Receiptmate for iPhone: My TidBITS Review

It’s a handy little app:

The ideal Receiptmate user would be an individual just starting out in the paperless world and looking to track expenditures for personal reasons — if your employer requires you to submit expense reports in specific formats or enter receipts into an invoice management system, Receiptmate may not meet your needs. However, for those of us who are just looking to do something with our receipts rather than throwing them out or letting them pile up, Receiptmate's simplicity and focus are compelling.

Sleevenote for iOS

I wrote a pretty great review of Sleevenote for iOS for The Industry, even if I do say so myself.

In short, this is an app for music lovers who really care deeply about their collection. The interface is noteworthy: with a completely black background and no UI chrome at all, the artwork of your albums becomes the interface. I'm a big fan.

(If you read Chasing Perfection because you're an audiophile like myself, be sure to read on to find out how I use Sleevenote on my iOS devices. I use it with iTunes Match in a pretty clever way.)

Sunrise for iPhone Launches

I had the pleasure of reviewing this new app over at The Industry. Whilst it isn’t replacing Fantastical on my phone, it’s a great app which I can see many people enjoying:

If an event has an address associated with it, Sunrise offers to give you directions. This is a feature I’ve wanted in a calendar app for as long as I can remember. There’s even a preference to choose between Apple or Google Maps services, provided you have Google Maps installed on your iPhone. This saves me a lot of time — I no longer have to remember an address and copy it into Maps from my Calendar. It’s all much more seamless.

Review: 4 Unbranded Bean Bags for Writing Use

I find myself always keen to find better ways to write. Whether it’s using different apps or working in a completely different location, chances are I’ve tried it, or thought about trying it.

After recently reading Matt Gemmell’s excellent article about writing tools, I decided I should heed his advice and pick up a bean bag to help me think whilst writing. This is how Matt uses his:

I repeatedly throw it up at the ceiling and catch it, and it’s strangely therapeutic. I can often resolve a narrative, structural or inspiration issue within a few minutes, using this. It’s my first port of call when I freeze up during writing, and I use it to recharge my brain during an editing session.

I don’t write in quite the same way Matt seems to: my approach is much more “spew out as many words as possible for half an hour, then edit and refine until everything makes sense”. The bean bag comes in handy primarily whilst refining.

Unfortunately, I had to buy a set of four bean bags, rather than just one. As I’d predicted before the bags arrived, my go-to writing bean bag is the blue one. My second favourite colour bag is red. I find the green and yellow to look reasonably unpleasant: I don’t really want them sitting on my desk.

Throwing a bean bag up to just below the ceiling is an extremely fun game to play, which takes my mind off what I’m currently writing about. After a minute or so playing like this, I often find myself having “eureka!” moments, whereby I realise exactly which word I was looking for. This is why I bought them; they delivered what I was expecting. Your mileage may vary.

The bean bags fit in my hand well and have surprisingly similar proportions to an iPhone 5: if you want a size guide, the bean bags are approximately 10cm wide by 15.5cm long. The iPhone 5 is about 5.75cm wide and 12.5cm long. The smell of the bean bags wasn’t pleasant initially, but I’ve had my blue bag out in the open for less than a week so far and the smell is starting to fade. I imagine any odd, artificial smells will completely disappear within a month.

The texture of the beans is firmer than I expected. To give a rough impression of what each bean feels like, imagine a dodecahedron made from tough plastic, about a quarter the size of a pea. The beans are not round; when squeezed tightly and played with in my fingers, “clicks” can be heard as the beans pop past each other. When talking about the entire bag though, the individual texture of one bean becomes largely irrelevant. Together the bag feels about half-full of beans, giving it a pleasant weight and texture. Squeezing the bag as tightly as possible doesn’t result in an uncomfortable feeling and I’m not the slightest bit worried about the bag splitting.

My favourite, the blue bean bag.

Overall, even though I’m primarily using just one of the packaged four bean bags, I’m happy having paid £5.83 including delivery. I’m pleased about the purchase and I recommend these specific bean bags if you’re looking for writing help. They’ll also be fine for more traditional bean bag use, I’m sure.

Orange Tiny Terror Combo: My Tone

I've had this Tiny Terror Combo (the 12" variety) for a couple of months now and I adore it. I'm working on a full review, but until then, here's a quick preview of some of the tones available through the amp.

My favourite feature of this valve amp is how I can roll back the volume knob on my guitar to get a clean tone. My only previous experience with guitar amps has been with the solid state variety, and boy, this blows them all away.

Throughout this entire recording, the only effects I use are a Cry Baby Wah pedal (you'll be able to figure out where that kicks in) and a BOSS Blues Driver pedal for some extra punch. I only use the Blues Driver pedal for a small section around the Muse-esque part of the following recording. Almost all of the recording was solely with the amp, and different settings on my Ibanez guitar.

I hope you can excuse both my awful playing and the not-so-great quality of this recording. Believe it or not, this was recorded on my iPhone 5. I'm planning to pick up a more professional microphone in the coming months, but this will have to do for now.

These are the settings on the amp. I didn't change any throughout the entire recording. I've experimented a lot, but find that these work best for me.

If you're looking for a more in-depth look at Orange amps (or anything guitar related), I highly recommend RobChappers' YouTube channel. Especially this Orange Tiny Terror series video and this Jim Root Dark Terror video. The audio in RobChappers' well-produced reviews is much higher quality than mine.