Sunday, December 30, 2012

Claus’s iPhone App List

As promised, here is a listing, semi-categorized, of iOS iPhone apps I’m using on my iPhone 5.

All links will be to the iTunes App Store page unless otherwise noted. I’ve added a permanent link on the sidebar under “Claus’s Toolbox”.

I’m only listing Apps that I use (or plan to purchase relatively soon for use). There very well may be “better” apps of a similar function, but the point is these are the ones I am using. If you want to drop a comment on a recommendation of your own, that’s fine and if it is on-topic and something I would actually consider using, I might just approve it. If the comment seems like comment spam or is for an App that I’m not at all interested in for whatever reason, it probably won’t be added. This post isn’t to create a marketplace; it’s for me to self-reference and primarily be a way to recommend/share Apps with the few family and friends who have iPhone discussions with me.

A mini price-range key:

  • free = free. May or may not be ad-supported. That said, if it is ad-supported or pop-up in-app notifications to upgrade to a paid-version are too annoying or obtrusive, the app is deleted.
  • $ = $.99 to $2.99 range.
  • $$ = $3 to $7.99 range.
  • $$$ = $8 to $9.99 range
  • $$$$ = over $9.99

Note that when posted, some apps may be on a special pricing discount for holiday or promotions. I’ll try to keep an eye on things but it’s only a rough guide.

I’m not sure I have my categorizations really dialed in quite the way I want yet. Those may change.
I’ll eventually get around to adding very-short app descriptions.

“Default” apps that come installed/bundled with the iOS don’t get listed.

I have a few great Apps I won’t list for privacy reasons; banking/insurance/shipping/specific shopping/vendors, etc. Just because you don’t see those listed, doesn’t mean I don’t use them.

Finally, just because all these apps fit on and run on my iPhone 5 (64 GB), currently iOS 6.0.2, doesn’t mean they will all fit on your own iPhone.

Here’s the list.

Core Apps

Productivity/Organization Apps
Weather Apps
Text/Reading Apps
Networking/IT/SysAdmin Apps
Media Apps
Specialized Utilities
Hardware Support
These are the primary “hardware” items I use (or will be using) with my iPhone. Note: Price rating system suspended here. Do the research if you are curious.
  • Jawbone JAMBOX Wireless Speaker - Christmas present from Lavie.
  • Jawbone (version 2) - (obtained back in 2008) - still running strong, though highly battered.
  • Jawbone ERA - I don’t have this unit yet but will almost certainly be purchasing it in the next few weeks. Since my original Jawbone unit is almost six years old, has survived numerous traumas and still works great, I’m pretty much sold on the quality and performance of this manufacturer rather than others out there. I’m mostly just upgrading to the ERA model since it can support Bluetooth syncing with two devices concurrently. That is a must -- having multiple phones on my person. I considered the ICON model as well but I’ve come accustomed to the version 2 size so there you go.
Previously Used Apps (free) Upgraded to Purchased Versions or Alternatives
These are apps that I previously had on my iPhone but later upgraded to purchased versions and/or removed to make way for another/different version of the same app function. They are still highly recommended.
Still pending purchase/installation - (sooner or later)

Hope you find this helpful.

--Claus V.

iSurrender: iPhone Linkfest

Enough iOS already! It’s following me around and multiplying!

I love the iPhone 5 I now carry and am getting very comfortable using it. I confess I’m still not yet scratching the surface of the features it is capable of, but I no longer consider an iPhone noobie and that is saying a lot.

iPhone 4’s got delivered to work. I’ll be working on a project very soon to migrate our BlackBerry users to them.

Alvis announced she bought (on her own, the little scullery-maid!) an iPad Mini from the Apple-store online for a Christmas-cash present. Delivery expected this week. Fortunately she publically went on the record that she is an iOS girl and has no love or desire for Mac laptop/desktop platforms or OSX so she didn’t receive a grounding for her cheekiness.

And I now subscribe to a number of RSS feeds for iOS matters to stay on top of tips/apps and iOS trends.

iOS News and Scuttlebutt

In case you are an iOS user and been living under a rock lately…Google Maps for iOS dropped a few weeks ago. I love it but miss not having a terrain layer provided. Hopefully that will get added in eventually by the Google Map App team. Yes there is a way to get it via Cydia but that’s way past my comfort level so I personally won’t be making any recommendations with Cydia anytime soon.

Then came an iOS minor upgrade…Hurrah!

…which may cause battery-drain issues…oh-noes!

