All posts by Zarinne

Zite iOS 7 Update is Shite

(Yes, it rhymes. And yes, it means what you think it means. It’s an alternative I learned from working with Brits.)

I hadn’t planned on updating my iPad Mini to iOS 7 right away. But after seeing it on my hub’s iPad 3, the old iOS looked dated, so I switched. It’s OK. Looks a bit fresher and brighter. Some changes are useful, but some of my apps don’t work at all or are a bit wonky — including the App Store, which you’d think Apple would take great care to keep functional. Maybe using it on an iPhone I’d feel differently, but my overall reaction so far is, meh.

Apps, of course, are optimizing for iOS 7, mostly with positive results. That is, they mimic the look and work.

But not Zite.

After seeing this one on the hub’s IPad, I wanted nothing to do with it. But stupidly, I accidentally updated it and it’s pissing me off. Here’s why.

– Headlines

The new serif font looks more dated than the previous sans serif but thicker font. And because it’s not bold, it’s harder to read. Headlines you can’t read, can’t grab your attention. Seems a silly change just for the sake of change, and definitely not an improvement.

– Closing articles

The swipe-right feature from the last update was handy. When it worked. But it did for most of my reading, so I do miss it. Now you have to tap the X. [Update: this feature did not vanish, it’s just possibly fussier about where you swipe from. I thought it was gone because for the few days I’ve been using the updated Zite, I couldn’t get any article to close while doing the same motion I’d always done before. But my gripe about the X still stands.]

Zite screenshot

Previously, the X appeared on its own in the top left, also handy. Now it’s at the bottom next to the back arrow. If you clicked on a link in the Zite-procured article you were reading to open up a new article, you used the back arrow to return to the original article instead of closing out of it altogether and returning to your feed. Being on the bottom left, the back arrow was handily distant from the X that would close both articles. Now that the two are next to each other, it’s too easy to tap the X when you wanted the back arrow, or vice versa.

– Original web page

To accommodate this “improvement” the globe symbol that opened the original web page was sacrificed. It used to live next to the back arrow on the bottom left. This was a feature I used a lot because more often than not, in the conversion to Zite, an article was incomplete or the formatting was messed up or captions or other text went missing, and so on. Now to see the original web page, you first have to get to the bottom of the article where a link to the original web page appears. In long articles, that’s several swipes and wasted time.

Zite screenshot

Ongoing complaints

These are quibbles I had with Zite — which, yes, I do actually like and use every day — before the last update. And since they have not been addressed, I feel it’s appropriate to mention them here.

Frequently, an article I read the day before, or the day before that, will not only still appear in my Top Stories, but it will appear as a new article, that is, not grayed out. There are usually four or five such stories, annoying because you can’t help but scan the hedes of new articles, so it uses up that extra teeny bit of your time you didn’t need to spend.

For the past month or so, 99% of videos within Zite articles won’t play. At first I thought maybe I was just too late and the video was taken down before I got around to it. But it kept happening. I did a test trying to view every video I came across, even if I had zero interest in, across many different subjects, and realized there was no way that absolutely all of them would give me the same message: This video is currently unavailable/Learn more.

So I did another test: whenever I came across a video that wouldn’t play in Zite, I sent it to Pocket. Then I’d immediately open Pocket and try to play the video. It worked in Pocked every time. This was proof the issue was — is — with Zite. I have to take the extra step of sending things to Pocket that I’d normally just read in Zite and be done with it.

Lastly, all the thumbs up and down I’ve given over the nine months I’ve had my iPad Mini has lead to My Top Stories becoming increasingly repetitive and more limited in depth. Not sure how to get it to learn new interests.

Still …

… despite the complaints, Zite remains my favorite news aggregator and it’s one of the few apps on my iPad Mini that I use daily.

Have I missed anything? Do you disagree? Tell us in the comments!

Spanish Language Software Courses

IF you want – or need – to learn Spanish fast, a quality Spanish language software course might be just the thing to get you on your way and pronto!

There are several on the market. Possibly the most well know is Rosetta Stone. It teaches Spanish by immersing you in it so much that nothing is translated into English. It’s heavy on images, so it’s perfect for visual learners. Whether you realize it or not, that is most of us. The program is easy to use and features speech recognition to give you feedback on your pronunciation. However, some users have said they would have liked more instruction on grammar and sentence structure.

Fluenz is not as well-known, but this learn Spanish software gets high marks from users for its comprehensive approach and lessons that are geared toward tourists and business people. It has visual components as well, but unlike Rosetta Stone, includes grammar instruction.

