Two Months With an Apple Watch

Glimpses of the Apple Watch life. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
Glimpses of the Apple Watch life. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

I’ve had my Apple Watch for almost two months now and I’ve got to say that, overall, it’s been a really positive experience. Interested in getting one? Itching to read a post about an Apple product just so you can write a long-winded response about how Apple fans are idiots because Android had better products months before Apple’s new iThing for a fraction of the price?

Then this is the post for you!

Why I Wanted It
1 – Notifications. The Apple Watch doesn’t work without an iPhone, but they can communicate via Bluetooth (range of about 32 feet) or via a wireless network. At home, instead of having my phone on me at all times to keep up with the world, the idea is that I could leave my phone in a central location and have the Watch warn me of only the important stuff. I felt that could allow me to be more reachable in case of emergencies (work, health, or “I’m at the store, do you want me to get wine?” texts from my husband) while still spending overall less time on my gadgets in front of my kids.

Yes, I’m aware of how ironic it is—getting more gadgets to spend less time on gadgets.

2 – Health tracking. I had a Fitbit Zip (basically just a pedometer) that I was very happy with, in terms of counting steps and letting me compete with my friends as motivation. I found the idea of the Fitbit Charge very attractive (step counting, sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring) but I couldn’t get behind the limited style options. The Apple Watch is, well, shinier.

3 – Map directions. I had heard that the Watch could give you directions: It would tap one way to tell you to turn left, a different way to tell you to turn right. This seemed like a really cool idea to me.

4 – Yes, because it’s the latest iThing. I’m a sucker.

Why I Didn’t Not Get It
I hesitated a while before getting a Watch. My reasons for getting a Watch were good, but not oh-my-gosh-I-so-totally-need-this good. Meanwhile, I was really scared of getting stuck with a product I didn’t like. In the end, I realized two things:

1 – I don’t need it to be perfect. Reading the Apple Watch review from The Oatmeal helped me understand that a smartwatch won’t turn our lives around the way the smartphone did. The Apple Watch is, ultimately, more of an iPhone accessory than a new gadget of its own right. Somehow making it sound less useful removed some of the pressure in my needing it to be perfect. Weird, huh?

2 – I’m not committed to it. Unlike the iPhone, I have no contract forcing me to use this thing if I don’t like it. When I buy an iPhone under contract, I know I will need to use that phone whether I end up liking it or not. I need a phone and not using it isn’t really an option. But the Watch? I don’t need a Watch. Or a watch, for that matter. I can wear it all the time, some of the time, none of the time, sell it off to the highest bidder on Craigslist, etc… who cares!

So, with my fear of commitment appeased, I clicked the purchase button on the Apple Store online. It told me delivery would take 2-3 weeks, but to my surprise Apple delivered the package two days later with overnight delivery. I had my Watch three days from the date of purchase.

Life With My Apple Watch

Let’s see how it lived up to the reasons why I wanted it.

Your typical email notification on the Apple Watch. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
Your typical email notification on the Apple Watch. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

1 – Notifications really did help me disconnect. I love my phone and it helps me stay sane. It has helped me stay connected to friends and family during the mind-numbing hours of rocking a baby to sleep, breastfeeding, or just when the kids are busy playing on their own and I can finally catch a five second break for myself.

On the other hand, I know I check my phone too often. I know that when I check my work emails, which I need to do, I will almost always mindlessly gravitate toward social networks apps shortly thereafter.

With the Watch, I receive notifications for emails, text messages, and phone calls. That’s it. You could set it up to do much more, or much less, but those are the only notifications I wanted. The Watch will vibrate when I get a notification and if I raise my hand to glance at the screen right away, the notification will display on the screen without touching a single button. If it’s an urgent email, I go find my phone or get on a computer to read the whole email body and respond. In the case of a text message, it prompts me with options to reply or dismiss the notification. If I click reply, I can dictate my response to Siri or use one of the default responses.

This process has helped me streamline everything I get during the day, and I love it. Love it.

Apple Watch tracking the number I've stood up at least once. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
Apple Watch tracking the number I’ve stood up at least once. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

2 – Health tracking is “meh.” I have to admit, this one has been disappointing to me.

Yes, it’s tracking my steps just like the Fitbit Zip. Unfortunately, there’s really no social aspect to the Health app. I also don’t like the Health user interface; it looks pretty but it’s hard to filter the data if you’re looking for specific information. How many steps did I do yesterday? *Squints at the graph, between 6,000 and 8,000, maybe?* And seriously, what’s with the circles, Apple?

Yes, it tracks my heart rate, but as it turns out, I really have no use for this information. It was fun for about a minute (hey look, my heart rate is 68 right now!), but it quickly lost its novelty factor. Maybe this information is important to you if you’re training or have a heart condition, but it’s not for me.

In addition to the Health app on your iPhone, which gathers data from both your phone and your watch, there’s also the watch’s activity tracker native app that will show you three things: Move, Exercise, and Stand. Move tracks the number of calories I’ve spent moving, Exercise the number of minutes spent exercising (although I still don’t understand how it determines what counts as exercise), and Stand the number of hours during which you’ve stood. Don’t get that last one wrong, it’s not the cumulative number of minutes you’ve spent displayed in hour units. It’s the number of hours during which you’ve stood at all. That means you can sit from sunrise to sunset, but as long as you’ve stood up for a moment every hour, it’ll say you’ve stood up 12 hours. It’s kind of ridiculous. Health has pretty low expectations.

Overall, for my needs, the step counting works well, but all the other “health” tools have been mostly useless.

Apple Watch giving me directions. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
Apple Watch giving me directions. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

3 – Directions surprised me with some awesome features. I’ve used the Watch to give me directions while driving a number of times now, and I’ve got some mixed feelings about it. The Watch will vibrate to tell me to turn left or right. Tap-tap-space-tap-tap-space-tap-tap for left and twelve consecutive taps for right, also known as “Why am I feeling a second heartbeat?” for left and “Why won’t this thing stop vibrating?” for right. Because it only vibrates when it’s time to turn without warning, and because the taps can be hard to distinguish while driving on a bumpy road, traveling by vibration is not as exciting and practical as I thought it would be. Unless you’re hearing-impaired, you’re better off using the Siri’s voice commands from your iPhone instead.

That being said, there is one unexpected feature I absolutely love: Your watch will display information about your next turn and how far ahead it is. This means if I miss what Siri said, I don’t have to wait for her to repeat it again later. I can just glance at my watch. Plus, if the instructions are to drive three miles on Sepulveda and I want to know how far along I’ve gotten so far, I can glance at my watch and it will show me. This is immensely practical when you’re in slow traffic and lose perspective of how far you’ve gotten.

I took a couple of day trips to L.A. with the Watch and I loved having that feature while I drove. I enjoyed it much better than trying to see the maps on my phone or the navigation system.

Yes, I do customize the face of the Watch every day to match my outfit. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
Yes, I do customize the face of the Watch every day to match my outfit. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

4 – It’s a shiny new gadget and people are very curious about it. I’ve only bumped into a very small number people who own a Watch, but I’ve received many, many questions. What does it do? (Hum…) How much did it cost? (It costs less than most people think it does.) Does the band come in black? (I don’t know, check the Apple Store.) How’s the battery life? (I wear it all day—from 5 am to 11 pm—and I’ve rarely gotten below 50% battery life. I charge it every night while I sleep.) Is the band comfortable? (It won’t make your skin sweat as much as the plastic bands from the 80s, but it’s not as comfortable as wearing nothing.) Do you like it? (It’s been worth it so far.)

I’ve had so many people asking me questions about my Apple Watch that now I’m answering every question assuming they’re asking about the Watch. It’s been the source of a few embarrassing moments. I’ve had people at work ask me vague questions like, “How do you get notifications?” and then I start blabbering about my Watch just to realize they were asking with respect to something else entirely, like my code or Outlook. Oops.

So in the end, people have said the Watch is just a notification center like it’s a bad thing. As far as I’m concerned, yes, that’s mostly how I use it, but I love it for that. Some features, like health tracking, have left me ambivalent at best. Meanwhile, I find new and unexpected features every once in a while that make me glad I got the Watch. I’ll be interested to see where Apple goes from here.

A Thermal Camera for Your Mobile Devices

See heat in the dark with the Seek thermal camera for smartphones. Image credit: Seek Thermal.
See heat in the dark with the Seek thermal camera for smartphones. Image credit: Seek Thermal.

Thermal cameras are, by and large, prohibitively expensive for the average Joe. However, there is a new product which caters to the mostly untapped consumer market. Here’s the Seek thermal camera, an add-on for your smartphone.

Seek thermal camera. Image credit:
Seek thermal camera. Image credit:

The uses for a thermal camera attachment on your smartphone are amazingly varied:

  • Finding your pet in the yard after sunset: I have a neighbor who stands outside tapping on a can of food with a fork for 20 minutes every evening, trying to call his cat inside for the night. I bet he could use a thermal camera. I bet I could use him using a thermal camera.
  • Scanning a dark, empty parking lot or park for perps: If you find yourself walking through an empty public space in the dark on a regular basis, as I often did walking through campus at 3 am during grad school, a thermal camera—and a can of Mace—could bring you some peace of mind.
  • Scanning your yard for animals before taking out the trash: For those of you who keep posting bear videos on Facebook. Don’t let them surprise you!
  • Find drafts and leaks in your home: Comes in handy for slew of home improvement projects.
  • Scanning your kids while they sleep: I always wondered if my little ones are too hot or too cold at night. Am I underdressing them? Overdressing them? Are their feet too cold? Will they wake up if I try to feel them? (The answer to the latter is always yes.) While surface temperature is not true body temperature and a thermal camera will never replace a thermometer, having a thermal camera is a little bit like gaining a mom superpower.
  • Find boats or people overboard at night: If you’re a boat person.
  • Night tag: Okay, so perhaps this application alone doesn’t validate the price tag, but let’s call it a perk!

