Sunday, 4 September 2011

Mashable: Latest 7 News Updates - including “4 Tools for Building a Business Mobile App”

Mashable: Latest 7 News Updates - including “4 Tools for Building a Business Mobile App”

4 Tools for Building a Business Mobile App

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 03:26 PM PDT

In a world where there's always "an app for that," more small businesses see the value in creating their own mobile apps. The technical know-how necessary to develop an impressive app and the cost of hiring a professional developer, however, have discouraged the production of many would-be branded applications.

Affordable do-it-yourself alternatives give all companies — even those with minimal tech expertise — a way to create their own apps.

Even the code-illiterate can build passable apps using these four new platforms.

1. Bizness Apps

Bizness Apps focuses on industry-specific features. If you’re building an app for a restaurant, for instance, its builder might suggest that you add a menu and a specials feature. If you’re building an app for a gym, it might recommend a weekly workout planner.

It’s a difficult platform on which to customize beyond color choices, but it’s a tool that’s incredibly easy to use.

Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, HTML5

Price: $39 per month for the iPhone app plus $10 per month for an iPad, Android or HTML5 app.

2. Mobiflex

MobiFlex, while not the prettiest of the app creators, will integrate with back-end data sources and incorporates functions like the phone's camera, speech recognition and GPS into its native apps.

There’s a better chance of creating and releasing a useful app with these features, but users also have a steeper learning curve than some of its competitors.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: A one-time setup fee of $99 plus a monthly fee of $25 for up to 50 users and two pages.

3. AppMakr

If your main objective for creating an app is to distribute content, AppMakr might be a good choice. Publishers such as The Atlantic and Harvard Business Review have made apps using the platform.

Other than adding content through multiple RSS feeds, uploading a photo gallery and sending push notifications, its code-free apps can’t do much. One appealing aspect for content creators, however, is the option to serve ads through several networks.

iSites, Swebapps and App Co offer similar approaches for content distribution apps.

Platforms: iOS

Price: Free

4. Red Foundry

Red Foundry offers options for the intermediate coder and newbie app builder alike. More advanced users can choose to design their apps with an xml-based coding system instead of using the startup’s template.

RSS feeds are the focus of the free version of the product’s point-and-click app builder, though it’s easy to add other extras like photo galleries, maps, social feed and commerce options like a Paypal donate button.

What’s most obviously distinct about the platform is its test-as-you go app,Viz. After you load the program onto your phone, you can use it to test your app as you build it.

The platform also makes widgets that show analytics, social activity and push notifications from your app that you can add to your desktop.

Platforms: iOS products

Price: Basic apps are free; more advanced options start at $39 per month.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, izusek

More About: appmakr, apps, Bizness Apps, MobiFlex, Red Foundry

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NASA Web App Lets You Control Space & Time in 3D [VIDEO]

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 02:30 PM PDT

NASA has released its “Eyes on the Solar System” 3D environment, a free web browser-based application that lets you navigate a 3D version of the solar system. The app uses video game technology to let you control your point of view from anywhere in our solar system, speeding up time so you can see the motion of the planets, their satellites and NASA spacecraft.

We tried the Eyes on the Solar System app (download here), which first requires a download of the Unity Web Player for Mac and PC. Once you’ve done that, you can fly around beautifully produced models of all the planets, asteroids and the Sun. Or you can enter custom modules created by NASA that highlight missions such as Juno, the recently launched probe that’s currently on a five-year mission to Jupiter.

According to NASA:

"This is the first time the public has been able to see the entire solar system and our missions moving together in real time," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "It demonstrates NASA's continued commitment to share our science with everyone."

You can even keep tabs on the current locations of NASA spacecraft, with the help of NASA’s actual mission data. Don’t forget to click the Full Screen button for the full effect. Fantastic stuff.

Get the app here.

More About: Eyes on the Solar System, NASA, space, trending

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Social Media Avatars: 20 Examples of Personal Presentation Gone Wrong [COMIC]

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 01:28 PM PDT

The Joy of Tech takes us on a grand tour of the various types of social media avatars you’ll encounter as you navigate this vast series of tubes.

Are you one who doesn’t want to use a current picture of yourself as your social media avatar? Or maybe you’ve developed a certain style of presenting yourself via an avatar that might not say exactly what you want it to say.

See if you recognize yourself among these 20 examples:

[via The Joy of Tech]

More About: avatars, comics, Social Media, The Joy of Tech

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Mashable Staff Goes Stocking [PICS]

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 11:24 AM PDT

Haven’t you heard? Planking is so mid-2011. As the calendar turns to September and we look forward to Fall, the new Internet meme du jour is something called “stocking.” Say what? That’s what we said, too.

Stocking is the act of taking a picture that imitates a stock photo, putting the two side-by-side, and posting the results on the web. The phenomenon is so new, it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page yet.

We’re not exactly sure where the idea for stocking truly originated, but since Aug. 18 the blog Stocking is the New Planking has been entertaining us with imitations of stock photos. Naturally, we decided to get in on the fun.

We hope you enjoy the fruits of our labors.

