Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gizmo Review: Little Weather App for Androids

Gizmo Editor Review

In our family, we call our daughter the Weather Girl. She has so many weather apps on her phone she could be doing reports for the local TV stations. If I ever need to know the dew point or when the moon will rise, she's the go-to gal.

But my daily weather information needs are not very complicated. I like to know the current temperature and the predicted conditions for later in the day and what I should expect for the rest of the week. On my Android phone, the aptly-named Little Weather App fills that need nicely.

When I open the app, I see my location and current temperature displayed in a nicely-drawn streetscape graphic that changes with weather. The little town is a lot like life: Sometimes you get a big yellow sun, sometimes you get dark clouds and raindrops.

The scene can also be used as a face for an Android Watch, adding the current temperature and conditions to the time and date.

As you scroll down the display on a phone or tablet, the app offers more details, including the “feels like” temperature, humidity level, air pressure, wind speed and direction and the precipitation chances.

A chart shows readings from the past 24 hours for temperature, windspeed and precipitation, depending on which button you press.

I usually bypass that stuff and go directly to the hourly forecast. I want to know how much I will sweat if I plan to play tennis at 2 p.m. or whether the predicted rain will hold off until after my evening dog walk.

The Little Weather App shows predicted temps for each hour and a graphic to indicate if it I should expect rain or just cloudy skies. The weekly forecast is displayed in similar fashion with the predicted high and low temperature and conditions.

The app uses data from, which aggregates data from more than a dozen sources, NOAA’s forecasts in the US and METAR forecasts used by pilots around the world.

The Little Weather App is a free app, so you can expect to see a small add on most pages. It’s available for Android devices in the Google Play Store.

The app’s developer, John Carpenter, has a portfolio of his other Android projects on his 2Lines Software website and you can follow him @johncarpenter on Twitter.

These apps get athletes in shape

There are so many apps that promise to get me in shape that I never know which one is best or where to start. Every time think about doing some research, I give up and head to the kitchen.

But then I found a website that did the research work for me. Supplement Express sells weight loss and body-building supplements and it has posted short reviews of popular apps among athletes.

The app that are reviewed include Couch to 5K, which offers three different weekly workouts designed to give people who don’t exercise very much a clear path that will get them in shape to compete or participate in short runs like a 5K.

It also looks at Yoga Wake Up, an app designed to target specific muscle groups or motions. The app mixes yoga and exercise to increase flexibility and relieve stress.

The app that gets the clearest endorsement is JEFIT, an app that is useful for keeping track of a weight lifting routine. Instead of bringing a pencil and paper to the gym, the app will keep track of the number of reps, sets and weight levels to help users review and analyze their progress.

To read the full review and get an overview of other apps for athletes, check this page at Supplement Express.

News site tracks the mobile world

When it comes to my son and me, we are a family divided. While I’ll be tuning in to watch the Colts  this weekend, he’ll be at the Chargers game in San Diego. More importantly, while I’m all in with Apple’s mobile devices, he’s all things Android.

But we both like to keep up with any news from the mobile world and that’s why I know we’ll both like Mobile News Flash, a website that tracks the latest news, reviews and product deals from the world of Android, Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft phones.

The site mixes feed of real time news from more than 100 sources that include well-known names such as Cult of Mac, Droid Life, Android Authority, Windows Central, CNet and Mobile World Live. Each report includes the headline and a summary.

Click the headline to read the full story on the originating site or check the Sources button to get a summary of all articles from a selected sources sorted by date. Readers can also drill down to find news tagged by topics such as iPod, Nexus, Samsung or Huawei.

Other options reveal price cuts and other deals of posts from and other sources that list job openings in the mobile technology industry.

Mobile News Flash is a free service available on the web, Facebook and Reddit with a feed @mobilenewsflash on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fountain Pros have feng shui for everyone

The last time I got a massage, it was at place in a nondescript office strip where the reception area was conventional and pretty much all business.

Except for the small water fountain on a table in one corner. The sight and sound of falling water seemed to take the hard edges off of the place and created a calming and relaxing atmosphere right from the start.

The message of the water fountain stayed in my mind much longer than the massage stayed in my body.

It turns out that indoor water fountains are more popular and more accessible that I had imagined. A company called Indoor Fountain Pros sells indoor fountains in hundreds of different shapes and styles ranging from small table fountains to large floor and wall-mounted installations.

Many of the fountains are made to showcase natural materials such as slate or marble. Others feature metal backgrounds or artistic designs and reproductions of familiar artwork such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Prices start at about $110 for the Bliss tabletop fountain shown here and go up to about $10,000 for a 16-foot custom wall installation.

You can browse the full catalog and compare models and designs of indoor water fountains at the Indoor Fountain Pros website.    

Monday, September 26, 2016

Free app helps users practice Christian meditation

While many people think meditation is just a way to chill out after a stressful day, medical studies indicate it can also have positive physical effects. An article posted at WebMD notes that meditation can help lower blood pressure and improve the body’s immune system. Other studies report improved cognitive skills and enhanced memory can come with regular meditation.

The spiritual component of meditation is often associated with eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism but it can also be incorporated into a Christian lifestyle. An example is the meditation app developed by ChristAudio.

The goal of the app is to make meditation techniques more easily accessible. A statement on the ChristAudio website puts it this way:

Technology is helping us fulfill our mission of creating a more loving and peaceful world one mobile device at a time. 

