The App Guide: Best Food Apps

Just like the Food Network simplified gourmet cooking, food apps are now making it even easier for you to whip up some of the best dishes ever. You can use your device to find recipes, discover new techniques, locate the freshest ingredients and see what other people are dishing out. No, it’s not Le Cordon Bleu education, but it’s cheaper -- and faster.

Here’s our roundup of the best food apps to ignite your inner Julia Child:

Food App No. 1: Appetites

Best part: High-quality videos

Appetites is like having a Food Network show in your hands but better: It demonstrates a single step over and over in beautifully shot video until you’re ready for the next one. The app comes with a starter pack of 36 interactive video recipes from popular cooking bloggers. Let Blake and Nick from The Paupered Chef  walk you through every step in their Korean BBQ recipe, or let Gabi Moskowitz from the BrokeAss Gourmet show you how to make a particularly delicious sweet potato coconut soup.

Cost: $4.99 for the starter pack; you can also complete in-app purchases to download extra recipe sets.

Works on: iPad

Food App No. 2: Your Kitchen Inspiration

Best part: Discovering other people’s succulent family recipes (which owns this app) doesn’t exactly have a reputation as being a haven for foodies, but its beauty lies elsewhere: Sift through its thousands of recipes and reviews, and you’re practically guaranteed to discover a lot of gems. Case in point: When you come across a recipe like “AMY1028’s Big Soft Ginger Cookies” with nearly 4,000 glowing reviews, you know it’s worth your time. This is one app (and website) where crowdsourcing really does work.

Cost: The free version lets you access all recipes; for $4.99, you can also browse by ethnicity/specialty, save your favorites, and store and print your shopping list.

Works on: iPad (iPhone users can download Allrecipes Dinner Spinner)

Food App No. 3: Locavore

Best part: Focus on fresh

Using your phone’s GPS, Locavore points you to local farms and farmers markets where you can buy your produce fresh, directly from growers. It also tells you which items are in season in your region and even associates those items with farmers markets’ locations. So before you show up at the Green City Market in Chicago’s Lincoln Park in September, you’ll know to look for apples, kale and -- of course -- pumpkins.

Cost: Free

Works with: iPhone, iPad and Android

Food App No. 4: Jamie’s Recipes

Best part: Elegant low-prep dishes

If you like Jamie Oliver’s recipes, then you’ll love his app: It comes with a good variety of easy-to-prepare recipes, presented in an elegant, simple interface. The sweet pineapple and mint recipe is a good example: just four ingredients, ingredients you’ve probably never put together before. (If there’s another famous icon you like too, look ’em up; lots of celebrity chefs have apps these days.)

Cost: $7.99 for the starter pack. Subsequent in-app purchases are $1.99 per pack

Works with: iPhone and iPad

Food App No. 5: Foodgawker

Best part: Gorgeous photography

There’s nothing like a photo to help you decide whether something is worth cooking. Enter Foodgawker, the mobile version of the eponymous website, which is all about ogling beautiful food photography from food bloggers all over the Web. Do a search for lamb, pick the most delicious-looking photo and click for the recipe. It’s a clearinghouse of gastronomic delights.

Cost: Free

Works with: iPhone, iPad and any Web browser

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The App Guide: Capture Your Brilliant Ideas

Flashes of inspiration never seem to happen when you have a pen and paper (or a keyboard) in hand. They happen when you’re running, sitting on the train or dining with friends. Fortunately, these mobile apps can help you capture your brilliant ideas as soon as they hit you. (Unless you’re in the shower -- you’re on your own in that case.)

App No. 1: Evernote 

Best feature: The myriad supporting apps

If you’ve heard of it before, there’s good reason: In the mobile productivity space, Evernote is considered the app to beat. It lets you capture pretty much everything -- text, URLs, images, audio, screens, documents and much more -- and organize it into notebooks. You then assign as many tags as you like to each note, and whenever you click on a tag, you get all associated notes -- even if they’re stored in different folders. Notes also sync to your devices for offline use.

