Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What's On My iPhone

People always ask me what apps they should install on their iPhone or iPad. I've been wanting to make a mini catalog like this for a long time and I finally started to scratch the itch. I've created a "What's On My iPhone" Pinterest board. I've embedded it below using a script. If for some reason it doesn't load properly, just click this link. For each pin I've included a short and sweet reason for why I chose to install the app and what purpose it serves. I started getting punchy after pinning for a while so some of them are a little silly. Several of them I wrote as if my great aunt were asking me about apps on her very first smartphone.

I'm hoping I can use it as a point of reference because I get asked this question so many times and I always feel like it's more of a needs-based answer. This way the viewer can just skim through and see what might apply to them or maybe find something they hadn't even considered.

Follow Melissa Davis's board What's On My iPhone on Pinterest.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How To Make an iPhone Wallet

It's 7:38 AM and I'm tired, haven't yet brushed my teeth, the kids are fighting over a toy and dragging their feet trying to get out the door to go to school on time. I'm rushing to get organized while throwing on something that resembles clothes and I'm lucky if I manage to slip on some matching shoes because thank goodness I only need to look presentable from the waist up during the morning drive-and-drop-off at my eldest son's school. Do you know this dance?

I'm here to tell you that rushing out the door to run errands without grabbing a purse now is so liberating! My iPhone in its new case is now my new wallet and it's the only thing besides my water bottle and keys that I grab while dashing out the door. It's rugged, durable, stylish, and convenient now that it's protected by the NewerTech NuGuard KX combined with a Kena Kai iROO phone pouch on the back. I get so many compliments on this case and pouch combo.

I love buying my computer parts and accessories from Other World Computing and always recommend them to friends, family and clients. When they asked me to review one of their cases, I couldn't say no. They provided me with this NewerTech NuGuard KX case along with the KXs Screen Armor to put through the paces. When I saw what a rugged case it was, I knew it would be my new full-time case. I had already been using a regular TPU case with a pouch on the back, but wasn't wild about the color combo. When they sent me this case in the Darkness color, I just had to get another iROO pouch for the back in the same black color and now I have the most awesome iPhone wallet!

The NewerTech NuGuard KX iPhone case by itself is some serious protection for your iPhone. Add to it the KXs Screen Armor (screen protector) and you've got something really rugged that even the kids can play on without fear of having your precious iPhone damaged.
Here is a description from the manufacturer: "Unlike common military-impact test grade iPhone® case materials, the NuGuard KX uses state-of-the-art X-Orbing gel technology to absorb and evenly distribute kinetic energy. This revolutionary technology is then engineered into an effective one-piece design that's available in eight attractive color combinations."
Here is a photo of the two products I combined to make my perfect "iPhone Wallet."

The NuGuard KX is very tough, but not too thick and bulky. It feels good in your hand and has a great grip to it. It has a tire-tread look to it on the back. At first I thought it a bit masculine for my own tastes, but in a color like Darkness, it's actually very unisex. I also like to think of it like that little black dress mother tells you that should always remain in your closet. I so rarely wear dresses much anymore, but with a little black iPhone case, I feel like I'm stylin!

Normally I like purple, but I'm very picky about the shade of purple. Black makes it easier and it always looks great no matter what you're wearing — if you're fashion-conscious. I suck at fashion, so this really is the best color for me because it just goes with everything. The other really great thing about this case is that when I upgrade to the next iPhone, my husband will get this one and he's already excited about this case and pouch combo.

One of the design features I really appreciate is the lip around the front perimeter. I was quite surprised at how it doesn't get in the way when trying to move apps around like a lot of cases I've seen. I have been using this case for over a month now and love it. It has been drop-tested by accident several times now by both the kids and I and it holds up wonderfully.

Having my iPhone dropped is one less thing I panic about because of this case. It has landed straight onto the glass on hard surfaces with absolutely no damage whatsoever. The NuGuard KX case is totally mom-approved! 

Of course, I wouldn't recommend testing this for yourself, so just take it from me — I've taken one for the team here several times over! This is important for parents who let their little ones play with their iPhones. Let's admit it, this happens to us all and maybe more than we'd like at times. This would be a great iPhone case for a kid's phone if they're old enough to have one of their own. It's so rugged, just watch this video of an iPhone inside this case being drop-tested from a wind turbine! My son LOVES this video and it's all he would talk about when I first started using this case.

