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How to achieve your New Year’s Resolution

So what’s your new year resolution then? Stop smoking? Lose weight? Save money? Hmm, save money. There’s one we all we all need to do.

According to a survey by Go Compare, a sizeable 34% of us want to save money and reduce outgoings in 2013. Read Report

I did my online supermarket order last week and noticed that a pack of popular sausages had gone up 50p since New Year. We are a family of 5. I did some sums and realised very quickly that if all my weekly basics are going up in price then I either need a hefty lottery win or savings need to be made.

So, we’ve spent the national debt of a small country on Christmas and I take the kids out for the day to mark then end of the Christmas holidays.

“Can I have a hot chocolate?” they chorus.
“No, you won’t drink it, ” says Practical Mummy.
“Can I have an ice cream?” they say one after the other.
“No, it’s January and we’re outside and it’s freezing,” says Spoilsport Mummy.
“Can we get something in the gift shop?” shout the over-excited brood.
“NO! Santa’s just been,” says Exasperated Mummy.

On the drive home I thought about how much I’d have spent if I’d caved in to their every whim.
3 x hot chocolate = £4.50.
3 x ice cream = £3.
3 x gift shop = at least £10.
That’s, in effect a saving of £17.50. Wow, get me.

I get home and my husband says, look at this new app we’re developing. After much technical chat where I glaze over and remember I forgot to buy ketchup this week, he tells me that it’s an app to help me save money. Ears pricking up at this, he tells me that I can set this app up and every time I decide NOT to buy something, be it as small as a coffee or as big as designer jeans, I can log it on the app. At the end of the week it will tell me how much I have saved by not buying something and I can transfer that money from my bank account to my savings account for that magical trip to Lapland. How easy is that?

Toolbox have been working with Tap Digital for OrSaveIt to help us all achieve our New Year Resolution. So, take a look, have a go and let us know this time next year how much you managed to save towards you mate’s stag do, that trip to Disneyland or that impractical pair of shoes you’ve been pining for for months!

Happy Saving!

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Broccoli Wiggins

So, the summer is here. At last, we all shout together!

I have successfully used Time Alive to help the children countdown to our summer holiday and our Olympic trip to see the basketball and I’m now using the Olympic Countdown app to make sure I don’t miss out on sports that haven’t quite made it into the Radio Times. I didn’t miss the BMX today, thanks to the app! And what an Olympics we are having! Isn’t it brilliant? I was shouting and cheering at the Dressage this afternoon and am currently trying to persuade our eldest son that if he wants to be the next Bradley Wiggins then fruit and vegetables really need to become a large part of his diet and that just a token effort of a banana a day isn’t quite the way he needs to go.

I have the Olympic Countdown app set for the closing ceremony on Sunday, just in case! And after that? Well, what am I going to do? I’ll need something to focus on, we’re all going to feel a bit empty after seven years of hype, aren’t we? Start force-feeding broccoli into my son to keep the Olympic dream alive? I’ll keep you posted!

Broccoli Wiggins

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Go, Team GB!

So, the Olympics are nearly upon us! Have you got tickets? We were lucky enough to get Basketball tickets and the children are beyond excited and have been using Time Alive to countdown to the day we go.

It’s turned out to be quite a handy little app. Having young children who always ask, “How many sleeps til my birthday?” can be quite wearing so we use Time Alive to help them count. It works for Christmas which, yes, they are asking about already, holidays and other events we are going to. What I haven’t used it for yet, is the, “Are we nearly there yet?” question. I’ll set that up for our holiday so that our youngest, and most impatient, child can count the minutes until we are there!

Our Olympic countdown app gives you the dates of all the medal winning events at the Olympics so if you’re not that bothered about the Triple Jump but want to see the final of the Pole Vault but can’t find it in the TV listings, then use this app to help you.

Enjoy the games everyone. Go Team GB!

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Daddy Pig and a Photographic Memory

My daughter had a friend over to play yesterday.  She’s only 5 and was little nervous as she’d never been here before and the tears came.  Her mum was invited too to help the nerves.  Along with my daughter’s friend came her lovely eight year old brother.  He is autistic and has no speech but communicates through sounds, gestures and Macaton sign language and above all, has an amazing memory. Everywhere he goes he takes his iPad.  It is his, and his families’, lifeline.  The iPad is full of his favourite films and cartoons, Toy Story, Ice Age, Tom and Jerry, Peppa Pig and the like.  He knows exactly where his favourite parts are, can fast forward to the precise moment and the watch and rewatch and rewatch until he is ready to move on.  It was fascinating to watch him.  He was so fast.

He not only uses the iPad for distraction and enjoyment, he seems to be able to communicate through it too.  Just last week he was watching Tom and Jerry while they were in the car.  The car came to an abrupt stop and just for conversation’s sake, mum said to the children, “Oh no, we’re in a traffic jam.”  Within a flash she heard the narrator say, “Oh dear, Daddy Pig is stuck in a traffic jam.”  He had seemed to have closed down Tom and Jerry and found the exact episode of Peppa Pig and the exact frame he needed within a few seconds.  Was this just a coincidence or was that his way of communicating with mum to say, “Oh dear, yes, we are in a traffic jam”?