At first I thought I was also having this post iOS 6.0.2 update battery-drain issue, but now I’m not convinced. Is the battery actually draining faster? Or am I just more conscious of battery usage levels when I’m using my iPhone 5 to do light-web surfing around the house when I’m too lazy to use my main laptop system?  That Retina display rocks and dazzles and probably gobbles up the juice.  Maybe with a more stable Wi-Fi connection I’m just using it more that I realize….

Tips and Tricks

One of the challenges with “new-to-me” technology is getting up to speed so I feel I have some level of mastery of it. I’ve always had fun being challenged by new things and becoming comfortable in using and managing them.

Needless to say, the iOS environment is certainly rich with opportunity for learning both basic and new things!

iOS Apps I’ve Installed (and kept) since Last Posting

Once in a blue moon I will purchase a video (movie/TV show) from the iTunes store. Generally we buy BluRay disks and drop a few more dollars for the package that includes a digital copy. That works for us. I like the idea of iTunes rentals but the prices are (generally) crazy for the super-short rental “lifespan.” That doesn’t work for me.  I will pick up music (usually singles) from time to time. Again if I really “like” an album, I tend to order the physical CD and then import it into iTunes.

If I find a must-have, not-free app, I prefer to buy an iTunes card at a local store and then use that to purchase the app.

Otherwise, despite the number of iOS apps I’ve added/purchased recently as a new iPhone owner, I generally just wait until someone drops me an Apple iStore/App/Tunes gift card or I find a $20 for some “mad-money” and then splurge on some apps.

So the paid app purchases below are from Alvis’s Christmas gift card to me. Thank you Alvis!

  • Google Maps - free - iTunes App Store. Enough said.
  • Emerald Time - free - iTunes App Store. I’m a time junkie. Maybe from watching too many Dr. Who episodes? Anyway, while I can’t adjust the time on my iPhone, at least I can compare it to several NTP servers. It also lets you quickly see what the GMT time is. Geeky free app.
  • Networking Toolkit - free - iTunes App Store. Paul Borghese’s app is top-shelf stuff for networking admins. Super handy.
  • Due - $$ - iTunes App Store. Took me a while to find this one, and at $4.99, it isn’t “cheap” by most iOS app standards. Allows for creation of highly customized reminder alerts and timers. Lavie has a medication she must take every three days and sometimes we forget when the last dosage was given. This app allowed me to easily set a recurring three-day reminder. The UI is great and its power lies in its simplicity. Highly recommended.
  • IPv4 Subnet Calculator - $ - iTunes App Store. There are lots and lots of “free” IP Subnet Calculators out there. I have a few Windows utilities on my systems for the heavy network planning I do. However, while the Networking Toolkit already mentioned above met my basic -- in case of emergency needs, when I say Alex Buzov’s app, I couldn’t help but buy it. It is drop-dead gorgeous and practical at the same time. I don’t expect we will be dabbling in IPv6 anytime soon, but hopefully when that time comes, Alex will have a version released. I’ll stand in line to buy it!
  • Clear - $ - iTunes App Store.  Currently 50% off for a limited time. My brother tipped me off to this little gem. While I already have a note management app, and there is “Due” for reminders, this super beautiful fun app makes creating To-Do action lists fun. No, you cannot set calendar items or reminders but if you want a easy way to make lists you will come back to, this app is worth checking out.
  • Byword - $ - iTunes App Store. For when you need a more full-featured and full-sized app for composing text. It doesn’t do a who lot, but covers the basics of creating and editing larger text-based documents much more comfortable.
  • Grocery List - Buy Me a Pie - $ - iTunes App Store. There are a lot of free and $ “grocery/shopping-list” makers out there. What sold me on this one was a simple and easy to organize/navigate interface couple with the ability for me to share an on-line account with Lavie and Alvis to use to add needed items to the weekly grocery list. Sure, my handwritten 3x5 index card grocery list making system seems to work OK but hopefully this can help supplement it a bit. Multiple lists are supported so it doesn’t have to be limited for lists at the grocery store.
  • Naturespace - free/$ - iTunes App Store. The free app comes with a small set of nature-sound loops. Additional sound-atmosphere loops can be purchased in-app for a few dollars per sound loop.  There are more free sound-loop apps out there and I haven’t really scratched the surface but this one came highly recommended mostly based on the quality of the free app player as well as the quality of the sound loops themselves. Just wished they would have tossed in a rain/thunder-storm loop in the free package as well. That’s more my thing for relaxation but guess that’s how they get us hooked!
  • iFileExpress - free - iTunes App Store. Extend the ability to manage and share files between your iOS device and your PC/Mac system. Mainly for the geeks.

