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October 20, 2014 / carlispina

Make Your Photos Look 3D With Seene

Seene LogoPhoto apps are some of the most popular and most fun apps for mobile devices, with each one attempting to set itself apart from all the other photos apps that are available. While not every app successfully offers something new, Seene is one example of an app that transforms what you can do with photos you take with your mobile device. Using a simple process of moving your device in an arc while taking a photo, Seene allows you to create impressive 3D effects in a 2D photo.

Getting started with Seene is simple. You point your device’s camera at your desired subject, tap the screen to bring the photo into focus, press the shutter button, and then continue to move your device in a steady arc until the green circle at the center of the image has expanded fully. After a few seconds of processing, you will have the option to add filters, additional effects, captions, and hashtags to your image before finalizing it. And then, you will have an image that appears three dimensional as you slowly rotate your device from side to side or drag your finger back and forth across the image. Finished images can be shared to Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr from within the app, but you can also make your photos private if you would prefer. From within the app you can also view other users’ images to get inspiration and to see all of the interesting effects that users have created.

Creating a perfect image with Seene takes some practice and as of right now the app doesn’t work very well with smooth, transparent, or moving objects. But, despite these limitations, the app is a fun new tool for creating and sharing impressive images and visual effects. Best of all, it is free, so it is worth trying out if you enjoy taking photos with your mobile device. You can see the app in action in the tutorial below.

October 16, 2014 / carlispina

Find Great New Recipes With SideChef

SideChefWhether you love to cook or have never even turned on your stove, SideChef is a great cooking app. Currently available for iOS devices with an Android version currently in beta testing, the entire app is designed to make it easy to find great recipes and then even easier to follow the recipe while you are cooking.

The first step is to find an interesting recipe. You can browse through recipes by chef, most recently added, featured, or course. You can also search by recipe or find all the recipes associated with a particular tag, such as region of the cuisine or occasion. And if you want to focus on recipes from your friends or favorite chefs, SideChef allows you to follow other users and see their recipes on the “My Feed” page of the app.

Once you have picked a recipe, you can either read through the ingredients and steps in the process (complete with photos) or you can press the “Cook” button, which will prompt the app to start reading the steps in the recipe aloud to you. When you have completed each step, you can either touch the check mark to move on to the next step or use the built-in voice activation to move to the next step without touching your device while cooking. When you get to any step that requires a set period of time, such as a cooking time, the app automatically offers you a timer for that amount of time. If you want to peak ahead at any point to see what is coming next, you can swipe to the future steps and then return to your current step with the tap of a button.

The app has a lot of other nice features built in as well, such as the option to switch units between U.S. units and metric, guidelines that will help you write up and upload a recipe for approval, and an option to email the list of ingredients for a recipe, which is handy if you want to send them to yourself rather than taking your device to the store. Overall, I found it to be a very usable app that amateur chefs will love.

October 13, 2014 / carlispina

Teach Or Learn Programming Concepts with CodeMonkey

CodeMonkeyWith new tools for teaching and learning computer programming concepts emerging all the time, it can be hard to keep up with what is available, but one new option that debuted recently is CodeMonkey. Taking the form of a game, CodeMonkey teaches computer programming by having users attempt to move a cartoon monkey around the screen to help him find his bananas.

The game starts at a very basic level, similar to that seen in other apps aimed at young children, with a focus on teaching users the ideas behind getting a computer to follow a precise set of instructions. To this end, users are primarily asked to simply construct instructions composed of turns and specific numbers of steps rather than being asked to use actual computer code. As the game progresses, it moves on to more complex topics that are more closely aligned with other programming languages, such as for-loops and arrays. New levels are being added on an ongoing basis and CodeMonkey has even been piloting a program for schools, which will make it easier for teachers to integrate CodeMonkey into their classrooms and track students’ progress. They are also working on translations into new languages, which is great for teachers working with non-English speakers.

CodeMonkey is an engaging tool that seems most suited for young learners, who will appreciate the cute characters and animations. Though only basic programming concepts are covered, it is a nice option for introducing programmatic thinking to children.

October 9, 2014 / carlispina

Monitor Instagram Feeds With Picdeck

Picdeck logoIf you are a frequent user of Instagram or manage an Instagram account for an organization, Picdeck is a nice tool to make the process of monitoring Instagram feeds easier. As The Next Web notes, the interface will look familiar to TweetDeck fans, but even if you haven’t used that tool, it is still easy to understand.

The first time you use Picdeck, it will ask you to sign into your Instagram and authorize Picdeck to access information from your account. One you have done that, Picdeck will automatically pull your Instagram feed into the far left column on your page. You can then add additional columns that pull in content from specific users or that include hashtags. The feeds update in almost real time so that you can see new content as it is published to Instagram. The way the columns are displayed can be reordered by clicking on the top left corner of the column and dragging it to the desired location on the screen. You can also delete columns by clicking on the X at the top right of the column. From within Picdeck, you can favorite images or click through to see the images on Instagram. Unfortunately, you can’t post to Instagram from within the tool, but it is nevertheless a good tool for monitoring new additions to Instagram.