The best option is a program called Rocket Spanish – a digital training course that teaches Spanish in a fast and comprehensive way in just 8 weeks. While the lessons are structured in that time frame, you can go at your own pace. It is perfect if you need to learn Spanish fast to secure a new job, for instance, or fulfill a school requirement, or prepare for traveling to a Spanish-speaking locale. You can buy the physical product, but you can also purchase the full course for instant download and start learning Spanish right now. The download also costs less, but the choice is yours.

One advantage of learning Spanish software over, say, a formal course is that you can fit it into your schedule instead of having to find time to go to class. A formal course can cost 5 to 10 times more, and if you have to miss a class, you still have to pay for it. Of course, a class is great because you have a professional who will give you instant feedback and interaction with other people who are interested in learning Spanish, too. But for convenience, Spanish software can’t be beat. (And make mom smile by learning how to say Happy Mother’s Day in Spanish.)

So whatever the reason you want to be able to speak Spanish, check out these choices, but for the money, Rocket Spanish probably offers the best value.

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Christmas Greetings in Other Languages

Merry Christmas Feliz Navidad in Mixed Languages Afghan Throw Blanket - click for detailsMaybe your grand- parents hail from Italy, or your best friend’s family is from France, or your new son-in-law is Spanish. Whatever the connection, it is easy to add a special personal touch to your holiday cards to them by using a greeting in their language. Here are a few Christmas greetings in other languages to get you started.

Merry Christmas in Italian is Buon Natale.

Merry Christmas in French is Joyeux Noël.

Merry Christmas in Spanish is Feliz Navidad.

Merry Christmas in German is Frohe Weihnachten.

Merry Christmas in Portuguese is Feliz Natal.

Merry Christmas in Russian is С Рождесtвом. This one is slightly trickier because it’s in Cyrilic, of course, but in this phrase only two letters differ from the alphabet you’re used to. Even if you mangle those two letters (which are pronounced zheh and deh, respectively, so you know), your Russian-speaking comrade will understand what you were trying to write and appreciate the gesture.

If you’re really feeling brave, you can learn how to say these greetings out loud and express your holiday wishes in their language the next time you meet.

The Russian phrase may be the most difficult. While only two of the letters differ from the Roman alphabet you know in written form, two additional letters are pronounced differently. For instance, that letter that looks exacly the same as ‘P’ is pronounced like an ‘R’. The spoken phrase sounds like this, with the stress on the syllable in all caps: s rah-zh-dee-st-VOHM

Oh, Canada! Edmonton Has Lots to Offer

With the economy still slumping in much of the U.S., it is no surprise that some Americans are choosing to try their chances up north in Canada. Edmonton, for one, is enjoying a booming economy. But the city has way more to offer than just jobs.

Edmonton also enjoys the lowest taxes in the country, which, combined with reasonable housing prices, makes it easier for residents to own their own homes, and high percentage do. But when you’re making the move from the States, your best bet at first is likely to be renting. You can start your home search before you even leave by using websites such as RentEdmonton.com, where you can look by area and see descriptions, prices and photos of all types of rental properties, from apartments, condos and converted lofts to townhomes and detached houses.

Edmonton — the capital of the province of Alberta and its second-largest city after Calgary 200 miles to the south — is a beautiful city, whose river valley boasts the largest urban park in North America, providing countless opportunities for outdoor activities. Thanks to the city’s northern latitude, in summer you’ll get up to 17 hours of daylight in which to bike or hike or, if you like to golf, tee up at one of Edmonton’s 70-plus courses. In winter you can go cross-country skiing, ice skating or to nearby downhill ski slopes.

Originally built on the oil and gas industries, Edmonton is a base for technology and biotech companies and was recently named one of the top cities for business development. But it’s not all work and no play — far from it! It is a cultural and educational center with its universities, music venues, art galleries, theaters and museums, including the largest living history museum in Canada, Fort Edmonton Park.

Edmonton has earned the moniker The Festival City for hosting world-class festivities year-round. And more fun abounds with the many pubs, restaurants, trendy clubs, movie theaters, live music venues, comedy shows and lounges that make up its vibrant nightlife.

And let’s not forget shopping. The city itself has several shopping areas sprinkled among its diverse neighborhoods. But it’s also home to largest mall in all of North America — the West Edmonton Mall.

In addition to about 800 retailers, inside is water park with numerous waterslides and the world’s largest indoor wave pool, an amusement park, an indoor salt-water lake with aquatic life, an ice skating rink, miniature golf, movie theaters, bowling alleys, pool halls, arcades and a music stage.