The iPad apps I use

I recently (finally?) took the plunge and got myself a shiny new iPad. I’d delayed on this purchase for a long time as I didn’t really see the need for an iPad, and arguably I still don’t need one, but my list of things I wanted to do with a tablet kept growing to a critical mass. Though I know some die-hards for the Nexus (and it is a nice tablet), the features I wanted aligned more closely with the iPad, hence my decision to go with Apple.

My coworker Patrick has had an iPad for quite a while (and admittedly seeing him use his at work was a factor in influencing me to get one!) and he asked me what apps I ended up downloading, so here’s my list:

Basics

  • Weather HD – My family lives all over the planet in some pretty exotic locales. Weather HD lets me know what the weather’s like where they live (in a lovely way), but a side benefit of its display is it reminds me what time of day it is over there. Not the intended benefit of this app, but it’s a great help when your brother lives 14 hours ahead of you.
  • Netflix – Love setting this up on my desk at home when I’m working on some sketches or illustrations and running some TV shows in the background.

Social

  • Facebook (obviously) and Pages+ (for my personal page).  Really really recommend Pages+ if you manage a Facebook page, over going through the regular FB app.
  • Tweetbot – Makes it super easy to manage multiple Twitter accounts, which many of us in marketing often do.
  • Instagram – Duh!
  • Tumblr – A little buggy for me, tends to crash, but easier than using the plain web interface.
  • Vine – Mainly for the novelty factor at this point.
  • Flickr – I don’t use this as much as I used to, but their mobile app is really beautiful and a joy to use. I just wish more people were still using Flickr!
  • WordPress – If you have a couple WordPress blogs, you need the WordPress app!  You can blog and moderate comments on the go.

Music

  • Turntable.fm – I co-mod a fairly popular room here and like to tune in while I work.
  • Amazon Cloud Player – I am one of those weirdos that still buys physical CDs and, lucky for me, tend to buy from Amazon. Since Amazon now imports MP3 versions of albums you buy to your cloud player, I can listen to my inventory on the go, it’s great .

Productivity

  • Evernote – A must for easy notes on the go. I know some people don’t “get” this app, but if you are the kind of person who is a notetaker (at work, at home, at events, whatever) it’s a godsend, especially since it syncs easily and often without having to manually save. I type a note on my cellphone and can work on it later on my iPad.
  • Remember the milk – Very handy task and reminder app that my fiance and I use to track household items we need to get (“we’re low on toilet paper!”) as well as bill reminders and even long-term tasks (“we need to send out our wedding invitations by X”)
  • Dropbox – Another “duh.” Quick and easy storage of files I can’t live without. Here’s hoping they amp up the security though – it’s still too light for my liking.
  • iDisplay – This app syncs with an iMac via Bluetooth to function as a second display. AMAZING. I have an iMac at home and at work, so yeah, no brainer.
  • Mozy – Their free app lets me look at any of my backed up files from my home computer. Really handy for when you’re at work, kicking yourself about that file you forgot on your desktop at home.

Health

  • LoseIt! – My preferred calorie counting app for the moment, mainly because I like that they track your nutritional breakdown and sync with FitBit. The major flaw is that their food lookup is hugely lacking – right now most of my foods I have to input manually, and most people I don’t think would bother with this.
  • FitbitTracker – I love my FitBit pedometer and it is FANTASTIC that it syncs my data via Bluetooth in its iPad app.

Creativity

  • Celtx Script – Syncs with Celtx online, which I use to plan out a number of creative writing scripts. It formats for screenplays, graphic novels, you name it — a handy feature if you are writing for these formats.
  • Procreate – Incredibly powerful and versatile painting program, I’m still trying to figure out how to use it, to be honest.  But it syncs with my Pogo Connect stylus and that’s a great plus.
  • Inkpad – Another great painter app, this one is for vector art. Haven’t had much of a need to use it yet, but it’s good to have on hand for when I do.
  • Paper – My absolute favorite app download to date, and a favorite of many of my fellow illustrator-types. It’s very simple and extremely easy to use, just has a few simple brush types, but it is also able to work with the Pogo Connect so you can add in some pressure sensitivity — just versatile enough, but not overwhelming.  It syncs very nicely with a number of social media so you can share your work with just one touch, very nice.
  • Sketchbook Pro – Another powerhow like ProCreate, I find the interface a bit confusing but I’m figuring it out slowly. It has layers, so that is a pretty powerful bonus. Also works with the Pogo Connect.
  • ArtRage – Akin to Paper, this is not too complicated — gives you just enough options that you can have fun, but it’s not a full-fledged Photoshop-lite like Sketchbook Pro or Procreate. It does have huuuuuge variety of brush options though, which is very cool.
  • Brushes – As the name suggests, this app is all about different brush textures.  Otherwise it’s a bit similar to paper, so this might be a preference thing.
  • PS Express – Very very handy for on-the-go photo editing!  If you are using your iPad for any kind of photography, this is a must.
  • DrawQuest – This is a really new app that I’ve been enjoying. The goal is that it gives you a prompt and you answer it through drawing – it’s aimed at kids, to try and get them to be creative every day, but plenty of us older kids enjoy it too. There are some really hilarious answers to the prompts and I really enjoy seeing what other people come up with.

