16 Feb

Airbrushing: an app for impossible beauty

There has been much controversy surrounding airbrushing over the last few years. I read a very interesting article on BBC News describing the effects on an adult, fully aware of the practice. The psychological effects on impressionable children and teenagers will be, of course, decidedly worse. Since technology has been making it easier and easier for anyone to edit out imperfections in photos, I decided to try it on myself.

I am a Photoshop… err… professional, but I didn’t want to show what an expert can do. We’ve all seen the evidence in fashion and gossip magazines; women with flawless skin and absolutely no flab practically 2 hours after giving birth. I wanted to show how technology has made this impossible beauty available to everyone. I downloaded the app Perfect365 on my iPhone (also available on Android) and set to work on one of my pictures.

First off, I chose a photograph that I was already quite happy with. I think I looked alright in it, until I started to change things.

I smoothed out my skin, I even got rid of some of my moles (which, lets face it, make me who I am). I even made my face slimmer, eyes whiter and larger. I may have gotten a little bit obsessed with making changes. I realised it was effecting me, someone who prides herself on not being overly image-conscious, a woman of substance and not superficial.

airbrush1

Before and after

The thing is, I realise the ‘after’ photo looks fake. I realise that it is so altered that I can only now class it as loosely based on me. But still, there was something that made me want to try making one of my most loved memories and most hated pictures better.

The story behind this one is being on a lovely holiday to Paris, eight months pregnant, and after dragging myself up 200-300 steps to the top of the Sacré-Coeur wanting to take a lovely picture of me with the glorious view. Except you can imagine what I looked like after this feat. This calls for Perfect365…

Airbrush2

See? Addictive. I know a lot of friends who Photoshop secretly. Sometimes you can tell, sometimes it’s just intuition. The odd spot here and there, a stretch mark, a bit of excess flab. Where does it end?

photo-2

Making me perfect: even my cheeks shrunk.

The app works, a little too well maybe. It was so easy to make changes with a number of different selections and a slider for more extreme editing. The app has a colour palette for choosing makeup and even some rather fake looking wigs to top it all off.

The face slimming section surprised me. I had previously learned to live with my round, slightly chubby face. Is feeling this way down to new technology? I don’t think so. We need to be responsible with the way in which we use programs like this. We need to tell our children they are beautiful, because they are. There is technology out there saving lives and doing amazing things, beautiful things. This is not one of those things.

If you do decide to download this app and try it for yourself, do so at your peril. It could cost you your self-esteem, and in this day and age it is rather hard to build back up.

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07 Feb

Samsung vs iPhone: the debate continues

I’ve recently upgraded from a Samsung Galaxy S2 to an iPhone 5s. These two phones aren’t directly comparable; the iPhone is a much newer version, equivalent to the S4 in real terms.

I have noticed a few major differences though.

The iPhone feels more substantial, and the actual device is nicer to hold. The screen is quite noticeably smaller though, and I find myself missing the larger functional area of the Samsung. The iPhone has a few annoying design flaws too. I find myself accidentally hitting buttons that have been placed on the touch screen in the wrong position. This never happened with the Galaxy.

There is also the difference between iOS and Android, with Android being an open source platform. For some, this is a deal breaker, but for other users this makes no difference whatsoever.

I still haven’t decided which I prefer. There are more similarities than differences, so it is hard to say definitively that one is better than the other. Next time my contract is up though, I’ll have a hard time choosing. There is another major difference – the Galaxy is cheaper. For some, the choice is clear. For now, I’m hanging on to my S2 as a back-up phone. Are you loyal to one brand in particular? I’d like to know your thoughts.

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02 Jan

Fitbit app review, connected to the Flex tracker

Fitbit Flex

I treated myself to a Fitbit Flex when it featured on a Boxing Day Lightning Deal on Amazon. I purchased my new toy for £55.99, RRP £79.99. I’ve been interested in this for a long time, but only now have taken the plunge.

The Fitbix Flex is a tracker that records the number of steps taken, distance travelled, and minutes of light, medium and heavy activity. It also has a ‘sleep mode’ that monitors the time you spend in bed, the length of time it takes to get to sleep and the amount of times you wake during the night.

