Tag Archives: Windows Phone

PTJ 192 News: Someone to Watch Over Me

Another developers’ conference has come and gone as Google wrapped up its 2016 I/O conference last week — so let’s circle back to the highlights!

As expected, Android N got a further reveal from the version developers have been playing around with for the past couple months.  Google even invites Android fans to help choose the final name of the software by asking for snack ideas that start with the letter N and it set up a website for submissions. Android N will also support a new virtual reality platform coming out this fall called Daydream.

googlehomeAlso in the announcement pile: The company’s personal data-hoovering predictive helper program Google Now looks like it could be morphing into: Google Assistant (or as some would have it, just Google). No matter the name, it’s artificial- intelligence software that responds to natural language questions. Google also announced its Google Home smart speaker, clearly a rival to Amazon Alexa. As you might have guessed, Google Home is powered by . . . the new Google Assistant.

The Google Assistant shows up in the company’s new Allo messaging app, too. There’s also a new video-chat app called Duo, and both new apps are coming for Android and iOS. Android Wear 2.0 for smartwatches and other wearables also got a preview and the company introduced Android Instant Apps which can run off the web and save you the trouble of installing them on your device. Also, the Google Play store is coming to Chromebook laptops and the company updated I/O attendees on its Project Tango .

Facebook, which has gotten into live videostreams in a big way the past few months, updated that platform this week to allow its broadcasters to maintain continuous live streams, so hello more puppy and baby goat cams. As The Verge site points out, this puts Facebook in direct competition with YouTube. And also in Facebook Live news, the company told a reporter over at TechCrunch that it plans to over the audience engagement meter from a live stream on the recorded version.

chewbacca-mom-get-the-look-ftrIt’s not all Chewbacca Moms and kitten cams in Facebookland, however. The company is still smarting over the charges of bias against conservatives in its Trending News Topics content, responded with a letter to Senator John Thune after a meeting last week.  Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch addressed the matter in  blog post as well. (And for those of you still suspicious about algorithms, check out the “Machine Bias” story put up on the Pro Publica this week.)

As predicted, Twitter is pretty much going to give you all 140 characters to use for the text of your Tweet. Spotify is also giving a little back to its users in the form of an upgraded family plan that lets up to six family members enjoy the premium service, all for $14.99 a month. The new plan is available to Spotify users around the globe except, as an asterisk on the announcement indicated, *Excluding Canada. Do not be mean to Canada, Spotify.


Good and bad news for Microsoft this week. On the good side, the company announced it has awarded Affordable Access Initiative grants to 12 businesses to help them scale their products to increase affordable Internet access in worldwide communities. But on the bad-news side of the fence, a new report from the Gartner research firm concerning global smartphone sales for the first quarter of 2016 shows that Windows Phone sales have dipped below one percent. Some tech blogs already pronounced Windows Phone dead back in January and the sales numbers here seem to back that up.

After nearly 20 years, Blizzard Entertainment has moved past games based on Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft and has released an all-new game called Overwatch for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Early reviews for the game note that it moves away from having players just kill the hell out of each other to more team-based competition and gamers can play one of 21 different characters. The pre-fab characters feature a mix of multiethnic, multispecies male and female characters, all with unique abilities and all out to restore peace to a war-torn world. That’s a skill that could come in handy these days.


And finally, summer is unofficially here as of this weekend and with it, summer movies. While we’ll discuss the geekworthy upcoming releases in the next segment, Netflix has announced that its refreshed its film catalog just in time for the start of the lazy hazy slacking season.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Yes, We Scan!

Are you the type who needs to collect and file receipts — for work, taxes, reimbursements and so on? If you’re tired of carrying crumpled little pieces of paper around in your pockets and wallet and losing them anyway, you have a handy digital alternative. Sure, you can plunk down the bucks for in a table-top or handheld document scanner to convert paper to pixels for easy filing. Or you could just use your smartphone.

With  the right app, you can use the phone’s camera as a mobile scanner to make instant PDF files or JPGs of your paper receipts. You can then store them on the phone, online — or send them to your computer by mail or message for electronic filing and printing.

