The Apps of Summer
I believe salt water cures anything, so I usually wade in and ask questions later. But with a little one in tow now, I’m glad to hear about two new apps.
The Swim Guide app for Apple and Android devices provides real-time water quality information from municipal and state health authorities for beaches in Alabama, Alberta, British Columbia, California, Florida, the Great Lakes, and the Ottawa region. Works best using the map, GPS or if you know the name of the beach. Their search function needs a little work.
A yet to be released app will provide real-time information on rip currents as entered by lifeguards. They are hoping to test the app in one or two towns in coastal New Jersey. Read more at Mashable.
Nice, love the flowing ink style.
Here’s a little more of the same video. I like the camera moves and the transition to black. Reminded me a little of the plankton piece Chuck produced for the Open Sea.
The map feature Facebook is rolling out soon for profiles combines a travel journal with a photo album and dumps them on a map, push pin style. I’ve been playing with it for a few days and it’s going to makes chronicling travels, both in real time and after the fact, quick and easy.
Facebook folded location into status updates and photos not long ago, making it as prominent as adding who you are with. You can even go back and add the location to past posts or add a past trip. Kindly enough to your friends, it doesn’t look like retroactively adding location to existing posts and photos will appear on your newsfeed.
When the new profiles go live, there will be a small map tile showing the map of your last location. Clicking on it map will display a map with all your status updates, photos and check-ins plotted on a map grouped based on how zoomed in or out you are. Clicking on a pin will display the item with an opton to see the next item in that destination. Additionally, you can filter what’s displayed on the map based on date with the new timeline feature or choose to display life events, photos, public places, entertainment locations or restaurants.
What is still to be determined is how and if friends will interact with this feature. But for those of us with OCD historian genes, it’ll be quite the time suck as we catalog, tag and upload every trip we’ve ever taken.
I love TripIt. It’s a buy-it-roses-and-take-it-out-to-dinner kind of love. It’s the easiest way I’ve found to keep your travel arrangements organized and accessible. Just forward the confirmation emails you get from online travel agencies like Expedia, car rentals, hotels, airlines, and even Ticketmaster and it automagically builds a trip itinerary. No more digging through your inbox to find a flight or reservation number. Gmail users don’t even have to forward their emails. TripIt can scan their inbox for confirmation emails and import them automatically. Once you get past the creepy factor, it’s pretty cool. You won’t be able to parse emails from small travel agencies and hotels, but it’s easy enough to manually enter them. You can also have Tripit synch with your calendar.
From the itinerary you can check in to your flight, call the airline or business or get directions. Itineraries are stored locally in case of sketchy connections, expensive international data plans, or in-flight perusing.
Trips can be shared with others and you can keep tabs on the comings and goings of friends and colleagues you connect with on TripIt. My only problem came from multiple travelers with diverging plans sharing an itinerary. I didn’t want to see the other person’s plans on my trip so I deleted their meticulously thorough itinerary thinking it would only delete it from my version of the itinerary. Not quite. Oops.
There is a pro version, that helps you track your reward programs, get notifications for flight changes and checks to see if you are eligible for a refund on airfare among other features. I’ll be trying it when I next buy a few airline tickets. All in all, a must have even for casual travelers.
Awesome! Although when I imagine myself doing it I’m on a horse and with a Falcon on my arm :)
dirt & dogs: Mongolia by Mountain Bike. This strikes me as something worth doing.
Love Google Flight’s interactive map. Set dep city, budget and it plots airfares on a map. Great for wanderlust attacks.
I’ve never seen a night sky like the Grand Canyon’s. For the first time in my life and with absolute certainty, I can make out the Milky Way in a sky so thick with stars that it has a depth, texture, color and movement you can’t see from most places. I take a few pictures with my Canon Rebel DSLR to remember the sight. My iPhone, my preferred photographic companion as of late, lies asleep somewhere in the car.
When did my phone become my de facto camera? Reaching for it has become second nature. It’s of course a lot less bulky. But more damningly, a memory card is the place photos go to die. Pictures taken with my phone are the only ones that get texted, shared on Facebook, or with services like Postagram, turned into a paper postcard mailed on my behalf to my mother. I don’t have time to get the photos out of the memory card, much less Photoshop, upload and then make merry little holiday cards with them.
Before you find yourself debating at the last minute whether you should make do with your phone’s camera, pack the SLR, or try to unearth the point and shoot; ask yourself these three questions:
How hard will it be to take good pictures?
Places like an aquarium, with fish swimming behind glass under low or special lighting conditions, merit hauling an SLR around. The Grand Canyon, with brightly lit backgrounds and shady foregrounds, confused the heck out of my phone camera’s sensors. Bonus question: do you know how to use your SLR well enough to adjust for these conditions?
What will you do with the pictures?
If all you want is a reminder of the trip or all you’re planning is to share them on Facebook, go light. Be honest with yourself. Does your memory card still hold pictures from your vacation a year ago?
How tolerant are your traveling companions?
My wife has the patience of a saint. She actually pauses before her first bite at a restaurant, eyeing me in case I want to document the meal. But even she put her foot down when I started asking her to do everything four times. Once for posterity (SLR), one for Facebook (iPhone), another for posterity (this time with the video camera) and finally another video (iPhone) since I still haven’t set myself up to digitize tape.
If you choose to go with your phone camera, here are a couple of tips to make the most of the pictures: Get a tripod for your phone. I like the GorillaMobile by Joby. It s small, light and the flexible legs let you place it wrap it around all sort of crazy surfaces. Bonus: you can use it to prop your phone for video calls or catching up on your Netflix queue.
Invest in a camera app. Especially handy to edit on the fly, Camera+ has a number of “scene modes” to compensate for different shooting conditions quickly. It has a stabilizer function, allows you to take pictures in quick succession and if you want to get fancy you can set exposure separately from the focus.
Here are some tips for better iPhone photograpy by National Geographic photographer Cotton Coulson.
Back to my pictures of the Grand Canyon night sky. Retrieved from the photo graveyard for this post, they are less than impressive. But alone, on the side of the road between the Grand Canyon and Tusayan, with my DSLR perched on my car roof, the long exposure let me linger over the milky way.
If midnight’s ever found you looking for a vacancy in a nice, but reasonably priced hotel, you need to download the Hotel Tonight app. This iPhone and Android app lets you book a room for the same night as late as 2 a.m.. That late at night, the Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com and Kayak apps give you all sorts of amusing error messages. Amusing if you weren’t desperate for a clean bed to pass out on, that is. Hotel Tonight also promises room rates up to 70% off the rack rate. Our hotel was a third off, and still below what I can find on Travelocity for the same hotel over the next month.
The only catch is that you only have three hotels to choose from. But honestly, do you or your companion even want to consider dozens of options at that point? So far, all the hotels I’ve seen on the app look great. The hotel we booked was true to the photos (as much as any hotel ever is) and when we arrived 45 minutes later we were in the hotel’s system and had a seamless check-in. As of September 2011, Hotel Tonight is in 22 major cities and 8 airports with 9 more locations “coming soon.”
I need a do-over on at least half a dozen nights.