Coolest Apps

Send Cheap SMS Messages with FishText

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

I know a lot of people nowadays have unlimited texts on with their mobile phone contract etc., but that doesn't usually include international text messages.  As I live abroad and have a lot of family and friends in my home country, it's often very pricey to send SMS messages to them.  Particularly where I live, since it's one of the most expensive places in Europe for mobile phone rates.

You can use iMessage course and apps like Whatsapp but both of those depend on the other person having one or other of those services.  Yes, lots of people do.  But lots of people don't!  There are, believe it or not, still quite a few people that don't even have a smartphone 🙂

fishtextAnyway, regardless of the technological reasoning behind it, there are many times when I need to send a text message and I don't want to pay ridiculous fees for doing do.  I found an app called FishText which is absolutely fantastic.  It lets you send text messages to practically anywhere in the world at a fraction of the cost of most mobile operators.  For example, sending a text to one particular network (an international text that is) used to cost me €0.60.  That's a lot for one text message.  FishText provides the same service for only €0.02.  Yes, that's 2c instead of 60c.  Thirty times cheaper in fact.

The app itself is very easy to use, links with your address book to pull out contacts, can send to multiple contacts at the same time (each at the cost of a text message of course) and even informs you how much each message cost you.  You can easily load credit onto your account too.  I've loaded €5 credit on my account and that must be 6-12 months ago and I still have €2 credit as we speak.  Granted, I don't use it for everything, only when the situation is right and you must have internet access to use it, but it has been a real money saver for me!  You can even check your balance directly from within the app itself.

It's easy to send cheap SMS messages with FishText so I'd highly recommend anyone to have a look at this app, it's free to download and works really, really well.  Well done guys, keep up the good work!

VLC Player from VideoLAN

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, Mac Tips.

Quicktime Player is great, but it still seems to struggle with certain formats without installing extra codecs etc.  The best Mac App that I've come across for video playback has to be VLC Player from VideoLAN. This App is completely free and performs amazingly well.  It's a little gem.  In my opinion, if VLC Player doesn't play it, well then it probably can't be played on your Mac.

vlc_player_window

vlcThe interface is clean and tidy, uses drag and drop and provides all the controls you need.  Personally, I keep the VLC Player icon in my dock and any movie file I want to play, I just drop it on VLC.  Just look for the Traffic Cone!

 

 

Live Streaming In Your Home – AppleTV & More

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips, Mac Tips.

streamtome
It was quite a while before I actually got to try an AppleTV and I hadn't had much time to even look at what it was.  One day a friend gave me one that he was having trouble with and told me to hang on to it and have a play if I wanted.  Well, as a matter of fact, I did want.  Unfortunately, I forgot about it for a whole year before I finally took it out of the box! I was glad I did. apple_tvAside from anything that you might hear about the jailbroken versions, the AppleTV itself is actually an amazing device, if you use it right.  You've got YouTube and NetFlix right there, as well as the Apple Store where you can rent movies and the lot.  That's all wonderful stuff, but then you've got Airplay.  Playing what's on your iPhone, iPod or iPad, even your laptop, directly to the AppleTV and onto your lovely plasma TV.  That too is wonderful, but you have to have the content on your device to be able to play it to the TV.  Getting it on there can sometimes be a time-consuming task and you usually have to convert the content to a specific format like .mp4 before you can put it on there anyway!  That's not so wonderful. servetome-largeEnter ServeToMe and its fantastic counterpart StreamToMe.  Download ServeToMe for your Mac (or PC), in my case I have a Mac Mini in my home office with lots of storage space.  So I installed ServeToMe and in a couple of seconds I had a folder shared for streaming.  I threw a few of my movies in there in various formats from .avi to .mp4 and .mkv. streamtomeNext, straight over to the iPad.  Now I didn't need to convert anything to any specific format, nor download it to the iPad.  All I needed to do was download StreamToMe from the App Store and bam!  Straight away I see my shared folder on my Mac Mini.  Select any movie, any format and it plays on the iPad immediately!  But that's not the best part -- it even supports AirPlay so I can send it straight to the AppleTV and onto the plasma!  So now, all my media is stored on and streamed from the Mac Mini.  It doesn't matter if my iPad is 16gb or 64gb, I never download the media to it anyway.  And I get to watch it all on my lovely plasma TV in the comfort of my own sofa. Just for the fun of it, I thought I'd open a port on the router and see if I could stream the movies over the net straight from my Mac.  From another country, I was able to stream my media straight to my iPhone and iPad.  It's amazing stuff, it works really well and ServeToMe is absolutely free!  You only have to pay for the StreamToMe app on the iDevice of your choice.  It costs less than €3.  Best €3 I ever spent, by a mile !

a2z Conversions App – Way cool!

