Google updates Maps to 7.0 includes new Explore option

Google updates Maps to 7.0 includes new Explore option

Google-maps-7-0Last night Google has started the roll-out of the new version of Google Maps for Android devices. The new Google Maps adds traffic information, suggestions for alternative routes and a great new view to explore your area.

On of the great updates for Google Maps has been the inclusion of information on traffic, road works and closed roads. This brings Google Maps closer to the upmarket navigation systems as well as closer to other mobile apps that did include that information. I think that this inclusion will be one of the first features we will see Maps inherit from former opponent Waze. Waze was acquired by Google about a month ago for an estimated U$1.1 billon. This update to Google Maps could show us that integration of the technology of Waze into Google Maps might be closer than we think. For now, we can all enjoy better routing and suggestions for shorter travel times. And that is a definite improvement.

Whether it has to do with the new active routing or whether Google has had other reasons, fact is that offline maps have vanished. From 7.0 users no longer have the option to easily store maps offline on their phone so they can navigate without using a data connection. The decision to drop offline maps might be because it was known not to be perfect all the time. However, for the real enthusiasts the Google engineers have included a work around in the app. If you look up the map information that you want to use when offline, you simply type “okay maps” info the search box and hit enter. The app should then store that part of the map, though you cannot use it for navigation without an online connection.

google-maps-7-0-tabletBusinesses will be grateful for the new screens to display their information. These are especially nice on a tablet. Here you can find lots of details about the business you are visiting. And the explore screen really helps you to find your way around your area. Whether that is a known or unknown area for you, it is going to be easy to find a place to eat, dance, watch or do something else.

Google will be rolling out Maps in the coming day(s) to all its users that use Android 4.03 and newer. What do you use Maps for most? And what excites you in these new features?

Going abroad? Call cheaper by using smart apps

Going abroad? Call cheaper by using smart apps
Phone Foreign Call

Image thanks to Roamer

Summer is here and that means that most of us will be traveling. Whether you are going on holiday, taking a mission trip or a business trip abroad, the costs of using your phone can be enormous. The good news is that there are great apps to slash your costs. So, as it is summer, we thought it would be nice to look at the ones that make sense.

To be honest, the easiest to slash your costs is not to use your phone. You can then check your email and use Skype to call when you find a local WiFi hotspot. But you might need to be reachable during your trip, so you want to keep your phone active. The second cheapest way is to get yourself a local SIM card. Google around for a bit and you can always find a nice deal that you can use during your stay. For instance, if you go to the UK, Three has an offer of a pre-paid SIM with unlimited data, a phone number and 300 local text messages and call minutes. This might just suit your needs to be reachable by your partners in the country you are visiting. However, unless you send everyone back home an email, they will not be able to reach you on your regular mobile number.

Enter apps. An app like Roamer enables you to be called on your regular phone number, even though you have bought yourself a local SIM. How does that work? When you leave, you park your number with Roamer through their app. Whenever anyone calls your number, it will then go to the Roamer service, instead of your regular SIM. When you arrive at your destination, you get yourself a local SIM with internet access. When you have activated the local SIM, you go back to the Roamer app and tell it you are now reachable again. It will then connect your phone to your regular number over the internet. That way people calling you just pay their regular costs and you receive every phone call just the same. Obviously there are costs involved. You need to pay Roamer for their service, but the cost of that is much lower than the cost of receiving calls on your regular SIM. Plus, as you got yourself a local SIM with internet, you can enjoy Facebook, Twitter, Skype and other services just like you would at home.

Roamer is just one option. I have also seen Roaming4World, but their website does not seem to do much. Their service seems to work exactly the same though, and is available on more platforms. Roamer is only available on iPhone and Android with Windows Phone and Blackberry promised soon. Roaming4World already is available on all four platforms. See the short video explaining the Roamer process below.

So, what do you do when you go abroad? Do you roam or do you use an app to limit your costs?

Android security flaw – 900 million devices at risk

Android security flaw – 900 million devices at risk

exploitYesterday, Bluebox Security’s research team announced that there is a weakness in every single Android phone since Android 1.6. To put this in perspective, Android 1.6 was launched back in September 2009. This means that this problem has been present in most Android based phones that are currently in use. The official estimate is that it would extend to about 900 million devices, which is 99% of the android phones that are used today.

