It rained not in the daytime....

Posted by Ed King on Monday, July 27, 2009 in , ,
Depending on where you are in the United States this summer, weather can be a more major issue than ever before. In Southeast Texas, there's a drought of unknown proportions while the residents of Maine are experiencing more rain than they've seen in decades. (One of the weather folks quipped a couple of weeks ago, "If you have been joking that it's been raining for 40 days, you're right!" - and there have only been about three non-rain days in the three weeks since.) Bottom line: weather is not just something that we talk about when we need to have a conversation. Now, it seems, it's come to dominate our comings and goings - not only on things like mowing lawns but in conducting our businesses and lives.

It's easy to obsess over this but for many, it really is a critical matter. Watching the weather channel can be excruciatingly frustrating as things repeat or are irrelevant. Enter the iPhone once again. There are at least 3-4 dozen weather applications, nearly all free.

AccuWeather (free) is one of my favorites. It offers alarms to alert you to dangerous weather conditions (including flood warnings), videos, GREAT radar, and some really cool graphics behind the local conditions you're experiencing. (There was a great picture of a foggy road yesterday morning!) It additionally provides 'Real Feel' so you know what it feels like our there instead of just the temperature. I particularly like their Indices feature. There's UV, Air Quality, Arthritis, Dog Walking, Mosquito, Kite Flying, and Star Gazing. How's that for having all the bases covered? For the obsessively compulsive like me, you can adjust the program settings for a 24 hour clock and change just about every unit of measurement they use.

The Weather Channel is another well-known forecast offering. They have both a free and paid ($3.99) app. There are a bunch more out there, some quite specialized. Most do 7 or 10 day forecasts and for the past year, they've been more accurate 10 days out than the local folks just 1-2 days ahead.

So if weather is important to you as it was (ostensibly) to those building King Solomon's Temple where 'it rained not in the daytime', the iPhone has - again - something to offer you.

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…and travel three each due east….

Posted by Ed King on Thursday, July 23, 2009 in , , , , , ,

It’s such a pain. You take an unanticipated trip and then when you come back, you want to tell folks about the wonderful things you saw. Or you’ve met someone along the way and you want to keep a picture as a memory. Does this have a similarity to some Masonic ritual? You decide…. ;-)

Solution? Easy! Take out your iPhone and snap a few pictures.

But there’s more: rather than wait until you get back home, a couple of button clicks and you’ve sent the picture along via e-mail. You keep your friends in touch and they don’t get fidgety about your absence. (They might get jealous but that’s another matter.) Add an app and you can do some manipulation, making it look like you’re really sitting there with the Queen of the Nile. In fact, there are even apps to add a pseudo-flash capability so you can show that you’ve been working long into the night.

Many men across several generational groups are reticent (to say the least) about photography but having your iPhone right there makes it SO easy. Send along a pic to your lodge’s Webmaster with a brief notation of what’s going on and you’ll earn his enthusiastic praise at the next meeting. Those with kids or grandkids around will see the benefit immediately: fewer things to carry but good pictures still. Even you single guys can take a few pictures of some important presentation and later send along the picture to those involved. They’ll appreciate it far more than you might imagine.

The photo on the left in this post was taken from just in front of the Master's station without paying attention to the lighting above the subjects. It has not been enhanced in any way. It was photographed in 'medium' jpg format and has been reduced to 25% of its original size prior to uploading. Doesn't look too bad for a web photo, does it? If I'd taken the time to think about framing etc. it could have been a lot better I suspect. The photo on the right has been changed from 72dpi to 200dpi, cropped, and put through 'One Step Photo Enhance' in Corel PhotoShop X2 - some basic steps that anyone who takes photos could learn to do quickly. There's an inexpensive app which adds some basic anti-shake capability for those whose hands aren't as steady as they used to be. All in all, you can do some pretty good work on the fly. And the 3GS is reportedly even better. (Color me jealous.)

Pictures for some of us are hard to take – but the results can be well worth the (non) effort with your iPhone.

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Was there a key....board?

Posted by Ed King on Sunday, July 19, 2009 in , , ,
Some who see me using my iPhone remark that they'd never switch because there's no keyboard (like some other SmartPhones). As one who went down that road several years ago, I say "Phooey!". It's also clear that there are many in the corporate world who thumb their way merrily along with their berry phones and have become so accustomed to that mode, they simply wouldn't try anything new. Even those who purchased a phone with a slide-out keyboard a couple of years ago will swear by that methodology. I too thought I could never live without a keyboard on a portable computer/phone but how wrong I was.

To be truthful, nearly all of what I do daily involves my laptop featuring a full-size, full-travel keyboard, complete with number pad. (It's a 17" so there is available real estate for it all.) Even Tweets are, about 75% of the time, done there but that's more because I've already got my hands on the laptop and am writing something else so it's quite easy to just switch windows to proceed.

But I had a PDA way back in the late 1990s. I bought an add-on, fold-up, keyboard for about $150 just so I could do very minor things like adding an address and perhaps writing a text message or two. When that didn't work, I bought the software that made a make-believe keyboard on the surface in front of the PDA. Completely useless and really did hurt the finger tips banging on an unmoving desktop or table . After forcing the issue for several weeks, defeat was inevitable and some time thereafter I regained use of my ten digits.

