Read An eBook Day

Read an ebook dayJust in case you were going to miss it, Thursday is “Read an a eBook Day“, a celebration of modern storytelling. Surprisingly, it’s not sponsored by Amazon on behalf of the Kindle but rather OverDrive whose apps let you borrow library books for free. Yes, for free.

It’s probably one of the best keep secrets in the whole tablet and ereader business. Contrary to what Amazon would  have you believe, you don’t have to buy ebooks from them as there are plenty of up-to-date novels available from your local library. The downside is that transferring books isn’t that slick and you need an ereader that’s not tied in to the Amazon ecosystem. I have a Nook, but ereaders from Sony and Kobo are supported as well, and you need to load the books via a PC rather than downloading across the Net.

If you have tablet, it’s much easier as the OverDrive app is available for iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows Phone, as well as for Windows and Mac desktop platforms. Check the appropriate app store or else try OverDrive‘s web site. Once you have the app, all that’s needed is a membership of a library and you can download directly from your library to your tablet.

Instead of “Read an eBook Day”, Thursday should be “Read a Free eBook from your Local Library Day”.

Ignore No More App Locks Your Kid’s Phone

Ignore No More! app logoWant to take complete and total control of your kid’s cellphone? There’s an app for that! It is called Ignore No More! The purpose of the app is to enable parents to remotely lock down their kid’s (or teen’s) phone. The only way to get the phone unlocked is to call mom (or dad) back and ask for the four digit lock code.

It was created by Sharon Stindifird a Texas mom who was got “absolutely livid” one day when she texted her teens and they refused to text or call her back. This motivated her to learn how to create an app that would force her teens to stop ignoring her.

The Ignore No More! app is only available on Android. It requires Android Version 3.0 and costs just $1.99. The description of the app states that it can “be up and running in less than 10 minutes”. It says it is easy to install, cannot be disabled, and does not interfere with ICE or First Responder calls.

What if you have more than one teen whose phone you want to be able to lock on a whim? One account can control multiple “child” devices from multiple “parent” devices. Locking a child’s phone prevents that phone from being used to call friends, to send text messages to anyone, and to play games. Suddenly, the phone has only one function.

Full disclosure, I’m not a parent, so this isn’t something I would have a need for. I can see where it might be useful for parents who have grounded their teen from using their phone for a certain amount of time. The parent can give the four digit code to the teen after they are done being grounded.

However, I don’t think this app is going to improve communication between parents and their teens. Yes, it can force teens to call their parent and listen to what the parent has to say. The problem is that this communication is being forced upon them. I think it will cause a lot of resentment, especially if a parent frequently uses the lock. This is not going to build trust between parent and teen.

There are some quoted reviews on Google Play store where you can purchase this app. One man gave it four out of five stars and wrote: “This is a very good idea.. It also is great for locking my wife’s phone if she is ignoring me…lol…” Ignore No More! is going to be a very attractive app for control freaks. I mean, if this guy feels comfortable announcing that he wants to use it to force his wife to call him, imagine how many other guys out there thought the same thing!

Devolo Entering Smart Home Market

Devolo LogoPowerline networking experts devolo have announced their intention to enter the smarthome market with a comprehensive array of products including movement and smoke detectors, radiator thermostats and switchable power outlets, taking on the likes of Nest and Belkin. Branded as “Home Control”, the products will be debuted at this year’s IFA show in Berlin in September.

Focused on providing customers with greater convenience, security and energy efficiency through innovative smart home products, devolo Home Control is the first smart home system that you can build yourself. Whether it’s a coffee machine that automatically starts ten minutes before breakfast, a switch that sets the entire house to night mode, or a motion detector that can tell people from pets, the possibilities for creating a smart home are endless.”

Devolo Powerline Data Rates“Simplicity is the promise of devolo Home Control with an easy installation process removing the need for tools or cables, and a range of components that can be combined as desired. Taking example from their successful Powerline ranges, Home Control products will be available in helpful starter kits, with the ability to expand and tailor the smart home through individual products.

I run devolo Powerline at home and while their gear is more expensive than the equivalent from Belkin or TP-Link, it’s very reliable and I’ve never had to reset any of the adaptors. In addition, the complementary “Cockpit” software and app is much easier to use and runs on both my PC and my tablet. Amongst other features, the app shows the data transfer rates between the paired adaptors and makes adding in new adaptors very simple. Going back to the new Home Control, the press release mentions that the Home Control products will have a “My Devolo” and if they can keep it simple with a cool app, I think devolo will have a winner on their hands.

Interestingly, what isn’t mentioned is whether the Home Control devices will use Powerline, ZigBee (or Wi-Fi) for the controlling signals. I have problems with ZigBee and the solid walls of my house, so a Powerline-based system could be a huge advantage. I’ll be very interested to see what comes out of devolo at IFA.

Songza is “Thrilled” to Become Part of Google

Songza logoSongza has announced that they are becoming part of Google. They stated that they are “thrilled” to make the announcement and that they “can’t think of a better company to join in our quest to provide the perfect soundtrack to everything you do”. Not much else was said, other than that no immediate changes to Songza are planned (“other than making it faster, smarter, and more fun to use”, that is.)

Google announced that they, too, are “thrilled” to welcome Songza to Google. In its brief announcement, Google gave users some assurance about potential changes. “We aren’t planning any immediate changes to Songza, so it will continue to work like usual for existing users”.

So, Google is thrilled, and Songza is thrilled. Will current users of Songza be equally thrilled? That remains to be seen.

