Tag Archives: Apps

4 Apps to Make Traveling Easier

maps 2 goWhen on the road, even the most routine and everyday events can be made difficult. Internet connections can be hard to find, technology may not work correctly (or at all), and you’re forever searching for a free outlet. With all of these hang ups, it can be hard to check email or even locate your flight information in a timely fashion. But thankfully, there’s an app for everything, even for traveling.

Use these helpful apps to make the traveling process go as smoothly as possible, no matter how far you’re headed.

Apple’s Passbook

Coming standard on iOS devices, Passbook allows users to store all their important flight info in one, easy-to-tap location. This also goes for movie tickets, coupons, rewards cards, etc. Handy while on the go, Passbook is also great for everyday events. Simply load boarding passes, rental car info, or whatever other travel documents you need, and continue about your events paper-free.

Google Flights

Tired of searching around for the best deal? Download Google’s free compare app for a second opinion any day of the week. Use it to compare flight prices, or see which airlines are offering the best deals and when. The platform even offers suggestions and lets you know when to buy for the best deal possible.

City Maps 2Go

Out of your data network area? Try these pre-loaded city maps instead. The app offers easy-to-follow maps without the overage fees or slow data time. (Think of them as paper maps, but in a smaller package.) It even locates restaurants, shopping areas, or other specific types of businesses so you can find your way even when your phone has other ideas.

Packing Pro

Take the stress out of packing with this user-friendly app. Make a list of necessary items, and then check them off as you go. Adjust each list based on location, or email family members reminders of what to bring. For a small fee, packing becomes easier with this organized packing app.

Whether needing directions or expatiating your next flight, these apps are meant to take the hassle out of the traveling process. And considering users are on their electronic devices more often while traveling than any other time, pulling up these helpful screens shouldn’t be a problem. Just remember to charge up and log in for a stress-free traveling experience each time you leave the house.

Distributed computing comes to Android with BOINC

Our understanding of the world around us has grown by leaps and bounds since the invention of the computer. The simulation of complex systems in particular involves crunching a ton of numbers, a task computers excel at. Unfortunately, the very best number crunchers happen to be extremely expensive, both to buy and to maintain. Through a system known as distributed computing large, complex tasks can be completed without the hassle of managing a supercomputer.

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Image credit: NASA

In distributed computing, a central server offloads small tasks to the computers connected to its network. Each computer completes its task and sends the results back to the server. By utilizing the spare CPU cycles of tens of thousands of volunteer computers, a project like Folding@Home can complete vital research without needing to buy pricey supercomputers. Distributed computing networks exist for a vast array of scientific pursuits, including disease research, the factorization of large integers, and even the search for extraterrestrial life.

Major distributed computing platforms have been available for the desktop computer for more than a decade, and a Folding@Home app can even be installed on the PS3, but until now the mobile market has remained largely untouched. The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) has changed that with the recent release of their Android app.

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Upon first opening BOINC’s app you’ll be prompted to select a distributed computing project to contribute to. A brief overview of each project’s goals can be found on BOINC’s website or by selecting a project in the app. After selecting a project you’ll need to create an account to track your computing progress. Once you’ve created an account, BOINC is ready to do its work.

You’re probably thinking that an app of this nature would quickly drain your phone’s battery, and you’d be right if the BOINC app ran continuously. Thankfully, it isn’t configured to run continuously. By default, it only runs when your phone is connected to power, and even then only when the battery is charged to at least 90%. These settings (and others) can be fine tuned in the preferences menu. I highly recommend changing the max used storage space option to something much lower, as the default setting is absurdly high.

The computing power of a current generation smartphone might not compare to that of even a meager desktop computer, but combined with thousands of other phones that power becomes much more substantial. Every little bit helps.

BOINC is available for Android and can be found on the Play Store. Clients for Windows, Mac, and Linux can be found on the BOINC website.

Will book apps replace the ebook?

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More and more people are reading ebooks instead of physical books nowadays. It’s a platform that continues to be popular and it’s definitely a lot easier to carry dozens of books on a tablet than to carry even a few actual books with you on vacation. As ebooks continue to grow in popularity, there’s a new type of platform entering the market, and it’s called the book app.

What is a book app?

A book app presents a book in app form rather than ebook form, and it allows for much more interactivity. Sure, an ebook can have video and sound in it now, but a book app can do so much more. It can add interactive video, games, and new ways to get involved with the story; it’s an entirely new and different experience.

Book apps have actually been around for quite a while, mostly being prevalent in children’s books. When the iPad first came out, Disney released a free Toy Story book app, and it’s still one of the best apps in the app store. It includes the book, along with a coloring book and games mixed into the story to engage children as they read it. After this book was released, Disney continued to release more and more interactive book apps, and they still do to this day. Other content creators have since jumped in.

