Weekly App Store Roundup: Dec. 27, 2008

This week I pick my 12 favorite apps of the year as we lead 2008 around the back and shoot it’s face off, while gently beckoning a fresh-faced 2009 through the front door.

Just because it’s the holiday season, doesn’t mean Apple news stops happening. Quite the contrary in fact because this week we got all existential with Psystar’s ever-more-fantastical litigation, waxed lyrical with the creators of 12seconds.tv, and even chucked in a special Mac-themed gift — from us to you — for good measure.

Seeing as it’s not just the end of a week but the end of an entire year, I thought a special year-end Roundup was in order. Below I’m bringing together some of the best apps I’ve featured over the year and a few that I didn’t have space to mention. (Note, those looking for my Twitter app recommendation should check out my 12 Twitter Apps article.)

This year, I’ve been looking at Evernote, Harvest, Urbanspoon, Locly, Klick, iPolaroid, Backgammon Online, Cookie Bonus Solitaire, BeatMaker, FourTrack, Stanza and Palringo.

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Mapping the Global Ebb and Flow of Oil

The U.S. has imported millions of barrels of oil every day for more than three decades — but the flow of dollars and fuel has fluctuated over time. How to illustrate such a massive amount of trade over time? With a new map from the Rocky Mountain Institute and Google.org, which visually lays out all the data related to the oil imported into this country from 1973 onward. Admittedly, we always love a good map (101 Cleantech Startups, Biofuels Deathwatch or Coal Deathwatch, anyone?), but this one ranks among the infographic elite. Note, it’s only a screenshot that follows below (thicker lines mean more oil produced or imported).

rmi-oil-mapFrom the Google.org blog:

The map highlights 5 eras of oil consumption, from the oil shocks of the 1970s to the price collapse in the 1980s to recent events including Hurricane Katrina and gas approaching $5 per gallon before retreating rapidly recently. (You can see these selections by clicking on the buttons below the map on the RMI website.) One interesting time period is from 1982 to 1985, when low prices caused oil imports from the Middle East to decline to very low levels. The map also looks at potential oil from offshore drilling and exploration of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Why Cheap Oil Won’t Change Anything

Even if your Thanksgiving gathering had its share of sour family moments, consider yourself lucky: You weren’t stuck with a bunch of OPEC ministers in Cairo, where they couldn’t even agree on whether to cut oil production further.
Even though oil recently dropped below $50 a barrel for the first time in more than two years, OPEC is punting on a decision to reduce supplies. But as relieved as people still driving gas guzzlers might be, there are reasons why gas below $2 a gallon might not be welcome at all.
In addition to the obvious effects on the climate and depressed sales of hybrid and electric cars, cheap oil can also hurt the future oil supplies OPEC is dithering over today. Research firm CapGemini issued a provocative report last week calling cheap oil “very bad news” for those supplies. Among its findings:
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The Good, the Bad & the Ugly of $7 Gas

Back when gas was $2 a gallon, we didn’t sweat it. Our biggest concern at the pump was whether we remembered to check the oil. At $3 a gallon, we started to grouse. At $4, we can all agree, it hurts.

So imagine what it would be like at $7 a gallon, or three and a half times the price at the beginning of last year. If you can’t bear to, somebody else has. His name is Jeff Rubin and he’s spelled it out in a report he wrote at CIBC World Markets.

Here’s the grim scenario Rubin lays out. The Saudis are boosting production by 200,000 barrels a day, but most of that will be sucked up by its own booming economy. China’s cut its fuel subsidies, but gas still costs a mere $3.25 a gallon there. In fact,such subsidies around the world are giving short-term relief at the cost of longer-term pain: Demand stays high, so oil rockets ever higher, closing at $140.15 Monday.
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Two Alternative Solutions for Site Analytics

If you’re at all involved with web site analytics, you probably use Google Analytics. It does a very good job of providing many views of how traffic is coming to a site, traffic trends, and more. However, it can be very useful to add alternative analytics tools to your arsenal. In this post, I’ll cover two excellent alternative examples that I like to use.

Piwik, seen above, is open source web analytics software. The really cool thing about Piwik is that a community of users contributes new plug-ins on an ongoing basis, and these let you see unusual views of your site data.

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Short video: size comparison of 875U and USB727 3G modems

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33N1p2nZfsM]As I mentioned earlier this week, the AT&T 3G coverage really hasn’t been where I’m working when out and about. Since Verizon Wireless offers their Broadband Access plan at the same price and has much better coverage in my work areas, I pulled the trigger on the USB727 modem which arrived today. Aside from faster speeds in my home office, the smaller size is much more appealing to me than the larger 875U AirCard. Here’s a quick comparison of the two devices; you can easily see the difference. The real test is the bandwidth when I’m away from the home office, so more to follow as I test out the EV-DO Rev. A speeds. I also like the microSD slot, which will work on all of my devices.I didn’t mention this on the video, but this modem apparently has a GPS module built-in. It looks as though it is disabled, but I’ll be doing more research to confirm my suspicions. Hmm… would be nice to have GPS on all of my mobile devices, now wouldn’t it?

TiVo and SDV Play Nice, For Once

In a move that should help create a more streamlined process of watching video in your home (and maybe even reduce your cable bill), TiVo and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) have unveiled an external adapter that will connect to your TiVo and allow for cable providers to use switched video without sacrificing the DVR’s functionality. Even better, the external adapter will eliminate the need for yet another set-top box. The adapters will begin shipping to TiVo and other CableCARD device owners in the second quarter of 2008.
Switched video (also called switched digital video) is a term coined by the cable industry to describe the distribution of video through a cable with limited capacity. A non-switched video system will eat up huge sums of bandwidth because any and all available channels must be made available through a coaxial cable. A switched video system, on the other hand, will only make available those channels that have been requested, freeing up much more bandwidth and ostensibly allowing for a considerable amount of cost savings for cable providers.
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