How Bump’s Photo upload feature works

Technology never fails to amaze me. When I think about it, even a normal phone call seems like an amazing wonder of technology. A lot keeps happening in this field. Especially in the smartphone era, developers keep coming out with clever ideas to surprise us and make our lives easier. One of the most recent apps which brought a clever feature to us is ‘Bump’. It is a sharing app for Android and iOS users which allows users to simply bump each others’ phones and send text, contacts, photos etc from one device to another. That’s something bump has been doing ever since its inception years ago. Recently, they added a photo upload feature which allows a user to upload photos from a phone to PC by simply bumping the phone with the PC keyboard’s spacebar. Here’s a small graphic below which instructs the user about the new feature:

You just need to go to photos.bu.mp and get started. Once you have bump on your phone installed, that is.

When I first saw this, I was extremely impressed. On hindsight, this looks like a feature which makes you think..”How do they really do this?”.. Then I thought about figuring this thing out. Its actually a very simple trick.

The system requires both your phone and PC to be on the same network. That is the reason why they ask for location sharing when you head to photos.bu.mp. As shown above, you need to bump your phone with the spacebar to get things started. Well, it turns out that’s not the only way to do it. I took my phone and bumped it with a table, while pressing the keyboard on my PC at the same time. And bam! both the devices got connected. All the app does is to use a keyboard press + a bump anywhere to authorize the connection. The rest, as you know, works just like a normal wireless transfer would.

Yeah, its not a huge discovery, but it shows how the devs have used a simple idea and cleverly packaged it as a magical feature. One more good thing about this feature is that its a great way to transfer photos from a phone to the desktop PC. You can also use Photo stream to do this and more if you have an iDevice, but this is kinda cool.

And because a picture is like a thousand words, here’s my illustration explaining the same as above.

Theming Gmail: Make G-mail look better

A lot of talk has been going on ever since Google decided to change the design of all its web services. Not many care about google+ etc, but when it comes to how gmail looks, people certainly care. Last week, I came across this post by Jason crawford where he shows us what his gmail inbox looks like. Crawford states in his post:

Reports are coming in from around the Internet that the Gmail redesign, which we were previously able to stave off with “revert to the old look temporarily”, is now forcing itself upon us. I too have succumbed to the new design, and have been forced to find ways to cope.

Unlike him, I personally like the new ‘layout’ better than the old one. I say ‘layout’ because I am perfectly ok with the flow of the interface, but not with all the white space and red ‘call to action’ buttons. That blood red compose button in gmail is always annoying. Moreover, all that white space is also not pleasing to the eyes. I have overcome all these niggles through some simple steps.

Switch to cozy view

Under the gears icon in gmail, three different view options are available. Comfortable is too spacey and compact is too cramped. Cozy is the view which strikes a balance between the two.

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Switch to the blue theme

Under the gears icon, go to themes and select the blue theme. Trust me, there can’t be a color more pleasing to the eyes than blue. For one, its not a distracting color and helps stay focused. Also, the blood red buttons and white space is gone in this theme.

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Before/After

Screenshots of how it looked before and after..

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Before..

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After..

….

This is just my personal opinion about gmail should look. If you have customized your gmail in a different way, let me know in the comments.

Gmail tricks: best of the best

Top 10 gmail tricks

Lifehacker has some of the best tips and tricks for gmail. The ones invoked by google scripts are really good.

Use Photostream to quickly transfer photos and screenshots

Photostream iconOur smartphones and desktops come with some really cool features and most of us use it only in the way it has been advertised. However, no matter how subtle it may be, there are various angles to any particular feature. Photostream on iOS has one major use: ‘to find all your photos from your iphone/ipad on your desktop/mac’. iCloud takes care of this. When you click a picture on your iphone, it goes to iPhoto on mac and to a user specified folder on windows.

