02 Dec

I’m all Tapped Out: The Simpsons app review

Simpsons Tapped Out

I feel as a human being, we are all instinctively born with knowledge of the Simpsons. As a 90’s kid, the Simpsons has always been around, and probably always will be. When I first started playing the EA app The Simpsons™: Tapped Out I suddenly realised how many people I knew that were already playing it, and more importantly, how much further ahead they were!

This app was instantly addictive. I enjoyed reading the little storylines that go along with the quests, and I chuckled to myself when clicking on the different characters and hearing their catchphrases. I found that I progressed quickly in the beginning, which is important otherwise you feel like you are getting nowhere.

You know you’re hooked when you find yourself bragging to your other half, ‘I got the Chief Wiggum, have you?’.

As far as game play goes, it’s easy to get the hang of, and enjoyable, if a little repetitive. Therapeutic might be a better word. It’s a little like a Farmville/Sims mash-up, but much better. And you can make Nelson say ‘ha ha’ on cue.

 

22 Nov

Home screen apps

Homescreen
Homescreen

My android screenshot: The apps I use most

Take a look at your home screen and check out the app shortcuts you have on there. Are they your favourites/most used? I tend to update mine regularly, and switch them around to fit in with whatever wallpaper I happen to have that month.

MyFitnessPal during a health kick, Candy Crush Saga (see app review) during a particularly slow week, but there are a few that stick.

Facebook being one of them. Everybody has Facebook on their phone. How would you ever know how great your old schoolmate’s life is now without it? Check out this great list of statuses everybody writes and everybody hates on Mashable.

Twitter is another of those stay-forever apps. There is a lot of great content linked on Twitter, even if you have to sift through all the rubbish first. I’ve found some great resources on Twitter that would never be on the top pages of a Google search. Although there isn’t a better starting point than Google, which is why that stays on my home screen too.

How did people survive pre-search-engine? I remember a time, back when I was a very young girl, when I would ask my mum the spelling or definition of a new word and we would run off to the bookshelf and look it up in a dictionary. Now, anything you want to know, Google it. The internet: simultaneously making knowledge more accessible and people more lazy. Don’t even get me started on txt spk.

The BBC News app is a regular. I like to keep up-to-date with current affairs. I like to know what’s going on in the world, and the app is brilliantly simple to use.

As for Instagram, I’ve rather lost interest in it lately. This one might not last much longer on the list of usuals. It is primarily pictures of people’s dinners, people on exercise machines, posing in bathroom mirrors and “look at my new lipstick/dog/sofa”. All stuff that is interesting to the person taking the photograph, and of little/no interest to anyone else. There’s a great list on Buzzfeed illustrated by artist Joanna Zhou about the types of Instagram photos.

I also keep O2 Priority Moments on there, not because I use it a lot but just to remind me to check it. I would hate to think I was missing out on a free coffee. It takes a ridiculous amount of time to load though, and sometimes I lose interest before I’ve even made it past the loading screen.

What apps do you keep on your home screen? What is your favourite? Leave your comments below.

20 Nov

I hate love hate Candy Crush

I’ve been addicted to this app, Candy Crush Saga, since its 2012 release. Originally a Facebook game, it is theraputic as well as frustrating. King has done a good job of keeping me hooked, but I hate it too. I’ve spent too long shuffling little sweetie icons around my phone but somehow I can’t stop!

Candy Crush Saga for Android Screenshot

Candy Crush Saga screenshot

I only have two rules.

  1. Never ever post anything to Facebook (a great way to annoy your buddies).
  2. Never pay for any upgrades. I say this because where is the fun and sense of triumph in just paying your way through the game? It’s possible, no matter how many weeks/months it takes to complete that one level… and a lot of people have been caught out spending a little here and there, to find they end up with a bill that could have paid for their groceries that month.

I would advise not to even download this app unless you spend most of your days looking for things to fill your time with. I wish I hadn’t. I’m now stuck in an endless cycle of brightly coloured sweets. At the time of writing, I’m on level 320 and I would hate to find out how much time I’ve spent on the thing. It’s brilliant though. It’s so addictive and it is cleverly designed to give you a little victory just at the moment you are about to give up. The little animations in-between games are delightful and the whole app looks and works fabulously.