The ports are all accessible and I have no issues plugging things into the bottom.
One of my biggest areas of concern when it comes to cases is the camera cut-out. I always worry about flash halo. Shiny plastic too close to the flash can result in a funky halo or ghosted edges on your photos because of how the light bounces off the inside edge. This case does not present that problem at all. As you can see here, there is plenty of room around the camera while still protecting that area because of how it's raised up. My one and only critique here is that I only wish they could have designed it so that there were just a few more millimeters of space to the left of the camera hole so that I could still use my magnetic lenses and ring set. If there were just a teeny bit more space, I could have kept the metallic ring affixed and still be able to attach my macro lens without needing to remove the case. Luckily the case does remove easily enough so I can clip on my top-loading 3-in-1 lens kit to take creative shots.

I hope this review of the NewerTech NuGuard KX iPhone case is helpful when you're looking for a protective case for your iPhone 5 or 5s. They come in several colors besides Darkness, including: Roulette Red, Midnight, Rose, Trooper, Eagle Shield, Buzz, and Nubar Forest.

Although this is primarily a review for the iPhone case, I highly recommend getting the iROO pouch and putting these two products together. It has suited my needs really well and is a winning combination. Let me know if it works for you!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Adorable Little App: Baby Tweets

Little language learners will find Baby Tweets by Creative Lamas fun to use no matter what language is native to them. When I first launched this app, my initial impression was that my 4-year old is a little too advanced in development to benefit from an app such as Baby Tweets. Then I tried the different languages and noticed how he was still engaged and trying to make the same sounds. I took French in high school, so it was fun to try and remember some of basic words I had forgotten. Keagan's little cousins on the other side of the country are learning Hebrew and Russian in addition to English, so it will be fun to share this with my sister-in-law and maybe next time they FaceTime with each other, they'll have new words to share.

The app is universal so it works on all iOS devices (iPhone, iPad or iPod touch). Some of the icons look a little stretched out on the smaller screen iPhone version, but it looks great on iPad. The app voice has a slight English accent which is fine with me as I prefer to hear it. (US English compared to UK English.) The buttons or target areas for tapping are large and responsive.

The app is free with the ability to upgrade to the full version which unlocks the remainder of the screens. There are just enough screens offered in the free version to give you an idea of whether or not you'd like to advance to more content. I appreciate how the parental controls section is clever in that if the baby or child were to tap on the "Full Version" button, it asks you to "Please insert your year of birth" before continuing. There are no annoying ads and it does not nag you to upgrade. These features are crucial for me as a parent when selecting an app for my children. Ads get in the way of learning and accidental purchases are frustrating for parents. This app has none of that which is why I was happy to review it for my blog when the developer offered me a promo code for the full version.

What I like most about this app is how easy it is to switch between the different languages without needing to speak that language natively. You just tap on the country flag icon and from there the screens continue on in the language you've selected. It's a fun way even for an adult to learn some basics of a new language! Here is some additional information directly from the developer and I encourage you to check out their app available from my affiliate links here:

Baby Tweets
First Words app for toddlers
This application has more than 70 word exercises to enrich the child’s vocabulary. With beautiful art, engaging feedback and lots of surprises it is an app that both the baby and the parent will appreciate! The toddler, from about one to two years, is encouraged to identify objects in a picture, showing a number of objects familiar to him. When he touches the correct picture he receives positive reinforcement. In the event he chooses incorrectly he will hear the correct name of the object sought and in this way will enlarge his vocabulary. Infants from the age of one and a half to two years old, is capable of learning new words every day. The Baby Tweets application is designed to aid the parent to expose the infant to a variety of words thus improve his language skills.

· From 1+ years.
· Free from advertisements.
· Free to install and to play on 4 screens· $1.99 for 8 additional levels.
· Designed for web, iOS and Android.
· Easy navigation.· Languages: English, French, Russian and Hebrew
· Developer: Eran Lesser, Creative Lamas

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Don't Let Your iPhone Spill The Beans

I have experienced iPhone theft twice. The first time was with iOS 6 and we recovered it within 24 hours with police assistance. The second time on iOS 7, not so lucky. This is life. My hope in revealing this experience is that our loss will be your gain and maybe you'll have a better outcome.

