This week the team share and review the apps and services they use and (mostly) recommend - from productivity to entertainment and across all (well, most) ecosystems. We also catch-up with our ‘smartest home’ challenge.
Ben: Hello. Welcome to 361, a weekly podcast about mobile tech and everything around it. My name is Ben Smith.
Ewan: I'm Ewan MacLeod.
Rafe: I’m Rafe Blandford.
Ben: This is season 11, episode 8.
Ewan: This week we're recommending some of our favorite apps and services.
Rafe: First, we stop by catching up with our smartest home challenge.
Ben: Welcome back, chaps. How are you doing?
Ewan: I am winning.
Ben: Winning. Winning at what, Ewan MacLeod?
Ewan: Winning at the smart home challenge.
Rafe: That’s fighting talk.
Ben: How’s it coming on?
Ewan: Beat that, Smith and Blandford.
Ben: Right. Fair enough.
Ewan: That’s coming on very well.
Ben: Maybe I’m forgetful, I’m just thinking back over the previous episodes. I just don’t think anyone else has demoed their system live on the show. What? Don’t need to?
Ewan: Oh, come on, man. That’s nonsense. That's absolutely nonsense.
Ben: Unfortunately we are out of time for that today.
Ben: Rafe Blandford, how are you doing today?
Rafe: I’m doing very well, thank you, Ben, and how are you doing?
Ben: I’m very good. Thank you for asking. This week we are talking about the-
Ewan: Live. That’s live. There you go.
Ben: Ewan MacLeod is now showing us the picture of a window-
Ewan: That’s right.
Ben: -and the only thing-
Ewan: That’s how I can see outside during the day.
Ben: Okay, so you’ve got outside live video feed.
Ewan: [inaudible 00:01:49]. Bang, bang, bang. See when it’s [inaudible 00:01:51].
Ben: When you say bang, bang, bang, are you referring to the chronic reflection that means that you can't actually see out of the window?
Ewan: I don’t know how to deal with that at the moment.
Ben: What you’ve got-
Ewan: I’m working on it.
Ben: What you have is a live stream video feed of whether or not the lights are on in your kitchen.
Ewan: Right, yes.
Ben: Okay, so I’m still feeling relatively-
Ewan: I’m still winning.
Ben: -still feeling relatively confident on the smartest home competition, but we will be giving an end of season focused update on that. Rafe Blandford, are you still getting [inaudible 00:02:18] forecast announced to you at night when you go for a wee?
Rafe: No, I'm getting a much more subtle smart home and starting to alert me to when there are burglars in the house.
Ben: How many times have you been burgled over the course of this season?
Rafe: I haven’t yet.
Ben: This is so confusing with no alerts. It means the system is working perfectly, but-
Rafe: I know, but really you say that, but I left an unfortunately highly-stacked pile of papers and it fell off and it alerted me to the fact that there was an intruder in the premises because it thought it was- it set off the motion sensor, and so this is one of the things that smart things has got a primary use for.
Ben: You don’t have a camera.
Rafe: I don’t have a camera.
Ben: Then that is rubbish, so there's no way you can possibly win. Can we just be clear?
Ewan: He just telephones his butler.
Ben: Oh, yeah, but that doesn’t count. The butler’s looking and that doesn’t count. You have to be able to do as I did-
Rafe: That’s a very smart home, though.
Ben: Blandford, you are not winning.
Ben: A motion sensor is fine, but we got to actually be able to go back and see it.
Rafe: I will say that as I smugly hit my good night function and all the lights switch off and the Sonos switches off and everything goes nice and peaceful and it automatically wakes me up the next morning with a gradual increasing of the dimming of the light. I'd look over and look at my lovely Hugo light and it's showing red and so therefore, I need to get my rain jacket out the cupboard and get that on so I don’t get wet.
Ben: I’m just saying, this sounds like Rafe Blandford [living 00:03:36] in the cupboard. I’m here with the lark rising and there’s this sort of bird.
Rafe: You’ve been the one burgling the house, because-
Rafe: -because that’s my exact morning wake-up alarm.
Ben: I’m just outside your room.
Rafe: That’s so creepy.
Ben: Actually, I have quite the contrary, which is I’m wrenched from a deep sleep by a small person shouting at me from the adjacent room-
Ben: Deep sleep, yes, because he has taken recently to waking up at about 5:00 am, which is ever so slightly earlier than [crosstalk 00:04:07].
Ewan: That’s it, man. That’s it. You’re now a 5:00 am waker?
Ben: I’m a 5:00 am waker and, more importantly, he’s learned how to point as well, so now I need get woken up at 5:00 am and there’s the pointing, all the things he wants. Breakfast. Toys. You. Out of the way. I want money.
Rafe: He’s obviously got good taste then.
