App of the Week: Gesture Search (Android)

Each Tuesday we will feature a smartphone app of the week either iOS or Android compatible. Gesture Search by Google is an application that enables the user to search their phone's contents via writing, using your fingers instead of the conventional typing.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="124" caption="Image from Android Market Place"][/caption]

After installing via the Market the application indexes the contents on your phone. The time required to index may vary depending on the amount of content on your phone. You may also have it index the contents of your phone in the background when using the Gesture Search for the first time. Gesture Search utilizes image processing amongst other technical details to recognize what letter you are writing and provides list of potential  content that may match up what you are trying to spell.

For example,

Step 1: Draw a letter, let's say 'H'

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Image provided by Google"][/caption]

Step 2: Write the next letter. Note as you write the second letter, a list behind it is visible where you could select content that matches what you are looking for.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Image provided by Google"][/caption]

 

Step 3: Repeat Step 2 until the content that you are looking for on your phone is available for selection.

I found Gesture Search easy to use and prefer it over searching manually via multiple screens or using the on-screen keyboard. Note: My phone does not have a slide out QWERTY keyboard.

Gesture search is great for searching for contacts, website book marks, apps and more. I definitely recommend you give it a try.

Unfortunately, you need to launch it each time to use it, which is a good reason to have it on your home screen for easy access. Hopefully, in future releases you will be able to simply "Gesture Search" from your home screen.

 

Download via Market :

https://market.android.com/details?id=com.google.android.apps.gesturesearch

Turn Your Desktop into a Portal to the Web

Many users know that you could easily change the wallpaper in your computer with a few clicks, but many do not know that you could make a website become a wallpaper on your Windows computer. Simply follow the following steps

  1. Right Click on the desktop
  2. On the Context Menu Select  Properties
  3. In the properties windows select the Desktop Tab
  4. Below the Desktop Tab Select Customize Desktop
  5. In the Desktop Items Menu Select the Web tab
  6. Under the Web Tab you may either select your current home page for your internet browser to be the wall paper or you may add a new site to be the wall paper
  7. After selecting the site, press ok, and a new small window should appear.
  8. In that window, go to the top of it and select the maximize option.
  9. Website Wallpaper NOTE: Website animations do work!

Add "Mac" Dock to Windows

If you like the dock feature Mac OS X has, you might be interested in StarDock ObjectDock. They offer a "plus" version, but  I think the free version is good enough. I used it for a while, it gets the job done nicely. On the other hand, I use Windows 7,  and I found it to be overkill specially since Windows 7 allows you to pin icons, essentially, a static dock.  I recommend it to anyone who does NOT have Windows 7 in their machine or does not like the pinned icons.  Compared to the Mac OS X dock, it does NOT have stacks within the dock. A small set back, but not really essential to its overall functionality.

 

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="485" caption="courtesy Google images"][/caption]

Installation is simple. Simply download and install. It has relatively non-technical options to configure . The only option that is maybe a little tricky is the  "optimize for performance or memory."  Windows 7 and Vista need about 1GB RAM to start off, so if you have less than 2GB, I would recommend optimize for performance. Windows XP is less demanding, but if you have 512MB or less, definitely optimize for performance!  Of course, you can always experiment with the setting!

But if you need another reason to switch to Linux, there is a project called Cairo-Dock which, in my opinion runs circles around the Mac OS X.  Above is a screenshot, but if someone wants more information on Cairo-Dock, please let me know!

Welcome to the New Redesigned OneTechTip

Onetechtip.com has been around for over a year and to celebrate this achievment, we have come up with a new design for the website. The redesigned website features recent post feeds at the top of the site. In addition, the site we hope you agree with us, is a bit sleeker and cleaner. With the top posts topic sections. At the bottom you may subscribe to Onetechtip by just submitting your e-mail address. Also, we have expanded our social networking efforts, you may now find us now on Digg, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube! Let us know what you think and what you would like to be a feature on our site. Or if you would like to contribute feel free to send us an e-mail with a Tip you feel a normal user should know that will enhance their technology experience. You could become a contributor for a day!! Or maybe a regular!

Invent Beyond Scratch!!

