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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

MyDroid PC Manager provides an Android-PC interface

MyDroid PC Manager logo.
Used with permission

MyDroid PC Manager, from the same developers who produced the Auto SMS / USSD / Call app, is another super-simple app for those who need an easy way to interface their technology. Like Auto SMS / USSD / Call, MyDroid PC Manager is free to Android users. It connects a phone (or even several devices) and a computer for wireless transfer of files, sms and text messages, contacts and photos. Users can also manage their phone from their PC, send links to read on the PC and much more. All users need to do is download the app to their device, then install the MyDroid PC Server files on their computer. 

Occasional users can make use of the app to transfer photos from their phone to a laptop or desktop. MyDroid PC Manager offers the functionality to view, rename and delete photos, then send only the best photos to a PC for backup. For people like me who always manage to mislay a phone-to-USB connector at that crucial moment when their phone’s memory is full, this app is a simple solution. It can also be used to send links to the PC to read rather than having to wade through the equivalent of a Guardian newspaper ‘longread’ article or some amazing photo clickbait on a phone or tablet (and thereby use up data allowance and battery life).

In addition, MyDroid PC Manager is useful for people who like to backup their phones elsewhere. Creating a decent contacts list is a breeze with this app, plus it has the functionality to find duplicates so they can be easily deleted before sending the whole list over to a PC for backup to an external hard drive. It is also possible to program messages and sms to be sent from the phone to an entire mailing list.

Many offices may not allow this option, but MyDroid PC Manager can be set to have phone notifications show as pop ups in the corner of a PC screen. I can see this functionality being used in shift workers’ families, where a daysleeper is trying to catch some essential shuteye while others in the house go about their normal daytime lives as quietly as possible. For small business owners, MyDroid PC Manager is a connectivity tool to link Android devices into one network. It will connect to several devices together, allowing seamless transfer of files between them and a PC. Users can also type up emails and other mailings to share via the connected devices.

MyDroid PC Manager is fully accountable, keeping records of the number of texts and the duration of calls. By accessing the app on a PC users can also control apps on their phone and see what permissions they each have.

MyDroid PC Manager is perfect for people who hate wires poking out of their computers (looking at you, dad!) and for Android phone users who often need to transfer files to their PCs for backing up and safekeeping.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Karen D Little, Nutritionist and Holistic Practitioner

Karen D Little offers Wellness Coaching on fiverr.
Image provided and used with permission.

Wellness and health experts are expensive, right?

Wrong. Karen D Little offers her wellness and health services on fiverr. A newcomer to the freelance site, she is currently offering three gigs for the benefit of anyone who cares to pay at least $5 (£3.50) for her expertise. She is a Certified Nutritionist and Board Certified Holistic Practitioner so she knows what she’s talking about, certainly.

The first gig Karen offers is to create a heart healthy diet plan. This comes in a chart format, and includes instructions on how to balance the diet for optimum heart health. She says that by eating such a diet, people can decrease their risk of heart disease or stroke by up to 80%, so it’s really something anyone can benefit from. As an extra on this service, Karen will also submit a list of vitamin or herbal supplements which have been shown to benefit heart health. That will cost another $5 and take a further day so she has time to research the supplements which would benefit each individual the most. There is an express option of 24 hour delivery for $10.

The second gig Karen lists is an offer to calculate the buyer’s nutritional needs, so not just tell them how many calories a day they should be eating, but also to break that down into constituent parts i.e. carbs, protein and so on. Her buyer will receive a full computerized analysis of their requirements and she will indicate in which areas their diet is lacking.

For an additional $10 this can be delivered within 24 hours, and for a further $10 Karen will offer a seven day meal plan. That will take her a couple of days to create though, so buyers will have to be patient. They can also ask for a month’s worth of saliva testing strips to help them work out whether their plan is keeping their body alkaline, as it should be. That will also cost $10 and will take a couple of days, especially as this will require posting.

Finally, Karen offers her services as a personal health coach to go with either or both of the other gigs. For one week a buyer will have the benefit of her advice, and can ask her up to three questions a day for three days of that time. They will receive a personalized answer to their questions, which can be about supplements, remedies for common ailments, best ways to prevent illness or the most effective way to approach weight loss. For an extra three days and $10 Karen will create a personal wellness calendar for the next month so that her buyer can consult it and make sure they’re on track.

For those who have resolved to make 2016 a healthy year, someone like Karen D Little is a godsend. For around the price of a coffee, buyers have access to professional, expert advice and assistance to make their goals a little bit easier to attain. Each of these services is available from $5 on fiverr, the freelance hub where just about anything you want can be done for five dollars.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Unique Planet offers tailor-made trips to Tanzania

Unique Planet logo.
Image supplied and used with permission.

