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Archive for the 'photos' Category

Blow Things Up On Your Android Unit With Magnify

Application Name: Magnify

Description: Uses your camera view and digital zoom to magnify objects; option to record view with photo.

Publisher’s website: Appd Lab

Cost: Free (ad-supported)

Version/date reviewed: v.2.2  /  3-12-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


I’ve tested several Android apps that take the camera input and magnify it, like Magnifying Glass, iMagnify and IDEAL Magnifier, but I’ve uninstalled all of them in favor of the app reviewed her, Magnify; it’s clearly the best of the bunch.

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My screen capture app doesn’t include the camera view; if it did, you’d see the camera input in the white area above. The four buttons, from left to right:

  • Camera icon: Takes a photo of what you can currently see in the camera view.
  • Eye icon: Re-focuses the image. The app documentation says that you need to have the camera lens at least four inches away from the object to focus. However, on my Droid X, with good lighting, I can sometimes focus even closer than that. If you move the phone towards/away from the object after focusing, you’ll need to re-focus.
  • Flash icon: If your camera has one, it turns on the LED flash to illuminate the object.
  • N icon: Converts the image to a negative; may improve detail visibility in some cases.

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On my Droid X, photos taken with the app are stored in the “Magnify” subfolder of the DCIM folder on the SD card, which is the default folder for camera pictures on my unit; may be different for your phone. The “white blob” at the bottom of the photo is glare from the LED flash illumination. One minor drawback is that the pixel size of the photo is limited; the original of the photo shown above is only 816 x 624. It would be nice to have an option to export photos at your camera’s full resolution. But this is a digital zoom, so you likely wouldn’t see any more detail.

Other issues: The ads look a bit incongruous at the bottom. But they’re well enough out of the way of the main interface to not be a major distraction, and they help keep the app free.

Final thoughts: Highly recommended; nice to be able to blow up views of small objects. Especially small type, useful for someone like me with aging eyes and reading glasses.




Find Your "Tunnel Destination" With Dig Planet!

Application Name: Dig The Planet

Description: Shows where you’d come out on the Earth if you started digging a hole in the direction you’re pointing your phone.

Publisher’s website: Eagle Keeper Programming

Cost: Free ad-supported version; $1.36 paid ad-free version

Version/date reviewed: v. 0.2RC1 /  12-19-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android market link
Android Market link (browser)


Not too long ago, I reviewed the AntipodalPoint app for Android, which locates the spot on the Earth exactly opposite your current location, or another location of your choice. The Dig The Planet app is a similar idea, but more general: point your phone down in any direction, not just straight down, and find out where you’d come out if you dug a tunnel in that direction until you came out the other side.

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Figure 1: Point your phone down in any direction, and the app shows the tilt and heading of your phone, as well as the geographical coordinates where you will emerge. If you point the phone up, the app will flip the direction around 180 degrees so that it is actually going down. The section at top is part of the “game” aspect of the app, where you score “stars” by coming out near the location of a number of world cities. Once you’re pointing in the desired location, press the “Dig Here! button …

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Figure 2: … and get the location where you’d come out if you dug a tunnel at your chosen tilt and heading angles displayed on a static map (not scrollable or zoomable; no choice of map type). If there are any Panoramio photos geotagged near the location you come out, they will show up in a slide viewer below the map

Other issues: Yeah, I’ve got a few quibbles with the app:

  • Be prepared to turn down the media volume on your phone; the app plays a really annoying background jingle in a continuous loop
  • Pointing towards the location of a city to score points is virtually impossible at the default accuracy settings. The help file implies that there’s a way to adjust that accuracy setting to be more forgiving, but damned if I could find the settings section.
  • On my Droid X, the GPS remains turned on even after you exit the app; the only way to shut it off permanently is to reboot the phone by turning it off and on, or by uninstalling the app. And having the GPS on can drain the battery very quickly. Toggling the GPS off will disable it momentarily, but it will spring back on again if you re-enable GPS.

Final thoughts: Great idea, and can be a fun learning tool and Android demo app, especially for kids. But it needs to fix the GPS “always on” problem, there needs to be a settings section to adjust the accuracy settings for the “game”, and most of all it needs an option to turn off the really annoying background music.




