WeatherCan – Environment Canada’s weather app

WeatherCan – Environment Canada’s weather app

Environment Canada’s new app WeatherCan is a must have for Canadians. The app moved out of beta testing and is available in both the Apple Store and Google Play Store. A quick note: this is an app geared towards Canadians and not applicable outside of our borders.

I’ve been using WeatherCan for a few months now since it was in beta. It’s run on two phones – both budget smartphones – and worked flawlessly.  I’ve played around with dozens of weather apps over the years, usually tearing them out quickly because they are resource hogs or heat the phone up (on two occasions, dangerously so). I’m pleased to say this one does neither.  It’s fast response time, even on a low-end phone, was a surprise. Another positive, WeatherCan doesn’t drain the battery, even when allowing notifications and real time updates.

Best weather app for Canadians

There isn’t a lot to be said about the app – it works well, it doesn’t crash, and it’s pleasing to look at. The visuals are clean and easy to understand. If you’re familiar with the Environment Canada website, it’s pretty much the same. The big bold images, and lack of clutter makes WeatherCan one of the better weather apps out there.

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app showing current temp

Weather looks a bit chilly

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app showing hourly temp changes

Easy to understand interface

WeatherCan packs a lot of information on each screen. 

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app

Detailed single day screen

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app

A week at a glance

The only flaw** I could find is the lack of ability to turn off weather notifications for other regions/provinces. For a few weeks, I was hammered with weather alerts for Sask. On the upside, I learned to appreciate how truly bad Sask. winters can get. Maybe it’s part of Environment Canada’s cunning plan.

** update: this glitch has been fixed and no longer sends erroneous weather alerts – Dec 14/20

Look for the WeatherCan app in Google Play and the Apple Store or go directly to Environment Canada’s page   –  WeatherCan. If you download the app, drop a note in the comments and let me know how it runs on your phone.

NOTE: minor updates to grammar and information regarding the app made Dec. 14, 2020.

Presto Card has an app, but don’t get too excited

Presto Card has an app, but don’t get too excited


Image of a Presto card

Presto (Metrolinx) has an app now!

Finally.

But don’t get excited about it.

It lacks the one main feature we all wanted. 

I have a long standing love/hate relationship with the Presto card system (used by a number of transit systems in Ontario).  When it works, it’s excellent. When it doesn’t, oh boy. One thing that mildly irked me was the lack of an official app, so imagine my delight this morning when I discovered Metrolinx’s shiny new app.

Here’s what you can do with the app:

  • load funds and transit passes (instant load available on Android devices with NFC)
  • receive low balance/pass expiry reminders and email receipts for fare purchases
  • pay with Apple Pay and saved payment method
  • set up and manage Autoload and Auto renew
  • manage multiple PRESTO cards
  • check your PRESTO card balances
  • view your transaction history
  • buy a PRESTO card and create a PRESTO account
    r/f Presto App 

Spotted what’s missing? There is no tap and pay function. It’s handy for tracking your card balance, loading funds and seeing where your card has been used, but aside from that, there’s no overwhelming reason to install it.  Without the a pay and go function, it’s just a portable version of the Presto website.  I’ll leave it installed because it is nice to quickly see my balance without waiting in line to access the machines but otherwise, meh.  

On the plus side, the Presto interface is very clean and easy to use. The developers did a great job in creating a functional, uncluttered interface. If you are responsible for multiple Presto cards, you’ll be pleased to hear you can consolidate managing all the cards within the app, without the hassle of logging in and out with different ids.  With one app, you can manage all the family/business cards, checking balances and reloading with a few taps. 

Need a monthly transit pass loaded? No problem, scroll through the list of available passes, tap and pay with either debit or credit card. I applaud the inclusion of a debit card option, all too often this is left off. So well done Metrolinx. 

Hopefully Presto will include a pay and go feature in the near future, but in the meantime, some will find it useful, the rest of use will wait for the next upgrade.

FYI: If you decide to get it, make sure you download the official Presto app. Look for the Metrolinx name. Available for Apple and Android devices.

Clear the clutter with Microsoft’s Sticky Notes

Clear the clutter with Microsoft’s Sticky Notes

NOTE: This article was originally posted Jan 7, 2019 and updated Sept 27, 2020

Oh, Sticky Notes, how you tidied up my messy desk. I have a habit of collecting random bits of paper scribbled with ideas, customer info, to-dos and websites I want to investigate. Invariably I forget them in my pocket and into the laundry they go, or they become coffee stained, tossed  because they didn’t make sense, you get the idea. I used Microsoft’s Sticky Notes in fits and starts previously, mostly due to its lack of cross platform access.  It didn’t work on my Android phone or the tablet, which meant it was of minimal value.

