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December 24 2013


Caption Contest: Never Trust An Elf


I told you, Santa. It doesn’t matter which direction you go — you’ll only be heading South! Give us your best caption! Churn out a witty caption, enter it in the comments section and you’ll be in the running to win a free MakeUseOf t-shirt!

Read the full article: Caption Contest: Never Trust An Elf

November 25 2013


Navigate From A To B Fast With HERE Drive+ For Windows Phone 8


Setting off on a car journey without a satnav? Why not use your Windows Phone handset instead? HERE Drive+ is a superb navigation aid available for Nokia handsets running Windows Phone 8. Find Your Way With HERE Drive+ When you’re heading out in the car on your way to a new destination, it’s common these days to either plan ahead with an online maps system or rely on your smartphone or satnav unit at the last minute (having said that, I know a lot of people, me included, do both). The killer app for mobile maps and navigation would seem...

Read the full article: Navigate From A To B Fast With HERE Drive+ For Windows Phone 8

November 22 2013


Find Your Keys! 6 Gadgets That Help Locate Your Missing Keys


Can’t find your keys? Forgot to take them with you? If only your keys could call out to you and fix this everyday mess. Well, if you have a smartphone, all you need is one of these cool gadgets to be reminded of your keys and find them if they’re missing. Object-finders are a hot new market. These are little devices that you either stick onto your keys or loop through your keyring — or anything else you lose often, like the remote control. Using Bluetooth technology, the gadget wirelessly communicates with your smartphone to either emit a beep or...

Read the full article: Find Your Keys! 6 Gadgets That Help Locate Your Missing Keys

November 12 2013


So Your iPhone Was Lost or Stolen: Here’s What To Do


If your iPhone is no longer in your possession, you might never see it again and the last thing you want to worry about is data security. Here’s what you need to do. Data theft can be just as damaging (if not more so) than losing a very expensive gadget. Your iPhone might be your pride and joy, but just imagine if someone gained access to your email, bank or social media accounts – wouldn’t that potentially be worse? Here’s what to do when the unthinkable happens. Use Find My iPhone With the power of iCloud it’s now possible to locate...

Read the full article: So Your iPhone Was Lost or Stolen: Here’s What To Do

October 25 2013


OsmAnd: Offline Maps & Navigation With OpenStreetMap Data


OsmAnd is an offline map and navigation app that is fed with high quality data from OpenStreetMap (OSM). The acronym stands for OSM Automated Navigation Directions. OSM, the source of the offline maps, is a free wiki world map. The free version of OsmAnd includes 10 map downloads, which is plenty if you are going on a one or two-week road trip. The full version, OsmAnd+, offers unlimited downloads and costs $8. You should consider OsmAnd if you need reliable offline navigation, something Google Maps still doesn’t offer (despite letting you make up to six maps available offline). Download Maps For Offline Use Generally, the...

Read the full article: OsmAnd: Offline Maps & Navigation With OpenStreetMap Data

September 10 2013


3 Ways To Remove EXIF MetaData From Photos (And Why You Might Want To)

camera on table

Did you know that your photos contain hidden information, including the GPS coordinates of the location they were taken at, the date and time, camera shutter setting details, and possibly even the name of the program you used to edit them? This type of metadata can be useful, but you may want to remove it from your photos before sharing them online. Cameras — both standalone digital cameras and smartphone cameras — add this metadata to the photo when they create it. Software programs may also update the metadata later, noting what software was used to edit the photo. You...

Read the full article: 3 Ways To Remove EXIF MetaData From Photos (And Why You Might Want To)

August 23 2013


What Are The Best Child Tracking Tools?


Every parent worries about their children’s safety. Whether its the nervousness when your young one is home late from school, or the fear that your teenage driver isn’t actually going where they say they are; there are apps and devices to help you and keep your children safe. There are a few apps for Android and iOS that can track your child using GPS and even offer some additional features, but there are also several physical devices that can offer a few advantages over the smartphone apps. For instance, their batteries last much longer than the average smartphone, and your child doesn’t need...

Read the full article: What Are The Best Child Tracking Tools?

July 28 2012


Checkmark Vs Apple’s Reminders For Location Aware Alerts [iPhone]

Checkmark iconThis past April I wrote an article about using the location alert feature in Apple’s default iOS 5 Reminders app. This feature uses GPS navigation to post preset reminders based on when you arrive at or leave a specified location. The technology alone behind this app is so cool that you will want to see how it works.

Well now some very smart third-party developers have created another location reminder app called Checkmark ($0.99) that makes it even easier to configure reminders using preset locations you frequently go to. If you often forget things when you’re out and about, location reminders could possibly save you precious time and maybe even a little money.

How It Works

The user interface of Checkmark is what makes it stand out above Apple’s Reminders. The home page of the app consists of your preset locations which you tap to set reminders. You can also set conventional reminders based on date and time.


So for instance you might set up a location for your home or apartment, your local grocery store, gas station, and the school you attend or drop your kids off to. When you set a reminder in one of the presets you get notified when you arrive or leave the designated location. I’ve even used Siri-set location alerts to remind me to take something out of the trunk of my car when I arrive home. While you might think I shouldn’t need an app to do that, it’s frustrating to get out of my car, walk upstairs, only to forget my camera equipment is still in the trunk.

Setting Locations

Setting location alerts in Reminder’s app is not that difficult, but Checkmark makes it essentially a 3-step process–that is after you add presets to your typical locations. You can add a location in one of three ways: by your current location, from the GPS map, or from a location in your Address Book. Just tap the green location button in the upper-right of the app.

Checkmark 14

You might start with just adding those locations you frequent on regular basis. Those addresses probably already exist in your Address Book. Also, getting locations from the map is even useful for when you’re traveling out of town and you need a set of reminders for when you arrive say at the hotel.

Checkmark includes over 25 uniformed designed icons for various types of locations, including home, school, drug store and gym. You can use the same icon more than once, because you assign a title to them when they are created.

Checkmark 10


When you tap the panel button on the upper-left of the screen, you get a list of all your set reminders. Your reminders get posted on your iPhone like other app notifications; however, though notifications include vibration alerts, the sound of the alert is not quite loud enough.

Checkmark 7

Another cool feature in setting Checkmark reminders is you can set a time for the reminder, such as 15 minutes after you arrive at a specified location.

