Authors Posts by Meryl




“There’s an app for that” is an understatement as Apple’s App Store has thousands of apps that turns browsing for cool apps into an overwhelming experience. Some we couldn’t begin to fathom an app exists as you’ll see from this list. Here we pick a handful that you’ll find useful.

BeFunky Photo Editor

BeFunky Photo Editor

The built-in iPhone camera app doesn’t have editing features. It takes too much time to upload the photo to a computer or use a web-based app to edit it. Save time by editing right in the iPhone with a photo editor app like BeFunky Photo Editor. Its features include crop, effects, rotate, sharpen, photo frames and photo sharing through popular social networks.

Find My iPhone / Find My Friends

Find My Friends

With and Find My iPhone, you can locate your misplaced iPhone. It may not be able to tell you the exact spot in your home, but at least you have it for those times when you lose track of it. What if a family member or friend hasn’t heard from you and wants to check on you? Using isn’t an option because you’d have to share your Apple ID — an unacceptable option. Work around that with Find My Friends. You send an email request to family and friends to get and give permission to track each other. When they approve, you’ll be able to track each other as long as the “Hide from Followers” option isn’t off.

Flashlight (O)

Flashlight for iPhone

The light from the iPhone can help you navigate darkness, but it may not be bright enough or you have to keep touching the screen to prevent it from dimming. Flashlight (O) is brighter and comes with a strobe light and a built-in compass. Be aware apps like this drain the battery when in use.

LuxeFinds Color Shopping Engine

LuxeFinds Color Shopping Engine

You need to find black shirts for everyone for the family photo or you need a pair of shoes in a certain color. Just pick the color you want and LuxeFinds Color Shopping Engine lists items matching the color. If only the app could search for tables, bedding and kitchen items.


OpenTable for iPhone

While you’re out, you decide you want to go to a restaurant. Rather than using one of many local places finder apps, use OpenTable. You not only find nearby restaurants, but also you can view menus and make your reservations within the app.


PaperKarma for iPhone

Tired of getting snail mail spam? Take a picture of the latest junk mail and submit it to PaperKarma. The app keeps track of all your submissions letting you know the status of each. It works because we’ve received noticeably less junk mail since we started using this.


ShopSavvy for iPhone

Don’t you hate it when you’re in a store and don’t know if the product you’re looking at is a good price? Use ShopSavvy to scan the barcode or QR code to get a list of prices from local and online stores. The app won’t have every local store, but it’s adding more stores.

Tunein Radio

Tunein Radio

TuneIn radio lets you access over 70,000 radio stations and two million on-demand programs that include streams from BBC, CBS and ESPN. Want to listen to a song? Search for it to see what stations are currently playing it. TuneIn can play in the background while you use other apps as well as allow you to pause and rewind live radio.

Zello Walkie Talkie

Zello Walkie Talkie

Remember talking to your friends on a walkie talkie? Now you can do it from your iPhone with Zello. Zello works with Android, BlackBerry and PCs, so your friends without iPhones can use it to talk to you. Zello also has community channels so you can network with others passionate about a shared interest or learn a new language with users from all over the world.

What apps do you recommend?


Either you’re already the envy of your friends with that iPad or you want to treat a loved one with a few surprises. Dress up and trick out the iPad to boost its style points and optimize its use. Yes, with a little accessorizing, it’s possible to take your iPad’s sexiness to new levels.

Belkin Chef Stand + Stylus

This pair isn’t just for cooks as it gives users the ability to interact with the iPad without worrying about making it dirty. The stylus and stand are hand-washable.

Belkin Chef Stand


Sometimes a small, flat gadget can be tough to type on. That’s not a problem with ComfyShell, which acts like a pillow for the iPad.


Duo Pop

Add popping controllers to play games with friends and family using compatible apps available on iTunes. Such games include In the Know, Guesstimation, Swoop and What on Earth?


Elecom Bluetooth Folding iPhone/iPad Keyboard

This light-weight portable folding keyboard comes with a carrying case, six multifunction buttons and a built-in stand.

Elecom Keyboard


Beautiful thin front-and-back protection available in many designs ranging from maps and art to patriotic and patterns. Artsy? Create your own.



Add character to the iPad with this protector that can stand on its own two feet and offers protection.



Turn the iPad into a retro desktop station reminiscent of the original Apple computers. iStation is available in two finishes, one is a faux wood finish with a white keyboard and the other is a white pearl glossy finish with a black keyboard. It includes buttons and dials for controlling volume, music and other features. Note: this is no longer available, but still worth a mention as you can request to be notified when it’s available.


