Category Archives: General

Deals: Apple MFi-Certified Lightning Cable: 3-Pack at 61% off


Today’s featured deal is perfect for, well–everyone!  This one is pretty self-explanatory.  You have an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, and you need to charge them–everyday.  There’s no getting around it.  When it comes to charging your devices, what’s the one thing that always come to mind?  You always wish you had more charging cables available–right?  I have one for my bedside table, one for my office, one for the car, etc.  But no matter how many you have, they eventually wear down, fray or come apart after heavy use.  For a limited time you can purchase a Apple MFi-Certified Lightning Cable 3-Pack at a savings of 61% off. It’s a great deal that will run you only $21.99 – instead of the standard price of $57. Here’s some info about the Lightning Cable 3-Pack, and how you can take advantage of this deal while it lasts…

It’s pretty simple: you need to charge or sync your iPhone. This 3-pack of USB 2.0 cables, courtesy of Apple itself, gives you three ways to do just that. Just connect your Apple device to any USB port, and go to town. As icing on the cake, these babies are MFi-certified, meaning they have Apple’s stamp of approval and are guaranteed to safely charge or sync your device each time.

  • Charge or sync your iPhone, iPad, or iPod via any USB port
  • Connect your device to your computer or the Apple USB Power Adapter
  • Ensure your connected device stays safe thanks to MFi certification
  • Enjoy optimal convenience with the unique reversible design

To see more details, and to place an order, visit this iPad Insight Deals page.

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Deals: Slim Universal Bluetooth Keyboard at 28% off


Today’s featured deal is especially useful for those who like to use their iPad as a productivity device, but dislike the typing experience the iPad offers. When there are dozens of BT keyboards out there to choose from, you need to stick out from the crowd.  This is where the Slim Universal Bluetooth Keyboard comes in, and now you can get yours at 28% off! It’s a great deal that will run you only $42.99 – instead of its standard price of $60!  Here’s some info about the Slim BT Keyboard and how you can take advantage of this deal while it lasts…

Nobody willingly types on a tablet – until this keyboard swings in for the rescue. Only five millimeters thin, Slim can easily go anywhere your tablet goes with barely an ounce of extra weight. It connects via Bluetooth to any device and doesn’t mind your coffee habit – being completely spill-proof and all. With a gorgeous wood surface, Slim is the key to typing in style.

  • Works w/ any Bluetooth-enabled device
  • Perfect for late-night working w/ 5 level backlighting
  • Easy-to-charge w/ any micro USB port
  • Spill proof
  • Made of premium materials
  • Contains a long battery life, lasting for up to a week on one charge

To see more details, and to place an order, visit this iPad Insight Deals page.


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The Treatment of Tethered Data on iOS

tethered data

I had a thought the other day about an issue with tethering: the receiving device doesn’t realize it’s on a tethered connection. When I used to tether my MacBook to the LTE connection on my iPad, the MacBook has no idea that there’s a nuance to this connection — that there’s a very limited set of 1 GB of data in the month, and not the 400 GB afforded to me through my home cable connection.

When I tether my iPad Air 2 to my iPhone 6S Plus, the iPad just thinks it’s on Wi-Fi, even though there’s a special icon to symbolize that the iPad is on a tethered connection. That’s interesting because it shows that there’s some recognition of the type of connection (tethered as opposed to a Wi-Fi signal from a router). But it’s too bad that this distinction is only visual, and not practical. iOS recognizes the tethered connection, but it won’t treat it any differently from a Wi-Fi connection at home.

At times this can be useful to ‘cheat’ the cellular download limits built into iOS (e.g., 100 MB maximum for app downloads over cellular). If I *really* need to download an application that’s over that 100 MB limit, the only way for me to do it over cellular is to share my iPhone’s connection with my Air 2. I like having the choice to sacrifice a large portion of my data plan to download a crucial app, when I’m in a pinch.