Another major perk is Evernote Trunk, a huge collection of third-party apps and services that extend Evernote functionality. Here’s a wild example: Touchanote is an Android app that lets you associate notes with real-life objects. So if you’re always forgetting your router’s password, you can order a small NFC tag off and stick it on your router. Then every time you touch your phone to the tag, the note with your password automatically opens.

Free and premium services are available. Works with iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Palm, Windows and OSX.

App No. 2: Springpad 

Best feature: Drag-and-drop virtual bulletin board

Springpad has a lot going for it: an intuitive interface, a neat feature that gives you a drag-and-drop virtual bulletin board for each notebook, and lots of cool integrations. For example, you can perform searches from inside the app, and it organizes your results into categories. Type in the name of a movie you want to see and, with just a click, add it to your Netflix queue, buy it on iTunes or Amazon, or launch the trailer. You can save the results and attach a note. Springpad also makes it easy to share your notes with your Facebook and Twitter networks.

There is currently one drawback to Springpad, and it might be a big one: Unless you’re a Google Chrome user, the app is cloud-only. If you use any other browser, you can access your notes only when you’re online. That’s not so great for, say, the Firefox user who needs to access his notes on a transatlantic flight.

Free. Works with iPhone, iPad, Android and any Web browser. However, offline access is possible only with the Google Chrome browser.

App No. 3: Voice2Note 

Best feature: You talk, it types

When you have an idea on the go, you can leave yourself a voicemail. But voicemails typically aren’t searchable -- unless you use Voice2Note. It’s an add-on to Evernote: It lets you record voice notes within Evernote or call a number to speak your note. You can even say “Tag with [x]” to associate it with similar notes. Then your note appears, transcribed and tagged, in your Evernote account. You probably won’t get 100 percent accuracy, but you also won’t kick yourself for forgetting the brilliant revelation you had while sitting in rush hour traffic.

Free and pro services are available (five notes per month for free; unlimited for $2.99 a month). Works with any mobile or landline phone, but you must have an Evernote account.

App No. 4: Simplenote 

Best feature: Its simplicity

No fancy extras here, so if you need an app that just lets you type and share text notes without a lot of features, Simplenote is the app for you. There’s currently no desktop version, although some third-party apps will sync with your computer and non-iOS mobile devices.

Free and premium services are available. Works with iPhone, iPad and any Web browser.

Cloud 101: Are You a PC, Mac … or Cloud?

When we talk about a computer’s local operating system (OS) today, we’re usually talking about Mac OSX or Microsoft Windows (or increasingly, Linux). An OS is basically the software that tells your computer how to run and how to appear. Every computer has one.

Now, however, cloud computing gives you another option: the cloud OS. A cloud OS is designed to run within your Web browser, which means that it and all your programs and data live on the Internet rather than locally on your computer’s hard drive. In fact, everything comes from the cloud: your screen’s appearance, the applications you use and the files you create and save.

Because all your data lives on the Internet, you can log onto your “computer” from any online device -- a tablet, laptop, PC or even a smartphone -- using just a Web browser. The benefit of going with a cloud OS is that you’ll naturally use other applications via the cloud too, so your data is always available and you won’t lose it if, for example, your hard drive crashes. However, you’ll need to be online to access your “computer,” so you need Web access wherever you want to use it.

Here are a few emerging cloud OS options and what we like most about them. The best part: All four of these options have attractive, intuitive interfaces, so there’s a very low learning curve -- and they’re free!

Cloud OS No. 1: Google Chrome OS 

We like … The speed and available apps
Google has partnered with device manufacturers Samsung and Acer to create Chromebooks, which are small laptops designed to run nothing but the Chrome OS. They boot up in an instant because they don’t have to boot up a heavy local operating system and all the programs and files that come with it. The only thing that lives locally on the laptop is a browser -- Google Chrome, no surprise -- and you access all your files and programs via the Web. For example, your documents live online at Google Docs. The other nice feature is the Chrome Web Store, which features apps designed specifically for Chrome OS.

