Traveling with Pizza Compass for iPhone

pizzacompassappThere are seventy-four pizza chains in the US. That’s not individual stores, just franchises. And, I suspect, that number is nothing compared to all of the mom-and-pop shops across the country. So it should be easy to find a slice when you’re out of town, right?

Well, not always. Not a good one at least. That’s a problem that Pizza Compass for iPhone ($0.99) exists to solve. Just launch the app and it finds the nearest pizza place and points you to it.

Hold on. Pizza Compass won’t subject you the dump that the locals avoid. You can check each suggestion for Forsquare reviews. Or, if you’re feeling lucky, give the compass a spin at let it pick a stop for you.

I was recently out of town and hungry, so I decided to give Pizza Compass a try. Here’s how it went.

After a few hours of driving around, I had that hunger that only artery-clogging, life-shortening cheese and grease would satisfy. I pulled the car over and launched Pizza Compass, which pointed me towards Upper Crust Pizza. The reviews seemed largely positive, except for Cozzie D.’s stern warning:

“If you don’t like black olives, I recommend not getting the Greek salad.”

Done and done, Cozzie D.

Armed with the details of 44 Foursquare reviews and app-supplied driving directions, I drove to Upper Crust Pizza, despite the hoity-toity name.

It looked nice enough and the staff was friendly. I placed an order.


As you know, any disgusting pizza can be masked with toppings. In fact, if you ever see a cheese-stuffed crust…that’s an apology. That’s the cook saying, “Our pizza sucks. We know it. As an apology, we’ve crammed the crust with cheese.” Avoid those places.

I ordered a small cheese and sat down. As I waited, I shot this compelling Vine video.

At last it arrived! I lifted the glistening, greasy cardboard lid to reveal the cheesy goodness within!


Partial foul for that glob of migratory cheese on the left, but that was my only complaint! I’m happy to say that Pizza Compass did steer me in the right direction. Well done, little app. You’ve earned a spot in my travel folder.

Wake N Shake for iPhone an effective, evil alarm

smilingevilWake N Shake Alarm Clock for iPhone ($0.99) is the alarm app for people who succumb to the snooze button morning after morning. I am one of you, dedicated snoozers. Those nine extra minutes sound so good in the wee hours [1. Why is it always nine minutes? Now you know.].

Kiss them goodbye.

Not only does Wake N Shake lack a snooze button, it offers an incredibly insistent alarm that isn’t easily extinguished. You must shake your iPhone to turn it off. I don’t mean a polite church handshake, either. Imagine a solid 30 seconds of shaking…and that’s the medium setting!

There’s more to Wake N Shake than flailing about. Gesture support is really nice and a few thoughtful touches make this app fun to use, including the deep social integration. Here’s my look at Wake N Shake.

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5 things to like about Twitterrific 5

Ollie, Twitter’s elder statesman [1. Note that post from 2007 still says “post” instead of “tweet.”] and official unofficial Twitter logo, is flapping his wings (literally) in Twitterrific 5 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch (universal, $2.99 launch price). This update is a clean slate for The Iconfactory and Twitterrific customers. There’s much to enjoy in this version, and I’ve picked my top five. Here they are, in no particular order:

A Customizable Theme [1. Watch as my iPhone’s battery drops closer and closer to zero across these screenshots.]

You expect Iconfactory products to look good, and Twitterrific 5 does. What’s fun is that you can affect that to a degree. Once your account credentials are set up, tap your avatar and then the “AA” button to produce the theme customization screen. From here, you can:

  • Select one of five fonts
  • Make user avatars larger or smaller
  • Increase or decrease font size
  • Choose a light or dark theme
  • Adjust the spacing between lines
  • Adjust brightness

My aging eyes prefer the light theme, large icons and huge lettering with lots of space in between. You youngsters may differ.

