About apps

10 09 2014

‘App’ is the modern term for application which means a set of instructions to let your device solve life’s dilemmas one app at a time.

Inextricably linked with apps are small animals which most aggressive life forms are well-known from tropical areas and called bugs. Today we have them also massively in the temperate zones and they are distributed for free by Apple, Microsoft, Google, medium-sized companies, and individual enterprises mainly via Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

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Free apps are almost always designed for promoting services or developed by individuals who just like programming or want to carve out a way to success in getting commissional work. It’s obvious that the paid ones are made for making money. Unfortunately many of them are offered just for making money. Developers should know that this is a short-term strategy and often borders on fraud.

We, as the customers, should punish these companies by writing appropriate reviews and ask Apple for refund of costs.

Note
A lot of craptacular apps that should never find their way to your iOS device can be found in the App Store. Apple just controls conformity of apps with their guidelines but doesn’t identify crap. Although Apple’s terms and conditions state that ‘All sales and rentals are final’ you can apply for a refund if your cause is legitimate. Here is how to do it:

  • Open your iTunes Account.
  • Open the Purchase History.
  • Click on ‘Report a problem’.
  • Select the app and click on ‘Report a problem’.
  • Choose one of the six categories Apple lists for app-related complaints and add legitimate reasons.

It’s still one of the biggest disadvantages of Apple’s App Store not to offer apps free for a limited time to decide if you want to keep it. Serious developers offer a so-called ‘Lite Version’ for free with some limitations of features.

Well, independent of the motivation individuals or businesses have when offering apps customers are only interested in bug-free versions just doing what they are intended for and offering a great user experience described in Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines.

Classification of apps …

When we talk about apps we should first classify them.

Speaking in broad strokes apps may be classified as follows:

  • Table-Based Apps
    The app allows access to hierarchically organized data. Opening the app displays topics and often a Search-Field where you can enter a term. the app then displays topics matching the term. Tapping on a topic displays related information.
    Examples: dictionary, product description with parts lists
  • App based on Complex Databases
    This type of app is an extension to simple table-based apps with improved features of parsing out content. Often included is an online access that allows updating of the database to always work with actual data managed on a webserver. A simple solution is to download updated on demand and store them permanently in a local folder of the device. So the user is independent of a working internet connection. A more complex solution is the retrieval of updated records when needed.
  • Apps Improving Built-In Features
    iOS provides tons of features developers have access to. But some of Apple’s built-in apps don’t meet the requirements of users. With the camera you can take photos of several pages of a document. You will need an additional app to convert these image files into a single PDF, the scanned document.
    A typical example is Readdle’s app Scanner Pro where scanned documents additionally may be organized in folders.
  • Fully Dynamic Apps
    Similar to the database driven apps, these apps are the kind that rely purely on external information – Apps for social networking like Twitter, Weather Pro, WordPress, etc. usually there is Read-Write access to webservers (read tweets for displaying them, write new tweets).
    Some apps additionally provide encryption when transferring data from or to the device.
  • Apps for Creating Data
    The user enters the content (writes letters, creates spreadsheets, or presentations, annotates PDFs), manages storage places (local folders and cloud storages), uses convert algorithms (Microsoft Word to Apple Pages) and shares documents with other users. Typical apps of this kind are Apple’s iWork suite, Tap Forms Database, iThoughts Mind Mapping, Adobe Reader, etc.
  • Games
    These have the largest range of complexity, starting with something as simple as a PONG type functionality (PONG=one of the earliest video games by Atari) all the way up to a 3D physics engine that does high speed air racing. Scoring points, incorporating the user experience through the physical movement of the device, and hooking into Game Center are all possible.

Testing …

Developers have to learn four simple rules to become successful.

  • Take care about the system analysis.
    It’s the process of studying procedures in order to identify its goals and purposes and create a system (the app) that will achieve them in an efficient way.
  • Test your app and if you don’t find a bug test it again.
    Before starting any tests, developers have to shut down and use their schizophrenic partition to reboot. From now on they must behave like bad guys trying to destroy the whole work of this incompetent developer.
  • Listen to your customers.
    If features and the UI are driven by customer requests and feedbacks it’s likely that you will be successful with your business.
  • Set up a platform.
    That means create a mobile friendly website without ad, engage in social networks, etc.

All this doesn’t help if the app isn’t stable or the UI doesn’t feel like ‘Made for Apple’s mobiles’.

Here is how testing should work but in most cases it obviously doesn’t. One of the developers I’m talking about should be expected to do a professional job but it’s an individual enterprise which shows us how to do the job – a painful affair for the big company.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts for iOS (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Testing an application is an indispensable task and it often takes more time to go through all the test scenarios than to write the code. The most important part of the whole testing procedure is called Functional Testing. This is a type of black box testing that is based on the specifications of the software that is to be tested.

Keep in mind that the developers of iThoughts and Tap Forms do it all alone.
They are project manager, quality assurance manager, programmer, CEO, website owner, publicity expert, accounting clerk, and often
complaisant husband, father of some kids, owner of a dog and tax payer.

The application as a whole system is tested by providing input and evaluating the system’s compliance with its specified requirements.

  • Unit Testing
    Unit Testing is performed by developers on individual units of source code. The developers use test data that is separate from the test data of the quality assurance team.
    The goal of unit testing is to isolate each part of the program and show that individual parts are correct in terms of requirements and functionality.
  • Integration Testing
    Integration Testing is done to determine whether all single units of the app properly work together.
  • System Testing
    Once all the components are integrated, the application as a whole is tested to see wether it meets the quality standards. This type of testing is performed by a specialized testing team. System Testing is one of the most important steps on the long way from an idea to the deployment of an app.

    • System Testing is the first step in the Software Development Life Cycle, where the application is tested as a whole.
    • The application is tested thoroughly to verify that it meets the functional and technical specifications.
    • The application is tested in an environment which is very close to the production environment where the application will be deployed.
    • System Testing enables the developers to test, verify, and validate both the business requirements as well as the application architecture.
  • Regression Testing
    Whenever an app is updated it is quite possible that other areas within the app have been affected by this change. The intent of Regression Testing is to ensure that a change, such as a bug fix did not result in another fault being uncovered in the application.
  • Acceptance Testing
    This is arguably the most important type of testing as it is conducted by the Quality Assurance Team who will gauge whether the application meets the intended specifications and satisfies the client.s requirements. The QA team will have a set of pre written scenarios and test cases that will be used to test the application.
  • Alpha Testing
    Unit testing, integration testing and system testing when combined are known as alpha testing. The teams look for spelling, broken links, quality of the help system, etc. The app will be tested on devices with the lowest specification to test loading times and any latency problems.
  • Beta Testing
    In beta testing a sample of the intended audience tests the application. Beta testing is also known as pre-release testing. Beta test versions of software are ideally distributed to a wide audience on the Web, partly to give the program a “real-world” test and partly to provide a preview of the next release. The audience will be testing the following:

    • Users will install, run the application and send their feedback to the project team.
    • Typographical errors, confusing application flow, and even crashes.
    • Getting the feedback, the project team can fix the problems before releasing the software to the actual users.
    • The more issues you fix that solve real user problems, the higher the quality of your application will be.
    • Having a higher-quality application when you release to the general public will increase customer satisfaction.

Two examples …

As a mind mapper and an engaged member of Google+ I frequently use my preferred mind mapping tool iThoughts by toketaWare as well as Google’s app Google+.

toketaWare
is a small software development business based in the UK (just outside York.) When I say small, I mean really small. Currently it’s just me, Craig Scott.
In addition to the iThoughts mindmap products, toketaWare also builds/maintains makeDoc and makeSlides (iOS apps for converting Markdown, OPML and text into MS Word and PowerPoint files).
Toketa is a term used in Judo to describe when a person has escaped from being pinned down i.e. they’ve broken free. Seemed apt somehow – software that sets you free. That’s the goal anyhow!

Google
Well, what can I say, the app Stocks on my iPhone tells me that the market capital is $378,1B. Without knowing the capital of toketaWare I’m quite sure that Google is ahead.

The app Google+ crashes a couple of times each day when my iPhone 4S running on iOS 7 is unlocked and the app was in suspended mode. This happens since about 12 months and the problem can easily be proofed by countless complaints in different communities on Google+.

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But there is even more. The app doesn’t provide any useful support for moderators and doesn’t allow relevant settings for your Google+ account. Searching, limited to content if specific communities is not possible. There is no list of people you have blocked. Text typed in the comment section may get lost if you switch to another app and return to the G+ app. Formatting is supported only by using special characters like *, -, and _.

If you look up the version history starting on 2011-12-05 (version 1.0.7.2940) you will find many useless new features within the 25 updated versions and countless bug fixes which didn’t fix the most annoying bugs.

