New in iOS 7 Beta 4: Snapchat Screenshots

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What has the world come to when I’m posting about the ability to take screenshots in Snapchat?

I need to get out more often…

In the release notes of iOS 7 Beta 4, there was this sentence:

Active touches are no longer canceled when the user takes a screenshot.

This means easy screenshots with snapchat, or any other app that shields the truth when you try to take a screenshot.

In the past, snaps would close upon trying to take a screenshot. No longer!

For you iOS 7 Beta users, you can take screenshots of your snaps by holding your finger on the snap and using another hand/fancy finger-work to hit both the home and power buttons simultaneously.

And for all you snapchatters out there, beware of the snapshotting possibilities.

(P.S. I really haven’t been posting enough lately. I need to decide whether I want to write long and analytical posts every once in awhile, or keep a stream of less interesting but still relevant news articles coming through. Hmm.)

Transit: The Best Public Transportation App for iOS

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jpegAs a 15-year-old, I don’t have a driver’s permit or any vehicle to drive. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have places to go.

As many others in the US do, I’ve turned to public transportation. Some people use it because taking a car simply doesn’t make sense (New York, for example). Others because they simply don’t want a car.

But using public transportation can be quite a hassle. For me to go towards San Francisco, I take a bus to a lightrail to a train that will finally go north. Planning and scheduling these multiple vehicles to minimize waiting times and maximize trip efficiency is often a difficult task involving timetables and maps.

It’s a good thing that we have Transit, though.

Transit is soothingly simple. Put in your origin and destination as well as a time of departure or arrival and Transit will search the timetables of all local transit and determine multiple routes to get you where you need to go in the shortest amount of time.

Here’s an example search from Lake Vasona to the Transamerica Pyramid Building in San Francisco.

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Transit gives me various options to choose from so I can maximize the speed of the trip.

Once I choose which route to take, I get a beautiful and simple guide that gives me specific times for each leg of my trip.

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I also get a nice map giving me visual reference of where I need to go.

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Currently, Transit works in 37 major cities across the United States including San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.

The best part about this app? It’s completely free! No ads or bothersome begging here.

Enjoy!

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Axis: App Shortcuts on your Lockscreen!

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App Shortcuts from your Homescreen!

App Shortcuts from your Homescreen!

One of the cool features of the iPhone is the camera button on the lock screen. The camera is just a swipe away from the lockscreen, meaning you won’t miss anything while fumbling for your Camera app.

Well, here’s a jailbroken tweak that will allow you to add more shortcuts to your homescreen just like the Camera shortcut for any app you so desire.

The app is called Axis, and it is available from Cydia for $0.99. This means that you need a jailbroken device.

Once installed, open the Settings app and find the Axis settings pane. Change around which shortcuts you want to do what, and the next time you unlock your iPhone you’ll notice that… it looks the exact same. What?

thing3Now put your finger on the little Camera shortcut. You’ll see the “slide to unlock” slider is replaced by all of your shortcuts. Slide your finger over one of them and swipe up to open it.

And don’t worry about your passcode – Axis will request your passcode before you open up an app.

Personally, I like to have my Phone, Messages, Spotify, and Google Maps at my fingertips. You can play around with the Axis settings and customize the shortcuts to any app of your desire. Enjoy!

Pastor: Free, Simple Password Management for Mac

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PastoriconIf you’ve been reading much about security recently, you know that everyone is saying to never reuse any passwords, and to use a password manager to keep track of all of them. 1Password is definitely the most recommended password manager of them all, as it supports categories, cross-platform syncing, and browser extensions.

But it’s $40.

Ladies and gentlemen, enter Pastor. I’m going to say now that Pastor doesn’t have any of the fancy features that 1Password has, but it has the essentials: password storage and encryption.

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The interface is beautifully simple: You can add an entry that contains a title, username, password, URL, and a note. The database is then saved as an encrypted .pastor file using a master password of your choice.

To see your passwords, open the file, type in your password, and you’re there. You can copy a password to the clipboard for use, or hover over the password to see it.

It also has a built-in password generator.

The app is donation-ware, so donations are encouraged. I don’t usually ask people to donate for donation-ware apps, but this app is so simple and useful that I think it’s definitely worth more than nothing. So if you use this app, please donate something!

Enjoy!

Pastor Homepage

Firefox Jumps on the Mobile OS Bandwagon at MWC 2013

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At Mobile World Congress, a bunch of people with ties huddled into a room in Barcelona, Spain to hear what Firefox had to say.

