Friday, September 16, 2022

Worth the Money: My Top 5 Paid Android Apps

What makes an app worth paying for? 

There are three criteria that make me willing to shell out a little cash for an app:

  • It's really good at what it does. That is, it's powerful, efficient, does something unique/amazing or it's a real time saver.
  • I use it a lot and I don't want to be distracted by ads! Maybe I'm spoiled by years of ad-free media streaming and browser ad-blockers, but seeing ads in an app that I frequently use drives me nuts! So I'm glad to pay a reasonable fee to remove the ad clutter.
  • I want to support the app's developers. After all, if I don't want them to monetize their app with ads and they have created an app that I really value, then I have a moral obligation to see that they somehow get paid for their work!

The apps described below meet all three of these criteria. If you're an Android user, you should consider them. (FYI, Apple users: a couple of these are also available for iOS.)

AccuWeather Premium 

Screenshot of AccuWeather Premium listing at Google Play Store

This is my always-on app. I use it several times a day to track outdoor conditions and help me decide when to exercise, how to dress/sunscreen for the weather, when to plan/postpone errands, etc. And I find their predictions to be extremely accurate, so they truly live up to their name! Their Play Store listing summarizes: 

"[AccuWeather provides]... Live weather forecasts including:

  • MinuteCast® forecasts for Minute by Minute® precipitation updates [Note: In my experience these are amazingly accurate! I have timed many outdoor exercise sessions down to the minute between rain events by using these. -- MG]
  • Local weather including severe weather alerts, temperature, precipitation, and allergy outlooks for your day 
  • WinterCast™: winter weather forecasts giving you advanced warnings of snowfall probabilities and accumulation
  • Daily forecasts include rain probability, cloud coverage, wind, live radar, air quality index, snowfall, and even UV index
  • Advanced weather radar gives you up to the minute views of storm tracking, snow, rain, ice, temperature changes, and much more
  • RealFeel® & RealFeel Shade Temperature™ technology helping you get a better sense of how the weather actually feels... "

The Google Play Store listing provides lots more details. Apple users please note that the app is also available at the Apple App Store

Bitdefender Mobile Security 

Screenshot: Bitdefender Mobile app from Google Play Store

It's this simple. I have installed Bitdefender on each of our Android devices to help protect them. With a single yearly subscription you can install the app on as many devices and for as many users as you wish. (I got a 50% discount for the first year at $7.99.) Currently I have the app running on 10 devices (3 phones, 5 tablets & 2 Chromebooks) belonging to my wife and me. I manage these through the separate, but free, Bitdefender Central app. 

From their Play Store listing:  

"...Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus is the most powerful antivirus app for Android. It protects your smartphone and tablet against viruses, malware and online threats and keeps your private information secure from hackers... Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android - 5 TIMES winner of AV-Test’s “Best Android Security Product” (2021, 2020, 2017, 2016, 2015). Try it free for the first 14 days."

Bitdefender Central is a "free management tool for all your Bitdefender security products..."  Bitdefender Central places your local and network cyber security at your fingertips. Use it to control security for all your Bitdefender-protected devices... With Bitdefender Central you can:

  • Install Bitdefender protection on all your devices
  • Manage security and protect your kids online
  • Scan, clean and optimize any device remotely
  • Get instant notification whenever Bitdefender detects a threat
  • Quickly access your activity dashboard
  • Receive security updates for your devices 24/7

The Google Play Store listing provides lots more details. Apple users please note that the app is also available at the Apple App Store

CloudPlayer Platinum 

Screenshot: CloudPlayer Platinum app from Google Play Store

I use this app several times a day to stream my own MP3 music files, for free, from their storage locations on my various cloud drives to my earbuds, smart speakers, etc. (See details about my process here: "Replacing Google Play Music: How I Store & Stream 22 GB of My Own Music (MP3s) for a One-Time Cost of $7.99")

Here's a summary from their Play Store listing, my bold added: 

"CloudPlayer is a revolutionary music player that puts you in control of your music, no matter where it's stored. Use it as an offline music player or link your Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive [Google Drive is supported for existing users only, not new users] to create a giant cloud jukebox for all your music. Stream or download from your cloud accounts for offline playback. Enjoy built-in cloud playlist back-up & sync, Chromecast support, hi-fidelity FLAC & ALAC lossless sound, gapless playback, 10-band EQ, Android Wear & Android Auto support and more."

[Note to Apple users: It appears that this app is not available for iOS devices. However, the publisher's website has an entire page with topics devoted to "doubleTwist for Mac OSX." I know nothing about the Apple/iOS world, so you'll have to investigate this on your own here. Sorry! -- MG]   

Package Buddy Pro 

Screenshot: Package Buddy Pro app from Google Play Store

I've been using this for years to track all my packages, regardless of shipper, across all my devices (tablets, phone, Chromebook). Just enter the tracking code and (optionally) add your custom name for the shipment and the app picks up all the rest of the info from the web. Open the app to see the updated progress of your shipment. It also keeps a historical record of stuff I've sent/received. Recently I counted well over 100 carriers tracked by these guys! (See the whole list at their Play Store listing). 

