Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Exercise with RunKeeper

You may be an experienced runner or jogger or someone who wants to do the basics to stay healthy and fit, RunKeeper is an app that will help you to stay motivated on your quest.

Runkeeper does GPS tracking of your outdoor walks, runs and cycling routes. Items tracked are; speed, distance, pace, miles/kilometers per hour, etc. It even shows and saves a map of your route. In addition, you can manually enter activities in a gym or home workout. Things like exercise machine, time, distance, heart rate, miles/kilometers per hour, heart rate, repetitions, etc. All of this on your Android or iOS smart phone.

Enter the Exercise Machine
Enter the Type of Workout
Input the Workout Information and Save
To some this might sound like a lot of work but it really isn't. For me it's the motivation to keep me going as I can see weight loss results, the ability to do more and the healthy feeling when completing an exercise. Beyond that, RunKeeper sends you congratulatory e-mails when you've exceeded a previous week or month's event. For instance, after my workout today, I got an e-mail congratulating me for burning the most calories in a month. It's like your own personal trainer that you don't have to pay! Now that I like.
RunKeeper Route Map with Stats on Web
RunKeeper Route Map from Android
RunKeeper is FREE but for the more sophisticated runner or cyclists, you can subscribe to RunKeeper Elite for $4.99 per mo. or $19.99 per year and get more features like "live" activity broadcasting on the web, additional training plans and more sophisticated reports.. Now I'm not one of these people and you might not be either so the Free RunKeeper has worked great for me for over 2 years.
Miles on Bike, Elliptical Machine and Walk 
Get started by going to to create a free account. Put the software on your smart phone and log in. That's it. Enjoy yourself, enjoy your life by having fun with exercise.
The RunKeeper website has links to much, much more in the way of tracking and enjoying exercise. Take a look around.

Please share your favorite app for exercising.

Please support me in the fight against breast cancer with the Susan G Komen 3-Day Walk. Donate right her in my quest to walk 60 miles over 3 days. Thank you for your support.

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Smart Phones for Beginngers - Part I

So you got a smart phone and you're not sure why or maybe one was purchased for you and you are curious about what it can do?

To help, I am writing a series (I don't know how many) of articles describing the basics of smart phones, their features and just what the hubub is all about. In other words, "so what can this thing do for me?". I'll also unveil some of  the mysterious terms we keep hearing about from our "techy" friends and family members or even on the TV now days.

Since there are a variety of smart phone brands, I will do my best to be more general unless the brand is significant to warrant it. Something like the Kleenex brand being used as tissues. The iPhone comes to mind here but the iPhone is not the only game in town as many will tell you and you might very well know.
We can't avoid it now-more and more people are getting smart phones and they are becoming so useful beyond making a phone call. Today's smart phones have advanced technologically that they are more powerful than desktop computers less than 10 years ago.
However, if you haven't lived in a cave, marketing hype and prowess cannot be completely trusted so you'll have to learn some smart phone basics for yourself.

A cellular telephone with built-in applications and internet access. In addition to digital voice service, modern smart phones provide text messaging, e-mail, web-browsing, still and video cameras, MP3 player and video playback and calling.

The first is the screen size and design. Screens are measured diagonally and have grown much in the last few years. Some smart phone screens are growing some much that they  have been given the, sometimes unwelcome, name of "phablet". A cross between a phone and a tablet. Remember, these little phones have evolved to become "smart" computers you can carry in your pocket or purse and if you can't read what is on the screen then what use are these expensive little pieces of metal and plastic anyway.
The most popular of smart phone screens these days measure 4" to 4 3/4". Again, this is diagonally. As of this writing, the two most popular smart phones in the US are the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S III and their screen sizes are 4" and 4.8" respectively (see photos below). Samsung's Galaxy Note and Note 2 jumped out to 5.5" with other manufacturers following their lead as people are buying these larger smart phones as fast as they can be made.



