Christmas? There’s an app for that [S11E05]

We’re ‘doing’ Christmas this week - Rafe’s had the staff dust-off his favourite elf costume and our thoughts turn to (mobile) ways improve the holiday experience. We discuss our favourite entertainment options, tech to improve festive cooking and using apps to keep New Year’s resolutions.

Ben: Hello and welcome to 361, a weekly podcast about mobile tech and everything around it. My name is Ben Smith.

Rafe: I'm Rafe Blandford.

Ewan: I'm Ewan MacLeod.

Ben: This is season 11 episode 5. This week, it's the Christmas episode.

Rafe: We're talking about some of our favorite entertainment options and how we make festive cookie fabulous.

Ewan: Then it's onto some resolution ideas for the New Year and how you can use technology to help you keep them.

Ben: Welcome back, chaps.

Ewan: Happy holidays.

Rafe: Ho ho ho ho.

Ben: Happy Christmas. Rafe Blandford looking very much like Father Christmas there.

Rafe: Yeah, it's the beard that gives it away, isn't it?

Ben: It is. It is. Actually, you're tossing another log on the fire there.

Rafe: I am.

Ben: You really should use the bathroom like everyone else.

Ewan: Insert some joke about roasting nuts.

Ben: Exactly.

Ewan: Rafe is roasting his nuts.

Ben: We did the roasting nuts joke last ... We just listened back to last year's Christmas episode to make sure we're not doing the same lame jokes we did the previous year.

Rafe: You do them anyway.

Ben: You see anyone who's got enough to stuck with this for more than one calendar year is probably forgiving of repeated jokes.

Rafe: Yes.

Ewan: Have you got it all in?

Ben: Well nearly, nearly.

Ewan: I'm talking about Christmas shopping, obviously.

Ben: [crosstalk 00:01:43].

Rafe: [crosstalk 00:01:43] No.

Ben: Is there anything else? We're recording this a few weeks before Christmas you hear this. This is going out just a week before Christmas, so you might just be able to get a little bit of shopping in.

Ewan: Of course, Amazon will do.

Ben: Amazon will be doing deliveries and that sort of thing. I've done most of our Christmas shopping for the children in our family.

Rafe: You've done all your shopping?

Ben: No, just for the children for toys and things like that.

Ewan: Com on, Ben. This is not complicated.

Ben: What about for your kids?

Ewan: Done. Hetty went in to Toys "R" Us and looked around, show-roomed a little bit. Then Amazoned it.

Ben: Living the dream.

Ewan: We still got that yearlong challenge of the frustration of when you can't find it on Amazon.

Ben: That's really annoying.

Ewan: What's your problem there, Blandford?

Rafe: [inaudible 00:02:20]. I haven't done it yet.

Ben: Are you going to shops?

Rafe: I will be heavily relying on online. I suspect Amazon will be a part of it.

Ewan: You can use it now because you live in the city.

Rafe: I can but, I mean, I-

Ewan: Until you immigrate back to-

Rafe: I also do the web-rooming thing where you research online. You find it online. You may work out how much it is. Either because you're doing click and collect or because you actually want to get it instantly. You go to the store to collect it while show-rooming. All the figures show that still dominates. Actually, we're seeing increasingly and what would be referred to as an omni-channel retail that operates in both the digital and the High Street or bricks and clicks is another phrase for it.

Ben: Look at you.

Rafe: Actually that's becoming more common and because it always used to be. There was this whole discussion around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That it's all gone online. It's death of the traditional stores. Actually, the best results in terms of retail this year were actually for those that have both.

Ewan: We went to see a pantomime.

Ben: Right.

Ewan: On the weekend and-

Ben: For people outside of the UK because I don't know if there's Pantomimes in places like America. What is pantomime?

Ewan: How to describe it? It's a Christmas-related, Christmas themed. You have them in December, right?

Ben: Yeah.

Ewan: A bit in January. That's a bit weird in January though.

Ben: It's a play for children.

Ewan: Yes. Then the adults have to get stuck in. It's all look behind you. It's all very-

Ben: Audience participation.

Ewan: Where is he?

Rafe: I don't think you've got that right.

Ewan: What?

Ben: Yes, he did.

Rafe: I don't think so. I don't think so.

Ewan: What does that [look 00:03:50]?

Rafe: Sort of theater laden with cheese and B-list celebrities.

Ewan: No, we went to the local pantomime. We made a [cardinal sin 00:03:59], if you're an Amazon customer, which we went out in the morning on Saturday. Dear me.

Rafe: [inaudible 00:04:05] can move.

Ewan: Dear me.

Ben: All of your Christmas shopping came to visit you and then went away again?

Ewan: Well, no, no. Because we live in the countryside, what happens is the guy phones you, goes, "Hey, look. We've got a whole lot of boxes for you." He says-

Ben: Phoned you?

Ewan: Yeah.

Ben: Wow.

Ewan: They phone you. He informed me. I've put my wife's phone because I'm [on the run 00:04:23]. Say, "Yes, yes. That's fine. Yes." Fantastic. We got back. I kid you not. There is a pile up to my shoulders of boxes outside the door and a little wine.

