CamRanger: Remote DSLR Photos with all the bells and whistles

DeviceAndCaseWouldn’t it be nice if you could set your camera off remotely. Most DSLR cameras these days allow you to do that with a small hand-held infrared remote. The problem with doing it this way is you’re not able to see what you’re taking a shot and you’re not able to modify the settings of the camera based upon what you see. There are many ways to get around this using all sorts of computer applications but most of these require you to tether your camera to a computer. What if you could do it remotely from your iPhone.iPad, Android device, or computer?

CamRanger is a stand-alone device that connects to select Canon or Nikon DLSR cameras with a provided USB cable. It creates an ad-hoc WiFi network that your device (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, or Mac or Windows computer) can then connect to. The free CamRanger app then enabled control of the camera. There is no need for a computer or existing Internet connection.  CamRanger creates its own Wi-Fi hotspot that your device connects to.  Once connected you run their software and it gives you complete control of the camera and also the ability to view what the camera seeing. You iPad_LiveView_Smallcan easily make changes to the controls of your camera, adjust any setting, and see the results through the camera lens.

In addition to simply letting you take pictures, the applications also provide the ability to do macro photography and focus stacking, take HDR images, and time-lapsed shots.  The real place that the CamRanger excels is its ability to be able to use literally any setting your camera has. If your camera can do it CamRanger likely supports it.

There are many products in the market today to do this similar function but in taking a look at CamRanger it seems to me that it may be the best at providing you control of your creativity. If you’re interested in photography and want to be able to set your camera off remotely and see what it’s taking a picture of, CamRanger maybe the tool for you.

Cloud Storage Options

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 10.08.05 AMWhere once there was one now there many. Cloud storage is a big fad of these days. Being able to store documents and have them accessible from any location on any device is not just nice but it serves A real business purpose. The ability to open documents created on one device on all your devices could be of great help to you. But how do you know which cloud storage system to use? With so many choices in the market today, it’s hard to make that decision. So let’s take a look at some of the major players in the market for class storage and see what their benefits and weaknesses are.

Before we look at each option individually, let’s get some of the preliminaries out-of-the-way. All of these storage options give you the ability to store documents locally on your computer and have them automatically synchronized to the cloud for use in other locations. All of the major players in the marketplace today support Macintosh, Windows, Android, iOS, and browser-based access. All of these major players also provide a free trial of their service with a small amount of cloud storage space. They also all allow you to purchase additional storage if you have the need. And finally, all of these players are major companies vying for your use of the cloud. In general they all do the same thing, but in practicality, some have benefits over others.

So let’s look at the major players:

Dropbox

Dropbox is been around for quite a while. As a result of his longevity, many more applications support the use of dropbox storage then any other cloud storage on the market. If any system can be called the standard for cloud storage, Dropbox is the one. You can store any kind of file in Dropbox, by either uploading to the Web site or adding it with the desktop apps. Those apps live in your file system so you retain copies of them on your computer for easy and fast use. Dropbox provides you 2 GB of free storage. I use dropbox every day for storing documents I want to have access on my iOS devices. It’s easy-to-use integrated into both Microsoft and Windows and Mac and works seamlessly with almost any other device type you might use. It also supports sharing files when you use tons of different kinds of devices.

Google Drive

If you already have a Google account, you can already access Google Drive Just go to drive.google.com and enable the service. You get 15GB of storage for anything you upload to Drive, including photos, videos, documents, Photoshop files and more. However, you have to share that 15GB with your Gmail account, photos you upload to Google+, and any documents you create in Google Drive. When it comes to a web-based client, Google drive truly excels. It’s web-based interface is the best of the bunch and its integration with Google services provides a high level of value. If you’re a Google user, Google drive is already part of the service your getting. Other than issues related to privacy, with Google in general, I think Google drive is probably the best service available today. I use Google drive every day to store documents and use them on multiple devices. This service is highly recommended.

OneDrive (formally SkyDrive)

If you are a user of Windows 8 and 8.1, you have OneDrive built into your operating system, where it shows up in the file explorer next to all of the files on your computer’s hard drive. But, anyone can use it on the Web or by downloading a desktop app for Mac and earlier versions of Windows, and OneDrive is also available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Xbox. If you were a Windows user OneDrive makes perfect sense for you use. If you subscribe to Office 365 you get additional storage as part of that subscription plan. But if you’re not a Windows user or subscriber there’s probably not much reason for you to use OneDrive as your primary cloud storage location.