The Seek thermal camera uses a 12 micron sensor and produces a 32,136 pixel image that is 206 pixels by 156 pixels. Each pixel represents a temperature measurement—anything from -40 to 330 degrees Celsius can be accurately measured to a fraction of a degree, according to their specs—and the color scheme of the image is customizable in the app.

The app offers a gamut of settings and tools, but there is also a development kit available for programmers so you can hope for more apps using Seek in the future. Those apps could offer specialized tools for certain uses, or I can imagine really cool games that could make use of this 6th sense.

The hardest part about using this gadget is actually having it with you when you need it. It’s not likely you’d keep it on your phone all the time, so how do you keep it on your person in case you find yourself in a dark parking lot? The camera comes with a hardy plastic case that’s perfect for throwing into a purse or bag. The case also has a metal ring, presumably to add to a keychain like I tried, but the whole thing ended up making my key set way too bulky for my need. If you know you’ll only use it for a single purpose, like checking the yard for wild animals before letting your dog out at night, you could also give the camera a permanent home near the door. You’ll definitely want to decide where you’ll be storing it, though, or else suffer the consequences: Where is that darn camera? Yes, I have already lost it multiple times.

Another inconvenience that I experienced was that the camera didn’t fit with my phone case. So every time I wanted to use the camera, I had to take my case off and put it back on again after. My husband didn’t have this problem; the Seek fit on his iPhone 6 Plus with the Apple silicon case. Mine was an iPhone 5 with a Speck wallet case.

Minor inconveniences aside, the Seek can be a great toy for the gadget lovers or a very practical tool if you have a need for it. You can always find additional uses for it once you have it, but it’s much easier to validate the purchase if it solves a frequent problem in your life too.

Seek is available for Android and iPhone and retails at $199.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Build a Sensational Wall Collage With CollageMo!

Look at that collage! Image: Maryann Goldman
Look at that collage! Image: Maryann Goldman.

Recently, I had the opportunity to try out CollageMo from Lamplighter Games. CollageMo is an iOS app for your iPad or iPhone that allows you to turn your photos into gorgeous wall collages. As an advanced amateur photographer, I have thousands of photos to choose from, and I couldn’t wait to get started and see what I could create.

You can use pictures from anywhere. CollageMo is able to import pictures from the photos stored on your iPhone or iPad, as well as Facebook and Instagram. CollageMo also plans to add support to get photos from your computer. For me, the photos I wanted to use were located on SmugMug. I downloaded the photos I wanted to use from SmugMug to my computer, and then I used another app called PhotoSync to move the photos to my iPad.

Choosing which pictures you want to include is the only hard part of this whole process. I spent at least three hours deciding on a theme and picking out my best photos in that area. I decided to go with flowers, butterflies, insects, and owls… all outside stuff.  Most of my best photography is of nature.

Before you start building your collage, of course, you’ll need to decide what wall in your house will showcase your beautiful creation. I chose the wall above the love seat where my guy and I sit all the time. The available space is approximately 5 ft.wide and 3 ft. tall, so I wanted the collage to be centered in that area. I decided to use a template with nine pictures that is 3 ft. wide and 1.5 ft. tall.  The app shows you how the collage looks centered over a brown couch, and that is helpful, but I would still recommend that you use a tape measure to make sure the collage dimensions are going to fit well in the space of your choice. You don’t want to end up with something too small or too big.

The CollageMo app is easy to use. You get to pick anything from a single shot to large, elegant templates. You can drag the pictures around within a given template, crop images as necessary, and even change the template to see how your images look in several layouts. You can even create a magic collage by pointing CollageMo to a group of pictures and allowing it to fill in the template for you.

I recommend that you pick a template that you think you want to use and start adding photos to fill it out. You’ve got to start someplace, right?!? Sometimes the photo you want to use doesn’t fit well in the available square or rectangle, so you may have to move things around and play with the layout a bit. Sometimes the photos don’t work together as a group as well as you’d hoped. I went back several times to look for additional photos to try. I guarantee, though, that you’ll get excited as you see your beautiful pictures come to life in your collage.

CollageMo picture selection process. Image: Maryann Goldman
The CollageMo picture-selection process. Image: Maryann Goldman.
photo 1 (1)
The CollageMo app and my collage. Image: Maryann Goldman.

When you’re happy with your collage, go ahead and place your order. You’ll get an order summary email indicating when your collage should arrive. Mine came quickly in less than 2 weeks.

When your collage arrives, check to make sure there’s no damage. The HD Metal Panels are just gorgeous! Wow! And the way they are mounted on a foam background for shipping and hanging prevents corner damage during shipment. I was so pleased that everything arrived intact. Besides the panels themselves, you’ll receive an instruction sheet, a bag of aluminum pins, some foam spacer squares, and a paper hanging template.

What's in the box. Image: Maryann Goldman
What’s in the box. Image: Maryann Goldman.

Take your time to familiarize yourself with all of the instructions. The paper instructions will direct you to a video and additional pictures and instructions online. After spending about 10 minutes reviewing the materials and the write-up, my guy and I were ready to do the install. It took us about an hour total, so make sure to give yourself enough time for the install when there won’t be a lot of distractions.

We started by centering the paper template on the wall with some painter’s tape. You’ll need a good tape measure too.

Getting the wall ready step 1. Image: Maryann Goldman
Step 1: Getting the wall ready. Image: Maryann Goldman.

As directed, we pushed the aluminum pins into the template. You only push them in far enough to score the wall in this step. Remove the pins and paper and then insert the pins completely.

Getting the wall ready step 2. Image: Maryann Goldman
Step 2: Getting the wall ready. Image: Maryann Goldman.

Now you are ready to remove part of the foam backing off the photo panels. The idea is to leave the hanging square(s) on the panel, but to remove the outer edges. The foam is perforated, so once you start it, it comes apart pretty easily. We were extremely careful not to allow our fingers to touch the images.

Getting the pictures ready to hang. Image: Maryann Goldman
Getting the pictures ready to hang. Image: Maryann Goldman.

The instructions state that you should put foam spacers on the backs of the smaller squares. This will keep the images straight on the wall.

Small images need foam support. Image: Maryann Goldman
Small images need foam support. Image: Maryann Goldman.

In no time at all, we were ready to stand back and enjoy our new collage!

Even the cat approves. Image: Maryann Goldman
Even the cat approves. Image: Maryann Goldman.

The hanging system truly is easy enough that anyone should be able to get the collage mounted on their wall correctly. You even get that professional looking shadow around the images.

It is important to note that this collage is flexible. You can always add more pictures to the collage or swap out pictures to give your collage a new look.

I’m so pleased with my new collage that I’m already looking at building another large collage for the wall over my bed!

The CollageMo single panels start at $15.99, with collages starting at $63.99. The HD Metal panels really are impressive, and I am convinced that even the larger collages are worth the money.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

MyCharge Talk & Charge Batteries Simplify Charging While Using Your Phone

MyCharge iPhone
MyCharge Talk & Charge for iPhone, Image: MyCharge

There are a lot of choices when it comes to keeping your phone charged when you’re on the go, but they don’t all make using your phone at the same time easy. Awkward cables, the need to switch cases, or bulky charging units can make it all but impossible to use your phone while it’s getting juiced. The MyCharge Talk & Charge devices finally take care of that problem.

Available in two flavors for either the iPhone 5S/5C/5 or for phones with a micro-USB port, these battery packs are slim, lightweight, and roughly the size of your average phone. They have built in cables that let you plug them in while the battery itself stays out of the way, tucked snug against the back of your device. There are even little rubber feet so that it won’t scratch your case or phone.

MyCharge Talk & Charge for Micro-USB Devices, Image: MyCharge

You can still easily hold your phone for texting, emailing, or talking without the battery getting in the way. It makes your phone thicker, but it doesn’t make it unusable or force you to unplug and stop charging. It also doesn’t require you to swap out your case since the built-in plugs work with whatever case you usually have on your phone.

The iPhone version will provide an additional 13 hours of talk time with a 3000mAh lithium ion battery. It’s also capable of pass through charging and will charge your device and the battery at the same time. It measures just 4.9″ x 2.4″ x 0.5″ and weighs only .26 pounds.

MyCharge Micro USB
MyCharge Talk & Charge for Micro-USB Devices, Image: MyCharge

The micro-USB version also has pass through charging and will provide an additional 18 hours of talk time with a 4000mAh lithium ion battery. It measures 5.0″ x 2.5″ x 0.4″ and weighs the same trim .26 pounds. This one does double-duty with the addition of a USB port that will allow you to charge a second device at the same time.

Both also have an LED readout so you know how much charge is left in the battery. Simply press a button and the four lights display the charge in easy-to-read 25% increments so you won’t be caught off guard when it’s empty.