You may already have an app that scans, and even if you don’t, scanning apps are not hard to find, especially those that can scan and sync documents to an online storage account. (Just remember the usual caveats about storing files with deeply personal information in The Cloud, a k a Somebody Else’s Hackable Servers.)

googledriveBut back to that free option. If you have an Android device with a camera and the complimentary Google Drive app (shown here), you can scan documents and save them as PDF files, and better yet, delightfully searchable PDF files.

Just open the Google Drive app and touch the red-circled plus button in the bottom corner. Point the device’s camera at the document you want to capture and then tap the Scan button from the menu. If you don’t like the resulting preview, tap the Refresh button or a do-ver. If it’s a multi-page document like a contract or something, tap the + button to scan each page. When you’ve scanned them all, tap the checkmark button to have the file as a PDF to your Google Drive. And if you like home-screen timesavers, there’s a shortcut to the Google Drive scan command in the Android widget library.

If you have the iOS version of the Google Drive app, you don’t get the full Save-As-PDF option, but you can take a picture of the document and store the photo in your online Google locker. For those with iOS and a love of Evernote, however, there’s the free Evernote Scannable app that scans documents to PDF or JPG and instantly stores them in your Evernote collections. Among other things, you can also mail or message the resulting scans.

turboscanCamScanner is a standalone scanner app that works with Evernote if you want it to, but you can also use it to scan and share files across multiple devices. The app comes in mobile versions for Android, Windows Phone and iOS for either iPhone or iPad. The free version gives you 200 megabytes of online storage, but a $5-a-month premium account gets you 10 gigs of space and way more features. Genius Scan is another cross-platform scanner with free and premium editions, and the $3 TurboScan (shown here) for Android and iOS is yet another inexpensive option with helpful features and a good review from Engadget. However, The Sweet Setup site  favors the $2 ScanBot software (for Android, iOS and Kindle) as top scanner app and explains why in a nice little article that also throws in a bit of document-scanning history.

If you don’t like any of those, you can find more in your respective app store. Even if you have to pony up $2 to $5 for an app, you’ll probably save at least that much by not losing those receipts you need to file and submit in the first place.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Hear Me, See Me

As we discussed on the show last year, apps like Shazam and SoundHound are great for identifying music you hear — but don’t recognize. As shown below, Google Now was also dipping a toe into to music identification world back then, too, but Apple’s Siri wasn’t quite there yet and was still performing basic tasks.


Since we recorded that segment way back on PTJ Episode 85, though, Apple’s assistant has picked up a new trick. If you have Siri rolling with iOS 8 and the Shazam app on your iPhone, you can have the old girl (or old boy) name that tune by pressing down the Home button and asking, “What song is this?” If the song is recognized, you get a screen back with info and a BUY button.


Now, some may fuss that if you already have the Shazam app installed, why not just use that? Well, unless you’ve got the Shazam icon right there in front of you, pressing the Siri button (or just saying “Hey Siri” if you’re plugged into a power source while using the iPhone) and asking is probably going to be faster.

And lest we forget the Windows Phone fans out there, Cortana can now identify songs too. When you hear something you want to recognize, tap the magnifying glass to wake up Cortana and then tap the music-notes icon. If Cortana knows the tune, you’ll get a screen full of info about it from Xbox Music.

Shazam itself doesn’t stop with Name That Tune, though. The service — which has apps for Android, Windows Phone, iOS, Apple and Android watches and Mac OS X desktops — can also recognize certain shows on television. If you see a Shazam logo on the TV screen, hold your phone next to the tube and tap the Shazam icon to get bonus content.

Not to be outdone, Google Now has added TV cards to its repertoire. These cards pop up to provide more information about the show currently playing on your the television. Just open the Google app on your phone, tap the microphone and say, “Listen to TV.” If Google recognizes the show, you get a TV card with all sorts of information about the show and topic.


All the extra details could come in handy. With so much new music and so many great shows to watch these days ( some people are even proclaiming we’re currently in the New Golden Age of TV), you may need all the information you can get to keep track of your favorite songs and stories.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Anti-Freeze

Winter has slammed into most of the United States, bringing with it the inevitable bouts of bad weather and hazardous travel. Just look at the massive ice-related highway pile-ups we’ve seen already this season in New York state, Michigan, Oregon — and even closer to home just this past weekend in the Philadelphia area due to a flash-freeze on the roads.

