Author: Jason Lykins

Jason is a Photographer and all around tech guy. Jason is also the owner of Jason Lykins Photography. Follow him on Twitter @JasonLPhoto or on Facebook.
UP - Tracker Required (UP/UP24/UP MOVE)

Jawbone Up Helps You Get Healthy!

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Every now and then a new product comes along that really changes things. in 2001 it was the iPod, in 2007 it was the iPhone. While the Jawbone UP isn’t as revolutionary as either of those two devices, it is an amazing tool to help promote health and wellness. The UP measures your sleep patterns, steps taken, calories ingested, and much, much more. The best part about the UP is that it does all of this through an extremely well designed, well executed App for the iPhone. After all, this is The Best App Site; If there wasn’t an extremely useful App involved, we wouldn’t be talking about it here! One of my goals for this year is to be healthier. Not necessarily to lose weight (although that would be nice too) but to be healthier. When I decided to make health a goal for the new year I knew that it would take something like the UP to keep me on track and get me to my goal. After doing some research into the different health devices on the market I decided to go with the UP because it has the best overall ratings from both the people that own them as well as the popular review sites. If your goal is to be healthy and you want a quality product to help you get there, the UP is for you!

 

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Tons of Features in One App

The first time you attach your UP band to your iPhone and launch the App you’re going to be met with a number of questions that have to be filled out before you can make use of the App or the band. Make sure that you input true information in here. Don’t lie about your weight or age. The App uses this information to figure out your goals so the information needs to be accurate. After you have finished this initial setup the App gives you your goals for sleep and steps. For me my goal is 10,000 steps a day and 8 hours of sleep. These are the optimal numbers for what I should get to be healthy.

The home screen of the Up App provides a lot of information, but does it in a way that is uncluttered and organized. The first thing you will see (in purple) is your sleep percentage. This is a bar that increases as you get closer to your goal. Inside of the bar it shows your percentage as well as the actual time you slept. Tapping on this bar gives more in depth information but we’ll get into that later. Next to the sleep bar is the daily steps goal. This bar shows how many steps you’ve taken, and the percentage of your goal achieved so far that day.  To the right of the goal bars there is a bar that shows your meals for the day. Again tapping on the bar will show you more in depth information.  Below the bars is more pertinent information. The day that you’re currently viewing, your mood for the day, and helpful tips. Below that is the UP feed. This shows your activities, as well as the activities of the people on your “teams” more on that later.

 

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Tapping on the plus sign on the right side of the App shows options for the band. At the top you see your goals. From here you can adjust the sleep and step goals by simply tapping on the corresponding icon. Below that is the Sync Now button. This is the button that you would use to manually sync your band (although this is rarely used because the App syncs the band automatically when attached). Below the Sync Now is my favorite feature of this band/App. Because the UP band monitors your sleep pattern it can provide a “Smart Sleep Alarm”. You set the time that you want to wake up in the morning (for me it’s 7am). Up to 40 minutes prior to when you set the alarm the band looks for you to be in a light sleep phase and wakes you up. Because you’re closest to being awake when you’re in a light sleep phase you will feel more refreshed by letting the band wake you up. I was skeptical of this feature but after trying it out for a couple of weeks I couldn’t imagine waking up any other way.  The next feature below the Smart Sleep Alarm is the Idle Alert. This is a particularly useful feature for me because I work at my desk for hours on end and forget to get up and move around. The Idle Alert allows you to set an alarm (small vibration from the band) to go off if a predetermined amount of time passes without adequate movement from you. This reminds me to get up and walk around at least once an hour which is recommended by doctors to promote health. Stopwatch is the next function down. This is exactly what you think it is; It measures an activity. Below that is the power nap function. According to Jawbone, UP uses your recent sleep data to calculate the optimal nap length and wakes you with a gentle band vibration. The last two options allow you to log both sleep and workouts that you may have performed when you didn’t have your UP band on.

