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Tag: app

Voxer Walkie-Talkie App

Posted by tomwiles at 9:40 AM on May 20, 2013

For several years, I’ve made heavy use of the Heytell walkie-talkie app on both iOS and Android devices. Heytell is functional, but it has its problems from time to time. I have continued to my eye out for worthy walkie-talkie app alternatives.

I originally tried out the Voxer app upwards of two years ago. At that time, I found that Voxer just wasn’t a worthy replacement for Heytell. For one thing, I found the Voxer audio quality to be fairly poor compared to Heytell’s audio quality. I left Voxer installed on my devices, but contined to make use of Heytell.

Recently my youngest brother contacted me via Voxer and I started noticing the app once again. I noticed that not only had the audio quality improved, but other useful features had been added and the overall performance of the app is now quite robust.

One of the key features that makes Voxer extremely useful to me is that I can easily pass through poor and changing mobile data performance areas, and Voxer is able to robustly adapt to the changing data connectivity conditions. Even in marginal connectivity areas all outgoing Voxer messages are eventually transmitted to the recipient as connectivity permits. All incoming Voxer messages likewise come in as connectivity permits.

Another really nice feature of Voxer is that it allows unlimited message length. It’s possible to talk and not arbitrarily get cut off after 20 seconds. Also, unlike Heytell there are never any “full” inboxes to contend with. It’s possible to leave plenty of messages for your recipient and they will be waiting for them on their device when they get time to listen to them. This is really a great feature if you are trying to give someone how-to instructions.

Voxer also has the ability to text chat as well as transmit photos back and forth. Additonally, Voxer puts a GPS stamp on each transmitted message, so it is possible to see a map of exactly where either you or your recipient was when a particular message was transmitted.

Walkie-talkie apps on mobile devices can be extremely useful. When you don’t have the time or the inclination to make a phone call, yet have need to communicate with someone, a walkie-talkie app is extremely useful. With both Android and iOS versions, Voxer is the best free walkie-talkie currently app available.

Finally Mobile Streaming Becomes Truly Practical

Posted by tomwiles at 8:05 PM on April 23, 2013

I remember driving around back in the early 1980’s dreaming of what it might be like if I could listen to what I wanted when I wanted to. Back in those days, in many areas of the country, there was nothing to listen to but farm reports and hog prices. AM and FM stations would quickly fade in and out. Driving cross-country it was necessary to constantly change stations as they faded in and out, often vainly searching for something worthwhile to listen to.

When podcasting came along in 2004, in many ways it was the answer to that dream. Suddenly there was new content to listen to, on demand, on a wide variety of topics. It had to be downloaded and put onto a player in advance.

The past few years I’ve been experimenting with mobile streaming. For a long time, it just wasn’t practical in rural areas. Pandora would generally work better than all the other streaming services, but attempting to stream regular radio stations or even podcasts was generally not going to work.

However, now things have changed once again. With the widespread deployment of LTE mobile networks, successful casual streaming all kinds of different audio is not only possible, but practical in most of the areas I’m driving in. This opens up yet another new world of possibility.

Podcasting itself is a good case in point for something that came together because enough bandwidth was available. MP3 files had been around for a long time. Computers had already had the capability of recording digital audio for quite a number of years. RSS had been around for a while. All of these things converged and became something new.

Today I’m spending a lot of time with the Stitcher app on my Google Nexus 7 here in my truck, suction-cupped to the truck’s windshield and connected to stereo speakers via Bluetooth. Stitcher makes a great streaming mobile radio service. Now that the mobile data network is good enough in most areas to make streaming practical in the real world, new possibilities have opened up.

All of these things have been around a while. Stitcher is not new. The streaming concept has been around for quite a number of years. Podcasting as well has been around for probably at least nine years. What is different is now I don’t have to fuss with downloading them ahead of time. I really like the way stitcher lets you search for a keyword or two and then sequentially plays the different podcasts that showed up in the search. I find myself on a voyage of discovery, bumping in to podcasts I’ve never heard of. Because everything is on demand, like watching Netflix or Amazon streaming video, if I find an audio podcast I don’t like I simply skip ahead to the next one.

I can’t predict exactly how this will eventually develop. However, I can say, now that the mobile data bandwidth is a reality, there’s something here, and it’s pretty interesting. It beats the heck out of listening to farm reports or hog prices. It also beats having to fumble around with an iPod and auxiliary audio cables.

