Umano an Audio News Reader

Umano I have a curious mind, so I am interested in a lot of different topics and my Feedly list can get quite long and there are times when I am tired of reading articles and would love to have someone else read them to me. That is when I turn to Umano.  Umano does not replace Feedly, however it is a great addition to it. Umano is an application that is available for both iOs and Android. Umano takes articles that the editors have curated from the web and reads them back to you. I have tried applications like this before, but often they use a computer generated voice to read the article. These articles are read by voice actors, making them much more enjoyable to listen to. The articles are broken down into several categories including technology, lifestyle, entrepreneurship, science, education, news and politics, business and inspirational. You can create a playlist with up to fifteen articles. In settings you can make it so after an article is finished the next one will start.

You can personalize Umano by clicking on the profile and moving the slider up and down under each category. You can also have it read back to you at two times normal speed. It will also play in the background as you’re working in other apps. You can also read the article itself while listening to it if you want to. You can also connect the application to Facebook and share your likes. Umano is available in both the iOs app store and the Google Play Store for free.

Team of Girls Become Finalists With “Arrive” App

TechnovationThe Technovation Challenge began in 2009. It is run by Iridescent, which is a 501c3 non-profit company. The purpose of the Technovation Challenge is to give girls the opportunity to learn how to start a company and become high-tech entrepreneurs.

Teams of five (or more) high school girls can enter. All they need is “a safe place to meet, a laptop with internet and a smart phone”. It doesn’t cost any money to enter the Challenge. A curriculum is provided to the teams to help them through the process. Every year, a theme is selected for the Technovation Challenge. For 2013, girls needed to develop an app that solves a problem in their local community. They can focus on a health problem, a social problem, or a lack of resource.

This year, there were 115 submissions. You can check out a complete list of the finalists. One that caught my attention is a team from The Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City. The team of high school girls have created an app called “Arrive”.

The purpose of the app is to allow girls to use their smart phones to check into school. Administrators can use the app to view student attendance by class and last name. Parents can opt-in to having the app send them a text message when their daughter arrives at school.

This would replace the school’s current check in system, which uses plastic ID cards and countless paper attendance sheets. Instead of having students gather around one check in point, “Arrive” would let them scan a QR code (which can be placed in many locations). The video below shows the girls as they explain more about what “Arrive” will do.

PopClip A Productivity Tool for the Mac

PopClip If you use a Mac and want to increase your productivity one of the applications I recommend taking a look at is PopClip. PopClip is like cut and paste on steroid. PopClip is available in the Mac app store and on-line. Once you download and install the application it will appear in your menu bar as a black and white rectangle. Now when you highlight a piece of  text a small menu bar will pop up above the selected text. By default it shows copy or paste, correct spelling on misspelled words, and define selected words. PopClip will also detect links and email addresses and let you open or copy them, and can start a web search for anything you’ve selected.

In default mode PopClip isn’t that exciting its real power are the extensions that are available for it. Some of the extensions that are available are add a note various application including Evernote, Nvalt or Notepad.  Send tweet to not only thru Twitter but also thru other applications such as Tweetbot or Buffer. You can also use it to the send a piece of text to various getting thing done apps like Omnifocus, Things and the Reminder App. PopClip also has other capabilities you can use it to search for a product on Amazon, find a piece of music in Spotify, or search for a video on YouTube. These are just some of the things that you can do using PopClip, the whole list of extensions are available on the PopClip Extension Page. Normally you use the mouse to activate PopClip however there is an Apple Script  you can install to activate it using a keyboard shortcut. PopClip is available in the Mac App store for $4.99. If you want to try it out there is a free trial version available through the website.

Order Pizza Through Your Xbox 360

Pizza Who doesn’t love pizza? It is served at meetings, is the main course at parties, and a staple of food courts everywhere. You can order a pizza by walking up the counter at a food court, or visiting a fast food restaurant that serves it. You can call your local pizza place on the phone to order a pizza. Many of the big chain pizza places give you the option of placing your order online, through their website.

One might assume that we have plenty of ways to order a pizza. Perhaps Pizza Hut and Microsoft would disagree with that assessment. The two companies have teamed and will be launching an app for Xbox Live that will allow users to order a pizza directly through their Xbox 360.

