We pickup our friends and family from the airport all the time. These are generally meetings with kisses and hugs. However, there are times when we may need to pickup someone that we hadn’t met yet. Perhaps it’s a colleague or maybe a new roommate. We all have seen those signs as we leave the baggage claim being held by various courier services. However, in recent months I’ve noticed that more and more companies are using tablets to display these signs electronically. It’s certainly more professional looking than a magic marker and of course you can brand it.
I actually started doing this when meeting friends just for the fun of it/laughs. Of course you can create these with any number of applications on your desktop and then send it to your iPad or iPhone as a PDF. While that works, it’s not convenient to create one on the fly. I could also build them in Photoshop Touch using photos and text right on my iOS device. That got me wondering if there was an App on the App Store that would let you do it directly. I found one. At first glance I really wasn’t impressed. The screenshots on the App Store were really “basic” looking. Sort of like 90′s clipart. Since it was free I downloaded it and gave it a shot. I was happy to see that I could put my own logo in and that the clipart look that I saw on the screen shots was just a bad looking logo. You can put in up to two lines of text. The App is an Universal App and therefore works on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. It also works in both portrait and landscape. You can choose from 4 different skins to change the background color and that’s pretty much it.
It works, but could be better!
While the Pick-Up Sign App does exactly what it says the first thing that I didn’t like was the ads being displayed on the sign. You can do an in-app purchase of 0.99¢ to turn the ads off. That’s the 1st thing I did. While I could easily import my logo as a .PNG file, the app didn’t seem to recognize the transparency. I ended up making a white version on a black background in Photoshop Touch. That’s when I realized that the black background in the dark skin wasn’t 100% black. I could go back and match it in Photoshop, but it would be nice to be able to choose a custom color background or better yet let me import a photo from my Photos/Camera Roll. The other issue is that you don’t get to choose fonts or font size. There is only one font and it scales based on the display orientation. I’d love it if it had a few font choices. It will be nice to have this App for those times when I need a quick sign, but if I really want it to look nice I’ll probably continue to build them in Photoshop Touch and display them as photos.
There can never be too many options for small business owners and freelancers to invoice their clients and accept credit cards. I love the Square App, but the Square App is geared for in person transactions. WePay is an App and service designed to allow you to take accept credit cards by invoicing your clients. Once you generate an invoice and email it to your client, you client can click the link taking them to a secure web page where they can pay your invoice right online. Unlike PayPal they aren’t encouraged to sign up for anything or register. They just simply pay their invoice. I setup a WePay account and verified my bank account with them so that they can transfer any payments right to my account minus their 2.9%+.30¢ per transaction.
The setup process is pretty straight forward. You can chose your existing contacts to invoice. You can create items to put on the invoice with descriptions and quantities. Once you’re done entering the information you can send the invoice by email. Unfortunately you don’t have any options to customize the invoice itself. When you create your profile you can go to the wepay.com site and add your photo to your profile. While you’re on their site you can grab “buttons” to put on your site. Also you can use this App to charge a credit card directly by entering the card number and other information. There is no hardware to swipe the card though. I look at this feature more for receiving payments by physical mail for example, where the customer simply lists their credit card number for you to charge.
Like I said, I love Square, but I also like having WePay as an option.
When I read the announcement that Google was killing Google Reader on July 1 of this year you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was in shock! Working for a software company, I know that these kinds of decisions are made all the time. However, this one really hit home with me. I use Google Reader ALL THE TIME! It’s the 1st tab that is open in my browser of daily sites that I review. Google Reader is my “daily newspaper”. I can easily subscribe to all the sites i’m interested in as well as keywords that will bring up articles of interest. People always ask me “how do you keep up with everything the way you do?” The answer is my secret weapon – Google Reader. I was currently using the Reeder App for iPhone and iPad because they sync’d so well with my Google Reader Account. Life was good! I wasn’t looking for any new features, Google Reader works fine just the way it its. Rather than cancel it, I’d be fine if Google simply said they weren’t going to ever upgrade it again. However, it’s not up to me and I have to deal with the cards I’ve been dealt. That means looking for Google Reader alternatives.