Rafe: Well, I'm probably walking into something here, but I had a similar experience with Amazon this Saturday when I was back in Sussex.

Ben: That's just a mid-sized C-grade box, isn't it, for you, Rafe Blandford, up to shoulders?

Rafe: Thank you, Ben. I got a phone call at 6 o'clock in the evening.

Ben: Wow.

Rafe: The Amazon delivery guy was lost. He needed directions.

Ewan: To the Blandford Manor?

Rafe: That's correct. I was actually quite impressed. I think we've being seeing this more,

Ewan: [inaudible 00:05:04].

Rafe: ... often or so. They've been delivering on Sundays and this is,

Ewan: That's really good.

Rafe: ... [walking 00:05:08] along the run up to Christmas. It's amazing how logistics have changed around. Also, the whole tracking and next day delivery and, if you're in the city, the Amazon Now stuff is pretty incredible.

Ewan: Have you seen the husband and wife teams?

Rafe: Yes, the people that ... They're actually ... It's kind of bit-

Ewan: They're subcontracted to individuals, literally, a guy and his wife or a partner.

Ben: We've had quite a lot of that. That might be weird. Somebody was driving like their own personal car, arrives and gives you Amazon delivery. It's been weird. Although this week, I show-roomed. I saw a product in one shop, went home, ordered it from another retailer and had it delivered to us through the retailer for click and collect.

Rafe: You were show web-rooming.

Ben: I show web-rooming.

Ewan: Was that on-

Rafe: Wow.

Ben: I'm trying to think where I saw the product.

Ewan: How can you do that?

Ben: Well, because inside our local DIY store is a parcel pick up and drop off point.

Ewan: That's smart.

Ben: You can do your click and collect boxes from there. It all works surprisingly well actually. We're doing loads and loads of click and collect this year because we're not home to get those parcels. They do tend to get ...

Ewan: It's annoying, isn't it?

Ben: They go AOL. Yes. That's a major part. Although actually Rafe was saying that their logistics improved. It's noticeable the number of places that you can do pickups and those kinds of things is increasing hugely. Like you, we're relatively rural now. Even the tiny, little post office now village does and click and collect for Amazon now.

Rafe: The the other thing I think is really interesting, it's not something I've done personally, is you can now put boxes outside your houses and give couriers a key code to get into them. It's actually something that's become more popular in the States with all controlled-

Ben: I would do that.

Rafe: All controlled from a smart phone app. It's effectively able to do deliver it and put it into a secure place even when you're not there. Actually, it could be tied into your smarter home challenge of which more in due course-

Ben: All in due course.

Ewan: By the way, I've got a Christmas present for you, Blandford.

Rafe: That's awfully decent of you, Ewan. What did I do to deserve that?

Ewan: Well, you inspired me so I have ordered you a mug. Now, can anyone guess what mug I have ordered for Blandford? Any listeners of the last season?

Ben: I'm just thinking it's a bit like a car bumper sticker. My other home is massive.

Ewan: When he brings people right into his place.

Ben: Yeah, exactly.

Rafe: Maybe it's a Mr. Happy cup.

Ben: Mr. Happy. [inaudible 00:07:24].

Ewan: No, it's The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society official mug.

Rafe: You're too kind. You are too kind.

Ewan: I'm not sure where it is. It's in a pile somewhere at home.

Ben: In a box.

Ewan: It's still in a box. Yeah, it's coming. Standby. Happy Christmas, Blandford. Ben, I haven't thought of [crosstalk 00:07:39] you.

Ben: [crosstalk 00:07:39] No, that's fine. We're not that close, really.

Ewan: [inaudible 00:07:42] Yeah.

Ben: Rafe Blandford, let's move on because that is all so much preamble to say, well, it's nearly Christmas. What are we talking about this week?

Rafe: This week, we're actually talking about how mobile and technology in general can help make your Christmas go a little bit more smoothly wherever you happen to be holding it.

Ben: We've covered enough three important parts for Christmas that we thought about. First stop, Ewan MacLeod, we're going to talk about entertainment.

Ewan: Yes.

Ben: During the Christmas period, people need entertaining and not just ourselves but also the young people in our lives and,

Ewan: That's correct.

Ben: ... many friends and relations that come and visit. What do you do in your house to sort out entertainment?

Ewan: Well, now we have majored quite heavily or I have majored quite heavily on talking about Amazon Prime or Amazon Instant Video. Come on. I am a little bit like you and Nokia now when it comes to Amazon, doesn't it? I must have mentioned Amazon about 12 times already. Netflix [PCI 00:08:32] player and so on. We'll definitely be watching Downtown the last ... Watch the last episode of Downtown.

Rafe: No, I don't need to watch it.

Ewan: Oh, Rafe. Just look at the kitchen window. Ring the bell. We won't watch anything live at all. I think we've kind of covered that kind of stuff. What I wanted to look at was the importance of children being entertained during these or during extended periods of boredom when you're doing family things. We have to go and see A, B and C relatives and the children have to sit there and stare at the wall.

