Microsoft Edge Arrives on iOS & Android

Today the Microsoft Edge app quietly dropped its beta tag on Android, and now Microsoft has made it official. The browser is now out of preview on both iOS and Android, launching in full for everyone.

Microsoft Edge officially exits preview on iOS and Android

I have been using this web browser on my iPhone for several weeks and must say I have been impressed with its performance. This is really a nice option if you are tired of Safari or even Chrome on your smartphone.

Microsoft initially launched Edge on iOS and Android in preview in October as a way for Edge desktop users a way to easily sync their passwords, favorites, and reading list between devices. You can also quickly pick up where you left off with a “Continue on PC” feature, which opens the page your looking at on your phone on your PC.

While the app still behaves like Edge, it runs on the required WebKit rendering engine on iOS and the Blink rendering engine on Android, rather than Microsoft’s own EdgeHTML engine.

I suggest giving this one a try – especially if you use Edge on your Windows 10 PC.

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Your Own Captain’s Log Arrives on Windows 10

While handwritten journals are nice, electronic journals are more convenient, and they provide ways to record your life that pen and paper simply can’t. my Log allows you to record video journal entries and transcribes into text them for you. Just like on Star Trek.

Image result for my log windows 10

The app also has an optional Star Trek theme that lines up nicely with the surge in the franchise’s popularity, thanks to recent films and Star Trek Discovery.

The app is available for free on Windows 10, Xbox One, and HoloLens. You can download the premium version or donate to the developer but this doesn’t seem to add any features.

my Log is centered around video journal entries, but its other features create a fuller journaling experience. The most impressive feature is the app’s voice-transcribing feature. When you record an entry, the app automatically records your words as text. It’s very accurate, though not perfect, and gives you a way to read through your entries without watching your video. As you’d expect, you can edit the text to correct any errors.

In addition to videos and transcribed text, you can also upload photos and gifs to your entries. You can’t upload full videos, though, which is unfortunate.

my Log has some nice features and impressive voice dictation, but the market for journal apps is crowded. my Log stands out with its Star Trek theme and video focus, but it is missing features that would let it replace other popular journaling apps.

One of those missing features is social media and calendar integration. However, in it’s dedefense my Log is a much newer app and it is free.

It would also be nice to see my Log gain the ability to add journal entries without videos having to be recorded. While the app is video focused, sometimes you just want to jot down ideas without recording anything.

Final Thoughts

my Log is a fun app to use, especially if you’ve watched as many Star Trek episodes as me. Anyone who knows anything about Star Trek is familiar with the phrase “captain’s log.” The voice-dictation software works well enough that you won’t have to make a ton of edits to correct errors, and the ability to upload photos and gifs is handy.

There are a lot of competing journal apps for Windows 10 but my Log is unique enough to deserve a look.

You can download my Log in the Windows Store.

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Microsoft Launcher Comes to Android

Microsoft has just launched the re-branded Microsoft Launcher on Android.

According to Play Store, the launcher was downloaded 5 million times and it currently has a 4.6 rating.

Microsoft is trying hard to make sure Android users prefer Microsoft Launcher as their default launcher on Android. The company is also sending out quick updates to fix the issues and make sure to give the best experience especially to Microsoft fans moving from Windows Phone to Android.

The launcher lets users customize feeds, download new Wallpapers from Bing, check news, customize gestures on the home screen and many more. On the top of all this, Microsoft Launcher comes with “Continue on PC” which will send files, images, docs, and websites directly to your PC using OneDrive. Microsoft Launcher is a must app for people who love to keep their home screen simple and clean.

If you’re an Android user, head to the Play Store from the link below to get Microsoft Launcher for Free.

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Unifying Your Cloud Storage with DriveUnion

Image result for driveunion app logo pngThese days it’s common to have to use a combination of Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box. You might use one for your personal files while your work or school uses another. DriveUnion aims to ease the process of managing all of your cloud files and does so without taking up storage on your PC.

The app is available for Windows 10 for free but if you want to unlock the ability to use more than three cloud accounts or five favorites you’ll have to buy the premium version for $2.99.

