Penguin Random House contacted me and asked me to sit down with Jessica and have a go at the very nice Sasol Young Explorer Apps – of which there are currently two, namely Mammals and Frogs.
The apps are multilingual, allowing you to switch between English, Afrikaans, IsiXhosa and IsiZulu on the fly, which opens up their use to quite a wide audience.
Each app is split into two main ‘sections’, a play area which includes a number of animal-themed mini games (for example, different sized puzzles and memory games), and a learning section, which is chock-a-block full of beautifully illustrated animals, each with their own info page, sound bite, and even video footage!
The apps are well designed and very easy to use, and before long I found Jessica (with an observing Emily in tight next to her) quite independently sitting on the couch, giggling as she systematically made her way through all the animals and games.
This is a pretty good animal resource for kids, and I can’t wait to have the Mammals edition along the next time we enter a game reserve with the girls – I suspect that they may finally have some use as useful game spotters! :P
Created by Stellenbosch-based app development house Tribage App Studio, Xander Apps are educational mobile apps aimed at promoting mother-tongue learning for young children – with apps built in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Swahili, and Tswana!
Fronted by the cute dinosaur mascot Xander, there are currently 3 main apps available:
(Oh, because my girls are English, and I mainly use Android, I’ll be referencing those versions in particular…)
Xander English 123 (Google Play)
“English 123 is an English educational app for young children that teaches numeracy using child-friendly counting beads and characters from the animal kingdom. Xander, the lovable narrator, guides your child through four learn-through-play activities involving vision, hearing and touch to teach them how to count to 10 in English.”
Xander English Shapes & Colours (Google Play)
“English Shapes and Colours is an English educational app for your children that teaches six basic shapes and the primary and secondary colours using age appropriate games. Here Xander guides your child through six learn-through-play activities involving vision, hearing and touch to teach them to identify shapes and colours.”
Xander English Wardrobe (Google Play)
“English Wardrobe is an English educational app for young children that teaches them the names (and pronunciation) for different body parts, clothing and weather.”
In general, the Xander apps are aimed at a younger target audience, though it is interesting to watch both Jessica and Emily get something quite different out of each app.
Anyway, check out their website for more on the team, what they do and how your children can benefit from their work!
Related Link: Xander Apps
Stellenbosch-based Xander, an award-winning proudly South African venture courtesy of the well known Knott-Craig clan, produces educational apps for young children aimed at promoting mother-tongue learning. Children are able to engage with technology, learn and have fun all at the same time – a sentiment with which my young Jessica wholeheartedly agrees with!
Anyway, it was pretty cool of them to recently feature me and my Dad and the Code blog on their website as one of their Xander Dads (note, I’m actually the first dad included. Up until now it has just been Mommy bloggers!).
Silly, I know, but deep down I kind of like it! ;)
Anyway, check out their website for more about their very kid-friendly and educational apps!
(Just like the Spar Savour Magazine feature, I made sure to grab screenshots for posterity!)
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I wanted to upload a quick pic of the indoor braai that I had started to ring in the end of the long weekend to Facebook, but for some or other reason, the image upload failed, or rather got stuck in its attempt to upload to the social network’s servers. This means now that every time you open the Facebook app, you watch as it futilely tries to reassure you that your post is STILL being created, even though deep down inside you know that it is a lost cause.
Actually, this happens relatively frequently, and with seemingly no method for cancelling the infinitely in progress upload, it is quite a frustrating problem to sit with.
As I mentioned, opening and closing the app won’t solve the problem. You could go extreme of course, and uninstall, but that’s a little bit on the overkill side. Instead, probably the easiest way to resolve the stuck upload issue is to simply log out of the app via the menu. Log back in, and by magic, your stuck upload should be nowhere in sight.
I have no idea why this works. It shouldn’t, but it does.
Maybe one day Facebook will fix their Android app and allow us to cancel stuck in progress uploads in a more natural fashion!
If you live in South Africa then the reality is that load shedding is here to stay for quite a bit longer – particularly as the energy demand starts spiking when the really cold winter weather starts kicking in! So with Eskom unable to meet our electricity demands and saddled with the responsibility of keeping the national grid up and running, we may as well get comfortable and start knowing our load shedding schedules and status.
This invaluable tool is a proper lifesaver when it comes to planning around and dealing with load shedding. Essentially it constantly updates itself with all the latest load shedding schedule databases from around the country, reacts in real time to sudden load shedding status changes, and pretty much lets you know whenever a break in your power supply is going to be happening.
By allowing you to save areas of interest like ‘Home’, ‘Work’ or say even ‘Gym’, you know exactly when and where you can expect power breaks to be, and with handy push notifications sent whenever necessary, you are pretty much guaranteed not to get a nasty surprise when the lights go out just as you pulled closed the office toilet door in anticipation for some much needed alone time.
It’s a clever, visually intuitive app that gives you all the information you need, and if you are a South African living in South Africa – well then you would be silly not to currently have it installed on your phone!
