What Would Warhol Do?

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” – Andy Warhol, 1968

I attended a screening of Warhol on TV presented by Aurora Picture Show at the Menil Collection last Friday night. The film was a collection of excerpts of works created by and featuring Andy Warhol. The film was curated by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA.

Andy Warhol’s obsession with celebrity and the lives of the rich in famous is well documented, and very evident in the film. What hit me was his fervent dedication to documenting his life and the world around him in photographs and video. Take this photo I took of a video of Andy being done up in drag.

In today’s pop culture, our obsession with the lives of the rich and famous is at an all time high. The entire Charlie Sheen saga has been a grim reminder of how much we thirst for a good celebrity train wreck. But a democratization of the velvet rope has occurred with the proliferation of camera phones. Whether it is the video of Cyndi Lauper singing Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun in an airport terminal . . .

Or a little girl singing the new Lady GaGa single . . .

 

There are moments of Warholian fascination being born (this way) every day. It’s had me thinking about what Andy Warhol’s art would have looked like if he was armed with an iPhone. The glut of photography apps on the iPhone, particularly those dedicated to creating a vintage look to your photos, make your iPhone reminiscent of Warhol’s ubiquitous cameras. Here are a couple of my favorites

Instagram – FREE

Instagram is incredibly simple. Take a picture, apply a cool filter, share with other user and over your social networks. They recently added hashtag support allowing users to tag their photos, making them searchable. Instagram is great to get quick snaps of random things going on around you. The in-app feed is great for those moments when you want to just look at something interesting in the middle of the day. You can also like and comment on your friends photos. There is also a Popular button that takes you to a collection of the most liked photos taken by Instagram users.

Hipstamatic – $2.99 plus multiple $.99,  Hipstapaks (app currently on sale for $1.99)

I’ll warn you now, this app can lead to a serious obession. I LOVE Hipstamatic. While the app comes with a nice set of equipment up front, the real fun is adding the Hipstapaks, expanding your lens, film and camera options. I doubt I’ll ever learn how to use this app to its fullest potential, but I know it’s going to be fun trying. Another great feature of this app is the Hipstamart. You can upload photos from your phone into the Hipstamart, and order high quality prints! They come in a nifty little envelope that folds into a stand-up frame.

Hipstamatic just takes great photos. You can also share them in Instagram, doubling the AWESOME! One more thing, if you’re going to be using Hipstamatic, you might as well invest in SwankoLab as well. It’s like having an entire dark room in your pocket!

8mm Vintage Camera – $1.99

I haven’t been able to use 8mm as much as I would like. As you can probably imagine, it turns your iPhone into an 8mm camera. Like Hipstamatic, it comes with a small collection of lenses and films to experiment with. Turn your videos into home movies from yesteryear!

Fortunately, the bad fashion from the 70’s is not included.

With an iPhone and these apps, anyone can lead the life of Andy Warhol. And getting your 15 minutes of fame just got a bit easier. Happy content creating!

Geeks Guide to Summer Vacation – What’s a vacation?

I develop for a living. That’s about 10 hours a day spent staring at a screen.

My ideal vacation would consist of 2 things. Little technology and even less responsibility.

I haven’t taken a vacation in some time now, my PTO tells me so. This summer or winter I’m hoping to take an all inclusive resort with my dear Kara. From what she’s been selling me, you pay once and then relax. This includes alcohol … hmmm … relax.

The few things I’m hoping to take on this vacation are my wallet (which is really just a business card holder). I’m one of those minimalist freaks. I made the wallet-switch a couple of days ago and I’m more than pleased. My iPhone; it keeps me connected … but it can be turned off. If only more things in life came with an off switch. And some clothes. [Girlfriend assumed].

This is my contribution to a Geeks guide to successful summer vacation. It can be summed up in one sentence. Take as little as possible, that’s it.

Oh wait, plenty of sunscreen. I’m a Mesican but my skin is as white as it comes. Ok, now that’s it.

We’ve been busy looking at several spots [translation: Kara researches resorts about as much as Jay-Z says ‘uhh’].

Were looking for no-kids, relaxing, and affordable; and this is what we found.

Most Popular – Sandals

http://www.sandals.com/

  1. Some kids
  2. Somewhat relaxing
  3. Somewhat affordable
Thoughts This is the safest bet, my biggest concern here is all the people. It’s also the same vacation everyone takes. Boring.

Most Spicy – Hedonism Resorts

http://www.hedonismresorts.com/

  1. No kids
  2. Less relaxing – “Vacation? I thought you said adventure!?”
  3. Somewhat expensive
Thoughts Wow. They’re itinerary consists of the words MILF, naked group, and tantra. We should give this one some thought.

