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CyberCook - CyberQ WiFi Software

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One of the reasons I was excited to be getting my CyberQ WiFi was I had discovered there was some 3rd party iOS software out there for it. The software allowed you to access the CyberQ WiFi remotely and made it easier to use. What excited me the most is some of this software was said to add features such as graphing and logging your cooks. I used to log my cooks manually by going out to the Kitchen and taking readings from my Maverick ET-72 remote read thermometer every 15 or 30 minutes. This software for the CyberQ did all of this for you, even while you were away from the house or sleeping. The first 3 apps I tried were rather disappointing for any one of several reasons. Then I stumbled onto CyberCook (iPad) and CyberCook Mini (iPhone). It had all of the features I was looking for and then some. It had a nice clean interface which was nice to look at, but the “eye candy” does not take precedence over the functionality. The App is extremely well thought out. CyberCook is now my GoTo app for controlling my CyberQ WiFi on both my iPad and iPhone. After this review I think you will see why.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I bought and paid for the iPad version of CyberCook. I wasn’t sure if I even had a need for CyberCook Mini for the iPhone, so I held off until I had chance to try CyberCook. When I initially began playing with it, I had some setup and usability questions and contacted iPortable Solutions LLC for some help. Mark, the developer of CyberCook was quick to respond. Besides answering my questions, we had some back and forth e-mails discussing features and I gave him some feedback on the app. He appreciated the help and asked me if I had an iPhone and whether I had CyberCook Mini. He gave me a code to redeem for free version of CyberCook Mini. This was unexpected and very nice of him. I paid for the $6.99 iPad version and was given a free version for the iPhone. Cost: $6.99. I will point out that I also paid for two of the other apps I ended up not liking, and I am not complaining about that or looking for my $11.00 back from those two developers. I feel developers should get paid for their work and I feel app prices are really lower than they should be. Folks pay nearly that much for their fancy coffee every day and don’t think about it. But if you think getting the $6.99 iPhone version biases me in any way, feel free to disregard everything you see here. You will be missing out on a great pair of apps.



WHAT IS COVERED:
This blog will cover CyberCook, the iPad version, in depth. CyberCook Mini, the iPhone version, has the same features but they are reorganized to suit the smaller screen of the iPhone. I like the fact that these two apps were designed to work the best they could on the device they are being used on. Several of the other apps I looked at were one size fits all. The iPad version of CyberCook has 4 main screens that you access via 4 icons at the bottom of the screen. There is also a   Settings Menu that is where you do your initial setup and set your preferences. The iPhone version, CyberCook Mini, does not have 4 main screens. Instead you use the   Settings Menu (which has many more menu items) to access the areas of interest to you. So for example the iPad version, CyberCook, has a Control Panel screen with 4 panels showing you info about all 4 probes at once, plus a 5th status panel. In the iPhone version you go into the    Settings Menu (top left icon) and choose the Control Panel menu item. This brings up one of the 4 probe panels and you swipe side to side to access the other three panels. The items found on the status panel of CybberCook on the iPad are displayed at the bottom of each of the 4 probe panels when using CyberCook Mini. What the developer has done is optimize the user experience for each device. You are never forced to try to view too much or too little data. This is also a long way of saying the items and features I describe in detail below for the iPad version of CyberCook will also be found in the iPhone version. Their location within the app and the method you use to access them may be different, but they are there.

BACKGROUND:
The night I put my CyberQ WiFi on my WiFi network using Infrastructure Mode I started looking into 3rd party apps for the CyberQ WiFi. I found 3 in my first round of research. There were a couple of other apps, but they appeared to only work through a website on the internet. I don’t need or want cloud storage for my cooks. Two of the three apps I found were paid apps with the third being free. I downloaded all three apps to test them out. I am not going to dump on these other apps by name, instead I will mention what I didn’t care for. IMHO two of the apps had truly butt ugly user interfaces, corny and clunky. The third had a pretty user interface but it seemed to come at the price of limiting what was displayed on screen at any one time. They all seemed to be just blowing up the interface for the iPhone on the iPad. Supposedly they had iPad versions, but they did next to nothing to take advantage of the added screen resolution of the iPad. One app actually had space where you could include banner ads, say what? A gross looking user interface and banner ads! No thank you. The first two I tried were rather clunky to use. When I tried the third app that seemed to suck less, I found it even more frustrating. I made a typo when entering my IP address and found myself locked out and for the life of me I couldn’t find a way to get back into the setup screen. I finally resorted to deleting the app from my iPad and re-downloading it. I got past the setup screens the second time around, but I was not liking this app either. The built in web app is functional but very basic. The text is tiny on the iPhone and not a whole lot bigger on the iPad version. Logging and graphing is not possible through the built in web app. I just knew I was not happy at all and I needed to look around some more.