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

One app that I use on a very regular basis is the a2z Conversions app from Western ITS Limited.  It's very easy to use and converts so many things......

a2z ConversionsYou can convert all sorts of things, such as distance, speed, pressure, area, energy, length, angles, temperature and even currency!

You simple choose the type of thing you want to convert, then select the units that you want to start with and the number of units you have.  You can then see those units converted to all the other types available.  For example, you can choose Currency as the type of conversion you want to do, then choose the starting currency, say Euro for example.  Entering 10 into the quantity box will show you how 10 euro converts to all the other available currencies.  These are updated live.

Equally, you could choose Distance as the type of conversion, choose Kilometers as the unit and enter 10 as the value to convert.  You can then see the results in miles, meters etc.  It's an incredibly useful tool and best of all - it's free!

Useful Apps – TomTom

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips.

I have to say the TomTom is probably one of my most used apps when I'm on the road.  I've had a TomTom device before, a physical SatNav that I put in the car.  I believe it was a TomTom One.  What a load of rubbish that was!  I couldn't use the touch-screen as it was too hard to press and too easy to hit the wrong button.  I always ended up cancelling what I was doing by mistake.  Very frustrating.  Then, to add insult to injury, the TomTom would take up to 15 minutes to find the satellites if I hadn't connected it to a computer within the pervious 7 days.  All of this really put me off the TomTom - until I eventually installed it on my iPhone.

TomTomSuddenly, a game changer.  The iPhone picked up the satellites instantly, with hardly a blink, the very first time I opened the app.  It was very simple to use thanks to the amazing iPhone touchscreen and in fact the interface was much more user friendly.  I popped in a destination and off I went.  It was amazingly accurate and took me to my destination without delay.  From that day forward, I've had no complaints, other than a few map details that could be corrected.  The TomTom has been my faithful companion, always getting me where I need to go, or even just showing me where I am!

Something that's worth considering if you are a new TomTom user is this - I never really bothered to add locations to my favourites if they were places that I clearly knew how to get to.  What was the point?  Well, as it turns out, sometimes it can be very useful.  Let's say there's a place that you go fairly often and you usually go there from the same area, so you know where to go.  But what if you are somewhere completely different, say the other side of the city, the side you don't know so well, and you need to get to that location.  All you have to do is tell your TomTom to go there and it will guide you through the unknown areas like a dream.  I'm not saying add every single place to your favourites, clearly there is no need, but on occasion you'll find it useful to have those local places bookmarked!

Cool Apps – Shopper

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

Shopper is an app that I find particularly useful.  It's a paid app, but at a great price.  What does it do?  Well, it doesn't quite do the shopping for you, but what it does do is make the whole experience a lot quicker and simpler.  In fact, it has many features that I don't even use (yet) but even the basic features make it worthwhile.

You know when you need to go shopping - and I'm talking food shopping here - you generally need a list.  The old pen and paper job where you painstakingly write the list, not necessarily in the order that you'll find the stuff in the supermarket but more likely in the order that you don't find it in your cupboards and fridge.  Then off you go to the supermarket with your pen and paper, crossing things off as you get them, trying to hold the pen, paper and trolley all at the same time as you pile in the goodies.

Shopper takes the pain out of it and makes it a pleasure.  That's why I love it.  It does just what I want it to do.  The truth is, I was going to make this app myself, but these guys did such a good job I thought, why would I bother?  Pay them for their great work and get on with life!

Shopper has a fully customisable list of items, as well as the facility to add different supermarkets, even different pricing for different supermarkets and even different aisle layouts.  Personally, I use it mainly for one supermarket, but I've configured the items I buy, the aisles that they are in - in my supermarket - and I've ordered the aisles to match the general store layout.  I then use the Browse facility in shopper to quickly run through each item in alphabetical order, checking the ones I'm not sure about, adding what I need to my shopping list with a simple touch of each item.