Checkmark 8

You can of course go into the Settings app, tap Notifications, and select the Checkmark app to change how you want your notification to be posted. Checkmark also saves your reminders when you tap them as done, but unfortunately you can’t reuse them for future reminders.

When you want set a non-location reminder, simply tap the “When” button at the bottom of the app, followed by the green + button. From there you set your date, time, and title.

Checkmark 15

Which Is Better?

If you’re a heavy user of location reminders, Checkmark will come in handy because of how easy it is to set up reminders. However, Siri on the iPhone 4S makes it easy to set reminders as well. For example, you can tell Siri to remind you to purchase a particular item when you arrive at the store. The store you refer to must also be in your Address Book in order for Siri to make the connection.

Apple’s Reminders on the other hand will also be integrated with the next version of OS X Mountain Lion, which will make it convenient for setting up reminders from your Mac.

So basically you might want to have both apps on your iPhone if you use location reminders on a regular basis. But let us know what you think of Checkmark, and what additional features you would like to see included in the app.

For other location reminder apps and ideas, check out directory of articles here.

April 25 2012


3 James Bond Gadgets You Can Make From An Old Smartphone

james bond gadgetsWhat’s your favorite James Bond gadget of all time? If you have seen all of the 22 James Bond films so far, you will be hard-pressed to keep the list to just one. My choice would be the Microsoft Surface at the MI6 HQ in Quantum of Solace. The multi-touch surface is very much real today, and seems attainable by even us who are not in the spy business. The cell phones (lately, Sony Erricsson) used by 007 with GPS and other goodies are within reach too.

The smartphone is the most sophisticated gadget we carry with us everyday. And while we don’t have our own Q Branch working for us in a secret lab, thanks to a few intrepid DIY-ers and hackers, we can repurpose our old smartphones in our basements. I wouldn’t advise you to brick a new smartphone while playing spy, but here are three James Bond styled spy gadgets you can make from an old smartphone.

Turn Your Old Smartphone into a Dedicated GPS Tracker

Our favorite spy had a GPS tracker built into his Sony Ericsson K800. Though that was way stylish, you can get close by installing apps like the Free GPS for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. It’s a very simple app that can store multiple waypoints with latitude-longitude coordinates. With the waypoints set, you can navigate from one to the other.

james bond gadgets

As a wannabe spy you might have to grind those gears and beat the traffic before you get to the villains or the world’s next hotspot. Try out Waze which has a community based database at the backend, helping you out by identifying speed bumps, traffic bottlenecks, and even bad weather. As a part of the local driving community you join-up with other drivers in your area and defeat the worst urban foe we have – terrible traffic. Waze is a navigation aid rolled around a social network. You can set destination points and also chat with the community.

Plus, Waze is available for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Nokia smartphones. We have mentioned it before in our directory. Here’s how it works:

So, what’s it going to be? A pricey GPS enabled handset that’s also a style statement or an old smartphone turned into a GPS device with the free choices of GPS apps available in plenty?

Also Read:

Control Your Car with Your Smartphone

Tomorrow Never Dies sees James Bond use an Ericsson phone to remotely drive his BMW. He does it again in Die Another Day. Futuristic and cool? Not really, when you find out you can pretty much do the same with some electronic skills. This DIY-er took a 1st Generation iPhone and “talked” with his Subaru outback via SMS.

james bond gadgets

You will need to set up an Arduino to communicate between the iPhone and the car. The Arduino controls the ignition to start the car. The command to the Arduino comes with a SMS from the iPhone. The iPhone has to be jailbroken to make it work as a remote device. Full schematics and the step-by-step process are explained to make it all work together.

In fact, forget about the jailbroken iPhone. There are hacks floating around where you can do the same thing with a cheap cellphone. Here’s Dave Hacks for how to start your car remotely with a $10 disposable cell phone. But the only thing you are going to kill here is the environment.

We already have intelligent cars and practical remote control apps that let you do more than just drive. How about driving a car with an iPhone instead just like James Bond? Enter Waterloo Labs.

An outstanding iPhone hack in its day, it’s a bit complicated and takes uncommon inventiveness. Under the hood you have the brake and steering rigged with three separate motors. A laptop with specialized software serves as the brain and a custom made iPhone app controls the car. Even if you manage to pull this off, don’t take it to the public roads. A ticket could be the first reward.

We already have driverless cars thanks to Google. Very soon we may have an iPhone app too. If you are interested, read about iDriver, an experimental iPhone app which controls a specially made car.

Counter-surveillance with Your Old Smartphones

Let’s get back into the spy game. After all James Bond may be sipping martinis and spouting pick-up lines, but he is a spy. Maybe, you won’t make it as far as the CIA or MI6, but you can use your old smartphone (or even your new one) to fight the worst crime of all – abuse of power.

OpenWatch is a participatory citizen media project which is attempting to use mobile technology for public monitoring of authority figures. The video below explains what the crowdsourced effort is all about:

OpenWatch has apps for the iPhone and Android which allow you to secretly record video or audio and upload it to the OpenWatch server with geotags. The Cop Recorder apps are Open source and are available on the website as well as on the respective stores. Once you press the record button, the app records an interaction without any visual cues. Moving away, you can stop the recording and upload it to the OpenWatch servers anonymously. If you are using an old smartphone you can use the audio recorder for the counter-surveillance. The site maintains the anonymity when it posts the recording to the media gallery.

Secret surveillance may be illegal in some parts of the world and the United States.

Your James Bond gadget fetish need not end here. There are lots of other ways you can turn that old smartphone into a useful spy device. Tell us about your inspiration. Maybe, you can find some here in these previous phone re-purposing posts:

Image Credit:Secret Agent Banners via Shutterstock

April 18 2012


Getting Location Aware & Other Useful Tips On Getting The Most Out Of Siri [iPhone]

siri iphoneSince updating to the iPhone 4S, Siri has become my new best friend. The ability to send commands to Siri has reduced a number of more pesky tasks that I used to perform by hand. I especially like the location-aware features of Siri, because I probably use Siri more in my car than anywhere else.

I recently covered a few Siri tips in this recent iOS article. In this post, I will focus on a few location aware tips for Siri, as well as a tip on not getting tongue-tied when talking to the mobile personal assistant.