Swipe to Reply

Previous version of Twitterrific let you determine what a double- or triple-tap did. For instance, you could have a double-tap create a reply and a triple-tap a retweet. I liked that. Now I wonder how I lived with it. Twitterrific 5 employes gestures in a clever way. To reply to a tweet, simply swipe right. A composition window appears with your target user’s handle in place. Super.

Swipe to View a Conversation

You know where this is going. Swipe left to view the conversation surrounding a tweet.

It’s Crazy Fast

Perform a gesture to compose a reply or view a conversation and boom, it’s there. Pull to refresh (that’s right, pull to refresh in Twitterrific!) and the timeline refreshes. It’s crazy fast.

Timeline Refresh Animation

When you pull to refresh your timeline, you’re treated to a delightful animation. Ollie bursts from his egg, flaps his wings and then disappears into a flash as the update is completed.

You’re going to say, “That’s just a bit of fun,” to which I’ll say, you’re right! Software can be fun! A feature can have no purpose other than to make the user smile. The first person who says “gamification” gets punched in the junk. Lighten up and have some fun.

There’s more, of course, like my beloved color coding. Each type of tweet you’ll compose (public, mention and DM) has its own color. Those colors are more subtle in v.5 but not gone. No more horror-stricken moments of, “Dear God, I hope that was a DM.”

Twitterrific 5 is a swell app that will remain on my iPhone’s home screen for the foreseeable future.

Watermarker for Mac is a handy utility

It’s often necessary to watermark the photos or images you post online. For example, professional photographers and asset sales sites mark demo images so they can’t be used by visitors. Watermarker for Mac ($7.99) makes the process very easy and offers several options. Here’s my look at Watermarker for Mac.

Clean Looks

Watermarker presents a simple window that’s immediately easy to understand. A large content area dominates the center while a toolbar runs along the right-hand side. The top toolbar features two buttons – Open and Save – and is not customizable. It looks nice running full-screen in OS X Lion, though those who dislike the linen may grumble a bit.


Adding an image and marking it up is wonderfully easy. You can either drag-and-drop an image into the well or use the Open command. Your image is nice and large and easy to work with. So, let’s check out the tools.


You can add a bit of watermark text with control over its location, font, position and color. There’s even a button to pop in the “©”, which is great because I always forget where it is on the keyboard.


I dragged my logo into the custom image well and it appeared on my photo instantly. Again, you can change its location and opacity.


Here’s something I would never be able to pull off with an image editor. Click the Strikethrough box to add a strikethrough to your entire image. Its color is customizable.

Finally, you can determine the size of the resulting image upon export and even create presets if you want to do the same thing over and over.

Many of you can probably do this with a tool like Photoshop or Pixelmator. The rest of us are happy to have a simple, low-cost utility that does the dirty work on its own. Watermarker is definitely one of the good ones. Pick it up now and get watermarking.

Killogy by Alan Robert is creepy, bloody fun

Life of Agony bassist Alan Robert is also a talented comic book author and artist. I became aware of his work last year when the mini series Crawl To Me was released. Its unique art and compelling, disturbing story drew me right in (I did not see the ending coming).

Now, Robert and IDW Publishing are set to release Killogy, just in time for Halloween. After reading a preview copy, I can tell you that Killogy features a story just as engaging, characters just as entertaining and art that’s even more blood-splattered, unapologetic and bold than his previous work. Plus, it’s just plain fun.

Here’s my review of Killogy issue one.


The three main characters – accused killers in a Brooklyn police holding cell – immediately look familiar, and that was by design. Sal “Sally Sno-Cones” was inspired by Frank Vincent of Goodfellas, Raging Bull and the Sopranos. Legendary drummer Marky Ramone is Cole Edwards, a streetwise thug, and Brea Grant of Heroes and Dexter is Summer Rhoads, a disgruntled housewife, fresh from stabbing her husband to death. It does add a bit of fun to see these celebrities “playing” characters in a comic. As Robert puts it, “You rarely see an original, creator-owned comic series that features celebrities depicting its characters. I thought it would be interesting, in the same way The Twilight Zone had guest stars at the center of its stories.”

