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Focus@Will – Attention Amplifying music

Attention Amplifying MusicEvery Friday I try to share one of my favourite finds of the week – a web-site, tool or app that has impressed me.

My Friday Favourite this week is Focus@Will - a website that provides attention amplifying music to help you focus and which helps you tune out distractions.

Attention Amplifying music

Lots of us play background music while studying or working, but it’s often the wrong type of music which distracts us. Focus@Will delivers “Attention Amplifying” music channels through a web browser that are scientifically designed to engage with your brains limbic system, sooth distraction and increase attention to the task at hand.

Focus@Will also allows you to use the Pomodoro technique, setting a timer for 25 minutes (or more) to help you get started with a job and work in short bursts – a technique that I, as the worlds biggest procrastinator, have long been a fan of!

If you’re sceptical – and as somebody who has always found background music distracting, I was – then I’d urge you to try the 30 day free trial and see if it works for you. It did for me!

Focus@Will Founders Interview

Erik Fisher also has a really interesting interview with the Focus@Will founders, Will Henshall and Jeff Straw, in episode 76 of the Beyond the to To Do List Podcast - well worth listening to!

FireChat – Off the Grid Instant Messaging

FireChatEvery Friday I try to share one of my favourite finds of the week – a web-site, tool or app that has impressed me. My Friday Favourite this week is FireChat, an off the grid instant messaging App.

IM without an Internet connection

FireChat is an Instant Messaging app that – in the absence of Wireless or Mobile Internet connectivity – works by creating a mesh-network via Bluetooth that enables you to chat to fellow FireChat users. If you’ve ever been to a large concert or sports event and trying to communicate with friends in the vicinity, only to find the Wireless or Mobile Network is unavailable due to the volume of people nearby – FireChat could be useful for you. If you live in a part of the world where the Internet is monitored or restricted by Government, FireChat could be essential to maintaining anonymous communication. FireChat also enables live and anonymous discussion groups, of which there are many!

Multi Peer Mesh Networking

With Apple’s new multi peer mesh network capabilities likely to grow in prominence over the next few years, FireChat could offer a real insight into the next stage of networking.

Assistant.to – Schedule meetings within email in seconds

CalendarEvery Friday I try to share one of my favourite finds of the week – a web-site, tool or app that has impressed me.

My Friday Favourite this week is Assistant.to - a free tool that enables you to avoid email ping-pong and schedule meetings within email in seconds.

Scheduling Headaches

Assistant.to ScreenshotIf you’ve ever tried to find a mutually convenient time to meet with someone via email, then you’ll know that it often involves email ping-pong trying to find a time and date that suits you both.

While I’d typically suggest using the telephone instead of e-mail for these types of exchanges, Assistant.to gives you the ability to connect to your calendar, quickly select three time slots you are available, and send these as options to your contact. The recipient chooses one of the times that is convenient for them, clicks accept, and the appointment is scheduled within your diary. Simple!

Google Mail and Microsoft Outlook Support

Assistant.to currently works with Google Mail and will shortly be available for Microsoft Outlook too. You can follow Assistant.to on Twitter.

Thanks to James Kimbley of Kimbley IT for the suggestion!

 

photo credit: Mike Rohde via photopin cc

Agent – Do Not Disturb tool for Android

Agent for Android App logoEvery Friday I try to share one of my favourite finds of the week – a web-site, tool or app that has impressed me.

My Friday Favourite this week is Agent - Do Not Disturb. An App for Android devices that gives you the ability to automatically set “Do Not Disturb” parameters and much more!

Removing Distractions

I wrote recently that for the sake of your stress levels and productivity that you should remove distractions, not ignore them and Agent allows you to do exactly this.

Agent for Android App Features

Agent automatically saves your battery, silences your phone during meetings, remembers where you have parked, auto-responds when you’re driving and allows only urgent calls and messages through when you’re sleeping. In short, it handles most distractions without you having to lift a finger!

Conclusion

I’d say that Agent is a *must have* App for anybody using an Android device.

