Some IOS Apps I Use Everyday

These are some of the Apple IOS apps that help keep an old man organized, on time, and secured.  I basically run my life off my iPhone, and these three apps help.  I have other apps I use daily and will follow up with some of them in future posts, in case they may be of interest to you.

GoodReader by Good.iWare Inc
UPDATE 02/03/2019: GoodReader 5 was released recently and has a more robust interface, more security options, and other new features which make it well worth the wait. Every computing platform has its “must have, does it all app”, and for IOS, it’s this one.  It houses files of all types in a standard folder and file structure, and I can transfer or download any of them to and from my desktops and laptops.  I set up a sync arrangement within the app I can run at will to keep a folder on my iMac identical to a folder in GoodReader.  It is a powerful PDF annotator and updater.  I use an in-app security option to have all content in the app encrypted at the hardware level (requiring a password or finger print to get into the app), and selected folders protected by a different password (same fingerprint) as well.  Check this app out in the App Store for a full list of its capabilities.  It’s well worth the $5.

TickTick by Appest Limited
This apps manages my simple ToDo list in a very workable layout.  It has all the usual functionality of a basic ToDo app (date and time settings, alerts, repeats, priority, etc) that you can choose to use or not.  It provides a helpful widget with useful features, and TickTick can manage multiple lists of tasks.  I’m using the free version which caps at 99 tasks (way more than I need), but if you’re still active in the corporate world or your own business, you can upgrade to the Pro version.  This adds almost unlimited lists and tasks, collaboration with others, attachments, a calendar interface, and more.  Note that even the free version provides syncing of the tasks and lists with other IOS devices and the free Mac OS X version of the App, as well as Android devices and a web interface.  Keep me honest and check this app out in the App Store for all the details.  Feature for feature, I think it’s among the best in class.

Enpass Password Manager by Sinew Software Systems Private Limited
UPDATE 02/03/2019: I can no longer recommend this password management app. A highly promoted “new” version was recently placed into the App Store, and it proved to be a beta release, with promoted features missing or unworkable. Most noticeable was that the ability to house your password database locally was missing. I am now running my previous password manager, mSecure, which also came out with a new release around the same time. It works very well, has cross platform support, still supports a local password DB, and syncs your other devices over your WiFi network.

Lenovo Ideapad 100S

UPDATE: Unfortunately, with the speed of products arriving and going off the market, the Lenova Ideapad 100s is no longer available. I recently upgraded this guy to Linux Mint 19.0 Cinnamon, leaving the Microsoft updates madness behind. A happy camper, with a snappy machine to help learn more of the Linux world, and as a bonus, a Microsoft free home.

I had a Fusion (VMWare) virtual machine running Windows 7 Pro living in my iMac, that I upgraded to the free Windows 10 Pro.  As this was my last Windows instance in the house I decided that if I was going to have only one Windows machine, it might as well be the latest version.

Windows 10 did run in the virtual environment but not as well as Windows 7.  It took longer to start up, ran somewhat slower, and glitches with the display and sound drivers which did not occur with Windows 7 were annoying.  I don’t rule out that living in the iMac had a lot to do with the poor driver behavior.  Around this same time, I happened to cruise the laptop aisles at Best Buy and saw laptops under $300 that seemed to have enough oomph to support the kind of things I would use a Windows lap top for.

I ended up purchasing a Lenovo Ideapad with Windows 10 Home edition installed, for about $245.  It has a 14″ screen, 2 GB memory, a 64 GB SSD (solid state drive), a microSD slot, 3 USB ports (2 USB 2.0 and 1 USB 3.00), and an HDMI port.  Also included are a Celeron Dual Core CPU, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11 a/c WiFi connectivity.  The purchase also qualifies for a free 1 year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal if you sign up for it within the first 6 months of ownership.

I’ve had this machine for about 2 months and I like it.  Its main uses up to now include getting to know Windows 10, cruising the web and updating web sites, and getting back into coding with Windows Powershell and VBScript.  It performs all these functions in a snappy fashion and starts up from the power off status or a sleep fairly quickly.  

Admittedly, this is not a gamer platform, or suitable for applications needing high CPU usage or more than 2 GB memory, but for web surfing, email, and other activities where almost all the heavy lifting is happening on a web server somewhere else, the sturdy and light Lenova Ideapad 100S is a great machine for the price.

Seven Months with the Amazon Fire HD 6

As stated near the top of the original Fire HD 6 post a short time after taking delivery, my main interest in purchasing the device was to see how far the Android platform had progressed since my last experience with it years ago. That experience was with a Motorola cell phone.

I was very pleased with the phone itself but too early in my two year contract, the operating system and applications proved unreliable and problematic. This deteriorated to the state to where I had 6 months or better left in that contract and a few apps that came with the device (and others) were no longer usable. Most annoying were the camera and photo gallery apps. After taking a picture and exiting the camera app, the pic was no longer available anywhere on the phone. The photo gallery app presented no photos. All this was definitely related to OS and app updates delivered automatically.

During that 6 month period before my contract expired I tried contacting tech support through my cell service provider. After reporting my issues, the hardware I was on, and the OS version, their response was that it was time to upgrade the phone. This really pissed me off, as I could not believe a phone I already paid for needed to be replaced at my expense before the contract it came with expired.

So my first experience with Android was not pleasant.

To get back to the Fire HD 6, I must say not all that much has changed. The hardware itself has no issues. But the OS and applications are apparently still a product of an environment lacking controls needed to prevent the scenarios I described above. I am 7 months into ownership of this device and it too has become problematic and unreliable.