Most Relaxing – Couples Resort

http://couples.com/

  1. No kids – [lots of old people. awkward]
  2. Very relaxing – I think everyone’s asleep
  3. Most affordable
Thoughts Maybe we’re too young for this place, wrinkled bodies is not my idea of a vacation. It does look relaxing though.

Code, I can do. Vacations, not so easy. Help … please?

iPhone and iPad Apps to Entertain

So, you have decided to go on vacation. Great choice. The “staycation” is so 2009. But, travelling often takes time, and kids of all ages will need some entertainment. Below are some great choices of iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad apps to entertain kids and adults alike.

Apple App Store
Syncing all of your new apps in iTunes

*Apps with a (+) are available on iPad and iPhone/iPod touch.

Simple apps

  • Canabalt (+) – $2.99 – Tap to jump and don’t fall off. The techno background music is pleasant, and the images and design will remind you of the future world from the Terminator series.
  • Robot Unicorn Attack – $2.99 – It’s almost exactly the same as Canabalt, except it’s made by adult swim, it’s a unicorn, and the background music is Erasure. I can see your eyes are open.
  • BlocksClassic (+)  – $0.99 – A simple block breaker type game that will keep you occupied in the spare minutes you have during the day.
  • Bubble Snap (+) – Free – Perfect for little kids, because all you can do is pop bubbles. Just be sure to explain that the big button at the bottom isn’t a super-bubble.

Puzzle Games

  • Enigmo – $2.99 – This is a puzzle that lets you place elements to control the flow of water drops. Most puzzles can be solved multiple ways, so be creative with your solutions.
  • Electric box – $0.99 – This puzzler is similar to Enigmo, but adds some science flair. Your inner geek will really enjoy it.
  • Geared (+) – $2.99 – You combine gears of different shapes to turn other gears. However, gravity adds a bit of challenge and this game will keep challenging you.
  • Fifteen – Free – This is a classic puzzle of 16 tiles numbered 1-15 that are shuffled around into correct order. The timer adds a motivator. See if you can beat 21 seconds.
  • Implode! XL (+) – $2.99 – This app offers up structures that must be demolished. If you are any kind of engineer (or like to blow stuff up), then this is a great app for you. The missions get harder with obstacles and height restrictions, so this is one you can play for a long time.
  • Words with Friends (+) – $1.99 – It’s scrabble for the iPhone, but a bit better. Play with your friends and see who is the best wordsmith. Read up on the tips from Qcait.

Great Gameplay

  • Guitar Hero – $2.99 + in-app – This takes the bits we know and love from the Tap Tap franchise and combines it with some great extra features for the iPhone.
  • Monopoly – $2.99 – I know the Urban Houstonian would agree that this is the top game available. Nice graphics, true to rules gameplay, and all of it from your pocket.
  • Fieldrunners (+) – $2.99 – This tower-defense style of game is so much fun to play, and now comes at a much more affordable price. Gotta love the electric towers.
  • Plants vs. Zombies (+) – $2.99 – I don’t actually play this game myself, but I have watched my brother play it for hours on a road trip. It looks amazing and would probably be up your alley if you enjoy Farmville.
  • Flight Control (+) – $0.99 – This game puts you in the role of air-traffic controller and lets you direct plans to proper runways. I highly recommend it, especially if you are on a plane.
  • Angry Birds (+) – $0.99 – Part puzzle and part fun, this app shoots birds into pigs. The silly animations and characters add to the fun of aiming and shooting the angry birds. This is a great fit for kids young and old.
  • Texas Hold’em – $4.99 – One of best games at the original app store launch is still a favorite. Flick your cards to fold’em or push in your chip stack for an All In. My favorite play is to link up with friends who have the app and play heads up poker until someone busts.

Not Really a Game

  • iDaft 2 – Free – Harder, Better, Faster, and Stronger. And fun. Come by the Schipul offices after 6pm and you can hear me rocking out on this app.
  • Koi Pond – $0.99 – Entertaining for little ones, very serene, and you can actually feed the fish.
  • Le Petit Dummy – Free + in-app – Make your friends say whatever you want. Add moving mouths to pictures on your device and make them move as you talk.
  • I am T-Pain – $2.99 + in-app – Auto-Tune your own voice and you can be T-Pain (minus the dreads). Add on songs to sing along with, including the world-famous I’m on a Boat.

All of these apps may not float your boat, but I image there are a few gems in there for everyone to enjoy. I’ve linked to the paid version of these apps because I think they are all worth the money, but several of them do offer free “lite” versions in the app store. The total on this page comes to right around $40 which is probably high for most people. I budget about $10 a month and have built a respectable library in the 2 years that the app store has been open. Start out with what looks interesting to you and have a geek blast on your next vacation.

Did I miss an app? Let me know in the comments!

