Monday, March 12, 2018

AppWrap dresses apps to look their best

Every time I check out new mobile apps, I marvel at the quality of the graphics that illustrate how the app works. I expect that big companies produce that artwork or they hire a outside graphics shop to do the work.

But what about small developers and coders who aren’t experts in graphic design? It turns out there’s an app for that.

It’s called AppWrap and it lets users place screenshots of their program inside a frame that matches the mobile devices used by their target audience.

AppWrap users can choose from among more than 45 different device frames. The list includes the familiar faces of Samsung and Google phones along with many brands that are not so well-known in the US. It also offers Device Angle as a premium feature that will let flip to any viewing angle or rotate.

The screenshot frame editor lets users add special effects such as a a custom-selected background color and personalized styling. Users can apply a shadow or a subtle blur and as well as headline and subhead text to highlight different features. It also supports multiple images in one frame to illustrate a sequence of steps or different color options.

To get a closer look at AppWrap and see more of its features, check out the app in the Google Play Store or at the AppWrap website.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

PogoCam is wearable and affordable

As the idea of a wearable camera continues to gain traction, the PogoCam is poised to jump to the head of the pack.

The device that I first saw at this year’s CES trade show has a lot going for it. Unlike Google’s Glass, the PogoCam doesn’t require its own frame and lenses and can be attached to the user’s own glasses.

And, probably more important to its potential success, the PogoCam is far more affordable: $149 compared to the $1,500 price tag on Glass when it was released a couple of years ago. And, as the prices indicate, the PogoCam is not in the same class as the Glass.

My experience wearing and testing the PogoCam over the past few weeks has been uneven at best. The PogoCam started strong by easily attaching to the right bow of my glasses using a small magnetic strip.

The camera has two buttons, one for shooting still images, the other for video. Its internal memory can hold 100 photos or a half-dozen 30-second videos.

The camera pairs with an iOS or Android mobile app, but the files don’t move directly between the camera and the phone. To make the transfers, you have to detach the camera and plug it into the PogoCam “smart case.” The case makes a Bluetooth link to your phone for transferring still photos. Moving videos requires a USB connection to a computer.

While I was able to capture several still shots and a couple of videos with the PogoCam, none were very good. They certainly didn’t match the colorful sample images featured on the PogoTec website.

I suspect my blurred images were largely due to way the camera is triggered. Try pinching the bow on your glasses frame without moving the frame and you’ll know what I mean. Maybe James Bond (or his tech wizard Q) could hold their spy cams perfectly still, but not me.

I think the PogoCam has a bright future, but early adopters should prepare to master complicated connections and commit to lots of practice.

For more details about the PogoCam, visit the PogoTec website.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

New training course shows coders how to create a meal kit delivery web app

So, it's 4 o'clock and we don't have any plans for tonight's dinner. That's apparently not the case at our neighbor's house down the street where I saw a box from one of those meal kit services sitting on their front porch.

I'm pretty sure they won't be eating canned soup and toast tonight.

Those to-your-door meal services seem to be growing in popularity and now there's a way for new businesses to get in the game. It's a new training course on Plantoost called “Build a Meal Kit Delivery Web App: Ruby on Rails + Stripe”.

The course is taught by Shawn Ng, a software engineer who built the online education
marketplace. The meal kit course is designed as a cost-effective alternative to hiring freelancers to build a sophisticated website.

Students go through the process of learning how to set up a customer database, a complex recipe
system, and get payment processing working for their minimum viable product.

The finished product includes user authentication with a Facebook option, email notification, and an admin dashboard. Students get lifetime access to a library of high-definition videos, downloadable assets and a year of mentoring.

There is one flat rate for the course and no monthly fee. For more details, visit the Plantoost website.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Spire checks out top backpacks for laptops

When I travel, my laptop computer almost always travels with me. I generally toss it in a backpack that I got for free at a trade show.

But, considering how much I paid for my laptop, it deserves better treatment, so lately I’ve been looking for something more sturdy and secure.

That search took me to SPIRE USA, a website that reviews the top laptop bags for 2018.

The current reviews cover sleek high-fashion like the Valletta Leather Laptop Backpack, the military grade Pelican U100 Elite Backpack and several designs in between, including one made specifically for photographers.

The site also covers laptop shoulder bags cases and sleeves made for MacBooks.