Porting screenshots

A lot of designers and developers use screenshots to study the design, post screenshots of their apps or for various other reasons. I came across this post by John Marstall (via Shawn blanc) who gives us a quick rundown on transferring screenshots to a Mac. Since Photostream for Mac uses iPhoto, and not folders (like windows), his method to create a custom folder is very useful and handy.

On windows : Apple offers a software for windows, aptly named ‘iCloud control panel’ . This app keeps your bookmarks from safari, contacts from outlook etc; in addition to photo stream in sync. Users are required to point the software to two folders, one for downloads and another for uploads. You take a screenshot/pic, and its there in the downloads folder instantly. The original purpose is to find all your photos from camera roll, but since screenshots are directly saved to camera roll, I find it as an easy way to transfer screenshots.

Transferring photos

Back when there was no iCloud, I used iTunes to transfer photos from my PC to iPod. I never liked the way iTunes handled the transferring of photos. But now, its very easy to ditch iTunes. I just copy photos I want to transfer into the uploads folder and find it on my iPhone’s photo stream album. Then, I create new albums and copy the photos into their respective albums. Simple.

Its a lot easier than connecting my phone to iTunes and wait for everything to sync.

So those were two new dimensions to how you can use Photostream. Thanks for reading.

Download links: iCloud control panel for windows

Setting up iCloud on Windows or Mac

Sync Google calendar with Windows 7

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img via open clipart

I love to use all web services from all my devices. Contacts, Notes, To-do lists; and Calendar is no exception. Google Calendar has got to be one of the best services out there. I already access Gcal from my iPhone and iPad through Exchange. But accessing the service from my Windows desktop PC has always been a pain. There is nothing to take away from the web interface, but I like to view appointments in a simple and quick manner without much point and click. Gcal syncs with outlook but even that isn’t simple and minimal.

What you need

Windows live calendar gadget

How it works

  • Sign into Google calendar, select the calendar you want to sync from My calendars, access the dropdown menu and openCalendar settings. Under Private address, click ICAL and copy the address shown.
  • Right click anywhere on your desktop, go to gadgetsand drag and drop the Windows Live calendar gadget. Select options, and now paste the URL you copied in the previous step. And that’s all there is to it. All your events will now be synced with Gcal.

Do remember that this gadget cannot be used to add events. Its just to view your events- A trade-off for all the ultra-simplicity you get.

Quick tip:A software fix for an unresponsive home button on your iDevice

The home button is both iconic and the most abused part on an iPhone or iPad. I have seen many struggle with a sticky or unresponsive home button. Here’s a quick and dirty fix for the unlucky ones:

Open Settings > General > Accessibility. Find Assistive  Touch and turn it on. You have a nice little software home button floating on your screen.

Home button fix

Not one of the best methods to fix the home button, but its quick, easy and doesn’t cost you a penny.

Some other methods:

  • Recalibrate the home button
Open a stock app(clock, calendar,etc) and hold the power button till the slide to power off appears. Then, keep holding the home button until you see your home screen. 50/50 chances of this working.
  • Replace with a new button
  • Reboot your device (Techpp suggests rebooting  your device often could solve the problem)
  • And if nothing works, buy a new device 😉

Free alternatives to Photoshop

Adobe’s Photoshop is one software which is used by various kinds of professionals. Photographers, Designers, Artists.. all of them use this software. But not all of us use it extensively. It is an expensive software and is a waste of hard-earned money if you use it only occasionally. And even those who choose to go the pirated way, it is more of a hassle to install such a heavy software. The open source community is always there to please one and all to shower freebies on the end user. So here’s the list of free Photoshop alternatives:

GIMP

It is a very good image editor and can do almost everything that Photoshop can. Download

GIMP is not an easy-to-use tool and requires some learning. You can learn to use GIMP using this great e-book: Grokking the GIMP

Paint.NET

Its not only free, its one of the lightest image editors out there at 3.5mb. Great for some quick editing and cropping.  Download