Firefox announced Firefox OS, a new mobile operating system that will inevitably compete against Apple, Android, and the other big names. I’m not going to go into super specific details, but here’s the important stuff:

Firefox OS has secured shipments on many different devices (many of them very cheap) from LG Electronics, Alcatel One Touch, and some other unheard of companies. It won’t be coming to any devices in the US until 2014.

The big headline of Firefox OS is that they’re ditching a typical app store and instead hoping to have an “open market” of HTML5 based apps. In essence, the OS is basically a web browser. “Apps” are actually just links to websites.

Essentially, I think this is a good idea that will succeed in foreign markets but not in the US.

I’ve covered the quality+userbase=userbase++ concept in my post about Google+. In case you didn’t read that, basically, any social networking site’s best feature is more users for people to socialize with. When you have users, other users want to join, and your user base will exponentially grow. This same system can be applied to app stores. For your phone to be successful, you need apps. For developers to make apps for your phone, there need to be users. For there to be users, there need to be apps. The more users you have, the more apps you have, the more users you have, the more apps you have, and so on.

Firefox OS has the edge here because the “apps” are all HTML based (websites). This means that anyone who has ever created a website has the knowledge to create an app for Firefox OS – so there are already 8 million developers for this OS. Removing the learning curve of a new language and new library for a mobile OS will make it much more compelling to developers and, in turn, more compelling to users.

Phones running Firefox OS are going to be released mainly in China and developing cell areas for a fairly cheap price. As a result, I think it will succeed in those markets where iPhones and Androids are often too expensive. I don’t think it’s going to succeed in America as the competition from Microsoft, RIM, Android, and iOS is very hot.

Overall, I think that Firefox OS is a controversial approach to the Mobile OS – websites as apps – and will thrive in less modernized countries, but fail in others.

 

Gizoogle: A Gangsta Google Search

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Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 12.42.34 AMGoogle Search is a wonderful utility: type in what you want, and you’ll probably get it.

 

Well, Gizoogle is a parody on Google searches that really spruces up the search results. It has an alternate dictionary which it switches out various words in the search for. Examples include (but are not limited to) hair=afro; love=ludd; good=phat.

The best part is that the search is still completely accurate. If compared to a Google search for the same thing, the results will be identical (other than Gizoogle’s alternative dialect). This is because Gizoogle still uses the Google Search API, meaning you’ll get Google’s same accurate and reliable search results, just in a different dialect. For example, if you type “good morning geek” into Google Search, the first result will go something like this:

 Here’s how to turn it into an “I’m Feeling Lucky” box, so that if you type Good Morning Geek into the bar, it will take you straight to GMG!

Here’s the result for the same search on Gizoogle:

Here’s how tha fuck ta turn it tha fuck into a “I’m Feelin Lucky” box, so dat if you type Dope Mornin Geek tha fuck into tha bar, it will take you straight ta GMG, muthafucka!

 

When a link is clicked, you’ll get the Gizoogled translation of the page, but it will still be the correct page. One of my favorites for this is the Alpaca article on Wikipedia. Normally it will say:

Alpacas are kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of southern Peru, northern BoliviaEcuador, and northern Chile at an altitude of 3,500 m (11,500 ft) to 5,000 m (16,000 ft) above sea level, throughout the year.[1] Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, they were not bred to be beasts of burden, but were bred specifically for their fiber. Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items, similar to wool.

The Gizoogled translation:

Alpacas is kept up in herdz dat graze on tha level heightz of tha Andes of southern Peru, northern BoliviaEcuador, n’ northern Chile at a altitude of 3,500 m (11,500 ft) ta 5,000 m (16,000 ft) above sea level, all up in tha year.[1] Alpacas is considerably smalla than llamas, n’ unlike llamas, they was not bred ta be beastz of burden yo, but was bred specifically fo’ they fiber. Alpaca fiber is used fo’ bustin knitted n’ woven items, similar ta wool.

Enjoy! http://gizoogle.net

 

Google Maps for iPhone is Here!

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With the release of iOS 6, the biggest complaint was the new maps app. And I don’t just mean people were whining a bit; I mean that it was such a big deal that many people refrained from updating to iOS 6 just for the bad maps. It was such a big problem that Apple even created a special section on the featured page of the App Store with alternative map apps. And it’s not just the Apple addicts noticing – a slew of memes have popped up mentioning iOS maps as well.

There’s been quite the uproar, but finally Google has fixed our problems. Introducing the official Google Maps for iPhone!

I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t that what we had before iOS6? Well, kind of. Before iOS 6, Apple had created their own maps app that used the Google Maps API. This new Google Maps app is completely built and maintained by Google, no Apple involvement.

The app is just how you’d expect it to be: A nice, clean google interface with sans-serif fonts and light colors. The zooming is very smooth and font sizes change like water. The “3D” effect is less than that of Apple’s maps, but it is still adequate for getting a general idea of the terrain.