Buffalo MiniStation Air Review

Posted by Andrew at 5:58 PM on November 25, 2012

Buffalo LogoThe Buffalo MiniStation Air is “wireless streaming storage” for smartphones and tablets that provides 500 GB of extra space. Simply, it’s a 500 GB portable hard drive with wifi and complementary apps for Android and iOS. The idea is that the MiniStation Air connects to your PC or laptop via USB 3 and gets loaded up with stacks of music and video which can then be played via an app when out-and-about. It’s a great idea, but how does it stack up against “the cloud” and other solutions such as Pogoplug? Let’s find out.

Buffalo MiniStation Air Box

The MiniStation Air itself is a small black and grey unit, 130 x 84 x 23 mm. The top is a polished black surface with four pinprick status LEDs embedded in it and the sides and bottom are a silvery-grey with buttons and connectors on two of the sides.

Buffalo MiniStation Air

This is a USB 3.0 device which is immediately apparently from the shape of the connector. (Apologies for using stock photos but my own photos were all rubbish).

Buffalo MiniStation Air USB3

Connecting the MiniStation Air to the PC was simply a case of plugging it in with the device appearing as a removable drive. Copying media files took no time at all thanks to the USB 3 connection. It works with USB 2 as well, things just take a bit longer.

Once the Air is loaded up, it can be disconnected from the PC and then powered up on its own. At this point, the MiniStation Air is broadcasting a wifi signal (802.11n/g/b) and it’s easy to connect to it using the SSID and passkey details provided on the bottom of the Air.

Browsing the MiniStation Air

To get the MiniStation Air to work fully with smartphones and tablets, Buffalo provide an app for both Android and iOS which can be downloaded from the application app store. I was only able to test out the Android version, but once installed, it’s easy to browse the files and folders on the Air.

Music PlayerPlaying music or watching videos is just a case of tapping on the file. Photos and music are handled within the app, but videos are handed over to the default video player on the device. Movies started up within a couple of seconds (if that) and music started almost instantly. The music player is basic and as with many of these devices, doesn’t correctly pick up track tags, so albums are arranged alphabetically rather than in track order.

There isn’t a full “HD” app for the tablets, but there is some differentiation between tablets and smartphones. For example, on a tablet, pictures are previewed alongside the folder but this doesn’t happen on a smartphone, even when rotated to landscape. However, the four expanding arrows in the toolbar at the bottom shows that this isn’t a native tablet app.

Tablet Preview

The Edit part of the app allows files to be up- and downloaded from the MiniStation Air. It’s the usual check-box / select operation affair but for the small numbers of files that are likely to be transferred this way, it’s fine.

The Settings area provides access to the SSID and passkey plus other details such as hostname and workgroup. Nothing particularly unexpected here but the MiniStation Air has one last trick up its sleeve. The Air can be connected to another wifi network, preferably one that has a connection to the Internet. This means that although the smartphone is connected to the Air’s wifi, an onward connection to the Internet is provided for other queries or web surfing while listening to music. It’s pretty slick and very handy. It’s also something Buffalo should make a bit more obvious.

Performance-wise, it says that the Air can support eight simultaneous connections with three HD streams. I tested two HD simultaneous streams and it worked flawlessly. Battery life is claimed to be “up to 4 hours” and I wouldn’t disagree – I saw over three hours with a mix of video and music. The Air is powered and recharged via USB so it’s easy enough to hook it up for extended operation.

Any problems? Not really. A couple of wishes, though. First, a Windows / Mac app to use the MiniStation Air wirelessly would be good. Second, some kind of security on the device would be handy as being portable, it’s going to be awfully easy to lose. Finally, an SSD version with longer battery life but perhaps less storage would be interesting but probably too expensive to be considered.

Overall, the MiniStation Air is a good product that will appeal to those smartphone and tablet users who need more-than-average storage…much more than average. The Air is available now from all good retailers with a street price of £100-£120.

The MiniStation Air app was tested on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone and a Motorola Xoom 2 ME tablet.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the MiniStation Air.

 

Pogoplug Mobile Review

Posted by Andrew at 12:50 AM on October 25, 2012

Pogoplug LogoThe cloud is definitely where it’s at right now, but what if you don’t like the idea the idea of Google, Dropbox et al looking after your data? Then you might be interested in a Pogoplug, which allows you to create your own cloud storage that’s only limited by the size of the hard disk. A Pogoplug is a hardware gadget that connects USB storage devices to your local LAN and then makes the space available across the Internet, effectively creating a personal cloud. The data is stored in your control and if more storage is needed, plug-in a bigger hard drive.