Picnik

Though it cannot be considered as a solid alternative to Photoshop, it is great fro some quick editing. It is as simple and quick as it can get with image editors. All you have to do is visit their site, import your photos(via flickr, photobucket, etc. or from your PC) and get started. Its purely an online editor and no installation or registration is required. They have one-click filters which can be applied easily. Visit Picnik

Aviary

Another Online image editor which doesn’t require registration. They offer plenty of editing options and effects through their what they call as advanced tools. For developers, they have Web and Mobile APIs which they can use in their apps. Visit Aviary

(thanks to @pradeek for the tip)

Photoshop Online

Photoshop offers a super-light bare bones version of its software on Photoshop.com. Again, this is an online editor but requires you to sign up with Adobe unlike Picnik which doesn’t require any registration.

Tips to keep your inbox clean

E-mail management is an art by itself. Managing all those emails you receive can become a headache if you get too many . You can simplify your online life and save time by following these tips to manage your mailbox. It will also help you cope with online stress. After all, nobody likes to see 100’s of emails waiting to be read every time they login to mail.

1. Use push mail service

If you own a smartphone or a feature phone which can handle e-mails, make sure you have the mail client in your phone setup. In this way, you can receive email without having to check your inbox manually from time to time. And in this way, you will be able to reply to urgent emails quickly and the other person will also feel good about it. Also, tweak the notification system on your mobile to keep yourself from getting distracted.

2. Pin your mail service as ‘app tab’ in your desktop browser

Google chrome and Mozilla firefox both offer a feature which allows users to pin web sites as app tabs. These app tabs also display an unread mail counter and the tab lights up whenever you receive new mail. In this way, you can keep in touch with your email inbox while simultaneously browsing other websites.

3. Hit the ‘Spam’ button, not the delete button for spam mails

A lot of people delete spam mails instead of hitting the ‘Report  spam’ button. Deleting the mail wont prevent it from showing up in the inbox the next time. So, whenever you see a spam mail, hit the ‘report spam’ button.

4. Use filters and folders

Many receive newsletters from various websites. While its not a bad thing to subscribe to newsletters, it is important to keep them organized in a separate folder so that they don’t get mixed up with other important stuff. Gmail offers filter settings which can make the emails you specify skip the inbox and directly go to the said folder.

A few more tips:

I came across this productivity tip on ‘Know the network’ for handling emails:

Master Your Email with 3 Folders

Take back control of your inbox by creating 3 folders; Action, Hold, and Archive. Here’s how it works.

  1. Action – Every time you receive an email decide if you can respond in under 1 minute. If you can, then do. Otherwise drop it into the Action folder to be processed as soon as possible.
  2. Hold – If the email concerns an active situation but you are waiting for more info or a response it goes here.
  3. Archive – self explanatory.

That’s it. Simple but effective.

Of course, this is a great way to manage mail if you don’t want to create too many folders.

What’s your way of keeping the inbox clean? Do you have any other tips to share? Let me know through your comments.

 

 

3 Location-based iOS apps you must try

Whats the use of a smartphone if you don’t put its GPS radio to the fullest use? Apart from using the in-built maps to find a route or simply look-up a location or address, there are plenty of things you can do with your GPS-enabled iPhone. These three apps allow you to do a lot more and  make smartphones really smart:

1. Google places:

You must have heard of it already and its one of the most reliable services when it comes to finding local banks, restaurants, tourist spots and other places based on your location. Contrary to the notion that Google doesn’t make good apps for iOS, this one is an exception. Its tightly integrated with the maps app and doesn’t interfere in you discovering locations by adding unnecessary features. Its to the point, and does what it is meant to do.

App store link: Google Places (free)

2. Location Alarm:

This is a one of a kind app. Imagine you want to be reminded of something when you reach a particular location. You simply search for any location from the app, and set an alarm with the suitable label for that location. The app even updates the distance between your current location and the destination(or the location you have set the alarm for). You can even change the radius of the alarm based with respect to the destination location. And, there’s also a neat little trick with this app: The app updates the current speed along with the distance. So, you can even use this as a speedometer to find out the speed at which you are traveling.

