Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Following the successful launch last year, Photofast have raised the bar again with their new CR-8800. The MemoriesCable, for those of you that don’t remember, gave a new lease of life to iOS devices with low storage capacities and provided users – for the first time -with the ability to transfer files between iOS devices and an external storage medium.

The cable could also be plugged into any computer via USB to transfer content to the built-in memory and to be honest, it worked brilliantly. The companion app was a delight to use, with powerful copy tools, backup features and even a built in video player seemingly capable of playing all video codecs.

I couldn’t think of many drawbacks –  it really did bring removable storage to fixed storage iOS devices and it felt ground-breaking.

But there was one drawback.- only made so glaringly apparent by this new unit – and that’s true removable storage. More on that shortly.

Let’s get on with the unboxing!

The unit is very nicely packaged in a clear plastic box reminiscent of CD jewel cases:

img_1251

Anybody remember CDs? No? Nevermind…

The unit is absolutely tiny, only a little bigger than the micro-SD cards it uses:

img_1338

For comparison, here is the unit next to a 64GB Samsung Micro-SDXC card and adaptor that I bought for testing:

img_1271

Once plugged into your iPad/iPhone, iOS will prompt you to download the companion app, or, if already installed, to launch it.

The app used is the same, excellent One app from Photofast, first seen on the TechSpy in our MemoriesCable review:

img_0495

The same functionality is here as before, and I’m not going to go through all the features again, as we already have it in detail.

 

So what does the CR-8800 bring to the table over the MemoriesCable ?

True removable storage.

In my review of the Mio MiVue 518 dashcam, I had to use a USB card reader and a laptop to view the recorded videos on a larger screen. It was cumbersome but how often would I need to do that anyway?

The GoPro use case is much clearer. Let’s say I’ve gone out for a day mountain biking and I’ve recorded footage of my exploits on my GoPro. In the past, I would have had to finish for the day, go home and put the SD card into my computer before I could select and edit the clips.

Now I can do the selection and editing without a computer. Armed with just the CR-8800 and an iPhone / iPad, I can spend all day biking and recording, instantly discarding bad shots and editing good ones in the field (so to speak).

Other more mundane uses include DSLR video imports and AVCHD camcorder video imports, neither of which are possible using Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter.

At only £32 at the time of writing, the CR-8800 is a steal. It’s well designed and comes backed with an established app with an extensive features list.

The CR-8800 is available now on Amazon

The Tech Spy rating:  9.5 /10

As an exclusive offer, The Tech Spy readers can get 15% off using the code: tts15off

 

Advertisements

It is amazing the things you can do on a tablet nowadays. The games you can play and the uses are endless. From talking to your friend half way across the world for free to editing a hi-res photo with professional detail while on the sofa listening to music. It makes me think of what did we actually do when we were younger? How did we survive? How did our parents keep us entertained?!

As a parent myself, it worries me that my child uses the iPad far too much and sometimes we all rely on it far too often. I have even seen my son walk up to a digital photo frame and swipe to the right to see the next picture, but left feeling slightly confused as it doesn’t work.

The question is, are children nowadays too reliant on modern technology and is the imagination that I think we had, going to be lost to a processor? This question can only be answered as time goes by and we see what happens to the next generation.

All is not lost though…A company called Tangible Play (made up of old Google staff) have released Osmo, a new crowd funded app for kids that encourages ‘real world’ play. It allows the user to pick up things and build using their hands, thanks to a mirror attachment which turns the iPad’s camera to view the surface where your child is playing.

Recently I have looked around the App Store and failed to find anything that is different or breaks boundaries, but this app is very different and we should stand up and take notice.

All of the games to be used with this kit are optimised for ages 6-12 but each game has a varying range of difficulty. Take Newton, it’s a physics game, which uses the same concept as “Cut The Rope” where players can use any object, from lines on a piece of paper to a toy or even their own hands to control the stuff on screen. All you really need is a piece of paper and a pen to get started.