Ben: Basically in our house we have this idea that, “You’re the breakfast lady, and you’re the man who gets the breakfast lady,” and that’s my role.
Rafe: One of the things that I have got smart with, because I have talked about setting up various roles and interactions, I found one of the nice things about smart things because it’s an open system, you can actually get various third-party apps and I’ve got one called Rule Machine, which makes it very easy. It sets up a whole bunch of kind of switches and tasks, all of which it’s actually better than the kind of- the native or the standard app, and there’s quite of them actually out there. You can also do things with Bekins, which allows me to actually have individual room level control as long as I’ve got my phone in my pocket, so I’ve been exploring these, and as a result, my various lights and things that are switching on utterly so in a much more controlled manner and I’m not getting any errant shipping forecast when I need a midnight visit to the lavatory.
Ben: Okay, kids. I have to admit I am thinking about buying a smart things’ hub, not because I’m going to vary-
Ewan: Still thinking?
Ben: Not because I’m going to vary the design, but you remember I talked about Home Bridge and how I’d set up that, Gateway to all those devices. Well, I’ve done some more homework and I’ve worked out that Home Bridge would actually work alongside Smart Things, so what I could do is have everything set up as I want, but just use Smart Things purely as the rules system that triggers things by [crosstalk 00:05:45] additions, because what I don’t have at the moment is good automation. I’ve got everything connected but it’s all triggered by me pressing buttons on an app and I want things to happen automatically. There are other systems, but actually the Smart Things one seems quite elegant.
Ewan: I made a massive mistake last night. I was- because I knew we were going to be recording.
Ben: This is necessarily the place for those kinds of admissions.
Ewan: I, by 1:00 o’clock in the morning-
Ben: Minus points.
Ewan: I’m asleep already, I presume. I was asleep because-
Ben: We know because you and I were talking on [crosstalk 00:06:12]-
Ewan: I wasn’t responding-
Rafe: I wasn’t actually [crosstalk 00:06:14]-
Ewan: He’s ignoring us.
Rafe: I did have a problem actually with my smart home because I was working at 3:00 o’clock in the morning. I actually do, and the house had gone into night mode, so it got very confused that I was still up and about and I’ve actually set the lights to switch off after 30 seconds, and I found myself leaning over and doing that, wave at yourself in order to get the light to come back on.
Ewan: Convert or change the rule
Rafe: That’s right. I had to actually get the phone out, which was on the other side of the room and switch it back into daytime mode. That was a bit of a sale.
Ewan: I’m traveling for a few days so I had a [inaudible 00:06:46], so I wanted to make sure I tested some things out, so I’ve tested out the Singled Pulse or something I’ll tell you about in a minute.
Ben: Singled. Say that again. Just the name
Ewan: S-E-N-G-L-E-D. Sengled.
Ben: I got it. I don’t know that one.
Ewan: Very interesting. Actually, I’m going to tell you about that. It’s basically a light bulb, an LED bulb.
Ben: Like a Philips Hue?
Ewan: Yep. Philips Hue, BlueTooth, not WiFi.
Ewan: BlueTooth. Wait a minute. I just got speaker in it is all.
Ewan: It’s very interesting. I wasn’t sure about it. I put it into- it’s in the study last night at 1:00 o’clock in the morning, put this Sengled bit up, installed it and played some music lowly and there’s [inaudible 00:07:29] that has light on, amazing, and then that little BlueTooth app you can turn the lights on and off from zero to a hundred. It’s only white, not color.
Ben: White is a color.
Ewan: Okay, but it doesn’t do different colors, and playing music from it was actually a real, real pleasure.
Ben: I don’t know if I want my light bulbs to play music.
Ewan: I know, but do you know, it’s quite- because then my son watches the lamp and my toaster and kettle’s on and I don’t know what’s going on. My kitchen is complicated.
Ben: It’s called a Sengled house. [inaudible 00:07:59], so you can have all these daisy chains around the place so you can actually- if you don’t have to, if you don’t have speakers in the way, you can actually have them all playing music. It’s really quite cool.
Rafe: It does a mesh network, but unfortunately it doesn’t tie in with anything, does it Ewan?
Ewan: That is a slight issue. It’s still a smart home, but I would like to- though, I don’t know-
Ben: You need one of these central hubs that kind of talks in multiple standards so that it could do BlueTooth and like the home grid dialer. Rafe Blandford, have you been bitten by Philips hue DRM scandal that’s brewing just around the time of the report of the podcast? You know how it is, this is. This is very funny. What I do the little dance around my own kitchen, is I, I was reading this, okay? Never mind the industry news and the fact that DRM and Philips and industry like that, ha, Rafe Blandford's screwed.
