Category Archives: iOS

InvoiceNinja Launches Native iPhone App



InvoiceNinja LogoAs a freelance human, I have to track my own time when working on projects for clients. This is crucial if I want to get paid for the work I’ve done (and I definitely do want to get paid). I’ve explored a number of different systems for doing this. And while I have yet to find one that I absolutely love, the one I’ve been using recently (and like for the most part) is InvoiceNinja. It’s an open source platform for freelancers to track projects and generate invoices for clients. I’ve been accessing InvoiceNinja using a web browser on my Mac, as that’s really the only InvoiceNinja interface that’s been available. But that changed recently when InvoiceNinja announced the release of a native iPhone app.

InvoiceNinja’s iPhone app gives users access to all of the platform’s features, including time tracking, invoicing, and more. Having the ability to use the app on the go should make it easier for freelancers who often work at remote locations where they may not have access to a computer. The InvoiceNinja service itself works on a freemium model, with a basic free tier along with paid options for premium features. The new iPhone app is a free download from the App Store. InvoiceNinja has stated that the company is working on developing a native Android app. No ETA yet as to when the Android version will be released.


Super Mario Run is Coming to iOS Devices



super-mario-run-for-iosNintendo has announced that Super Mario Run is coming to iPhone and iPad. It is the first Mario game to be released on iOS. The game will be free to download, and is scheduled for release in December of 2016.

Super Mario Run is being described as “a new kind of Mario game that you can play with one hand.” Hold your iPhone or iPad in one hand, and tap the screen with your other hand. In short, they are making it clear that you won’t need a controller to play this Mario game.

In this game, Mario constantly moves forward through the courses while you use a variety of jumps to navigate. Mario will behave differently depending on the timing of your taps, so it’s up to you to show off particularly smooth moves, gather coins, and reach the goal.

Nintendo says the game has three different modes. The first mode is a challenge course for players to complete while gathering coins. The second mode lets players challenge the play data of other players to show who “can beat a course with the most style to impress Toads into joining you.” The third mode lets players create their own Mushroom Kingdom, using the coins and Toads collected in the first to game modes.

The is no information about when, or if, Super Mario Run will be released for Android. Based on the comments I’ve seen on Twitter, there are some people who are really upset about that.

Super Mario Run is free to download, and some content will be available for free. Additional content will be available for purchase.


Latitude Tour App at CES



Latitude Tour AppScott Ertz interviews Brody Horton of Latitude Tours. Latitude Tours is an app available for both Android and iOS that currently offers audio tours for New York, London and Paris.

The example given is that you arrive as a tourist in Paris. Once you are ready to take audio tours in Paris, you pay $15 dollars which gives you 24 hours’ worth of access to all of the Paris audio tour content.

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Motus Baseball Performance Tracker at CES



Motus LogoThe availability of detailed performance information for sportsmen and women is one of the big changes in recent years. From tennis to basketball, there’s almost certainly a smart device for the sport. Motus specialise in tracking baseball players, both pitchers and batters, with a new smart sensor. Todd and Marlo find out what it takes to knock one out of the park from Jason Lamendola of Motus.

Motus clip and sensorFor Motus, the new sensor that comes as part of MotusBASEBALL is a great improvement over the previous generation as it’s not only smaller with a longer battery life, but it now provides data whether the player is at the mound or the plate. The only difference is that pitchers wear a compression sleeve on their arm with the sensor fitting in a small pocket, whereas the sensor fits on the back of a batting glove.

With regards to reviewing the performance stats, there’s an app for that. In fact there’s two, one for batting (Motus Batting) and one for pitching (Motus Throw), though it seems the apps are only available for iOS. The apps provide a wealth of stats in real-time, allowing coaches to identify problems and avoid injury as it happens.

MotusBASEBALL with the new sensor is expected soon and the Motus site says “early February”. Once on sale, it will be priced at US$149 which is very affordable for coaches and keen players.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com and Marlo Anderson rounds up the latest technology news at The Tech Ranch.

