Category Archives: AV

App of the Week – Word Lens


I would like to introduce you to one of the most amazing apps I’ve seen in a long time. Word Lens is a language translator – but not just any language translator. With the help of the built in camera on your iPhone or Android smart phone, Word Lens actually translates foreign language in real time!

Photo credit: Apple
Photo credit: Apple

It’s super simple – Just point your phone at a sign or a menu, choose the language you want to translate it into, and watch the words transform before your very eyes! The app seems to have trouble with handwriting or stylized fonts, but most clearly printed text is translatable.  The great part is you don’t need a WiFi connection for it to work, so – as long as your phone has battery power – this app will work anywhere.

This app can be useful in so many different situations, travelling being the obvious one, but how about when you’re trying to assemble that swing set you bought online and the directions are all in Russian? Hurrah for Word Lens! And, yes, Russian is available. Translations are also currently available in Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese.

Originally developed and owned by Quest Visual, Word Lens was recently purchased by Google and has been made available as a free app to Apple and Android customers for an undisclosed length of time. So, pull out your smart phone, or iPad and download Word Lens now while it’s still free!

iPhone 5: It Just Works?

With record sales since its release a couple of weeks ago, the iPhone 5 is the new must-have gadget. But is it worth the hype?

I’ll be honest, I’m not a Mac acolyte. I grew up on Apple products, switched to PCs in the late 90’s, and I’m still trying to get back up to speed on the Macintosh computers of today. I do perhaps love my iPad a little too much, but I still mainly use PCs and my phone is a Droid. So I don’t really have the user experience that Mac fans do.

Those Mac fans are saying that the iPhone 5 delivers a lot of features they’ve been wanting for a while. The screen is larger; the 4G is faster. The new design is sleeker and lighter than the 4S. iPhone 5 has built-in turn-by-turn navigation and a “smarter” Siri (though guys, she’s just a search engine with voice recognition). The headphone jack has been moved from the top edge to the bottom. The camera has been improved, and includes a panoramic photo option. And most importantly, you can get one plated with gold!

On the down side, you may have heard about some issues with the maps (released to compete directly with Google Maps…by the way, I adore Google Maps). Apple actually issued an apology for this flub, though not, as yet, a solution.

Also, since the new phone is shaped differently, customers will have to repurchase all of the accessories that they used with previous Apple products (chargers, docks, cases, etc.) Some iPhone 5 owners report wishing the phone was a bit more substantial; this is a complaint I would probably have since I’m very hard on my gadgets and I try to only buy technology I can’t kill. The case scratches easily, and some users report light leaking out from the screen through the power button or cracks in the case.

I don’t think the iPhone 5 is either the newest big thing or a flop. Should you buy one? If you like Apple products, go for it. If you want to see what having an iPhone is like, go for it. Just don’t leave that gold one sitting out anywhere.


Shutting Down Your Computer At Night: Yes or No?

Most people have a strong opinion about whether or not it’s okay to shut down your computer every night, and in the workplace some companies/departments/divisions even have set policies about it. Is it safer? Does it save money? Are you wearing out the machine with all that booting? One of my favorite blogs, Lifehacker, recently posted a great article with the pros and cons of shutting down your computer in the evening. Here’s the article:

I think it’s an interesting read, but if you’re just dying to know the truth…well, it’s okay to shut down your computer every night. You won’t break it. It’s also okay to leave it on, as you won’t “burn it out”. So either way, you’re fine!

So That Thing I Said About iPads…

In my last post, I made the argument (with the help of a article) that a college student needs a laptop more than she needs an iPad, because laptops let you create content while iPads (and other tablets) only let you consume existing content. So today I’m going to link you to a blog post that basically affirms my belief (and has a little tiny swear in it, sorry!)

Here’s the main gist…

“I’ve been against Macintosh company lately. They’re trying to get everyone to use iPads and when people use iPads they end up just using technology to consume things instead of making things. With a computer you can make things. You can code, you can make things and create things that have never before existed and do things that have never been done before.”

“That’s the problem with a lot of people”, he continued, “they don’t try to do stuff that’s never been done before, so they never do anything, but if they try to do it, they find out there’s lots of things they can do that have never been done before.”

