All posts tagged apps

Stop filling your mind with random stuff. It’s time to go on a high-quality, low information diet.

knowledge Tree

By Brad Beckstrom

I thought I had this all figured out. A few years ago, I decided to get on a high quality low information diet. I would avoid traditional news sites and only follow a small group of highly trusted writers, using a RSS feed reader. I would update and pare back this list regularly and categorize the writers I followed by interest. The feed reader I use is called Feedly and allows me to group my favorite writers into categories like business, family, personal development, photography, comedy, sports etc. The feed reader is very effective at stripping out distractions, especially all of that click bait, and fake news, you see at the bottom of many websites, even on many major news and network websites. My plan worked well. Each evening my feed reader presented me with a personally curated news stream from a group of writers I trust with very little distraction. No clickbait, no banner ads, no fake news.

Then two things happened. Apple launched an app called “News” that I started playing with after a recent iPhone upgrade. Then the election cycle began. This news app is comes set up like a feed reader for the big news sites. I found myself following multiple networks, major newspapers. Any spare moment I had, standing in line, having some lunch, I started filling up with this news app. Then I felt I needed to share things on Facebook or Twitter which led me to click on more stories shared by friends. There was so much garbage out there about both candidates, I’d quickly spiraled into a news consumption addiction. I’d gone from high quality, low information to just information and way too much of it. Not only did my other feed reader start to fill up with unread articles, I also found myself thinking less about what I wanted to create.  I was too busy absorbing all of the news to think about much else. As a dieter might say, I fell off the wagon.

It’s Over

The election is now over, so it should be easy for me to walk away from all those network news sites, walk away from all of the name-calling and breaking stories and move on. Unfortunately it will be hard, and I think many people won’t walk away at all. They will want to be up-to-date on the latest political shit show playing out in Washington DC. Others will want to follow all of this news as they feel some responsibility, sense of urgency, to know what is going on as it may impact their jobs, family, their daily life. What’s the harm anyway?  You’re just filling up some dead time by looking at your phone.

I believe there is harm. You have to look at what you’re missing by spending so much time keeping up with so-called “news”. You’re filling your brain with a lot of fleeting stuff ( I could insert 100 examples here from Twitter alone) that you have absolutely no control over, and has very little impact on what’s important to your daily life.

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Change the way you consume information

For me this doesn’t mean shutting out traditional news entirely. It means immediately changing the way I’ve been consuming news and going back to what works. So, what do I mean by a high quality low information diet?  Everyone’s different so what may be high quality to me may be garbage to someone else. The good news here is that we can use the same technology that’s been bombarding us with click bait, fake news, sensationalism to filter those exact things. Here are six high-tech ways I’m doing that and two very low-tech ways.

  1. Use a good quality RSS feed reader. Basically, the way a feed reader works allows you to follow trusted blogs, specific topics, and writers that are credible. Instead of typing “CNN” or clicking on FoxNews in your browser, you can take a few minutes to follow feeds from sources that you know are legit and won’t fill up your screen with clickbait and banners next to every article. I use Feedly. My feed updates on my phone in a browser or on iPad. All of them stay in sync and I don’t miss a thing from my favorite writers like Seth Godin or James Altucher.
  2. If you’re more visual, and like a magazine style presentation on your tablet, I recommend flipboard.  You can follow the same feeds as on other apps. It syncs across devices and is especially great on tablets.
  3. Once you setup your feed, don’t follow the major news sites. This will simply just fill up your screen with all of the random latest news stories that you want to cut back on.
  4. Update your feed readers regularly, cleaning out blogs, topics, and writers you used to follow that no longer interest you.  If you’re on your iPhone a lot and still want to use Apple News or Google News just simply delete the major sites that come preloaded and add your favorite writers, bloggers, or reporters. Just like on Feedly.
  5. Turn off any breaking news notifications on your mobile device. These all lead to the “hot stories” and are a big part of the news addiction distraction. Just because Google adds newsfeeds to your smartphone home screen doesn’t mean you can’t turn it off.
  6. Stop listening to network, commercial talk radio and start streaming or downloading podcasts.
  7. Cash in some left over frequent flyer points for a few good magazines. Believe it or not high-quality magazines like Fortune, Wired, and Fast Company still use fact checkers. A well-written article that’s going to press gets more eyes in front of it than something that is rushed out online as a “breaking story”.
  8. Rediscover the Sunday paper and a hot cup of coffee. If I added up all the time I spent checking CNN and other sites during the election cycle, I could probably free up four hours a week. Use a fraction of that time to learn about what’s going on in your local area as well as get a summary of world events that have at least been vetted by an editorial staff. If there’s a writer you really like, you can follow them in your feed instead of following the whole newspaper, as many people are tempted to do with major news sites.