Book apps are gaining steam

However, while it’s not a brand new category by any means, book apps are expanding to include more than just children’s books. Just these past couple of months has seen the release of two fantastic book apps. First,  The Animator’s Survival Kit. This is an app based on the book of the same name, which is a book that teaches animation. Instead of creating an ebook edition (one still might be on the way, but it’s not available as of this writing), the book was converted into a full-blown app, adding many fantastic features you wouldn’t get otherwise. The app is packed with all kinds of videos, including interactive videos that let the reader see the animation steps in a way not possible in an ebook. It’s fantastic, and it’s the same retail price as the actual book, so you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck.

ebooks are still sticking around

That was just one example of a recent book app, but does this mean the end of the ebook is near? I don’t think so. Certain books only work as text, and it’s what most people still want. However, I do see interactive book apps becoming more and more popular as time goes on. Can you just imagine a Stephen King book as an interactive app? That would be pretty amazing.

New doorbell lets you answer the door from anywhere

doorbotIn the growing list of items to become “smart”, now comes the doorbell. Wi-fi enabled, video stream-able, and recreating the definition of privacy laws, this doorbell puts a completely new take on answering the front door. Known as the DoorBot, this new invention brings both safety and technology to the old fashioned knock at the door.

For instance, when traveling or running errands, a user can video chat with a delivery man, asking him to place a package around back or leave it on the porch. The camera also allows homeowners to screen their guests; simply check the camera to see who’s waiting at the other side before opening up one’s door. Whether using this feature to duck salesmen or helping kids identify strangers vs. friends, the DoorBot is bringing convenience to answering one’s door.

How it Works

Equipped with a small camera, when “rang,” the DoorBot notifies users through its free app and allows them to remotely chat with a guest. Connecting to the home’s Wi-fi, DoorBot owners can see a clear view of the knocker, while the guest only hears a voice. This way users can maintain their safety, never even having to mention they are at a remote location. While sound comes out of the device itself, it could easily be a speaker from indoors. Even if home, residents can answer remotely to keep interactions safe and brief.

The DoorBot also runs on a rechargeable battery, so there’s no need to constantly replace its power source. Add on an extra security feature, known as Lockitron, with the device for peace of mind, or stick to this futuristic doorbell for a convenient way to answer the door … no matter your location. In a world where smartphones can provide so many other virtual tasks, why not answer your door as well?

With the security add-on, where users can lock and unlock their front door from their phones, the device runs at about $350. Updated features also help the model stay put, so there’s no worry about doorbell theft.

Whether receiving packages while on business, wanting to protect one’s kids, or just need a way to thwart the salesmen, DoorBot offers a unique approach to the old fashioned, “Who is it?” form of answering one’s door.

Pre-order yours today or wait for them to hit the shelves later this year.

Review: Disk Drill Pro for Mac

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If you have a computer, you should also have a backup plan in place. Some people have a local backup, others have an offsite backup service, and others might have both or more.

If you are on a Mac you might be using Time Machine as part of your backup plan. However, most backup plans, including Time Machine, can only go back so far to recover a file. Some only backup the most recent versions of a file. Plus, these backup plans are for your hard drive only. What if you accidentally erase a file of a USB flash drive or wipe out an SD card full of pictures you haven’t downloaded yet? That is where Disk Drill Pro by CleverFiles comes in.

Disk Drill

Disk Drill is a data recovery application that can help with the situations described above. It’s fast and works great. When you run Disk Drill, you are presented with a window that shows all of the volumes connected to your computer, including hard drives, memory cards, and USB drives.  You pick the device you want to scan and scan it. Disk Drill then scans for deleted files. The results are then presented in a list format showing the original folder and even file name. The great part is you can use Quick Look to see the file in Disk Drill before you even recover it. Scanning small drives like SD cards is really fast. Even scanning my 500GB internal hard drive was fast.

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I was really impressed with the amount of files DiskDrill was able to recover. Even if you have erased a memory card for your camera and taken new pictures, Disk Drill will find your old pictures. Of course, the more that disk or drive has been used since the file was deleted the less likely the file will be recovered. Not only does it find the files fast, it recovers them just as fast.

Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery

Another feature in the application is called Recovery Vault. Recovery Vault stores metadata of files on your computer to make locating and recovering them a lot easier and puts the odds of recovery a lot higher. The company website states that this vault takes up about 60mb of space, so it will not eat up your hard drive at all.

There is also something called Guaranteed Recovery protection through the Recovery Vault. This takes up some additional space as the program keeps an invisible copy of deleted files. You can choose which drives and folders to monitor for this feature and you can also set a space limit. I really don’t see the need for this if you have a backup plan in place, but you might want to use it for those crucial folders as an additional layer of backup.

