Pipesapp – not just the news

When I was at the Bring IT Together conference last week, I got a ping from an unknown (at the time) source …

I get unsolicited messages all the time and typically ignore them.  If fact, I just blocked an account yesterday that was trying to get me to buy something.  I like to have control over what I do and try to make informed decisions.

But, this message had me hooked at the use of the reference to the Zite app.  Until it was acquired by Flipboard, it had been my go-to reader in the morning. Plus, this long time user of Unix and Yahoo! Pipes was just intrigued by the name.  So, I downloaded it to give it a shot.  I’ll freely admit to being a news junky and had no shame in adding it to my folder of “News Apps” on my iPad.  There’s lots in there.

In addition to having an appreciation for different applications developed by talented programmers, this genre fascinates me.  Even if I tell two applications what my likes and preferences are, they often manage to find stories for me that come from different sources and are completely different.  In my mind, that makes it so important to have more than one source if you’re looking for the good stuff.  Plus the Pipesapp icon was the same colour as the Zite app icon so the two of them sit nicely side by each in the folder.

Out of the box, Pipesapp was not unlike so many other applications.  When I told it that I was looking for education stories, I got flooded with stories from the US.  They are interesting, to some extent, but I’m more interested in Canadian – particular Ontario – stories and that will hopefully come as the application learns what I’m reading and what I’m not reading.  There are other assumptions too – once I allowed it to know my location and that I like sports, I get all kinds of Toronto Maple Leafs stories.  Given my location, it would actually make sense to send me Detroit Red Wings stories but if truth be told, I’m forcing it to send me Montreal Canadiens stories.  Over time, it should learn and will get me right.

So, I launch the application and begin to add pipes to it so that it can get me what I’m looking for.

Sadly, finding the top stories and those related to it are all too easy for any news reading application given the events from yesterday.

You’ll see the pipes that I’ve added along the left side of the screen under the “Top Stories”.  Reading is as simple as selecting a pipe from the left and then the story of interest on the right.  Once you select the story though, the game changes from so many other news reading applications.

A long, long time ago in Grade 10 I had difficulties reading and understanding the content.  In today’s schools, there probably would be a program or assistance for me.  But in those days, there was only one solution and it included a red pen and lots of Xs.  I remember the exact moment when things changed for me.  I was in a book store in Goderich and saw and bought a book titled “How to Read”.  Or, at least that’s what I thought it was titled.  It might be better titled (or maybe it was ) “How to Speed Read”.  I wish that I still had that book but sadly don’t.  Anyway, I took it home and devoured it hoping that it would make me a better reader.

And I think it did.

I don’t think anyone would have predicted the huge amount of information that we would be bombarded with these days.  But I learned the technique of identifying key words, expressions, sentences, and ignoring the fluff that so often pads articles.  Education – you are the worst with all the babble that’s added so that you can meet your quote of 1000 words before an article can be published.  Rant off.

What blew me away is that the Pipesapp will do its own version of the speed reading technique for you automatically for many, not all, stories.  If you look to the left, you’ll see a summary of the article that they call “Quick News”.  It’s like the story has already been summarized for you.  I’d love to know how the technology behind that works.  It’s not 100% but the machine learning that’s involved is pretty impressive.  Now to get my attention to read an article, I’m first hooked by the title and then reeled in by the quick summary.  To the right, you’ll have the option to read the whole story.  The best part?  None of the advertising that you’d expect to see embedded in articles.  If you’re missing it, there’s an option at the bottom of the screen to see the story on the original site.  And, of course, there’s the suggestion to read related articles to help you expand your thinking beyond the original article.

Using the iPad’s hook to services, I can share the story to Twitter for others to read and have it automatically dumped into my Diigo account for later review.  I can also send it to the Flipboard document I call “Readings” so that I can bring it back there as well.  I’m a big fan of automation and Pipesapp fits nicely into my workflow.

There’s another feature that I’m not sure that I’ll use but who knows?  I could see this going over nicely in the classroom.

The application gamifies your reading.

As a new user and still poking around refining things, I’m definitely a Noob.  But as they say – the more you read, the more you know.  I’d be hesitant to point students to Pipeball.  Just sayin’.

I’ll admit to a slow introduction to Pipesapp installed just a week ago.  It’s different from other applications that I’ve used and so my reading was affected by my learning how the application works.  I also tend to read while on my computer or my Android phone, neither of which is supported at this time.  But, when I get moments with my iPad, it works like a champ.  I just have to use it enough so that it knows what my preferences are.

