Silver Donald Cameron

Welcome to Silver Donald Cameron’s blog! Dr Cameron is the author of 19 books and of many plays, films, magazine articles, radio and TV scripts. He is currently the host and executive producer of and of its feature documentary, Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World. In 2019, he was appointed the first Farley Mowat Chair in Environment at Cape Breton University, where he earlier served as professor, dean and writer-in-residence. He currently teaches an on-campus/online course called Green Rights.

Love that iPhone! – Sunday column, February 6, 2011

SUNDAY HERALD COLUMN – February 6, 2011 [HH1106]


by Silver Donald Cameron

So here I am, trotting along on my treadmill – conceivably the most boring activity in the world – and I’m groovin’.  Erroll Garner’s piano, raging with joy, thunders out one of his greatest tracks, “Old Man River,” from his 1956 vinyl album The Most Happy Piano.

On my phone.

How do you get the most from technology, asked  the New York Times. First, said their expert, “get a smartphone,” which provides “immediate access to your e-mail, photos, calendars and address books, not to mention vast swaths of the Internet.” All true – but this is not just a phone. It’s a revolution.

My iPhone3 came loaded with a world clock, which itself includes a countdown timer, a stopwatch and an alarm clock. It included global maps, weather and stocks. In Tokyo right now, the temperature is 4C, the time is 6:41AM, and the Nikkei stock exchange will open at 10,274.50 yen.

The phone contains a web browser – so last summer, as I drove with my family through the mountains of BC, I was able to check out maps and aerial photos, get directions and an estimated time for the drive down the Kettle Valley from Kelowna to Rock Creek, and research such local features as the Highland Bell mine and Kettle Valley railroad.  The phone also boasts a very creditable built-in still and video camera,  plus a notepad and a datebook and access to YouTube.

But its real power comes with the additional application programs (called apps), which you download directly from Apple’s App Store. (“App” was the American Dialect Center’s 2010 Word of the Year.)

For $10 I added a marine navigation system to my GPS. Now I can actually cruise the waters of Atlantic Canada following up-to-date marine charts – using my phone. I downloaded an app for a carpenter’s level and protractor. I acquired a business card reader: show me your card, I snap a photo, and your address, phone and all are instantly filed in my address book. I have a metric converter and a magnetic compass.  In the mornings, as I exercise, a CBC Radio app streams Don Connolly and Elizabeth Logan into my earbuds. With the Chronicle-Herald app, iPhone users can read this column on their phones.

My friend Kyle Shaw recommended Dragon Dictation, which allows the iPhone to record your words and display them as text. He likes a travel app called WorldMate: you email it your itinerary and the app reports your destination’s weather and lets you book hotels – and if your flight is delayed, it can send you an email. He recommends Flight Control, a video game. I gather there are some amazing games in the iPhone’s Games Center, even for a traditionalist – you can play chess with a friend in Australia – but I’ve never looked in it.

Kyle also favours an iPhone app based on Epicurious, the cooking website.

“You can look in the fridge to see what you’ve got in the way of ingredients,” he says, “and then search for a recipe using those ingredients right there, without even closing the fridge door.” You can choose a wine using an app provided by Cape Breton’s Natalie MacLean.  And if you gorge too much, download a fitness app or the WeightWatchers app.

Among the wonders of the web are the TED talks, where brilliant innovators deliver brief, dazzling talks on huge contemporary issues. Guess what? A TED app lets you watch Sir Ken Robinson’s hilarious and provocative talk on education and imagination anytime, anywhere.

Various other apps let you read books on your phone, or find your car in the parking lot. AroundMe will locate the nearest gas station, drug store or restaurant. Remote converts your iPhone into a remote for your Apple TV. The App Store now offers more than 400,000 apps, and has provided more than 10 billion downloads.

Perhaps the iPhone’s most delightful feature is that its built-in iPod makes the world’s great music available at any time that works for me. I desperately missed that ancient Erroll Garner album. But I found it on iTunes. I put $5.99 on my credit card, and loaded it onto my phone.

And now, in the morning, I don’t plod glumly to my workout. Instead, I skip eagerly to my morning concert. Dig it! Man, bless that phone!

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