Image source: apple.com

Sans iPod Tunes For Your Travels

Music is an essential element for me when traveling. This summer whether I’m hanging by the lake in Austin for the weekend, road tripping a couple states away or relaxing by the beach with family, music is always present. And with all there is to do to get ready for a vacation, making new playlists might not be at the top of your list.

Here are a couple ways to discover new music or stream tailored playlists without fighting over who’s iPod to plug in.

Pandora Radio

This is one of the more popular Internet radio providers (ie free) so you may already be familiar with the service. It is still worth mentioning though as it offers a great variety of music so no matter your taste, something should come up that you like. Most of the Internet radio services are modeled off the ‘choose something you like and we’ll play other similar songs’ model but I tend to use Pandora more to play music I am familiar with (since channels are based off me providing an artist). Giving the thumbs up to like songs and hear more like it and the thumbs down to refine my channels.

A great option on the laptop in your hotel room or streaming from the Pandora app on your iPhone. Plug your phone in to an aux jack in your car or dock it in a set of speakers and you’re good to go.


Slacker Radio

Another great option for sans iPod music, Slacker Radio is free as well so it comes with the standard six song skips an hour but has some great stations already set up. For me, Slacker leans more towards the ‘discovery’ end of the spectrum since you choose genres and stations then get music in that range.

It also has a great iPhone app to access music from your phone. Head down to the bay, get Slacker Radio cranking on iPhone speakers, pick a country station and commence your game of washers worry free of what to play next.


Grooveshark

While on the road, hop on your laptop (or your uncle’s you are visiting) to log in to Grooveshark and access songs saved to you library or playlists you’ve created previously. Everyone can’t decide on a playlist? Make a new one up from the road or just choose a radio station to stream music. As for which station to choose… you’re on your own on that. Be sure to check out the Blackberry app as well for Grooveshark on the go (sorry fellow iPhone-ers, no app at this time).


And one of the cooler new services to keep an eye out for in the near future…

Rdio

Rdio is a new social music service that allows you to discover and stream music easily. Big ups to Ben for the heads up on this. From www.rdio.com, “We’re making a music service that takes the work out of deciding what to play next — follow friends and people with great taste in music, get inspired by what they’re playing, and listen to their playlists.”

Browse music by “New Releases”, what’s “Popular This Week”, and also what is “Recommended for You” based off your preferences. Once you’ve discovered something you like, add it to your “Collection” which you can view by artist and it makes a coold cloud diagram for you. Then follow your friends to see their collections and playlists. So if your car full of friends can’t decide on one of your playlists, create one on the go via the awesome Rdio iPhone app. Or if a laptop is an option, you can log in to stream to other people’s playlists.

My collection “cloud” so far

The downside, besides not being available yet, is that when it is available it will run you $9.99/mo for unlimited web and mobile access or $4.99/mo for unlimited web access. I haven’t decided yet whether or not I will spend the $10 a month for it but the more I play with it, the more I like it. Currently Rdio is just listed as “Coming Soon” with no date mentioned for availability. You can sign up at www.rdio.com to receive emails with updates.

And don’t forget to keep your ears open when on vacation, listening for new, good music. One of my favorite things to do when on vacation is to listen to local radio stations, ask cab drivers what artist is playing in the car if it is good and pay attention to what is on in bars and restaurants. If something sounds cool, ask some one if they know who it is. And if they don’t know, Shazam away. That is how I found one of my favorite songs I wouldn’t have otherwise. On a booze cruise excursion in Puerto Vallarta I asked one of the guys in the crew what we were listening to. It was “El Garrote” by Los Socios del Ritmo and it was awesome. Listen to it on a boat, in the sun, with a refreshment of your choice and thank me later.

Fit Geek Travel Tips

For a lot of people, travel means letting go of their usual exercise routines.    It’s easy to understand why—if you’re in a fascinating new place, why would you want to waste time inside a generic hotel gym?    If you only head out of town a few times a year, skipping your exercise probably won’t set you back very far.    For frequent travelers serious about keeping in shape, figuring out a way to squeeze exercise into your travel is critical to staying on track.    For me, the best way to integrate sightseeing and exercise is simple: go running!

Foot travel is the best way to familarize yourself with a new place.    Odds are, if you in a car or train, you’re going too fast to get a good look at anything.    If you are on foot, you really get the chance to soak up the sights, sounds and smells (for better or worse…) of the city you’re visiting.    Running also keeps packing simple, because you don’t need a lot of equipment.  All you really need is a good pair of shoes, and some clothes you don’t mind getting sweaty in.    If you’re really concerned about weight/space in your suitcase, Nike makes extremely lightweight and flexible running shoes that are based on the latest footwear technology.