If you have a preferred weather or traffic app on your phone, this is the season to fire up those notifications because Mother Nature has a way of throwing a hissy fit and disrupting your plans. If there’s a storm on the way, a highway closed or a train line suspended, odds are you’d like to know about it ahead of time, right? Most specialized apps can be configured to push out alerts to warn you of impending events, so have them ping you when something’s up. Most major mobile platforms — Android, iOS and Windows Phone — let you configure notifications so you can turn them on and when you want.

IMG_3768On the weather side, apps include AccuWeather and Weather Undeground for most platforms, DarkSky or NOAA Weather Radar for iOS and dozens of others. Seriously, there are a ton of weather apps for every kind of phone out there and your mobile platform of choice may have even included one. Don’t have a smartphone? The National Weather Service’s mobile site and sign-up page for third-party email and SMS text alert services can keep you in the loop.

As for traffic and transit, popular cross-platform apps like Inrix and Waze are good sources of highway and road information. If you do have to be out driving in bad weather, make sure you have an emergency kit in the trunk. The professional winter states of Wisconsin and Minnesota have especially good advice on this topic, and you can buy pre-made collections, like the AAA’s own Severe Weather Travel Kit. If you don’t have one already, it’s a good idea to get a car charger for your phone  — just in case.


Weather emergencies can seriously affect mass-transit systems as well, and some more than others. (Seriously, have you ever tried to get around the DC Metro during a snow storm?) If you’re riding the rails, the iTrans app for iOS is available for several cities and offers service alerts. There’s also the Transit app for Android and iOS. If you’re a New Yorker, the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority has a whole page of mobile apps for various phone platforms to check out.

Other information sources, like Google Now (if it has your commute in its list of info cards) and Twitter’s emergency alerts can also be useful. And don’t forget, if you’re trying to fly out for a nice vacation in a warm place, get your airline’s app and sign up for alerts that may affect your flight.

It’s winter and in much of the country, that means the roads are a giant asphalt Slushee out there, so let’s be careful. In fact, let’s just stay home and watch some more Agent Carter.

Movie Time

Your smartphone can do more than just take regular photos or videos — it can even play around with time and movement. Not in that TARDIS way, mind you, but with time-lapse video and stop-motion animation. These are two cinematic techniques that let you really have some fun and you can find plenty of apps that let you tinker around with both approaches, often with the same program.

Time-lapse video (where original timeframe is altered but the images aren’t) is a great way to capture a natural occurrence like sunrise and compress a longer event into a few minutes or seconds. Wanderment, a gorgeous nature video shot in 4K resolution, shows off what you can do with  time-lapse, but you can easily use the approach in your own backyard, say, during that next massive snowstorm. (Instagram’s Hyperlapse app for iOS may have gotten a lot of people interested in this type of video, but it’s not the only time-lapse app out there. Read on.)

WANDERMENT from The Upthink Lab on Vimeo.

Stop-motion animation is great for telling your own little stories with clay models, Legos or action figures, all subtly moved one frame at a time. This creates the illusion of movement when all those individual photos are played together as a video. You know, you’ve seen professional stop-motion in productions like Brickfilms’ LEGO movies, the Wallace & Gromit series, Robot Chicken or those quaint old 1960s holiday specials. With stop-motion, you can expand your own creative powers and if you’ve got a kid home on holiday break, getting him or her to make a movie frame by frame (at 10 frames per video second) can keep ’em busy until school starts again.

ios8So what apps are out there for these sorts of video feats? Depending on your hardware, you may already have one on your phone. As shown here at the left, the Camera app in Apple’s iOS 8 software has a time-lapse feature you can use to create sped-up videos of things like sunsets or sporting events. Some phones in the Android arsenal — like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus — had time-lapse powers years before iOS 8.

lapseThird-party apps are abundant. Check out O Snap for iOS, Lapse It for Android and iOS (left), iMotion, StopMo Studio for iPad, StopMotion Studio for iOS (below) and Windows Phone, or PicPac for Android. Most apps are $5 or less, or free with in-app upgrades to get things like special effects and green screens. If you don’t know which app to get, read the reviews and download the freebie versions of programs that offer starter editions so you can get a feel for the one that works best for your needs.

tripodA tripod for your phone can also help, especially if you’re doing stop-motion animation, where only the subject of your video should be moving. A decent tripod costs about $30 or less and you can find them online or in stores that sell smartphone accessories. Joby’s GripTight GorillaPod Stand (above) is one off-the-shelf option, or you can build your own. As for keeping still while you shoot, you may be able to use the call button your phone’s headset cord as a remote shutter control — it works on the iPhone, so check your Android or Windows Phone manual to see if your model has similar powers. You can also look for a third-party accessory if you want to have remote control and your phone isn’t equipped.