If you’re interested in downloading and giving it a test, it’s a free download from the iTunes store here.

Disappointing Support

Recently, it came to public notice that there had been some malware distributed through the Apple Store for iOS devices.

All of a sudden, the fanboys who are quick to point out problems when something happens in the Android environment, fell silent.  Fortunately, the online community has been there to lend support and information.  Apple’s first bit of information was that “if you suspect something, redownload the application”.

When the details started to emerge, it hit like a “Top 10 List”.

The timing for this was bad.  Like most people, I had had the upgrade to the latest iOS installed and many of the applications that I had installed were clammering to be updated.  How would you know there might be a bad apple in the bunch?  After all, in the Apple environment, everything comes from their tightly controlled store.

Photo credit: FidlerJan from morguefile.com

More information came out with the now named XcodeGhost problem.

But even more information revealed that the Top 10 List goes far beyond 25 applications.  “Apple App Store malware ‘infected 4,000 apps‘”.  Not quite 4000, but this list has more titles of concern.  XcodeGhost Malware: List Of Infected iOS Apps That You Should Delete Right Now.  It’s time to do more checking.  Another list is found here.

The problem has been identified as developers downloading the Xcode software for App creation from locations other than the official store due to slow connection speeds in China and have offered a solution.  Apple will host Xcode on Chinese servers following malware attack.  It’s a little like closing the barn door after the fact but it should serve well in the long run.  The Xcode is a big download and it had just been updated.

As a person interested in computer stuff, I am interested in this sort of thing and, as you can tell by the linked articles above, have been doing a great deal of reading.  However, as a user of an iPad and iOS, I was disappointed that I had to find out through third party sources.  If they knew of the problem, certainly Apple did.  Most certainly Apple knows every application that I have on my device.  The iOS 9 was pushed out; it would seem to me a notice of the problem could have just as easily been pushed as an info message, identifying any problems with applications installed or “You may have heard of these problems but your versions are OK to use.”

This is comforting news “Is Your iPhone, iPad Or iPod Infected By The iOS XcodeGhost Malware? Apple Will Let You Know“.

The whole incident is just another reminder that we need to be vigilant about our use of technology and maybe we all need to up our geek level and do a little technology reading so that we understand what’s happening in our digital world.

Hands on Geometry

Geometry was always one of my favourite subject areas.  I guess I just like the whole concept of visualization and being able to manipulate shapes.

One of the universal tools for geometry exploration and construction is the Geoboard.  I used it quite a bit teaching Grade 9 mathematics.  It was a wonderful tool to even the playing field for students coming from Grade 8 and having varying levels of geometry understanding.  It was also a reminder that, since banning javelin throwing, it was one of the few times that we intentionally arm students with weapons.  You’ve just got to know that with 14 year olds, the first few days with the Geoboards and real elastic bands was interesting.

Time moves on and it’s a natural that this wonderful technique has been extended to the digital world.  Same stretching concepts, coloured and unbreakable bands, and a kinder, gentler, less painful implementation.  With school computers meshed with Bring Your Own Device programs, finding a universal solution is a desirable move.

The Math Learning Centre provides one that’s both web and app based.

There are lots of options available depending upon your needs and screen size.

Of course, measurement dealing with area and perimeter leap to mind.  But, don’t limit yourself to just that.  With a little imagination, this device lends itself to all kinds of ideas.  Check out these Pinterest resources from Diane Fangmeyer, The Remade Mama and Inesa A as starting points.  Of course, Pinterest is the perfect place to pin these ideas.

I remember one particularly neat idea we used with the Grade 9s.  Standing in downtown Windsor, one of them had taken a picture of the Detroit skyline and the students replicated it in class with a series of Geoboards.  (We had small ones so had to improvise).  We used a picture of the Renaissance Centre and the students painstakingly reproduced it on the Geoboards.  Of course, it had to be to scale.  Imagine the math.  It was a great activity.

Doing it today, the mechanics would be completely different.  We’d be doing it on computers or devices.

The Math Learning Centre makes its Geoboard available for free:

They’re well worth a look and evaluation for your classroom.


This is a “must explore” if you’re interested in animals.  But, it goes further than that.

This application is one of the most amazing applications of Artificial Intelligence on a portable device that I think I’ve seen.  Watch this review.

The application is ZooKazam and available for both Android and iOS.  I think that you know you’re in for something special just visiting their website.  By itself, it takes the concept of the web to the next level.