According to Polygon, the app will be available for Xbox Live users on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Users who download the app before May 6, 2013, will get 15% off their first purchase from Pizza Hut.

Pizza Hut’s entire menu will be available through the Xbox app, and users will be able to build their own customized pizza. An order can be placed via Kinect motion controls, voice commands, or the Xbox 360 controller. The app will also feature Facebook integration, which will allow users to order a pizza and then share what they ordered on their Facebook page for all their friends to see.

I can see where the app would be convenient for gamers who want to order a pizza but do not want to stop playing their games for the amount of time it would take to drive to the local Pizza Hut, or even to phone in an order. Just pause the game, use the app, and get back to playing. On the other hand, I have some concerns. Xbox 360 is used by both adults and children. I’m not sure all parents are going to be comfortable with how easy this app would make it for their teenager, or child, to order themselves a pizza.

Image: Stock Photo Pizza by BigStock

KillSwitch Makes Break-Ups Easier to Cope With

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 5.57.55 PMWhat happens when a person starts a new relationship? They share it on social media! They make it clear they are no longer “single”. Photos of the happy couple, at the places they visited together, clutter up both parties Facebook pages. Suddenly, each person’s Facebook page is filled with lovey-dovey comments, (which at least one of them will “like”).

What happens if that couple breaks-up? At least one of them is going to be really upset and emotional about the loss of the relationship. Unfortunately, when the newly broken-up visit Facebook, they are instantly confronted with photos, comments, and status that are painful reminders of what once was. Ouch!

A company called ClearHart has created an app for this exact situation! It is called KillSwitch. The app seamlessly and discretely removes all traces of your ex from your Facebook profile, including pictures, videos, wall posts, status updates, and anything that has been tagged with your ex. You won’t have to deactivate your Facebook account, and it doesn’t require de-tagging. Tell the app who your ex is, and it will do the rest.

What if that couple decides to get back together? No problem! The app stores all the deleted pictures from when life was lovely in a hidden album on your Facebook page. They can be put back.

The purpose of KillSwitch is to help people who have ended a relationship to move on. A portion of the proceeds from the app are being donated to the American Heart Association of New York. The ClearHart website says this is “So broken hearts can help broken hearts”. I highly recommend you check out the KillSwitch website (even if your relationship is going well) because the graphics are delightful!

FeedWizard: RSS Without Google Reader

FeedWizardThe internet is freaking out today after hearing the news that Google has decided to kill off the extremely popular Google Reader. The reaction is understandable. Many of us rely on Google Reader as an quick way to keep up to date with the news and to easily discover when the blogs we follow have updated with new content. There are a lot of people right now who are scrambling to find a replacement for Google Reader before it disappears, forever.

Google mentioned the impending demise of Google Reader in their blog today. I’m not certain that their explanation for the reasoning behind doing away with the popular feature will be accepted by everyone. They said:

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

In any case, we are all going to have to find an alternative RSS aggregator soon. As for me, I have decided to use an app called FeedWizard (which I found in the iTunes app store). FeedWizard is made by a company called Wunderkopf. It does not connect with, or require, Google Reader in order to function.

The app costs $0.99 to download, which is a nice price. It requires OS X 10.7 or later. I took a few minutes to manually load a few of the RSS feed that I had subscribed to through Google Reader into FeedWizard to make sure it worked. Everything was running smoothly, so I did as Google suggested and used Google Takeout to export my RSS subscriptions into FeedWizard. Simple!

FeedWizard does not have the ability to sync across platforms, and I realize that may be “deal breaker” for some users. Personally, though, I work from home and don’t have a need to check out the RSS feeds I’ve subscribed to unless I am sitting in front of my home computer, so this is not a problem for me.

PressReader: All Your Favorite Newspapers in One Application

PressReader PressReader brings over two thousand three hundred daily newspapers into one application. It has a direct relationship with all the newspapers that are available through its application. At first it was hard to get the newspapers to agree to the model. However once they saw how well it worked they were more than happy to participate. Most of the newspapers appear in the app before they are delivered. Unlike many newspaper’s websites, the PressReader shows the actual newspaper including the ads. PressReader is a default application on many devices. Some of the newspapers included in the PressReader application are the New York Times, LeMonde and many more. PressReader is available on every mobile operating system including iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry. It does work on older devices however there are more features available the newer the device is. PressReader is optimized for the device it is on.

