June Measures Sun Exposure at CES

Netatmo June BraceletConsumer electronics company Netatmo have announced June, a sun exposure monitoring bracelet aimed at women. June tracks UV intensity and total sun exposure during the day, feeding information to the app which then provides advice on how to best protect their skin. As most of us know, excessive sun exposure causes sunburn and leads to premature skin ageing.

Depending on the user’s skin type, the app calculates the suggested maximum daily UV dose and then presents the percentage of sun exposure as the day goes by. The app can notify the owner when its time to protect her skin by putting on a hat, applying sunscreen or seeking shade.

Designed by French jewellery designer, Camille Toupet, June can either be worn as a bracelet or a brooch and comes in three colours; gold, platinum and gunmetal. June will be available in the second quarter of 2014 priced at US$99 from select fashion, beauty and consumer electronics stores. The June app will be downloadable from iTunes for iPhone 4S and above.

The June bracelet has won two CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards in both “Wearable Technologies” and “Tech for a Better World” categories. The bracelet will be on show at CES in the Convention Centre, South Hall 2, Stand 26 700, if you want to take a look.

I really like the concept behind this and as a parent, I could see a great deal of mileage in a waterproof version for children (and watersports enthusiasts) to wear. If little Johnny spends too long in the sun, the alarm goes off on Dad’s mobile phone.

One Billion Podcast Subscriptions

One Billion Podcast SubscriptionsWhile some people have suggested that podcasting is a dying art, the data indicates an entirely different reality. Apple announced on Monday, July 22, 2013, that there have been more than 1 billion podcast subscriptions through the iTunes store. Thats a big number!

If you visit the iTunes store today, and visit the part about podcasts, you will see the image that accompanies this blog. It is part of Apple’s special promotion to commemorate the 1 billion podcast subscriptions.

The data from Apple notes that the 1 billion subscriptions are spread over 250,000 unique podcasts. The podcasts are in over 100 languages. More than 8 million episodes have been published in the iTunes store (so far).

Those 1 billion podcast subscriptions do not necessarily equate to the same amount of “listens”. Many people, myself included, have fallen behind on listening to the podcasts that they have subscribed to. Personally, I have more podcast episodes that are sitting in my iTunes, waiting for me to get around to listening to them, than is reasonable. My intent is to get to them all, eventually!

Video Podcasts Behaving Like TV?

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Roku

One of the downsides to Internet-based video content is that generally each new program being played back must be initiated by the user. This isn’t much of a problem if one is watching a full-length movie or television show via Netflix or Amazon Streaming. However, if one is watching short-form content like video podcasts such as “Film Riot” then watching a bunch of episodes in a row tends to be a bit more of a pain since each one must be started playing depending on the playback platform.

I discovered an interesting trick that the Roku is capable of using the free iTunes podcast database app that can be added from the Roku store on your Roku. The app connects with the iTunes podcast database and will display both video and audio podcasts. Select an episode and it will begin to play. If you select an older episode, either video or audio, it will play that episode and then automatically play all episodess that follow it in the correct order.

This is a very useful feature say if you want to catch up with several weeks’ worth of video podcasts. Each podcast plays automatically in the proper order. It is almost like being able to turn video podcast streaming into more of a conventional television viewing experience.

Talkler: Have Email Read to You

Talkler Are you drowning in email. Do you feel like you are never going to catch up, then Talkler maybe for you. It will not only read your email to you but it will also listen to your commands. You can use your voice to delete, archive, skip to the next email and so much more. You can command Talkler to speed up or slow down how it reads back to you. A simple tap will pause or restart a reading. Talkler also has a teleprompter mode. So if you miss something you can quickly glance over a see it. You can also reply to an email using Talkler. Just talk naturally and Talkler will understand you. Finished “writing” your email and tell Talkler to send it and off it goes.

Talkler is free to use and is available on iOS. They are working on an Android version. There is also a pro version available with no ads.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine. and Daniel J Lewis of the The Noodle.mx Network and the Audacity to Podcast

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TuneIn Radio App Broadcasting Outside Lands Music Festival All Weekend

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TuneIn Radio, the popular app for iOS and Android is streaming the big Outside Lands Music Festival live from San Francisco all of this weekend.  The app is free from the Google Play Store and $0.99 from the iTunes Store.  TuneIn Radio was also available briefly from the new Windows Store on Windows 8 before being pulled for unknown reasons (I was lucky enough to grab a copy), although unsubstantiated rumors say it will be a Windows RT-only app in the future.