In previous post, I briefly discussed Scratch as a great way to learn about programming concept and principles without learning the nitty gritty. If you are an educator or just a common user it's a great way to be introduce to some basic programming knowledge. If you delve into the Scratch website, you would notice that one of the companies contributing to the development of Scratch is Google!!

Now if or when you are ready to make a jump from Scratch to something bigger, consider APP Inventor by Google. Inventor utilized the same interface as Scratch and would feel right at home. Inventor's purpose is to enable those with out the background knowledge to develop applications for the Android OS. Sure, I will admit that initially I figured that there would be influx of not so great Android Applications, but I could see how it could be used to introduce users to mobile application development.

Fortunately you do no need an Android Powered phone to test any applications you make since Inventor enables you to download an emulator to use and test out your application. Subsequently, the Inventor has an online tutorial with a a step by step on how to make HelloPurr, which is equivalent to hello world program that many programmers are familiar with. HelloPur is a simple introductory app that enables you to create an Android application in which when you touch the picture of a cat on the phone and it purrrs.  Application Inventor has a bit of a learning curve but you could make some complex applications with the right intiative.

You will need a Gmail account to access Application inventor.

App Inventor for Android

Scratch Your Programming Itch!!

One of the goals of OneTech Tip is to provide useful information and cool tech tips for non tech savy users. For those readers whom are not tech savy have you ever thought about writing your own program or even just something cool? Or if you are a tech savy user have you ever wish you could teach someone a peer,  or a younger sibling how to program or introduce them to various programming concepts?

MIT has created a programming language that is user friendly, Scratch.

Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web.T The language was mainly developed to encourage young kids and students to feel comfortable with programming through a drag and drop interface. Do not take this lightly, if you have never done any programming before you should try it out. Since the interface is mainly drag and drop you see the basic structure of how to write a program. On the official site there are highlights of some user generated projects. Here's a OneTechTip Challenge Create a game using the scratch programming language and we will highlight it here. Just send us an e-mail with your file. 

http://scratch.mit.edu

Look at the Alternatives

OneTech Tip has addressed alternatives to Windows and Mac OSX but what about the software. There are hundreds if not thousands of software that is free to use without a cost to the user. In some cases the open sourced software is sometime better, more efficient or meets your specific needs in comparison to larger, bloated commercial software.

Open Source Alternative is a great place to start if your looking for some free and open sourced software ranging from office software to games as well. Now, the site I noticed does not have an exhaustive list but it does provide some good suggestions for alternative software. For example, you may search for an alternative to Photoshop and it will yield Gimp.

If you are looking into becoming a more part of the open sourced movement consider this site to help you meet all your needs. Here's a challenge, try only using open source software for a week or a month.

Open Source as Alternative: http://www.osalt.com/

Control Your Computer from a Land Far, Far Away

Ever needed toaccess your computer to do some work from afar? LogMeIn enables the user to access their computer from another computer with the remote access software LogMeIn. Why would you want to do this? Perhaps your on vacation and you need to access your computer for a business related emergency or you do not want to be carrying your notebook computer everywhere you go.

LogMeIn Free includes:

  • Access from any Internet-connected web browser
  • Access to a Windows PC or Mac
  • Remote control and desktop viewing
  • Copy and paste between computers
  • Wake on LAN
  • Reboot/reconnect (including safe mode)
  • Basic reports (remote access sessions and user access)
  • Chat
  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • SSL/TLS intrusion detection
  • IP address lockout
  • No need for firewall, router or proxy configuration
  • No requirement for remote PC admin rights

Subsequently, there is a premium version that enables you to do more while accessing remotely.

Try out Linux via a Flash Drive

Are you an average computer user that is only aware of  Windows and Mac OS's? If so, I have a revelation for you; these OS's are not the only operating systems available for your computer. For example, there is Linux. Yet with Linux, there are many different versions also know as distros. The most popular of the these distros, in my opinion, are Fedora and Ubunntu. Ubuntu is perhaps the most user friendly.

On a quick note, I would like to mention that you can run Windows on a Mac and Mac OSX on a typically Window Machine with a bit of work.

Subsequently, the main focus of today's tip is to allow the average user (or power user)  to try out Linux. The objective is to run an entire OS from a flash drive (or a CD, if you still use those :) ).

First, one must download a distribution of Linux. Below are a few of them

Next, install

The Universal USB Installer

Once you have downloaded and have the program running,

install on a 2gb flash drive and

follow the on-screen instructions.