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Timer is a useful utility for iPhone

Timer from App Cubby ($0.99) is a handy utility for the iPhone. It lets you create several color-coded timers that can be launched, paused and customized with a tap. It’s faster than using Apple’s Clock app and has earned a permanent home on my iPhone. Here’s my look at Timer.


Timer presents a 3 x 4 grid of buttons. Each represents a given duration. An active timer “lights up” as the numbers count down for easy reference. It’s clear and legible and the color coding keeps things organized. Timers with a preset duration display their value while those without show a clock icon.


I use timers a lot. Specifically, when I’m cooking, steeping tea and taking a nap. I’ve always used Apple’s Clock app for this and it’s fine. To create a timer with Clock, simply launch the app, dial in your preferred duration, select an alert sound and tap Start. There’s nothing wrong with it, but Timer does so much more.

First and foremost, you can run several timers at once. This is huge in the kitchen. Let’s say the potatoes au gratin need 45 minutes, the broccoli 10 and the turkey 3 hours. Each can have its own timer and they can all run at the same time.

To keep yourself organized, you can assign a color to each of those items and even a unique alarm. That way, you can tell what’s done just by listening. To edit a timer, tap and hold on its icon to produce the editor, where you’ll find several options:

1. Preset – Assign a default duration to this timer
2. Time – Duration
3. Alert – Choose the alert sound
4. Color – Assign a color to that timer button

It’s useful to create timers for frequently-used durations. For instance, I steep my tea for 3 minutes and take 20 minute naps. Now each is a single tap away. When a timer is complete, your alert sounds, a message appears on the screen and the corresponding button flashes. Also, the timer continues to count, but this time, forward. That way  you can see how much time has elapsed since your timer expired.

Why not just use Siri?

That’s a good question. Telling Siri, “Set a timer for three minutes” is faster than launching Timer and tapping the appropriate button (depending on how fast you speak, that is). But Timer has several advantages over Siri. First, it can run several timers simultaneously, as I mentioned. It’s also easier to view a timer’s progress with Timer. Siri will show you a timer’s progress if you ask, “Let me see my timer,” though you still have to look at the screen. It won’t read the time remaining to you. Also, Siri can’t set a timer that’s less than a minute long. “I can’t set a timer with seconds. Sorry about that” is the response you’ll get.


Timer solved a few problems for me, like speed and simultaneous timers. It looks good and is only $0.99. I recommend it.

Phraseology is a compelling text editor for iPad (Update)

There are many text editors available for the iPad, and I feel compelled to try a lot of them. This week I’ve been using Phraseology  ($3.99) by Agile Tortoise, which I like a lot. Two features make it stand out: the Inspector and the Arrange Menu.

Phraseology also features several export options and a unique set of accessory keys on the keyboard. The more I dove into what this app could do, the more I liked it. Simple typing is only the beginning; this is one informative text editor. Here’s my look at Phraseology for iPad.

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Review: Off the Hook Bluetooth Handset

Nothing has ever hindered teenage dating like the corded telephones of the 1980’s.

The telephone would ring in our Scranton, Pennsylvania kitchen and my blood would freeze. If anyone answered it before me and heard that cute 10th-grader on the other end, the one whose unmistakably female voice asked for me by name, a shroud of humiliation would descend upon me as pronounced and obvious as Turin’s most famous export. Speaking in private was an experiment in the tensile strength of copper wire, as I stretched that cord to its limit.

The older I got, the longer the cords became.

Most contemporary phones scarcely resemble those clunky, plastic handsets. My memories remain, however, and that’s why I had a visceral reaction to the Off The Hook Bluetooth Handset from Brookstone. This handset looks just like those old wall-mounted phones and is compatible with just about any Bluetooth-enambled phone (v1.0, 1.1, 1.2). We picked one up last week and, seven days in, I’m glad we did. It looks good, works as advertised and offers respectable battery life. Here’s my look at the Off The Hook Bluetooth Handset (OTH).

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