Adding Locations

You probably already know that you can ask Siri to find the nearest gas station or hamburger joint near your current location, and within a few seconds it will deliver up a list of recommendations with addresses.

siri iphone

But another awesome feature of Siri is how it can get your current location and perform actions based on it. For example, for a few days I had Siri remind me to leave my earphones in my car when I arrived home, otherwise I would take them in the house and end up leaving them on my next trip out.

Sending this reminder to Siri was easy. I simply told it: “Remind me to leave earphones in the car when I arrive home.” Siri of course uses my home address in my iPhone address book to identify that location. It adds the reminder to the Reminders app, which now gets used a lot more since I upgraded to the iPhone 4S.

what is siri

Get My Current Location

With this location aware feature, you can set up other locations for Siri commands. Do a search and add locations that you regularly visit (e.g. stores, job, school, mall, etc). Or when you’re at a specific location, you might also try sending this command to Siri: “Get my current location.” If you get the results you want, save the information that appears on the map to your contact list.

With specific locations in your Contact list, you can send reminders, such as “Remind me to get milk after I leave California Montessari.” Or, “Remind me to buy a clipboard when I arrive at Staples.” The key to using location reminders with Siri is to use “after I leave” or “when I arrive.” If the specific destination is listed in your Contacts list with an address that Siri recognizes, it will create an appropriate reminder for you.

what is siri

Building A Shopping List

As I wrote before, you can have Siri add reminders to your Reminders app. But I also realized you can take it one step further and actually have Siri add to specific lists in Reminders. When you launch the Reminders app, you might think there’s only a single list of current reminders that you put there.

what is siri

But if you tap the the three-line button on the top-left, you can create specific lists on the app. Tap the Edit button on the top-right and then tap “Create New List…” Type in the name for your list, such as Home, Work, Office Store, Groceries, and so on.

how to use siri

You can now tell Siri to add items to a particular list, such as “Add milk to my Groceries list.” This is not a location aware tip for Siri, but it’s a great way to organize and manage your to-dos and reminders. I prefer it to using the Notes app and when Reminders is added to the next version of Apple’s operating system, Mountain Lion, the Reminders app should be even be more useful.

Dictating To Siri

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a little tongue-tied when I try to dictate commands to Siri. I might try to say something like “text Kevin and ask if he has received my email yet.” That command might not come out the way I intended it to.

how to use siri

I find it better to set up text commands this way. I start off, for example, by saying, “Text Kevin.” And Siri will respond, “What do you want to say to Kevin Carter?” At that point, I can specifically dictate my text message.

siri iphone

The same approach can be used for having Siri add notes to your Notes app.

In the versions to come, Siri will get even more features added to it. But in the meantime we can get comfortable with how to use voice commands rather than typing on the iPhone and other supported devices.

For other ideas using Siri, start with these articles:

Let us know in the comments what type of commands you use with Siri.

April 09 2012


How To Set Up Location Alerts In iPhone Reminders

location alerts iphoneIn its iOS 5 update, Apple added a Reminders to-do list app that also includes a location-aware alert feature that many iPhone users still may not be aware of. The feature allows you to set reminder alerts based on your geo-location, in addition to, or in lieu of, a specific time or date.

Location-aware reminders could add another feather to your getting things done tool set. This article explains how to use and setup location alerts in Reminders.

How Location Alert Works

iPhone to-do list apps are plentiful and useful, but as far as I know only Reminders and the fairly expensive third-party app, OmniFocus for the iPhone,  include location-aware alerts. With this feature you can get notification reminders based on your location.

location alerts iphone

So for example, I have a small bag of empty ink cartridges that I want to recycle at a local Staples store, but there’s no particular date I need to drop them off. So I put the bag in the trunk of my car, and then set up a location reminder in Reminders. The next time I arrive at Stables I will receive an alert to remind me to drop off my ink cartridges.

Setting Up Alerts

You can set up location alerts based on your current location, but most likely you will set up most of your reminders at home or at work. (Unfortunately you can’t set up location alerts via iCal or Mail on your Mac.)

To use other locations besides my home, I have added the names and addresses of four stores, plus my kids’ schools, to my iPhone’s Address Book that I most frequently use for setting up reminders.

To set up a location alert, do the following:

1. Add the name and location of the place(s) you want to get location alerts for to your Address Book. If you’re already at the location, you can skip to step 2.

2. Tap on the upper-right + button of Reminders, and type your reminder.  Tap on the > button and then tap Remind Me.

location alerts


3. Enable “At Location” and your Current Location address will appear. Tap the > button on Current Location and tap Choose Address to add a new location from your Address Book.

location alerts

4. Tap the Remind Me button and then select if you want to be alerted “When I Leave” specified location or “When I Arrive” arrive there. Tap the Done button.

Note: you can also set a particular date and time for your to-do, as well as add notes and prioritize it in cases where you have more than one reminder occurring nearby or at the same time.

Also, after you check off a reminder as completed, you can actually recycle it for another time. Just slide the Reminders list sheet to the right to get to access your completed list of Reminders, or tap on the navigation button on the upper-left corner of the app. I have one reminder I simply titled, “Errands.” I enable this one anytime I need a nudge to remember something the next time I leave the house. This way I don’t have to setup a new to-do with a date or time. It will just alert me when I leave my home location.

location alerts

Reminders Limitations

In my experience, the Reminders location works most of the time. But I suggest, due to technical limitations, not to depend upon location alerts for extremely important reminders. If you pass by a specified location you might not get the alert, as you would if you arrive and remain at the location for a minute of two.

By the same token, if you drive pass a block or two from your specified location, you may still get the alert though you don’t need to at the time. So for instance, I drive by my daughter’s school everyday in route to and from home, so I can’t keep a location alert for her school active because I would get the alert when I don’t need it.

Also, unlike the more advanced OmniFocus iPhone app (screenshot below), you can’t set a reminder at an approximate distance of say 200 or 1500 feet from your specified place, and in some areas geo-location alerts may not work at all.

location alerts iphone

Overall, as a to-do application, Reminders is pretty basic and limited, but its location alert feature makes it stand out above similar third-party to-do apps.

Let us know what you think of Reminders and how you use location alerts on you iPhone.

For other iOS related tips, check out 10 iOS 5 Tips For iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch Users and 7 Hidden” iOS 5 Features You Might Have Missed.