Image: MyCharge

Using these on my phone, I found that they quickly became my favorite battery packs for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is that they are so darn small and easy to use. It seems that as soon as my phone runs out of juice and I plug it in, that there are ten different reasons that I need to use my phone.

It’s awkward with a big cable and an even bigger charger. This one is so small it was still easy to hold my phone in one hand for texting. It was also small enough that I could easily hold it to my ear to talk without having the battery hanging awkwardly.

The Talk & Charge batteries also didn’t run hot, which many batteries do especially when you’re charging and using your device. And they charged quickly, giving my phone a healthy charge in a very short time, again, while I was using it, too.

Image: MyCharge

These are small enough that you can carry them anywhere and are perfect for tucking into your purse or bag just in case you run low. They’re also great to have on hand in case the power runs out and you need to make sure you still have your phone ready to use.

The MyCharge Talk & Charge for iPhone and micro-USB retail for $59.99 each and are a great solution for those looking for lightweight phone charging that doesn’t hamper your ability to actually use your phone.

I received these products for review purposes.

Tiny Hands Apps Puts the Joy of Learning in Toddlers’ Hands

Image: Tiny HandsAs the mother of two kids in a very tech-connected geek household, apps are often on our minds. Which is why I’m so excited to share Tiny Hands Apps, our sponsor, with you.

Our daughter, the youngest, is only two. And while she’s fascinated with the iPad and certainly wants to use it like her brother does, there’s not much out there that caters to her. Generally speaking, it’s too complicated for her—and to be honest, I don’t just want to throw her the iPad to keep her busy when it’s not something that’s helpful for her.

That’s where Tiny Hands Apps comes in. Tiny Hands Apps are designed with toddlers in mind, from top to bottom. They’re educational and fun, and go beyond being just apps—really, they’re developmental apps. Everything is designed with a great deal of thought, not just a bunch of bright colors and sounds. In fact, Tiny Hands Apps are put together with certified child psychologists and produced in such a way to be exciting and interesting but never compromising on the content.

Even better? There’s no ads. No pop ups. No network access. Your littlest curious kiddos are free from the advertising crush that we so often see in games. It’s a gateway to learning without interruption.

Image: Tiny HandsA great example is Tiny Hands Raccoon Tree House. Your toddler sees a friendly raccoon character, and a story to go along. But you’ll know that it’s far beyond that. Tiny Hands Raccoon Tree House includes sorting, classifying, hand-eye coordination, concentration, vocabulary… and so on.Image: Tiny Hands

But that’s just the beginning. The world of Tiny Hands Apps is full of bright and colorful fun, learning about the world and all that’s in it.

We all know that it’s almost impossible to avoid technology—and we certainly never would want to. But we always want to make sure that we’re delivering the best quality to our children, both appropriate and exceptional. If you have a toddler who’s ready, we can’t think of a better place to start than Tiny Hands Apps

You can see the full lineup of Tiny Hands apps at the iTunes store, and follow them on Facebook, too.

This post is sponsored by Tiny Hands Apps.

Tracking Pixel

Late to the Game: Carcassonne

Carcassonne © Z-Man Games/Coding Monkeys
Carcassonne © Z-Man Games/Coding Monkeys

One of four games described by Tabletop host Wil Wheaton as the “pillars of classic European-style board games,” Carcassonne is a modern classic released back in 2000. The aim of the game is to collect points while building towns, monasteries, roads, and farms in the French countryside. It is a simple game to introduce with a wide and varied range of available expansions, the first of which (“The River”) is generally packaged with the base game. Carcassonne is now also available as an app for iOS and Android, so I took a look at both to compare their pros and cons.

Carcassonne © Z-Man Games/Coding Monkeys
Carcassonne © Z-Man Games/Coding Monkeys

The App Game

1. For those new to the game, a tutorial mode teaches you how to play. Newbies might also benefit from the ability to switch off fields/farming (Carcassonne‘s most complex scoring mechanic) at least for their first few games.

2. The app keeps track of the remaining tiles. This not only means that you get a handy countdown in the corner that lets you know just how many tiles are left in the virtual stack, but it also introduces another useful feature. Because the game knows exactly which tiles are remaining in the stack, when you place your current tile on the table, it automatically looks at the layout. If you have created a space in which no remaining tile can possibly be played, an X is scratched into the table surface. This happens before you commit to laying down your tile, so you can see if, for example, placing that tile will mean a city can never be completed and choose to place it elsewhere. If you’d rather play without this feature, it can be switched off.

3. The app also shows you all of your options for placing a tile by shading each available location. This makes it much faster to check your possibilities on a large map, rather than spending time figuring out where you can play on this turn.

4. When placing tiles, the app shows you the different options you have for placing meeples. This stops farmers accidentally being placed in occupied fields where boundaries are difficult to follow.

5. One of the biggest headaches of Carcassonne comes at the very end of the game, when farmers are being counted. Working out the boundaries of each farm can be very time-consuming, depending on the layout of the final “board.” The app automatically calculates the value of each farm, including splitting points when multiple farmers share fields.

6. The app has several modes to play. You can choose to play against computer opponents who vary in difficulty and tactics, or you can go online and play against friends or complete strangers. There’s always someone to play against, even if it’s only a bot.

7. The app also introduces a brand-new game-play mode: Solitaire. Unlike traditional Carcassonne, the Solitaire variant asks you to build a settlement on a budget of 1,000 victory points. The settlement must have cities and roads in every size, from two to six tiles, built in consecutive order. Placing tiles costs points based on their location.

8. One of the biggest bonuses to the app is its price. The basic game costs $9.99/£6.99, with expansions ranging from $0.99/69p to  $1.99/£1.49. Meanwhile, the physical base game stands at $25/£20, with expansions costing around $15/£13 each.

1. By the end of the game, Carcassonne can become a sprawling mass of tiles. Because of the limited screen size (and shape), this means it’s difficult to see the whole “board” at once, which can lead to either a lot of scrolling or reducing the tiles down to microscopic size. This is especially true when playing on an iPhone or iTouch.

2. There are significantly fewer expansions available than for the board game. However, the numbers are rapidly increasing (a new expansion—“The Phantom”—was launched just a few days ago), meaning this could soon become a moot point.

Carcassonne Board Game © Z-Man Games
Carcassonne board game © Z-Man Games

The Tabletop/Board Game

1. The board game generally comes with “The River” expansion as part of the standard base game (it is a paid expansion on the app), meaning instant variety is included for your first purchase.

2. The range of expansions is much wider: bridges, princesses and dragons, inns, abbeys, traders, and more are all available to turn your Carcassonne from a small settlement to a mighty civilization.

3. Playing on a tabletop makes it much easier to see entire board at once.

4. The big draw of a physical game is the ability to play with a group of friends; it’s kind of what the whole resurgence of tabletop gaming is about, after all. Taking the game along to play with friends and family or to public gaming days allows you to connect with people in a way an app never could.

1. The biggest issue with the tabletop game is simply its cost. At more than double the cost of the app for the base game and with some expansions costing over seven times more in physical form than as in-app purchases, it is difficult to justify the additional cost—especially for those of us on a budget. There is also the issue of storage, a pain known well to those of us with large board game collections and small houses.

2. As much as the nature of a tabletop game lends itself to community and playing with others, for those of us who live apart from friends and family, this can be a drawback, meaning we can only play on rare occasions.


As usual, there is no “best” option because different options will suit different people best. With a much cheaper price tag, a flexible range of options to change your game-play depending on how you want to play, and simplified game-play, the app is a robust addition to your app library.  Indeed Carcassonne is a rare case where the benefits of the app vastly outnumber those of the physical game. However, there will be many cases where the physical game is a better option, especially for those who play regularly in groups. Hopefully, this will help you decide which option is best for you.

GeekMom received these items for review purposes. 

Giveaway: Logitech PowerShell Controller + Battery

Image courtesy of Logitech, used with permission.

Everyone needs a portable cell phone charger. How many of our cell phones have died before we were able to get to a charger? It’s the worst.

And most of us in the GeekMom community would never say “no” to a case that turns our iPhone into a console-style game controller. I have personally been cursed with thumbs that refuse to play nicely with my iPhone, so playing games on it is…tricky.

So here comes Logitech, reading all the things in our hearts and minds. They created the PowerShell Controller + Battery, which lets you play games on your phone with real controller buttons while charging your phone battery at the same time.

Mind. Blown.

The list of iOS 7 games that are compatible with the PowerShell is extensive. LEGO The Lord of the Rings? Scribblenauts Remix and PAC-MAN? Plus the battery will just about double the life of your iPhone’s battery while you’re playing. The PowerShell is compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPod Touch (fifth generation), but it is not compatible with the iPhone 5c.

And Logitech is giving away one PowerShell Controller + Battery to a GeekMom reader. To enter our giveaway just login to the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address (use a valid email so we can let you know if you win). You can then like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for up to two entries! If you already like/follow us it will still enter you in the giveaway. A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the contest (March 7th, midnight ET). Their name will be posted right in the Rafflecopter widget in this post, so you can check back to see who won.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: If I Ran the Rainforest Ebook

If I Ran the Rainforest © Oceanhouse Media
If I Ran the Rainforest © Oceanhouse Media

At four years old, my son is starting to develop a strong interest in the wider world around him. He is particularly interested in geography and learning about the different kinds of places there are around the world. The Cat in the Hat e-book series is a great fit for curious young children and the latest edition to the library teaches children all about rainforests.

