The Gadgets Page

October 21, 2011

iHandy: Better Than An Ordinary Flashlight App

Filed under: PDAs and Phones,Software — Ian @ 10:00 am

I was looking for a free flashlight app because we were leaving for Yellowstone and we were staying in a cabin there. I looked for a while before I came across the iHandy flashlight [iTunes link]. There are literally hundreds of flashlight apps, but fortunately I found the best one for you. I liked how it worked for my iPhone 3 and it worked even better on my father’s iPhone 4. Rather than lighting up the screen it turned on his camera flash which worked twice as well as it had on mine.

When you first run this app, you will come to this selection screen. Along with the regular flashlight there are many other settings you can use for different purposes.

  • Lights: This is an ordinary flashlight. It lights up your screen (or camera flash depending on generation) in any color you want to get the brightest light from your phone.
  • Strobe: Lights will flash on and off and you can change colors if you slide your finger across the screen.
  • S.O.S.: S.O.S. in morse code will flash on the screen.
  • Emergency: This will make blue and red lights flash split screen, or red, blue, and white will flash one after another.
  • Motion Control: It will turn different colors if you shake it.
  • Spiral: Two different options of spinning colors.
  • Glow Sticks: A few different colors of glow sticks you can choose from.
  • Neon: Displays on the screen I (heart) NY. More options probably with the full version.
  • Trippy: This one was difficult to find, because you must swipe right to left from the main screen. One color of light will fade into another and so on.

If you slide you finger along the selection screen from left to right it will bring to this screen. In this mode, you can set if and how fast the lights will turn on and off along with setting it to say S.O.S. in Morse code. The numbers at the bottom of the screen control the speed of the light flashing. I prefer this mode when using the flashlight, but unless you swipe correctly, it is difficult to find.

We often used this app on our trip whether it was to see in front of us or if the fire was out. I think that this flashlight is one of the most useful things for the iPhone. Next time you catch yourself in the dark (or find yourself at a crazy rave), think of iHandy flashlight.

October 13, 2011

Adobe Finally Gives Me A Reason To Buy Photoshop… NOT!

Filed under: Software — Laura Moncur @ 3:55 pm

This impressive demonstration is dry as dirt, but it shows how Adobe is making Photoshop relevant again. The BORING presenter does an excellent job of showing us how Photoshop can analyze a blurry photo and make it unblurry. With its algorithm, Photoshop will analyze your photo and find out how the blur was created: for example HOW your hand moved when you took the photo. It will then restore your image.

The audience was quite impressed and there was a point when someone said “No Way!”

It has been years since Adobe has given me a reason to plunk down the insane amounts of money they want for Photoshop, but finally they have given me a reason to buy it.

Via: Photoshop Will End Blurry Pics Forever

Update 10-31-11: It appears that Adobe faked the blur on one of the photographs in the demonstration. They applied an artificial blur to a photograph of Kevin Lynch and then used their algorithm to “fix” it. Here is the quote from their blog post: Behind All the Buzz: Deblur Sneak Peek | PHOTOSHOP.COM BLOG

For those who are curious – some additional background on the images used during the recent MAX demo of our “deblur” technology. The first two images we showed – the crowd scene and the image of the poster, were examples of motion blur from camera shake. The image of Kevin Lynch was synthetically blurred from a sharp image taken from the web. What do we mean by synthetic blur? A synthetic blur was created by extracting the camera shake information from another real blurry image and applying it to the Kevin Lynch image to create a realistic simulation. This kind of blur is created with our research tool. Because the camera shake data is real, it is much more complicated than anything we can simulate using Photoshop’s blur capabilities. When this new image was loaded as a JPEG into the deblur plug-in, the software has no idea it was synthetically generated. This is common practice in research and we used the Kevin example because we wanted it to be entertaining and relevant to the audience – Kevin being the star of the Adobe MAX conference!

When I showed Mike that Adobe video, he was skeptical and said that you can do anything in a demonstration. He said he wouldn’t believe it until it actually showed up as a tool in Photoshop. I guess he was right all along.

Via: Adobe admits using ‘synthetic blur’ image in deblur demo: Digital Photography Review

August 24, 2011

Weird Al Goes Digital with Accordéon HD

Filed under: Software — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

I absolutely LOVE this video from Weird Al:

He is using Accordéon HD on his iPad. The app is here:

It’s also available for the iPhone, although it’s quite small:

I would think that playing an iPad accordion would be much harder than a real one because you couldn’t feel the buttons, but Al makes it look easy.