Box

Box has been around for a long time but has never really taken off with users as a class storage system. Box service’s list of sharing and privacy features were built specifically for business and IT users. Because it is not backed by one of the major players or integrated into many applications box is simply another option for you to look at for storage space on the web. Unless your an IT organization  looking for large amounts of storage in the cloud for your business, you likely need to look elsewhere for personal or small business needs.

But what about iCloud?

Apple has taken a slightly different tack to cloud storage. Like many things in the Apple universe, apples cloud storage is intended for use with their devices only. Apple seems to believe that cloud storage should be transparent and as a result provides iCloud that works in the background to store many things including documents. Unfortunately this only works really well if you’re using Apple products or products Apple supports (ie Windows).Apple provides the ability to synchronize contacts, calendars, bookmarks, and other information is used on a daily basis with iPhone, iPad, or computer. And let’s be clear, for this use, Apple does a great job. Storage and use of these pieces of information are absolutely transparent to the user one set up. But in my opinion Apple holds is proprietary system to close to itself to make iCloud be your only class storage system. I wholly recommend that for these items mentioned above iCloud is your best choice. But when it comes to storage of documents, iCloud is probably not your solution. If you’re to only use Apple products such as pages, numbers, and keynote, did Apple store system works perfectly but if you use other documents or want to be able to store other file types iCloud leaves you wanting. This seems to be because Apple integrates I call use into his applications making it just as transparent as the storage of your contacts. But unfortunately Apple does not allow other vendors to integrate iCloud so closely in their applications. So unless Apple applications are the only thing you use, one of the other cloud storage systems is better suited for document storage. My recommendation for iCloud use is that if you have iPads, iPhones, or Macs, use iCloud to stor ad sync contacts, calendars, bookmarks, and other personal information but use one of the other cloud document storage systems for storing documents in the cloud.

Below is a table from a Cnet article on cloud storage options.  If your are looking for more depth on the subject, take a look at this article.

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So what are my final recommendations? I think there’re many reasons to use more than one cloud storage system. Each system has integration in certain areas that the other systems lack. Story documents in more than one location can never be a bad idea. But the bottom line is that class storage systems are here to stay. If you’re not using them now you need to begin to look at them. With so many new devices using solid-state storage and providing less storage then you might have had on a machine with a spinning hard drive, there’re many reasons to start storing some of your information in the cloud.

Control tour DSLR from your Phone with TriggerTrap

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.30.36 AMMost people that have a DSL our camera Love to take creative photographs. Today’s cameras have so many built-in features it makes them difficult to learn to use and even harder to take those special creative shots. But what if you could use your iPhone or android phone to set up the photographic shot that you want to take?

TrigerTrap is an application for the iPhone or Android Phone that lets you setup specialized shots from your DSLR.  The app lets you do shots like:

 

  • Timelapse Mode
  • TimeWarp™ Mode
  • Sound sensor Mode
  • Shock & Vibration sensor Mode
  • LE HDR Mode
  • LE HDR Timelapse Mode
  • DistanceLapse™ Mode
  • Cable Release Mode
  • Star trail Mode
  • Bulb Ramping Timelapse
  • Wi-Fi Slave Mode
  • Wi-Fi Master Mode (trigger other devices running Triggertrap Mobile

It gives you the ability to compose to you want to take on the phone and then execute them on the camera. It can use sensors on the phone to set the camera off. For instance, you can set the phone to take a photograph every 200 feet that you have moved. If you’re driving in the car, the camera will go off using the GPS from the phone to determine in his move those 200 feet. You can also set up things like forcing the camera just go off whenever here’s a sound. You might want to set the camera to take a shot whenever he hears thunder but delay that shot A period of time to ensure it sees the lightning in the sky.  There are many different options you can do.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.20.17 AMTo make this happen you download the free app from the app store or the Google play store.  But you need a specialized cable to connect from the headphone jack on the phone to the cameras remote-control. These cables are available from the company’s website for about $30.

If you’re looking for ways to set up interesting photographs with your DSLR, Take a look at TriggerTrap.  Since the app is free you can download it and look at the possibilities before ordering the cable for your particular camera.

 

Belkin Wi-Fi enabled WeMo Switch

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 3.39.21 PM The Belkin Wi-Fi enabled WeMo Switch lets you turn electronic devices on or off from anywhere. The WeMo Switch uses your existing home Wi-Fi network to provide wireless control of TVs, lamps, stereos, heaters, fans and more. Simply download the free WeMo App from the Google Play Store or the Apple App store, plug the switch into an outlet in your home, and plug any device into the switch. You’ll be able to turn that device on or off using your smartphone or tablet (running Android 4.0 and later or iOS 5 or higher). You can set schedules for your devices and control them remotely using a mobile internet connection. You can also add additional switches to your home to control more devices.