However, the way tethering is handled can easily work against me, if I’m not careful. If my iPad has a lot of photos to upload to iCloud Photo Library, it would be very easy for me to accidentally suck my data plan dry while tethering. There’s no indicator anywhere in iOS to show that an app is uploading or downloading in the background, so this could easily happen without my knowledge.

I think the tethering interface in iOS could use some tweaking. The ideal would be to have an iPad recognize when it was tethered to an iPhone and treat the resulting data connection as if it were cellular. But that might be too bold. A simpler change would be displaying how much data was used, per device, during a tethering session. This would at least provide some context about the current session and let me make more informed decisions about how to use my precious cellular data.

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Our favorite unit conversion app: Measures HD for iPad

I’m lucky enough to have lived in several overseas countries, and when living in the US I travel overseas a lot. Given that we in the US are the last holdouts to use the archaic “English” measurement “system” that not even the English use anymore, I often have the need to convert metric units into English, or the other way ‘round, and to convert foreign currency to and from $US. Whether it’s cooking, buying gasoline, trying to figure out whether 20C needs a sweater, or whether 10,000 Rwandan Francs is a lot for a bottle of wine, I keep a unit conversion app on my home screen. Fortunately, unit converters are as common as to-do apps or notepad apps, and I’ve tried many over the years. For me, Measures HD for iPad hits the sweet spot of having all the features I need, with none that I don’t to clutter up the app, all presented in a simple, intuitive user interface.

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Super-simple spending tracker: My Finances for iPad

The generically named My Finances app for iPad is an easy way to track everyday expenses and generate simple, clear reports that will show you what you’re spending your money on. In a world of automated and complicated finance apps, My Finances does one thing and does it easily and well.

IMG_0645I had a simple question: “Where the heck is all my money going?” Maybe you’ve been there, too: at the end of the month I have a giant hole where my paycheck used to be, and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out where it all went. Also, I plan to move soon and wanted a handle on my spending so I could make a realistic budget for the future. Knowing that as for all things in life there’s an app for that, I started to browse the app store for some help. Yikes! Talk about app overload: I think there are as many finance apps as there are weather apps or to-do lists. Many of the apps are very sophisticated, automated, and comprehensive. Probably the best known is Mint, which has many good reviews and happy users: you connect it to your accounts and it automatically tracks incomes, spending, investments, etc. But I was looking for the opposite of automated—I was on a mission to see where every dime went; if I let it all happen behind the scenes, how would I get that granular level of awareness? So I downloaded the free versions of three apps that seemed the most simple, looked like they would generate the clear report I wanted, and got decent reviews. After trying them all for a week, I settled on My Finances, and then ponied up for the paid version.

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Fun arcade-style racer: Horizon Chase-World Tour for iPad

Horizon Chase is an engaging arcade-style racing game with hints of greater complexity and better graphics baked in. It hits the sweet spot between being too complicated or too simplistic, and has no in-app ads or distractions to detract from your driving enjoyment.

IMG_0636I love driving games, and it seems they bifurcate into two categories: simplistic arcade types like Pole Position, or sophisticated, super-realistic simulations like Real Racing. That’s great when you have a few minutes to kill, or when you’re ready to settle in for the long haul of car configuration, long racing series, and chasing points for a life-long racing career. But what about the in-between times? That’s why I love Horizon Chase: it offers some of each world. In Horizon Chase you’re a race driver starting out his or her career with a basic car and no understanding of what it takes to win. Still, Horizon Chase is fun from the first race, with almost no learning curve. If you’ve played any kind of first-person driver on your iPad, you’ll instantly understand this one.

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Deals: MOTA 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub at 35% off

MOTA 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub

Today’s featured deal is for those of you who are looking for a solution to their charging woes.  Now you can plug-In up to 4 separate devices without out the mess and hassle of carrying multiple charging solutions that all use unique chargers.  The MOTA 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub is now on sale at 35% off! It’s a great deal that will run you only $18 – instead of its standard price of $28.