GPS Trip Recording And Online/Offline Maps With Trimble Outdoors

Application Name: Trimble Outdoors

Description: GPS app for trip recording, with online/offline maps

Publisher’s website: Trimble Outdoors

Cost: $9.99

Version/date reviewed: v.4.1.8  /  12-11-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)


Trimble is probably best known for its professional lines of GPS and other measurement hardware. They’re also known for making really crappy software that runs them; you can often locate a Trimble user in the field by listening for curse words, as something else goes wrong with the software. Trimble Outdoors is an unusual foray into the general consumer field for them; do they do any better here?

The general idea behind the software is to create records of various kinds of outdoor activities, and upload them to the Trimble Outdoors website for storage and sharing. So you’ll need to create a free account at Trimble Outdoors to use the software at all.

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Figure 1: After starting up the program, and logging in, you’ll see a list of of activities under which you can record trips. Start up hiking …

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Figure 2: … and the app will fire up the GPS, load in maps for the area using the chosen mapset, and start logging your position as a track. From the list screen, you can also go to a list of previously-saved trips, and load them into the map view as well, either for viewing or for continuation of that trip.

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Figure 3: Here’s a short pair of tracks, along with several waypoints. You can add waypoints, but there’s no on-screen control for that; you need to dive into the menu to find that control.

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Figure 4: The Stats button gives you info about distance traveled, total time, and average speed; the Charts give you the choice of plotting either Elevation or Speed as a function of distance or time.

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Figure 5: When you’re recording a trip, you can also capture photos, audio, or video, tagged with the location they were taken at.

When a trip is complete, you can save it on your Android unit. You can also upload it to your online Trimble Outdoors account, either for personal private storage or to share it with others:

mytrips

And you have the option of sharing this trip on either Facebook or Twitter as well.

This all sounds great … in theory. In practice, this app has some major issues:

  • Screens can be slow and non-responsive, especially the start-up list of activities
  • The choice of in-app maps is limited to Bing maps (road, aerial, hybrid, terrain) and MyTopo topo maps; no OpenStreetMap maps, or anything else. Google Map imagery is only available if you export track and waypoint data to a separate screen; it’s not integrated with the app, the way it is with other Android GPS and map apps.
  • The app can be flaky in recording data. It’s supposed to continually record a track, but on several occasions track recording spontaneously stopped.
  • The app will cache maps for offline use, but the only way to do it within the app is to pan the map to the desired area, and then pan/zoom in around to save maps to the cache directory. This is really a crappy way to handle this; other map apps let you define a geographic region, and then automatically download the tiles for that region.
  • The default size setting for the cache is only 10 MB, far too small to save any significant number of maps; you’ll need to set this larger right away.
  • You can generate map caches at the Trimble Outdoors website, but the process isn’t straightforward. You zoom/pan a Google Maps view or MyTopo map view to show your desired area, and then select the maximum zoom level you want tiles for; the web app will then generate a zip file containing these tiles. You then have to manually unzip the zip file, and then copy the files over into the cache directory  on your phone (making sure that the cache is large enough to hold these tiles). And even though you’re viewing Google Map imagery in the app, the downloaded tiles will be in the matching Bing Maps format, not Google Maps!
  • Unlike other apps, you can’t create named mapsets that you can load in at will; you have the cached maps and that’s it.
  • You can’t import GPX track or waypoint files directly; you need to import this data into your online account to create a trip containing these, then upload this trip into the app on your Android unit.
  • You can create trips online using a Trimble Outdoors web app, including tracks/waypoints/audio/video/photos. But I found this web app to be sluggish and erratic in performance. Creating tracks where I wanted them to be was virtually impossible, as the track would stop following my cursor, then jump to an unintended spot.
  • There’s no way to directly export tracks or waypoints created in the app itself; you have to upload the trip to your online account, then export the data from there as a GPX or Google Earth KML/KMZ file.
  • If you load in an earlier trip, then try to exit that trip without saving it again, you can wind up deleting the earlier trip data (as I found out to my regret, several times).
  • There’s no integrated GPS status screen or compass.
  • The app can only really be used in portrait orientation; in landscape orientation, the app’s toolbar takes up so much space that there’s very little left for the actual map.
  • Finding app functions and settings is pretty much hit-and-miss; there doesn’t seem to be any rational layout of functions.
  • And I could go on …

Other issues: While I didn’t have any issues with crashes or force-closes, you might take a look at the Comments section in the Android Market listing for this app; lots of people seem to be having problems. Now that Google is reducing the amount of time you have to uninstall a program for a full refund, from 24 hours to 15 minutes, you really won’t have a lot of time to evaluate how well it will work on your phone.