The Belkin WeMo Switch works with the free WeMo App to give you wireless control of your home appliances and electronics. Whether you want to turn on a light from your kitchen, front yard, or office, WeMo Switch has you covered.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 3.40.17 PMTo get started, simply download the free WeMo App from the Google Play store or the Apple App store to your smartphone or tablet Next, plug the WeMo Switch into an outlet in your home and plug any device or appliance into the switch. Connect the WeMo Switch to your home Wi-Fi network and follow the onscreen instructions to complete the installation. Now you can turn your home electronics/appliances on or off from anywhere.

The Switch also operates over mobile Internet, which means you can control home devices from anywhere you have an Internet, 3G or 4G connection.

  • Turn electronics on or off — from anywhere.Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 3.39.48 PM
  • Operates over Wi-Fi and mobile internet, at home and away.
  • You’ve already got everything you need: WeMo works with your existing Wi-Fi router and any iPod touch, iPhone, iPad – iOS 5 or higher.
  • Put your electronic devices on a schedule.
  • Modular system. You can add additional WeMo Switches easily, any time.
  • Control as much or as little of your home as you want to.
  • Plugs into any regular 120v wall outlet.
  • Intuitive, easy set up. Easy to use.
  • Free WeMo app.

These units are very easy to use.  I’ll bet you can think of a number of uses for modules like these.

Craftsman Assurelink Garage Door Opener

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 3.28.36 PMHave you ever forgot to lower your garage door?  Or worse yet, have you ever been unsure if you left it open or closed? The Sears Craftsman Assurelink Garage Door Opener is just the ticket for these times.    This opener connects to your home internet and allows you to open and close the door from your smatrphone.  Assurelink allows you to monitor and activate your garage door from the web, so whether you’re fishing at the lake, in a hotel on business,  or stuck in downtown traffic, you can know for certain that your home is safe and secure.

The opener itself is a top of the line feature full garage door opener from Sears.  In addition to all the features you would expect, it comes with a internet gateway that plugs into your home network and gives you the ability to control the door with a free application for your iPhone or Android phone.  It’s also compatible with many already existing technologies, like MyQ™ home activation products or in-vehicle HomeLink® remote control systems.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 3.28.49 PMThe app for your phone allow you to check the status of the door and to open or close it.  It requires a 4 digit password to open so that someone playing with your phone cannot accidentally open the door.

Even if it’s not time to replace your opener, if you have a modern Craftsman opener, an add on package is available to give you the internet connectivity.  The openers cost between $229 and $299.  If your opener is comparable, the add on package is just $89.

If your looking for a new opener or have a recent one you may want to add this functionality to your home.  It definitely has its place in providing piece of mind.

 

How do you know so many answers to tech questions?

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 4.14.17 PMMany people ask me how I know so many answers to tech questions.  Part of what I know is how to perform a good Google search.  Here are some tips from the Google Support site on how to do a good Google search.

Tip 1: Keep it simple

No matter what you’re looking for, try to start with a simple search like [where’s the closest airport?]. You can always add a few descriptive words if necessary.

If you’re looking for a place or product in a specific location, add the location. For example, [bakery seattle].

 Tip 2: Search using your voice

Tired of typing? Click the microphone icon in Chrome’s search box to search by voice.

Tip 3: Use web friendly words

Use words that are most likely to appear on websites. For example, instead of saying [my head hurts], say [headache], because that’s the word a medical site would use.

 Tip 4: Don’t worry about the little things

Spelling. Google’s spell checker automatically uses the most common spelling of a given word, whether or not you spell it correctly.

Capitalization. A search for [New York Times] is the same as a search for [new york times].

Punctuation. Most punctuation, like ?!,.%^*()[]\, is ignored when you search.

Tip 5: Find quick answers

For many searches, Google will do the work for you and show an answer to your question on the search results. Some features, like information about sports teams, aren’t available in all regions.

Weather. Search [weather] to see the weather in your location or add a city name after Weatherweather to find weather for a certain place.

Dictionary. Put [define] in front of any word to see its definition.

Calculations. Enter a math equation like [3*9123], or solve complex graphing equations.

Unit conversions. Enter any conversion, like [3 dollars in euros].

Sports. Search for the name of your team to see a schedule, game scores and more.

Quick facts. Search for the name of a celebrity, location, movie, or song to find important information.

Device Independent Applications: To Do List

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We all have to many things to do. It’s difficult to keep track of all the things we often have to do. Many of us she’s calendars to keep track of when things need to be completed, others of us make lists. I personally like to use a to do application that helps me organize my thoughts into things that I need to do in the future. Most platforms have some type of a to do applications available on them. Many come with one built into the device. But since I use many devices, in many platforms, I want to have the ability to be able to have my to do list accessible wherever I’m working. It’s also important to have this list available through a web browser, in case I’m working on a computer that I don’t have an application installed.

