Midweek Q&A

My goodness, hasn't the week flown by! I am working on a number of articles in the background but they're not quite ready so I'm glad there is an opportunity to share some techie goodness in this column.

This week I caution that the Curl Secret is designed for medium to long hair, talk about the mechanics of iPhone call recording and why that's not as easy as it sounds, pin down the right running app for a specific distance, and talk about work-related stuff.

Caitlin: Riddle me this Gadget Girl... I need an app which can track my 2.4km runs. Nike+ can only do 2.5km. 

Gadget Girl: Are you meaning one where you can set a specific target distance?
Caitlin: Yes please

Damn about Nike's Running app (also available on Android) being restricted to distance runs at half kilometre intervals. Up to now it's been my favourite run tracker app, giving comprehensive statistics, allowing me track what surface I ran on, where I ran, speed variations, shoes, etc... It even has preset training plans for 5km, half and full marathons. And yes it can allow for free, time and distance runs.

Unfortunately, Cait's needs are quite specific down to the 100m.

I duly checked out my other running apps: miCoach, SportsTracker... Moved on to the App Store for the official C25K app, RunKeeper, MapMyRun. Unfortunately, whilst some have distance runs, they had a similar level of granularity as the Nike option. Others you could set 2.4 kilometres but only if you loaded a route set at that distance.

After a fifteen minute trawl and download frenzy, I finally found Run Tracker Pro by Bluefin Software, who make a number of exercise-related applications. This baby has many similar features to the Nike app. It also has interval training functions and lets you set a distance run down to 100m granularity. Unlike many of the other options, it isn't free and at $3.79 NZD it's in the middling zone of pricing but it does meet the requirements and having bought it to take a gander, I like it's user interface and will give it a try myself.

Becca: have you ever tried the Curl Secret?

Actually I own and have tried Vidal Sassoon's Curl Secret. It's a nifty wee device where you take locks of your hair, insert it into a groove in the barrel of the device and it winds your hair in after you squeeze the handle shut. I've only had it a few weeks but I liked it from the first go. It has a couple of heat settings and you can select 8 or 12 seconds depending what level of curl definition you want.

The device is definitely one where practice is required and until I've had a few more goes, I won't be attending any events with the results of my self-styled hair. That being said, the resulting curls are different from what I can achieve with my straightener, traditional curler or InStyler. Given the size of the barrel, however it's definitely better on medium to long hair otherwise there's not much for it to wind. They recommend a minimum of 15cm length.

I've loaned the device out for someone to try otherwise I'd make a video where I'm not looking so embarrassingly bloated and tired however, my vanity aside, this 24 second snippet I recorded for my friends, taken the day I bought the device, shows how easy it is even for a novice to pick up. Otherwise see the official how-to video on YouTube for the pretty model, made up and skilled enough to make it look damned easy!

Tash: Hey Gadget Girl, will AudioNote work if I'm actually on a phone call with someone?

Gadget Girl: Hmmm... Will you be on a speakerphone or are you intending to record the phone call whilst you're on the actual phone?
Tash: I'm planning on recording the conversation while on the call.

Unfortunately the iPhone will only allow one app to take control of the audio devices at a time - i.e. only one app can use the microphone, only one can use the speakers so technically AudioNote can use the mic whilst Music Player is using the speakers but a phone call requires both the mic and the speaker. This method won't work if you're using the same device to record and call and I did run this whole thing through some testing.

I've never looked at call recording options until now, but there are some options on the App Store such as TapeACall. These use the 3-way calling merge function that comes native to the phone. I have previously enabled multiparty calls on my Vodafone number and tested it so it's certainly possible to achieve this in New Zealand, so long as you're comfortable with someone else being in on your call and storing your recordings for you. Other options, such as Call Recorder - IntCall, channel your call through a VoIP service so you're not actually using your native functionality per se.

As I understand it, we have no laws prohibiting or controlling the behaviours related to recording phone conversations in New Zealand so long as you are a party to the call (otherwise it's illegal). This is not the case everywhere. If you're looking for a call recording solution, you may want to consider one which has the interval beep function as an option in case you interview someone overseas from a country where they are more comfortable with and expect the beep reminder.

Rebecca: what do I need to consider now that we're sourcing and providing data between various parties for my project at work?

This was a work-related question, but one I thought I'd share more widely. When you're dealing with information, be it data or documents, capturing the metadata (information about that data) is important. This is everything from where it comes from, what it's license status is, where it's stored to the format it is in. You don't want to get a few weeks or months into your project and have to wade through your emails to find this information out; nor to be scratching your head as to what you've already got. Keep it in a single register or catalogue, fit for the amount of information you have to track: a spreadsheet or Access — *groans because she can't believe she wrote that* — database at its most basic, some inventory app, large-scale database or specialist software at its more mature.

The thing to remember is not to make this up from scratch. No matter what you intend to store your catalogue in or what you call the fields, there is prior work you should reference. And that prior work is Dublin Core - the international standard for metadata. If you work in Australia, also refer to the extensions to Dublin Core found in the Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS) and in New Zealand, the NZ Government Locator Service (NZGLS). By using existing standards, multiple parties in differing contexts will at least be speaking the same language.
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