It’s better than I thought it would be, and the sleep monitor is really interesting. It’s great for setting goals, and monitoring your progress. I’ve been using it for just over a week now and I must say it’s quite addictive, checking your steps on the dashboard and trying to hit target of 10,000.

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 21.44.16

I downloaded the app to go along with it, but only realised later that my phone doesn’t automatically update with the tracker. I’ll need to upgrade to a newer model for that. If my phone had the capability of syncing with my Flex then I think I would use the app more. As it is, I just use it sporadically to update my food log, as and when I remember to do so.

Still, it is all very well designed, easy to use and looks pretty awesome. It’s been a week now, and I still smile to myself when I tap the tracker on my wrist and it flashes lights at me like something out of a sci-fi movie.

I recommend this to all fitness enthusiasts, or anyone like me who is just interested in this kind of thing. It’s pretty cool, comfortable to wear, and waterproof too – although I haven’t tested this. Make sure your phone is compatible first though, check out the complete list of devices here.

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15 Dec

Free Theme Park game in app store

Theme Park app by EA

Theme Park app by EATheme Park, originally released back in 1994, was a firm favourite of mine. I remember spending a fair few evenings constructing and managing my amusement park on my second hand Playstation.

So when EA released the Theme Park app, I had to give it a go. On Android and in the iTunes App Store, Theme Park starts off just as fun as I remember. Yes, the control isn’t as easy on a smartphone as it was on a console, but the game is still great. The only thing I’ve found, as with a lot of these free apps, is it takes a long time to get anywhere with the game and it begs you to pay for stuff at every opportunity. I’d rather just pay a flat rate for the game instead of paying for tickets.

As I said before in my Candy Crush review, I don’t like paying for upgrades. I will buy games, and I will buy apps if they are particularly useful (although I’ve yet to find one that falls into this category), but I won’t buy tokens, tickets, coins, or any other paid-for item on a ‘free’ app.

Theme Park has therefore taken a very long time to progress.

EA Theme Park gameplay

There have been some other very angry reviews of this app, like this one from Jim Sterling on Destructoid.

I don’t feel that strongly about it. I still enjoy playing it, but I’m sure the nostalgia of the original game has a part to play in that. It’s given me the urge to dig out my old Playstation instead.

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22 Nov

Home screen apps

Homescreen
Homescreen

My android screenshot: The apps I use most

Take a look at your home screen and check out the app shortcuts you have on there. Are they your favourites/most used? I tend to update mine regularly, and switch them around to fit in with whatever wallpaper I happen to have that month.

MyFitnessPal during a health kick, Candy Crush Saga (see app review) during a particularly slow week, but there are a few that stick.

Facebook being one of them. Everybody has Facebook on their phone. How would you ever know how great your old schoolmate’s life is now without it? Check out this great list of statuses everybody writes and everybody hates on Mashable.

Twitter is another of those stay-forever apps. There is a lot of great content linked on Twitter, even if you have to sift through all the rubbish first. I’ve found some great resources on Twitter that would never be on the top pages of a Google search. Although there isn’t a better starting point than Google, which is why that stays on my home screen too.

How did people survive pre-search-engine? I remember a time, back when I was a very young girl, when I would ask my mum the spelling or definition of a new word and we would run off to the bookshelf and look it up in a dictionary. Now, anything you want to know, Google it. The internet: simultaneously making knowledge more accessible and people more lazy. Don’t even get me started on txt spk.

The BBC News app is a regular. I like to keep up-to-date with current affairs. I like to know what’s going on in the world, and the app is brilliantly simple to use.

As for Instagram, I’ve rather lost interest in it lately. This one might not last much longer on the list of usuals. It is primarily pictures of people’s dinners, people on exercise machines, posing in bathroom mirrors and “look at my new lipstick/dog/sofa”. All stuff that is interesting to the person taking the photograph, and of little/no interest to anyone else. There’s a great list on Buzzfeed illustrated by artist Joanna Zhou about the types of Instagram photos.