Brian Anthony Hernandez

Photos of Mashable staff members appear on the right and the stock photos are on the left.

Stock photo courtesy of iStockphoto, bo1982

Radhika Marya and Matt Silverman

Stock photo courtesy of iStockphoto, wdstock

Zoe Fox, Adam Ostrow and Todd Olmstead

Stock photo courtesy of istockphoto, drewhadley

Lauren Indvik

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RichVintage

Puppy Elliott

This is Amy Mae Elliott's dog. As she's overseas, we have yet to discover this adorable pooch's name. We believe they are on a walk. Stock photo courtesy of iStockphoto, fenne

Stacy Green

Stock photo courtesy of iStockphoto, lisegagne

Lauren Drell

Stock photo courtesy of iStockphoto, skynesher

Franklin Drell

Stock photo courtesy of iStockphoto, MorganLeFaye

Christina Warren

Photo courtesy of istockphoto, ChristopherBernard

Zachary Sniderman

Stock photo courtesy of Flickr, Ollie Crafoord

More About: community, istockphoto, mashable hq, Photos, stocking

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New iPhone 5 Clue: Will It Have a 4-Inch Screen?

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 11:17 AM PDT

As we get closer to the rumored release date of the iPhone 5, yet another clue about its true nature has surfaced today.

Here’s a new set of extrapolations, taken to a speculative conclusion by our friends at MacRumors. When they snagged a couple of publicly available third-party cases that purport to fit the iPhone 5, they noticed that the case is so much wider that it strongly suggests a 4-inch screen on the new iPhone, larger than the iPhone 4′s 3.5″ display.

This is a different case from the iPhone 5 case we showed you yesterday, which was a soft case with closed ends that also suggested that the iPhone 5 will be significantly wider and thinner than its predecessor, also pointing to the possibility of a 4-inch screen.

MacRumors did more precise measurements with this particular case, noting that while the iPhone 4 is 2.31 inches wide, with its 3.5″ screen measuring 1.95 inches wide, an iPhone fitting into this case would have a display measuring a significantly wider 2.24 inches. So if this indeed is the final case design, the iPhone will have a 4-inch screen.

However, given the secretive nature of Apple and the possibility of fake case specifications passed around to various manufacturers accused of leaks in the past, we can’t be sure of the dimensions of the iPhone 5 just yet. This is just one piece of info, but add this to all the other iPhone 5 clues, and most are pointing to the same thing: As the evidence mounts, it points to a wider, thinner iPhone 5 with a larger screen and tapered bottom.

I think the current iPhone’s 3.5″ screen is way too small, and I would like to see a display that’s even larger than 4 inches. I think Apple will be enlarging the iPhone’s screen, to get closer to the even-larger screen sizes of many of its competitors. What do you think? To be sure, we’ll have to wait till later this month for the alleged introduction of the iPhone 5, with the rumored release in October.

[via MacRumors]

More About: iPhone 5, rumors, Screen Size

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3 New Mobile Apps Offering a Twist on the Expected

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 10:09 AM PDT

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Each weekend, Mashable hand-picks startups that we think are building interesting, unique or niche products.

This week’s selection of startups have created mobile applications for iPhone and Android that offer a twist on the expected.

EyeEm is a mobile photo-sharing application unique in its ability to surface similar photos in real time. Life Is Crime mixes up mobile gaming with location-based gameplay, and Liquid Fare, perfectly suited for barhoppers, offers an updated interpretation of the mobile reviewing app.

EyeEm: Photo Capture for Photo Discovery

Quick Pitch: EyeEm is a photo capture, sharing and discovery app that learns your tastes from the pictures you take.

Genius Idea: Photo vibes.

Mashable’s Take: Berlin-based EyeEm puts a fresh twist on mobile photo-sharing with an app for iPhone and Android that emphasizes discovery.

Yes, the app does include filters, likes, comments and social sharing — staples in nearly every mobile photo application these days — but we think you’ll like it for its more refined qualities.

Filters, for instance, are applied in your camera’s view pane, even before you snap a photo. Photos are automatically arranged into photo albums called vibes, categorizing photos by either place, people or content. Plus, the app auto-tags your photos with location and activity descriptions, making manual entry completely optional.

Life Is Crime: Mobile MMO Set in the Real World

Quick Pitch: Life Is Crime by Red Robot Labs is a location-based MMO mobile game where players commit virtual crimes in real places.

Genius Idea: Combining social and hardcore gaming elements with location-based action.

Mashable’s Take: Developed by former executives at Playdom and EA, Life Is Crime tasks mobile users on Android (and soon iOS) to commit virtual crimes, perform missions, challenge other players to take over real-world locations and become criminal masterminds.

The game takes the high-octane elements of complex, narrative-based video games for consoles and PCs, throws in social gaming standbys like virtual goods and gameplay with friends, and uniquely places all of the action in your surrounding neighborhood.

Liquid Fare: A Mobile Wingman

Quick Pitch: Liquid Fare provides an easy way to find local bars, lounges and clubs organized by age, style and attractiveness of the crowd.

Genius Idea: Mobile users crowdsource their way to a better night out on the town.