Pricing and a Coupon

At $89.00, Disk Drill Pro might sound a bit pricey, however most great Mac utility programs are in that range and just recovering on set of files will make that money well spent. Plus, for a limited time CleverFiles is offering 20% off the price to Techerator readers with coupon code : TERETR-DD.

I highly recommend making Disk Drill Pro a part of your utility apps for your Mac. At the very least, download the free “Basic” edition. It will scan and protect your computer but not allow recovery. If you find yourself needing the recovery feature you can always upgrade.

Music discovery app Shazam raises $40 million in preparation for IPO

Shazam

Shazam, in an effort to prepare itself before going public, recently hired a new CEO.  The company, which is well known for its music discovery app, has more good news to share before finally going public. The company has raised $40 million from America Movil, and enters into a business partnership with the company, which is seen as a move to bring its media products to the carrier’s subscribers, and in turn, boost its user base.

Shazam’s growth has been astounding, currently standing at 350 million users, which is twice the number of users it had just two years ago. Active monthly users have also increase, up from 22 million two years ago, to 70 million.

According to the executive chairman of Shazam, Andrew Fisher, the company is growing incredibly quickly prompting the need to purchase more capacity to support this growth as people spend more time using the service. He also said that the company is looking to innovate much faster as a result of this growth and the funding should give it the needed boost to move in this direction. Some of these innovations include the introduction of notable updates in its television product which should enable users discover ads and programs playing on screen. Other notable improvements include the application of emerging technologies such as audio and image recognition, which should make it much easier for people to engage with media and brands that they are interested in.

According to Fisher, the new funding will not change the company’s IPO timetable. While not disclosing more details as to when it will go public, he gives the assurance that the company will be ready once it goes through another phase of growth.

Shazam was founded in 2000. In 2011, it launched its Shazam for TV service which shows specific mobile-optimized content including social features. Shazam is currently in use in more than 200 countries.

Vine continues to explode after Android release

vineNow that Vine for Android is a few weeks old, users are finding more and more uses for the six-second video app. Owned by Twitter and essentially creating the video form of tweets, Vine is taking the app market by storm. At a year old, Vine even topped Instagram for the most downloaded app among Android users. And the more users that are signing up for the app, the more uses that have been found for this handy little app.

In fact, it’s being used for almost everything. Entertainment, creative resumes, just-for-fun posts, even educational ventures, like sharing recipes or cooking instructions. By using the record feature only when it’s necessary (for instance, to show ingredients or important work history), viewers are able to fill in the gaps between shots. This cuts down on share time while creating unique and creative effects. The hold-when-necessary also provides a unique GIF-like appearance, showing the effect of jerky camerawork without giving viewers motion sickness.

Using the Vine

Because of its unique features – which include sound, stop motion, time restraint, and the ability to share directly to social media sites – Vine has been used for a number of creative video ventures, even more so than its competitors. Reporters are even using the app to share news events as they happen; while video can be recorded, emailed, and posted online, but why not upload a Vine recording directly to Twitter? This feature allows the timeliest of news to be shared while eliminating minimal technology delays.

Like Twitter, users cite one of the biggest perks is the time restraint. Users are becoming far more creative with their time without the ability to drag out pictures or instructions. For instance, with cooking-related Vine videos – ingredients are shown in sequence, along with the recipe in progress, until the final project is reached. During a cooking show, a viewer would have watched 30 minutes of program to see the finished product. But with Vine, instantaneous cuts down on all of the in between nonsense, like rambling or commercials.

Whether you sign up for Vine for a creative new way to explore social media or you’re looking for a trendy way to share information, this app seems to have something for everyone. Just click, record, and share.

To find out more about Vine or to start creating your own stop-motion videos, check out the app on Android and iOS.

An introduction to mobile app testing

Testing Apps

By now, it should be evident that smartphones are the next big thing. The explosion of consumer apps can be seen in just about every industry. Location intelligent mobile commerce apps, magazine apps, real-time trading apps, and gaming and social networking apps are just a few of the industry verticals experiencing this shift.

Mobile adoption has been experiencing exponential growth in the last few years and the trend does not seem to be stopping. This means that mobile apps will continue to become ever more critical to the success of businesses and companies. As such, what steps are you taking to prepare yourself for this technological revolution that is already unfolding?

One way to do this is to make sure your mobile apps are optimized and ready to go when users need them.

Apps on Mobile

According to a recent study, 60 percent of mobile users will only give your website or app three seconds to load otherwise they will abandon you. If you thought this was tough, then consider that out of those users, 43 percent do not intend to ever return to your app or site – EVER.  How then can you ensure that your app works the way its supposed to on multiple OS platforms? Should you test in-house or outsource? Can testing increase app store ratings? What are the challenges of app testing?