Coming soon I’ll be working on getting up a regularly maintained post to track and list my iOS iPhone apps in a single place for quick reference and for the curious.


--Claus Valca

Windows 8 Phone: Minor Linkage

Although I ended up going with an iOS platform after-all, I have been able to finally get my hands on a Nokia Lumia 920 Windows 8 Phone that a co-worker picked up -- at least for a few minutes.

Tellingly, he hasn’t ditched his secondary non-Win8 smartphone just yet, but did find a special deal that allowed him to pick up two units for the standard price of one; gift one and get one!

While I didn’t have an opportunity to really take it for a full test-track session, I was impressed with the 920’s screen brightness and resolution. Popping between screens/apps was super-fast. The unit had a nice heft and the feel in the hand was comfortable.

One thing was very clear to me; the Metro Windows 8 app style format really shines on the smartphone platform where it doesn’t impress me one bit on a more traditional desktop/laptop/Surface platform. That’s one thing that seems to set (for now) the Windows 8 Phone app eco-system apart from iOS and Android; style consistency across apps. As I’ve spent more and more time in the Apple App store, I’ve come to learn there are some app designers who work very, very hard to reflect a polished and “modern” UI style…and others look like crap despite how awesome the app might actually be. That holds true regardless if they are paid or free.  Props for good design work and attention to detail.

I may have previously posted this but Scott Hanselman over at Computer Zen recently posted the process by which he updated a Windows 7 Phone app of his to Windows 8.

Scott provides a great review of the process a Windows 8 Phone app designer needs to go through to make a quality product…even from a GUI design and layout angle.

I’m probably not looking hard enough, but I’ve not yet found any good treatises yet on designing and implementing an iOS app from a modern-ui standpoint consistent with other Apple UI’s.  Can anyone suggest any links on the subject or if Apple even has any “standards” in GUI design for current iOS levels?

In the meantime, here is a smattering of Windows 8 Phone linkage.

General Discussion

Windows 8 Phone Apps that Caught My Eye 

Usage Tips

HTC Windows Phone 8X


--Claus V.

Windows 8 Linkage: A final 2012 Huzzah.

…for the record…no Valca Win systems have yet been upgraded to Windows 8.

I am still running it in a VM.  Lavie mentioned she was interested in picking up a new, sub-15” Windows laptop in the new year but isn’t impressed with Windows 8 or the Surface platform so she will continue to wait to see how things develop in the new year.

Win8 - Start Here - Get It

Win8 - Install It

Win8 - Under the Hood

Win8 - To Go

Win8 - Tweaks

Win8 - Deeper Insights

Metro Apps That Caught My Eye

Win8 - Usage Tips

Win8 - Miscellanea & Rumors

Windows 8 - GSD Previously Posted


--Claus V.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

GSD Linkfest: Updates, ForSec, and a whole lot more…

Let’s not waste any more time here. The clock is ticking…

Updates Galore



Apps and Stuff of Note

Good to Know

For the SysAdmins


I’m a sucker for maps. Paper and digital kinds both. They are an art-form to themselves.

I’m particularly partial to the “watercolor” filter…


Ubuntu Talk

Congrats to Navy for their win in the Army Navy game. I was rooting for the Army Black Knights and their QB Trent Steelman and the sudden unfortunate turn of events during what was to be an amazing 2-minute drill conclusion and upset over Navy was heartbreaking. That said, I was warmed by the open emotion the QB displayed. There was much to be proud of all the way around in this game and it was as an exciting treat to watch.

Likewise congrats to the A&M Heisman Memorial Trophy Award winner from A&M Jonny Manziel. A lot of folks I know are cheering proudly at the moment. Congrats.


--Claus V.

iPhone mini-linkfest


Just a quick post for some iPhone notes.

I finally got around to upgrading the default iPhone calendar app to Agenda Calendar. I liked the interface and layout views and that it was able to pull/sync from the default Reminders app that comes with the iPhone. I tweaked a few of the settings and what isn’t clearly evident from the app page is that there are quite a few alternative themes included if you don’t quite like the black/white look. It took me no-time at all to get up and going with the UI and at just a $0.99 price point, it is hard to go wrong.