[This app does not appear to be available at the Apple App Store.] 

PDF converter pro & PDF editor - pdf merge

Screenshot PDF converter pro from Google Play Store

I don't use this often, but when I need it it proves to be a real powerhouse for manipulating, converting and generally doing anything you want with PDFs. Their Play Store listing summarizes (I've substantially edited for brevity --MG)

"PDF Converter & PDF Editor is very comprehensive tool to perform various operations on PDF files: 

  • Convert Word (or Doc) files to PDF file 
  • Convert JPG Image to PDF file 
  • Convert a html webpage into PDF and save for later
  • Merge/Combine PDF documents into a single one.
  • Split PDF file into smaller units.
  • Encrypt your PDF file & add password protection
  • Remove password from a file
  • Delete selected pages
  • Extract selected pages (and extract graphics)
  • Add a watermark to your file
  • Rotate selected pages of a file
  • Compress (reduce size) of a PDF document

[This app does not appear to be available at the Apple App Store, though there are many PDF editors and converters listed there. For more on what's out there for your iOS device, see techradar's "Best PDF reader for Mac 2022: Free and paid" or iGeeksblog's Best PDF editors for iPhone and iPad in 2022 [Reviewed]

Conclusion

Over the years I've paid for many more apps than the above five. Some of those I've bought are oddball, esoteric or have proven to be not so useful over time. I decided to share the apps above, however, because each is powerful, a good value and can be valuable for almost anyone! So I hereby endorse them as being worth the small purchase price they ask from their users. If you need any of the capabilities they provide, I highly recommend you check them out! 

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Project Management: "A Technology of Manifestation"

(Sometimes it takes someone on the outside looking in to provide you with that “whack on the side of the head” that changes the meaning of what you are doing. Such was the case with this simple email from a student.)

A while back I taught an online class based on my book, The Project Management Minimalist. After the class I received this email from one of the attendees: 

“Thank you for your class, ‘Become a Project Management Minimalist!’ The practical tools and skills-in-attitude you teach are a source of inspiration and clarity for me. As a young project manager with a passion for social impact, I’m clear that the tools you share will help me become an effective presence for my community and teams. Project management as you teach it is truly a technology of manifestation! — Best Wishes, Soheil Majd

As you might imagine, I’m always glad to get good feedback from a class participant. Most of the time, when I teach one of these online classes, I feel a bit like The Maytag Repairman: I’m fairly sure I provided a useful product, but I seldom hear much feedback from the attendees. 

But beyond the fact that someone took the trouble to thank me, Soheil’s email really stuck with me. I found myself going back and reading it several times, largely because of the unusual perspective he expressed about the session.

Here are some of his unexpected insights that stuck with me:

“… practical tools and skills-in-attitude… are a source of inspiration and clarity…”

Now I am well aware that my classes focus on practical tools and skills. That’s no accident. I value the practical and the useful above all else. I’ve always believed that all the esoteric and complex PM theory is of absolutely no value if isn’t embraced and easily put to use. So, the litmus test for me of any PM tool or practice is “Is this practical and useful in the real world?”

However, the phrase “skills-in-attitude” is a fascinating one! I am conscious that I try to share with my PM newbie students the attitude of “project manager as facilitator.” And I’m also aware that I encourage PM newbies to apply all PM tools and processes gently and respectfully, so as not to get in the way of the smart people on their teams doing their jobs according to their professional best practices. But this phrase, “skills in attitude” was a wonderful leap that Soheil made — a real insight. The PM practice of an attitude of respect and deference toward the professional skills brought by the team, when applied repeatedly to each of the “nuts and bolts” tools I shared, turns out to be essentially a “meta skill.” In other words, it’s truly a “skill in attitude.” Wow! Who knew? 

“… will help me become an effective presence for my community and teams.”

Now translating this concept of “being a presence” in the real-world while inside a whirling, activity-filled project is difficult. The best a new project manager can do is simply be vigilant for opportunities to help… be alert to potential obstacles and remove them… be ready to fight for your team so they can do their work unencumbered by administrivia. I now see that all this translates to “become an effective presence for my community and teams.” Well, said, Soheil!

“Project management as you teach it is truly a technology of manifestation."

Now, to be honest, it is the sentence above that truly blew me away and caused me to re-read Soheil’s email several times. As the years of my life accumulate and the miles traveled on the PM road pile up, I look back on all the folks I’ve tried to guide as they join me on this road. And what stands out above everything I’ve seen and done is that no matter how accurate we are in applying our official PM guidelines… no matter how religiously we apply our official PM best practices… we are in the business of manifestation!! New products, new processes, new events… all of these come into existence as projects. And to the extent that the soft technology (i.e., management practices) of PM support the birth of any of these new entities, they do indeed form a “technology of manifestation.”

