Tag Archives: android

my favourite ipad apps for school, entertainment, and productivity!

16 Jan

So you got an iPad for Christmas. Or maybe you decided to buy one on a whim because it was shiny and is oh so fancy. Or maybe you got one so you can read or watch stuff in bed lying down (so useful, really!).

I’ve had my iPad 2 for nearly 10 months now and I use it everyday and love it just as much as I did when they announced it. I admit that I made fun of it when the original iPad was announced. It looks like a big iPhone. Why would anyone ever buy it? And then I played with it in store and saw the potential. This is cool. It’s light. It’s fast.

Wondering how to use your iPad? This is how I use mine.

  • Taking notes in class
  • Recording lectures (sometimes if I feel like I’m gonna fall asleep)
  • Web browsing on the sofa, in bed, at school, hotels, hostels – wherever I have a Wifi connection or feel like connecting it to my iPhone
  • Reading digital magazines, books, articles, and newspapers
  • Watching TV at the dinner table where the actual TV is out of sight
  • Editing photos uploaded directly from the memory card
  • Facebook…

To name a few.

The purpose of this blog is to showcase some of the apps I use on my iPad which I’ve found to be really useful and am quite fond of. I’ve broken down the apps into categories and have only included some of my favourite apps with links to the iTunes store in the app title or links to relevant blog posts in the descriptions.


  • UPAD– $4.99 (trial version available for free “UPAD Lite”)
    • This is my favourite school app. I use it for pretty much everything. I can take notes on it with my stylus or type them out if I want to as well. You can mark up PDFs using the stylus (or alternatively your finger) by just writing on top of it. Backup and restore is available and you can export the marked up documents to PDF, email and Dropbox as well as Google Docs. Once in a while, something I wrote on an earlier page will show up on a page later and I haven’t quite figured out why but it’s rare. I use this to read PDFs as well because I can mark it up however I want unlike GoodReader where highlighting can be a pain.
  • Notability– $.99 (price fluctuates often)
    • I recently started using this one again because I forgot my stylus at home and needed to take notes. This program is great for regular typing of notes. I can arrange my notes into subjects and type away. Another  really cool feature of this app is you can record the lecture while typing and when you playback, you can actually select text and the recording will skip to the section and play what you heard while writing that exact line. Pretty cool, right?
  • Quickoffice (for now) – $19.99 (can probably be found for a cheaper price because price changes every few weeks). Also available for iPhone but I don’t see why you would buy it.
    • A basic wordprocessing program for the iPad. I opted to not buy pages, numbers or keynote because of the price and value pack savings of the Quickoffice suite. I actually do not use it very much and when I have it’s ok. I’ve only put it on this list because it’s the only word processing program I have. This might change in the next week or so when a new app is released on the App Store which I describe when I have a chance to play around with it.


  • AppStart– Free
    • I highly recommend this app for new iPad owners. There is a lot of information about using your iPad and a lot of suggested apps (similar to this post but way more exhaustive).
  • AppShopper– Free. Also available for iPhone.
    • I wrote a post about this a couple months ago so I will just link to it here. I use it for price comparisons, price watches  and app price activity. *Edit: Just realized I did not include the link. Link now included!
  • Flipboard– Free. Also available for iPhone.
    • I love this app! I use it to read my daily blogs and articles online. There are a ton of suggested reads which collate articles from different sites as well as single sites.

Entertainment (Games, Photos and Videos)

  • Ticket to Ride– $6.99. Pocket version available for iPhone at a much cheaper price.
    • This is a fun multiplayer game. The original board game is very popular and the iPad version is easier to play because it keeps track of your points and scoring. My friend and I played this game often when we were killing time travelling on our Europe vacation. On a train playing Ticket to Ride (Europe version).
  • Snapseed– $4.99 but is offered for free once in a while. Use Appshopper to get notifications when it goes on for free! Also available for iPhone. Android version is on its way in the near future.
    • Love this app for photo editing! I haven’t touched Photoshop or anything other basic editing software since. It has a lot of really cool features that turn blah photos into really nice ones. You can do basic editing as well as applying filters like vintage, “drama”, tilt and shift (make things look mini) and more.
  • Netflix– Free. Available for iPhone and Android.
    • Great if you have a Netflix account already. Also, check out the Hotspot shield post I wrote to gain access to the American Netflix with more videos.
  • Grooveshark Mobile– Free. Can be used on any smartphone!
    • While not a true app, it is a web app that plays pretty much any song you want. Want to listen to a song? Search it on the site and enjoy!
  • Zinio– Free. Also available for iPhone and Android.
    • I’ve written about this one in the past because it’s pretty cool. You can read magazines using this app and they often have sales on magazine subscriptions. If you sign up now (I think the promo ends in May), you can get $25 credit towards magazine subscriptions. Try a magazine you’ve always wanted to but didn’t want to pay for it. See this post here for detailed instructions on acquiring the credit via Zinio.


