App Review

Family Day Blog – Technologies That Keep Us Close!

Family Day Blog – Technologies That Keep Us Close!

Every second Monday in February, British Columbians celebrate Family Day. A relatively recent addition to the province’s list of statutory holidays, Family Day was created to give people a dedicated day off to spend with their loved ones.

In many ways, technology hinders us from spending “quality time” with family and friends. It seems that wherever we go, people are more focused on their mobile devices than each other. It’s therefore not surprising that spending quality time with someone – whether to romp outdoors, share a meal or just hang out – is usually synonymous with turning off, or least ignoring one’s iPhone and computer for the duration. That said, there are some ways in which technology can help bring families together.

Family Time-Management Apps

Simply Family Day Blog Cozi App

One of the biggest hurdles to families spending quality time together is actually finding the time to do so. Between school, sports, appointments, volunteering, hobbies and work, modern families are perpetually on the go. For busy lives like this, family time-management apps can help.

The primary purpose of these apps is to keep track of each family member’s schedule and merge them into a comprehensive calendar. But they can also remind us to schedule time for family activities and help identify when to slot this in. Furthermore, shared to-do lists and other tools can make everyone more efficient, leading to more free time for family-focused fun.

Praised by Parents, Working Mother and the Wall Street Journal, COZI is a front-runner in family organizer apps. The basic app is free, but COZI is also available in a paid version. (The main draw of the paid version is its lack of ads, which restrict the viewing space on your screen.)

Simply Family Day Blog Cozi App 1
    Here are some of COZI’s best features:
  • The shared calendar is colour-coded by family member for easy viewing. If looking at a whole month or week feels too daunting, COZI Today will sum up your day’s agenda at a glance.
  • You can set reminders for important calendar events and appointments.
  • There’s no limit to the number of shared lists you can create. List items can be prioritized and given due dates, which then show up in the calendar.
  • You can save recipes to create meal plans and whose ingredients can then be easily converted into a grocery list.
  • There’s a family journal area for saving photos and memories. These can remain private or be shared via email.
  • The app is available in web, Android and Windows versions as well as for your iPhone, iPad and Apple-based computer. There are also options for printing the calendars and to-do lists if hard copies are desired.

If COZI doesn’t work for you, other popular family time-management apps include Piniic and Hub.

Simply Family Day Blog Facetime App

Video Calling Apps

Sadly, we don’t all have the luxury of living near those to whom we are related. Thankfully, there are apps that can connect you to face-to-screen with Granny and cousin Bob whether they live in Ireland or Timbuktu.

Using your device’s front facing camera, video calling apps allow you to see the person with whom you are conversing and vice versa. Your choice of apps is dictated by the brands of the devices you are both using. Whatever app you use, it’s best be connected to Wifi during the call if possible since videos require lots of data.

On Apple products, Facetime is the go-to app for video chats. It comes pre-installed on newer-model iPhones and iPods, but must be enabled with an Apple ID during the initial device set-up or at a later date under Settings. There are two ways to use FaceTime. The first option is to initiate a regular phone call, then activate FaceTime to add the video component. Simply Family Day Blog Facetime App 2 Option two is to just make a FaceTime Audio call. A benefit of the second method is that it connects callers through Apple’s servers instead of eating up cell phone minutes.

FaceTime is Apple-compatible only. If the person you wish to call has an Android- or Windows-based device, you’ll need to use something else. Skype and WhatsApp are popular alternatives. They are both free and easy to set-up. Thanks for reading! That’s it from this weeks Simply Blog, we wish you all a happy Family Day!

By Danica Wong.

Get Organized this 2018 with ToDoist and Carrot

Organizing Your Way Through 2018 With ToDoist & Carrot

Get organized with ToDoist

Simply Blog ToDoist Icon With the starting of a new year, we take some time to reflect and find areas in our lives that require changing or making better, and often we want to become more organized and productive. Regardless of how apps try to promote themselves and their services, no one app is going to make you a Productivity Superstar, but I’ve found that by using ToDoist, I have been much more organized at work and better at finishing projects.

Straight off the bat, one of the great things about ToDoist is that it works across a wide gambit of platforms and devices. From the desktop (Windows and MacOS) to iOS devices (iPhone/iPad/Apple Watch) to web browsers (Safari/Firefox/Chrome), you can use the app wherever you need it and, for the most part, it looks and acts the same across them. You can even use it with smart home assistants like Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem. In short: it can work wherever you work from.

