Sunday, April 1, 2018

Website turns PNG into ICO for free

Dealing with digital image formats can be a real pain in the pixel.

While JPEG and PNG images are the lingua franca of the online world, there's a multitude of other formats that are either tied to specific software or preferred for certain situations.

Take the ICO format for example. Software developers working on programs for the Microsoft operating system know that their icons, those small graphics that manage and direct the user's experience, should be in the ICO format. But the artists and designers who create those tiny images are more likely to be working some other file format.

That's when the developer needs a good file conversion tool. And now there's a website called Online Convert Free that offers a quick and easy way make the PNG to ICO switch.

Users can select a file from their computer and drag it to a window on the website. If a few seconds, out pops a freshly converted image file ready to download and put to work.

The ICO trick is one of many that the site can perform. It also offers conversions for PDF, PCT, TIFF and other common file formats as well as many more obscure formats. And if you run across a WPG, ARW, DFX or some other mystery formats, the site also offers a helpful descriptions that include lists of the programs that use those file types. 

To try the free conversion for an ICO or other image file, visit the Online Convert Free website.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

miFon beefs up its phone security app

My friends who drive for Uber and Lyft tell me one of their constant worries is the forgotten phone. When a passenger leave a phone in their car, it's big headache for everyone to get the phone located, identified and returned.

The misplaced phone is one of the issues that the developers of miFon tackled in their recent rounds of updates and new features.

I wrote a full review of the Android app last year when I said "no app that I’ve encountered takes tracking, security and recovery farther than miFon."  Now, they've made it even better with a security suite that helps mobile phone owners deal with real-world problems.

A good example is the story one woman tells on the miFon blog about how she used the app to catch a phone thief. Once she discovered that the phone was missing, she checked her email and found a photo -- and location -- of the person trying to open the phone. She made contact and got the phone back the next day.

Another new feature added to miFon is the Family & Friends Locator. It lets users create a personal group called miGroup that tracks everyone in the group. Users no longer have to send each other text messages asking "Where U at?"

Other miFon features include anti-virus and malware protection, the ability to remotely change your home screen lock code, a map that shows the phone's "last seen" location, a quick SOS alert sent to selected phone numbers, and automatic event notifications that will tell your friends when you arrive at a pre-set location.

The app is available as in the Google Play Store. You can download and use the basic version and test the advanced features for free. More details, including pricing for the Pro version, are available   at the miFon website.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

App tracks #deletefacebook movement

Millions of Facebook users were stunned to learn recently that their personal profiles were given to a British company that used the information to support Donald Trump's campaign for President in 2016. According to The New York Times, Facebook gave the data to a Cambridge University researcher who shared it with a company called Cambridge Analytica, which has ties to conservative financier Robert Mercer, former Trump aide Steve Bannon and to a number of Russian businesses.

The news caused an immediate backlash among Facebook users, many of whom deleted their Facebook accounts. The Times reported that the hashtag gained momentum through the week:

The hashtag #DeleteFacebook appeared more than 10,000 times on Twitter within a two-hour period on Wednesday, according to the analytics service ExportTweet. On Tuesday, it was mentioned 40,398 times, according to the analytics service Digimind.

And now there's an app to help people follow the Delete Facebook movement. Called #DeleteFacebook Poll, News & Tweets, the Android app invites users to declare their status - are they in or out with Facebook? - and share the reasons behind their choice.

The app also offers a collection of trending news about the Facebook data issue and the latest Twitter posts that use the #deletefacebook hashtag.

The app is available as a free download for Android devices in the Google Play Store.

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.   

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