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!

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.

AccuWeather Introduced New StoryTeller App at NAB

Storyteller by AccuweatherAccuWeather is the “go-to” website for when you want to know what the weather is like. At NAB, they introduced the new StoryTeller AlertID Crime App. It is powered by AlertID and allows newsrooms to access important data that they need in order to keep their audiences well informed.

The StoryTeller app lets newsrooms access data from communications between citizens, law enforcement, and both federal and state authorities. Use it to access national sex offender data and alerts and Amber Alerts issued by local law enforcement. It also will give information about missing adult alerts, national weather, earthquake, wildfire, and hazardous materials warnings and alerts.

The idea is that the StoryTeller app will help newsrooms quickly respond to the breaking crime news and to news about dangerous weather alerts. This, in turn, will help them to keep the public well informed. The information in the StoryTeller app is drawn from over 170 types of local crime-related data, covering more than 140 million people.

People can also use the StoryTeller app with social media. It interfaces with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. Soon, it will also connect with Vine. Newsrooms can use the social media function to sort through the information and pre-screen all posts for on-air use. AccuWeather was at booth SL-6819 at NAB 2014.

KineMaster Pro Video Editor

For several years I have had feet planted firmly in the two dominant mobile device camps — Android and iOS. I have a 64 gigabyte iPad Air, but I also have an original Nexus 7 as well as my third Android phone, a Galaxy Note 3. The Galaxy Note 3 is an incredible piece of hardware. It has an awesome 1080p 5.7″ display, excellent battery life, and a 2.3 gigahertz quad core processor. The Galaxy Note 3 is the most powerful computing device I have ever owned, including more powerful than every Apple or Windows computer I currently have.

In the past iOS has had a distinct advantage in the form of more sophisticated apps. However, that is rapidly changing.

I usually end up finding ways of pushing my hardware to its limits. I used to do video the conventional way by recording it on a separate device such as a Sony HD camcorder. I would have to go through the arduous task of capturing it to the computer, editing it in a video editor, rendering the file out and finally uploading it to a service such as YouTube.

Now with the Galaxy Note 3 I have a device that is capable of recording excellent video, but it also has a touchscreen that is large enough to edit on.

Up until recently, there were no good Android video editing apps available.

That has all changed with the release of an Android video editing app called KineMaster Pro. There is a free watermarked version which I tried out initially. I quickly determined that KineMaster Pro was worth the $2.99 price tag so I bought it. KineMaster Pro offers themes, along with the ability to easily add background music. It also offers different variable-length scene transitions. It’s possible to export the final rendered result in 1080p, 720p or 360p. It gives a very accurate countdown timer once the rendering process is started. On the Galaxy Note 3, a 13.5 minute long video will render to 720p resolution in about 8 minutes to a 621 megabyte file.

The seller is adding in extra themes that can be applied from within the app.

At one time, even a short video represented several hours’ worth of work to go from initial recording to the final rendered file. If the process can be fully handled on one device, video production actually becomes quick, painless and fun.

VideoMix App Makes Video and Photo Collages

VideoMix appNeed a simple way to turn your photos and videos into a collage? The VideoMix app can do that! Select some of your photos, or choose some of your videos. Pick from more than 70 layouts to put them into. Add some music, use a custom text title, and your collage is ready to be shared on your Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. It is also possible to share your collage with someone else via email.

VideoMix is free to download and free to use without advertising. Premium features are locked under a single in-app purchase of $0.99. It is currently available for iOS, only. There is no information about when, or if, an Android version will appear. VideoMix requires iOS 6.0 or later. It is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The app is optimized for iPhone 5.

There is a four-step wizard that will walk you through the process. The first step involves selecting a layout template. The second step allows you to not only add photos and videos to the template, but also to alter the border width, curvature, color and texture. You can drag and drop things into the template. VideoMix lets you select which segment of the video to play.

The third step lets you pick an iTunes song that will play while your collage is being viewed. Customize a text title and select the font and color you want. The last step allows you to preview your creation and then share it.

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.

