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Saturday, February 27, 2016

My Location GPS Maps, free Android map, directions and location app

My Location GPS Maps logo.


My Location GPS Maps is a free app for Android. It is one any driver will appreciate, given that they all seem to spend a fair amount of time looking at maps to get an idea of the layout of places they’re visiting. That said, this app is accurate to around 15m and was giving me a very good satellite view of the area around the hotel we are currently staying in as I write this.

My Location requires Location to be active on the Android device it is being used on. It will then automatically find the device’s current location and display it alongside latitude and longitude calculations plus a map. This can be a satellite map, an Ordnance Survey-style terrain map or a combination with names of locations or streets. Where Street View pictures exist, these can often be selected to display too, for those devices running ICS-compatible versions. The Change Map Type button allows users to flip through the various styles of maps.

The app is fully integrated with Google Maps so can show directions for driving, cycling or walking, track a user’s current location, and display traffic flow speeds too. For the roundabout just outside the hotel, the amber lines indicate the traffic slowing as it navigates the roundabout then as the flow speeds up again, the lines go to green.

The reviews on the Play Store are mostly positive, because the app works well and ‘does what it says on the tin’. As usual with GPS-based apps though, it does drain the battery quickly so it might be best to use it while the phone is charging. I also found my Samsung S4 became very hot as the battery was working hard. For every negative review or low rating on the Play Store, the developer responded giving the email address for the reviewer to contact him with specific feedback on the issues encountered.

Other features of the app include the ability to share your location with friends, find nearby restaurants, hotels, ATMs and businesses and save favorite locations for future reference. Users can search for addresses through the app too, and being Google, driving directions can be provided.

When users tap on the map, an address will be shown corresponding to that location. There will be a number of options for viewing the chosen location, including showing the area in various views, saving the location in favorites, or navigating to it using a satnav or other external application. It is best to use this app as part of the preparation for a trip rather than while driving, unless using it with a passenger who can call the directions out to the driver.

My Location GPS Maps app is still in development and the comments on the reviews from the developer mention possible future additions such as a widget and height from sea level. For those who would like an app rather than the whole Google Maps experience, this app is ideal.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sex Dice Android app: the age-old game comes to mobiles

Sex Dice Android app logo.
Image provided and used with permission of developer Mapedy.

Mapedy, developer of quirky apps and offline Android map apps, has decided to venture into the adult market. The latest offering, Sex Dice, is described as ‘One of the best adult games to play with your sex partner. Start a new surprising sex experience by throwing the dice!’

This Android game has a PEGI rating of 12, so is decidedly for adults only. Features include customizable dice, a timer, password protection and vibrations. (I can’t resist an ‘ooh errr, missus!’ in here as a nod to the Carry On films. No doubt the cast of those films would have made the most of an innuendo-laden line involving talk of vibrations and sex…!)

Of course, the idea of sex games is not new. Nor is the idea of life choices driven by the throw of dice, the flip of a coin or the spinning of a roulette wheel. Wikipedia describes ‘sex dice’ as a set of dice where the faces of one die show the names of body parts and the other die shows activities. The activity shown on the top face of one must then be applied to the body part shown on the top face of the other.

Mapedy’s version starts with both partners entering their names and choosing the options for the various faces of the dice. There are four dice in this game, the action, the body part, the speed or place and the length of time. It’s almost like a version of Consequences for couples. For those couples looking for a bit of fun, or an easy way to mix things up and discover new combinations, this game could offer a lighthearted way to achieve that. All the dice choices are editable and there are also additional variables available under the More Options tab. These cover areas such as enabling or disabling various features and setting a password for security. One interesting option is a timer, which counts down the remaining time for each action, so both partners know exactly how long '25 seconds' is, for instance. Of course, the timer is editable, so there could be an element of forfeit if one partner thinks the other has short changed them.

Sex Dice is not suitable for everyone, nor is it aimed at everyone. But it is likely to suit those people who know their partner well but are open to a surprise now and again. It is perhaps better for established couples rather than those just starting out together, simply because the options are able to be amended and this does require a degree of trust. This app is suitable for adults only and carries a PEGI 12 rating. No graphics are included in the gameplay, but it could be considered suggestive because of the editable actions.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Let Leaptest Automation Studio take the strain

Leaptest logo. Image supplied and used with permission.

Leaptest Automation Studio has been developed by a company in Denmark to make automating tests and areas of programming as easy as possible, even if the user has no previous experience of the genre. The beta version of Leaptest Automation Studio is now open for registration. It allows users to design software robots to automate everything from simple tasks like emptying the recycle bin before closing the machine to complicated systems monitoring, risk management and operations requirements. The video on Leaptest’s homepage has more information and explains the way the software works in non-technical terms that even people with no practical knowledge of coding (like me!) can understand. There is no programming involved either, which is even better for newcomers to bots and other automation software.