All the Basics

DriveUnion supports four of the biggest cloud storage providers in Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box. You can login to multiple accounts from the same service as well in case you have separate ones for personal files and work or school.

The app has a basic design that is easy to navigate. Each storage account shows up in a panel on the left side of the app and you can expand specific accounts and folders within accounts. You can drag and drop files within accounts or between different providers and also have the option to drag and drop files from your PC to the cloud.

Copying larger files between two cloud providers takes a very long time. That isn’t necessarily DriveUnion’s fault as uploading larger files to the cloud is usually a long process but it’s worth noting.

The app does all of this without storing any of the files on your PC. This means you can browse all of your cloud files without clogging up your PC’s storage. Right clicking on files gives you the option to open them on the web or download them to view them locally on your device. You can also mark any file as a favorite making it easier to navigate back to them.

Navigating to specific files takes a few extra steps but works. Specifically when you click on a folder you then have to click on a specific file or subfolder to see any previews of files. But once you get to a file DriveUnion previews it well.

An exceptional feature within the app is viewing videos from the cloud. I keep a video portfolio on my OneDrive account and watching them within DriveUnion is actually a better experience than viewing them directly through OneDrive. The app takes a few seconds to load videos but streams them smoothly with no buffering or hiccups, which is an issue I face watching them within OneDrive.

More Improvements Please

DriveUnion is a solid app for moving files between cloud providers and viewing files but it has some limitations. The first and biggest issue is that you can’t create new folders. If you want to move files between existing folders DriveUnion is fine but not being able to create new ones is a major drawback.

Two other things that would be a big boost to DriveUnion are a better design and support for more cloud storage providers. The app is very functional but has a far from modern design. The app also has very little in terms of visual customization. This isn’t a huge deal as the app is for managing files rather than looking nice but bringing an app’s design into the present is almost always a good idea.

In Review

DriveUnion is a nice app for people who have to use more than one cloud storage provider. Being able to store and drag and drop files between accounts without ever storing a file on your PC is great.

The app could stand to be updated visually and to add some more features but it is a solid app for managing files in an increasingly cloud-driven world.

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Microsoft Apps on Your Android or iOS Device

Although Microsoft’s Windows Phone is a distant memory and I often get choked up missing my old Windows Phone – Microsoft has done a great job embracing both Apple & Android. There are several awesome Microsoft productivity apps that you can download on your smartphone that will help you work better and get that awesome Microsoft tingly feeling (or maybe that’s just me).

Here are my favorite productivity apps that you will want to make sure are installed on your device.

Microsoft Office

Although small screens are not the best UI for major editing jobs, having the ability to tweak a presentation or other document when you are waiting to meet with a customer is valuable and these apps will give you that capability.

In addition, being connected to your e-mail and calendar is critical during the work day and having Outlook on your device for that is a no brainer. The latest versions of Outlook for iOS and Android include the Focused Inbox feature to help you stay focused on the important communications.

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote has become my second brain and allows me to take all of my notes and other information everywhere I go. It is laid out to use a heirarchy of Notebooks which then have Sections and then those areas have Pages which can then be organize with all of the data that enters our daily existence.

Microsoft To-Do

Although this app is not nearly as full featured as Wunderlist which it replaced, much to the chagrin of Wunderlist loyalists, it does integrate with Outlook and enables you to keep track of all the items on your work list.

Microsoft OneDrive

As the cloud continues to become an integrated feature in our work flow having access to it and everything stored there is what makes this app a must on your device. It has recently undergone a significant UI update while makes the experience across iOS and Android nearly the same which reinforces the companies effort to make your experience mobile no matter what platform you use.

Microsoft Authenticator

If you are not using Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on your accounts then you are behind the security power curve. What I love about the Microsoft Authenticator app is that it is platform agnostic, What I mean by that is I am able to setup the app as a second factor of authentication for any platform that supports 2FA. There are options for entering the account data manually or using a QR Code to automatically set 2FA in action.