If I Ran the Rainforest sees the Cat taking Sally and her brother Dick on a journey to a rainforest to learn more about them. What I really love about this book is that whilst keeping the tone simple and sticking to the classic Seuss rhyming style, the book doesn’t dumb down the facts. Inside, children will learn about:

  • The four kinds of rainforests, what they are called, and how they differ from one another
  • The four floors of the rainforest and the creatures who live in each one
  • The basics of transpiration
  • Animals and plants of the rainforest including information about their lifestyles and diets
  • The humans who live in the rainforest and how they survive there
  • How the floors of the rainforest form an ecosystem
  • A very brief discussion on the destruction of rainforests
Thing 1 and Thing 2 teach us about transpiration © Oceanhouse Media
Thing 1 and Thing 2 teach us about transpiration © Oceanhouse Media

There was enough information contained in the story that I was able to learn some new facts too, such as the name of the plants that grow on trees high in the rainforest canopy. Potentially tricky new words like these are written and sounded out clearly; these plants are shown as “e-pi-phytes” and the tallest trees in the rainforest written down as “e-mer-gents.”

The app has the option to switch between “read to me” and “read it myself” options so it can progress with your child as they get better at reading alone. You can also choose to record your own narrations, perfect for parents who are frequently away and unable to read bedtime stories themselves, or for other relatives who are not around as often as they’d like. Tapping on objects causes the word to be spoken aloud and words in bold, e.g., equator, can be tapped to see a simple definition.

This is another great release from The Cat in The Hat’s Learning Library and one that will be of use to children at a variety of levels from curious toddlers to grade-schoolers needing a basic introduction to the subject for homework projects. It makes learning fun and that’s one of the best things we can ever hope to do.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Toca Boca: Mayhem and Makeovers

Not too long ago, I organized all of the icons on my iPhone and realized that I have a menu page that consists entirely of Toca Boca apps. This prolific developer makes so many apps that captivate both my 3-year-old and my 8-year-old (not an easy age span to bridge). Two recent additions to their app catalog are no different, Toca Cars and Toca Hair Salon Me.

Toca Cars lets you cause all kinds of motor mayhem in an adorable cardboard town. First, you choose whether you want to be a boy driver or a girl driver, but they’re both pretty punk rock so they’re both fun to play. Then, you choose whether you want to drive on an existing course or create your own. The preexisting course and the course that you can create are made up of roads (naturally), ramps, buildings, streetlights and signs, and puddles of paint.

Screenshot of the awesome paint puddle action.

This is not the app for you if your kid likes everything neat and orderly. Your car follows your finger, and unless you’re taking it super slow, you’re going to cause some damage to your adorable town, crashing through signs and driving through puddles. Actually, the puddles are the favorite part for both me and my daughter because you can leave colorful track marks in your wake. It’s also fun to jump the ramps and crash into things when you land. It’s a little tricky to line up your car right, but super satisfying when you do. Toca Cars might have a narrower appeal than some of their other apps, but for kids who like their car play with just the right amount of destruction, this is perfect.

I believe my kids play the various iterations of Toca Hair Salon more than anything else given the sheer volume of colorful character makeover head-shots that appear in my photo album. My daughter in particular loves styling the hair of the different characters, trying out all sorts of crazy colors and looks. Now, with Toca Hair Salon Me, she can try it on herself. It would be cool with a static picture, but the app goes the extra mile. After you take or upload a photo, the app asks you to mark the location of the eyes and mouth. Why? So it can animate you. My daughter giggled as she saw her own face react to the different hairstyles she was trying out.

My daughter’s avatar smiles at her two-toned hair.

Like the other Hair Salon apps, you can grow the hair longer and cut it shorter in a variety of ways. You can wash it, blow it dry, straighten it, and curl it. There’s also a rainbow array of hair dye colors. I happen to have pink hair at the moment, so my daughter enjoys trying out different colors for me to try. It’s like Cher in Clueless taking Polaroids of her different looks. I may well take one of the headshots from this app to my hairdresser on my next visit.

Toca Hair Salon Me is worth picking up even if you have one of the other Hair Salon apps. It’s so delightful for kids to immerse themselves in the experience. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go try out Toca Labs with the kids based on GeekMom Kelly’s review.

GeekMom received a review copy of Toca Cars

Getting to Know Romo The iPhone Robot

Romo is a personal robot that uses an iPhone or iPod touch as its brain. Image: Romotive.

The robot revolution is upon us. Whether you want an R2-D2, Dalek,or a Bender is up to your own discretion. However, Romo is an easy, family-friendly way to introduce some of the wee ones to the wonderful world of robots.

Romo is a smartphone-controlled personal robot, which can be found at Brookstone and Amazon. He can’t clean the floors or make fries. Romo is more like a family pet, with none of the mess. He’s also a nifty learning experience, both for the robot and its user.

On the surface, Romo seems a lot like your basic smartphone-based toy. However, as you play with Romo, he’s actually learning. In other words, while it may seem like you’re just playing a few simple games, you’re actually programming. This is called the “training” phase. Romo also has telepresense features. This means you can talk to family members through Romo, whether you’re on the other side of the house or the other side of the world.

Romo. Image: Romotive.

The actual Romo product is just the robot’s base. No batteries are necessary, as it charges up via an included USB cable. However, to make magic with Romo, you’ll have to supply an iPhone or iPod touch. Currently, there are two versions of the Romo: one is compatible with the fourth-gen iPod touch, the iPhone 4 and 4s, while the other works with the fifth-gen iPod touch and the iPhone 5/5C/5S. For testing purposes, I used my trusty iPhone 4.

If you don’t want Romo to suck up all of your iPhone’s battery life, you’ll want to charge it via the aforementioned USB cable. As the base charges, a light will flash on the front. It can take about six hours to get Romo fully charged. Once it’s ready to roam, that light will turn solid and you can expect about 2.5 hours of playtime. While you’re waiting for the device to power up, download and install the free Romo app via the iTunes App Store.

Once everything is ready, secure your iPhone into Romo’s docking station and launch the app. After a little introductory “movie,” you’ll be asked to help Romo train for “his time here on Earth.” This is where the playing/programming comes in, as well as where Romo will start to adapt to all of your surroundings.

Parent company Romotive has said that one of the goals with Romo is to help get kids excited about computer science and software development. Well, mission accomplished. As Romo learned and unlocked features, my 7-year-old son fell in love even more with the little guy he named “Rover.”

At present, Romo has about 12 different “missions,” which can unlock new abilities. These missions vary from getting Romo to react to being picked up to getting the robot to chase a ball. There are options for sound, motion, and even “expressions.” Although the number of missions seems low, each one can take time—which my son certainly didn’t seem to mind one bit!

Of course, Romo isn’t all fun, games, and wacky faces. He can also be used as a security device, which is pretty darn cool. If you’re willing to leave your iDevice docked in Romo while away, you can view your home using the iPhone’s camera. Of course, this does require another iOS device or a computer for the viewing. However, you can also use that second device to control Romo remotely. So not only can you see whether or not the dog is sitting on the couch, you can actually follow Fido around the house to make sure he isn’t eating any shoes or Lego bricks.

Romo is designed to get kids interested in computer programming, software, and robots. Image: Romotive.

As mentioned, you’re going to need two devices to use those features, which may not be doable for a lot of families. And if you think you finally have a use for that old iPhone, think again. See, Romo is sort of fussy about who he plays with. That’s a nice way of me saying that he’s not going to work with your next smartphone, unless you like getting the same old operating system. There’s an iPhone 4/4s Romo and one for the iPhone 5 and the two don’t play nicely with each other. If you want to keep Romo in your rotation, you can expect to spend $149.99 for the upgrade.

It’s also important to note that the telepresence doesn’t work with the iPhone 4. This kept me from checking out those features during my review. It’s something I didn’t notice in the fine print before I agreed to take Romo into my home, so it may be something you’ll miss.

That slight difference could definitely sway your decision. See, Romo is sort of expensive. For $150, I want something to clean my floors. Well, at the very least, I want it to work with my next iPhone. However, Romotive is working on fixes, upgrades, and additional features for the New Year.

When you factor in the security features, Romo is absolutely worth the money. A basic Dropcam video camera has the same MSRP and doesn’t move around the house or teach the kids about the basics of robots and programming. If you’re still clinging to the iPhone 4, the price tag may be a bit more difficult to accept. Still, there’s no arguing with the fact that Romo was insanely popular in this house. My son always lit up at the mere mention of hanging out with “Rover” for the day. His reactions were even better than the ones we programmed into our Romo.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

On Babies, Glasses of Water, and the Peril of iPhone Ownership

Håkan Dahlström – CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

Post sponsored by Protect Your Bubble; opinions and stories my own.

When my son was two years old, he was fascinated with every device in the house. But none took his fascination as much as my cell phone. Any chance he got, he tried to grab at it, talk at it, throw it, spin it, crash it. I’m not sure what it was about it (especially considering how little I talked on it) but it was a magnetic connection.

Then one day: the inevitable. I was working from home, typing away and trying to get some client work done, when he swooped in and, in one quick motion, dropped my phone directly into the full glass of water beside me. It was one of those slow-motion responses. It took a few heartbeats for me to even realize what had happened, and when I went to retrieve the phone I knew that I wouldn’t get there fast enough. In my head, all I could see was water seeping into every little circuit and wire.