March 18 2012


3 More Ways To Track Your iPhone & Other iOS Devices

track my iphoneHaving just received notification of my 4G iPad shipping, I decided to look into some better ways of tracking my mobile devices. Right now, I’m a steadfast user of Find My iPhone - both my wife and I use it to log into each others accounts and figure out when we’re coming home, or where we are when trying to meet up in town. But what’s the best way to track multiple devices?

Find My iPhone is perfect for when your iPhone is stolen – you can easily lock, sound an alarm and message, or wipe the phone. In fact, we used it to successfully get my wife’s iPhone back after it was stolen from her workplace. But for daily use with multiple devices or user accounts, it’s far from ideal. You need to be able to access the other person’s iCloud account for a start – something your spouse or children may not be happy with. You have remember quite a few passwords; and you can only track one device or user at any single moment.

Find My Friends

Though written off by most iPhone users as a bonus Apple app that no one uses, Find My Friends [iTunes link] allows you to track multiple people effectively once you’re in their circle of trust. You needn’t access each others accounts; on the downside, it’s easy for users to disable tracking so it might not be what you’re looking for in a family situation.

There are however some really nice features offered in Find my Friends that distinguishes it beyond a simple extension of Find my iPhone :

  • Links to message, FaceTime, or get directions to the friend’s location from where you are now.
  • Ability to show all your friends on the same map – great for organising an impromptu meetup (though I really doubt if anyone actually does this in the real world).

If you’re worried about your own phone being stolen and the thief being able to track your children, the app requires you to log into your own iCloud account upon launch.

track my iphone

Sosumi – Find My iPhone for The Desktop

Sosumi (named after the default system alert sound on OS7) is a free and open source desktop app for tracking multiple accounts and multiple devices. The app remembers your passwords too, so you need only authorize your iCloud account once. There are no fancy social features like FaceTime integration, but you can send a message with optional alarm. You can’t shut down devices or lock them though – that feature is reserved for Find my iPhone only.

One handy function not offered elsewhere though is some additional status information displayed for each device – notably the device type, charging status, and battery level.

track iphone

Life 360

I’ll be doing a full review of the Life 360 free app and all its advanced features next time, but in terms of basic family member tracking, this is an excellent (did I mention free?) solution with online web app version too. In addition, it can run on both Android and iPhone devices – that alone might be the deciding factor for you.

Unlike the other two Apple-only methods, this doesn’t require an iCloud account (you need to register a separate Life 360 account).

track my iphone

One thing to consider is that the app needs location services to be permanently enabled which may drain the battery life significantly. You disable background tracking, without which you can either request a status update from a family family (“James wants to know if you are safe”), or the family member can check in themselves once they reach somewhere (one button click).

UK users – this is very much a US-centric app and contains details of sex offenders that may give a false positive in your area, apparently matching by street address only.


Find my Friends is adequate in my Apple-only family for just tracking the wife’s and my mobile devices; and the desktop Sosumi app is certainly handy to have around – but Life 360 certainly offers a lot more functionality for family safety. Stay tuned for a full review of the advanced features, or download it now to try it out yourself.

Let us know in the comments which app you prefer to keep tabs on your iOS devices, and why.

February 24 2012


10 Fun Outdoor Games To Play Using GPS Enabled Smartphones

gps gamesIf you’re looking for something new to do that will get you outdoors, use your smartphone and get involved in some great activities, you’ve probably considered playing some sort of GPS game.

Since there are so many fun outdoor games to choose from, many of which have very similar names, it can get a little confusing. So, we’ve made a list of some of the best GPS games for you to try out. It’s time to get stuck into some geohashing, geocaching, geodashing and a number of other games that have more than two letters different in their names.

1. Tourality

Tourality is a smartphone GPS game which has you running all over your area. You choose exactly which sort of game you’re playing in advance, then Tourality does the rest. The application will lead you to the each location in turn, so all you have to do is run!

gps games

2. Geocaching (& Travel Bugs)

Geocaches are hidden packages which are mapped for people to find. Inside the packages are useful bits and pieces people have left behind, often with a book you can sign to say you’ve been there. Usually you are free to take something from the cache and replace it with something new for someone else. Head to a major geocaching site or get a geocaching application for your smartphone to find out where your nearest caches are.

Travel bugs and geocoins are objects with barcodes and/or serial numbers attached, usually with some sort of instructions as to where you want them to go. You leave them in a geocache and when someone finds them they read your instructions and take them to the next logical cache. The bugs are tracked via sites like geocaching.com so you can map the journey your bugs take.

games for gps

3. Geohashing

Geohashing is an XKCD invention, thanks to a random comic that triggered the real life game. The nature of the geohash is such that for each day there is a new hash for every graticule (that is, the area inside four confluences). There’s a wiki of people geohashing worldwide, plus plenty of geohashing apps for smartphones and the web which you can use to get the co-ordinates for the day’s geohash adventure.

games for gps

4. GPS Mission

Pick a GPS mission and get out there! You’ll be sent on a scavenger hunt adventure to reach destinations and answer questions. Users can create their own missions for the site, involving locations of local buildings and historical sites.

games for gps

5. Geodashing

Geodashing is a game where a number of random locations are chosen for each game, then the winner is the person or team who visits the most locations before the deadline. As you might imagine, online teamwork is encouraged as the locations are worldwide. Head to the geodashing site to start playing.

gps game ideas

6. Make Your Own Treasure Hunt

Using Locomatrix’s Treasure Hunt game, you can design a treasure hunt using photos. The application will use your GSP to determine how close you are and tell you if you’re getting closer to it or not. This is a good one for parents to prepare for a family outing. If you’re lucky someone may have already created a treasure hunt for your area. Locomatrix also have other games designed to use GPS to bring computer games back outside, so check them out too.

gps game ideas

7. Waymarking

Waymarking is a way to share the co-ordinates and details of interesting locations in order to build a community map of cool places. From this, you can take part in scavenger hunts using your smartphone and the waymarks near you.

gps games

8. Repurpose Outdoor Games With A GEO Twist

Try playing capture the castle, where the “flag” is a GPS co-ordinate which you then have to reach in order to win. See more ideas similar to this here.

9. Confluence Project

Confluences are the points where longitude and latitude lines meet, so naturally there is a website dedicated to seeing what each and every confluence looks like. Head to your nearest confluence using your smartphone’s GPS to guide you, take a photo and stick it on confluence.org to take part.