Mum is absolutely convinced that her 8 year old has a photographic memory. The Autistic Society have realised what fantastic resources iGadgets are.  So, as he gets older, I wonder how the iPad will help the family tap into his amazing mind?  No-one knows how his speech will develop as he grows, but are there or will there be apps to help him use more complex speech rather than relying on Macaton?  How can the family use the iPad to get inside his mind and help him develop, grow intellectually and communicate?  I suppose, as he and the technology grow and he and his family find things, perhaps inadvertently, they will come to see what helps him.  Afterall, who knew a year ago that he would have been able to acknowledge a traffic jam with Daddy Pig’s help?

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Is there an app for that?

I got myself involved in amateur dramatics in our village a few years ago. We have just finished a run of the classic Wind in the Willows. Busy set building and working through the technical rehearsal, I noticed how iGadgets have started creeping in. The lighting and sound guys debuted the iPod last year, plugged in to play incidental music pre and post performance and this year saw the debut of the iPad. The usual thing is a torch, a script and the lighting and sound decks to manage – not enough hands!

The iPad let him see the script clearly without the need for a torch. The sound is still done on a PC but during one rehearsal, the hall was cold and Mr Sound wanted to stand by the radiator while we were rehearsing songs. He managed to sync the iPad and the PC so that he could operate the sound from the warmest part of the hall!

The possibilities of these "machines" seem endless. I wonder how long it will be before the lighting and the sound are operated purely from an iPad while Mr Sound and Mr Lighting are perched at the bar? I'll let you know how they get on next year …

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Sorted! Bag it & Bin it has been submitted

After a busy weekend doing the final balancing for Bag it & Bin it (and some last minute changes!) the iPhone & iPad game has now been submitted to Apple for approval.

What I have learnt from this weekend is that I'm pretty rubbish at our own game, coming last in the race to finish the game with all the unlockable achievements. To add further insult I was beaten by someone who had consumed a whole bottle of wine!

Developed for Wessex Water, Bag it & Bin it is a fun & educational game that teaches the player what should & should not be flushed down the loo. You'd be surprised what some people do flush!

Bag it & Bin it - Coming soon to the app store. Hopefully well before Christmas. God speed little game.

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Is it really that easy?

I was watching my children play with iGoodies, the other day, and I started thinking about how amazing Apple products are. Three years ago, no-one had heard of an iPod, iTouch, iPhone or an iPad, but there we all are (and there are a lot of us) using them as if we've never lived without them. It's clearly the ease of use that appeals. Grandpa thinks it will be too hard for him to use until you plonk your 2 1/2 year old daughter in front of him who is happily scrolling through the pages looking for a suitable game, selecting, adjusting the volume and playing for a minute until her attention span gets the better of her and she resets the screen and finds something else. Grandpa is left looking flabberghasted and ashamed to be trumped by a toddler!

Two years on, we have all manner of iGadgets in our home. The children play a variety of games which can only help to boost their latteral thinking and problem solving and they are not solitary games. The iPad allows them all to sit together and solve problems as a team. The children can often be found playing the same game on different devices but talking to each other about what level they're on, how they solved it and "why don't you try it this way?" I have caught up on programmes using on demand apps while cooking or the TV is occupied with Scooby Doo. The children watched a film I downloaded for them, on a long train journey, on the iPad. Homework is helped, recipes found, shopping done, all without setting up the laptop which grinds away, taking forever to boot and needing the power supply after 5 minutes.

The point of this blog? Well, hurrah for Apple and hurrah for Steve Jobs for being such a visionary for taking technology to the next level by boosting the complexity of the devices' capabilities but simplifying the usage to the point that a toddler can use them.

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Flushed Away

Whilst developing the iPhone game "Bag it & Bin it" for Wessex Water we've had many discussions about the kind of items people are flushing down the Loo which they shouldn't be!

Most drains connecting homes to main sewers are no wider than four inches, so blockages easily occur if anything other than water, toilet paper and human waste is washed down toilets and drains.

Amongst the usual suspects of Cotton buds, Condoms, Sanitary towels, Dental floss etc they have also discovered some rather bizarre items at their sewage treatment works.

Here are just a few of the more unusual items they've found:

Apparently they have had calls from customers asking if they can retrieve and return their dentures.

Hope they gave them a good rinse!

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Bag it and Bin it

Getting back to our gaming roots has been fun but reverting to childish humour in the office has been even better with the app we have developed for Wessex Water called "Bag it and Bin it"  It stars two critters who are teaching us what we can and cannot put down the loo.

Discussing the shape of the poo to be flushed, how much ear wax is acceptable on a cartoon cotton bud, as well as other items we'd rather not go into now, has made for much sniggering but, on a serious note, we hope we will be able to help Wessex Water to get the message across that nothing should be put in the loo with the exception of loo paper and bodily substances!!

Thanks also to Tomas from Auroch Digital for his valuable help with the design and game balancing, its been great working with him.

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