Category: Mobile Computing Apps

It is now simple to port iOS and Android apps to Windows 10

Articles Windows logo courtesy of Microsoft

How Microsoft Is Going To Port Everything To Windows | Gizmodo

Android applications will be able to run on Windows 10 | Android Authority

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft

Welcome speech for Build 2015 – Blogging Windows

My Comments

Candy Crush Saga gameplay screen Android

This game has been the test-bed for porting to Windows 10

The Web has been awash with rumours about Microsoft allowing Android apps to run on Windows 10. The image projected by these rumours underscored ideas of users running Android APK program files in the Windows 10 environment or a gateway to Google Play on this operating system.

But Microsoft announced at Build 2015 conference a very different scenario that is more about developers being able to easily port iOS and Android apps to Windows 10 Universal Apps. It is part of a simplified code-porting mechanism that will come with this new operating system.

As you already know, a Windows 10 Universal app is designed from the outset to run on a regular desktop / laptop computing environment, a tablet or 2-in-1 in “tablet mode”, a smartphone or even the XBox One games console.

The process of “porting” an app to run on different computing platforms is about making sure that the program conveys a user experience that doesn’t differ no matter the platform that you are running it on. Rather it takes advantage of the bouquets that the platform provides like improved sound or graphics and is something I have seen in action through the late 1980s with games written by the likes of Sierra and Broderbund. In that era, there were a few different home / desktop computing platforms in circulation ranging from the IBM PC (MS-DOS) platform, Apple’s Apple II and Macintosh platforms, to Commodore’s legendary C64 and Amiga computer platforms and anyone who wanted to cover a large market with a games title had to port these titles across the different platforms.

Windows 10 Start Menu courtesy of Microsoft

Now easier to port from mobile platforms to this platform

Take for example “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego” which I had played on an Apple IIe and on an IBM-compatible running MS-DOS 3.3 . These games were ported in a way to take advantage of the graphics abilities the different platforms offered and were worked to give the same smooth operating environment for the platform you bought it for. If I had played that game on a Commodore Amiga, it would have come through with graphics and sound performance appropriate for that platform such as sharper graphics with many different colours along with a richer music soundtrack.

If you were to port an application or game to a different platform, you had to rewrite the program code from the ground up to target that platform. As well, you had to re-engineer all of the resources like the graphics and sound for that platform. This became a costly affair because you had to hire programmers who were conversant with your native computing platform and the target platform to do this job and make sure they run as expected on that platform. In some cases, the software may not run exactly as required nor would it properly take advantage of the platform’s assets.

Microsoft has made this process simpler courtesy of the Project Islandwood and Project Astoria software-development kits which simplify the process of porting iOS or Android apps to Windows 10 Universal Apps. These would allow the developer to reuse the iOS Objective C or Android Java/C++ code as the mechanism for the program and allow them to tweak the code to run smoothly in Windows 10, taking advantage of its assets like Cortana, Live Tiles, XBox Achievements and the like where appropriate.

They worked with King.com to use the new software-development kits to port Candy Crush Saga to Windows, having the gameplay experience on a Windows Phone similar to what was expected out of an iPhone.

What does this mean? It could allow a software developer to target iOS or Android for their programs then have it ready for the Windows platform very shortly after that without it being a costly affair..Who knows when a game like Candy Crush Saga could appear on the XBox One as a “quick-play” game to play on your TV?

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Panasonic has outlined what Wi-Fi can mean for your camera

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Panasonic

The wonderful world of Wi-Fi supercharges our latest cameras and camcorders (Blog post)

My Comments

LG G-Flex 2 curved Android smartphone - courtesy of LG

Panasonic is pushing the idea of apps as a Wi-Fi-linked control surface for cameras and camcorders

When Wi-Fi is added to a digital camera or camcorder, it is typically about being able to download the images or footage to a regular computer for editing and post-production.

But Panasonic is using Wi-Fi wireless networking for more than that thanks to the app-cessory model. Here, they provide a downloadable app that works as a control surface for the camera and can use the smartphone’s abilities to increase what the camera or camcorder can do.

For example, they have a “Jump Snap” feature which uses the accelerometer in your phone to detect the peak in a jump to cause the camera to take the picture as you jump. It also exploits the smartphone’s GPS so you can geocode your photos that you take with your camera. Let’s not forget the ability to use the smartphone’s screen to set up and take your photo, as what a control-surface app would do.