10. Make Your Own Geocaching Game

Either use the cache to point the way to the next co-ordinates or use a stamp or sticker system within caches to fill out a passport of locations which have been found.

Even More GPS Games

If you like GPS games, here’s some more things you’ll love:

Now, what we really need is smartphone applications which show you all the geocaches, local waymarks, today’s geohash location, etc. all in one applications. Any takers to write one?

What are your favourite geo-games? How do they work?

January 28 2012


Ski Tracks – The Skiing & Snowboarding App That Will Make You Say….Holy Crap! [iPhone]

Every now and then you come across an application that blows you away. Recently, I wrote an article about applications for skiers and snowboarders, and this one flew under my radar. Recently, I decided to spend the $0.99 to try it out, and I must say that Ski Tracks completely blew me away. This application offers so much for skiers that it is staggering. I just got into skiing this season, and I absolutely love it. As if it were not fun enough, this application actually finds a way to make it better.

The purpose of this app is to keep track of your stats while skiing. I hate to quote a line from an infomercial, but with this application, you really just need to “set it and forget it”.  It sits in your pocket while you ski or snowboard and keeps track of everything you do, from your speed, to your slope and everything in between. If there was anything you were curious about in your performance while on the slopes, chances are great that this app will have you covered.

How It Works

Ski Tracks uses GPS to keep track of your statistical information while skiing. It is able to find your location using the phone’s built in location service. The thing that is incredible is that you do not need to manage it manually. It knows when you are on a chairlift. This means it is able to start a new run automatically. You do not have to pull your phone out and fuss with it each time you ride to the bottom of the mountain. It is incredibly impressive.

Since Ski Tracks uses GPS, it can also track where you are on the mountain. This is awesome if you need to see what runs you have missed. In all honesty, the fact this app works as well as it does seems like some sort of voodoo magic to me. I am certainly not complaining, because it has made skiing even better.

Stat Tracking

This application’s main selling point is its ability to keep track of your performance on the mountain. To get it to track your stats, you simply need to open the application on your iOS device and click the start button on the bottom right corner of the screen. From there, you can just throw your phone into your pocket and it will keep track of everything automatically.

I suppose saying it keeps track of “everything” is a little broad and perhaps I should narrow it down. To start with, it keeps track of speed, which was the statistic about which I was most excited. It tracks your top speed throughout the day as well as your average.

Another of my favorites is distance. It lets you know how far you have skied and how far you have ridden on the lift. This gives you an amazing feel for how much ground you have covered throughout the day.

The complete list of stats the app tracks is as follows:

  • Speed
  • Distance
  • Ski Vertical
  • Altitude
  • Number of runs
  • Slope
  • Duration

It will also break all of this information down run by run, so you can see how you compared on each run down the mountain. It is impressive just how much this application can tell you about your ski day.

Social Features

After you finish skiing, click the ski icon on the top right corner of the screen to edit the name of your day and give it some information such as the current weather and the snow conditions. Click “save” and the track will be locked in.

After you save the track, you can click the share button on the bottom right of the screen to email it to a friend, upload it to Facebook or send it to your computer with iTunes document sharing. This is an awesome way to show you friends how well you killed it on the slopes on your last trip.

The app will create an album in your Facebook photos and add all of the images there. It will add your charts, maps and any photos you took during that ski trip for all of your friends to see.

Of course, you can also access your ski tracks at any time from the application. This way, if you wanted to see how you did last time at a particular mountain, you can do so quickly and easily.

Other Features

Ski Tracks has iPod controls built right in. You can control your tunes while on the slopes without ever exiting the app. It also features a camera, so you can quickly take photos from the mountain.

They also added a proximity sensor that works similarly to using the phone. It will automatically turn the screen on when you remove the phone from your pocket and turn it off when you place it back. The app has surprisingly low battery drain. I was able to have it running for about 7 hours straight before my phone died. That is impressive considering it is constantly using location services.

On top of these cool features, you can also choose to have the app measure in metric or imperial units, depending on where you live.


This is without question the best ski application I have ever used. It keeps very accurate stats that make skiing a lot more fun. For example, you can try to beat your best speeds or cover a greater distance that you did on a previous trip. This app allows you to take the act of skiing and make it into a competition with yourself. The data it provides is awesome, and it is so useful for any skier or snowboarder.

iTunes Download Link

Image Credit: Shutterstock

December 30 2011


The Secret To Disabling Mobile Phone Localization

mobile phone localizationSo you’re going about your business, getting on with life, when suddenly something strange happens. You bump into somebody who you know from way back. They might be old friends, work colleague or perhaps even a former lover… and they have been waiting for you. In the next few moments your confusion over the situation leads you to make several mistakes; despite your better judgment, you agree to meet up with the one-time friend. In the most extreme circumstances, the former acquaintance might have less-than-pure intentions towards you, particularly if they were a jilted lover.

The increased connectivity that is afforded by mobile phones and tablets has a distinct dark side – many of the apps and games that we use can reveal our location, one way or another. This is done explicitly – think of the “check in” function on Facebook – or done in a more underhand manner, and if used unchecked can cause serious personal safety and privacy issues.

How does this happen? It’s all thanks to localization, the name given to the way in which mobile phones collect and share data about your location to the apps that you have installed.

Localization – Friend Or Foe?

Included as a feature on all of the currently used mobile phone and tablet platforms, localization doesn’t just rely on GPS to provide your location to an inquisitive app.

Along with GPS, localization can determine your location by triangulating your position from mobile phone towers and even wireless hotspots that you might be connected to. During 2011 we saw how this information can be used by the mobile phone operating system to record your position, and similarly apps use the data to provide a richer mobile experience.

Only apps that have previously been assigned permission can utilize the data. That’s right, the apps have permission. Assuming you are downloading apps from the official store for your mobile device, they will be enjoying your consent to share details of your current location to services such as FourSquare or Google Maps. Permission is generally granted when installing the app, but it might also be given when the software is run for the first time.