I did what everyone does in such a situation. I trolled the internet and tried some of the remedies I’d heard: stick it in rice, let it air-dry. And while it briefly did work, eventually it just died. And I had to, out of contract, pony up for another phone.

Thankfully, these days, I have options. I also have a more expensive phone–and that new iPhone is indeed looking appealing. My son is now seven, and my daughter isn’t quite two–but she’s already absolutely besotted with my iPhone 5. She reaches her little fingers toward it whenever she can, and more often than not I find it streaked with little fingerprints (or, slightly larger one, when the boy finds it unwarranted).

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 9.50.30 PM
Bubble and Squeak from Protect Your Bubble

And even more thankfully, there exists something that costs less than two Starbucks lattes a month and, to the relief of many, ensures that your phone doesn’t end up costing you top dollar. Our sponsor, Protect Your Bubble, is insurance for your tech. Which, considering how much it’s used in most geek households, totally makes sense. Their iPhone coverage is cheaper than many carriers‘ (starting at $7.99/month) and it covers accidental damage, loss and theft (which most carriers don’t even bother with) and provides fast replacement. That’s a pretty sweet deal, especially if your tech has anywhere near the focus it does in my house. It’s nice to worry less, especially when there’s so much else to be anxious about.

To learn more about our sponsor Protect Your Bubble, and their offerings, you can visit their website or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

App Camp For Girls Goes Live in August!

Girls learn how to brainstorm, design and build apps from women developers and designers. (Image courtesy of App Camp for Girls)

In mid-July,  12-14 year-old female campers attending the beta App Camp For Girls in Portland, Oregon, were hard at work building iPhone apps, and taking occasional hula-hooping breaks.

At the same time, App Camp For Girls concluded a successful Indiegogo campaign, raising over $100,000 to further opportunities for girls to gain hands-on programming experience. (GeekMom featured App Camp For Girls in a June “Fund This!” roundup.)

Next month,  from August 19-23, App Camp For Girls will kick off its first official AC4G session, after using beta and alpha sessions to refine the curriculum.

Camp Director Jean MacDonald envisions the camp as a “weeklong session [covering] the process from brainstorming an app idea to marketing the finished app.”

The goal, MacDonald says on AC4G’s campaign website, is simple:

App Camp For Girls wants to address the gender imbalance among software developers by giving girls the chance to learn how to build apps, to be inspired by women instructors, and to get exposure to software development as a career.

AC4G sponsor UI Stencils, donated iPhone 5 interface stencils for campers to create realistic mock-ups of their app ideas. (photo courtesy of App Camp for Girls.)

I must say, I’m jealous of Portland for many things, but this takes the cake. I’ve already asked AC4G founder Jean MacDonald what her plans for world domination are, in hopes that she’s bringing the program to the East Coast soon.

“We plan to give our full attention to the expansion plans after August. We are focused on making this second week of camp great, and having a “reproducible” program that we can use as a basis to grow,” she said. “Wherever App Camp For Girls goes next, there will need to be at least one woman iOS developer who has the time and enthusiasm to devote. That is a very scarce resource, and we’ll be working hard after August to identify potential volunteers.”

How much interest has App Camp For Girls received from potential campers?

MacDonald says, “The interest has been much higher than I expected. Over 30 girls were interested in our first “beta” session in June. They all found us via word-of-mouth and Facebook. We originally thought we’d have to do a bit of camper recruitment, contacting teachers and schools, but that wasn’t necessary. We are starting off small, so we can focus on the curriculum and make sure we have a program that works as we envisioned. So our first two sessions, we’ve only had 12 campers. As we expand, we’ll have to do more outreach, I’m sure, especially to reach the girls who don’t already self-identify as nerds or geeks.”

Highlights of the beta App Camp For Girls session, according to MacDonald:

For the girls, the highlight has been to see an app that they designed and developed working on an iPod touch. Our goal has always been to get to that point, so the girls could experience the sense of accomplishment and be inspired to learn more and go further after camp was over. They literally cheered when we told them at the final camp pitch session that they would all get a copy of The Big Nerd Ranch Guide to Objective-C! They really want to learn to code. We gave them an introduction during camp week, and now they know what they need to learn.

Another highlight for the campers was having the chance to work and have fun with a group of like-minded girls. Several mentioned that they’ve done technology programs before, but they were one of few or even the only girls in the group. At App Camp For Girls, they could let down the hair, so to speak, and not be intimidated by having lots of boys around. According to their surveys, they were surprised at how much fun they had during the week.

One of the coolest App Camp For Girls Indiegogo donation perks was a $25 level mix tape by The Doubleclicks. The fantastic duo has not stopped there in support of AC4G. They’ve taken the slogan “There Are No Fake Geeks, Only Real Jerks” from their “Nothing to Prove” video and turn it into a t-shirt, with profits benefiting App Camp For Girls.

For more information about App Camp For Girls, visit their website and Indiegogo page. App Camp For Girls was recently featured in the New Yorker.

In addition, Jean MacDonald has also posted a request on Twitter for 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pros for App Camp For Girls.

Dear Jean and the App Camp For Girls Team, please hurry up and bring App Camp For Girls to the East Coast!

Sena Leather Cases Keep Your Tech Safe in Style

Magia Wallet for iPhone 5, Image: Sena

Sena produces a line of beautiful leather cases for phones, tablets, and laptops that look good, keep your tech safe, and provide functionality beyond the usual cases.

The Sena Magia Wallet, designed for the iPhone 5, is a leather case with a magnetic closure that doubles as a wallet. It has three slots for credit cards on the inside as well as a pocket that runs the length of the case.

Your phone stays in place with what they call Magia Tape. It’s basically a large, sticky rectangle on the inside of the case that adheres to the back of your phone. It’s a little disconcerting thinking your phone is just taped in place, but once your phone is stuck it really doesn’t budge.

Magia Wallet for iPhone 5, Image: Sena

You can still take your phone out of the case and there’s no residue left behind. It re-sticks to the case just as easily. You  have to pull pretty hard to get it to come undone, but this is a good thing since you don’t want it coming unstuck on its own. I felt very confident that my phone wasn’t going anywhere.

The credit card slots and storage pocket are just enough to keep you from having to bring a separate wallet when you’re running quick errands. I did find the credit card slots a little tight, and although they loosened up a bit due to the leather stretching over time, getting three cards in there was difficult, so I ended up just using it for two.

The magnetic clasp is a nice feature allowing easy access to your phone, but it does add to the thickness of the case. You might find it a little bulky for slipping it in your back pocket; more than once the clasp caught on my pocket.

Magia Wallet for iPhone 5, Image: Sena

Since there’s nothing covering the front of the phone when the case is open, you do risk scratches when you turn it face down. If you’ve ever had your phone out for a text conversation and wanted to leave it out for easy access, but facedown for privacy, it can be a bit of a problem.

On the plus side, the the ports and buttons can be accessed with the case closed and you can easily take pictures with it, too. I was concerned that the small opening for the camera might cause a shadow or even reflect when using the flash, but it worked without a hitch.

If you’re tired of having a wallet in one pocket and a phone in the other, this is a great option to combine the two. It’s nice to have everything in one place, especially for running errands or on a day out with the kids at an amusement park or a fair.

Magia Zip for iPad, Image: Sena

I also tried out the Sena Magia Zip for iPad. It works with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations of the device and it turns your case into a folio that puts everything you need for work right at your fingertips.

The iPad secures to the case with the same Magia Tape that’s found in the wallet and it sticks just as well. The case comes with a stylus and has four credit card pockets and an I.D. pocket. There are also two medium pockets and one large pocket for holding extra things like receipts or business cards.

Magia Zip for iPad, Image: Sena

Much like the wallet, the slots for the credit cards are tight, but they do loosen up a little over time. The whole thing zips closed, so if you have larger papers that you need to tuck away you can put them in there and be sure you won’t be leaving a trail on your way back to your office.

It’s also got a handy built-in stand that pops out from the back of the case. The stand is completely recessed when it’s closed so it doesn’t add bulk to the design but is still strong enough when open that you can use your iPad without pushing it over accidentally.

The Magia Wallet for iPhone 5 retails for $54.95. The Magia Zip for iPad retails for $119.95. Both are stylish cases that will keep your tech safe and provide extra functionality to make your life easier.

Disclaimer: I received these cases for review purposes.

Butterfingers! Part One: Road Testing iPhone Cases

Candy Shell From Speck

A few years ago, my husband gave me an awesome case for my iPhone 4. It was made by Speck, and it was durable, clean looking, and best of all – it had a slot along the back that was big enough for my credit card, drivers license and my ID from work. To put it professionally: It totally ruled.  When you work for NBC Universal, you can’t get anywhere without your ID I’m sure some of you out there have jobs like this where you need an ID to get by a front desk, swipe for the elevator, swipe to open doors, use for security–on and on.  Many people wear lanyards or those little clip things with the retractable ID leash you attach to your pocket. I loathed both of those things, and so, having my ID in my phone, and being able to just swipe my phone instead of pulling a card out of my pocket or purse made my life easier.

So many people have commented on this case – co-workers, cashiers, waiters, et cetera, that I thought it might be a good idea to share it on GeekMom, as well as highlight some other great cases for both the iPhone and iPad that I’ve road tested.