Here are my experiences with the Find My iPhone process

I really, really wish Apple would require a passcode or fingerprint ID in order to disable connectivity from Control Center so that a thief can not do it by enabling Airplane Mode and/or disabling Wi-Fi, but sadly, that is not the case and it does not bode well for us.

I believe we were able to recover the first iPhone because the thief couldn't take it offline unless he powered it off, let the battery die or went to a location with no coverage. Control Center was not a feature in iOS 6 at that time. Lucky for us, he chose to plug it in and charge it so it remained locked and online. (We know he tried to hack it, because we got it back without its Otterbox case.)

When you suspect your iPhone has been stolen, you should immediately report the theft to police so you can be issued a police report number. Once you have that number, if you can track the phone to get a location on a map, you can call 911 (they told me it's ok) and a police officer will meet you at the location to offer assistance. They will ask you on the phone how accurate the GPS signal is and you can tell them within 10 feet of the suspect. You will need to tell them cross streets or landmarks. I found it helpful to take screen shots (command-shift-4) and note the location on the iCloud map then plug that information into Google Maps because from there, you can look up "what's here" and get local landmarks or businesses. We were able to meet the police officer at a nearby 7/11 to retrieve our phone. After this first incident, I realized how handy it was to have our family photo or something with a picture of the phone's owner on the lock screen because this way, the police officer took one look at us, knew the phone belonged to us and handed it over with no additional paperwork.

We should have more control over Control Center

While you'd think it's just as easy for a thief to power the phone off, where's the fun in that? Maybe they want an extra flashlight, timer or calculator in their pocket or they want to take selfies with the camera in case you do get your phone back so you can see all the fun you missed while your phone was away. All of those features are still available from iOS 7's Control Center while the phone is locked and offline so their friends will think they're cool. I think Apple should also make it so that the phone can not be powered off while in Lock Mode. Again, this is not currently the case, but I hope that changes in a future update!

Punks, thugs and middle-schoolers steal iPhones for the thrill of it. It's like a bug to a cat. First they pluck its legs off so it can't go anywhere and then they just bat at it to torture it.

All it takes is a quick swipe up from the bottom, a tap on the airplane icon and now you can probably get away with wiping it and restoring it if the owner wasn't smart enough to enable Find My iPhone. By the time you realize it's been stolen, it may be too late.

I think you should have a choice of what shows up in Control Center. I am not a frequent flyer and I'm fine with unlocking the phone and going to Settings to enable Airplane Mode. I mean, how hard is it? I get that it's a convenience and encourages more people on planes to disable connectivity easily, but leaving it available to disarm the wonderful security features of Find My iPhone? Is the convenience really worth the security risk? I'd like to see the ability to customize that area or disable the connectivity icons for Airplane and Wi-Fi altogether. Of course, having Bluetooth there has come in very handy for me, so I'd like to see that stay. I just think that disabling settings which compromise security should be passcode or fingerprint Touch ID protected. Make it a choice and I'll choose it.

If you swipe down from the top, you get the handy, dandy Notification Center. Check it out for yourself. What kinds of revealing information would your iPhone's thief be able to mine from the lock screen before it goes into Lock Mode? Saucy text messages? Your next appointments? Just something to keep in mind if you and your device become separated. I've heard people say they don't care much about their phone if it goes missing — it's just a thing, right? Ok, but this thing has a lot of bells and whistles turned on by default for your convenience and I'm here to tell you to take a closer look at this thing.

You may refer to me as Mistress Protector of The Experience and heed my advice or else pay the price. Muwahahahaha! (Ok, someone seriously needs to make me a new avatar now.)

