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.

Browser
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).

Hardware
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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Keeping the Internet safe, one browser at a time

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser hasn’t been my daily work browser for many years, and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. There are many reasons that I’m not going to go into, but these days it’s mostly about what I’m familiar with. From the satisfaction numbers I’ve seen, IE is still quite the powerhouse browser-of-choice for a large majority of Internet users, but it’s not my cup of tea.

But this post isn’t really about my selection of browser. Rather, it’s about an interesting online initiative focusing on Kinsa, the Kid’s Internet Safety Alliance.

The campaign, dubbed Browse with Confidence is a new online destination designed to promote safe browsing using Microsoft’s IE 8 browser and features links to product information, and downloads.

But that’s not all
The really cool part about this is the way the Browse with Confidence initiative is generating funds for Kinsa. As you can see in this image, Microsoft Canada is donating $2.00 when you ‘post your support’ on your Facebook Wall. The more people post, the more Kinsa gets. Simple.

So, yeah, Microsoft gets a little PR bump out of this, but in my mind, the big benefit is to Kinsa, who:

“…helps to find, rescue and heal child victims of abuse whos images are shared on the Internet.”

For more information, check out the video, or hit Kinsa’s website. And consider giving your support to Kinsa.

Other Resources:
Microsoft’s Browse with Confidence news release

The browser you’re using right now is actually tracking your online activity

An interesting news release by the Electroinc Frontier Foundation last week shows that anonymous web surfing may not be as anonymous as previously thought. Due to each browser’s unique characteristics and configuration (fonts available, screen size, IP related information etc) it seems that many browsers create a unique ‘fingerprint’ that can be used to track you as you surf the Internet …more



This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.


Best music player ever. Songbird 1.1.1 now with watched folders.

I’ve written before about Songbird, the free, open-source music player based on the Mozilla / FireFox platform.

Basically Songbird rocks.

Well, now there’s extra-new-and-improved Songbird goodness as the update was released this evening, with the one significant feature it’s been lacking up ’till now — the ‘Watched Folder’ feature.

To quote from the songbird release email:

Watch Folders
You can choose to watch a folder hierarchy for changes and the content will auto-magically be imported in your library. If a file is removed from the watched folder, the corresponding track will be deleted from your Library.

Of course, this isn’t the only new feature in Songbird, but for me, it’s the most important.

If you’ve not tried Songbird as an iTunes replacement, give it a go…it’s really worth the investment, for Mac, PC and Linux.