Category Archives: Mobile

Prezi

I’m often asked my opinion about Prezi as an alternative to PowerPoint. My answer – meh.

I can’t even get worked up enough about it to dislike it. Except now, after having seen a number of Prezi presentations I do have a Pavlovian nausea response to Prezi’s default swooping motion animations.

From my point of view; watching a naive user (my son) using Prezi for the first time really exposes all its’ faults. The intense focus on the visual. There is apparently no way of storyboarding a presentation in a text only view. This makes presentations that tend to not have logical flow. It is also difficult repurpose content from Prezi. At least without moving to the paid subscription model.

And while Prezi does have attractive templates, it squanders its’ most obvious asset – motion transitions; by not guiding users on how to use them effectively. Its’ other obvious positive features, shared collaboration and its online workspace/storage are also available in other products like Google Slides.

I might look to Prezi for visual inspiration, but if I had real work to do I’d chose a different presentation package.

 

Don’t get fooled by Fake News! A useful tip

I really didn’t want to put Fake News in the headline of this post, but really that is what this post is all about. How to use a reverse image search when you are on a mobile device, so that you can spot a Fake News story.

Recently a friend shared a Facebook story that just didn’t add up. The photo was of a man in hazmat style suit purportedly cleaning up an oil spill in North Dakota. You can see a version of the photo at the top of the article. The story implied some type of conspiracy that was preventing news of the oil spill from being covered.

A Reverse Image Search told a different story

This didn’t make sense to me, especially as I had been following news of an oil spill that was not on the scale shown by the photo. However a few minutes with a reverse image search showed the picture had been taken in China, and had nothing to do with North Dakota. This made the rest of the story even more unlikely.

Performing your search

A reverse image search is easy to do on a mobile device although iOS users need to download the Chrome browser app first.  Sorry, but Safari doesn’t support Googles image search file upload.

With that in mind here are the steps to performing your reverse image search:

  1. Save a copy of the photo locally, this might mean taking a screenshot depending on the posts’ privacy settings. Here you can see the photo I used. Note that the poster changed the photo to Black and White in order to make it harder to search. Didn’t work though!

    Altered version of original oil spill clean up photo
    Black and White photo of oil cleanup effort – altered from original
  2. Open Chrome and go to www.google.ca

    Either google.ca or google.com will work
    Either google.ca or google.com will work
  3. Click the Images link on the page to go to Image search. Currently that link is in the top right corner of the screen.

    Google Image Search, showing Camera
    You are in Image Search, when the camera icon is in the search bar.
  4. Click the Camera icon to see your options for searching using an image file.
    Google image search options
    Google Image search options. Search by pasting the URL of the image or by uploading the file.

    Choose the Upload an Image tab.

  5. Uploading an Image
    Uploading an Image

    Click the Choose File button.

  6. You will be offered a choice of taking a new photo or going to your Photo Library. Select your photo library, and locate the image you saved previously.
  7. The file is uploaded automatically and the search is performed.
    Reverse Image Search Results
     Reverse Image Search Results initial screen

    Make sure you scroll down the page looking for the Pages that include matching images.

    finding pages that include matching images
    Reverse Image Search – Pages that include matching images.

    Reverse Image searches are amazing

Frankly, I was astounded that the image was located even after it had been changed. Reverse image searches are a powerful tool! Whether from malicious intent or the desire to give a story emotional impact, there are all too many posts on the net where images are misused. Don’t be fooled.

A handy coupon app

Those foot long cash register receipts drive me crazy (I’m looking at you PetSmart), and it’s even worse when you have to save them for a month or more to take advantage of the coupon printed on them.

I’ve recently come across an app  – SnipSnap, that addresses this problem. You take a picture of the coupon and it reads the barcode and saves the coupon details. My bulging wallet is going to get some relief.

A couple of caveats, the app is prone to sudden crashes when deleting coupons. Also, it is finicky about the light conditions and quality of the receipt, so try to photograph as unwrinkled a receipt as possible. Even so, it is worth a try.

Where Am I?

A fairly regular occurrence when you do a lot of driving; you find something during your drive that should be reported (roadkill, accidents, debris, etc.). If you are on a rural road, the GPS coordinates would be ideal. But, since you are a sensible person you don’t want to take your hands off the steering wheel to fiddle with your phone.

I have a solution for iOS  phones (mostly – it still will require one touch of the screen).

The solution is to use Siri and ask the question “Where am I?”

Response to question by Siri
Siri shows a map of my location

Now unfortunately, Siri doesn’t store this information, and once your screen turns off it will disappear. However, if you touch the map, the information will be transferred to the maps app. The maps app will hold the information until you are ready to deal with it.

The result of question "where am I"
The saved map

Now when you can pull over you can use either the option to Share My Location or Mark My Location.

Selecting Share My Location brings up your share sheet.

The share sheet
You can share your location in a number of ways.
Additional options are displayed as you pull the panel higher.
Additional options are displayed as you pull the panel higher.

You can also  pull the panel a little higher up over the map, for more information.  Like the GPS coordinates or contact options.

You can use the Mark My Location to do exactly that on the map. A red pin will display on the map, and the option to Edit the location appears.

