Category Archives: apps

A primer for Pokemon Go

It’s only been out for a very short time, but already there’s at least one primer for it, here: Ten Things I Wish I Knew When I Started ‘Pokémon GO’ – Forbes. If you want to leapfrog others playing it, read this and then get going.

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More thoughts on Waze

I have thought a lot about Waze since I started using it. Without a doubt, it has improved my life substantially. Here are some other thoughts I had as I used it.

  1. Waze is an example of how software will eat the world. In this case, the world of gPS devices. Waze is a GPS on steroids. Not only will Waze do all the things that a GPS will do, but it does so much more, as you can see from this other Waze post I wrote. If you have a GPS, after you use Waze for a bit, you’ll likely stop using it.
  2. Waze will change the way cities work. Cities are inefficient when it comes to transportation. Our work habits contribute to that, in that so many people commute at the same time, in the same direction, on the same routes, each work day. Waze and other new forms of adding intelligence to commuting will shape our work habits over time. Drivers being able to take advantage of unbusy streets to reduce congestion on major thoroughfares is just the start. City planners could work with Waze to better understand travel patterns and travel behaviour and incorporate changes into the city  so that traffic flows better. It’s not that city planners don’t have such data, it’s that Waze likely has more data and better data than they currently have.
  3. Waze is a great example of how A.I. could work. I have no idea how much A.I. is built into Waze. It could be none, it could be alot. It does make intelligent recommendations to me, and that is all I care about. How it makes those intelligent recommendations is a black box. Developers of A.I. technologies should look at Waze as an example of how best to deploy A.I. Those A.I. developers should look at how best A.I. can solve a problem for the user and spend less time trying to make the A.I. seem human or overly intelligent. People don’t care about that. They care about practical applications of A.I. that make their lives better. Waze does that.

Why I love Waze. 13 good reasons why it is my favourite app


Inspired, in a way, by this article, Why I hate Waze in LA Times, I’d like to share some of the ways that Waze has made my life a lot better. 13 ways, in fact. There are more, but if this doesn’t convince drivers to use Waze, I don’t know what will.

  1. It saves me a lot of time: I used to take my son to hockey practice every week on a trip that took me 50 minutes. After talking to some other parents, I downloaded Waze. The result: my hockey commute went from 50 minutes to 25 minutes! Before Waze, I was stuck taking the major roads that were severely congested because I didn’t know what else to do. Waze recommended roads close to the roads I was on but that had no traffic problems. Over one year, I have saved hours of unnecessary commuting and saved on gas as well.
  2. It gets me to places on time: not only will Waze give you a fast route to travel, but it will tell you to the minute when you will get there. At first I didn’t think this was possible, but I was and continue to be amazed at how accurate it is. Now, before I am going somewhere, I will put the destination in Waze and know when I will arrive. No more being too early or late.
  3. It gives me options on how to get to a place: What I love about Waze is that it gives me 3 different routes to get to a place. It always recommends the fastest, but I like having the options. Sometimes it will recommend a road or a highway and I will think: I prefer to spend a bit more time and go a more scenic route.
  4. It gives me better times to travel if that is an option: Waze will also show me how long over the course of a day the route I want will take.  a 40 minute route at 4 p.m. might be a 24 minute route at 7:30 p.m. If you can shift your travel time, you can save yourself some time on the commute, according to Waze. This is a great feature.
  5. It has made me a calmer driver: I used to get anxious when I would get stuck in traffic. I’d think: God! I am never getting out of this jam! With Waze, not only do I know how long it will take to get to a place, traffic jam or not, but Waze will tell me things like: you will be stuck in traffic for 6 minutes. Now I feel much more in control of my commutes. Plus, I always know the route I am going is the best way to get to a place.
  6. It’s made me a more confident driver: one thing I didn’t like about Waze at first but now I do is that it often tells you to make left turns. Sometimes on busy streets. I used to avoid this on my own and I would go and turn at an intersection with lights. However, left hand turns save time, and the more I do them, even on busy streets, the more I realize they are no big deal. You just have to be patient and wait for an opening in traffic. It will come, often in a few seconds.
  7. It has helped me know the city better: when traffic is busy, Waze will have you going down streets you might normally skip. As I have done this, I have been amazed at how many new streets in the city I have discovered. Now, even when I don’t use Waze, I know about these streets and that knowledge helps me get around my city better.
  8. It helps you with cities you have no clue in: if you are driving into a city that you don’t know well, Waze is essential. I was driving into Montreal which has busy streets that go all different ways. With Waze I could just type in my hotel’s name and it gave me the route to get there. I had done this before Waze and it was a nightmare for me. With Waze it was easy.
  9. You don’t need to know addresses: that’s the other great thing about Waze. You can type in a name of a place and it will do a search and give you a list you can choose from. It’s perfect for when you are out with people and they say: let’s meet up at restaurant XYZ. You can enter that in Waze and off you go.
  10. It is the perfect navigator for solo drivers: I used to write down maps to help me get to places. It was ok, but not easy. It was especially difficult in new cities or driving on highways. Waze is constantly telling you how long you have to travel on a road, when you can expect to turn, and then telling you exactly where to turn. And if you miss a turn, it will recalibrate on the fly and tell you have to get back to where you need to go.
  11. It is great at night: I travel to a lot of rinks at night in the winter. Many of them are down small roads and poorly marked. I would have a heck of a time without Waze. With Waze, it is dead simple to get to the rinks. Can’t see a road sign? Can’t see the rink set far away frm the street? No problem: just follow the directions that Waze is giving you and you’ll get there.
  12. It gives you lots of time to turn: with Waze, you get lots of warning about when you have to turn. It will say: “in 1.2 kilometers, turn left….in 300 kilometers turn left….turn left at street X. ” You never have to worry about being told to turn left at the last minute.
  13. You can be flexible: Waze will suggest the fastest route. However, sometimes I will be tired or not in a rush and I will stick to a road I prefer driving down. Waze will quickly recalibrate and make additional recommendations, right to the point I arrive at my destination.