The Effects of Disabling Localization

You can of course disable localization, particularly if you have concerns about the way in which the information is being used or shared. Twitter in particular can prove troublesome if you have it configured to share your current location with every Tweet that you send.

mobile phone localization

The most important thing is to be aware of the risks and advantages that localization can bring to the day-to-day use of your chosen mobile device. For instance, using the Facebook check-in feature can help you to meet up with friends, family or colleagues at a particular location just as easily as it can reveal your whereabouts to stalkers (obviously this can only occur if your Facebook profile isn’t private). On the other hand a game or map tool is unlikely to share your location with just anyone (although Google Latitude will divulge your whereabouts).

Control the Information Your Cell Phone Shares

Taking control of the data that is shared by apps means spending a few moments with your mobile phone and checking the current localization settings. You can use the guides below to help – notice how they are all quite similar.


mobile localization

Altering your Android’s settings so that localization information is not collected is relatively easy. Open Menu > Settings > Location & security and clear the Use wireless networks and Use GPS satellites options under My Location.


The process can differ between BlackBerry OS versions, but this is generally made possible by opening Options > Advanced Options > GPS and altering the Location Aiding setting to Disabled.


On iPhone, open the Home screen and find Settings. From here, select Location Services and switch to Off. For disabling localization for specific apps, these are listed on the same screen and can be configured as required.

Windows Phone

mobile phone localization
On Windows Phone, open Settings > Location to disable all localization data sharing; alternatively if you only wish to disable a specific app from sharing data collected from GPS or cellular triangulation, go to Settings > Applications and find the app in question, flicking the Use my location switch to disable.  If the app you’re looking for is not listed, open it as normal and use the app’s own settings menu.


There are many reasons why you might wish to keep your whereabouts under wraps, depending on who you are, where you live, what your career is, etc. The tips above work for each of the mobile platforms listed and can be used to your advantage, but remember that localization services are provided to make life easier for you.

Thankfully, disabling localization isn’t irreversible, so if you decide at a later date that you would like to take advantage of this functionality simply reverse the steps!

Image Credit: Nachoman-au, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Telstra_Mobile_Phone_Tower.jpg

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December 29 2011


What To Do If You Lose Your Smartphone At A Party [Android]

Tis the season…for parties! Company parties, family parties, or just plain parties – perhaps with some mistletoe or a dash of New Year confetti. Whatever the occasion, parties offer a unique opportunity for many things, such as losing your phone. One moment you’re taking a picture of yourself with some friends, and the next moment it’s gone.

Normally you’d be able to turn over couch cushions or survey the floor, but not now. Now it’s time to rely on your inner geek.

Alert Your Phone Using A Call Or SMS

Your first step when attempting to find a lost phone is to try and locate it immediately using the oldest trick in the book – calling it. However, calling your phone has limitations. You have to constantly re-dial, and what if your phone is on silent or vibrate? You might be able to hear the buzz when you’re at home, but you won’t at even the lamest party.

That’s where apps come in, and Where’s My Droid is the gold standard for finding a lost phone. You can text your phone a pre-designated code word in order to activate Where’s My Droid, which will then cause your phone to ring even if it’s on silent or vibrate.

Where’s My Droid is free and available for Android 1.6 or newer. Other options include Lost Phone, which requires Android 1.5 and up, and Lookout Security, which also requires Android 1.5 and up.

Track It With GPS

If you haven’t been able to locate your phone by activating its ringtone, then your phone may not have been lost in the area you originally thought. It’s even possible you left it at home, or someone carried it off, either accidently or not.

That’s where GPS tracking comes in. Almost all modern phones have a GPS device built in, which can then report location remotely. Apps like Where’s My Droid and Lookout Security & Antivirus offer this feature, as do most free or paid mobile security apps. Some mobile security apps (including Lookout) can provide a rough location even when a phone’s GPS is turned off.

If you did not have the foresight to install a security app beforehand, you can try something like Lookout’s Plan B. This works by installing through the Android Web Market. Your phone will have to have mobile data reception and at least Android 2.0 for this to work.

Don’t count on GPS as a miracle worker. With a phone it is accurate to within a few feet if you’re using it outside, under a blue sky, without any large structures to interfere. Change those conditions and it becomes less accurate. Indoors, under a couch, it may have some trouble. The results should at least be accurate enough to tell you if your phone has left the building, however.

Wipe The Phone & Reset Passwords

You’ve tried ringing your device, and you’ve tried to track it with GPS. Still, no dice. Maybe it ran out of battery, or maybe a thief took it and was smart enough to turn it off and let it sit for a few days or weeks. Either way, your phone’s gone and you don’t know who has it.

In this grim situation you’ll want to wipe data so that your phone can’t be used as an avenue for ID theft or harassment, two rare but troubling possibilities. Most paid security apps, like Lookout Security, will allow for remote wiping of data from your phone.

However, there’s some doubt as to how well this feature works. In a recent AV-Comparatives test researchers were able to recover some or all data from mobile phones after they were allegedly wiped. It it was also possible to access Google Mail account data after the wipe. Only Kaspersky Mobile Security successfully protected Google Mail in the test, which is one of the reasons I’ve been recommending it despite a $9.99 price tag.

There’s always the chance that someone might be able to snatch data before you wipe your phone, however – or they could disable the phone’s networking capabilities, rendering wipe attempts invalid. As such, you should treat the loss of a phone the same as the loss of a computer. Reset all passwords that were stored on the device as soon as possible.

It might also be wise to send an SMS or email to friends and family letting them know your phone is no longer in your possession, as well. They can be on the look for it, and treat any calls or texts allegedly from you with suspicion.


Despite the advanced features in modern smartphones, there’s still only so much you can do to find your phone. Most options rely on preemptive measures. Attempting to locate a phone without a phone-finding or security app is extremely difficult, so don’t doddle. Install Where’s My Droid or a security app as soon as possible.

Have you lost your Android phone before?  If so, how did you locate it?  With one of the above apps or with another?  Let us know your experiences in the comments below.

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November 30 2011


Determine Your Location With Geosense Location Sensor [Windows 7]

geosense for windowsWith Windows 7, Microsoft introduced the Windows Sensor and Location platform, which theoretically enables your computer to adapt to its current environment through location-aware applications. Even if your computer does not contain a GPS chip, its current location can be determined in a number of ways, including IP lookup, WiFi triangulation, and cell tower triangulation.

Geosense is a sensor that can use this technology and feed the data into location-aware applications.

