Monthly Archives: May 2011

Try These BlackBerry Apps

By Sherry Jackson

With more than 18,000 BlackBerry apps now on the market, BlackBerry users are downloading over a million apps each day. Here are some popular ones to try.

Feeds-Google Client Reader

Price: $2.99; CDJ Studios

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This app allows you to read your Google RSS Feeds on your device and sync up with Google Reader. Article feeds will automatically be downloaded (there’s a setting that also lets you control how many download at one time) when synced and items that you read on your BlackBerry will be marked as read and vice versa. Folders and feeds can be marked as read with one click, and you can read items while offline. The app is also optimized for minimal battery and memory usage.

Grape Theme

Price: Free; MMMOOO

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Grape Theme from MMMOOO isn’t really an app, but it’s worth mentioning. Designer Lee Jong-Young was the first runner-up in the BlackBerry Theme Design Competition held in South Korea earlier this year. Themes for the BlackBerry continue to be popular as they let users customize their devices. Read the rest of this entry

Must-Play Facebook Games

By Sheila Lewis

FrontierVille 

http://apps.facebook.com/frontierville

Life on the frontier can be pretty hectic at times, but you certainly can’t complain about running out of things to do! FrontierVille bombards you with non-stop quests, giving players goals to work on at all times. In addition to developing your homestead, tending to your animals, and doing a bit of farming, one of the goals of the game is to score yourself a virtual mate and then a virtual child. Once you have a spouse and a kid, you can even make them do all of the work for you!

Rating of 4 of 5 Read the rest of this entry

Clean Up Your Act With These Apps

Clorox myStain

Yes, there is some product placement going on, but this is a useful app nonetheless. Got a kid-generated stain like berries or vomit? Look it up on myStain to find both on-the-go and at-home stain-lifting solutions. Step-by-step instructions are practical, detailed, and involve common household items besides Clorox products — such as salt or a wire brush.

I had several epiphanies while testing this app: Who knew, for example, that rubbing a coffee stain with bar soap can actually make it set? My only complaint is that there are some … ahem … common kid-generated stains that Clorox doesn’t account for. Maybe it was just too gross for them to go there.

FREE.

Runs on: Android, iPhone. 

Chore Pad

We first heard about this one from Moms With Apps — one of our favorite sites. Chore Pad is great for families, or any other household where more than one person is responsible for cleaning up.

Start by adding everyone in the house as a user. Next create a “Chore Chest.” You can set chores so they come up automatically every time they need someone to do them, and you  can even assign each chore with a 1-10 “value” so that folks get more points for the most time-consuming or most loathsome chores. And you can easily add or delete chores, and switch chores from one family member to another as your household changes.

The feature that makes this app a big hit with users: its motivational tools. You collect stars and trophies as complete your chores. It motivates kids (and their parents) to pitch in.

$2.99

Runs on: iPhone, iPad.

I Can’t Believe It’s Free: The Week

I don’t watch the 24-hour news channels very much, but I did tune in during the Osama Bin Laden story. I was struck by how hard it was to get the actual story on these channels. Instead, there were lots of wordy pundits, eager to put their own loud spin on events even as they were unfolding.

As I watched, I got the sense that many of these channels are catering to people who 1) have infinite amounts of time, 2) want their news outlet to confirm what they already think, and 3) enjoy picking political spats with family members at Thanksgiving. For the other 90 percent of us, there’s The Week. And it’s now available as an Android and iPhone app.

For several years I’ve subscribed The Week in print. It comes every Saturday. Spend 20 minutes with it, and you get your current events “booster shot” that helps you shine at work and at cocktail parties. The editors at The Week comb through newspaper and magazine stories from around the world and succinctly summarize the week’s most important events. More importantly, they scrutinize what the editorials have said about those stories — in both “liberal” and “conservative” publications. A regular feature called “How They See Us” even examines what publications overseas are saying about U.S. news stories. The Week always cites its sources clearly, so you can go back to the original article if you want to learn more.

The Week has a lighter side too — collections of the best political cartoons, reviews of movies and T.V. shows, and a roundup of celebrity gossip.

The app has tabs like “The Latest News,” which today features topics ranging from immigration reform to Oprah’s last guest. Another tab called “Editor’s Choice” picks the most interesting stories from a longer period of time. Here, you’ll find stories ranging from Detroit’s 47% illiteracy rate to Bristol Palin’s (possible) plastic surgery. “Cartoons” collects the funniest and most pointed work from publications across the country. Other tabs allow you to browse stories in more specific categories and even bookmark stories to read later.

My only complaint with the app is that it sometimes takes 10 or 20 seconds to load on my Android phone. But the content is worth the wait.

I Can’t Believe It’s Free: My Fitness Pal

I hate diets, so logging what I eat and how much I exercise has been my go-to strategy when I need to drop a few pounds. For several years, I’ve really liked The Daily Plate at Livestrong.com on my computer, which works great and is free. The drawback is the lack of portability.

Last week, I decided to give an app a try, but the Calorie Tracker by Livestrong.com app is $2.99. I’m cheap, so I decided to give My Fitness Pal a try. And I’m so glad I did.

It’s simple to use, takes just minutes a day, and I think I may like it better than my old standby Daily Plate site because it runs much faster. You start by recording your current weight, your goal weight, your general activity level, and how many pounds you’d like to lose each week. The app sets a calorie intake goal for every day. You can enter items and check your progress on the app or on a companion web site. The two sync effortlessly.

The food diary is a breeze to use and, so far, contains everything I ever eat. The app even calculates whether you’re getting your daily dose of things like protein, potassium and iron. (Confession: I’m not.)

Tip: Several months ago, I had considered and dismissed My Fitness Pal because I thought it allows you to record strength exercises only as individual exercises. I couldn’t be bothered with that, and wanted to log something like circuit training, 30 minutes or yoga, 60 minutes and be done with it. Weirdly, these activities are in “cardiovascular exercises” a list that also includes things like gardening and housecleaning (helper if you’re a desk worker like me whose general activity level is “sedentary.”

App’s Neatest Feature: After you’ve finished logging for the day, the app says “If every day were like today, you’d weigh [number of pounds] in five weeks.” That little calculation every night from your pal inspires you to stay on track the next day too.

My Fitness Pal

FREE, My Fitness Pal LLC.

Runs on Android, iPhone, Blackberry

5 out of 5 stars