Let’s have a look on the Reviews. I found 4.651 reviews for all versions which is definitely a negligible quantity compared to the number of downloads. The consequence for me is that reviews published in the App Store are most often useless if it comes to an objective assessment of an app based on a large/representative number of users.

Reasons are …

  • Apple hasn’t built bug reporting into the App Store, so customers use one-star ratings as a way of reporting bugs.
    Developers cannot contact people who post ratings.
  • People are much more likely to complain than to praise. If you have an app that crashes for 0.01% of your users, those users are generally not going to quietly ask Apple for refund. They’re going to post a negative review. However, the 99.99% of people for whom the app works great are not going to post five-star ratings.
  • The App Store only shows the ratings given to the latest version of an app. Every time a minor update is released, the app’s ratings history is effectively wiped out. If 0.01% of the users have a problem, the app ends up with ten one-star reviews which is a disaster for a developer.
  • Ratings are often made after a short time of usage and they most often do not reflect systematically collected experiences.

For those who make their living on the App Store, a one-star rating is an existential threat. If an app is rated one star, nobody will look at it or buy it. If it’s rated five stars, the company will make a decent living but lack of features may still hamper the usage of many customers. A typical case is the missing support for the WebDAV protocol which is essential if users do not have accounts for the predefined cloud providers offered in the app’s settings.

Since years I’m in close contact with two small companies

  • Tap Zapp Software Inc., Canada
    developing the database application Tap Forms
  • toketaWare, UK
    developing the mind mapping tool iThoughts

following Steve Jobs’ philosophy

To purchase is to build relationships.

A fast, understandable and friendly support ends up in a win-win-situation for both, customers and developers. Regardless of any educational background developers can learn from their customers.

Let’s have a look on the presentation of the app iThoughts.

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Meaningful images, factual descriptions of relevant features, a link to a website with lots of useful information and a ‘What’s new’ mind map delivered with every update.

I summarized the updates in a mind map. toketaWare publishes the details of updates in contrast to many other developers just describing their new versions with useless notes like

  • Various bug fixes
  • Overall performance improvements
  • Runs better than before
  • Improvements for reliability
  • Fixes to make the app a little better for you

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Apple’s guidelines …

An iPhone, by itself, is a somewhat dull device after you get over touching the screen of a cell phone. Sure, it’s an innovative device, but it’s just another cell phone with a unique way of interacting with it before applications are added.

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But once applications are added to the device, it becomes a far more compelling product with a series of great applications that easily make it the best cell phone in the market. And it’s because of Apple’s Guidelines every developer has to follow when offering software products.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts for iOS (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Summary …

Developing an app successfully running through all stress tests and following Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines is a quite complex task and it doesn’t differ from the development of an application running on computers.

Character traits define your personality, your underlying values and your beliefs. Maybe you remember my interview with Brendan Duddridge, the developer of the awarded database app Tap Forms.

I like Steve’s philosophy on design. Make it simple and beautiful to use. Steve surrounded himself with brilliant people who he could command to do the best work of their lives. I don’t have that luxury so I just try to build the best and easiest to use app that I can possibly think of.
(Brendan Duddridge)

I take my hat off to all the individual enterprises doing their job much better than their big competitors.

Related links …

App Development + Marketing

iThoughts, redesigned, reengineered, re-everythinged

Tap Zapp Software Inc.

Google+ on iOS devices

About guidelines …

App Store Review Guidelines

iOS Human Interface Guidelines

UI Design Dos and Don’ts

Thanks for dropping by.





iThoughts, redesigned, reengineered, re-everythinged

23 05 2014

On May 13, 2014, Craig Scott, the developer of the mind mapping tool iThoughts released a new version designed for iOS 7. It took him 9 months of reviewing the new features of iOS 7, testing them (even Apple isn’t perfect), and redesigning the old version. So it’s understandable that the new version is not free but comes up with a really fair price (80% off). Craig got bills to pay, kids to feed and more.

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Let’s say it with an Apple slogan for marketing the MacBook Air …

Redesigned.
Reengineered.
Re-everythinged.

To make it clear, re-everythinged doesn’t mean that users have to learn it all again. It’s still an application which can be used intuitively and users migrating from the predecessor will not have problems to immediately continue working on maps.

Craig’s company …

Craig Scott about his company …

toketaWare is a small software development business based in the UK (just outside York.) When I say small, I mean really small. Currently it’s just me Craig Scott.
In addition to the iThoughts mindmap products, toketaWare also builds/maintains makeDoc and makeSlides (iOS apps for converting Markdown, OPML and text into MS Word and PowerPoint files).
Toketa is a term used in Judo to describe when a person has escaped from being pinned down i.e. they’ve broken free. Seemed apt somehow – software that sets you free. That’s the goal anyhow!

Craig’s philosophy …

Steve gave us the iPad and Craig the app iThoughts.
Well, in some way this might be an inappropriate connection between people and products. On the other hand there are only a few developers who were able to adapt an application to a touchscreen in such a perfect way and to internalize many of the intangible assets of Apple and it’s innovative leader of the past.

Craig Scott brought home the bacon.

He started developing his mind mapping tool already prior to the launch of the iPad in April 2010. It’s not only an excellent coding but also a deep insight in what Apple intended to offer it’s customers. In his lecture about mind mapping on Biggerplate Unplugged (London 2013), Craig called it Touchy Feely Mind Mapping.

A mind mapping tool is an application for improving knowledge and personality as well as summarizing facts and ideas. In so far there is indeed a virtual connection between Steve and Craig. Priorities for both were/are:

Focus (on essentials)
Say NO (to bells and whistles)

People appreciate apps that feel as though they were designed expressly for the device. For example, when an app fits well on the device screen and responds to the gestures that people know, it provides much of the experience people are looking for. And, although people might not be aware of human interface design principles, such as direct manipulation or consistency, they can tell when apps follow them and when they don’t.

iThoughts follows

Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines

in a perfect way. To use the app a documentation is basically not needed bit in cases directly accessible from within the app, e.g. creating doodles.

For example there is one and only one taskbar which is divided into two parts with a Share control in the center. On the left side there are file management features and settings. On the right side you will find all features needed for editing a map with the most important control (i), the inspector, to set all the properties of topics.

Craig on his website
The roadmap for iThoughts is pretty much driven by customer request – although there are some ‘core principles’ underpinning the whole thing as follows:

  • User Interface is everything
    if it’s not usable then people will not use it.
  • Interoperability is vital
    must play nicely with existing tools/services.
  • Stay focused
    mindmapping is what the app does.

The result of following these simple rules convinces everyone immediately after installation and it is the ultimate way to successful marketing via the Apple’s App Store.

The redesigned app …

In many articles about mind mapping I always talked about iThoughts as the most powerful tool for the iPad and a wonder of stability compared to other apps developed by really big companies (I’m just thinking about Google+ for iOS which crashed again while working on this post and looking up new notifications).

So it’s time to review the redesigned version including all the useful updates it got over time. All the powerful features let users create impressive maps. They can be shared in lots of different file formats up to nearly all needs.

A mind map is worth a thousand words so here is a full feature description of Craig’s tool. The map was created with the new version of iThoughts in June 2014.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple Pages/Microsoft Word DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

The old version …

The old version can still be downloaded but not purchased. There will be no more updates and bug fixes. This is largely because Apple does not allow updates to apps unless they are build using the iOS 7 technology.

The migration …

After installing the new version you immediately feel back home.

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There is also an easy way to migrate from the predecessor and this is obviously in the line with Craig’s philosophy of perfectness.

After installing the new version there are two ways to transfer maps.

  • 1 If you already use a cloud folder synced to Dropbox then you can create a similar setup within the new version and have it sync your maps down.
    For more details see How to sync.
  • 2 If you are not syncing with Dropbox then you can use the ‘Send Archive … to app’ feature in the previous version to send a copy of all your maps over into the new version. Once you maps are successfully transferred you can delete the old app. Keep in mind that deleting an app always goes along with deleting all it’s data. This is due to the iOS file system. So first check out the new app and keep the older version for some time.

The anatomy …

If you are new to iThoughts it’s worth understanding the anatomy of an iThoughts screen.

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I created this map directly from toketaWare’s website (I hope by courtesy of Craig) by using the screen’s image as the center of the map, copied the outlined description to the clipboard and used the ‘text to map’ feature described further down to generate the topics. That’s it. Admittedly I did some further work to improve the layout.