Lets get some answers to these questions…

Functional Testing

This includes checking the screen real estate, finding device specific bugs, normal use test, and idle run test. Exploring the application in a number of devices will help in locating usability problems. Device specific bugs can be identified as such when they are not reproducible on a desktop browser.

It is also imperative that you test battery usage by running the application 6-12 hours using an automated testing tool.

Usability Testing

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This includes testing the functionality, layout & design, as well as the application interaction flow. This level of testing tries to make sure the user can complete tasks easily and without becoming frustrated.  Usability testing will also include ensure that apps are not crammed with so many features that they leave the users feeling overwhelmed. The goal should be to focus on immersive use that allows users to gain mastery of the content as opposed to quick hits that dilute app usability.

Load, Performance and Localization Testing

Performance issues such as crashes and hangs are common user complaints. These need to be addressed early before consumers divert to competitor apps and services. Your app should also support features unique to specific markets.

We can be sure that mobile apps are not going anywhere anytime soon, which means that when you spend time perfecting your app through testing, you are not losing anything but investing in the future of your company or business.

Earn rewards for traveling with Ride

rideFor every mile that’s traveled, Ride, a free app, will give you points. Yes, really. Earn 4k points for a free RedBox rental, and up to 80k for $20 at Amazon – and virtually every increment in between.

Simply travel and earn – a program that provides its users something for nothing. No surveys answered, airline tickets purchased, or social media shares required. All you have to do is move, and they keep track of how much distance is traveled. Walking, driving, trains – it’s all covered. So long as you’re moving, Ride is keeping track.

Sound too good to be true?

What’s the Catch?

Even though it doesn’t run off of GPS, Ride is still a bit of a battery drainer. (In order for it to work, the app has to be open in one’s phone background.) It’s also unclear just how it supports itself, since there are no fees or ads. They could be selling location information (though that’s data that sounds like it wouldn’t net much profit), but in a world where smartphones are already on the grid, it’s not exactly a privacy violation.

Another downside is flying, where users could potentially earn a killing in miles. Because airplane mode just doesn’t cut it for air traveling standards, phones have to be completely powered off. This means Ride, along with every other point-earning app, can’t keep track of your location. It’s unsure whether or not Ride calculates the change in location, though that would certainly be a viable solution.

In Use

On average, a little more than two points is earned for each mile traveled. This means, depending on how much one travels, a reward can be earned in as little as a couple of months. Sure this may seem like a bit of a wait (especially vs. reward apps that have a much higher point ratio), but when the miles are already being traveled, why not tack on an added bonus? And considering the only requirement is keeping the app running (shut it off when staying put to save battery life), the decision to use it becomes even easier.

Whether frequent traveler or one who moseys into the grocery store once a week, Ride is a great app for earning outside rewards. Free to use, and virtually maintenance free, consider using Ride today for an added boost to all your errand traveling trips.

Head to TheRideApp.com to get started.

Teaching kids how to code with programming games

computer codeIt comes as no surprise that computer coding is a viable life skill. Computer programs, video games, and virtually everything else runs off the stuff, and knowing how to write said instructions can turn into a lucrative career. The problem, however, is that there just aren’t enough coders to keep up with the booming rate of technology. At least that’s what the development companies are telling us. While there’s a huge demand for their products, there aren’t enough workers who can create them.

While, for the time being, software developers are working overtime, the companies have come up with a virtually fool-proof plan for the future: teaching code to kids.

Through apps, games, and other fun-related activities, kids old enough to hold a tablet are learning coding basics. By tackling this subject early on, there’s a better chance future generations will produce more coders. And, even if a majority doesn’t turn into software-writing pros, they’ll still hold the basic knowledge of binary and other computer controlling lingo.

The Lack of Learning Curve

But just how hard is it to learn these skills? For those of us with a basic understanding of HTML, it’s hard to tell if code is similar to learning-another-language hard, or reorganizing-mumbo-jumbo hard. Presumably, however, it’s several steps above the former. Not only does coding require the knowledge of computer language, one also has to know how to combine and adjust codes to achieve specific outcomes. While, when learning another language, various sayings can achieve the same meaning, the same is not true for computers.

It’s also likely true as to why there’s such a shortage of programmers in the status quo. If it were easy, everyone would do it. However, software company execs say with the release of these games, kids (or adults) are able to have fun while learning basic commands and combinations.

Some top-ranked programming games include:

Whether you’ve got a child at home or you’d like to try out these brain-teasing apps yourself, coding games are a great way to learn a new skill … and while having fun in the process.

Head to the iOS or Android app store to check out more programming games today.