Even though lack of connectivity creates a pressing problem, it's still incredibly important to set up Find My iPhone because of Activation Lock — available only in iOS 7. While your iPhone is offline, you will not be able to track it, but at least you'll know your data is safe. You can access this app by logging in on another trusted iPhone, iPad or iPod touch that has it installed or any computer where you can log in to www.icloud.com and click the Find My iPhone web app. I've even had a trusting family member on the other side of the country ask me to log in on their behalf to track their device when they had no other alternative at the time. The commands you issue will show as pending and if your lost or stolen iPhone ever resumes connectivity, it will receive the command and complete the action such as enabling Lost Mode or sounding a audible signal. Of course for ultimate, added protection, I encourage everyone to use a password manager and never store their passwords in the browser (Safari). I've said it before and I'll say it again, 1Password is good for this plus it even has a built-in browser.

Find My iPhone in the iOS App Store

It is crucial to get your iPhone into Lost Mode immediately

Siri from the lock screen is an awesome, awesome feature and I really miss using it that way, but there were some disturbing revelations during my testing. To see what I mean, try these little exercises while imagining you are the thief who has your iPhone in their hot little hands. While your screen is locked, press and hold the Home Button, wait for the 'beep beep' then ask,

"Siri, where do I live?"
If the thief gets a guilty conscience, they can always drive to your home in the middle of the night and put your phone in your mailbox, right? Um. Yeah.

If you use Find My Friends and have locations enabled:
"Siri, where is my spouse/husband/wife/child/_____?"
Now the thief knows both where you live AND that you may be home alone and for kicks, they can go stalk your spouse/child/other in the parking lot. at night.

Even if you don't use Find My Friends:
"Siri, who is my spouse/husband/wife/child/_____?"
Now the thief has the contact information for that individual if you've made the connections in your Contacts under Related Names. Of course it's not too hard once they figure out your name to start poking around in your Contacts using Siri to rat you out.

Siri will only work if there is an internet connection. Lost Mode disables Siri!

This means a thief has from the time they pilfer your phone until you initiate Lost Mode to mine your sensitive information by getting Siri to spill the beans on you. If the thief disables connectivity by enabling Airplane Mode or disabling Wi-Fi or both, then Siri from the lock screen will no longer work, but your iPhone will show as offline when you try to track it. At this point, you better hope the thief hasn't taken notes.

I still love using Siri for these features and I rely on Find My Friends a lot, but from now on I'll be doing so only after unlocking my iPhone with my fingerprint Touch ID! It's almost as fast anyhow on an iPhone 5s. (You'll still need a PIN or passcode on older models.)

Find Friends in the iOS App Store

A note on the audible signal

This Find My iPhone feature comes in really handy when you suspect your iOS device is lost somewhere near by like a sofa, under the bed or in a child's room. You can hear the sound even if the volume has been muted or turned all the way down. The signal will sound until one of two things happens: (1) someone presses the volume button to stop the sound or (2) you unlock your phone with your code. Um, you do have your iPhone locked with at least a PIN, right? Do it RIGHT NOW if not! Tsk. Tsk. I mention this because I don't want you to be under the impression that some thief could have your phone and it will just keep wailing and dinging because, unfortunately that's not the case! Again! It's easy to just press the sleep or volume button and it will silence the annoyance. I think the damn thing should just ding incessantly until it's been unlocked so that if a thief does have it, it's obvious like that dye in pools that follows you around if you pee in it! (so I've been told)

Remote Wipe

If you think your phone is just lost, you might want to give it a little time, but if you know it's been stolen and have no hope of getting it back, then you should probably wipe it remotely using Find My iPhone. Just know that if you do this, there's no hope of ever recovering your phone using the hi-tech methods currently at your disposal. Unless you are in clear and present danger, the police will not track your phone or trace phone numbers coming from people claiming to have your phone. (I asked when I filed the police report.) They will assist you to go retrieve the phone and it is ok to call 911 for that reason. I prefer to hold out hope and try to ping it every so often in hopes it will come back online at some point. Maybe, just maybe the message will get across while I'm obsessing over something else in life.

So, of course, the answer for now is to just disable all of this stuff from showing up on your lock screen or from being accessible from Notification Center or Control Center or Siri while locked. And welcome back to iOS version 6 something or other.

If you do choose to keep these features enabled for convenience, then you had better be the type of person who treats their iPhone as an appendage and never leave it out of your sight. Only you can decide where that balance between convenience and security lies and I hope my experience, time and report here helps you make a more informed decision.