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Bevel 3D Smartphone Camera Attachment at CES 2016



c2c19d4a2dcda42f24831c2918091871_originalMatter and Form is bringing their newest smartphone photography accessory– the Bevel 3D camera attachment– to CES 2016.

While most other 3D attachments merely create a 3-dimensional illusion by enhancing the depth of a photograph without actually creating a usable file, Bevel allows you to capture real 3D photographs using any smartphone or tablet.

Bevel works by plugging in to your phone or tablet and capturing a panoramic view of the person, place, or object you want to photograph. Bevel’s eye-safe laser light and your device’s camera work in tandem to scan the object and create a stunning 3D image that you can use in countless ways. You can even use Bevel for 3D printing!

Bevel comes in multiple color options (white, orange, green, blue, and black) and is compatible with both IOS and Android smartphones and tablets. It’s currently available for pre-order for $79 here, and is scheduled to begin shipping in early 2016.

Bevel will be at CES 2016  at LVCC, South Hall 2- 26530 in the Augmented Reality Marketplace.

 


Surface Pro 3 Update



SurfaceIt’s been going on about three months since buying a Surface Pro 3 tablet with a 256 gigabyte SSD, an I-5 processor, and Windows 10 preinstalled, so I figure it’s time for a bit of an update.

Since getting the device, there has been one major Windows 10 update, along with countless small spyware and virus updates for Windows Defender, which is built in to Windows 10.

So far, between the hardware and the operating system, there have been zero hiccups. Windows 10 has been absolutely rock solid. I am still really enjoying the Windows 10 experience. The one area lacking with the Windows 10 tablet experience has been the lack tablet mode apps from the Windows App Store. Many types of apps are just non-existent, or as in the case of the Windows Facebook app, are barely adequate but obviously lacking in up-to-date Facebook features present in the Android and iOS counterpart apps. I am willing to overlook this poor Windows app experience because I can easily just go to the various websites and get the full website experience if I need to. Also, my Galaxy Note 4 phone is where I end up running most of the standard apps anyway, so when it comes right down to it I don’t need them on a large-screen tablet device anyway.

I also purchased the older generation Microsoft Keyboard. Additionally for a paltry $15.99 I purchased the Fintie Surface Pro 3 Case Folio Slim-fit Leather Stand Cover with Stylus Holder from Amazon. The version I got was navy blue, but it comes in a very wide variety of colors and print designs. Fintie also sells an updated version of the case for the Surface Pro 4 for $13.99. Both products are highly rated. The case does an excellent job of protecting the unit and gives me a very secure loop along the top of the screen to insert the Microsoft Pen stylus that came packaged with the unit.

Of course the big advantage of the Surface Pro line is that it packs a full, powerful PC into a thin tablet form factor combined with an amazing high-resolution screen.

I spend weeks at a time traveling and living in a very compact area. The less bulky stuff I can carry with me, the better. The Surface Pro 3 completely covers my mobile computing needs. I was able to delete an entire laptop bag from the stuff I carry around with me, which included an old white plastic MacBook and an old Asus netbook.

I still listen to a number of popular Apple-centric podcasts, and I am beginning to hear the frustrations I suffered with for at least the past year when I was trying to decide what to do in order to update my computing hardware. I thought about newer MacBooks, but because they forced newer versions of OS/X, they wouldn’t run the aging media creation software I wanted to run. The iPad experience is great for media consumption, but is absolutely painful for even the most minimal productivity tasks including writing articles and media creation.

The Surface Pro 3 has solved my problem. I am confident to travel just with it, since it is more than capable of handling all the tasks I need it to handle. I feel a bit sorry for the people who are trapped in the Apple-only mentality. Fortunately, even though I bought my fair share of Apple products in the past 10 years, I wasn’t trapped and could easily switch back to Windows once Microsoft corrected its terrible operating system mistakes (namely Vista and Windows 8) with the release of Windows 10.

I hear people use the phrase “living in the future.” For me, the future is here and I am already enjoying it as never before. I have a super-high-quality, unbelievably fast touchscreen tablet that also happens to be a full PC that can handle everything I throw at it.