AVG Android Social Apps

AVG LogoToday’s Android apps from AVG are aimed at social media users rather than performance junkies whose needs were covered yesterday. AVG has two apps in this space, Image Shrink & Share, and Privacy Fix. Very different apps themselves but both are worth a look..

AVG Image Shrink & Share works on the premise that the average smartphone camera takes photographs which are unnecessarily large for social media purposes. Most people can’t be bothered to downsize the photos and risk incurring bandwidth charges by uploading the large photos anyway. Image Shrink & Share solves this problem by resizing photos on the fly before passing them onto the relevant social networking app. The original photo is not affected and stays on your phone or tablet.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you want to share a photo on Facebook. You review the photo in Gallery or Photos as normal. Hit the share icon and choose AVG Image Shrinker instead of the app you would normally use (it’s on the left in the screen shot which is from the new Photos app which has a different layout and background).

AVG Shrink & Share Apps Onward Sharing Apps

Then you are prompted for the final app that you want to use to post the photo, say, Facebook or Google+. Image Shrink & Share resizes the photo based on your default selection and then passes it on to the social media app (or other app) for comment and posting.

You can setup the default size for each application individually in the Settings menu. If you turn an app off, it doesn’t show in the second list presented by Shrink & Share, so it’s a useful way to declutter your sharing screen as well.

Social Media App wpid-Screenshot_2013-11-11-18-53-01.png

In practice, I found that it worked very well and solves the problem very neatly. Images resized correctly and looked good. If I had one suggestion, it would be to have a native resolution option on the resize settings so that photos can be passed through without alteration. I know that it’s not strictly necessary as I can simply choose to share directly to the app, but it makes the process consistent.

Overall, if you post lots of photographs to social media sites, this is a must-have app. Personally I’ve found it handy for uploading images to WordPress as it has a 2 MB limit on photos, so AVG’s tool gets round that problem for me.

Moving on, AVG PrivacyFix is less about sharing and more about controlling your exposure on Facebook and Google+. It’s a complementary app to the PrivacyFix website which covers LinkedIn too, but the app currently only looks at Facebook and Google+. It’s simply a case of giving the app access to your accounts after which PrivacyFix will make some comments and recommendations.

PrivacyFix Start

Here are the recommendations PrivacyFix gave me for Facebook and Google+.

PrivacyFix Facebook PrivacyFix Google+

You can tap through each and PrivacyFix will give you some information on the impact of changing the option and if you wish to proceed, show you what was done. Here’s some info on turning off Search History and then the output from opting out of ad tracking.

PrivacyFix Implications PrivacyFix Ad Tracking

AVG PrivacyFix is another great app. It’s certainly not one that you are going to use everyday, but it’s definitely worth running every month or so to check that your exposure on social media is at an acceptable level. Clearly you can use the PrivacyFix website to cover LinkedIn, but I hope AVG extend the Android app to cover LinkedIn and perhaps others such as Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, etc. I also think that this would be a great tool for parents to check the privacy settings on their children’s accounts and that’s a feature that AVG ought to promote directly within the app and website.

Both Shrink & Share and PrivacyFix are free apps, so go ahead, download them from Google Play and try them out.

AVG Android Performance Apps

AVGAnti-virus outfit AVG have released a suite of small Android apps which aim to improve the performance of your smartphone or tablet. The free apps Cleaner, TuneUp and Uninstaller all help to keep your device ticking over smoothly. Here’s what each app offers.

AVG Memory & Cache Cleaner – The Cleaner apps cleans out all the cruft and detritus that accumulates on your smartphone or tablet in caches, downloads and histories. Overtime, this material can build-up and have a significant impact on functionality. For example, on my tablet the Play Store sometimes gets stuck and can’t upgrade an app until I clear out its cache and this app sorts it out. The app provides plenty of options to clear out certain sets of information while leaving others intact but the best feature is the Auto Clean which lets the user set how often the Cleaner app removes the rubbish. I have mine set to clear out once a week and I’m regularly seeing 100 MB or over being tidied up.