Naturally Bluebox has shared the problem with Google in February 2013. This means that Google is now able to fix it. However, most of the 900 million handsets will not be protected any time soon. The biggest problem with the Android system is that it used by many manufacturers. That enables you to have a great choice of phones when you walk up to the store. However, all these brands have added their own special sauce to their phones and put an HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG, Sony or other front on the phone that has been programmed in the base version of Android. In itself that is not a problem and it helps a user enjoy their phone that much more. But it often stops manufacturers from updating the firmware on the phone as they do not want to lose their custom development. Which is understandable, but it puts their customers at risk as there will be no more security updates.

So, is this the time to run away screaming? Not really. Yes, there is a vulnerability and yes, Bluebox is going to share it with the world at the end of this month. However, the biggest risk is when you install apps from sources that are not trusted. Granted, with Android there is a bigger risk that that game that looked so appealing is in fact a malicious trojan virus, but if you stick to the larger publishers, there is a pretty good chance you will be safe. Safest is obviously to keep your Android phone as updated as you can.

What can go wrong with your phone? Now this is the troubling part. If set up correctly, a malicious app can take over your complete phone. It can not only access all your contacts, messages, emails, documents and more, but it can also dive straight into your phone’s firmware. This means it can make calls, send messages, switch the camera on and off or even use your phone as part of a worldwide network.
In essence, it is much better to try and stay as far away from this as you can.

Though we at Techpastors cannot tell you how to completely protect yourself, we thought that this was important enough for you to know. And how real is this? Well, the image on this article shows the device information for a phone. This phone has been infected by the Bluebox team and it has changed the Baseband version to a new name which includes Bluebox. This value can not be changed by anything or anyone but the firmware, which shows that is is a serious matter.

Google Glass is everywhere, but will it make the church?

Google Glass is everywhere, but will it make the church?
Picture of Emily wearing Glass outside

Photo courtesy of Google

Google’s most interesting product right now was noticeably absent from its I/O conference this year. But we have been seeing it everywhere else. And many people have an opinion on Google Glass, the glasses that give you instant access to the internet. When Google Glass was first launched last year, I received a lot of emails of people who were doubtful to say the least. And I have to admit that I was absolutely one of them.

So, what is this Glass thing anyway and why would you want to have it? Well, Google Glass is like the rim of a pair of glasses that is supported by your nose and ears. But that is where the traditional part stops. Google Glass has a camera and a small screen that allows you to access information from the internet or share pictures.

It is easy to dismiss Google Glass as something that is intrusive and that will never be used by lots of people in real life. However, that would be short selling the technology at hand. It might just be that Google Glass is the next big thing after the invention of the mobile phone. Yes, I skipped tablets and smartphones altogether. The thing is that the impact Google Glass can have on society is much bigger than we imagine. And I am not moving towards privacy issues or being out of tune with reality. After experiencing Google Glass, the change might be in a completely different place.

Over the past years, a lot of people have been talking about augmented reality. This is where information is added from online sources to compliment the world around you. Google Glass allows you to add information from online sources as you go about your life. The good part is that, even though the person across from you might think you look strange, Google Glass will not actually be in your eye-sight. It will be slightly out to the top right of it. This allows you to look anyone straight in the eye, even though you might be getting extra information. How about using that possibility instead of fumbling with your papers at your next presentation or sermon? Or how about getting that information to help you navigate through a town without having to look at your phone and subsequently missing a step in the road.

These are just practical solutions that are in existence at the moment. But I strongly believe more will come. Wearable electronics will become bigger in the coming five years. We will also see more solutions that will add extra information to everyday life as we move around. The interesting question comes when we ask ourselves, so how can we use this?

Last week a surgeon used Google Glass in the operating room to share with others what he was doing. How can we apply this to the way in which we are church within our community? Would it help our personal lives to project scriptures at certain places in the city? Can it do more for ministers than showing their sermon notes? Or can the possibility of Google Glass give a whole new meaning to discipleship and walking together? I believe we are at the start of this new technology, but I think that in 10 years our children might find it strange that there was a time when it did not exist.