Smart phones have 2 major pieces to consider: the phone or hardware and the software that runs it commonly referred to as the operating system. Most desktops and laptops have operating systems from either Microsoft (Windows) or Apple (Mac). Smart phone operating systems are either: Android (Google), iOS (Apple), Windows Phone (Microsoft) and Blackberry (formerly RIMM now known as Blackberry). For we beginners, I wouldn't get to hung up over the operating systems except to say they are all pretty good with pluses and minuses for each--just about like most things. Of course, there are many evangelists in each camp so it is wise to understand this while we learn about each of them. The most popular are iOS from Apple and Android from Google. Blackberry has been falling while Windows Phone has been rising.
iOS - Apple
Android - Google
Windows Phone - Microsoft
Future topics to include: How do I add or delete apps, what does iOS stand for?, how do I add people to my phone's phone book?, what are all of those tiny symbols at the top of the screen?, how long should the battery last or why does my battery run out after just a few hours? what is 3G, 4G and LTE and are they important? can I really read a book on such a small screen? can I really listen to music on my phone?.
Please include your own smart phone questions in the comments box at the bottom of this article.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

How am I doing? A very quick Survey.

As we approach the one year anniversary of this blog, I firmly want to give you topics you are interested in. I am committed to delivering the information in clear, concise and avoid being technical. I truly need you to be frank and honest with me by offering up some feedback. Please be honest.

Please see the very short survey below. It's only 5 questions.

Thank you so much.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Top 8 Most Used Smart Phone Apps - Android

These are my most useful apps. A most useful app is one that I use virtually every day. Some very good apps I own are not on this list because they are used for very specific purposes and not frequently. Also, most useful to me are those that include ease of view due to my vision disability. As a result, many most useful apps are eliminated from my list because text cannot be increased for me to view comfortably.

My smart phone Home screen
My Smart Phone Home Screen

I use an Android smart phone. The model and brand is not that important except that I desire the largest screen possible due to my vision disability. Larger text takes up more space so I want more space. Don't worry if you have an iPhone or Windows Phone, many of these apps are available for you too.

My Personal Productivity apps:

Gmail This is not always the standard email app on Android phones but should be. Be that as it may, it is clear, easy to use and see on the smaller screen. I can enlarge the text to see if nicely too. FREE

DigiCal This is a calendar app and I've gone though a few of them. I decided upon DigiCal for two reasons. The first is that I can enlarge the text to read it comfortably. The second is that it has a widget that I can have larger text too. What's a widget you say? If you notice my smart phone home screen above, the lower right hand area is my calendar widget. I don't have to touch an icon to open the calendar as the widget is always there showing the latest information. This widget takes up the space of 6 icons (2 x 3) but I don't care since, on my phone, my calendar is the second most important app besides the phone. FREE

DigiCal+ $4.99 has no advertising and expanded widget features. I used DigiCal for about 3 weeks and went ahead and purchased DigiCal+ to drop the ads. To me it was worth it.

Social Media:

Plume (Twitter replacement) Again, I've used a few Twitter apps and have landed on Plume for now. Like all apps on my smart phone, I must be able to read the text. If it is too small, then it just doesn't work for me. I can enlarge Plume's text just enough to be able to read it comfortably. As far as twitter apps go, Plume is working perfectly for me. FREE with ads. Read my article on using Twitter.

Plume Premium is $4.99 and has no ads.

My News and Information Sources:

Google Reader Like my iPad, I use Google Reader information but with a different app to pull the information in to it. However, on the smart phone, the standard Google Reader app works very well indeed. Text size can be enlarged and I can even share articles to Facebook or Twitter. I just love Google Reader. It's like a customized newspaper-like app where all of the articles are of interest to me. FREE. Read my article on Google Reader

AP Mobile Again, just like the iPad, AP Mobile is another source of news and information for me. Text is nice and large and it gives me the top stories up to the minute from Associated Press. It even breaks down news by category: Sports, Showbiz, World Headlines and US News Headlines. FREE.