One you have your gear in hand, just plot out your movie or what you want to time-lapse and settle in. It’s a great way to capture a moment in nature — or flex your directorial skills with actors you can completely control.

PTJ 118: Get Off Our Lawn, Google

J.D. will help you get to your destination by plane, train or automobile as she runs down some useful travel apps just in time for the power eating U.S. holiday known as Thanksgiving.

El Kaiser finally gets an invitation to Google Inbox and…let’s just say things don’t go smoothly.

In the news the European Space Agency is still on comet duty;  AT&T gets called out by the FCC; the Federal Trade Commission has settles a score with TRUSTe; the US State Department gets hacked;  New York City plans to convert payphones into spiffy hotspots; Facebook continues spinning off features of its service; Disney partners with Walmart’s Vudu streaming service; and Google and Stanford University work on software that uses artificial intelligence to create descriptive photo captions.

Oh, and KaiserNet is finally active… MUAH HA HA HA!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

If Thanksgiving is next week, you can bet your sweet bippy it’s time for the Pop Tech Jam roundup of sites and services to make your journey home for the holidays slightly less tense. Whether you’re going air, rail or highway, here are some apps to consider ahead of Big Food Thursday.

Navigating flight schedules, airport delays and other joys of modern domestic air travel this season? You can get mobile boarding passes and other tools from your airline’s app (and text alerts  if anything affects your flight), but a good all-around air-travel app can help you track other flights besides your own. There are plenty to choose from — including Flight Aware, FlightTrack or FlightStats — for Android and iOS, and FlightAware also works on Windows Phone and Windows 8. The Flight Update line of travelware works for iOS devices. The Kayak mobile app, which can book flights, as well as track them, is also available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and the Amazon Kindle Fire.

If your journey home involves a locomotive of some kind, you have plenty of programs to handle schedules, travel alerts and often, tickets. The national rail company, Amtrak, has its own app, as do the major rail lines for the New York City area — including the Metropolitan Transit Authority (for the NYC subway and bus system), Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.

If you’re sticking along the Northeast corridor, New Jersey Transit has an app for mobile tickets and information. If you’re in the Philly area, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has apps for Android and iOS. Farther north, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has apps and an online trip planner for those in the Boston area; Washington’s Metro has a similar site. The transit systems for Chicago and San Francisco have mobile options listed on their respective sites. Want an app or mobile site that can handle different mass-transit systems? Try and the Embark or HopStop.

There’s nothing like the hell of holiday traffic, but with the right app, you may be able to get a heads-up before you get stuck in a maddening mass of highway congestion (or as many call it, I-95). Several popular apps use real-time crowd-sourcing along with other data to map out the road ahead, so check out Inrix, Waze or Beat the Traffic if you want to see what’s between you and your destination. For another angle, there’s Traffic Cam Viewer for Android or iOS, which taps into Internet-connected highway cameras for a bird’s-eye view of the road. And if you’ve got a long trip with a few stops along the way for bio-breaks and leg-stretching, apps like Road Ninja and iExit tell you want to expect at the end of each interstate off-ramp you pass.

On the road — but not doing the driving yourself? Check your local bus line for mobile offerings. Nationally, Greyhound, Trailways, the Bolt Bus and MegaBus have schedules, service advisories and other info online.

These are just a few of the hundreds of travel-related apps out there. Odds are, you may already have one or more if them loaded up on your device to help ease some of the uncertainly of travel. You don’t need that extra stress — after all, you’ll probably get enough of that from the family once you get there.

Safe travels.

PTJ 115: We Got Your Disruption Right Here

I’ve never been one to mince words so let me just drop a truth-bomb on all of you fine folk reading this. J.D. and El Kaiser are disruptors. Period. Full stop.  If there’s any doubt, quit dawdling and listen to this episode.