Via: “Weird Al” Yankovic Goes Digital – Celebrity Pictures, Lol Celebs and Funny Actor and Actress Photos – ROFLrazzi

June 15, 2011

Geotagging for your non-GPS camera

Filed under: PDAs and Phones,Software — Matthew Strebe @ 1:54 pm

If you’ve got a DSLR or a point-n-shoot camera that does not do geotagging automatically, and you have an iPhone, then you need to know about two apps in the iTunes store that will turn your iPhone into a Geotagging gadget for your photos.

Geotagging is a simple concept: Photos are stored with the location where they were taken. It gives you the ability to map out your trips after the fact, remember where you were, and upload your photos to Google Earth and other cloud services so that other people can see what you saw everywhere around the world. Of course you want to be careful not to Geotag photos around your house and then upload them to online services like facebook because it will reveal where you live. This is why I don’t necessarily like cameras that automatically Geotag all photos.

I’ve used two Geottagging apps for the iPhone:

Both are good and differ only in the method they use to transfer geotagging information from the phone to your computer. With both, you go through these simple steps:

  • Sync your camera’s time to your phone time
  • Create a “trip” (shooting session)
  • Let the app run in the background while you take pictures all day
  • Export your GPS logging data
  • Run the app’s desktop Geotagging application
  • Import your photos into iPhoto, Picassa, or whatever tool you use to manage photos.

The only difference between the two is the way they export data from the iPhone app:

With GeotagPhoto, you export your trips up to their website, and their Java-based desktop app downloads that info to tag your photos. This requires an active network connection when you import, but it’s simple and it works well. You have to go through a one-time “pairing” of your iPhone app to your computer via an emailed link. Of course there will come a day with this service stops working, and then the app won’t work. GeotagPhoto is $3.99.

With gps4cam, when you export it generates a QR (2D) barcode containing all your GPS data on your phone screen, and you take a photo of the screen on the same memory card. When you run the import app, it scans all your photos and finds the QR codes from amongst them, extracts the GPS log data, and then updates the photos that aren’t QR codes. Extremely clever, equally easy, and no network connection required. The only issue I found with it is my zoom telephoto has to be about 5′ away from my phone to achieve focus on the QR code (so I change the lens first).

These two apps are amazing examples of how smartphones and apps are replacing various gadgets that you would either go without or spend hundreds of dollars on.

June 9, 2011

Easy Meditation with Ambiance

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,PDAs and Phones,Software — Laura Moncur @ 8:01 am

Ambiance iOS appI can hardly believe that I never wrote a review for Ambiance [iTunes link]. It’s one of my favorite iOS apps and I literally use it every day for both meditation and going to sleep.

There are a ton of sounds to download for free to use, which makes it incredibly versatile. For example, I have downloaded several nature sounds like the one shown here, Scottish Springtime. I’ve set my timer for fifteen minutes and the shuffle to change every minute, so I can meditate to various sounds of nature no matter where I am. When the timer runs out, I’m finished meditating.

My sister Stacey and her husband Dan, however, use Ambiance to distract the dogs. They have downloaded a white noise sample and use it to drown out the sound of children playing and neighbors walking past the house so that their dogs won’t erupt into a fit of barking when the two of them are not home.

There are always new sounds on AmbianceI love that there are new sounds available quite often. When I first downloaded Ambiance several months ago, I only had a few sounds, so it felt like I was meditating to the same sounds every day. Now, I have so many different sounds to choose from that it’s rare that I hear a repeat in a week. I adore that the app will push me a notice when they have new sounds available. I usually drop everything just to see what is available.

I honestly haven’t used all the features available to me in Ambiance. There is a way to record your own sounds to use with Ambiance, so you can populate your meditation with your favorite comforting sounds. There is also a rating and favorites system. I’ve never rated a sound because I’m pretty much happy with all the sounds I’ve downloaded and deleted the sounds that turned out to be jarring or inconducive to meditation.

Ambiance iOS appA favorite for me is the alarm feature so that Ambiance can wake me up. It will bring up a clock to sit next to my bed and it will play sounds to lull me to sleep and slowly fade out after a preset time. In the morning, it will fade in, gradually waking me up to my favorite soothing sounds. It’s a fully functional alarm with “normal” alarm noises and a snooze option as well.

I have enjoyed Ambiance so much over the last few months that I can hardly believe it only cost me three bucks. I remember looking at clocks at Sharper Image and Brookstone that would play relaxing sounds for me that cost easily ten times that amount and they didn’t have as much functionality as Ambiance has, much less the ability to add more sounds. It has been a great app for me and I literally use it every day.

You can download Ambiance here:

October 22, 2010

Halloween Apps for iPad and iPhone

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,PDAs and Phones,Software — Laura Moncur @ 2:27 pm

Halloween is just around the corner! Get into the mood with these apps.

