Expanding your app-titude

A monthly look at apps and websites that can make the CPA’s job and life better.
By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

I occasionally find myself working away and suddenly notice that my internet connection has slowed to a crawl. You're probably aware of how to test for multiple possible reasons for that slowdown. First, you turn off Wi-Fi and then reconnect. Not it? Next, reboot your computer. Still not it? Test the connection's speed. Oh, wait—for that you need a "utility" app. I know—boring, right? Yes, but it's the only sure way to identify, and potentially solve, your problem. Dozens of apps are available. A few are quite good, but most are self-serving versions published by the very entities whose service you're trying to test. Now, I'm not implying that a Wi-Fi or cellular service provider would ever report results that were anything but absolutely accurate, but I'd rather have an independent opinion that I know is completely objective. The first item describes one such option for achieving this purpose.

The second item in this month's column isn't likely to make your job better, but it might make your life better, especially if you do carpentry or just like things level.

SPEEDTEST GAUGES YOUR INTERNET SPEED

The "arrow in my quiver" for checking connection speed is Speedtest by Ookla. One of the oldest providers in this space, Ookla claims to have completed more than 10 billion speed tests. Speedtest downloads and installs quickly and easily. A single "in-app" upgrade removes ads. After that, it's a simple "push to test" application. Upon launch, the app displays a large and hard-to-miss "Begin Test" button. One click, and it begins preparing the test. First, it measures the ping time, then the download speed, and finally the upload speed. Less than a minute later, you're shown the results, including the name of the server used, and offered the option to share them via email or text. (Note: I love this feature when dealing with a broadband supplier that promises 100 megabits per second while delivering only 15 Mbps.) The results are recorded and presented in a columnar, sortable format showing the type of connection (Wi-Fi or cellular), date and time, and relevant speeds recorded. The report provides a drill-down feature showing details such as service set identifier (SSID) or the cellular carrier, server location, client location with latitude and longitude, and both internal and external IP addresses. In other words, it provides all the information you'll ever need and more.

  • Website: ookla.com
  • Pricing: Freemium; $1 "remove ads" in-app purchase.
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android, Windows

IHANDY CARPENTER KEEPS YOU ON THE LEVEL

Did you know that your iPhone has a built-in level app? That's right! No more spirit bubble bar. Who knew? You can find the "level" app on the second swipe screen of the compass app. But here's a hint: Specialized apps are often much better than their generic cousins. IHandy Carpenter is one of those apps. It includes a plumb bob, a surface level, a bubble level bar, a ruler (although several reviews claim inaccuracies on certain phones), and a protractor—all in one attractive (woodgrains, no less) package. And, like its name, it's handy! When will you ever need any of those tools? I don't know. I also don't know when I'll next use the garlic press in my kitchen. But I do know that when I need it, or when I need the above-mentioned plumb bob, I'll have it at the ready!

Greg LaFollette (greg.lafolette@hq.cpa.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the American Institute of CPAs.

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