  • Dropbox– Free. Also available for iPhone and Android.
    • Cloud based storage. You get 2GB free when you sign up and can get more by doing small “tasks” on the site. I use this everyday for schoolwork. It’s great for class lectures when I have to download the lectures from Vista on my laptop. I keep all of my school document on it as well so I can work on it when I’m on my laptop, on my iPad or at the computers at school. Also, if you want to sign up for it, click here. If you use this link, I get 250mb more space and so do you!
  • Talkatone– Free. Also available for iPhone.
    • Somehow my Google Voice was activated and I’ve had free US and Canada calling through Google for the past couple of years. You can link your Voice account to Talkatone and call for free to the US and Canada as long as you have wifi (or data if you want to use it…). We called home several times when traveling in Europe using this app for free!

translink real-time bus tracking on your smartphone (vancouver)

1 Nov

When I was an Android user, my favourite app was Google Maps. I like to know where I am and what’s nearby. I also liked the Google Maps app for the integrated bus schedules for Vancouver. If you zoom in close enough to where the stop / station should be, you can click on the bus icon for the next bus arrival times. Very handy.

When I switched to the iPhone, I was so disappointed that Google Maps for iOS does not support public transportation integration. I don’t have a car and rely on public transportation for pretty much everything. I tried looking for apps on the App Store that could give me bus schedules but most of the apps were buggy or not rated very highly. I used to save bus stop numbers on my phone as presets but I don’t know how to do that on the iPhone. I know there had to be a more techie way to get bus schedules.

After some internet research, I found out that Translink has a mobile site that offers some features that I think are far better than any feature a third-party App could offer. You know back in the day when you used to say “Gee, I wish buses had GPS on them so I would know exactly when and where they are?” It’s here and it’s pretty good.


On your mobile device (or computer web browser), go to www.m.translink.ca for links to Next Bus, Trip Planner, Favourites, Schedules, Fares, Alerts, and more. The bus tracking feature is found under Next Bus. Type in your most used bus stop number (or find it with the Find your Stop button) and select “Map View.” It will show you the bus stop with several next bus times. If you zoom out, it will show you the location of buses for that particular stop. While in this mode, you can select other bus stops indicated by the “T” and it will show you bus times and bus locations for that stop.

For example, if I select the bus stop at UBC loop for the outgoing 99 B Line, I will see the times and the locations of buses leaving UBC. If I select the bus stop at Granville and Broadway for the westbound 14/16/17, I will see all of the west bound buses on that route.

For easy access to the site, I’ve bookmarked my most used bus stop and refer to that link for whatever bus I am looking for by zooming in and out. I suppose you could  also create separate bookmarks for every bus stop you use.

The accuracy of the bus locations is pretty good and shows real-time locations, not expected locations. It’s updated every 30 seconds -45 seconds it appears. Last week, I was on the 16 Arbutus and hoping to connect with the 33 UBC. Using the app, I could see that I would make it in time to connect. This is important at night-time or in the morning when the buses come in packs or arrive way ahead of schedule. Highly recommend this app for those in the suburbs where buses are known to come up 20 minutes early / late.

my go-to site for anything and everything techie

26 Oct

A friend introduced me to this site many years ago and since then I have been buying most of my cheap (techie) gadgets  like Apple USB cables, card readers, book holders, and more. There have been several times when I bought something at Future Shop and found a replica/substitute of the same product on the site but 75% cheaper like my iPad Smart Cover or the $19.99 Griffin stylus pen (yes, I actually paid that and didn’t think of checking this site. What was I thinking?…)


Products are cheap, reviews are abundant, and shipping is free. You can find pretty much anything here. Camera accessories, video games, cell phones, cases, screen protectors, lasers, cables, jewellery, and much more. I think it’s kind of fun just to browse because everything is so random.


Slowest shipping ever. My last order was shipped on October 2 and it still isn’t here, granted it is coming all the way from China for free so it was probably sent on a boat. Build quality is not the greatest but it really depends on the product.