Note: The location based alarm feature is not to be confused with iOS 5’s reminders app’s ability to set location alarms. It allows you to set alarms only based on your current location and a contact’s address.

App store link: Location Alarm ($0.99)

3. Foursquare:

It is the king of location-based social networks and doesn’t need any introduction. The foursquare app does all that Google places can do and a lot more. Its a very well designed app. The best part is the reviews from other users about a place which can be really helpful. The new ‘Explore’ tab is a great feature which lets you explore recommended and trending nearby places. Lists are also very useful if you are traveling to a new place. Lists are created by other users and are shown to you with relevance to your location. ’10 must visit places’, ‘best places to eat’,etc are just a few examples of lists. Though this app can feel a little complicated to some users, the foursquare service has a great utility value and has a lot more to it than simple check-ins and badges.

App store link: Foursquare (free)

Two free online alternatives to Microsoft Office

Not many of us know about web apps. Web apps are sometimes as powerful as their desktop counterparts and are much more simple to use. Read on to find how you can improve your productivity through these free MS Office alternatives.

Every PC/Mac user has always used Microsoft’s celebrated office suite of applications on their desktop. It works flawlessly and is one of the best around. Desktop apps are extremely powerful and can be used to get work quickly done. But it does come at a cost. It costs a whopping $ 600 for the full fledged office suite. The basic version costs $200. Plus, these suite of apps take up a lot of disk space. And don’t forget the hours you have to spend downloading them from the web.
There exists an alternative to MS Office for desktop which is completely free: Openoffice. There are quite a few free desktop office suites available in the market these days. But this post isnt about desktop apps at all. This post is about online alternatives; aka web apps. Lets analyse a few advantages of web apps before I provide the list.

Web apps can be accessed anywhere. The internet is like god. its omnipresent and whatever work you do is saved in your online account.

    • They don’t eat up hard disk space.
    • You can share your work easily with others and collaborate. A great advantage if you are doing a project and a group is working on the same file.
    • Never hit the save button again. All of your work is auto-saved.
    • Best of all, its Free.

1. Google Docs

My personal favorite. Over the years, Google docs has matured and can do almost everything MS office does and a little more. It contains the following apps:

    • Documents- used to create .doc and .docx files.

Its a very good document editor. An added advantage: go to file->download as and you have got the option to save the file as not only .doc but as pdf, html, odt, rtf ,etc. And no, MS office cannot do that.

    • Spreadsheets- Create spreadsheets.
    • Forms – used to create forms, publish them online, collect data. This is a very useful feature and is good for those who want to collect information from a group of online users. Data collected is stored in a spreadsheet.
    • Presentation – create slideshows.
    • Drawings- very useful tool if you want to do wire-frames and simple drawings.
    • Collections- create a collection of documents in a folder and share it with others.

One more major feature in Google docs- Discussions and comments. What it does is that it allows you to comment on a document or on selected words. This works wonders when working as a team.

2. Microsoft Office Live

No, I am not kidding. There exists a free,legal version of MS office on the web. It can be accessed using your hotmail/windows live account. Sign in to Windows Live and the  options for office live is present under the SkyDrive tab.

MS office live has four apps:
Word, powerpoint, excel and oneNote(it is a productivity app).

Even though well implemented, there are a few caveats in microsoft’s online suite. There are no multiple file formats available for documents and the above stated discussions feature which is there in Google Docs. But people who have always used MS office and want a familiar interface, can try this out. Again, since its a web app, documents are auto-saved and accessible anywhere. Talking about oneNote, its a very good productivity app. But its for power users only.
If you want a simple app for tasks management, then this is not the one for you. Use Google tasks instead as a simple task manager inside gmail.
So if you love MS office’s interface and use a hotmail/live account, then MS office live is a good option.
MS office live is a part of Microsoft’s Skydrive service and there are a lot of things you can do with it.  But I will write about skydrive on another day.

There are tons of amazing web apps. We will try to cover many more in the posts to come. Thanks for reading!

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