As for Outside Lands, the festival kicked off yesterday and runs through tomorrow.  The lineup includes Metallica, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, the Foo Fighters. Norah Jones, Of Monsters and Men, and many other artists.  The show gets under way at noon and runs into the night each day so there is still plenty to hear.  You can see the schedule of performances as well as listen to replays of acts you may have missed by visiting the festival’s web site.

 

App Review: Image Resizer

This app is exactly what I needed! Recently, iTunes made a change to the specifications for show artwork for podcasts. Now, your image must be a 1400 x 1400 jpg. This made things a bit difficult for me.

For a while now, I have been creating original artwork for one of the podcasts that I am involved in. I have a background in Art Education, which means that every so often I just feel the need to create some hands-on, not done on a computer, type of art. After the art is finished, I would take a photo of it, upload the photo to my computer, and then use it as art for an episode of my podcast.

The new change meant that I wasn’t going to be able to do things as easily anymore. The photos I was taking were at least twice the specifications that I now needed to fit the artwork into. What I needed was an app that could quickly and easily resize that image for me, (without costing me a fortune to use it). I also needed it to be Mac compatible.

I started my search by clicking on the App store icon that was at the bottom of my screen. After a little looking around, I found an awesome little app called Image Resizer. It was created by Bitten Apps, and only cost $2.99. The price was nice, so I decided to give this little app a try.

I found it to be incredibly simple to use. Open the app, and an interface immediately pops up. Drag the image that you want to resize from your desktop, and drop it in the app. It will keep the image aspect ratio of the original image (unless you go and uncheck the box that tells it to do so).

Unlike some of the other image resizing apps, this one allows me to type in the dimensions that I want the image to be changed into. All I had to do was type 1400 into each box, and click the button that says “Resize!”. Just like that – I had turned an image of my artwork that was too big to use as podcast art into something that fit into iTunes new specifications. I highly recommend this app.

MyFord Mobile – The Future of Smart Driving?

Adoption of electric vehicles in the United States has been a bumpy road, at best. If it wasn’t cost, it was availability. And if it wasn’t availability, it was functionality. For whatever reason, electric cars can’t seem to get traction.

With a new app announced today, Ford is looking to set the tone for what owning an electric car should feel like. Owners of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric can now download the MyFord Mobile iPhone app from either iTunes or www.myfordmobile.com.

The new app makes owning and operating the new electric Focus seem challenging and fun – a little bit like a game. No longer do the selling points of an electric car have to be contained to economic and environmental advantages (although, those are pretty important, too). MyFord Mobile gives you tools to manage your vehicle – like you would manage your calendar or finances.

“The Focus Electric is a fun car to drive and helps save customers money at the pump; with MyFord Mobile, the enjoyment and savings continue after the vehicle is parked and charging,” Bill Frykman, Business and Product Development manager, said. “This innovative app also offers new ways of sharing your driving experiences to create a “cool” factor while educating new Focus Electric drivers on the perks that come with an electric vehicle lifestyle.”

Among the features of the new app:

  • Users can monitor the battery display for the current charge level and for how long the car will need to be plugged in to get a full charge or reach a desired range.
  • A MapQuest-powered trip planner built into both the app and Web portal enables users to find available public charging stations and plan efficient multi-destination routes.
  • Value charging technology (developed with Microsoft) helps customers charge the vehicle at lowest possible costs based on varying electricity rates depending on location, season and time of day. The app uses Microsoft’s cloud computing platform to check local utility rates and then automatically starts charging after the prices drop.
  • Users can program driving schedules and set a desired cabin temperature.
  • Drivers can learn to be more energy efficient by automatically uploading and processing vehicle data from each trip.

The link between smartphone and car is possible via an embedded AT&T wireless module through which drivers can log in at any time.

Of course, app users can make their Ford Focus Electric ownership a social experience by participating in forums on the MyFord Mobile website – featuring leader boards, achievements and social networking. Driving achievements and statistics can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter – probably leaving your friends and followers wondering why your car is talking to them and possibly eliciting references to 1980s TV classic Knight Rider.

Drivers interested in the MyFord Mobile can check out the site and the app as a guest. MyFord Mobile will also work with the upcoming C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids.

iTunes will not Shut Down

iTunes I have a Mac Mini with Lion and the latest version of iTunes installed. Occasionally iTunes will do something strange and today was one of those days. I was on iTunes listening to some music and podcasts. When I was finished I went to shut it down. After I shut it down it popped back open. I tried to shut it down again and the same thing happened. I then tried to force close it and still it popped open. The only way I could get rid of it was to shut the computer down by using the power button. This is not a practical solution so I started to do some research.

