Possession App Review

Watching a soccer match is exciting enough on its own. Imaging taking that experience and making it more engaging by being able to keep your own stats on the game while you watch. You don’t need pencil and paper. Nope, there is an easier and more technology-driven way to do it, keep it, and share it.

Possessions, by John Shackleford, is a neat little app that allows you to keep score and more of each game you attend or watch on TV. You could be watching a game at a youth soccer match, or you could be watching the English Premier League. Either way, this app that works on both iPad and on iPhones will be at the ready, allowing you to tap away game scores, shots and corners without blinking an eye. The app has a bit of a price tag, costing $10.99, but it packs a punch in valuable data, whether you use it to strategize for your child’s team, or you map trends for your favorite team as it treads its way towards the World Cup.

Possession screenshot

Once you download the app, you’ll see how easy it is to use. The main screen features a timer that can be “assigned” to each team as possession of the ball passes between them. This is done with just tapping either Home or Away. The timer will time the game in general and will keep individual possession times for each team as you indicate the switch when the ball changes “hands.” The main screen also shows the number of Goals, Shots and Corners for each team as well as a clear graphic that indicates the percentage of possession time for each team. This is essentially a bar colored in two shades, each increasing or decreasing in width to represent possession time by each team, and is also flanked by a percentage on each end.

Starting stat collection requires you to press New Game and then swipe the Timer ON. Before turning on the timer, it is wise to move over to the Report page so you can enter each team’s name, their gender if you wish, their age and then select whether or not you wish final stat reports to be emailed. On the subject of emailing, you can specify email recipients on the Mail page. This makes sharing much easier and allows others on the team, like the coach and fellow parents to see the stats. If players are older kids, they may want to get in on the action as well.

The easiest way to use this app is to set up the static information on the Report page first, and then move over to the Game screen, or main page. Next, start the timer and select the team in possession. Now, you might want to quickly move over to the Stats page so you can easily tap on Corners and Shots as they happen. Soccer moves fast, so you need the screen up and ready, or you may miss a moment.

The only thing that I found to be a bit tricky in using this app is the need to switch between the Game and Stats screens. It would be easier to use if you had controls to switch possession and update shots, goals and corners, all on one page. Yet, overcoming this one issue, Possession can make data collection on games much easier and produce a wealth of knowledge for your team for seasons to come.

Alternative Food Provisioning Networks

As a continuation of my food series, I would like to take a look at alternative food provisioning networks, via a review of Italian anthropologist Cristina Grasseni’s new book ‘Beyond Alternative Food Networks’. The book describes strategies used by groups to avoid interaction with the industrialized food mechanism, much of which I have debated in the other posts in the series.

Beyond Alternative Food Networks

Beyond Alternative Food Networks

Grasseni’s book gives an account of the inner workings of Italy’s solidarity purchase groups. These groups are informal collections of families, working together to procure food and other products from mainly local producers in order to reclaim sovereignty over their purchasing.

The model is extremely innovative, both in terms of its positive health and social benefits and financial implications. Groups make agreements with local farmers to buy their produce in return for guarantees regarding production processes (organic, tax paid, worker’s rights etc). The producer benefits because they can sell their produce directly to the consumer, and so is not held hostage by distributors and retailers. The consumer gains because they know who has produced their product, how, where and under which conditions. Group members can buy hygiene and baby products, detergents and a range of household goods through the network, offering a source of income to specialist socially and environmentally friendly producers.

Although this system might sound like a Utopian fringe, Grasseni points out that the groups spend about 80 million Euro a year in Italy alone (about $110 million), in effect moving this sum from the regular economy into this more direct exchange. The number of groups is in rapid expansion and has led to the creation of networks of groups, national conferences and organizations and even the creation of ‘districts of solidarity economies’.

The book argues that this alternative economics structure is trust based, with all parties within the transaction knowing and directly relating with the others. Several organizations work entirely within the structure providing goods only for the groups. The following examples of the dairy and the shoemaker really show the potential of the model.

In 2009 a local dairy farmer converted to organic production in order to supply these groups. This involved downsizing and specialization, but several years later the farm found itself in financial difficulty. Members of the groups ran an email campaign and in about a month raised 150 000 Euro (more than $200 000) to bail the dairy out. The money was passed on, the dairy survived and now produces milk and cheese for the very same groups that saved it. With the banks no longer involved, the farmer can sell the produce at retail prices directly to the groups and make enough money to live and repay the initial bailout loan.