Now that I have my list, Shopper has already prepared it for me in the correct order, each item in its appropriate aisle.  I don't really use the pricing facility, but I can see how great it could be to see the change in prices of different items from week to week.

Now for the best bit.  I head off to the supermarket, open up Shopper and literally start at aisle one, collecting the items as I go and checking each one off with a single touch.  The items I touch get added to my "basket" and once I'm done, I can check-out to empty the basket.  I never forget anything and even the things that are not in stock remain on my list for the next visit.

I can even share my list over the air with my wife, directly to her Shopper app, or even by email.  I can make the list, share it to her Shopper app while she's in town and she can pick up all the bits on her way home. What a marvellous app, well designed and fully functional!  It's a thumbs up from me!

Cool Apps – StumbleUpon

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips, Mac Tips.

There's a very interesting website out there called StumbleUpon, which is kind of like a search engine (like Google) but it works in a completely different and innovative way.  So think about this - most of us go to Google (or another search engine) because we are looking for something, right?  We know what we want, we type it in and we (hopefully) get the answer.  But what about when you're bored and you aren't really looking for anything in particular, but you want something interesting? The key word here is interesting.

We all have our own interests, so what may be interesting to me might not be at all interesting to you.  That's what StumbleUpon is all about.  You register your own interests (by choosing a few from a list of categories and then later you can refine this by adding more or removing some etc.)  StumbleUpon then gives you a big Stumble Button to click which starts to present you with random pages from the internet that are related to your interests.  But that's not all!

StumbleUpon

With each page that appears, you can rate it with a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  It depends on whether you liked the content or not.  The thing is, this is like a community effort.  The more people that "thumbs up" a page, the more likely it is that StumbleUpon will display that page to others with the same interest.  It's like a rating system for pages, which is then used to try and present others with pages that were most liked by previous viewers.  It's a very clever system and the more you rate the pages, the more of the good pages you get to see.  It's actually quite addictive and you wouldn't believe some of the stuff you'll find, which you would probably never find if you hadn't used StumbleUpon, simply because you weren't looking for it!

To take it one step further and make it even easier for you to "stumble" whenever you feel like it, there is now a StumbleUpon app available in the App Store for free.  It allows you to log in and very quickly start (or continue) stumbling your favourite interests.  I have to say, I love it!  Give it a go today and drop me a comment to let me know what you think.

Printing from your iPhone/iPad/iTouch

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

Printing from your iDevice has been made particularly easy, provided you are using a printer that supports AirPrint.  If your printer is supported, all you have to do is click the action icon (shown below) on the page that you want to print and select the Print option.

Action

Simply choose your AirPrint compatible printer (which must be connected to the same network as your iDevice), choose your settings and hit Print.

AirPrint is available from many places, such as Photos, Safari, Mail etc.  It may also be available in apps that you download from the App Store.  For more information and a list of compatible printers, you can view this article from Apple's website which lists compatible printers by manufacturer.

As many older printers are not AirPrint compatible, there are also some other ways to print.  For example, if you are using a HP printer, have a look at the HP ePrint app from the App Store.  This will allow you to print to many more HP printers, directly from your iDevice.  To do so, you must use the HP ePrint App, not the action button above, to print.  The HP ePrint app is quite clever.  It can access your photo library and you can also load documents directly into the ePrint app to print them.  I've used it with my HP OfficeJet 4500 to print photos and it works a treat!

Interesting iPhone Apps – Whatsapp Messenger

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

whatsapp
While there are many different messenging apps out there for the iPhone, of the ones I've tested I have to say I find Whatsapp to be the best by far.  It's very quick, very simple to use and has lots of nice features.  More importantly, it seems like virtually everyone with an iPhone is using it now, for business and personal use alike.

Using Whatsapp, you can quickly text your friends, share photos and contacts with them, or even send them your exact location!  This "location" actually interfaces with the Maps app on your iPhone so if you someone sends you their location and you tap it, the Maps app opens showing you their location as well as your location.  Now that, for me, is a really nifty feature that I've used many times.

It also integrates directly with your contacts on your phone, showing you who's on Whatsapp already and allowing you to invite those that aren't.

Of course, like most messenging apps, you need internet access to use it - but most of us do have internet on our phones these days.  The app costs only €0.79 and is worth every single penny in my opinion!