(I’ve had mine installed pretty much straight after it was released at the end of March! Haven’t looked back since…)
Related Link: GridWatch on Google Play Store
Part of my current weight loss drive is to track my weight on a daily basis. Thus, I needed a lightweight mobile application that would facilitate this process – which is exactly where Daniel Cachapa’s excellent Libra – Weight Manager comes in.
Simple, lightweight and extremely easy to use, Libra essentially has two views, namely a graph view that plots your weight entries against a calculated trend line, and a list view of all you weight entries (with comments if present).
Data entry is simple and elegant – click on the + button and use the tape measure slider to insert your current weight.
By entering in all your weight details and goals, Libra is able to return a good number of stats for you, and combined with the historic data points it keeps, it does a great job of keeping you on your toes in terms of remaining on the straight and narrow when it comes to your weight loss journey.
There is a number of export and import options for both the database and chart itself (the CSV export is quite useful), and as an added bonus you can synchronize your data with Withings (not that I use that particular service mind you).
As expected, this small app is free and thus ad-supported, though you can of course hand over a negligible amount of money to get the ads removed.
So, if you are looking to track your weight and have an Android device at hand, you really can’t go wrong with this excellent app!
BONUS: For those of you who don’t know: Libra was the basic Roman unit of weight; after 268 bc it was about 5,076 English grains or equal to 0.722 pounds avoirdupois (0.329 kg). This pound was brought to Britain and other provinces where it became the standard for weighing gold and silver and for use in all commercial transactions. The abbreviation lb for pound is derived from libra.
The libra is one of the nonmetric units of weight still used in Spain, Portugal, and several Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas.
Related Link: Libra – Weight Manager
When it comes to bittorrents and torrenting, I primarily use excellent Deluge on my Ubuntu home machine. However, now that I am in possession of a nice 10 inch android-powered tablet, it was time to look at what was available in the mobile app space and one of the better ones that I’ve come across is uTorrent (currently in Beta), from Bittorrent Inc., the original creators behind the BitTorrent protocol.
In addition to smoothly handling the usual chores of downloading and seeding torrents, uTorrent also features some add-on functions like a media player, RSS reader, torrent discovery and a useful wifi-only mode.
The interface is slick and with no speed or size limits on downloads, uTorrent is certainly worth a look if you’re planning on turning your device into an overnight torrent machine.
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Sometimes you need to install an Android App that isn’t available in the Android Marketplace onto you phone, maybe because the App doesn’t meet the Marketplace’s rules, or perhaps because you are in the process of developing a new App and need to test it on a physical device.
Luckily Android have made it fairly easy to install an application on a device – all you need is the compiled .apk file, so if you have that, you should be set to go!
I recently needed to install a custom App that Touchwork was in the process of developing onto a couple of devices for testing purposes. The devices I was handed were all from the Samsung Android smartphone and table range, including a Samsung Galaxy Ace, Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy S II, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab.
To install the app, I first needed to connect each of the devices to the PC using the standard USB connector cable. Once USB storage/file sharing was enabled on the phone, I was able to drag and drop the .apk file into the root folder of the device via Windows Explorer.
With the copy complete, the device was disconnected and using Samsung’s My Files file manager app, I could browse to the .apk file in the root folder of the SD card. Click on the .apk file and the install process will begin. Note that you will get a warning saying that your phone doesn’t allow the installation of non-market apps, before redirecting you to the settings page where you can change a setting to allow it.
Attempt the install again and you’ll soon get a message informing you that the install has completed.
Browse to the Applications window as you normally would after installing an App, and you’ll find your new App sitting all pretty and ready for use!
Quite simple really.
Although you wouldn’t say it by the look of me, I do actually do a fair bit of exercise and training. Because I’m loathe to spend a lot of money on training aids, I was looking for a low cost or free pedometer for my Samsung Galaxy Ace Android smartphone when I came across the SmartTraining App by Japanese developer awwa.
It is a free, simple to use pedometer app that makes use of both the accelerometer sensor and the GPS capabilities of your phone to keep track of the duration of your training, the number of steps taken (configurable stride length), the distance travelled (for accuracy, ensure you have a GPS lock, indicated by the satellite icon with a green tick in the top bar next to the exercise type icon), the number of calories burned (configurable weight and exercise type), as well as the average speed travelled.
Your sessions are saved in a list which you can revisit to compare, you can graph each trip as well as view the map courtesy of Google Maps functionality.
There are a fair bit of configurable settings you can play around with, as well as the ability to export your data to a number of sources.
After using it for a number of weeks now, I have to admit that I find it quite a useful application for tracking my progress, and the fact that it is such an easy to use application is a definite plus.
Whilst there are one are two little rough spots which I would have preferred to be more polished in design and interface, overall this app works really well and does exactly what it says it does, making it well worth the effort of downloading and giving a spin if you are in the market for a free pedometer app.
As per usual, to install simply search for “SmartTraining” in the Android Marketplace, and follow the steps from there! :)
Related link: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.awwa