Remember when the Palm Pilot first appeared? People had to learn that 'special writing' stuff and those who swore they never would get "one of those damn things" now make little curly-ques to add info to their pocket calendars (I'm talking most especially about you, Guy C.). Well, Brethren, it's deja vu all over again.

You may say that you'll never go to an iPhone because of the lack of a keyboard but I'm willing to bet that if you took one for a 30 day test drive (hey, $25 to restock if you're not happy) you'll find it's not a burden after all. The iPhone Blog had a post about this recently, written by someone who was probably in diapers when I was fiddling with my 'stowaway' and laser light show. It simply solicits discussion but does note the adversity to this seeming necessity. I, on the other hand, have the tee shirt - and can assure you that it's just not that big a deal unless you're a novelist trying to eliminate a PC. Truth be told, the ability to have a keyboard just pop out of nowhere onto the screen whenever you need to type something (either in landscape or portrait) is a blessing. For programs done right, if a number is expected, the number pad will appear instead of the letters. There are lots of little niceties that you'll discover once you've got one of these babies in your hand.

I'm now going back to work some more on the 'great American novel' - but it'll likely be on my laptop. You, on the other hand (so to speak), should head out to check the really great feel of an iPhone.

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The lesson of patience - relearned

Posted by Ed King on Thursday, July 16, 2009 in , ,
Earlier, I'd written about what quickly became one of my favorite iPhone apps, Police Scanner. I've also posted about the virtue of patience - sorta. However, putting those two together was a bit of a stretch.

As all iPhone 3G users know, many of the apps we'd used before have now been updated to take advantage of the many expanded system capabilities. One weekend, I had 14 apps to update - but that's a simple process indeed and most of the time things don't break. Sadly, though, it seemed as if Police Scanner had. I could only connect very sporadically but at the outset, I just thought the preponderance of rain we'd had was somehow interfering with the reception. (Having spent 15 years around Navy comm gear, I should have known better, but....) Finally, it became clear to me yesterday that it really was the application that was broken. Fire engines raced by my office window and I was powerless to find out the cause of their alarm. (Note the cute Masonic phraseology there?)

I was FURIOUS! I paid $2.99 for that darn thing, had used it almost continuously for some 4 or 5 months and now it had worn out. RIDICULOUS!!!

Well, in my haste and frustration, I posted an update to my review on the App Store addressing Version 1.1.1. It got 1 star. I wasn't alone. Others had railed about it crashing, hanging, etc. and the thumbs-down was nearly unanimous.

Last night I got home and, for some unknown reason, checked to see if there were any new app updates. Hmmmm..... Police Scanner. Did they do that just for me? No. In fact, this was a mucho major change. While a lot of apps have redone their buttons with their recent updates, everything in this app seemed to be new. It has a much more sexy look and feel (and yes, apps can be sexy just like the box that the iPhone comes in. Feel it: you'll see....) and a much more 'slick' appearance throughout. Not only that, the 'hang' problem so many were experiencing will likely now be a thing of the past. It has been for me over the past few hours at least.

Despite the initial assumption that I wanted to listen to things in British Columbia, I quickly found my way back to my local emergency services dispatchers and was soon listening to the traffic stream as in days of old (way back 2-3 months ago). It was, though, a bit disconcerting to have my wife trying hers at the same time and finding that mine was delayed by about six seconds. So much for male equality at my house!

For those with an iPhone, this app can be found under "Police Scanner" in the app store and for those without, you can take a peek at the Juicy Development website.

Now the moral of the story might well be about awaiting a time with patience but the real take-away here is for those on the fence about an iPhone. Sure, there was a month-long screw-up on one of my favorite apps. This occurred, though, partially because I'd upgraded my operating system on the first day of its release and some of these apps just didn't catch up for a couple of weeks - or had some stupid bug at the outset. Such a thing would NEVER happen on a PC, right? (I will NOT pay for that screen you may have just ruined, no matter how much you whine.)

My app is back better than before and the changes have all come for free - not that another $3 wouldn't have been well worth it to me. They continue to add audio feeds regularly expanding their coverage to new police and fire locales. Although none of that will benefit me, it's not unlike nearly every other app onboard my iPhone: useful, handy, and darn inexpensive.

Something to think about!

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What is the cause of this confusion....???

Posted by Ed King on Friday, July 10, 2009 in , ,

Confuse the Marketplace album coverImage via Wikipedia

Yesterday you were treated to a 'test post' that I had no idea would be rolling out. I'm alpha testing a piece of web posting/writing software that looks VERY promising. Today, NewsGator pushed to my iPhone a post I'd made several weeks ago, again - but it's not here online so I have no idea what to make of that.

In any event, the summer has been busy although using my iPhone outdoors in the rain does sometimes present a challenge. We'll be back with more fun and exciting things shortly.

Meanwhile, please do use WHATEVER camera and/or mobile phone you have to snap a few quick pics of your Masonic summer events. Your Webmaster will love you for it and you'll be letting folks know that we as Masons do an awful lot of different and fun things.
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