L5 Universal Remote Control

Forget about keeping track of two or three remotes for one entertainment station. The customizable L5 Remote can control the TV set, DVD player, DVR and any other IR remote devices. It doesn’t require batteries, WiFi or a wall outlet. The L5 Remote app is free, so you can design your own remotes before buying the accessory.

L5 Remote

Monster CleanTouch Pen

Erase the smudges and fingerprints on the iPad with this pen that has an integrated clean cloth. Draw on the screen with the invisible pen, let the solution do the job for five to 10 seconds and wipe it clean with the cloth. The solution leaves behind a thin coating to prevent scratches and residue build up.

Monster CleanTouch Pen

Nomad Brush

Convert the iPad into a blank canvas and use this paintbrush that won’t scratch the screen.

Nomad Brush

OtterBox iPad 2 Reflex Series Case

OtterBox makes industrial strength cases that have prevented many gadgets from breaking. The case includes a screen shield that also acts as a stand, plus the case protects the front and back of the iPad.

Otterbox iPad

Square Credit Card Reader

Plug in the square into the iPad, install the free Square app and start collecting credit card payments with the iPad. The credit card reader is free as Square charges 2.75% per swipe.


Wi-Fi Body Scale

Use this scale with the Withings app to keep track of your weight, lean mass, fat percentage and BMI. Its dashboard can manage up to eight users.

Withings Scale


For those wanting more than a portable keyboard, the ZAGGfolio contains a removable and rechargeable Bluetooth keyboard and a built-in stand system for a sturdy experience that’s resembles typing on a laptop. It supports the iPad 2 in landscape and portrait orientation.


What other useful iPad accessories have you seen? What are your favorites?


A tornado hit within two miles of my house, the closest I’ve come to experiencing Mother Nature’s ferocity. The kids in the local schools didn’t leave until over an hour after the last bell. This had never happened in 20 years of living in this city.

We think it’ll never happen to us. But it happened to New Orleans. It happened to Joplin. Emergencies don’t play favorites. They’ll happen wherever and whenever the conditions say. What we can do is be prepared to limit the impact and these apps for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry will help.


BeWeather BlackBerry

The app provides six-day and hourly forecasts for locations around the world. You can select three locations for quicker access. U.S. users can receive push notification for weather advisory notifications and animated radar maps.

Available for BlackBerry.

Price: Free and paid versions available.

Emergency Button (Android) / PanicPro (iPhone)

Emergency Button Android

Press the button to send distress signal that identifies your location. Set up the app to include a phone number and email address to have recipients receive notification when you press the button. Of course, the apps require having a signal, something not always possible in emergencies.

Available for Android and iPhone.

Price: Free.

Emergency Information

Emergency Information BlackBerry

Store your medical information and emergency contacts including one primary as the default contact. The app includes a one-touch call button for making an emergency call.

Available for BlackBerry.

Price: $1.99

First Aid

First Aid BlackBerry

Illustrated guide with instructions and information for handling first aid and emergency situations. Content is always available on phone regardless of signal or connection.

Available for BlackBerry.

Price: Free

ICE: In Case of Emergency

ICE Android

App holds all of your health information in one place. This includes a list of people to call, insurance information, medical contacts, allergies, medical conditions, medications and special instructions. The app can call all contacts. Depending on which ICE app you install, some have a feature to unlock a password-protected phone.

Available for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone (different companies)

Price: Free

iHurricane HD

The app with push can track multiple hurricanes on an interactive map and send email alerts. It relies on GeoLocation to let you know how far you are from an active storm and view surrounding satellite images.

Available for Android and iPhone.

Price: Free with in-app purchases available.

MyRadar Weather Radar

MyRadar Android

Shows animated weather radar for your current location to check the weather for your area. The app covers the 48 contiguous states in the U.S. Other options include providing weather warnings and alerts, and push notification.

Available for Android and iPhone.

Price: Free

Pocket First Aid & CPR

Pocket First Aid iPhone

This app saved a life in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. You can look up first aid procedures, such as CPR, choking, bites, diabetic emergencies and more. It also provides a first aid checklist of things to have in case of an emergency. Procedures include illustrations and videos to guide you through an emergency even when your phone has no connection. It stores medical and insurance information for you and others.

Available for Android and iPhone.

Price: $1.99

Police Scanner Radio (BlackBerry) / 5-0 Radio Police Scanner

Police Scanner iPhone

Listen to live police and radio scanners from around the world for news, events and reported crime. iPhone app includes aircraft and train feeds. BlackBerry app runs in the background.

