Tag 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.


iOS 10 To Come With HomeKit Controller App



HomeKit LogoThe so-called Internet of Things is bringing more and more connected devices into our lives. And as the market for these smart gadgets continues to expand, one question seems to be on everyones minds; How will all of these different products communicate with each other? Some manufacturers have developed their own proprietary products and tools to ensure their own devices will play nicely together. But what if you want smart lightbulbs made by Company X and a smart security system made by Company Y? Will it be necessary to have one “command center” on your network just for each company’s products?

Many companies have stepped into this arena to try and bridge the landscape of connected things. Apple announced its own solution, HomeKit, a few years ago. But there hasn’t been much movement on the HomeKit front since that announcement. Now, it looks like Apple may ship its first HomeKit controller app with the release of iOS 10 later this year. Curiously, this information was discovered in a comment left as part of an Amazon product review:

Word of the new app came from an Apple marketing employee commenting in Amazon product reviews. MacRumors verified the commenter’s identity, and that they were responsible for the comments.

“As I work in marketing for Apple, we test many Smart Home devices, especially for iOS HomeKit integration,” the person said. “The next version of iOS due this fall will have a standalone ‘HomeKit’ app as well.”

No word yet on how HomeKit will actually work but it’s good to know that real progress is (apparently) being made on the system.


Apple Releases Updated Version of iOS 9.3 Update



Apple LogoIt sounds like it came from an overused Internet meme. But it looks like Apple has put more update in your latest iOS update. Last week, the technology company released iOS 9.3 for its ever-popular line of mobile devices. For most users, it was a seamless transition. But for others, the latest iOS update has some issues.

Some users reported that tapping hyperlinks in any application would crash the app, and possibly the device. Some owners of iDevices like the iPhone 5S and older models were critically hosed by iOS 9.3 when the update actually bricked their iPhones and iPads. And finally, some users were getting a quirky “you are no longer connected to the Internet” message when they tried to apply the 9.3 update.

That’s where the “more update in your update” comes in. Responding to these problems, Apple appears to have put a temporary hold on iOS 9.3 installations. That’s why some users were getting the “not connected to the Internet” message even tho their devices were clearly connected. It was a deceptive way to keep those devices from installing the update that would probably break them. Fortunately, Apple has since updated the update with patches for all of these issues, allowing everyone to once again download and install iOS 9.3 normally.

I’ve got a total of four iOS devices in my home and so far, I haven’t run into any issues. Still, I hope Apple has finally gotten things worked out with iOS 9.3. Otherwise, I guess we’re all gonna need to apply an update to our updated update.


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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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?


ArtRage Touch



artrage4-logoThe Surface Pro 3 I purchased a few weeks ago came with the bundled Microsoft Pen, which is a fancy name for a stylus. At first I didn’t make much use of the stylus, but after a while I decided it was time to experiment with it and see what it could do. Unlike the fat stylus’s for sale that will work on any capacitive touchscreen, the Microsoft Pen will work only with Surface devices and offers extreme precision.

The Surface Pro 3 with preinstalled Windows 10 comes with a program called Fresh Paint, and I played around with that for a while. Then I started looking in the Windows App Store and found ArtRage Touch which sells for $9.99. I was already familiar with the iOS version of ArtRage on my iPad, so after playing with the trial version in short order I ended up buying the full version.

ArtRage Touch has a very similar interface across all versions. There are full desktop versions of ArtRage for both Windows and Mac, as well as iOS and Android versions.

ArtRage Touch for Windows is similar to the iOS version, but perhaps somewhat abandoned. The most notable shortcoming is with the lack of much ability to save creations. While it is possible to save creations to the standard ArtRage PTG file format, there are apparently zero non-ArtRage applications that can open these files. If you do a direct share to Facebook, ArtRage Touch simply shares a screen capture including the ArtRage interface. I found an acceptable work-around by “printing” the file I want to a PDF format file, making sure that I have the paper size adjusted to landscape and to “print” the entire image to a single page. Then, I open the just-exported PDF file in Adobe Photoshop Elements and export the image as a standard JPG file. This lack of the ability to export directly to JPG is a major shortcoming, so would-be buyers beware.

The ArtRage website itself doesn’t even list ArtRage Touch as a version for sale, though they still sell ArtRage Touch in the Windows App Store.

If I ever were to become a more serious artist, I would consider buying the full version of ArtRage 4 for desktop machines, which sells on their website for $49.90.

Setting aside the problem of how to share creations with ArtRage Touch, it is a lot of fun to play with digital draw and paint tools. Digital versions of various paints, airbrush tools, pencils and papers can create extremely realistic effects with no wasted paper or messy, expensive paint supplies to futz around with.

On larger touch screens, “digital gloves” are available that allow the side of the drawing hand to be rested directly on the screen without interacting, though obviously many other types of open-finger gloves or even a piece of cloth would likely have the same effect of preventing capacitive contact with skin. The Surface Pro 3 has excellent palm rejection with native apps such as OneNote and others, but even so the appropriate digital gloves would seem to be a no-fuss solution with larger-screen devices. It is very tiring to try to hold and use a stylus on a large touchscreen device without anything to rest the side of your hand against.

Every version of ArtRage includes the ability to pre-load another image, typically a photograph, that allows a “trace” layer(s) to be placed on top. Thus, it is possible to accurately trace out the lines of an image and then paint it afterwards, which can result in some interesting, and sometimes hilarious images.