Final thoughts: For an app that’s already in version 4, and has been around since 2009, it’s still not in very good shape, especially for the price they’re asking. While the ability to create georeferenced multimedia trips sounds pretty cool, the actual program function just isn’t reliable enough to make this worthwhile. And as a GPS mapping app, it’s missing a lot of functionality. If you want MyTopo topo maps, either BackCountry Navigator or Topo Maps would be a better choice; while neither of those is perfect, they have more of the GPS functions you really need to have, are far easier to use, and offer in-app map caching and mapset management. And for a solid general GPS map app, you’d do better with OruxMaps, which has a lot more features, and is free.




Imageotag: Photo Orientation/Geotagging, Annotation And Google Earth Photo Overlay Tour Creator

Application Name: Imageotag

Description: Photo position and orientation recording; thumbnail mapping; audio/text photo annotation; Google Earth photo overlay tour creator

Publisher’s website: Imageotag

Cost: Free (donationware)

Version/date reviewed: v. 1.1.11  /  11-12-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2
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Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)


Imageotag is a fairly-new geotagging-oriented Android camera app with a number of unique features:

Full geotagging

Most Android units will start up the GPS, and embed coordinate data into the EXIF metadata header of the photo to mark its position; this is usually called “geotagging”. In fact, if you don’t want this information in your photos, you’ll have to turn this function manually, or strip out the data with an app. The EXIF spec allows embedding  the compass direction in which you’re taking the photo into the EXIF header, but even though many Android units include a compass, none that I know of embed the photo direction. That’s too bad, as it would simplify the creation of Google Earth Photo Overlays, a way to display photos in Google Earth overlaying the actual perspective (more on this below). Imageotag doesn’t embed this information directly into a photo either; but what it will do is record this information, and then overlays that information as text on a second version of the photo. Here’s a photo snapped with Imageotag:

sample

And here’s the second image, with information about the coordinates, camera compass bearing, camera roll/pitch orientation, and more; there’s also a compass overlay at upper right, with the arrow pointing the direction of north:

There’s a full rundown on what data is embedded at the Imageotag website, but it basically includes most sensor data, including GPS/network position, accelerometer, light meter, and direction as determined by the compass (corrected for your local magnetic declination, so it’s the true direction). Tip: You can set the photo size to be between 330K pixels and 5 megapixels, but at lower resolutions, the text can be virtually impossible to read. Individual photos can have custom text embedded in them as well, and you can even voice-annotate photos.

Sets of photos can be viewed a number of different ways, including (Figure 1):

roll
A scrollable display of pictures
contact
Contact sheet
thumbnails
Thumbnails displayed in a Google Maps view (tap on the bottom to bring up the zoom buttons)
slideshow
Continuous slideshow
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“Photo Maps”, with a slideshow in the top half, and the bottom showing where the picture was taken in Google Maps, and the direction you were facing


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Figure 2: Now this is where it gets really cool. While you can shoot photos one by one, you can also set up Imageotag to shoot photo “sequences”, where a photo is snapped automatically based on either a distance or time interval. At left is a thumbnail map of one part of a sequence, where I specified that a photo be taken every 50 meters as determined by GPS. These can then be played as a standard slideshow, or as a Photo Maps slideshow.