I’ve looked and tested many of these applications. The one that I’ve selected for use is called Toodledo. Toodledo is a very powerful to do list that’s available in many platforms that I use every day. The greatest benefit of the application is that I can use it directly from a web browser any time. There’s also an application available for iOS that I use daily. Here are a few things that they say they can do from their website:

  • Organize Your Tasks – Use folders, tags, contexts, subtasks and more to organize, search and sort through your tasks.
  • Improve Your Productivity –  Toodledo’s hotlist, customizable alarms, and sortable online to-do list will help you remember to complete tasks on-time.
  • Go Anywhere –  Get Toodledo on your mobile phone, in your email, on your calendar, integrated directly into your web browser, and more.
  • Collaborate –  Easily work with other people on shared projects with Toodledo’s collaboration tools.
  • Customize – Select fields you want to use and define how you want to view your tasks. Toodledo is incredibly flexible and customizable.
  • Import Your Existing Tasks –  If you already use a task manager, import tasks from many sources.

Some of the other features of Toodledo that I use all the time include the ability to set a date of when a task needs to be accomplished. You can then creates a calendar that I can map into my regular calendar showing me when all of these tasks need to be accomplished. When I go to the application and check off an item ias being done, it removes it from the list and from my calendar too.

While a lot of people may feel that the application on their phone for todo lists is plenty good enough for them, I feel that having a more universal application that I can use from anywhere provides me a great benefit.

Toodledo is free to use. Like most services they provide a premium version that gives you additional features. Take a look at Toodledo https://www.toodledo.com/index.php. and see if using a more universal to do application makes sense for you.

Draw Charts In Your Web Browser Using Lucidchart

lucidEvery so often I have the need to be able to draw a flowchart. It could be a diagram showing connectivity between computer systems, or just the direction and flow of data in the data processing system. While there are many tools that can provide this service, many of them are expensive and are difficult to work with. In another career, I used Visio to be able to do this type task. Visio is a great Microsoft tool that allows you to draw charts. Unfortunately, Visio is not part of the standard office suite, and also does not have a Macintosh counterpart.

I’ve looked at tools to be able to do this on the Mac like OmniGraffle. OmniGraffle is a terrific tool that allows you to do just exactly this. But I’m regretful it’s not inexpensive. They do have a great iPad app but again it is not cheap. I would recommend that if you need to draw charts like this all the time on the Mac, this is definitely the tool to use. But I do this only once in a while. I hate to spend this type of money to only draw a few charts year. While doing some web searching for a tool but might be inexpensive, I ran into Lucidchart.

Lucidchart Is a web-based chart creation tool. It’s functioning features make you believe you’re actually running a full application on your computer or on your iPad. Because it’s completely web-based, it’s cross-platform too. You have the ability to be able to use it on Windows Mac or even on the chrome book. In fact chrome is the main location that they recommend using this application in. You can pay for Lucidchart by the month, or if you’re charging needs are minor you can use their free version that allows for up to 60 objects created for chart. For my needs this basically fits exactly what I need to do.

One thing you’ll find if you give it a try is after using it for a few minutes you’ll believe you’re actually running a full application, not something in a web browser. This application is been implemented so cleanly that I can actually easily drag, move, and change objects on the fly. It also gives you the ability to be able to export to a PDF or even to the Visio chart if you want to move to Visio to finish up your drawing.

If your need to draw flowcharts is simple, I highly recommend you give this application a try. When you sign up, you get to sample the full version for a number of days and then it reverts to the free release.

Device Independent Applications: Notetaking

Evernote Camera Roll 20140302 145628If your fond of using a tablet for many applications, one of the first things you run into is the need to be able to take notes. These days, all operating systems include a note taking application. Whether you’re running iOS, android, Mac, or Windows, each operating system provides its ability to do notetaking. But many people need the ability to have a universal notetaking application that can be used on both computers and on tablet devices. Over the years, I’ve tried a number of these and I have finally settled on the use of Evernote.

Evernote is a notetaking application that can be used in a web browser or on literally any tablet or computer platform available today. On the Mac, Evernote can be downloaded for free from the app store. On iOS it’s also free in the iOS app store. There is also an application for android, windows, and Evernote can also be used directly in a web browser. This ability to use an application cross-platform gives you the ability to move notes back-and-forth from wherever you happen to be working at the time.

