Myo : Bring on the smart bracelet and control your digital world.

In the category “Shut up and take my money” friend of the show Konrad sent us a great new product that we can pre-order if we have some cash to spare. The MYO can be considered the lovechild between the Microsoft Kinect (but without any optics) and a Nintento Wiimote. This “Smart Bracelet” uses the power of gyroscopic sensors with muscle movements to ” See what you mean”.  Just like the “Leap” we talked about on a previous post, the Myo offers another deadly nail to the coffin of mice and touchpads all over the world and is heralding the coming of a new age where a we will interface with technology in a way that is dramatically different from today.

Whether or not this is vapor-ware still needs to be proven. The site is taking pre-orders and at 149 dollars its a risk some of you might be willing to take. If the Mo ever gets massed produced depends on the way developers will react to this. Unlike Google with Google Glass , this company does not have a multi million dollar budget or hords of drooling staggering developer-zombies on its payroll. But it all .. it looks amazing.

Aside from the fact that you will look a little awkward waving your hands and arms around to make a point. Some people might mistake you for a Sith lord and await lightning bolts to fire from the fingertips of your outstretched hands, Others might see you as the next leader of the “third reich” as you swing your rightarm upward to control that military jeep. Although I can see the possibilities here, I’m also very worried that you might delete the textfile you have been working on for hours because you scratched your head with the wrong hand.  

But no matter if it makes you look as a megalomaniac super villain who is suffering from an epilepsy attack in the middle of the street .. I want this ! 

Links : https://getmyo.com/

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Pimp an old laptop into a surveillance system with Skype.

A couple of days ago I got a second hand 7 inch EEE-Pc as a gift from a friend. Its a cool little system and I was looking for an interesting way of putting it to good use. Of course our “Return of the Netbook” podcast brought many an idea to mind, but I wanted something different. Instead of using it as a workstation, I thought that a little bit of “Server Side technology” would come into good use. The thing is pretty small, consumes no power whatsoever and can do some cool things should you want it to.

Turn it into an “on demand” Nannycam. : One of the simplest alternatives is to install Skype on it and turn it into a Nannycam. 

  • Install Skype.
  • Create a separate account for the laptop
  • Set up the laptop to automatically send video.
  • Add your Skype account to the friends list.
  • Configure : Auto-answer to have the laptop “pick up” whenever you call it using your account.
  • Mute the speakers on your laptop.
  • ( Or follow this guide

This is by far the easiest and most cross-platform friendly solution for your old netbook that will help you get some use out of the old baby. Make sure to tweak your security settings on Skype so the laptop won’t accept calls or chats from people outside the contact list. (and just to make sure , cover the webcam with a post-it note when you want to be sure nobody is watching.

What would you use as surveillance software ? Tell us in the comments section.

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The Geek survival pack for social gatherings : The Facebook Cheat Sheet.

With more and more people flooding to Facebook it is only a matter of time before us geeks can no longer wander through the streets without “norms” clambering up to us … cellphones in hand .. mumbling questions of “How do I do this on Facebook ? ” Like a scene from the popular TV show “The Walking Dead”… us Geeks are the last surviving Humans, beholding the sacred knowledge of the Interwebs, while countless others stumble around in ignorance and .. try to pick our brain !  So instead of a flamethrower, here is another way of defending yourself. Instead of explaining over and over how Facebook works : Just hand them the “Facebook Cheat Sheet” from the “Dummies” series of books. 

One of the lesser known secrets to man is that, with every “Dummies” book there is an online cheat sheet available to help you “remember” how things are done. This “Facebook Cheat Sheet” is just one of the many examples. Hopefully it will help you at the next family dinner … if not .. you can still build your own flamethrower.

Links : The Facebook Cheat Sheet. 

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“Tiltshift” for IOS helps you become the bigger man.

The one thing that is a bit of a bummer when it comes down to being a city stomping giant like Godzilla is that its very hard to find gloves in your size. One of the upsides is that people look very small and insignificant. How about an application that helps you to achieve both things ? Enter “Tiltshift” for IOS. A cool little application that lets you make these great shots where cars look like toys and people look like tiny tin soldiers wobbling around your on private city mockup. Its simple to use, has some pretty effects and the results are pretty good.

For a free app this surely beats posting yet another picture to Facebook with some signature “This was done in Instagram” effects. Get it now and feel what its like to be Godzilla ! 

Download : Tiltshift.

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kw505 : Curating the library of your mind.