Update: A couple of hours after we published this blogpost, Google released an update for Google Glass now allowing the owners to launch a webbrowser, to access their full address book from Gmail, and to use more voice commands.

Short video examples: tell a full story in 6 seconds

Short video examples: tell a full story in 6 seconds

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 11.08.11At Techpastors we want to give you practical applications of technology. So, whenever I write something, I want to give you an idea of how you can use it. Often that will be in words, but in case of short video fragments, that might not come across as well. So, when I came across these short videos, I decided I wanted to share these with you. They illustrate the different things you can do with tools like Vine or the new Instagram Video that I shared with you in a previous post.

Lets start off with a brand. Fashion brand Burberry decided to show their full runway lineup with their audience in a 6 second video. And it was well received. It gives you a quick taste and for fashion fans, that might get them to go to the site and see all of the creations for themselves.

But you can also try to tell a story. You might be able to fit a complete story in, or just a teaser. Here are a couple of Vine users that animated their video to show you a story that would take more than 6 seconds to tell otherwise.

And you can combine the real world and the animated world as well.

Now come Christmas time, or Easter, how would you tell those stories in 6 seconds? Or 15 if you are using Instagram? How can you really get that point across? Or tell about your church, your youth group, that concert etc. in a way that people can enjoy it and be triggered enough to want to come out next time?

Instagram launches video for Instagram – 15 seconds to touch people

Instagram launches video for Instagram – 15 seconds to touch people

Instagram-workflow-videoOn Thursday the 20th, Instagram launched video as their latest addition to their services. It is a very powerful system that allows you to post little videos of what you are seeing with the push of a button. It is almost like a tiny ‘broadcasting made easy’ package that will allow you to share beautiful sights and sounds with your friends.

If you are not familiar with Instagram, let me do a quick introduction for you. Basically, Instagram allows you to take pictures with your mobile phone and share them with your friends within Instagram and across social networks. Instagram had two unique features that allowed it to quickly grow to become the biggest photo sharing service online. The first advantage was the well executed timeline. The timeline makes it very easy to see what others are sharing and to comment on their pictures. The second advantage were the great filters that Instagram allows its users to use on their photos. That way you can easily give your pictures a change in colors, borders and general feel.

Facebook saw the impact Instagram was having and bought the service. However, with the rise of Vine on Twitter, Instagram must have known it would be bad to just sit still. Vine allowed Twitter users to easily share 6 second video clips of whatever they experience. And now Instagram has gotten into that same field, but has improved on the concept.

Instagram video allows you to share videos of between 6 and 15 seconds. All videos will be shot in a square format, so there is no reason to tilt your phone to get a landscape view. Recording a video is as easy as holding down the record button on the phone and the slider will move as the seconds pass. After your recording, you can edit the video and apply colorful filters. Instagram will immediately show you the results that the filters have on your recording, so you can browse through the filters to find the one that suits you best. You then get to pick the cover photo, which will be the image people see before they start your video. And lastly you can add a title and the services you want to post the video to and click the share button. Instagram then takes care of the rest.

This is all great, but how can you use this? Well, Instagram is an awesome app to share experiences with people. Whether it is a great picture of a band, or the sun flowing through a stain glass window. And now they have added video, which allows you to have people experience a great moment with your youth group. It allows you to share a great time with friends, the joy around baptism or any other great moment. It is also a great tool to just stay in touch with people around you. To show them what you value. What makes you laugh, what makes you cry and even the ‘mundane’ things such as having a great meal together.

There is a saying that tells us that the eyes are the windows to our soul. I strongly want to encourage you to not only see that as the eyes showing what is going on within our souls. But also to realize that the eyes are one of the best ways to reach and touch the soul of someone who is able to share that precious moment with you.

Apple launches new iOS7, what is in it for you?

Apple launches new iOS7, what is in it for you?

iOS7Yesterday, at their WWDC conference, Apple introduced their new iOS7 operating system for the iPhone and iPad. Obviously there are many new features that are an improvement from iOS6. However, the big question with any upgrade of your phone is what the changes mean to you.