But wait, that’s not all! When you’re done shooting a sequence, Imageotag automatically assembles all of the images into a single Google Earth KMZ file as photo overlays, where the photo is positioned in the spot it was taken, and oriented so that it’s overlaying the scenery at that spot (Figure 3):

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You can view any of these images in full photo overlay mode by double-clicking on the photo, or its listing in the places pane (Figure 4):

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You can even play back an animated tour of all these sequence photos, but here Google Earth’s limitations make it less than satisfactory. The photos in the animated tour aren’t displayed by Google Earth in full resolution, so when you zoom in on them they look pixelated and grainy. As you’ll see when you look at individual photos, they’re in full resolution, so it’s not Imageotag’s fault; and there doesn’t seem to be any settings in Google Earth to fix this problem. While KMZ overlay files are created automatically for sequences, you can also generate them manually for sets of individual photos.

I’ve missed a few features, I’m sure, but there’s a lot to explore in this app. Be sure to check out the settings, which offers a lot of control over photo and program parameters. And there’s lots of documentations and tutorials on the app’s website.

Other issues: Been looking at this app for a month or more, and the author has done a great job of cleaning up bugs/quirks, and making it work with a wide range of cameras. One minor limitation is that the highest image resolution currently available is 5 megapixels, even on phones that have cameras with greater resolution; that’s a hardware/software limitation. Occasionally, the main screen where you take the photos will shrink to a smaller size, but exiting and re-starting the program fixes that. The app was also originally designed on a phone with a trackball; while the author seems to have modified it successfully to work on a touch-screen phone only, you might still run across some functions that don’t work without it (author is working to fix all of these).

Final thoughts: In a market full of apps that duplicate each other, Imageotag is unique and valuable. If you’re interested in georeferencing your photos to the greatest degree possible, this program is virtually indispensable. Highly recommended.




Map Geotagged Photo Locations In Android With Been There

Application Name: Been There

Description: Maps locations of geotagged photos on an Android phone; displays thumbnails

Publisher’s website: Been There

Cost: Free basic version; ~ $1 paid version adds ability to organize photos in albums, export photos in KMZ format for viewing in Google Earth.

Version/date reviewed: v. 1.3.5 (free)  /  10-26-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

beenthere_qr

Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)


Been There takes all the geotagged photos on your Android unit (ones with the photo location embedded in the EXIF metadata), and plots their location in a Google Maps interface.

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Figure 1: Pictures within the mapped area visible are shown in thumbnail format at the top; you can drag the thumbnail strip either direction to view more photos

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Figure 2: Tap quickly on a thumbnail at the top, and the location it was taken will be highlighted in the map. Similarly, tap on a point on the map, and the photo thumbnail for that point will be highlighted at the top. A longer tap on a thumbnail will bring up a slightly larger version of the photo in a viewer to fill the phone’s screen (no zoom options, though). A long tap on a thumbnail followed by drag lets you resize the thumbnails larger or smaller.

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Figure 3: If you zoom in on the map, only those thumbnails within the map view will be visible. Similarly, zooming out will show additional thumbnails located in the map area. A “My Location” option in the menu will show you where you’re currently located, which can help you navigate to the location where a photo was taken.

Other Issues:

If you’re zoomed out so that lots of pictures need to be plotted on your map, it can take a few seconds for the thumbnails to show up.

Final thoughts:

This is the first app of this type I’ve reviewed (there’s a few others I’ll get to at some point), but even so, I like it a lot; I have difficulty imagining that similar apps would be much easier to use, or work as well. Recommended.




Remove Photo Geotagging Info With Geo Eraser

Application Name: Geo Eraser Free

Description: Creates a copy of a photo with geotagging coordinates removed

Publisher’s website: Sakaneya

Cost: Free (ad-supported)

Version/date reviewed: v. 0.22  /  10-17-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)


A recent NY Times article told the story of how Mythbuster Adam Savage posted an iPhone photo taken near his house, without realizing that the geographic coordinates for that location were being automatically embedded in the photo (usually referred to as photo “geotagging”). So people could easily find out where he lived, and also know that he wasn’t at home. Most Android phones with GPS come with geotagging turned on as the default, and while you can turn that off, it can be inconvenient to continually turn it on and off (plus you can forget how you last left it). Geo Eraser lets you create an exact copy of a geotagged photo, but with the coordinate information stripped out; it can also optionally remove the photo’s date and time as well.

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Figure 1: You never actually run the Geo Eraser app directly; instead, you open a photo with the viewer app of your choice, then “share” it to Geo Eraser.