PressReader will translate newspapers into your language. You can have the newspaper read to you. PressReader will go into text only mode. You can search for keywords through all the newspapers and you can also create your own personal clipping service. You can purchase a single newspaper for ninety-nine cents each. A full subscription to PressReader is twenty-nine ninety-five a month.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net. and by Jamie Davies of the MedicCast and the Health Tech Weekly

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Note by Squarespace

Squarespace the web publishing and content management system, recently released a note app for the iPhone. Not surprisingly to anyone who is a fan of Squarespace it is beautiful and simple to use. When you open it up you are presented with a blank page. If you want to get back to a previous note you swipe to the right. Once you are finished writing a note and are ready to send it you swipe to the left and are given a list of choices. Not surprisingly you can send it to your Squarespace blog, but you can also send it to Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote or by email. If you want you can choose to make one of them your default choice. When you swipe up to send the note it will then send it to your default choice. If you don’t make a default choice then when you are ready to send a note you have to swipe to the left make your choice, swipe back and then up.

Although Note by Square Space is beautiful, I ran into several problems trying to use it. The first was once a note was sent I couldn’t edit it on the Note platform. The only thing I could do was make a copy of the note and treat it as a new note. Although this does make some sense, I just wish I had the option. The biggest problem I had with Note was sending by swiping up didn’t always work or it would work but would not indicate it was working. This can be very frustrating as a user. I still like Note by Squarespace for it’s simplicity, but it is not perfect. It is available for free for the iPhone

SpokenLayer

SpokenLayer Many of us have trouble keeping up with our RSS feeds, there are too many and we don’t have time. For some people who are dyslexic or have sight problems reading can be difficult and frustrating. What if you could listen to your feeds.

That is the idea behind SpokenLayer a new app for the iPhone. Unlike other similar applications or methods, SpokenLayer uses real people to read the feeds. In fact if you go to their Web site they are looking for people to read the feeds. SpokenLayer is also looking for publishers to become partners with them. Right now one of the applications weakness is its lack of content. Presently it only has nine publishers it is currently working with: The Atlantic , The AP, Atlantic Cities , AOL Tech, Engadget, TechCrunch, TUAW, Joystiq and National Journal. I suspect over time if the application becomes popular more publishers will join.

The application has Feature Stories, Recently Added and then individual feeds from each publishers. You can thumbs up or down a feed. You can view the original article or send feedback. However you can’t share directly from the application. I do believe this application has potential however it does need more publishers to partner with it and the ability to share from it.

Spotify Available on the iPad

Today, May 2 Spotify released a new app for the iPad. It is available in the iTunes App Store. In order to use the app you have to be a Premium member, which is $9.99 a month. The premium membership allows you to access Spotify on a mobile device. It is a beautiful app and very easy to use.

When you first open it you have to sign in using either your Spotify account (if you have one) or your Facebook account. The first page you will see is the What’s New Page. On the left hand side are Search, What’s New, Inbox, Playlists, People. These option are available on all screens.

Whats New
 

At the bottom of the screen is the song you are playing. To see the album art in full screen you simply tap on the arrows next to the album art icon. Then if you want to star the song, share it or find out more details about it, just tap on the album and then the options are listed below it. To go to the next song on the playlist swipe up, for previous song swipe down. To go back to the main page tap on the black section of the screen and hit the hide button.

On the People tab you can click on the person icon and see their top tracks, top artist and published play list. If you tap on an artist it will open up a tab on the right hand side of the screen and show; related artist, the artist top hits, their albums and singles. To close the tab simply swipe right. Under the setting’s tab you can control offline mode, crossfade, gapless playback and whether you want to make the session private or public.

The one thing I noticed was when I uninstalled and then reinstalled the application, the people’s faces I was following no longer showed up under the People tab. There was just a grey profile with a number underneath. If you tap on the grey profile, on some of them the name would appear, but on others nothing would happen. It appears the names would appear only if the person had published a playlist. If you have a lot of friends who publish playlist this can get a little annoying. To fix this problem I powered down my iPad completely and than power it back on again and the pictures were back.  Other then that small annoyance I really like the Spotify app for the iPad. It is beautiful and highly intuitive. If you have a premium account I highly recommend downloading it.