Rafe: That's a good thing about Christmas, isn't it? Actually, it's a real break to routines. It's either a lot of travel involved, or they can't have your undivided attention because you've got guests or family around.

Ewan: Yes. With younger children, that can be a difficult thing. Now, I never ever want to get to the point where sometimes if you are out, you see parents with their children plugged in headphones, and iPhones, or iPads sitting not chatting. I don't want that. Don't encourage that but, in the car, when you're doing a two-hour commute and there's traffic. [crosstalk 00:09:36]

Ben: [crosstalk 00:09:36] I think it's all over. Certainly I saw on the Amazon UK store. They're selling multi-packs of Kindles now.

Ewan: Yes. The children's Kindles really got my attention.

Ben: I was deeply dubious about [inaudible 00:09:46] until I realized how cheap they were. I'm thinking actually-

Ewan: It's particularly good.

Ben: They're still-

Rafe: On Cyber Monday, it was £35 for a Kindle Fire, the entry-level one, and the kid's edition of the Kindle, which is kind of the next one up, was £49. That comes with a year of Kindle Time which is sort of essentially unlimited entertainment content in the form of TV shows, videos and games. It's actually pretty high quality stuff. You can download ... A per the other Amazon stuff, use it offline. It works great for journeys.

Ben: That would work well for families with multiple kids. In our house, we're going to have FaceTime time.

Ewan: Yes, now this is really important. This is something that's happened-

Ben: Do you have that scheduled in your house?

Ewan: We don't have a schedule but it's our informal reality night for us. On Christmas day, we'll FaceTime all around. We will be going to my parents or we'll we'll drive out my parents. We would then FaceTime from there to everybody else. Not [formal 00:10:39]. We never do [formal 00:10:40] anymore.

Ben: All the members of the family now either have Skype or FaceTime set up on devices. That includes grandma and grandpa, all that sort of thing. They have been provided in previous years with laptops and iPads or whatever and they're all working. Now, after dinner, we're going to do the FaceTime calls so everybody can see everyone else.

Ewan: This is brilliant. It really is good.

Ben: Actually we had a birthday recently where we did a live birthday present unwrapping with some members of the family.

Ewan: That's fantastic.

Ben: ... on FaceTime participating. That was really good.

Rafe: The interesting one here is depending on how big your family is, FaceTime and Skype can let you down because you can't have enough participants. The top 361 tip is if you've got an extended family, you do a Google Hangout. You can have a lot more people,

Ewan: Get everybody on there.

Rafe: ... in the call.

Ben: [inaudible 00:11:26] thought of that. At the moment, we're coping with the idea of FaceTime and Skype because it's like a phone call but with pictures and therefore it doesn't stretch anyone's imagination too much. Also one of the reasons we've switched to using FaceTime so much is it rings like a phone call. Everyone can understand what's going on. There's plenty of tech savvy members of the family we could do a Hangout with.

The other one is I'm actually looking forward to ... I think last year, I talked about Osmo, remember that game?

Rafe: Yes.

Ben: They've sold loads of extension packs. I'm looking forward to go play with that actually because I used to really like that. If you're not familiar with Osmo, it's a stand you put your iPad in and a little mirror that you put over the camera so the camera then focuses on the piece of paper directly in front of the iPad. You can play games by putting counters or drawing pictures on the paper, and then that affects the game that's playing on the iPad. It's really great kid's game. It's fantastic because it's actually not just involved starting at the screen. It has drawing, and moving shapes, and puzzles, and all matter of things to go with it.

Rafe: If I was going to pick out a sort of entertainment thing ... It's amazing now how many accessories or add-ons to the mobile phone or a tablet that you are able to give away as presents or keep as entertainment. The Bluetooth remote controlled cars have come on along way, but also now the ability to create the racing circuits. There are various products around that including the ability to kind of effectively print out additional race tracks and things like that.

I think it's kind of interesting to me how some of the best accessories actually now are sort of this gift and sort of game play entertainment thing. You've seen the same thing with he kind of Disney and the Infinity, the characters, and the cards, and the stuff that goes with that. It become a whole kind of thing equivalent to what would have been Pokemon or Top Trumps, if we look back a little bit further into the mists of time. It fascinates me how much it's become kind of a companion device for all kinds of other activities.

Ben: Now, Christmas quiz is a tradition in the Smith household. Every year before Christmas, we have drinks and lunch with friends and a fun quiz.

Rafe: We do those, too.

Ewan: We don't do that.

Ben: Well, all civilized families do. Every year previously, we've had a music round which used to be a CD, and then obviously it been turned into tracks downloaded from iTunes. Then last year the, Sonos. We put Sonos, [crosstalk 00:13:43]

Ewan: Yeah, great, great, great.

Ben: ... on the table and play it through there. This year, we still did the music round. This year had the first Airplay live camera round where we took an iPhone and we had these game cards that come from another game, Pictionary cards. If you're not familiar, it's kind of these cartoons that you have to [sit 00:14:00] and interpret the cartoon to get a word. We have these all laid out on the table. The quiz master just focused the iPhone on one. We all looked at the TV and went, "Oh, oh, oh, oh." Popular phrase. What goes up must come down. Those kind of things.