Sticky Notes for Android & Mac

When Microsoft updated their Launcher for Android Jan 2019, that changed. Now, you can have Sticky Notes on your laptop and still have all your notes on your phone or tablet. Ditto for iPhones, with Microsoft’s inclusion of Sticky Notes with OneNote.  If you are using Android, you need to download the Microsoft Launcher. It will change how your icons look and behave, so take that into consideration before installing it. As of Sept 2020, it’s still in Beta form, but I’ve had no issues with it in a year and a half.  Once installed, log into your Microsoft account (you’ll need your password), and you’ll be ready to go.

If you’re using an iPhone, you’ll need to install the OneNote app from the store. I use OneNote  as well, so if you like to stay organised in your research, this is a good pairing. You can check out the Apple app store here.

Screen capture of Microsoft's Sticky Notes app

Sticky Notes list from my laptop.

Sticky Notes works the same as a little pad of paper notes without the mess.  Tap the little plus sign to begin a new note, pick a colour and start typing. Duplicated a note? Hover your mouse over the note and tap the garbage pail.

Screen capture of Sticky Notes colour picking

Picking a colour is easy. So is deleting a note.

Turning on List View to do away with screen clutter

You can leave the notes free standing on the desktop, but after 4 or 5 notes, the clutter will drive you bonkers.  Instead, turn on List View so you have a sleek list you can move about the desktop. List doesn’t appear by default, you have to turn it on by right clicking the notes icon (in the start menu or if you have it pinned to your taskbar)  and tap Notes List.

View of Sticky Notes options to choose a list view

Click once on the second item – NOTES LIST – to change Sticky Notes to show in a list

If you have an Android device, swipe to the Launcher window, tap Glance and scroll through all the notes. On an iPhone, install OneNote and access Sticky Notes from there, once you sign into your Microsoft account.

You can add/delete notes and edit existing ones from your phone knowing synchronization is nearly instantaneous. You can have all your fiddly notes, neatly typed out, as soon as you close the sticky.

You can even insert pictures or take a photo with your camera and insert it into a Sticky Note. I use this feature to create reminders of potential articles to research. I’ll do a screen capture or insert a photo I took, make a short note about it and save it. It’ll pop up on my Laptop, tablet and phone. No matter where I am, I can scroll through ideas and update them as I think of new material to add.

Screen capture of a sticky note with a photo embedded

It’s easy to insert a photo

Benefits of Sticky Notes voice recording

If you’re like me, all thumbs when typing on a smart phone, use the microphone icon on Sticky Notes and let the voice recognition do the job.  Voice recognition is surprisingly accurate, even if there is background noise, like a tv or radio.  One major oversight is the lack of voice recognition integration on laptops.  Nothing I tried could get Cortana to recognise Sticky Notes, which is a shame.

To record, open a new note and tap the microphone. Once finished, the note will save itself. You can format it later if you wish.

Screen capture from android phone showing record option for Sticky Notes

Tap the Microphone and record your note

Pros and Cons of Sticky Notes:

Pros Cons
  • web and email address act as links
  • one tap to dial a phone number on your smart phone from a Sticky.
  • colour coded
  • synchronize with Android phone and now iPhones
  • voice recognition
  • date stamped
  • portability
  • fully editable on iPhones, Android and Win 10 laptop
  • voice recognition doesn’t work with laptop
  • not enough formatting options
  • could use more colours, especially bolder ones
  • can’t delete a note from Android  this has been corrected.

Sticky Notes is a free app in the Microsoft Store. There are a number of Sticky apps listed so look for the Microsoft one if you want full integration with your phone.  Once installed on your desktop, go to the Google Play store, download the Launcher and set it as your phone’s default. I’m running a pretty low end phone Android phone and haven’t experienced any issues with the MS Launcher. It works seamlessly with Android, even with a barebones phone.

It is even easier on an iPhone. Just download OneNote and get started. No need to worry about changes to your icons and screen.

Great little app and a mini powerhouse for organising thoughts on the fly.

 

Sticky Notes in the Microsoft app store

Ugly logo for such a great program.

