There’s An App For That

My nephews are completely fascinated with my Kindle Fire tablet.  If I have it powered on within a five meter radius of their position, they are instantly at my side – demanding to “play” with their Tía’s “toy”.  As I hardly thought the apps I frequent most – Evernote or Color Note – would hold their attention, and I definitely did not want them to access my internet browser, I needed to find an application that would be both kid friendly and easy to use.  I found that app in Kids Doodle.

The default screen.

When you open the Kids Doodle application for the first time, the screen you are presented with (after the prerequisite introduction/information screen) is blank, except for the six button options across the bottom of the screen.

Click to change background colors and/or erase screen.

The option on the far left is the background changing button.  Every time you touch this option, the screen erases itself and changes background color – almost like ripping off a used piece of blue construction paper to find a fresh green sheet underneath it.  Repeated touches to this option allows the user to cycle through the background colors available: black, navy blue, pale green, green, lime green, white, purple, lavender, peach, bright green, mustard yellow, burnt orange, slate gray, ocean blue…the list goes on.

Click to change your "pen".

The second to last option on the bottom-left hand side of the screen is the pen changing option.  With every touch of this button, the user is presented with a different kind of “pen” to use – giving the child (or adult) different options to pursue while drawing free-hand (with fingers) or with a stylus.  As for the options – the lines can become thin, fat, neon, or faded, and can either show up on the screen as a solid color or continuously change colors the longer the “pen” is used.

The third option from the end on the lower-left hand side of the screen is the Undo button.

Click to undo last action.

Click to change your "pen" into an eraser.

The option to the immediate right of the Undo button is the erase option.  Simply touch this option to transform your “pen” into an eraser.  When finished erasing, touch the pen changing option once to reactivate your “pen” and continue drawing.

Click to watch your drawing come to life, step-by-step!

The option second to the end on the screen’s lower-right hand side is the media button.  From the first “stroke of the pen” to the last on every new “sheet”, the Kids Doodle application records the user’s progress.  Pressing the media button shows the user a video of the picture they have just drawn, step-by-step from start to finish.  The video can be paused, stopped, fast-forwarded, rewound, and played again.

Click to save your masterpiece.

Here you have the option to save your work or share it.

The last option on the bottom-right hand side of the screen is the save button.  Pressing this option will save your current masterpiece into the Kids Doodle folder on your device.  Pressing the menu button on your tablet/phone will also give you the option to save your drawing, as well as the ability to easily share it with friends via email.

If you are looking for an app for your Android device that is easy to use and capable of entertaining curious young minds longer than a few seconds, I would highly recommend this free application for either your phone or tablet.  To download, either click on this link to send the app to your phone via the Amazon app marketplace, or type “Kids Doodle” (created by Bejoy Mobile) into the search bar of the Amazon marketplace on your phone.

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The Continued Memoirs of A Mac Addict (Or, The Transformation of A PC iNto A Mac)

When I decided to take the leap and switch over to a Mac, I wanted to make sure I purchased the right one for me.  As you all know, Mac’s are not cheap: when buying a Mac, the consumer is paying for good quality hardware, for a computer that will last them years longer than a cheaply bought PC (homegrown PC’s are a completely different story).  Low prices tend to be the result of sacrifice – the cheaper the computer, the less features it will come with and the lower the quality pre-existing features will have.

To find out which Mac laptop was right for me, I needed to figure out exactly what I was planning to do with my new computer – how I planned on using it.  Would the MacBook Air be the better choice, or the MacBook Pro?  Which one would suite my needs most?  I hit the search engines (Google), trying to dig up every specification I could find to run a comparison on the two and decide which one would be the better fit.  I read that the Air, while cheaper, had a slower processor, less memory, and a less powerful graphics card than the Pro.  The lightness of the Air did make for a tempting possibility (especially when going back and forth to school and home while navigating the public transportation system.  It would certainly make a book bag much easier to carry), but I valued performance much more than I did aesthetic qualities.  That decision made, it was time to decide which Pro I wanted to buy.  For that, I needed to make a trip to Best Buy.  (To be continued…)

It’s All About Me…With The New Google Search Option, That Is

In searching for a topic about which to blog this evening, I decided to try my luck with the Google search engine.  After opening my web browser to Google’s home address, I noticed that there was a message posted underneath the search bar, informing Google users of the availability of the new Search plus Your World feature.  Curious, I clicked on the informational link attached to the message, eager to know about any new feature my favorite search engine had rolled out.  Search plus Your World is a personalized search option available to Google Plus users, which integrates the content from your Plus circles with the content found in a regular search.  For example, I typed in the word “photos” into the search bar.  The first thing on the page were photos posted by my friends, family, and my self, followed by the expected results of my search – links to Flicker, an advertisement for Walgreens, and so on.  In addition to this, the right hand side of the screen featured a Google map of my search, displaying locations that had something to do with the word “photos”: selling them, developing them, etc.  Below that a section titled “People and Pages on Google+” featured Google+ members that had posted about “photos” on their Plus account – now available for easy perusal to the Google user.

Needless to say, I had a new “toy” to play with for the better part of half an hour.  Just when I think that Google could not possibly get anymore convenient and exciting to use, they give me a new feature to enjoy!  By the way, if you have not read it, yesterday’s post was all about the ISS (International Space Station) and my desire to see it from my own backyard – not just via NASA’s website.  During my “research” into Search plus Your World, I came across an Android app that is supposed to detect when the space station is overhead!  I immediately downloaded it to my phone, and I cannot wait to try it out and see if it works.  If you are curious about this app as well (or just like downloading apps for the sake of downloading apps), it is called ISS Detector by RunaR.  It is available for download from this link to the Android Marketplace website, or by typing “ISS Detector” into your marketplace search bar on your phone – it should be the first result posted.  Happy hunting, fellow stargazers!