Rafe: That's a nice idea.

Ben: Then the next one, the next one. It's the first time we've incorporated Apple TV and Airplay in to the quiz. That works really well.

Rafe: I've got a trivia for you then, Ben.

Ben: Go on.

Ewan: Gosh.

Rafe: What animal in the stable could walk upstairs,

Ben: Donkey.

Rafe: ... but not downstairs?

Ewan: It's a little bit hard.

Ben: Downstairs, downstairs. [inaudible 00:14:30].

Rafe: Cows. Cows can walk upstairs but they can't walk downstairs.

Ben: That's what they tell you.

Ewan: I knew it was [similar 00:14:37].

Rafe: There you go. Really great trivia there.

Ewan: Thanks for that, Blandford. [crosstalk 00:14:41]

Ben: [crosstalk 00:14:41] I think it's this moment in time that we should quickly stop the episode and talk about the crowdfunding we're doing this year. Well, because it's before Christmas and there's lots of [inaudible 00:14:50] on your funding, we won't label this too long. If you would like to support 361 Podcast, you could donate $1 an episode and help us fund the show. We've been making it now for 11 seasons, and we love doing it. We've provided the fundings for sponsorship at our own pockets.

To do the more ambitious stuff we'd like to do in 2016, we'd like a little bit of support from the listeners. If you be willing to give us $1 an episode, get to and follow the support link. Well, you can help us make something even more exciting next year.

Ewan: We just quickly touched on this point in the ... We're carrying on the podcast as normal.

Ben: Absolutely.

Ewan: That's funded by us and that's part of the deal.

Ben: It is.

Ewan: The major issue we have is ... Well, a major issue I have in particular is less of funding thing but ... If we want to do anything cool, I have to justify that to my wife. She then put her arms across her chest and says, "Why do you need to do that?" For example, we want to take Blandford to Helsinki to do a walking tour of-

Rafe: That sounds a lot more attractive than the options that's currently on there, Ben.

Ewan: We haven't got to that. Yeah, we need to talk about that, right? We want to do cool things, right?

Ben: Yeah. Well, the current plan is when we reached $100 an episode and we're about a third of the way there at the moment, when we reach a $100 an episode, we're going to get Rafe Blandford massage live on air by ... Which company was it is in?

Ewan: Urban Massage. It's a mobile [contact 00:16:12] by some mobile app we can get. You can order a therapist anywhere in London, a particular type of therapist, so they'll do a particular type of massage wherever you want.

Ben: We could get a therapist to help Rafe Blandford with the trauma of being massaged?

Ewan: No, these are only massage therapists as in ... You can have a Swedish massage. You can get a Thai massage and so on. Yes, the mobile-related one. Dear listener, I think it's good use of time.

Ben: Fantastic. For less than a price of Snickers, if you like sport show, we'll be very grateful.

Ewan: Indeed.

Ben: We'll move on. Eating is one of my favorite things to do at Christmas time and cooking forms a big part of that. Rafe Blandford, tell us how you're using mobile tech to cook for Christmas dinner this year.

Rafe: Not really.

Ben: Fair enough. It's a short feature, isn't it? Move on.

Rafe: That's not entirely true. Researching on the phone in past years, I have found various tips and tricks to carry off it successfully because actually the big thing about Christmas dinner is just how much preparation it takes. My advice would be do as much as you can in advance. If you would like to do it in a smart way, there are a couple of products out there. There's the Drop Scale, which is smart scales which work with your phone and then make it very easy to follow recipes because I'm aware that some listeners will not be as proficient in the kitchen as others and or will be. Excused as- [crosstalk 00:17:28]

Ewan: [crosstalk 00:17:28] You're right there because I am.

Rafe: We will need an excuse to get into this sort of thing. I think with the cooking ... Actually there's a couple of things to acknowledge here. It's more than just these everyday cooking so we have to think about where you're going to order it from and doing that last minute ordering. That's actually where the phone really comes into its own if you need to do that that [inaudible 00:17:50] Tesco's order it the last minute or you need to find out where the [inaudible 00:17:54] because every told you that the cold meat and Christmas chocolates are the best from [inaudible 00:17:59].

Ewan: Exactly.

Ben: There we go. In our house, we are big users of Evernote. All of our favorite recipes from,

Ewan: It's very interesting.

Ben: ... all around the year go into Evernote but particularly Christmas. Then I use the reminders feature in Evernote, and we have lots of to-do lists including all the food prep and all those sorts of things when we host.

Ewan: Lots of serious stuff.

Ben: The to-do list ... Now, the great thing I like about Evernote, normally people use it is you can attach a reminder to a note so that then pops up and reminds you. During the year, I do that for things like car insurance. I scan the car insurance document in, and I'll put a reminder in for a fortnight before it needs renewed to go and get new quotes and things. We do that for all the Christmas stuff.