Tanzania may not be on everyone’s bucket list of holiday destinations, but perhaps it should be. Quite apart from Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar, the country boasts an amazing diversity of activities, including trekking and hiking, safaris, scuba diving, mountain climbing and astronomy. The people are famed for their respect, indeed children addressing strangers often call them dada (sister) or kaka (brother) as a mark of respect, similar to the way UK children sometimes call family friends ‘Aunty’ and ‘Uncle’.

Unique Planet, based in London, England, are specialists in travel to Tanzania. Their tailor-made tours cater for all ages, varied interests and reasons for travel. With Unique Planet, visitors will be able to experience the vibrant culture that typifies Tanzania up close and personal. Unique Planet covers tours to the whole of East Africa, but specialises in showing off Tanzania to visitors looking for a holiday destination that’s a little bit different. Working closely with partner companies on the ground in Africa, Unique Planet is also able to help with charity and environmental schemes to improve the lives of locals and animals which the tourists will see on their travels.

Customs are strong in Tanzania as well as the culture of respect. Camouflage clothing is forbidden, and most actions are performed with the right hand, as using the left is seen as rude and disrespectful. Pointing and beckoning are also considered rude, and so full hand gestures are used to indicate direction. To ask someone to join them, a Tanzanian will put their hand palm down and scratch at it with their fingers. Taking photographs without permission is ill-mannered, and guests should remember to leave food on their plate to indicate that the host has served them enough to satisfy their appetite.

Talking of food, Tanzanian cuisine is varied and spicy, reflecting the large number of worldwide influences the country has been subject to over the years. The welcome as warm as the weather and the colours of the landscape as bright as the clothes of the people. And those people are also varied, with more than 120 ethnic groups and languages in the country.

Tanzania is a great destination for active holidays. Sightseeing on safari, trekking and either staying in lodges or camping in the great outdoors, scuba diving or fishing on the coast, seeing big game in the Serengeti, taking a hot air balloon trip over the safari trails, all these and more are on offer. Unique Planet has a wealth of detail to help would-be visitors choose their preferred activities, and the country is perfect for all kinds of holiday for any number of people. Honeymoons, student parties and group trips are all catered for and the informative blog goes into more detail about the best ways to prepare for a trip; vaccination, visa, currency and passport requirements and the all-important aspect these days of staying in touch with friends and family while away.

For those tourists who fancy an active, adventurous and vibrant holiday with a difference, Unique Planet can help tailor make one to tick all the right boxes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Alani Greetings provides cards for the African-American and LGBT markets

Alani Greetings, Dayton, Ohio.
Image provided and used with permission.

The Americans have the Brits beat when it comes to greetings cards. There are websites which offer lists of reasons to celebrate each day, and for many of those, there’s an appropriate greetings card. Some are funny, some are rude, some are downright odd if you’re not part of the target demographic.

Bosses can find cards for their staff to show their appreciation. There are cards for expressing your sadness at the death of a friend’s pet and for every conceivable relative’s birthday. Some cards are undoubtedly in better taste than others - there was a section in one greetings card shop I visited in New York which was marked ‘Appropriate for Eating Disorder or Addiction’. Hmmm.

But for those who identify as LGBT or who need a card suitable for a proud African-American, there can be a limited choice in the mainstream outlets. Fortunately, the internet has come to the rescue of many people needing specialist items, and greetings cards are no exception. For tasteful LGBT and African-American cards, there really is only one place to look. Alani Greetings, LLC, based in Dayton, Ohio, has a range of unusual cards for both groups of people. Online orders are welcome, and at present, with a minimum spend of $9.90, buyers will receive $2 discount when they quote the promo code ‘MELL’. (Correct at January 2016 - please check website for current offers.)

There are presently 28 different designs available, roughly split equally between birthday cards, statement cards and LGBT cards. The cartoon birthday cards are mainly aimed at the African-American market, while many of the photo cards are perfect for a group of diverse friends to send greetings to the birthday girl or boy.

The first card in the selection is the Baby Girl card. This is a statement from a father to his lesbian daughter affirming that he will always be there for her.

The next two cards are birthday greetings aimed squarely at the African-American market. Both cards suggest that the birthday girl or boy can enjoy their cake today, but tomorrow the ribbing will be about exactly how much of it they enjoyed.

The bittersweet message in the ‘Bye’ card is that when it’s over, IT’S OVER. Perfect for an ex-girlfriend to send to their former partner of either sex, just enough bitterness to bring it home without an overdose of sarcasm.

