Yarn U: An iPhone app review

Disclaimer: I was provided a redemption code to download the app for free and asked, in return, to write a review via my blog. I received the code after responding to a request for reviews put out on Ravelry but the app’s creator. No other compensation was given.

Yarn U provides knitters with information on more than 100 yarns, along with photos, example projects, and user comments.

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When you search by yarn company, you’re given a list of all of the yarns by that company (which are already in the database, of course).

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When you click on a yarn, you’re shown a photo along with a brief description of the yarn.

 
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Scroll down a bit and there’s the interesting bits about gauge, weight, yardage, and the weight of one ball / skein/ hank. Also, a pro con list that I think could really use some more substantive additions.

 
If you want to search by weight, that’s in the main listing. Here’s some of the already listed laceweight yarns.

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I’ll say it right now, I know that Ravelry has this functionality and that you can use their site on your iPhone. I also know that I just about go batty when I try to use the Rav mobile site on my iPhone while out shopping for yarn. I usually have to borrow the kiosk at my LYS to get this sort of information. And, while I’m highly unlikely to actually purchase such an app myself (cheaper than I am lazy), I can see why many others, particularly those who aren’t familiar with Rav, would be excited to download it.

Now that that’s overwith, some specifics on what the app does do well (and those it doesn’t do well).

Things it does well:

  • Provide basic information on yarns such as gauge, weight, and fiber content.
  • Allows users easy access to this information with well-labeled icons, intuitive browsing, and a straight-forward interface.
  • Give ideas for what to make using yarns, complete with photos and links to patterns.

Things it could improve on:

  • Increased database size. While I understand that the app is pretty new (and the creators are the only ones entering items into the database), it was annoying how small the database was. [I'd recommend crowd-sourcing this. Not the coding part, but the gathering information, links, and pictures part.]
  • Another database thing – no indy dyers?? I know there are a million out there, but even including the top 25 lines would make it seem less like you only care about the Big Guys.
  • List yarns with the company name and yarn “model” name together. I’m often searching for Classic Elite Lush, not just Lush. And, for some common names, there are dozens of different companies (“Squishy Sock” returns 4 pages of results on Ravelry)
  • Separate the non-brands from the brands in the main listing on the app. You should go somewhere else to look at all laceweight yarns or to read about the app’s creator.

So, overall, I think it’s a decent app, though the lack of database entries is a definite hinderance to my personal adoption.

iPhone Apps

With the new phone, I’ve restarted my quest to find the most useful (and/or most entertaining) applications. I’m extremely cheap, so I tend to stick with the apps which are free most of the time.

I decided to put most of the apps on my new phone that were on my old phone though some just didn’t make the cut. Here’s what I decided to re-load onto the new phone:

  1. Pandora: Provides the ability to use the Pandora music service away from your PC. Pandora is probably my favorite way to listen to music online, as it creates a playlist based on an artist or song (or series of artists and songs). I have a bunch of different playlists I go between from Britney Spears to John Coltraine to Reba McIntyre to Leonard Bernstein. You can also choose to play a mix of songs from all of the “stations” you’ve created and, in the new version, play stations by genre. The software “learns” what you like through an easy thumbs-up, thumbs-down system. Matt’s been using the same station for two years and it’s really got his tastes down-pat (except when it randomly plays a very traditional country song for my classic rock-loving guy).
  2. Yelp: Oh, Yelp. Your reviewers and their emphasis on restaurant decor and service may annoy me, but your app is wonderful. Whenever we travel, we always use the app to find a good place to eat. Not excellent outside of major cities but even small town South Carolina has a few reviews left by visitors.
  3. Open Table: Avoid phone calls to restaurants by using this app to make reservations. It uses your location to find places nearby but also lets you search other areas. Great for when you really want to go somewhere for dinner and want to get an idea of how busy they are (AKA if only a 9:00 reservation is available when you check at noon, you probably want to go another night). There’s also a whole point system for making (and keeping) reservations that I think you can cash in at some point for a gift certificate.
  4. Weather Channel: The free version tells you the weather in your current location or anywhere in the world, including my favorite feature, “hour by hour”. No fancy radar maps in the free version, though it’s great for answering the “Should we drive or take the Metro to dinner?” question.
  5. Words With Friends: There’s also a paid version of this though I have zero clue what the difference is. The app lets you play a version of Scrabble with friends or random strangers. My friend Steph and I have played several of the worlds slowest games over the last two months via this app.
  6. Flickr: Pretty simple – let’s you take and post photos to your Flickr stream and let you view the photos and activities of your friends. Much better than having to connect your phone to a PC to upload. Can be finicky but I still love it.
  7. Twitter: I’m addicted to Twitter so I’m happy they bought the company that originally created this app. (Have also heard TweetDeck for iPhone is pretty decent but I don’t need all that added mess.)
  8. Knit Minder: Automatic counter for knitting. Keeps track of three different counts (like rows until next decrease, repeat of lace pattern, and total numbers of rows knit). Nice and simple.
  9. iMapMyRun (free): I use this to map out runs. It uses the GPS to tell where you are and (duh) where you’ve been. Syncs up with mapmyrun.com which isn’t my favorite site for tracking runs (now that Alison showed me RunningAhead), but it’s still decent. I like that you get a little map of your run and pace average after and current location, total time, distance, and pace as you run (if you could look at it and run at the same time, which I can barely do). The free version doesn’t control your music so you have to leave the app to do that but, hey, you should be concentrating on your run, not your music.