Available for BlackBerry and iPhone.

Price: BlackBerry: $1.99. iPhone: Free and paid versions available.

What apps do you recommend for emergencies and medical situations?

Hazardous button
Image from user enimal

The downside of having a web-based or cloud-based email account is that it could be hacked. Accessing email online has many advantages that outweigh the possibility of hacking. Besides, those using computer-based email can still become victims of hacking by opening suspicious attachments or clicking phishing links.

TuneUp Utilities 2012

Every move you take on your computer adds to its workload. Downloading, uninstalling, browsing, moving, deleting. All these activities leave a trail of worthless data getting in the way of computing processes. Optimization applications can help erase the trails while keeping your machine clean, lean and mean.

TuneUp Utilities 2012 Functions

However, optimization apps can be dangerous for the everyday computer user. Some require careful decision-making before cleaning up because deleted files can mess up the registry or be something you need. Although you can do many of the cleaning activities yourself, they’re time consuming because you have to locate them in different places on your computer.

TuneUp Utilities 2012 brings everything together in one user-friendly interface. It also includes Economy and Turbo modes. Economy is for optimizing battery life and power consumption on laptops, so you can compute longer. Turbo speeds performance. Standard mode is how your computer performs without any adjustments.

The well-organized and clean TuneUp Utilities interface has five components:

  • Status & recommendations: Optimize performance for hardware, software, Internet and visual effects, fix problems and change settings for undoing TuneUp Utilities changes.
  • Optimize system: Disable programs not in use, remove unnecessary programs from startup, uninstall apps, managing Economy and Turbo modes and running individual maintenance tasks.
  • Gain disk space:  Delete unneeded files, remove old backups, turn off unwanted Windows features, find the largest data files and delete data so it can’t be restored.
  • Fix problems: Are icons showing up weird or is the taskbar invisible? Get help with fixing common programs, check hard disk for errors and restore deleted files. TuneUp Utilities has a detailed version of Windows Task Manager, the window that opens when you press Ctrl+Alt+Delete.
  • Customize Windows: Microsoft adds fancier features to Windows’ interface with every release. The older window interface was blocky, bland and hard on the eyes. The new looks cooler, but sacrifices performance and system resources. With TuneUp Utilities, you can find a happy medium between Windows performance and good looks.

TuneUp Utilities 2012

Some apps like Adobe Reader quick launch, iTunesHelper and QuickBooks default to start up so they load faster or automatically check for updates. The apps may load faster, but they affect performance even if you rarely use them. It’s easy to find where to disable startup programs in TuneUp Utilities and it also provides more information than System Configuration Utility’s Startup options tab does. Besides, we always forget how to open it. (Click Start, Run and enter “msconfig.”)

You can also disable programs that you want to keep, but only enable them when you run the program. For example, QuickBooks Pro runs a process whenever Windows boots. Disabling the app turns off the process until you actually run QuickBooks. After closing QuickBooks, TuneUp Utilities 2012 turns it off.

To see how TuneUp Utilities 2012 affects performance, we use PC Mark, AppTimer and good old-fashioned manual tracking of program load times. The answer to the big question is no. The app doesn’t improve PC performance. The results are minimal despite our best efforts to replicate all tests before and after running TuneUp Utilities 2012. This isn’t a surprise because this is often the case with most optimization apps.

While we notice little performance improvements from running TuneUp Utilities 2012, its simplicity in providing access to all optimization features saves time and cuts clutter. It also makes solid recommendations for cleanup, an area of weakness with some optimization apps. Always take care when using any optimization software in checking recommendations before accepting them.

Have you used TuneUp Utilities or other computer optimization software? How did it work out for your computer? What do you like and don’t like about it?

Compose email in Offline Google Mail

With Wi-Fi available in more places, many of us take the Internet for granted feeling always connected. But there are times when the Internet isn’t available whether it’s Mother Nature intervening, a wireless company’s outage or traveling in an airplane that requires turning off the network.

Once upon a time, we didn’t always connect to the online world. We didn’t have to worry about the network going down because all of our emails and apps were available on our computers.

With more people signing up for web-based email services like Gmail, not having 24/7 Internet access turns into a problem. Google has come up with a solution for its Gmail users with Offline Google Mail. The app syncs with your device so that you can read your messages and write emails when not connected to the Internet .

Offline Google Mail

Offline Google Mail, like its name, only works with Gmail. Considering it’s a Google product, it only works with Chrome, Google’s browser. (An earlier version used to work with Internet Explorer and Firefox 3.x, but that has since gone away.) When going offline, you can read, write and search emails as if you were online. The only difference is that new messages won’t come in and you won’t be able to send any until you reconnect to the Internet.