On review here is the Pogoplug Mobile, the 3rd generation of Pogoplug device from Cloud Engines. It offers a single USB port plus an SD card slot along with the network port and power socket. Newer Pogoplugs come with USB3 ports, but as the maximum speed of the Pogoplug cloud is always going to be the speed of the Internet connection, the faster transfer speeds of USB3 are unlikely to be a significant benefit. For testing, I used a 64 GB memory stick, rather than a hard drive, which means that the unit will run silently with minimal power consumption.

Pogoplug Packaging

The Pogoplug website has downloads for Windows, Macs and Linux, and the relevant app stores have versions for Android, iOS, Blackberry and legendary WebOS. I was able to try the Windows, Linux, Android and WebOS versions. The Windows version connects to the Pogoplug and presents it as a drive letter, allowing most Windows applications to use the Pogoplug transparently. The Pogoplug software has additional backup functionality as well, which may be useful for some people. The Linux version is command line only but anyone familiar with Linux will have no trouble getting the Pogoplug mounted into the filesystem.

The Android app is simple and straightforward with a couple of nice tricks up its sleeve. Broadly you can browse files in a directory fashion or you can view music, photos and movies in a tag or meta-data based fashion, As expected, there are viewers and players for the media, though movies get handed over to the default app rather than playing within the Pogoplug app. The music player is basic and has one really irritating flaw; it doesn’t seem to be able to pick up the track number from the mp3 files and consequently orders tracks alphabetically when playing albums. This really needs to be fixed.

Back viewPerformance-wise, the Pogoplug is always going to be limited by the upload (rather than download) speed of the broadband connection when outside of the home. This usually meant a little bit of buffering before playing music but once the playback got underway, there was rarely any stuttering. There were occasional times when folders refused to refresh but my suspicion is that any problems were down to the local data connection on my phone rather than a problem with the Pogoplug. YMMV. Inside my home, the performance was excellent.

In common with other social and cloud apps, the Pogoplug app has automatic uploading of pictures and video from the devices camera. It’s also possible to set the folder where the uploaded images are to go. Frankly, this is brilliant as my wife is hopeless at remembering to copy photos off her smartphone so by setting up the Pogoplug app on her phone, any photos she takes get automatically transferred. On occasion, a photo would sometimes fail to completely upload; again I suspect the loss of 3G connectivity than any fundamental problem, but the error checking could be improved. It’s also possible to upload any image from within the photo Gallery app.

As with most cloud solutions, you can also share with friends and family, using either the app or the web interface. It’s straightforward – select the folder you want to share, select who you want to share with and an email is sent to them with the relevant link. It’s an easy way to share photos of Junior with grandma and grandpa.

Any downsides? Only two that i can see….first, there’s no direct integration with any other apps that I could find. Quickoffice and other office apps typically allow access straight into Google Drive or Dropbox but none seemed to work with a Pogoplug. Effectively I had to download a Word doc to the phone, do my edits in QuickOffice and then upload the doc back to the Pogoplug. Not slick.

The second is that when I was at home and on the same subnet as the Pogoplug, Internet access to Pogoplug’s servers was still needed, presumably to check authorisation privileges. Normally, it’s not going to be an issue, but it would be handy to have a way to bypass this when working locally and the connection to the Internet goes down.

Overall, the Pogoplug is a handy device that gives you control over your data rather than entrusting it to a megacorp. A few glitches spoil what is otherwise a neat little solution that potentially gives as much data storage space as you need, without paying per GB per annum. For the low cost of the Pogoplug unit (about $50 / £35), it’s a bargain.

Disclaimer – this was a personally purchased device.

iOnRoad Turns Your Old Car into a High-Tech Safety Machine

Posted by Alan at 9:14 PM on February 24, 2012

The slogan “Turn your smartphone into a personal driving assisstant” should give you a quick overview of exactly what iOnRoad is all about.  The smartphone app works in conjunction with the camera in your phone to watch what is going on in front of you and warn you of things like if you are getting too close to another vehicle or of lane drift.

