Flash my...wallet?
April 25, 2008 7:11 AM   Subscribe

What's the deal with Flash My Brain? I was all set to shell out $40 for the flash card program, which looks great, and all of their contact email addresses bounce. Bad company? Temporary glitch? And what flash card software is a better option?

I've had my eye on Flash My Brain for a while now. The $40 price tag always seemed really high for a product that I couldn't even get a test version of, but after toying with the idea for about a year, I finally decided to go ahead and purchase it - it seems like a fantastic program. But I'm switching computers in the next few months, so I wanted to ask their support staff first if moving the program to a new computer will be a problem or not, so I emailed - and it bounced. So I found another address and emailed - and that bounced. That same evening I tried five different @flashmybrain.com addresses, all returned with the "there's no one here by that name," message. Gave them the benefit of the doubt, tried again in two days, figuring maybe it was a server problem - but no, the emails still bounce. Then I noticed there's no phone number anywhere - in fact, no way to contact the company but by email, or through the forums that you can only get access to once you buy the software. Sketchy, sketchy, sketchy.

A little Googling turns up some interesting results. Some people like it, others hate it (but admit that version 2, which just came out, has solved a lot of original problems). Weirdly, there is also this archived conversation from 2006 that implies that there may, in fact, only be one person working behind the scenes on this program. Users who have bought the program and thus have access to the forum say that they're lucky if their complaints or problems are ever addressed - usually they are ignored in perpetuity.

So what's the deal? Is this a good program attached to a company that's hit hard times? Is it worth keeping an eye on them for a bit longer and perhaps buying in later on? Or are there enough red flags here to run away for good?

And if I don't buy this program - what should I use? I have exams coming up in the fall that I need flash cards for, and I have never managed to use the physical versions. A software program is exactly what I need, and the more powerful, the better - especially since I split my time between a Mac (at work) and a PC (at home). I started to use Mnemosyne, but it won't run on a Mac, so it's nearly useless for me. I need portability, multi-system support, and an user-friendly interface. So far, every program I've found hasn't offered that - except FMB. And boy do they sound like a nightmare.
posted by AthenaPolias to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you answered your own question about FMB.

Here is a thread you may find useful: http://forums.macworld.com/thread/61482

I've only tried Genius version 1.5.4. According to versiontracker, it is now up to version 1.7.25. It's freeware and has a nice philosophy: http://web.mac.com/jrc/Genius/.

iFlash is a commercial product for $14.95. http://www.loopware.com/

They are both Mac only, however.

For cross platform, check out FullRecall: http://fullrecall.com/ It is $35 and has an intelligent repetition system based on what it calls an "artificial neural network." I also has a capabilities-limited free version.

For myself, I'd start with Genius and the free version of FullRecall and compare them to see if it would be worth paying the $35.

Good luck with your studying!
posted by ranebo at 8:01 AM on April 25, 2008

Perhaps http://ichi2.net/anki/ can help? It is the open source version of the software mentioned on the blue the other day http://www.metafilter.com/71057/Modelling-human-memory-predicting-forgetting
posted by thylacine at 8:05 AM on April 25, 2008

It'd help more if you detailed what you need in a flashcard program, but I kind of liked Pauker. It runs on everything, and on the Mac at least it has unicode support, which means that the flash cards work for language learning as well.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:22 AM on April 25, 2008

BTW: the Pauker system saves the flashcards in an XML file, and it's a Java program that can even run on a phone, so compatibility and portability is not a problem at least.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:23 AM on April 25, 2008

Best answer: Anki is a nice program, and I think it can even import mnemosyne cards for you, plus more things that mnemosyne can't do. I use it in approximately the same situation as you (switch mac/windows computer locations).

It has versions for linux/windows/osx and an online version (currently with some bugs), and online syncing (text only) which is one of my favorite parts of the program. Syncing means you can have it on multiple computers without shuttling around your file, as long as you have an internet connection at the start/end of a study session.

The developer is continually working on it, and is very responsive through email/forums/bug trackers, which is another plus for me. I had a weird problem with my deck, and he worked to help me fix it and figure things out (some were my fault, some were the program's fault).
posted by that girl at 8:36 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Deathalicious, thanks for the suggestion about detailing what I need in a program. Here goes:

* Preferably cross-platform, but if I have to choose one, it must run on Windows. Studying at work, while helpful, is mostly a no-no - I need to study at home.

* Easy-to-use interface. I'm not into code at *all*, and really need to focus my time on the info on the cards as soon as possible, so the faster I can learn the program, the better.

* I'm using it for language work, so support for multiple languages/fonts. One of those languages is ancient Greek, so something that will let me use a specific font that I provide is necessary - switching to a Greek keyboard doesn't provide the accents that I need for writing the ancient language.

* And finally - but not required - I'd love to be able to get the flash cards onto my iPod, for portability. I'm hoping not to spend all summer in front of my computer, but...

These are the reasons FMB seemed like the perfect answer. I'm really bummed that it seems to be such a bug-riddled program.

Thanks all for the suggestions so far! Please keep them coming!
posted by AthenaPolias at 8:57 AM on April 25, 2008

Best answer: Seconding using Anki. I just downloaded it after reading about it on this thread on Metafilter. It has very good language support judging from the number of people using it to learn different languages. It also supports inserting pictures, audio and latex equations (this last may not be important for you but was the clincher for me). The interface is very intuitive and easy to use. It also uses the algorithm described in the article linked from that thread above that shows you a flashcard just at the moment when you are about to forget it.
posted by peacheater at 9:07 AM on April 25, 2008

Why not just make them in powerpoint? Keynote could handle it on mac too. Or go the other way- keynote -> powerpoint.

Quizlet is an online solution that might work.

If you want to incorporate your ipod, you could make some flashcards for iquiz using iquizmaker.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 11:35 AM on April 25, 2008

n'thing Anki. It's good stuff.
posted by stuboo at 2:29 PM on April 25, 2008

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