Simply Blog ToDoist Pic

Get healthy with Carrot

Simply Blog ToDoist Icon With New Year’s Resolutions, comes the usual goals most people make: I want to be healthier/more active this year. Or at the very least, something to that effect. But let’s be honest with ourselves: it’s a common target that rarely gets completed. But why is that? As people, we aren’t the greatest at reasonable goal setting. Because what does being healthier or more active really look like?? What needs changing?? The wording of a goal like that is rather lofty at best. Plus we need to figure out a benchmark to start from. It can be really overwhelming, plus with all the apps that are available to people to track their fitness or get healthier.

Who knows where to start?

Simply Blog Carrot Picture

But with Carrot Rewards, you have a tool that’ll help promote more activity in your life in a more manageable way with the ability to gain rewards for reaching your goals. This app is rather unique in the sea of health apps, even in the free apps department. Carrot Rewards is a partnership between the Ministry of Health, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the BC Healthy Living Alliance, and Social Change Rewards, along with NGO partners: YMCA Canada, Heart & Stroke Foundation, and the Canadian Diabetes Association. At the moment, it is only available to residents of British Columbia, Newfoundland, and Ontario but the plan is to have it be available to all Canadians.

The aim of the app is to help Canadians be better educated and create healthy and manageable changes in their health, both physical and mental, while offering meaningful incentives. You heard me! Along with pairing up with multiple organizations, Carrot Rewards offers its users point rewards to programs such as SCENE points, Aeroplan Miles, Petro-Points, or More Rewards. You can only have one reward program linked to your account, but it is better than having to sign up for yet ANOTHER loyalty reward system.
You get the points/rewards by not just completing your challenges but also by filling out surveys.

Simply Blog Carrot Picture These surveys will only show up in the app and they often take no more than 5 minutes, but their aim is to inform and educate Canadians about such topics as:
  • Nutrition, meal planning and grocery shopping
  • Physical activity and what’s right for you
  • Mental wellbeing and the connection between physical and mental health
  • Low risk drinking and smoke free environments
  • Clinic visits and regular flu shots

Now I picked SCENE as it is a better option for me in earning free movie passes in my area, but in the end, the choice is ultimately up to you. Usually the surveys will give you 5 to 20 points at a time, but at the end of the last year I did complete one worth 200 points! That’s all for this week’s app review, good luck with getting organized this year and stay tuned for more great app suggestions!

By Peggy De Bodt

Thinking of getting a Fitbit, say yes!

Thinking of getting a Fitbit, say yes!

By Barry Donnelly

With all the different devices available it is hard to decide which one is best for you. I won’t be covering that in this article but what I would like to share with you is my experience so far with the supporting smartphone app. I have just recently upgraded from a Fitbit Flex to a Flex 2. I have used my first Fitbit Flex on and off for the past 3 years. I have enjoyed using it but there have been times when using it has felt more like a chore. However that has changed very recently and I have started to enjoy my Fitbit again, the primary reason for this is the Fitbit App.

In my opinion, it is one of the best features about having a Fitbit. Of course, there are some really great features such as heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, music control, call and text notifications, and steps and calories counting from the wide range of Fitbit products available. However, the app brings all this information together and this is where I have found considerable enjoyment with it and it has also increased my competitive streak. When you first download the app you will be asked to provide the usual information such as birthday, height, and weight. Once you have filled this in you can then have fun with setting up some goals.

Health Data Everywhere
This allows you to input your daily step goal. The general recommendation is to walk 10,000 steps per day. I would recommend setting this as your goal as you will be able to judge your level of activity after a few days. Once you have an understanding of how many steps you usually take you can then adjust accordingly. I would suggest that if you are lower than 10,000 set a more appropriate goal and then work up to the 10,000 steps.


You can also set a goal for the number of minutes you would like to be active. Active minutes are calculated using metabolic equivalents (METSs). METs help measure the energy expenditure of various activities and can be used as indicators for exercise intensity. A MET of 1 is a body at rest. So you will earn active minutes when your MET is on or above 3.

There are also options to set your exercise goals and my favourite which is tracking your Sleep.