I also use the mySupermarket app in the UK as well. You can put your shopping in there and then submit it to all of the popular online supermarkets in the UK to do price comparisons. If I wanted to, I could do my commodity shop more cheaply,

Ewan: That's interesting.

Ben: ... before I go and get my special bits as they were.

Rafe: That's interesting. I use [inaudible 00:19:05] to get recipes and documents into one note, and it does a great job of sort of cutting out what you need instead of redoing the kind of the view of it so it's easy to read. In that case, it's very similar to Evernote. I think it's that kind of collection of information pre-Christmas becomes really important when you're desperately short on time.

Ben: Last year, I quite like the Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef. He did a TV series and cookery book called 20-Minute Meals.

Ewan: Lovely app.

Ben: There we go. I'm going to try the app this year.

Ewan: The [inaudible 00:19:37] is really good.

Ben: I'm not going to do that for a Christmas dinner. For us, Christmas starts about a week before when all the visitors and come and stay with us. They stay for about a week after. Quick dinners, interesting dinners that you can quickly knock up also maybe while talking to other people. "Can I help? Can I help?" "Yeah. This is what we're doing." Cooking along to a set of instructions there-

Rafe: That everyone can join in a game of Airplay.

Ben: Everyone can join in and help. That'll be good. The other thing, obviously, we'll be using the Sonos to provide Christmas music. I used to try and make a Christmas playlist but now I've given up. My wife just has several Christmas radio stations.

Rafe: That's interesting.

Ben: Just streaming Christmas radio. We don't curate our own Christmas music anymore. It does mean you get to listen to a lot more Mariah Carey then you might want to.

Rafe: Carols from King's, that's what you need.

Ben: Who's she?

Rafe: Carols from ... I swear I walk into that. The other thing you call- [crosstalk 00:20:29]

Ben: [crosstalk 00:20:29].

Rafe: The other thing, of course, is essential about Christmas food, there's particular types of Christmas foods. You get a big tub of Twiglets, for example.

Ewan: Don't know what you mean.

Rafe: Most importantly-

Ewan: Twiglets?

Rafe: Homemade sausage rolls.

Ewan: Homemade sausage rolls. [inaudible 00:20:41] sausage roll.

Rafe: I was actually making them this weekend. Just getting the local pork mince, putting the herbs in from the garden. Just absolutely delicious.

Ewan: [inaudible 00:20:49].

Rafe: There are certain things that I really associate with Christmas: homemade sausage rolls.

Ewan: Then you make them into a ring? You make your sausage into a ring, right?

Rafe: Well, you have the normal ones but then you also have the ones that look a bit like the Danish pastry which is spirals.

Ewan: Is that a long sausage roll that you twisted?

Rafe: It is basically a sausage roll that you have a flat piece and then you roll up several times. Then you cut it into thin slices. It's absolutely delicious.

Ben: I'm literally speechless.

Ewan: I am astonished to discover this about Blandford. He's a sausage roll ...

Rafe: Aficionado.

Ewan: Very, very impressive because I also am a sausage roll man but I'm a Donald Russell guy. Do you know know what Donald Russell?

Rafe: Yeah, you buy your sausage rolls. See, hat's really not in the Christian spirit, is it?

Ewan: They are quality, and they're artisan. They're artisan.

Rafe: Well, that's all right then. That's all right then.

Ewan: It's my thing. All I got to do is I got to order the meat from Donald Russell. Big fans of that. It's an online Scottish delivery,

Ben: I see.

Ewan: ... provider of meat and other things like that. Then I go order the wine. Donald Russell, I do on the web just because they haven't really gotten mobile yet. I do have to actually do that on the computer. Do it properly. Then I'll use [inaudible 00:21:57] for the wine. I've got their Amazon equivalent so they don't charge you for delivery. SpeedPay one fee and then just all the wine just comes the next day. Then I also use Naked Wines, the other one which is quite good from the app, very good from the app. They're very good next day deliverers. That's my Christmas-

Rafe: I do think there are a lot of companion apps that can help you out at Christmas and things like calculating how long you're meant to cook the turkey for can be pretty critical as well.

Ben: I use Siri on the Apple Watch quite a lot. Just set me a timer for 10 minutes when I've got pans covered in food. The other one that I like and I've mentioned it before is the Vinoa, which is the wine app which I think quite a lot of people use. Scans and recognizes bottle labels. That's great for the show-rooming because if you go somewhere particularly if you guys went to those fancy wine shops and you want to see if what you're being sold is a good or a bad one because I don't know, then you can look it up. That's dead good.

We will not be doing a smartest home update this week because we've got a big smartest home update next week. Hold fire for this exciting-

Rafe: Very exciting.

Ewan: Have you gotten news though, right?

Ben: I've got so much news. Frankly, we can just stop it now because-

Rafe: As I understand it, it's Christmas this week so I'm going to be less impressed with your Christmas-y smart home next week. [crosstalk 00:23:18]

Ben: [crosstalk 00:23:18] Just hold it out.

Ewan: You feel confident there, right? I think I can raise you.