Bonus Apps to Help You Work

Microsoft Edge

This recommendation reaches both iOS and Android and while Microsoft Edge is still in beta preview mode on iOS and Android (public preview). iOS users can sign-up to begin testing Edge through the Apple TestFlight program.or

This app is a key element of productivity for anyone who is using the latest feature update for Windows 10, the Fall Creators Update, with these two mobile platforms. Within the Edge app there is a method to send a website link to your Windows 10 device which can be opened right then or stashed in your Action Center as an alert that can be opened later. This feature, Share to PC, is some of the early steps Microsoft is working on for their Windows Timeline feature that will make this process easier by sharing activities between a users ecosystem of devices.

Microsoft Launcher

I wish it was possible to tell everyone that this app is accessible on both iOS and Android but unfortunately Apple does not support alternate launchers on their platform so this one is just for those on Android devices.

Microsoft Launcher is one way that users can transform their phone into a pseudo Microsoft device by not using the default Android launcher options and then installing any and all of the Microsoft apps that they want on their handset.

There are options to configure wallpapers, themes, icon packs and many other aspects of the app. In addition, by tying in your Microsoft Account you can easily access your calendar, documents, and other activities. Just like the Microsoft Edge app there are also capabilities built in to share items to your Windows 10 device that uses the same Microsoft Account.

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Crisis Donations Made Easy @ Facebook

Facebook is giving users a new way to help after a major disaster: an actual donate button.

The company introduced the Crisis Response Center a couple of months ago to provide useful information for victims – as well as help their friends and family check in on them. The donate button is the latest step towards providing relief for victims.

Facebook adds crisis donate button to help disaster victims

Facebook will partner the nonprofit organization GlobalGiving, which works with partner organizations to find the best ways to distribute funds. This way, concerned Facebook users can throw money at a crisis page without having to choose a specific organization.

Asha Sharma, Facebook’s Social Good Product Manager, said the company hopes this tool will connect enthusiastic donors with areas of greatest need:

Following a disaster, people in the affected area often have tremendous needs to help them recover and rebuild, while others who aren’t affected want to help communities in any way they can. Our goal at Facebook is to create tools that make it easier for people to help their community and the communities they care about recover from a crisis.

Facebook also pledges to waive all fees on donations made through the Crisis donate button – a welcome gesture.

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Viewing Your iTunes Purchases History Made Easy

Starting this week Apple is making it easier for users to view purchase history directly from their iOS devices. The company revealed in an updated support document that you can now view your App Store and iTunes purchase history in the Settings app on iOS.

Previously, as the support document notes, this functionality was only available through iTunes on Mac and PC. While you could view purchase history via the App Store and iTunes Store on iOS, it was purely for re-downloading purposes and didn’t show detailed pricing information.

In order to view purchase history on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, simply head into the Settings app and follow Apple’s steps below:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > iTunes & App Store.
  2. Tap your Apple ID, then tap View Apple ID. You might be asked to authenticate your Apple ID.
  3. If you use Family Sharing, you’ll see in your purchase history what you bought using your Apple ID, but you won’t see what other family members bought. To see what other family members bought, sign in with their Apple ID.
  4. Scroll to Purchase History and tap it.

Apple further explains that purchase history is grouped by “the date that they were charged to the payment method that you have on file.” Items that have not yet been processed by your bank will appear under a “Pending” heading at the top of the interface.

If you tap on an item in the purchase history ledger, you’ll see more details such as the purchase/download date and the name of the device from which the content was purchased. You can also easily address discrepancies by clicking the “Report a Problem” button.

Furthermore, you can request a new email receipt to your inbox by tapping the “Resend” button, should have you accidentally deleted the first one.

For more details about this new functionality, head to Apple’s support webpage now. This is certainly a welcome change as having all of the information in one place makes managing your purchases and downloads considerably easier.

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Googling Restaurant Wait Times

The latest piece of information Google is providing is wait times at restaurants. Most people have their favorite restaurants and favorite foodstuffs, and are willing to wait in line to experience them. But everyone has a limit to how long they’re willing to wait. So Google has stepped in.

Image result for google restaurant wait times

From now on, when you click on a business listing on Google for a restaurant, it will show you a slew of information about wait times. This includes live wait times at that moment, average wait times for specific days of the week, and when the restaurant experiences its peak wait times.