AVG Cleaner

AVG Battery Saver & TuneUp – This app has four distinct parts, Task Killer, Battery Consumption, Data Usage and Storage Usage, which together are less focussed that the other two apps. However, this doesn’t stop them being useful.

  • Task Killer is self-explanatory and kills user-selected tasks and processes. I think tasks are the same as running apps and processes are equivalent to background processes, but this could be clearer. Helpfully the tasks can be ordered by memory use so you can see which apps are hogging the space.
  • Battery Consumption lets the user setup a power saving mode by turning off various radios and other options. When the battery level reaches this level, the power saving mode is entered automatically.
  • Data Usage does what it says, monitoring the data used by the phone and alerting you when it gets to a predefined level. There are quite a few options around setting volume and reset dates but there doesn’t seem to be any discrimination between 3G and Wifi data which would be a useful enhancement.
  • Finally, Storage Usage shows the apps that use the most storage space with the option to uninstall the worst offenders. There’s an overlap here with the Uninstaller app but it’s no big deal.

AVG TuneUp

AVG Uninstaller – The Uninstaller app doesn’t just uninstall apps, though it seems to do this competently enough. What it does do is present different views of apps on the device so that you can make an informed choice as whether to uninstall an app or not. The four views provided are by usage, by data, by battery and by storage. Personally, I find by usage the most useful as it lets you see the apps that you really never use and aren’t going to miss. There’s a weekly reminder feature which reviews the app usage and recommends apps for uninstallation based on lack of use.

The other Uninstaller views could be useful if you are having a problem, but I already know that Ingress is consuming a large percentage of my battery. The storage view is handy too if you are wondering where your memory has gone but that option didn’t throw up too many surprises for me either.

AVG Uninstall

Overall, these are all handy little apps that are worth the free download. If you’ve already got AVG Antivirus, you’ll find that these apps integrate into the Antivirus app so you can launch Cleaner and Uninstaller from within Antivirus. The Battery Saver and TuneUp app’s functionality is already built-in to the Antivirus app so this app is not required if you have AVG Antivirus.

The only irritating aspect of these apps is the advertising. It’s not that I’m against the advertising per se – the apps are free after all – but it’s that the adverts are for apps that I’ve installed already! AVG, please don’t waste the screen real estate for apps I’ve got, and if you were to introduce paid versions, I’d buy them.

All are available to download from the Play Store. Tomorrow, I’ll be looking at two other AVG apps, Privacy Fix and Image Shrink & Share.

Day One: A Journal for the 21st Century

day one iconDay One is a journal for the digital age. I decided several months ago to start keeping a daily journal. Many people were recommending Day One on the Mac and iOs but I resisted, thinking the price was too high. It is $9.99 for the Mac app and $4.99 for the iOs version. I tried a couple of free journals including vJournal, but I wasn’t satisfied. Finally I decided to put down the money for Day One on both iOs and the Mac.

If you are going to start a digital journal and are in the Apple ecosphere then Day One is well worth the price. The first thing you will notice when you open up Day One is that it is well made and designed app. Along the left hand side you have a plus button which opens up a new entry window. Below that you can pull up your previous entries either in list form or by calendar date. You can also find the post you have starred as important and also set a daily reminder. Across the top of the window , you can add tags, location and images.

You can use Day One this way and it is worth the price.  However by combining a script by Brett Terpstra called Slogger, with Dropbox or iCloud and IFTTT along with Hazel you can do so much more, including having any image you post to Tumblr, InstagramFlickr or Facebook go into your Journal. Drafts an iOs app will also work with Day One. To set some of this up does require working in the terminal and some work with a script. If you take your time and follow the directions provided in the links in this post, you should be ok. Once you have it set up though, you can have things sent to Day One automatically,personally I love this option.

As you can tell I have become a big fan of Day One. I use it as a personal journal, however I do know some people who use Day One as a business journal. There are some problems with Day One, first is there is no trial version, I think a lot of people stay away from Day One because of the price. If there was a trial version I think they would be hooked. The second problem is security. You can set up a password to lock down Day One, however you cannot encrypt the entries. If you are on a Mac or iOs and are interested in starting an electronic journal I would recommend Day One.