Well, the year is winding down. There's about 2 weeks left before Santa makes his rounds. I've already helped Santa along with some shopping, which is good for me because I tend to be a last minute shopper and my friends and family are accustomed to getting gifts from me a tad late.
Since I took last week off I've had plenty of time to think about what to write about this week, and I realized that this would be a good time to offer up my ten favorite freebies. Let's get to it.
I know I shouldn't lump these two together, but I only had so much room in this article, and they both should be mentioned.
If you're a fan of NPR NEWS (if you're not you should be) then this is what you need on your iPhone or iPad. Queue up the stories you want to read or hear into a playlist or listen to your local NPR affiliate. I like that I can hear or read what I want when I want, and its full of unexpected stories that make you think.
The same is true for NPR Music. It's full of music that you might not expect to find on public radio. Classical, sure. Odd musical niches, absolutely. Rap? Pop? Heavy Metal? Oddly enough, yes.
It's not just music, you get the inside scoop, the background info about the artists and tunes. Good stuff and it's all free.
Clumsy Ninja [92 MB, iDevices iOS 5.0 or later, Maker: Natural Motion Games Limited]
Philosophers might insist that it's the journey, and not the goal, that's the fun part. If so then they might be thinking about Clumsy Ninja.
This app is just too cute. You get to train your own ninja. To what end, I'm not entirely sure, but I don't really care. The ninja in training does what I tell him to do, laughs when I tickle him, high-fives me when we get a move right, and on it goes. The more I interact with him the more personable he becomes.
Now, if I can just get him to take out the idiot that cut me off in traffic this morning...
Snapseed [27.9 MB, iDevices iOS 5.1 or later, Maker: Nik Software]
If you do more than take an occasional photo with your iDevice then you will likely want to do some post-processing to bring out the best your pix can be. There are plenty of apps that can handle the job, but few does it as easily as Snapseed.
Everything from simple adjustments to indulging your more artistic side, Snapseed handles it. There a loads of adjustable filters and frames, but the two features I like most are the selectable adjustment and the Drama filter.
With selectable adjustment you pick an area by dropping a point then adjust brightness, contrast, and saturation.
The Drama filter brings out details you might have missed. It's like HDR, but more contrasty. Give it a shot. I think you'll like the results.
The Weather Channel [27.4 MB, iDevices iOS 5.0 or later, Maker: The Weather Channel]
There two apps that I rely on for weather, MyRadar for quick and accurate radar info, and The Weather Channel app for everything else.
You get nearly everything you need to know about current weather conditions, a 36 hour forecast, and the ever useful 10 day forecast. All laid out in an easy to understand format.
But that's not all. There's an active radar map that shows past or future precipitation amounts, local video forecasts, and tropical weather forecasts.
In fact, there's so much stuffed into this app that it'll wind up being your default weather app.
Duolingo [24 MB, iDevice iOS 6.0 or later, Maker: Duolingo, Inc]
Wanna learn French, Spanish, German, or Italian? Grab Duolingo and you'll de langue française, habla español, sprechen Deutsch, or parla italiano in no time.
What's different about Duolingo, beyond the fact that it's free, is that it makes learning a new tongue a game, complete with scores, stats, and a leaderboard if you want to challenge your friends.
The app presents lessons as challenges with 5 lives. Make a mistake and you lose a life, lose all five and you've failed that lesson. That's ok because you can do it over, but what cool is that while the goal of the lesson is the same the challenges aren't. Last go-round you may have been asked to construct a sentence containing "le femme," this time you may be asked to translate "the girl" into French. The whole idea being to insure you comprehend basic language concepts and principles.
Meetup [12.7 MB, iDevices iOS 4.3 or later, Maker: Meetup Inc]
I like to kayak and while doing it alone can be therapeutic, it is not normally considered a solo sport. In fact, many activities are better when in the company of others. But how does one find like minded folk to hang with? Meetup can help with that.
The app, along with its website, lets members schedule and join in meetings focused on an event. Say you want to host a bicycle meet up and ride a trail you've discovered. Find that category in the app, create a meeting and query for interest. Others sign up. The app adds the meeting to your calendar and sends you reminders via email. After the event you can post pix and comments.
There are all types of categories too so you're bound to find an interest. Meetup is worth having.
Vivino [28.4 MB, iDevices iOS 6.0 or later, Maker: Vivino Apps]
I love a good glass of red wine. Turns out so do a lot of other folks. Vivino lets wine lovers share their discoveries. Snap a photo of the label of the wine you've just enjoyed and Vivino will scan it and create a log entry which you can then complete with price and your comments. You can then search for wines by several parameters, or just view what your friends are drinking.
Its won't make you a wine expert, but it will open your world to the many variations of vino. Salute!
TravelZoo [10.6 MB, iDevices iOS 6.0 or later, Maker: TravelZoo Inc.]
If you like to get away from the rat race every so often then you need to check out the deals you can find in TravelZoo.
Pick a destination, if can even be your hometown, and you'll get a list of discounts, special offers, and more listed. These are real deals too from places and business you may not have known existed.
You can see your price, savings, even how many people bought the offer, and you can make your purchases right through the app. The only thing missing is a rating system, but hey, where's the adventure if you don't take a little risk?
Credit Karma [21.1 MB, iDevices iOS 5.0 or later, Maker: Credit Karma Inc.]
Knowing your credit score is an essential bit of knowledge in today's world. You should be aware of your credit history as well. After all if you deal with any financial institution for any reason you can believe they have access to your score and history. One good way to get that info is to use Credit Karma.
There are other credit score apps, but as far as I know, Credit Karma is the only one to give your info for free AND without entering credit card info. (Something I've always thought was silly since these folks have access to far more information about you.)
If you find that there's something amiss with your credit the app offers ways to help. If you really want to know your credit info, and you should, Credit Karma is a great place to start.
Uncrate [2.6 MB, iDevices iOS 5.0 or later, Maker: ZOMBIECORP LLC]
The world offers all sorts of cool, unusual, wacky, weird, and very often costly stuff. The problem is that it's hard to find, say, a personal submarine or a monogrammed machete. You can, however, find such stuff in an app called Uncrate.
Basically, it's a crowd sourced stuff discovery service where people point Uncrate to all manner of ..., well..., stuff. Cars, food, clothes, toys, you name it. Every item is cool though not everything is immediately available. Some stuff is free, but others can have price tags where the zeros can't be counted on one hand.
It's a very cool catalog and you'll tap through it just for fun and gift giving ideas.
Ok that's a wrap for this week.