I seriously considered both the Fantastical and the Calvetica Calendar apps before settling on Agenda. Fantastical really, really looked good I totally get the to-do view appointment layout. However according to the reviews this version didn’t sync with the iOS Reminders so that was a bit of a drawback. Calvetica is very nice looking and I love the bars-on-calendar visual for appointments but the price point was a bit steeper than I was willing to bite into.

Gmail - free - (Apple Store) - just got bumped to version 2.0 this week. This is a very refreshing update as it now supports multiple Gmail accounts in the same app. That was something I was wishing for. I like the UI and after using it less than a week find that it has become one of the most-used apps on my iPhone. Love it. Now I only wish it had a “unified” Inbox view option so you can see all your incoming messages in one place rather than having to tap a few times to switch between your different accounts. More reviews below:

About the same time, we also have a nice YouTube -free - (Apple Store) app update as well. I didn’t have any complaints about the first version but I see they have made some changes to the category pick and a few other things that might appeal to some.  No biggie either way to me. I enjoy using it pretty well. has a quick review and AddictiveTips blog goes into a more detailed review as well.  Don’t forget Vimeo for iPhone also has a new update (Vimeo - free - Apple Store) that works nicely.

I still haven’t read an iPhone 5 manual at all and I’m sure there are a lot of navigational and usage things that I’m missing out on. So until that time comes, I’m collecting and reading a lot of tips and trick posts from iPhone focus sites such as over at

Likewise, I’m liking the new iTunes 11 release but as ArsTechnica points out, it’s a bit of a handful to take it all in: iTunes 11 review: Simple is as simple does - Ars Technica

Finally, there are bunch of quality iPhone wallpapers out there if you know where to find them.  Because of the standard square icon size of the apps, depending on the number of apps you have you might not get as much of a chance to see the background as much as you wish…unless perhaps on your lock-screen. Accordingly I think subtle goes a longer way than bold and detailed images.  Here are some to pick though if you desire.

iPhone 5 Wallpaper Pack - John Carey is an amazing writer and photographer and his blog is a must-follow read for me. His iPhone wallpaper pack is hands-down the very best (IMHO) of graphical goodness for refined and sophisticated images for iPhone. I selected one from this collection on the same day I brought home my iPhone (and though tempted at times) still haven’t found anything to make me want to change it.

iPhone 5 Wallpapers - Tumblr. This Tumblr blog is filled with iPhone 5 specific wallpapers. It’s a great place to check in daily at for some great high-quality wallpapers.

iPhone 5 Wallpapers HD - Retina ready, stunning wallpapers. This is a great site as it not only has more than a ton of HD iPhone 5 ready wallpapers, but it also has some gadgets to make your own customized wallpapers in a few themes. Nicely categorized for easy navigation and searching. If you notice, each image has two smaller icons underneath, hover over the padlock and you will see a sample of what the image would look like on the “lock” screen. hover over the four-grouped-icons and you will see a sample of the background covered with app icons.  This is a super-nice touch assessing the visual appeal of the wallpaper on an actual phone.

20 Unusual Wallpapers For The iPhone 5 - noupe. Nice roundup of some a bit more non-traditional wallpapers.

The Shelf iPhone Wallpapers - - The standard iOS icon size and grid layout makes “shelf” wallpapers very appealing for some users. It’s not my thing but these are well done it it is yours.

iPhone 5 Internals Wallpaper - iFixit - These are simply brilliant and geeky! Wallpapers are in a perfect to-scale internal view of the iPhone components under the glass and a just-smaller-than-scale version to include a few more of the techy-bits if you want to see them.

Great iPhone 5 Wallpapers - - Nice collection of links to other wallpaper sites for iPhone.

Aperture Logos Modern Style (iPhone) - Damien Erambert - If you are a Portal fan, then you definitely need to consider these. Super fun for the “don’t eat the cake” fans!


--Claus Valca.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Brief list of port monitoring tools

A while back we deployed some special purpose server systems. They are pretty simple in terms of function but do provide some critical infrastructure support.

So when they go off-line for whatever reason (power failure, unplugged network cable, etc.) we need to respond to get them back online.

Proactive monitoring is pretty thin and currently we have more of a reactive monitoring solution. Someone needs one of these systems, finds it is down, and call us to fix it fast.


So one solution developed was as simple batch file that ran a ping against the server IP’s. If a ping failed, then notice would be auto-emailed to selected staff to check it out.

That seems ok, but what happens when the NIC is up and responding to ping, but the core applications/OS has actually hung and it really isn’t “operationally” on-line, though the NIC is? Kinda gives the impression you don’t have a problem that you really do.

