Smart phone apps turn your phone into a flashlight, camera, calculator, bubble level, compass, protractor and ruler, among other tools.
With Dino Giacomazzi
Like a Boy Scout, a dairy farmer must always be prepared. Having access to the right tools at the right time is essential. That’s why in my right front pants pocket I carry a knife, a pair of needle-nose pliers, scissors, four screw-drivers, a saw and, most important, a bottle opener and corkscrew. Sounds like a lot of hardware to carry in your pants, but I am talking about my Leatherman multi-tool.
In my left pocket I carry a flashlight, a camera, a calculator, a bubble level, a compass, a protractor, a ruler and a whole list of other tools. Again, this sounds like a lot of stuff for one guy’s pocket, but these are digital versions of real-world tools. They really work, and they live in my smartphone.
The number of ways to use your smartphone as an analog for real-world tools are virtually unlimited. Here are a few examples.
• Flashlight: A flashlight is a handy tool. Most phones have LED lights on them to use as a flash for the camera. My favorite Android app is Tiny Flashlight + LED. Not only does this app run your LED light but it also turns the screen into a strobe light, police siren and other fun effects.
• Camera: Mobile phones have had cameras on them for a long time, but only recently do smartphones allow you to do very useful things with them. Recently I had to redo some plumbing on my calf milk pasteurizer. I took photos of the parts and the pasteurizer area with my phone. At the plumbing store, I showed the photos to the store owner on an iPad. Using an app called Skitch, we drew a new plumbing diagram right over the top of a photo. I took the parts home and referenced the diagram while putting it all together.
I also take photos of serial number plates on equipment, business cards, broken gates, cow numbers, parking spaces (so I remember where I left my truck) and a lot more. I keep track of all these photos with an app called Evernote, which I am going to profile next month.
• Ruler: I use the ruler app to measure pipe fittings, bolts and other pieces of hardware. Be careful not to scratch your screen!
• Calculator: I use RealCalc for my Android and Calc Pro HD for my iPad. I like these calculators because of their simple and powerful use of conversions.
• Bubble level: I use the bubble level on my phone to do things like level tillage implements and help my wife hang pictures on the wall. I recently leveled a pool table with an iPad.
• Protractor: Most protractor apps have the ability to overlay the protractor on your camera screen. Simply point your phone’s camera at an object like your silage pile or a roofline, and you can quickly determine its angle and slope.
These tools are part of my modern-day Swiss Army knife. See how many useful tools you can find in your device’s app store—you just may download enough to earn your AgNerd badge!