MyWeather My Weather is available for iOS and Android and even allows me to have other cities. I can choose the map for the city and see radar images for rain or snow. The only downside to me is that My Weather seems to get it's weather from the closest local airport to the city. The closest airport to my city is 25 miles away and beyond a small line of hills. The weather is typically 3 to 5 degrees different there. FREE

My Personal Health:

Calorie Counter - MyFitnehttpsssPal I have been successfully dieting for the past few months and MyFitnessPal has contributed to my success. I record calorie intake by food item and track all types of exercise and the calorie burn for each. At the end of the day I see a message that says, if every day were just like today, in 5 weeks I would weigh x pounds. This has been really good motivator for me. MyFitnessPal is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8. There is a website too. FREE. Read my article on MyFitnessPal.

* You may have noticed I did not mention Facebook. Although I look at Facebook daily, I do not look at it on my smart phone very much as the text is just too small for my poor vision. I only browse Facebook on my tablet.

Some apps that almost made the list:

Audible This app has replaced Kindle for me. I don't read books--I get them read to me. I love to listen to books while exercising. I get lost in the book and don't fell much of the exercise. It works great! There are over 100,000 books available including virtually all of laster ones. FREE app but the individual books have a cost or there is a monthly subscription. I started out one book at a time but now do the subscription. Read my article on Audible.

RunKeeper When I go out for a walk or bike ride, I use RunKeeper to track my route, my speed and how many calories I burn. The RunKeeper website has all of my activities in a nice list for reference. I even get weekly and monthly notifications of encouragement for successes along the way. Another positive motivation to keep exercising. FREE

Dropbox  This productivity tool keeps your important documents synchronized between multiple devices from smart phones, tablets, laptops or other PCs. Save a document on your desktop and it gets synchronized to your other devices. You can even get to the documents on the web from any PC in the world. Just log in to the Dropbox website, enter your user id and password and instantly you will see your folders. FREE for 3 gigabytes of space which is plenty for most. More space has an annual subscription. See my article on cloud storage which includes Dropbox..

Please make a comment about your favorite smart phone apps. I'd love to try them myself.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Top 10 Most Used iPad Apps

These are my most useful apps. A most useful app is one that I use virtually every day. I own some very good apps are not on this list because they are used for very specific purposes and thus, not used every day. Also, most useful to me are those that include ease of view due to my vision disability. As a result, many excellent apps are not on my list.

I write this article regularly and some new apps move into my Top 10 while others move. This time is no exception.

My Personal Productivity apps:

Mail I am in and out of e-mail on my iPad, smart phone and laptop all through the day. I prefer the iPad's included e-mail app as I like the way it allows me to have all of my e-mail accounts appear in a single mailbox view. This is easy and convenient. The app also allows me to make the text larger so I can see it better. Included on the iPad.

Pocket Informant Pro
This is my goto calendar program for mobile that I have been using for the last 10 years long before the iPad arrived. I used it on personal digital assistants and PC. Not only does it have a good calendar but includes, Notes, Journal and Contacts all in a single program. It synchronizes with my Google Contacts and Google Tasks so I don't have any trouble entering information in Pocket Informant and having it appear on my smart phone and laptop. I must admit however, that I am looking for a new calendar program that does a better job of letting me enlarge text.$8.99

Since I have to charge the iPad and I need a nightstand alarm clock with very large letters; Nightstand for iPad fits the bill perfectly. I just set the iPad up as my night stand alarm clock and plug it in to charge. The numbers are 1 3/4 inches tall, shows the weather for my location and I can even dim the screen so it doesn't light up the room all night.
FREE but there is a pay version that allows for your own background photos as wall paper.