These systems are very simple and we can’t run any additional “client" software on it to “phone home” for service health and availability…something like Paessler's PRTG Network Monitor.

I did identify a few critical network services running on the systems and found that they communicated out on specific ports.

If we could run port-scans against those ports and found them open/listening, then that might provide a more accurate assessment of the servers’ health rather than the basic ping reply/no-reply feedback.

So here are a few of the tools and utilities I considered in that approach.

If you have any additional utilities or tricks for remotely monitoring server/service availability please drop a tip into the comment jar!


--Claus V.

More iPhone apps

Having a smartphone is an insidious thing.

Before you could be quite content to use your phone to check the time/date, maybe snap a photo, communicate via some texting, and -- of course -- make phone calls. Life was simple.

Then a smartphone comes along and you discover a world of applications that you must have to survive. Most are free but some are indispensible and mean dropping some $-$$ so you can be well kitted.


So in my last post, I shared a list of Apple iOS apps I had loaded up on my new smartphone to get started with.

A few weeks later (and an Apple iTunes 11 update to ice things off) I find I’ve now dropped a little mad-money on some paid apps as well as uncovered a few more free ones.

So here is a list of the most recent apps to supplement the ones previously installed.

  • TeamViewer HD for Remote Control - free - iTunes App Store. For inside-the-network remote-control support I am really liking Mocha VNC for iPhone. But when I am in the field and remote-support of a family member’s system is required from the smartphone, I’ve turned to TeamViewer. I just point them to this TeamViewer Portable app to download and “install” to their local system and then I can connect at will. If I am at home and on my Windows systems, I still prefer the Remote ShowMyPC app, though subscribers do have a HTML viewer option available.
  • MapQuest - free - iTunes App Store. My brother put me on to this one. It’s major selling point is that you can have voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation.
  • Until the Google Maps for iOS app is re-released to the public, you can also follow these simple steps from on How to Get Google Maps on iOS 6.
  • Survival Guide - free - iTunes App Store. Works great as long as your battery is running. Probably better to study ahead of time and then refer if needed.
  • Wave Alarm - Motion Control Alarm Clock - free/$ - iTunes App Store. I really like the design interface for this alarm clock app. The ads are pretty obtrusive to the beautiful design, particularly in the horizontal orientation. Nice compliment to the same vendor’s free Wave Timer app I had previously downloaded.
  • Vimeo - free - iTunes App Store. Just released a few days ago, this new upate is very slick and works great for watching the very best Vimeo has to offer. (review)
  • NOAA Hi-Def Radar - $ - iTunes App Store. This is marginal improvement over the free MyRadar Weather Radar app I had previously downloaded. The radar image quality is much better, but it doesn’t seem to provide the true “real-time” radar imagery data I was hoping for. It seems to run about 3-4 minutes on average behind the current time. Not a “waste” but not quite what hoped. I also considered the $$ RadarScope app (review) but decided against it for now.
  • WeatherMap+ - $ - the iTunes App Store. Sure I have The Weather Channel® Max app which does a great job on providing current and future weather conditions and projections, but the WeatherMap+ takes it to next level by displaying advanced data in precip, temps, wind speed and pressures.
  • Spyglass - $$ - iTunes App Store.  I had been playing with and using this same vendor’s Commander Compass Lite and liked it a lot. I had looked at upgrading to the Commander Compass app they offer but found out that it was superseded by Spyglass so I went with it instead. Besides advanced compass data, it also adds viewfinder/HUD, gyrocompass, map support, GPS tracking, rangefinder, sextant, inclinometer, and a few other neat things. Super geeky but super cool!
  • iHikeGPS - $$ - iTunes App Store. Having had a fun day-long walkabout in a state park recently with my brother and a friend, it stuck me that having some orienteering/topo maps handy could be a good thing. After a bit of research and study I went with this app. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet but just playing with it for the local area, it seems like it will fit the bill nicely. I also considered Topo Maps and Trails.

Still pending purchase…maybe just before the 2013 hurricane season?

  • Hurricane Tracker - $ - iTunes App Store. (review). Tons and tons of maps, charts, alerts, and tropical storm data for us hurricane data/tracking junkies.
  • Hurricane - $ - iTunes App Store. This one seems to be comparable to the Hurricane Tracker app above and seems to be beloved by many, many fans and reviewers.

I wish there were “trial” versions so we can try out some of these side-by-side before committing.

Other iOS tips, tricks, and news bits


--Claus V.