Author Archives: Julie Niesen Gosdin

About Julie Niesen Gosdin

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I’ve worked at home on and off for most of my career, though for the past five years, I’d been in an office. Now, I have a job enables me to work from home when I’m not on the road, and I am re-discovering some pitfalls. You know the big one: laziness.

I mean, really– how easy is it to not shower, not brush your teeth, and to eat cereal right out of the container when you literally won’t see anyone for hours?

Yeah, can’t do that. For one, I’m not productive. And for two, that reminds me a little too much of some of my darker days after I got laid off this past summer.

Being the gadget geek I am, I’ve turned to several apps to help me reinforce some good habits.

Moves: Moves is an app that tracks your movements and creates a “storyline” of where you’ve been.  It uses GPS and the gyrometer in your iPhone to track distance without having a second gadget. It tracks steps, running, cycling, walking– anywhere where you’re moving (but not cars; I guess they’ve programmed it to realize that humans can’t run 65 mph).  Today, I’ve really only walked around my apartment, but it also reminds me that movement is probably a good thing– and drives me to go out and walk in my urban neighborhood.

Lift:  Lift allows you to check into pre-created habits.  You can create habits like “Floss” or “Exercise”  or “Make the Bed” (a big one for me). You can search popular habits to see what other people are working on VolumePills (and to remind you what you might work on– “drink more water” was a good one for me) and are also organized by categories like productivity, mindfulness and fitness.  You can check on your friends’ activity, and support them with “props”.  It’s like crowdsourced responsibility.

GymPact: Put your money where your mouth is, or something like that.  GymPact makes you pay cold, hard cash every time you don’t go to the gym.  Make a pact with yourself (mine is currently 3x/week), check in when you go to the gym or go for a run, and earn money.  I found the checkins can be kind of buggy, but their customer service very quickly will credit you a gym visit that you missed because of their app.  Users get paid by those who don’t go to the gym. I’ve earned, like, $7 so far– which doesn’t cut into my personal training budget, but hey, it’s better than paying $25 for not going.  Ouch.  If you want to join, they have a “get $5 when you sign up” promotion.  Hey, I’ve never been paid to exercise, have you?

SparkPeople is something I’ve been using for years on and off– probably since 2006.  They are a local-to-me company that is the largest fitness site on the web, and happens to have a great app.  You can track calories, weight, measurements and exercise and it’s all free.  The reporting features is pretty good on the app and even better on the website.  Plus, if you have a Fitbit or other tracking device, you can sync it with SparkPeople’s tracking.

Picture it: a bachelorette trip to Nashville. I drive a Volkswagen Eos, which is a fantastic car that appeals to this girl geek since its top is like a transformer, but for a six-hour drive with three girls’ luggage? It wouldn’t do. I cashed in a few free days from National Rent-A-Car and ended up with a Chevy Equinox.  Though we liked the extra room, what all three of us were really fascinated by was the really nice integration of MyLink and OnStar.

I think we’re all used to European cars leading in-car technology: think Mercedes-Benz’s MBrace, or BMW’s iDrive.  Recently, Ford Sync and Chevrolet’s MyLink have jumped into the ring in a very competitive way.

Using MyLink was easy– simply link a phone via Bluetooth or the USB port, and your songs and playlists are instantly indexed.  Hit the Aux button, and you can use Spotify or Pandora instead.  Need to make a call?  Press a button on your steering wheel.  Need directions?  Though I’m a devoted Apple fangirl, Siri sometimes just doesn’t cut it.  Press a button for OnStar and the unfailingly polite person on the other end finds your destination and sends the turn-by-turn directions directly to the MyLink display.  It instantly recalculates, and if you have any other issues, help is a phone call away.

I only  had the Equinox for two days, but I approached the Chevy dealership in my area about driving a Volt (Full disclosure: I do some community management for the dealerships in Cincinnati).  They hooked me up with a white Volt for five days.