Tangram, is a game where puzzle pieces in the real world must be matched to the shapes on screen. The kit comes with an iPad stand and mirror connector and promotes your child’s creativity as suddenly the brain is thinking in many dimensions!

I do not only love this as a educational toy for my kids, but also as a concept in itself. It is not often you get something that comes along that breaks the mold and creates a whole new genre of games….this might just be that thing.

Available now on the Osmo Website for $49. This is a steal considering what you get and of course this will double once pre-orders have been fulfilled. The company is concentrating on developing the apps, but will eventually open this up to developers to create their own games….so watch this space.

Check out the Osmo video

 

 

The iPhone 5S and 5C are out today for general consumption….what do we think? So we have all had time now to have a play around with iOS7 and maybe even some of you are used to the new Window-esque colour scheme and font.

The Tech Spy has been testing this for just over a month now and we have to say that it is not bad at all. OK, some things are a little hard to get used to (Swiping left to delete in mail) but this is due to the fact the old style had almost become second nature to us and this is what Apple do best….making products an extension of ourselves.

One of the first things we thought about after using it and have had several people comment on the same situation, is will Apple allow a back to “Classic View” button which will take the iOS7 haters back to the old themes. Although we think this is not a bad idea, this really isn’t Apple’s style and feel they will not introduce this.

Leaving this aside, one of the features which really hasn’t received that much press and really must be annoying the carriers is the new FaceTime Audio feature. Think FaceTime, but without the Face!

Basically, this works as a VOIP service and goes over Apple’s servers and feels just like a normal call. You will need to be calling from an Apple device with iOS7 and the person receiving the call must also have it loaded. Over WiFi the sound is brilliant and much better than a normal phone call….oh and best of all….it’s free! So we are talking Skype-type calling from your iPhone to anyone else in the world with an iPhone/iPad for free.

When you go into the contact (shown in image below) you are wanting to call, under FaceTime you will see a little phone icon which shows that contact has loaded the new iOS and is able to accept this type of call.

Give it a try, we think this is a great feature which has gone a little under the radar….Let us know what you think.

Facetime_iOS7_pressimage

 

The internet….an amazing invention that is still constantly evolving and never ceases to amaze us.

As we sit on the brink of “The Internet of Things” taking over our lives and modern warfare not just being fought on the ground or air but in the form of hacking over the web, one thing never changes….our kids will still need protecting.

Since its inception, the internet has posed a threat to the innocence of children. From the adult nature of some websites to the total connection to the world that sometimes children just shouldn’t see at certain ages. The thought as a parent of having to police access to the internet seems daunting and almost impossible to some, but a group of individuals think they have found the answer.

The guys over at Elameno Inc have created the Circle, a clever little device which can be used as a smart filter to the outside world. It’s a neat little box which just needs power and connects to your router wirelessly. Circle acts as a WiFi client for all devices on the managed network, sending out network packets to each connected device, informing them to send all packets back to Circle.circle1

Here’s what Circle does;

SMART FILTER: Ensure only age/user-appropriate content reaches your kids by setting individual filtering levels by category for each device on your network.

TIME MANAGEMENT: Circle can manage online usage by allowing timed access based on by category (i.e., social media sites, gaming, videos…etc) or by specific site.
INFORM & NOTIFY: See at a glance the amount of time your kids spend on certain sites or categories of sites.  Set customizable notification schedules for both positive and negative Internet activity on the devices in your home from your app.
PAUSE MODE:  Temporarily restrict Internet access to every device on your network. Pause Mode can be set manually at any time (i.e., dinner at 5pm).
BEDTIME MODE: Set downtime for individual devices on your network (i.e., son’s iPad downtime from 10pm to 7am) where Internet access is disabled.
SAFE MODE: Safe mode automatically recognizes, and adjusts filtering settings, to Internet activity of children under 5 years old, who often use an adult’s device for games and other activities online. Adults can easily unlock Safe Mode when they resume using the device.
AD BLOCKING: Toggle off web advertisements so they don’t show on any of your devices or just those your kids use.
MANAGE: Manage Circle using a brilliantly simple, user-friendly app for iOS.
SIMPLIFY: Simple setup in your home with one login. Circle remains active even when unplugged.