The internet is a valuable source of information but the question is : How can we get the most out of it ? In this show we take a look at the possibilities of gaining knowledge and experience from the wide wide web. We look at the different sources of information that are out there and how you can streampunk these informationstreams into your way of life. Last but not least we give you some essential tips on where and how to consume your carefully selected information to “curate the library of your mind’.

Shownotes.

Music by Aes Dana : Principles of Gravity.

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The last item on your current todo list : Install todo.txt

Yes, because, quite frankly, that will be the end of your current todo application. Wether or not you are using a modern day todo list like Wunderlist on your smartphone or you are writing down your items on a running Cheeta (It takes a while but it’s a great workout  ) you might just switch to todo.txt after you read this post.

Why ? Because todo.txt is a slider friendly way of keeping track of things. They offer an an Android version (1,47 $) and an Ios version (1.99) that will give you a nice mobile application, but the kicker of this service is, they also offer a command line interface ! Straight from your favorite command line (if you are using Linux of course) you can manage and update your todo list from anywhere. The command line script can be downloaded for free. 

 

This “compatiblity” is because todo.txt stores your todo list in a textfile, a human readable textfile that can also be opened using just any text editor, AND you can actually read and understand what it says.

Todo.txt is pretty brilliant in its simplicity. I love adding another command line app to our list, but a little disappointed these guys don’t have a free app in the stores. (Like for example Wunderlist). Todo.txt also lacks a web interface (bit of a bummer there) but overall offers their users great value for money. You might want to try it out : Its explained in this video here 

Links : todo.txt

How do YOU keep track of your todo’s ? Tell us in the comments section.

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Tune up your Google Ninja Skills.

Google ! For it is the beginning and the end of the internet for most of us. The ultimate search tool for most of us, the homepage for even more. But what do we type into that little search box. Aside from “Alyson Hannigan Bikini pictures” (a simple but essential search query, there is so much more then you can get out of this little box.  We give you some tips.

Let Google hold your hand.

The painfully simple start of search. Obvious for many but obscure for even more. Ever seen auntie Joe type in “www.facebook.com” in the  Google search box and click on the first (sponsored) link ? Aaarg ! ! !  Send her THIS LINK and get her started.

Let go of the mouse ! 

Ninja’s don’t use mice ! Even the Ninja Turtles didn’t have a mouse .. (Wait , they had a Rat .. never mind, bad example). Speed up your Google skills with some awesome keyboard shortcuts

 Talk to da Google !

If you are the proud owner of a Google Nexus tablet or phone,  you might want to try out Google Now.  The concept of ‘The information you need, just when you need it” might be interesting. What is way more cooler is that you can talk to it … and you don’t have to call her Baby .. erm .. Siri.  Get started with Google Now here.

The Google Cheat sheet.

We love our little cheat sheets so much , we cannot help ourselves then to say the words “Cheat Sheet” 10 times in rapid succession and give you a download link to Ultralinx “How To Google”.

So we hope you find what you are looking for .. if not .. there is still good old Altavista.

Share your favorite Google tips with us in the comments section.

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Is it a Laptop? Is it a Tablet? No … it’s a Samsung ATIV Smart PC

What is a Samsung ATIV Smart PC ?

Samsung ATIV Smart PC
Samsung ATIV Smart PC

Officially it’s called a notebook, but I have heard people refer to it as a Convertible Laptop as well. In fact … it is a laptop … but you can detach the screen from the rest of the laptop and use that as a tablet. The screen is actually a fully Touch enabled display. So think about the ATIV Smart PC as a powerful laptop which you can convert to a tablet with tablet.

A few weeks ago the people from Samsung sent me the Samsung ATIV Smart PC to take it for a spin. I tested the device for little more than a week and this is my personal opinion on the device.

The Hardware

The Specs

I don’t know about the readers here, but I don’t really care about numbers anymore. A device has to do what it should … and if it does the job with less RAM or less CPU cycles then great … but it has to do the job at hand.

I remember different times though … 20 years ago I still went out to buy my own parts so I could build my own PC with the best gear and specs available at that time. And probably a few readers still love numbers so here we go. The Samsung ATIV Smart PC comes with an Intel ATOM 1.5 Ghz processor, 2 Gigs of RAM, a 64 Gig SSD, WIFI, Bluetooth 4, stereo speakers, a microphone … and lots more. In short … it has everything you would expect from a decent laptop.

The screen is an 11,6 inch Touch HD LED Display, which gives you a 1366 x 768 resolution. The Samsung ATIV Smart PC also has a ‘Pro’ big brother which comes with a full HD Touch display (1920 x 1080)

If you are interested in more detailed specs, then by all means go have a look at the full specs on the Samsung Website.