This car is a geek’s dream.  Really.  Though white isn’t my color– they carry it into the dash, making it look a little like an early iPod– the rest of the experience is fantastic.  It has all of the same MyLink features as the Equinox, but streamlined with a touch panel and screen that also allows you to monitor the hybrid engine.  You can see how power is being generated, how your driving style and cabin comfort (read: air conditioning or heat) affects your use of energy.  It’s pretty cool.  The display is also customizable: the dealer, when showing me the features of the car, said that if you’ve got someone who really only wants to monitor their usage, listen to the radio, and maybe use satellite radio, you can eliminate the rest of the choices to eliminate confusion.

The Volt is a range-extended battery-powered series vehicle while the Prius is a hybrid (even the plug-in version).  Unlike a 50mpg Prius, which can only go for about a mile on the battery before the gas engine kicks in, the Volt has a 38 mile range, which is perfect for someone who only drives in the city, or has a  one-way commute under that mileage.  With the Eco function, which limits the power of the (very nice) speakers and heats the seats instead of the whole cabin, the Volt can allow your experience to be efficient and maximize that 38-mile range.  It’s entirely possible, based on where you live, to not have to use the gas generator (it’s not really a gas engine, the generator creates electricity to power the battery) at all– just plug in at your destination and at home.  This makes for a car that has some kick– floor that baby and it’ll take right off but it is still incredibly quiet.  I drove around a little in a quiet park, and the only sound you hear are twigs and gravel under your tires.  I had to use the horn feature– a couple of brisk “toots”– as I turned on my city streets, because the Volt is so quiet that pedestrians can’t hear you.

Plugging it in was easy:  I live in a condo, and I happen to have a parking spot right outside my door.  It takes about 10 hours to charge with a standard outlet but many places (seemingly random here in Cincinnati– an outlet mall, a few restaurants) have the higher voltage charger which will charge it in just a few.

Oh, need to know how your car is doing charging-wise?  The OnStar App is fabulous.  You can figure out your gas (er, electric…) mileage, remotely turn the car on and off (I would LOVE that in the winter), send directions– all sorts of things.  It also monitors the health and well-being of your car, so you know when your tire pressure is off or if you have to have some maintenance done.

All in all, as a fairly devoted European car driver, I was incredibly impressed with what the Chevy Volt had to offer.  For a starting price of $36,500, I would have liked a few more luxurious details like leather and automatic seats,  but overall the technology blew me away.  As a city dweller who doesn’t drive much, this might work out to be a great car for me.  But since my Eos is only a year old, I’ll look into OnStar FMV– essentially the OnStar system for any car, GM or not.  Once I get it, I’ll report back.

 

 

 

 


Cult of Mac is reporting a complete list of iPad Mini models has leaked, and it confirms most of the rumors I’ve heard over the past few months:

Lower Price:  The starting price for an 8 GB wifi unit is $249, $100 more than the 7″ Kindle Fire, going up to $649 for a 64 GB with cellular connectivity.

LTE/Cellular: Speaking of LTE, there are both wifi and LTE versions in all storage capacities.  That’s a pretty good deal– $649 is the starting price for the original iPad with just wifi; if you’re good with the smaller size, you can get a lot of bang for your buck. Oh, and we’re not calling it WiFi + 4G anymore, since 4G LTE connectivity isn’t available outside of the US and Canada (there goes my European vacation…).

Color:  It’s not going to be available in multiple colors like the new iPod Touch.  Bummer.  It will, however be available in black and white like the iPad and iPhone.

For me, I really prefer the larger size. I’ve used a 7″ Kindle Fire off and on since it came out, and the 9.5″ size really works for me. If I want something smaller, I’ll just use my iPhone. But for someone who wants the iPad experience without shelling out the full-sized iPad price, this is a great option.

I’m betting, too, that with the iPad Mini, we’ll see a rise in the use of iPads for education.  At $249, you can buy 2 Minis for the price of one regular iPad.  It’s perfect for parents who want their child to use an iPad– but not their iPad– or school districts that are dipping their toes in the eBook pond. Paired with the underutilized iBooks 2 platform, offering this lower price point will really allow Apple to change eBooks in education (as noted by TUAW’s Erica Sadun).

What do you think? Will you run out to buy an iPad Mini for yourself or your kids?