In the past, the most difficult things about travel running were figuring out exactly how far I ran, and remembering my route.    In Houston I know that I am covering 3 miles every time I circle Memorial Park.    I don’t need a fancy gadget to tell me that.    But until the advent of the smartphone , when I was running in an unfamiliar city, I was left to guess.    The solution?    Runkeeper.

Runkeeper is a free app (you can upgrade to pro for $9.99), available on both the iPhone and Android,    that uses your phone’s GPS to track the duration, distance, speed, elevation, and calories burned on your run.    It also maps your route, which is extremely helpful when you are trying to relocate something you passed during your run.    You can even share the details with your friends, by posting your stats to Facebook and Twitter.

Have bad joints, and can’t run?    Walk or bike instead.    Runkeeper works equally well for walkers and cyclists, should you feel inclined to rent a bike while you’re out of town.    Weather need not be a deterrent either.    I’ve run through rainy streets in NY and snow covered sidewalks in Oregon.    However, if you think you might encounter some inclement  weather, invest in a weather-proof case for your phone. If you get caught in a sudden downpour, you’ll be very glad you did!

If you’re also watching your diet really closely and need some extra help while you’re on the road, there are calorie tracking apps as well.    My favorite is a free app for the iPhone called Lose It!. It helps you calculate your caloric intake with an extensive built-in database of possible foods (you can also enter in calories manually), and adjusts for calories burned during exercise.    It’s not an exact science, but it is a useful tool when you are outside your usual environment and want to keep your diet on target.

Some vacations certainly call for parking yourself in a lounge chair for days without lifting a finger, and trying every bit of local food you can get your hands on.  If it’s not one of those trips, use the technology you’re probably carrying in your pocket/purse anyway to help you stay fit this summer!

CC license photos thanks to flickr users mikebeard &  philcampbell.

iPhone as Travel Accessory

Not that I know anyone who would be so obsessive as to insure that they have their iPhone on them at all times while traveling, or perhaps, would go so far as to give their devices cute little names; but should YOU know anyone like that and maybe be traveling with them at some point this summer… well, let’s talk a bit.

As Aaron so wonderfully pointed out, when you want to get off the beaten path these little modern marvels do have their limits. Suddenly you find yourself in a world where cell towers just don’t go, in a land where no one has heard of 3 or G, much less the awesome that occurs when the two get together. I’d never recommend making voyage with just the iPhone as your travel partner, and have probably more than my fair share of near-horror stories of what might happen should you try. As a travel accessory goes though, the iPhone can really come in handy on the road, thanks to some pretty sweet apps out there.

For starters, let’s look at getting there. Perhaps the most dangerous travel app for me to have is the Kayak Flight app, which brings the power of the Kayak search to your iPhone in one neat little  convenient  package. It is now way too easy to find a flight – a cheap one! – to any where in the world. You can even complete the reservation all from your phone. Once you’re on your journey you can use the app to track your flight and make last-minute changes if needed. One airline that has set up a great iPhone app is Southwest. From their app you can not only check in to your flights, you can change existing reservations, and get notice of special fare deals. Personally this app has come in handy for me when arriving at stop-over airports and finding my connecting flight delayed – with it I was able to locate a flight leaving at the same time to another nearby airport and get myself on standby. This can also be dangerous; when faced with a long layover you may find yourself checking for flights to oh, say, Las Vegas for instance. Then again maybe these danger factors apply mainly to me.

So let’s talk about once you’ve arrived at your destination. I’ve got two trips coming up; Hawaii and Vegas. My default place of residence in Las Vegas is the MGM Grand, which has itself an iPhone app. It’s loaded with maps of the property, details on the room types, dining options and entertainment details. For convention-goers there is a special aspect of the app that ties in to details exclusive to your individual convention or event. Other Vegas properties have similar apps – check out the offerings from  Mandalay Bay and NewYork NewYork as well.

When it comes to the beaches of Hawaii, there are a lot of app options out there. I was gifted with the Hawaii’s Best Beaches app, and having played with it a bit from the comfort of my desk in Texas, it looks like it will really come in handy. You can search for a beach based on the activity you’re interested in – snorkeling, sunsets, camping, etc. – and all your best options will be presented with details on the site, distance, a map to the location, and photos. Right now I’m showing about 3,816 miles away from the beach I’d like to be on… can’t wait till that number gets smaller next week.

No matter where your vacation travels are taking you this summer, there’s likely a (free!) app for that. (Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.) Wherever you’re thinking about heading off to, type it in the Apple store search and see what comes up! You might find some app that details an awesome new attraction that you suddenly have. to. see.  If you’re planning on driving, make sure you check out the AAA apps – you can request roadside assistance and access all discounts.

Let’s hear from our fellow geeks and iPhone addicts – what are some of your favorite apps that you’ve discovered as a result of your travels?