After looking around online, there’s quite a few apps I’ll be adding soon:

  1. ESPN ScoreCenter: I’m not super into sports but sometimes it would be nice to know just how badly the Orioles are losing. I often get asked for sports scores by those without smart phones (or slower ones) so this is worth putting on my phone, albeit on the fourth or fifth home screen.
  2. Cube Runner 1.5: Anyone have a Mac back in the day remember Spector (or something like that)? This really reminds me of that game I used to play on my Dad’s work laptop. I got pretty good at it but, sadly, haven’t played it since ninth grade or so. Oh, memories of poorly drawn graphics of a 2D landscape.
  3. Drop Box: Access your documents from anywhere. I already use the website (which gives you 2 Gb of free data storage for life) so this’ll be a great companion.
  4. Google Earth: It’s Google Earth ON MY PHONE!
  5. NY Times: No clue why I’ve never had this on there before, but adding it give me an easier way to catch up on news, without having to use the NPR app (which I think I forgot in my earlier list, add that one to your phone, too).
  6. Wikipedia: For all those times I want “proof” that Matt is wrong.
  7. Photoshop: Yep, for your phone. Gives you the ability to crop and do minor edits which, really, is all I ever use the real version for, anyway.
  8. Tripit: Just foward your travel confirmation emails (airplane flights, hotel, rental car, etc) to the service and you’ll get a handy little list on your phone of when and where. Matt uses this already and has found it extremely helpful. Better than having to search through your email Inbox to find those pesky flight confirmation numbers all the kiosks seem to want nowadays.
  9. Trundle: It’s on my list but I cannot remember what it is. A game, maybe?
  10. Amazon: Good way to find out if maybe you should wait and buy that book online versus a brick and mortar big box store. Or to quickly figure out if the book is still in print.
  11. Slacker Radio: Like Pandora but the playlists are built by music professionals. Another way to get good music on your phone.
  12. Tap Tap Revenge: A stupid version of Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero. Perfect for my poor hand-eye coordination.

What apps do you guys have on your iPhone (or Blackberry or Android or..)?

Shiny

I’m easily distracted. Very easily distracted. Take last night for example. Usual trek home from work (via Metro as I just missed my bus). Arrive really warm and sweaty due to the lovely heat plus humidity combination. Usually, I’d immediately change, grab a cold Diet Coke, and take up a spot on the couch in perfect alignment with the AC vent.

But, what did I do? I didn’t so much as take my sneakers off before I grabbed my brand new iPhone off the coffee table. Threw everything off the chair by the door, grabbed my laptop, and got to work getting the thing activated. Two very tiny numbers had to be read off the box (stupid me, leaving my reading glasses at work – yes, I’m a 25 year-old who has reading glasses). All set up and wee!

I did, finally, change about 30 minutes later, when Matt gave into my demands that we go to Best Buy to get a case and screen protector. After the shopping trip (and super yummy Vietnamese food), I was back in the same chair, setting up my phone. I decided my phone will now sync with the Macbook instead of my poor, failing Dell laptop. This meant having to redownload all my podcasts and apps and figure out how to do basic things like set up my email and contacts to sync with Google.

Then, I got distracted again. I hadn’t watched the Bachelorette yet! I wanted to knit away on my sweater! So (before remembering to sync my phone so it actually had music and what not on it), I ran upstairs and went to Hulu and knit while watching Alli continue to have little to no personality.

Before bed, I got distracted by the phone again, remembering that it has a much better camera. I *needed* to try it out but was too lazy to so much as get up from my seat. Using the horrible overhead lighting in our office, combined with a very dark night sky wasn’t actually as bad for the photos as I would have thought. Some of these even turned out, dare I say it, well.