CYBERCOOK:
Accidental Discovery: The next night I began my search again. One of my search results was a link to a post in the BBQ-Brethren.com forum. It was from someone on a competition BBQ team who’s friend had created an iOS app for the CyberQ WiFi. His team had successfully used the app at their various competitions last year and it sounded very interesting. The app was called CyberCook and there were links in the thread to the developer’s Website. I hadn’t found this app when I had poked around in the iOS App Store. On the developer’s website were screen shots of the interface. The user interface was the best looking CyberQ app I’d seen so far and it just seemed to make sense to me. There were also links to PDFs of the Features Guide & Owner’s Manual. I downloaded both and the more I read, the more excited I became. The user interface was clean and usable. There were separate iPhone and iPad versions which each cost $6.99. The iPad version took great advantage of the extra screen real estate of the iPad. The program had the logging and graphing features I was looking for and the graphs seemed to be highly customizable. I quickly went to the iOS app store and bought the iPad version. I wasn’t sure if I would need or want the iPhone version, so I decided to hold off until I got some hands on time with the iPad version.

Cybercook App Logo
General Info:
iPad Version: CyberCook Price: $6.99
iPhone Version: CyberCook Mini Price: $6.99
iOS Version: iOS 8 or later.
Network Modes: Supports the Adhoc & Infrastructure Modes found on CyberQ WiFi
WAN Networking: Can be accessed over the internet by entering public IP Address
Developer: iPortable Solutions LLC
Developer’s Website: http://www.iportablesolutions.com/iPortable_Solutions/CyberCook.html

About the Developer: I have had some email exchanges with Mark Grueninger, the developer of CyberCook / CyberCook Mini. One of the things I like about many small developers is they are often very passionate about their product. It is as much a labor of love for them as a business. Mark has been very responsive to my questions and is very enthusiastic about this app and truly seems to want it to be the best it can be. The fact he developed it for competition cooks and was able to make them happy says a lot.

Overview: CyberCook is an iPad app, and CyberCook Mini is an iPhone app both of which allow your iOS device to access the CyberQ WiFi and display and access it’s features over WiFi. You are able to monitor your cooks and change settings remotely from the comfort of your warm house on your iOS device. These apps make the settings changes quicker and easier because you are not limited to inputting everything via the 5 front panel buttons on the front panel of the CyberQ. Additionally these apps enable additional features such as creating a log and graph of your cooking sessions. According to the website, the app was developed with the assistance of a competition BBQ team, the Moonswiners. They used it at many competitions starting in 2013. This heritage gave me confidence that this is a serious app. There is money on the line at these competitions and the teams take their gear very seriously indeed.

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CyberCook - Initial Setup - Infrastructure Mode: One of the things I liked right away about CyberCook is how easy it was to setup. This is particularly true in comparison to some of the other apps I tried. CyberCook seems to be able to grab some of the network settings by itself. I am not sure if it is getting those network settings off the iPad’s Network settings or from information stored in the CyberQ. Either way it is easy to set up the steps are:

  • Get the CyberQ & your iPad on the same WiFi network.
  • If you get an alert about loss of power, simply dismiss it.
  • Go to the Gear symbol   found in the top left corner of the App.
  • A Settings Menu will drop down.
  • Go to Wi-Fi Settings and use the 4 tumblers to set the IP Address of the CyberQ on your network.