The Quality

Visiting a website on the Samsung ATIV Smart PC
Visiting a website on the Samsung ATIV Smart PC

This is only the second time I have used a non Apple tablet, and the previous one felt like a toy to me. My first impression of the Samsung ATIV Smart PC was a little different. This time I had the impression that some thought was put into the device, the materials which were used and the way if felt when holding it in your hands.

When I detached the screen from the keyboard and used it as a tablet, I noticed it had a plastic back. When I opened the cover on one of the ports I couldn’t immediately close it completely. It somehow sticked out a bit. I blame it on my clumsy hands and not knowing how it should be done … but still those are the things I don’t want the first time I hold a device in my hands.

The Tablet

Actually I was quite impressed by the fact that all connections were in fact in the Tablet part of the device as well. So, even if you use the screen as a Tablet (outside the keybaord clamshell) you still had access to a Micro SD slot, and U HDMI port, USB Ports, … It was even possible to recharge the device without hooking it up to it’s keyboard clamshell. In my ‘business test case’ this proved to be quite interesting.

The Software

Windows 8

Samsung ATIV Smart PC runs Windows 8
Samsung ATIV Smart PC runs Windows 8

This was actually the first time I thought ‘hey … the combination of the Desktop UI and the Modern UI might be interesting after all’. But a few moments later I also discoverd that both interfaces on one device were causing problems in our ‘business test case’ which I will explain in a short while.

The Modern UI (used to be called Metro UI) is the Touch interface, complete with tiles and other funky things. This should be the prefered interface when using the Samsung ATIV Smart PC as a tablet. The Desktop UI is the well known Windows UI which you would use at the office, or when you use the device as a Laptop.

This would be perfect if Windows would detect these use cases and act accordingly. Sadly you are able to switch to the Desktop UI when using the device as a tablet and the Modern UI when using it as a laptop. Having a virtual keyboard pop up when the tablet is docked in it’s keyboard clamshell is one thing, but being stuck in de Desktop UI when using the device as a tablet and not having a Virtual Keyboard pop up on the screen (automatically) is a completely different story. The combination proved to be quite promising at start, but it ended up causing frustration with most of our ‘test users’.

The Business Test Case

The Setup

Our WMS Client on the Samsung ATIV Smart PC
Our WMS Client on the Samsung ATIV Smart PC

In case you don’t know … I’m a software developer by trade. My company (Devia) writes windows applications for a broad range of customers but mostly using Delphi and for the Windows Platform. Currently for one of our clients we’re developing a Warehouse Management System (WMS) which is used to track inventory in the different warehouses, receiving of goods, picking and shipping of goods, location management, barcode scanning, … the whole thing.

To me it seemed like a good idea to use this as a business test case. Since the Samsung ATIV Smart PC is a windows based device, we could simply install our WMS on the device and try it out. Since everyone said this is supposed to be a quite powerful laptop, I went ahead and installed an SQL Server on the Smart PC. Quickly restore our development database on that machine was the next task. After that I installed our WMS client. For us delphi developers this is actually quite easy … simple copy the EXE file over, make sure it points to the lokal SQL Server and start using it.

The Good

I was indeed impressed by the performance of the device and the battery life was quite nice as well. While installing everything I had the device hooked up to a power outlet, but once everything was installed we used it without power. We used the device for a complete working day without any need to recharge.

From what I read … the battery should last for 10 hours. In my test case I only had 6 hours to experiment and indeed I still had plenty of juice left. Big thumbs up !!!

The Bad

I have to admit … this wasn’t caused by the device itself. Our WMS Client was developed for our customers and they specifically stated that it had to be optimized for a full HD display and they would only use it on such displays so there was no need to support smaller screens. In fact … everything worked, but in some cases our screens looked somewhat ugly on the Samsung ATIV Smart PC due to the smaller resolution.

Nothing we can’t fix though, but we would have to rework some of the screens …. Visual tweaks I would say.

The Ugly

Of course our WMS application was built as a Desktop application, and it has no ‘Modern UI’ like interface. In order to use our application you have to switch to the Desktop UI. This caused some problems when using our app when the device was used as a tablet (not docked in the keyboard clamshell).