Cloud OS No. 2: Cloudo 

We like … The flexible interface
Once you log in to Cloudo, you see your personal desktop. It can work just like the computer you’re accustomed to using every day, and that’s what we like best. You can set your Cloudo computer to look like Mac OSX, Windows Vista, Windows XP -- or if you’re feeling really nostalgic, Windows Classic. Cloudo comes with its own versions of most of the applications you use often, like a word processor and calendar. You can download third-party-developed apps too. 

Cloud OS No. 3: Jolicloud 

We like … The ability to use local apps too
If you get a netbook with the Jolicloud OS, you’ll have access to Web apps and apps that you install locally on your netbook. That’s especially helpful if you still travel to places where Internet access is poor or spend a lot of time on airplanes, where you might not have a connection.

Cloud OS No. 4: Glide OS 

We like … The free storage
Glide OS offers 30 GB of storage for free, so you can store plenty of files online and access them from anywhere. A premium subscription will run you just $50 and get you 250 GB of storage, which probably will hold most everything you need to access regularly. Glide is a Flash-based OS, but it also comes in an iPad-friendly HTML5 version, so you won’t be impeded by Apple’s lack of support for Flash on iOS devices.

5 Portable Tech Gadgets You Need This Summer

My friend, biologist Darrell Whitworth, works and lives in Italy for about half the year. Just recently he was traveling on the train from Arezzo to Rome when a thief nabbed his laptop. Unfortunately, it contained thousands of MP3 files and huge amounts of his research.

“I just left my seat for a minute,” says Whitworth. “When I got back, my backpack was gone.” If his laptop hadn’t already backed up his collection of digital music onto his new Cowon C2 Portable Media Player (PMP), he would’ve sworn off Italy for good.

The cool new C2 PMP is one of dozens of gadgets that could make your summer safer and more fun. From notebooks to e-books, here are the top five portable tech gadgets I recommend checking out before your upcoming excursions:

Cowon C2 Portable Media Player 

For: Those who love mobile music and video
Hot Feature:
50+ hours of battery life

As Whitworth discovered, the Cowon C2 is capable of supporting both music and video on its 2.6-inch resistive touch-screen display with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. The diminutive Cowon C2 comes with a choice of 4 GB, 8 GB or 16 GB of storage built in. And there’s also a microSD card slot so you can add extra storage to store all your favorite movies and music. With a 32 GB microSD card, you can have a small PMP with 48 GB of space. The Cowon’s C2 is definitely the best pick in this price range.

G-Tech’s G-Connect 

For: Cloud-computing mavens
Hot Feature:
External storage that connects wirelessly

Seagate Technology recently introduced the first mobile hard drive that can stream content to the iPad. Now, Hitachi’s G-Technology has come up with a similar product of its own: the G-Connect wireless storage product. The G-Connect is a compact 500 GB portable hard drive that has a built-in Wireless-N access point that can stream your stored digital content to up to five wireless devices. The G-Connect has one major advantage over the Seagate product: It comes with an Ethernet port, so you can get online by connecting to an existing network as well. The G-Connect also comes with an app that enables Apple iOS devices to conveniently access its content.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook 

For: The savvy notebook user who loves Google
Hot Feature:
Near instant boot-up

For years, Google’s been touting the idea of always-on, always-connected laptops based on a version of its Chrome browser. At last, the Chromebooks are here, starting with the Samsung Series 5 -- a sharp-looking laptop that promises instant online access, 3G connectivity and long-enough battery life to surf the Web for hours. The Series 5 is more laptop than netbook. The glossy, white lid with metal Samsung and Chrome logos give it a unique look. And the entire system is decked out in a soft, rubberized plastic you could easily mistake for carbon fiber. If you love the Chrome browser (and don’t need to use any other) and would readily trade local storage for a zero-second boot time, then the Chromebook is a solid, formidable laptop that will weather your summer vacation and more.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer 

For: Those craving an Android tablet
Cost: $400
Hot Feature: Great price point

In the past, gadget reviewers tended to agree: Android tablets don’t perform as well as Apple’s iPad. Not so with this sleek new tablet from Asus. It features a wide-screen aspect ratio of a 10.1-inch 1,280 x 800-pixel capacitive touch display. As a result, you might feel more comfortable holding it in landscape orientation. The Eee Pad includes a keyboard dock that not only makes typing easier, but also doubles the battery life and boosts connectivity to the cloud. Removed from the keyboard dock, the tablet bears a face similar to many top new Android Honeycomb tablets. It’s glossy, black and rather iPad-like. Surrounding the black bezel is a strip of bronzed metal, lending the Eee Pad Transformer an impressive sense of quality that was missing from the all-plastic Samsung Galaxy Tab, last year’s top Android tablet.


