iPad 2 review – first impressions from an Android user’s perspective

Neither of us could wait till Christmas to play with our Christmas present – an iPad 2. As Android phone users you would have expected us to have bought an Android tablet. But when hubby went to the shops to have a play he fell head over wallet with the fruity alternative.

This week I have been rather busy with our daughter’s seventh birthday so I haven’t had much time to play. But I want to share my first impressions.

I love it. I can’t tell you whether I would have loved the Samsung Galaxy tablet more, but despite my gripes I do love it and don’t have any regrets.

We are currently in setup mode. We need to find a good Twitter chat app and more importantly we need to resolve the shared device problems re account logins, email etc. But I am loving Flipboard – a magazine style presentation of your Twitter and FB feeds only available on the iPhone and iPad.

So what don’t I like?

There is is only one button and it takes you home. I am used to a back, menu and cursor control buttons on my Android phone. I don’t want to always goes back to the very beginning, I want to be able to change settings within the app and it’s incredibly fiddly to position the cursor exactly where you want it when typing – there is though a solution, you just have to long press and the near vicinity is magnified making it possible to move the cursor one letter at a time – but I don’t think it’s as easy as having a physical button.

The keyboard is also very annoying. Aside from missing long press to active shift, the apostrophe is on screen two – though it is accessible if you long press the exclamation key but this is a well kept secret as there is nothing on the key to tell you this. It also frustrates me that the keyboard doesn’t change when you change case. But I do like that the ‘return’ key is context sensitive, changing to display ‘go’ or ‘search’ and I like the keyboard hide button. So I’d really love to be able to change the keyboard but I’m pretty certain that’s an Android advantage feature – i.e. not possible.

And my final gripe is the browser. I don’t want the mobile web version I want the desktop version. I am very much hoping that this is something we can change.

Having originally posted a near identical post on G+, fellow similarly named Geek Mummy said that my review was a fair assessment. Most depressing was that there is no magic solution to the multi-user shared device problem. So I am very interested in hearing people’s work arounds.

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Geocaching – Treasure Hunting using your Smartphone

Legal notice: Geeky Mummy is not liable for dog poo covered shoes, bramble scratches or muggle stares that you will incur as a result of reading this blog post.

Trust me, geocaching is brilliant fun. The idea is simple.

Someone hides a container called a cache somewhere for other people to find – typically they are hidden in trees and bushes. The cache varies in both size and contents but usually contains a log book for the finder to sign and some treats – think party bag toys. Finders are meant to swap rather than just take.

To find a cache you put your postcode into the geocaching.com website and hey presto, a list of nearby caches to find. Each cache has GPS co-ordinates.

So if you have a smartphone, the only additional expense is the purchase of a geocaching app. The official Groundspeak Geocachcing app is around £6. But if you have an Android phone and read the comments, you will see that everyone recommends that you use c:geo instead. It’s free and having used it I can confirm it really is very good and you can’t beat free.

We have been geocaching for about a month. Geeky Daughter loves the whole treasure hunting side if it and to be honest so do I – hubby would argue that I am obsessed but as we have been out far more than we would have otherwise I think it is at worst a healthy obsession. 16 month old Geeky Son however is not so keen, especially as he often has to be confined to his buggy to prevent him from grabbing brambles.

The biggest misconception I had about geocaching was that it would involve long walks in the countryside. Whilst this can be true, there are lots of caches in cities and residential areas, on the back of road signposts. We have quite a few in the local playgrounds and parks that are only minutes away from where we live.

So if this has sparked your interest – check out the geocaching.com website. There is a great little video on the home page that visually explains geocaching as well as the postcode search page (I recommend that when it lists the results you click on the Map this location link).

Oh and in case you are wondering, a Muggle is someone that doesn’t geocache in addition of course to not being able to do magic.

Happy geocaching. I’m a relative newbie, but let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.

I have written the blog post simply because we love geocaching and think you’ll love it too.

Book Review: No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay


No Time For Goodbye was recommended to our parent book group by one of the librarians. I wanted a non-gruesome page turner and Linwood Barclay delivered.

Out of nine mums, one hated it complaining it was too sad, two loved it and the rest of us were left confused.

We all agreed it was a fantastic plot that has the potential to be a blockbuster hit – should it ever be made. The problem lay in the writing style.

The story revolves around the disappearance of a 14 year old girl’s family. It very quickly jumps to 25 years later and a final attempt to solve the mystery.