You can contact the Agent team on Twitter or download Agent from the Google Play store.

TEP Wireless – Travel abroad without Data roaming

TEP WirelessEvery Friday I try to share one of my favourite finds of the week – a web-site, tool or app that has impressed me. My Friday Favourite this week is TEP Wireless – a portable Wireless Access Point that allows you to travel abroad without incurring Data roaming charges.

International Data Roaming costs

I typically travel Internationally a few times a year and one of my pet peeves about such travel is staying online in a cost-effective manner. I’ve shared my thoughts on Why Hotel WiFi should be free but away from the hotel, the data roaming charges levied by mobile operators can make your eyes water.

For instance, T-Mobile (UK) charge customers £10 for 100MB of data – valid for 24 hours only. £10 for a days data, half of which will probably be eaten up as soon as you turn your Smartphone on and it starts downloading background updates – outrageous!

Kudos to UK Operator Three who recently introduced their “Feel At Home” package which allows customers to use their standard contract allowances in certain countries abroad – including the USA. If you’re visiting those countries included in your plan, then you can avoid roaming charges altogether. But for the rest of us who want to stay connected abroad, you’re facing hefty roaming charges, that is unless you opt to rent an International Wireless Access Point (AP) from TEP Wireless.

Renting a Wireless Access Point

TEP Wireless are an International hotspot rental company. In a nutshell, you let them know which country you’re visiting via their website, pay the charges upfront, and they’ll deliver to you at home – or your destination hotel, if you prefer – a small Wireless Access Point which you can then use at your destination to connect your Smartphone, Laptop, Tablet or any other Wireless devices to, giving those devices data access via the TEP AP rather than using expensive network data roaming.

Most popular destinations are covered - UK, USA, Australia, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, China and more – but there are some exceptions so it’s worth checking first.

Cost of Renting

TEP Wireless KitI travelled to Miami, Florida in the USA and ordered a TEP AP. Cost-wise, 7 days rental for the USA costs £31 – or £4.50 per day – for 150mb per day. Not too shabby, and a lot less than roaming charges levied by a mobile network.

Upgrades to unlimited data are also available from TEP Wireless for an extra fee.

Once my order was placed, I received email updates advising of the shipping status and two days before my trip the TEP AP was delivered to me at home.

The AP comes in a carry case and the device itself is small – about 10 cm big – making it easy to carry in a rucksack or pocket. The AP is charged via Micro USB cable, which is also included along with a power plug featuring local pins for the USA.

My wallet also contained a spare battery – which was a nice addition – and instructions on the name of the AP and password to allow you to connect devices to it.

Connecting to the TEP AP

Once in the USA, connecting my Smartphone to the AP was easy. As this is a Wireless AP rather than a new SIM card, you don’t need to be worried about your Smartphone being “unlocked” – just connect via WiFi as simply as connecting to any other Wireless AP in a Cafe or hotel.

Up to 5 devices can be connected to the AP in total and so I was able to share Wireless with my iPad and a couple of travelling friends who were otherwise facing network roaming charges. Obviously, the more devices you share the AP with, the slower the speeds you experience – but I’d suggest this isn’t a device for watching videos or listening to streaming music through, it’s there to keep you connected for email and web browsing, and it was good at just that.

Once back home, I popped the TEP AP in the provided pre-paid postage bag and shipped it back to TEP.

Conclusion

The alternative to either roaming charges or renting an AP from TEP would be to buy a local SIM card, but in some countries this isn’t always cost effective. There’s also the consideration that if you want to be connected to the Internet as soon as you get off a plane then having a TEP AP would be convenient.

As mobile carriers get pressured, roaming charges will drop – and the “Feel At Home” deal from Three that I mentioned earlier in this article will hopefully soon become the norm for all carriers. But until that time, and as somebody who likes to stay connected wherever I am – for work and pleasure – I’ll be renting a TEP AP when I travel abroad.

I’m intrigued to hear others who have used TEP, perhaps in other locations worldwide. What has your experience with TEP Wireless been? Please do leave a comment below!

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