So let’s start with that fabulous CandyShell Card from Speck:

I’ve already described a lot about what I like about this case, so let me just add that as a mom, this case has streamlined my life. It’s one less bag to carry, and only one thing to add to the diaper bag, as opposed to a phone plus wallet. I can run errands without having to lug my huge purse around, and I’ve said goodbye to the days of turning around to go back home and get my phone. I cannot leave the house without my phone. Because now, this is simply not an option. There are too many things on the leaving the house checklist wrapped up in my phone. If you’re wondering why credit cards don’t get demagnetized, it’s because there’s a thick rubber backing protecting them. So don’t worry.

If you’re nervous about carrying your cards around in your phone, but still want a durable, shockproof case, then consider any of the awesome bright candy shell phones from Speck. In general, you can’t go wrong with a Speck case. They’re marvelous and fun.

The Q Card Case

Q Card Case by CM

Next, I gave the Q Card Case by CM a try. This promised the same kind of ease and convenience as the Speck case in that it has a little wallet area in the back. It’s also got the added bonus of a more flexible leather opening. The leather gives after a while to give you enough room for 3 cards and a little bit of cash. That’s very nice for a small purse on a Mom’s Night Out, I have to admit, and while I initially worried that it would get too loose, it didn’t relax so much that I worried about things falling out. I loved the look of the leather flap too, more so than the Speck – but the one thing I didn’t like was that any card or ID I put in there was a little more obvious. The outside flap on the Speck case covers more of the card, so it doesn’t scream, “Hello! I am carrying credit cards so why not steal my phone kthxbi.” But not so much that I wouldn’t continue to use it.

This case is thick and protective without making my phone feel like a brick, and easy to slip in and out of a wallet or purse. I hate rubberized phone cases that get stuck in pockets. Hate may be too strong a word, but you’re the one reading about iPhone cases, so maybe you feel me on this. ::fistbump::

The Pantone BookCase

Pantone Bookcase – Scarlet Sage 6

I’m not going to even pretend I don’t sometimes hand my child an iPhone at a restaurant, just so I can have an adult conversation. I totally do this.  I could pretend that I only do this kind of thing when we’re on long car trips or plane rides, or that she only plays with toys that I hand carve from wood pieces that I up-cycle, but please.

I loved this Pantone case–it’s sleek and pretty, and has a nice texture. True to its name, it has a book-like feel to it–and best of all, you can use the case to prop up the phone for landscape viewing. The texture of the case keeps it from slipping and collapsing–something I appreciate since, hello, I am in the middle of a rare adult conversation and don’t want to keep readjusting the screen. The drawbacks? While sleek, this case is not super shock proof, so I wouldn’t allow a 2 year old to just toss it around. And unless you’re a fan of the Pantone color wheel, which certain color geeks are wont to be, you may not like the Pantone logo and color strip on the cover.

The X-Doria Kick

X-Doria Kick

If you’re looking for shock proof, the X-Doria Kick might be the one for you.  I loved how super light this case was–and I can tell you, as a bona fide spaz that has dropped her phone more than once, this case is shockproof. I wish I could just tell you that I think it’s shockproof, but sadly, I am not super graceful.

The kickstand is sturdy and great for FaceTime or watching media on your airline tray table. (See above for confession about other occasions where I also use kickstand like features on iPhones.) Good, simple, functional case.

Obex iPhone Case


The Obex Waterproof Case & Holster

Look, I’m not a sporty lady. My husband affectionately calls me “City Mouse.” I’m not a girly girl–it’s just that I’ve never been camping. We recently went on a trip to Yosemite, and for me, being out in nature, and witnessing those mountains and forest was a revelation. While we were there, we stayed at a place where you can rent a cabin and have room service delivered to your door, so don’t worry–I still technically haven’t been camping. But I did actually do a couple of honest to God hikes while we were there, and I tried out the Obex. See, I look at a phone case like this, read the specs, and I think, “What the heck are people doing that they might drop their phone in a lake?”

But when we hiked up to some of the falls, the spray was so heavy that I was glad to have the waterproof case! It does come with a holster that seemed secure to me, but I don’t know, I feel kind of dorky wearing a holster. Maybe that’s because I was around for the decade of pagers and didn’t feel like kicking it 90s style.

I hope this helps you narrow down the field a little bit. Sorry I didn’t get to any of those cases in those mall kiosks, though I totally have my eye on that giant rubber monkey one. In my next installment, I’ll run through some great iPad covers that I’ve also been putting through their paces.

Mobile Phone Diagnoses Worm Infections

Scientists use an iPhone to diagnose intestinal worms.
Via Morguefile

And you thought your iPhone was only good for playing Angry Birds. In Tanzania, scientists recently used a mobile phone equipped with a makeshift microscope to diagnose intestinal parasites. It’s still a work in progress – in one test, accuracy didn’t quite reach 70%, shy of the 80% desired for a diagnostic tool – but the idea has potential. The method is significantly cheaper than using a conventional microscope, not to mention more portable.

Want to know how you can help cure the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that infect more than a billion people worldwide? This compelling video from End7 features Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) and shows just how easy it is.

Father’s Day Gifts with Ulterior Motives: iGrill

iDevices iGrill pictured in use making tasty ribs

On Mother’s Day, they tend to advertise a lot of things like vacuums and ironing boards. I think that’s a little mean. It’s like giving someone a gift that says, “Clean my house!” I’ll admit that I’m occasionally guilty of doing this for Father’s Day, although my gifts usually say “Cook for me!”  He likes cooking, and I like eating, so I refuse to feel guilty about it. This year, I received a review model of the iDevices iGrill, and I wanted to see if it qualifies as good gift encouragement for more tasty smoked meats. Continue reading Father’s Day Gifts with Ulterior Motives: iGrill

Disney’s “It’s a Small World” Interactive iOS App

Loading Screen of the "It's a Small World" App © Disney
Loading Screen of the “It’s a Small World” App © Disney

Anybody who knows me personally will know that I am an enormous Disney geek. Interestingly, for me it is not so much about the films as it is the theme parks. There are paintings all over our house of the parks, I have a collection of plates and collectables and several boards full of trading pins. The best present I received this Christmas was a surprise from my husband, a set of figures based on characters who appear only (or mostly) in the parks, the yeti from the Matterhorn, Figment from EPCOT and a Ghost from the Haunted Mansion were included amongst others. So when I heard that Disney were releasing a story app based on one of their most beloved (or possibly infamous) rides, “It’s a Small World” – I absolutely had to try it out.

I will first answer the question that every single person familiar to that ride is currently asking, yes it does include the song. However this is a version of the song that has been toned down to more instrumental and melodic background music, rather than the invasive song well known to Disney park patrons. The music hums away in the background and provides a perfect score to the story without being intrusive. That’s until you get to the very end when the chorus of the original song pipes up on repeat until you hit the menu button and you’re stuck with it in your head for the rest of the day.

All the scenes are beautifully drawn & use vivid colours © Disney
All the scenes are beautifully drawn & use vivid colours © Disney

The story itself is based on the lyrics and take the reader on a journey through a series of beautiful settings based on different countries and cultures. Each scene is accompanied by a single line from the song and features a variety of interactive elements that can be activated by clicking on parts of the image. Clicking an animal might cause it to make a noise, a boat might sail off across the sea or a child might laugh and blow a kiss. The app automatically pans across the image, however you can use your finger to drag the image back and revisit parts of it. All sorts of countries and cultures are represented from the Arctic to Africa, Japan to London.

The menu screen with spinning wheel to select a scene © Disney
The menu screen with spinning wheel to select a scene © Disney

Inbetween scenes a hot air balloon sails onto the screen to take you on the next stage of the journey as the scene loads. If left alone, the app will automatically work its way through each line/scene of the song, however the menu does give you the option to jump to any you choose through a nicely designed animated scrolling wheel. This can be accessed at any time throughout your journey and also allows you to return to the home page.

The day after I received this app, I switched it on and handed my phone over to my two year old. Despite the app being rated 4+, my son found it easy to get to grips with; he was quickly poking at things and getting dogs barking and bagpipes playing (in case it isn’t obvious – this is NOT a quiet app.) I do have to admit that the app hasn’t held his attention for long, however I can honestly say that I think this is simply a phase he is going through as none of his previously favoured apps have been left running very long lately either. Because of the auto scrolling, he was able to move through the different screens without needing my help and if his attention span was longer, he could easily have worked through the full app.

The word "laugh" appears as you tap a laughing girl © Disney
The word “laugh” appears as you tap a laughing girl © Disney

The app would also work well as a simple short story book for an older child, each line is spoken aloud so no reading skills are required, however the words are printed on screen for those learning to read. Do remember however that as this story is based on song lyrics, there are not that many lines so the app’s value as a “learning to read” tool is limited. Certain characters also produce a written word that relates to the action they are performing when they are tapped, these are simple words such as “give” and “laugh.” The app contains one other small feature, a karaoke screen which sings the chorus with the words up on screen and a traditional karaoke bouncing along on top of them. This is the same screen that appears at the end of the story but it can be accessed directly from the main menu. I suggest you don’t tell your kids about it if you ever want to get the song out of your head.

As a Disney park enthusiast, I thoroughly enjoyed this app and would happily sit and watch the story unfold even by myself. I would love to see a range of these interactive story apps based on other Disney park rides – the Haunted Mansion being my number one desire – and if this is the quality benchmark then I’d be very happy indeed. If you’re not a Disney fan this app won’t win you over, however given the subject I feel that an app like this was always aimed at existing enthusiasts rather than a more casual market. All together this is a beautiful looking app with a simple interface and lots of fun to be had within, please make more Disney.

