Didn’t need much prompting with this one. All my mobile devices are FULL of apps, and have been for about 5 years since I first got one!

An app is either a trimmed-down version of a web program, or a completely individual program, designed for use on a smart device – phone or tablet.

There are literally millions of apps (if you count the non-English language ones) on absolutely anything and everything. 99% of them are possibly completely pointless. And yet, the global market revenue for apps is somewhere in the region of US$20 billion (and that’s not even counting the free apps!) so something’s working!

The main apps I have on my devices are:

  • Games. I have a lot of games. I also have a lot of kids games, but that’s because I have a toddler, a lot to do and poor parenting skills 🙂
  • Reference. I’ve got the app versions of Wikipedia and IMDb on my devices. The content’s no different to the web version, and it’s not equipped for offline use, but the apps are easier than the web versions to use on a tablet and phone touchscreen
  • Maps – UQ Nav, Apple Maps and Google Maps (the latter mostly so I could catch Pokemon on April Fools Day)
  • Shopping. Again, most of these shopping sites have web versions, but the apps are easier than the website for smart devices.
  • TV – both ABC iView and SBS On Demand so I can watch catch-up TV. (iPad only)
  • eBooks – got Overdrive for reading BCC Library ebooks, and BlueFire Reader for UQ ones. I got the Kobo app but haven’t used it yet. (iPad only)

One really useful app I check every day is AppOfTheDay – every day they have a different app (usually a paid one) that they’re offering for free for 24 hours. I don’t get most of the apps they feature – many don’t appeal to me – but I’ve picked up a couple of useful productivity apps, and a game or two, from there. Sometimes you get a $4 or $5 app for free.

I reckon I probably add one new app a week, and keep maybe one in every two I download. Many apps offer a Lite or Free version of a full app so you can take a test drive before you commit to paying for the full version.

In some ways, apps have made life easier – remembering things, communicating, accessing information – and in many others they draw more and more on my free time. Though I suspect that’s my own fault. Now please excuse me – I have candy to crush!!

 

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It’s everyone’s worst nightmare, isn’t it? Log in to your email at an internet cafe on an overseas trip, and all of a sudden your bank accounts are drained, your email address is sending Nigerian Bank Scams to all your friends and your Twitter is spamming half the world with cheap dodgy pharmaceutical ads…

But I think that, for all that we’re paranoid, we’re not very good at doing anything about it. I know I’ve used Wifi in public places (cafes, airports, hotels, libraries) heaps of time, and while I don’t do my NetBanking over Wifi (I don’t NetBank at all, to be honest) I’ve paid for credit card purchases, filled out forms with private information, logged into social networks, and more.

Ironically, the only time I’ve ever had an account hacked and stolen was in pre-wifi days when my old Hotmail account password mysteriously changed and friends and family reported receiving suspicious body-part-enhancing emails from “me”. Likewise my mother, before she discovered wifi, had her email hacked and messages asking for money come through after visiting an internet centre while on a trip in Europe. So perhaps the scaremongering about wifi security sort of masks the real message – wifi’s not the criminal here. Criminals are the criminals. And maybe wifi makes it easier for them to be on the same network as you and find a back door to your information, but these people are clever, and they’ve always been able to do it.

Lately there’s been lots in the news about the Heartbleed bug, a flaw in the security programming behind 90% of what we do on the internet. So even the computers are against us! Perhaps we’re fighting a losing battle!

I guess whatever you do online, whether you’re on an iPad in your local park on council wifi, on a university computer using the university’s highspeed broadband, or firing up your old desktop at home (hopefully not on dialup still!) there are things you can/should do to make sure that you’re not flashing your private data at the whole world:

  • Don’t NetBank without some security in place. For example, many banks have a feature where money transfers out of your account network over a certain amount need to be verified with a code sent via SMS.
  • Don’t leave your social networking sites logged in. At the very least, your younger sibling may update your status while you sleep to “I like poo”.
  • If you don’t recognise the name of a free Wifi network, don’t use it. If you’re using the network in a hotel, cafe or other public place, check with the staff to find out which is the official network. Don’t assume that just because it says “hilton hotel wifi” that it’s the official network – cyber-criminals are clever, remember?
  • If you’re overseas, try to use networks or internet facilities from recognised public organisations (libraries are great!). We UQ folk are lucky that we’re on the eduroam network, if you’re in/near a university town look for that.
  • It might be better to buy a pre-paid 3G sim card for your wifi device, or a portable hotspot device, than rely on public wifi. The long-run cost (and convenience) might be worth it!

 

Back in 2009, I remember being on a “podcasting project” at work. It wasn’t really podcasting per se: it wasn’t a regular broadcast of recorded audio content, it was static audio content hosted on a website. I think people are a bit clearer now in terms of the “cast” part of podcasting.

Plenty of folks podcast: radio stations have a lot of thier content available post-broadcast as a podcast (good for when you miss something like a particular interview or segment) or additional off-air content. There are lots of web-only specialist podcasts that function a bit like irregular radio shows and are only available in that format, not on the radio.