At this point you may be done with WiFi setup unless:
  • You changed the HTTP port assignment from the default Port 80. If so change the HTTP port settings in the Wi-Fi Settings menu to match the port you set on the CyberQ.
and / or
  • If you added a Username & Password to your CyberQ WiFi, drop down to the Authentication Credentials Menu item and enter these values.

There are other popover dialogue boxes accessed via other menu items in the
   Settings Menu. As I mentioned earlier: In my setup, the 6 items in the Network Settings popover auto filled themselves. There are other preferences in the   Settings Menu that change settings on the CyberQ as well as for some of the additional features added by CyberCook such as Graphing/Logging. Once again I found this to be the easiest setup of the apps I looked at.

4 MAIN SCREENS:
The program is organized into 4 screens used to view and access the features of the program.

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Control Panel Screen - iPad: For me this is the screen that sets the iPad version of CyberCook apart from all of the other apps. Some of these apps seem to have just taken the iPhone version of their app and enlarged the interface. So you get a limited amount of information even though you have more screen real estate with the iPad. The other thing I saw was the “eye-candy” wasting way too much screen space, with the amount of info displayed on the screen taking a back seat. CyberCook (iPad) takes the right approach. It has a clean visually appealing interface, but this does not interfere with the amount of information displayed. The screen is organized into 5 areas. There are 4 vertical areas which are used for the 4 temperature probes. The Pit Probe readings are on the top left and the 3 Food Probes are to the right of that. The Pit Probe Panel is separated using a wider space than the 3 Food Probe panels which are grouped together more closely. This attention to detail is evident throughout the program. Another example of this is the readouts for temperature change color to reflect their status. For pit temp readouts: Low temps are displayed in blue, high temps are displayed in red and green is used for temps falling within the deviation you’ve set. On the food probe readouts: Green is used for temps at or below your set point and red is used for high temps.

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The Pit Temperature panel displays the current pit temperature at the top, with your set desired temp displayed below. There are “+” and “-“ buttons below that. Below this are two more displays: Status shows whether your temperature is “High”, “Low” or “OK”. OK means the pit temp is within the deviation you have set on the CyberQ. The Fan Output display shows how much the Blower Unit fan has been running. The Food Probe temperature panels are similar. At the top is the probe name: “Food 1”, “Food 2”,…etc. Below this is a place where you can add your own name for the items being measured with that probe. This name is displayed throughout the screens on the CyberCook app, but not on the CyberQ. Below the Name field is a field displaying the current food probe temperature at the top, with your set desired temp displayed below. There are “+” and “-“ buttons below to change the set point. Below this are two more displays: Status shows whether your temperature is “OK”, meaning at or below your set point or “High”.

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At the bottom of the Control Panel screen is a horizontal panel containing 6 status readouts across the top. The highlights include a Connection Status readout. This has 3 display states. A green “GOOD” readout if the CyberCook is connected to the CyberQ. If CyberCook looses communication with the CyberQ for more than 15 seconds it puts an alert dialog box on screen sounds a single alarm sound and the display turns to flashing yellow “LOST” readout. If this condition persists for 3 minutes another alert box is displayed, a VERY LOUD, VERY hard to ignore alarm sounds and the display changes to a flashing red “PWR FAIL”. It should be noted that the audible alarms can be turned off in the   Settings Menu.

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There are other readouts showing whether you have an active cooking session and whether you are making a recording of your cooking session. It should be noted you must create a cooking session to make a recording. The bottom left of the this panel has controls to set a countdown timer visible on the Control Screen. The lower right of the panel has recording controls for when you wish to record your cooking session. They turn the recording on and off and show the status.

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The 4 probes which are displayed a a group on the iPad version are displayed in 4 seperate screens in the iPhone version. This is a case of the interface making the best use of the available screen size.

Control Panel Screens - iPhone: The 4 probe panels on the single Control Screen of the iPad are split up into 4 separate screens on CyberCook Mini. You access the    Settings Menu found at the top left corner of the screen. You go to the Control Panel menu item which brings up the Pit Probe panel. You then swipe side-to-side to access the Food Probe panels. Tailoring the interface to suit the device is typical for this app.