Time reported that Songza did not reveal the purchase price. Time also noted that The New York Post, “citing unnamed sources”, reported that Google was offering about $15 million for Songza. I’m never certain how much trust to give to “unnamed sources”, but there we are.

Of course, the discussion about Google buying Songza must include a mention about Apple’s announcement (in May) that it would buy Beats Electronics. And, let’s not forget about Google’s ownership of YouTube. It appears that there is a fight going on between Google and Apple as each attempts to capture the attention of music lovers.

Apple Discontinues Aperture

Aperture appApple has announced that it is ceasing development of its Aperture and iPhoto apps. Instead, Apple will be replacing them with its new Photos app (that was announced during its Worldwide Developers Conference).

Jim Dalrymple, at The Loop was given the following statement from Apple:

With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture. When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X.

The Aperture Blog notes that Apple has said they will provide an update so that Aperture will still work with OS X Yosemite. This will give Aperture users some time to make a decision about where to move their photos to.

ITV Player Comes To Roku

Roku LogoUntil today, the big absentee from Roku‘s line-up of catch-up services in the UK was ITV and its regional partners STV and UTV in Scotland and Northern Ireland. At #2 in terrestrial broadcasting behind the BBC, it was a fairly glaring omission, especially as Channel 4 and Five have been on-board for ages. Now UK Roku viewers can use ITV Player to catch-up with the last 30 days of ITV’s content across ITV, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and CITV with programmes such as Britain’s Got TalentCoronation Street and The Americans in addition to coverage of this summer’s World Cup and Tour de France sporting events. Hurrah!

Springpad is Shutting Down

Springpad logoThose of you who are using Springpad are in for some disappointment. An announcement on the Springpad blog makes it clear that Springpad will be shutting down on June 25, 2014.

The blog notes that Springpad had more than 5 million users in the past six years. It was seen by some as a rival to Evernote. If you browse through articles posted about Springpad, it becomes clear that there were many people who loved it.

As of June 25, 2014, Springpad.com will no longer be available. All online and sync features of the mobile apps will stop working. Users personal data will no longer be stored on the Springpad servers.

Those of you who are currently using Springpad should pay attention to the Springpad blog. They are going to announce “in the coming days” details about the export tool that will be made available to all users and developers. My best guess is that those details will be released soon. Users and developers will only have until June 25, 2014 to use the export tool.

Foursquare is Changing Mayorships

Foursquare logoFoursquare has announced that it will be making changes as it prepares to release Swarm. One change that is causing a bit of controversy involves the way that Foursquare is assigning mayorships.

In the past, it was possible to use Foursquare to check in to your favorite coffee shop. The person that checked in the most frequently (in a 60 day timeframe) would be given the title of “mayor” of that particular coffee shop. Other people who also used Foursquare could compete in an effort to oust the current mayor (and claim the title for themselves).

Starting May 9, 2014, there will be no more ousting of mayors in the Foursquare app. Instead, the app will continue to show the current mayor “frozen in place”. Those who are currently a mayor of a particular location will be able to see those mayorships on his or her profile.

The change is being done to make way for Mayors 2.0. You no longer will be competing against all 50,000,000 people who use Foursquare for the mayorship of your favorite coffee shop. Instead, the competition will be limited to your group of friends. The person within that group of friends who has been to that coffee shop the most will get a crown sticker to show that he or she is mayor of it.

This means that there will no longer be one mayor of a particular location. There will be many mayors now (one for each circle of friends). Some people feel that this takes all the fun out of having a mayorship.

My.com Launches the First Mobile-Only Email Service

my.com logoMy.com is offering an interesting alternative to the desktop based email service that you are currently using. The @my.com email service is a mobile-only approach that has been designed to fit with the increasingly mobile-centric worldwide trend.

The @my.com email service functions within my.com’s myMail app (which was launched in November of 2013). The myMail mobile app was designed for managing multiple email accounts like Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and more. Those who are currently using the myMail app can now add @my.com to that list. If you are already using myMail, you will be prompted to create a @my.com email account when your app is updated on your device.

Those who want to register for their own @my.com email address can do so now. Registration is open and it is 100% free. The myMail app is available for Apple iOS on iPad and iPhone and for Android smartphones. (The myMail app, by the way, is free to download).

Some of the features of myMail include push notifications, quick gestures for moving to folders or deleting, a clean user interface, and spam/virus protection. It also gives users 150 GB of free email storage. That is 10 times the amount of email storage that Google provides in Gmail!

You won’t need to create a password. Instead, you will receive an SMS code after you register for myMail. Once you use the SMS code, it becomes invalid for anyone else. In short, you won’t have to remember a yet another password and you won’t have to login to your email.

All email traffic through myMail is encrypted as an additional security measure. This is very different than the typical desktop based email service that can be compromised by hacking, phishing, or from a stolen password.

Mogees Makes Music at The Gadget Show

The Gadget Show has all kinds of tech on display, from mainstream suppliers with latest tablets to niche fun products that bring a smile to your face and Mogees is definitely in the latter camp. Many of us will have seen those vibration speakers that turn any surface into a speaker….Mogees does the reverse, converting any surface or object into a musical instrument. Here’s a Mogees on a bicycle.

Mogees Microphone

Mogees on a Bicycle

Developed on the back of Kickstarter funding, the Mogees microphone connects into an iPhone running a Mogees app that converts the vibrations into musical tones and with a bit of skill, a tune. The app does a great deal of audio processing to help produce the music in a tuneful way so learning to play your chosen object is fairly easy, however bizarre the instrument is.

The Mogees will be available towards the end of the year and I interview Bruno about the development of Mogees: there’s a demonstration of the instrument in the audio too.