Marked location options
Once you’ve marked the location, you can edit it.

If you choose to edit the location, a satellite view of the location opens, and you can drag and drop the pin.

Editing the location
Editing a location

Marked locations remain in the map app for later reference.

 

Google Maps: Pit Stops

Google Maps has added a feature called Pit Stops to its Android and iOS apps.

Pit Stops allow you to add, well, pit stops to a planned route. Once the stop is added; the navigation route updates itself and the length of time the trip will take. Of course, how long you spend at a stop will also impact your trip length, but Google wisely declines to make estimates of that.

To use the Pit Stop feature, you have to enter navigation mode:

Google Maps trip estimate
Press the Arrow Button to enter Navigation mode

Once in Navigation mode the Pit Stop icon appears as a magnifying glass:

Google Maps Screen in Navigation Mode. The Pit Stops icon is visible.
The button to launch the Pit Stops has a magnifying glass icon.

Pressing the Pit Stops button gives you a list of preconfigured searches; Gas stations, Restaurants, Grocery stores and Coffee  shops. But there is also a search button for your own custom searching.

Google Maps Pit Stops showing the list of available searches.
The Pit Stop search list view.

If I search for say; Tim Hortons coffee shops along my route, the search will return the coffee shops closest to my planned route, giving an estimate of the amount of time that will be added to my travels.

Google Maps Pit Stop search results
Pit Stop search results, showing the amount of time each stop will add to the journey.

Select the location of the Pit Stop you want to go to and a confirmation window will open at the bottom of your screen. At this point you can choose to Add Stop or Cancel, which is useful if you were only checking out possible stops along the way.

Google Maps, showing the Add Stop/Cancel options.
Use the Add Stop or Cancel options to update (or not) your map.

Exiting Navigation at this point allows you to see the updated time for your journey.  Android users are apparently able to add up to 10 Pit Stops to their routes, currently iOS users can only have one.

Google Maps, showing list of destinations and updated time.
Google Maps shows the starting point, end point and all the Pit Stops in between.

If you attempt to add a new Pit Stop, you will only see the option to replace the current stop, not add a new one.

Google Maps showing the replace stop option
The Replace Stop option, tho’ its’ kinda cut off here…

 

The other challenge for iOS users, is that Pit Stops can only be scheduled during navigation, which means your current location is always factored in. Which can lead to some wacky route planning.

Google Maps showing how the user's currently location affects route planning.
Google Maps shows how to get there, indirectly.

Nevertheless, a really useful feature and, once the iOS version catches up with the Android implementation it will be excellent on both platforms.

Google Slides vs PowerPoint for Social Media

Over the last few weeks I’ve been sharing tips for using PowerPoint for social media. Which leads naturally to asking about using Google Slides the same way.

And Google Slides offers comparable features; in particular it does support saving slides as JPG’s and custom dimensions.

What doesn’t Slides have? The photo editing tools and artistic filters that come with PowerPoint are not available, so you’ll have to pre-edit in another application.  And you’ll find that your capabilities are limited on the mobile versions of Slides, so you’ll be forced back to the desktop version.

Email Aliases

I don’t know about you, but I have a number of email addresses.  For example:

  • I have my main work email address.
  • The email address I use for volunteering, because the variant spelling of my first name confuses people.
  • The email address I use for shopping on line when I think the company is going to spam me

These are all forwarding accounts which means mail sent to them is all forwarded into one email account. Personally, since IMAP supports folders, I use folders to organize that email account. This lets me move between my desktop and mobile world with minimal confusion.

But using these email addresses from my iOS devices has previously required that I create multiple email accounts on my iOS device. Which I find confusing; my unread mail counts are wrong because items are counted multiple times, moving mail into folders may or may not work depending on what account I’m using to view the mail, etc.  It just hasn’t been a very satisfactory solution.

Its’ been made more frustrating, since for years in Outlook I’ve been able to send mail using different email addresses.

But yesterday, I tripped across I feature I think is new in iOS 9.1. The ability to add email aliases to my main account.

Some caveats: I have only tested this with an IMAP account, I’m using iOS 9.1 and iOS 9.2 has just been released. And using an email alias does not change the internet headers attached to the email. In other words, anyone who goes under the hood to examine my email can still see that it was handled by my main email account.  Which is fine, I’m not interested in spoofing mail accounts, rather I just don’t want to confuse people by continually responding from a different email address than the one I gave them.

So to set this up go to Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars and pick your email account. Open your Account Information:

iOS EMail Account Settings
iOS EMail Account Settings

You’ll notice the > beside the email address, which indicates another dialogue box.

adding a new addressWhen you move to this Email dialogue, you will find the Add Another Email … option which allows you to type in another email address. This can be any email address, as it is not verified. So make sure you spell your email address correctly.

And when you are done (and its embarrassing how long it took me to figure this out) press the RETURN button on the keyboard to confirm the email address you’ve added. Or it will be lost.

The edit button allows you to choose which email address from your list will be the default.

The From line
The From line appears

When you create a new message you’ll find the From: line appears, using your default address. When you want to change the email address the message is from, touch that line in the message ,

Picking your email address
Picking your email address

and a spin button will appear showing the list of alternate email addresses you’ve created.

