advice and tips fun iPhone app kids

Kids Rewards System

Recently my wife and I are having some trouble find out a way to manage our old daughter’s at home behaviors, esp. around good working habit (wait until last minute to do homework or play piano), clean up the mess after playing, be nice to her younger sister, and last but not least, playdate with friends went over the time we set initially.

Since I work in the reward space for my day job, and I thought there may be something we can do in an app. We did tried stickers, and charts, but nothing really stuck for a while. I think with the popularity of smartphones, a smartphone app may stick. Looked around I am seeing two; iRewardChart and Choremonster.

Last but not least, I came across two articles on this topic, Reward system: Goodbye to the sticker chart and How Experts Discipline Their Children.

(Update 03-20-2017) This is partially inspired at the teacher/JA volunteer (my coworker) rewards kids with chocolate/candy for good behaviors in classroom (see this post about my JA experience).

fun iOS iPhone app

Fitbit is losing momentum

Why I am saying that?

I am the only active person among my “Fitbit friends”. So I assume it could means a few things:
1) All my friends stopped wearing Fitbit;
2) All my friends did not sync (or their Fitbit could not sync, which I admit is a real problem for Fitbit);
3) All my friends got Apple watch (or something nicer, good for them 🙂


The stock (NYSE:FIT) has been absolutely horrible YTD, or to be more exact since its IPO about 15 months ago. I am glad my trades worked out this year though 🙂


I am speculating one reason is Apple Watch is taking off. Although I tried to stay away from that $300+ “need to be charged daily, always on” gadget, it seems it’s the inevitable with the so called “series 2”. I feel the nike+ version with the swimming is the way to go. Now if I could offload a few items on ebay to make the $300 bucks…

iPhone app

Working on new app DiscoverSTL


advice and tips finance iOS iPhone app

Small changes coming to collegeFund app

I was listening/reading two stories on the college debt (source: NPR) and the financial well beings of millennials (source: fortune/cnn), which lead to to add some new features to the collegeFund app. The app was essentially a college savings (529 plan) and I did not thought too much of this college debt problem at the time the app was conceived 3.5 years ago. At the time I opened 529 plan for my daughter, and started put some money into it.

A lot has changed in my personal finance and to the economy in general. Now I felt for a lot of people, college debt is like a mortgage, it’s just something they have to bear with, and manage while go on with their lives. Btw, I saw another good resource for college debt here.

I just updated the app, submitted to the app store, it’s under review now. Here is the screenshot. Let me know if you have any questions. Email me at minjie dot xu AT gmail dot com.


(Update 05-10-2014) I made couple more updates to fix bugs I introduced when adding this “debt free” tab/screen. It’s mostly settled now. I am thinking other enhancements, along with myNestEgg app.

advice and tips iPhone app

Prepare for shipping of Nexus 4 phone

I sold it much quickly than I thought (sold right after I posted on Amazon on Nov. 18, 2013), and I did back up photos using 3 approaches.

1) Dropbox;

2) Back up to PC using the backup utility on the Phone;

3) Google+

After using google+ backup on my Nexus 4 for a while, I liked it and decided to give it a try on my iPhone and iPad. I enabled the auto backup feature. There is a limit for each account, I believe. An interesting thing I found out about google+ in the new year, is it creates a slideshow (about one minute) using the photos in google+, for me it’s mostly about my daughter’s activities. This reminds me of Facebook year in review feature (kind like year book). One thing keep in mind is the privacy, if you decide to share it, the default setting it share to public, so use your judgement when you share.

advice and tips iPhone app

Two good articles on touch screen generation


CS monitor

My take:
My daughter is 3 and half years old. My wife had iPhone (3g) before she was born, and I bought iPhone 4 when she was 6 months old. Then comes the iPad (1), and currently I have an iPad mini, and my wife has iPad 4. I spent about $30 buying apps for my daughter (mostly Toca Woca and Sigo Mini; also raywenderlich WildFable; and I see Ewe, I Hear Ewe). I felt the latter is better suitable for toddlers, while the former ones are more like games (which I have some reservations).

My observations on iPad app and screen time: my daughter also watches Netflix kids TV/Youtube for about half an hour a day. We tried pretty hard to make sure she did not watch too much TV before she was two (again, this is mostly from hearing her teachers’ advice; and from reading the articles about TV’s effect on growing children).

My thoughts:
1) Moderation, moderation, moderation. It’s not easy. I know, we all have been there. Grabbing iPad/iPhone from crying toddlers. “5 more minutes”. But we need to be firm. Otherwise the 5 more minutes will means 15 more minutes. And the flood gates started here. I found out, if I’m consistent, and if the child is tired of the silly game/TV, and if we can provide a better alternative (reading books, something more fun), she gives up iPad quickly.