The most important thing here is to change how you consume “news”. End your need to have the latest information. Wait for quality. Try going on a major news diet, just start following a few writers that look interesting in your feed readers search results, then grow from there.  If anything big happens, trust me, the Internet will make sure you hear about it. The rest of it can wait while you get on with your life.

The Frug

 

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Making Sleep Awesome Again.

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Nine Ways I’m Improving My Sleep and Fighting Fatigue .

By Brad Beckstrom

I shouldn’t complain, after all, I’ve spent a half a century on this planet without a major illness.  I’m not sure my second half-century will go as well, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.  In return for my overall good health, I’ve gotten to battle my share of ongoing “nagging conditions.”  I think “conditions” is a good word for these because they are a state, a circumstance in which I operate, they are ongoing and generally unyielding to my efforts. I have learned to live with these conditions and manage them on a day-to-day basis so that they’re generally unnoticeable to others and, on a good day, unnoticeable even to myself.

What is my condition?  Boogers. That’s it. That’s what I’ve called it since I was a kid “Boogers”. The official medical term is Sinusitis, Basically your nose overreacts to everything and fills up with some sort of snot that dries up in the night and turns into boogers.  It’s sort of like having a mild cold all the time. Immediately people think “oh, you must have allergies.” Nope, I’m allergic to nothing. I’ve been tested probably 5 times, even once at the National Institutes of Health. After sprays and meds didn’t work, top docs told me, “oh, the problem is your deviated septum. Surgery can fix that.” I got a second opinion, “yep surgery will fix that.”  I got the surgery, it didn’t fix it.  It’s my condition. It’s not going anywhere.

I was told that these sinus problems need to be addressed or they can lead to sleep apnea  which can lead to stroke, cancer or DEATH.  So, now these boogers could kill me if I didn’t get rid of them. Or more likely, my wife will kill me for my loud snoring, Read more…

Are GPS apps rendering part of your brain inactive?

How to vastly improve your experience with maps and keep your head from getting lost in the map on your smartphone.

By Brad Beckstrom

640px-Claudius_Ptolemy-_The_World

Cartography –  The study and practice of making maps.

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Remember paper maps? I’m talking about the big unfolding kind they used to give you at tourism offices, AAA or full-service gas stations. How about the slick plastic coated ones that you could access with one hand on the steering wheel trying to navigate in a city like Rome or Washington, DC? Or the jumbo 50 page city or county map books they used to sell at office supply and convenience stores for about 18 bucks, still popular with some realtors and salespeople who work in remote areas or haven’t jumped on the smartphone bandwagon yet. Or the mother of them all, The Rand McNally Road Atlas hundreds of pages just waiting to be explored. I always had a thing for maps. I was always up for exploring out-of-the-way places, and maps helped me get there.

The frug globe

When my boys were younger, we used to play a game called “spin the globe”, wherever you land, you have to go there. I remember once my oldest son spun the globe and landed on Yakutsk, Russia generally considered to be the coldest inhabited city on earth with average temperatures of -58°F. He immediately added the city to the weather app on his phone and kept an eye on the place, occasionally sharing the sometimes ridiculous low temperatures. I don’t think I’ll ever see Yakutsk but I have a feeling he might.