“It’s a Small World” is available for iPhone and iPad for $3.99/£2.49. A copy of this app was provided free for review.


Quirky Digits, Warm Fingers

Digits - image courtesy Quirky
Image Courtesy Quirky

Occasionally, I need to make a call during bad weather, and that means I run into a conductivity problem with my gloves. You can’t use normal gloves with a smartphone because they don’t allow the electrical signal to transfer from your finger to the phone screen. I’ve solved this problem in the past by using those half-mitten, half-fingerless gloves (with the flaps that close over the fingers). They’re OK, but my fingers get chilled by the draft that creeps under the flap. Another option would be to buy conductive gloves (like these gloves reviewed by Amy Kraft last week), but this doesn’t help if you’ve got a set of gloves you already like.

I actually buy my gloves in multiple sets, on sale, and then stuff pairs in all of my coats’ pockets. Even with this strategy, I misplace gloves often enough that I’ve been tempted to attach them to my coat arms with a string, much like I did in grade school. What I’ve really needed is a low-cost way to rig several sets of gloves for conductivity.

Enter, Quirky: a social invention site that allows users to submit ideas for new inventions and share in any profits for ideas that turn into products. Quirky came up with a solution to my dilemma: Digits, an accessory that simply attaches to your existing gloves to create conductivity. Digits are black buttons with conductive silicon on the outside and metal on the inside. They come in two pieces. You poke a small hole in your glove from the inside and screw the outside portion on the top. Make sure it’s secure–I lost a button this way as I was testing.

I also tested several pairs of gloves. A set comes with four buttons, but I’m not sure you really need to use all of them, unless you’re a super-dedicated, multi-touch, gesture kind of geek who absolutely needs to use four fingers. I can live with only one finger being conductive when it’s cold outside. That brings up another point. The metal backings do lose heat faster than the rest of the glove. My fingers were still generally warm, but the metal backing was definitely colder than the rest of the glove. This is also a problem with gloves that come with the conductive areas built in, but at least you can limit the number of affected digits this way. You’ll also notice the button when using your gloves for other activities, like driving. It wasn’t terrible, but something to keep in mind.

I tried several gloves, and loose gloves were difficult to control. There’s definitely a thick bump between your finger and the surface of whatever you touch, so you need some tension to keep your finger and the Digits together. Lightweight fleece gloves were too cold, but that might have just been because they’re inadequate by themselves. Thick, tight-fitting gloves were perfect. My favorite set was a fleece-lined pair of suede Isotoners I bought from Woot last year. I put the button in one finger only, and I can continue to read my tablet while sitting outside waiting for the bus. Awesome. Would I rather be toasty warm somewhere inside? Yes, but at least this way I have my eBooks to comfort me in the cold.

Quirky sells Digits in four-packs for $11.99. Full disclosure: Quirky provided sample product for this review.

A New Use For Dr. Seuss

I love to look at those lists that they give to professors that explain the state of the matriculating freshman class. You know what I’m talking about? The ones that say things like, “They have never lived in a world where Madonna wasn’t famous.”

Naturally, I look at my daughter and wonder what kind of world she will matriculate into. At two, she’s already saying things like, “We should text Daddy and tell him!”

Even Dr. Seuss is a different experience for her. We’ve been reading Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, and of course the very popular One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. But we also have been enjoying playing a game based around The Lorax on the iPhone. It’s called Lorax Garden and the game picks up where The Lorax ends – you have been given a Truffula seed, and now it’s your job to plant it and take care of it.  Trees require a lot of water, so you must water them, and they require love, so you must give them hearts. But you can’t get hearts until you plant and take care of some flowers. Flowers are trickier. You have to water them, but you can’t water them too much or they’ll get sick. And you must be mindful of weeds that sprout up and get rid of them immediately. The more flowers that bloom, the more hearts you get and the more trees you can love.

I love this game because we can play it together and see the results of our efforts – much like our real garden in our backyard. (PERSONAL NOTE: BUT WHERE RACCOONS DON’T EAT YOUR FIGS!!!!!) This is a great game for passing the time on airplanes with your kids – something we seem to be doing a lot of lately.

Then the folks at Oceanhouse Media were kind enough to send me a code to download There’s a Wocket in my Pocket.  I gave it to my daughter to try out and once again, we are loving it.

There are three choices:

Read it yourself – on your own terms and time, have it read to you and you control the page turns, or you can let it play-out, page turns and all, automatically. If you tap the items in the picture, it speaks the name of the object clearly and concisely. As a voiceover actress, I appreciate the fact that the voice is not grating (why do toy companies think that kids want to hear those terrible squeaky voices?!? I’m looking at YOU Fisher-Price!!) –and I also appreciate the fact that it’s not voiced by a child. I’d rather have her listening to someone who speaks well, rather than a kid who is also learning to talk – as cute as their voice may be.

Oceanhouse Media has a whole list of titles to choose from. I have another flight coming up soon, and I’ll be pulling from that list myself in… *checks watch* just a few minutes.


Hanging in Numberland with Les Trois Elles


We’re getting ready to head to Seattle in a week or so. It’s only a couple of hours on the plane, but I always like to have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep Vivienne entertained. So I’m in the market for some new apps to play with.  Whenever I do a little refresh like this, I always head over to the ever fabulous Moms With Apps. It’s a fantastic aggregator, and thus far, whenever I’ve grabbed something off their list, it’s been a winner.

In fact, I took a chance on an app they recommended and I am breathlessly in love with it. I say “took a chance” because it wasn’t cheap – most apps are anywhere from $.99 to $1.99 – but this one was $4.99 – a little pricey to just say, “let’s give it a go.” But I am 100% glad I paid the money for it. It’s worth it.

It’s called Tam & Tao in Numberland by Les Trois Elles and it teaches counting based on the Montessori method.  It’s simply gorgeous – 10 different scenarios for the numbers 0-9, and each one has so many layers of detail and little easter eggs that just seem endless. Click on the girl and you count along with her, click on the boy and you’re transported to a drawing tablet where you can trace the number being featured, then try to draw it yourself freehand. Not to mention all the other secrets waiting to be discovered on every screen. Just the other day we were delighted to find that if you touch the stars in the “zero” screen, they sound a musical note and then wink out. It’s meant for ages 3-5, but Vivienne (who will be 2 in September) will sit with me and play it for quite a long time. And you can choose English, French or Spanish.


What are your favorite apps for toddlers? I’d like to know, and I’ll update more as I find them.


My First Steps in Astrophotography


For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by photographs of outer space. Whether it is the glowing moon hanging in the night sky, the banded clouds of Jupiter or multicolored nebulae light years from Earth, these kinds of pictures have a consistent ability to thrill me. Recently I began experimenting with taking some photographs of space myself, and whilst my results could never hope to come close to the majestic photos taken by Hubble and its companions, the results can be quite impressive with even the most basic equipment. Quite simply, if you own a camera, even only a low quality one embedded in your phone, chances are you can take something to be proud of.

My efforts at astrophotography so far have mostly centered on the moon. It’s a good target to begin with: lots of available light, easy to locate and it can be photographed well without any magnification. In fact the most basic of space photography can be done by simply pointing your camera skywards and clicking.

I would highly recommend a tripod if you want to take photos like this. Don’t concern yourself with spending any great amount of money on one though, my current tripod cost me £3 (about $5) and came from a car boot sale (the equivalent of a flea market) in the local school car park! More expensive models will clearly offer advantages but for beginners, a cheap model should happily suffice.

If you’d like to shoot something a bit more detailed than this, you’ll need some magnification. Whilst the higher you go, the more detailed your photos will be, again don’t think you need top dollar telescopes to take something. I bought a pair of binoculars for £1 at the pound shop (the English equivalent of a dollar store) when I was going on a cruise and used them to take this photo of the moon by holding one eyepiece in front of my camera.



Whilst rather blurry, we are now beginning to see some distinction to the surface with clear patches of light and dark. Not bad for a pair of £1 binoculars and my standard camera lens.

So far, we’ve only looked at our nearest neighbor, but what about some of those a little farther away? The stars are both very easy to photograph and very hard. They are easy enough to take because there are so many of them; point your camera to the sky, leave it on a long exposure and voilà, instant star photo. What makes it trickier is that the stars are naturally faint and tend to disappear at the first hint of street lighting, or the glow of a nearby city, a problem for many given the ubiquity of light pollution worldwide.  This photo was taken from my bedroom window when I lived close to the large city of Leeds and it’s easy to see the effect the city’s glow had on the night sky (the streaks down the right hand side are the reflection of my curtains, not some strange paranormal phenomena).


In order to take good stellar photos, you need to be somewhere dark, with little light pollution. Some of you may be lucky enough to have this scenario in your backyard but for me, it required an hour’s drive to the Peak District national park in the dead of night. You can instantly see the difference in the sky. This photo was taken by simply setting the camera to a thirty second exposure and lying it on the roof of my friend’s car. A remote trigger – available cheaply on eBay – helps here as it allows you to take the photo without having to touch the camera, risking it moving under the pressure. Most DSLR camera will work with remote triggers.

At this point I feel it is worth mentioning safety. The very nature of astrophotography means shooting at night and whilst taking pictures from a bedroom window is safe enough, driving to the middle of nowhere late at night is decidedly less so. If you decide to take your own field trip, be sure to have someone with you, emergency supplies in the car and to keep safe. My friend and I shot from a lay-by on a main road that is well-traveled even late at night and we had people who knew where we were at all times and were expecting calls at set times. Remember that no photograph is worth taking chances for.

