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.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

CES 18: Google’s revenge

After seeing Amazon's Alexa become the darling of last year's CES, Google came roaring back this year with an army of gadgets powered by Google Assistant.

So many devices that the company needed a house-sized building erected in a parking lot to show off all of them.

The lineup included alarm clocks and other tabletop products with video displays, plus speakers, watches, light bulbs, thermostats and even kitchen appliances such as a slow cooker and a coffeemaker.

CES 18: Samsung has a full-wall video screen

CES is typically a contest to see which television maker can show off the largest screen. This year Samsung was the clear winner. 

Samsung devoted an entire wall in its product showcase to a screen it calls The Wall.

The screen displays images in 4K resolution using a technology called MicroLED. 

The company said the screen is intended to be a consumer product - not just a concept item - and will be available for sale later this year. No price was announced.  

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