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app talk:The ultimate “kitchen sink” app – Wolfram Alpha

You may have heard of Wolfram Alpha, a self-proclaimed “knowledge engine” that, like the famous talking computers on Star Trek and in other science fiction, produces gobs of mathematical data and answers on the fly. Not surprisingly, Wolfram Alpha is an adaptation of the Mathematical software. A variety of sub-apps are also available, using the same data stored on Wolfram Alpha servers – there are course assistant apps for classes like Physics I and II, Astronomy, and Pre-Algebra.

But the main Wolfram Alpha app ($2.99 from the Google Play Store, Amazon AppStore, or from the iTunes App Store; available also on Kindle Fire and on the Nook) is actually a terrific tool that can be used for ESL, English, business, economics, and social science reference. It’s better than Wikipedia; sources for all the data are clearly noted at the bottom of each output, and can be confirmed with a click. Unlike Wikipedia, (where noted researchers may be forced to battle incorrect page edits by users named GreenWhistleMan99 and JellyBeanLisa), Wolfram Alpha requires all data, facts and figures be submitted with proof, references, authorities and/or methods.

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Confused about the meaning of a word? Wolfram Alpha provides a detailed provenance, definition and pronunciation, as well as rhyming words, synonyms, and for fun, Scrabble score and related Crossword puzzle clues.”Trivia”, Wolfram Alpha explains, was a word first used in the Edwardian era, in 1902, and is a noun; “bursar,” it explains, is Medieval Latin, and was first used in 1587, but jumped in word frequency around 1800, and then became less popular after 1950.

Ask Wolfram Alpha about Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett’s famous company), and the latest stock trade price appears – along with fundamental information, from its market cap to P/E ratio. Want to see how the company’s performed? A price history chart will let you look at trends; a candlestick chart is available, as well as selections that let you look at just last year, or last week.

Corporate finance not your thing? Wolfram Alpha can help you with personal finance, too – typing “mortgage 6%, 30 year, $130000″ will spit out calculations for that sample mortgage, including a full payment schedule.

Science data can also be generated rapidly. Ask Wolfram Alpha about earthquakes in Alaska; it’ll provide you with results and a local map; results can be keyed to look just at the last 2 months, or move up incrementally to a maximum of the last thirty years. And if you’re curious who invented the chemical periodic table? Wolfram Alpha will not only give you a brief bio of Dimitri Mendeleev, but also list who his family members were, and a link to his less famous invention, the pycnometer.

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Wolfram Alpha also has plenty of popular and classical culture to draw on. Not sure who the characters are in Macbeth, aka “The Scottish Play”? Asking Wolfram Alpha will generate a list of the top characters, and how often they spoke – Banquo, for instance, only says 4.6% of the words in the play, appearing 32 times (still, he should be comforted by the fact that a long line of kings will follow in his wake). More fun is looking at a generated dialog timeline, that lets you see approximately when each character participates in the action of the play. Now you can really prove that “there are no small parts, only small actors”, by showing how a minor role interacts with the lead.

Or are you a sports fan, wanting to find Anibal Sanchez’s strikeouts for 2014, or DeMarcus Ware’s 2013 defensive stats? Just ask Wolfram Alpha.

If you’re having a bad hair day, existential questions are also available for probing by Wolfram Alpha – such as “Does Santa Claus exist?”, “Does (s)he love me?”, and “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop”.

And, if you want to pretend you’re talking to the computer on Star Trek, Wolfram Alpha will tell you Spock’s home planet – and Captain Kirk’s birthday.

 

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app talk: Cloud On

Let’s face it, Apple and Microsoft are competing to add you as a customer and they don’t always play nice together. Like many people I currently own an iPhone and use it as my primary form of communication (i.e. email, texts, phone calls). While the iPhone is a strong product it does have some limitations when it comes to Microsoft products like Excel, Word and PowerPoint. These products have become the ‘must have’ tools for most businesses and users need a way to access/use these files.

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CloudOn is an app that allows the user to create, review and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents from your iPad or iPhone.  The app creator boasts “100% compatibility with Office files…” without fear of problems. CloudOn also allows you to access and save files from your favorite storage provider such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive among others. Users have the ability to open almost any file type on their Apple device, including: Microsoft Office®, Adobe Acrobat®, DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPTX, PDF, JPG, PNG, and GIF.

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While I don’t always have access to a computer my phone is always in my pocket. There are times a document must be updated and having this app will make that easy to do. I highly recommend this app to anyone that owns an iPhone or iPad.

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app talk: Follow the Sun

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Location photography or shooting video? Looking to buy a house? Want to plant a garden or shade tree, install solar panels or find the best seat at an outdoor concert? Would you like tented Reality Viewer is one of the most indispensable apps you may ever find.o find the perfect sunset while on vacation, or arrive somewhere at the break of day?   Sun Seeker:3D Augm

Available for Apple and Android devices for $6.99, this app shows you precisely where the sun is or will be anytime and anywhere in the world with a graphic representation of the sun’s path over a compass.

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Scouting photo/video shoots is the first thing that comes to my mind.  If I’m planning a shoot at an outdoor location, I can save time by planning around that period when the sun will be most conducive to capturing ideal imagery. If you’re at a location, you can simply aim your cell phone and instantly see overlays indicating where the sun will be at any time and if there are any objects like building or trees that might obstruct it. You’ll know exactly when the sun will break the line of the obstruction and can be prepared to shoot.

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There are data panels detailing when the sun rises and sets, what the daylight duration is and Solstice information.  With map view, you can look in street, satellite or hybrid modes.  There are presets for various large cities throughout the world or you can find any other spot on earth that is represented on Google Maps by “pinching and dragging”.  You can also input coordinates if you have them.

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Another great use for this app is when you’re in the market for a home and looking at listings online, you can zoom to the house that you’re interested in and see overlays showing exactly where the sun exposures will be at different times of the day and different times of the year.  This is extremely valuable if you don’t want the afternoon sun in the living area, morning sun in your bedroom or if you do want a sunset view from your balcony.  What a great tool for a real estate agent!

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Sun Seeker is already heavily used by landscape architects, golf course turf managers and solar panel installers.  In one instance, an individual looking for season’s ticket seats at a football stadium even used Sun Seeker to determine the best seat location where he wouldn’t ever be looking into the sun. If you’re into gardening, you won’t have to guess how many hours of sun exposure an area will get.  You’ll have that information right in your hand.

Check it out and use your imagination.  You may find even more uses for Sun Seeker.