Sunday, September 26, 2010

iPad App Roundup: Food Diaries and Calorie Counters

In this blog post for TheAppleBlog, I cover food diaries and calorie counters for the iPad. Some great ones out there!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hardware Review: Car MD

I'm about the worst person at taking care of my car. I'm like the computer owner who never backs up, doesn't run an antivirus, and always unplugs the computer instead of doing a proper shutdown. I'm a mechanic's nightmare. However with CarMD ($98.00), at least I'm not a total n00b anymore in taking care of my car.

CarMD takes advantage of the OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) port built into most cars made after 1996, which is usually located somewhere under the dash. The CarMD website tells you exactly where to find the port on your particular car. Once you find the port, all you have to do is plug it into your car and wait until the device beeps that it's read your car's info. Three simple lights give you a quick diagnostic of your car's status: a green checkmark indicating all is ok, an yellow question mark indicating there might be a problem and a red x indicating something needs to be corrected.

The CarMD includes a USB cable and software to hook the device up to your computer. The software primarily creates a bridge between the device and the CarMD website. The first time you use the website, you have to put your car's information and mileage into the system. One account can support up to three different cars. I easily added my car and my spouse's. They suggest using the device when checking out a potential used car for purchase, but with only 3 cars on one account, the usefulness in this area is somewhat limited.

The first time I tried the device, my car just had a major milestone of service, so I knew everything checked out ok. Ironically, my CarMD had an yellow light indicating a problem. I panicked and spoke with their support people. Apparently when you get your car serviced, certain logs are cleared out so there wasn't enough diagnostic info in some areas. Whew! A few weeks later the device had no problem giving my car a clean bill of health.

In addition to explaining your "check engine" light on your car, the CarMD website also informs you of any recalls or technical service bulletins. For an additional $19.95 you can unlocked an unlimited number of these TSBs, or you can simply research them yourself. For an car dummy like me, it's best just to pay for the premium so you have all your car info in one place. In the future, CarMD promises the Premium Membership will include data about scheduled and preventative maintenance.

Overall, I really liked the device. I panic when any strange lights come on my car or whenever I have a problem. For less than the cost of a shop visit, I can arm myself with enough information to make an informed decision about my car care.

Pros: Quality information about your car and its current state
Cons: Premium membership is a bit costly for what it does

4 out of 5 Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here , Macsimumnews here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hardware Review: Lapworks Recliner

As the market matures for iPad products, the choices for a good stand have become overwhelming. Some people have made a cheap stand from a few parts found at an office supply store while others have a rudimentary stand built right into an iPad protective sleeve. Lapworks focus on style and function rather than portability and cost. Although $44.95 is not cheap, neither was your iPad.

Fortunately this stand isn't specific to the iPad, but can hold any similarly sized tablet device such as a Kindle or Nook. The stand is adjustable and can sit anywhere from 8.25 inches tall to 4.25 inches tall so you can comfortable read or display your device at any angle. It also supports the iPad in either a portrait or landscape mode. The rubber pads provide an excellent grip to prevent slipping and sliding while allowing full access to the device, including the charging port.

Unfortunately the stand isn't really portable. Unlike other Lapworks products, this stand does not fold or deconstruct for easy carrying. I tried to carry it with me to the coffee shop, but the point of carrying the iPad was reducing bulky accessories, not adding to them. Honestly, for the price, I'd expect a bit more. I did receive quite a few compliments at the coffee shop, though.

Overall, I really liked the stand. While not in use, the stand made a highly stable base of my iPad while charging and showing pictures. Occasionally while watching TV on the iPad, the base travelled into the bedroom to provide a easy platform for viewing. Trying to watch a 60 minute show while holding an iPad does get tiring quickly. When the iPad is used for heavy word processing with the bluetooth keyboard, the experience was clearly superior to the iPad keyboard stand produced by Apple.

Pros: Stable, attractive base for your iPad
Cons: Pricey, not portable

Four out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Hardware Review: Hard Candy iPad Case

Hard Candy seem to always be first to market lately with protective cases for Apple's latest accessories. First impressions mean a lot and Hard Candy doesn't disappoint. Their Bubble Sleeve is the case I rely on for my iPad when I want to make sure it's gong to arrive at my destination intact.

This case adds quite a bit of bulk to your iPad. Other sleeves can be compared to a sports car: svelte, stylish and fragile. The Bubble Sleeve is the mini-van of iPad cases and focuses on protection rather than style or size. It's the sleeve you'd carry your children to soccer practice in. Don't we all think of our iPads as a member of the family? Color options include black, gold, and pink. Externally, the Bubble Sleeve looks like bubble wrap. Round half globes give it an industrial look and provide the first level of protection for your precious. Inside, your iPad is cushioned with a firewall of soft foam rectangles. The sides of the Bubble Sleeve are reinforced with felt struts to provide additional protection on the endpoints. The back of the iPad is cushioned in a flat layer of foam protection combined with bright red shock absorbing rubber bumpers to hold your iPad in place.

Overall, I found the Bubble Sleeve a bit bulky for everyday trips to the coffee shop. When traveling the protection was outstanding. I felt very comfortable that putting my Bubble Sleeve in my carry on or laptop bag would ensure my iPad arrived along with me intact and unscathed. Neoprene sleeves simply don't provide enough shock absorption for the bumps and drops the average traveller encounters. I've also used the Bubble Sleeve when carrying my iPad on my bicycle and recommend the Bubble Sleeve to students who ride to class. Those bubbles will protect your iPad from getting crushed by those heavy textbooks in your backpack.

Pros: Excellent protection and quality
Cons: May be a bit bulky for everyday use

Macsimum News Rating 9 out of 10

4.5 out of 5 dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right