The story of the shoemaker is similar. After being forced into downsizing the shoemaker was left with capability but little market. He withdrew from the mainstream economy and now provides made to measure shoes through the network. There is a traveling catalog, so once found you can choose a style and size and order your new shoes that then arrive through the post. They are also sold through a network of non profit organizations that have relationships with the groups.

This book certainly leads the reader into a new way of thinking about food production. The cover contains a quote from Peter Utting, Deputy Director of the united Nations Research Institute for Social Development. He states that “Grasseni provides fascinating insights into how alternative approaches to food provisioning can transform social and economic relationships in ways that bode well for contemporary global challenges of sustainability, social justice and rebuilding human relations built on trust”.

If you would like to learn more about these alternative approaches, take a look at the following links:

Rete Gas is the Italian national GAS network.

The Food Alergy and Anaphylaxis Network has a dedicated page.

The Grassroots Innovation website also has plenty of information.

Beyond Alternative Food Networks by Cristina Grasseni is published by Bloomsbury and available through Amazon via the link above.

I would like to add that although this review is not paid, I do know the author very well. I am also a GAS member.

Concluding a series on the S4 Mini

This is the conclusion article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

Here we are at the end of another series. This was my most inconsistent series, which I should have ended in October, but here I am in January 2014 finishing it off!

In the first article I introduced my new purchase and started the series. I am still (very) glad I chose Android over Apple and a Samsung Galaxy over other rivals. I really like the (in the words of David) Disney layer Samsung add, having compared it to various other Android devices, not running the Samsung version of the OS.

D3O case for the S4 MiniWhilst I do like the S4 Mini, is hasn’t been an easy ride. Before I got my D3O case and Tech21 screen protector, I dropped my phone. The screen hit something and it bounced to the floor. This completely ruined the screen. I took it in for repair and £100 later I had my phone back.

Note to self: always get a really good case, as the cost of that is way less than the cost of a repair. Oh and try not to drop your phone.

A few weeks later my battery started playing up. It wouldn’t hold charge and depleted very quickly. I wasn’t sure if this was related to the earlier drop or not, but I took it back to the shop I bought it from and they said that as it was still within warranty (Samsung give a two year warranty) they would take a look and repair it for me. A few days later I got my phone back (again) and since then nothing has gone wrong.

I recently dropped it again (by accident) outside. It landed on the pavement and bounced to the ground. Luckily the D3O did its work and my phone is still perfectly fine.

Anker S4 Mini Screen ProtectorIn terms of screen protectors I would say the Anker one was much better than the Muvit alternative, however since that post I have purchased a Tech21 Impactology screen protector and I would rate this the best yet. It cost £20 which is five times the cost of the Anker one and I don’t think it is really that much better. Clarity, responsiveness and adhesion are pretty much the same, it’s only the level of protection that I think it probably a little better. Check out this video for more.

My final article reviewed the RoadWarrior car holder for my S4 Mini. Depending upon the car it can be awkward to place, and I am worried it might damage my phone (if I am not really careful when inserting/removing it) but the FM transmitter and spare USB port are great features that I value.

Overall I enjoy using my S4 Mini. It is a good little phone with great capabilities. The battery life could be improved and the OS could be made a little sleeker/easier to use in some places, but on the whole it is a very good handset to buy; it’s more affordable than it’s bigger brother – the S4 – whilst offering a similar experience, from a more conveniently sized device.

Four and a Half StarI think the S4 Mini is worthy of a 4.5 star rating. :-)

RoadWarrior USB Car Holder Review

This is the sixth article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

Is the sat nav redundant? Smartphones and tablets have arguably made laptops, desktops, mobile (or cell) phones and sat navs redundant. My S4 Mini is now my sat nav, so I need a car charger to hold my phone on the go so it can act as my sat nav.

After a lot of research I decided to get the a RoadWarrior – great name.

What Does It Do?

The reason I chose the RoadWarrior is because of its functionality. The car holder both charges a phone and holds it. It also has an extra USB port you can use to charge another device. Its most attractive feature however is its inbuilt FM transmitter inbuilt, meaning you can link your phone to your cars stereo.

Does It Work?

Ever looked at something online and though that it looks too good to be true? Well I was sceptical about the RoadWarrior. However whilst it does have  a few faults, it does generally do what it says it does. With some cars depending upon where the cigarette lighter plug is, it can be in an awkward place, meaning that the RoadWarrior can get in the way. This isn’t the fault of the holder and it does have a flexible arm which is movable so you can reposition it.

The FM receiver does work, and it relatively easy to set up (if you remember to flick the on/off switch on the side like I didn’t) just tune it to an unused frequency using the buttons and then tune your car stereo to the same frequency.