Rafe: That is the news that Philips has updated the firmware for their light bulbs and they’ve done it such that you can no longer use compatible third-party light bulbs with a hue bridge, which is kind of the central hub. Now, it does actually depend on a couple of factors, whether you’ve already got the light bulbs licked and various things like this, but basically Philips say that it’s this all a bit accidental and they can’t guarantee that it’ll work with anything apart from their own products, but this idea of DRM in the smart home I think is an important issue-
Ewan: Oh, that is ridiculous.
Rafe: There is no guarantee that you don’t get this gross compatibility, and it should do, because actually Philips is using the Zigby. There’s all kind of speculation around this, and I thought that they would probably feeling a bit smart, because I had sort of related it to the fact that I was sort of looking at some third-party Lightify light bulbs, but I haven’t actually got them yet, so I’ve escaped that one and the good news is, it will work with the Smart Things hub, which is actually what I’m using to control my light bulbs search and search and fast hue going with something like Smart Things, it’s actually got a direct connection locally to the hue bridge and it does use that to control the hue light bulb, but from that point of view, it is kind of annoying because actually the hue app could be my central lighting thing, and I was very fortunate not to get caught up by this news, really just the happenstance of what I’ve got round to buying in terms of light bulbs.
Ben: One quick update from me. Following feedback from Mrs. Smith, all things must be operable without picking up a smart phone. It’s a new non-functional requirement.
Ewan: Yeah, we were talking about that today, actually.
Ben: Yeah, so if you can only operate it without picking up a smart phone, that’s a no-no. If it’s better for picking up a smart phone, or more convenient, then that’s fine, but lights need to be [crosstalk 00:10:31].
Ewan: You’re going to have to get one of those third-party switches in.
Ben: Well, lights need to be turned on and off with a physical switch; speakers need to be muted with buttons on them, et cetera, et cetera, and all of this is doable, but-
Ewan: Hard work.
Ben: It’s harder work.
Ewan: May I just say, “Thank you,” to my wife, Ettie. I put it in the same [glen 00:10:46], 1:00 o’clock in the morning, the lightage, and the door closed so nobody can hear the music and the children were still asleep, and then I thought, “Do you know, I sit in my little hue, sat on a box stem, went into the hall, unscrewed the light bulb, put in the hue, very nice, put fix on, great,” and I’d shut the doors so she couldn’t see this. What she did hear is the smash of the light bulb on the floor, because I took the hue out and then I thought, “I’ll just put- Do I leave it?” Because I thought, “If I’m leaving the house for a couple of day, do I leave these things in?” This is your thing because she will go spare if it’s up, so I thought, “I’ll put the old light bulb in”, but I forgot the power’s still on. The switch was still on, so when I put the light bulb in, I put on, twisted it and then the light came on and I instinctively dropped it. Then I had to walk upstairs, walk of shame, “Sorry. Sorry, darling. Sorry I dropped the light bulb.” She was very, very- she didn’t say, “What were you thinking at 1:00 o’clock in the morning?” I didn’t want to set them all- You know, we do have the other smart home challenge.
Rafe: The things we do for 361.
Ewan: I had just had to go and get the Hoover out. Half past 1:00, up and down the hall, just because the boys are going down in their boofey.
Ben: The problem with fessing up your smart lighting grade at 1:00 o’clock in the morning is you need the lights on to be able to see what you’re doing.
Ewan: I was sitting there with the phone, you know, trying to screw the thing in.
Rafe: I should now admit to the fact that I was installing a light bulb and the stool that I was standing on collapsed, and I do have a fairly nasty bruise as a result of trying to install some of my smart home light bulbs.
Ben: This is the smartest home challenge is taking more of a physical toll on the team than I ever imagined, but we still-
Ewan: Let’s do evaluators and see what you think. I’d like to know what you’re thinking of, who you think’s winning so far.
Ben: Yeah, let us know, but I believe it’s me. This week we’re talking about the apps and services we recommend. We periodically come back to this one and this time around we are having a bit of a focus on the things that we use when mobile, as well, so it’s sort of the things that enable us when we doing mobile working. A quick rattle off things, and we’ve tried to pick out some stuff that people might not heard of as well. These are all services that we use. They’re services that we recommend and for me, certainly, they’re ones that I’ve been using for a little while.
Rafe: Yep, so essentially this is the clip show of the 361 Podcast.
Ben: No, it’s the opportune. I had to really evaluate this stuff, right, because I get to understand what is it you’re playing with.
Rafe: I would hide the clip shows as well.
Ben: Fair enough. Okay. Now we’re going to go at speed here, because we’ve got quite a few to get through and I’m going to go first with ExpanDrive.
Ewan: What is that and what platforms it’s on?
Ben: ExpanDrive is available for Windows and OSX. It is a desktop client and it replaces DropBox or Google Drive clients, so if you want to use DropBox or Google Drive-
Ewan: What’s wrong? I thought that DropBox was all right.