The Necessity of Bookmarks

During my downtime, I enjoy reading the many short stories that I find on fiction websites all over the Internet.  Once and a while I get lucky, and the author has ever-so conveniently posted their stories as a PDF file for their readers to download instead of read online.  As a PDF the story made available in its totality, instead of making the reader wait for each and every story update up to its completion.  On my computer, I am able to view these files through the program called Preview – Apple’s answer to the Adobe reader.  With this program, I am able to create bookmarks for myself to go back to should I not finish the story in one sitting.  As real life rarely slows down long enough for more than a few minutes of reading at a time, bookmarks have been transformed from necessity to godsend.

Of course, my laptop is not the only medium through which I read my downloaded stories.  As a firm believer in multi-platform functionality, I have been looking for an Android app that will allow me to not only read my PDF files on my tablet and phone, but to be able to add bookmarks as well.  This was not as easy a task as I thought it would be.  I had hoped that the solution I required wold be found already on my phone.  Naturally, this was not the case.  A few posts ago, I waxed poetic over the Android application QuickOffice Pro, and the wonders of its functionality as a portable office suite.  In addition to the word processing and spreadsheet creating programs included within the app, it also featured a program called QuickPDF – a PDF reader with the added ability of creating and editing PDF files.  After emailing the story to my Google account (an account easily accessible to both my phone and tablet), I opened it with the QuickPDF program and crossed my fingers.  While I was pleased at being able to read my story on my phone/tablet, there was one major problem with the program’s execution: the inability to create bookmarks.  Frustrated, I tried using the Kindle app that came with my tablet, only to be met with the same results.

One quick search for PDF reader applications in the Android marketplace later, and I came across the app ExPDF Reader.  After doing a bit of research, I discovered that this program not only had the ability to create bookmarks with PDFs, it also worked on both tablet and cell phone interfaces!  The only drawback – this is not a free app.  Of course at that point, I was more than willing to spend a few dollars in order to be able to use a product that completely met my needs.  The application is easy to use, storing my PDF files on a “bookshelf” for convenient access and perusal.  Adding bookmarks as easy as clicking a button and giving it a name.  Pages are flipped instead of scrolled through, and managing your files is made simple through the easy-to-use menu.  Thank you, EzPDF – you have made me a very happy customer!

I Google, Do You?

If you have never tried out any of the features that Google offers to their consumers, you have been missing out!  I have only just begun testing out the options that Google offers, and wish that I had thought to do so much sooner.  Today, I needed to work on a project with another person located two and a half hours away from my home.  Instead of using the tedious process of an email chain, or attempting to hash out our differences via a phone call, we decided to take advantage of a few of the benefits available to us as Google mail users.

Google Docs is Google’s answer to the online “office” suite, taking the place of both word processor and presentation and spreadsheet creator.  Think of it as a combination of Word, Powerpoint, and Excel – only with slightly less bells and whistles.  For my and my partner’s project, we chose to use the document half of the program.  In Google Docs, I created a document and typed up all of the work that I had insofar accomplished on my end.  In order for my partner to see what I had created, I turned on the sharing feature, located on the upper-right-hand side of the screen.  I then added in the email address of my fellow group member, giving them permission to both view and edit the document I had created.  The best part of this?  Any editing we did was done in real time – I could see them highlight phrases, add and remove content, change font preferences, etc.  This made the work we did that much faster, being able to make changes right away instead of waiting for a response as we would have had we coordinated our efforts via email.

While being able to collaborate on a document in real time was very convenient, there was still the matter of communicating with one another as we worked out details on the project.  While we could have typed out notes to each other directly on the Google Doc, using it as a form of makeshift instant message transmitter/receiver, we chose to use a much faster means of communication – also offered by Google.  Google Plus is Google’s answer to the call for a social network.  It features many of the same options as are available on Facebook and Twitter, while allowing for more customization of ‘friends’ – or ‘circles’, as Google calls them – and including a ‘hangout’ option for instant socialization via each user’s webcam.  As the ability to speak face-to-face with my partner was a much faster way of communicating than through typing – not to mention much more convenient – I created a ‘hangout’ session with them.  To do this, I clicked the ‘start a hangout’ button on the lower-right-hand side of the screen.  A new window popped up and asked me to select what ‘circles’ I wished to ‘hang’ with specifically, as every person in every one of my ‘circles’ had been selected by default.  I chose my partner’s circle, deselected the ‘your circles’ (everybody) option (as I did not wish to make my work public), and clicked ‘hang out’.  An invitation was automatically sent out to my partner to join me, and by agreeing we were able to both see and verbally communicate with one another using our computers’ built in microphones and webcams.

Combining both Google Docs and Google Plus’ ‘hangout’ allowed us to make short work of our project: the end product was created in less than half of the time it would have taken had we used email, and a fraction of the time we would have spent on the phone.  I would highly recommend these features to anyone in need of an easier way to work on a long distance project (this would have made school projects so much easier had it been around when I needed it!) or even another way to stay in touch with someone they know.  I look forward to discovering all of the things that I can do with my Google account: each new way I can integrate technology into my life and make it that much simpler.  I can only wonder what I might uncover next – and look forward to finding out!