Ben: I want to see-

Ewan: Blandford, all the tools of his is rubbishy. No, he's really impressive a couple of weeks ago but rubbishy no.

Ben: Number three then. Last of all, this is a bit premature before Christmas but after Christmas, resolutions. Fresh start. I love mobile apps for getting started with my New Year's resolutions because they're there in my pocket all the time and it's really-

Ewan: You can delete them when you're-

Ben: I can delete them. I can make the memories of the things I've committed to go away. For me, the first thing I'd like to do generally at the beginning of the New Year is sorting my budget. I think, "Right. I'm going to get my personal finances all in order."

Ewan: Really?

Ben: You know how like you go through the year and you're just sort of get less and less disciplined.

Ewan: [inaudible 00:24:04] spreadsheet.

Ben: No, I do get-

Ewan: Undisciplined.

Ben: I do get quite undisciplined. In Christmases like this, it's a big splurge where you go buy Christmas presents quick unplanned. Then January, say, "Right. I really ought to ... " I've already started using it but actually I'm going to sit down in January and do a proper plan.

I really like ... It's an app called YNAB which stands for Your Need a Budget. I'm just trying it now and I really like it. It's a Mac app but it also comes with [inaudible 00:24:28] a companion IOS and Android apps as well. It's a great thing. It downloads your bank statements if you want it to and you can set budgets. You can sort of just manage your personal finances and your household finances,

Ewan: Very interesting.

Ben: ... if you want to. The reason I really like it is because of all the services that I've tried that download statements from online banks. It's the one that makes the nicest job of gluing it all together. Do you remember back in the day when you used to have Microsoft Money or something?

Ewan: I remember those days.

Ben: You download your-

Ewan: Excel.

Ben: You download-

Ewan: CSV.

Ben: You download, let's say, your ... I'm trying to think of [inaudible 00:25:02] ... Your checking account or your current account in the UK. Then you download your credit card statement. Of course a payment from one, will settle the balance on the other, and you'd never be able to reconcile them. This does all those kind of real world situations.

It also handles business expenses, bane of my life. A piece of money out, I tell my employer about it and they give it back to me because it was a business expense. The last budget app I used wouldn't let me credit money back into [crosstalk 00:25:30] as it were.

Ewan: [crosstalk 00:25:30] I see.

Ben: It certainly wanted to treat all my expenses payments as income and it wasn't to spend. You can't budget for business expenses because, of course- [crosstalk 00:25:40]

Ewan: [crosstalk 00:25:41]

Ben: It is driven by the business. Really like it.

Ewan: I'll have a look at that.

Ben: Elegantly nicely done. On January, I'll come back and talk about that because I would have kicked the tires a bit more by then. What about you, Ewan?

Ewan: Right. Mine is all about photos and video and predictably insert Google Photos reference here. I'm a massive Google Photos fan.

Ben: You were taking loads of photos of entertainment during family times?

Ewan: Yes, well, it's both that. When we got my parents, I'll probably be showing them a lot of the photos.

Ben: How will you be doing that?

Ewan: I'll be using my iPad just because of the TV they've got ... I mean, it is possible.

Ben: From Google Photos?

Ewan: Yeah, from Google. Yeah.

Ben: I'd tell you what you won't be doing anymore. You won't be showing them Carousel off Dropbox.

Ewan: No.

Ben: Because that's shutdown.

Ewan: No, because, well, I felt that was an app and I thought it was very nice. I like what it did with it but I went for Google Photos because I'm hoping they wouldn't shut that down.

Rafe: Now, actually thinking Google [inaudible 00:26:31] cover best track record.

Ewan: Come on. Let's just be clear. Other services are available for Microsoft. Where do you stick your photos?

Rafe: I was actually thinking given you're such an Amazon man, I'm surprised you're not sticking it on Amazon Prime.

Ewan: It's just not as nice of an interface. That's the reality.

Ben: No, it's not.

Ewan: I've got unlimited photo backup with them but I just don't normally use it. The apps I'd like to bring to your attention though Touchnote, obviously.

Ben: Now, remind us. You've been longtime fan of Touchnote,

Ewan: Oh, yeah.

Ben: ... and user.

Ewan: Huge fan.

Ben: For our new listeners to podcast-

Ewan: Touchnote, you will see other apps I'm sure. Touchnote is one of the leaders in photos from your phone delivered as physical postcard services.

Ben: Why are you doing this?

Ewan: Well, I've been using it for donkey's years, for ages now because that's how I would take photos of the children and then send them to the grandparents. They love getting the physical photos. My grandmother actually has a or had, I should say, a series of albums dedicate to Touchnote. When friends and family came around, she would actually show off the Touchnote photos.

Ben: This is like thank you for my Christmas presents cards and things like- [crosstalk 00:27:34]

Ewan: [crosstalk 00:27:34] Yeah, well actually when I got into habit of doing ... I was doing ... Every Sunday, I'd set myself a reminder to do a Touchnote and to send a Touchnote to parents. Every week, I would more or less send them out. Then for some reason, I changed calendar or something happened and I haven't been doing that. I need to do that.

