Jan 06

iPad = Game Changer

By David Scifres Featured, iPad, Life Comments Off on iPad = Game Changer

I recently received an iPad as a graduation present after finishing my MBA. It was a total surprise and I could not have asked for anything more useful and entertaining. It is a total game changer. This is how the Internet and digital media was meant to be consumed. The device itself and most of the applications are delightfully intuitive – they don’t make me think! In the short amount of time I have had it it has become indispensable to my life. Below are the Apps that I have found most useful.

Top iPad Apps

  • DropBox – a Web-based file hosting service that uses cloud computing to enable users to store and share files and folders with others across the Internet using file synchronization. Keeps files on your desktop in sync on multiple computers, your iPad and the Dropbox website in your account.
  • Zite – is an intelligent personalized magazine that uses your previous actions or viewing habits, as well as social network activity, as indicator of what you will most likely want to see in the future. And then it brings you that content. You can give a thumbs up or down on specific content to help further refine the content you are delivered. In a world of information overload this could be a huge time saver.
  • Flipboard – Finally something that is bringing it all together in a more easily consumable format. Flipboard is your very own personalized magazine written by your friends. Flipboard integrates all your facebook, twitter, flickr and other social websites together in an entertaining personalized magazine.
  • Jump Desktop – Run your PC’s and Mac’s remotely with your iPad. Jump Desktop is a remote desktop application that let you control your computer from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. Jump Desktop is secure, reliable and very easy to setup. Jump Desktop features a streamlined user interface that gives you full access to your PCs on all Apple mobile devices. One app that works seamlessly across all your devices.
  • iThoughtsHD – is very nicely done a mind mapping tool for the iPad and well worth the $9.99 price. Mindmapping enables you to visually organize your thoughts, ideas and information for things like task lists, brainstorming, project planning, goal setting, concept mapping and meeting notes. It integrates with all the standard mind map formats like Freemind (which I use on my desktop) and integrates with could services like MobileMe and DropBox
  • Wikihood – What are the most important sights to see around me? What do others find interesting here? Is there a museum, a castle, a park or church nearby? What persons are connected with this place? Did a historic battle happen at this place? Wikihood knows the answers to questions like these and more. It intelligently organizes Wikipedia information for any place in the world using advanced semantic data mining. Within a few clicks you not only get access to all the locations around you, but also the vast information related to these locations categorized by “persons” and “culture/buildings”.
  • Netflix – Hook up directly to your Netflix account and view anything from your on demand video queue.
  • Hulu Plus – You can stream thousands of episodes from hundreds of current and classic TV shows to your iPad, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, 3rd generation iPod Touch, computer, TV, and other devices with a Hulu Plus subscription.
  • IMDB – The Amazon.com subsidiary released this native iPad app optimized for the bigger screen. The App lets customers access more than 1.5 million movie and TV titles with information on 3.2 million celebrities, actors, actresses, directors and crew members.
  • Flixster – View the top box office leaders, upcoming movies and new DVD releases. Look up local show times and buy tickets from movie tickets.com (for participating theaters that sell movie tickets online).
  • Pandora – Create your own personalized radio stations for FREE and stream them to your iPad. Just start with the name of one of your favorite artists, songs or classical composers and Pandora will create a “station” that plays their music and more music like it.
  • Sound Hound -Say the name, sing, hum or play any song and sound hound will find in a split second.
  • Google eBooks – Access to over 10 millions books in google digital repository. Many are free.
  • Kindle – One app optimized for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, giving you the ability to read Kindle books your large format iPad screen. App has access to 775,000 books in the Kindle Store, including best sellers and new releases. Amazon Whispersync automatically syncs your last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights across devices (including Kindle), so you can pick up where you left off on another device.
  • iBooks -download and buy books via your iPad. You can also organize your PDF files and sync them for reading on iBooks via iTunes.
  • Flickr Studio -brings all the goodness from photo community site Flickr.com to your Apple iPad. It makes optimal use of the hi-res iPad screen for displaying Flickr photos and videos in all their glory! The only drawback is that it you can’t point it at a specific photoset while in screen saver mode.
  • New York Times –
  • Wall Street Journal –
  • Engadget –
  • BBC News –
  • NPR –
  • Wikipanion – reformats the wikipedia pages for the iPad, and saves you from having to zoom in and out to be able to get the information you need. The app lets you search entries and keeps track of your searches. It also allows you to bookmark specific pages for later use.
  • The Weather Channel MAX+ –
  • Trip Adviser –
  • Yelp –
  • Urbanspoon –
  • Amazon –
  • Live Strong – As Drucker said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure” and that includes your weight. Tracking stuff really works!! This Calorie Tracker can help you reach your diet, weight loss and fitness goals by tracking your daily calories and exercise. I REALLY NEED TO START USING THIS on Jan 1 again. Their database contains over 625,000 food and fitness items. This app is totally worth the expense if you really want to diet.
  • Dragon Dictation – This app is an easy to use voice recognition powered by Dragon® NaturallySpeaking® that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. Saves time if you need to do a lot of typing.
  • Adobe Ideas – is a digital sketchbook and an ideal companion for the professional design applications like Illustrator and Photoshop. You design concepts while sitting in a cafe, capture and store color themes while browsing through the photos on your phone, or jot down notes on a photo. It’s just really handy to have with you all the time
  • World Atlas by National Geographic – This app is worth every penny. Now you can have the world’s best maps in high resolution to browse, search, and zoom details of the entire globe. Contains 7 different levels of National Geographic cartography, plus when you zoom in to details you are seamlessly transferred to mapping via Bing (should have been Google Maps but I digress) so you view all the way down to your house.
  • All Recipes Pro – Search the entire All Recipes database. This is one of my favorite apps. It integrates your online recipe box with your ipad but you have to purchase the pro version to do it. The PRO version is well worth the $4.99 price. It allows you to synch with your Allrecipes.com account for full access to your online recipe box and shopping lists. It provides easy recipe management for your Recipe Box with drag and drop organization and editing and access to cuisine and occasion based browsing, and no advertising! This is a great example of how to use a free app to get downloads and convert people to the pro version for a decent price/value compbination.
  • Epicurious – This is Conde Naste Digital’s cooking website with more than 30,000 delicious, professionally created recipes from Bon Appét*t, Gourmet, Self, and renowned chefs and cookbooks.
  • Marvel –
  • TED – Ideas Worth Spreading –
  • The Economist –
  • Star Walk –
  • NASA App HD –
  • Angry Birds –
  • Scrabble –
  • Yahtzee –
  • Clue S&S –
  • Risk –
  • SimCity DLX –
  • Rage HD –
  • Cut the Rope HD –
  • Fruit Ninja –
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Jan 01