Ben: It’s fine, but the problem with DropBox is, and Google Drive, is that they synchronize all of the data down onto your laptop and so, if you have a small, very portable laptop, like a MacBook or something- you know, 64 Gigs, a small amount of storage, it’s very likely your DropBox is bigger and so you either exclude loads of folders or, you can use ExpanDrive, which is primarily a live, over-the-air connection. The nice thing is, that one client does OneCloud, Google Drive, DropBox, and all of your cloud services, including web servers and FTP servers and all those kinds of things, if you want them, and are accessible through one client. It presents all those things as USB drives connected and it does have some caching, so when you go offline, the things that you were using most recently are available to you. It’s a really nice elegant one. I actually use it alongside the clients as well, so this is-
Ewan: You have DropBox as well?
Ben: I choose to do both because this is how I access the DropBox folders I don’t synchronize.
Rafe: Have you got kind of file pointers in place, essentially one of the things that my software came into a lot of criticism for removing from OneDrive in Windows 10 and so this is a nice way, I think, for people who are used to traditional file consistence.
Ben: Absolutely, Rafe Blandford, did you get one?
Rafe: Can I mention the Lumia 950?
Ewan: Move on?
Rafe: Ok, in that case I’m going to mention the horrible people. I’m going to mention the HTC 1A9. I actually brought this in the show [crosstalk 00:14:56]. Yes, it does look rather like an iPhone, although I think in HTC’s defense, a lot of the design elements have also been present on earlier HTC devices [crosstalk 00:15:07]-
Ben: Like [Bafford 00:15:07] deploying the HTC designed the iPhone before awkward is argument, classic. [crosstalk 00:15:11].
Rafe: I think you can’t really get away from the fact that it does look a lot like the iPhone and a lot of techie people care about it, but I suspect a lot of people on the street don’t really care and just go, “[crosstalk 00:15:21] an android phone that looks rather like that nice iPhone.” [crosstalk 00:15:25]. It’s society’s the build quality that you’d expect from HTC and the design is actually, I would say, leaving aside sort of the copy and all that, it’s just a really desirable device. It’s running Android and so it’s the most recent version of Android with the HTC sensor across the top of it, which I think is one of the more attractive of the manufactured versions. They’ve put the fingerprint sensor and the kind of home button at the bottom so it’s again, very similar to the iPhone.
Ben: It’s too small.
Rafe: You’ve got a pretty decent camera on it. I actually like the fact that it’s a relatively small device. I’m sure there’s going to be variances to that, bigger in time.
Ben: Is it 4.7?
Rafe: It is 4.7, and-
Rafe: I think HTC has done a really good job with this handset. I expect them to do pretty well with it, so it’s a recommendation from me. If you’re looking for a new Android device, this one is definitely worth a look.
Ben: You MacLeod?
Ewan: Can I saw anyone that was disappointed when MailBox was announced to be closing.
Ben: This is the email client that DropBox bought and it was quite a good one, but they didn’t do anything with and then they were actually shutting it down.
Ewan: Yes, so I really liked MailBox because it has allowed me to really, really quickly pack through my inbox by swiping left and right. The one I have replaced it with is Spark.
Ben: How are you spelling that? S-
Ewan: S-P-A-R-K. Just Spark by Readdle. You’ll find it on the app store. It is surprisingly good.
Ben: What’s good about it? It’s got all this stuff I was using normally, so this swiping left and right so you can just quickly go bang, bang, bang with your phone.
Ben: Good for triaging.
Ewan: Great for triaging emails. The way they’ve thought about it, they have really gone to town on UX, I feel. I’d very much welcome your perspective. I spent a day just getting used to it and trying it, and I’m with them. I’m loving how they’ve done it.
Ben: That’s for IOS only, is it?
Ewan: I think so. I’ll have to check, yeah.
Ben: I’m going to go give the one a try.
Rafe: As an alternative, do look out for a [Ude 00:17:10] Box, which takes [crosstalk 00:17:13] approach.
Ewan: Also got that, also got that. Haven’t tried it as much, though.
Rafe: More people [inaudible 00:17:15] and also give a shout out for Outlook, which I think is one of the best-
Ewan: I’ve got that on there as well.
Rafe: It’s going to integrate the Sunrise calendar function, actually which I think is really good news.
Ben: Microsoft’s IOS stuff? Not half bad at the moment and I never thought I’d be saying that. Okay. Next one from me is TripMode. This is an IOS app that you install and it recognizes when you are tethered to your smart phone, tablet or a mobile WiFi hotspot and it turns off certain services, so it auto-senses, and what it means is that you can stop DropBox. You can stop iCloud syncing, all the things that might use up a data allowance or choose-
Ewan: That you don’t want using.
Ben: That you don’t want using. I used to manually shut or pause those syncings down.
Ewan: That was an art, yeah.