Compose email in Offline Google Mail

Going offline won’t be exactly like using Gmail especially since some Gmail features aren’t available in Offline Gmail. For example, when you compose a message, it looks like Offline Gmail doesn’t add your signature when it will show up in the sent message. While offline, you also won’t be able to download some file types, use some keyboard shortcuts or modify importance markers.

You can customize what Offline Gmail syncs with your device based on attachment size, date and labels. The more messages you sync, the more it affects Gmail’s performance.

Using Offline Gmail should be seamless. If you’re in Gmail while connected and lose your connection, Gmail switches to Offline Gmail. It should do the same when you reconnect. Because it’s in beta, Offline Gmail doesn’t always work as expected.

Glitches include the disappearance of offline messages and the inability to view images in emails. A more serious issue is that it can lose messages that you write offline. That’s lost time spent in drafting a message.

Another offline option — especially those who don’t use Chrome — is to sync Google Mail with a stand-alone email app like Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird through IMAP. You must run the email app to ensure your email app has the latest Gmail messages. Thus, when you lose connection, you may not have the latest messages.

Glitches aside, Offline Gmail does what you expect in that it syncs messages with your device and switches you to offline email when you lose your Internet connection. It will sync your messages as long as you have Chrome open. You don’t need to have Gmail or Offline Google Mail open for synchronization.

Offline Google Mail offers a viable yet imperfect option for those who rely on Gmail and need a way to manage email while offline.

How do you manage your emails when offline? Or do you just wait until you’re connected to the Internet or access Gmail on your smartphone?

Char-Broil Turkey Fryer

Tis the season to be cooking, Fa la la la la, la la la la. Don we now our kitchen gadgets, Fa la la la la, la la la la. Whether you love cooking and gadgets or someone who does, there’s plenty of great stuff out there to get your geek cook on. Prepare your wish list for a few additions or delight the geeky cook with these gift ideas.

Turkey fryer. Fried turkey may be delicious, but cooking them takes work with the risk of hot oil splatter. That won’t be a problem with Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-Less Infrared Turkey Fryer. Instead of oil, the infrared technology fries the turkey and takes only eight to ten minutes per pound. An eight-pound turkey cooks in one hour and 20 minutes. Compare that to roasting an unstuffed turkey in the oven, which takes roughly three hours to cook.


You must admit Amazon keeps amazing everyone. The store originally sold books. Then it added products from A to Z. It went further by creating its own product in the Kindle eReader. The eReader move has paid off as Amazon said its ebooks outsell books. Now, it took another step by with its own tablet to offer functionality beyond downloading and reading books.

Amazon Kindle Fire Apple iPad 2

Market research firm eDataSource reports that Amazon receives an average of 20,000 Kindle Fires pre-orders a day, with the first day racking up 95,000 orders. According to Cult of Android, which claims to have a source from Amazon, says the company gets 50,000 Fires pre-orders per day. By comparison, reports say that Apple iPad 2 orders hit about 1 million in the first weekend of sales. All that could change when the Fire comes out on November 15.

The current forecast for the Fire is 5 million units for the fourth quarter, but Forrester Research believes it may be closer to 3 million. In the second quarter of 2011, Apple has sold 9 million iPads 2.

With the cheapest iPad 2 going for $500 with 16 gigabytes and no 3G, the Kindle Fire offers an attractive price of $199. Other than price, does the Fire have anything on the iPad 2? Actually, yes.

1. Storage. Kindle Fire comes with 8 GB of internal storage plus free storage for Amazon digital content in the Amazon Cloud. It won’t have a slot for a storage card as it expects customers to use the cloud. While the cheapest iPad has more internal storage at 16 GB, Amazon’s free cloud storage may be enough for consumers who already purchase ebooks and music from Amazon. Winner: Tie.

2. Size. The 9.7-inch iPad is harder to hold with one hand compared to the 7-inch Kindle Fire, which is one-inch larger than the easy to hold 6-inch Kindle reader. The Fire weighs 14.5 ounces while the iPad 2 weighs 21.1 ounces. Though lighter, the Fire is thicker than the iPad at 0.45 inches to 0.34 inches. The other side of the size argument is that the iPad’s larger screen offers more for watching videos, playing HD games and surfing the Web. Winner: Tie.

3. Photos and videos. The iPad can take pictures and videos with its built-in camera and microphone. The Fire won’t have this feature. Winner: iPad.