‘Campfire’ is a subtle kick in the teeth for a guy who made a mistake, where the African-American woman is telling him that she will never let him forget this trip (for all the wrong reasons). Oops.

Some of the greetings cards are very subtle. The Easter card and the blank ‘Chairs’ card are both based on the LGBT rainbow, but to many the rainbow is simply a pleasing arrangement of colors. Look closely at the Easter card, however, and the subjects are all men, wearing unmistakably female hats. Many of the photo cards are tinted to make the point and draw the viewer’s eye towards each person.

The Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards are suitable for children of any persuasion to send their parents, as they simply highlight the fact that parents have been known to give their children advice which they only fully understand later in life.

My personal favorites are The ‘Grow Old With Me?’ cards, which are nothing less than declarations of intent for gay and lesbian couples. After all, LGBT couples can be just as besotted about their partner as any straight couple, and I’ve heard it said that many are more faithful than their straight counterparts can be. However, if your friend suspects that their partner is playing away, you can always send them a cheeky ‘Pussy Cat’ card to lighten the mood and remind them they have an answer to the situation.

For the selfie fangirls, the ‘Smile’ greetings card is a great way to show you know your friend, while the sassy African-American ladies of ‘Suitcases’ can remind a broken hearted sister that a BFF is better than any boyfriend and the ‘Get Together’ pairing has one birthday card and one fun greeting for friends who are meeting up for the first time in a while, or thinking of someone who can’t be there to celebrate with them.

Alani Greetings has a small but eye catching selection of niche cards for the LGBT and African-American communities. For those who live in areas where such cards are not readily available in any stores, shopping online is a very acceptable alternative to make sure that friends elsewhere receive appropriate cards sharing love and laughter across the miles.

Alani Greetings’ mission statement reads ‘We plan to bring you greetings you don’t see in the mainstream marketplace.’ This they do with humor, grace, subtlety and occasional mild cheek. A perfect mix to ensure everyone laughs and no one is terminally offended.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Cofie - A Selfie with Friends

Cofie app logo, taken from Google Play page

‘Selfie’ was recognized as the Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionaries in 2013. Since then an entire lexicon of similar words has been coined. There’s ‘belfie’ (a selfie of the photographer’s rear) and ‘lelfie’ (a similar version of the photographer’s legs), both usually taken to highlight how shapely, fit or toned the photographer’s particular body parts are. Unsurprisingly, celebrities are leading the way with these trends, but now ordinary mortals can get in on the act too.

Now there’s another word to add to the glossary of mobile phone images taken with the intention of sharing on social media: ’cofie’.

Cofie is the name of a new free Android app available in beta version from StillWater International Inc. The app takes the idea of a selfie one step further. To take a cofie, or collaborative selfie, once downloaded, users send their friends, who also need to download the app, an invite at a suitable time. Then, when everyone is ready, they can take a selfie remotely but together. The result is a conglomerate photograph of two or more friends in different locations, yet by the power of the app, displayed in the same image.

This app is still in beta testing phase, so it may not work fully on every handset. The list on the Google Play Store page gives the handsets it has been tested on so far, together with a request for anyone testing on a mobile not listed yet to send in their feedback. Many other features are promised as the app is further refined, according to the developers. From the screenshots on the app instructions and the Google Play page, it looks as if the selfies taken as a cofie appear side by side in the same frame rather than as an amalgamated image, so they are separate photos that happen to be taken at the same time rather than a Photoshop style montage of various people in one photograph.

For those who want to try it, signing up is ridiculously easy, you have to provide your name, email country code and mobile number, plus an optional profile image. A verification code will be sent by SMS text message which may incur a charge from your provider. Once users and their friends are signed up, a simple message to your friends when you’re ready will allow the cofie to be taken and made available to all participants. This app carries a Parental Advisory due to the type of media being shared. It is licensed for use by those of age 12 and over only.

As with many of these newly released apps, the developers are always keen to hear from those who find a bug. In the case of an app like Cofie, which is still at beta stage, this feedback is invaluable to allow for development of the code, tweaking of the app and overall improvement of user experience.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Imypath: social media for today

Imypath logo. Image provided by developer and used with permission.

Imypath social networking platform, designed by Mark Alonzo Alexander, offers users a chance to build professional or social media networks based on interest, location and employment.

It’s easy to sign up; think up a screen name, provide an email address and birthday plus a couple of category choices as description. Once logged in, members can search and ‘support’ people in any of the vast array of categories. They can comment on and rate posts or images, share via email and see which posts have been rated by others. There are both audio and video functions as well as the ‘status’ field so beloved of Facebook users. Users can rate the profiles of other users in addition to their posts.