The Mobile App Gap



The history of mobile applications dates back to simple games such as Snake, Pong, Tetris, and Tic-Tac-Toe included with candy bar phones.

As phones became “smarter,” Windows Mobile phones of the mid-2000’s and others included the ability to install third-party software, both paid and free.

Next came the era of the high noise level platform app stores that we know and love/hate today. There are tons of both free and paid apps. Some apps are useful to accomplish very specific, pointed tasks with high efficiency. Others apps are arguably less than useless. The good and the bad, the useful and the useless are packaged together in a cacophony of brightly-colored graphics and flowery sales language, all on equal footing and demanding attention. App discovery is often painful, unpleasant and risks device app bloat.

Mobile device ownership and management requires a learning curve. In phase one, the mobile device novice is at high risk of downloading seemingly every app encountered, while actually making use of very little of that which has been installed.

Phase two of the learning curve is typically marked by out of storage memory errors.

Phase three requires the user to decide which useless apps should be deleted so that the mobile device can continue to be updated and/or functional. When deleting apps, there is a tendency for the user to hang on to installed apps if there’s even the most remote of chances that the user might conceivably use the app.

The key test to determine whether a particular app should simply be deleted is to ask yourself whether or not you would reinstall it after a factory reset.

It should be noted that apps that the user has paid for will tend to have a higher psychological value placed on them, regardless of whether they are actually useful or not.

In this noisy mobile app jungle, where crap is right alongside cream, people are trying to squeeze the most out of their mobile devices, to extract the maximum productivity.

Mobile devices make great content consumption devices. Proof is all around us. At any given moment when people are around, how many of those people are absorbed with their mobile devices?

As mobile devices become ever more powerful, the next step in the evolution of the mobile device usage learning curve is revolving around increasing demand to accomplish real-world productivity tasks. While some productivity tasks can be accomplished, others are difficult or impossible – not because of computing power limitations – after all, today’s mobile devices often have quite powerful processors – no, because of software limitations.

Mobile device operating systems have grown larger and more sophisticated along with the more powerful processors. However, there is a problem plaguing both iOS and Android in the form of an app gap. Apps are wannabe pretenders when it comes to genuine software sophistication. No mobile device apps can compare on equal footing with desktop computer software. Both major platforms – iOS and Android – suffer from this problem.

There is nothing stopping software vendors from developing highly sophisticated mobile software, other than the fact that it’s typically just not worth it. For whatever reason, mobile device owners have a pervasive “it has to be free or very low cost” mentality. We are willing to spend upwards of a thousand dollars or even more for a high end mobile device, but balk at the idea of having to pay more than a few dollars for single apps.

If you have ever tried to push a mobile device to better take advantage of its powerful processing capabilities, you quickly run into a problem. Go beyond a certain level of task sophistication, and the apps typically fall flat very quickly. The ultimate test for mobile apps is to take a mobile device and plug it in to a 1080p or higher monitor. Attach a keyboard and if it’s an Android device, attach a mouse or trackpad. Try to use the mobile device and the installed apps like you would a full computer. For example, try to push the experience to its limits by editing a long, complex video and see how well it goes. The mobile software will play back high resolution videos without any trouble at all, but try to do something really productive and things quickly fall apart. The problem isn’t the processor, but the software.

The mobile app gap situation doesn’t look as if it will improve anytime soon. In the meantime, as mobile device owners and users there are a lot of questions we should be asking ourselves.

How much are you willing to pay for mobile device apps? What has been your experience? Have you ever paid for an app and then realized later that it was a waste of money? What is the most you have ever paid for a mobile app and why?

Why are people willing to pay sometimes hundreds of dollars for sophisticated commercial desktop class software without batting an eye, yet close their wallets when it comes to paid apps for mobile devices? Do people perceive mobile devices to have as big of a potential payoff as a desktop or laptop? If mobile computing devices don’t have the same payoff potential as a desktop or laptop, then why not? What is the difference between the two systems? What can be done to increase the potential payoff value of mobile computing devices?


Cook Reluctant To Fundamentally Alter iOS?