It is written from the perspective of the husband of the now married girl.  As strange things happen he wonders whether she is responsible and starts to doubt his wife’s innocence.

We debated for some time the cause of our disappointment. We agreed the writing lacked something. It isn’t badly written. In fact the very last page was brilliant. And this might be the key. Apart from the very last page, it isn’t a very emotional read. For a group of mums reading a book about a child’s family going missing we expected more emotion.

That said, we ended up with an average score of 3 to 3.5 out of five. But the majority of us couldn’t hand on heart recommend it to friends as a ‘you must read this book’. Worse still, we wouldn’t jump at the chance to read his other books.

Have you read No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay? Have you read any of his other books?

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Peppa Pig World @ Paulton’s Park Geeky Tips & Theme Park Comparison

The Geeky Mummy family had a very exciting Saturday. Thanks to winning a competition on Mummy From The Heart‘s blog, we had special Golden Ticket’s to Peppa Pig World at Paulton’s Park. Not only were we getting in for FREE but we also got to go a week before it officially opened.

Despite living only an hour away, this was our first ever trip to Paulton’s Park and the very quick answer to what we thought of it was quite simply BRILLIANT. At least Pepper Pig World is brilliant, can’t tell you much about the rest of Paulton’s Park as we didn’t get to anything other than Pepper Pig World because we only had a few hours thanks to Geeky Son keeping us up most of the night before thus preventing our planned early start.

The kids loved the playground the best. It is beautiful and well thought out, with play frames for all ages, including for Geeky Son who is only 14 months, which is a rarity.

The rides are all very tame and Geeky Daughter (Age 6)  loved that she was able to go on them by herself, but Geeky Son wasn’t big enough to go on all of them. I liked that we were able to go on some rides like Daddy Pig’s Car Ride and Grandpa Pig’s Train rides as a family.

Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter Ride was a big mistake though as it is essentially a mini Ferris Wheel and this means a lot of time is wasted waiting for people to get on and off the ride before it can even begin, so the queue moves very slowly.

You may be pleased to know that the The Muddy Puddles does not contain mud. It is a water play area – similar to the one at Legoland. So if you want your kids to join in, I suggest you pack swim wear/change of clothes and a towel.

So how does it compare with Legoland, Thorpe Park and Chessington?

Firstly Cost. Paulton’s Park (which includes entrance to Peppa Pig World) is significantly cheaper than the other three. However, you can use your Tesco clubcard to buy entrance tickets at  less than half price for Legoland, Thorpe Park and Chessington making Paulton’s Park slightly more expensive if you are a Tesco shopper with vouchers to spend (remember you have to convert your clubcard vouchers into entrance tickets in advance).

Thorpe Park is definitely the place to go if you want super fast thrill seeking rides. Whilst there is a paddling pool and a very young children’s part to the park, the lack of family rides that we could all go on places Thorpe Park as my least favourite of the four theme parks.

Chessington on the other hand has a lovely mix of rides. It has the added bonus of a well designed aquarium with walk through tunnel and a little zoo area with tigers, gorillas and few other animals. We have frequently visited Chessington at weekends as we have found the family and kids rides aren’t too busy. Geeky Hubby would buy a Fastrack (i.e. jump the queue) ticket so that he could nip off every now and then to get his adrenaline kick.

Legoland is only round the corner from us and used to be our favourite theme park with lots of family friendly rides. However, it is a lot busier than it used to be and, in what has caused outrage in many regulars, they now charge for parking. This means you have to spend some of your day out paying for your parking ticket and worse still completely slows down leaving the park with the feeding in of parking tickets and waiting for barriers to lift.

This means that Paulton’s Park could well be our new favourite and we are definitely planning to go back.

Other than winning tickets to Paulton’s Park I have received no incentives to write this blog post.

A Geeky Guide to Losing Weight & Getting Fit?

Geeky Son has recently celebrated his first birthday, so the whole ‘I am fat because I just had a baby‘ excuse is wearing a bit thin – well at least something is. So along with a large percentage of the population, my New Year’s Resolution was to get back to my pre baby no 2 size with a stretch goal of shrinking to my pre kids size.

So far I have lost 7 lbs which I am really pleased about, though I do confess that 2.5 lbs was thanks to a sickness bug that was no fun at all, but I am pleased that it has managed to stay off, so I must be doing something right?