Angry Bird Halloween Edition

I’ve played Angry Birds on the iPad a few times and it amused me, but when Rovio came out with a Halloween edition of the game, they were suddenly my favorite game of the month! Here is a video showing the action.

You can download the games from iTunes here:

Ghost Radar

I talked about Ghost Radar before here:

It is such a fun app, that I’m going to have it running in the background in the kitchen during my Halloween Party. Here is a quick video showing it:

You can download the app here:

Halloween Movie Vault

Halloween Movie VaultFlingsoft has brought us a huge collection of old movies that you can stream onto your iPad. It’s a stroke of genius. I thought maybe all of the movies would be really bad, but there are some good ones there including: Dementia 13 (directed by Francis Ford Coppola), White Zombie (with Bela Lugosi) and The Last Man on Earth (with Vincent Price).

You can download Halloween Movie Vault here:

There’s nothing like a bunch of scary movies to make Halloween feel even scarier!

December 1, 2009

Surviving Without Photoshop

Filed under: Software — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Click to see full size

Adobe Photoshop CS4 at Amazon.comI just can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to pay over $600 for Adobe Photoshop. LONG ago, Mike and I bought Photoshop and we have been hobbling around with that ancient version ever since. Now that Snow Leopard has come out, that ancient version of Photoshop just doesn’t work anymore, but I can’t bring myself to buy the new one. I just can’t see the value in it.

How will I ever survive?

Quite easily, actually. Back when Mike and I DID pay for Photoshop, there weren’t any other options available, but now there are a couple of software packages that you can use that have all the functionality of Photoshop without the industrial strength price tag.

Download GIMPA couple of months ago, I talked about GIMP. You can see my review here:

GIMP doesn’t have a beautiful interface like many Apple programs, but it’s starting to catch on and now there are lots of tutorials online to show you how to do things using GIMP instead of Photoshop. You can see them here:

Use Preview instead of PhotoshopIf you own a Mac, however, you don’t even need GIMP. Included with every Mac is a program called Preview. MOST of what I need Photoshop for is resizing graphics, cropping, rotating and adjusting wonky colors. Preview does all of that and loads INSTANTLY instead of the 15 second load time for GIMP. Photoshop takes less time to load, but there’s no way it could beat Preview’s instant on feature.

Use iPhoto instead of PhotoshopIf you want to organize your photos in addition to simple editing, Macs also come with iPhoto. The beauty of this software is that you can do everything that you could do with Preview AND the software does cool stuff like facial recognition, geotagging and organizing photos into Events.

What about Photoshop Elements?

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 at Amazon.comAt only $65, you would think that Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 might be a good program to buy, but I can’t even bring myself to buy that. If I want to do something really complicated that I can’t do with iPhoto or Preview, then I usually need a tutorial to teach me how to do it. The tutorials that I can find online are all written for the full version of Photoshop, not Elements. If I have to figure out how to do something complicated using an inferior program, I’m going to save that sixty-five bucks and just use GIMP.

What if I use a PC?

Download GIMPGIMP is also available for the PC (and LINUX, if you’re keeping score), so that option is available for you. It looks the same on a PC as it does on a Mac, so if you switch between machines, you won’t have to relearn the user interface.

Use Picasa instead of PhotoshopIf you are looking for software that is free and will organize your photos like iPhoto does, the best option is Picasa from Google. In addition to easy upload to Picasa, there is a simple built-in movie editor so you can create movies with your photos, videos and music and upload them to YouTube. Here is a video introducing the software.

In some respects, Picasa is better than iPhoto because it takes a hands-off approach to photo files. iPhoto will move or copy my photos to a different location on the drive, nearly doubling the amount of hard drive space I need. I HATE this about iPhoto, but Picasa handles the files better.

Why do you hate Adobe?

I don’t necessarily hate Adobe, but I feel betrayed by them. I have bought many software packages from them over the years. For the longest time, Photoshop was the only photo editing software worth using, and Adobe took advantage of their monopoly. When there was nothing available to me, I was willing to shell out my hard earned money to get the software I needed to do my job. Now that they finally have competition, I’m not willing to give them one more penny.

Ironically, if they priced Photoshop reasonably (i.e. $200), I would be a loyal fan and pay for every upgrade. Pricing their software over the $600 mark just screams a hubris that makes me want to boycott them. Is GIMP as good as Photoshop? No, but with a six HUNDRED dollar difference in price, I’m willing to deal with the minor differences.

Comic via: AppleGeeks Lite

September 22, 2009

I Am Speaking at the Utah Open Source Conference 2009

Filed under: Software — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

I am totally stoked to announce that I’ve been chosen to speak at the Utah Open Source Conference this year.