I also keep O2 Priority Moments on there, not because I use it a lot but just to remind me to check it. I would hate to think I was missing out on a free coffee. It takes a ridiculous amount of time to load though, and sometimes I lose interest before I’ve even made it past the loading screen.

What apps do you keep on your home screen? What is your favourite? Leave your comments below.

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20 Nov

I hate love hate Candy Crush

I’ve been addicted to this app, Candy Crush Saga, since its 2012 release. Originally a Facebook game, it is theraputic as well as frustrating. King has done a good job of keeping me hooked, but I hate it too. I’ve spent too long shuffling little sweetie icons around my phone but somehow I can’t stop!

Candy Crush Saga for Android Screenshot

Candy Crush Saga screenshot

I only have two rules.

  1. Never ever post anything to Facebook (a great way to annoy your buddies).
  2. Never pay for any upgrades. I say this because where is the fun and sense of triumph in just paying your way through the game? It’s possible, no matter how many weeks/months it takes to complete that one level… and a lot of people have been caught out spending a little here and there, to find they end up with a bill that could have paid for their groceries that month.

I would advise not to even download this app unless you spend most of your days looking for things to fill your time with. I wish I hadn’t. I’m now stuck in an endless cycle of brightly coloured sweets. At the time of writing, I’m on level 320 and I would hate to find out how much time I’ve spent on the thing. It’s brilliant though. It’s so addictive and it is cleverly designed to give you a little victory just at the moment you are about to give up. The little animations in-between games are delightful and the whole app looks and works fabulously.

Try it, or don’t, but I can’t be held responsible for any time lost by downloading this app.

Someone actually made these. Stud earrings available from beadhappy08 on Etsy.co.uk

Someone actually made these. Candy Crush stud earrings available from beadhappy08 on Etsy.co.uk

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20 Oct

Where’s my phone?

If you haven’t seen this video yet (and there’s a good chance you have considering it has had well over 26 million views at the time of writing) then you should watch – and take note!

There is a lot I have to say on this subject. I am definitely in the ‘how rude!’ camp. It’s not as straight forward as this though. There’s a time and a place for the smartphone. I love my smartphone as much as the next geek, but I will never take it out during a meal. If it’s an emergency, which doesn’t come up as often as we are lead to expect, than I excuse myself like a normal person.

But that’s just it. Normal doesn’t mean enjoying the moment for what it is anymore. Normal has slowly become, “Oh wow! What a great time we are having – let’s Instagram it!”

I take photos every now and then. I have a DSLR for those important events, and yes, my phone is great for the unexpected moment. I do, however, have a problem with people uploading the same ‘selfie’ about fifty times a day. No, we don’t want to see every single morsel of food you put in your mouth, or how stupid you can look pulling a duck-face.

I think to myself when I see these accounts, how do you have the time?

I know how much time technology and especially Facebook can take up. I admit, I am guilty of a love-hate relationship with the devil that is Candy Crush. I’m on level three-hundred-and-something. I hate that I’ve spent so much time playing it, where I could have been doing something brilliant and productive like reading a book or going to the gym. (*Idea – Candy Crush at the gym?!)

I have had to tell my brother to put his phone away on a visit. I mention this because he is family, and it is acceptable to be blunt with your family in a way that you wouldn’t with say, a work colleague. I found it rude. We were out for dinner, and I was trying to make conversation as we hadn’t seen each other for months, but I was second best to a text that could probably wait.

The worrying thing is that more and more people are falling into the following categories;

  • Those who find this behaviour rude but are culprits unknowingly and
  • Those who just don’t care because it’s so common now.

The amount of families I see out to dinner with little ones on phones, iPads and the like. Then the parents worry why their speech isn’t developing normally. “But they are really smart because they know how to hack the passcode on my tablet!”

Like I said, I love my smartphone. I love having google right there to answer every ridiculous question I have at any time of the day. But there are times when maybe it’s just better to talk to the person next to you. Let’s face it, they might have something to offer that you can’t find on your phone…

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