There are also many serious video producers on YouTube that lay out extremely good “learn to draw” lessons that can teach you how to draw if you follow along.

Once purchased, ArtRage Touch can be installed on up to 10 Windows devices.


Roku 4 Delivers 4K for UHD



ROKU LogoApple, Amazon and Google have all recently announced their refreshed streaming TV media players and today market leader Roku has responded with the latest iteration in the Roku series, the Roku 4. In a happy numbering coincidence, the Roku 4 will deliver UHD 4K content for the latest ultra high definition TVs. As you’d expect given the relative rarity of UHD TVs and content, the Roku 4 will work well with normal HD TVs too.

Key features of the new Roku include a quad core processor to drive 4K streaming at 60 Hz. HDCP2 2.2 is supported and there’s optical audio out for the AV amplifier. For connectivity, there’s a gig network port along with 11ac MIMO Wi-Fi.

Roku 4 Streaming Player

The Roku 4 will run Roku OS 7, the latest update to the streaming OS which boosts previous features, particularly the Roku Feed and it now allows owners to track films, TV shows, actors and directors to receive automatic notifications about pricing and availability. In a response to a much requested feature, OS 7 can now work with wireless networks where login credentials are required.

At launch, there’s a handful of 4K channels including Netflix, M-Go, Amazon Instant Video, ToonGoogles, Vudu and You Tube, though there will be some variation depending on geographic region.

The Roku remote control has the previously-seen voice search and a headphone jack, but new to this version is the remote finder, which will help owners find the remote when it’s stuck down the back of the sofa. It’s worth buying for this feature alone!

The Roku mobile app for Android and iOS has been updated too, offering full device control including playing photos, videos and music on TV from the smartphone. A big bonus for me is “pinch to zoom” on photos which will bring out the detail from the snaps. The new app offers other Roku features such as Search, Feed, Remote Control and Play on Roku.

The new Roku 4 goes on pre-order today at roku.com for US$129.99 with delivery later in October. Pricing for other countries has not been announced yet.

If you are already a Roku owner, OS 7 will roll out to current-generation Roku players in the U.S., Canada and the UK, and Roku TVs in the US and Canada through a software update beginning in mid-October and is expected to be completed in November.


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.


App Review: Thyme for iOS



Thyme logoCooking meals at home used to be a way of life for most Americans. But over time, we’ve become more accustomed to dining out or ordering in. Having food prepared outside of the home is nice, but that food is often more expensive and less healthy than home-cooked fair. And for those of us who are trying to rely less on carryout and more on our own kitchens, there are a variety of apps that aid in the process. One such app is called Thyme and I’ve been using it for awhile.

Thyme bills itself as “the smart kitchen timer app.” And that’s a pretty accurate description. The app is very straightforward and dead simple to use. Upon loading, Thyme gives you a familiar-looking graphic that mirrors the layout of a typical stove, with four circles on top that represent burners and one larger circle at the bottom that represents an oven.

Thyme app

Thyme suggests that you “tap a plate” to set a timer. Doing so brings up a screen that allows you to set that specific timer. Pick the time you need by dragging a finger around the edge of the timer circle.

Thyme app

Thyme begins counting down on that specific timer. Repeat the process for as many other items as you need to time. Here’s what Thyme looks like when one burner and the oven are being timed simultaneously:

Thyme app

When a timer is completed, Thyme will send a push notification including an audible alarm sound. If you have the app open when a timer expires, it looks like this:

Thyme app

Keep in mind that if you have your iOS device’s volume turned off, you won’t hear the alarm when it sounds. So, make sure the device hasn’t been switched to silent before starting a timer.

Thyme isn’t packed with features but it’s a fine little app for what it does. Thyme is available for $0.99 on the App Store but it does occasionally turn up as a free download. Check this app out if you’re in need of a comprehensive kitchen timer.


The Future of Mobile Computing



Mobile devices, specifically large screen smartphones, have made significant inroads into the computing spaces traditionally held by full-sized desktop and laptop computers. This incursion can best be measured by personal usage shifts.

In my own case, I find myself making much less use of my laptop and desktop machines, with my large screen smartphone making up the majority of my usage. At this point, if it were possible I would shift all of my computing usage to my smartphone, but unfortunately I find that the lack of quality software, and not the hardware, is preventing me from making the full shift.

The high end smartphone hardware of today compares quite favorably to traditional desktop and laptop hardware. If I could only run desktop class software applications on my smartphone, I could pretty ditch my traditional machines to an even greater degree than I already have.

The large screen high end smartphone hardware is closer than ever to hitting a peak, where performance improvements are incremental. From my point of view, the only way my phone could be made even more useful would be the addition of genuine desktop class software applications that would allow me to do real work and truly take advantage of the heavy duty hardware that is built in to a very compact package.

The software we’ve had to this point is at best dumbed-down and lacks capability. Apps such as Garage Band and iMovie on iOS and most of their counterparts on Andriod in the Google Play Store are toy apps aimed at seemingly air headed casual users. For example, where is the ability to import from and export to wider varieties of audio and video file types?

I want a real video editor that would allow me to attach my phone to a large screen monitor, keyboard and mouse and do intense video editing. Ditto with a real sound editor that would run on my phone that would be similar to the depth of an application such as Adobe Audition.

Who will develop these more capable smartphone applications? That remains to be seen. At this point the only real differentiators for hardware platforms lies in better software applications.

I personally am willing to pay for desktop class applications that will run on mobile computing platforms. Unfortunately so far they don’t seem to exist.