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Dusty fan from my old desktop, which still sits on my desk despite haven’t bit the dust (har har) over a year ago.

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Writing instruments, a bottle of soak, some candy, and the other random crap I always seem to have on my desk.

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Close-up shot of one of the sleeves of my sweater.

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Close-up of, well, some part of my sweater. I only managed to get through about four rows last night but the rows are now at around 300 stitches which is far too many for the poor 32″ needle I have them on. Thankfully, I’m working raglan decreases right now so the rows are getting shorter and shorter. A weekend finish seems likely but only if I get some real knitting time in the next few evenings.

(In case you all are wondering, I really like the new phone. I haven’t tried to make any calls other than in my house so I can’t say anything about the whole antenna issue. Plus it’s now got an awesome purple gel case that matches my headphones. That has to be worth something.)

Photoless

I have really got to learn to take photos either after work or before work. Now is when I remember, not while waiting at the stop for my bus or during my chill time right before bed, but right now. But, I do have lots of things to blabber on about, even if there’s no photo evidence.

  • Matt and I ordered new iPhones last week and they should arrive today. FedEx has an estimated delivery time of 3:00 so Matt’s leaving slightly early so we don’t miss them. (He worked a really long day yesterday, so it’s not like he’s skipping out on work.) I have a feeling an evening of the two of us totally ignoring one another is expected. We bought our current iPhones on my birthday in 2008 and spent little of that entire day actually confirming one another’s existence. (Though we did talk some at breakfast at a place in Seal Beach I really miss called Blackboard Bistro.)
  • I learned something new at work yesterday and am now really, really excited to start using my new knowledge. It’s nothing exciting or particularly hard, but I feel like a giant door of opportunity is now open. (It has to do with a relational database and our specific implementation scheme, if you care.)
  • While Matt played video games last night, I worked my way through the remainder of the second sleeve on my sweater. The entire sweater is now on a single 32″ circular (barely).
  • Due to the size / weight / wanting-to-fall-off-needle-ness of the sweater, I started the Ms Clarke shawl for my coworker last night. Nice, small project for bus knitting. I’ll continue to work on the sweater at home (hopefully finishing it this week) but forge ahead on the shawl in-transit. It’s been forever since I made a shawl, especially one with lace as the body of the shawl. Having to pay a whole lot more attention than my usual bus knitting but it helps the time pass faster. (You’d think I had a two plus hour commute, the way I talk about it – it’s only five miles and takes 20 minutes.)
  • The shawl is being made in the skein of Dragonfly Fibers Sock in “Rocky Top” I was using to make that crocheted scarf. I decided to frog the scarf after realizing that a scarf is boring to make, even though crochet does tend to go faster than knitting. Plus, it’s amazing yarn and, really, I want someone else to benefit from it vs keeping it for myself. My neck would probably break out from it, anyway. (Stupid neck is wool intolerant, I’ve realized.)
  • I’m already thinking about my next sweater, which will also be done in Weekend. I’ve got 1400 yards and it’s a solid worsted weight. Any ideas on what I should make?
  • Amazon’s giving away free Prime memberships to people with .edu addresses. I signed up in an instant as 1) I am cheap and 2) I will be very unlikely to continue using my .edu address after I graduate in May.
  • I didn’t run today as it took me a full 15 minutes to be awake enough to do more than read my email. When I headed out to go to the bus (about 45 minutes after I would have started my run), I was happy I had decided to skip the run: 75 degrees and over 70 percent humidity SUCKS. (Sorry, Mom, I know you hate that word. It’s just perfectly appropriate here.)

Sort

(Was going to call the entry purge but that reminded me of something disgusting.)

Yesterday, I highly considered deleting my Facebook account. I spend so much time there, hiding peoples’ updates about quizes and fish and Mafias and farms and little time actually finding out what my friends and family are up to. Plus there’s all those privacy concerns making me think that maybe I want to control what gets shown and what doesn’t (at least a little more, I’m naive enough to think everyone else online isn’t sharing whatever I post/write/type). But, well, my friends pointed something out: it’s one of th few places I have to find out what’s going on with people. Sure, there’s Twitter or email but that whole require my friends to change their habits just to keep me informed. I can write all the tweets and blog posts I want, but unless my friends leave the Facebook bubble, they’re never see them. Plus, when something is new with them, why should I require them to venture “outside” to tell me what’s up. FB is the means but which people now share news – I was actually surprised when a family member (who’s not even 25) sent an actual email saying he’s moving. An email! No one emails anymore except to communicate (versus broadcast).