Within this section, you can set your “Time Asleep” goal (adults are recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night). You can also set a target sleep schedule of when you want to aim to go to sleep and wake up. There is even an option to set a reminder for when it is getting close to your bedtime. The app also allows you to adjust your sleep settings in two modes;
  • Normal: this counts significant movement as being awake(rolling over) and is fine for most users
  • Sensitive: this will result in your device recording nearly all of your movements. This setting may be helpful for users who wake up feeling tired even though their sleep history shows sufficient rest.
Another cool feature is the option for setting a silent alarm. There is nothing worse than unexpectedly waking up to the sound of your alarm. You can set a silent alarm on your device, just go to the dashboard and hit the + button. This will then set your device to vibrate at your desired alarm time. This is considerably better than getting startled out of your bed (although that is needed sometimes). If one of the reasons you purchased a Fitbit was to help you lose weight there is also a section within the app which will let you log the food and liquids you consume on a daily basis. It can even use your camera to scan the barcode of food products for ease of entry and customizable entries.

Competitive Streak
The app allows you to enlist your family, friends, and colleagues to compete in a number of different step competitions. You will be comparing your daily and weekly steps against them and believe me since some of us in the office have started doing this the competition is fierce but friendly.

There are four different challenges; Goal Day, Workweek Hustle, Daily Showdown and Weekend Warrior. You also have the ability to Cheer or Taunt your friends, I have issued more taunts than cheers at the moment (I am quite competitive).


When you win a challenge you get a badge which then goes on your profile (more bragging rights) and as you clock up those steps you will be rewarded with more badges such as the India badge which is rewarded for walking the length of India which is 3,213 km.

The app will allow you to add 2-10 friends into a challenge however if you want to add more you can do this on the website. We have set this one up and for the first 8 days in February all of the Simply Computing staff have taken 1.15 million steps and travelled 853km.

If you are still undecided about what device to purchase why not download the Fitbit App (compatible with iPhone 5S and later) and try it out. You will have limited features but it at least it will give you an idea of what it is like to use the app and also what data you may find useful. The Fitbit Mobile-Track lets you track basic health and fitness activity including steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned.

If you are unsure of what device is right for you why not call into one of our stores today and our staff will be happy to assist finding the one that is right for you. Alternatively you can go find out more information about the trackers here.

Gift Guide 2016 Part 2


Gift Guide 2016 Part 2

By Barry Donnelly

The holiday season is in full swing and we have had lots of snow and ice to add to the festive atmosphere. Last week we suggested some gift ideas which would be perfect for your family and friends. We did promise some more suggestions and here are our tops picks for this week.

  • Apple TV – This is the perfect addition to any room in your house. Check out our previous blog for a more detailed description of why it’s the right choice. (link to apple tv blog post)
  • Sonos Play:1 – Perfect for that friend or relative who loves music. The app gives you access to all of you streaming services (ie. Apple Music, Spotify), internet radio, podcasts, audiobooks and your own selection of music. The Play:1 is also humidity resistant so you can enjoy in places such as the bathroom and outdoor patios.
  • Star Wars Themed portable Battery Packs – This is a 2600mAh portable battery pack that is small and light and will give you up to 1.5 charges* ( *This is based on the battery capacity of an iPhone SE, charging capabilities on other models may vary)
  • Logiix Blue Piston Bluetooth Speakers – This speaker is a great stocking filler and provides good sound for its size and it has enough battery for up to 7 hours music playback. There is also a built-in microphone which will allow to receive and make hands-free calls.
To view last weeks gift ideas please click here.

Now that you have got your gifts checked off your holiday list here are some apps that will hopefully help you unwind and bring some festive cheer to family and friends.

Please note if you are any way competitive please disregard the previous sentence.

Super Mario Run

Super Mario Run, one of the most hotly anticipated apps of the year, has arrived and is now available to download. In preparation for this blog, I have had to endure hours of endless fun to give my opinions on this AMAZING game. The arrival of Mario on iOS is a big deal as it is the first game that Nintendo has created for iOS devices (although Pokémon Go was created by Niantic, which Nintendo has a stake in). You can download it for Free but this only gives you access to the first three levels but if you want to unlock everything you will need to pay $13.99. This will give you access to 24 courses over six worlds. Think of it as an early gift to yourself.

The gameplay is very similar to past Mario games. The game involves running through a virtual world and avoiding enemies and those dreaded gaps while collecting as many coins as possible. One of the main changes is that Mario runs automatically which gives you more time to jump and concentrate on collecting coins.

There are three modes in which you can play Super Mario Run: World Tours, Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder. World Tour is where I have spent all my time and I am sure you will do the same. This mode involves going from the start to the point where your reach the flagpole. Along the way, you will collect coins and eliminate or jump over enemies.

