App of the Month – ACM Digital Library

Conference proceedings and society newsletters are notoriously tricky to locate in library discovery layers. As with serials in general, conferences can change names to reflect changes within disciplines, not to mention all those society and conference acronyms. All of which poses not insignificant challenges when searching for such content.

The ACM Digital Library app from the Association for Computing Machinery goes a long way to answering this need. It’s a really great way to get to the journals, magazines, newsletters, and conference proceedings published by the ACM. Content on their main platform is mirrored on their app and full text is available to McGill as part of our ACM Digital Library subscription. Released for iPad, iPhone, Android, and Windows devices, this is a free app but users must first sign up for a personal account with ACM using their McGill email address.

The strength of this app is really the streamlined discovery interface offering both browsing and searching content. Its display, text font and size make for easy reading, whether on pad or phone (I tried both), and the app includes links and search options for upcoming conferences with general information, organizers (for example, who is the Program Chair for TEI ’16?) and schedule, where available.

User-customization is also offered. Icon links to favourite ACM journals, magazines or newsletters can be added to the app homepage screen, and binders can be created for reading lists and downloaded articles which are then available offline. Users can also post comments to other app users and share to Facebook or Twitter.

As nothing is ever entirely perfect…there are two caveats which should be mentioned:

  1. This app consistently froze on my iPad if I tried to do anything else (such as change apps, or following a screen lock). Basically, minimizing the app to switch to another one, will make it freeze when re-displayed. I didn’t notice the same problem on Android but on an iPad, you have to swipe away the app to unfreeze it and start over, highly annoying to say the least! Hopefully a future update will take care of the issue.
  2. I found that although the app had my account recorded in the settings, I wasn’t permitted to download full-text at some point. Logging in to my account on the main ACM Digital Library site seemed to reinitialize the app under my login and full-text access was immediately restored. Like the frozen app issue, this was rather frustrating to have to deal with.

That being said, it’s still one of my favourite apps, due mainly to the well-designed interface and attractive text display.

5 apps for relaxation

Let’s face it, this time of year can be stress-inducing: exams, projects to complete, holidays, New Year’s resolutions!

We do have activities at the libraries that can help. For instance, the dogs will be visiting us, we have puzzle corners, knit knacks, and we’ll be opening the games exhibit for a fun afternoon next week at Schulich Library (Wednesday, noon – 2:30 pm). If you are never without your mobile device, you might also find these apps soothing.

I love to recommend apps that are not only on my phone but that are actually getting some use. Here are five free iOS apps that I regularly go to to lower my blood pressure:

1) TaoMix: This is where you build your own relaxing sound mix. Select different types of sounds, from birds and insects, rain and wind, to city and human noises (human heart), and then move each sound closer to or further from the inner circle to affect the volume. You can move on to other things and the mix will play on. I like the fire camp (it’s getting cold outside).

2) Pocket Pond: Drag and drop fish and lily pads onto your pond (and maybe take a few deep breaths). Create ripples in the water and feed your fish or just listen to the sounds of nature. For a little excitement turn the thunderstorm on from the options under ‘i’. There is now a Pocket Pond 2 but it is asking me to feed the fish every day and I can’t handle that kind of pressure right now.

3) Colorfy: A colouring book app for adults. It would be great to have time to colour in an actual book but this app does the trick. Choose from categories of pictures, including florals, animals, and gardens.

4) Jigsaw Puzzle: Jigsaw puzzles relax me but it is tough to live around a puzzle on the dining room table. Try this app with a daily free puzzle and other free puzzles. Alter the puzzle sizes up to 225 pieces and scatter loose pieces outside of the play area.

5) Paperama: I have a lot of games that I turn to to clear my mind but they can end up being pretty stressful. This paper folding game is nice and gentle. Give it a try. (As a bonus, if you love cats and you have some time to kill, try Nom Cat!).

Alarmy (Sleep If U Can) app

A common nightmare most students have and it is likely to follow them years after graduation is oversleeping on exam day. Every student rely on a different strategy in order to make sure, they are on-time to their exam. I remember when I used  several different alarm clocks which were set to go off at intervals of 15 minutes. So if I turned one of them off without really waking up, I waked up when the next alarm went off. Of course, it was a long time ago.

I have started using Alarmy (Sleep If U Can) app. Apparently, it is called the “World’s Most Annoying Alarm App” but it works. It basically forces you to wake up on-time. It is a neat alarm app since there are 4 methods on how you choose to turn off your alarm.
1) take a photo – The photo must be the same photo you took when you set the alarm; 2) shake your phone the number of times you set to shake your phone when the alarm goes off; 3) solve a math problem – You can choose the level of difficulty when you set your alarm. You can also choose the number of math problems you must answer in order to turn off the alarm; and 4) the boring default method (i.e. like any other alarm clocks).

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I usually take the photo of my coffee machine when I set my alarm. In the morning, I must go to my coffee machine to take the same picture to turn the alarm off. While I am there, I make my coffee and I have no excuse to turn of the alarm without waking up.

Google Play /  Apple Store

Overall

Pros:

  • Very original
  • Effective
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Not all features might be known to new users. Under the setting make sure “Auto silence” is off and “picture sensitivity’, “Shake sensitivity’, and ‘Alarm volume’ are set to an appropriate levels.
  • It is not free for iPhone users. It costs $2.29 on Apple Store.
  • The ads are annoying.