This Software automates the entire process for you.

Once it is completed, you may now boot Linux from your Flash Drive.

In order to do so, SHUTDOWN your computer and power it on BUT press f2 or which ever message that prompts you to the boot menu, similar to the image below

Change the boot order to "first be removable drive" or you may also see your flash drive listed there.

Then once you exit, make sure the flash drive is plugged in. It should boot from your flash drive instead of your hardrive and voila! Linux has appeared.

Once prompted, select Run and try it out!

Now you may see what all the fuss is about.

Tomorrow, I will show you how to use a software program to partition your drive so you may do a full installation without deleting your Windows.

Tutor/Teach From AnyWhere Via The Web

Has a friend every asked you for assistance in a math problem when they are several miles away and you want to help them out over the web instead of texting, taking cellphones pics, or calling them over the phone because they need a visual? Well, this has occured to me a couple times and I have utilized Scriblink.

Scriblink is an online white board that enables you to draw figures as well as an online chat area on the page. Users on the same page view whatever the other user do on the board. A personal link is provided in order to have a private lesson if needed.

http://www.scriblink.com/

Log On With A Different Screen

If you are a fan of user customization this is for you. Have you ever wanted to change the background of the screen that you log into? You know the one where you type your password in (if you have password lock enabled). Well, today's tip I will show share with a software that makes it quick and painless. Yes, there are ways to do this without installing software but this is for the everyday user whom does not want to go through a plethora of steps to change a picture. The software I am describing is LogOn Studio by Stardock. LogOn enables the user to select a picture from their harddrive to be used as the background for the login screen.

The reason why you should use a program instead of going through a bunch of system files is :

  1. Simplicity/Convenience
  2. You don't risk harming your computer by accidentally deleting something you should not
  3. If you go the system files route your picture has to be a specific size and type. This software does it automatically.

Note: This assuming you are not comfortable messing around with your computer files that could effect your daily computer operations.

Once you have selected your picture select open and then save on the following screen and your selected picture should appear as a choice. For example I selected onetechtip logo.

Once you have selected your picture CLICK APPLY and you are done. :)

Download @ the Official Site:

http://www.stardock.com/products/logonstudio/

Video or it didn't happen: Why screenshot when you could screen record!

Have you ever wanted to make your own how to do videos ? Especially when related to how to do videos on a computer? One day in order to show an audience how to access a site visually without being there in person and posting it on a site so easily accessible to others I decided to look up ways I could do this. Therefore I searched for screen recording software for my computer. I tried a couple free trial ones,  ones that required more work than I would of liked. Fortunately,searching under the “freeware” category lead me toCamStudio - Free Streaming Video Desktop Recording Software.Once installed you may select a specific area of the screen to be recorded in case you only want one a specific portion to be viewed.My recommendation is to learn the short cut keys to record and stop while recording the entire screen. You want to maximize the area (and resolution) for the best quality video.The video files may be saved as either SWF (which are good for websites streaming) or.AVI (ideal for uploading to youtube).Unfortunately,there are limits to this free software:

  • No annotations
  • No post video editing
  • No support for other video formats (MPG, DIVX, FLV, MOV, MP4).

Overall, the software is great to share some how to do on your computer videos or some demos of software. For example, a visual of the steps to  remove Ping from Itunes or where some steps are better supplemented with visual steps aside from  screen shots. If you are in need of more advanced features similar to those mentioned under limitations of this software expect a monetary solution.

Switch that Windows Interface

Do you ever find your Windows UI (user interface) inefficient or has gotten boring over time? Most Linux distributions and the latest Mac OS X can provide you a more refreshing interface. Find a Linux OS too difficult to use? Or maybe a Mac OSX equipped computer is outside your budget? I would like to introduce Switcher by Bao Nguyen. Switcher makes window switching seamless, switch windows using search, and supports multiple monitors!

The program is easy to customize to your enjoyment. It supports both keyboard presses, mouse gestures and screen edge activation. I tinkered with it and got the most satisfaction by minimizing window labels and activating the program by pointing my mouse at the top of the screen.

The program is free (for now)  but does require Windows 7/Vista with Aero enabled. Definitely check it out if you are looking for a change in your interface.