Being a bit of a geek, the way to get me to do anything is to throw gadgets at me (not literally as I really can’t catch). Whether this approach is going to work, only time will tell, but in the mean time, feel free to point out the errors in my assumptions or applaud my geeky methods.

Food

Everyone knows that getting rid of the flab is a two-pronged attack, watching what you eat and exercising. Eating better has been my starting point. I have read numerous books, from the Food Doctor to Paul McKenna. My research has led me to create the following guidelines for myself – not rules, as that implies they have to be followed, guidelines mean that when I break them I don’t have to feel guilty:

  1. Eat when hungry – otherwise apparently you can screw up your metabolism and starving myself would, well, I like my food way too much.
  2. Stop eating when no longer hungry – I tend to edge more to the before I am full, but the point is, clearing my plate is not the objective. Too many times I have eaten way too much because I like the taste or feel like it is too much of a waste not too.
  3. Only eat what I want to eat – there are a lot of foods I don’t like, for example I love broccoli and carrots but can’t stand peas, I am not big on fruit and whilst I can eat it, I would rather stay away from lettuce. If eating healthier means I have to eat grapefruit then quite frankly I would prefer to be mistaken for expecting no 3.

To keep an eye on what I eat I decided I needed to keep a food journal, and this is where we get to the gadgety part. I did consider joining Weight Watchers Online, I love the idea of a points system and I know quite a few people who have had great success with them. However whilst looking at phone apps for my Android HTC Desire I came across WWPoints. It isn’t affiliated with Weight Watchers but I found a number of reviews by people saying that they had compared it with the official Weight Watchers calculator and it seemed to be spot on. So for a few quid as a one off payment, I have been kind of following a Weight Watchers Pro diet.

I don’t use the app religiously, but I find it useful to help me make good choices, like I very rarely now have cheese as that uses up an incredible amount of points, but if I am careful about what I have eaten, I can squeeze in some naughties to satisfy my chocolate addiction.

Exercise

So that’s food covered, what about exercise? I am signed up to a Pilates class which I love, but as Geeky Son is currently being either ill or a monkey about going to bed on time I am only managing about once or twice a month which is so infrequent that it almost isn’t worth it. Something I can do at home is the only practical solution.

After some lovely conversations with @clare_anderson and @R2UK I was recommended EA Sports Active. I checked the reviews on Amazon and, whilst it might offer good value for money in comparison to a gym membership that is never used, £40 is still £40. But this is the exciting part, the lovely Fairy Hobmother aka @ian_goodall from Appliances Online sent me a tweet telling me that he wanted to give me a gift. Well it made my Monday. An Amazon voucher for £15 was perfect timing and I swiftly ordered my latest new toy – EA Sports Active 2 for the PS3.

We also have a Wii, but it was clear from the reviews that people found the PS3 version much better. It comes with 3 strap on sensors, one of which is also a heart rate monitor.

I have only had time to set it up and have one workout, but I can confirm that it is a lot of fun. There is a lot of running on the spot, jumping up and down and squatting, but they incorporate it into fun games. It really does feel like you have your own personal trainer. I feel that it deserves its own review post, which I might do once I have used it in earnest – presuming I do manage to put it to geeky good use.

So there you have it. A phone app and PS3 game are hopefully going to be the secret of my geeky success to good health.

If you want to read more stories of weight loss I suggest you check out @kateab as she has on her blog The Five Fs My Fitness Story where you will find exactly that, people sharing their journeys for a healthy life.

Do let me know what you think and if you have any tips for me as I am determined that I will succeed.

Appliances Online sent me a £15 Amazon voucher to spend on whatever I wanted in return for a link to their website. No other incentives have been received from any of the other companies or products mentioned in this post.

8 Best Must Have Mobile Phone Apps

After some fabulous tweeting with @kateab and @ebabeelikes re mobile phone apps I realised that now is the time to share my favourite phone apps.

Which Phone?

Before I do though, its impossible to write about phone apps without also at least skirting on the subject of which phone to buy. My advice (re both phone and apps) is very biased. I have researched, made my decision which I am very happy with and now share with you, but you are free to disagree.

My advice is buy the best Android phone your money can buy. Back in June 2010, that for me was the HTC Desire which I love dearly. Since then, the choice of Android phones is massive and HTC have bought out newer models, though the HTC Desire is still a very popular and great choice.

