Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Covert Alert app offers voice-enabled protection

I have a friend who sells real estate and her job sometimes takes her alone into sketchy neighborhoods. I need to tell her about Covert Alert.

Covert Alert is a mobile app that can an instant lifeline to friends, work colleagues and, if necessary, to emergency services. The app operates covertly because it listens to your voice and automatically sends pre-programmed messages to selected contacts.

When you say "protect me now,” it immediately begins recording both your voice and the sounds around you. And it begins listening for other trigger words or phrases that will launch those messages.

To set up Covert Alert, you start by choosing which friends or family members receive your alerts. You can enter a contact manually or select from your current contact list.

Then you choose your personal trigger words. It might be something like "leave me alone" or a more innocuous phrase like “popsicle” “German shepherd.”

Your primary trigger words will send a text message to your selected contacts telling them that you are in trouble and asking them to call 911. The message includes a mapping link to let your contacts know your exact location.

The developers of Covert Alert say they will soon enhance the app to link it directly to local 911 emergency services. Instead of going through a call center, as some safety apps do, Covert Alert will connect connect to 911 dispatchers and provide both a GPS location and live audio from the user's phone.

Users can also program two custom messages that have their own trigger words. They covertly send a text message to your friends. You might use those messages to tell a friend that your blind date is a bomb and that you will call them within the hour. Another could ask them to call you so you can stage an early exit from an uncomfortable situation.

When you tell the app to “stop protecting me,” Covert Alert stops listening but saves the audio that it had recorded when it was active.

Covert Alert is available as a free download for Apple or Android devices. New users get 15 minutes of recording time and 50 text messages. When those are exhausted, users can buy more minutes and messages through the app.

For more details, check out the video below and visit the Covert Alert website.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

ProTech's kit jumpstarts electronics hobbyists

Earlier this month I wrote about Charles Platt's book Easy Electronics, which contains a instructions for building super-simple electronics projects. I also mentioned ProTech Trader, an online store that sells sets of components that are needed for Pratt's projects. 

Pratt's book is aimed at younger hobbyists and other novices who are just starting to explore the world of electronics.

But Pratt has another book called Make: Electronics 2nd Edition for folks who want to tackle something a bit more challenging. For example, it will explain how to program microcontrollers to work with things like home automation devices and even robots.

And ProTech Trader has a kit for that book as well.

The Make: Electronics 2nd Edition Component Pack is a double-sided carrying case that is crammed with items such as a solder less breadboard for prototyping circuits, bipolar transistors, low-current LEDS, battery connectors, potentiometers and other testing devices.

The kits come in a variety of configurations with prices starting at about $75. You can order them from ProTech's page on Amazon or through the ProTech Trader website.

Saturday, September 1, 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.   

Monday, August 13, 2018

Windows app checks global time, weather and exchange rates

When I was planning our last trip to Europe a few years ago, I spent a lot of time on my computer jumping from one website to another.

I remember getting weather reports for Paris, London and other cities, checking the exchange rates in various countries and trying to calculate the time difference in different areas.

I also remember wondering why someone hadn’t wrapped all those elements into a single application?

Now someone has. It’s called mayago WET and it combines a currency converter, weather forecast and world time clock in one stand-alone desktop app for Windows.

The desktop display can show any number of locations selected from a list of more than 1,500.  The weather feature offers the predicted temperature range, in Fahrenheit or Celsius, along with the current exchange rate and local time.

Users also have the option to view a 5-day forecast, see the historical exchange rates for the past 6 months, and compare local time between any pair of cities.

The display can be customized to give it a personalized look and feel and it will support multiple users on the same computer.

The software is available as a free download at the mayago website. You can add additional features by upgrading to the Pro version.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

AUT10TIX offers new tools to capture and verify identity

We've all become accustomed to using passwords, PINs and challenge questions to secure our identity, but the hackers and fraudsters are getting smarter and raising the stakes for identity protection.

So be ready for a new generation of identity-verification procedures. For example, I currently do some work for a company that routinely asks me to snap and submit a selfie with my mobile phone before it grants access to its online platform.

AU10TIX Limited is one of the leading companies that is developing and deploying many those second-generation tools to automate the capture, authentication, validation and creation of identifying documents such as passports, identity cards, and driving licenses.

AU10TIX uses applications that were initially designed for secure environments such as airports, power plants or government facilities. Those applications are now being expanded for use commercial and public service areas.

Identity verification is particularly important in the financial services sector where fraudsters create phony identities to open accounts and transfer money around the world. The booming online payments market is also being targeted by cyber criminals.

Its specialty areas include capturing, authenticating and digitizing documents; ID forgery detection;  biometric inputs; and image authentication and conversion to digital records. For more details, visit the AU10TIX website.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Where to get fast and cheap logo designs

Anyone who has seen the ubiquitous Nike swoop knows the power of a great logo. But not every business has the resources of a Nike or a Starbucks.

And good logos don't have to be expensive. For example, London Logo Designs offers affordable and cheap logo design for as little as £37.

That package includes six logo concepts from two dedicated designers with unlimited revisions and 48-hour delivery.

Other packages offer 12 concepts with color options and vector files for £57 or unlimited concepts with a website, domain name and hosting for £347.

The company also provides other services including web design, animation, email signature designs and art for letterheads and stationery.

For a closer look at their pricing and services, visit the London Logo Design website.

Bobine Flex cable puts a phone where you want it

For the past six months, we’ve had a family member deployed to a faraway military base.That means we’ve done a lot of video conferencing.

Apps like Facetime and Duo work just fine. The challenge has been getting my phone in into a stable position that works for both sides of the conversation. The tripods and selfie sticks that I tried were pretty disappointing but my Bobine Flex nailed it. 

The Bobine is a combination mobile phone dock and charging cable. It’s made using a 24-inch length of bendable metal tubing, the kind you ,might see on a gooseneck reading lamp. At one end is a USB plug, at the other is a cradle for an iPhone or Android mobile phone.

With a few twists and turns, you can fashion the cable into a rigid snake that keeps your phone in view while it charges. In a car, it’s a good alternative to those clunky windshield suction cups or vent clips. I keep mine on my desk connected to my computer so it’s always charging and ready for the next video call.

The cable comes with a standard USB plug at one end and your choice of mobile phone plugs at the other. A Bobine Flex with Apple's Lightning plug costs $34.95 and one with a USB Type-C is $29.95. Both are available at the Fuse Chicken website.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

RetroCube streamlines mobile app development

When I was tasked to build my employer's first mobile app some years ago, I was faced with a blizzard of questions: What platforms would it run on? What database and programming language would we use to code it? Where would it be hosted?

Today, there are one-stop shops like RetroCube, a mobile app development company that handles those questions and at least a dozen more that clients like me haven't even thought of.

RetroCube says its staff has technical expertise that covers the full range of elements involved in developing applications for the web and handheld devices such as mobile phones and tablets. 

For web-based apps, the company works with Java, ASP.net, XML and all the permutations of HTML. Its apps can be targeted at iOS or Android devices as well as Windows Phone and even Xamarin. Their database coders wrk with MySQL, Oracle, SQL Azure, BizTalk Server and others and they know how to base apps on cloud servers such as AWS, Azure and SharePony Online.

In addition to creating apps for iOS and Android, RetroCube can also do game development. For all products, the development process moves from the original concept through design and coding to prototype test before reaching the final release stage.

For a closer look at the company's services or for a project price estimate, visit the RetroCube website.

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