Social Media:

Tweetbot (alternate Twitter app)
I am in and out of Twitter every day and post a link to this Tablet Grandpa blog on Twitter. It took me a while to understand and then love what Twitter provides. It shows short and easy to read quips, information and links to what people are saying and I get to choose the people. See my article on how Twitter is useful.
I gladly paid the $2.99 since I can easily read it throughout the day.

I have a love / hate relationship with Facebook and Facebook replacement apps. Replacement Facebook apps have some extra features beyond Facebook's own app and I like that but none of them have everything. What irks me most is that I cannot enlarge the text enough to make it comfortable to read. I put up with it because I really enjoy staying in touch with my friends and family and communicating with some of them. Eventually, someone will make that perfect blend of features and ability to enlarge the text for me. Until then love / hate it is.

My News and Information sources:

Feeddler Pro
I have used many RSS (really simple syndication) apps for my news and information subscriptions (which are free by the way) and have recently switched to Feeddler. Feeddler does the best job of letting me make text large enough to read comfortably. It easily connects to my Google Reader account subscriptions. Feeddler is available for iPhone too. See my article on Google Reader and how it gives me customized news and information quickly and easily
FREE but I gladly upgraded to the Pro version at $4.99 since I use it every day and love it.

AP Mobile
There are many news apps for the iPad, some of which I like very much but none allow me to enlarge text enough to make them comfortable to read. That's right, AP mobile is the only one I have found so far. Also available for iPhone and Android smart phones.

Contra Costa Times (part of the Bay Area News Group)
A new entry to my Top 10 Most Used iPad Apps. My local newspaper has had an iPad app for about 2 years but it was so slow and aggravating that I gave up on it. Well, they improved the performance and I am as happy as can be. My local newspaper, easy and enjoyable to read and I can even share individual articles via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.
The app is FREE but requires a subscription.

Instapaper has been my salvation for reading web pages. Web pages have such small text and are littered with advertising that it is a struggle to read. With Instapaper I "clip" the web page and send it to Instapaper's server and then use the Instapaper app to read the same web page but without ads and I can enlarge the text to make reading enjoyable. I just love this app. There is a competing app called Pocket and is FREE but I use Instapaper because I can enlarge the text larger that what Pocket can provide. I recommend this type of app so you decide which works best for you. Read my article how Instapaper comes to the rescue.
$3.99 but absolutely worth the money.

Intellicast HD
I am a bit of a weather junkie and have used many free and paid weather apps for the iPad. Beyond being easy to read, I love looking at radar images of weather. I can see a 2 week forecast as wells as an hourly forecast over the next 24 hours. Many free weather apps limit you to one or just a few weather locations but Intellicast allows many cities. Intellicast is my current weather app of choice but I continue to look at the latest and greatest weather apps.

My Personal Health app:

MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter
Over the past months I have been on a weight loss program initiated by myself under a doctor's care. Monitoring calories and exercise are two elements and this little gem of an app has kept me informed and provided needed information about calorie intake. MyFitnessPal's screens allow you to quickly and easily enter your food consumption by meal item and portion size to give your precise calories consumed. It's database of food items as wells as a very large list of common restaurant menus, show a very accurate calorie intake count. This way you can precisely know throughout the day how many calories you've partaken or, more importantly, how many calories you have left that you can eat. Exercise is very important to weight loss and how many calories burned from it.
I track calories, water intake (64 oz. per day for most of us), cardio and strength exercises, weight and inches for waist, hip and neck. Available for Android, iPhone and Windows Phone 8. See my article about MyFitnessPal.

Here are a few apps that I like very much and use frequently--just not every day.
eWallet Go to remember my passwords.  $4.95
Flixster Movies to see the next show time wherever I am.  FREE
Microsoft OneNote for personal and other notes to save.  FREE
Evernote. Also for note taking but a little different from OneNote. I can't decide which. See my article about Evernote.  FREE
Penultimate for quick and easy note taking on the fly. See my article about Penultimate. FREE

Please share your favorite iPad apps so we can all experience them too. Thanks.


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