The Clear method to complete tasks

I wrote my previous app collection about Advanced task managers on iOS, but a new app came to my attention this week that's too good to pass up.

Clear (99 cents) is a to-do list app that lets you use simple gestures to manage your tasks with an interface that's as intuitive as it is easy on the eyes. People seem to like this simple task manager, because it's now No. 1 in the iTunes App Store. This app won't take the place of Reminders or other scheduling apps that offer alarms--Clear sticks to simple list making, and it does a fine job.… Read more

Kids won't do chores? There's an app for that

You may find this shocking, but getting my 11- and 9-year-olds to do household chores is like pulling teeth. Rotten kids!

That may change now that I've got You Rules Chores on my iPhone. This clever new app turns household chores into a game, rewarding each kid a designated number of coins for each completed job. Whoever finishes the week's chores first is the winner. (Of course, we all know who the real winners are: mom and dad.)… Read more

HouseKeeper app reminds you to do forgotten chores

When was the last time you checked your dryer's vent tube? My guess is this serious fire hazard slipped your mind, as it routinely does mine.

Speaking of fires, isn't it time you replaced the batteries in your smoke detectors? Don't worry: That low-battery beep will remind you--most likely in the middle of the night.

Household chores like these are critical, but are usually difficult to remember. Enter HouseKeeper, a clever--if slightly incomplete--app that reminds you when it's time to replace the furnace filters, clean the chimney flue, and so on.

HouseKeeper lets you set reminders for 10 easily forgotten items, including the baking soda in your fridge, the water filter, the fire extinguishers (they're supposed to be inspected regularly), and even your toothbrush (conventional wisdom: replace it every three months).

For each item you can specify the date of your last action (like if you already replaced your toothbrush a month ago) and the number of interval days between notifications.

HouseKeeper will deliver its notifications via e-mail and/or text message. Unfortunately, standard SMS rates apply for the latter; the app can't deliver its own push notifications.

What's more, you can't add your own reminders. In my house, for example, I routinely need to add salt to the water softener. Where's the option for that?… Read more

Gadgettes 170: The 'enough with the feminism' episode (podcast)

We received a passionate e-mail from one of our listeners about the show's constant feminist slant. Fortunately for Nicholas, we quickly decided to devote an entire episode to the other side (for a change).

Subscribe with iTunes (audio) Subscribe with iTunes (video) Subscribe with RSS (audio) Subscribe with RSS (video) EPISODE 170

E-mail that inspired today’s episode: The “enough with the feminism” episode Enough with the feminist ranting! I want to hear smart woman discuss technology. Not feel uncomfortable as they take every dubious marketing idea personally. Why if I took every male marketing idea personally, I’d … Read more

'Chore Wars,' where 'World of Warcraft' meets toilet cleaner

SAN FRANCISCO--Housework is a lot more fun with a battle axe and a couple of dwarves.

Chore Wars, a game shown off by noted game developer Jane McGonigal at the Web 2.0 Summit recently, gives users "experience" points for various household chores. Collecting those points then lets you advance your profile in the online game.

Swiffer the floor twice a week and get 20 points for charm, that sort of thing. You can also play for virtual gold doubloons. These can be exchanged for rewards, inside your own circle of friends. Earn 200 doubloons and you can … Read more

It's war! (on your chores)

A few weeks ago we took a look at Chorebuster (review), a complex, yet very powerful chore management tool. Today, one that's been making the rounds around the office is Chore Wars, a seemingly ridiculous concept that attempts to make repetitive tasks like washing the dishes and vacuuming worthwhile for things besides sanitation. Did we mention this is set in a magical universe with monsters, treasure and certain peril?

The concept is simple: users band together in guilds, and give household chores various reward levels. Those rewards translate into character upgrades, in a Web based MMORPG that you play with your friends, family, or roommates. Consider it like a very stripped-down version of World of Warcraft, where leveling up requires some real-life elbow grease.

While it doesn't play like a video game, Chore Wars has a simplified Web interface that lets members of your party create and claim chores. The actual chore creation process is a joy, with a simple Web form that lets you fill in the name of the chore, along with values for gained experience points, gold, and various character attributes. The real fun, however, is thinking up treasure and monsters, which you have the potential to run into every time you claim to have done a chore. This opens up a dialog where you can find out if you've managed the task unscathed, or run into perils you or others have dreamed up.

The real nitty-gritty of Chore Wars is its management system, which lets users easily claim chores using a drop-down menu, or by picking one from the "adventure" page. You can keep track of the chores each user has claimed, as each one gets its own status update (a la Twitter), along with a time stamp to let you know when it was taken care of. What might be the only dampener here, is that as group administrator, there isn't a way to dole out chores to other users, or separate chores that are individual from those that are communal. In this sense, Chore Wars fails. However, if you have kids or roommates who are honest about taking care of things, this honor system works.… Read more

Organize your domestic life on the Web: ChoreBuster

Chores are an unfortunate side effect of domestic existence. Things need to be done, people need to do them, and dolling out who does what, and when can lead to an exasperating amount of effort for parents, roommates, and authoritarians. Everyone has their own system, and many rely on a piece of paper, or in some cases a homemade Wheel of Fortune-like spinner that decides whose fate it is to clean the upstairs bathroom or scoop up the dog poop from the back yard.

ChoreBuster is a service that mixes these two ideas, providing a free, Web-based scheduling tool that can also randomize who has to do a chore.

As administrator, you can create your family or chore participants one by one and begin building a chore list. You can set recurring chores, on a daily, weekly, or custom basis, along with adding odd one-time chores as they come up. This schedule is then made available to everyone online, and can be easily printed out to get stuck on the fridge or other common area. There are also e-mail reminders, a mobile version of the site, along with a Yahoo! Widget that can show each user what they're supposed to do that day.

After testing out the site this morning, my one qualm is that adding several tasks and assigning them is cumbersome, more so than it would be to simply open up a spreadsheet and start writing things down. Maybe I'm just used to scheduling things in Google Calendar and Outlook, but I found it took too many steps. However, for power users, and those looking to really dig deep and add 30 or more tasks--I can see learning ChoreBuster's management system paying off. With enough effort and foresight, you can set it up to swap up tasks on a daily basis continuously for several months with little or no effort on your part.

ChoreBuster could be a lifesaver for big families, and large communal group living situations like fraternities, sororities, and summer camps. It also offers some great integration features for a free service like the e-mail reports and the desktop widget.… Read more