The charger does work reasonably well and still works when charging two devices (i.e. a phone and anything else plugged in to the spare USB). The power plug is a little wobbly and does sometimes disconnect which is annoying.

My biggest problem with the RoadWarrior is how it holds my phone. Whilst I appreciate it is designed to hold a variety of phones I don’t feel all to confident in putting my phone in and taking it out. The adjustable clamp does hold it in place, but my phone can still move a little, which I worry is damaging the connector. Furthermore, to get my phone out, the instructions say I have to bend it forwards and then pull it out. I am also concerned that this movement might be damaging my phones power connector – a costly thing to replace!

Rating

The RoadWarrior is a really great device. I feel its greatest feature is its FM transmitter so you can connect your phone to your car, whilst charging it, even if your car doesn’t have bluetooth of USB port. My main problem with the charger is how securely it holds my phone, nothing has gone wrong yet though.

Overall I rate the RoadWarrior USB Car Charger 4 star.Four Star

Next Week

Next week I will be finishing the series!

Hirred App Review

Are you looking for work? Do you enjoy social networking and find that you sell yourself best when you talk rather than write? Then Hirred is for you. Wiink Inc. has come up with a this social networking app aimed at bringing employers and candidates together through short 30-second video clips. You are probably wondering how that works. Imagine just listening to a short description of a quick task that needs completing. You don’t have to read anything, you just watch and listen. You become interested. So, you reply, or apply, with a short video clip about why you are the best candidate to get the job done. Flip it around, now. You are looking to have a small app for iPhone written, or need a few short blog articles for your new website. Come to Hirred and make a quality 30-second infomercial about the great task you have at hand, and watch as the replies post to your clip, with offers of talent that knows no bounds.

Hirred works well for those in an industry where creativity abounds. People who just can’t describe in words how great their talent is, can do great justice in 30 seconds by saying a few words, giving the right facial expressions, and making contact; because, at the end of the day, it’s the contact and familiarity that gets you the job. For employers, this means striking the right chords with potential hires with a description of your needs and what needs to be accomplished. Sometimes, words alone do no justice. It takes a bit of moving art to make something come to life; and, in 30 seconds, enough can come to life.

Hirred iTunes image

When you first download the app, you will have a chance to setup your profile. From the main page, you can view Pitches or Calls. Pitches are clips about people and their talents. Calls are clips about jobs. Under each category of viewing you can select the level of video clips: Rising or Live. Rising is essentially “just starting out”, while “Live” is a user that has been using Hirred for a while, and may have had a few jobs or even hired a few folks. Use of the app is fairly simple, as all you are doing is recording yourself in response to a Call, or creating a Call.

Logistics behind the app reside in the Main Menu, which sits at the bottom of the screen. The menu fades away to a small blue domelike icon when minimized. This renders greater screen viewing real estate. It does get a bit awkward when trying to conjure up the main menu, as many times I found myself pulling up the iPhone’s menu instead. This should be changed.

Other than that, Hirred has some potential. It may not do too well on just the merits of 30-second video clips. Descriptions that short serve as attention getters and teasers… to attract interest. This app will do well if it adds the ability to link clips to resumes or websites that offer more details.

Tech21 Impact Mesh Case Review

This is the fifth article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

In the second article of this series I claimed I would be reviewing Tech21’s case next week. I changed my plans several times, however finally, today it is going to be reviewed!

I am going to rate this case against the same criteria that I rated the FlexiShield case, so it is easy to make a comparison.

Tech21 S4 Mini Case Review

Price

Tech21’s case currently costs around £25, which is about £15 more than the FlexiShield one. The FlexiShield case was very competitively priced, however I do feel that the Tech21 one is worth the extra expense.

Design

Like the FlexiShield case, the Tech21 case is also reasonably flexible. My S4 Mini fits perfectly into the case, and unlike the FlexiShield case, all the ports and sensors are pretty much perfectly aligned. Furthermore the depth of the case means that if it is resting on its back, the camera isn’t touching the ground.

I really like how this case has two buttons for volume, as one thing that annoyed me with the FlexiShield case was that it was all one button, so you were never sure which button  you were pressing!

D3O diagram

How D3O molecules react under pressure.

Unlike any other case on the market, the Tech21 Impact Mesh case has D3O embedded into the design. D3O is an ‘intelligent’ (or smart) material which is pliable and malleable, however when put under stress, the molecules interlock and it becomes rock solid – absorbing the impact.

The case certainly works, as I have dropped and banged my phone several times, yet it still works and there isn’t a scratch in sight! To see a D3O case put to the test check out this video.