The app also comes with Google’s voice navigation, which is a nice addition for many.

Overall, it’s what you’d expect – a good, solid, full-featured maps app that is a free alternative to the laughable iOS maps.

Click here to download it from iTunes. 


The Sphero

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When I arrived at my first CES, one of the first things that I saw and experienced in depth was the Sphero. They had a medium sized booth, with a little track and some ramps. There were all of these tiny little white balls rolling around on it, and I must say – it looked pretty cool. A chat and a demo later, I saw what it was. It was a little ball that rolled around and was controlled by your iPhone or iPad. That was about it. The people at the booth told me that they would be evolving it and making it into an API for any developer to use, and that the product would be sold eventually for under $100. The prototypes at the stand were functional, but barely. A small drop and they would fall apart. Upon pressing the “boost” button, they would go crazy and lose their bearings. Not to mention that those were all they had with them, so when one broke down beyond repair they were simply down one. It looked promising. The concept was cool, it seemed flexible, it could definitely be something cool. After all, it was just a ball – which left plenty of room for the imagination of customers and developers.

It’s one year later. I’m back at CES. Upon walking into the convention center, I can see a giant rotating sphere that seems to be a giant model of the sphero. Upon arriving under said banner, I saw something big – much bigger than the year before. The booth was much larger, there were tons of spheros everywhere, and there were video presentations on TV monitors and banners and everything. Much, much, MUCH bigger than last year. It looked like they had really grown. Here they had these balls that were made out of a very solid plastic, had inductive chargers, sphero logos embedded on each one, and none of them were out of control. Heck, they were rolling them down concrete stairs! I checked over and they had really gotten somewhere.

The Concept

As I said before, this thing is a ball. It now has open APIs that any iOS or Android developer can use to integrate the sphero with their apps. The range of applications has grown, and there are apps available that can make the sphero a fake golf ball or even take advantage of the sphero’s accelerometer and gyroscope to use it as a game controller. The range of applications is constantly growing, so buying a sphero isn’t just buying a ball – it’s like buying a phone, who’s functionality will keep growing with more applications and updates.

The Ball

The Sphero itself doesn’t take up much space. It’s white, hard plastic that has no spaces or anywhere that the plastic snaps together or comes apart. In fact, it doesn’t have a charging port. If one were to look inside of a sphero (which would be very difficult considering that they would need to saw or melt open the outer shell), he would find an array of devices. There’s some motors as well as a main motherboard which contains a compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, bluetooth card, and a bunch of other robotic computing stuff. They would also find the multicolor LED that lights up the ball in any color you want. The sphero contains a standard lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which is charged through an inductive charger. For those of you who don’t know what an inductive charger is, it’s basically a charger that charges a battery through a material without having any physical contacts. These are sometimes found in electric toothbrush chargers, emergency flashlight chargers, and more recently on electronic devices such as the Palm Pre or the duracell powermat. To charge the sphero, just set it in its dock with the heavier part of the sphero on the bottom. Like magic, the sphero will start charging. Cool! To wake the ball up, just shake it. Yup. No switches here, just shake it as if it were a two week old container of orange juice and it will light up and be ready to play. Set it down on the ground, open up your iOS or android device, and start rolling. The sphero connects to your device through bluetooth. A user will notice a tail-like figure on the top of it. This shows the orientation of the sphero relative to the control mechanism in the application. If one picks up the sphero and spins it, she would notice that the mechanism inside would constantly adjust to maintain the set orientation. That’s part of the robotics at work. Overall, the sphero is one intelligent, intuitive ball.

The Interface

Sphero provides a few apps to demonstrate the basic functionalities of the sphero. The main app, Sphero Drive, simply allows the user to drive the sphero around. Here you won’t find any steering wheels or throttle nonsense – just a circle with a little sphero-shaped control in it. This eliminates the confusion that often comes when you’re driving a device towards you. With a steering wheel, it ends up becoming reversed, but with this interface, it’s not a problem. Put two fingers on the screen and rotate them, and you’ll see a blue dot on the sphero. Point it right towards yourself, then pushing the sphero in the app forward will cause the sphero to roll forward. Pushing it right will make it roll right. It’s as simple as that.

Apps

At the moment, Sphero has been releasing many different apps. One of them is the standard “Sphero Drive” application that I was mentioning up there. Others like Chromo use the sphero as a controller, and one app allows the user to play golf with it. At the moment, there are many different applications being developed and there’s always new ones available. Conclusion The Sphero is available from both Sphero’s website and now many brookstone stores for $130. I will say, that it is not a cheap toy – but think of it as a console, where there’s always new games out that you can buy. If you’re a developer, you can use Sphero’s open API to integrate it into your applications for free. Check out the sphero website for available apps, purchasing the Sphero, and using their free API. http://gosphero.com

P.S. Thank you Sphero for sending me the finished product!