The new features …

The following features are implemented in the new version … •

  • Universal app, you buy it once and install it on all your iOS devices.
  • Rich text support everywhere
    bold, italic, underline, fonts, sizes, colours – all in the same text block
  • Totally new cloud sync architecture – much faster and more reliable
  • Extensive bluetooth keyboard support
  • Multiple selection of topics (SHIFT)
    Left handed?
    If you’re left handed and find it tricky to use the SHIFT button then you can switch this to the other side in the ‘System Settings’ under the ‘Options’ menu.
  • Independently resize topic, image or text
  • New map picker with thumbnail previews, favourites and recycle/trash system
  • Imports Markdown format files•
  • Imports Mindnode and Simtech Mindmapper maps
  • Exports as a ‘website’ (package of HTML, clickable images and attachments.)
  • Export as multi page PDF (which can then be printed out and stuck together into a ‘poster’)
  • Research feature can now download websites for off line viewing (as a .webarchive)
  • System settings accessible from within the app
  • Relationship improvements (drag the actual curve – even drag the end to another topic) •
  • Choose a default colour for callouts
  • Infinite (effectively) and dynamic canvas which grows and shrinks to fit the map

These features have been retired permanently …

  • • Passcode protection •
  • Dimming branches (‘hide completed tasks’ and ‘show unfocused topics’) •
    Shadows
  • Novamind4 and iMindmap4 import/export support
  • TextExpander support
  • Support for WebDAV or Box.com cloud services
  • Splitting branches into separate maps automatically.
  • ‘Based upon’ options when creating new maps.
  • Version history for maps.
  • Paste Style
  • $date and $time variables

Well, no reason to shed crocodile tears. Well done Craig with one exception, the ‘Paste Style’ feature should be returned.

Some details …

My tagline on Google+ is ‘Doing things accurately’. So my blog posts seem to be long but there are two reasons why this is the case:

1 Reviewing a powerful app cannot be done with writing ‘Awesome …’, ‘Best app of the week …’ etc. it needs some weeks to assess a tool and give the reasons for a final rating.

2 Some developers do an outstanding job and in this case it’s simply funny for a leisure blogger not driven by Click Stats to go into the details.

So I think it’s worth spending the time to look at some tidbits of iThoughts and the sophisticated considerations Craig put in the code.

Using the Inspector

Mind maps can drastically be improved by using adequate connectors, colors, shapes, images, numbering, and size of topics according to its importance. Be aware that the appropriate usage of attributes may attract an audience, force further discussions, and last but not least remain in the peoples photographic memory for a longer time compared to a more simplistic layout. But you shouldn’t go over the top. A informative map in most cases shouldn’t be degraded to artwork.

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These images show the main features of iThoughts for improving layouts and with it, breathing life, attractiveness, and a better understanding into the map. All dialogs are integrated in the Inspector control (top right).

Using Links

Today nearly all kind of information is accessible via the Internet. It’s a giant knowledge base. To provide background information from within a mind map iThoughts allows the assignment of hyperlinks to a node. When opening a link app switching between iThoughts and Safari is not necessary because of iThought’s integrated browser. This is an indispensable feature for mobile devices because of their One-Window technique.

It’s also possible to seamlessly assign links to a topic by just tapping on Research in the context menu and using one of the options (Copy Link, Insert Link, Make Topic) offered in the browser’s task bar.

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Even if you are within Safari iThoughts can be directly accessed by using this bookmarklet

javascript:void(location.href=’ithoughts://link?url=’+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+’&title=’+encodeURIComponent(document.title))

which can be easily integrated in the bookmarks bar of Safari and allows permanent and fast access to iThoughts. See the instruction for installing the bookmarklet here

iThoughts bookmarklet for Safari

Commenting

Some maps are hard to understand because they often reflect a very subjective process of thinking about topics. To make it understandable for others it’s indispensable to add comment to topics.

iThoughts allows two options for commenting on topics.

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As a third way you can use a normal topic and place text into it like I did in the map ‘Anatomy of iThought’.

Note
Commenting or even creating topics can be done with Siri, Apple’s speech driven assistant which can be started by just tapping on the small microphone button to the left of the keyboard’s spacebar. To create a sequence of topics use the word ‘comma‘ which is interpreted as ‘create new topic’.

Adding attachments

Mind Maps visually summarize information but sometimes it’s necessary to refer to documents containing detailed description.

The map in my example is about security features provided by Apple. Basics of the 2-Step Verification for Apple accounts are explained in subtopics. I created a detailed description of the activation process and the usage in a Keynote presentation which contains a lot of screenshots and comments. To make it available in a mind map iThoughts allows to attach whole documents to topics.

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Here are the steps to go explained with a Keynote document…

  • Open Keynote
  • Use ‘Open in Another App
  • Select the presentation you want as the attachment
  • Select the file format (Keynote, PDF, Powerpoint)
  • Select iThoughts in the app’s menu
  • Use Paste to attach the document to a topic

While presenting your map to an audience you are now able to go into the details of 2-Step Verification.

Note
Attached documents are stored in the mind map file in their native format. So the source file travels with the map when sharing it.
The recipient can then work on the mind map as well as on the attached documents and send them back both.

Topics with attached documents are marked with small icons pointing to the source application. Use ‘Tap and Hold’ to open the document within iThoughts or use ‘Open in’ to further work on the attachment.

Further information is available under

iWork and iThoughts

Creating from text

Tap on any topic or select any piece of text within a map and one of the options presented will be an internet Research. Research will take the text and ‘Google it’ – using the built-in browser of iThoughts. Once you are on websites, press and hold on images, text and links on the page and have them turned into topics in the map. This makes it easy to quickly collate information from the web – without requiring a whole load of copy/switch app/paste operations.

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If you mark parts of a text within the built-in browser of iThoughts or any other app you can insert the text a topic, or several topics (if the the text is outlined) or a note. All formatting attributes are automatically stripped off.

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Sometimes it’s useful to collect ideas on the go with simple text editors like ByWord or PlainText. An outlined text then can create topics and subtopics if pasted into a map. To generate subtopics the text line must be indented by at least 4 spaces.

Creating Websites

iThoughts can generate (and email/upload) an associated HTML page. It contains what is known as an Image Map.
This tells the browser to treat different parts of the image as clickable Hotspots. iThoughts will automatically associate a hotspot with each topic – then associate that hotspot with a hyperlink (if the topic has one.)

This makes it simple to publish a static, clickable mindmap webpage.

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As an example – take a look at the following link – generated by iThoughts and uploaded to Dropbox then made publicly visible – essentially using Dropbox as a website hosting provider.

Mind Map Webpage

The process is as follows:

  • Create your map – adding links to topics as appropriate.
  • Select ‘Send Map To Cloud’ and choose the Website.zip export format.
  • Choose a folder to upload the file.
  • Once uploaded, use the Dropbox ‘Copy Public Link’ option (from your desktop) to get the public web address of the uploaded HTML file (you may need to make the folder public/shared.)

That’s it – your map is now published as a clickable web page. If you’re using Dropbox then you can use the built in iThoughts sync to refresh the image/HTML as your map changes.

Image maps on websites act as attractive navigators. People are much more about to retrieve information than with traditional link lists.

Map Recovery

iThoughtsHD automatically saves your work every 60 seconds (or when the app is closed/suspended.) It also creates a ‘snapshot backup’ (copy) of your map each time it is modified then closed. It keeps 10 previous snapshot versions (of each map) on disk – any one of which can be recovered.

In the menu under the ‘gear’ toolbar button is an option called ‘Save Archive’. This will take all your maps and zip them up into a single archive file then send that archive over into another app. Typically you would use this to send the archive into your Dropbox app – or perhaps your Evernote app. Those apps will then take care of uploading the archive into the cloud – and most importantly – off your device.

iThoughts will nag you each week to save an archive in this way.

The archive file is simply a zip file containing a folder structure of .itmz files. To recover a map, unzip it on your desktop, locate the map and send it back into iThoughts.

You can recover all the maps within the archive in a single operation by sending the zip file itself back into iThoughts. The contents of the archive will be restored into a new folder – your existing maps are not overwritten.

In addition to the above, each day (of use) iThoughts will automatically create an archive. By default, it will store the last 5 archives (days.) You can pull these archives over onto your desktop if necessary. This can be useful if you want to recover a deleted map.

Save, Export, Share

File formats of mind mapping tools are unfortunately not standardized. Each developer of mind mapping tools knows this. However none of the many tools pay attention to this fact by implementing adequate options to save a map in all the well-known file formats of other tool, except iThoughts.

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If you want to become a mapper you should register on BIGGERPLATE.com to access more than 50k mind maps and to upload your own maps to this work-wide largest mind mapping platform.