Ben: This one is fantastic. Every time an app tries to connect to the internet, the icon flashes red. You can see which app it is and then you can turn it on or off, so I have my email and my Twitter client turned on, but I have DropBox and iCloud turned off. It sits there all the time and it’s activated by you connecting to your smart phone as a tethering hotspot.
Ewan: Where is your Twitter client?
Ben: I use Tweetbot or TweetDeck.
Ben: Depending on whether I’m doing 361 or personal tweets.
Ewan: What’s the 361?
Ben: I use TweetDeck for that one because I have the columns.
Ewan: Blandford was here.
Rafe: I actually mainly use the Twitter website on the desktop and then the official apps on the phones. I mean, I’ve gone through various third-party ones and never really landed on one fairly, like the time I have used TweetDeck and Tweetbot at various times, but, actually I find the simple solution sometimes works for me.
Ben: Next recommendation, Rafe Blandford?
Rafe: I want to give a shout out to OSMax Online, which is a subscription service that you pay about 20 Pounds a year to and you get access to all the Ordnance Survey, which is the UK’s mapping agency, maps for the UK at 1 to 25,000 and 1 to 50,000. For those who haven’t seen these [inaudible 00:19:04] of the map, those are the orange and the pink ones, and it’s just great being able to get access to OS maps, which are really high quality any time now. There is a website that works on both desktop and mobile, but there are also mobile apps for IOS and Android that allow you to download these maps in real time. You can do a bit of offline use of those. They also let you download walks and sort of recommended routes, but actually it’s when you’re out and about and especially if you’re walking, you want an Ordnance Survey map to be able to see the footpaths and so the areas around you so you get a feeling for the landscape, and if you’re doing survey work or anything like that, it becomes really important.
Ewan: Rafe first aid surveys?
Rafe: I was actually thinking archaeological and concrete surveys, but yes, those too.
Ewan: Does it also have an overlay of all of the telegraph poles?
Rafe: It doesn’t have that, but if you want to do that, I can recommend QGIS, which is a desktop app where you can actually download using the OS open data and then use various data sets and it’s actually in the ArcGIS formats and there’s a great one that does World War II concrete, and there’s another one that does the HMO, which is the Heritage Point record that every council is required to keep and there’s other things, so you can actually see things like SSSIs. This is all going to come across as sounding a bit-
Ben: You do surprise me.
Rafe: Actually, using all of this open data with JSTools allows you to do some very powerful analysis, and if you’re doing any kind of survey work or community archaeology, these tools can be incredibly useful.
Ewan: SSSI? Sites of Special Scientific Interest?
Ben: [crosstalk 00:20:38].
Rafe: Almost as good as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Ben: I used to use SSSI a lot.
Ewan: That’s the area around me. [crosstalk 00:20:46].
Ben: Ewan MacLeod, let’s de-notify [crosstalk 00:20:49].
Rafe: -no appreciation.
Ben: He’s muttering the core on our listeners. I’ve been able to play with Auxy, A-U-X-Y.
Ben: You ready?
Ben: It just lets you easily not [inaudible 00:21:02] a tune.
Ewan: A tune?
Ben: Yeah, and that would [inaudible 00:21:04]. Let me just put it up here. Here we go. I’m just messing around. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Do you hear that “dongh, dongh”?
Rafe: I don’t think you should give up the day job or indeed the [poor 00:21:25] casting hobby anytime soon.
Ben: What’s the matter with demo? Well, it’s the demo one. I’ve been playing with it. It’s quite nice and the boys have been loving it.
Ewan: Oh, and it comes up as a kind of a sound pattern [crosstalk 00:21:37].
Ben: No, no. It’s a series of squares. You can set the times. Yes, you basic go into- let me see here. Can you hear that, right? Let me put a little square in. Right. Now, I’ll put 2 in.
Ewan: Right, this is really fascinating.
Ben: [crosstalk 00:21:58]-
Rafe: Okay, Ben. Next recommendation. [crosstalk 00:22:01].
Ben: I’m having a horrific effect on [crosstalk 00:22:03]. I’m liking it. All right.
Ewan: Okay. Next one up for me is very high sex-oriented, but actually that’s where I work. I mean, a lot of people I know work. I’m going to recommend Endurance, which I’m testing and haven’t yet come to a conclusion whether it’s going to stay [crosstalk 00:22:15].
Ben: It’s not the Arctic survey ship, then?
Ewan: It’s not the Arctic survey ship, no. [crosstalk 00:22:18] Endurance is another utility used installing a Mac particularly when you’re traveling, and it is a really smart set of measures for maintaining the battery. It’s a whole bunch of rules and things, policies that will be applied to make your battery last longer, and they reckon they can get a good 20 percent extra out of it. What they do is, they’re a number of battery-saving optimizations in OSX already. For example, apps in the background receive less processor time and things like that, but actually apps that are minimized don’t use any time at all, so as you’re working, apps that are completely covered, so an app that perhaps a window is up on your screen but is covered by another window, is automatically minimized. It’s just little tweaks like that, turning and dimming displays like that, applying basically a more sophisticated rule set than the ones you might set up in the settings.