At the bottom of this article, you will find an overview of a number of new features that are introduced to iOS7 and that will hit iPhones somewhere in the fall. The good news is that a lot of phones will actually get to benefit of the new iOS7 features. But the feature that might be the best one to have, will only be released to the iPhone 5, the iPad 4, the iPad mini and the iPod touch 5th generation. That feature is called Airdrop and it will help you to share with the people around you.

Sharing amongst phones and tablets is not new. But Apple’s Airdrop does make it easy. It searches for other compatible devices that are close to you, and then you can choose what document you share with whom. Which makes it very easy to share the latest information that is needed for your meeting. Or to share your bible study with the group you were meeting with. Without having to physically connect to the various devices that people carry. Unfortunately Airdrop will only be released to newer Apple devices. This will narrow down your options for sharing, but if you are up to change the phones for your whole team, this might be a great reason to make sure everyone will run iOS7.

What are the other new features in iOS7?
The new Control Centre allows you easy access to Airplane Mode, wi-fi, Bluetooth, screen brightness, your music and other things. You can find Control Centre by swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen.

iOS7 comes with a revamped Notification Centre. It is now also accessible from the lock screen to give you an easy overview of all your alerts. New is the Today feature, that shows you an overview of what is ahead for that day.

We have seen filters that change the colors of the pictures you have taken in popular apps like Instagram and Snapseed. Apple has now integrated filters into the iOS7 camera app. The new camera app also makes it easier to switch between the different camera modes the iPhone offers.

A new Moments feature has been added to the Photo app. Here you can find media based on where you are and what time it is. It also allows people to share streams with friends and family through iCloud, so it is even easier to keep everyone up to date.

The browsing experience on iOS7 has been greatly improved with the addition of full screen browsing to Safari. You can now also store all your passwords and credit card details on iCloud, if you would want to. This allows you to use that data across all your devices that you use the new Safari on. A welcome addition to Safari are the parental controls, which allow you to block access to adult material amongst other things.

If you like to ask your phone questions, you will be pleased to know that Siri has received new female and male voices. Siri also connects to Twitter, which allows you to hear Siri read to you what people are posting there. Siri now also integrates Bing and Wikipedia.

Following the examples of other music services, Apple has updated the Music app with iTunes Radio. It streams audio online and already features over 200 different radio stations you can listen to. Alternatively, you can build your own station with the music you like. This is not only available on iOS7, but it iwll also come to the Mac, PC and Apple TV.

On the technical side, Apple has improved the way multitasking is working, so your apps will switch faster and will also use less power to keep on running in the background.

That is an overview of the changes for iOS7. Apple also announced a new operating system called OS X Mavericks, a new line up of four new Macbook Air models, and a glimpse of the new Mac Pro.

Evernote adds reminders to Android

Evernote adds reminders to Android

android_checkoffI have had times where my desk was buried under to-do lists and memos about things I needed to remember. However, as more and more piled up, I lost the overview and things were forgotten. I am sure you are not like that, but if you want to structure your notes and to-do lists in a better way, Evernote is a great option.

Evernote is a service which basically helps you remember everything and helps you get things done. They have a website, but they also have mobile applications for phones, tablets and web browsers. And now they have brought their reminders to their application for Android phones.

But what can this do for you? Essentially, this can help you work together with your team a lot better. Especially in churches and organizations that rely on many volunteers to make it all happen, this could be a wonderful tool. As more and more people carry their smartphone around, it is easy for them to be in touch with the team more actively. It also makes it easier for teams to split tasks and share notes or ideas.

I would like to challenge you, to try out Evernote with one of your teams. Pick a team which makes notes of its meetings and that has tasks that people need to carry out before certain times. Convince them to use Evernote for a while. As time passes, it is going to be interesting to see whether it made it easier for them to share their thoughts and ideas over time. Or whether it became easier to make sure everything was ready before a set date.

You can just set an alarm time for Evernote reminders. They will then just pop up on the screen of your mobile to tell you what needs to happen and when. Check out Evernote for more information on the application or to download it for your computer, phone or tablet.