To see all of the backpack profiles and reviews, visit the Spire USA website.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Kwilt is a personal image server

There are many services that will park your photos videos on a cloud-based server, but there are also times when you might prefer having a more personal storage solution.

The Kwilt Shoebox aims to fill that need with a tiny device that turns a thumb drive or other USB hard drive into a private and portable server.

Kwilt lets users offload photos and videos from their mobile phones, then share them with friends or family members through a Kwilt app.

After I met the folks from Kwilt at this year’s CES, they sent me a sample of the device to check out. The tiny gadget has connections for a power cable and a USB storage device plus an HDMI output plug for displaying content on a TV to monitor.

To get things rolling, I linked the Kwilt to my home WiFi network, then used the free Kwilt app to transfer content from my iPhone. That process had a few hiccups. It took several tries to move my 23,000 photos from the phone to a 500GB portable hard drive but eventually, all of the still photos showed up in the Kwilt app. I’m still working on offloading my videos.

Now that my photos are safely stored on the USB drive, I can delete some from my phone, freeing space to shoot more.

The Kwilt Shoebox works with both iOS and Android devices and has a very affordable price tag of $49.99. To order one or for more details, visit the Kwilt Shoebox website.   

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Service offers CRM from the cloud

Over the past few months, we’ve had several service calls at our home. Those folks used to carry a notebook or clipboard with forms for one of us to sign when their work was done. Now they pull out a mobile phone or tablet.

I’m seeing companies of all sizes using software like CRM Runner, a cloud-based customer management tool that was built specifically for service providers such as plumbers, electricians and installers.

CRM Runner is an affordable platform that offers the same features as most of the expensive platforms. Because it’s based in the cloud, it can work with any device, including computers, tablets or mobile phones.

The program supports full communication between a company’s administration and its field operations. It has a scheduling module that tracks where and when the field operations are scheduled and an SMS module that will notify customers when service techs will arrive and advises the field staff when there is a change of plans.

Other features include sales lead management, customized estimates, inventory management, and supplier tracking. It will also manage contractors and store their certificates and licenses.

CRM Runner costs $15 per month. You can get more information about the service and sign up for a free 15-day trial at the CRM Runner website.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Augmented reality sparks this social chat platform

One of the features that helped Pokémon Go blast off last year was the augmented reality that that the app delivered when it displayed game characters in live environments.

Augmented reality is also likely to give a big boost to Chameleon Street Chat, a social network platform that lets users interact in real world locations.

While Pokémon Go uses a mobile phone’s camera, Chameleon Street Chat integrates with Google Street View, so encounters can happen almost anywhere in the world.

The Chameleon Street Chat system includes an avatar builder so users can recreate their face, body type and hair style for the virtual world - or adopt a whole new look.

To start a chat, they select a location and pin it. The spot is communicated to their friends and soon other avatars will appear. Users can select familiar locations, like a hometown park, or some place exotic and new, like a mountain road in Hawaii.

The platform includes mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.

For more details about Chameleon Street Chat and how it is being used, visit the Chameleon Social website.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

CES 18: Roaming the world

While the television crews flocked to the jumbo displays set up by Samsung, Intel, LG and other brands, I headed to a parking lot where CES had erected a huge temporary building for what it called the Design & Source Showcase.

The building housed 200 or more manufacturers from China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and other countries.

These are the people who make the cables, headphones and other gadgets that turn up on Amazon, Alibaba or Wish, often under brand names that you've probably never heard of.

If you want to buy 1,000 Bluetooth speakers or if you have an design idea that you want to turn into a product, this is where you would go shopping.

With cord-cutting growing in popularity, I wanted to check out Zoomtak, a Shenzhen company that makes a variety of video streaming boxes that compare to devices like Apple TV or Roku.

The boxes run Android 6.0  and come with WiFi and HDMI connections. Also most Zoomtak include KODI, open-source media player and entertainment hub.

I also stopped it at the Sunchip booth. It's a Chinese OEM manufacturer that produces panoramic cameras, including one that works with a mobile phone, and virtual reality accessories.

In other aisles, Layon Science Technology was displaying a variety of Bluetooth devices, including several wireless earbuds. And Trangjan was promoting more than a dozen Apple-certified accessories, including an Apple Watch charger and several wireless charging platforms.

Among the many other wireless chargers on display was an unusual design created by Mossloo. This one combined Qi device charging and a Bluetooth speaker in a small white cube. The top of the box had an angled surface dotted with tiny suction cups that keeps your phone in place.


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