Setting Up Geosense

After installing the sensor, you need to enable Geosense. Go to your > Windows Start menu, search for > location, and select > Location and Other Sensors from the results listed under > Control Panel.

geosense for windows

Check the box next to > Geosense Location Sensor and click > Apply to enable Geosense.

geosense windows 7

To view more information about the Geosense Location Sensor, change its description, change who can access the sensor, and to uninstall Geosense, click on > Geosense Location Sensor.

geosense windows 7

Now that the sensor is enabled, you can use it with location-aware applications.

Google Maps

To demonstrate the functionality of Geosense, its developers have created a Google Maps demo client, which you can download from the Geosense homepage or through this link (ZIP file). The app reveals your current location on a Google map and allows you to quickly locate facilities in your area.

geosense windows 7

In my tests, the accuracy was so good that the street address displayed in the Google Maps sidebar diverted only by meters, i.e. it calculated that I was sitting in the house next door.

This location-sensing Google Maps client can be very useful for travelers. When stranded in a foreign city, not knowing your current street address, all you have to do is connect to the Internet, launch the client, and it will tell you right where you are. You can then use the Google Maps > Search nearby feature to look for restaurants, bars, or other public facilities in the area.

geosense windows sensor

We have written many interesting articles about Google Maps, check out some of them here:

Weather Gadget

The Windows 7 Weather gadget for your desktop is a location-aware application. To add it to your desktop, search for > gadget in your Windows Start menu and select > Desktop Gadget Gallery from the results under > Programs.

geosense windows sensor

When the Gadget Gallery has opened, double-click the > Weather gadget and it will load on your desktop.

desktop gadget gallery

If it works, you will see a blue WiFi signal next to your location, which indicates that your location is detected. If it does not work, this little icon will be marked with a red cross and it will probably display the default city, which is Seattle, Washington.

geosense for windows

More cool Windows 7 desktop gadgets can be found in these articles:

Another application that supports Geosense is MahTweets, a social network client for Twitter, Facebook, and FourSquare, including multiple accounts for each. Since its release in early March 2011, however, not much has happened and it seems like it has not been developed further. Therefore I will not explore this application further.

Unfortunately, although the Windows Sensor and Location platform and the relevant technology have been around for several years, there are very few location-aware applications for Windows 7. Geosense hopes to “kickstart a pool of cool location-based or location-enhanced applications on Windows 7.” Until further applications are available, the tool remains a fun demonstration of how accurate free location sensing technologies are these days.

If you are concerned about your privacy and don’t want to share your location under any circumstances, be sure to check out this article: How To Disable Or Fake Your Location In Firefox, Internet Explorer & Chrome.

What do you think of this technology? Do you use location sensing on your mobile devices and would you like to see more location-aware applications for Windows?  Or does this kind of thing scare you with its privacy implications?

Image credits: Tobias Machhaus

September 30 2011


How To Use A GPS Enabled Smartphone As A Tracking Device

gps tracking deviceGPS is one of the more frequently overlooked enhancements in consumer technology.  It’s at least as useful and interesting as Wi-Fi, but often taken for granted. That’s a shame, because it can be incredibly useful, even in older smartphones.

One potential covert use is GPS tracking. A GPS connection from a mobile phone can be used to pinpoint its location, and by extension, the person or vehicle carrying it. Let’s have a look at how you can do this, and the problems you might encounter.

Tracking Apps

gps tracking device

Surprisingly, actually installing a tracker onto a smartphone is the easy part. There are a lot of options available and they’re easy to install straight from the market.

For families, Android has a great solution in the form of the imaginatively named GPS Tracking app. Once installed on a mobile device with GPS, its location can be checked from another phone. It is marketed as a way to keep track of family members, particularly children, and works well for that purpose. Just be warned that it will only run on phones that support Android 2.1 and up, and although the app is free, continued use will require a $4.99/month subscription.

phone tracking device

Another option is to use an anti-theft app like Where’s My Droid? It can track your phone when you send a specific text phrase, so if you’re interested in using your own device for tracking or afraid of losing your phone, it’s a better option.

Apple fans also have access to their fair share of apps, but I don’t own an iPhone. Fortunately, MakeUseOf already has an article covering the 9 best iPhone GPS apps, including GPS Tracker for iPhone.

Learning The Limitations

Now that you have the right app, you’re ready for some gumshoeing – or you can keep track of your kid, at least.

Not so fast! Before you start going GPS crazy you should take a moment to consider the limitations, which can make use of a phone as a tracking device less compelling.

phone tracking device

All GPS devices need to be able to connect with GPS satellites. Depending on the quality of a phone’s GPS radio, this can be rather difficult if a phone is not kept out in the open. Penetrating the cloth of a backpack or pocket could work, but a phone in a car glove box will have real difficulty. It may be able to report a location, but not accurately enough to be of use.

Battery life can also be a problem, as GPS radios suck a lot of power. Using GPS in bursts now and then won’t have much impact, but constant GPS use can take a big slice out of battery life. On newer big-screen smartphones, which already struggle to last a day, frequent use of GPS tracking can reduce endurance to a few hours.

These problems aren’t always an issue with all phones, but I think they’re enough to call GPS tracking with a phone unreliable. That’s not to say you should not use it, but remember that it may not work consistently.

Alternatives To GPS On A Smartphone

If you really need GPS to work reliably, I suggest that you don’t rely on a smartphone. Standalone radios tend to have a stronger signal and better battery life, often lasting for several weeks rather than hours. Some of these devices can even communicate with a computer or phone through an authorized app.

gps tracking device

The cost is a higher price. Inexpensive units start at around $80, but a more serious standalone GPS tracking device can be over $200. Still, if accurate and reliable tracking is required, I would rely on a product designed specifically for that purpose.

Do you agree? Or do you think smartphone tracking is reliable enough to make more specific devices obsolete? Let us know in the comments.

Image Source: Space Today Online

September 22 2011


3 Ways To Obtain Better Gas Mileage With Your Smartphone

better gas mileageFuel is a significant part of any vehicle’s overall cost to own. In some cases, money spent on gas can make up over half of your monthly car-related expenses. Even people who don’t drive often can easily spend over $1,000 a year on gas.