Created with Microsoft Fresh PaintCould Apple be faced with the classic innovator’s dilemma?

About 10 years ago I got bit by the Apple bug. A friend sold me his original Mac Mini running a G4 processor, and I was immediately hooked. At the time the machine was no powerhouse, however it was quite capable for basic computing tasks of the time. It died a few years later following lots of use, probably of a failed hard drive, though by then totally obsolete and not worth trying to repair.

Once Apple made the switch to Intel chips, I was all in. Apple computers were more expensive, but at that time Apple gave good value for the extra cost. My first two Apple laptops could actually be upgraded with larger capacity hard drives and more memory. The now 9-year-old white plastic MacBook still boots up and works well helped by the addition of an SSD, and the 17” MacBook Pro from 2007 still works though has developed a stuck mouse button problem. The problem with both of these machines is that technology has continued to move forward and my expectations have changed.

If we look back, technological devices are continually converging. The most useful functions of a particular device almost always get recombined into new convergence devices. The original devices may end up going completely away, or can end up as specialty devices. Device convergence pressures are relentless, driven in large part by new technical knowledge.

Steve Jobs seemed to have a particularly good knack for being able to pick out which convergence devices would catch on with the public and position his company to take advantage of what he saw coming. Like an expert surfer setting himself up for major waves, Jobs did this with the iMac, the original iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Jobs also had the ability to pivot if he saw that his personal predictions were wrong, for example adding apps to the iPhone after famously saying people didn’t want apps on their smartphones.

After he knew his death was impending, Jobs is said to have left Apple with at least 5 years’ worth of new product ideas.

Since the death of Steve Jobs more than four years ago on October 5, 2011, Apple has gone on to become the richest corporation in history. However, that success is perched precariously on the continuing phenomenal sales success of the iPhone.

In the meantime, technology and customer expectations have marched on. The pressure for device convergence yields for no one. Capacitive touchscreens now dominate the landscape. Gordon Moore’s Law continues its march forward towards smaller, cheaper and faster.

In portable computing, I now have a tablet in the form of a Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10 that is also a real PC capable of running desktop software. Since getting the Surface Pro 3, I am using it for everything – writing articles, podcast audio recording and editing, HD video editing including 4k, watching movies, and another use that turned out to be a total surprise. The Surface Pro 3 (and 4) comes with the Microsoft Pen. I now find myself motivated to learn the skill of drawing and digital art, which came completely out of left field.

My computing expectations have changed. I want a true convergence device. Apple doesn’t offer such a device. Furthermore, Cook keeps resisting the convergence idea itself.

Tim Cook again today discouraged the idea of making a Mac/iPad convergence device. Quoting Cook:

“We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad. Because what that would wind up doing, or what we’re worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants. So we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.”

Why not experiment? Cook’s statement is couched in terms of “protecting” the customer, and “worrying,” but I believe something else is going on. Cook is afraid of radically altering the iOS experience, after all the iPhone is Apple’s giant cash cow. Why wouldn’t Cook want to innovate iOS beyond altering its cosmetics? Is Cook reluctant to tamper too much with the iPhone for fear of damaging iPhone sales?

Has Apple ran into the innovator’s dilemma?

Alas we have perhaps run into a fundamental difference between Tim Cook and Steve Jobs. One of the hallmarks of Steve Jobs was his willingness to cannibalize existing sales with new product convergence devices. For example, the iPhone cannibalized iPod sales because the iPod function was converged directly into the iPhone.

The new iPad Pro at the end of the day is just a physically larger, faster iPad. Trying to use the iPad for anything more than a media consumption device is a genuine pain. The iPad itself is just a giant iPod Touch. An iPod Touch is an iPhone without the phone.

Thus, the innovator’s dilemma. Does Apple come out with a tablet that is also a touchscreen Mac similar to the Surface Pro 4, or a touchscreen Mac that also doubles as a tablet similar to the Microsoft SurfaceBook? Would such a hybrid device cause customer expectations for the iPhone to change in ways that might negatively impact sales?