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Quick take: Race the Sun for iPad

IMG_0642Race the Sun is a twitchy endless flyer that is somehow calming at the same time. In the game you pilot a super-fast hovercraft (think one of the speeders from the original Star Wars) across an alien landscape, dodging rocks, boulders, and man-made obstacles to get as far as you can. Your ship is solar-powered, so you need to clear each level, as the sun goes down, before you run out of sunlight. You can pick up extra time by running over “tris” or blue orbs of power. As you clear a level and enter the next, the sun rises again, giving you a new lease on life. The graphics are monochromatic with the exception of the tris and other bonus-providing objects you can run over. The shapes are not-quite-natural geometric forms, and the shapes of the objects and greyscale coloration add a zen-like feeling to the game play.

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How to navigate the many uses of the Volume and Side Switch buttons on the iPad


All kidding aside, even though the volume and mute/orientation lock buttons on your iPad adjust and lock volume levels, they actually respond differently in different situations.  Think back to the last time you tried to silence a song or notification, or perhaps you wanted to adjust the volume of a podcast from the lock screen on your iPad.  Were you successful–or did you fumble around for a while before you achieved the desired outcome?  Turns out, the volume and mute/orientation lock buttons might not behave the way you’d anticipate in certain situations.  Here’s a short list of what to expect the next time you reach for those handy buttons on your iPad.

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iPad nutrition tracking apps: MyPlate vs. MyFitnessPal

This review compares the nutrient-tracking apps MyFitnessPal, by Under Armor, and MyPlate, by Livestrong. While both offer the ability to track your weight, activity level, and several other parameters, this review focuses on their nutrient-tracking ability. I’m reviewing the free versions of the apps: both have paid versions that offer more intricate tracking and reporting. In the end, they’re both top-notch, and your choice will depend on your priorities.

About a year ago, I moved from Washington, DC, to Kigali, Rwanda to work for a year. In Washington I had a long walking and Metro (subway) commute. According to my Fitbit, I walked about 12,000 steps a day as part of my daily routine. Here in Kigali, my commute is a seven-minute walk to the office. This, combined with my wife’s excellent home cooking, had the waistband of my pants growing tighter and tighter. With my return home in sight I decided to start tracking my food intake, as I also ramped up my gym and walking habits. I’ve used the MyPlate web site in the past, but their new iPad app looked even better, and I started tracking my food intake with it. A few weeks later I read this excellent post from Jim Dalrymple of Loop Insights, one of my very favorite Apple-focused bloggers. If you haven’t read his inspirational post about using the Apple Watch and the MyFitnessPal (aka MFP) app to lose over 40 lbs, I highly recommend it. I decided to give MFP a try based on his good experience. There are pros and cons to both apps, so read more below to help decide which is for you.


On both apps setup is very simple: enter your height, weight, gender, goal weight, daily activity level, and how many pounds per week you want to lose. The app then generates a goal weight for you. The apps also generate nutrient goals (e.g., how many grams of protein you should have) automatically.

Verdict: tie

Data entry

170The worst part of tracking your diet is entering every morsel that you put in your mouth. Nothing can make it completely effortless, but both apps help by having a huge database of every restaurant and grocery-store food you can imagine, and by remembering what you eat frequently so you don’t have to search for the same thing over and over again. In both apps, you first tap on the meal you want to track: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. Doing so brings up an entry panel where you can scroll your list of frequently eaten foods and pick one, or search for a new food. The apps are about equal in terms of searching and finding the right food. Items from most fast-food restaurants are included in both, as well as packaged and fresh foods of every kind. I’ve even searched for what I thought were relatively obscure foods like Ethiopian njera or shiro wat, and found a dozen choices for each.