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Active Cook Screen - iPad: Cooking Sessions are a place where you can store data about your cooks. To make a recording of a cook, you must first make a cooking session. The active (current) cooking session can than be recorded. When creating a cooking session you have text entry fields where you can name your session and add some notes about the session. There are 5 more buttons that bring up tumbler style menus where you can enter the Date, the Pit name, the Charcoal used, the Wood(s) used and the Outside Air Temperature. These tumbler style menus are pre-populated with typical items for that menu. You can edit these menus to add or delete items. The Pit, Charcoal, Wood(s) and Outside Air menus are sticky and will remain at their last used settings when you go to create a new session. After you have added all of the information you wish, you click on the Start Cook Session Button to begin your Cook Session. You can then start a recording of this session back at the Control Panel Screen.

Active Cook Screen - iPhone: In the iPhone version you access the    Settings Menu and select the Manage Active Sessions Menu item.

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Session Timers Screen - iPad: I am going to cover the 4th screen next and save the most exciting screen for me for last. The Session Timers screen displays the current time at the top and below that are 4 countdown timers for your use. At the top of the timer field is the digital readout for the timer. Tapping the timer brings up a tumbler style popover menu to set the time. You can set times up to 16 hours and 59 minutes. Below the timer display are controls: “Play/Start” , “Pause/Stop” and a Reset button. The reset button resets the timer to the value you have entered for the total time for this timer. Below the controls is a field where you are able to give your own name for each timer. When a timer expires you receive an audible alarm, an alert dialogue comes up in whatever screen you are in CyberCook and the readout for that timer changes from 00:00:00 to “EXPIRED”. These timers are no doubt handy, particularly for busy competition cooks that have many processes they need to time. For me I would like these timers to be able to be Count Up in addition to Count Down. I sometimes like to time how long a process takes from start to finish too.

Session Timers Screen - iPhone: Like the other screens, you first enter the    Settings Menu and select the Session Timers menu item. This brings up a screen with the current time at the top and the 4 timers are accessed by scrolling down the screen.

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Saved Cook Session Screen - iPad: This screen shows your list of saved Cooking Sessions. There are buttons to allow you to pick the method the saved sessions are sorted by: Event Name, Date or Pit Used. This screen is the most exciting one for me because it is where the graphs for your cooking sessions are stored. You can also access the graph for your current session here. When you access the graph for your current cook it is accurate up to the last reading. It does not auto refresh while it is open. This is not a big deal, you simple close the graph and reopen to refresh it. Any additional readings will now be displayed. These recorded sessions can be exported via PDF and you can have it email the PDF for you as well. The graphs have a lot of great features and are highly customizable. The developer is working on some additional tweaks which will make them even better. This is a case where rather than talk about these particular features, I will show some screen captures where you will be able to see the features yourself.


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The Pit Probe & the 3 Food Probes are all color coded to help distinguish them on the graph.


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The information from the various probes can be turned on and off to suit your needs and help simply the graph and make it easier to read.


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Shading is used to help show low (blue) or high (red) pit temperatures.


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The Session Reports can be expected to a PDF and a PDF attached to an email. The report includes the metadata entered into the Session Report, the log file in tabular form and the graph.


Saved Cook Session Screen - iPhone: You access the     Settings Menu to bring up this screen. The name in the menu is Graphical Reports.

USE CASES:
Background: When I initially bought CyberCook for the iPad I really didn’t know if I would want or need the CyberCook Mini version for the iPhone. After all I could use the default web pages served up by the CyberQ WiFi on my iPhone to meet some occasional need to access the CyberQ from the phone. My initial thoughts were I wanted an app that would be easy to use, take advantage of the large screen size of the iPad and give me logging/graphing capabilities. It wasn’t a matter of paying the additional $6.99 for the iPhone version, to me this is peanuts compared to what we spend/waste on other things. I just didn’t want to buy something I might never use. After playing with the iPad version a bit before actually using it on a cook, I had pretty much decided I would probably buy CyberCook Mini too. As mentioned above, I had some back and forth emails with Mark, the developer, where I gave him some feedback he seemed to value and he offered to give me a code so I could get CyberCook Mini for free. For my first cook using the software, I had both. I immediately saw specialized use case for both. Here is how I put both apps to their best use for me. Your mileage may vary.