Ben: Rafe Blandford, what are you going to do for personal resolution? To me, you look like a man who's going to get blisteringly fit in the New Year.

Rafe: Yes, well thank you for that suggestion, Ben.

Ewan: Which you're going to. You look like someone who's got-

Ben: Already, I honed Adonis. All three of us to be honest.

Rafe: If I was going to do that, that's absolutely right. I will be looking to properly use some kind of wearable to track all of that. Getting the motivation part of that sorted out, I think this applies to a lot of New Year's resolution, actually can be a bit tricky. I want to recommend an app called Pact where essentially you're paying money into a pot with your friends. You're effectively betting on yourself to meet those fitness goals and to get a certain amount of exercise.

Ewan: That's quite smart.

Rafe: This is done as an app that's available at the App Stores. If I'm talking about personal resolutions, I think I'm going to sort of come out and say, "I'm going to try not to mention the word Nokia and Microsoft quite so often on the podcast," which I think I've been doing very well this season so far.

Ewan: OneNote, you're talking about Office Lens and OneNote. Every one else is using Evernote, and you have to use that.

Rafe: I didn't say Micrsoft before. You just assumed. Anyway, the other thing is there are actually some great apps out there to help you with habit-forming. That's mostly around reminders. Actually, it's that ability to track. One thing that I want to do is try and get more consistent and better sleep. I've actually got-

Ewan: I can not stand that from someone who doesn't have any children.

Rafe: I'm sorry, Ewan.

Ewan: Woe is me. I'm not getting ... I just not seem to get that much sleep.

Rafe: No, it's not about not getting enough sleep. It's getting maximizing- [crosstalk 00:29:28]

Ewan: [crosstalk 00:29:28] get yourself a proper mattress.

Rafe: I've done that. It's actually about-

Ewan: Where did you get it from?

Rafe: It's about controlling the temperature, and humidity, and things like that in the room which is all part of the smarter home challenge.

Ben: When we're up at 3 o'clock in the morning changing the child's nappies as they're screaming, I should say to my wife, "Don't worry, darling. I've got this." I go open the window just to get the humidity in the room just right.

Rafe: Exactly. Exactly.

Ben: You got to understand the humidity is fine. The humidity is fine.. The temperature in here is exactly right.

Rafe: Obviously screaming for a reason.

Ben: Exactly. Where the humidity downstairs-

Rafe: I acknowledge that was perhaps [inaudible 00:30:00] ... The reality is I'm actually just trying to come up with a resolution that I know I'll keep.

Ben: Well, there's two that I quite like. One that I'm interested in trying next year is an app backed by Jamie Oliver again which is actually [I found familiar 00:30:11] when I was looking at a-

Ewan: There's a bunch of sugar?

Ben: No, actually he's a backer rather than one of his apps on this one. It's called YouApp. It's basically about making micro differences. I have this idea ... Setting a resolution you're going to run a marathon, it's just too big.

Ewan: It's a big one.

Ben: You give up. It's too big a thing. Deciding to make ... They call it micro changes. Deciding to walk up the stairs instead of take the lift or have a piece of fruit instead of a sweet snack, or junk food, or something like that. They've got various categories. You just sort of ... It prompts you to do these things. The idea is that you kind of build up this kind of chain. That if everyday you have a piece of fruit,

Ewan: That's a great idea.

Ben: ... instead of a chocolate bar. If everyday you walk instead of getting in the bus-

Ewan: Small change builds-

Ben: It builds up. They've got these nice categories. I have actually not used beyond playing around with it but it looks really nice. It's got quite a lot of content in there as well, so it's not just saying do something good. It's saying why don't you try eating this meal? Why don't you try doing that exercise? You can say yes. That one looks quite good. So far, all the feedback is it's actually pretty good at habit-forming.

Then the other one is ... I'm not much of a runner but on the occasion I have gone out and done some exercise, I really like the Couch to 5K app because for me-

Ewan: It's very smart, isn't it?

Ben: For me, the hardest part is not MyFitnessPal or something like that. I don't need to know where I've run or how far I've run. I can do that quite easily with the tech I've got. What I need is, hey, you go out and do that first run in the New Year. I'm not [inaudible 00:31:37].

Ewan: Don't do that in New Year. Do it in December 28 or something. Seriously don't do it in the New Year because then you'll look like everybody else.

Ben: When you do go out and do it like if you go and try to run for half an hour, you've not done the exercise before Christmas. You're just doing [inaudible 00:31:52] and feel terrible. Why not go through a nice structured program-

Ewan: With someone who knows what they're doing.

Ben: With someone who knows what they're doing. Also, everyday you can feel like you can actually achieve it. You look at that and go, "I actually got to go for a walk today. I got to run for 5 minutes, walk for 5 minutes." That's achievable. It's baby steps. There's two on the app store called Couch to 5k.

There's also an NHS Choices program which is in the UK done by the National Health Service here. Actually some of the commercial apps gets really good write up, too. I'll be actually having a look at those.

