Mobile Computing Apps Archive

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 |

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.


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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Official app for Facebook now on Windows 8.1

Facebook client for Windows 8Those of you who like using your Sony VAIO Tap 20, HP x2 Series, Sony VAIO Duo 11 or other Window 8 touch laptop to stalk on Facebook can now do so using a Facebook client that is written to be part of the operating system’s Modern user interface.

Here, you have a 3-pane dashboard with a presence list of the friends you interact with on the right-hand side, the News Feed in the centre of your screen and the grey “selection” menu on the left. The right hand top corner has a one-touch access point for status updates, pending friend requests and conversations that are taking place. There is the same ease in which you can browse what is available, including photos whether as a screen show or as a tiled arrangement.

I have even browsed through various photo albums in a “slide-show” view and the viewing experience comes across very smoothly. For example, when a photo initially appears, you see it looking soft and less detailed but it arrives with more detail coming through. There is the ability to zoom in on an image as well as flick through the slideshows.

Even mouse users, which covers most desktop users, are cared for because you can still use your rodent to scroll up and down using its thumbwheel. The thumbwheel works properly with scrolling the various columns for the News Feeds, the chat you are having, the presence list and the like independently – it depends on what you are actually hovering over. If you flip through photos in someone’s album, you can use the thumbwheel to “speed” through them. Using the SHIFT key with the thumbwheel allows you to detail in and out of the photos.

Its behaviour through a conversation is as expected but I would like to see a “typing” indicator so I can know if they are typing a reply at a particular moment.

This is certainly an application that appears to be mature from the start rather than one that is bug-ridden and failing too frequently. Give this a go on your Windows 8 laptop as something to work the Modern UI with.

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Use QR codes to point someone to your Facebook Profile


Facebook Adding QR Codes To Android App, Directing Scanners To Users’ Profiles? – AllFacebook

Facebook Adds QR Codes To Android App | 2D Code

My Comments

You are at the party or favourite bar and you have started to chat with someone very well. But you mention that you are on Facebook and they say that they are also on that same social network. You ask if it is OK to “friend them” on Facebook and they agree.

The next thing you do is ask for their name to search for them in your Facebook mobile app. This can be very difficult in a noisy environment or if they have a name that has a particular spelling or is one of many common names. Pick, pick, pick, pick, pick – you have found that person and are sending a “Friend Request”to them.

Now Facebook have improved on this for the latest version of their Android mobile client by using the QR code to simplify the profile-sharing process. Here, you bring up “Friends” in the drop-down menu. Then you tap “Find Friends” which shows the “People You May Know” list. Touch the “QR Code” button on the top right of your display to show a QR code that represents a link to your Profile.

If you are adding your companion to your Friends list, you then tap “Scan Code” and point your Android phone’s camera at the QR code that your companion is showing on their Android phone’s screen using this same client. This takes you to their Timeline which would have any “public” posts that are on it as well as the option to add them as a Friend.

I don’t see this as a controversial feature for Facebook because you have to be pulling up your Facebook Profile’s QR code in the presence of your companion who then has to use their device running the client app to scan that code – you are not intending to “friend them” behind their back.

This function could be taken further for businesses who have Facebook Pages or people who use Facebook Pages as a way to maintain a sanitised “public” profile. As well, if a person maintains a Page for their business or blog along with their personal Profile, the QR code could lead the user to a screen with an option to go to the Page which you then “like” to follow or the Profile with an option to “subscribe” (see only public Posts and Photos) or “add Friend” (be seen as a Facebook Friend with standard privileges).

Similarly, other social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn could implement this technology to allow people to attract followers or connections. NFC technology can also be exploited to achieve the same functionality as these QR codes for “there-and-then” access to contact profiles.

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The PS4 to benefit from a companion mobile app in November


PlayStation companion app for iOS, Android due in November | Internet & Media – CNET News

Sony to Launch PS4 Companion App in November | Mashable

My Comments

Sony is intending to add value to the PlayStation 4 platform by releasing a companion app for the iOS and Android mobile platforms that works with this console.

But what benefits will it offer to the gamers who use this app and associate it with their console? One would be to exploit the smartphone’s or tablet’s screen as a second screen which would come in to play with a wide range of games. For example, the screen could be used to show a leaderboard or scoreboard for a game while using the big screen just for the gameplay activity. Some adventure-based games may implement this second screen as an always-displayed map of either the game’s whole world or area of local relevance so as to help with fulfilling a particular quest.

The other main benefit is to have the mobile device serve as a controller, which I would see as improving the gameplay experience for some games and players. The touchscreens offered by these devices could allow for intuitive positioning of players in a sports game or could make it real for a strategy game to be played on a console.

Sony is also intending to make these devices become a path to the PlayStation Network online gaming service such as to see what others are playing and how they are performing as well as buying games and downloadable content using the mobile device for delivery to your PS4.

What I like of this is that various gaming tasks can be made more intuitive for more players by exploiting the touchscreen rather than hammering D-pads and buttons to configure a game’s participant. Similarly, it could open the path for other games types to be playable on consoles rather than just on regular computers or mobile devices.