The Boxee Box

By David Scifres Featured, Photos, Video Comments Off on The Boxee Box

Boxee Beta from boxee on Vimeo.

The Boxee Box is a $199 piece of hardware co-developed D-Link and “Powered by Boxee” that hooks to your home theater system. The hardware includes an Ethernet, HDMI out, optical audio out, composite audio out jacks and two USB ports. The Boxee application itself is a free cross-platform HTPC (Home Theater PC) application that you can download here. Boxee was originally a fork of the free and open source XBMC media center software which Boxee now uses as an application framework for its GUI and media player core platform, together with some custom and proprietary additions. Boxee’s software application is still considered to be in its early development stages but I have found it to work quite well on my PC with almost no problems. Set-up time was 10 minutes.

Because of its integration with social media sites as well as various kinds of media, it is marketed as the first ever “Social Media Center”. Boxee enables its users to view, rate and recommend content to their friends through many social network services and interactive media related features. One notable feature missing in Boxee is the ability to watch and record live TV received via over-the-air TV, cable or satellite signals.

The installation was a snap and it seamlessly integrated my local files (mp3, mp4, wav, m4v, jpg, png, gif) with all my media located on the usual sites like pandora.com, flickr.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, Netflix.com, IMDB, etc . . . . Setup was a snap, just plug in your credentials for each site and away you go. Browsing your local machine or network was also a snap; boxee gobbled up media like Pacman running a maze. The user interface is simple and effective and most importantly openly extensible (unlike the approach larger players like Apple take). This is perhaps why you can buy hacked iTV boxes on ebay that run the Boxee application. The developers of Boxee have stated that their goal is to have Boxee media center software run on as many third-party hardware platforms and operating systems as possible.

If consumers are lucky, perhaps Boxee will find its way into DVD players and TVs as the social media OS. I’ll keep my fingers crossed but won’t hold my breath too long as it would clearly be too good to be true.

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Aug 05

Burgess Falls State Park Tennessee

By David Scifres camping, Featured Comments Off on Burgess Falls State Park Tennessee

Burgess Falls State Park is a state park and state natural area in Putnam County and White County, Tennessee, located in the Southeastern United States. The park is situated around a steep gorge in which the Falling Water River drops 250 feet (76 m) in elevation in less than a mile, culminating in a 136-foot (41 m) cataract waterfall.