There are two other modes, Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder. I have yet to explore these levels but Toad Rally allows you to compete against other players. Kingdom Builder allows you to create your own corner of the Mushroom Kingdom. You use the coins you collect to buy buildings and decorations. I have played it on the iPad and one thing to note is that the game is designed to be used vertically rather than horizontally. I have just downloaded it onto my iPhone so will be using this as it’s much easier to play.

One important thing to note is that the game can only be played while you have an internet connection. Nintendo indicates that the online connectivity will allow users to experience a wide range of features and services that will enhance the gameplay experience. Not ideal if you have gone through your monthly data allowance or if are traveling on an airplane.

One thing that is very obvious from the outset is that it is really addictive and I will find it even harder to put my phone down. I would suggest finding a nice quiet corner of your home and allowing at least 2 two hours to enjoy it.

During our Thanksgiving blog, we covered some apps that can be enjoyed with family and friends make sure to take a look at some suggestions for family fun. Here are some that have a more festive feel:

NORAD Santa Tracker

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-3-14-10-pm This app is designed to allow families to track Santa and his reindeer during his epic journey on 24th December. This app has lots of cool features such as the Santa Tracker countdown, games, music, and history about NORAD. On December 24th NORAD has approx 1200 volunteers answering over 100,000 phone calls and responding to emails from children looking to track the man in red.

Snow Fight

Snow Fight If you want to enjoy the fun of a snowball fight without having the leave your chair, then this is the game for you. Here you have 4 different zones which you can play and there are different levels of difficulty within each zone. It’s definitely worth downloading for free and having some frustrating fun for a few hours.

While these apps are primarily played in single player mode Heads Up! Is a game which can be played by all the family.

Heads Up!

icon-headsup-3 This is the hilarious game that Ellen DeGeneres plays on her show. The aim of the game is to guess the card that is on your head. In this instance, you will hold your phone or tablet against your forehead. It’s essentially reverse charades, you will hold the device against your forehead, on the screen will be the name of something (celebrity, song, movie animal) and your family will have to describe to you what it is and you need to use these clues to guess what it is.

While some of the topics may not be that difficult one of the hardest parts is remembering which way you tilt the screen if you need to pass or if you get the correct answer.

Oh and it also records your family providing the clues and this is probably more entertaining than the guessing. It is definitely worth spending the $1.39 to have access to a wide range of topics.

On behalf of all the staff here at Simply Computing, we would like to wish you and your family happy holidays and a very happy new year!

Thanksgiving fun with the family


Thanksgiving fun with the family

By Barry Donnelly

Thanksgiving can evoke many different thoughts for people. Some think about the food preparation (turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce), the great dinner table debates or the leftovers, while others dread the thought of spending time with their in-laws or finding ways to keep the children occupied. I am sure that you could add much more! The great thing about Thanksgiving is that it allows us to take a step back and enjoy time with family and friends. Sometimes spending the entire day with your family can be difficult and stressful, especially when everybody has their eyes on their phone, tablet, or computer. So here are a few ways in which technology can bring the family together and provide hours of entertainment.


Fun Fact: There are approximately over one million selfies taken every day and the country that loves selfies the most is Australia followed by the US in second and Canada in third.

No doubt you and many of your family members will participate in taking selfies at the dinner table and at various other stages over Thanksgiving weekend. There are quite a number of apps availble that will enhance your selfie-taking abilities so rather than go through a number of them, I will tell you about my favourite.

Snapchat (Free to download)

This is one of the most popular apps that can help you get creative with your selfies. There are over 60 million daily users of Snapchat in Canada and the US alone. Here are some examples of what we created in the office this week. There are lots of cool filters that you can use and one which is very popular is the Face Swap option. See if you can spot a certain Mr.Tim Cook?

There are so many more creative ways to edit your selfies:
  • Filters – these can be time, location and temperature based but there are many more options available
  • Draw – you can draw over your videos or photos with a wide spectrum of colour options
  • Text- you can add text to your selfie
img_4876img_4877img_4874img_4872 After you have taken and enhanced your selfies why not share them with the family so they can get a giggle out of what you have created.

Sharing your Photos


A great way to share all your Thanksgiving memories with family and friends is to set up iCloud Photo Sharing. This is a fantastic way to share your memories and it also stops you from having to pass your iPhone or iPad around the dinner table for everybody to take a look.