Must have app for designers – correct values from “colours in the wild”

Must have app for designers – correct values from “colours in the wild”

If you do any design work, you know how frustrating matching colours can be. Unless you have what I call perfect colour pitch, it’s frustrating.  Well, I found an app that takes the guess work out of the job. Check out the criminally easy to use app, Camera Color Picker from Thomas Barthélémy. I’ve been playing around with it and having fun standing on the balcony, picking out colours from around the neighbourhood. Yes, it’s that good.

Icon for the app Colour Picker Features:

  • snap to to use
  • free
  • intuitive layout
  • Colours can be saved and turned into pallets
  • Shows RGB, Hex and HSV codes

 Camera Color Picker (CCP) is one of the most practical apps I’ve used and have already found it invaluable when trying to match colours I see “in the wild”.  It’s free, open source and Android only.  It will need access to your camera, but other than that, it doesn’t seem to ask for the usual litany of “can we access your address book, location, life, mating habits” etc before it works.

To capture a colour, tap the colour picker icon (lower right of the screen) and run your phone over the item. The circle changes colour as you move the phone around. If it’s too dark, turn the flash light on to compensate (see the small lightening bolt top right corner). Once you have the colour, tap the circle to capture it. Want to save the colour? Hit the little save icon.

Here’s a sampling of how it works:

Screen capture of the Colour Picker app picking the blue off an awning Screen capture of the Colour Picker app picking out a shade of green Screen capture of the Colour Picker app picking out blue from the sky

It’s remarkably accurate, even from a distance. The #5d739a blue was captured from an awning blocks away from where I was standing. The app did a pretty good job isolating the correct shade.   Once you have the colours saved, you can create colour pallets or just save individual colours.  To see the RGB, hex and HSV codes tap the colour and up comes the info.

Colour Picker pallet Screen capture of the colour blue codes Showing colour red pallet

As a bonus, you can share the colour values with someone via email. The program clips a small colour chip to the attachment and sends the three colour codes. This is great for collaborative projects. 

The developer has a small video demonstrating the app’s functions.  Follow this link https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=fr.tvbarthel.apps.cameracolorpicker to download the app to your Android phone.

Win App review – a little something to block out the gawd awful noise

Win App review – a little something to block out the gawd awful noise

Icon for White Noise Machine Win 10 app
Icon for White Noise Machine Win 10 app

White Noise Generator by Idea MK (Store page: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/white-noise-machine/9wzdncrdbvl4)

Works on Windows Mobile devices ☕☕☕☕ /☕☕☕☕☕

I move about the city a lot which means I’m often blasted with the most awful noise imaginable. Everything from music piped in at ear splitting levels, constant construction, people yelling into their phones or jackasses who haven’t figured out the sounds from their Candy Crush game were designed to push the average person into a raging fury of Hulkitude.

It’s difficult to block out the noise and a pair of earphones really doesn’t do a lot, other than to muffle the sound a little. If the music isn’t too loud, I’ll pop my headphones on and hope for the best. However, this doesn’t always work. Short of investing in a pair of high end noise cancelling headphones, you have to either suffer or download a white noise generator. Enter apps designed to keep you and me sane – the white noise generator.

I tested a number of white noise generators, some were meh… others crap on a cracker and then I found this simple, modest little app, White Noise Machine

This is the type of app I like – no unnecessary features, simple, clean and intuitive. Tap it on, choose the type of ambient sound you want to hear and hit play. I use the wind feature a lot, but the storm and rain are quite good as well. The wind varies just enough to distract from the incredible cacophony around and allows me to concentrate or relax.

The app comes with a handy timer if you want to set it to shut off on it’s own. When the screen turns off, the app continues working (unlike a couple I tried). All in all very sound. I gave it nearly full marks because it was the one app that stopped me from turning into one of those people who stand in the middle of the sidewalk shaking their fist at everyone. They can have their noise, I can have my quiet.

It’s a free app that relies on ads for revenue. The ads in no way detracts from the software’s usefulness. They pop up occasionally and are easily dismissed. Because the ads are non-intrusive, I’ve actually taken to tapping them once in a while to support the developer. I’d pay for this app – happily. It would be money well spent.

I have a tiny little observation that makes me chuckle. The app offers a variety of sounds including hairdryers and vacuums.. to each their own white noise. But the airplane? Sorry guys, that isn’t the sound of a jet, it’s a prop plane. You really need to change the photo.

My only real complaint is the looping is a bit sloppy. When the end of the sound comes, the app abruptly cuts out and starts over. I can be a bit disconcerting and I wish they’d fix it.

It’s specifically designed for Windows mobile devices, anything from 8 up. So laptop users are out of luck. Hopefully the developer will extend the app to laptops and tablets.