So, yes, I am still on Facebook, but I took an hour or so last night to do a big purge of all my social media contact lists. Trying to sell me something via your Fanpage, bye-bye! Friend of a friend or someone I have little change of ever seeing again – see ya! Google contact who I only ever sent one email to in 2007 – why are you taking up space in my contact list?

I feel like things are right again in the world. I have ways of connecting with those I want to connect with and not all this extra people hanging out on the fringes. (Oh, and I’m angelanoel pretty much everywhere, if you want to find me.)

Oh, look, a photo of knitting. Imagine that. I just finished the heel-turn on Veronica’s first Nanner sock (only took me 10 days to get this far). Hoping to finish it today and immediately start on the second. Crochet has been a total distraction lately but I really need to finish these and get them to her soon. Not that she needs them right away but I don’t want it to suddenly be August and I still have this project half complete. Plus, the yarn is an amazing cashmere/merino blend that is wonderful to work with.

Nanners for Veronica

I’ve now completed the third round on the first set of 24 hexagons and got three of them put together. The joins are bit wonky and I’m not super confident that they’ll hold but, for now it works. I can always go back and single crochet them together in more places.

Great Friday night
(Random fact: The wine in this photo is from a winery owned by Dave Matthews. Only once during our 30 or so minute wine tasting was his name mentioned while his winemaker’s name was mentioned multiple times. Thank you, Blenheim, for not going by just his name but by the name of the one who makes your excellent wines, instead.)

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Today’s plan is easy: farmer’s market, yarn store, Baltimore for party.

Most Used Programs

I’m re-installing Windows on my Desktop today following a sudden slowdown in performance coupled with the fact it’s been at least three years since a good hard drive cleansing. I’ve already put my most important files on a memory stick and everything’s automatically backed-up to Carbonite, but I still have to worry about getting all my programs back. It’s not a long list, seeing as I only use my computer for school stuff and photo editing. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  • Office suit
  • Photoshop
  • Firefox
  • Flickr Uploader
  • iTunes
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • Carbonite
  • Ad Aware
  • RAID (though technically it’s a driver, right?)

What programs can you not do without?

Question – Use of Online Nicknames

It always amuses me when I read about someone’s “DH” or “DD” or “DS.” First of all, I hate the word Dear. It implies that the person is not just valued by you but that they are your lfie. Sure, Matt is really important to me but calling him my Dear Husband makes me feel as if I’m a second class citizen. I bow down before my Dear Husband. Same goes for DS and DD. Forgot my distaste for the names for a moment and think about this: why do people use them?

Maybe out of laziness. Few of us have an important family member with a name of two characters or less (in the US, at least). Maybe it’s that we’re afraid. If some stranger finds out my child’s name she’ll get kidnapped and I’ll never see her again. Maybe we want to seem like we’re in the know. Everyone online refers to their husband as DH so I should, too.

But there’s another alias system the Web 2.0 types use: making up nicknames for everyone in their lives. I’ve seen HusBoy, First Son, Pretty Girl. Do these nicknames get used for the same reason as the DH/DD/DSs do?

Do you use a nickname or D-something abbreviation? Why? I could never keep straight who is who if I used nicknames the the D part drives me batty. I don’t want to insult anyone, really, I’m’ just curious.

Done: Item 73 – Make a You Tube video.

I actually made three, all this weekend at FIRST. Why make a YouTube video in the first place? Because I could, essentially. I wanted to get in on it. Here’s the videos.

1. Dean jumps over game piece (AKA 40″ ball): He’s one of the teachers that helps out with the robotics team. Despite how tall he is, even he had trouble jumping the ball. I captured this at the recommendation of one of the students. (link)

2. Left turn: After much messing with the software Matt and one of the students finally go the robot to turn left autonomously. That whole go forward, turn left, go forward, turn left thing is still being worked on. (link)

3. Kicker: The robot has a “kicker” that’s used to remove the ball from the robot. This video was taken during our attempts at getting it to work properly. (link)

Robots, Robots, Robots

My life has been taken over by robots. With the ship date just over a week away, we’ve been meeting all the time. We get home, grab something for dinner, watch a bit of TV, and head to bed. Five days in a row so far (today makes six). But, I know it’s all worth it. The kids will be so much happier to have a truly finished, working robot put in the crate instead of one that sort of works. Hopefully we won’t be testing the mast for the first time or drilling speed holes  in Lexan at Midnight the day before ship. I’ll do a whole write-up of the ‘bot when it’s done but, for now, here’s a few of my favorite photos from the build season thus far.

FIRST 08 - Weeks 1-5