On{X} – Microsoft improving Android

Your Android experience, especially those of you who have experienced Google Now, is far and away superior to other Smart Phone OS’s. I’ll be the first to admit it, and I’m a Windows Phone user. For those not familiar, Google Now will use everything Google knows about you to make your life easier. Some people find it creepy, some people fin it useful – but a few examples of what it will do are things like notifying you that you need to leave right now in order to make an appointment. It will pop up useful information reminding you what Gate you need to walk to at an airport as you walk in to the airport, because it procured that information from your GMail. But Google allows you to do so much more with the platform and it can enhance your experience even more.

Microsoft’s On{X} app for Android, takes it a step further. You can sign up on their website and create recipes, something similar to IFTTT.com (If This Then That). IFTTT lets you cover multiple platforms together – an example being IF I publish an article on my website THEN post an update to Twitter and Facebook with the link. Taking that idea to your phone, On{X} is a beta program that detects certain events that your create recipes or rules for, and follows through with specific tasks. Example: when you leave work, you can text your spouse to tell them you’re on the way home.

Sure, at first this seems a bit silly, but this could lead to some brilliant family-friendly features for reminding your kids to check in with you, or having their phone send you a note when they arrive at home after school. There are even more features that I haven’t even begun to play with, but it uses Javascripting to interact with the Android OS in a way that you simply cannot do on iOS or Windows Phone. It’s clearly in beta and doesn’t seem to have anything jaw dropping, but it has promise, and I genuinely think it will fill in a few gaps people are hoping for from their Google Now experience. There are a lot of 1 star reviews, but they seem to be coming from quite a few people who hate the thought of Microsoft on Android (forgetting, entirely, that Microsoft is one of the biggest contributors to the Linux kernel).

See what it can do for yourself, download Microsoft’s On{X} for Android.

Combinator for Windows Phone

Combinator for Windows Phone is a great app for getting your tech news. It’s not much more than a series of RSS feeds, and some articles can’t be read from within the app. Still, it gets me the headlines that I don’t see at most other websites. The feeds are selected based on the types of things and companies you would find at Y Combinator.

Y Combinator is a company that started in 2005 that often assists other startup companies with advice and investments. It’s kind of like an episode of Shark Tank, but not terrible. A lot of hackers and tech enthusiasts find their way in to mainstream business by going through Y Combinator, which makes all of these related news very interesting to geeks like me. Download Combinator for Windows Phone and see if it gives you the tech news fix you’re looking for!

EWG's Dirty Dozen app

The Environmental Working Group has a list of products they call the Dirty Dozen. These are fruits and vegetables known to be highly treated and altered by pesticides and other chemicals – whereas the Clean 15 are general safer. Now, I’m not big in to these lists, I’m an old fashioned “that which does not kill me…” kind of guy. But when my neighbor showed me this quick and simple app, I thought some people out there might want to know it!

The app is self contained and has the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15, as well as a list of several dozen common grocery items that you will find in your home, and how they rank among the others as far as toxins go and whether or not you should consider buying “organic.” The app, of course, is simply called Dirty Dozen on the Windows Phone. Enjoy!

Microsoft's Authenticator App

Last week, Microsoft formally unveiled two-factor authentication for your Microsoft Account. I mentioned on Sunday that Xbox Live would be taking advantage of this new feature.

Tired of opening your browser and finding the website for the authenticator? You can now get the app on Windows Phone! If you’re a Windows Phone user already, but you wanted two-factor authentication on your Google account, you can also use this same app, since Google’s Authenticator App for Android doesn’t seem like it’s ever coming to Windows Phone. Microsoft’s Authenticator for Windows Phone is certainly the way to go to enhance your security!

SmartCam – adding a free webcam to your computer

Android phones have officially taken over the world. Sort of. Anyway, chances are, you probably use one or may even already have an old one just sitting around. If you’ve ever felt like the webcam on your laptop didn’t allow you the range of motion you wanted, you could use an Android phone as an additional webcam on your computer!

The SmartCam app basically sends the video feed to your computer via your wireless network or Bluetooth. The content is received by a special program you install on your computer. There are “receiver” programs for both Windows and Linux.

Disqus App for Windows Phone

Disqus is a hugely popular commenting system. I use it on my blog (at least at the time of publication!), and I believe it has been used by larger sites like Engadget use it as well. Disuqs allows you to leave comments on news articles and participate in conversations while using your Twitter or Facebook login. You don’t have to go through the hassle of registering a new account, verifying your email address, and jumping through all of those hoops. There are some even better features provided by the app.

Within the Disqus app for Windows Phone, you can follow up on comments without having to revisit the site or article you had left the comment on. You can receive notifications if you have been replied to. If you’re like me and you use Disqus on your website, then you can even use the app to moderate other users posts on your own site! The app is flexible, fast, and really convenient. Take a look at it and see if it meets your commenting needs!

Ping for Windows Phone

UPDATE: Ping appears to have gone missing from the Windows Phone Store as we get closer to Windows 10 Mobile’s launch. I’m unsure where it has gone or why, but in the mean time, I recommend checking out another app with PING and even more features, Network Tools.


Despite the logo, it’s not a Ping-Pong game, just a straight forward ping tool to carry in your pocket. This week, it’s a very simple app, but an app I couldn’t believe I didn’t have on my phone! Suddenly, I needed a simple Ping utility, just like the old command-line tool for Windows, but I didn’t have one on my phone! I forgot all about it! But when I needed the this invaluable tool in my pocket, one app came through in a hurry. Ping on Windows Phone. Easy enough to remember, it shows up at the top of the marketplace when you search. The interface has a place for you type the server address you want to test, and another field to specify a port. 99% of the time, you just want to use port 80, since it does not specify a port for you by default. Then away you go!

Just use the Ping app to ensure you’re getting a response from a server or network device. Quick, simple, convenient. That’s my kind of app. All for the low, low price of free. Everyone’s kind of app. So go download Ping on Windows Phone, you never know when it’ll come in handy!

Apps Gone Free

Apps Gone Free is an app for iOS, which is extremely obvious. It highlights apps that have experienced recent price drops. It reminds me of AppShopper, but in this case they get nearly exclusive promotions. Obviously, the apps will be on the app store no matter what app you use to find them, but Apps Gone Free will often create partnership deals. Apps Gone Free works with developers to promote the application, through a ‘bumping’ process which, from what I gather, allows users to vote on apps they want to become free, so that the Apps Gone Free folks can work with other app developers.

It’s very convenient, and you can even scroll through several days worth of items that went free. Several of the deals may have expired and prices gone back up, but you can still what the deals were. And scrolling back is still worth it, because some items may stay at their reduced price for a few days. So go ahead and install Apps Gone Free for your iPhone or iPad and see what deal you can find!

Pebble Notifier does everything the Pebble Watch SHOULD do!

When I heard about the Pebble I wasn’t interested. I know, call me crazy. It just seemed over priced for not having to reach in to my pocket. It’s not THAT convenient. However, I do have friends who bought the Pebble Watch. I became even less interested when I heard that only certain apps could send notifications to the Pebble Watch. Lucky for you, the geeks are already on your side!

Pebble Notifier was quick to arrive. Open it up, choose from the list of apps on your phone, and have notifications pushed to your Pebble. This app isn’t going to help me, but I have good feedback telling me it works pretty reliably, so I wanted to pass it along to the Pebble owners out there.