I Am A Penguin (In Spanish)

Happy 2014!

It's the season of the Top Ten List. Herewith, in no particular order, an eclectic collection of devices, websites and services that we've loved this year.  Some new, some updated, but each makes life easier, richer or more fun.
 
1. Duolingo is language learning that feels like a game. Created by one of my personal heroes and funded in part by his MacArthur "genius" grant, it currently offers instruction in six languages.  (I am a penguin in Spanish right now). 
(Free for iOS, Android, or on the web)
 
2iPhone 5s and iOS 7  
Everyone hates remembering passwords; fingerprint security is not new, but in typical Apple fashion, brilliantly implemented on their latest devices.

Not everyone loves the new "flat" look of iOS 7, but it's worth upgrading (free, thank you Apple) just for the improved Search and Control Panel.

A close runner-up is the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for its giant, beautiful screen and user-replaceable battery.
(With 2 year contract: iPhone 5S  $199 - $399; Galaxy Note 3 $299.
iOS 7: free, but doesn't work on some older devices)

3. Canistream.it  Finally have time to catch up on the movies and TV shows you missed? Don't waste time searching Netflix, iTunes, and a gazillion cable channels---just use Canistream.it to find out who has your show, in what form (streaming, rental or purchase) and for how much.  You can even set up alerts so you don't miss your favorites when they're available. 
(Free for iOS, Android, or on the web)

4. MTA Bus Time
Ugh, it's pouring. Hop on the slow local, wait for a Limited, look for a cab? No more guesswork: MTA Bus Time lets you see, in real time, which buses are approaching and how far away they are. You can use it without a smartphone, too--just text to 511123.
(Free for iOS, Android, text, or on the web)

5. Doodle 
Ever tried to schedule a group meal or meeting and ended up wading through masses of emails? The Doodle website makes it easy to offer options and organizes the replies visually so you can see what works best for the most people. 
(Free for the most useful features, premium version available. Web only)

6. IXL
Want to help your kids or grandkids with their math and language arts skills? Improvement requires practice (boo-ooring!), and this website does an excellent job of reducing the tedium with adaptive drilling: the better you do, the harder the questions get; make a mistake and they get easier again. Explanations are clear and "rewards" along the way help with motivation.  
(Free trial for teachers; $9.95/month or $79/year for families. iOS or web)

7. Upworthy When you can't bear to read one more news story about global dysfunction, Upworthy is a great reminder that the world is full of people who care passionately about what really matters. 
(Website only)

8. Cardiio  Ironically, I have not found the primary feature of this app (heart rate measurement) reliable, but it includes a fantastic, free, audio-coached 7-minute workout with cute (and helpful) visuals. It's a great no-excuses option for those who believe that you can make significant improvements to your fitness level in a short, intense, carefully planned workout, as some recent studiesclaim. 
(Free for iOS only)

9. Shazam is an old favorite for its magical ability to identify nearly any music you hear (and help you buy it online); they've just added a feature that allows the iOS version to stay on continuously, so the five new songs you heard and loved on a long drive are all listed for you when you arrive.  Beware of heavy battery and data use, though. 
(Free for every type of smartphone imaginable).

10.  Back to the salt mines
For those post-holiday resolutions: our favorite weight-loss app, Lose It!, has some competition from a newcomer: Noom.  A redesign allows it to work as a pedometer on the new iPhone (assuming you carry your phone all the time), in addition to tracking food and providing motivational reminders.
(Both free for iOS and Android but offer paid upgrades).