iPad Uses: CyberCook on my iPad gives me a control center in my Kitchen. I set the iPad up on a stand on a counter a few feet away from where I prep.It remains in that location, plugged into AC power the entire length of the cook. I display the Control Screen about 99 percent of the time. At a glance I can see what the 4 probes on the CyberQ are reading. I can do this by the readings themselves or the color code of the readout. Once I have used CyberCook Mini to set my desired Pit Temp and set my pit preferences, I go to the Active Cook Screen on the iPad and create a new Cooking Session. I then go back to the Control Screen and start a recording for this session. The iPad remains in the Kitchen, plugged in and recording for the entire cook.

iPhone Uses: CyberCook Mini on my iPhone is used to control all of the settings on my CyberQ. The Owner’s Manual mentions when using two devices, the settings changes should be made from the same device. So when I close the lid of the Egg to start warming it up, I use CyberCook Mini to change my desired Pit Temperature settings and tweak the other preferences. I often change the Pit Temperature settings out at the Egg. This way I can look at the display screen of the CyberQ to insure my desired cooking temperature setting was received. At this point I can go inside, where it is warm, and change the other settings. I can take CyberCook Mini with me anywhere in my house. So if I am done working in the Kitchen for a while, I can go to my home office or visit with my guests. I don’t have to keep running into the Kitchen to peek at the status of my cook. That info is with me where ever I go. I can also go to sleep and bring my iPhone with me and if anything happens while I am sleeping, the alarms will wake me up. Lastly by getting my Public / WAN IP Address I can access the CyberQ from anywhere I have internet access. So if I need to be away from the house for a while, I can still keep an eye on things.

What if I Can Only Afford One?: My initial reaction is to laugh and say we are talking an extra $6.99. Just skip a couple trips to Starbucks and make some coffee for yourself at home. You’ve already spent the big buck for your iPad and iPhone. But let me try to give a more serious answer. It really comes down to screen size and where you will be using it the most.
  • If you plan to use it mostly indoors and don’t need to take it with you very often, get CyberCook (iPad)
  • If you want to be able to display and access a lot of data at once, get CyberCook (iPad)
  • If you are going to need to use it outdoors out by the grill often get CyberCook Mini (iPhone), it is far easier to keep an iPhone protected from the elements than an iPad.
  • If you are going to need to use it via the internet from a remote location away from your house get CyberCook Mini (iPhone), it is far easier to bring an iPhone on the road with you than an iPad. You usually will have your phone with you anyway. Bringing an iPad you’ll need to decide if the weather is too hot or too cold to leave it in the car.

CONCLUSION:
This is a really great app and I am really excited about using it going forward. Together with the CyberQ WiFi, it is taking over control of cooking the main dish for many of my cooks. This will give me more free time to focus on other things or heaven forbid relax a bit or do an overnight cook and sleep. It is doing more for me than I could do for myself. Now there is no reason to stay up all night to monitor a cook. I don't have to choose between sleeping and staying up so there are no time gaps in my log files. I can instantly access old cooks to see historical data for similar cooks. I can cook on really cold and windy days and the CyberQ will keep the grill temps steady, saving me extra trips out to the grill. CyberCook will allow me to keep an eye on things from the warmth of my Kitchen and change settings indoors from there too. It is funny because a few months ago I really didn’t see the need for a Pit Controller for a backyard cook like me using a Big Green Egg. Now I am beginning to wonder how I could have been so wrong. Between the CyberQ WiFi and CyberCook things have become so much easier easy and so much more enjoyable.

CYBERQ WIFI BLOG SERIES:
   EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 1  What is a Pit Controller & why would someone want one?
   EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 2  Why did I choose to but the BBQ Guru CyberQ WiFi?
   EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 3  WiFi Networking overview and setting up an Adhoc WiFi connection on the CyberQ WiFi.
   EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 4  Setting up an Infrastructure mode WiFi Network Connection. More difficult but more capabilities.
   EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 5  Attaching the CyberQ to a grill/smoker.
   EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 6  Attaching the CyberQ to a grill/smoker.

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