 

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On the opposite side are functions relating the App and your account. The Home button does exactly what you would think; It takes you to the original home screen. Tapping on your name shows your profile and your latest stats. This is where you change your profile photo and make other adjustments to your account. Lifeline shows your activity from the time you got your UP to this point. Trends is more specific and a more in depth look than Lifeline. Trends goes into depth on the trends of your steps and sleep pattern. This is a great way to see any patterns developing over a period of time.

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Teams is a particularly useful feature in my opinion because it allows you to make getting healthy a social event. UP will search for your friends on Facebook and from your contacts list that are also using UP. You can then add them to your “team” allowing them to see your activity. They can see your steps, sleep, food entered and more. You may be less likely to eat that second double cheeseburger if you think that all of your friends will see it.  The last three buttons Notifications, Settings, and Help, do exactly what you would think they do.

 

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Steps Counted

The primary draw of the UP is the pedometer. The UP band counts your steps and adds them to the App inputting the information into the bar graph showing your trends. In this graph you can see what time of day you’re walking the most. This will help you identify when you need to be more active.

 

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Sleep Data

To me this is the most interesting part of the UP system. I’ve always been interested in my sleep patterns and what happens when I close my eyes at night. Through the use of accelerometers and actigraphy the UP measures your sleep states and tracks your sleep patterns. Above you see the graph that is the product of the data collected. The dark blue areas represent deep sleep, the light blue areas represent light sleep, and the orange areas represent an awake state. There is also some handy data numbers below the graph telling you how much light sleep, deep sleep, and awake time you had in hours/minutes. Also shown is how long it took for you to fall asleep, as well how long you were in bed, and how many times you woke up. This data can be used for many things from determining how certain foods, drinks, or activities effect your sleep. It’s also used for the smart alarm feature.

 

The Bottom Line

Jawbone recommends syncing the App twice a day or more to keep the data fresh on the App thus providing you with the most accurate information. I sync mine first thing in the morning (so I can see my sleep info), mid day, and at night before bed. The more the better. If you’re interested in living a healthier lifestyle, and you want help doing it the Jawbone UP is a great device to help you! All of the features of the App, the simplicity of the band’s design, and the benefits that this combo can instil on your life, you can’t afford to not have this band and App.

 

You can get the Jawbone UP band for $117 here.

You can get the Jawbone UP App for the iPhone from the iTunes store for free here: iTunes

 

 

Behr Colorsmart

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If there’s one question that I get asked a lot, more than any other as a matter of fact, it’s “how do you keep finding Apps to review?”. I started thinking about that question today as I was thinking about what I wanted to say about this App. The truth is, I don’t go looking for Apps “just to review” usually. For the most part the Apps that I review are Apps that I have found to solve a problem. After all, if it doesn’t solve a problem, what good is it really? Recently I started the process of moving into my new town home. Before I moved even the first thing in though, I decided that I wanted to paint things to make it feel more like home, more mine from day one. I headed over to the hardware store to start looking at colors and quickly realized that I had no idea what color I wanted. So, being me, I immediately went to my iPhone for help. What I found is quite possibly THE best iPhone App for anyone planning on painting anything in their home. Colorsmart not only helps you find your paint color, it helps you calculate how much paint you will need, and lets you preview it on a wide assortment of example rooms. These rooms aren’t simulated digital representations of rooms, rather they are photos of actual rooms. Even though this is an App about house paint, the design, quality, and execution make it an App for other developers to strive to emulate.

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Find Your Color

First and foremost this App is about getting you the right color for your project. Whether you’re painting a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen or barn, Behr Colorsmart is the perfect App to help identify the right color for you. There are a few different options to find the correct color. The first option is to use the Explore Color tab. This pulls up a palette of every color that Behr offers. Choose your desired color family,  the color style (muted, pure, or shaded), and the specific hue. When you have made your selection Colorsmart shows you not only the paint name and number, but it also shows you complimenting colors, and offers to show you a preview of it. This is TRULY a well thought out App.