Mashable’s Take: Liquid Fare for iPhone and Android promises to be the compass that points you towards the hippest hotspots nearby, depending on your personal preferences in crowd style, age and attractiveness.

The application crowdsources its establishment assessments, encouraging users to rate the scene at venues they visit.

Liquid Fare, from the New York-based startup of the same name, was first piloted in New York and San Francisco. The application rolled out for all audiences in the U.S. in August.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Roger’s Wife

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, EyeEm, Liquid Fare, Red Robot Labs, spark-of-genius, Startup Weekend Roundup

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39 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 09:05 AM PDT

Summer may be lazing into fall, but we’re just ramping it up! To Mashable readers exclusively, we bring you the weekly roundup.

This week seems to have a peculiar culinary theme, so we’re going with the flow. Two of our editorial picks involve browser cookies and Facebook tips for restaurants. Now that you’ve got the munchies, fix yourself a plate and kick back this weekend with our favorite features.

Editors’ Picks

Social Media

5 Android Apps to Turn Your Phone Into a Mobile Document Scanner

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 07:37 AM PDT

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Even if you’ve done everything you can to banish paper from your office, those little white sheets can still creep up on you.

You’ll want to digitize those crinkly analog fugitives post haste, but you may not be keen on splurging for a scanner — especially when you’re only taming the occasional receipt or intake form.

The solution — wait for it — could be in the palm of your hand. Your Android smartphone has all the photographic and processing power you’ll need to snap up those docs and get them into the cloud where they belong.

Here are a few mobile document scanning solutions we put through their paces.

1. CamScanner

CamScanner is a breeze to use, and you can test out the free version via the Market link above. Snap a photo of your document and pull up the cropping tool. The app will auto-detect the edges of the paper, but the slick drag-and-snap guides will help you fine tune the dimensions.

The processing enhancements are smart, and will compensate for low light and bad focus reasonably well. Though the app generates a cropped and toned image, it will also hang onto the original photo -- handy, in case you accidentally cropped your boss' name off the letterhead.

The app has built-in integration with Google Docs, and Dropbox, but for the less fancy among you, it's easy to pipe scanned docs straight into email.

The main issue we encountered was with PDF creation. The original image is stored as a JPEG, but the option to convert it to a PDF simply opened the phone's default PDF viewer. The file is viewable, but we found no apparent way to save or share.

The paid version promises to make things easier in this department, but you should see how the free version performs on your device before purchasing.

Price: Free / $4.99 for full license and features

2. Document Scanner

This app scans directly to PDF with ease. The interface couldn't be cleaner, and while the cropping tools aren't as snazzy as CamScanner's, they get the job done.

There are image enhancement features, but in our testing, they weren't as precise as CamScanner's.

Document Scanner also lets you upload directly to Google Docs, DropBox, and It even has Evernote integration -- a nice touch. Scan multiple pages in succession and email them to your heart's content.

The trial version will only last you seven days, but that should give you the time to decide if you're ready to throw down four bucks on the real deal.

Price: Free / $3.98 for full version

3. Droid Scan Pro PDF

Droid Scan works similarly to the aforementioned apps with one exception -- it'll send you out to the system camera to grab the image. No big deal -- in reality, the other apps are simply wrapping the native camera with their interface.

Once you're done shooting, Droid Scan picks right back up where you left off and gets down to image processing quickly.

The app has smart edge detection, intuitive (if small) color and contrast controls, and a final menu that lets you select the docs you want to save down as either JPEGs or PDFs (though PDF functionality is only available in the paid version).

Price: Free / $4.99 for PDF functionality

4. Scan to PDF

Scan to PDF scores big on interface simplicity. It's easy to start scanning or adjust the settings right from the first screen.

The app jumps over to the system camera by default (though you can adjust this setting), and offers great image processing and enhancement, even in low light.

The cropping function is intuitive but can be awkward -- rather than dragging and snapping at the corners, you'll have to pull the edges. Occasionally, your fingers will run out of screen or they'll accidentally drag the entire frame away from the edge. However, This quirk is far from a deal breaker, and the excellent gallery viewer more than makes up for it.

The free version of Scan to PDF does it all, but if you like it and use it regularly, you can show the devs a little love with a $.99 upgrade.

Price: Free / $.99 optional purchase for a job well done

5. PDF Scanner

For those looking for the dead-simple option, PDF Scanner is the way to go. This no-frills app cuts right to the quick.

Add pages by hitting scan. The camera viewfinder that appears has no buttons, so you'll have to just tap the screen to focus and snap.

The camera makes use of your phone's flash, which is helpful when scanning in low light. But be sure to frame and focus your image carefully because there's no crop or image enhancement here. Snap away until your document is complete, then email the PDF to its destination.

Regrettably, there's not trial version of this app, but if you're looking for a way to generate PDF scans quickly and easily, have no qualms dropping your coin here.

Price: $1.99

More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

- 15 Keyboard Shortcuts To Enhance Your PC Productivity
- 5 Services For Building Websites On A Budget
- 10 Accessories To Boost Office Morale
- Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses
- How To Use Social Media For Recruiting

More About: android, business, Mobile 2.0

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