Ben: Very interesting.
Ewan: It’s the sort of thing that you probably don’t want to use all the time, but if you’re working [crosstalk 00:23:12]-
Ben: Yeah, I want the battery to last.
Ewan: For example, before we were talking, you said to me you were going to do a full-out train journey tomorrow.
Ben: Yeah, that’s it exactly.
Ewan: You’re going to start the train journey. You probably want to do everything you can to conserve battery while you’re going so that you can keep working-
Ben: Well, no, I actually want to use it after the train journey’s over.
Ewan: Exactly, so I’m turning that one, so far, so good, but I’ll mention it again in the future. Rafe Blandford, [crosstalk 00:23:32]-
Rafe: I get the impression, Ben, that you seem to be doing a lot of road warrior [inaudible 00:23:37] with all these things you turn off when you’re traveling, and I can only complement you on your dedication to working out of the office at all hours.
Ben: Yes, out of your face, on the train, trying to make travel time or time between [crosstalk 00:23:50] as attractive as possible, but also with no WiFi, with no access to plug socket, so always trying to sort of conserve power and that data.
Rafe: I was going to talk about an IOS app called Crowd Mikes and this is basically turns your iPhone into a microphone that you can use when you’re running an event or something like that and it actually operates over peer-to-peer and-
Ewan: That’s smart.
Rafe: Basically you host an event and then you can actually plug the host iPhone in kind of your PA system, and then grant access to other iPhones that join this peer-to-peer network and it kind of-
Ewan: Oh, now I love that-
Rafe: As it sounds, like crowd mikes, so if we were running a 361 microphone, we could just have 4 or 5 iPhones scattered around the room and use those as your microphones and it’s sort of a way of doing this on the cheap. It does it over a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network or an ad-hoc network. The UI that set up all incredibly easy to use and I just admired it. She said, “Clever, but you’re thinking in an alternative thesis.” [crosstalk 00:24:44]
Ewan: That might be really cool for big meetings as well.
Ben: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Okay, Ewan MacLeod. Next up for you.
Ewan: Mine is another similarly smart app, the kind of one that you think, “Mmm, it doesn’t actually work.” It’s called RoomScan.
Ben: What does that do?
Ewan: It scans your room.
Ben: I didn’t see that coming.
Ewan: It makes us use its floor plans from off anything, actually, if you’re building.
Ben: Are you moonlighting as a real estate agent?
Ewan: No, but I do think, “Oh, I could be pretty good now,” because I’ve got the [inaudible 00:25:13]. I’ve got the ability to make a floor plan. Now, how it works, I tried it in a hotel room. I was in the [inaudible 00:25:17].
Ben: You say hotel.
Ewan: Well, yeah, yeah. They have nice beds.
Ben: Fair enough. How does it work? How do you actually use it?
Ewan: What you do is you say, “Begin,” and you tap your phone horizontally on the first wall, the door, for example. Then, it says, “Okay, fine. I’ve got that wall.” Then it says, “Go to the next wall.” You then walk to the next wall, any wall, and you plunk your phone down against the wall, again horizontally, and RoomScan goes, “Okay, fine. I’ve got that wall.” You then walk to the next wall and the next wall and the next wall, and as you’re doing so, it’s building a plan of the room.
Ben: How is it measuring the distance between those taps?
Ewan: It’s doing it using your, I think- you know what, I don’t know, but I get the impression it’s looking at- an approximation of where you tapped and then, I don’t know.
Ben: It wouldn’t be GPS, would it, Rafe? It has too short a distance.
Ewan: It can’t be GPS. I’m thinking, is it- is it seeing how much I’m moving, the way that I’m walking across the room?
Rafe: As I understand, it’s a combination of the orientation sensors in the phase so it can obviously tell which angle it has changed to relative to where it was before.
Ben: You have to see that I’m moving and walking. Multiple:[crosstalk 00:26:23]
Ewan: You can see it construct a path of your footprints, basically, as you’re walking, and then it says, “Well, if you’ve done that,” and then it’s probably point-to-point, and then you make- but it’s actually surprisingly accurate. It really [inaudible 00:26:32].
Rafe: Using the [microtometer 00:26:36] to kind of get the orientation right, and then I would guess it’s using the accelerometer to count the number of footsteps and it can probably make some smart guesses based on what standard units are, but you can actually add a measure or measure a Bluetooth since it’s [crosstalk 00:26:49]-
Ben: Yes, it’s pretty accurate.
