The Chronic Consumer

I buy things — all the time!

Musee du Louvre iPad App

I am not much of an art enthusiast, but it’s practically impossible not to appreciate the classic works on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris. I visited the museum in person many years ago, but only had time to see a few of the most famous works (including the Mona Lisa). This official iPad app now allows me to view and study even more great displays whenever I feel like it.

Here’s the description from the App Store:

Discover the museum and its most beautiful artworks, and stay updated thanks to our new Newsfeed function.

•100 Louvre masterpieces in your pocket. The selection of museum must-sees now features Greek sculptures, paintings by Bosch, Titian, Raphael, Holbein, and Cranach, and a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

•Over 500 images and details to zoom in on

•A presentation of the palace and its history, with a new introductory video to take you round the Louvre

•New functions for sharing your favorites with your friends, by email and on Facebook

•Regular updates on key events at the museum (exhibitions, publications, etc), and our “Visitor Information” section to help you prepare your visit (getting there, museum maps, opening hours, admission fees…)

Perfect for Louvre fans: via In-App purchase you can buy the most beautiful visuals to assign to your contacts, use as wallpaper and view as a slideshow.

I like many things about this app, including the fact that each work comes with a rather detailed description of its history and content. Navigation is easy, and there are a lot of interesting pieces to look at. But the app does have its problems. One of the biggest is its sheer size. At over 800MB for the initial download, this thing is a beast that takes up way too much space, especially if you only have a 16GB iPad, like I do. Second, the app is slow to open and sometimes crashes, thus leaving me feel disinclined to deal with it at times.

I paid $3.99 for this app 10 days ago, but I see that it is now FREE at the App Store. If you can get it for free and you have room for it, then you should definitely download the Louvre app. If you have to pay $3.99, then you might want to think twice. I’m happy that I have the app, but not too pleased that I paid for something that is now free.

Anyway, I look forward to future updates that will hopefully get this thing streamlined and make it even better!

Sony’s biggest misses

In anticipation of the North American release of the Sony Vita, The Yahoo Games blog listed some of the company’s biggest misses over the years. Here’s what they came up with. Do you agree that these products were flops?

 

  • PSP Go
  • BetaMax
  • PS3 Launch Price
  • eVilla Network Entertainment Center (I’ve never even heard of this thing)
  • MiniDisc (Aw, I had an MD player back in the day. Much better than CDs, but as soon as MP3 players came along…buh bye.)
  • AIBO (a robotic dog)
  • PSX/PlayTV
  • PlayStation Home
  • Mylo
  • Lair (video game)

Yeah, after reviewing this list, it seems that there are some pretty major flops here. Oh, well, every company misses now and then, right? (Even Apple…at least back in the day.)

7 Deadly Credit Card Sins

Here’s a pretty useful article from MainStreet about how not to use your credit cards. The author cleverly tied the “don’ts” in with the 7 deadly sins to come up with the following list:

  1. Gluttony (bumping up against your credit limit)
  2. Pride (not checking your credit score regularly)
  3. Lust (applying for too much credit)
  4. Greed (getting a cash advance)
  5. Envy (applying for a card that’s way out of your league, like a Black card or something)
  6. Wrath (shutting down all your cc accounts)
  7. Sloth (not checking monthly statements)

Yeah, most of these are common sense, I guess, but some people (especially younger folks with their first credit cards) can benefit from the advice. Be sure to click through and read the entire article if you want more info!

2012 Car of the Year

While most “… of the Year” awards are handed out in December, the auto industry does things differently. They announce their award in January — probably because the new models have already been out for a couple of months. Either way, the Hyundai Elantra has been named the 2012 Car of the Year, which is a huge win for Hyundai.

I don’t know much about Elantras, but I do think at least one Hyundai model looks pretty damn cool. I’m not sure of the name of the car, but it’s the one Fiona drives on Burn Notice. I am always impressed by how sleek and sporty it looks, so if I were in the market for a new car, I’d definitely consider Hyundai!

McGraw-Hill Algebra 1 iPad Textbook

When I heard that Apple struck a deal with a few textbook publishers and would be making high school level textbooks available for the iPad, I knew I had to buy one to try it out. There were only about 8 titles to choose from at this early stage, so I went with Algebra 1 since I want to brush up on my math skills anyway.

The description of the book from the publisher is as follows:

Algebra isn’t just numbers and equations. It’s about the world you live in. With Glencoe Algebra, you get hands-on math applications to help you succeed in whatever career path you chose. Interactive personal tutors, animations, and practice problems let you review as much or as little as you need to prepare for success in college and beyond.

Content includes:

Relationships between Quantities
Expressions, Equations, and Functions
Linear Equations

Linear Relationships
Linear Functions
Equations of Linear Functions
Linear Inequalities
Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities

Exponential and Quadratic Relationships
Exponents and Exponential Functions
Quadratic Expressions and Equations
Quadratic Functions and Equations

Advanced Functions and Equations
Radical Functions and Geometry
Rational Functions and Equations
Data Analysis
Statistics and Probability

I have only been playing around with the book for a few days, so I haven’t had a chance to go through the whole thing yet. But I do have a few initial impressions. First, the book is simply beautiful on the iPad. This is precisely what the tablet should be used for, IMO, and I think McGraw Hill did a good job making their digital book colorful, well laid out, and interesting. Second, the book covers a great deal of information. It’s a real textbook after all, so there’s a school year’s worth of stuff inside.