Apple as a corporate machine is showing signs of rusting around the edges. Recent software and hardware product releases haven’t gone smoothly. Products seem rushed out the door before they are ready for primetime. Some customers waited months for the pointless Apple Watch. The new generation 4 Apple TV has interface problems, as well as bugs. The latest version of OS/X El Capitan is afflicted with many continuing bugs. iOS 9.x has continuing bugs. Even the new iPad Pro was inexplicably put on sale without the availability of the Apple Pencil stylus or the Apple Keyboard, both initially sold as being fundamentally important to the existence of the product. These problems would have never been tolerated or allowed to happen if Steve Jobs were still around running the Apple show. The well-oiled machine that was Apple under Steve Jobs is starting to fall into corporate dysfunction.

Apple has plenty of money in the bank, and iPhone sales are likely to continue to be strong in the short to mid-term, even if the nature of the iPhone itself isn’t fundamentally altered. That being said, technical knowledge and Moore’s Law continue to march ahead. Customer expectations change – will Apple?


Neko Atsume is Now in English



Neko Atsume gameNeko Atsume: Kitty Collector is an adorable game where players collect cats. The incredibly cute artwork caught my attention right away. A recent update allows players to toggle between Japanese and English in the game.

The adorable artwork was what first attracted me to this game. All of the text in the game was written in Japanese, and this left me guessing about how to navigate through the menus and what the different items were called. Although most of the game is fairly intuitive, there were times when I needed to search online for an explanation about things.

Neko Atsume in English

The recent update of Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector allows players who use iOS devices to toggle between Japanese and English. Suddenly, I could read the names of the gifts that some of the cats have given me. I discovered that some of the mats were actually heating pads. Some of the item descriptions are amusing. At this time, the update that enabled English is only available on iOS.

This cute collector game is extremely simple to play. Fill the food dish and put some toys, beds, or other items into the space. Random cats will come and visit (until the food runs out). Check in periodically and you might find a cat taking a nap or playing with a toy that you left out for them. If the food runs out, you won’t get any more cats until you fill the dish again. Unlike other pet related games, the cats don’t die if the food runs out. (They just stop visiting you for a while).

The overall goal seems to be encourage all of the different cats to visit. There is an album that shows players information about the different cats that have appeared, and the kinds of things they like to play with. Some cats will decide to become your friend and bring you a special gift.

Cats that visit will “pay” you in fish. Those that were especially happy will “pay” you with golden sardines. These are the two currencies in the game. Eventually, you will collect enough to buy more stuff for your cats to use. This game is appropriate for kids to play, and they can use the in-game currency to shop in the store for more stuff. Parents should be aware that the purchase of additional golden sardines costs real-world money.


Zoom Function Broken in iOS 9



iOS 9 logoIt can be a gamble upgrading to a new version of any operating system. The latest iteration of iOS has proven this true once again. Users are reporting a wide range of bugs and quirks after updating their iPhones and iPads to iOS 9. For example, Apple’s proprietary Podcasts app began constantly crashing after the iOS 9 upgrade.

Another problem I’ve noticed is that the system-wide zoom function, found in the Accessibility section of iOS’s System settings, is now very erratic. Sometimes, it works as expected. But most of the time, it doesn’t.

Most iOS users probably aren’t even aware of this zoom function. But as a visually impaired person, I rely on it all the time. Once system-wide room is enabled, it’s engaged by doing a three-finger double-tap on the screen. From there, a three-finger drag allows the user to adjust the magnification level of the zoom. It’s an indispensable feature, especially for apps that don’t utilize the standard pinch-to-zoom function.

I visited the Genus Bar of my local Apple Store on Tuesday. I wanted to make sure that this problem wasn’t the result of something I’d overlooked. My genius stopped just short of saying it was the iOS update that caused the problem but she did say it looks like a software issue. She also said that doing a full wipe and restore of the device might help. But that was no guarantee.

I have reported my findings thru Apple’s official product feedback system. Now, all I can do is wait and see if a future update fixes the problem. I had hoped it’d be resolved with the 9.0.1 update that came out yesterday. But the problem is still there.