2) Engagement, engagement, engagement. When she was very young (probably around 2), sometimes we let her watch the “Curious George” on Netflix, together with parents. And she will have a lot of questions. In that sense, watching TV is not purely passive, and that’s a good thing. Same can be said of reading/listening the wild fable, and the I see Ewe/I hear Ewe.

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Almost there ~ my 1st impression on Nexus 4 and Android 4.2.x

(Update 2, 11-18-2013) I sold my Nexus 4 as I am getting my iPhone 5s. I still think Nexus 4 is a lot phone for the money ($199 before tax). Another feature I liked is the integration with google contacts, and google+ photo backup. I just found there’s an option on iPhone Google+ app for backup now.

(Update 09-16-2013) I agree with @PhillRyu that the back button on Android is nice, along with the multi-task button, it separate tasks from the home button (the iOS home button is a bit overloaded, it does both back and home, and double click home brings up the multitask thing).

(Original 09-08-2013) Last week I got my 1st Android phone, the Google Nexus 4. I bought it primarily due to its lowered price (from $299 to $199 before tax), and my 3 year old iPhone 4 battery is doing down hill (found a trick to save it after I bought the Nexus 🙁

I tweeted some minor problems/questions I have with Nexus 4/Android since then. Again for the most part, I am happy with the screen size, battery life (being new), and the sharpness of android in general. A few things I mentioned/complained in twitter:

1) Lack of a native Mail app, in iPhone I can add all the mailbox (yahoo mail, gmail) to the Mail app, in Android there is not a good very native app. But later I noticed the notification feature kinda compensated it. I did install the Yahoo Mail app. The Gmail comes by default.

2) Again on the email things, for some html formatted email, it appears iPhone can scale it properly the first time when the user opens it, on Android, it did not get right the first time. The workaround is move the mail left, then zoom (make it a bit smaller to fit in the screen). Not a big deal.

3) A bit sneaky: the Android recommend feature, in Youtube, Play store (music). Also the photo upload (to Google+).

4) Chrome web browser does not have a “reader” feature like Safari does: for better reading experience (filter out ads, and scale the web page).

5) Share it feature: initially I thought it only has the gmail, google+…after I installed the facebook and yahoo Mail, I found those are also available.

fun iPhone app

iTunes, iCloud, Dropbox, wd 2go

Krugman, the Nobel economics laureate recently penned an article basically saying Apple is no good. I think he has one valid point on iTunes and the relatively closeness of Apple ecosystem. This reminds me of one thing, the cloud storage for consumers. Apple has this iCloud going for a few years, it can be used to back up iDevices (photos, videos, documents, etc.), but not as flexible as Dropbox (or, and many others), both Apple and Dropbox has the subscription plan, for iCloud, it’s $20 for 10Gb additional (5Gb is free) per year, and for Dropbox, it’s $10 for 500 GB per month (2Gb is free, and there are other ways to earn free storage).

Then I came across this wd 2go, it is probably the cheapest (if we ignore the electricity, and bandwidth cost), basically it’s free with the WD My Book Live purchase. My Book Live costs about $129. There is no recurring fees. I have not got this one yet, but I’m thinking about it as I have 2 iPhones’ worth of pictures/videos, and need to store it someway. Was wondering if I could just transfer from iTunes to the WD My Book drive.

While I went through all these, what’s my point? Personally I think the openness rankings of those 3, from most close to open: iTunes/iCloud, Dropbox, wd 2go. Of course I understand one can argue security wise, the ranking might be different 🙂

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Introducing myNestEgg v 1.5 and collegeFund 1.6

Latest and the greatest 🙂

1) Fixed “data not being saved” bug in myNestEgg and collegeFund

2) Also, in myNestEgg v 1.5, we added “Auto Pilot” feature, similar to what has been introduced in collegeFund 1.5. The main difference is in myNestEgg I set income ratio to 70%.

Why 70% for income ratio in retirement
I briefly mentioned it on my personal blog, 70% is a magic number because I assume social security and other savings made up the rest (30%) of the retirement income.

iPhone app

collegeFund v 1.5 is coming

(Update 05-13-2011) Released. Free for a limited time. Here is a link to the iTunes App store.

(Original) This is to address one problem posed by a user in the iTunes app store review. Basically his (her) comment is that the iteration approach (try and error to get desired coverage ratio) takes too much work.

I think the comment is a good one, and here I am making the “auto pilot” option available (the default is OFF). It works like this, in “setting”, the user turns on the “auto pilot” switch. In the “calculator” tab, when the user hits “calculate”, the user will have 80% coverage ratio, and the “saving annually” text field will have a value that achieves that 80% goal.