With an amazing array of tools for any parent bringing up their child in the digital age, Circle really does provide control and protection from the Internet. These guys have even thought about your cunning children unplugging the device to disable the filter, basically just installing an internal battery to carry on supplying power to the unit which is charged while on the mains. It can’t be turned off, disconnected from the router or manipulated without the main iOS app.

Circle couldn’t be easier to set up with a pairing button to connect it to the network and allow the app to control the box which then allows you to begin setting up your household’s security.

This same app provides all the data to the parent supplying information like what sites your users are on real-time and how long they have been using the internet and individual websites. The app allows management of each user separately allowing different settings for each and even setting safe modes on parents devices which some kids may pick up.

More features of the app;

  • User Profiles (includes user activity, devices & individual reports)
  • Device Profiles (includes profile & user information)
  • Time Management (per device & user profile)
  • Device Modes (Bedtime & Safe)
  • Network Pause Mode – when you just want to turn the internet off
  • Guest Devices

circle2

We at TheTechSpy believe in giving the children of today all the access they need to flourish, but it does need to be policed and this device over at Kickstarter does just that. These devices are not available for shipping until August 2014 and are starting at a princely $175 on an early bird pledge, but we think they are worth the wait and most parents should invest in one.

As much as we trust our children, most will attempt to break the rules and pull the wool over their parents eyes….it’s what they are good at…. we have all done it, it’s just the CIRCLE of life.

 

 

Up until now, if you wanted to play a downloaded video on your iPhone or iPad, you would either have to download an Apple-friendly MP4 version or convert it to one.

Apple’s iPhone 5 specification webpage states that it will natively play H.264 video up to 1080p, 30 frames per second, High Profile level 4.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats’.

The problem with this is that for the vast majority of downloadable HD videos, MKV is the container of choice. It has become so popular because of it’s flexibility – it can contain almost any codec for both video and audio tracks – indeed it can have multiple of either track – and has excellent subtitle support too.

Most MKV files will contain an H264 video track which iOS can play, but the MKV container is not recognised and the audio track is invariably not in the preferred stereo AAC format. An MKV video file is simply not recognised by iOS.

The options until a couple of years ago were to either convert the entire video into a recognised file format or ‘remux’ it. There are a myriad of encoding applications available for both the OSX and Windows, but are usually easy to use paid-for applications or perplexing free ones.

Converting the entire file loses quality on both the audio and video tracks and to make matters worse could take a very long time to accomplish on all but the fastest machines.

Remuxing on the other hand is a clever process whereby the application separates the H264 video track from the audio track, and then converts only the audio stream to AAC before stitching them back together again in a friendly MP4 format. Result? No loss of quality for the video, and a playable file.

A few years ago, Apple relaxed the policies on the App Store to allow third party developers to publish their own video players. These have until recently only been able to play unofficial formatted files in software. What this means is that instead of using the dedicated video chip, it uses the CPU to decode it. This can result in a lot of dropped frames, making the video appear jerky and also massively decreases battery life.

Around a year ago, Dolby, angered by lack of money generated through licensing Dolby Digital decoders, requested Apple to stop any developers providing apps on the App Store that could decode Dolby Digital soundtracks without paying Dolby a licencing fee. Apple responded, and all apps that could play Dolby Digital soundtracks were pulled and were only allowed to be republished once either the functionality was removed or the developer paid Dolby a licensing fee.

Google however, seems to have come to the rescue.

It was discovered this week that if you upload an MKV file to Google Drive in what seems like ANY format, including soundtracks in DTS, you can then download (or stream) it using the Google Drive app on iOS immediately. These files are played in the stock video application, meaning that GPU accelerated decoding is being used, keeping battery drain to a minimum. It would seem that Google is quite happy to do the remuxing/converting for you in real time without any cost to you using their servers. Quite why Google is willing to do this is up for debate, but for now, let the good times roll and stop converting!