Using iThoughts you should know something about compatibility of the different file formats actually supported by Biggerplate as of June 2014. These are:

Application File format
iMindQ (DropMind) DMMX
ConceptDraw CDMZ
XMind XMIND
Mindjet Manager MMAP
iMindMap IMX
Mind Genius MGMF

When downloading a map from Biggerplate you get the best results within iThoughts if the original map was uploaded in MMAP (Mind Manager) format.

You can find further information about compatibility on Craig’s website

iThoughts FAQ, Compatibility

In addition to the above iThoughts can also import AND export OPML which is a relatively standard format for documenting hierarchical data (although it doesn’t support positioning, colours, shapes etc.)

Note
If you use the PDF or PNG format your map is automatically resized independent of the actual display on your device. Collapsed and expanded topics appear as on the screen. Complex maps need much space so that you have to limit expanded topics to the most important ones. Otherwise details will be too small to perceive. As an alternative iThoughts allows to export single topics and you may use this feature to seamlessly display important parts with a suitable resolution.

An extended keyboard

It’s in the line of Craig’s sophisticated coding to add useful features to Apple’s standard keyboard for writing and formatting text in shaped topics.

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You don’t like onscreen keyboards and prefer a BT keyboard?
Well, here is a table with all supported shortcuts

FAQ, Keyboard Shortcuts

Doodles
How to doodle

A doodle is a simple finger drawing tool within iThoughts. It is ‘vector based’ which means each line can be manipulated individually and continuously. Doodles can be attached to topics and exported as PDF, SVG or PNG files.

Use your finger to draw lines (known as ‘strokes’.) To move the canvas itself you must drag it with 2 fingers. This differs from the rest of the app, where a single finger is used to drag the canvas. If you accidentally draw a line when intending to drag the canvas (as I STILL do) then you can hit UNDO to remove it.

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The numbers in the image above are described as follows:

1 Tap on a ‘stroke’ to select it. When selected it will have a blue ‘glow’ around it. Once selected, any changes to thickness, dashed’ness or colour (#3, #4, #5) will apply to the selected stroke(s.) Tap on a selected stroke to see Cut, Copy, Paste type options (including options to ‘Send to Back’) Drag a selected stroke to move it.

2 Press and hold SHIFT whilst tapping on strokes to select/deselect multiple stokes. SHIFT then drag the canvas will create a ‘selection marquee’ to help select multiple strokes more quickly. SHIFT then drag an already selected stroke(s) will duplicate the stoke(s)

3 Set the stoke thickness. If a stroke is selected then it will apply to that stroke. If no stroke is selected it will become the default for any new strokes.

4 Set the stroke to be ‘dashed’

5 Set the stroke colour.

6 Share the selected strokes or whole doodle (typically in an email attachment.)

7 There is no ‘eraser’ type feature – you can only delete whole strokes by selecting them then tapping on the waste bin icon in the lower corner (or dragging/dropping the stroke onto the bin.)

Text Formatting

A gift from heaven Craig, Rich text support everywhere.

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Visualized information still needs text to understand the content. With the new version of iThoughts visualized accentuations now can also be done within textual information.

Linked Folders (sync)
How To

Your maps can be synced automatically between iPad, iPhone and desktop (Mac or Windows) by using Dropbox and iThoughts Linked Folders.

I’m a wretched failure when it comes to creating videos. So have a look at Craig’s screencast (5 min) which demonstrates the usage of Linked Folders.

There are some caveats to be aware of when syncing:

Syncing only happens if a device is connected to a WiFi network (by default) except you turned on Mobile Data Syncing in the iOS Settings.
By default local changes are synced 30 seconds after the app is closed.
Remote changes are checked for when the app starts (but no more frequently than every 10 minutes).

Improved Context Menus

I’m an old man but I also heard young people complaining about wavering hands causing a perfect disaster when arranging objects on a touch screen. So here is just one example of iThoughts’ improved context menus which let people think you are in full control of your fore limbs.

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There are many more new features implemented in the context menus which increase seamless usage.

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Just explore them.

Settings

Now Settings are accessible directly within the app. Thanks a bunch!
Have a look on the many options you have to customize the app.

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Please don’t ask me for explaining all the options. Just try them out or request for a fixed-price offer if you want me to do it for you.

Some cons …

Nobody is perfect and it’s surprisingly also valid for Craig.

  • Due to iOS 7 the new version is not as responsible as the old version. If you use multitasking it takes some time to wake up the app from suspended mode. I used an iPad 3 running on iOS 7.1.1 and I think it would run much smoother on an iPad Air with its 64-Bit processor.
  • An outlined collection of links still cannot be inserted as topics. The links are there but not activated. They are interpreted as normal text.

You remember the words of Craig “The roadmap for iThoughts is pretty much driven by customer request”. Don’t panic though. Let an email wing its way to the tech guy Craig with a severe reprimand and your suggestions. I’m sure he will take care but you should give him some time. Beside bills to pay and kids to feed there are some more things to be done, e.g. Christmas shopping, ironing, washing-up, and more.

Version history …

iThoughts was completely redesigned. So it’s obvious that there are bugs to be fixed and features to be added.

Feel free to download a regularly updated overview of iThoughts’ version history.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple Pages/Microsoft Word DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ

Some examples …

I created these maps with the predecessor or iThoughts and downloaded them from my Dropbox account into the new version.

Tap an image to zoom in.

Summary …

iThoughts is still the best mind mapping tool for Apple’s mobiles and the actual version is a quite significant step forward into Apple’s new design philosophy.

Related links …

About the new version …

iThoughts migration

About the predecessor …

iThoughts for the iPad

More about features …

iWork and iThoughts

Non-Linear Presentation

About a competitor …

Inspiration

About mind mapping …

Mind Mapping (1)

Mind Mapping (2)

Mind Mapping (3)

Mind Maps + Concept Maps

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





Box for iOS

12 05 2014

In January 2014 Box offered a free 50 GB storage for those who downloaded the iOS app from Apple’s App Store. Usually it’s 10 GB anyway a lot more than the well-known Dropbox with 2 GB.

With a perfect client app and a clean web-based interface it’s worth to take a look on the offer of Box Inc., USA.

Martin Destagnol, who heads mobile engineering at Box said

We are really committed to making the user experience of this app the best in the world.

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To help with that, Box hired Mallory Paine to head up iOS development at Box. Paine was an engineer on the original iPhone and most recently was director of mobile engineering at Path.

Expectations …

What do users expect when using a cloud storage on an iOS device?

  • encryption while data in transit to and from the cloud
  • encryption while data at rest on the cloud
  • create files and folders
  • delete files and folders
  • move files to other folders
  • rename files and folders
  • send files by mail
  • send file by link (share)
  • multi-selection for file operations (delete, copy, move)
  • copy link (for further use)
  • share files by retrieving a link to files/folders
  • menu for recently accessed files
  • powerful full-text search within folders with highlighted search pattern matches
    (searching for just file names is nice to have but normally useless)
  • options for sorting files and folders by name and date changed ascending and descending
  • availability of the ‘Open in’ command to directly transfer a file to an appropriate application
  • preview for all well-known file formats
  • supported file formats
    txt, csv, image file formats like jpg, png, etc
    Office file formats like
    docx/xlsx/ppt (Microsoft), numbers/pages/key (Apple)

Security …

Some years ago, the word cloud mostly related to the clouds in the sky, now it immediately makes me think of Data Clouds. Although a recent study totally contradicts this saying that most people think it is run on actual clouds in the sky. Most businesses manage their data in the cloud, because it’s an easy way to collaborate and all the information is accessible anywhere and anytime from any platform. Private users use cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and SkyDrive to easily share or backup pictures, music and documents. Although these solutions are easy and often reliable, how much of your private data do you really want to entrust to big corporations?

When it comes to privacy, there is a very fine line of knowing what these companies are doing with your data and whose hands are actually on it. Security breaches have been very common and they aren’t going anywhere. Sometimes it’s not the question of will someone steal your data, it’s when will they steal your data.

Terms of services …

To register for a free cloud storage is easy and fast.
Go to the website, fill in your mail address, a password and click on Submit. Usually you will get a conformation mail. Confirm and you can access 2, 5 or up to 50 GB space in the cloud.

But did you read all the Terms of Services of your provider?
See what may happen with your data if it’s a free account.

In addition to other termination provisions, if your account it not currently subject to a paid subscription plan with us, we at our discretion may terminate your account if: (a) you do not engage in any activity in your account within thirty (30) days after becoming a Registered User, or (b) you do not engage in any activity in your account for any period of one-hundred and twenty (120) consecutive days. In the event of such termination, any Content you may have stored will be lost.
(Aug 1, 2013)
TOS Box Inc.

Other providers operate with nearly the same terms.

Features of Box for iOS …

Let’s have a look on the clean and tidy user interface …

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Box offers useful settings.