For example … users could look up an article, and normally they would click in (or tab to) the Description field and start typing to change the description. This still works perfectly when you use the device as a laptop. But if you undock the screen from the keyboard and start using it as a tablet you would expect a virtual keyboard to pop up automatically when you enter a certain edit box / edit field. Well … that wasn’t the case. The users had to manually click on a little keyboard icon in the Windows 8 Task Bar to make the Virtual Keyboard appear on screen so the could start typing. The result was noticed quickly … frustrated users who said “it doesn’t work”. Actually it did work, but they didn’t know they had to tell the system to display the virtual keyboard. And in my opinion the should know that … the OS should be smart enough to detect that you have no keyboard attached and entered an edit box … so hey … maybe you might want to type something so it could display the keyboard automatically.

But wait a second … it got worse … When you had a edit box which was located near the bottom of the screen, making the Virtual Keyboard appear would cause it to show the Virtual Keybaord above the edit box. In other words … you couldn’t even see what you were typing. This was driving our test user (and me for that matter) insane. You would think the OS would be smart enough to shift the display up … well it didn’t.

When it happened to one of our test users, he told us … maybe it will fix itself when you jump to the next edit box / entry field. So he pressed the ‘>’ and ‘ New … popup the Virtual Keyboard … same result. The Virtual Keyboard covered my Notepad window … Result … me slapping my head on my forehead and shaking a big NO at Microsoft.

My Verdict

I can see some use in the Convertible Laptops. The fact that you have a laptop and a tablet in the same device sounds quite appealing. In the office you can use the full power of a laptop, while on the road you have a powerful tablet at your disposal. In our case taking the tablet with us inside the warehouse to check a few things was quite appealing to our customer.

The fact that it’s Windows was interesting too. In our case we could show that our application could run in Tablet mode without having to rewrite the whole thing in Objective-C caused quite a few ‘ohs’.

The biggest problem we had was Windows 8. The Modern UI on a Tablet will work nicely while the Desktop UI on a laptop still feels OK, but problems arise when you use a Tablet with a Desktop UI and a Desktop with a Tablet UI. I really hope the folks at Microsoft get their act together and are reading reports like this one. Maybe they can learn some things from the problems we encountered and I sincerely hope some things will get fixed very soon.

Oh … and next time I’ll try to make a shorter post … and tabe pictures from the test device as well … I promise 🙂

About the Author

Stefaan is a Software Developer by trade, but also active as a Tech Reporter and Podcaster mostly in Dutch / Flemish. You can find out more about him on his blog at iTutor Podcast or check out the Tech45 Podcast.

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Taking the Gimp one step further.

Getting back from a week in a cottage near the Dutch coast, I have an SD card with plenty of pictures waiting to be edited. Of course you are never quite satisfied with the shots you made and a “liitle editing” is never a bad thing. Whether you just want to quickly crop the image and fiddle with the contrast , or paste aunt Irma’s head onto a giraffe .. the possibilities are endless. 

If you have money to burn (and own a mac or a PC) you might want to go for cool applications like Aperture or Photoshop … and then again, maybe you don’t ! 

So there is “The Gimp” which, in all honesty used to be a typical “old school Linux” application. A terrible user interface, poor documentation and you did get a fair chance of getting flamed whenever you asked a question on how to use it. Luckily those times have changed. The Gimp became a “native” Mac application, cleaned up its interface and is now easily one of the most powerful applications for the cross-platform photog on a budget. 

Video Tutorials : In order to get started we have found some excellent video tutorials on the “basics” of using the gimp. Standard image editing and basic picture manipulations : You can find some tutorials HERE. 

Pdf tutorials : The official Gimp tutorial can be found on the Gimp website. Some quick reference cards for the Gimp and its many keyboard shortcuts can be found HERE.   

Podcasts : Over at “Meetthegimp.org” you can find an extended video podcast about using the Gimp. With over 150 episodes this is truly a plethora of information on using the Gimp. You can subscribe directly in iTunes

Magazines : Why not get your very own Gimp Magazine. An interactive free and open source magazine for Gimp newbies and hardcore ninja’s. Much like Ubuntu’s Full Circle magazine this is an interactive magazine that relies on the contributions from the community. You can download the latest version here.

And of course : If you haven’t installed “The Gimp” yet .. why not get it first .. its free, open and completely cross platform compatible. Download it here.

 

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kw504 : Sliders Academy Part One : Installing your Ubuntu system.

We start out a new series of Video tutorials on Knightwise.com called “Sliders Academy” where we give you step by step guides to ‘learn how to slide’. We start out with chapter one of Sliders Academy where we show you how to setup a central Ubuntu system that will serve as the nervecenter for your upcoming slider activities. In this episode we show you how to download and install Ubuntu, Partition your drive, update your system and install some alternative desktop interfaces. 30 minutes of educational edu-tainment coming right up.

Shownotes.

Download the video HERE.

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