I also like that that the book contains the answers to selected problems. This makes it suitable for people like me who are taking the self-study approach to the subject. Without answers, the text would obviously have very limited value for us.

And finally, the book has three important features that students will find extremely useful. It’s easy to highlight passages simply by tapping the text and following the on-screen directions that appear. You can also create study cards based on your highlights or the key vocabulary words from the unit. The note cards have the vocab term on the front, and then you can flip them over to see the corresponding definition. And of course there’s a search box so you can quickly find pertinent pages for the topics you’re looking for. The search includes not only the book itself, but also the web and/or Wikipedia (if you want).

The only thing I was disappointed in is the lack of multimedia elements contained in the book. I think there could have been some more video clips (beyond the “Private Tutor”) or other truly interactive features to enhance the experience.

On the whole, I am very impressed with this textbook. At $14.99, it’s pretty expensive as far as apps go, but that’s a fraction of the cost of a real textbook. This is a terrific early effort and I just can’t wait to see what other kinds of books will follow (history, please!!!).

Encyclopedia Brittanica Kids “Volcanoes” iPad App

I have been making a concerted effort to purchase more education-oriented iPad apps for my son to use instead of the standard games that we had been buying for a while. One of the highly rated apps I decided to try was this one from Encyclopedia Brittanica Kids called Volcanoes.

Here is the description of the app as it appears on the iTunes store:

Volcanoes are an awesome display of the Earth’s power. Explore them interactively with this new app and learn about the world’s major volcanoes and their eruptions, lava, plate tectonics, and much more. Learn and play at the same time through a variety of games like Memory Match, Jigsaw Puzzles, and the Magic Square among others. Learning has never been more fun with this interactive and educational app that is based on school curriculum.

Learning about Volcanoes has never been more fun with this quick, interactive and educational app based on the school curriculum. And as it’s from Britannica you can be sure it’s appropriate and safe for the whole family. Ideal for homework help, the app features:

Exclusive Encyclopædia Britannica curriculum-based written specifically for ages 8-12. Coverage of the topic includes:

The Erupting Earth
Lava and Magma
Types of Volcano
Birth of an Island
Plate Tectonics
Eruptions
Decade Volcanoes (featuring 16 of the world’s deadliest volcanoes)

Then the fun starts:

•Interactive Map – With this amazing tool you can locate where you are anywhere in the world and see how near you are to the most powerful volcanoes. Want to see your favourite volcano? It’s easy with our map tool, use the zoom feature to see right into the craters.

•Jigsaw Puzzles, created from amazing graphics of volcanoes. Break apart the puzzle and have some fun by shaking your device and then sliding the pieces back into place to complete the puzzle – it’s not as easy as it looks!

•Scramble images of volcanoes in The Magic Square game by shaking your device. Challenge yourself by re-arranging the squares to unscramble the image.

•Brush off – brush off the lava, soot and dust from the eruption of Vesuvius to reveal an object in the city of Pompeii and then try to guess what it is – how many can you answer correctly?

•Test your knowledge on volcanoes with the Quiz feature – how much have you learned? But hurry: you must answer quickly as the quiz is timed!

•Test your memory with the popular Memory Match game and match up the pairs!

Clearly, this app contains a ton of great features, which is probably why it has gotten such great reviews to begin with. All of the pictures are beautiful, and the games and puzzles really add to the experience. The reading difficulty is a bit too high for my son (who is just 8 and a little behind his peers in that subject), but I have taken the time to read from the app to him, which he seems to enjoy just as much. He’s interested in volcanoes anyway, so it’s no wonder he loves this app.

The games and activities are the big draw for kids. The puzzles and matching game are the ones my son spends the most time with, though he also likes the Magic Square activity despite how tough it is. Also, the pictures and video segment is something that holds his attention for a long time as well.

Overall, I am happy with my purchase of the Encyclopedia Brittanica Kids “Volcanoes” iPad App. There is a lot of information packed into this little program, and it is presented in such a beautiful and fun way that kids can’t help but spend time with it — and learn a little something in the process. I recommend it!

Amazon.com return process

This is going to sound odd, but in 12+ years of shopping at Amazon.com, I made my VERY FIRST RETURN just a couple weeks ago! I bought an article of clothing that was too large, and since the item in question cost more than $100, I of course returned it.

The Amazon return process is very simple. First, you request a return authorization from your Amazon.com account by clicking on the appropriate button on your Order History Page. Then you print out a return label and a shipping address, and send the package back. Amazon handles it from there.

Once they get the package, they inspect the item for damage or whatever and then disposition it. My credit card (the method of payment I used) was credited for the full original amount of the item plus the original shipping costs. Yeah, I was out a few bucks sending the package back, but because the item cost so much to begin with, I didn’t mind that.

Anyway, I’m very impressed by Amazon’s easy return process — but even more impressed that this was the first time I ever had to use it!

Work clothes

Now that I’m working outside the home again, I have to spend more money on a suitable wardrobe. The last time I had a full-time job, I wore one of those full work jumpsuits that cover everything. That’s not gonna fly for my current position, so it’s back to shopping at department stores for suits, slacks, skirts, blouses, and other apparel that is deemed “business casual”.

You know, as much as I love shopping for clothes, I sometimes miss those halcyon days of wearing sweats or a uniform to work!