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Downloaded documents can be displayed in portrait and landscape mode and the additional toolbar can be overlaid on the right side e.g. sharing or moving the file to an other folder.

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What I miss in many client applications for mobiles: full text search within documents with highlighted matches.

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The Box client is connected to installed apps on your device. In the ‘Add item’ section (top right) you can create documents with suggested apps. The app is automatically opened and the created file is saved in the Box folder.

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People you share files with see this clean and tidy web interface.

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Additionally there are comprehensive stats available which show all activities on your account. With an appropriate setting of email notifications you are always informed e.g. about downloads of shared files.

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Box offers some useful sharing options.

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Here is a full feature description of the Box client app visualized in a mind map.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Box edit …

A really powerful feature of Box is Box Edit.
Box Edit is an add-on feature that allows you to edit or create files directly on Box. Designed for all file types, browsers, and platforms, Box Edit uses the default application installed on your computer to edit or create simple and centralized content: DOC files open in Microsoft Word, PPT files open in Microsoft PowerPoint, images open in Photoshop (if installed), CAD files open in AutoCAD, and so forth.

Unfortunately this feature is still a bit embryonic if used on Apple’s mobiles.
The only app which is actually supported without crashing the Box app is CloudOn.

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If you create a document with Box Edit the native app opens and a small Box-symbol appears. After finishing the work the Box app is re-launched and the file is saved on the Box account.

Box sync …

Because mobile operating systems like iOS don’t reveal the file system to the end user, Box has focused on integrating with applications.

Instead of syncing files/folders, they are working with app developers so that users can sync the content of their favorite apps directly to Box. Apps with direct integration like GoodReader and DocsToGo, allow you to connect directly to your Box account and manage your files from within the app.

How does Sync manage conflicts?
If two users both change a file concurrently, Box will first try to merge the changes if both are not edits (e.g. one user edits the file, another user renames the file). However, if both users edit the file, the first save will get uploaded, and the second save will generate a “Sync Conflict/Error” message and generate a “-copy of” version of the edited file.

Box and Apple’s iWork …

You might know that Apple’s iWork suite for iOS supports saving of documents via a WebDAV connection to a cloud storage.

For Box you have to enter

https://dav.box.com/dav

and your credentials to save iWork documents on your box account. iWork saves your Numbers, Pages or Keynote documents as ZIP files. To later open a document from within the Box client app just use the ‘Open in’ command and select the appropriate iWork app. Unfortunately Box cannot display iWork documents saved as ZIP files.

Summary …

Box offers a much more powerful solution than it’s competitors.

Box features impressive file-sharing capabilities that are easy to use, even if you are new to the service. Box allows you to set folder permissions, giving you complete control over what other users can do with your shared files. File-sharing capabilities make this web service worth your consideration.

The company is working on client-side encryption and if it’s available Box seems to become the most powerful cloud provider.

Related links …

BOX Blog

BOX Pricing

iOS Cloud Clients

Thanks for flying with iNotes4You.





Fragmentation? Tap Forms.

5 05 2014

It’s not the fragmentation of operating systems for mobile devices I want to talk about. It’s the fragmentation of information.

In computer storage, fragmentation is a phenomenon in which storage space is used inefficiently, reducing capacity or performance and often both. The exact consequences of fragmentation depend on the specific system of storage allocation in use and the particular form of fragmentation. In many cases, fragmentation leads to storage space being “wasted”, and in that case the term also refers to the wasted space itself. For other systems (e.g. the FAT file system) the space used to store given data (e.g. files) is the same regardless of the degree of fragmentation (from none to extreme).

There are three different but related forms of fragmentation: external fragmentation, internal fragmentation, and data fragmentation, which can be present in isolation or conjunction. Fragmentation is often accepted in return for improvements in speed, simplicity, or security.

Steve Jobs once said …

There is an app for that.
It’s the iPhone.
Solving life’s dilemma one app at a time.

True, if you look at the 1m apps offered in the App Store.
False, if you want to keep relevant data together for a more seamless access by using the UI of just one app.

The iOS filesystem …

Apple talks about it’s iOS filesystem with this headline:

Every app is an island.

During installation the installer creates an app specific directory. This directory constitutes the app’s primary view of the file system and represents the universe for that app and it contains everything the app can access directly.

So far so good.

This also implies that information is distributed within the iOS filesystem one app at a time.

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With the installation of an app for specific purposes fragmentation starts and is continued with every installation of further apps.

Contacts, notes, events, and links are typically managed by built-in apps or/and additional apps purchased at Apple’s App Store. To use many apps is followed by frequent switches between apps to look up the data you need.

The solution …

There are many different types of apps, e.g. web-based applications retrieving their data online from servers (e.g. Google+ for connecting to Google’s social network) or text editors keeping written text in the local folder of your device (e.g. ByWord a simple text editor).

Tap Forms is a table-based app keeping all bits on your device. It allows access to hierarchically organized data. Opening the app displays topics and a Search-Field where you can enter a term. The app then displays records matching the term. Tapping on a record displays related information.

Examples are:

a dictionary, a product description with a photo and a parts lists, a repository, or more detailed information about customers, visits, sold products, location of the main office and audio notes to a meeting which cannot be entered in Apple’s built-in app Contacts.

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The strong benefit of a table-based app is the synopsis of otherwise widely spread information using different content-related tables with an option to connect them.

Note
Tap Forms uses the term forms as a synonym for a table.

This approach to store data is called a database and a suitable app for content management should provide the following specifications:

  • a clean and tidy UI (user interface)
  • support for non-professional users who never created a database before
  • field types for all purposes
    (see my mind map showing all available field types of Tap Forms)
  • syncing via iCloud
  • encryption
    If encryption is turned on data stored in iCloud is encrypted. Each time you tap the sync button in Tap Forms, it creates an encrypted file and uploads that to iCloud. Then, the other devices download that encrypted file and merge the changes with the local database.
    Data are encrypted on the device, during transfer to iCloud and on iCloud. To access data on iCloud your Apple ID, password, and the encryption key of Tap Forms is needed. So Tap Forms can also be used as a password keeper.
  • import of already existing data
  • customizable templates available right in the app for an easy first approach to create a form
    available templates are: Audio Dictation, Business Accounts, Calling Cards, Frequent Flyer Numbers, Investment Accounts, Software Licenses, Bank Accounts, Blood Donor Cards, Credit + Debit Cards, Daily Journal, Driver’s License, Email Accounts, Health Insurance, Homework Assignments, Passport Information, Personal Health Cards, Website Logins, Garage Door Code, Home Insurance, Log Book, Loyalty Cards, Memberships, Security Alarm Codes, Serial Numbers, Vehicle Insurance
  • linkage to other forms in the database
    A ‘Link to Form’ field allows you to create a relationship between the data of two forms. Example:
    If you created a form ‘Articles’ you can use the ‘Link to Form’ field to assign available accessories stored in a second form ‘Accessories’.
  • powerful and easy to use backup procedures which is quite important because a lot of valuable information is accumulated and it shouldn’t get lost even if the app is deleted for what reason soever
  • an integrated browser to show content of linked websites without switching to Safari
  • an integrated PDF-Viewer to show attached files
  • fast and friendly support
  • continuos updates with powerful improvements
  • adapted versions for Apple’s mobiles and Macs
  • a lite version to decide wether the app fits your needs

You get this all and more from Tap Zapp Software Inc. (Canada) when buying Tap Forms for iOS or OSX.

Let’s say it with Steve Jobs …

I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.

This goes for Brendan Duddridge, the developer of Tap Forms and founder of Tap Zapp Software Inc., Canada. The final outcome is an app 90% near to be perfect. What about the remaining 10%? Well, let’s give him an even break to further improve his app.

Further information …

The extensive field list of Tap Forms shows the capabilities you have to create your personal data collections.

If you never created a database before it’s worth to first think about what you need, then create the necessary fields, and finally start entering the data. Your requirements will grow up with the daily usage and your experiences. Don’t worry. You can modify your first design later by adding fields, deleting fields, or changing the order in which records are displayed. While redesigning, the dialogs to change content and appearance do not overlap with what you change and all your changes are immediately shown in the data entry area.

Here is a mind map visualizing all features of Tap Forms.

20140501-212615.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

It’s not only me rating Tap Forms with 5 stars.

Mac Format Magazine assessed the app as the winner of a database shootout and one of the competitors was FileMaker by FileMaker Inc., a subsidiary of Apple.

Summary …

A database app is a perfect approach to stop fragmentation. Tap Forms supports you with a clean an tidy user interface, stable data management, and syncing with all your devices. You will need the iOS Multitasking view less frequently because there is an app solving the dilemma with widely spread information. Whether you use it as a personal database or for your business, the data go with you, always updated.