For: Bookworms
Cost: $139
Hot Feature:
35 percent lighter than the first-edition Nook and long battery life
The new Wi-Fi-only Nook just about, well, closes the book on e-book readers. It measures 5 inches by 6.5 inches, weighs less than 7.5 ounces, and sports a 6-inch touch screen that marries infrared technology with a “Pearl e-ink” display to let users navigate with taps and swipes. Powered by Android 2.1, the Nook includes 2 GB of onboard storage, allowing for 1,000 downloaded books. It also has an SD card slot for additional storage. And it runs on an 800 MHZ Texas Instruments OMAP 3 processor, which the company says enables a much smoother reading experience -- including quicker page transitions and 80 percent less “ghosting,” or page flashing. It also lasts two months between charges -- almost the entire summer. The Kindle 3 (the Nook’s biggest competitor) features a mere one month of battery life.

The App Guide: Top 5 Security Apps

The whole point of mobile devices is to make life easier and more fun. But lose your device or have it swiped, and you’ll quickly trade ease and fun for hassle and identity theft.

Fortunately, it’s possible to protect your device -- even if it lands in the wrong hands. All it takes is a little initiative and a small budget. Check out these top five security apps:

Security App No. 1: Find My iPhone

Helps you … Locate your device and the thief
Find My iPhone can help you locate your lost iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch on a GPS-powered map. You can force your device to play a loud sound (even if it’s in silent mode), lock it, display a message, or -- if you’re really desperate -- permanently delete all of your data. Just don’t use this app to go vigilante on your thief; if you locate your phone, it’s safer to ask a police officer to escort you to get it back.

Available on: iOS devices. For Android, try Where’s My Droid

Security App No. 2: mSecure

Helps you … Store and manage passwords

Do you store your passwords in a note or email? MSecure is an affordable and powerful alternative. The app stores all the most important personal info you need while surfing the Web -- passwords, bank account numbers, credit cards, etc. -- and uses 256-bit data encryption, which is basically impenetrable. It comes in a desktop version for Mac (purchased separately), and your data can sync with your iOS or Android devices, as long as they’re on the same Wi-Fi network.

Available on: iOS and Android devices

Security App No. 3: Webroot Mobile Security

Helps you … Stay safe from viruses, malware and spam
If you’re a PC user, you probably have an antivirus suite installed on your machine. Webroot Mobile Security [disclosure: Webroot is the sponsor of Every Day Connected] is the mobile equivalent, protecting your device from pretty much any external intrusion that could threaten your data. It scans apps before install, blocks and removes malicious ones, helps you prevent spam calls and texts, and blocks harmful websites. It also offers remote locate and remote wipe features, so you can skip the “Where’s My Droid” app if you have this one.

Available on: Android. Currently, there is no iOS equivalent because, as a non-open source system, iOS is less vulnerable to attacks. But if you jailbreak your iPhone, your vulnerability increases

Security App No. 4: Folder Lock 
Helps you … Keep files and folders private

Folder Lock lets you transfer files from your computer to your iOS device over Wi-Fi and password-protect them, filling a gap in iOS’s native capabilities. You can also transfer photos from your device’s existing photo gallery into Folder Lock. This app makes it easy to protect sensitive business documents or photos, hide notes about your significant other’s upcoming surprise party or conceal anything else you’d rather keep to yourself.

Available on: iOS devices. For Android, try iLock
Even if you don’t employ these standout apps, you’d be smart to utilize your device’s basic security capabilities. Sure, it might be a pain to require a password to unlock your device or to never store passwords in your apps, but you’ll be glad you bothered if your device is ever stolen.