Go to the Photos App on your Apple device, if you are using an iOS device follow these steps:
  • Open the Photos App.
  • Select the Cloud symbol on the bottom of the screen.
  • If this is your first time setting it up it will ask you to create a name for your shared album – “Thanksgiving 2016” could be an appropriate name for this.
  • You can then choose who you would like to invite. Please note that the people you invite need to have an Apple ID so that they can sign into the album.
  • Add the photos/videos you would like to share. Do this by selecting the photo/video and press the “Share” button and select iCloud Photo Sharing.
  • A dialog box will then open which will allow you to post a comment (this is optional).
  • Select ‘Post’ and addressees will receive an invitation to subscribe to your shared album.
  • Once someone has joined they will be notified when new images are added to the album.
  • There is also an option to like and add comments to the photo.
The people that you subscribe to the album will have the ability to post and add photos/videos to the album. It is probably best to allow everybody have this capability so that all your memories can be uploaded and shared within the family. You can add and remove subscribers by selecting the People tab within the shared album. Anybody with access to a shared album can download and keep a photo. All you need to do is tap on the photo, select Share and Save Image. Please note that you can only save shared videos on a Mac or PC. Now that your memories of Thanksgiving will be shared across family member’s devices it now time to have some Thanksgiving fun. What better way to do this than participating in some competitive family board games.  

4 in a Row (free to download)

This is a perfect game to play right before dinner. It will get ignite the competitive streak in any family member. Perhaps you could get some practice in by challeging online opponents or playing the virtual player. This is will get you warmed up and ready to become Thanksgiving Day Champion all before dinner has started.

Checkers (free to download)

Moving up the strategy ladder and you can get involved in Checkers. Again there are single or dual player capabilities. There are 5 levels of difficulty and it even allows you to listen to your own music while playing. Perhaps you could find out the type of music that your family members dislike and use this as a distraction when challenging them!

Charades (free to download)

I don’t think Thanksgiving would be complete without a game of charades. Spilt the family down the middle and get guessing. With over 45 themed decks to choose from  and with no player limit this is the ultimate family challenge which can be played across iPad, iPhone and iPod touch devices. Choose from movies, science, television, music plus many more. Just tilt your device to draw a card and tilt up to pass. There are many versions on the App Store so select one that you prefer.

Tennis Champs Returns (free to download)

This game for those of you who need to unwind in the evening when everybody has left and you finally sit down to relax. This is a typical arcade game in that you it will take some time to adjust to the controls but once you figure it out your real journey begins. This game offers some incredibly intense moments, some fiercely competitive opponents and it rewards progress with increased levels of skill.  You have a number of game options, Career Mode, Exhibition mode, 2 Player mode and Daily Challenge. I would advise to start with Career mode right away and get warmed up because you may not be going to sleep. You can gain coins when you win you matches or complete daily challenges. You will spend them quite quickly when entering career events so I would suggest playing as normal and determine if you like the gameplay and setup. If you are happy with this, purchase the VIP package in the game and it will remove the ads, double your XP in career and also mean you don’t need to spend coins when entering Career events.

Simply Computing cannot be held responsible for any disagreements or family feuds which may be caused from downloading and playing the apps mentioned above. 😉

Peak Finder

Peak Finder

Whether you’re an avid mountaineer or leisurely stroller, everyone has had that moment of confusion while trying to distinguish between different tectonically formed land masses.

By Alex Smiciklas

These of course are mountains. And if you’re a BC resident, you’re used to seeing a lot of them. It can be difficult enough determining Cypress from Grouse, let alone bickering over the dozens of peaks nestled away from the coast. PeakFinder solves this, so that you never have to question another mountain range again. This Earth spanning app was first created in 2010 for the nature lover and to pique interest in exploring the great outdoors, all the way from Mount Seymour to Mount Everest.

Peak Finder Screenshot If you’re in the city, up a mountain, or just about anywhere, you can use the PeakFinder app to find the name, height and location of just about any peak in the world. With a simple black and white interface, the app moves panoramically with you which means all you have to do is point your phone towards an unknown peak, and click. The app is also customizable with a changing elevation option for narrowing your choices to lower or higher mountains, as well as a binocular setting which zooms in to find more surrounding peaks blind to the untrained eye.

Even if this app can’t help you find your way through a forest, it does run offline anywhere in the world. So if you’re thousands of feet up in the air with no cell service, you can still use the app to identify the peaks below you. Make sure to check out PeakFinder this Canada Day, it makes for a great outdoor accessory with just about any adventure.

Peak Finder Earth
View on the App store