Miscellany

  • TripIt – One of my favorite web services also has an extremely robust app, I can’t recommend TripIt enough if you travel even just a few times a year.  I’m still pretty old school and keep printouts of most of my critical travel information, but I love having it aggregated (and updated in real-time!) through this app.  So, so handy.
  • ComicsX by Comixology – Great comic book and graphic novel distributor with the pretty nifty Guided View technology. I like that they distribute indie comics in addition to major publishing houses. As for Guided View, it sounded kind of gimmicky – until I tried it.  It shows you the page panel-by-panel and actually adds a bit of motion in to the panels themselves, it can be a fun way to read a comic book when done correctly.
  • Mint – Just like their website, the Mint app is absolutely top-notch UI and UX. Oh, and it puts my budgets into broader context while keeping track of savings and spending overall.

Oh yeah, and the Lightning to SD card reader is an accessory I’d highly recommend to any of my photographer friends as well. Viewing your pics on the tiny camera screen doesn’t compare to reviewing them on the god on a Retina display!  (And I’m pretty sure iPhoto parses RAW files… which you’re shooting in, of course? Right?)

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The Content Marketer’s Pledge

Randy Fishkin (@randfish) of SEOMoz uploaded a recent presentation with a fabulous Content Marketer’s Pledge nestled at the end.

His Content Marketer’s Pledge is so simple and so great (like all sticky ideas!) that it bears repeating:

The Content Marketer’s Pledge
I, [name], pledge to create something remarkable. Something that people will love. Something they will want to share. Something I can be proud of.
And if it fails to achieve my marketing goals I won’t give up. I will try again.
My failures will be the practice I need to earn future successes and future customers.

I’m looking forward to seeing this in poster form soon enough – I’m sure someone on the Internet will deliver!

Check out his full presentation here: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/manifesto-of-content-marketing

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Greece’s long road

Greece 2010

This photo has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s a picture I took in 2010 of my mother walking on a bike path near her home in northern Greece. It makes me think of the long road ahead for Greece and Greeks in general, despite how far they’ve come.

As a Greek-American, all the attention being paid on my country of heritage has weight heavily on me. Any bit of news about Greece’s political or economic situation is front and center for me. But as a member of the diaspora, there’s really nothing I can do but watch as my family in Greece tries to make the best of a deteriorating situation.

… I’d written a long post about this today, actually. Somehow, as fate would have it, WordPress ate the draft. So it’s gone. Let’s pretend it was brilliant (can we?)

To articulate everything I feel about the Greek economic crisis — from the problems at hand, to the press coverage, to the blatant racism — it would fill tomes. I don’t have any solutions to propose, but I am not surprised by what’s happening there either. I’m just saddened by this tragedy’s extent.

Instead of trying to recreate my previously-eaten blog post, I’m going to instead quote my mother. She is a first-generation American who came to the States as a child, and because she spent her childhood, many of her teenage years and her early adult years in Greece, she has much better perspective on the crisis than I ever could. The pervasive corruption and suffocating bureaucracy is why she and my father both eventually left Greece to stay in the United States for good (and that’s why I grew up in the States). It’s why so many Greeks make the difficult choice to leave.

My mom wrote this in her blog last year, her first full summer in my parents’ vacation home in northern Greece:

But our first full summer here has also played out against the backdrop of the economic crisis in Greece and the EU. This crisis has fully exposed the corruption and dysfunctionality of the Greek system of governance. The Greeks, of course, have always known it was so, but the other Europeans seem to be surprised at the extent of the corruption, embezzlement, tax evasion, etc. They should have done their homework before admitting Greece to the Eurozone.

That is the part I hate: the Greek political system. The tax evaders, corrupt politicians, and others who benefit in a major way from the status quo are truly rotten and the source of the country’s problems.

But even Greeks who are basically honest are often tainted by the pervasive corruption. It is almost impossible not to be. And many young lives are put on hold because there are so few opportunities for young people. (That is a topic for an entire book. Enough said here.)

In addition to the corrupt system, so much has changed in the mad rush to modernize and urbanize. The Greece I remember from my teen years is gone, gone, gone. I have not seen a donkey in decades. Tourism has overrun the country, for better or worse.

There is a strange mental disease (whose name I don’t recall). Its victims are convinced that one of their limbs does not belong to them. There are documented cases where they try to get a doctor to amputate their perfectly normal leg, and in even more extreme cases, they try to amputate it themselves.

My relationship with Greece reminds me of that disease. I cannot forget the Greek language, nor can I erase the wonderful memories I have from summers spent in my village of Megali Panagia in the ‘60s. I cannot pretend my parents were not Greek, nor can I stop cooking and eating Greek foods and loving traditional Greek music. Like it or not, part of me is Greek and I cannot rid myself of that “good” part. But a part of me is always uncomfortable being attached to it.

I hope that Greece emerges from this crisis a better—and better-governed—nation. Otherwise, Greece could become the ungovernable “wild West” of the EU.

Just this afternoon my parents landed in Greece to spend another summer there, which is why I hearken back to her post today.

I’ll be going to Greece myself in a month for a little over a week. It’s been two years since my last visit (and it was a 10-year gap before then), and this time my fiance will be with me. He’s never been to Greece, and though I wish he was seeing the country in better times, he’s very educated on the intricacies of the Greek economic crisis. While we’re both looking forward to seeing the Greek sun and sea and to visiting my family, we’re steeling ourselves for the inevitable and unexpected reflections of this tragedy in the lives of the people there.

Inevitably, the resilience of the Greek spirit will prevail. It will take a lot of time, but I know the people will pull through. Always have, always will.

Greece 2010
This place belongs to all of us
Let’s protect it
Let’s love it

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