How your mobile phone or tablet could save your life

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Believe it or not, there are many ways your mobile smart phone could be used when you find your­self in the middle of an emer­gency situ­ation,  aside from the obvi­ous — mak­ing a phone call for emer­gency assist­ance, I mean.

The recent events in Japan and New Zea­l­and have shown that when dis­aster strikes, get­ting the most accur­ate inform­a­tion is likely the best way to make choices that could save your life.

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Provided the event hasn’t taken out the loc­al mobile net­work, your mobile phone’s browser will help, link­ing you with many loc­al, nation­al, and inter­na­tion­al news ser­vices, as well as many dif­fer­ent chan­nels of com­mu­nic­a­tion (email, voice chat, twit­ter, etc).

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f1.jpgBut there are oth­er ways your smart phone can help. For example, many smart phone’s dis­play screens are bright enough to be used as a make­shift flash­light when the power goes out. Col­or Flash­light is a lead­ing Android app and Flash­light 4 is one of the most pop­u­lar ones in Japan right now.

As well, most phones these days know where they are in the world, either by tri­an­gu­lat­ing between com­mu­nic­a­tions towers, wifi sources, or built-in GPS sys­tems. Tie this in with any of the pop­u­lar map­ping applic­a­tions and you have a good visu­al under­stand­ing of where you are. Help­ful when you have to find an altern­ate route or trans­port­a­tion sys­tem in an unfa­mil­i­ar city.

An app for that? You bet!
As you can ima­gine, there are many things that you could need in an emer­gency. And, of course, there are some apps that can help.

Dur­ing the Tsunami warn­ings fol­low­ing the Japan earth­quake, inform­a­tion like that provided by this Hawaii­an-developed Dis­aster Alert app helped keep islanders informed about the impend­ing waves.

And after an event, find­ing people and shel­ter is a pri­or­ity.

Google launched their Google Per­son Find­er dur­ing the Christ­ch­urch earth­quake, and updated it for the Japan event.

And the Amer­ic­an Red Cross has released their free Shel­ter View app.

So as you can see, with just a few book­marks, per­haps an hour of app-store brows­ing, and a few dol­lars invest­ment, you can have a pretty good emer­gency pre­pared­ness kit all tucked neatly into your mobile data phone.

I think it’s time I star­ted on mine, what have I missed that I should add?
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WordPress blogging on an iPad just got easier

Earli­er today, Word­Press released ver­sion 2.7 of their iOS blog­ging cli­ent. And I’m happy to say it works well so far, though I’ve only giv­en it a very simple workout.

Pre­vi­ously I’d tried the Word­Press app but had a num­ber of prob­lems pub­lish­ing from it, ran­dom crash­ing etc. So I nuked it from orbit — the only way to be sure.

And then I replaced it with Blo­g­Press, a paid app.

Blo­g­Press is clean, works well, and has some nice fea­tures such as HTML short­cuts and Tex­tEx­pander integ­ra­tion (a must for any iOS writ­ing plat­form). But Blo­g­Press is really designed to con­nect to more than just Word­Press blogs, includ­ing:

- Blog­ger / Blog­Spot
— MSN Live Spaces
— Word­Press
— Mov­able Type
— Type­Pad
— Live­Journ­al
— Drupal
— Joomla
— Tumblr
— Squarespace
— My Opera

Word­Press for iOS is pretty single-minded — it’s designed to talk to Word­Press blogs (both hos­ted and self-hos­ted). And the blog­ging func­tion­al­ity is still pretty basic, but the one fea­ture I really appre­ci­ate in the Word­Press app (that’s miss­ing from Blo­g­Press) is the abil­ity mod­er­ate com­ments.

As well, developers say they’ve killed over 100 bugs and reduced crash con­di­tions, and cleaned up the user inter­face to make it easi­er to man­age blogs.

So, actu­ally now, I’m using both apps to man­age my Word­Press blog­ging — the free uni­ver­sal Word­Press app, and the paid Blo­g­Press app, mostly for writ­ing and HTML work.