Reading Soheil’s insights above, culminating in that incredible vision of PM as technology of manifestation, gave me a bit of a thrill! Think of it! If we practice this pursuit we call PM in an effective way, we manifest visions! Dreams of what might be are transformed into reality by our PM teams!

I’ve always been passionate about teaching my unique PM vision in my own peculiar way. And now thanks to Soheil’s insights, I have been consciously connected to a formerly unseen, yet profound, theme that has been running through this vision all along! Wow! Who knew?

So the next time you’re putting together a project charter or revising a project budget, take a moment and reflect on how you may be a bit like Leonardo. Think about how you might be manifesting a dream!

Thank you, Soheil!

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Addendum: Cleaning Up Elephant Dung & The Thrill of Helping Smart People Make Beautiful Music

While PM at its most transcendent may indeed be seen as a “technology of manifestation,” the PM practitioner should also be ready to grab a broom now and then and do the mundane work of keeping the team’s path clear! (As you’ll see below, this can have its own rewards.)

In my classes, as well as in the occasional interview, I love to make this analogy: A project manager should frequently behave like the guy in the parade who follows the elephants with a shovel, broom and wastebasket.

The project manager… following the elephants?

Picture this: A parade is in motion and features a marching band that will share their uplifting music with the crowd. Preceding the marching band is a beautifully-decorated group of elephants who, unfortunately, have no sense of propriety and release their waste somewhat at random. Now unless this voluminous elephant dung is quickly removed, the marching band may step in it and slip, fall, and ruin their performance.

It comes down to this: No matter how talented the band, they are going to need all the nasty elephant droppings removed from their path so they can keep marching and so their music can ring out and inspire the crowd. Without this humble street cleaner, all their musical talent and rehearsal could end in a discordant trip-and-fall disaster! It’s a dirty job, but an important one — and someone’s gotta do it!

So it is with project management. No matter how talented, how creative, how burn-the-midnight-oil your team is, if they are encumbered by obstacles, all their talent and creativity may never have a chance to shine. They need someone to “sweep the dung” out of their path! And when you, as project manager, are willing to jump in and grab a broom and start cleaning, you are likely to be rewarded with the thrill of seeing your team soar and dazzle with their work products.

The truth is I knew I was a true project manager when I realized that my sense of gratification and pride had shifted from doing great work myself to seeing great work created by a team whose path I had carefully tended.

My wish for you, project manager, is that you become comfortable with a broom and learn to thrill at your marching band’s great music!

[Note: This essay was published as part of the #PMFlashBlog event “What does project management mean to me?” Learn more here: Free e-Book “What Project Management Means to Me” from #PMFlashBlog Authors]

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The above article is an excerpt from Part 1 (The Meaning of Project Management) from my book WORTH SHARING: Essays & Tools to Help Project Managers & Their Teams. Other essays in that Part of the book include: The Project Manager as Plate-Spinning Juggler & The Origins of My PM Minimalism: It’s Not Merely Simple-Minded... It’s About PM Essences. In all, this book contains 300+ pages & 54 chapters. And while you can buy a hard-copy or Kindle version of this book on Amazon I have also made it available absolutely FREE -- 300+ pages & 54 chapters in PDF format -- at Internet Archive.]

Better yet, you can get all my best creations (audio, video, texts & tools) in my Favorites collection at Internet Archive. Download any or all of them for free. Enjoy!



Monday, July 18, 2022

Secure, Fast & Customizable: Why I Ditched My Windows PC for a Hot Rod Chromebook

Go to Phandroid Article: "The Incredible Asus Chromebook Flip CX5..."

Overview


In this article I explain why, after over 40 years using personal computers (mostly Windows-based), I  switched to a powerhouse Chromebook. And I'm loving it! If you're in a hurry (and you're willing to skip my carefully-crafted prose­čś×) you can skim through the stuff in bold to find the big ideas. Or you can just scroll down to one of these main sections:
  • After 30 years, enough with Windows, already!
  • Chromebooks dominate in education because they're powerful & easy to use.
  • Chromebooks are REALLY secure.
  • Chromebooks are fast! (Thanks to the ChromeOS.)
  • Chromebooks are customizable.
  • Buyer beware! It may be cheap, but when does that low-cost Chromebook expire?
  • My Chromebook: Part of a Powerful Ecosystem of Google Tools
  • Final Thoughts: How 40 Years of Personal Computing Has Led Me to a Chromebook
  • Bonus Tip: Don't throw away that old Windows PC or Mac. You might be able to make it a Chromebook!
[FYI: This article contains over 60 links to references for further research. Enjoy!]
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