I haven’t noticed my phone getting as hot in this case either, although it does appear to lack ventilation, like the FlexiShield alternative.

Aesthetically, I think my phone looks really good in the case. It is stylish and sleek, and I think it actually makes the phone look better.

Impact Mesh Vs Impact Maze

Tech21 make two very similar versions of this case for the S4 Mini, the Impact Mesh Case and the Impact Maze Case. The only real difference is that the Mesh has dots on the back and the Maze has lines. I personally prefer the dots, hence why I went for the Impact Mesh.

Protection

As mentioned above, Tech21’s case offers great protection thanks to the D3O. Like the FlexiShield, this case has a lip which means if you put the phone screen down, the screen doesn’t touch the ground.

D3O case for the S4 MiniAs you would expect, the case protects the phone from superficial dirt and smears, and is easy to wipe clean.

The D3O protects my phone from pretty much every angle.

Rating

The Tech21 Impact Mesh Case is stylish and offers my S4 Mini great protection, it is priced higher up the range than the FlexiShield, however, I feel the design quality justifies this.

Overall I rate Tech21’s Impact Mesh Case 4.5 star. Four and a Half Star

I would like to thank Mobile Fun who provided the case for this review.

Next Time

Next time I will be reviewing a car holder for the S4 Mini.

My experience of smart meters

This post is written in partnership with British Gas, however as always, all opinions are mine.

In December 2011 I wrote about how smart meters are the future for our electricity. The UK roll-out is well under way and I suspect that some of you (like me) now have a smart meter in your homes.

Smart what?

So what exactly is a smart meter? Brownie points need to go to whoever name it, as (unless it was named after a Mr Smart) the name is pretty self explanatory; a smart meter is a smarter version of your original gas and electricity meter.

So what makes it smart(er)? Well smart meters are going to put an end to estimated bills by feeding your energy usage directly back to your provider, removing the hassle of having to report your readings. This also means that there is no longer a need for someone to come around and read your meter.

So your bill is always timely and accurate. Isn’t that convenient!

This video by British Gas explains it a little further.

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It isn’t just your energy provider who gets data from your meter though. British Gas provide a smart energy monitor, so that you can see exactly what you are using, in real time!

A British Gas energy tracker

British Gas’s smart energy monitor

I have found this really useful, as it lets me see exactly what (gas and electricity) I am using at any given moment. I can set an ideal level of energy to use each day, and then track this with my monitor, to see whether I am over using!

A kettle boiling

Seeing how much energy my kettle uses has made me think about how much tea I drink!

The real time aspect of the monitoring does make you more conscious of what you are using. I nearly had a heart attack when I turned on the kettle! The electricity consumption shoots up to about 2.5 kilowatts of usage! I can now tell you what (almost) all of my appliances use: the vacuum is around 1.5kW, oven around 3-4kW, computer and monitor is about 0.3kW (more with speakers on though – use headphones!). I believe that being more energy conscious is saving me money – and also reducing my carbon footprint.

The smart monitor British Gas provide is really good, showing you everything from how much your energy use so far today has cost you, to how strong the WiFi connection is. The touch screen monitor comes with some on-screen tips (which you can access through the help menu) which give you ideas as to how to save money.

As I mentioned above, the meter lets you set targets as to how much energy you want to use each day, and then alarms when/if you go over. This is helping me to encourage everyone in the house to keep their usage down, so we can go later and later each day without going over the target and setting off the alarm!

I have noticed that (especially with concern to gas) my energy usage is higher in the winter than summer. This is my first year with the meter and I had it installed over the summer, but the cold and dark means we are in the house more often, using electricity and the heating more. Using the gas hob doesn’t have much of an impact at all, but whacking the boiler on for the heating and hot water certainly does.

I feel that my smart meter has given me more control over the energy I use and more flexibility in how I manage it. Smart meters get a thumbs up from me. If you have one let me know what you think in the comments below.

UK Roll-Out

Because of the benefits smart meters offer, (mainly helping to significantly reduce our carbon footprint) the UK government has stipulated that all homes and businesses will have a meter installed by 2020 – to help us meet our 2020 EU energy targets.

This means that if you live in the UK and don’t already have a smart meter, you will be getting one very soon. Which? explains how the roll-out is going to be picking up pace from 2015-2020, however if you can’t wait that long, you can get yours installed now. If you switch to British Gas, you can get one installed straight away, or if you are already a customer you can register your interest for a free upgrade here.

More

You can get more information on smart meters in British Gas’s video series on YouTube. You can also find out more about the benefits and the roll-out on their website. If you want to know more about my experience of having a smart meter, please feel free to ask me in the comments below. :-)