I subscribed to a couple of podcasts via the Apple Podcasts app (afer failing to get it to work in iTunes) – the repeat broadcast of the Zed Games radio program which I miss live on 4ZZZ every week without fail; and the Triple J Dr Karl segments, which are on air live while I’m at work so I can’t listen to them. Zed Games was easy to get, but Dr Karl slightly less so – Podcasts keeps entries in its search listing even though they’re not being updated, and while I signed up for three Dr Karl podcasts, only one of them ever has any new content.

It’s nice that recordings don’t disappear if you miss them (as is almost always my problem) and that I can play them on any of my devices. Mostly I use these podcasts on my phone when I’m exercising.

Now we never need to miss anything again! (How did we ever live a fulfilled life before this??)

YouTube – it’s like looking into the brain of the world. There are plenty of useful things you could learn from YouTube. (My husband used a YouTube video to learn how to tie a new kind of tie knot; my sister used it to learn how to French Braid her hair). Then, there are plenty of 2 minute videos of people’s cats chasing laser pointers. The sublime to the ridiculous.

If you want to see something in a visual representation, it’s a good first place to start. My toddler has recently become obsessed with Iron Man, despite never having watched an Iron Man movie or cartoon before. We used YouTube to show him the previews of the films after he requested to see “what Iron Man does”, and so we avoided having to show him all three 2-hour movies (which he would have fallen asleep in anyway!) We also discovered this particular gem (which really just makes me want to go buy more Lego):

 

Apart from work videos (on behalf of my workplace) , I’ve never shared anything on YouTube: I guess I’m a consumer, rather than a creator. That, and my cat is too lazy to chase laser pointers.

 

I’m sadly old enough to remember when LiveJournal was super-hip (and its emo younger brother, DeadJournal). Blogs are something I’ve pretty much “grown up with”. I’ve had quite a few in my time, personal and professional. Technorati is a blog search engine, and if nothing else I’m impressed it’s gone the distance where others (e.g. Google Blog Search) have fallen by the wayside.

I’ll admit to being at a bit of a loss as to why you’d just want to see what’s in blogs. You could Google your topic and blogs would come up. But not wanting non-blog information (unless you were researching and your scope was purely blog posts) doesn’t really seem quite right to me.

Anyway, Technorati seems fatally flawed to me. I did a search for “23 Things” – see below. Not only did my multiple 23 Things blog posts NOT show up, but NONE of the thousands of posts by thousands of people doing 23 Things around the world showed up! Even just clicking the 23 Things tag on WordPress finds you at least a dozen posts. It makes me wonder what it is that Technorati is actually indexing?

Capture

Verdict: Not going to be one of my suite of tools

I used to use Del.icio.us back in about 2010, 2011, and then remember switching to another tagging and organizing site as they announced they were about to shut down. I’m glad to see they got out the paddles and shocked this one back to life, because it really was very useful!

I used to search all over the web, read RSS feeds and see Facebook page shares that interested me, and that I’d like to blog about. I’d tag the links in Del.icio.us as soon as I saw them, and when I’d blog (once a week) I could go back to a list of fabulous things I’d found over the week to blog about.

I remember some people at another university using Del.icio.us as unofficial “libguides” for their subject areas of responsibility in the library, where they’d share news stories, galleries, web resources and articles with the students through the service. Great idea!

Del.icio.us didn’t seem to remember my old login, which is a shame as I don’t think I can be bothered making yet another one! I had some great old bookmarks too, bit of a loss!

It’s annoying that there’s no clear “search” feature (maybe there is if you create an account, but I’m going from the “casual user” perspective) although if you’re clever you can choose one of the “Explore” tags and then just change the term at the end of the URL. I had a look for things that were tagged #webcomics and found some new fun as well as old favourites.

Verdict: Nice to have Del.icio.us back. Not a patch on its former self, but maybe has potential.

I remember the first time I used Prezi: it was 2010, the audience sat down and a colleague and I treated everyone to a whirlwind tour of some new technology or other. Everyone sat in relatively stunned silence. I thought this was a good thing, and asked my manager how it had gone. “Oh, the content was good. But between you and me – it did move around a lot. The screen I mean. We all felt a bit motion-sick!”

Prezi has thankfully come a long way in 4 years (or maybe it’s just that my skills have improved!) and things are a little less hurl-inducing. The premise is that Prezi is a presentation software, much like a PowerPoint slideshow, but hosted online, and allowing through zoom and movement a sort of image-mapping of a presentation topic in a visual way. Beginning with a central premise, zooming in on specific sections or branching out on tangents. As long as you are careful and use good design and viewer experience principles when you make it, Prezis can be quite powerful presentation vehicles.

Here’s the Prezi I did last year to present my thesis research findings at a meeting. I hope nobody gets ill – I’d like to think I’ve learned from my mistakes all those years ago!