Rafe: To make it completely accurate, but it’s a really cleaver thing, because one of the things that’s actually difficult for measuring rooms for anyone who’s tried it, is guessing the angles right, because typically a room will have multiple indents for a cupboard or a bathroom or something like that and getting that kind of planning of it right-
Ben: It was really welcome, because the [inaudible 00:27:09] and I angled bathroom door.
Rafe: It’s actually smart enough also to start connecting multiple rooms in a house together and so, really example of ways it uses the sensors, sensors on the iPhone, so yeah, I’ve been enjoying trying that out, and I was just like you, unsure exactly how it worked, but making some assumptions it’s smart use of sensors on the phone.
Ben: Really cool.
Ewan: Okay. Next one up from me is App in the Air. It’s new favorite travel app. It hooks up to things like TripIt and it allows you to track your flights. It gives you gate departure information and all that sorts of things and it has a beautiful UI. It alerts you to delays and gate changes and those sorts of things. It gives you recommendations, a bit like [Sishu Map Perfuway 00:27:52], you might want to sit on the plane. I’ve got my itinerary here for my Christmas travel. It’s a series of cards. It tells me where check-in closes. It allows me to add a checklist of things I want to bring with me. It’s got weather, those sorts of things. What’s really good, though, it’s got a seat map for the particular aircraft on that flight. It’s all things that are available on other travel planning apps, but for me, doing it nicely, this is the best combination of every feature I want in a really beautiful UX. I used it a few times in the past, but I didn’t realize that you could synchronize it with other stuff and so, typing the flight details in was a bit of a pain and I tended to do it perhaps when I was meeting someone and they wanted to monitor their arrival time, tracking flights, but actually I’ve since hooked up to my TripIt account where I keep all my flight plans anyway and actually I use this in preference to the TripIt app now. Really good. Thoroughly recommend it.
Ben: Okay. Right. Rafe Blandford.
Rafe: I thought I would actually give a shout out in general to Universal apps having been stymied on mentioning the Lumia 950. We’ve talked a little bit about this in the past and Universal apps is obviously something that IOS has had for a while between the iPhone and the tablet but what [crosstalk 00:29:02]-
Ben: You’d better be making this really relevant to mobile working and-
Rafe: No pressure. Yep, so where I think this is interesting is it’s trying to get the apps that exist on your smart phone, in this case your Windows device, on your tablet and on your desktop, and it’s just the fact that all of the data and the sessions just synchronize without me having to think about it and I’ve used it on a couple of news apps with the Guardian. I think also the Wall Street Journal has just released one, and it’s synchronizing things like Red Status, but also the personalized fees that you may have set up, and it’s not until you sort of have that, that you appreciate that that’s actually a pretty good idea. Now, the added benefit of having these Universal apps, if you’re using one of the most recent Windows devices, if you plug it into one of their dock adapters, you will then actually then see it on the big screen in a different format that’s actually optimized, and we’ve kind of seen hints of that in the IOS world, but on 2 different devices. This is actually happening from a single device, so it’s what I’d call a true Universal app, and I was pretty skeptical about the benefits of these until I actually started trying them out, and Mike’s sources had various versions to work off of and they worked very well, but seeing third party starting to come through them, I’m actually a little bit more aware of and sort of liking the benefits of the idea of a single app with a familiarity in the interface, but actually far more important for me is actually the sharing of data, and after I’ve done it with iCloud on various apps, but this is something that seems to have been set up even better.
Ewan: The last one for me is the Sports app. I know we’ve been mentioning WhatsApp before-
Ben: Did he? You’ve got 30 minutes to talk about the most exciting apps people might not have heard of [crosstalk 00:30:43].
Ewan: I’m now natively using or automatically using WhatsApp, the calling feature.
Rafe: Sorry, so disappointing.
Ben: No, hold on a minute. My colleague-
Rafe: Okay, and if you’ve got another better suggestion-
Ben: Oh, come on.
Ewan: I’ve got several, actually [crosstalk 00:30:54].
Rafe: In that case, Ben, can we have a-
Ben: I’m making a point that I’m preferring it, and my colleagues in work and my family are actually using the audio way more than actual phone audio now.
Ewan: Why is it better?
Ben: The quality is usually way, way better than the GSN network.
Ewan: Because you haven’t got HD Voice on some or all of your [crosstalk 00:31:15]-
Ewan: -and because of when I was international, so I was in Portugal last week, and when the chaps from RVS were trying to call me and we just used WhatsApp.
Ben: Just being cheap.
Ewan: Fair enough.
Ben: No, the quality’s much better quality.
Rafe: I’ve had bad experience with WhatsApp voice, which is [inaudible 00:31:28].
Rafe: I’m really intrigued to hear that it has worked well for you.
Ben: It’s phenomenal, especially over data.
Ewan: Okay, last one for me. A bit more mundane but actually I’ve really found this useful.
Ben: You’ve had a go at me. A bit more [undane 00:31:36]. Go on.