Instead of lines of code, each routine is made up of a simple visual series of linked building blocks. Each stage in the process is represented by one block. The more advanced protocols allow for nested processes and email alerts using API, but the basic foundation is still these linked building blocks using image and text recognition. Once the procedure is complete the first test run creates a video so potential snags are easy to spot. The video runs alongside the test so users can see what the finished product will look like, and each step of the procedure lights up in the test screen to simplify troubleshooting. It really is that simple, and one of the unique selling points is that it requires no coding knowledge and no previous technical training whatsoever. In theory, everyone should be able to use this software testing tool with the minimum of fuss and maximum efficiency.

Automated logic steps, each saved as an individual building block, are reusable, which helps when setting up routines that run on similar lines. Leaptest will run in many browsers and devices, including websites, forms, desktop and mobile apps. The software also offers the option to create schedules, dashboards and all kinds of other tweaks. As it supports all major PC and mobile operating systems, it is fully portable.

For those users releasing new online products, Leaptest is a new way to run risk management tests before the product launch. It will run more or less any business process and will also integrate with API to allow notification emails to be sent easily. The automated nature of this testing will save time and manual effort, plus potentially locating bugs before the product comes to market. Operations and maintenance tasks can be automated just as easily, and can therefore be scheduled to run outside of core hours with email notification if something goes wrong.

Perhaps the best thing about Leaptest is that it is visual. Anyone can see what to do, how to set it up and what’s going wrong when the logic doesn’t work as expected. It’s intuitive, quick and easy to set up a logic process to save time and effort. Leaptest permits creation of software robots to carry out tests, monitoring and procedures in seconds. The same processes could take a user half an hour or more to code and longer to carry out manually. From the point of view of a small business owner with limited time and resources, Leaptest is a code-free tool to optimize effective management of business processes.

Of course, such a powerful tool is not going to be free. With packages aimed to start at $79 a month though, Leaptest will undoubtedly be an economic use of limited funds for those firms and individuals looking to make more effective use of knowledge, time and resources. There are several layers of pricing planned, all of which will allow access to the complete Automation Studio. The idea is that all users will start with a 30-day free trial and move to the flexible plan of their choice from there if they like what they try. The developers hope to offer both monthly paid and annually billed contracts, with the base level Professional contract at $79 annual fee, or $89 paid monthly on a rolling basis. This allows one nominated Automation Studio member, one Automation Controller named staff member and up to three Automation Agents to assist. Developer support will come from the public web forum assisted by Leaptest support staff.

The Team level of contract, available for $749 annually or $890 month-to-month, covers ten Automation Studio level staff, a further ten Automation Controllers and up to 50 Automation Agents. That would allow for an SME to have adequate named and trained staff to cover in the event of illness and annual leave across several departments. As well as the public web forum where Leaptest’s own support staff are on hand to help out, this level of account will receive priority email support during business hours.

The top level of service, the Enterprise rank, will cost $3,449 per month billed annually or $4,450 on a month-to-month payment plan. This plan permits 50 Automation Studio staff, another 50 Automation Controllers and unlimited individual Automation Agents. In addition to the support levels offered to Team subscribers, phone and Skype support will be available and a 2 hour Implementation workshop will be held to allow subscribers to make the best use of Leaptest’s abilities.

Full user documentation and further information about the API system can be found on the Leaptest website. Email priority support will be made available for those users signing up for the beta testing phase. Once the software goes live, however, priority support will be restricted to the upper two levels of subscription only, as stated above.

Businesses of all sizes running regular electronic processes are likely to benefit from Leaptest Automation Studio's software. It’s in beta testing now and when it goes live, users will receive 30 days' free use of the full product before the requirement for a paid subscription begins.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hard Times Charles - a modern vampire's tale

Hard Times Charles, the vampire with money troubles.
Image provided and used with permission.
 

Charles Von Vamp is a thoroughly modern vampire. Sure, like all vampires, he’s undead. But unlike most vampires, he has a big problem. It’s one that many humans will be familiar with too.

Money.

Or rather, the lack of it.

In his tale, Hard Times Charles, the solution seemingly involves bottle tops, surprisingly. And rhyming lines in the form of limericks. Because the poetry form popularized by Edward Lear is alive and well. And Charles Von Vamp prefers to express his troubles in this way. Through this light hearted yarn about a real problem, readers will learn about vampiric finance issues, how the undead conduct romance, how they cope with finding a job when they don’t come out in daylight – and just exactly how a pension plan can be constructed to last several centuries. The crowdfunding video shows Charles creeping up on an unsuspecting worried-looking man sitting at a desk late one evening. 