Spotify Answers our Prayers: the Spotify iPad app!

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Look at the beautiful artwork!

It’s about time.

I have been craving this exact item on the menu for the longest time, and finally Spotify has granted our wishes.

Previously, it was necessary to use the iPhone application on the iPad, which was disappointing as spotify could have done so much more with the large screen real estate.

The new iPad Spotify app is really the new Android Spotify app‘s older brother. It features a similar interface with  all of your standard Search, New, Inbox, and other menu functions in a left menu. It is also similar to the Facebook and Twitter iPad apps thanks to it’s clean, sliding panels.

Spotify integrates a lot of album artwork, with their signature two-by-two paneling of playlist album art.

If you want Spotify on your iPad, it is a free update for those who had the iPhone app installed previously, or you can go to this iTunes store link.

Thank you Spotify!

How to Wirelessly Transfer Files to a Galaxy Nexus

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As you may know, the Galaxy Nexus does not have an option for USB Mass Storage. To transfer any files directly from a computer to the phone, it is necessary to plug it in with a USB Cable and open Google’s proprietary Android File Transfer application.

But what if you don’t have a cable? What then?

There’s a couple things you could do. Email works for smaller files, however for larger files things may go slowly and fall apart.

If you have a server or CloudApp or Puush account, you could upload it and then email  the link to yourself. This would work usually, however the Galaxy Nexus’s download manager often will download most of it, then suddenly fail at the end.

There’s also Bluetooth, which is often unreliable. I can’t transfer any files between my Mac and my Nexus over bluetooth, as it gives me a random warning which is just not worth trying to figure out.

There’s really only one good way: DROPBOX.

In case you don’t know, Dropbox is a service that allows you to have a folder on all of your computers that constantly stay in sync. When one file is added on one computer, it magically appears in the Dropbox folder of all of the other computers too. You have 2GB of space, and the real important part is that they have an Android app as well.

Simply open your Dropbox folder, transfer the file in, and wait a few moments for it to upload to the cloud. Then, open the free app on your Nexus. Tap the file that you just uploaded from your computer, and it should download and open. Voila, that’s how to wirelessly transfer a file from your computer to your Nexus without using bluetooth, servers, or anything else that’s ridiculously unreliable and confusing.

Download Dropbox for your Computer

Download Dropbox for Android

Spotify for Android gets Overhauled

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Pretty new artist page

Spotify is by far the best music service I have ever come across. For $10 a month, I get all of the new songs streamed to my computer and phone. For the price of one album a month, I can have as many songs and listen to all of them as many times as I want without any ads or issues. It’s magical!

The only problem is the the android app. It really lacks – the interface is a little bit hard to use, it doesn’t offer as much functionality as the desktop app, and the graphics are quite low resolution.

Well, not anymore. Spotify has released a preview of their new app, which features facebook- and twitter-like slide-out menus, cleaner, easier graphics, and a nicer, more refined playing menu. The interface is also a lot faster in general.

A nice new player interface

The application isn’t available on Google Play quite yet, as they’re working on adding a few more features like Last.fm scrobbling, folders, and more. However, if you’d like to update now, you can still download the preview of the new app.

First, you’ll need to open Settings > Applications and check the box that allows you to install applications from unknown sources. Next, open this post on your phone and tap here. The apk file should download. Next, pull down the notifications and tap the downloaded file. Follow the steps and in a few taps you’ll be enjoying the new spotify interface!

I’m excited that spotify is finally cleaning up their Android app – it was getting a bit, well, old.

Instagram Bought by Facebook for $1 BILLION

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Remember Instagram, the fun little quirky photo sharing service that just released an Android application?

As you may know, they’ve been growing in size since their launch and Instagram has become an extremely large and popular service.

Because of this, it was inevitable that they would eventually be purchased by an extremely large company… and who better than facebook?

First of all, $1,000,000,000 is a lot of money. A LOT. I didn’t really think that Instagram could be worth that much.

Second, a little note to Zuck and the whole facebook crew: Please, please, please, please don’t screw this up. Please don’t force it to be built in to the facebook interface. Don’t try to stick instagram into facebook, you’d be doing everybody a disservice. Also, don’t just get rid of the entire thing to eliminate competition.

We will have to see what Facebook is hoping to do with this photo-sharing giant, and I honestly hope that they don’t screw it up.