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Have a color that you want to match? Not a problem! use your iPhone’s industry leading camera to take a photo, or choose a photo from your photo library. Once your image is loaded pinch to zoom in to the specific area that you would like to match and simply tap on the area. Colorsmart will bring up that color from the Behr line of paints, again with the name and Behr number. Once you have chosen your color, save it to favorites by tapping the icon in the upper right hand corner for future reference.

 

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Once you’ve chosen your colors, the last thing to figure out before you head to the store to purchase it, is how much paint you will need. Behr has you covered there too! Under the More tab at the bottom of the screen, you will find a Paint calculator that will help you determine exactly how many gallons you’re going to need to finish your project!

 

The Bottom Line

This App has it all! As you can see from the screen shots and the description, this App has it all; great UI, in depth functionality, and extreme usefulness! If you’re planning a painting project any time soon, you need this App. Colorsmart will help you save time, get the perfect color, and buy the correct amount of paint. It’s truly one of the most useful Apps I’ve ever seen.

 

You can get Behr Colorsmart for your iOS device from the iTunes store for free here: iTunes

 

Throw Em Balls Will Have You Entertained for Hours

Sometimes the games that are the most fun, and most addicting are also the seemingly simplest. When I first looked at Throw ‘Em Balls I didn’t think that it would hold my attention much more than a few minutes tops. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Throw ‘Em Balls is one of the most addictive games I think I’ve ever played on the iPhone. It keeps you saying “1 more time, I know that I can beat that level with one more try”. It reminds me of the old claw games where you try to win the stuffed animal but invariably you never do. You always come “so close”… Close enough to make you want to give it just one more try. That’s what Throw ‘Em Balls does to you. It hooks you in and before you know it you’ve spent an hour throwing a virtual basketball, tennis ball, etc. at a virtual target. It’s so addicting and I can’t get enough of it!

How it Works

The basic premise is deceptively easy. You pull the ball (whatever type it may be) back like you would a slingshot (think Angry Birds) and “shoot” the ball towards the goal. Some levels have baskets for the basketball themes, some have tennis balls, some have cups and ping pong balls for beer pong but there is always a target and always a ball. That’s it. Sounds like it would get boring quickly right? I would have said the same thing 4 hours ago when I started playing it…

Some of the key features of this App are the simple yet elegant graphics. It doesn’t fill the screen with flashing lights or anything to distract your eye, rather it does a really good job of placing what would actually be at the depicted scene. While we’re talking about the graphics, I should note that it supports retina display so the balls will be shown and thrown in high res. So Easy you say right? Wrong! The developer used a really good algorithm to simulate how you would expect the balls to travel in real life. I was pleasantly surprised to find that trajectory changes equally effected bounce angles etc. In Short, it’s like real life.

To unlock higher levels you have to get a certain score just like with any game. As you progress through the levels you will find that the game gets harder and harder (as it should) and the misses closer and closer. The game is on a timer however every time you score you extend the clock by a few seconds so it’s all up to you how much time you have! Hitting a target, or making a ball in whatever the target may be, adds points to your running total. Missed balls are scattered throughout the floor/surface to remind you of all of the failed attempts and close calls but it keeps it fun!

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a fun, deceptively challenging game that will have you entertained for hours, Throw ‘Em Balls is for you! Just remember to keep track of the time or you’ll look up and a few hours will have gone by!