Sony FRD-AX33 4K HandyCam camcorder press picture courtesy of Sony America

Your smartphone could control one of these and add extra capabilities to it

For camcorders, the Wi-Fi ability allows for multi-camera filming like what the TV producers do in the studios. Here, the smartphone’s camera works as a second camera. This would lead to practices like picture-in-picture or real-time cuts/fades/dissolves being part of your videography. There is even the ability to purpose the camcorder as a network-capable video-surveillance camera with your smartphone or tablet serving as a monitor.

What I see of this is these apps could allow Panasonic and other camera manufacturers to add capabilities to their cameras and camcorders using a mobile-platform app.  The multi-camera filming could be improved upon by allowing multiple camera devices, especially digital cameras or camcorders with the good lenses, to work together for creating multiple video tracks or multi-camera views.

The current limitations with anything that will use a smartphone to add capabilities to a digital camera or camcorder is the fact that the software will only work with a certain range of products supplied by a particular manufacturer. Typically this could be limited to mid-tier and high-end products made since a certain model-year or generation.

Who knows who else will be turning out “app-cessory” setups for their camera and camcorder ranges?

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More coverage on the VIDIPATH technology.

Article VIDIPATH logo courtesy of DLNA

DLNA’s VidiPath Enables Subscription-TV Sharing At Home | TWICE

My Comments

I have given previous coverage to the DLNA VIDIPATH technology which allows you to use the home network to share pay-TV content around the home using compliant Smart TVs or desktop / mobile apps.

Foxtel IQ2 pay-TV PVR

A PVR-type set-top box can serve as the hub of a VIDIPATH pay-TV setup

This article talked of a typical scenario where you have a PVR-grade set-top box provided by your pay-TV provider – the same kind of box as Sky+ or Foxtel IQ. The typical scenario for serving a TV in the master bedroom. the den or the games room would be to rent another set-top box from the pay-TV provider and have them pull coaxial cable to where it is installed. If you wanted to participate in the pay-TV provider’s “TV Everywhere” platform, you would have to download and register their desktop or mobile app to have cable-TV content on your computer, tablet or smartphone when you are at home.

Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray Disc Player

VIDIPATH-capable Blu-Ray players can bring pay-TV to the secondary bedroom TV

VIDIPATH provides an authenticated method of allowing third-party devices to connect to the PVR via your home network. The application that was raised in the article was to have a Smart TV in the bedroom or den without the need of a set-top box, or to install an open-frame app on your computer or tablet to pull up live, on-demand or PVR-recorded pay-TV content.

But a situation that wasn’t raised was the fact that one is not likely to spend as much on secondary TV sets as they would for the primary one where they watch most of the TV content on. Either the main set may be upgraded and the set that served that role would be installed in the bedroom, a smaller TV would be placed in the kitchen or similarly-small area or a set that doesn’t have the same bells and whistles as the one in the main lounge area may be placed in a secondary lounge area.

Here, such TVs may not be VIDIPATH-enabled and would really need to be considered would be Blu-Ray players, Blu-Ray AV systems, network media players and similar video peripherals to be equipped for VIDIPATH. Why? This is because such devices can add this kind of functionality to an existing TV by simply using the existing TV as a display. It is in the same context as the VHS video-cassette recorders of the 80s where they had features like enabling cheaper and older TVs to benefit from remote control.

As manufacturers like Sony release Blu-Ray players and home-theatre systems that have “smart-TV” abilities, it wouldn’t tale long for them to offer VIDIPATH-capable versions of these devices as a way to enable the secondary sets.

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Berlin creates a smartphone app to tackle neo-Nazism

Article Flag of Germany

La ville de Berlin lance une application «contre les nazis» | La Figaro (French language | Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth

Berlin Against Nazis (Berlin Gegen Nazis)

Press Release (German Language / Deutsche Sprache)

My Comments

Another smartphone app has been developed for the community good, this time in Germany. Here, it is a notification app to distribute information about the issue of neo-Nazism to people who live in Berlin.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 press picture courtesy of Samsung

Smartphones are being seen as activist tools even with custom apps

“Against Nazis” (“Gegen Nazis”), which this fully-free app is called, serves more as a bulletin-board app which shows what is going on around town concerning neo-Nazi activity through the use of push notifications and an interactive map. Through these technologies, this information is distributed effectively real-time. This app allows users to act on the information in order to show solidarity against the neo-Nazi activity that is going on near them or to effectively strengthen the network’s activity. This app has been delivered in German, English and Turkish because of Germany having a distinct presence of Turkish people.

It has been developed by the “Berlin Gegen Nazis” (Berlin Against Nazis) network which is supported by the Berlin local government. This was brought on by a member of this network who was engaged in an anti-Nazi march in Rudolf Hess’s home town when a far-right group effectively took over that march.