They call it “magical animals” and the name is so true.  You have to experience it to fully understand.  Words just don’t do justice for a good description of the experience you’re about to enjoy.  Download the app and get started just by pointing your camera at a number of the targets provided on their website.  Then, dig in and you won’t be putting it down any time soon.

Experiences can be recorded and shared.

YouTube is a terrific repository of compositions shared.  Of course, the sharing continues on Twitter.

The application is free to download and the Mammals category is free.  That’s plenty to get your virtual zoo started.

It’s not just the virtual reality, either.  You just know that there will be a hook into education.


I’m posting this on the weekend so you’ll have lots of time to explore and play!

And, lest you think it’s a Macintosh thing since all the captures seem to be done on that platform, here’s my zebra.


10 Starter iPad Apps, 2014 Version

I started this Christmas list of applications on the iPad in 2010.  It’s interesting to see what’s stayed and what’s gone.  It’s shared here for those of you lucky enough to score an iPad for Christmas.  I’ve had to do some weeding this year and you’ll see some titles with a strike through.  They may be physically gone but I’m glad to have had them for a while and this post will remind me should I need an app for that purpose again.

I thought that perhaps my blog reading friends might have unwrapped an iPad under the tree and were in search of some starter apps.  The list from last Christmas looked like this.

  • Twitter for iPad – stay connected, listen to the Twitter stream, learn, and get advice on future applications;
  • Flipboard – bring all of your reading into one place – if you’re into news, don’t get individual news apps, bring them all into Flipboard;
  • TaskPad HD – we all have to-do lists – you might as well keep track of them on your iPad;
  • VLC Media Player – never be stumped by a file format again;
  • Google Earth – all the functionality of the desktop version but really takes advantaging of the manipulating ability of the iPad;
  • Aweditorium – a totally new way to explore musical artists;
  • Note Hub – if you create projects with resources from all over the place, use this application to bring all of the research components together;
  • Dropbox – this popular application for sharing with your devices and potentially others comes to this device;
  • fotopedia Heritage – explore UNESCO world heritage sites and their beauty comes to life on your iPad;
  • Documents Free – you will need to work on your documents and spreadsheets.  This one is free.

It was a good list at the time and I still stand behind the recommendations.  But, it is dated.  The VLC Media Player, for example, is no longer available for download but if you do a search for VLC there are a number of related applications.  GoodPlayer looks interesting.  I’m glad that I got my copy of VLC while it was available though.

I wrote this post last year.  I’m thinking this Christmas might bring some more people with their new gifts looking for ideas.  Or, this might be the year where you upgrade to an iPad 2 and hand the original iPad down.  Or, maybe you’ll have duelling iPads.  Or, something else.

Anyway, I’ll use the premise to give you 10 more iPad applications that I think are noteworthy and should be on anyone’s list of starter applications to grab.

  • Zite – Create your own personalized news magazine and find all kinds of stories based upon your interests;
  • Evernote – Absolutely the best way to take notes on your iPad and synchronize them to your computer(s) via the cloud;
  • Skitch for iPad – If Evernote is the best way to take notes, then Skitch has to be the best way to capture images and annotate them – and then send them to Evernote!;
  • Popplet Lite – Is it a brainstorming mindmapping tool?  Is it a wall to stick notes?  Is it a hybrid of the two that synchronizes with your desktop?  Yes to all of the above.  Once you use it, you’ll want the paid upgrade version;
  • Splashtop Remote Desktop for iPad – You’ll never regret paying for this application.  No matter how good your iPad is and becomes part of your life, the crucial file is on your desktop.  Remotely access your computer with this and so much more;
  • Garageband – Even I can make music with Garageband and now I can even do it on my iPad;
  • Pearltrees – Pearltrees lets you find and graphically organize resources from the web.  You can even add the Pearler to Safari to cultivate as you go;
  • ScreenChomp – Create your own Screencasts and share them with others.  Great for instructional content or to illustrate thinking visually;
  • Dolphin HD – Safari is great if all you want is a browser.  But, how about a webzine reader with Twitter and Facebook access or a Speed Dial launcher just like your desktop browser;
  • The Guardian Eyewitness – Access to the spectacular photograhy in The Guardian but there’s more – professional photography tips about how to get the same results by yourself.

Last year, I suggested that a great game to latch onto was the Angry Birds Lite.  You still can’t go wrong with that.  I’m going to add a new one – this year I’ve played many Word with Friends game.  There’s a new game in the Zynga fold called Hanging with Friends.  It’s a simple concept – we’ve all played Hangman as kids – this takes it online and social.