Similarly it could open up the games consoles to user classes other than the teenage or young-adult males of this world by making them easier to use by older people or women.

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YouTube to add offline viewing to mobile apps


Train Commuters Rejoice: YouTube Adding Offline Viewing to Apps – Streaming Media Magazine

My Comments

Most of us who want to use our smartphones or tablets to view video content “on the road” may be either using a low-allowance mobile data plan or travelling through areas where Internet access isn’t guaranteed. Examples of this may include underground (subway) trains, air travel or long-distance train travel. As well, you may be using a Wi-Fi-only device like low-tier tablets or MP3 players.

Google have revised the iOS and Android YouTube apps to allow you to download video content for later viewing. These apps will keep the content of 48 hours but it would come in handy when you are “loading up” with content at your home network or public-access Wi-Fi network before you set off.

I see this as being commensurate with Google’s new direction for YouTube where they want to use this service for hosting content that is beyond cat videos. The catch-up and on-demand TV services could follow this line so as to increase their utility to travellers who want to catch up with favourite TV serials.

Similarly, Google could release an official YouTube app with this function for the regular-computer platforms as well as other mobile platforms like Windows Phone 8 so as to court users who use Ultrabooks or Nokia Lumia phines for this purpose.

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Sidekick app streams Google Play music to DLNA media devices


Stream Google Play Music Songs To Any UPnP Or DLNA-Compatible Receiver | Lifehacker Australia

Cast To UPnP/DLNA for GMusic

Download link from Google Play Store 

Demonstration Music in video

Song: Earth Wind & Fire – Can’t Hide Love

Album: Earth Wind & Fire – Greatest Hits

My Comments

If you are buying music through the Google Play Store and want to get it out through some decent speakers, you don’t need to use Google’s Chromecast dongle and an HDMI-equipped TV. Rather, as regular readers will know, DLNA-compliant playback equipment in the from of stereos, home-theatre systems, wireless speakers and the like are more commonly available than the Google Chromecast HDMI dongle.

Instead the “Cast To UPnP/DLNA for GPlay” app adds the list of UPnP AV/DLNA media-renderer devices to the list of playback clients available for playing out your Google Play Store music. This can be a boon with home-theatre setups where you specifically don’t want the attached TV screen to light up every time you want music to play.

It is available as a time-limited free program but drop $2 within the program to guarantee it full functionality.

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The software on those customer-facing iPads–your mobile device can run it


5 Things To Know About That In-Room Hotel iPad || HotelChatter

From the horse’s mouth

Intelity (software developer of these apps)

Company Web page

My Comments

An increasing number of hotels are providing guests with an iPad or similar “mobile-platform” tablet in your room for you to use. These typically are running a custom-designed app that works as an information source for the guest and, in some cases, provides self-service access to a wide range of services like in-room dining, housekeeping requests and check-out.

These devices are the same hardware as the iPad that you have, and this customer-service software is most likely to be available at the iTunes App Store for your iOS device or Google Play for your Android device. In some cases, the software may also be finished as an HTML5 Web app for use on laptops running the latest Web browser or on mobile devices that don’t have a native version written for them.

By you running this kind of customer-facing software on your device, you have access to the same benefits as you would have on the device that is located at the property. This can benefit you if you end up being enamoured by the hotel you are staying at and can allow you to take it further. For example, you could use the “local knowledge” functionality when you are out and about or even to plan your visit to the same town again; or refer to “in-room dining” menus for suggesting menu options that you have liked.

These kind of customer-facing apps can benefit customers who want to take the experience with your product or service further. This is in a similar way to the concept of the “app-cessory” where there are mobile-platform apps that enhance the functionality of a device or provide an improved user interface for the device or the apps that extend sports events or TV shows by adding value to them.

What I would like to see of these apps is that developers write native apps for the common mobile platforms while writing Web apps for use with unsupported platforms.

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An increasing number of home systems and personal health devices link to our mobile devices


Home, health devices controlled by apps on the rise | The Age (Australia)

My Comments

A trend that is becoming very real in this day and age is for more appliances, home systems and personal healthcare devices to be linked to the home network and the Internet.

This is typically manifested in the form of the devices having control apps being made available for smartphones and tablets that run on common mobile-computing platforms, especially iOS and Android. Typically the device would like to the smartphone or tablet either via a direct Bluetooth link or the home network with the mobile computing device linking to that network via Wi-Fi wireless. Some of these devices that promote “cloud-driven” or “remote-access” functionality make use of the Internet connection offered by the home network or the mobile computing device.

Of course, you have to remember that the use of the “cloud” word is primarily about the vendor or service provider providing either simplified remote access to the device or having user data being stored on the vendor’s servers.

A lot of the apps offer various device control or monitoring functions, with some of the apps linking to a remote Web server for storing user data. This is more so with personal healthcare devices where the goal is to keep a record of measurements that the device obtains on behalf of the user.