Back at home, the photos I have shown you so far have all been taken with a digital SLR camera (a Canon 300D with standard lens to be precise) which isn’t the most basic camera out there. Taking photographs of anything in the sky with only a small camera will always be tricky, but you can get some results. I have been playing with my telescope, a refractor with 360mm focal length, over the past few weeks and took this picture by simply placing my iPhone’s camera lens at the eyepiece once I had lined up the image in the scope.

Moon through iPhone

Finally, the best results I have had so far have come from using the same technique above but using the SLR camera instead of the iPhone. This last photograph was taken last Sunday whilst sat comfortably in my living room, shooting through the patio doors.

Moon Through Telescope Eyepiece

Personally, I am incredibly proud of this photograph; it has inspired me to keep trying to get better and better shots, with my new aim being to try to photograph a planet.

If you have been inspired to try your hand at some astrophotography, the internet is packed full of resources and a quick search on Flickr will bring up thousands of amateur photos taken in back yards the world over. If you own a smart phone, I  recommend getting yourself a stargazing app such as the wonderful Star Walk which will help you quickly find what you’re looking for and identify the objects you can see in the skies. However, remember that all you need is a camera and some patience to take photos worth sharing. I look forward to seeing your results.

Kari Byron, Mythbuster Mom: Dipping a Toe in the Twitter Stream

Kari-March-photo-475x475As I watched my 19-month-old daughter masterfully navigate my iPhone, I couldn’t help but wonder how far technology will innovate in her lifetime. I am seriously in awe: She unlocked the phone, found Yo Gabba Gabba on my iTunes, and played the video. She figured it out faster than I first did. That is the moment I realized, “I need to keep up or become obsolete.”

So the next stop for me: Twitter.

It may seem silly, but I have had an internal philosophical debate about synthetic intimacy since Friendster. My hesitation may stem from the fact that I am a prodigal daughter of the Silicon Valley. As the Internet was becoming a juggernaut, I skipped town and lived out of a backpack. My friends were drenched in technology by the time I got back. My refrain was, “Why would I want to be in a chat room? I can just go to an actual place where people are! Friends? You don’t even know them!” Since then I’ve always felt one step behind.

It’s time to catch up. As my nerd posse would say, “Resistance is futile.”

I agonized over opening a Twitter account. I have a healthy fear of the Internet; everything you say is written in pen. There are no “take backs.” Besides, what if no one follows me? What if I don’t have anything to say? What if I say the wrong thing? I suddenly felt like it was the first day of school and I was wearing the off-brand jeans my mom bought on sale at Mervyn’s.

But… Here we go! I just signed up. I am on the train. I tweeted my first tweet. Somehow it feels like the world just got smaller. I am in the club, part of the Matrix, connected. I may not have profound wisdom or charming jokes to share just yet, but…

I am a citizen of the modern world.

Yes, I know everyone is already on Twitter … but at least I got online before my daughter did. Maybe the next step will be figuring out how to fix my computer without asking the twenty-somethings in the office to help me.

Kari can be found on Twitter @KariByron.

GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #6: Grown-Ups

HolidayLogoIIRegardless of what holidays you celebrate, the end-of-year festivities are right around the corner. If you choose to purchase gifts online, you need to order then in advance to allow for shipping time, backorders, and comparison shopping. We at GeekMom are here to help you with ideas for anyone on your gift list, from babies to grownups. This is the final post in our series of gift guides for 2010. Many of our writers have contributed to our series of gift guides, so the ideas run the gamut from popular bestsellers to more obscure, interesting gifts with which you may not be familiar. Chances are there will be something that appeals to you. Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments below.

This week’s guide is targeted at the grownups out there. And remember to visit our other gift guides that have already run: Week #1: Books, Week #2: Games, Week #3: Small Kids, Week #4: Larger Kids, and Week #5: Toys For Most Any Age, Including Grown-Ups. Happy Holidays to all!

GeekParent Wear
Show off your parental geek pride by sporting a GeekMom Tshirt from ThinkGeek, or a GeekDad Tshirt for any geeky fathers you know. There is also a GeekDad mug and GeekDad ornament available!

Shades of Milk and Honey
Mix Jane Austen with a generous helping of magic and fantasy, and you get Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. Ms. Kowal is an accomplished writer as well as amazing puppeteer, and was one of the puppeteers on the show LazyTown.

Damp Squid and How to Read a Word
If you’re interested in words, their history, and their usage, these two books will fascinate you. From the Oxford University Press, both of these books will take you on a journey of where our words come from, what constitutes a word, and how to learn more about words that fascinate you. (Photos: Oxford University Press)

This puzzle/game activity isn’t strictly for grownups, but it had to be included. Play by yourself, or in a group, and finding where all the pieces go can get as fun or as difficult as you let it.

Asus Eee PC
If you’re looking for a netbook to tote around, the Asus Eee PC is a very good option. With Windows 7, an excellent keyboard, and a very light weight, it is as useful as it is attractive. Read GeekMom’s reviews of the Asus Eee PC: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Apple App Magnets
Know someone who’s crazy about iPad and iPhone aps? These clever fridge magnets are the perfect gift. They look just like the ones on your iPhone or iPod and are just as functional, holding up scrap notes and grocery lists in style. Order a set for every app lover on your list. Eighteen magnets retail for $12.99.

Fracture: Photos Printed on Glass
Custom framing can be a drag. Literally. You drag your family portrait to the frame shop, pick out mat and frame styles, then wait for weeks, hoping the frame shop doesn’t lose your photo in the back room. After you lug the finished product home, you need to indulge in some cleansing breaths just to forget about the cost before you can hang and enjoy your portrait. Couldn’t technology save us from this fate? As a matter of fact, it can. A startup company called Fracture has figured out how to print your precious portraits – up to 11 x 14 – right onto shatter-resistant glass. Upload your jpg image to, choose any border design you like (including none), and they ship it to your home, fasteners included. Brilliant! Prints start at $8.

iPod Touch (4th generation)
The newest iPod Touch version has two built-in cameras allowing you to use FaceTime and record HD video. And it has a retina display. These are improvements over the 3rd generation version. If you can’t afford the monthly fee of an iPhone, and iPod Touch is an excellent option. Now you can have everything you can have on an iPhone, without the actual phone part (or the 3G connectivity, or the contract headaches).

iPod nano
The stylish, new iPod nanos are square instead of oblong, and they’ll clip right on to wherever you need them. Wear them on your wrist and they’ll double as a watch! But mostly, they’ll play your music for you, including FM radio. Sensitive to movement, you can shake them to shuffle to the next song.

An excellent gift idea for this year, the iPad is more than just a large iPhone or iPod Touch. Because of its generous size, it is much easier to use to play certain things, such as chess or checkers, or to do work, such as editing documents or writing email. Use it for play, for work, or for education.

Marian Call CDs
Marian Call, geek musician lady extraordinaire, is extremely talented with a beautiful voice. Her 49>50 Tour has taken her to 49 out of the 50 states so far, with just Hawaii left to conquer. If you love music about geeks, Firefly, Alaska, or Battlestar Galactica, give Marian a listen.

Ultimate Geek Pen
There’s really no such thing as “ultimate” to a geek, since the next best gadget is sure to be more appealing. But the Ultimate Geek Pen is pretty handy. It’s a ballpoint pen, a stylus tip, and a laser pointer. But wait, there’s more. It’s also a flexible flashlight and UV light.

Have a great holiday season!

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The Saga of a Geek Who (Once) Hated Apple

Image CC by kyz via Flickr

It is sort of an unwritten law of geekdom that when we have opinions about technology, we must have very, VERY strong opinions.  I faithfully adhere to this rule and had dually applied it to my sheer and unfettered hatred of all things Apple.  I thought the iPods were ridiculous.  I don’t care how small you can make it, it still sucked.  I found the obsession with iPhones a complete joke and once pointed and laughed at a line of people outside Best Buy the night before a release.  (Of course then I ran like mad but I still inflicted a wound or two on their egos.)  I could give you a whole list of reasons and would vehemently defend them all.

  • Macs are not user friendly. Yes, the menu scroll looks cool(ish) but I can get a skin for that on my Windows PC, thank you.
  • Why bother with that dumb two finger touch left-click dribble when you can just have two mouse buttons like every other self-respecting computer manufacturer?
  • The process of hacking the operating system (OS) is called jailbreaking.  Does this mean they have you prisoner?
  • They are stupidly expensive and you are paying more for the logo of a half-eaten fruit to be slapped on the back than you are for the actual product.

Oh the list went on and on in this fashion.  I even admitted in a previous post that I had never owned an Apple product. But very recently I accepted new responsibilities at work.  With new responsibilities came a handful of new perks, not the least of which was a new company phone (to ensure that I actually NEVER stop working).  And not just any phone, an iPhone 4.

I resisted.  I begged and pleaded and even drafted up an agreement for them to pay a portion of my personal bill.  I owned and loved my Droid and carrying an iPhone, even one as admittedly nifty as the fourth gen miracle recently hyped up, seemed so hypocritical.  I hated Apple.  They were pretentious and controlling and responsible for the technological travesty of the iMac. Continue reading The Saga of a Geek Who (Once) Hated Apple