October 6, 2014 / carlispina

Mindmap Your Evernote, Dropbox or Google Drive with Mohiomap

mohiomapVisual thinkers will be excited to try Mohiomap. This new application interacts with the user’s Evernote, Dropbox and/or Google Drive accounts to create a mindmap of all of the content on their accounts. Once the content has been added to the map, users can navigate through it either by dragging their mouse or through the integrated search tool, which searches through all of the files. Users can also zoom in and out using the included slider to get an overview of all of the content or focus in on specific nodes. To make the amount of information represented less overwhelming, a separate slider is devoted to “relevance” and allows users to limit their view to only their most recently edited files. You can even open files directly from within Mohiomap, making it a great way to interact with your materials across accounts.

All of the features mentioned above are available for free, but if you opt to pay for a premium account, you can also create connections between nodes, add commentary to them, and view an analytics panel. With a premium account, you will also be able to choose from a number of custom themes. Mohiomap is the perfect option for visual thinkers who need to navigate through files on Evernote, Dropbox or Google Drive. Both the free and the premium versions are well worth a try, depending on your exact needs. You can learn more about the tool in the video below.

October 2, 2014 / carlispina

Make Fantastical Photos and Videos with Matter

MatterLogoThis week at YALSA Blog, I wrote about Matter, an app from Pixite, a company that specializes in photo apps for iPhone and iPads. Using Matter you can add a wide range of otherworldly objects to your existing images to give them a mysterious look. It is a fun app, particularly for photo enthusiasts. You can check out my full review over at the YALSA blog.

September 29, 2014 / carlispina

Ello – A New Social Network

Ello LogoLast week Ello suddenly burst into the collective consciousness of many tech-savvy social media users as the next hot network. While it has been around since last March, it didn’t go viral until last week, when Mashable reported that Ello was “receiving anywhere from 4,000 to more than 30,000 requests an hour.” Suddenly, traditional social networks are full of people looking for invitations to the service, which is still in invitation-only private beta, and publications as diverse as The New Yorker, Gawker, and The Atlantic are reporting on it. Much of this interest comes from the perception that Ello offers a stark alternative to Facebook. Ello initially launched by posting their “manifesto,” which starts with the phrase “Your social network is owned by advertisers” and ends with the phrase “You are not a product.” As privacy concerns and advertising presence has increased on Facebook, many users are suddenly searching for an alternative. However, the jury is still out on whether Ello will really be able to fulfill this role. Even if it is able to build a sufficient user base to compete with Facebook, some have raised concerns about Ello’s lack of privacy features and the fact that they accepted venture capital funding, which leads some to believe that the network won’t stay ad free and committed to its principles for long. The company has responded to these concerns by listing several privacy features in their Coming Soon section and stating that they plan to make money by selling premium features (including privacy features) in the future.

Intrigued by both its sudden popularity and all the commentary swirling around it, I decided to try Ello out myself. Many are describing it as some combination of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, and some elements do feel that way. The layout and look and feel are much more pared down than the average social media site, which has impressed many design fans. The minimalist design consists mostly of black and white with the only colors coming from users’ avatars, items that are posted on the site, and the banners that are hidden at the top of each users’ profile if you scroll up. When you follow people on Ello, you can sort them into Friends  or Noise and they will never know which category you assign them, which offers a way to focus more attention on some users and less on others.

However, with this spare look and approach comes a distinct lack of some features, at least as of right now. For example, the site doesn’t currently support hashtags or any other way of organizing and connecting content, the search functionality has never worked for me (and I haven’t heard of anyone having luck with it), and the user interface isn’t terribly intuitive, which leaves a lot of users feeling like they are blindly clicking around a lot of the time. Some of these limitations are definitely because of the site’s sudden explosion in popularity. While every new user is given a large number of invites to share with friends, the site has had to close off new accounts when it has hit capacity at least once since I started using it less than a week ago. The list of features that are under development (which includes mobile apps, video and audio integration, and notifications of whether someone is online or offline to name just a few) suggests that these growing pains may be short-lived, but it is hard to know whether those features will address all of the concerns people have with the platform and also how much those features might cost given the business model that Ello seems to have in place. As the site becomes more widely known, I’ve seen many people saying that they are starting accounts to reserve their username or to see what everyone is talking about. The true test of Ello will be whether it is able to move beyond this current bout of novelty to become something that users continue to come back to over and over again. For now though, it is an interesting new approach to social networking and if you do check it out, you may be happy to know that Ello has an option to delete your account, though their privacy policy notes that your data “may” remain on backup serves for an unspecified period of time.

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