3 Awesome Photo apps for your iPad

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Now I know what you’re thinking — Brad, the iPad doesn’t have a camera so why would I want photography apps on it.

Here’s three of many photo apps I use most regularly on my iPad — starting off with an offering from Adobe, the Photoshop people.

To illustrate, I’ve used an image I captured this morning on my wife’s iPhone4, which I then uploaded to Flickr and then downloaded to my iPad and processed. Continue reading “3 Awesome Photo apps for your iPad”

Indoor or out, the Soulra shines!

Over the last few weeks I’ve been listening to my iPod Touch tunes with a ruggedized solar-powered sound system — the Soulra. And this could be one solution to a problem I’ve had for a while now; how to take my music outside with me  and not have to wear ear-buds or headphones to enjoy it.

We like to camp, so portability and rugged construction are important in the things we bring with us. This, and one key feature of the Soulra really caught my attention — the large solar panel on the device.

Essentially, the Soulra looks and acts like any portable sound system docking station. You plug your iPod/iPod Touch/iPhone into the dock and it plays music. But there’s much more to it than that:

Solar Energy
Solar powered charging dock, compatible with iPod and iPhone. This is cool, especially when you’re camping or away from an AC outlet. The solar cell will keep the Soulra’s batteries charged as well as your iDevice.
Continue reading “Indoor or out, the Soulra shines!”

Show your parents you care – tech style

It’s highly likely that many of you, like me, are responsible for technical support of your families’ computer systems and internet connection.

googfooter.pngEarlier today I found a great little microsite (by Google) that’ll help you support your parents with their online issues.

http://www.teachparentstech.org/ is the site that helps you build a friendly little email and bundles links to appropriate self-help videos.

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Obviously this won’t address every question they’ve got, but it does:

  • Get them using email (they’ll need to in order to view the message)
  • Get them watching online videos through a browser
  • Teach them how to do something to customize their computing experience
  • Give them a sense of accomplishment and independence as they use new tech.

Here’s what your outgoing email could look like:

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It’s not just simple issues either, here’s a video showing how to set up an email autoresponder in Gmail — though similar email apps work in much the same way.

And it’s a great little marketing and branding opportunity to get Google into their computing experience.

[ad#Future Shop Post Attribution]

Canadian Newspapers get an iPad App

Head.jpgEarlier this week several Canadian newspapers simultaneously launched a free iPad application focused on providing selected daily content from the print edition of the newspaper.

An iPaper?

Basically, the newspaper app really acts like Flipboard or Pulse in that it reformats the headlines, initial paragraph and perhaps a photo, for easy browsing, by section of the newspaper (News, Sports, etc). And, of course, there’s advertising — what newspaper would be complete without it? Happily it’s currently limited to smaller ads in the story, or full page ones at the end of stories.

Reads like a newspaper

Tap on a story on a main section page and the page reformats to display the entire story and images. Presentation can be tweaked a little bit by changing the font size, or rotating the orientation of the device, but that’s it. Pages are arranged in columns, similar to a newspaper layout, though on the iPad some stories will span a few pages.

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Innovation? Perhaps.

PostMedia, the developer of the application lists these as the main features of the app in their news release:

  • Heat Map – readers see and read “Stories Around Me” and check out which stories are most popular in their neighbourhoods and across the country
  • My Articles – saves and stores articles that users want to read later
  • Social Media Tools – the ability to comment live on stories and share with friends through Facebook, Twitter and email
  • Integrated Video Player – readers can view a variety of videos within articles
  • Photo Gallery – a wealth of high resolution photos and inline photo galleries

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For my money there are two neat features are My Articles, the ability to ‘save’ an article. Once you save a story it’s stored locally on your device to be read later.
As well, there’s a rather interesting Heat Map of ‘popular’ stories where a map is displayed with coloured dots overlaying your city — the ‘hotter’ the dot, the more that story was read in that area. I guess the intent is to show you what stories are hot in your area; an idea that has potential.