A few things I’ve purchased:

Guitar capo $5.44 – Kinda smelt like rubber for a few days but the smell went away. Works great!

FM Transmitter $9.23 – Still have it after 3 years and works!

Digital guitar tuner $10.28 – Comparable to $20 in stores, makes guitar tuning so easy

Mini displayport to HDMI converter  $6.99 – Took something like a month to arrive but it works great! Note that you might have to play around with your preferences to get the sound working at first and you have to plug it in first and then open the video on your computer otherwise the sound won’t play from the TV.

I’ve probably ordered 15 things from them over the years but some of them are outdated like iPod touch cases and protectors. They are pretty current with new products so accessories come out pretty quickly.


If you are looking for cheap gadgets, check out www.dealextreme.com and browse through their products.  Don’t forget that shipping takes a while so if you are patient and the product you want is not urgent, then I highly recommend the site. 

free and practical apps for android

3 Oct

Last September, I finally decided to upgrade my “dumb” phone to a “smart” phone. I think it’s safe to say that there are 3 different types of phones out there that form the large part of the smartphone market – Android, Blackberry and iPhone. I didn’t want a Blackberry because there aren’t as many apps (not that I use a ton anyways) and I don’t like the idea of people knowing when you read their messages! So Blackberry was a no. Everyone has an iPhone so I didn’t want that, although, I wish I had one now because my phone is a piece.

So I went with the Android OS, specifically in the Motorola Flipout offered through Rogers. It is running 2.1 and Motorola has said they will never update it. Thanks. The only thing I like about it is the fact that it is a unique phone and pretty much everyone I meet asks “Is that your phone? It’s so cool looking” and then I always reply “Yeah, it looks cool but it so slow and I wish I had an iPhone…”Here’s a picture of my phone / GPS as some people like to call it:

While I like the customizability of Android phones, I prefer apps from the App Store and the simplicity of the iPhone. I am waiting for the announcement (tomorrow!) and release of a new iPhone but until then, I would like to share some of the Android apps that I’ve found particularly useful  until I complete my collection of Apple products.


Note: I don’t really play games on my phone so most of the apps are very practical. Examples of my practicality include asking for a Barbie alarm clock when I was 7, buying my boyfriend towels and asking for a vacuum when I was 19 for Christmas.

ANYWAYS, several of my favourite apps in no special order:

1. APNdroid, Free: Let’s you turn on/off your 3G. Useful for when you want to conserve battery life or if you want to make sure your data does not turn mysteriously while in the USA.

2. Last Call Widget, Free: I don’t know about your phones, but mine didn’t come with a tool to view your last calls or who you last called as a widget on your home screen. I like to have a button that shows me this information.

3. Google Maps, Free: I am pretty sure everyone’s phone has Google Maps already but it is seriously my favourite app. I use it daily to check bus schedules. Just zoom into the bus stop you want and you should see a little bus symbol. Click on that and you should get a listing of the upcoming bus schedules. Beats having to call your friend and asking for the schedule or texting 33333 with the # of the bus stop you do not know (Translink in Vancouver).

4. SilentSnap, Free: Even though the camera on my phone is 3.1 megapixels, sometimes I need to take a photo with it. When using the stock camera app, I get a loud click when I take the picture. With SilentSnap, I can take a picture without the clicking noise. You will have to use the app to take photos, it won’t do anything if you continue using the stock app.

5. Watchdog, Free: Watches your 3G usage. I use the widget so I can see it on my homescreen. I rarely go over 125mb a month which is good I guess but I am paying for 500mb so I don’t bother using my wi-fi near the end of the month to get my money’s worth!

6. Juice Defender, Free: My phone has a terrible battery life. It used to die halfway during the day which is a pain. I don’t know what we did before we had cell phones… Anyways, Juice Defender optimizes your battery life by having it monitor certain settings. It can automatically enable and disable 3G, allow background syncing for emails at different frequencies rather than having it on all of the time, and a bunch of other things. I only have the free version but the Pro version has a lot more to offer. On the app it says that the Plus version is .99 and the Ultimate version is 3.49 in “EUR/USD.” Not sure how that works but it might be an app worth buying.

Other popular apps include: Handcent, Dolphin Browser, Google Plus, Ringdroid, and Smooth Calendar.

I’ve never bought an app for my phone but I am more than willing to by apps for my iPad. I think it’s clear which platform I prefer!