4. Content. While iTunes may be the number one source for music, Amazon is right behind and it’s the number one source for ebooks with over 1 million books to Apple’s 200,000. Amazon has over 100,000 movies and TV shows that Amazon Prime Members can stream for free at $79 per year. iPad users have to pay for every purchase of its 50,000+ TV shows and 10,000+ movies.

Apple has 100,000 apps specific to the iPad to Amazon’s 16,000 apps in its Android app store. However, you can download an MP3 from Amazon and load it on your iPod, Android Tablet and smartphone — all with different operating systems. iTunes only syncs MP3s with compatible devices Oh, and the Fire runs Flash. Winner: Toss up.

5. Network. iPad has priciers 3G versions available. Both have Wi-Fi. Winner: iPad.

6. Battery life. iPad claims to have ten hours of battery life to the Fire’s eight. Winner: iPad.

6. Price. No competition. And because of this, consumers are more willing to sacrifice a few extras to buy a Fire for less than half the price of the iPad. Winner: Fire.

The two tablets don’t compare, so it comes down to price, size, photo/video capabilities and mobile needs. The Fire won’t be useful for connecting to the Internet while on the move since Wi-Fi isn’t available everywhere. Despite the missing features, consumers desiring a portable media tool will have a good alternative in the Fire to the pricey, feature-rich and heavier iPad.

What’s your take on the tablet wars? Which do you have or would want to have?


Many feel let down by the recent iPhone announcement because they expected to hear about the iPhone 5. And then, Steve Jobs passed away the next day. Maybe it was a good thing. The tame announcement allowed the world to reflect on Steve Jobs’ incredible life and contributions.

Initial Reaction to the iPhone 4S

Apple iPhone 4S

In times where many companies release products to make a date, they sacrifice quality and risk losing customers. Apple’s holding off on the iPhone 5 implied that it needed more work. Too often, companies release products for the sake of company financials and not for delivering what customers need. How does a company know when a product is ready? It’s ready when it does what the product’s plans said it needed to do and it has passed all tests.

While the 4S didn’t impress, its features brought it to up to speed with the other devices on the market and delivered an easier to use product. Unlike many companies, Apple didn’t roll out a product with more features slapped on. Instead, it thoughtfully considered how users will use the 4S and produced a phone to do that.

Besides, what if Apple had called this its iPhone 5? Imagine the disappointment considering many refer to it as a minor upgrade. This article isn’t complete without a highlight of the iPhone 4S features.

iPhone 4S Features

  • 4S has a dual-core A5 chip — same as the iPad 2 — for a faster experience with two times faster processing and seven times faster graphics.
  • The digital camera has 8-megapixel resolution and a larger aperture for sharper photos and improved white balance.
  • The 1080p HD video records up to 30 frames per second for clearer videos and includes video editing right from the phone.
  • 4S uses iOS 5, which integrates Twitter and adds a notification center displaying latest texts, emails, reminders and more.
  • It turns a cloudy day into a sunny one with iCloud so you don’t have to worry about losing your data as it stores up to 5GB for free.
  • The 4S relies on two antennas for sending and receiving to up the speed from the iPhone 4’s 7.2 Mbps to the 4S’ 14.4 Mbps.
  • It introduces Siri Assistant for barking commands to the iPhone.
  • The 4S retains the same design and material, so it’s just as breakable as the iPhone 4.

Reading Apple Tea Leaves

Thanks to iPhone 4S release, the iPhone 4 became more affordable. While the iPhone 5 would’ve led to lower iPhone 4 prices, not releasing a major upgrade made it easier for people to decide what to do.

The prediction is that few will upgrade from iPhone 4 to 4S. Most of the people getting the 4S will be new iPhone users or those wanting to dump their pre-iPhone 4 phone. For the price-conscious, they’ll go for the more affordable iPhone 4.

No matter the outcome of the iPhone 4S, thanks goes to Steve Jobs for making this and many other articles possible because writing about Apple products is always exciting because it creates exciting products even when they disappoint.

What do you think of the iPhone 4S features? What phone do you have? How will the announcement affect your future phone plans?


The pool of smartphones available today is overwhelming. Not only do you need to decide on the type of smartphone — such as iPhone, Android and BlackBerry — but also the model.

iPhone4Samsung Galaxy Android smartphone Blackberry Bold smartphone

If you’re not sure which type you want, think about how you will use the phone. Will you read email, ebooks and documents? Write? Edit documents? Use social networks? Browse the Internet? Take pictures? Play games? The list goes on.