Ewan: Post-It Plus.
Rafe: I haven’t heard of that, so that’s one up on WhatsApp.
Ewan: If you are like me, many of your meetings or much of your business will involve writing Post-Its and sticking them up on white boards and we do that for brainstorming. We do that for planning. We do software development, and we use Post-Its-
Ben: For treasure hunts.
Ewan: To record progress across a board, so lots and lots of meetings where we’re encouraging people to contribute. Similarly, also when we’re prioritizing things, we often write them out on Post-Its and stick them across the table and move things around physically so that everyone can become involved. Post-It Plus is an app by Post-It by 3M, I think the brand who own Post-Its, and it’s a really tailored scanning app for taking pictures of Post-Its, which doesn’t sound that exciting until you use it. Last week I went to a meeting. We had a white board covered in Post-Its. I took a picture of the white board. It identifies all of the Post-Its. It brings them out. It makes them really easy to see.
Ben: That’s amazing.
Ewan: Then after that, I can now edit it. I can now drag and drop [crosstalk 00:32:38]. I can now drag and drop the individual Post-Its around and then I was able to take several pictures of several white boards and then I was also able to take those boards and arrange them as well.
Ben: I just looked it up. That is really cool.
Ewan: We were able to leave the meeting with several pictures of white boards that told a story what our first view, our second idea, our third idea. You often go around these loops. I was able to drag the Post-Its around and then put them in order so then I was able to make a PDF and email that out at the end of the meeting and it actually works really, really well and because it has clever, kind of scanning imaging processing is what I’m kind of struggling to say there, actually on the Post-Its themselves. It takes away all of the background colors, but it also brings out the writing on the Post-Its, so it’s actually really quite legible actually to read words that we’d written on them. It’s quite a niche use, but if you’re in software development or if you’re in an industry that relies heavily on those kind of Post-Its or cards on a board, I thought [crosstalk 00:33:33]-
Ben: Good call.
Ewan: My favorite price, free. Well, you’ve got to buy the Post-Its.
Rafe: I think it’s probably worth sharing one place where we’ve been finding some of these apps, Ben, and I suspect what we’re getting them from a very similar location.
Ben: Yes, if you’re not aware of Product Hunt, it started off as an email newsletter.
Ewan: Say that carefully.
Ben: Product Hunt, yes. One does need to be quite precise about that. It’s now an email, a website, there’s an app, there’s voting. It’s many things to many people, but it’s a really good place to hear about new and innovative products and particularly if you are involved in software or the technology industry and those sorts of things. It’s a really rich place of utilities there. Many of these things I talked about today I found on Product Hunt and they do some really nice curated collections as well by people, so I’d say, go over to Product Hunt website and signed up. I thoroughly recommend it.
Ewan: That’s where I got Spark from, actually.
Rafe: It’s an excellent signal, tonight’s ratio, but I suppose if you describe them, it’s kind of [inaudible 00:34:31] Reddit for these kind of new products and it’s a way to appear informed intelligent around the office if you can be the one that recommends that new app, “Oh, of course, this is the 361 Podcast.”
Ewan: You can, absolutely. I quite like the fact that underneath each item, they have the conversation and often times the creators or the founders of the apps there teach you very new services and they’re talking about what they were having to do, so you get quite good insight into an app before you install it. [crosstalk 00:34:53] It seems to me like the kind of rich information that the app store really ought to have is far better way to understand what an app does or how it works then the fairly staid description text and some pictures.
Rafe: It does not say, I think, bring to light the importance of curation, as indeed, what we’ve been talking today, the best recommendations actually come from friends and colleagues, people who’ve actually used it and Product Hunt, I think, has attracted a whole bunch of like-minded people, and as result, the conversations are rather more intelligent than what you’ll see beneath your usual YouTube video.
Ben: There we go. Okay. Editorial assistance today provided by Emma Craus and editing by Mark at AudioWrangler. You can find us at @361Podcast, on Twitter. We’re on Facebook, 361Podcast, or you can subscribe and comment at 361Podcast dot com. You can also join the Patreon subscriber base there. You can donate as little as a dollar a week and we are gathering slowly towards our total of having Rafe Blandford vigorously rubbed live on the air for your and our, but mostly our, enjoyment.
Ewan: Come on.
Rafe: Fortunately, there’s just 2 episodes, you guys. I’m starting to feel quite safe.
Ben: That will not be the last episodes ever for 361 Podcast [crosstalk 00:36:00], and we’ll continue on into next season.
Rafe: [crosstalk 00:36:03] then having your first [inaudible 00:36:04] passed to someone else next season.
Ben: We will discuss that later. You can also contact us through the site as well, if you’d leave us a voice mail or send us an email with comments or questions for the show. You can do it down there. Thanks very much for listening. We will be back next week. Bye-bye.