To those of you with your sights set on an iPhone, I strongly recommend you go and have a chat with your favourite phone provider and you will soon discover that an Android phone will burn a lot smaller hole in your pocket whilst simultaneously making you feel proud that you have had the insight to think for yourself and make an informed decision.

Regardless of which you chose, you will love your phone, even if it is an iPhone (yes, I have deliberately not mentioned other alternatives, as well, they really just don’t cut the mustard).

Anyway, without further digression, this is my top list of Android Apps (most are also available on the iPhone) in no particular order:

1. SpringPad

This is a mobile filofax. You can write notes, scan barcodes of books, toys, films etc and store it in mini notebooks. I have used it to organise Geeky Daughter’s birthday, keep track of library books and much more. Takes a bit of time to get it, but once you do, you won’t know how you survived without it.

2. Tweetdeck

I have tried a few, including paid apps, and Tweetdeck wins hands down for me, mostly for the integration with Facebook, but it also looks slick. The only gripe is that it doesn’t autocomplete usernames. I am actually a Hootsuite fan when on my computer, but use Tweetdeck on my phone.

3. BabyEsp

This is Android only but similar apps are available on the iPhone. It keeps track of baby feeds, sleeps, medicines etc. It is beautifully designed and highly customisable. OK, so it isn’t free, but its only a few quid and you can try before you buy. I still use it whenever I give medicines and I even use it for myself when ill.

4. WordPress Phone App

If you have a WordPress blog, the App is brill. I draft most blog posts on it, and the management of comments is really neat, easier than on the web. It is so good that if you aren’t using WordPress you should seriously consider switching over for the App alone.

5. Sky News

This is really nicely done and a must for anyone that likes to keep tabs on the latest news. Interestingly however there is no competition for the prize of best news app, BBC don’t even have their own app!!!

6. Ocado

Another example of where the App is actually much better than the web version. The other supermarkets are at long last producing apps, so if your allegiance lies elsewhere, it is worth checking out if they have an app. Great fun to shop by scanning bar codes.

7. Amazon Kindle

As a big reader the love for my Kindle can quite simply warrant a whole blog post. The really clever part is that if you download the free phone app, it synchronizes with your Kindle. So whilst I would never dream of reading an entire book on my phone, if I have left my Kindle at home and I’m stuck in a queue somewhere, I can read a few pages on my phone. Genius.

8. Angry Birds

Got to fit in some fun. Angry Birds sounds rubbish but is actually great fun and my 6 year old loves it too. Just download it, it’s free, and be prepared to be Angry Birds obsessed for at least a few weeks.

There are other apps I could have mentioned, but these are the ones I use all the time. If you have any apps that make it into your favourite must have apps, please leave a comment and let us all know.

My First Twitter Chat

Last night I participated in my first ever Twitter chat and had a thoroughly good time.

For those that don’t know, a Twitter chat is a timed event that anyone can join to discuss a particular topic. You use a particular hashtag to ensure everyone can easily pick out the Twitter chat tweets.

I participated using Tweetdeck on my HTC Desire mobile. It was really easy to set-up a column to follow the hashtag.

Tweeting on my mobile is really easy but it annoyingly took ages for my text entry to learn to auto complete the hashtag. Tweetdeck if you are listening, would be great if you could add a Twitter Chat feature whereby hashtags are auto added to tweets if replying to a hashtag column.

I was a little uncertain as to how I would cope, lots of people, all tweeting at once. And, just to increase the difficulty, I had to get a reluctant 6 year old off to bed part way through.

Fortunately there seemed to be only about four or five people on the chat and that made it a lot easier.

I found myself really getting into the swing of it, though the subject matter was a good one for me – buggys. Great opportunity to have a moan about rain covers and get on one of my favourite soap boxes – the importance of rear facing buggys.

Granted, this was a chat aimed at promoting the Quinny Zapp Xtra, but mostly we discussed what is important in a buggy and what we think of all makes.

In addition to making me want to upgrade my Zapp to a Zapp Xtra, which I guess was the downside (from a financial point of view), I also found some new people to follow and discovered that there is a lightweight version of the Shade-a-Babe called the SnoozeShade that I am told has better sun protection. Yes, my geekyness isn’t restricted to electrical gadgets.

So for me, I can’t wait for the next one. Would especially like one on toys, but almost any subject will do me.

If you fancy reading the tweets from last night, check out #quinnycasters.

Have you participated in a Twitter Chat? Did you find it difficult following the conversation? Does anyone know how I can get my hands on a free Quinny Zapp Xtra?