I often use my iPad, and Siri to be able to speak my notes into Evernote. Evernote like many applications on the iPad supports this seamlessly. I open up Evernote, create a new note, and then basically just speak the information I need to take notes about. Evernote provides a lot of additional abilities too. You have the ability to be able to import documents directly into Evernote. You can move the text in easily through cut-and-paste, or you can simply embed the document. By embedding the document in an Evernote note, you have the ability to be able to edit that in the native application that created. Evernote also has the ability to be able to insert pictures, charts, graphs, or basically anything that you can think of.

There are also web browser extensions that allow you to select text directly in a web browser and create a new note from that text. It supports embedding Internet links in the note so that they can be clicked on directly and take you to a webpage. You have the ability to embed photos directly from the camera on your device or from your camera roll. Evernote has the ability to use text markup such as bold italic and underline and also create number or bulleted lists. In many ways, it could be a wordprocessor for many people.

You can create and name notebooks which you can move documents into, or create new documents directly in  notebooks that you have. This provides a great ability to be able to organize your notes into subjects that you can retrieve at a later time.

Best of all Evernote provides this service for free. Evernote also provides an inexpensive premium service that gives you the ability to search inside PDF documents, and also Store your notebooks off-line, giving you the ability to be able to use Evernote without an Internet connection.

If you’re tired of the note taking application that’s included in your device, or if you’re looking for something more universal with more features, take a look at Evernote. I believe it’s the best product on the market today and I use it nearly every day I work.

Automatic: Your Smart Driving Assistant

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 11.46.20 AMThe world is exploding with technology. It’s amazing to see technology entering into so many different areas. One of those areas that has long been ripe for this expansion is Automotive.   Automotive technology has been around for quite a while but unfortunately the technology you get your car is a result of what you get when you purchase the vehicle. In some cases manufactures don’t have very good technology available for their cars. But more often, good technology today Tuesday age poorly in a vehicle.  What may be the most advanced system in the world the day you buy your vehicle tends to be old and dated even before your vehicle is paid for. I have long believed that being able to add tech to a vehicle you all is a natural process.   But unfortunately adding text after-the-fact is to be expensive and also poorly integrated. That’s one reason why I was excited to read about Automatic.

Automatic is a small attachment device that plugs into your vehicles OBD port and provides information that your vehicle computer already has through Bluetooth to an application running on your phone. Automatic supports both iPhone and android devices. Nearly all vehicles 1996 and newer have this port.

IMG_0750The attachment dongle easily plugs in to the same port your mechanic uses when you take your car in for service. It’s easily accessible near the steering wheel. It then uses Bluetooth Low Energy Wireless using Bluetooth 4.0 and sophisticated energy-saving algorithms to allow the link to minimizes your phone’s battery consumption. The application is freely downloadable from respective app stores and can be installed on multiple devices if you choose.

So what kind of information does Automatic supply?

For the most part, you can get Driving Feedback.  Automatic is your auto assistant. It learns about your driving style and gives you subtle audio cues when you do things that waste gas, like:

Rough Braking – Braking abruptly decreases fuel efficiency and dramatically increases wear-and-tear on your car’s brake pads.

Speeding – Highway speeding may not save you much time, but driving 10 MPH over the speed limit reduces fuel efficiency by 12-15%.

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Rapid Acceleration – Stepping hard on the gas pedal decreases fuel efficiency and wastes money.  Automatic shows how you’re doing on every trip.

Drive Score – Automatic scores your driving every week to help you improve. A high score could save you hundreds on gas every year.

Trip Timeline – The Automatic app displays detailed info about your week, like how much you drive and where. See the actual MPGs for all your trips, even for older cars that don’t display fuel efficiency on the dashboard. Automatic also detects* fill-ups and even tracks local gas prices to show you how much you’re spending.

Crash Alert – Automatic can detect many types of serious crashes using the Link’s built-in accelerometer. Agents from Automatic report the situation to local authorities to get you help in an emergency. An agent will also call your loved ones to let them know the details of the crash and that emergency responders are on the way.

Unfortunately, there are a few things that automatic needs to improve. Right now the system provides no ability to do anything outside of looking at your phone with the data it collects. There needs to be A companion website that allows me to download my information or print reports of what I’ve done. I really want to be able to use automatic too log mileage for my trip and provide me a detailed report of starting and ending locations along with mileage and cost. I hope the company realizes that they only just begun.

There is a short YouTube video about Automatic.

Automotive technology supplied by automatic is a great start. The ability to add a relatively inexpensive device to your vehicle and connect to your phone to act as the brain has been a long time coming. Automatic provide you a great start at this. Let’s hope they continue to improve the system and application.