Google is adding wait times for almost 1 million “sit-down restaurants around the world that allow walk-ins”. The company is also planning to add wait times for grocery stores in the future, thereby allowing millenials to decide whether that almost-ripe avocado really is worth the wait.

These wait times are based on “anonymized historical data,” so they may not always be 100% accurate. Still, knowing roughly how long you’ll have to wait to eat is better than not having a clue. This feature is rolling out to Google Search now, and coming soon to Google Maps.

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Twitter Expands to 280

After a brief trial, Twitter is officially rolling out 280-character tweets to everyone starting today. You should be able to tweet out double the amount starting now using both Twitter’s website as well as its mobile app.

Image result for twitter 280 characters

Twitter originally test-drove the feature with a small group of users this September. During the trial, it was looking to see how the longer tweet length affected how and when people tweeted. In a blog post announcing the update, Product Manager Aliza Rosen commented that the goal was to give people more characters to tweet with while ensuring that it kept the “speed and brevity that makes Twitter, Twitter.”

After looking at the data, it found that even people who had the 280-character limit more often than not still tweeted under 140 characters. The longer length was only used when it was needed, and according to Twitter, made people tweet more easily and more often.

“Only 5% of Tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2% were over 190 characters. As a result, your timeline reading experience should not substantially change, you’ll still see about the same amount of Tweets in your timeline,” Rosen said in her post.

If you want to try out the new 280-character limit for yourself, you should have the ability now on Twitter’s website and mobile app. If for some reason you don’t, try refreshing the website or updating your app. The feature should be available for most soon.

Japanese, Korean, and Chinese tweets will continue to have a 140-character limit because Twitter says “cramming is not an issue in these languages.”

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Podcast Pick: Astonishing Legends

Image result for astonishing legends podcast logoIf you are not familiar with podcasts do yourself a favor and start checking them out. If you have a smartphone then you have everthing you need. Podcasts are available in every genre. You can easily find topics that will entertain, inspire & educate you – all for free. I have been a big fan of podcasts for many – many years and I want to share my love of these. 

From time to time I am going to reccomend one of my favorities right here @ The West Chester Technology Blog. With this being said, and halloween just around the corner lets get spooky with my first podcast reccomendation. 

I wrote about podcasts in general not that long ago – so if if want more information about them click here.

Introducing Astonishing Legends

Since it is the season of ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night I decided to take a moment a reccomend to all of you, my dedicated readers, a most frightingly entertaining podcast.

Hosts Scott Philbrook and Forrest Burgess dive deep into weirdly wonderful and sometime spooky subjects. Their most recent adventures at the time of this article were “Black Eyed Kids” and “The Bell Witch”. The podcasts are usually about 2 hours long, are recorded in stereo and often contain wonderfully creepy sound effects. Another great thing about Astonishing Legends is that the hosts take their time with the storytelling and often the stories take place in 2 or 3 parts. These spooky adventures often take place over a 4 to 6 hour time period – spanning multiple episodes.

These guys really go in deep on their research, and try to look at the subject from every possible angle, howerever fringe or straight forward. They even have a group of volunteers/fans that are affectionately named “The ARC” (Astonishing Research Core) that help Scott and Forrest find and check information.

As they tell you the story, it is done in such a way that even though it might be a 3 part mini series overflowing information, names and dates, they make sure to reference you back to the main points so you can get a grasp of what is going on in the overall picture.

To enjoy these podcasts I would recommend that you have spare brain power to really listen to what they are saying. Listen while on a long car drive, or relaxing in your favoroite nook so you can really listen and get into it. Do not listen while you are working around the house orsomething like that. YTou really want to pay attention and get lost in the story.

More then a Podcast

Image result for astonishing legends hosts

Their website is a treasure trove of information, links, pictures of everything they cover. If you are listening to an episode and really want to get a visual or go deeper into the subject it is a good place to start as they have done a lot of leg work for you.

Not only will you find all of their podcasts here, but the website explores some fascinating stories directly in their blog, for inquisitive minds looking to go on a riveting journey.

Don’t be scared, check out Astonishing Legends today and listen to one of their episodes.

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