Wednesday, November 28, 2012

App Love

First a shout out to our friends up north on the 30th anniversary of the New York Theory Day this Friday.

Just two years ago I wrote a post Gadget Love but now I don't use many gadgets any more, it's all built into my iPhone and iPad. No wonder a company like Best Buy is having problems. Not only do they have to compete against Amazon they also compete against the Apple App Store.

Some of my favorite apps:

Goodreader - Manage, view and mark-up PDF files. Syncs with Dropbox and nearly every other file sharing service.

Evernote - Manages short notes and photos. I often just take pictures of a whiteboard and save it to Evernote.

JotNot - The iPhone becomes a scanner.

Those three apps let me lead a nearly paperless life.

WolframAlpha - Whatever you think of Stephen Wolfram, this is still a very useful tool.

TripIt - Forward your emails from airlines, rental cars and hotels to trip it and it organizes all your info. Invaluable when traveling.

ComplexityZoo - OK, I rarely use, it but it's pretty cool there's a free app that let's you find complexity classes.

There are many many great and not-so-great apps. I have seven pages of apps on my iPhone. But I can always download more so tell me some of your favorites.


  1. two comments. 1. As a computer scientist, apps (along with facebook, twitter, etc.) depress me. This is not the brave new world of technological advance I signed up for.

    2. It's been 10 years since Wolfram's 'A New Kind of Science' came forth to revolutionize our field, and all fields. Will someone please try to summarize the book's impact since publication? I know many will say "none", but I'm specifically curious if there are dissenters amongst the general disdain.

  2. Happy w/o apps way to go!10:36 PM, November 28, 2012

    why waste this post on apps when all they do is stupefy our common afford to intelligently train our brain: be it from training our brain to remember cell phone numbers to making a small scale calculation of how long it will take by flight to reach Miami from Berkeley. I'd rather have my brain trained then have a stupid app tell me exactly these things and as a result outsource my privacy and brainpower.

    wolfram alpha should be forbidden in its entirety for trying to stupefy the average to intelligent person. (well, there's nothing that will happen to the fools of course, they are safe from mental retardation.)
    let's also not forget what it outputs is merely a black box result, we have no idea whether it is correct, unless we undergo the computation ourselves and this adds hair to the equation.

    ANoS did someone not disprove ones like a gazillion claims were wrong ?

    1. >ANoS did someone not disprove ones like a gazillion claims were wrong ?

      a note on minimal boolean formula size of one-dimensional cellular automata
      [J of Cellular Automata, 2 2007, 351–353]
      *not* a gazillion(!) claims. only 44.

    2. Wow. Wolfram will surely need to cite this article in any future edition of his book, right?

      Ergo, there will have to *be a bibliography* in any future edition.

      Ergo, there will probably not be any future editions. :D

  3. A New Kind of Science has had very little impact on mathematics or computer science so far. It does get some citations, and there are a few interesting problems suggested in the book. But in the long run, it won't be considered very influential.

  4. Dear Happy w/o apps is the way to go!
    In the past people have rallied against:
    books- since if you write things down your memory degrades.
    calculators-people will forget how to add
    Google- if its too easy to look things up people wont think for themselves.
    spellcheckers- people will forget how to spell

    There is actual truth to all of these objections; however, I think we are better off with these things (and with Wolfram Alpha). We are freed from
    mental drudge work and can hence to more creative things.

  5. @gasarch: but we don't even know what we mean when we talk about "creative thinking" I know you said "to do creative things" but let's stick with "thinking".

    If we were able to precisely define this term, then we would have unravelled one of the biggest mysteries of how our brain works.

    One thing that we know thanks to neuroscience is that there is a significant correlation between "mental drudge" and "creative thinking". One paves the way for the other. This is not to say that the more mental drudge u undergo, the more creative u become. Think of it as a necessary but not sufficient condition.

    Basically, ur brain needs to have done and understood the "mental drudge" before indulging into creative territory. There's no real shortcutting things there. That's just how the synapses work.
    Having apps outsource our thinking capacity entirely will become a problem. (Of course, ppl who sell/commercial these apps will necessarily always fall back to the argument but it enables u to do far more creative work. It's a weak argument for the long run.)

    It weakens the average mind, making it too dependent on using the app. That's a dangerous sign.

    Now a big topic is how this technology will impact our thinking . "OUR" refers to 2 generations ahead. Surely, it will not have a great impact on an adult who has been educated to read and write w/o all those apps. But the generation born in the late 90's onwards. Not enuff time has lapsed to see what will happen.

  6. I believe that, apps do help us to do our day to day work but it never helps us to be creative. The intrinsic human mind and original thinking skills are completely dependent on the individual and his hard work. Apps can make an individual save a lot of time but great thinkers are born, not made.Still, the importance of books, pen and paper are unparalled.

  7. My favorite app is :

    Conference4me : Pretty handy app that facilitates participation in the conferences.

    Other apps, excluding the one you listed, include Paper, arXiv apps.