Label It

One more tip and surprise, surprise, it's something low-tech. Get or borrow a label maker and label your devices — all of them! Of course it probably won't do much good to put your cell phone number on your iPhone's label if you lose it since you won't be able to answer it right away! Put a different phone number on that label, like your spouse's mobile or your landline or even a Google Voice number that will ring or text your replacement cell or that of a friend you trust. This way, if a good samaritan finds your dead iPhone months later, they can call you or text you on a number where you can be reached. I think cell phones are best because they can receive a text in case it's someone who can't figure out that they need to tap the green number on the screen.

Here's a label maker I love. You can get thin, transparent tape for it and it looks really nice on along the side of your iPhone or on the back of your iPad — almost as good as an engraving. You could even put it on the side that has the SIM card port to deter a thief from removing it. I chose to put mine along the side with the volume buttons in hopes someone will see it there. I keep a transparent case on my phone, so this is visible through it, but I removed it here for the photo to give you a better idea. The labels are pretty strong and hard to peel off.

Do yourself a favor: stalk yourself!

To test all of this, I simulated different scenarios with and without connectivity. I disabled my home router and enabled Airplane Mode. I was able to play around with the features in the lock screen before putting the phone into Lost Mode then I could see what would happen and what wouldn't. I encourage you to do the same with your own phone. Test out these features now so that if it ever happens to you, you'll be better prepared.

 #YaMightLearnSomethin #PSA #Rant #Security #LessonsLearnedTheHardWay

Bonus Points if you got Rickrolled by reading Apple's knowledge base article on Control Center

Friday, April 11, 2014

Help for Heartbleed Heartburn

Have you heard about the Heartbleed Bug in the news? You may have seen its logo plastered across your screen at some point. I wonder if sales of antacid are on the rise right about now because I bet it's causing a lot of heartburn lately. If you are not overly concerned with this news at the moment, I'm not here to send you into a panic, but identity theft can really take its toll if you're not prepared. I know from experience and it's not the sort of thing I wish on anyone.

It's a whole lot easier to float down the river in a boat without a hole in the bottom of it! Managing your login credentials and maintaining good passwords helps you stay aware and on the lookout for anything nefarious. I know too many people who use the same password, or a variation of it, over and over again because when given a choice between security and convenience, most will choose the latter.

If you have a credit card, you should be used to the idea of change by now. Your credit card has an expiration date on it and each time they issue a new one, even though the number may remain the same, the security code on the back changes. Websites or software products with login screens like those used for banking, payroll access, insurance, healthcare, etc. require a periodic password reset in order to access it, but there are a lot of websites that do not require this and so people become complacent. Of course changing your password is not the be-all-end-all, but it certainly helps to thwart attackers. You lock your home and car while away, so why leave the all the keys under the door mat? A thief will likely check there first. If it becomes public knowledge that you stash your keys under the potted plant next to your door mat, ya might want to change your locks and start keeping your keys a little closer from now on.

I'd like to take this opportunity to educate you on how you can strike a balance between security and convenience, so pop some of your favorite flavored chalk or antacid and here we go:

Get a Password Manager
Now, I just told you not to use the same password for each site which I know sounds like a tall order, but what if I told you that you could memorize just ONE really, really good master password, hide it really, really well and let that be the key that securely stores and unlocks all the other keys? Doesn't that sound much easier than having to remember or write down a bunch of stuff only to forget where you put it or maybe later not be able to tell if you wrote the letter 'O' or a zero. Six times over? Remember though, keep this master key close because it's the key to your city. If you suspect it has ever been guessed, change it and guard it closer.

The app I've chosen to invest my security in over the past several years is 1Password by AgileBits. It has worked so well for me and my family that I am using it with more and more of my clients. It saves so much time and energy when they put it to use. When threats or security maintenance protocols create the need to change passwords, using this password manager makes it easier to document and store the new information, securely. Everything you enter into this software is for your eyes only unless you decide to share it with someone you trust who also has 1Password so they can lock it away in their own vault. This is extremely helpful for use in families and between colleagues. You can use iCloud or your own secured Wi-Fi connection to sync between devices so that your information is not intercepted while syncing.

