iPhone

Tools of My Dad Day: Waze for the iPhone

Since my kids have gone back to school I've been giving a lot of thought to the tools that I use every day. This is the first in (maybe, hopefully) a series of the things that make my weekday life easier. Not all of them will be unique or even particularly special, but each of them make my day easier.

[Waze for the iPhone]

This app is what I've always wanted out of a turn-by-turn direction app on the iPhone, and it's not because it gives me directions. Waze helps drivers get around traffic by monitoring other Waze users on the roads and then suggesting alternate routes. The more drivers using Waze, the better all the users know how traffic is in real time. Trust me, it's awesome. Drivers can also report things like police speed traps, accidents and road construction giving other Waze users information on what is happening on the roads. When driving to and from school for my kids, it's proven invaluable.

There are loads of other location based features (like finding cheap gas) and there's a growing community of users trying to make the app better for everyone. I can't say enough good things about it, plus it's free to download and use.

Download Waze for iPhone at the iOS App Store

Thank you Steve Jobs.

It's hard not to dip into hyperbole about a man who's life is so extraordinary it essentially defies hyperbole. But I really can't think of a contemporary person (whom I've never met) that has had more of an effect on my daily life than Steve Jobs. His death is a great loss and, selfishly I suppose, I hope that his legacy survives long enough for us to transition into a world void of his unrelenting drive to make things better for everyone.

I think the best way to remember him is to go back and watch his 2005 Stanford commencement address.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

The 5 Best iPhone Camera Apps (So Far)

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Next to email, web browsing and text messaging, the best thing about the iPhone 4 is the camera. (I'd even put it above the iPod and voice calling functions.) It really has invigorated my "real" photography and has me thinking all the time about making something creative with photos in ways I never have before.

My latest posts on Man of the House detail what I think are the five best camera and/or photography apps on the iPhone right now. A few months ago the list would have been different, and I'm sure in a month or two it will be different again.

Camera+
Camera + is the best picture taking application on the iPhone (that isn't made by Apple). It's got lots of features but doesn't get in the way of getting to taking pictures quickly. A steal at $0.99.

TiltShift Generator
Since I've written this piece, other apps have incorporated "tilt shift" functionality (namely Instagram), but this one is still one of my favorites. Blurring the focus on elements of an image can make your iPhone's camera look like you've got a thousand dollar lens on it.

Plastic Bullet Camera
The best app for making your iPhone's camera look like a crappy camera is Plastic Bullet. Like the the crappy plastic cameras it's very random, and often very awesome. And i's made by people who make insanely expensive professional video cameras, and it shows.

ToonPaint
ToonPaint turns your photo into an illustration. Even though I wrote about this app on Modern Day Dad already I had to include it in the top five. It's still lots of fun to use.

Instagram
I look at Instagram every day, and it's getting to the point where if I take a cool picture, I'm more likely to post it to Instagram than Facebook. I couldn't have imagined that would be true six months ago. It's got a great community, fun filters to put on your photos and lots of inspiring images to look at. And if you're on Instagram too look me up. I'm "thechrisford" in Instagram.

CES 2011 - All the Great Stuff for Men

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CES was way over a month ago, but I just wanted to point your way to my final posts on the subject that are up now on the man/father super blog Man of the House. Here's the breakdown of everything I saw that was great for men and fathers:

CES 2011: Best New Gear of the Year - Most Useful - The Road Torq from Eton saves your bacon when you've got a flat tire

CES 2011: Best New Gear of the Year - Coolest Toy - The AR Drone iPod-controlled remote control helicopter.

CES 2011: Best New Gear of the Year - Best Television - The Samsung 8000 Series LED Television

CES 2011: Best New Gear of the Year - Most Innovative - The Razer Switchblade

CES 2011: Best of CES for Guys - And these are the "honorable mentions" of the things I saw at CES that were great, specifically for guys.

Great iPhone Apps for Kids: Cookie Doodle

CookieDoodle

Cookie Doodle for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch is a great app for kids for three big reasons:

  1. It's fairly easy for children 3(-ish) years and older to understand and use without constant help from Mom or Dad.
  2. Instead of a game that rewards with a score or unlocked levels, it encourages simple creativity. The reward is the cool thing you make.
  3. It's $0.99.

Cookie Doodle is an app that lets your kids go through all the steps of making a "virtual" cookie, from rolling out the dough, baking it, decorating it and eating it. Kids can pick from huge lists of types of dough, frosting, and other decorations. The app is also updated constantly for holidays, so right now for instance the app is configured for Valentine's Day cookies. But even if your child can't read yet, the interface is still simple enough to figure out how to use.

My daughters, especially my youngest (4 years old), love this app. Lots of apps for kids take a few minutes of their attention before they get bored, but when they're using Cookie Doodle they probably spend more time on it than any other app. There are so many choices and steps until the cookie is finished, that once they finally complete what they are working on they've already thought of another creation to make.

Trust me. Put it on your iPhone and hand it to them when you get to the restaurant, and before you know it you'll make it to when the food arrives with no drama. That is, unless they're fighting over who's turn it is to make the cookie.

Cookie Doodle by Shoe The Goose is available for $0.99 from the iTunes App Store.

The 3 Biggest Disappointments of CES 2011

via manofthehouse.com

I went to the Consumer Electronics Show last month, and I've bitched about written already about some of the stuff I saw, but today on Man of the House I've written about my top three disappointments. Including in this is my open post to George Lucas:

Dear Mr Lucas, enough already. I bought your movies when they were on VHS. And then I bought them again on VHS when you "updated" them. Then you made brand new movies that kind of sucked but I went (and even waited in line) to see those. And then I bought the good movies when they came out on DVD. And then I bought...

The 3 Biggest Disappointments of CES 2011 [Man of the House]

iPhone App of the Week: ToonPAINT for iPhone

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ToonPAINT is the most fun I've had with a photography iPhone app in a long time. It seems like every photo app I download (which, admittedly is a lot) just takes a picture you've taken with your iPhone and turns it into something that looks like you took it with a crappy camera from the 1970s. It was fun for a while, but honestly I'm bored with it. These apps made more sense when the iPhone camera wasn't that great, but now that the camera has been vastly improved in the iPhone 4, there isn't a need anymore to make your photos look even more hip worse.

ToonPAINT on the other hand takes your image and creates

a monochrome line drawing of it, which you can then color-in. The initial image can be adjusted for the edges, black level and gray level, and sometimes you'll just want to stop there. But if you want to color your photo, you can choose colors from a standard color-picker, the colors you've already chosen, or colors from the original image. The whole thing is really well thought out and very easy to use.

Check out some of the pictures I made above - a few are from images that weren't that great as photos, but suddenly become interesting in ToonPAINT. My kids in particular got a big kick out of using the app. They have used a similar app from Lego that turns a picture into a sort of "Lego" image, but the instant cartoon you get with ToonPAINT looks much cooler.

ToonPAINT is $1.99 (a steal!) in the iOS App Store.