These are my presentations:

This is the first time I’ve done a presentation like this since my student teaching so many years ago, so I’m feeling pretty nervous and excited all at the same time. If you are in the Utah area on October 10th, please drop by the Utah Open Source Conference and give me a boost of morale. I’ll probably need it!

September 8, 2009

Review: Windows 7 on a UMPC

Filed under: Reviews,Software — Matthew Strebe @ 12:28 pm

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade at Amazon.comMicrosoft’s latest desktop operating system, Windows 7, has been released to manufacturing, which means that it will be available pre-loaded on PCs and in retail boxes in October. Being geeks, the gadgets page got early access to the release version and installed it on the Sony UX 390N to compare Windows 7 to its predecessor, Windows Vista.

In a word, Windows 7 is a sigh of relief. The Sony UX390 is an Ultra-mobile PC, and not very powerful: It has a 1.5GHz Core Solo processor, 1GB of ram, and a 32GB solid state hard disk. It’s basically minimum spec for a modern computer. Vista ran poorly on it, and only with considerable tuning and customization by an expert was it even remotely tolerable. Application “whiteouts” were common, search indexing had to be disabled, and apps ran out of RAM all the time. Beyond using it for Outlook, there was little that it was good for. Sony should never have moved from Windows XP for these UMPC machines.

Windows 7 changes all of that. I performed a clean installation from a boot CD in less than 30 minutes, which in itself is amazing. Secondly, by the time the installation was done (with literally no input from me beyond partitioning), it had nearly all the devices, including the fingerprint scanner, correctly identified and working. Of all of Sony’s original drivers and applications, I only need to install drivers for the memory stick slot, Sony’s firmware extensions device on the motherboard, the onboard camera, and the touch screen calibration application. Everything else was handled out of the box, and the Vista drivers for the missing devices worked in Windows 7. The new Printers and Devices app is a joy—it’s way easier and faster to deal with devices in Windows using this separate control panel. In less than an hour total, I had a new computer.

It’s hard to describe how much better the computer is now. Office 2007 runs just fine—it’s quite snappy. I’ve done literally no tuning—I haven’t had to turn off indexing, add ReadyBoost, or anything else to make the computer perform. It runs just fine by default. Everything is faster—hooking up to wireless networks, running multiple simultaneous applications—everything. The fan isn’t on all the time and the hard disk isn’t constantly accessing. Features that used to be add-on programs, such as Fingerprint logon and burning ISO images to CD or DVD, are now part of the operating system.

The new taskbar works just like the OS X dock. I wasn’t a fan of the dock in OS X when it came out, but I’m quite used to it now, and it’s definitely better than the Start menu ever was. The new taskbar is faster and easier to use than the start menu (which is also still there) and the screen looks a lot more coherent. I wish they’d gone all the way and put the Recycle Bin on it so there’s not just one lonely icon on my desktop, but they didn’t.

The organization of the user interface is a quite a bit better than Vista. Vista was clearly just a bunch of silly layers on top of the old user-interface that rarely made anything easier—they just made it take longer to get to the functionality you were looking for. In Windows 7, finding your way around makes more sense—probably more sense than it ever has in the past. You can generally just find the functionality you need by looking around and clicking in the obvious places.

When you can’t, typing the name of an application in the search box in the start menu will pull up whatever you need quickly. Searching in Windows 7 is dramatically improved, although not yet on par with OS X in terms of speed and low background processing impact. It is finally good enough to use, however.

Finally, every one of the buggy glitches I’d been dealing with in Vista is resolved. File copies are fast. Drag and drop operations actually work the first time. UAC pop-ups are considerably reduced. Applications that aren’t compatible with Vista can be run in a built-in XP virtual mode in the Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate versions of Windows 7. But mostly, it’s just much, much faster.

I strongly recommend upgrading all of your modern PCs to Windows 7. If it runs Windows XP well, it will run Windows 7 even better. And if it runs Vista, Windows 7 will run like the operating system you were promised but didn’t get. Is it better than OS X 10.5 on a Mac? Not quite, but it is a heck of a lot closer, and it runs all your apps.

July 18, 2009

A Funny Ad For Microsoft Office 2010

Filed under: Software — Laura Moncur @ 9:23 am

It has been a LONG time since I’ve been able to say that I’ve enjoyed a Microsoft advertisement for anything other than train wreck gawking. This ad for Microsoft Office 2010, however, is enjoyable!

I’m sure that no one is mourning the loss of Clippy, but I’m most excited about the return of Visio. I used to use that program for everything from flow charts to floor plans. I hope it’s just as easy to use as it was when it was a Visio Corporation property.

Via: A funny Microsoft ad? Yes

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