Charles then asks whether the man can spare five bucks in a voice that sounds similar to Bugs Bunny’s lisp but deeper and darker in tone.

This ebook is illustrated with color cartoon drawings, and is suitable for all ages. 50 pages long, the limericks and cartoons never let up, propelling readers in an inoffensive manner through Charles’ trials with the bankers who want to evict him from his castle.

The tale of Hard Times Charles is available from Ignite Orlando FL’s website for $4.99. It is also offered for free when ordered with a set of The Orlando Vacation I Deserve books from the same publisher. The crowdfunding video starring Charles coincidentally features the same man seen planning his Orlando vacation and worrying about whether he has snagged the very best possible deal. Hard Times Charles is set in a large, easy-to-read typeface and can be printed once purchased. For those who prefer to buy through Amazon for direct download to their Kindle, the book is available via the Kindle bookstore on the same deal.

Hard Times Charles is a book sure to appeal to everyone. For poetry lovers, the limerick is given a serious airing. For cartoon fans, the book is lavishly illustrated. For comedy fans, there’s plenty to laugh at. There is no offense, no bad language, no violence, only fun. There is even a special ‘kiddie version’ for the younger readers.

And who hasn’t heard, in their head, that nagging little voice saying ‘Your available balance is…’ followed by a burst of manic laughter. That’s why Charles is so much fun. He may be an undead vampire, but he has human problems, and everyone can relate to that.

Hard Times Charles is available now from Ignite Orlando FL. It costs $4.99 for purchase on its own, or can be ordered for free with the purchase of a set of The Orlando Vacation I Deserve tips and trick ebooks.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Colleen Nye: Author

Colleen Nye, Author.
Image supplied and used with permission.

It gives me great pleasure to be writing about an author. Makes a change from articles about apps and websites, and in any case, Colleen Nye is a thoroughly modern wordsmith who uses collaboration with other authors to create some of the work she publishes. Come to think of it, she’s right up my street.

On her website Colleen describes herself as “an author in various styles and genres – Novels, short stories, poetry, romantic comedies, suspense thriller, drama…”. Colleen is a prolific and compulsive writer, always working on something and often on several things together, it seems. Her publication list for 2016 is as fierce as it is varied, with anthologies co-written with other authors, a teen drama, a science fiction work and a series of five books in an anthology known as The Debut Collective.

But let’s start at the beginning. Colleen has been writing and winning awards for her work since her teens. Now she owns her own publishing imprint, Blue Deco Publishing, as well as producing an impressive output of work and curating anthologies in which other authors have a big part to play too.

To date, Colleen’s work includes:

  • Immersion – a science fiction world where virtual gaming is key.
  • The Unattainable Series – Book one is called When in Maui, a romantic novel. Book two is titled When in Doubt, and will be released in spring 2016.
  • The Lunchtime Anthologies – Gable Heights is the first installment in the series which meshes Colleen’s main storyline with other authors’ short stories and plot developments.
  • Pieces in two volumes of anthology work from the Writing from the Ledges collective: Voices from the Ledges and Seasons of Life.

Colleen’s blog includes a series of writer interviews, a reminder of the reality of NaNoWriMo (where every self-respecting novelist tries to bash out as many words as possible in the month of November, hoping to reach the holy grail of 50,000 words in 30 days) and information about upcoming releases from Blue Deco Publishing.

If it’s word-centric or writing-focused, expect to see Colleen involved. Besides running Blue Deco Publishing, she writes press releases and leads workshops on creative writing and getting published. Plus, she is always up for book signings, conventions, appearances and talks. For instance, she will be at Utopiacon conference in Tennessee in June 2016, which is a specialist event for writers of supernatural fiction, and Tulip City Author Event in July 2016 in Michigan. Further ahead, Colleen’s appearances are already planned at Indies in NY in August and Penned Con in St Louis in September. That is only a snapshot of the events where Colleen is appearing in the next year or so, and she is booking into 2017 too.

If you like your authors varied, prolific, modern and refreshing, Colleen Nye’s work should be on your recommended reading list. No chance of becoming bored with the same style of writing for book after book with this author, that’s for sure.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sublime Soaps - Handmade Soaps, 100% Natural


Sublime Soaps logo.
Image provided and used with permission.

The Sublime Soaps company has just put up a website and announced their first product. This is an ideal chance for early adopters to buy a great example of handmade, organic, natural soap.