The neo-Nazi groups still maintain a presence in Germany although they have a low impact on the national polls and on Berlin’s polls. In relation to Berlin, they have presence in poorer areas of the city like Schöneweide in the former East Berlin. It is also known that people who lived in the former East-Germany areas were soft towards the extreme-right ideology.

This is another way where the mobile phone platforms are being used for the public good especially due to the ease of access that these platforms provide. It also involves creating an information-delivery backbone which is cost-effective for these community organisations.

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NEC implements your smartphone’s camera to detect knock-off goods

Article

NEC smartphone tech can spot counterfeit goods | PC World

NEC wants you to spot counterfeits using your phone’s camera | Engadget

My Comments

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

The camera on these smartphones could work towards identifying whether that handbag at the flea market is a knock-off

Previously, I had covered some applications where commodity-priced camera modules have been used for machine vision. These applications, which were mostly based around the cameras that your typical smartphone or tablet are equipped with, were more than just reading and interpreting a barcode of some sort in order to look up data. Rather they were about interpreting a control stick typically soaked in liquid that is used as part of urinalysis or to observe the character of blood vessels on one’s face to read one’s pulse.

But NEC is implementing machine vision using one’s smartphone to determine whether an object like a luxury handbag or a pair of name-brand sneakers is a “knock-off” or not. Here, they use the camera with a macro-lens attachment to identify the “fingerprint” that the metal or plastic material’s grain yields through its manufacture. This typically applies to items made of these materials or where an item is equipped with one or more fasteners, trim items or other fittings made of these materials.

NEC wants to see this technology not just apply to verifying the authenticity of new goods but also be used to allow the manufacturers to check that repair and maintenance of goods is “up to snuff” or follow the distribution and retail chain of these goods.

The manufacturers have to “register” these items in order to create the “reference database” that relates to their goods. As well, users would have to use a macro-equipped device such as a smartphone equipped with a macro-converter attachment or a “clip-on” camera with this kind of lens. They will offer the lenses as a 3D-printed attachment to suit most of the popular handsets and tablets. It could also open up a market for small-form Webcams and similar cameras that come with macro lenses or multi-function lenses.

A missing part of the question would be whether the technology would apply to goods made out of soft materials like cloth or leather. This would take it further with identifying clothes, footwear and “soft-material” luggage or checking whether the material used to upholster furniture reflects what the manufacturer or customer wants for the job.

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Emergency-notification apps–very important for some of us

In Case Of Emergency opening screen

In Case Of Emergency opening screen

I am highlighting the emergency-notification apps like “ICE In Case of Emergency” which are available for most smartphone platforms along with other techniques to make your smartphone work with you if you are caught up in a medical emergency or disaster.

What are these apps?

These apps provide access to information that is essential for others to know if an emergency occurs. Typically the apps work with a lock-screen that provides immediate access to this information along with the necessary space to store that information on our smartphones. As well, they keep the phone’s security functionality in place by providing “sandboxed” access to the emergency information but you can gain full access to your phone using the regular passcode that you have for it. This “sandboxed” access may only allow you to dial the contacts listed in the app’s contact list from that app when the phone is locked so you can still contact them in case of emergency.

In Case Of Emergency app widget on lock screen

In Case Of Emergency app widget on lock screen

They store information about whom to contact in case of emergency, illnesses or other conditions that others should be aware of, medical contacts along with information about the medicines that the person on the file is taking. They may even have the ability for you to directly dial the emergency contacts from their user interface. Some more sophisticated variants may work with a cloud service and your phone’s location identification features to transmit your location to loved ones in case of emergency.

Most of these apps are available from the mobile app stores for pennies’ worth or, in some cases, for free. On the other hand, you can add text to your phone’s lock-screen wallpaper with your emergency-contact information so this is available at all times even when your phone is locked. There are apps that can facilitate that by “mixing the text with the pictures”.

Who are they useful for?

One group of people they are essential for are those of us who have chronic illnesses which can result in an unpredictable emergency situation like a coma, seizure or asthma attack. This includes elderly people who are at risk of a stroke or something similar that is brought on by the ageing process.

Here, it means that when they are out and about, they are sure that the people they are with are able to contact someone like a close friend or relative or their doctor to find out what to do in relation to helping them through the situation. As well, they can convey the critical information to the paramedics or safety / security staff who are managing the situation.

I had one of these apps on my phone because of the fact that I have epilepsy and am at risk of the seizures associated with that illness. This came in handy recently when I had one of these seizures during a group get-together at the church I attend and two of the fellow congregants were able to know whom to contact and what to do by the easily-accessible information that the app was able to provide. This was even though they had called an ambulance to attend to this situation.

