Hopefully you had a quiet weekend and have had a chance to recover from forced family fun time. If not, you have my condolences. Do some shopping on your boss’s dime with our first app. If you’re still bored, play around with a new lightweight development environment on the Mac. Then we close out with a way to tune out distractions.
Zen Shopping – iPhone
Okay, you were in the mall at 5 PM on Christmas Eve with a handful of mostly undamaged gifts and a bunch of gift cards. There’s nothing wrong with that—everyone procrastinates. Next year, you tell yourself, you’re getting everything done in March and you can avoid all this madness. The six or seven different apps you need to keep track of all the stores are a bit of a drag on your iPhone’s available space.
That’s where Zen Shopping comes in. Aside from its abuse of the term “Zen,” this is a cool app. It combines your browsing and searching across a bunch of different stores, and it makes comparison shopping easier, as you don’t have to keep a spreadsheet to remember where that cheap espresso maker was.
The app also learns your habits, and presents you with deals after a while, which might make it even easier to get your holiday shopping done next year.
What’s Good: Huge variety of stores to browse from a single app.
What Sucks: App needs to integrate extensions for Last Pass and One Password access.
Buy it? If you’re looking for an easy way to shop on your phone, check out Zen Shopping. Download it on the App Store for free.
Mad Genius Radio – iOS(Universal)
Mad Genius Radio lets you create customized radio stations by genre rather than artists. It’s great if you’re a casual music fan, but not so great if you’re a serious music fan. This isn’t because it’s bad—it actually works well—but because the app lacks some basic genres.
I about cancelled this review outright when I wanted to make a Punk and Ska station mixed with some 80s college rock and couldn’t find Punk or Ska stations. I assume that this might because I am a fuddy-duddy from the record store era, and I have genre names in my head that don’t seem to exist anymore. More than likely it’s just an oversight from the curators.
What saved this app is its interfaceL Making the minute tweaks necessary to create the stations you want is a very intuitive process. You can also rate artists and songs to ensure that you hear more or less of what you want. The service is free now but will require a subscription later on. Hopefully when the app goes paid the genre selection will expand.
What’s Good: Infinite customizability.
What Sucks: Missing lots of genres.
Buy it? If you’re bored with by artist station management, check out Mad Genius Radio. Download it for free on the App Store. You can also check it out on the Web.
Code Runner 2 – Mac
Code Runner 2 is a light weight IDE for the Mac. I really liked the first version of this App, because it made it easy to throw together quick shell scripts and run them right in the same interface. (Before you write me about your command line text editor of choice, consider spitting in the wind.) If you’re an actual developer rather than a bumbling amateur, there’s a wide array of languages the app supports.
The new version takes the App outside of the Mac App Store, but if you’ve still got installed you can get a new license for free. The new version adds code completion improvements, making it easy to remember those weird commands you can’t quite remember. There’s improved templates, as well as compilers built in for C and C++. They’ve also made the app look at home in Yosemite.
It’s sad to see that Apple has made it so difficult for developers to keep apps like these in the Mac App Store, but Code Runner 2 looks to take in stride. The app is faster and more powerful.
What’s Good: Easy to code and run all at once. Lots of new features.
What Sucks: Some of the code completion functions are still in development. Check the app page for more info if your language of choice may be among them.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a light-weight development tool, or single stop Bash scripting in the GUI, check out Code Runner 2. Download it from the developer’s website for $9.99.
Noizio – Mac
There are times where any music or podcasts just seem to break your concentration. Unfortunately, the guy behind you at work refuses to stop talking about Sunday’s game, the lady across from you is booking her New Year’s vacation, and you can’t get any work done. Noizio lets you choose some white noise to drown them out, without introducing new distractions.
Everyone seems to latch on to the cafe noises—a din of conversations and clanking dishes. Instead, I went for the campfire and waves. You can also go for the thunderstorm, or even the vacuum of deep space. (Shut it, pedants.) This is an app has a tight little niche, but it fits it perfectly. My only wish would be the ability to set up my own custom loops. (Deep space + Star Trek warp engine, FTW!)
What’s Good: Easy-to-use interface. You can mix different sounds.
What Sucks: No custom loops.
Buy it? If you’re looking for a white noise machine on the Mac, check out Noizio. Grab it on the Mac App Store for free.