Rafe: Just to sort of add some extras into those, the other one kind of that motivational space is Zombies, Run! Which is just trying to gamify the whole exercise which for some people running away from a screaming zombie horde might be what you need to get your-

Ben: How does that work? Does it play-

Rafe: Essentially, it's telling you a story as you're running and obviously the distance that you're running the speed with which you're doing. It starts to play into how that story-

Ben: Interesting.

Rafe: It start to get played back to you. I'm all in favor of doing that sort of thing because honestly running just on its own for a lot of people will be,

Ben: Pointless.

Rafe: ... quite boring. The other thing I would say is don't neglect the mental health side of things. There's always a bit of stigma attached to you talking about it. Actually some of the apps that are out there like HeadSpace, Pause or Sit all of which seemed to ... It's something that's coming a lot more in the last year or so which is just about taking five minutes to sit and relax and try and mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead and think about challenges and whatever problems you're facing your way. I'm not suggesting at all that this is any replacement for curing medical health, but it can really be good to have something like smart phone just giving you, curing you to those better behaviors.

It's a bit like what Ben was talking about. I think that's the thing where we talked about a year ago wearables and quantified self was a big thing. What it's becoming increasingly apparent is it's not about the data that you could collect. It's what you can then do with that data that you then collect and changing those behavioral patterns because actually no one cares if you're running 5K a day or you're doing 10,000 steps. It's the outcome that you want to support. Actually, that's how I think the most successful apps [inaudible 00:33:57]. It's very noticeable that the ones that are doing assisted workouts or bits of training and coaching along the way, the ones that really seemed to be sticking. Fitbit have been doing some of that but alsoUnder Armour.

Ben: Under Armour, yup.

Rafe: With their whole platform has be ... It will be really interesting to see how that develops over the next year or so. As well as thinking about resolutions, we also look ahead. To me, we will see more data being collected. I think there will be new sensors coming in. I'm going to break my resolution and say Microsoft Band is actually now doing the 02 or 02 Max collection.

Ben: That is cool.

Rafe: It takes a while to get going. Actually if you do that, it's probably the ultimate accessory in terms of the number of sets and the things that it collects. I'm sure we will see more of that a little bit stick-ables that do it in a temporary way and even the sort of the indigestibles so-called that can sort of track your internal body chemistry. I'm really excited to see those, not because they're going to collect interesting data, but because they will be able to tell you much more about your patterns of behavior and what impact that then has on your lifestyle.

Ben: Ewan MacLeod, one last one from you.

Ewan: Well, this is one that really, really got my attention when you mentioned it actually. It's Thortful.

Ben: Go and spell that because-

Ewan: It's T-H-O-R-T-F-U-L so Thortful. It's on the App Store on the IOS Apps Store. I was taking about Touchnote earlier. You take a photo from your phone. Send it to your grandparents, whoever. It's really nice. The post arrives the next day usually. Thortful does that type of thing. You send a card via phone. The most interesting, you got to take a picture of a written note. You got a white piece of paper. You write a note saying, "Hey, thanks so much for the presents. [inaudible 00:35:37]. Lots of love, Ewan." You go and take a picture of that text and that integrates it and prints it out onto a card.

Ben: That was always my criticism of Touchnote was I loved it. Sending grandma a typewritten thing felt impersonal particularly when it was a ... We used to do it when we went on holidays. We send personalized postcards. It just felt impersonal having them typed out that way.

Ewan: Even if you said lots of love from Ewan, it's still typed out.

Ben: Actually, it was way better than just sending a regular postcard. It was a fantastic idea. I always hoped the next step which was the ability to personalize it and short of having it send ... Make the card send it to you if you write on it and then you post it which felt a little bit old school

Ewan: I love the idea of this. I haven't signed up yet. I'm going to try it for Christmas.

Ben: It's really nice. They've got-

Ewan: Have you done this yet?

Ben: Basically, I've seen a demo. I haven't used it myself. It's like a scanner app. It scans your handwriting and it puts your handwriting in the card. It's really good.

Great. I think that's it. Rafe Blandford, any last ideas?

Rafe: No, I think that's probably a good point to draw a close for the year or at least for the Christmas episode.

Ben: Yes, it was a very happy festive season whether you're celebrating Christmas or not. I hope you have a lovely, peaceful, happy time. We're going to keep publishing over the Christmas periods,and we will be back next week with our smartest home competition update.

Ewan: I'm looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to that.

Rafe: I think I could get quite competitive which is really in the Christmas spirit of things.

Ben: Splendid. Have a fantastic week and as you'll recover-

Ewan: Goodwill. Goodwill.

Ben: Goodwill to all except Rafe Blandford and we'll go away. We'll have some turkey and we'll be back next week with our smartest home update. You can find us at If you go there, you can also have ... I haven't mentioned this in a while. You can also leave some voice mail of course. Why not go there, click the contact tab and you can send us messages or leave us a voice mail. We're on Twitter @361Podcast or you can find us on Facebook but don't encourage them. Thanks very much, guys. We'll see you next week. Bye, bye.