Another group of users that would benefit from these emergency-notification apps would be those of us who do activities like bushwalking, long-distance running and long-distance cycling. Similarly people who do a lot of travel can benefit from these apps. These kind of activities may require others to know whom to contact if something untoward happens to them.

In all these situations, a hard-copy card that you keep in your bag or wallet and carries the same essential information does work well as a backup in case your phone runs out of batteries or “freezes”.

What to look for with these apps

These apps should have the ability to retain all of the essential information like your name, the phone numbers for at least a few contacts including your primary-care and other-care doctors, along with identity numbers for national / universal health (NHS, Medicare, etc) or other coverage. As well they should be able to keep information about your blood type and other general medical particulars along with information that is essential to treating and managing your illnesses.

As well, they should be able to have the ability to provide off-device backup storage of this information, whether on removable media or a cloud-based storage service. This is to cater for situations where you may upgrade your phone or your phone plays up and destroys the data. To benefit international travellers, the software could keep information like your passport number and “home country” details along with travel insurance contact details.

Another feature that a good emergency-information app should have is the ability to be dynamically switched between different languages. This can be of importance in countries which maintain multiple tongues or have a multicultural society, or for travellers who are travelling in to countries or territories where their home tongue isn’t spoken.

Conclusion

Your smartphone can work as an emergency reference book for others to use if you are stricken through some situation. All it just requires is the use of an emergency-info app and / or using a customised lockscreen wallpaper with the critical information on it.

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Another company links the existing air conditioner to the home network

Articles

Beat the summer heat with the Monolyth smart AC unit | Digital Trends

Crowdfunding-Kampagne für selbstlernenden Klimaanlagen-Regler | Gizmodo.de (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

Monolyth

Product Page

Indiegogo crowdfunding page

Previous coverage

Tado Cooling brings the smart thermostat concept to the typical air conditioner

My Comments

Monolyth air-conditioner controller controlling a window air-conditioner - press image courtesy of Monolyth

This is how the typical room air-conditioner will be controlled

Another company has followed Tado’s lead in providing “smart-thermostat” and home-network capabilities to the existing room air conditioner. Here, we control a lot of the recently-installed, usually “split-system”, air conditioners using an infra-red remote control and this device, along with Tado’s device mimics the remote controls we use for these units.

Monolyth, who are seeking funding through the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform are providing this device which is a black obelisk box that links to your home network’s Wi-Fi segment to enable control from your mobile device or to benefit from various cloud services that it has. Here, you use your iOS or Android mobile device with the platform-specific app to control your air-conditioner and can use the mobile device’s GPS facility to have the AC unit off when you are away to save power or have it come on just before you arrive to get your premises comfortable by the time you are there.

Air-conditioner remote control

The Monolyth air-conditioner controller works with air-conditioners controlled by these devices

Compared to its peers like the Tado, the Monolyth implements extra sensors to determine the comfort level such as barometric pressure, humidity and air-quality sensors. This also works along with learning weather-forecast data to optimise your air-conditioner’s behaviour to the prevailing weather situation.

Monolyth also promotes the concept of using the one app to manage systems on many properties as well as multiple air-conditioners on the one property as is becoming the typical case for most installations.

What I value of these devices is that manufacturers are adding a level of network-enabled smart-thermostat functionality to the existing installed base of air conditioners, thus allowing us to see the equipment serve us for a longer time. It also satisfies the reality that we don’t “dump” heating or air-conditioning equipment unless it totally fails or becomes hopelessly inefficient and would rather add functionality to the existing equipment using add-on kits.

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Up, Up And Away with Android Wear

Article

Hacking the friendly skies: creating apps for wearables at 36,000 feet | Engadget

My Comments

There are some efforts taking place to make the wearable devices and sensors become relevant with air travel which is part of our business lives. This has been underscored by a recent “hackathon” programming contest sponsored by American Airlines to encourage the development of apps to bind wearables with the air travel experience.

The goal with this challenge was to make apps that are relevant to the passenger through the various phases of the experience i.e. checking in, passing through a security checkpoint, boarding the plane, flying using the newer inflight Wi-Fi system and having an Economy class seat as your workspace then arriving and collecting your luggage.

One application that won “first prize” in the challenge was a push-notification system that was able to let you and family / close friends know where you were in your air journey. Here, this could push messages to your phone or smartwatch or the device owned by your friend depending on where you are, and could show up electronic boarding passes as required. For your relative or friend, it would mean, for example, when to start driving out to the airport to pick you up. This application would be driven by GPS and iBeacon technology in order to get its bearings.