I was fortunate enough to be able to visit this park while on the way for a weekend camping at Standing Stone State Park. This place is totally amazing, it was like walking on to the set of Jurassic Park. The hike down the falls is pretty strenuous and along several sections the trail has a 20-40 foot drop down one side. So be careful particularly with children if you take them along like I did. Continue reading »

May 10

Oobleck (a.k.a. Green Slime)

By David Scifres Family, Featured Comments Off on Oobleck (a.k.a. Green Slime)

What the heck is oobleck?

That is the first question that comes out of everybody’s mouth when you mention the word oobleck. The earliest use of the word “oobleck” that I am aware of comes from the title of a Dr. Seuss book. In the book by Dr. Seuss, Bartholomew and the Oobleck a king bored with ordinary rain, sunshine, fog, and snow causes green precipitation called Oobleck to fall from the sky. The Oobleck proves so sticky that it gums up the whole kingdom, which is eventually saved by Bartholomew Cubbins, the title character from Dr. Seuss’ 1938 book The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. If you really want to learn more about oobleck, wikipedia goes into more detail about it is a dilatant fluids, polymers and psuedoplastics . . .

Oobleck is more commonly known among science teachers as the name for a substance made of cornstarch and water that has the peculiar ability to act like a liquid and solid at room temperature. Scientifically speaking, oobleck is a type of polymer. This means that it is made of very long chains of repeating molecules. Oobleck is also a non-Newtonian fluid, which means that its ability to flow changes when different amounts of pressure are applied to it. You can actually walk on it as long as you keep moving. More simply, if you squeeze oobleck, it will become brittle and crumble. If you just let it sit in your hand, it will drip and run like thin white school glue. Sound interesting? Try making some and explore it for yourself!

How to make Oobleck

  • 2 Cups Corn Starch
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Quart-size Zipper Locking Bag
  • 1 Baking Pan (a small shallow Tupperware container works too)
  • Optionally you can also add a few drops of liquid food coloring to color your oobleck green, like in the Dr. Seuss book.
  • Add the cornstarch to the zipper locking bag.
  • Slowly pour the water into the bag.
  • Gently knead the bag to mix the two substances. It should feel like thick pancake batter. Add more cornstarch if it is too thin or more water if it contains lumps of powdered cornstarch.
  • Add a few drops of food coloring if desired. Pour the substance out into your baking tray.
  • Poke your finger into the oobleck. What happens? Try to take a pinch of oobleck from the tray, squeezing your thumb and index finger as hard as you can. How does it feel? Pick up a handful of your amazing creation, let it drip from your fingers. Don’t be shy, explore what you can do with oobleck!
  • You can store your oobleck in the bag that you mixed it in, but unless you want to do a biology experiment, don’t keep it for more than 2 or 3 days!


Following the procedure will show you some of the properties of oobleck, but the real science of any procedure is found by exploring further. Once you get a feel for the ideal consistency of oobleck, you can try making a really large batch of it (maintain an approximately 2:1 ratio of cornstarch to water) so that you have more to work with.

Here are a few ideas for further exploration:

  • Get several identical bowls and pour equal amounts of oobleck into each. What happens if you place objects of different masses on the oobleck. Do they sink? Float? Why?
  • The ratio of cornstarch to water given in the procedure is 2:1, but this is only an approximation. Start with 2 cups of cornstarch and incrementally add small amounts of water to it. How much water do you need to reach your ideal oobleck consistency? What is the new cornstarch to water ratio? What is the maximum amount of water you can add before the oobleck loses its interesting properties? What is this ratio of cornstarch to water?

What about Glurch?

Solution #1

a 3:4 mixture of white glue and water (e.g. 3/4 cup of white glue to one cup of water)

Solution #2

Saturated water/borax. Add enough borax that it won’t dissolve any more. This is approximately 3 tablespoons of Borax to 1 cup of water.


Add some food coloring (for effect only, not required to make the glurch work) to one of the two solutions then mix 3:1 of the first solution to the second. For example, 6 tablespoons of #1 to 2 tablespoons of #2. Stir together quickly or you may get an very dense blob in the middle. Stir/knead the glurch until it is of a uniform consistency. Or, since 3 tsp = 1 tbsp, use tablespoons to measure #1 and the same number of teaspoons to measure #2.

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