Try it, or don’t, but I can’t be held responsible for any time lost by downloading this app.

Someone actually made these. Stud earrings available from beadhappy08 on Etsy.co.uk

Someone actually made these. Candy Crush stud earrings available from beadhappy08 on Etsy.co.uk

11 Nov

Bitten by the Bitstrips bug

Bitstrips example

Bitstrips exampleThe recently trending app Bitstrips definitely fits into the apps for fun category, for a while, and I would recommend a little play around with it just to make your daily Facebook statuses a little less dull. Until everyone has gotten bored of you posting whimsical cartoons about your life and have started posting statuses asking you to stop.

After opening up the app for the first time, you’re required to make an avatar for yourself, and possibly for your loved ones if you wish them to ‘feature’ in your scenes. There’s a fair bit of choice, and you can get your avatar to look somewhat like yourself, which is part of the fun really. Think Sims in cartoon form. And with a lot less control past this stage.

You will then get presented with a series of cartoon images featuring your avatar and, if you chose this option, your co-star. You can edit them by adding speech-bubbles and changing the humorous captions. Then you can share them in a number of different ways (20 times a day if you want to annoy a colleague you dislike).

I would recommend an ‘install’ on the basis that it gives some short-term pleasure. Just, please, don’t get carried away with this one.

09 Nov

FBomb: Where in the world?

FBomb Map

Have you ever wanted to know how many people drop the F-bomb in tweets these days? No, me neither, but theres a webpage to help you find out the answer to that question.

When you first load the FBomb page, it will show a blank map. Every time someone uses the F word in a tweet, it will show the location on this map. It quickly fills up – especially in English-speaking countries. What a coincidence. Nevertheless, I still found it interesting and thought you would too.

This kind of thing could be really useful for businesses, which other keywords related to their industry or directly to their brand. It would be interesting to see how it could develop further.

FBomb Map

Where in the world are people tweeting f***?

09 Nov

The e-reader battle continues: Amazon infiltrates bookstores

E-reader

I was one of the early ones to switch sides and invest in a Kindle. I had the Kindle Keyboard for years, until the screen recently stopped showing nicely formed letters and started showing lines instead. I loved my Kindle so much that my most recent Valentine’s gift from a very generous husband of mine was a brand new Kindle Fire. It has become one of my most used gadgets, along with my smartphone and my laptop.

I love my new Kindle, despite it not having nearly as much battery life as my old faithful Keyboard, it’s definitely nicer to use, and has other functions that I use regularly and wouldn’t know now how to live without.

My favourite being the touch screen and automatic dictionary definition search. I’m reading a book, and stumble across a word I’m not familiar with. Previously, I would either whip out my phone and spent a minute searching it on there, or just make a reasonable guess from its context. Neither of these options really satisfied my thirst for quick, easy bursts of knowledge.

Now, I simply touch and hold the word I want to look up and a definition summary pops up on screen. Five seconds later, I’ve learnt a new word and I carry on reading knowing that I’m gaining a little from the whole experience. Brilliant.

I’ve been converted well-and-truly. I still prefer real paper books for certain things. Kids books don’t work as well on an e-reader in my opinion, and reference books, and books about art and design with a lot of images. I still have a small bookcase that houses these glorious items and I won’t ever give these up.

But for a regular novel, I have never looked back.

I have read some absolutely wonderful books, all stored safely on my Amazon account, taking up the space of less than one book and each one costing less too. From a consumer’s perspective, what is not to love?

At the same time, I would hate to see bookshops disappear altogether. More and more people are now adopting e-readers, and a quick Google search for “how many people own an ereader” returns some interesting research showing how massively they have taken off.

The most recent development is a move by Amazon to try and get independent bookshops to sell Kindles by offering them a small cut of e-book sales after the sale of the e-reader. I can only see how this will benefit Amazon, furthering their reach but hindering the other parties more, and that is the general consensus among high-street booksellers. What is to stop the customer going directly to Amazon?

The war between high-street and online rages on.

I don’t even know which side I am on. Can I chose both?

05 Nov

Draw by your finger shapes art: App review

SC20131104-234425
Mobile Plasma has released this app for drawing with your finger. It is a good idea, with a terrible execution. I created one image that looked… interesting and that was it. The app is very limited, and the advertising is ridiculous, bordering on the unbearable.