Likes

  • It’s free access to local and national news as curated by a bonifide news organization in your city.
  • Potential to be updated more often than the print edition, and available via your data connection when you want to read it. You don’t have to go to the corner store to get the latest news.
  • Download the latest edition for offline viewing.

Dislikes

  • You don’t get the content of the entire newspaper. According to the developer, “… feature customized newspaper content pulled from the best of the web and print editions as well as mobile specific content. Readers can download, save, comment, interact and customize the content, their way.”
  • No obvious way to search the content.
  • No way to print, or cut and paste content — which is available in the web editions through the tools integrated in the browser.

Will I use it?

Occasionally. It won’t be my ‘go-to’ app to find out what’s happening in my community, there are too many other live social media sources that give me the ‘now’. But if I need some indepth analysis or insight, I’ll boot up the app and see if the news I’m looking for falls into ‘the best of the web and print editions as well as mobile specific content.’ selected to be released to me for free.

Or maybe I’ll just Google it and see what the big G returns. It’s a tossup.[ad#Future Shop Post Attribution]

Commerce in a post-Wikileaks economy

cc.jpgYou’ve likely seen the news that Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and others are under distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks by folk who feel that WikiLeaks headman Julian Assange is being persecuted for distributing sensitive information he’d received from others.

Setting aside that entire espionage, sex-by-surprise, persecution, journalism and right to information thing, what’s left is the hacking attempts — coordinated attacks on key points of the infrastructure of commerce. This, as we are in the midst of the holiday buying season. A juicy target indeed.

What’s happening
The coordinated attacks seem to be having some small effect on commerce. According to one report:

MasterCard, calling the attack “a concentrated effort to flood our corporate website with traffic and slow access,” said all its services had been restored and that account data was not at risk.

But it said the attack, mounted by hackers using simple tools posted on the Web, had extended beyond its website to payment processing technology, leaving some customers unable to make online payments using MasterCard software.

How it’s done
By using freely available tools to target and coordinate these attacks, *anyone* can join in the action. Find the right IRC server, download the tools, and turn them on — poof, you’re a ‘hack-tivist’ and  your computer (or computer network) is now part of a botnet:

The weapon of choice is a piece of software named a “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” (LOIC) which was developed to help Internet security experts test the vulnerability of a website to these assaults, the distributed denial of service attacks. The LOIC is readily and easily available for download on the Internet.

The LOIC can be controlled centrally by an administrator in an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel, a type of computer chat room; it can seize control of a network of computers and use their combined power in a DDoS attack. The attack is aimed at the target website and when the LOICs are activated they flood the website with a deluge of data requests at the same time.

The DDoS attack prevents the overloaded server from responding to legitimate requests and slows down the website to a crawl — or shuts it down totally. The attacks are coordinated in the IRC channel, and on Thursday, around 3,000 people were active on the Operation: Payback channel at one stage.

One side effect of all this is that the participants are also testing the limits of the commerce infrastructure for hackers and others who’s intentions may not be so noble as preventing a perceived injustice.

The impact
So what does this mean for retailers and customers in the next few weeks and months, and what does this mean for the future of online commerce?

  • Slow or blocked online commerce — if the servers are clogged, your online merchant may not be able to process your credit card or PayPal transaction, and can’t complete the sale
  • Increased attacks — depending on how this spate of incidents turns out, copy-cats will use the same techniques against new targets, or evolve their own methods and tools
  • Increased unease — new online consumers will have another reason to *not* shop online, preferring to continue shopping at brick and mortar shops as they’ll feel more secure
  • Increased security — essential to recover control of the commerce infrastructure and to demonstrate to consumers that online commerce works and is safe
  • Increased cost — better and tighter security isn’t free, so this ‘cost of doing business’ will be factored into the retail process, resulting in higher prices

The Genie is out of the bottle
Yep, the tools and techniques have been around for a while. It’s taken one event like this to catalyze a motivated and unconnected group of people around the world to participate in coordinated action. We will see more of this, maybe aimed at political institutions, national governments, or launched by environmental activists. Welcome to a new reality.