At the time of this posting, there is a sale on 1Password and I highly recommend that you have the latest version. If you still have the older version, now is the best time to upgrade because they've added a lot of new features. There is one app that will work on your iPhone and/or iPad and another app that works on your Mac. You sync them with each other and all your information is secured on all your devices! While both pieces of software are on sale right now, it's really worth the price when you see what all it can do. The developers are constantly polishing this app and they stay on top of all the security risks so you don't have to. All you have to do is click these links and the App Store on either iPhone/iPad or Mac will take care of the installation process. It's very easy.

1Password for iOS on iPhone/iPad/iPod touch

1Password for Mac OS X

Learn How to Use Said Password Manager
Once you've installed 1Password, my good friend, Don McAllister, at ScreenCastsOnline has kindly published his instructional video tutorial for free. You can watch it right here. If you like his method of instruction, you should really consider subscribing to his other videos! A free trial membership is available.

Lists of Sites That Have Been Affected
If you've ever signed up for any of the services listed below, you need to change your password. It doesn't matter if you signed up and then never used the site again. If you're like a lot of people, you may have used the same password there that you use in other places. That makes you more vulnerable because that's what hackers will assume when they target you. Just go to the site and change it anyway. Be sure to use the auto-generation tool in your password manager so that you're using a password you'll never use anywhere else. Don't worry about memorizing it because you'll just copy and paste it when needed. If your password is ever extracted somehow, like in the case of a bug like Heartbleed, the fact that you can change it and update your login credentials more efficiently WILL keep you safer. If you plan on abandoning an online service, just be sure no personal or financial details like a credit card are linked to the service in question and if you really do not plan on using it, maybe now is the time to close it off.

Here are some of the big ones I could find where you should change your passwords because they have been patched by now:

Intuit Turbo Tax

If you use any of their related services like Gmail or Yahoo Mail, for example, you should change your passwords at their websites first and then don't forget you need to make that same password change in the settings on all the devices you use to access that service. For example, if you change your password for Google's Gmail service, then you need to plug that same new password into the Settings section on your iPhone, iPad and/or Mac. Using 1Password makes this easier because you just copy and paste it into the boxes calling for it.

Sites With More Complete Listings:
The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now
Here’s A List of Websites Allegedly Affected by The Heartbleed Bug (updated)

What is the Heartbleed Bug?
Here are some links to easy-on-the-eyes articles if you want to educate yourself further on what this bug is and why it's important to act. It's a lot of information to digest and even then it still might not make sense, but I tried to pick articles that explain it a little easier than most.
Heartbleed, the new OpenSSL hack: How does it affect OS X and iOS?
Heartbleed: What You Need To Know About The Security Fiasco In Three Minutes Or Less

Check Your Router
Apple made a statement quoted here saying Apple products are not affected. If you have an Apple-branded router used to connect to your modem , e.g., Airport, Airport Extreme or Time Capsule, it is not affected. Linksys routers are also not affected according to their statement issued here. I'm not yet sure about Netgear or other companies. If that changes, I'll update this post. If you use a router other than those who've already issued statements to get your wireless devices connected to the internet, contact the company who makes it to find out if they've issued a patch. If so, change your passwords.

There is a password used to manage the device and then there is also a password used to connect to the device. You may have given the latter password out to family and friends who have visited your home and connected to your Wi-Fi. You'll need to give them the new password when they visit next time. I've found it helpful to write or print out the password (so it's legible) and tack it to the fridge or someplace accessible so you can just hand it to your guest and they can enter it in their device. (Just don't forget to put it back!) If the manufacturer has not issued a statement saying their product was affected, just wait. Unless you registered your warranty with their site, you'll need to check this on your own as it's unlikely you'll get an email about it.

Additional sources for this post:

Monday, April 7, 2014

I Have The Power!

While at Macworld/iWorld this year, I visited the Powerocks booth and they gave me some of their awesome products to review for you here on my site. I'm very excited to tell you more about them!

So hey, do you remember SheRa? She had the power and now I do too because thanks to Powerocks, I no longer worry about being without power for any of my gadgets. It's like an anxiety chill-pill! Let's just say, whenever I reach into my bag, I now feel like this:
Image Credit: The amazingly talented Zephyri http://zephyri.deviantart.com

I've been using these Powerocks over the past week or so now, showing them off to clients and bragging to friends and family about them. They are slick-looking, practical and PURPLE! Of course, you can get them in several other colors, they have something for everyone. Mother's day is coming up so it might be fun to get a pink one for your mom or grandma! The colors are nice and bright so they're easy to spot when you're digging for one inside your bag. They come in a wide range of sizes and capacities.

