Tag Archives: android

Google + now has improved photo editing

Google+ Instant Upload is a great feature – in fact it’s a good enough reason on its own to use Google +. I used it every day on a recent three-week tour of the Peloponnese: whatever photos I took on my Android camera phone were automatically uploaded to my Google account whenever I connected to a wifi network. Since most accommodation now has free wifi, uploading the hundreds of photos I took was absolutely painless.

Where Google + has fallen short in the past has been the editing tools, which have been so limited that it’s usually necessary to move the photo first into a separate photo editing package. But Google has now added Picnik editing tools into the Google + photo library page. See the screenshot on the right for what’s available.

The Halloween menu doesn’t interest me, and the Effect menu is somewhat limited – I would probably still choose to add effects using Android software on my phone such as Vignette or Little Photo. But the Basic Edits menu provides a very useful set of tools to fix the commonest problems. For example, the rotate tool now has a free rotate option to straighten photos as well as simple 90° rotation.

Editing photos in Google + was previously very limited but the set of tools imported from Picnik make this a much more effective package now for managing photos.

 

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Android for Teachers: easy APA referencing

QuickCite is a simple app which uses your android phone’s camera to scan a barcode from the back of a book. The app then looks up the barcode in an online database and emails you a reference to the book in a standard format.

What I like about QuickCite

  • The app is generally fast to scan the barcode and return a result.
  • The app seems mostly reliable in returning a result for non-fiction books.
  • QuickCite is very simple and it’s easy to set set up. On the configuration screen you enter your email address and select one of the four available formats: APA, MLA, Chicago, and IEEE.

What I don’t like about QuickCite

  • QuickCite is not so good at returning a result for fiction books. If you need to create APA references for lots of novels, you might be disappointed.
  • The app doesn’t always behave as you’d expect of an Android app – eg the back button on your phone does not work when a scan is completed.
  • The only option for sharing the reference is via email – one of the strengths of Android is the ability to easily share content with social networks tools or cloud services.
  • The only option is to receive each reference as a separate email. A much better option would be for the app to save each reference into a file which you can then send via email at the end of a scanning session.

Overall, the QuickCite app seems a little unfinished for a paid app, and it doesn’t appear to have been updated since its initial release. But if all you need is a simple app that scans a single book and emails you the reference, it could be for you.

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Android for teachers: simple, tasty photos for the web

One thing I really like about my Android phone (LG P500) is the camera feature. It’ll never replace my real camera but it’s always with me, so I can take a quick snap even when I’m teaching. Plus there are imaging apps which make it a great tool for fast and easy creation of images.

For example, Vignette is a camera app for Android which has a free demo version as well as a paid version. The free version is limited to .3M pixel images, but these are fine for small illustrative images on a web page. The software has a wide range of effects which are fast and easy to use. And they provide some useful tweaks for web display.

For example, some of these effects produce a small square image (about 500 x 500) with a white border. So it’s really easy to produce a web-optimised image that is small and fast to download and has a built in margin for text wrapping. The image shown here is just 49KB and uses the Velvia filter which increases colour saturation. It’s not a great photo, but I love how fast and easy it is to capture an image like this, all ready for sharing on the web.

And because Android is a very ‘open’ OS, once you’ve captured the image there are many options for sharing it. Vignette will send the photo to Twitter, Facebook, email or other apps you use. I use the WordPress app which allows me to edit posts and pages on my phone, and Android makes it easy to send the photo directly from Vignette to a new WordPress post. Again, fast and easy – and a lot more flexible than just having a ‘Send via email’ option which I got used to on an iPhone.

Where there is a need for high resolution and high quality images a phone camera is not going to be appropriate. But where all that’s needed is a quick informal snap, a phone camera can be a great tool. Many of the teachers I work with don’t find it easy to get to grips with optimising images for the web. An Android phone* with Vignette is an easy way to get images into a blog or an LMS like Moodle, and it also integrates well with many of the social software platforms they use. I’d recommend it as a useful tool for teachers wanting a simple and convenient way to enhance their online presence with images.

* Note: not all phone cameras are equal. I chose one with 3 MP resolution and macro capability, but no flash as I prefer to use natural light anyway. Others will have very different needs.

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Is the iPad just too big?

The ideal form factor of a hand-held mobile computing device is always going to involve lots of trade-offs:

  • If you use it for reading and browsing, roughly the size of a book seems sensible. To me, the current iPad seems a good size for this purpose, although Paul Miller thinks the iPad is too big even as a reading device.
  • If you use it as a phone, you want something you can hold to your ear comfortably. The iPad is just too big. Anything much bigger than (say) an iPhone and you’ll need a bluebooth headset or accessory. More stuff to cart around.
  • If you use it as a camera, you need to be able to hold it up to your face. Again, the iPad is too big, so an external camera would be needed and more stuff to cart around.

Steve Jobs clearly states that the iPad won’t get any smaller and that for many purchasers it will replace the laptop computer. But one of the strengths of the laptop is the relatively open connectivity provided for both hardware and software. The iPad doesn’t (yet) provide such an open plug-and-play system.

The iPad is a beautiful device but is not yet the ideal touch-screen device for me. If it’s going to be this big, it needs to be more capable of real work and not rely on closed proprietary OS features. Personally, I’d prefer it about half the size it is now, all ready to go everywhere with me as a phone, camera, browser, email client, and app platform with no other devices or accessories needed. Maybe I need to look to Android rather than iOS?

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