Let me add 10 more applications that caught my attention this year.  The criteria is that they have to be regularly used applications by me.  I look back at the 20 from the past couple of years and they are all still there.  From my view, that’s the test of time.

  • Google Stuff – four applications were released that have become mainstays for me.
  • Google Chrome Browser – the great browser for Mac, Linux, and Windows is now available on the iPad and does all that I do on the desktop except for extensions;
  • Google Gmail – Gmail is my connection to the world and the Gmail application is an awesome application;
  • Google Drive – If you’re using Google Drive, and who isn’t, you’ll dive into this application;
  • Google Maps – Apple Maps had some issues.  OK, quite a few issues.  When Apple replaced Google Maps on iOS, we all were interested to see what it would be like.  That interest didn’t last long.  Google Maps is back and it’s better than ever;
  • OK, I’m a Google fan boy.  I could include YouTube and the Google Plus app but will resist the urge.  Must…keep…the…list…to…10;
  • Matching with Friends – Zynga is a premiere developer for the iPad and the mathematical types will love the visualization required to get top scores;
  • GEMS with Friends – OK, another addictive game from Zynga.  My friend Tina clobbers me regularly but I’m hoping to up my game with practice;
  • Learnist – If you’re reading this post, you know I like to read.  Learnist is all about reading, creating boards, sharing, …;
  • Rockmelt – This used to be my preferred browser under Windows and Macintosh. Reinvented for iOS, the developers claim that it will change the way that you think about browsing the web;
  • War of 1812 – This was big this summer.  We visited many historical sites including visiting those in our back yard.  This was a great planner and helped me learn so much more than what I had learned in school;
  • WordPress – If you’re blogging on WordPress, you’ll want to keep an eye on your blog, reply to comments on the fly, and even write new posts.  Until this app came along, I would have to find a computer to do what I do.  Now it’s a tap away.

For 2013, it’s interesting to take a look at what’s new and what’s gone.  Sadly, Rockmelt is gone.  The product was purchased by Yahoo! and supposedly the product will have impact on their ongoing services.  I hope that it comes out as Yahoo! Rockmelt or something.  I even made reference to it during my presentation at #ECOO13 as a good luck omen.  Still waiting.  For 2013, here are 10 more apps that I’ve added and use regularly.

  • Mailbox – I was inspired by the claim to get your Gmail box down to zero.  It actually does help although it seems to quickly fill up again.
  • HelloSign – I actually needed this application.  I was asked to preview a app under development and needed to sign a non-disclosure form and was recommended this one.
  • Bee-Bot – Ever wonder what a floor robot might look like on an iPad?
  • Hopscotch – Ever wonder what a Scratch-like programming environment might look like on an iPad?
  • Candy Crush Saga – I wondered what all the hubbub was about this application so I downloaded it to investigate.  Now, I’m hooked and have been stuck at level 125 for a couple of weeks now.
  • Cloudart – I wanted to have an application that would allow me to create word clouds on the iPad.  This commercial application became free and I grabbed it and haven’t regretted it.
  • Coast – From the folks at Opera, it’s best described as how a browser for a tablet should be.  It’s quickly become my browser of choice.
  • Quickoffice – For times when you’re not at the traditional keyboard, it’s nice to be able to edit documents.  I like the integration with Google Drive.
  • OfficeHD – Another office productivity suite – this one I paid for and just can’t bring myself to delete it! I waffle between it and Quickoffice.
  • Twittelator – As I write this post, I can’t believe that I’ve never talked about Twittelator.  It was one of the first Twitter browsers that I used on the iPad and I continue to use it daily as my first choice.  For what I do, it’s perfect.

In 2014, I think I’ve slowed down my downloading and testing of applications.  I’m not sure if that means that I’ve lost interest or that I’ve zeroed in on the applications that I truly use on a regular basis.  It’s interesting as I look up at the list.  There are some apps that really have stood the test of time.  I hope these, added to the list, are still around next year.