Related links …

About databases …

DBMS on iOS devices (1)

DBMS on iOS devices (2)

DBMS on iOS devices (3)

DBMS on iOS devices (4)

About applications …

Go Paperless with Tap Forms

Importing Data

Form Access To Tap Forms

About an award …

Mac Format Magazine about Tap Forms

About a competitor …

zBase vs Tap Forms

About the iOS filesystem …

Every app is an i(s)Land

Thanks for surfing by.





Snapguide

25 04 2014

The developer Heavy Bits Inc., USA, about Snapguide …

Snapguide is a simple, beautiful way to share and view step-by-step how to guides. Discover new things to cook, build, wear, play and more. Create your own guides and share what you love making with your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more. Discuss your interests with other people who share your passions.

Let’s say you know how to bake a delicious cake or fix a fence and you want to share your process with others. Using Snapguide, you can use pictures, videos, and text to create a step-by-step guide that you can publish and send out to friends. You can also use Snapguide to connect with people who share your interests and explore other how-to guides that show you something new.

Visiting snapguide.com shows thousands of guides under the following topics

Arts + Crafts Lifestyle
Automotive Music
Beauty Outdoors
Desserts Pets
Drinks Photography
Food Sports + Fitness
Games + Tricks Style
Gardening Technology

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An app was first offered in early 2012 and got 22 updates as of the end of 2013. After a six month phase of bug fixes starting in July 2012 the app was continuously improved and today has a perfect UI which is self-explaing.

The app Snapguide …

Snapguide for iOS is a companion app for the same-named website. Though you can browse the site using mobile Safari, the iOS app provides a much better experience than the mobile website. You get niceties like search and categories, and you don’t have to deal with the “Download the Snapguide app” nags in the mobile web version.

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The Snapguide app is an all-in-one solution that allows you to view full Snapguide tutorials without ever leaving the app. You can browse through the guides by category or search for a specific topic. Unlike most apps that require a login at launch, you can search or browse through guides without a Snapguide account.

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Each guide is broken down into steps that include text, photos or even video. At the beginning of the guide, there is a list of the items required (i.e., the ingredients) as well as a list of the number of steps in the guide. For technical descriptions like mine the list of items (Supplies) is not necessary. You can skip to any one of these steps via a convenient grid of numbered thumbnails representing each step.

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If you like a specific guide, you can flag it as a favorite (free account signup required) or choose from several options to share a link to the guide. There are also comments, allowing you to chime in with your own advice or read others’ opinions.

Creation of a guide …

The universal app allows you to create guides using photos and videos from the camera roll and written instructions. Snapguide “guides” you through the creation process, allowing you to assemble and upload the final project up to its website using your iPad or iPhone.
It’s quite simple to create a guide so there is no need for any further description. What you should know is that textual descriptions (captions of a step) are limited to 200 characters.

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Depending on your notification settings you get an email after publishing a new guide.
You can share your guides on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, by mail, or just get the link

Troubleshooting iOS Devices

to embed it elsewhere.

Using a guide on websites …

A guide can be embedded on a website.

  • Head to the web version of the guide and click the Embed button next to Supplies.
  • Decide which dimension you would like to display by clicking Narrow or Wide.
  • Copy and paste the code onto your website.

It’s possible to embed a guide on most sites, including Blogger, Tumblr, and self-hosted WordPress sites. Unfortunately, embedding will not work on blogs hosted by wordpress.com because of security guidelines.

Summary …

An easy-to-use app with a perfect UI. All guides created by yourself are publicly accessible. It’s not possible to restrict access to people e.g. like circles on Google+. The content is owned by you but automatically licensed for the company to use it.
A significant disadvantage is that images cannot be maximized or downloaded.

You have the ultimate recipe for a pizza: Snapguide it.
If the public doesn’t like it or even gets belly aches there are drugs although available only on prescription. So don’t forget to create a guide which describes the treatments.

Related links …

Final Argument

Presenting with iPad (1)

Presenting with iPad (2)

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





NASA Education Apps

17 04 2014

When Apple released its first iPad in 2010, forward-looking universities around the world started research studies on how this device could be integrated into learning and teaching.

Research initiatives had to find out where an iPad could improve the learning and teaching process in general.

  • Shifts in paradigms
    The integration of the iPad in the classroom is not only enhancing the way students learn but also changing the way instructors teach. Students now expect stimulation and immediacy; everyone wants everything faster and easier than before.
    “Our students are already so visual as far as learning styles are concerned that it’s becoming the new wave,” says Dr. Garcia. “We, as instructors, are going to have to adjust our teaching methodology in order to keep them engaged and in using the iPad, we can show the students movies and animations and give them a wide array of multimedia resources that they can tap into.”
  • Adjusting the content to its needs
    “The iPad is typically thought of as more of a consumer product”, says Dr. Garcia “but with the right fine-tuning we were able to modify some applications to make the lectures easy to view for the students.”
  • Easy deployment of course material
    About 30 years ago I myself was a teacher of physics, maths and informatics. Course material was produced by duplicating stencils written by hand or with a typewriter. Today teachers can develop their courses on a PC or an iPad and send it to a commonly used resource e.g. cloud storage from which students download it to their mobile device.
  • Reducing costs of learning
    HCC Houston Community College
    “It’s hard having to come up with the money to buy books every semester,” says Mari Hernandez, an Anatomy and Physiology student. “With the iPad, I was able to download it for free and start studying right away, instead of waiting until I could afford to buy the book.”
  • Increased mobility
    one device for the classroom, the campus and at home
  • Improved collaboration techniques
    Young people today are highly engaged in social networking and it’s an everyday experience to exchange information via Twitter or Facebook.
    Learning methods have to accept these new ways of how young people communicate with each other. The professor standing in front of his students and using a chalkboard for hours does not enhance collaboration which contradicts the expectations of young people how to get in touch with learning material and at what time they want to do it.

The App Store features over 65,000 education apps – designed especially for the iPad – that cover a wide range of subjects for every grade level and learning style.

Apple about education apps …

The App Store gives you endless ways to help students learn new concepts and express their creativity. Let your class explore the properties of magnesium with an interactive periodic table of elements. Teach young readers new words with an app that turns word-building into a game. Or find a digital painting app to make art anywhere without brushes or paint. You can find study aid apps built specifically for drills and practice. And apps that complement different learning styles. Whatever you’re teaching, apps help you do what you do best – inspire students to think in new ways.

Today I would like to present an overview about the development of education apps for the iPad and the iPhone by the NASA.

The NASA …

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.
Wikipedia

Apps of the NASA …

The actual offer of the NASA as of January 2014 …

Images of Change

Natural disasters, a warming climate, and human activities are rapidly altering the face of our planet. NASA’s Images of Change app lets you take a close-up view of many of these changes in an exciting and hands-on format. The app presents a curated collection of the best image pairs from NASA’s Global Climate Change website. These image pairs show areas that have been subject to natural disasters or seen significant change over time. Compare Alaska’s Muir Glacier in 1941 to the glacier as it Looked in 2004. Take a before-and-after look at flooding in the Missouri River or at wildfires in Colorado. See the expansion of agriculture in Saudi Arabia as viewed from satellites. All photo pairs can be viewed individually, side by side, or overlaid with a slider bar for easy comparisons. Each image pair contains background information and a map showing its location. The images presented in Images of Change are meticulously selected and constantly updated to give you an informative, compelling, and up-to-date visual experience.

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NASA Earth As Art

In 1960 the United States put its first Earth-observing environmental satellite into orbit around the planet. OvE the decades these satellites have provided invaluable information, and the vantage point of space has provid new perspectives on Earth. This app celebrates Earth’s aesthetic beauty in the patterns, shapes, colors, and textures of the land, oceans, ice, and atmosphere.
The app features stunning images of Earth from the Terra, Landsat 5, Landsat 7, EO-1, and Aqua satellites.
Sensors on these satellites can measure light outside of the visible range, so the images show more than what is visible to the naked eye. The app draws on several images from the USGS Landsat image gallery and introduces many new images.
This app features time-lapse satellite images of locations on Earth undergoing significant change over decad linking to NASA’s Earth Observatory website. The app has a thumbnail gallery of the images as well as an interactive directory with images organized by geographic region. Each image has a brief caption and the abi to enlarge each scene.
The beauty of Earth is clear, and the artistry ranges from the surreal to the sublime.

EAServices

The Johnson Space Center Engineering Directorate provides core engineering disciplines, facilities, and laboratories for Human Spaceflight Programs. The Engineering Directorate develops many of the technologies that are needed for the exploration of space. This application highlights some of the innovative technologies developed at NASA JSC and the technical facilities used to evaluate these technologies. Engineering is uniquely positioned to tailor and apply technical solutions developed for spaceflight to the challenges of other industries.

