Sunday, 25 March 2012

... there's an app for that.

So, I am an Apple freak. I have a MacBook, two iPods (although I gave one to my mum) and an iPhone. Haven't gone as far as an iPad yet because I can't in all honesty justify buying it. I will probably find a way around it sooner or later.

Wonder of wonders, there is actually a daimoku app available on the UK App Store.

I did a lot of troubleshooting and experiments with it, so that I could write a detailed review of it. This meant that I actually ended up doing a lot more daimoku than my daily target. What can I say? It's a hard job but someone's gotta do it.

The app is called ChantBuddy, here is the official website and here is the link to the App Store page (or you can just search for "daimoku" in the App Store). It's a relatively new app and it's been developed by Don O'Riordan. I contacted the developers about a couple of things and they were really nice and helpful. I will put their comments in red.

There are two versions, a free one and an upgrade which costs £1.99.

The app looks like this:

 As you can see, there's a "Goals" panel (the one open in the pic), a "Chant&Log" a "Track". "Community" and "Settings" panel.

By clicking on the + sign you can create a new goal, adding as much detail as you like, indicating the creation date, the due date and the daimoku goal.

Clicking on the "Chant&Log" panel, you can use the stopwatch to keep track of how much daimoku you do, and log it when you're done.

So, say you sit in front of your Gohonzon, you click "start", you chant 20 minutes, when you're done you stop it, then you click "Log" and you get 20 minutes added onto your log. 

The 20 minutes are subtracted from the daimoku goal, so when you go onto "Track" you will find a progress in percentage, the total amount you've completed and how much you have left to reach your goal.

I haven't really used the "Community" functions at all, but you also get to "share" stuff and "send" daimoku. I'm not much interested in that.

Now, onto a bit more detail and personal comments (and experience!).

I had the first problems when setting the daimoku goal. I was carrying out a daimoku campaign (mainly for my parents' happiness), and I set a daily target of 1 hour daimoku a day.

The app only allows you to enter number of daimoku, which I found confusing. I went onto settings to see if this could be changed into hours, and it can't. The settings does, apparently, allow you to change the default number of daimoku per minute (the default is 55). Fine, I said, let's count them, so I'll have an accurate figure. I set the timer, start chanting at my usual speed, and count on my fingers. And lose count. Start again. Lose count. Lost count five times, then tried counting on one hand and moving cotton sticks from one pile to the other every 10. Lost count three more times. Finally, managed to count by tallying on paper as I was chanting. Apparently my ratio of daimoku per minute is 105. Including the pauses to breathe, mind you. I knew I was fast, but wow.

So, I happily try to change the number, and discover the maximum it allows you is 75. I think, well, I'm not always chanting on my own, and a lot of times I might be chanting much more slowly than this, so let's compromise and put 75. I then multiply 75 by 60, then by 40 (40 hours was my original goal), and put that amount as my daimoku goal.

I had an issue regarding the fact that the daimoku ratio didn't seem to be changing. Of course I was just being dumb. You need to exit the app and reopen it to actually apply the new setting, also note that:

only the 'Remaining' field in the track tab will be updated which tells you how many hours of chanting remain to be done in the future. The 'completed so far' field does not change for a very important reason which is for newcomers to the practice who start off chanting slowly and then get faster over time. In the beginning their chant rates will be slow and this will get faster over time, but their completed chant (both Daimoku and logged time) does not change. Only the future can change not the past so look for the 'remaining' time only to be updated as you change the Daimoku speed and refresh the tables.

It was nice of them to answer even if the question was a bit silly.

On with the suggestions for improvement, I got this:

Your suggestions for improvement are great and we think we can probably get those into the next version - ability to set goals in hours instead of Daimoku and ability to set chant rates even higher than the current max. (You are the fastest chanter we've come across, wow!)

(and I'm still gloating about the little note at the end! I am really fast, blimey! To think that when I started chanting regularly I used to cry because my parents went too fast and they refused to slow down to help me. Now they can't keep up with me. Revenge!)

Something that can be a bit of a pain (but not enough to actually report it to the developers) are the daily encouragements. The first time you open the app, a daily encouragement pops up, like this:

Which is really cute and lovely the first time, but it will come up every single time you open the app. Sometimes you just want to check something quickly, and you have to wait for the thing to pop up, close it, and then you can actually use the app. And it's a daily encouragement, which means every time you open the app on that day, you will get the same message.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the stopwatch will automatically stop if you exit the app or you receive a phone call, which is fair enough, so you don't get distracted while you chant (the Buddhist gods know I'm guilty of that one).
Now the problem is, it will also stop if you receive a text, even if you don't read it (that is, if the phone is in sleep mode and you want to check something, it will automatically open the text and exit the app). Considering I do a lot of chanting on the train or on the go in general, this is something to be careful about.

The stopwatch will keep going if the screen goes to sleep though, which is good.

Up to here, we're talking about the free app.

There is also an upgrade, as I said. I decided to purchase it (at the end of the day it's only two quid, and I'm not short of money).
The upgrade gives you two more chant timing modes. Aside from the simple stopwatch, you will have the Alarm and the Timer. With the Alarm, you can set a clock time in which you intend to finish to chant, with the timer (my favourite), you select a time interval. When you get to that goal, the app will let you know. The signal is actually a lovely chanting bell sound, and you get a message that prompts you to log the amount you've done.
The only thing I didn't like about the Timer is that it resets itself when you log the amount you've done. I initially put an hour, which is my daily amount, did my morning half hour, logged it, and it reset. Now I put half an hour timer.

Another thing you get is the sound. I could be on the train, with my earphones in, chanting and listening to people chanting. I think it's awesome. It makes it much easier to concentrate on the chanting. It's also nice because the recording is one of multiple people chanting at quite a decent speed (nowhere near mine, but a group is always slower than an individual anyway), and it's very good for newcomers.
Finally, you get more options in the "Track" panel. There is a "plan" button that suggests you daily, weekly, monthly and yearly amounts of daimoku to do to reach your goal (not massively useful when the goal was an hour a day to begin with), and a graph that shows your progress. I haven't played around with that yet.

Is the upgrade worth the price? That really depends on you. I just thought, I spend so much money on silly things, what are a couple quid? But you may think otherwise. The free version is more than enough if you just want a timer that doesn't accidentally reset itself (which is why I was looking for daimoku apps in the first place)

Back to the general considerations, one thing I really liked about the app is that you can manually override the default date when creating a goal (which allowed me to put the actual date I started my daimoku campaign), and, most importantly, when logging daimoku. Of course you can log the amount you actually measure with the various chant timing modes, but you can also log a certain amount on a day of your choosing. So I was able to log the 33 hours I had already done (it did give me a message noting that 33 hours were a quite a long time, but it allowed it anyway). Also if you, say, were doing lilac and didn't want to use your phone during a shift, you could just manually log the (usually massive) amount you did later on.

One thing that perplexes me is the multiple goal thing.
You can create as many goals as you want, but when you log your chanting, it will automatically be logged within all the active goals. Personally, when I am doing a daimoku campaign, I have ONE specific thing in mind (or a set of things, but within the same campaign), and I would not start dedicating daimoku to something else until I finish that one.

But that's just me :)

To sum up, the app is great, the developers are really nice and in my opinion the upgrade is worth the price :)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Fukushi, Thanks so much for your comprehensive review on ChantBuddy app. We really enjoy reading your blog and hear about how you use the app in your daily practice. We are glad you find the audio feature helpful on your train commute :) It's the feedback from users like you that help us improve the app to be better. Thank you so much from the bottom of our heart. NMHRGK - ChantBuddy Team


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