Tag Archives: download

Google ups the Android wow factor with App Inventor

26 Jul

Talk about COOL. Google has announced an easy-to-use application creator for the android. I just signed up for a download (here) and was sent a message that I’ll need to wait due to overwhelming response. Go figure. This (computer-based) application looks like a drop-down menu based creation system for making your own Android apps.

More information from the Google Labs site:

About App Inventor

You can build just about any app you can imagine with App Inventor. Often people begin by building games like MoleMash or games that let you draw funny pictures on your friend’s faces. You can even make use of the phone’s sensors to move a ball through a maze based on tilting the phone.

But app building is not limited to simple games. You can also build apps that inform and educate. You can create a quiz app to help you and your classmates study for a test. With Android’s text-to-speech capabilities, you can even have the phone ask the questions aloud.

To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer. App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app’s behavior.

The App Inventor team has created blocks for just about everything you can do with an Android phone, as well as blocks for doing “programming-like” stuff– blocks to store information, blocks for repeating actions, and blocks to perform actions under certain conditions. There are even blocks to talk to services like Twitter.

Learn more »

Simple but Powerful!

App Inventor is simple to use, but also very powerful. Apps you build can even store data created by users in a database, so you can create a make-a-quiz app in which the teachers can save questions in a quiz for their students to answer.

Because App Inventor provides access to a GPS-location sensor, you can build apps that know where you are. You can build an app to help you remember where you parked your car, an app that shows the location of your friends or colleagues at a concert or conference, or your own custom tour app of your school, workplace, or a museum.
You can write apps that use the phone features of an Android phone. You can write an app that periodically texts “missing you” to your loved ones, or an app “No Text While Driving” that responds to all texts automatically with “sorry, I’m driving and will contact you later”. You can even have the app read the incoming texts aloud to you (though this might lure you into responding).
App Inventor provides a way for you to communicate with the web. If you know how to write web apps, you can use App Inventor to write Android apps that talk to your favorite web sites, such as Amazon and Twitter.

See sample apps »

On the Shoulders of Giants!

In creating App Inventor for Android, we’re fortunate to be able to draw upon significant prior research in educational computing, and work done in Google on online development environments.

The blocks editor uses the Open Blocks Java library for creating visual blocks programming languages. Open Blocks is distributed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Scheller Teacher Education Program and derives from thesis research by Ricarose Roque. We thank Eric Klopfer and Daniel Wendel of the Scheller Program for making Open Blocks available and for their help in working with it. Open Blocks visual programming is closely related to the Scratch programming language, a project of the MIT Media Laboratory’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group.

The compiler that translates the visual blocks language for implementation on Android uses the Kawa Language Framework and Kawa’s dialect of the Scheme programming language, developed by Per Bothner and distributed as part of the Gnu Operating System by the Free Software Foundation.

The educational perspective that motivates App Inventor holds that programming can be a vehicle for engaging powerful ideas through active learning. As such, it is part of an ongoing movement in computers and education that began with the work of Seymour Papert and the MIT Logo Group in the 1960s.

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Gear Lust (part one) iPad – first impressions

26 Jul

Like so many other Apple users I’m enamored with each deliciously-designed product that they release. But I understand what they are doing to us – they are changing the way we think, compute, consume and buy. As a futurist and early-adopter of most technology I’m ok with these changes. But Apple seems to be single-handedly launching us into new markets long before the public knows what to do with them. On one hand it’s the entrepreneur’s dream to have a new wild-west to conquer. But as consumers we are easily tricked into putting money back into Apple, AT&T and so many other companies’ products to feel like we are on the cutting edge of technology in this brave new age of computing. My first impressions of the iPad are exactly these thoughts. It’s not a matter of is it cool (it totally is) or do I want one (couldn’t wait.) It does everything I wanted and more. It’s got a few limitations I find frustrating. But once I got my hands on it I was drinking Apple’s kool aid once again and didn’t put it down for about 14 hours. Below is a brief review of the product and some initial impressions of the philosophy behind the technology, some questions about productivity and some excitement about the possibilities.