173When picking frequently eaten foods, MFP holds the slight edge, as it remembers your portion size, where MyPlate always presents the stock portion size that you may have to adjust. For example, I frequently eat Cheerios with ½-cup of soy milk. Even though the stock portion size in both apps is one cup, MFP remembers that last time I only used ½ cup, so presents me with that portion so I can just tap the check mark and be done. MyPlate makes me change “1C” to “1/2 serving” every time. This is a small complaint, but remember we’re trying to make the process as painless as possible.

Verdict: MFP, by a nose

Daily nutrient reporting

At the end of the day both apps let you assess your intake of calories, the three macro-nutrients (fat, protein, and carbs) and some micro-nutrients. If you’re interested in the most detail possible, MFP has the edge again. If you’re interested in a quick, easy-to-read, at-a-glance summary, MyPlate is better.

Verdict: tie

Tracking progress

MyPlate presents large, colorful graphs that let you track several nutrients across a week, and 1, 3, 6, or 12 months. You can track calories (the one I always look at), but also macronutrients, sodium, cholesterol, sugars, and dietary fiber. I find MyPlate’s colorful graphs more visually compelling (including those damned red bars when I go over my calorie goals), but that could be a personal preference.

171What MyPlate won’t show you in the free version is a daily average over these same periods. For example, it would be useful to me to know my average daily calorie count in June as compared to August. This isn’t a big deal for me as I pull calorie data into Apple’s iPhone Health App which does show daily averages, but it’s a two-step process, which is less convenient.

174MFP shows all the same info, including daily intake averages, over whatever time period you chose. As with daily reporting, MFP offers more nutrients to track over time, but honestly I don’t use them. If you want the most fine-grained tracking, and in-app daily averaging, MFP wins here.

Verdict: MFP, for in-app daily averages and detailed reporting

Connection to HealthKit

I’m using Apple’s HealthKit as the hub of my fitness tracking. I feed activity info from the iPhone, nutrition info from these two apps, and am shopping for a better way to get my cycling data into HealthKit as well (If you have a recommendation, please let us know in the comments below.) I also manually enter some info, keeping HealthKit as the hub. This is where MFP fails badly. Setting up MyPlate in Apple’s Health App couldn’t have been easier, and the data transfer to Health Kit is seamless and almost immediate. Connecting MFP, by contrast. was an exercise in frustration. After deleting MyPlate to ensure I wasn’t getting double data, I searched for a while on the MFP forums to find the instructions for connecting to Health Kit. I followed the many, many arcane steps, and finally got them connected. But then the data stopped transferring and I got the dreaded “no data” message from the Health app. I asked for help on the MFP forums, sent email, and even tweeted a plea for help. I got several referrals to the original instructions. I got a Twitter response that referred me to the same email address from which I never received any help. In the end I gave up and went back to MyPlate. But! If this connection to Health Kit isn’t important to you, please disregard this entire section.

Verdict: MyPlate (MFP failed completely)


These are both polished, easy-to-use apps that will help you get important information about your nutrition. I, and many others, find this information invaluable in trying to eat healthy and lose weight. Both sync seamlessly with their web and iPhone apps. If you want connectivity to Apple’s Health Kit, use MyPlate. If you don’t, take your pick based on the info above. Happily you won’t go wrong with either app. Me? I don’t have a scale here, but am down one belt-notch and all my clothes fit again. If I keep it up I might just fit into my 1997 motorcycle leathers by the time I hit the US. MyFitnessPal and MyPlate are both free in the app store.

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Continuing to Explore the Notes App on iOS 9

It’s been difficult to write about Notes in iOS 9 because I really want to like the app, but it just hasn’t clicked yet.

It isn’t due to a lack of utility. The share extension is great, the way that pictures, drawings, and links are formatted is very tidy. In fact, the extension is even more flexible than I’d thought. I can share attachments right from Mail or Dropbox and pop them into Notes, which means that, if I had a Mac at work, I could probably Notes in a similar way to Evernote. I tend to make a single note for each project and drop related files into that note, just to keep everything in one place. The key difference is that I have yet to install the public beta of El Capitan on my Mac, so I don’t know how well the OS X version of Notes works.

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