I have it set to take all updates automatically, for both the OS and apps, as recommended. I regularly monitor and approve those app updates which wait for user acknowledgement due to security access changes required.

For the last month or longer the device reboots itself regularly, without warning. I have not been unable to tie this to a specific app. It has happened at times when I power up the device, make sure no apps are loaded, and just let it sit. Once in this scenario I saw it boot 3 times within 15 minutes, which to me rules out the issue being related to receiving OS updates.

Another complaint, NOT related to the OS, is about vendors of popular apps claiming to provide both Apple and Android platform support. Too many times the Android version available is many updates and features behind its Apple version, which has caused problems as well when sharing with other smart devices. Words With Friends is one example as I can no longer use the Fire HD 6 to play that game with Apple users on the latest version. Regardless of the app genre, if you say you support multiple platforms, this situation is not acceptable.

In closing, I fully admit that I am currently a more “dumb user” than I used to be, by choice. I am retired from a technical environment as a software simian, and expect that if I obtained the right tools, literature, and experience with the Android environment, I could possibly be helpful in diagnosing some of my issues. But I am happily out of that game, and this adventure back into Android was purposely undertaken as a typical citizen who just expects technology purchased to work, and keep working.

If extra cash is available in the future, say maybe 4 to 5 years out, I might give Android another shot. But look out – I’ll probably be a LOT dumber by then.

New gadget – Amazon Fire HD 6

Here it was late February, and I still had a positive balance with the Christmas gift money I received these past holidays. The last $90 was burning a hole in my pocket. Note that when it comes to received gift money in any form, if I’m not living under a bridge starving in the cold, I WILL spend that money on something fun.

So I purchased a new tablet – an Amazon Fire HD 6. It’s from the very bottom of the model line, with only 8GB of memory and a 6″ screen, but was highly rated in the “bang for the buck” category. And the price was close enough to being in budget ($99).

I harbored no expectations of it replacing any mobile device I already own. All my other devices are Apple products, either OS X or IOS driven, and tightly married to each other in multiple ways. I am however looking forward to seeing how far the Android platform has progressed since my last personal experience years ago.

First thing I noticed after taking out it of the box? They’re not lying when they tell you it is one sturdy mobile device. It was delivered with a long toss up onto my front porch. It was a very cold day and I first heard it hit the wall hard and then the floor. So not seeing it with a broken screen was a plus, and it does indeed feel very sturdy in your hand.

After getting it registered and setting the options I wanted, I was pretty impressed with the platform. Navigation is fine. The standard mail, contacts, calendar, calculator, clock, and web browser apps all have the required feature set and then some, and are easy to use. The Help feature is also well put together and I used it quite a bit just to get familiar with the tablet. The camera lives up to expectations after reading the specs before the purchase: front-facing VGA camera and a 2 MP rear-facing camera. With the HDR option on, a steady hand, and good natural light, you can get a decent picture with the rear-view camera as long as you view it on the device (or similar sized screen). This falls into the “you get what you pay for” category.

I was able to access my Kindle books, and the easy interface to Amazon Prime is a plus. Viewing TV shows and movies is very good, with a surprisingly sharp picture and true color presentation.

I searched the Amazon app store for my core apps, and installed them. Alphabetically: Bank of America Online, Fidelity Investments, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Netflix, Optimum, Tumbler, Twitter, Vine, WordPress, and Words with Friends. Almost all of these work as I would expect. I did notice that compared to the same current Apple IOS versions of these apps, many seemed to be older versions in presentation, but I didn’t see any features I use missing. The exception is Words with Friends which I eventually deleted as it was an older version in more than just the presentation. I then loaded up a very nice text editor (Notepad) that has some scripting language syntax smarts, a robust “file explorer / finder” type utility (ES File Explorer), and a good voice recorder (Easy Voice Recorder). I am pleased with all.

Finding the right voice recorder proved to be the most difficult. I installed about 6 of them before settling on Easy Voice Recorder. One of the rejects actually crashed the device and had some issues uninstalling. No permanent damage seems to have been done. I suspect most of the issues were related to app / device compatibility, a problem which burnt me in my first Android experience years ago.

My first “smart phone” was a Motorola Droid which was a great phone at the time, but being forced fed OS upgrades eventually and permanently cratered many of the phone’s features and apps long before my 2 year contract with Verizon was up. When I reported these issues to Verizon and Motorola responses varied from a tone of “too bad, so sad”, to “you need to upgrade your phone”. With more than 6 months on my contract, this left me with a smart phone camera that was basically unusable – it would take pictures that you could preview after they were taken, but were then not available as the photo gallery function no longer worked. Also, a couple of apps I had used daily stopped working after different OS updates (and the apps were never updated to address the issues).

As to any similar bad vibes encountered with my Fire HD, the only ones which surfaced were hit during the search for additional “nice to have” apps, as I mentioned in the voice recorder app search. I wanted to limit my app installs to those apps which stated they were compatible with the Fire HD, but very few (I remember only one) stated that fact.

Although I’ve only had the device for two weeks, I have to say I’m liking it. I hope to keep liking it because my iPad Mini is getting old and for what I currently use that device for (tablet feature / function requirements have lessened since I retired), using an Amazon Fire HD instead of shelling out $500 for a new Apple iPad would be great. But some more positive time with this tablet needs to elapse before that decision is made.

NOTE: Amazon reports the Amazon Fire HD 6 in this format is no longer available. The comparable tablet at this point is the Amazon Fire HD 8. I do still keep my Fire HD 6 updated and current, and drag it out every once in a while to hit the web.