Once GPS came along I knew I was hooked. (Finally an answer for my lack of direction in life.)   I played around with some of the earliest handheld GPS units, the kind where you had to load a CD onto your computer then somehow transfer maps to the GPS unit. These early units were popular with boaters because it’s very important to know where you’re going on the water. You also need to know about a third dimension, the depth of the water so you don’t end up on a sand barge, as I occasionally did.  At least I can blame the fricking GPS unit versus my lack of preparation with paper navigation charts. Read more…

The Frug’s List. The best free things on the internet (I’ve used for over a year).

The Frug's

By Brad Beckstrom

I should have made this list sooner, but I don’t like recommending something unless I’ve used it for a while, especially if it’s free, or it’s often too good to be true cousin (freemium).  Since I started this blog in 2013, I’ve written about all kinds of free things on the inter-webs so I thought it would be a good idea to consolidate these into an ongoing list that I can update when I discover new free things, or get pissed and take one off the list. You can be sure that if it’s on this list I’ve been using it for at least a year.

Some of the items on this list are what we call “freemium”, meaning the initial version of the app is free, with more full-featured versions available for a fee. I won’t include them on the list if I don’t feel the basic version will fulfill most people’s needs, and I’ll be sure to mention if it’s ad-supported or freemium.  These are not in any particular order, but in the future, I’ll add my latest discoveries to the top of the list.

thefruglist

  • Craigslist, the granddaddy of useful free things on the web. Craigslist has been one of my favorite tools for getting rid of stuff, whether it means posting a curb alert to have your old stuff hauled away for free, unloading old computer equipment for cold hard cash, or selling some sports tickets without some service adding 20% to the price. It’s free, it’s useful, it works. The more you use it, the better you get. Always remember to use photos to get your items noticed. My favorite craigslist story was when our local UPS guy came and hauled away an old sofa that The Salvation Army would not accept.
  • Google Apps for Work. Including Drive, Calendar, Docs, Gmail. I’ve been using Google’s online suite of apps for years. It always amazes me that I can create or find something much faster online in my browser than I can waiting for slow apps from Microsoft and Apple to grind through their bloated routines. After 6 years, I am currently using about eight gigs of the 15 free gigs of storage Google includes with my suite of apps. If you’re worried about security, you can even add two factor authentication. You’ll get a code sent to your mobile device if you try to login to your documents from another browser. You can also sync and backup your docs to your computer using Google Drive for your desktop.

Read more…

Should I have another?  

The best way to track your alcohol intake without carrying around a breathalyzer or having someone offer you one.

intellidrink-iphone

By Brad Beckstrom

So one friend says to me “I shouldn’t have a beer, I’m driving.”  Another friend says “Let’s have another round.” And he may have already had 5. Even though I frequently use UBER or Lyft to get around, I still think it’s a good idea to keep track of what you’re drinking. I’ve been trying to cut back on the amount of alcohol I consume to lose a few pounds and live a healthier lifestyle.

I found a subtle trick you can use  to limit your drinking and stay well within legal limits. You’ll be able to your enjoy yourself whether it’s with the 1 beer friend, 5 beer friend, or no beer friend. Here’s how it works:

The past couple of years I’ve been using a smartphone app called IntelliDrink. The app uses an algorithm based on information you put in to set up your profile. Your profile includes things like height weight, and gender but also allows you to put in your favorite drinks, including type, size, and alcohol content in advance. So, when you have a beverage, all you need to do is click on the drink button. You can even adjust the time you started, as well as whether you have recently eaten, or are drinking on an empty stomach. Just make sure you’re sober when you complete your profile and put in the drink information. You only need to do this once.

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The most important feature on the app is the blood alcohol content (BAC) graph. What many people don’t realize is that your blood-alcohol level continues to rise after you stop drinking, especially if you’ve had several drinks over a short period of time.  This app does a great job of tracking and  predicting blood alcohol content based on your profile and the types, time, and number of drinks you’ve entered by hitting the drink button. Read more…