  • Inbox – Google’s new approach to handling your email.  iPad, Android, and web, providing you’re using the Chrome browser
  • Friendly – an application to use with Facebook. It doesn’t require a separate application for private messages (and you don’t have to use Facebook blue…)
  • Theneeds – A great news gatherer and reader application
  • Google News – I can never get enough news for my morning reading
  • Candy Crush Saga  – I’m weak.  What can I say?  A year later and now I’m stuck at level 213
  • Hangouts – when Google offered this as a stand alone application, I had to try it.  It’s amazing how more focused on Google Hangouts I am on the iPad.  On the desktop, I was forever multi-tasking…
  • Diigo Browser – Opera Coast remains my go-to browser but the Diigo web browser is a nice Chrome variation with all the features you’re used to with Diigo
  • Penultimate – For my birthday, my daughter gave me an Adonit Jot Pro stylus.  It was a bit odd at first but it’s now my best friend.  I can actually take quick notes on the iPad without tapping on the glass keyboard and then dealing with auto-suggest later.
  • Sketchbook Express for iPad – I actually have the Pro version.  I’m not an artist but with my new stylus, I’m trying.
  • ScratchJr – What computer sciencey type of person didn’t run out and grab the iPad version of this programming language the moment it became available?

So now, there are 50 starter apps in this series.  I hope that it helps and, please, if you have another idea about an application that should be installed, add it via reply.  I’m sure that others will appreciate it and I’m always on the hunt for something new and inspiring.

How To Manage Free And Not Free Stuff

As is part of my early morning learning routine, I’m flipping through stories in my Zite news browser.  Yes, I know that Zite was acquired by Flipboard and I do flip my way through there as well but, at this point, Zite is like a set of comfortable shoes, nicely broken in and very comfortable.  I know that I’m living on borrowed time but I am enjoying it as long as I can.

I ran into three stories in a row.  In no particular order, they are:

 What’s disconcerting is that Zite customizes the news feed based upon your habits.  So, is the internet doing its spying on me and knows that I’m cheap?  Or, living on a budget?  Or, just trying everything in sight?  Or, I’m an Android user?  Or, I’m a Linux user?

So like the good old days of Kmart blue-light specials, I immediately open the articles and start reading.  There are some intriguing pieces of software there.  I’m interested in a piece of software that mirrors between a PC and an iPad.  Why?  I really don’t know since if I wasn’t so lazy I could just plug in this monitor that’s sitting behind my computer…

The range and variety of applications is exciting.  The computing geek in me wants to try them all.  

Herein lies the rub.

Where do I put them?  

On my computer, it’s not a problem.  I have a big hard drive with a huge amount of potential.  On the iPad, I keep it with about 1GB free thinking that apps might need a bit of elbow room to run.  In order to install anything new, I have to remove something.  Unfortunately, the “somethings” are there because I use them regularly.  I’d be at a loss to remove them.

It’s a real problem and something that I do struggle with.  I like the fact that many things are web-based so that local storage isn’t necessary.

And yet, there’s just something that rips at me to want to try new things.  Of course, I could solve the problem by just not reading stories like these…

Or, I’m sure that you have wise advice.  How do you handle this?

News and Weather

There was a great deal of hubbub yesterday when word got out that Google had released a copy of its News and Weather Application for iOS.  It had been previously available for those who use the Android system.  I gave it a download to see what it looked like on iOS.

I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised when, if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, … but other than the default dark display install of the familiar white of the Android, it looks and functions exactly the same way.  In fact, the first thing I did was go to the menu and add “Education” as a category.  Now both versions should pick up the same content.

But other than that I was off to the races.  Of course, location is important when you’re looking for the weather and there was no issue quickly picking up me at home.  A quick change of location and you’re pulling in the weather from wherever you want.

Like good news reading applications, a collection of “Top Stories” occupies the home for the application.

Tapping the now familiar hamburger menu lets you see the default news categories.  There is a nice selection to get started – World, Canada, Business, Technology, Entertainment, Sports, Science, Health, and of course the local stories from Amherstburg and Windsor.  Amherstburg just doesn’t have a whole lot to report so the application appears to pull in stories from around the country to fill.

With each story, a down arrow exposes related stories which is a very nice feature.  Once you’re done with the top stories, swipe left and right to work your way through your defined categories.

Clicking on a story takes you directly to the story.  There’s a navigation bar at top that will bring you back to the application.  Therein lies a problem for sharers.  Unlike other reading/sharing programs that connect directly to Twitter or Facebook, News and Weather doesn’t.  Fortunately, in this day and age, most sources have a way to use social media on their website.  The problem is that there’s no consistent way to access it.  It would be nice to have a native sharing button.

The layout is clean and you know that with Google who is already indexing things anyway, you’ll get relevant and fresh content.  For those on the iOS platform looking for a reader, I’d suggest downloading it and seeing if it has a home on your device.

Android Download

iOS Download