Of course, the mobile-computing-platform app may not he the only way to benefit from the connected device’s online abilities. Here, the device could work with a Web-based dashboard page that users can view with a Web browser on their regular-platform or mobile-platform computing device. This situation would come in handy if the concept is to provide more information at a glance or provide greater control of the device.

There is a reality that by 2022 a household with 2 teenage / young-adult children will maintain 50 Internet-connected devices compared to 10 such devices in 2013 according to OECD data and this situation is being described as the “Internet Of Things”.

But there are some issues here with the current ecosystem for these devices and apps. For example, if a user has more appliances and other devices from different manufacturers or service providers, the smartphone or tablet will end up being crowded out with many different apps. The same situation may occur as a device comes to the end of its useful life and is replaced with a newer device which may be from a different vendor. It can lead to users finding it difficult to locate the monitoring or control apps that they need to use for a particular device.

Here, the situation could be rectified through the use of application standards like UPnP so that one can develop apps that can manage many devices from different vendors.

This could also encourage innovation such as the design of “car-friendly” apps or voice-agent (Siri / S-Voice) plugins so that one could benefit from a monitoring or control app when they leave or arrive in the car. Similarly, the software would need to exploit the abilities that iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 / 8 / RT offer within their platforms for “at-a-glance” viewing or user notifications.

It is a change that could take place over the years as the home network exists to be the easy-to-manage small network for an increasing number of devices.

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How should I assess apps from that app store

Windows 8 Store

Windows Store – one of the desktop app stores starting to surface

There is an Increasing number of app stores coming to the fore for each of the mobile and regular computing environments where you can buy and / or download software for your computing device. Some of these also provide for after-the-fact purchasing of add-on options for the software through the software’s user interface.

The situation that affects app stores

But there is a real danger that the app stores are becoming like the bulletin boards and online services that existed before the Internet and the software-download sites that existed in the early days of the Internet. This is where these locations were filled with substandard software that, in some cases, you come across software with very limited functionality that borders on useless but you to pay the developer before you can see a fully-functional package that you can enjoy using.

In the case of the app stores, the substandard software uses a poor-quality user interface or underperforms in a way where the device suffers a short battery life or performs sluggishly. There have been situations where the apps have been used for delivering malware especially through those app stores where there isn’t any real control on the software that is delivered. The limited functionality software also surfaces in these app stores more so with games that require you to buy options or virtual currency in order for you to enjoy playing them.

Even an app store that implements an approval process can be overwhelmed with software pending approval, which can lead to their standards being reduced in order to clear the backlog or increase the software quantity.

Identifying the good apps

IMDB Android

IMDB movie app for Android – one of the good app-store apps

But how do you identify a good app in those app stores and be sure you aren’t downloading a lemon?

  • One sign to look for is if the app has been put in the spotlight. Typically, the app may be positioned as an “editor’s choice” or “spotlight” app for its class or brought up front on the app store’s user interface. Blogs, newsletters and the like operated by the app store may cite the software in the “top picks” articles.
  • In some cases, if you hear your relatives and friends rave on about that app or you see many people in that train play that “time-waster” game on their smartphone or tablet, this could be the sign of a good app.
    You may also find that it’s a good idea to ask a computer-wise friend or relative about the apps you want on your device or get a second opinion on that app.
  • Similarly, the app would have some qualitative reviews in its “product-review” section. Here, you look for repeated reports of particular problems or notice many “copycat” or simplistic favourable comments, which could lead to a questionable app.
  • If you are looking for a “front-end” app for an online service, look for those apps that are published by the service themselves. This also holds true of apps that are linked with product and service brands. Typically these apps are announced through the brand’s advertising channels and the brands are wanting to defend their reputation.
    For example, I would prefer that Apple iOS users who are running newer versions of this operating system that didn’t come with YouTube pick up the Google YouTube app from the iTunes App Store. Similarly, when I was writing my article about the sports scoreboard apps, I recommended those apps commissioned by the sports leagues / codes themselves or the sports broadcasters.
  • The version number of the app may give away clues to the revision cycle that is taking place. Where there is a lot of revision taking place leading to a multi-point number like 1.3.1 typically indicates that there is a level of quality control going on. There may be some exceptions to the rule especially if the app or game is well-written from the start and this may apply with some of the casual games which are based on a known algorithm.
  • It may also be worth looking at what other software the app developer has offered to the app store. Here, look for the kind of reviews the software has as well as whether the software has ever been featured.
  • Also be aware of apps that require permission to use functions or resources not to do with its stated job. These can be about spyware or cause the phone or computer to underperform.
    Here, it may be worth checking the “blurb” about the software in the app store if it is requiring the use of the cameras or the location sensor because some of these sensors are used beyond the obvious. For example, some programs implement the GPS sensor as a distance-measuring tool or an increasing number of programs use the cameras for their machine-vision needs.

In some situations, cutting back on the number of apps on your device can allow it to perform smoothly, and you may have to be ready to uninstall some apps if you find them “swamping” your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Once you know how to sort the wheat from the chaff at your computing platform’s app store, you are in a good position to make sure that the devices that work on that platform are working smoothly.

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