If the guy (Russell Kirsch) who created the world’s first internally programmable computer and the first digital image says it, it must be worth considering!

What’s New With Apple

If you’re a geek like me, you know that today was the keynote speech from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference 2012, and perhaps you watched one of the live streaming webcasts for up-to-the-minute coverage. But maybe you aren’t a geek (actualIy I hope you aren’t; otherwise this post might be very boring) and you’d just like to know, in plain English, if anything big went down today at Apple.

The main questions first: Did they announce a new iPad or iPhone or iPod? No, they did not. iPhone 5 should be coming our way soon, but not yet.

So what did they announce? The biggest deal, in my opinion, that came out of the keynote speech is the introduction of the new MacBook Pro. It seems like a hybrid between the former MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air, and the iPad 3. It’s super thin (.71 inches), light at just under 5 lbs, and it has Apple’s spanking new retinal display on a 15.4 inch screen, which means that the display looks absolutely gorgeous. There’s no optical drive though, which means you can’t stick any discs in there…it’s all Flash memory. But that’s how they got it so thin. Apple calls the “most beautiful computer” that the company’s ever made. Oh, and if you really want one, the price point is a staggering but Mac-standard $2,199.00 (that is the STARTING price), and you can buy one right now at the online Apple Store.

When the new iOS6 (the operating system used to power your mobile Apple devices) is released, our Apple friend Siri can now give you more information about movies, sports and restaurants  (I’m no Siri follower but apparently these things gave her issues before) and she can update your Twitter and Facebook, as well as open apps for you on your iPhone. I don’t use an iPhone, but these improvements will probably make heavy Siri users very happy. And Siri will be integrated into certain automobiles over the next 12 months. Siri will be available on iPad, too. While we’re talking mobile, FaceTime has been upgraded so that it will work on a cellular connection rather than just over wi-fi.

And speaking of Facebook and driving, Apple’s new OS, rolling out this summer, will integrate with Facebook, which is something Apple users have been requesting for awhile. And Apple is rolling out their own map service as a competitor to Google Maps, with live traffic updates and turn by turn navigation, which dovetails nicely with the car integration.

The new OS for Mac desktops is also coming out soon, and will include features such as Power Nap, which will sync your computer to any clouds you might be connected to (say, iCloud) and update software in the background, and voice recognition and dictation. Mac’s browser, Safari, will include a new search bar that can be used both to search the internet and enter URLs of sites you want to visit…exactly like Chrome and Firefox already do.

There are some other features, but I’ve listed what I think are the highlights. More details, if you want them, can be found here:

How To Smartboard

Ever wondered how to put together an 800 series SmartBoard? Who hasn’t? Watch us assemble our newest toy in slightly more than 2 minutes. Contractors, who needs ’em!


If you can’t see the video, click here.

On Video Conversion

Ever tried to watch a video on your computer, only to get piles of error messages telling you that you have the wrong format? I sure do. In fact, it happened to me today. So I thought I’d talk a bit about one of my most-favorite-ever pieces of software, FormatFactory.

FormatFactory can pretty much take any video you have and convert it into any other video format you need. It’s fast and easy to use, and it saves my bacon regularly. For example, today I was editing video clips for some folks. One of the videos was a Flash movie. My current PC isn’t powerful enough for video editing (am I allowed to say that on here?) so I needed to get it onto my (borrowed, alas) Mac. I used FormatFactory to change the Flash movie into a Quicktime movie, which the Mac liked. When I was finished editing, I saved the video as an MPEG. Then I moved that file BACK to my PC, and converted it to a WMV, so my colleague could put it in her Powerpoint. Okay, it sounds complicated, but the important thing is that I could get any type of video file I needed, and I needed a LOT of them.

It will do this to sound files too! Here’s a link to FormatFactory:

My second favorite conversion tool is Zamzar. This one runs on the web, so it’s great of you get stuck on an unfamiliar computer with a bad video file. Seriously, it does happen. Also, you don’t have to download anything. Load your video on Zamzar, and it’ll email you the converted file. Zamzar is here:

Happy conversion!