Flash Magic Stick
The Flash Magic Stick is a 3000 mAh capacity charger. It's about the size of a lipstick tube and it has a built-in flashlight. I love, love, love that it gives me feedback on how much charge it has with its blue indicator lights on the side. The Powerocks designers are so smart because they made it so that you must press the button twice in order to turn on the light and twice again repeatedly to cycle through the different features: solid, blinking and strobe lights. It drives me nuts when products are designed with loose buttons that easily power on and waste energy for who knows how long inside your bag that by the time you need to use it, it's drained! Not so with the Flash Magic Stick. It's a bright design in more ways than one!

This little charger came in ├╝ber-handy while I was at Cirque du Mac this year because my friend Barry was running out of juice on his iPhone. I had this handy Magic Stick in my pocket which charged my iPhone so I lent it to him for his ride home because Friends Don't Let Friends Power Down! The Flash Magic Stick came in so handy and I'm very pleased with this product. I think they will make fantastic gifts!

Next up is the big boy — The Magic Cub 2 — at 12000 mAh this mighty little brick packs a ridiculous amount of power!! I won't lie, it has a little bit of weight to it, but it's not overwhelmingly heavy. I love, love, love, how they think of everything. When you pop off the cover to reveal the ports, does it get lost? Nope! There's a string that keeps it attached! Brilliant! There are multiple charging cables built right in with a USB port to plug in your Apple devices requiring a bring-your-own Lightning cable. They tell me future designs will incorporate a Lightning cable built in, so check back for that, but in the meantime, this isn't really a big deal, because I always keep an extra USB to Lightning cable in my bag along with this bad-boy. This Powerock will be awesome for camping trips or long flights. I'll definitely be taking it with us when we travel out east to visit family because it's great for charging multiple devices — power for the whole family!

Here is a video showing my friend Michael Portis and I reviewing our Powerocks among other products in action during our Macworld/iWorld 2014 Wrap-Up.

Check out Powerocks and Go ahead, Get lost!

I Am Crazy Calendar Lady!

I went to Macworld/iWorld this year! It was a blast! More on that in another post because I'm still digesting it all now that I've pretty much accepted it wasn't all a crazy dream!

One of the things that happens at Macworld, is you get very overwhelmed by all that's going on. Yes, there is an app for that and I did use it, but not without first consulting my iPhone calendars. Yes. Plural. I have many calendars. It's just how I roll. If you met me at Macworld this year, you may have been blessed to take a peek at my iPhone and what you would see might make you a little dizzy or even want to bow at my feet and claim how unworthy you are because you do not have the cool and organized calendars like me. (Ok, someone needs to make me a Game of Thrones graphic where I'm perched upon the throne and the swords behind me are different calendar events or task line items. If I had that, I would insert it here. But I don't so just use your imagination. Muwahahaha!)

I have a calendar for everything and each is a different color and serves a different purpose. I can toggle them on and off depending on how busy my day gets. My calendars just rock and I like it that way. I mean, how else would I know where I can squeeze in a cat nap? I have insomnia and don't actually sleep like normal people, so having different calendars helps me manage my family, my business and monitor my health. Each member of my family has their own calendar. I also have a separate calendar for TheMacMommy which is how I schedule my clients and business-related events. Then I have a calendar for the YMCA which shows each of the exercise classes, ya know, in case I actually muster up the energy to go? I have a calendar which shows all of the childcare time available at the YMCA which, you know, might actually entice me to go to the gym or pool for times when I really could use a break from Keagan's constant and adorable babbling, the kind that never stops and makes it near impossible to think straight because I really need yet one more voice inside my head! Yes, that kind. (I love you my sweet baboon!)

Does having super, color-coded crazy calendars make me any less frenzied? Kinda sorta, but not really because there probably isn't much in the world that can do that. I wouldn't be me unless I wasn't at least a little scatterbrained, BUT having my crazy cool calendars is just lots of fun so I want to tell you about the awesome tools I'm using. YOU might actually find a way to be really super practical with them!

