App’s I like

I haven’t posted a review of iPhone/iPad app’s in a long time, but here are two App’s that I have been using the past couple of months that I am very pleased with and highly recommend:

Dark Sky – Weather

I really like the design of this app. When I first read about that app my initial reaction was, “Well what can it provide that other weather app’s do not?”. However, i found that it really does display weather information in a very unique format that gives you a complete picture of the weather in your area very quickly.. The maps are great and are especially cool when displayed on a tablet

Dark Sky costs a $3.99, but I think it well worth it.

StocksTracker – Financial 

The second app that has become a new favorite of mine is StocksTracker.  Yes, there are hundreds of stock app’s out there, but I think this app is exceptionally well designed and the interface is very well organized.
The bacic app is free, but if you want the full version with all the bell and whistles it costs $15.00. I used the free version at first  and I liked it so much that bought the full version after two  weeks. I think the charts are very good.
It is a great app for the iPhone, but even better on the iPad.

The Autumn Express and the Return of Passenger Trains to the Lehigh Valley

This past weekend an Amtrak Autumn Express excursion train travelled to the Lehigh Valley from New York City and it was a truly historic event because it was the first time in several decades that a passenger train had actually passed through Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown, the three major cities of the Lehigh Valley. The train then continued west to Harrisburg and Lancaster. After a stop at Lancaster the train headed south to Philadelphia and then north back to New York.

The first Autumn Express train left New York at 8:30 am on Saturday morning, Oct 29th, and crossed the Delaware river at approximately 10:20 am., entering Easton as it headed west the Bethlehem and then Allentown. I made my way to the site of the old Easton Passenger station to watch the Autumn Express roll by. I fairly large crowd of train enthusiasts, including the the mayor of Easton, had gathered to welcome train. A similar crowd formed to Allentown, including the mayor of that city as well, to greet train.



Here is video a shot of the Autumn Express arriving at the site of the former Easton Passenger Station on the morning of Saturday, Oct 29th,

I enjoyed seeing the train so much on Saturday that on Sunday morning  I decided to go to a spot right below the railroad bridge that the Autumn Express would cross the Delaware so I could capture that on video.






Later that morning I shot a brief video explaining why it was such a thrill to see the Autumn Express in Easton and why many in the Lehigh Vally would love the see passenger train service return to this area.




Apple should make a Mac Book/iPad Hybrid

On Tuesday Apple announced that they were introducing new Mac Book Air models with faster chips and a $100.00 reduction in price for each model across the line. That was welcome news, but nothing to get really too excited about because Apple is just making slight improvements to the MBA. I loved the groundbreaking design of the MBA when it was introduced and I still think it is very cool and best in class, but it is now three years old and I think Apple needs to introduce a radically new design which can complete with the new crop of Hybrid Laptop/Tablets which run Windows 8 and Android.

Not too long ago, when the spectacular new iPad Air was introduced, I put up a post on this blog praising the new tablet and noting that the ever-increasing capabilities of tablets such as the iPad were making them viable replacements for laptops. I stated that I thought I could see myself just using a tablet and a desktop computer in the future and not purchasing traditional laptops in the future. Now that Microsoft Office is available for the iPad it is an even more attractive laptop substitute. When the iPad Air hit the Apple Stores I took a trip to my local Apple Store to see it in person and I must say that the Air lived up to my expectations. As usual, the build quality was excellent and although I seen pictures of the Air and knew the spec’s prior to seeing it in person I was still surprised by just how light, yet sturdy, it felt.

In recent weeks I have also spent a lot of time looking at the some of the latest tablets running Windows8 and Android being sold at stores here in San Diego, including our local Microsoft Store. I have to admit I was also very impressed by Microsoft Surface tablets, particularly the Surface Pro 2. The Surface Pro 2, which runs on the Intel i5 chip, is really a full blown computer in the body of a tablet. It remains fairly a expensive device, with 128 GB model at $999.00 and the 256 GB model costing $1299.00, which is more than many laptops with comparable spec’s, but the Surface has redefined the capabilities of tablets in ways that even the iPad has not in some ways.

At least one company, Asus, briefly produced laptop that ran Win8 and had a detachable screen that could function as an Android tablet. However, it appears that neither MSFT or GOOG was very happy with that machine. I checked the Asus website and it appears that Asus no longer sells this laptop so they must have been pressured to discontinue it. Too bad, because I think that would machine have appealed to many people, because Android is regarded as a better OS for mobile devices and Windows is clearly superior to Android as a conventional computer OS. However, I can understand why MSFT and GOOG were not supportive of that type of hybrid because, ideally, they don’t want users to have split loyalties. Asus still offers hybrid laptops, but it appears that they only run Win8.1 now.

I think Apple should copy the dual OS concept and build a Mac Book that runs OS X with a detachable screen that could function as an iPad running iOS. High ranking Apple Executives have indicated that there are no plans to merge the Mac’s OS X and the iPad’s iOS into one OS a la Windows 8. Apple thinks OS X and iOS are perfectly suited for the type of devices that they run on respectively and I understand that position. A new Apple OS that combined OS X and iOS might indeed be advantageous in some respects, but might not provide the same performance or user experience that OS X and iOS provide for the devices they are specifically designed for.

I’m not sure if Apple could produce such a Mac/iPad hybrid at a competitive price, but if various PC makers can produce hybrids of this type I don’t see why Apple could not. Various tech blogs have run stories within the last year that suggest Apple may indeed be working on such a hybrid device, but who knows? Maybe they are and they are keeping it under wraps. We know that Apple is set to introduce a new 12 inch Mac Book Air that is rumored to feature a new lightweight design. Is it possible this new laptop will be hybrid? Probably not, I suspect an Apple hybrid is not quite ready yet, but I really look forward to the day that it is. Mac and iPad users would love it. It would indeed be the best of both worlds.