Spinoff 2012

NASA Spinoff profiles the best examples of technology that have been transferred from NASA research and missfons into commercial products. From life-saving satellite systems to hospital robots that care for patients and more, NASA technologies benefit society.
This app features shortened versions of all of the articles from the Benefits section of the 2012 edition of Spinoff, which is available in print, PDF, and HTML versions on the Spinoff website.

30 Years Shuttlebook

The Space Shuttle fleet set high marks of achievement and endurance through 30 years of missions, from its first, when STS-1 launched on Apn112, 1981, to its last, when STS-135 landed on July 21,2011. Beginning with the orbiter Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Space Shuttle has carried people into orbit; launched, recovered, and repaired satellites; conducted cutting-edge research; and helped build the largest artificial structure in space, the International Space Station.
As humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, the Space Shuttle pushed the bounds of inquiry, requiring not only advanced technologies, but the tremendous effort of a vast workforce. Thousands of civil servants and contractors throughout NASA Centers and across the Nation have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to mission success and the greater goal of space exploration. For an entire generation, the Space Shuttle program defined NASA. This book is a tribute to everything accomplished during the Shuttle program’s 30 years of operation.

iMorpheus

Project Morpheus is testing a new NASA spacecraft at the Johnson Space Center, and the iMorpheus lOS app aims to bring you right to the center of the action! iMerpheus streams real lander telemetry from the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center and builds a live, real-time 3D simulation during actual engine and performance tests. If the lander isn’t being tested, you can just go to manual and have your own virtual test flight around JSC.
Features:
Live rocket telemetry during Morpheus lander tests rendered as 3D simulations
Recorded telemetry from previous flights when not testing
Fly your Morpheus lander around a virtual JSC, in daytime and nighttime[
Test your Morpheus Lander by flying through a series of GPS checkpoints
Live streaming of @MorpheusLander’s Twitter feed

Space communications and navigation: NetworKing

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Communications and Navigation (SCAN) Program is responsible for providing communications and navigation services to space flight missions locate, throughout the solar system. Astronauts, mission controllers, and scientists depend upon the reliable transmission of information between Earth and spacecraft in low Earth orbit (LEO) or deep space.
As a new Network Manager, your job will be to build and upgrade a complex communications network in order to support scientific missions.
Objectives: Build the Near Earth Network. Enable periodic communication with satellites in low Earth orbit, Buird the Space Network. Deploy a constellation of geosynchronous relay satellites to support LEO mission that require continuous coverage, Build the Deep Space Network. Support interplanetary spacecraft missions with powerful antennas, Manage and Improve Your Networks, Manage your network usage, deal with disasters, and research upgrades to enhance your networks’ capabilities, Support NASA Missions. Advance your networks to unlock special NASA missions that show the networks in action.

Ascent: Commemorating Shuttle

Ascent is a compilation of film and video representing the best of the best ground based Shuttle motion imagery from the STS-114, STS-117, and STS-124 missions. This app includes the entire Ascent production with commentary, numerous additional scenes, selected images, production notes, and an unreleased trailer.

Rocket Science 101

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to launch a NASA spacecraft with NASA’s Rocket Science 101 (RS101). Select your favorite NASA mission and build a rocket to send the spacecraft into orbit. As you take the RS101 challenge, you can learn more about thrilling missions and the various components of the launch vehicles, how they are configured and how they work together to successfully launch a NASA spacecraft. NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) does the same things for real rockets and exciting spacecraft missions every day. About LSP:
NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) leads the agency in providing access to space for the exploration of our home planet, solar system and the universe. LSP is located at the Kennedy Space Center and acts as a broker to match unmanned payloads with specific launch vehicles for customers to ensure mission success. The principal objectives of LSP are to provide safe, reliable, cost-effective and on-schedule processing, mission analysis and spacecraft integration and launch services for NASA and NASA-sponsored payloads. To learn more about LSR rockets and NASA missions go to: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/launchingrockets/ index.html

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NASA Technology Innovation 16.1

Technology Innovation is a digital publication of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate which will feature the latest space technology innovators and project developments across the agency. It will also highlight the American inventors, entrepreneurs and application engineers who have transformed space exploration technologies into products that benefit the nation. This issue focuses on a few of the innovators, systems, and materials that helped to make 2012 a groundbreaking year in Mars exploration. The technologies pioneered by these scientists will be vitat components of future space missions, but they are also improving life on Earth through a wide variety of industrial, educational, and humanitarian applications.
Volume 16, number 1, contains four feature articles:
Time Fries: MEDLI, Tailor Made: Woven Thermal Protection Systems, Innovation Without Borders: International Space Apps Challenge, Photon Express: Optical Communications, plus short articles on the commercial evolution of a heat-resistant coating invented by scientists at Ames Research Center and airflow sensors developed by a former NASA engineer. The issue closes with an “Insight” piece by Nell Cheatwood, the Principal Investigator for Planetary Entry, Descent and Landing at Langley Research Center.

NASA Technology Innovation 16.2

Volume 16, number 2, contains four feature articles:
The Ions Have It, Setting Sail, Big Ideas, Small Packages, Tapping the Source, plus short articles on how a rocket engine designed at Marshall Space Flight Center produced the development of a new ultra-high-pressure fire-suppression system and how a superconducting wire created for NASA’s advanced turboelectric distributed propulsion system is now being used in the manufacture of MRI scanners. The issue closes with an “insight” piece by Michael Gazarik, Associate Administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate.

NASA Glenn Research Center: The Early Years

A photographic retrospective of the first forty years of operation at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, located in Cleveland, Ohio. Drawn from a large collection of archived photos, these images and in-depth descriptions provide an insight into the research, people, and activities that herped pioneer America’s advances in aeronautics and space technology. Get a unique view and understanding of NASA Glenn’s history from 1941 through 1979.

NASA Science Mission Highlights

This digital publication highlights just a few of NASA’s many exciting science missions. Here you will learn about the missions designed to accomplish NASA’s overarcbing science goals in Earth science, heliophysics, planetary science, and astrophysics.

NASA Science: A Journey of Discovery

NASA leads the nation on a great journey of discovery, seeking new knowledge and understanding of our planet Earth, our Sun and sorar system, and the universe out to its farthest reaches and back to its earliest moments of existence. This NASA Science application brings you the latest information from NASA’s Science Missions, including the spacecraft, their instruments, the data, and what we are Jearning about the questions we seek to answer. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and the nation’s science community use space observatories to conduct scientific studies of the Earth from space to visit and return samples from other bodies in the solar system, and to peer out into our Galaxy and beyond.

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ISSLive

See Real Time Data and what’s happening onboard the International Space Station
Interact with live streaming data from the International Space Station (ISS), Take virtual 3D tours of the Mission Control Center (MCC) and ISS, and View console displays, crew and science timelines, descriptions how the ISS works and how the MCC supports the ISS.
There are educational lessons available that interact with the live streaming system data accessible through the website link ISSLive! that tie ISS streaming systems data and operational timelines into one “Rich Intemet Application (RIA)” experience. The application offers data on real time parameters such as station position, internal environment, altitude, payload rack science activities and other interesting data and crew activities.

NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG)

The NASA OIG provides independent and objective oversight of NASA programs and operations. Get the latest information on the OIG audit reports, investigations, special reviews, semiannual reports, and congressional testimony.

NASA Visualization Explorer

This is the NASA Visualization Explorer, the coolest way to get stories about advanced space-based research delivered right to your iPad. A direct connection to NASA’s extraordinary fleet of research spacecraft, this app presents cutting edge research stories in an engaging and excitJng format. See the Earth as you’ve never seen it before; travel to places otherwise unavailable to even the most intrepid explorers.

NASA Television

The NASA Television App brings live and on-demand TV programming to your iPhone or iPod Touch. Watch the latest NASA events unford in real-time or select from a list of recently uploaded videos. Plan your viewing up to a week in advance with the NASA TV schedule, and check out a list of NASA-related programming on other networks.