Easy to use!

 

A suggestion for improvement

One of my great interests is in the interactions between Seniors and technology. As a rule; seniors are not well served by technology, they are a forgotten group. And yet, I believe that tech has a great potential to help in so many ways. In particular, adaptive technologies can do so much to help people with their daily lives, and those technologies can move out to the wider population.

It’s revealing when you find an app or function that would be perfect, if only the designers had kept seniors in mind. Because it shows how much we all don’t want to face growing old and the inevitable changes that time brings.

The app I’m thinking about today, is Day One. Day One has been a well reviewed diary/journal app on iOS for a few years. Yet it misses a really basic feature because its’ designers can’t envision anyone other than their intended audience using their product.

I found Day One for one of my senior clients. One of the things you might have heard about getting older is that sometimes you are a little forgetful. Oh, and you also might have some medical issues. Which might result in more than a few doctors office visits. Which would mean that a nice journaling app could prove useful. Especially one that could support multiple tags on a single entry. Which would mean that you could filter your entries by the name of your specialists, or medications, or illness or test results. It would be excellent if you could export information from the app (Day One allows for PDF exports of entries) and add photographs. So far, so fantastic; Day One does all these things and has beautiful clean interface.

What it doesn’t do, is take advantage of iOS’s accessibility features.

Day One Screen: Magnifiying Glasses Required
Day One Screen: Magnifying Glasses Required

While you can change the size of the typeface in your entries. Day One ignores any preference you have set for Larger Text, Bold Text or Increased Contrast. Which means that people with vision issues are going to struggle with using Day One, if they don’t give up on it altogether.

What I would love to see in this app is a high contrast setting; that would allow the tag icons to resize, adjust the labels and menu items to a typeface that is bolder/larger and that would allow the user to select a high contrast colour scheme.

I also want to see Apple lay down the law with developers and require them to respect user accessibility settings. Designers should look at designing for accessibility as a challenge that will improve the functionality of their apps for everyone. We don’t always interact with our devices under the best visibility circumstances. We may not be facing (yet) the vision problems caused by illness, but we are all going to get older.

Do you have an app that is useful for seniors? Tell me about it.

Never be the first

Never be the first to  upgrade  software or buy new hardware. It’s a good rule of thumb that’s helped me avoid problems like this. Personally, I usually wait a week, watch the tech websites and then decide if it’s the right time. I’m sure I will upgrade to iOS 9. It will just be a matter of timing.

Also, back up your device before upgrading, so if the worst happens you don’t lose everything.  If you can, perform your upgrade via iTunes – not wifi.  In my experience, choppy or poor wifi connections can lead to upgrade grief.

Has there been an update that I regret? Well yes, upgrading my mini2 to iOS 8 was really a backwards step in terms of performance.  And subsequent updates to 8.4 etc. didn’t solve the performance problems. But I knew it was risky when I did it. But I wanted to see the accessibility features (which were an improvement) in action.

In fact, my mini might be the first device that I do upgrade to iOS 9. Since I don’t have much to lose at this point, it might be a good way to check out the backwards compatibility of iOS 9. In theory with iOS 9 Apple is doing more to ensure that older devices will continue to perform well. I’ll let you know.

What I’m hoping for from Apple

Well it looks like September 9th is the date when we find out what’s coming out this fall from Apple. As usual, there’s all sorts of speculation, although things are kind of quiet on the iPhone end. I think because of last year’s physical changes to the phone people can’t quite imagine what they’ll do to the phone next.

The iPad however is a different question. Some of the changes coming with iOS 9 that were previewed in June have pundits predicting a “business sized” iPad to be called the iPad Pro. In particular, the ability to tile multiple apps on screen.

One of the wonderful things about the iPad is its’ portability. However, it really wouldn’t take much of a size increase to bump up the display to the rumoured 12.9″ dimension.  Increasing the physical form to roughly the size of a standard 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper would do it. The other aspect of the Pro size is that it would have more space available for accessibility options, much like the iPhone 6 Plus offers larger icons and viewing options. For a certain demographic this will have real appeal.

Of course, this kind of leaves the iPad mini in the dust. And people have been predicting the death of the mini since the new larger phones came out. I regretfully put my mini aside for a newer Air 2 a few months ago, and while I love the power of the Air 2, I miss the portability of the mini. It was great for travel and reading. But my version the mini 2, simply couldn’t cope with iOS 8.

I’d love to see a better processor in the mini. An improved camera would be great too. While taking pictures with an iPad remains kind of dorky looking; people do it all the time. Why not give them a better camera?

Design-wise, I hope that the move to ever smaller touch points comes to an end.  I’m not sure if the entire iOS design team has run their fingers through pencil sharpeners in order to use their devices. But regular humans aren’t about to do that.  I assume that the improved text selection in iOS 9 is an attempt to make life easier for people with normally sized fingers.  I’d also really, really like to see the Podcast app get some love. Since iOS 8, the podcast app has become a real battery hog, and running it noticeably heats up my phone.

What are you hoping for from Apple on Wednesday?