Here’s hop­ing that the Word­Press app con­tin­ues to grow up 🙂

Full details at the developers blog.

Apple vs the App Developers

boot.jpgPre­vi­ously I’d writ­ten about the impend­ing launch of Gar­age Band for iPad, and men­tioned how Apple’s release of this app will chal­lenge smal­ler inde­pend­ent app developers in the music cre­ation space.

Today’ I’m at it again. With yesterday’s release of iOS 4.3, it seems that Apple has again taken a bite out of a developer’s rev­en­ue stream.

I’m talk­ing spe­cific­ally about enhance­ments to iTunes Home Shar­ing that enable video and audio stream­ing from any prop­erly con­figured iTunes-run­ning com­puter on your net­work.

Yep, this is a good thing, and it’s very cool tech. It’s great that Apple is mak­ing it avail­able for free. And it’s unfor­tu­nate that it’s also put­ting pres­sure on the developers of the Air Video and StreamToMe apps, both very good stream­ing applic­a­tions.

Innov­ate or else. This is com­pet­i­tion?
So now the ball is back in the developers court. They have to prove that their apps worth real money, and are bet­ter or dif­fer­ent than iTunes Home Shar­ing, which is free and just an update away.

And the developers aren’t work­ing from a pos­i­tion of strength that Apple is with all the resources at it’s dis­pos­al.

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Air Video and StreamToMe and oth­ers offer sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­en­ti­at­ors from Apple’s Home Shar­ing, in that they can be set up to stream video from your home serv­er to your loc­a­tion any­where on the Inter­net, provided you’ve prop­erly con­figured your net­work and the apps. I’ve not seen an easy way to set iTunes up to extend Home Shar­ing to an Inter­net con­nec­ted device. It may exist, but I’ve not seen it yet.

But wait, there’s more!
Home media stream­ing isn’t the only area Apple’s jumped into recently. As men­tioned at the start of this post, Gar­age Band for iPad launched today. And it looks like an awe­some app!

korg.jpgWhich has some music app makers re-eval­u­at­ing their product and pri­cing struc­tures when com­pared against Gar­age Band iPad.

For example, today KORG dropped the price of its hugely awe-inspir­ingly-com­plex synth, the iMS-20. Giv­en the com­plex­ity and power of the app, KORG had it ini­tially pegged at $32.99. Today the price dropped to half at $15.99.

No update. No improve­ments. Just a change in the land­scape tomor­row and an app is worth $15.00 less.

Sure, com­par­ing a $4.99 iPad Gar­age Band against a full fea­tured $32.99 $15.99 synth is Apples to Oranges. But is it? Many buy­ers of iPad Gar­age Band have Macs, which already have the full com­puter ver­sion of Gar­age Band installed as part of the stand­ard Mac bundle. A built-in audi­ence and income stream for the iPad app.

Win­ning!
In the end, the con­sumer is win­ning, it seems. With Gar­age Band, they get a new, reas­on­ably priced and power­ful app for their iPads. And they’ll also bene­fit by some price cuts on oth­er apps whose developers will feel the need to com­pete with Gar­age Band’s price, bring­ing them into line with con­sumer new expect­a­tions. Win­ning — for the con­sumer.

For the app developers? That remains to be seen.

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Emerging Tech: This magazine app knows what you like

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You’ve got an iPad and all the pop­u­lar magazine, con­tent, read­ing apps like Reed­er, Flip­board, Pulse, and FLUD. Well now there’s a new one using tech­no­logy from the Uni­ver­sity of Brit­ish Columbia’s Labor­at­ory for Com­pu­ta­tion­al Intel­li­gence.

It’s called Zite, and is it ever cool. But first, the video.

Why I like it
It’s a learn­ing app. Log in to your Google Read­er and Twit­ter account, let Zite per­form a bit of ana­lys­is, and you’ve got con­tent that Zite thinks you’re inter­ested in. And it’s free 🙂