It has received an average of 3.4 stars on Google Play – which I think is rather generous really.

This isn’t one for artists. It keeps you amused for almost 10 seconds. A quick uninstall leaves me peacefully ad-free and all the happier for it.

04 Nov

Tesco ‘face-scanning’: Where do you draw the line?

It has been announced that Tesco will be installing face-scanning technology at tills in their petrol stations. The idea is to recognise the customer’s gender and a rough approximation of their age. I can see this going badly wrong…

My first thought is what a great way to anger your customers, advertising Tena Lady to women in their forties, and tampons to men with long hair!

Face Scan

Face-scanning: Would you be happy about this data being collected?

If this technological leap is anything like their self-scan tills, we can expect a whole host of teething problems. More importantly, however, is the issue surrounding how our images are to be used. A Tesco spokeswoman said, “No data or images are collected or stored and the system does not use eyeball scanners or facial-recognition technology”, but does this really fill you with confidence? Surely as any system, it will be vulnerable to hacking and security issues. Personally I, and I’m positive many will feel the same, don’t feel comfortable with my face being scanned every time I go in to fill up my car.

It’s all very big brother of Tesco to initiate advertising in this way. I even find banner ads showing those shoes I’ve just looked at a little creepy.

As one commenter on a BBC News article put it, “This is where technology is blurring the line between the reasonable and intrusive.” and I think ravenmorpheus2k got it spot on.

And that’s the problem with this. It is intrusive. And entirely unnecessary. Will it make me think twice about filling up at Tesco? Yes. And we’re not exactly spoilt for choice.

 

27 Oct

Chiharu Shiota: Other Side

That moment when you feel something in the atmosphere that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up is beautiful. I felt that today, when I visited the Towner gallery in Eastbourne.

There’s a fantastic installation in their huge exhibition room by the very talented Chiharu Shiota. When you walk in, you feel like you’ve just walked into a horror movie. My toddler son suddenly announced “don’t like it”. I can understand why he felt that way. It was unnerving. You are presented with five mismatched, weathered doors, and a huge web of black yarn. It is woven into such beautiful shapes, that you just can’t help but admire it’s construction. It is thin enough that you can make out people on the other side of the room, distorted by the wool tunnels, but thick enough that your path is clearly mapped out. The dim bulbs hanging within the web reflect the light perfectly, so that the floor is also a mass of web-like shadows. It is eerie and fantastic, scary and wonderful all at the same time.

I would really recommend going to visit this one. It is free to view – so well worth the trip – and on until 5th January 2014.

Chiharu Shiota: Other Side

Instagram @KurtJobling

24 Oct

The way in which we get customer service

It is never a good decision to give customers just one way to get in touch. There are times when an email is best – you don’t want to hang around on hold listening to the same song over and over, and it’s not that urgent anyway.

Sometimes a quick phone call is all it needs, then you can stop worrying and know that everything is sorted.

Phone Clock

Can technology reduce the amount of time we spend waiting on the phone?

And sometimes, yes even in this digital age, a letter is what is needed. I recently sent a letter to a company telling them what a good member of staff they had. It’s rare, but it does happen.

It’s irritating to say the least when a company is faceless. Take eBay for instance. How do you get in touch with someone just to explain a situation? It took me too long to find a number. I am certain that this is no accident.

We all have to deal with the endless phone queues though. As I write, I have been listening to the same ‘thank you for waiting, we will answer your call as soon as possible’ for over 15 minutes. All I want is a new PIN number. It’s not even an account I use much. Please, why is there no online contact form that I can just fill out and they can send me a new one?

Banks, council offices, utility companies, doctors surgeries, dentists… why is there no easy way to contact them? You’d think, in this day and age, they would have figured out that the longer they keep us waiting, the less likely they will be to get a polite and understanding customer on the end of the line?

There has to be a solution to this problem. Internet chat has come the closest for me, except at the point when they are clearly reading from a script – or when the problem is far from solved and they say ‘is there anything else I can help you with today?’

Surely technology can help with this. We are supposed to be in an age of global communication, and I have to wait twenty minutes to speak to someone in a bank I could have crawled to in this time.

 

*Note – 35 minutes and I gave up. What a way to make an issue out of something so routine!