Thursday, November 15, 2018

Utiful brings order to camera roll chaos

If the camera roll on your mobile phone is anything like mine's it's quite a mess. I've got thousands of photos collected over several years and they're not all selfies, landscapes and shots of my lovely grandchildren.

Mixed up among them are photos of many other things: items I might want to buy, things I plan to sell online, whiteboard notes from business meetings and interesting buildings I happen to see. And my phone has turned out be be a handy way to capture those hard to see model and serial number stickers on kitchen appliances and the backs of television sets.

I wish the photos were better organized but I didn't have a good way to do it until I encountered the Utiful Photo Organizer. It's a mobile app that can bring order to mobile photo chaos by helping you sort your photos and assign them to folders keyed to different topics. I wrote about Utiful a few years ago when it was only made for Android devices. Now there's an iOS version that performs nicely on both iPhones and iPads.

To put Utiful to work, connect it to your photo library, then check off the images that you want to store in their own folders. Then click "Move" and either create a new folder or select an existing one. For deeper organization, you can create subfolders inside each topic folder.

Once the pictures are in their new their new home, you can delete them from your devices and and from iCloud.

Utiful for iOS costs $9.99 in the Apple App Store. Users can purchase the app once and install it on their iPhone and iPad so both devices can share the same library. There's also a version available in the Google Play Store.

Utiful has an official Facebook page where the developers answer questions about the app and collect suggestions for new features. There's also a Utiful User's Group on Facebook where users swap tips and suggestions. The app has become especially popular with crafts people and scrapbookers.

For more details, check out he video below and visit the Utiful website. You can also follow @utifulapp on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Cord cutters see it and stream it with Chromecast

When friends, family members and readers of this blog ask about cord cutting, I tell them about my daughter and her family. With three pre-school children and a very tight budget, they were perfect candidates to go cable free.

And it turns out they don’t miss much, if anything, from their years with cable and U-verse, a competing service from AT&T.

The kids found animated shows and characters they love on YouTube, then later expanded to include shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Dad gets his football fix from ESPN and the CBS app.  This summer they caught up on Game of Thrones using HBO Go.

They don’t care much about series shows on network TV and when they do get hooked on something like AMC’s The Walking Dead, there’s, you know, an app for that.

The centerpiece of their cordless system is Google Chromecast. It’s an inexpensive dongle ($35 at BestBuy) that fits it neatly on the back side of any digital TV where there’s access to power and an available HDMI port.
Chromecast takes content sent or “cast” over Wi-Fi from a mobile phone, tablet or computer and displays it on the TV screen. The images that are every bit as clear and sharp as any programs that arrive over cable or satellite systems.

Casting ability was originally built in to Google apps such as the Chrome browser and YouTube player but now there are also hundreds of apps that work directly with Chromecast.

Even Apple products can cast from an iPhone or iPad using a third-party app. Those apps don’t work as seamlessly Google partner apps like Hulu or Spotify, but they eventually get the job done.

At my daughter’s house, Chromecast is part of a broader ecosystem of Google gadgets. They use the Google Home device for voice control. When it’s nearing bedtime for the children, someone will say “Hey Google, cast Little Baby Bum from YouTube to the TV.”

Pretty soon they will be telling Google themselves what they want to watch or listen to.

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Friday, September 28, 2018

New app has 'Slots Appeal'

One of those riverboat casinos is parked a few miles from our home so we occasionally drop in for a few hours of gaming. My wife gets drawn immediately to the banks of slot machines.

I know there’s something mesmerizing about those spinning wheels and the crazy sound of jackpot winners and plinking coins.

I hoped to satisfy her need for more slots time by installing Magic Slots on her phone and tablet. Magic Slots is an app that replicates the basics of live slot machines. It has a scoring table - 40 points for three 7s - along with buttons to bet one more points and a colorful set of spin wheels.
There’s no financial payoff and, sadly, getting Bitcoins on a row doesn't result in some cryptocurrency dropped in your online wallet.

For real money action, you might check out Slots Adviser, a website from the people who created Magic Slots. The site offers links and reviews to online casino sites such as Ignition Casino, Joe Fortune and Bovada along with bonus deals for new users.

Magic Slots is available as free download for Android devices in the Google Play Store.

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.

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