You can get Throw ‘Em Balls for your iPhone for $.99 from the iTunes store here: iTunes

 

Shortcut Sumo

Shortcut Sumo Puts Adobe Shortcuts at Your Fingertips

 

I’m a heavy Creative suite user. On any given day I easily spend multiple hours in Lightroom, and equally as many in Photoshop. I’m not as well versed in Indesign or Illustrator but I’m getting there. This week Kelby Media announced the release of it’s latest App entitled Shortcut Sumo and I can’t tell you how excited I’ve been for this App to become available! This App not only teaches you ALL of the keyboard shortcuts for EVERY piece of the Creative Suite, but it also provides you with a quick point of reference to jog your memory when you forget one! I’m extremely excited and you should be too! Finally with the tap of your finger on your iPad screen you have access to every keyboard shortcut that the pros use to streamline their workflow and stay profitable. So you can stop right here, right now and go buy it. You don’t have to read this review as to why it’s amazing, just take my word for it and head over to the App store. If however you want to see all of the awesome features contained within, read on…

 

Done Right

We all know that every learning tool coming from Kelby media is top notch. If you’ve ever read any of the books, taken any of the online courses, or attended any of the seminars then you know that Kelby media is full of some of the best instructors of Photography, and the Creative suite the industry has to offer. I say that to say this, when they release an App like this, we all expect that it will be done right and they didn’t disappoint with Shortcut Sumo! From the extremely well thought out categories, to the extremely (sometimes too) powerful search function, you have every keyboard shortcut that you could want. On top of the ability to search, they have included the ability to bookmark your favorite or most used sections as well as add notes. They’ve really thought this App through.

 

Getting Started

The first thing you’re bound to notice when you search the App in iTunes is that it’s FREE! Like Light It Magazine (also from Kelby Media) the App itself is free to download and comes with the ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) “module” for free! That in itself is enough to download the App. There are tons of keyboard shortcuts to learn just in ACR which (again) they give you for the low price of nothing! Once you finish up with ACR you are more than likely going to want to download the rest of the modules for all of the products you use. (As of this writing Photoshop is the only other module available for download but the rest are coming shortly) For me Photoshop was the obvious choice of places to start. I’m in Photoshop non stop and it’s the place where I truly stand to save the most amount of time. To access the desired module you have to be connected to data (either wifi or over your cellular network) and you simply tap on the desired module on the “bookshelf” Once you have them downloaded however, they’re local; meaning they are on your device to read no matter if you have a data connection or not. Once downloaded you launch the module exactly as you would expect by simply tapping the desired title. When you do you are presenting with a home screen asking if you would like your shortcuts in Mac or Pc. This is awesome for anyone that hasn’t made the inevitable jump to Mac and still uses the Windows platform (kidding).  This will ensure that you are reading the shortcuts for your machine as some of the buttons very from Windows to Mac.  Like I said, Photoshop was where I was headed first because that’s where I will save the most amount of time with my shortcuts.

 

A Little Something Extra

Inside of every module there is a “bonus tips” video accessible by tapping the play button on the main screen. The video for Photoshop happens to feature my buddy RC from “The Photoshop Guys”. He’s doing his best impression as a sumo wrestler but anyone that knows him, knows that he’s a pretty in shape guy, and the absolute last person I’d expect to see throwing a punch but it’s funny all the same seeing him dressed like that!

 

 

Using the App

Once inside you either search or use the menu hierarchy to select the topic you are looking for shortcut wise. When you do find your desired topic LAYERS for example, you will see sub menus below the main topic. Selecting a sub menu will bring up that particular shortcut. In the screen shot above you see the shortcut for NEW LAYER. Below the dialog box that would pop up within Photoshop you see a virtual keyboard showing the key combination. This is to ensure that you know exactly what keys to push.

In the upper right corner of the screen you will find the “search” option. This is where you will type in the topic that you’re trying to find info on. This is also where you’re going to find the only flaw with this App (if you want to call it that). When you search a topic, the search results bring back both Mac and PC (hey at least it’s thorough!), and you can’t determine which is which until you click into the shortcut. Once you click into the shortcut you have to open the search bar again (it saves your previous search results so it’s easy to switch selections) and tap on a different shortcut until you find your platform. So far this is the only flaw I’ve found with the App and I look at is more as search being thorough.