 

Written by our guest writer Phil Carroll.

 

340225-google-drive

So TheTechSpy has been busy this weekend playing with his iPhone and like all Gadgeteers out there, couldn’t wait for a glimpse of iOS 7 on a device.

Now let’s get the boring stuff out the way, we were testing the beta software for reviewing purposes only and in no way condemn you putting this beta software on your iOS device before its official launch unless you are a developer. TheTechSpy does not recommend any of the software used or take any responsibility for them, these are just the ones we used.

It is quite a simple process, so here is what we did;

1: Backed up our iPhone to iTunes

2: In the mean time we downloaded the beta software for our iPhone 5 CDMA A1429 from here

3: And then downloaded a DMG extractor

4: Use the free DMG extractor to open the downloaded file and extract the DMG/IPSW and put this in a location that you know (it will be the biggest file in the folder)

5: Once complete, we clicked on our device name on the left pane of iTunes.

6: Clicked the Summary tab

7: With our finger on the Shift key, click the “Restore” button and point the browser to the file you have just downloaded.

8: iTunes then began to restore the iPhone with the iOS7 beta software.

We are very pleased with the firmware version and are looking forward to the official launch in September to get our teeth really into this software.

 

ios-7-dmg-to-ipsw

 

 

 

 

So TheTechSpy has been very busy recently….not only enjoying the rare UK sunshine while surveying the world of tech but we have also been building a website for you guys to enjoy all of our blogs in one place. It is nearly finished, but you can take a sneak peek over on TheSpyGroup

The first issue we came across when building the website was that we could not find a simple way to display our Facebook posts in one place. After some serious research, we came across a small team of individuals with a revolutionary product…. Tint.

Let’s start off with what Tint actually is and I think it is best explained in their own words;

“Tint is a simple, yet effective tool that lets anyone aggregate any social media feeds into one page and embed it anywhere they want.

You can aggregate from Facebook pages, Twitter accounts/hashtags, Instagram accounts/hashtags, Youtube channels, etc. and embed it beautifully into any website, WordPress, Tumblr, Wix, mobile apps, Facebook Pages, and more!”

I could not have put it better myself 😉

The TintUp Widget displays like Pinterest with a beautifully flowing board of tiles and is easy to embed into your website. With the likes of Squarespace and Wix allowing it, you just need to create a login with Tint and create the code which is a piece of cake. Once in your chosen website management board, you embed the code by simply copying and pasting it from Tint.

Tint allows you to customise your feed from within the admin pages with various themes, colours and options and is supported by some of the biggest names in website creation;

Tint

The product is quite versatile and interestingly the guys at Tint also suggest using the product on a stand at an exhibition. People at the show could have their message on the board just by using the designated hashtag with the stand having full moderation control over what is posted.

One of the biggest positives for using this widget is the support you get from Tint. They pointed us in the right direction and helped us to create the product we wanted. Tim ( The CEO) was particularly helpful with the whole process and shows a great interest in his customers whether they are paying or not which is very rare (Thanks Tim). They are a very small team but seem to cover every hour needed by the client over email and even chat.

Here is one of our Tint boards displaying feeds from our sister company TheCarSpy

spygroup

Overall this is a great widget! Easy to use, customise and moderate and works with all the big names of website creation. Amateurs and professionals alike can use this product and both will get an equally slick operation. Of course the product in our opinion needs a few little tweaks, for example it is a little slow delivering embedded code and could do with an option to be able to choose what part of your title is in bold, but saying this it hasn’t stopped us from using them across our website and we believe this will only improve.

If you are looking for an aggregated social media feed to impress on your website, take a look at Tint, they get a thumbs up from TheTechSpy.

Please visit our new website TheSpyGroup