Sublime Soaps will appeal to many people for differing reasons.

  • For those who like ethical products, the soaps are natural and organic.
  • For those supporting handmade crafts, the range is handmade.
  • For those allergic to chemicals and additives in commercially produced soaps, these soaps have none of that, but rather are soft on skin and caring to hands.

Sublime Soaps may have just opened for business, but their eventual range is aiming to cover all requirements, whether your skin is sensitive, oily or dry. The company offers 100% handmade, natural soap bars, made from organic ingredients.

The first product offered by Sublime Soaps, Peaches and Cream handmade soap, is PEG and Paraben free, made from a mix of ingredients including carrot oil, cucumber seed oil and aloe vera. Aloe Vera is soothing, anti inflammatory and moisturising; carrot oil is considered a detoxifier and rejuvenator, while cucumber oil is good for the skin. The carotene gives this bar a glowing orange shade, which is guaranteed to cheer you up even on the dullest day.


A bar of handmade soap.
GettyImages-478394013.
Used by arrangement with fiverr.com.





Sublime Soaps’ Facebook page lists all the properties of this carefully handmade item, including the fact that it is vegetable based and contains several vitamins. The company also claims that Peaches and Cream soap can help ease skin problems such as eczema, acne and rashes. As it is 100% natural, it is likely to have a better pH balance than some of the commercially produced soap bars, so this would not be at all surprising.

The soap will be available through the Sublime Soaps website once the site is fully live, but presently it is on sale via ebay. The website gives details of the postage costs buyers can expect, which seem to indicate that smaller orders within the UK will be sent out First Class Small Packet while larger shipments will attract a Medium Parcel rate due to the weight and bulk of the product. Soap, like many items, does not react well to being dropped, and so the bars are going to be sent well packaged to ensure they arrive in one piece rather than several. Worldwide shipping will be available and all prices and terms are clearly outlined on the site. Buyers from outside Europe are requested to contact the company to discuss shipping costs before purchase, which is sensible given that many countries charge import taxes on incoming goods even when sent as a gift.

Talking of gifts, a bar of soap from Sublime Soaps would make a good twist on the traditional ‘smelly’ gift for that difficult-to-buy-for female friend or relative we all have. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Sublime Soaps’ range develops, because several of my friends and family would probably prefer to use a totally natural product for washing than some of the other alternatives widely available in supermarkets these days. Even those with normal skin who simply prefer a soft and foamy soap could well become fans, given the moisturising and rejuvenating properties of the Peaches and Cream bar currently available.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pixel Robot Jump, free Android pixelated play

Pixel Robot Jump icon
Used with permission of the developer, Universal Ganes


One of my favorite developers, Universal Games, is back with a new free Android game.

Pixel Robot Jump Saga is a fiendish little game. Like many of Universal Games’ offerings, it’s a tapping game. And like their previous offering, Neon 2 Car Racing Saga, it looks simple, but actually is anything but.

It’s beautifully retro, with a lovely chiptune style bleepy-bloopy soundtrack and pixelated visuals in every shade of the 16-color rainbow. Black, white and color, just as it should be for a proper game, at least in my book. Plus it’s old school graphics in

new school smoothness, available on my phone. Mine to annoy the entire bus load of passengers with, over and over again, especially as there doesn’t seem to be any way to turn the sound off without muting the entire phone, and I’m hopeless at playing it, so my grand total is still 0, zip and zero. I hereby apologize to you if you catch my morning bus, but this little gem is bothering me and I need to try and score soon. The developers assure me that if I can make it to double figures, I am a master of the game.
 

Never mind talk of getting into double figures making a player a master. Any player who even manages to get Robot to jump out of the circle has beaten my best attempt by a long way. The idea is simple – Robot is in an incomplete, constantly rotating, circle. The player has to tap to keep
him from touching the sides of the circle until the break in the circle lines up with his upward flight and allows him to fly free. Then he has to return to the circle and start all over again. Each successful flight and return earns one point. Every new attempt shows up in a new color, and I must have circled the 16-color rainbow several times earlier trying to avoid having Robot hit his head on the circle while waiting for the break to swing round. The squeak he emits when he bashes his head on the circle is quite enough to make players want to try again so that he doesn’t hurt himself next time.

There is a short video available on YouTube to demonstrate the idea of Pixel Robot Jump, and several comments from regular players on the Google Play Store page indicating just how addictive the game is. All the links in the article show different colors of screen players will see, and the write up on the Store also indicates that it will not be the easiest game to master.

Don’t say you haven’t been adequately warned – Pixel Robot Jump from Universal Games is difficult to play but just as difficult to put down. Good luck!