all the rest of you 10 million WOWers - to seriously consider getting an iPhone. Yesterday while both George and I were at a Maine Masonic College program "The Tenets of Freemasonry and the Four Cardinal Virtues, Living With Meaning", The iPhone Blog posted a story about World of Warcraft coming to an iPhone. They point to Touch Arcade who had posted the story a bit earlier that day as well.

So while I'm trying to convince George and the rest that having a panoramic camera feature made it all worthwhile, the lost word - for him at least - had been found amongst the rubble of my tweets right there on my iPhone in the Tweetie application.

So, George: your Jedi Knight is once again doing the mind-meld thing. Find that AT&T store now! But PLEASE don't tell your wife why: I've got enough angry women chasing me around, thankyouverymuch.

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A blast from the past: Police Scanner

Posted by Ed King on 6:09 PM in , ,
Depending on your age, you either (a) remember when you got your first police scanner and you’ve been listening ever since, (b) remember when you got a police scanner but had to give it up to keep peace in the family, or (c) have no idea what a police scanner is/does. Now your iPhone can be a real, live police scanner and you can (once again?) spend some quality time listening to the many challenges faced by your local law enforcement and fire protection agencies – and this time, it won’t cost a half-week’s pay. In fact, you can move the decimal place two points to the left from what you might well have paid several years ago.

If you’ve never listened to a police scanner before, the experience is a bit like trying Scotch: you’ll either like it or you’ll hate it. Maybe, just maybe, you will develop a taste for it after time but likely you won’t if you aren’t hooked right at the start. It does take a while to be able to quickly follow the 10 codes (lists for your local area can be found via Google) but if you’re at all familiar with your area, you will be waiting on the next call to see what’s going on.

I found this app by accident and – unlike a lot of iPhone app downloaders – actually followed the instructions before whining about things in the reviews. I checked the developer’s website to see if there was coverage for my area. It showed my county dispatch for both fire and police so I went ahead and paid my $2.99. It installed and away we went. As you police scanner buffs know, Friday and Saturday nights can be exciting but I started on a Tuesday in the rain. It was pretty boring and I wondered if this was something I’d outgrown. Wednesday night I put it on again and at about 2125, my ears perked up when I heard the dispatcher giving the license information on – of all things – a PMC of our DeMolay Chapter. WHOOPS! A gentle call from ‘Dad’ King the next day was added to my FCtasks program on the iPhone but subsequently deleted when they reported back that the stop was for a burnt tail light. Brandon scraped by on that one – although I did learn he had a speeding violation unknown to me previously. (Any DeMolay Advisor would recognize the mischievous grin on my face!)

Listening to a police scanner (once again?) is yet another of the MANY things you can do with your iPhone - and for less than three bucks, you may be able to find out some of the details for that police car racing to the house up the street.

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Finding those apps....

Posted by Ed King on 6:02 PM in ,
A LOT of Masons are curious about things. It was, perhaps, their curiosity that brought them to the fraternity in the first place and most have never lost it. So you've got an iPhone and now you're curious about the depth and breadth of apps that are offered.

The first and most logical choice is the app store but, sadly, that's pretty much a one-by-one deal. You pick something and then go off to see what it's all about. Then press 'Back' and start again. Very inefficient. There is, though, something much better AND it will prevent you from reexamining apps that you'd looked at before as well as bookmarking those you don't want to get right now but might decide to grab later.

It's a website called AppBeacon and it's about the greatest thing since sliced bread for somebody like me. Create a login and away you go. You 'sink' the apps you don't like and either bookmark or note that you own it for the rest. Simple as can be. They've got categories so you can head for what you want and leave the rest although you'll likely find things of interest everywhere. The site keeps track of what you've seen on prior visits and only shows you the things you've not sunk/kept. And the best part: it's all free.

AppBeacon is a truly helpful website that keeps me finding more 'stuff' every day - and boy, can I collect 'stuff'.... Right, dear?

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There's an app for that....

Posted by Ed King on 11:31 PM in , , ,
Since getting my iPhone, I've caused a few family members, colleagues, and Masonic Brothers to come precariously close to needing professional eye care treatment because of the eye-rolling they do when I say.... Well, there IS an app for that. Really!

A few weeks ago we had an early-season thunderstorm. As things got more noisy and the storm came pushing through, it was clear we were pretty darn close to the center of activity. I had JUST barely browsed the Apps Store and found - hold on for it - an application that tells you how far away a lightning strike is. Sure enough, there was one just for that.

BANG! My wife, down the hall, hollered "That was CLOSE! I wish we knew how far away that one was." whereupon I came rushing in, siezed her (little Masonic reference there, get it?) and pointed to the iPhone saying, "There's an app for that."

