Thursday, June 30, 2011

Even More iPad

I figured since I started yesterday, I may as well continue with some of the apps that intrigue me.

Astronomy. I've always been interested in the stars, but till I retired, it never seemed like I had the time. Now that we travel (not right now, but sometimes at least) I realize how incredible the night sky can be. This is especially true when you have the chance to see the night sky away from any lights (like in New Mexico!). We've spent a good amount of time sky gazing, never bothering to learn the names of the stars, planets or constellations. It just seemed too difficult to learn the names, looking at a book or map while trying to orient it with the night sky. But then I discovered Star Walk ($2.99 for the iPhone, $4.99 for the iPad) and WOW!

You see, there's a GPS built into most iPads (the ones with 3g) so all you have to do is walk outside on a clear night, fire up Star Walk and since it automatically knows where you are, it gives you a map of the sky that's directly over your head. Honest, it's like magic! As you turn the iPad, it continues to show you whats directly overhead in the direction it's pointing, so you can cover the entire sky. You can point to a celestial object on the iPad and information about what you're seeing pops right up. Star Walk also has a ton of other information, but the night sky feature is the one that really blows my skirt up.

I've followed Astronomy Picture of the Day on my computer for a few years now, but the pictures really pop on the iPad (and it's a free app). NASA also has a couple of apps that work perfectly with the iPad. Between all of these, the whole world of the heavens has opened up for me.

It's way cool.

I wrote about iBird Explorer Pro back when I first got my iPod Touch (you can read about it here). It's been a favorite of mine ever since. It was $29.99, but that includes lifetime upgrades and I was pleased to see that my original purchase gave me access to an updated version that takes advantage of all that real estate on the iPad. When I consider the amount of money we spent on bird books prior to getting this app, I still feel it's been one of my best purchases. They also have a free teaser app and lower price "area" apps, but I've never regretted buying the full version.

After all, I can always look back at all the bird books we were able to unload from the motorhome!

I have a similar app called Wild Berries and Herbs HD that is pretty cool for plant identification. I got it on special for $.99 when it first came out, but it now seems to have gone up to $8.99. I would probably wait for a price drop, but it is great for identifying a ton of plants.

This leads me to another online site called AppShopper. They keep track of most of the new apps that are released for your Mac, iPhone, or iPad. I use it a lot for trying new apps. Often they will announce a new app while it's still free or inexpensive. They also offer a free service where you can keep track of all the apps you own (and they email you when updates are available). Or you can start a wish list. Using the wish list function, they will notify you when the price on an app you'd like drops. It seems app developers change their prices frequently, hoping to bring in new customers. If an app is more than $1.99, I put it on my wish list and wait for the price to drop. Of course, they also have an AppShopper app that you can put on your device of choice.

Another great use for the iPad is watching the weather. There are literally thousands of apps out there, so you often have to check around for the ones that suit your needs. I like WeatherStation, WeatherRadio and one called DTN/the Progressive Farmer.

WeatherStation Free is pretty much like one of those stations you pick up. For free, it's quite comprehensive. WeatherRadio is just what it says. You tell it what alerts you want to be informed of, and using the built in GPS it alerts you when danger is imminent. It works full time, so in that respect it's very much like a stand alone weather radio. Just one more thing we don't have to carry in the rig!

I don't remember where I first happened on DTN/the Progressive Farmer, but it's probably the most comprehensive of weather apps. Designed for farmers, it shows info on all sorts of agriculture related matter. I'm most interested in the weather maps, including those relating to radar, satellite, surface analysis, wind conditions, today's highs, jet stream analysis, 24 hour rainfall estimate 48 hour storm paths, 6-10 day temperatures. 6-10 day precipitation, thunderstorm outlooks, a drought monitor and a bunch more I won't bother to mention. All this information, and it's free!

There are also several weather apps that are just beautiful, including Weather Doodle, Climate and Weather HD.

Finally, there's the toys. Those of you who know me know that I love my toys, and there's no shortage of just for fun apps on the iPad. My current favorites? Well gosh, they change all the time, but if you haven't seen Talking Carl you haven't lived. He never fails to bring a smile, and I swear, everyone I've showed it to has downloaded it. He's just a fun guy.

Then there's iOrgel HD (click this link for a demo). This is quite simply one of the most beautiful, elegant apps ever written. Have you heard Orgel music? Even if you don't know it, you probably have; an Orgel is a large music box. I first heard the term in regards to a CD of Disney music from Japan, and I was instantly hooked. I've always loved music boxes, but Orgel music utilizes an enormous range of tones.

With iOrgel HD, you look into what appears to be an intricate brass music box interior. You have the choice of listening to music they supply, or you can hear music others have written/transposed, or you can make your own music. It's truly beautiful.

And with that, I'll stop for today (although I have more , it seems never ending!). Can you tell I'm having too much fun?

And for those of you out there that are still on the fence, PleinGuy commented yesterday that it was possible that the new update to the iPad software may not work on the first generation iPads. Everything that I've read indicates that it will work on the 1st generation iPad (although I suppose they could change that). So, I believe you are quite safe in getting a first generation (but don't yell at me if I'm wrong).


Russ Krecklow said...

Those apps sound way cool....another reason to crank up my mental transmitter! Heard from Andy lately?

Jerry and Suzy said...

WOW! We don't have much in the way of electronics other than computers. Our cell phones just send and receive telephone calls. But this month (now that it is July) Suzy's phone is due for an upgrade, and we'll be searching for a good one! Then maybe we can hear Orgel music!

Donna K said...

Better be careful Kate...that iPad may just become permanently attached to the end of your arm!! Of course you know all the GPS chips in everything are just the government's way of tracking your's all a conspiracy. (you know I'm only kidding)

Sara said...

Thank you for the iPad review. It's my next purchase. Think I will treat myself to it when my house sells.