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Orioles & iPhones

The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) is a small icterid blackbird that averages 18 cm long and weighs 34 g. This bird received its name from the fact that the colors resemble those on the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore (black and orange).

The Baltimore Orioles, a Major League Baseball team in Baltimore, Maryland, were named after this bird. It is also the state bird of Maryland. – Wikipedia

This morning we saw this spectacular bird at our feeders in Stillwater, bright orange breast glowing in the sunlight. She’s been around for a week or so, most unusual this far north in December. I believe it’s a female because the male has a black head. My dear wife Molly took the photo.


So what did we do on our November holiday? Well, the main thing was that Molly & I each signed up for cell phone plans that include the new Apple iPhone 4S. Why the iPhone? We chose it for its advanced features and the many applications (apps) available for it.


So we spent most of November gathering apps from Apple’s iTunes web store and learning to use them. We’ve only used the iPhones as telephones just a few times.

But the apps are amazing. Some are free; some cost $1 - $20. Many have free versions that let you test the app before buying the full version. Sometimes the free app is all we’ll ever need.


Right now I’m using a free one called Documents that uses the iPhone’s Siri feature. It enables me to dictate rather than type this column. Siri magically types a document compatible with MS Office. Siri does make mistakes but no worse than I. Then I email it to myself and edit the column on my PC notepad to get it ready for publication.


Other business apps we use are Splashtop, which gives me network access to all the software and data on my PC, called “tethering your computer and phone”, and Pocket Garage stores vehicle expenses for income tax reporting. Banking apps like RBC Mobile provide personal banking functions (but, strangely, not business banking). RBC finder shows a map with closest branches and ATMs.


Fishing apps include TidesPlan12 that tells me today’s tides for nearby Sonora, Antigonish, and Sand Point (Salmon River). Others like Fly fisherman Magazine’s Flybench and Fishing Flies are like fly tying books with some instructional videos. Another app, Knot Guide, shows step-by-step how fishing and other knots are tied.


Navigation aids include Maps that comes with the iPhone. It’s like Google maps with a built-in GPS. National Geographic’s World Atlas is useful also. Another, Topo Maps, lets you access Canada’s topographical maps. For me, that alone justified the iPhone lease. I plan to use my collection of paper topo maps as wallpaper.  


There are utilities that give us tools like a compass or level, Canada Post for postal codes or mailing, a bar code reader and an iPhone finder (in case we lose our phones). One called AppBox Pro translates languages, acts as an alarm clock, mirror,   flashlight, or ruler, amortizes loans, converts currencies and units of measure, and so on.


Here’s how we got from Orioles to iPhones; there’s an excellent Audubon birding app that we use. It’s like a bird book that includes recorded bird songs. So we can take it into the woods and sing to the birdies. Audubon has others for identifying trees, plants, butterflies and wildflowers. There’s one called MyNature Tracks that identifies tracks & animal scat, has recorded animal sounds & other info. You can use it to call a deer but not to smell the bear coming.


There are dictionaries and directories, radio apps like TuneIn Radio, CBC Radio, and news and weather apps. In fact the Weather Network app is excellent; everything I’ve wished it was on TV. Shopping apps abound, and of course there are eBook readers like iBooks, Kobo, and Stanza. There are camera apps like Camera+ or ColorSplash, and others that allow scanning, optical character recognition (OCR) or faxing documents. An app called How Stuff Works is for do-it-yourself folks and is similar to the website of that name. We used it to determine that we should replace, not fix, our ailing washer.


Built in apps like Safari can surf the web and Google does our searches. We can email messages, access YouTube and maintain calendars, to-do lists, and photo albums. Social apps like Facebook, Twitter and Skype are available, and, of course, games galore. My favourite time-wasters are Texas Hold ‘em, Blackjack and Hearts. Molly likes Angry Birds.


The iPhone can share stuff with other Apple devices using Apple’s iCloud, kind of a Window’s Clipboard in the sky. It also provides storage and backup services. Rumour has it that a Cloud sharing app for our Windows PCs will soon be available too.


Of course there are hardware accessories. A case called JuicePak from mophie.com nearly doubles our time between battery charges, and an adhesive transparent “skin” protects the display from scratches. There’s a battery charger that can simultaneously charge 2 iPhones from a vehicle cigarette lighter. There are Bluetooth accessories like tiny wireless headsets.


A device called Apple TV gives your TV wireless network features. For example, using the iPhone as the remote controller (another app), we can wirelessly view our iPhone or Cloud photos and videos, listen to our music, or access iTunes, Netflix, or YouTube on our TV. This tiny box uses a network cable or built-in wireless adapter to connect to the home network’s router and a HDMI cable to connect the TV. Apple TV costs $120 + HST. Maybe Santa will bring us one!


What did we do on our holiday? We visited Steve Jobs on the iCloud. He was quite a guy!


ESA’s fundraising poster (Atlantic Salmon Flies of Nova Scotia) is a week late, but will be available by week’s end from the River Magic fly fishing shop in Stillwater or from the River Magic’s web store at:



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