For my next project, I'll be putting plumbing in the dog house for such times. Is there an app that will help me with that?

Incidentally, the app is called "FlashBang" from Refactr, LLC. The best part? It - like so many other handy apps - is FREE. Amaze your friends and never have to do the "one and one thousand" dance again. (Also check out Refactr's 'LeanTo (tm)' product if you do website development. Looks pretty interesting!)

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A tip calculator for the intelligent - and wary

Posted by Ed King on 1:55 PM in ,
To me, tip calculators are sheer idiocy. If you can't do 10% and then halve it, add the two together and then add it to the.... Well, maybe it's not so idiotic after all. On the other hand, Brethren, mathematics IS one of the seven cardinal virtues....

But I digress! Out here in Vacationland, crime problems are relatively minor but with the influx of summer tourists are also a few unscrupulous 'from away' restaurant staff hoping to make some money. Color me naive but it never crossed my mind that someone might later change a tip amount I'd written down on a credit card statement. In talking with friends, I'm surprised to hear how often it happens.

A solution? The iPhone Checksum Tips Calculator (catch the bad waiter). If you're a software developer or someone who provides programs for download, you understand instantly the value of a checksum. To the rest of us mortals, it's just something else to breeze by. However, by getting this nifty little app for only 99 cents you can create a nearly foolproof methodology to use for glancing over your credit card statements at the end of the month.

For example, if your dinner bill is $50, a 15% tip is $7.50 making the total $57.50. Checksum Tip Calculator will round the dollar portion to 58, and since 5+8=13, the total will be $58.13. So, when you get your credit card statements, you can give it a quick glance, and make sure all the restaurant charges conform to this checksum pattern. No need to dig out all the receipts and compare each charge. Save time, and keep your peace of mind.

The program's maker, Sudobility, also has an interesting set of camera filters, a golf scope and more. I'll be reporting on some of these in future posts.

Checksum tip calculator seems like a keen idea. Is anyone using this? Will you now? Leave a comment....

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Franklin-Covey: you gotta love it!

Posted by Ed King on 1:32 PM in , , , ,
Warning: LONG post - but this is important stuff. You might finally get organized!

AppCraver and iPhone App Reviews Net both featured good reviews of the FCTasks app by FranklinCovey. This post is more specific to Masonic activity. I got hooked on the Franklin task/time management system well before Mr. Covey came along and when our Brother Ben was on their logo. Ssoftware implementation of their paper products has always been, in my opinion, spastic. Nevertheless, their task management system is unique and once 'worked' in your life, really does increase productivity even for the inveterate procrastinators like myself.

What's wrong with ol' Outlook or the myriad of other planners etc.? I like my tasks sliced and diced differently. It's not just A, B, or C. It's A4 and C27.... I've never been able to do A1 and then move to A2 but at least I understand the system which is more, apparently, than those who've written software programs they've sold prior to now.

This iPhone app, though, seems a rare exception to all that's gone before. It's certainly a workable app and has most of the features that FC users want/need. There's no calendar: this is a task management program only. Oh, and there's no help file but the FC apps help files over the years were totally useless anyway so you're not missing a darn thing. There's no help file nor YouTube video so those who aren't true FC 'believers' will instantly hate this app.

If your one of the A1 crowd, though, you'll really like this program. For Freemasons, it allows you to categorize things and then just look at the tasks you need to do for that grouping. If you want to look at everything lined up in the future, you can. And, using the old Franklin methodology, you can re-prioritize your tasks each day. (That's the core element of the system: something is likely more/less important tomorrow than it was today.). It's not 'high-medium-low'; it's 'Vital - Important - Optional' - and that really is what life seems to be these days.

This is THE killer app for me - and it works FAR better on the iPhone than it does on a SmartPhone integrated with Outlook. Beyond that, it's always in your pocket so no need to scribble a note and run home to the computer to add it to your task list there.

Two negatives: no syncing desktop app which would make it easier when adding a major project and no recurring tasks. The latter are promised in the next version although I don't hold out hope because of a decade of software disappointments from FC. It sure would be nice though if well implemented. One last note: don't get confused between the FCTasks iPhone app and FranklinCovey's online subscription program "mobile life". I'm writing about the former and really wouldn't need/want the latter.

If you're about to take an office in Lodge which requires a lot of planning (Junior/Senior Warden, Master, Secretary, Chaplain!!!) or if you've taken on some major committee tasks, get this app now and get organized! If you need tips on its use, drop a note below and hopefully we'll get some good ideas going. The $5.99 spent on this paid off far more handsomely than the $6 spent on Powerball tickets last night! (No dear, we didn't win - again - but neither did anyone else! )

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