The unique selling point of Imypath is that users can choose to follow people specifically by interest, rather than just because the other user has followed them. In that way, Imypath is positioning itself as somewhere between the professional networking evident on LinkedIn and the purely social networking of platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. It’s perhaps closest to somewhere like Tsu, except that there is no payment here apart from enjoyment.

Imypath reminds me strongly of the days when I used to have many penpals. These were people I wrote to because we had hobbies and interests in common. We liked the same music and had the same hobbies. Some of them lived in places I’d visited, so we’d meet up when I went back for my next holiday. We would send each other prints of our favorite photographs and share tales of our lives. It was better than any history or geography lesson, by far.

Where Imypath differs from many of the other social networks is that users can support people who are local to them too. This support may well cross the divide between ‘professional’ and ‘social’. For instance, a member can support someone who is in their church or neighborhood association, as well as supporting a former coworker whom they meet with for coffee every month. Those users with a very specific idea of how best to describe themselves or their jobs can add categories too, and the number of categories a user can belong to appears to be uncapped.

Mark Alonzo Alexander, developer of Imypath (and
for those old enough to remmeber, Roland Gift lookalike.)
Imypath is a great little app that is aiming to find a niche in the social media market. It offers as much functionality for posting as Facebook and Twitter, but also much more locally-specific functionality too, so if community groups or coworker teams want to use it, they will be able to without any problems. Plus, unlike Facebook or Twitter, it was designed for use on a mobile device so it is already completely configured for today’s increasingly mobile world. What’s not to like? Social media just found its new future. It’s purple, it’s Imypath.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Cosmic Cow! asteroid shooter game from Harebrain Software

Cosmic Cow. Image provided by Harebrain Software and used with permission.
Cosmic Cow!, the new Android game from Harebrain Software, is a very unusual game for me to have on my phone. For a start, it’s not a traditional card game, a bubble shooter or a match three. It’s also possessed of slick graphics, the kind I normally run a mile from as they bring to mind first person shooters and modern video games.

However, Cosmic Cow! is very much in the old school vibe. It’s a side scrolling asteroid-shooter, just like the traditional arcade games. In the same vein as many early computer games, there are cheats available for players keen to progress through the levels. These include being able to watch videos to gain coins or an extra life and buying extra lives or different characters with in-app purchases.

The story is that Cosmo the Cosmic Cow and the rest of the herd must defend the Earth against invading aliens with asteroids as missiles. Each character has a secret weapon, and there are thirty different animals to choose from. Progression through these characters can either be earned after every 100 points or bought for $1.99. The player controls the character, either by tapping or sliding their left thumb to move them up and down the screen, while their right should remain firmly on the fire button to destroy incoming invaders and fast-moving asteroids. Energy is provided by colourful food such as ice cream cones and donut rings, which also have to be caught during the game. Lives are measured by how many waves of attack players survive. Points are awarded for successful hits and can be exchanged for lives or saved for use later in the game. Videos are on offer at random points for players to gain extra lives or to open the Upgrade Chest for a one-time only immunity boost or special superpower. In Wave 1, Cosmo has one life and can only access the fire button. Safely negotiate that and players will face subsequent increases in difficulty, but will also be able to access more hacks for extra assistance.

The game is easy to get to grips with, and the slick, colourful graphics add an extra enjoyment to gameplay. I was playing it on my phone, but it would look even better on a larger screen such as a tablet. If you have a tablet suitable for use with a TV, that would add whole new dimension to the game too. Once logged into Google, players can check out the leaderboard or  share both a link to the game and their success on social media. There are hints available at the start of each new game, and at the end, players have another chance to earn extra lives or coins. The in-game music is fast and upbeat, just the right kind of background to keep players focused on taking out the invaders.

Cosmic Cow! is presently available only on Android, but hopefully will be coming soon to iOS. It’s a brand new game app, only released last month (December 2015), and with less than 500 downloads so far. Hopefully the fact that it shares its name with the developers of the Cubic Castles game is not impacting popularity. As this is version 1, Harebrain Software is still ironing out some bugs, and the developers are grateful to those players who take the time to let them know about glitches. As with all mobile games, it will play better on a stable wifi connection, especially as some of the strategy involves watching videos to gain bonuses. These are entirely optional, as are the in-game purchases, so no outlay is required to download and play the game for starters. What’s stopping you? Why not download Cosmic Cow! now and try it today?