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10 Great Free Apps for Blackberry

10 Great Free Apps for Blackberry

10 Great Free Apps for Blackberry

    Blackberries may have been overshadowed lately by the success of the iPhone, but they still offer and incredibly powerful platform.Plus, since the Blackberry operating system is build on Java and has always been open, there are a slew of useful and mature applications, many of which are free. Since I’m a cheapskate when it comes to software, I’ve loaded up my Blackberry Curve with a boatload of free programs. Here are the ones I use the most:

    1. Google Mobile

    Google Mobile is an all-in-one package combining Google’s excellent mobile apps (Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Sync) with links to Google’s mobile-optimized web services (search, Picasa, Reader, Docs, Google Notebook, etc.). Although Blackberry’s already handle email fairly well, I find the Gmail application a much more comfortable way to access email. The Maps application does everything you can do with Google Maps on your PC (search, get directions, switch to satellite view, and so on), plus it will use either the nearest cell tower or, if you have a GPS-enabled phone, GPS to pinpoint your location. The Sync app lets you do a two-way synchronization between the calendar on your Blackberry and Google Calendar. The rest of the links open services in Blackberry’s integrated web browser, although in some cases with limited functions compared to their PC-based equivalents (Google Docs, for example, are read-only). All in all, this is an incredible piece of productivity software, one I use probably a dozen times a day.

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    2. iSkoot

    iSkoot puts the power of Skype on your mobile phone. You can send and receive voice calls to and from other Skype users or using SkypeIn and SkypeOut services, and believe it or not the sound quality is pretty good, even on AT&T’s slow 2G network. iSkoot gets all your contacts from Skype, making it a breeze to use. Of course, you can also IM with text. Calls received are handled by the Blackberry exactly like traditional cell calls, using the same controls and the same ringtone, so it’s really indistinguishable from using your mobile phone normally. I have a SkypeIn phone number for my professional life; iSkoot lets me stay connected even when I’m away from my computer.

    3. Viigo

    Although I generally use Google Reader for my RSS feeds, Viigo is a nice alternative – and adds several nice options Google Reader (and most other RSS readers) don’t. The new beta lets you set up weather, sports, finance, and travel alerts, get updates from local Kijiji classifieds (if it serves your area), even get free book feeds from DailyLit. And there’s even a space – inactive for now – for podcast feeds, which developers promise will be enabled soon, letting you download your favorite audio podcasts over the air. All this in a beautiful and very easy-to-use interface – what more could you ask for?

    4. BeeTag

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    Scan it and see what it says!

      This is a new addition to my Blackberry and, I admit, one that I haven’t found much use for yet – but it’s only a matter of time. The app is called BeeTag, and it is a 2-D barcode reader that uses your Blackberry’s camera to scan those square-shaped codes (like the one next to this paragraph) that are popping up on more and more products, as well as in ads and other places. Already huge in Japan, these 2-D codes can contain a URL, product information, or other material; BeeTag reads the code and sends you to the website indicated or displays the text. Even though you have to get quite close to fill the frame enough for BeeTag to read it – which means a blurry image – BeeTag could read everything I threw at it, including codes captured from my laptop’s screen.

      5. Vlingo

      Voice-enable your Blackberry with Vlingo, which goes beyond voice-dialing to voice-texting and even voice-emailing. Vlingo takes over one of your Blackberry’s application keys (my Curve has two, one on each side; I’ve assigned it to the one on the right, the one that controls the camera by default). Hold the key down, say a command, and Vlingo goes to work. For example, I say “Send email to Bob Smith subject You’re an idiot Message You forgot to take the coffee off your car’s roof as you drove away” and Vlingo creates an email reading “You forgot to take the coffee off your car’s roof as you drove away” with the subject line “You’re an idiot” and the email address from Bob Smith from my Blackberry’s address book. You can search the web, update your Facebook status, create tasks and memos, even open built-in applications and a handful of third-party Vlingo-enabled apps, all using your voice.

      6. WebMessenger

      You can IM through Skype using iSkoot, but if your contacts aren’t mainly on Skype, WebMessenger allows you to chat on just about any major IM network: AOL, Google, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Skype, and Yahoo. Contact lists are imported from the appropriate service, and just like a full chat client, you can see who’s online, set your status, and of course chat all you want. You’ll need to set up a master login account with WebMessenger; after that, it will stay logged in and run in the background.

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      7. Mobipocket Reader

      Blackberry screens aren’t the best for e-book reading – that’s one thing I miss about my old Palm Zire 72, with its great big color screen – but Mobipocket Reader makes the best of what it has to work with, providing a decent if not brilliant reading experience. The .mobi file format is becoming the de facto e-book standard for mobile devices, so there are lots of titles available for purchase, as well as the normal range of classic texts available for free. Or you can convert PDFs or Word files on your PC and transfer them over. The program is easy to use and fairly easy to read, though not many lines fit on the Blackberry’s screen at once. You can also add annotations, although strangely you can’t add bookmarks to return easily to important passages. Still, Mobipocket lets me keep a couple of e-books available for those times when I get caught with time to kill and nothing to do, and for that I’m grateful.

      8. Twitterberry

      Blackberry’s are great for sending text messages, so of course they’re great for sending tweets on Twitter. Twitterberry makes it easy, letting you access your friend’s timelines – collectively or individually – as well as all your replies and direct messages. Of course, sending messages is a piece of cake, too. My only complaint is that messages are previewed, with only the first 40 characters or so visible in each timeline screen, so you have to click them individually to read them in their entirety. Even with that, though, Twitterberry is still a far better experience than using the Twitter site through the Blackberry’s slow browser.

      9. Poynt

      Poynt is a slick local search app now in beta for the Blackberry. Poynt does local yellow page searches so you can find businesses near you, and has an excellent movie listings feature that lets you find movies near you, theaters near you, or browse by genre or review the current top 10. You can enter your location manually or, if your phone has GPS, let Poynt pinpoint your location automatically. Poynt also integrates with Blackberry Maps to provide directions – alas, AT&T, in its infinite wisdom, has determined that I (and the rest of its customers) should not use Blackberry Maps. I’m sure it’s very cool…

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      Fortunately, Google Mobile includes Google Maps so I can get all the directions I need!

      10. Facebook

      You like Facebook, right? C’mon, admit it – you want to Facebook all the time. And well you should – you have a Blackberry, after all! The Facebook app makes it easy to send messages, see your updates, and poke poke poke all day long, and that’s pretty darn important, isn’t it?

      Your favorites?

      Those are the apps I’m getting a lot of use out of – what about you? What are your favorite Blackberry apps, free or paid? Let us know all about it in the comments!

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      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

      The Neurology of Ownership

      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

      More About Goals Setting

      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

      Reference

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