Another application that won the challenge was an “area social network” that applied to your flight. Here, this would tie in with Facebook and LinkedIn and the in-flight Wi-Fi to indicate whether you have “bumped in to” someone in your personal or business network by the fact that you are on the same plane. This could also work with groups that are likely to be “split up” due to travelling different classes on a long-haul jet or simply for solo travellers who are heading the same direction to do things like share cabs at the destination.

Someone even tendered a personalised proximity-signage setup which can show things like gate information for connecting flights or directions to a particular baggage carousel. I also see this application work with the hire-car scene by avoiding the need for drivers of these cars to show signboards relating to their pick-ups in the arrivals hall. This application assures privacy by deleting the information on the signs when you walk away from them.

Even the idea of travelling with your four-legged friend interstate or overseas by air on the same flight is catered for with a special collar that lets you know how they are. This could be augmented with a system that allows you to know how they are if you and the pet are on different transports once suitable technology is implemented as part of the “Internet of Things”.

This is a situation where innovation is taking place by encouraging situation-specific software development goals through programming challenges focusing on that situation.

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Swiss Customs agency to have own mobile-platform app for travellers

Swiss Customs sign - courtesy Wikimedia CommonsArticle – German Language / Deutsche Sprache

Zollverwaltung plant Smartphone-App | Netzwoche (Switzerland)

Verzollung per Smartphone geplant | PCTipp.ch

From the horse’s mouth

Swiss Customs Authority (Eidgenössische Zollwerwaltung EZV)

App download site

My Comments

The country who turns out the most precise and most premium traditional watches has taken anther step further with e-government. Here, the Swiss customs authority have worked on a mobile-platform app that overseas travellers use for calculating customs duty and VAT on goods they intend to bring back to Switzerland or registering these goods. This is also part of a simplification effort concerning how Swiss citizens have to deal with importing goods privately such as part of online shopping.

There are questions on what level of functionality this app will provide such as provision of other customs-related information or whether this will work just for private importers only with different software for businesses.

But at least it is an example of a customs authority implementing their e-government goals to more than just large importers. It also is a government department implementing the mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets in this role rather than just using a Web view on a desktop computer for this kind of e-government application.

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Make Spotify and Shazam work with your favourite bar or cafe

 

A cafe who can benefit from DLNA network AV technology

A cafe who can benefit from DLNA network AV technology

Spotify, Shazam and similar programs are music programs that can come in handy with people who have a café or bar as a favourite watering hole. This is whether through creating a playlist that relates to this location or identifying songs that are playing on the music system there.

As a café or bar owner

A café or bar can make Spotify work with their Website even if they can’t legally play content from this service through their music system. The manager could create a Spoitify account which is a so-called “public account” and use this just for sharing the playlists. Here, they identify tracks that are in the current playlist or on the music system and create a Spotify playlist based on these tracks.

Shazam for Android

Shazam song-identification for Android

This is then inserted in to their Website using the code that Spotify supply for inserting playable playlists in to a Website. Customers who visit the Website can have these songs playing through their computer which should be connected to a hi-fi or a pair of good speakers. They can even “subscribe” to these playlists to have them play through their Spotify-Connect-enabled equipment or their mobile devices.

As a “regular” customer

Customers can put Shazam, MusicID or similar music-recognition apps in to service to identify tracks that they like playing through the venue’s music system. This is more important with venues that have music systems that don’t readily show details about what’s currently playing but can be a problem in crowded venues where there is a lot of noise contesting the music.

These apps keep a record of what you have identified using them and have a link to various apps and services. For example, one could share the track names through Facebook or other social networks or play the tracks on Spotify or buy them through iTunes or other affiliated “download-to-own” online music stores.

Spotify screenshot with album tracklist

Spotify, one of the most popular online music-streaming services

What I even do is create a “favourite places” playlist on Spotify which is comprised of songs that I have identified at my favourite cafes and bars. Here, I can then play this playlist on Spotify or use this as a reference for purchasing music or syncing it to my phone.

iOS users simply buy the songs from iTunes Music Store and download them to their to their iPhone or iPad “as they go”. Then they sync them to a Macintosh or Windows computer using the iTunes desktop software. Android users use a music store that supplies music as MP3s on a download-to-own basis like Amazon or Big Pond Music. If you aren’t comfortable with downloading the music to your device, you can use the store’s “wishlist” function to create a memo list of the music you have liked when you trawl around Amazon to buy CDs online or visit your favourite music store.

Once you have bought your music, you could then work on a playlist or compilation CD/MiniDisc/cassette that focuses on these songs in a similar vein to what can be done with a subscription music service like Spotify.

Conclusion

Once you use Shazam, Spotify and similar software on your mobile computing environment, you can be able to get more out of your favourite watering holes.

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