Next to the search bar you will notice the three small icons and the browse button. The tag pencil icon (closest to the search button) is a search for sections that you have bookmarked or left notes on. This is where you would quickly access your favorite shortcuts and/or notes. The next small icon (the one in between the two tags) is the notes button. This is where you tap if you want to add a note for the particular section that you’re in. The third icon (tag furthest away from the search button) is used to bookmark the page. This is extremely helpful if you want to mark a section for quick access later. The browse button is exactly what you would think it is. You can use this to browse the sections.

The Bottom Line

There isn’t a better way to easily keep All of the Creative Suite keyboard shortcuts in one place and have them be so readily accessible. Again, I showed you, and talked about Photoshop shortcuts, but they have ACR available now, and will have the other parts of the Creative Suite available shortly. With a cheap price (the App is free and each module is $2.99) this is a must have for anyone, new or seasoned pro that uses Lightroom, Adobe ACR, Photoshop, Indesign, or Illustrator.

 

Get Shortcut Sumo from the iTunes store for your iPad for free here: iTunes

 

Week Calendar

A Calendar on Steroids for Your iPhone

When iOS 6 was rolled out along with the iPhone 5 I was looking for a number of improvements to come along with it. I don’t pay much attention to the rumor sites, or even what Apple sends in some of the developer previews because they’ve been known to pull/add things last minute so when I fired up iOS 6 I didn’t know what to expect. There were a few things that I had hoped would receive some attention (Contacts, Airplay etc.), but one of the most important things on my wish list was an update to the calendars App. Don’t get me wrong, the built in calendar App does the basics just fine. It will allow you to input an appointment or task into it with no problem. It will remind you at a set time prior to that appointment with a notification, but it doesn’t offer much beyond that. When I saw the lack of calendar love with this update, I went searching for a 3rd party App to cover my needs. What I found was a super versatile, customizable, easy to use calendar that is now the only calendar that I use.  From the slick interface to the batch editing, it has everything that I want.

Beautiful Display

One of the things that I dislike so much about the built in Calendar App is the lack of a quality week view. Apple offers “list” view which is a semi-week view but no where near the beautiful layout of the week view in Week Calendar. With Week Calendar the week view shows every day of the week in 9 hour increments. A red line indicates what time of the day you currently are on and allows you to easily identify what appointments are approaching as well as which appointments are currently going on. Indicated by a light blue tint, the column (day) that you are currently in will have the day of the week and date highlighted in bright blue. On the topic of color, you can also color code events based on keywords. So for example I can color code all of my appointments for my children in green so that I can quickly determine what type of appointment I have just by glancing at the colors associated. To take this one step further, you can set the App to automatically color code an event based on keywords contained withing the appointment. For example if I start the appointment off with “Twins” it can change the color to green automatically. This saves a ton of time in color coding. Another great visual enhancement is the addition of icons. These icons can be entered manually into appointments or again automatically with keywords.

Moving appointments has never been easier than it is with Week Calendar. Just tap and hold to move around appointments like you would an App. Intuitive and easy; this is what makes the iPhone so great and that same simplicity transfers into Week Calendar.  Moving beyond simple reoccurring appointments, Week calendar allows custom, complex reoccurring appointments such as every 3 months on the last weekend day of the month, every 2 weeks on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and much, much more. Basically almost any way of making it reoccur is supported.

Everything You Would Expect

Beyond the added features contained within Week Calendar, it contains everything that you would expect to see in a calendar on the iPhone. Adjustments for the colors, calendar, views, and more. While the “week” view is my favorite and the most widely promoted for Week Calendar, you also have the option to view it in day, month, year, mini month, agenda, and more! This is truly a customizable calendar that is meant to be changed to fit your needs!

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a quality, customizable replacement for the stock calendar App, Week Calendar is for you! It is totally customizable, well laid out, and easy to use. It’s not only powerful, but user friendly. It’s as close to perfect as I’ve seen in a calendar.

 

You can get Week Calendar for the iPhone from the iTunes store for $1.99 here:  iTunes

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