Feedly Announced that They are Picking up the Slack
Feedly was already an alternative reader that sync’d with your Google Reader account. They already have mobile Apps and even a slick Chrome plug-in. However, on the day that Google announced the end of Reader, they posted this blog post stating that they were already working on cloning the Google Reader API. They also posted this post to help you start the migration NOW.
I downloaded their Universal iOS App to get started. I also installed their Chrome plug-in/extension (yes they have one for Safari and other browsers). Setup at this point is pretty easy. Just log in with your existing Google Reader account and your feeds will all be there. That’s it! I’m sure that more has to go on on the backend so that your feeds get pulled in from Feedly instead of Google by July 1, but there really isn’t anything else for you to do at this point.
The Feedly UI
The Feedly user interface is nice and clean. While not quite as streamlined as Reeder, it’s definitely usable. They make good use of gestures and you can configure it with your Instapaper and Bit.ly accounts for saving and sharing. Once I changed the default view to “Latest” and switched on the “Auto Mark as Read” feature I was feeling more at home with this app. I do like having the initial image to the left of each article even on iPhone. This is somethign that Reeder for iPhone lacked.
The Bottom Line
While I’m sad that Google couldn’t figure out a way to keep Google Reader going (I would have paid for it), I’m happy to see several companies step up and offer alternatives. My only gripe with this App is that there should be an easier way to “mark all as read”. Yes, there is a “long swipe” gesture to do this, but it’s not intuitive. If Feedly get’s it together on the backend by July 1, I will have no reason to look any further. They have seen a jump by over 500,000 new users in just 2 days!
Here’s an interesting game that my friend Rita turned me on to. It’s called 4 Pics 1 Word. The concept is simple. The game displays 4 pictures that all have 1 thing in common and you have to guess what that one thing is. You’re given a bunch of scrambled letters as well as a number of empty boxes so that you know how many letters are in the word. You can guess all you want and it doesn’t affect your score. However, if you can’t move on until you guess the right word. Some are very easy to figure out and some made me give up to the point of using my accumulated points to buy letters in the word. It’s a good way to kill some time and like I said some pics will really have you thinking. I played side-by-side with my friend and we noticed that the pics come up in a random order. Also some of the pics are used in multiple groups of 4. You’ll breeze through most of these, but there will be some that make you scratch your head, put your iPhone down and walk away to think about it and do something else. If you’re stuck and need help you can also post the one you’re stuck on to Facebook to ask for help. It’s free and worth a download. Grab 4 Pics 1 Word today.
I get my news from the internet. I rely heavily on my RSS feeds. However, when I’m on the road and driving I obviously can’t read news stories on my phone. It would be great if I had my own personal news assistent that would not only read me the news, but the news that I’m interested in. That’s exactly what Winston for iPhone aims to do. Think of Winston as your own personal news butler with the accent and all! You set up the App by picking your topics of interest. When you’re ready to hear the news you launch the App and tap “Briefing”. Winston will very politely start by telling you the current time and date, then he continues with tomorrow’s weather forecast for your current location and then start reading the news from the headlines you are most interested in. If you want to skip a story simply swipe to the next one. If you configure your Facebook and Twitter accounts it will read your Facebook news feed. I find this pretty much useless as it says things like “John posted a picture and several people like it”. Same with Twitter, it tells you that someone posted a tweet and perhaps the subject, but not the actual tweet. It’s best to stick to the regular news feeds and topics of interest.
Winston does a good job and I enjoy listening to it while I’m driving. It has a healthy list of Channels including: NPR Headline News, Reuters: Top News, The Guadian, Washing Post World, All Things D, TechCrunch, The Verge, Engadget, USA Today Sports, NPR Sports, Wall Street Journal, CNN Politics, Fashionalogie, Dining and Gaming sites too. However, it needs the ability to read RSS feeds that you supply it. If they turn this into a full fledged news reader I’d enjoy it even more! For now Winston is worth a download and let’s hope it gets better with future updates.