The app is built to work in all light conditions, including at night, and gives audio alerts when it detects any dangers.  iOnRoad claims the app uses 30 percent less battery power than your mapping app.  The iOnRoad app is currently free, but will be $9.99 soon.  You can find it in the Android Market, but it will be coming to iPhone later as well.  There are a lot more cool little features to this, but you will have to watch the video below to learn about them.  You can find out more at iOnRoad.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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RHP Multimedia MirrorCase for Sneaky Snaps

Posted by Andrew at 8:44 AM on February 16, 2012

RHP Multimedia MirrorCaseAfter years in surveillance industry, RHP Multimedia have gone out on their own with MirrorCase, an iPhone case for taking sneaky photos. Andy and Courtney take a peek with John Palmeri.

Taking a photograph with a smartphone (or any camera for that matter) is somewhat obvious and there are times when you’d like to be a little more discrete. The MirrorCase is an iPhone case with an angled mirror which allows a photo or video to be taken when the iPhone is held horizontally. A free camera app is included which has a “boss” mode, showing a fake app screen with a flick of the finger.

The MirrorCase is on pre-order at the moment for $80, with deliveries expected before the summer. An iPad version is in development.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Second Line App for Smartphones from Line2

Posted by Andrew at 10:15 PM on February 14, 2012

Line2 PhoneIf you’ve ever wanted a second line on your smartphone but don’t have a dual SIM phone (and let’s be honest, who does?), you’ll be interested in this app from Line2. Andy and Don get a demo from Peter on what the app offers.

The Line2 app provides a second line by using a VoIP connection over 3G or wi-fi. All the features of a telephony service are present with a phone number, voicemail, text messaging, call-forwarding and so on. There’s also HD audio if you are calling another Line2 user.

Being a data service and able to use wi-fi means that it’s possible to send and receive calls where there’s no mobile phone signal but there is a wireless connection. SIM-less devices such as iPod Touches or wi-fi-only tablets can become phones too.

Available for both iPhone and Android, monthly subscriptions start at $9.95 a month.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net, and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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PrivacyStar Blocks Unwanted Smartphone Calls

Posted by Andrew at 1:08 AM on February 6, 2012

PrivacyStar LogoAs on-line marketers transfer their cold-calling attention away from land-lines to cell and mobile phones, their calls are becoming increasingly an annoyance when you are out-and-about. PrivacyStar offers a multilayered solution for Android and Blackberry to cut unwanted calls. Andy finds out more.

PrivacyStar is a smartphone app to block unwanted calls and SMS texts. At its simplest, user-specified phone numbers can be blocked to prevent calls or texts coming through and bothering you. The app also features SmartBlocking which blocks the top 25 numbers blocked by other users in the past week, so if there’s a major calling campaign on, those numbers pretty quickly get blocked.

Other features include CallerID lookup, where if the phone doesn’t know who is calling, the app consults with an on-line directory and displays the caller. For really persistent callers, complaints can be filed directly with the FTC.

The app is currently only available for Android and Blackberry, an iPhone version will be released before the summer. The app is free for a week and then $2.99 per month after that.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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iOnRoad Warns Drivers of Danger

Posted by Andrew at 1:00 AM on February 6, 2012

As well as being a really bad pun, iOnRoad is an augmented reality app that helps car drivers become safer drivers. Courtney gets into the fast lane to find out more about this app which was awarded a CES Innovation Honoree prize.

Available for Android smartphones now and the iPhone soon, the app uses the smartphone’s camera, GPS and accelerometer to provide warnings and guidance to car drivers as they drive. By looking at the white lines, the car in front and correlating data from the GPS and accelerometer, the app can warn about lane departures, tailgating and speeding. The iOnRoad includes a couple of other features, including reading text messages and a car locator.

Obviously the phone has to be mounted on the dash with a view to the front of the car, but you can test the app using the video here. The app is currently free with a charge of $9.99 to be introduced in the future.

Interview by Courtney Wallin of SDR News.

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PaySaber Point-of-Sale Terminal for iPhone

Posted by Andrew at 9:01 AM on February 1, 2012

POS PaySaberAndy chats to Matt from PaySaber at CES‘s Showstoppers about their iPhone-based point-of-sale (POS) solutions.

The PaySaber is a portable handheld POS terminal sled that incorporates a barcode reader, card swipe and thermal printer into the unit. An iPhone or iPod Touch slots into the PaySaber to provide the screen and the wireless communication for the transaction.

The flexibility provided by the iPhone allows credit processing in the normal way, but gives additional benefits such as emailed receipts. From the moment the card is swiped, the whole transaction is encrypted and secure, so the credit card information is never transmitted in cleartext. As you’d expect from any POS system, PaySaber can be configured to interface with inventory systems to automatically deduct items from stock as a sale is completed.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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