Beer Defects iPad App

The Beer Defects iPad app, produced by Applied Sensory, is a guide to the various “off” flavours in beer. Primarily aimed at those who review or taste beer, it is essentially a digital version of Applied Sensory’s Defects Wheel for beer. The app itself is a rough and ready affair, consisting of two main menus, such as the one above, from which the user selects characteristics by sensory experience, or from a list of chemicals. A third ‘general’ menu gives information on such subjects as good sanitation techniques and ‘Diacetyl’. Clicking on a sensory description takes you to a page showing the causes, and possible treatments of a given defect. It is simple, and quite efficient.

On the whole this is a useful app, but it has some drawbacks. For one thing, it forces the iPad into portrait mode, rather than allowing the orientation to switch as the device is rotated. And for another, the formatting of the text is crude. While some attention has been given to the way the app looks, it does not seem very polished. In fact, apart from the convenience of having an app on the home screen, there is nothing this offers that wouldn’t have been possible in an ebook. This feels very much like version 1.0, and doesn’t really take advantage of what the iPad has to offer. For example, a landscape mode might show the menu and the information page side by side, while links within pages might make the information more usable. A further improvement might be to do away with the Back button, so that switching between pages could be done by swiping across the screen, which, on the iPad at least, seems the natural way to do it. Back buttons are for web browsers. I hope there is more development, because a general note taking, scoring, and sharing app for beer reviewers would be extremely useful.

As far as the quality of the information goes, the handful of facts I checked seemed to be accurate, but I am neither a brewer, nor a chemist. I will certainly refer to this during ‘Baron ratings’ and will no doubt learn quite a lot from it.

The Beer Defects app is available for iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. There are more screenshots, and links, on the Applied Sensory apps page.

Todo Lists Anywhere

Tasque todo list
It's not pretty, but it works.

I’ve been on the lookout for good todo list software for a while now. My primary machine is a Mac, but I also use Linux and Windows and these days an iPod Touch has taken over most of the duties of a laptop when I’m out and about. Since it’s my main machine I looked first for Mac software and tried Omnifocus (powerful, complicated, expensive) and the Things (simple, brilliant, pretty, great support) but quickly realised that none of the standard solutions were really cross platform. Certainly none of them had the ability to sync from Mac to Linux. I could sync from desktop to iPod/iPhone, and Mac to Mac (sorta, using Dropbox), but Windows and Linux might as well not exist.

Then I discovered Tasque, which is an underdeveloped free application from the Linux-centric Gnome desktop. Tasque is simple and straightforward and runs on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. It isn’t pretty and isn’t especially Mac-like, but its killer feature is that it syncs with the web-based todo list Remember The Milk. So Tasque, plus a $25 per year Remember The Milk Pro account and free iPhone app (there are apps for other handhelds, including Android and Blackberry) means I can sync my todos across platforms and across computers; there’s always Remember The Milk on the web too. Despite its lack of shiny shiny I find Tasque works very well on my Mac with very little fuss.

Thank God Sylvia Plath Didn't Have Twitter: Merlin Mann on Creativity

Merlin Mann–talker, writer, funny man and former productivity guru–has recently shifted focus onto creativity. This is something I’ve been struggling with recently after two decades of, um, not struggling with it. Call it exhaustion, call it writer’s block, call it turning 40, the answer is simple and it’s one all creative people understand, deep down: “You can become a Ninja, but it’s not going to be easy and you don’t get a beret …”

Original post on 43Folders.

My Day with Ubuntu 8.10

Last week my daughter had to take a day off school because she was unwell and it fell to me to babysit during the day. She slept a lot of the time and behaved well for the rest so although it wasn’t quite the most productive day of the week, I don’t think my output suffered too much. This is one of the great benefits of working from home. With a bit of understanding on both sides, minor changes of plan like this can be worked around. But even so, with a sick child propped up on the sofa, normal shedworking activities had to relocate to the house and that meant using the family PC, which runs Ubuntu Linux.

My usual shed-based computer arrangement involves a Macbook with external keyboard and mouse and a second screen. I use a notebook computer so that I don’t have to leave valuable equipment in the shed and I love the two-screen setup which, as many people seem to agree, boosts productivity no end. Having said that though, most of the computing around here is set up to maximise working cross-platform and I find a combination of Mac OS X and Linux, with Windows relegated to a virtual machine for occasional website testing in IE7, is the best combination.

I am not new to Linux. I first began using it to get work done in 2002 after a series of grim experiences with Windows ME while working in Berkeley, California. That sounds more glamorous than it was. While my wife researched her book at the Bancroft Library I carried on with an editing job I started back home. By about half way through the trip Windows ME was locking up on me roughly every hour so in order to keep from losing work I was saving everything and rebooting the laptop every 50 minutes. Back home in Lancashire that autumn I installed a paid-for version of SUSE Linux. I had never used Linux before and it didn’t go entirely without a hitch, but six months later I was using Linux full-time.

Back in 2003, to be fair, I didn’t make great demands on my computers. I used email, a web browser, and a word processor, so even on a laptop, once I’d persuaded Linux to connect to the (dial-up) Internet I had everything I needed and it never crashed. Not crashing was a benefit for which I was prepared to go without proper suspend and sleep capability, though neither of those worked reliably with Windows anyway, and for which I was prepared to buy a separate Hayes modem. I later bought a wireless networking card that was more expensive than it might have been had I been able to pick the cheapest Windows-only model on the shelf.

By the time that old HP laptop began to show its age, in 2004, there was no way I was going back to Windows and no way I was paying for a copy of Windows XP that I would never use. Since I had to have a laptop, that meant buying a Mac, which I did in 2005. The home PC though, which is mostly used for kids’ games in Childsplay and GCompris, watching DVDs, managing photos, and listening to music and podcasts, runs Linux.

And that brings me to my day last week with Ubuntu 8.10. You know what? There’s nothing much to say about it; it just let me get on with what I wanted to do with no drama and no trouble. I worked on an article I’ve been writing for a forthcoming Blackwell anthology, I wrote a blog post or two and tweaked a little css, I made some plans for future articles and replied to a whole bunch of emails. And when I needed to scan and edit an image I just stuck it in the networked HP all-in-one, opened Gimp and captured the image. I could then print the edited image back to the same device. All of this, I should add, just installed right from the disk the week before and worked straight away.

In essence of course, what I have is a computer pre-installed with Ubuntu. It happens that I pre-installed it myself, but it is set up so I could sit down in front of it and go to work. But in fact the amount of setup was minimal and required no command line work at all. Linux has certainly come a long way since 2002. What I found most pleasing is just how usable and straightforward Ubuntu is. Everything is in a logical place and the workflows–scan image, edit image, print/upload image for example–are clear and simple. There’s no doubt in my mind that Ubuntu offers a credible alternative to Windows and Mac OS X and is more than capable of co-existing with both of them.