Out of the box

Out of the box it’s gorgeous. Heavier than I expected but it makes sense with the battery life (10 hours) and gorgeous screen that the iPad uses. The interface works just like the iPhone but a bit more tactile. The keyboard works much more brilliantly than expected. It’s sized (on horizontal format) the same as the smaller (bluetooth) Apple keyboard. I use this keyboard for my iMac so typing came quick and easily. Typing ON the surface of the document you are writing was refreshing and fun. The screen looks amazing. It works a lot like the iPhone in most regards but has a snappier feel to it due to the speed and larger interface. Too much fun to play with, hard to put down. It’s a little heavy in the hands after a while, maybe too heavy for a long novel. But in my courier bag it feels lighter than a laptop.

Interface

Apple’s interface and also that of many iPad native applications use the new space widely. Two and three-column layouts allow you to see mail messages in a list next to the one you are reading. Mail messages look particularly great on this screen. TweetDeck and the photo interface also look and feel great. Touching documents, photos, words, books in a joy. iBook was probably my favorite app but more on that later. The icons, spacing and user experience are beautiful. The mail interface is a bit clunky, especially after using Android’s intuitive Gmail interface. It seems like I have to ask the iPad to do a lot more than my Droid phone does intuitively. I imagine that Apple will further the user experience with the next OS update as many people seem to be talking about this issue.

Adobe Ideas App - color selection tool

Applications

Apps are the first thing you go for as a new user and free apps are the first that most of us search for. Below is a list of some essential free applications for the ipad:

• Adobe Ideas – BRILLIANT APP! Allows you to create color palettes from photos on your iPad, create drawings, play with photographs as a layer beneath the drawing. It’s limited but perfect for the iPad and a lot of fun. The simple interface kept rewarding me with new things I didn’t realize it could do. Get this app.
• Dropbox – cloud-like file sharing service and application.. essential for collecting all your data
• Craigsphone – a much better designed version of craigslist
• Dragon Dictation – free speech to text converter – works pretty well!
• Tweet deck – full featured and nice looking twitter client
• Harbor Master – a fun free game – get it
• Draw – fun but limited drawing program
• Pocket pond – play with fish, listen to the rain
• Soundrop – clever and simple music app
• WordPress – a bit limited but nice to have if you blog on wordpress.com
• Evernote – note taking and organization software
• IMDB – great interface for information on films
• Ebay – clever interface lets you watch all your ebay activity. Does not support contacting buyers or sending invoices (bummer.)

Paid Apps

I did break down and get a few paid applications after reading reviews and checking them out. Two in particular that I recommend are:

• Pages – apple’s amazing word processor works just like it’s mac-native version, comes with some cool templates, allows photo placement and a lot of editing features. I imported my resume and it came in perfectly with links working and the ability to edit on the fly (as I job hunt with the craigsphone app.) Pretty amazing application. Makes me want for more apple-developed apps.
• iElectribe – Korg took one of it’s most popular hardware music products (the Electribe drum machine) and put it in the ipad. It looks, feels, sounds like an electribe. Some limitations – it’s just the original electribe so it’s all analogue-synthesis. But that’s awesome and fun and creative. You can export wave files too. Sick.

iBooks and Epub

By far my favorite application is iBook, Apple’s E-book reader. It reads EPUB ebook files as well as PDF files. Having the latter is especially cool. As an avid reader I had mixed feelings about using a digital reader. Actually I resisted it for a long time and bad-mouthed the idea of not having a paperback to put in my bag. And to that end, it’s not the same. Reading a digital page is still different and you can’t earmark pages and you can’t give it to a friend over dinner with excitement for them to read it. But you can do a lot of stuff I hadn’t thought would be so cool.

For starters – having 300 books in my iPad is awesome. I may not read them all but I have them if I want them. I’m usually reading 3-5 books at the same time (different reads for different moods) so it’s nice to have a bunch to choose from. With the ePub format you can bookmark pages, highlight and copy text, make notes.. very cool for the brainstorming reader. I had a lot of fun checking out different things, bookmarking my place, jotting down ideas with Pages.

PDFs

Here’s something I never thought I’d appreciate so much: An ebook reader that lets you read pdf’s in a book-like format. I never realized how many manuals I have that never get read (for Ableton Live, Reason, Final Cut Pro, some keyboards I have, some how-to’s I downloaded.) Suddenly I’m reading the Ableton Live manual while playing with the program at the same time. An expensive way to go.. but definitely useful and fun.