Most drivers can use a few tactics to reduce their fuel costs without switching to a more efficient vehicle, and there are free tools available on smartphones that help. They’ll help you save money without driving less or switching cars.


better gas mileage

Before you can seriously approach saving money and obtaining better gas mileage, you need to know your current fuel economy. Although many modern vehicles have built-in fuel economy gauges, they are not always accurate. The most precise way to track your economy is via your fuel receipts.

Fuelly can help you with this. Simply input the gallons you put into your car, the price, the mileage since your last fill-up, and Fuelly will calculate your economy and the money you spent on gas. Now that you have this information, you can see how well your efforts to improve your mileage are working. Your information is shared with others using the service, creating a catalog of vehicles. This is also handy, because it provides a reference against which you can compare your car and your driving habits.

Fuelly is a website, and available on any device with Internet access. It’s also possible to add fuel-up data via SMS.

Garmin Mechanic [Android 2.1+]

better gas mileage

Although two vehicles may be the same, their gas mileage may vary wildly. The driver behind the wheel is a massive variable. While some drivers are soft and easy with the gas pedal, others scream about as if a velociraptor is sitting in the passenger seat.

Each of these approaches to driving, and everything between, will give different fuel economy results. Garmin Mechanic can help you investigate your own tendencies by monitoring your speed (via GPS) as well as your acceleration and braking. You can then examine the results to see if you could have been driving a bit slower, or you could have been easier on gas pedal. You’ll also have access to a real-time fuel economy monitor.

All of these functions are enhanced by using the Garmin ecoRoute HD adapter. Using this, it’s possible to plug your car directly into your phone, resulting in precise data rather than guesses based off your phone’s sensors. You’ll also gain access to the app’s engine diagnostics section. However, the adapter is almost $100, so not everyone may find it worthwhile.

The app is free and available for Android 2.1 and up.

BestRoute / Route4Me [Android 2.0 + iOS]

gas mileage devices

One of the best ways to save fuel is to drive less, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go where you want. By better planning your routes, you can make the same stops but drive fewer miles, which should save you money at the pump.

BestRoute for Android 2.0 and better, as well as Route4Me for iOS, can accomplish this. These apps allow users to input an address and then “optimize” them, resulting in a route that is as short as possible.

Both apps can be obtained for free, but Route4Me requires an in-app purchase of a “100 address pack” for $4.99. BestRoute is ad-supported and limited to 10-stop routes. An ad-free version is available for a buck, and a Pro version with support for routes with up to 50 stops is $4.99.


How do you save money and obtain better gas mileage with your smartphone? Do you use a favorite navigation app to find better routes, or do you use an app that encourages more efficient driving? As always, readers are encouraged to let us know in the comments! I also recommend that readers check out our recent article about auto and gas related iPhone apps.

Image Credit: CNET

August 04 2011


Marble – An Open Source Alternative To Google Earth [Linux]

If you haven’t tried out Google Earth, you may be missing out. Being able to turn the Earth around as if it was a marble is pretty cool in itself, let alone the fact that you have access to satellite images of the whole world. All of that is great, but Google Earth can sometimes be a resource hog. Additionally, Google Earth is made by, well, Google, which might lead some people to automatically boycott it.

In any case, even though Google Earth is available for Linux, there’s also a decent open source alternative that users can try as well.

About Marble

Marble is, like stated above, an open source alternative to Google Earth that is truly native to Linux. It is most commonly associated with the KDE desktop environment, although it can be run alongside any desktop environment such as GNOME.  Marble is built differently, and carries less fat and more of the good stuff.


If you’re a KDE user, Marble may already be installed. If not, both KDE users as well as users of any other desktop environment can install it. On most distributions the package should be called marble. Go ahead and install that along with its dependencies, and you’re all set.

First Launch

To launch Marble, you’ll find it under the Education category. If you didn’t have an Education category, it should have created it for you upon installation. When Marble is open, you’ll be greeted by a view of Earth, concentrated on Europe. From here, you can go ahead and control Marble however you like. You will most likely make the most use out of the tools located on the left pane, where there are four different categories of controlling what you see – Navigation (moving around the map), Legend, Map View, and Routing.

Left Pane Tools

Navigation presents you with some basic tools for moving around the map. In here you can search for cities (they have to be big enough to be locally significant), move around using cardinal directions, go back to your set “Home” location, and zoom in and out. Note that Marble supports mouse scrolling and double clicking for the zoom features, while click-and-drag works for pushing around the map.

The Legend category shows you what each item on the map represents. There are also check marks next to each map feature, so you can choose which ones you would like to see or hide. What the Legend category displays is dependent on what is selected in Map View.

Map View lets you choose what you would like to actually see. There are three separate options you can choose from: the projection type, which celestial body should be shown (Earth or Moon), and the theme. The moon only comes with one theme, but Earth comes in a number of themes, including a plain view, a satellite view, an atlas, a street map provided by OpenStreetMap (an open replacement to Google Maps), historical maps, and temperature and precipitation maps.

The maps are continually updated and downloaded from the Internet every time you use them. Therefore, some maps may not load if you are not connected to the Internet at that moment. Marble will even use the theme you used last time upon launch. These different map themes are probably one of the most compelling features of Marble that are not present in Google Earth as fully as they are in Marble.

Finally, in the Routing category, you can choose to have Marble give you driving directions. It would be most helpful to be on the OpenStreetMap theme. You can then choose a start and stop location and Marble will visually create a route for you to follow. You can also get textual directions, although they are not always available.

GPS Functionality

Marble is also able to function with a GPS device. After enabling “Current Location” under the View menu, you’ll have another category in your left pane. Here you can enable the gpsd service, which will try to find any GPS devices to track your current position. Additionally there are map adjustment and auto-zoom options for you to try if you use this feature.

More Options

Under Settings –> Configure Marble Virtual Globe you’ll find a couple of other useful features that you may need to configure. Here you’ll find settings for your units, time, graphics and image quality, routing, and more. Although not essentially necessary, it is worth going through the options to have the best experience possible.


Marble is a well-developed virtual globe application for Linux that brings a new perspective to the Earth-viewing experience. Although a couple of missing features would be desirable, the application already does enough to satisfy. If you enjoy using Google Earth, you’ll feel well-catered for with Marble.

Do you have Google Earth installed? What about it do you like and dislike? How would your experience compare with Marble? Let us know in the comments!

Marble – An Open Source Alternative To Google Earth [Linux] is a post from: MakeUseOf

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