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Figure 2: The photo is displayed at the bottom, and if it has coordinate/date info embedded, that’s shown at the top. The “Location” in China seen at left is a bug – that’s where the photo would be for an eastern longitude the same coordinates as the actual western longitude.

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Figure 3: The Menu => Erase Item page lets you set whether the coordinates, date/time or both are to be erased

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Figure 4: When ready, just press the “Erase GeoTag” button, and a copy of the original photo will have the unwanted geographic metadata stripped out, and be put into a folder called “Geo Eraser” with the same filename as the original photo. Since some Android phones give photos automatic names that contain the date and time, you may need to rename the photo if you want to completely scrub date/time data out.

Other Issues:

None, apart from the “location” bug mentioned above, which doesn’t affect anything of consequence.

Final thoughts:

Really only does one job, but does it perfectly. Definitely worth having if you’ll ever need to remove photo geotags.




Catch Notes: Augmented Notepad With Geotagging Options

Application Name: Catch Notes

Description: Notepad with geotagging, picture embedding; online sync.

Publisher’s website: Snaptic

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.2.0.1  /  10-1-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android market link (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


Catch Notes is a terrific free note-taking application for the Android platform from Snaptic.

 

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Figure 1: From the main screen, tap on the “Enter A Private Note” to start up a note; tapping on the picture icon takes you automatically to your camera app to snap a shot. Here, I’ll just start out with a note …

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Figure 2: Type whatever text you want into the box at top. You also can use the buttons at the bottom to:

– Take a single photo and attach it to the note (more below)
– Attach a single photo from your gallery to the note; this didn’t work for me on my Droid X, YMMV
– Scan a barcode and enter the data into your note. For regular 2D UPC codes, this enters the UPC number into your note; you’ll have to look up the product data separately. For QR codes, whatever data is embedded in the QR code will be entered into the note.

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Figure 3: If I choose to take a picture, my camera app will start up, letting me shoot the photo. After the picture is taken, the menu at left shows up onscreen; I can choose to reshoot the photo, abort the photo, or click “Done” to accept the photo and go back to the note page.

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Figure 4: A thumbnail of the photo shows up at the bottom of the screen. But the full-resolution photo is also saved on your unit, and can be downloaded to your computer later on. Add whatever additional notes you want, and save the note. Putting a hash tag (#) in front of a word marks it as a label for help in organizing/categorizing/sorting your notes.

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Figure 5: A listing for the new note shows up on your main screen, along with picture thumbnail; tapping on the note listing will bring it up a full view of it for reading/editing. You can also share a note publicly via email or social network sites, or send it to other compatible apps on your unit (e.g. Evernote).

The little teardrop icon at lower left in the note listing indicates that I’ve turned on “Location tagging” and “Location pin” from the Settings menu; this embeds the latitude/longitude into the note info, and shows that the note is geotagged. However, the app seems to automatically reverse-geocode the lat/long and displays an address at the bottom of the note if one is nearby; seems you can’t choose to just display latitude/longitude. I hope they offer that option in the future, as well as the option to remove the geotagging data if you don’t want it. But tomorrow’s post will show a way to get around that limitation.

If a note is geotagged, you’ll have the option to “Show on Map” appear in the menu settings; this will display a placemark icon in Google Maps indicating where the note was created.

You have the option of signing up for a free account with Snaptic; if you do, notes can be synced onto your online account for viewing/editing/sharing:

snapticsite

If you’re not online, no problem – notes are saved locally, and can be synced later. You have the option of automatic syncing whenever there’s a connection, or manually starting the sync process whenever you like. Snaptic syncing also works with their AK Notepad app, which is a fine plain-vanilla note app by itself (but Catch Notes is better).

Final thoughts:

IMO, Catch Notes is the best basic note-taking app available for Android; it has just enough features to be useful, but not so many to make it difficult to learn. And online data sync is bonus. As-is, its geotagging capabilities are limited, but still useful. But there’s another app that significantly augments the geotagging of Catch Notes, and takes it to another level. That’s tomorrow’s post.

Revisions:
10/1/10 to reflect change of app’s name to “Catch Notes” from “3banana”