Pedro breaks down Disruptive Innovation in a Tech Term segment and J.D. explains how  you may already have a basic fitness tracker right on your phone.

In the news  Google has plans for a paid version of YouTube; Motorola unveils a new Droid; Verizon Wireless force feeds some users perma-cookies; The Federal Trade Commission has files a complaint against AT&T; Not all retailers are jumping on the Apple Pay bandwagon; HTML5 is finally official; Amazon takes on the Chromecast; And finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook explains why Apple killed off the iPod Classic.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Step by Step

They’re high-tech and very helpful, those wearable fitness trackers. You’ve probably seen them advertised, like those various models from Fitbit or the Nike Fuelband. The devices log your heart rate, steps taken, calories burned and other bio-data — and come in really handy if you’re trying to lose weight or just maintain a healthier lifestyle. (Fitbit even recently came out with a new smartwatch-style wristband, so take that, Apple Watch.)

But what if you like the idea of a dedicated fitness tracker, but you’re on the fence about buying one because but you don’t want to drop $60 or more for a doo-dad that might end up on the junk drawer after two months of increasingly guilt-inducing non-use?

It you have a fairly modern smartphone,  you may already have a basic fitness tracker right there, thanks to the motion chip and other sensors inside. These technobits let the phone double as a pedometer, and may even be able to show you other things like your walking routes on a map or the calories burned during your stroll.

The only thing you need to buy is (maybe) a special app for a couple bucks,  if that much. Granted, your phone may not be as rigidly precise as a dedicated pedometer or other fitness band, but for many people, it’s close enough and the price it right.

moves2So take, for example, Google’s Nexus 5 phone. It’s one of the many phones out there with pedometric capabilities. You just need one of the many fitness apps available in the Google Play store that lets you graphically display the data that your phone’s collecting. The Moves app (free, easy to use and shown here), and one helpfully called Pedometer, are two Android options. You have plenty of programs to choose from, both free and paid – with usually means more features and no ads. fit_prod_2Many other Android phones can also use these types of fitness apps, so do a search for “fitness trackers” and check the Play store description to see if it’s compatible with your device. Also Club Android: the Samsung’s Galaxy S5, (left), which has heart-rate sensor, a pedometer and S Health software for tracking your fitness routine; the Galaxy S4 is also privy to S Health.

msnMany handsets running the Windows Phone software can also measure your steps and record other bio-stats. The Nokia 630 and Nokia 635 models are among them, and you can download the free MSN Health & Fitness app or another program from the Windows Phone store to get tracking. (The app may actually be called “Bing Health & Fitness” these days, as Microsoft’s blog calls it one thing and the Windows Phone website still has it listed as “MSN Health & Fitness.”)

healthAnd then there’s Apple. The new Health software baked into iOS 8 tracks your steps automatically as you carry the phone around and can show you your step-count and stairs climbed on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. The App Store has a dedicated section for programs that hook specifically into the iOS 8 Health software, as well as a large collection of health apps that work with earlier versions of iOS and older devices. And don’t forget, many later versions of the iPod Nano and iPod Touch work with the Nike + iPod shoe sensor and Nike+ fitness website, and the past several versions of the Nano even had a basic pedometer built right in that doesn’t need any additional gear. And who knows, once you get into the swing of logging your exercise, steps and other info, you may realize that you really want a dedicated fitness-tracking device — or that your phone works just fine for the data you want to collect.

PTJ 112: Get Your Anti-Grav Boots On Cuz It’s SPACE WEEK

It’s our favorite time of year. No, not fall. It’s Space Week and J.D. introduces us to some apps that are perfect for getting into that festive…um…spacey mood.

Before the PTJ crew blast off into the Cosmos, El Kaiser breaks out the rant box. Apple’s iOS 8 has frosted his rage cake and he wants you all to know about it.

In the news, banking giant JPMorgan Chase gets hacked; AT&T confirmed information is compromised, but it’s an inside job; BBC World News premieres a six-part series focusing on cybercrime; Twitter sues U.S. government over surveillance laws; after getting complaints from customers and the FCC Verizon ditches its “network optimization” plan; a Netflix competitor throws in the towel; and a Kano unveils a new computer you build and code yourself.