Why Apple TV will be the Next Big Thing from Apple


Why do I think that? Because according to this, Apple TV apps are coming (Business Insider). There are a limited set of apps now, but if Apple steps back and lets other develop apps, the Apple TV device could get really exciting.

If you think it is alarming that Facebook also collects what you decide not to post, then I have some news for you

If you think this is alarming: Facebook also collects what you decide not to post, tech consultant warns – Technology & Science – CBC News, then I have more news for you.

Not only can Facebook do this, but they can do other things. For example, if they wanted to, they could track where you move your mouse, even if you don’t click on something, using technology like the kind mentioned here: web page mouse tracking – Google Search.

In fact, you don’t even have to go to Facebook to have them track you: Facebook Is Tracking Your Every Move on the Web; Here’s How to Stop It.

And if you use Facebook on your mobile phone, there’s potentially even more information they can track about you.

So, lots of reasons to be concerned. I all but avoid Facebook, but it is not an easy thing to do. In addition, I don’t think Facebook is the only one that does this. They seem to be just the most notorious.

 

 

The pros and cons of FitBits and other wearable fitness devices (plus my own thoughts)

Here’s two recent pieces on the pros and cons of wearable fitness devices.

Pro: Wearables and Self-Awareness (Personal) – NYTimes.com.

Con: Science Says FitBit Is a Joke | Mother Jones

I tend to agree with Krugman’s pro views in the NYTimes.  In a nutshell, Krugman’s view is that having a tracker like a FitBit makes it harder to lie to yourself about your fitness. A FitBit will let you know and help you track when you are active or sedentary, just like a scale will tell you when you are eating too much or too little.

The Mother Jones article has good points, too. FitBits have limits. They aren’t for all kinds or exercise, they may not be precise, and some apps on a smartphone can do just as good a job. That said, their title is a joke and their article is misleading. For example, trackers start at much lower than $100. As well, for people walking or running, carrying a smartphone is not always a good option. FitBits are more accurate than the article let’s on, and the readings that they provide is a reasonably close measure of your activity. The limits to wearable fitness devices are real, but Mother Jones overstate their case.

Do you or I need any of these devices? No. Based on my fitbit, I can walk a mile in about 2000 steps. If I were to sit down with a free service like Google maps, I could easily plot out a 5 mile walking route that, if I walked daily, would mean I would  hit at least 10,000 steps a day. (10,000 steps is my daily goal). Or I could just go for an hour walk and not worry about a route at all. (It takes me around that time to walk 5 miles if I walk it at a good pace.) Either way, a map or a watch can easily replace a wearable device. If you can’t afford or don’t want a wearable device, just use a map, a watch, and a log book, and you will get similar benefits.

Why I like my FitBit is that it does the work for me. I can walk anywhere I want, for as long as I want, and it will keep track of all that for me. Plus it keeps a ongoing record I can look up when I want. Finally, like Krugman noted, it prevents me from lying to myself about how active I am.

A wearable device is an aid, and like any aid, it helps you achieve your desired outcome. If you don’t need such an aid, don’t use it. As for me, the fitbit helps me meet my fitness goals and I am glad I have it.

Want to start a startup? All you need for that is here

And by here, I mean this site: Startup Stash – Curated resources and tools for startups. It is an amazing collection of tools you likely will need, for one thing. Plus, it has a superb user interface that not only groups the tools well, but gives you a sense of all the things you need to think about if you are going to go forward and create your own startup.

If you aren’t seriously thinking about startups, but would like to know about new tools to make you more productive at work, then I recommend you check out this site too.

Kudos to the creator of the site. Well worth a visit.