NASA App

Explore with NASA and discover the latest images, videos, mission information, news, feature storie tweets, NASA TV and featured content. Features:
•Current NASA mission information, over 12,000 images (and growing everyday), Latest news & feature stories, On demand NASA Videos from around the agency, Live streaming of the NASA TV, Third Rock internet streaming radio, Launch information + countdown clocks, Sighting opportunities (visible passes for the ISS), ISS and Earth orbiting satellite trackers, Featured content section, Latest tweets from around the agency, Programs section, Facebook Connect and Integrated Twitter client for easy sharing, Map, information and links to all of the NASA visitor centers, Favorites + image bookmarks, Printing support

Space Place Prime

Space Place Prime is a content presentation app that gathers some of the best and most recent offerings from NASA. A spinoff of NASA’s popular kids’ Space Place website (spaceplace.nasa.gov or science.nasa.gov/kids), Space Place Prime has intergenerational appeal. It taps timely educational and easy-to-read articles from the website, as well as daily updates of NASA space and Earth-from-space images and the latest informative videos.
The interface is a slidable, looping grid of images, one for each feature, with icons indicating whether they represent an image, a video, or an article. Alternatively, a list mode and a carousel mode present images, videos, and articles sorted separately. Content is updated daily, retaining the previous few days-worth of features. Favorites can be tagged for permanent archive.
Facebook, twitter, and e-mail connections make any feature easy to share.

Space365

When did Neil Armstrong land on the moon? When was Jon Stewart born? What space events happened around my birthday?
Free, fun Space365 lets you see what NASA events and quirky trivia facts happened each day of the year.
Features:
• Search by keywords, categories and dates, Over 4,000 events (updated weekly), Corresponding photos with events, Links for more detailed information about the event, Save your favorite events, View the NASA image of the day and it’s details, Send questions to the Space365 team, Tweet, Like and Circle about Space365.

Summary …

This mind map summarizes all the information above.

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If you use a mind mapping tool like iThoughts HD for the iPad you will see a small icon assigned to each topic. It points to additional textual information shown in the upper part of the screen. So all the app descriptions above would’t be necessary if the use of a mind mapping tool could be supposed.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Word DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Further sources …

iTunes U is a part of the iTunes Store featuring free lectures, language lessons, audiobooks, and more, that you can enjoy on your iPod, iPhone, Mac or PC. Explore over 600,000 educational audio and video files, books, and other resources from top universities, museums and public media organizations from around the world (30 countries) on thousands of subjects from Algebra to Zoology. The relevance of iTunes U is validated by engagements of Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, The Open University, MoMA, the New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress. It’s the world’s largest catalog of free education content.

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A further source with more than 65,000 apps for education is Apple’s App Store where one of the categories is ‘Education’.

Summary …

Apple takes cars of the educational sector. Teachers should learn how to integrate the usage of tablets in the curriculum.

Related links …

NASA, USA

Apple about Education

i(Space)Weather

iPad @ Universities

iPad @ School

Back to the roots

About the mind mapping tool …

iThoughts for the iPad

Thanks for flying with iNotes4You.





i(Space)Weather

13 04 2014

News from the stock exchange is always being discussed by investors. News about the weather is a mainstream conversation. I cannot present stats but I think it’s the most talked about topic, worldwide with quite different motivations.

Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me quite nervous.
Oscar Wilde

It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.
P. D. James

Importance …

Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the state of the atmosphere for a given location. Human beings have attempted to predict the weather informally for millennia, and formally since the nineteenth century. Weather forecasts are made by collecting quantitative data about the current state of the atmosphere on a given place and using scientific understanding of atmospheric processes to project how the atmosphere will evolve on that place.

When the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large scientific method in most cases fails. One need only think of the weather, in which case the prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible.
Albert Einstein

The chaotic nature of the atmosphere, the massive computational power required to solve the equations that describe the atmosphere, errors involved in measuring the initial conditions, and an incomplete understanding of atmospheric processes mean that forecasts become less accurate as the difference in current time and the time for which the forecast is being made (the range of the forecast) increases.

There are a variety of end uses to weather forecasts. Weather warnings are important forecasts because they are used to protect life and property. Forecasts based on temperature and precipitation are important to agriculture, and therefore to traders within commodity markets. Temperature forecasts are used by utility companies to estimate demand over coming days. On an everyday basis, people use weather forecasts to determine what to wear on a given day. Since outdoor activities are severely curtailed by heavy rain, snow and the wind chill, forecasts can be used to plan activities around these events, and to plan ahead and survive them.

Thunderstorms can create strong winds and dangerous lightning strikes that can lead to deaths, power outages, and widespread hail damage. Heavy snow or rain can bring transportation and commerce to a stand-still, as well as cause flooding in low-lying areas. Excessive heat or cold waves can sicken or kill those with inadequate utilities, and droughts can impact water usage and destroy vegetation.

Space weather …

Space weather is becoming a very important aspect of the weather services, and will continue to grow as we gain a better understanding of the physical processes of the sun and their effects here on the Earth as well as in space itself.

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Space weather can have significant effects to humans on Earth as well as in space due to the growing number of satellites in space, power grids on Earth, use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), as well as commuter air travel and space travel. Solar flares, coronal holes, and coronal mass ejections (CME’s) can emit large bursts of radiation, high speed electrons and protons, and other highly energetic particles that are released from the sun, and are sometimes directed to the Earth.

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There are 3 main categories of space weather storms: geomagnetic storms, caused by CME´s and the high speed wind from coronal holes, that can create beautiful auroras, as well as cause problems for electrical systems, satellites, GPS navigation, radio systems (radio blackouts), power line transmissions, cell phones, health of astronauts, people flying at high altitudes, and satellite orbits. For this reason, the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) located in Boulder, Colorado issues a variety of space weather forecasts and warnings daily to alert those concerned with these effects.

There is a universal free app called SpaceWeather (by Utah State University, icon name SpaceWx) which tells you what’s going on in space. It should be mentioned that you need some knowledge to understand all the measured parameters shown in the app.

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For example, say that a flare occurs and you want to know its effects at Earth right now. The app uniquely extracts data from real-time, operational systems linking the four major space environment domains (Sun, solar wind, magnetosphere, thermosphere/ionosphere). With a tap of the finger you see a detailed chain of energy events including SDO Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) solar images, the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) solar wind calculations, the forecast of the Dst geomagnetic disturbance at Earth, and even the real-time ionospheric total electron content (TEC).
The app provides the most up-to-date visualization of the entire energy transfer from the Sun to the Earth at your fingertips.

Data comes from participating institutions, including NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, National Solar Observatory, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Space Environment Technologies, SOHO consortium, STEREO mission, NorthWest Research Associates, NASA Community Coordinated Modeling Center, Rice University, Kyoto University World Data Center, Oulu University, Space Environment Corporation, U.S., Geological Survey, Utah State University Space Weather Center, and Virginia Tech University.

Real-time space weather data includes:

  • 60 solar data sets
  • 16 solar wind data sets
  • 23 magnetosphere data sets
  • 53 atmosphere data sets
  • 13 alerts

NOAA …

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere.

NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), located in Asheville, North Carolina, maintains the world’s largest climate data archive and provides climatological services and data to every sector of the United States economy and to users worldwide. Records in the archive range from paleoclimatology data (collected through the study of changes in climate taken on the scale of the entire history of the Earth) to centuries-old journals to data less than an hour old.

The Center’s mission is to preserve these data and make them available to the public, business, industry, government, and researchers.

Apps …

The iPhone comes with a built-in app which allows to retrieve actual information from Yahoo about the weather as well as a forecast for configurable locations. Shortened information is also shown in the notification center.

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You will find many apps in Apple’s App Store showing information about the weather which can be installed on both iOS devices, the iPhone and the iPad.

Retrieval of data …

Developers of weather apps can use so-called APIs (Application Programming Interface) which, integrated in the application’s code, retrieves information from weather data providers. Data are based on countless earthbound weather stations as well as data from satellites and airplanes.

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Living Earth …

Living Earth is a universal app (that means, once downloaded it’s available on all your iOS devices) by Radiantlabs, LLC. It comes with a live 3D simulation of our planet with global weather, forecasts and world clock for cities around the world. If you start the app a rotating globe is shown with live sunrise and sunset borders.

Features …

  • live cloud patterns from near real-time satellite cloud data updated every 3 h
    hurricanes and tropical storms
  • live 3D weather maps with temperature (max, min, mean) humidity, wind, and 7 day and 2 h forecasts
  • tropical cyclon push notifications and updates on current storm systems
  • sunrise and sunset borders and times for sunrise and sunset around the world
    snow and ice coverage
  • alarm clock with music playlist
  • home screen temperature icon
  • iCloud city syncing with the Living Earth app for Mac
  • sharing of the actual screen on Facebook, Twitter, and by mail
  • changing the rotation speed and rotation direction by swiping fast/slow or left/right/up/down
  • comprehensive overview about the actual weather for all defined cities

The app was first published in Sep 2010 and got 25 updates until the end of 2013.

See these impressions of the UI …

Summary …

There are many apps retrieving weather data from various providers. In many cases these providers are not mentioned so it’s not easy to assess the quality of shown data.

Related links …

Weather forecasting

National climate data center

Space Weather

World Weather Online APIs

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.








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