First up, I'll tell you about the new kid on the block. It's called UpTo. Right now it's only available for iPhone, but they are working on an iPad version. They're also working on making it available in other countries too, but so far as I know, it's USA only. (Sorry global friends. When I know more, you will know more!) This app does what other calendar apps do, but it does it in a really cool way and it has these extra social and entrainment features. Before UpTo, I used to have a hand-made calendar I called "Entertainment" and on it would go information and dates for TV shows I wanted to catch when they became available or so I could watch for them to become available online for free. You see, I'm a cord-cutter since 2009 so when the rest of the world is all excited about TV shows that have just aired, I put my little blinders on and try to avoid the social media spoilers while patiently waiting for them to become available somewhere else that doesn't involve cable TV. I'm a mom, like I can actually watch anything when it airs, come on! UpTo is becoming super handy for this!

I really like how it takes a layered approach to calendars. When I use my default iOS calendar, I have to constantly toggle calendars on and off to see what I really need to focus on. UpTo has this really cool pinch to reveal gesture and when you specify which calendars need to be front and center, you can put the less important calendars in the back and then just peek at them when you need to. I mean, the premiere of Game of Thrones is super exciting and all, but it's not going to help me get that cat nap if it's in my face the whole time.

UpTo is free! Use my affiliate links to download it here:

Ok, lets move on to the mainstay of calendar apps. While I'm really enjoying UpTo and using it on the side with all it's cool new social and layering features, it still has its limits and those limits are not present with the darling of all Mac and iOS calendar apps, Fantastical by Flexibits. The developers gave me review codes so I could tell you more about them here. So many of my friends all over the world have been using Fantastical for so long now I had to see what all the fuss was about on the iPhone. I've been using the Mac app for a long time now, so long that it's kind of just ingrained as part of my workflow for entering events onto my Mac calendar which then syncs across all my devices. Yeah, I think they meant for that to happen! I love how the little icon is ever-present in my menubar and it gives me joy to click on it and interact with it from the drop-down menu. If you click this link, you can watch a cool little video to see just what I mean.

You can download Fantastical for the Mac here:

Now, you know I'm big on the whole trifecta thing of having the same apps on all my devices and Flexibits must know what I like because they have a version of Fantastical for iPhone and they just released an iPad version. (I don't have the iPad version, but if I get it, I'll be sure to report back on it soon.) So, it's just natural to want to use Fantastical 2 on your iPhone (and now iPad) for all your scheduling needs. I found it to be true what my friends say, that once you use Fantastical on your iPhone, you'll never use the native Calendar app again. (While you can not delete the native calendar app, the trick I use is I create a folder that I shove onto the back page of my iOS devices which contains stock apps I no longer use or the ones that are now available by swiping up from the bottom to reveal Control Center.)

The interface design of Fantastical 2 for iPhone is super slick, intuitive and easy on the eyes as you can choose from both light and dark themes. When I was bragging earlier about how my friends think I'm the Crazy Calendar Lady, it's because I was showing them the Fantastical view on my iPhone sideways and watching them all ooh and ahh over all my color-coded blocks!

One of the coolest features I just discovered is the special treatment given to birthdays! Go ahead and tap once on someone's birthday and you'll see their face (if you've given them an avatar in your Contacts or if it's been assigned from a connected Facebook). Notice the animated falling confetti! Such a special touch. Below that you'll see icons for communicating with your birthday buddy so now you have no excuse – go on now, give them a call or send a text or email and wish them a Happy Birthday! (I bet the Flexibits Moms inspired this feature ;)

In this example, my Dad has a birthday coming up. I've blocked out his info for privacy, but you'll notice it says "Dad" and that's because Fantastical 2 respects the nickname from his contact card. Between nicknames and falling confetti, it's these little attention to details that tickles me when I review apps for my blog.

As always, you can check out a trial version on the Mac here. Once you fall in love with it as much as I have, you can get it for your iPhone and iPad using these links. Thanks for checking out my reviews and supporting my efforts!

Fantastical 2 for iPhone here:

Fantastical 2 for iPad here:

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