I started to search the Apple forums for an answer. The first answer I found said to repair your disk permissions. To repair permissions you go under Utilities, then Disk Utilities and then choose your home hard drive and then click repair disk permissions. Repairing disk permissions took about twenty minutes and when it was done, I restarted iTunes and then closed it down and again it popped back open. Another person suggested moving the iTunes .plist from the Preference folder which is in the Home Folder to the Desktop. So I tried that and again iTunes popped back open. I went back and re-entered the search string and realized I had been looking at an older forum. I found a more recent forum from 2011 and one of the posters commented that on occasion a dashboard widget can cause this problem. The light bulb went off in my head, when I remembered that I had attempted to use the Red Alarm Widget earlier in the day. I deleted the widget and that solved the problem.  I still not sure why it worked since when I reinstalled the widget and restarted iTunes with the alarm turned on, I was able to successfully close iTunes down. The same thing had happened once before several months ago and that time the problem application was Plex. Again when I uninstalled Plex and then reinstalled it everything worked normally.  Have you run into this problem and did you find a different solution. Finally does anyone know what is causing this problem to spring up every once in a while.

Apple Pursues Perfection

Apple iPad 3As the Apple roadshow rolls out of town for another few months, I doubt anyone will claim that this was a classic performance. Even the most zealous worshipper has to admit that it was a straightforward and by the numbers presentation with no real surprises. You might even argue that there have been two mediocre events in a row and while it was easy to give Apple a bye last time because of the death of Steve Jobs, this time there’s no such luxury.

What did Apple announce today? An improved set-top box, a faster tablet with a better screen, an OS point release and some jazzed-up software. Hardly big news – Samsung had a better showing last week at MWC by miles.

So what’s gone wrong? Resting on their laurels and counting their considerable cash pile? In a previous post I mentioned that Apple was about perfection, not innovation and today’s event backs this up. Nothing ground-breaking but good solid improvements which undoubtedly will sell well. Not a mis-step, but not a stride forwards either.

To be fair, it’s easy to be armchair critic without contributing anything – what would I’d have considered as new innovations from Apple?

  • iOS Apps on the Apple TV. Not unique to Apple but an interesting step forwards with great potential.
  • Full control of the Apple TV from iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. What you see on the TV, you see on the device in your hand, making it easy to control.
  • Similar situation but in reverse. Show off your photos or movies from your iPhone or iPad on the Apple TV without cables.
  • Pass running apps between iOS devices. Playing Angry Birds on your iPhone but now want to play the iPad? Pass it on over and continue playing from where you left off.
  • (Inductive charging would be nice, too.)

This would create an even more tightly knitted hardware ecosystem that would encourage owners to be all-Apple, rather than the existing media-orientated ecosystem.

Apple, while you might be raking in the cash, you need to and can do better. Next time round, let’s see some real innovation. Perfection is boring.

Withings Internet Connected Baby Scale

At CES in Las Vegas, Withings has announced its wireless Internet-connected baby and toddle scale, winner of a 2012 CES Innovations Award. Developed by the French company, the Smart Baby Scale incorporates WiFi, Bluetooth and the low power Bluetooth Smart connectivity and allows parents to accurately record their child’s weight from birth.

Withings Smart Baby Scale

Using the Smart Baby Scale, parents can view the weight readings from any net connected device, such as PC, laptop, iPad, iPhone or iPod touch using the already available WiScale app. Parents can easily pass on their child’s weight profile to their doctor, family and friends and the scale can also update Facebook and Twitter. Messages can be sent to email addresses with new readings and, if desired, parents can put together a scrapbook with notes and photos to create a story of their child’s growth.

Cédric Hutchings, Withings co-founder says, “We are very excited to announce our Smart Baby Scale and offer parents an amazing new way to take care of their newborn or young child. The success of our WiFi Body Scale has proven the benefits of connected weight tracking on adults and we were eager to also bring these benefits to babies and children. We are thrilled that our Smart Baby Scale was awarded the prestigious CES Innovation Award and this further reinforces our vision of designing smart communicating devices that help families take better charge of their health”.

The Smart Baby Scale complements other Withings products such as the adult Withings WiFi body scale and the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor. Parents are able to monitor their child’s weight on the same dashboard they view their own weight and blood pressure. (Hmm, I wonder if parents are as inclined to put their own weight on Facebook!)

No news on pricing but the Smart Baby Scale will be available from Q2 of 2012. The WiScale app is available now for iOS devices from the App Store for free.