The free app includes a seven-day training course with instructions and animations plus a series of mini meditations to relieve stress and boost creativity. The app also has a radio stream of Christian music radio and upbeat music for exercising that includes subliminal biblical Christian affirmations.

You can get more details about Christian meditation at the ChristAudio website and get the free app for iOS or Android devices at their download page.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

KEEN.TV could be a cable-cutter's dream

Once the cable cutters cut their cables, where are they going to go to get news, sports and their favorite shows?

Of course there are websites for Netflix, Amazon Prime and broadcast of cable channels, but that’s going to take a lot of switching and clicking.

My guess is that once they hear about KEEN.TV they’re going to love it. KEEN.TV has collected more than 850 live TV channels from around the world and made them accessible with one click on one website.

The service's lineup of live TV includes some familiar names from cable and satellite, such as TruTV, Al Jazeera and the US feed of Bloomberg News. Offerings from outside the US include multiple channels from the BBC and feeds from more than 40 countries, from France, Germany and Italy to Pakistan, Somalia and Venezuela.

The site also has a Video On Demand section where visitors can find where recent movies like Captain America: Civil War or popular series are legally available for binging. Want to revisit Breaking Bad? KEEN.TV has links and pricing for episodes streamed on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube and Verizon.

And viewers can spend hours exploring scads of specialty channels for topics such as snooker, fashion clothing and wine. My current fave is the Drone Racing Channel.

KEEN.TV is a free service. You can get more details and browse the channel lineup at the KEEN.TV website and check in for news and updates @keenlivetv on Twitter.

New smart bulbs match lighting to your lifestyle

Sengled Voice bulb
When is a light bulb more than a light bulb? When it can change colors, play music, detect intruders, respond to your voice, and maybe help you get a good night’s sleep. 

The boring old light bulb, a familiar fixture since the days of Thomas Edison, is becoming a star performer in the push toward modern homes that are more energy efficient and able to be controlled by computers, tablets and cell phones. 

Take, for example, the Pulse bulb from Sengled. It combines a dimmable LED light with a wireless Bluetooth speaker. The speaker bulb links to an Apple or Android app to deliver music and customized lighting. A version called the Pulse Flex works outdoors and can be controlled over a home WiFi network.

The LED Smartbulb from iLumi can change colors to match your mood. It will mimic candlelight for a romantic evening or imitate a sunrise in the morning. Syncing the bulb to a music playlist turns a room into an instant disco. The bulbs can also be set to come on when you walk into a room and switch off a few minutes after you leave.

Amaryllo iCamPro Deluxe
Some new bulbs can function as part of a home security system. The Sengled Voice, due out later this year, combines an LED light with a microphone and speaker. Like Amazon’s Echo, the Voice bulb can control digital devices by responding to its master’s voice. 

The bulb will also send a notification when it hears other sounds such as breaking glass or a beeping smoke alarm.

The iCamPro Deluxe from Amaryllo squeezes a high-definition webcam into a bulb-shaped device that screws into any light socket. With a home WiFi connection, the camera will store video in the cloud and be controlled remotely using an Apple or Android app.

It has motion and audio sensors, night vision and a speaker for two-way communication. The company says the camera can detect motion up to 30 feet away, even if the activity is outside of its video frame. When it senses movement, it begins tracking the moving object and uses face-recognition software to distinguish  family members and pets from strangers or intruders.

Beon bulbs
Like the Nest thermostat, BeON bulbs attempt to learn your daily routine and adjust a home’s lighting to turn lights on when you’re home and off when you’re away. They also turn on exit lights when they hear fire or carbon monoxide alarms and they have built-in batteries that will provide up to 10 hours of lighting during a power outage.

Better sleep patterns is one of the goals of the Hue lighting system from Philips. With the Hue app for iOS, users can set the bulbs to automatically change color for different times of the day. Lights gradually brighten in the morning and dim at bedtime.

Some of these new smart bulbs can be expensive, but they don’t need a full home-control and hub system to do their magic. And you can expect to see more multi-purpose lighting devices being invented in the near future, putting the light bulb in a whole new light.

New app helps tradies find customers

A few weeks ago, I hired a local roofing contractor to do a small repair job. After the work was finished, I asked him how he got most of his jobs. While referrals from past customers was still his best marketing tool, he said many new customers are finding him the way I did - with an app.

I wasn’t surprised. App-based services like Home Advisor in the US and Hub Of Services in Australia are becoming more attractive to plumbers, carpenters, roofers and other service providers who want to connect with new customers.

Hub Of Services, an app that works for both service seekers and providers, was developed by a former landscaper who wanted an easy way to both find providers and get business leads without paying high fees or getting locked into a contract relationship.

With Hub Of Services, providers can create a simple page that lists their skills and specialties. Service categories include Electricians, Plumbers, Carpenters, Gardeners, Labourers, Builders and other.

There’s no annual fee for providers, no cost per lead and no commission fee to pay or limit on the number of leads that are generated. Inquiries from service seekers go directly to the provider’s smartphone.

The app is free to download and trades people have 35 days to try the service for free. If they want to continue after the trial period, a subscription is $20 per month with free cancellation at any time.

You can get more details on how the service works for both seekers and sellers at the Hub Of Services website. The apps are available in the  iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store. News about new providers joining the network is posted @HubOfServices on Twitter.

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