Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The What, Which and Why's of Cloud Storage

What is Cloud Storage?


Simply put, its a space on the internet where you can save your files. Imagine it as one big invisible hard drive present in all of your devices: phone, laptop, tablet, Xbox, kindle, etc.

Why use Cloud Storage?


For starters you don't have to worry about physical storage. I know of a neighbour who lost his flash drive containing all his tax documents and financial details; a friend's brother who forgot his external hard drive in a taxi loosing precious data and software under development for a project. I too have sheepishly lost the CD's holding the first two years of my niece's life in pictures (something my mom will never forgive me for!). In short, life would be much much simpler if we didn't have to remember where we put every little thing.
Cloud storage can't help you remember forgotten stuff, but it can help by storing all your files and documents in one place you'll never forget. All it requires is logging into the service from any computer and device and viola, all your data is right in your hands. It doesn't matter where you are, or whose computer you're on; all you need is your username and password.

Which Cloud Storage?


Today there are so many services available to back your files up online. Dropbox is undoubtedly one of the most popular and oldest of them all. Although it offers a measly storage space of 2 GB for free users, its popularity lies in the wide range of applications and websites it syncs with, and the fact that through simple methods like referrals and liking them on Facebook you'll get bonus space. [I did have a bad experience with it about six years ago when I backed up some photo albums, but when I checked on that account a few years later I found that Dropbox no longer remembered who I was. I did pen an angry letter to them but got no response there either, and had no choice to open a new account and stick with them until Google Drive came along. Although I still like its mobile app much better than Drive's.]

Windows 8 and Hotmail users must be quite familiar with Microsoft's Onedrive (formerly known as Skydrive). It is very conveniently tied into all Microsoft products like MS Office and Windows for the PC and mobile. Google pretty much throws Drive at you if you have a Gmail account or an android device. I'm not very fond of its mobile app, but I can't argue with the 15 GB and automatic backup of all my documents edited and sent online. Mega is unarguably the best choice if you want to backup everything for free with a whooping 50 GB free for new users. An upcoming and first choice for many businesses is Box, which prides itself on its secure encryption of files, but it's file size limit can put a damper on things if you're uploading large files like home videos and movies.

You may even be using cloud storage without realizing it. iPhone and iPad users use iCloud to sync photos, contacts, notes and more between different Apple devices. Amazon's Kindle lets readers read their books from any web browser through the Kindle Cloud Reader and has an amazing feature of syncing the page you last read across devices through Whispersync which (surprise surprise) is also a form of cloud storage.

For a comparison of the top five cloud services, refer to the table below:

Dropbox vs. Drive vs. OneDrive vs. Mega vs. Box

What's your favourite service to use and why? Are there any good ones I've missed. let me know in the comments or share this post using the buttons below or in the right sidebar. Follow by email to stay updated and thank you for reading!

Monday, December 23, 2013

15 iPhone and iPad Apps Students will love to use in Class


As a student I have loved using my smartphone and tablet both in and outside the classroom, especially when studying last minute right outside the examination hall. It's just so handy having all your needs in one place and saving so much time and energy, to do other important stuff like catching up on GOT. These apps will help you in so many ways and make life simpler for you, but one thing they can't do is study for you. Tough luck, you're on your own there.

1. Evernote:

Download free



How can a list like this start without mentioning Evernote. I'm sure most of you have heard and used this app by now; if not, (a) stop reading (b) download it here now and then (c) come back and see what other cool apps I'm about to show you.
Evernote has taken the simplicity of jotting down a note onto a whole different level. It has great options to help organize your notes into notebooks, by adding labels and sorting them by dates and location. You can take a photo of your scribbled notes and it'll transcribe it into text for you.
It has great formatting tools to give your notes a more polished feel, and that's why you can type entire letters and assignments on to this app complete with bullet points and a bold red headline.
Evernote Notebooks iPhone App

All of these features are great, but what makes this app fantastic is that you can access it everywhere; via apps on your smartphone, tablet, laptop and online from your friend's computer. I've often used this to take notes (or discreetly write articles for my blog) in the classroom and sync unfinished papers between devices.


2. i-Clickr PowerPoint Remote:

Download Free or Paid($9.99)

I love this app. As a business student, I was required to deliver 2-3 presentations a semester. I would make and practice it to perfection, but my biggest hassle wasn't the speaking part, rather it was coordinating the slide's timings with the person sitting next to the laptop. This app is such a blessing, as it allows you to control your presentation from afar through your phone or tablet and has plenty of additional features. It can record your presentations (slides and your voice audio) into a movie, let's you share a PDF version via e-mail, view slides and slide notes during presentation, and also possesses an on board clock, real-time annotations and an alarm system.
In order for it to work, a program is required to be installed on the computer displaying projecting your presentation. The setup is small hassle, but its worth it at the end of the day. The lite version works for only 15 slides.
i-Clickr Powerpoint Remote


3. Subject- Specific Dictionaries:


QFINANCE Dictionary of Business and Finance ($3.99)
The Law Guide
Medwords Medical Dictionary ($0.99)
German English dictionary

I think this goes into the list without saying why its important. When you're studying a certain field of education then subject-specific dictionaries are the best. In class my friends would score brownie points with our teachers by checking the definitions of business terms asked, under their desks. When choosing between subject dictionaries in the Appstore, look for those with offline access. The best ones in Business, Law, Medicine, and German are mentioned above. My favourite English dictionary which includes synonyms and offline access is Merriam-Webster. 

The Law Guide iPhone App


4. Pocket:


Pocket is perfect for saving webpages. It captures articles, videos or websites you want to check out later, in a smart and easy-to-use layout. This is especially helpful for students when gathering online content for class research, which you want to use or read later. You can save class readings onto your device to read later at the bus stop. The best part is that it is deliciously fast and allows for offline viewing. The second best part is that it syncs across your phone, tablet, and computer so you can view it anytime on any device, without an Internet connection. 



5. Cloud Storage:

Dropbox
Google Drive
Skydrive

Cloud storage is the floppy disk of today, only its invisible. From the many services to choose from, the most popular is Dropbox followed by Google Drive and Microsoft's Skydrive (if you don't know what all this means, stay tuned for an explanatory post coming up on cloud storage by subscribing via email on the right).
I'm sure you use it already to backup files and photos, but its golden purpose in college lies in the one click transferring of files between your computer and smartphone. Assignments, class readings, presentations, notes... you name it; just drag and drop the file into the dropbox/drive folder on your computer, and you can pick up from where you started on your phone and work offline.


6. Smart Writing Tools - 7notes

Download Free or Paid ($7.99)

This handwriting app can be very useful when taking notes in the classroom on your iPad. Typing may be simpler, but we all know how auto-correct turns technical terms into a mumbo jumbo of text. 7notes is the app of the future which converts your iPad or iPhone into digital paper. You can write notes by hand, and it can convert your handwriting into digital text accurately (premium version only), which you can then save as editable notes or email it to a friend or yourself. 
It lets you vary the colour and thickness of the pen, and easily switch between the keyboard and pen. It is easier to use on either an iPad or if you have a stylus pen. You can also send an old-fashioned handwritten note to a friend via SMS, Facebook or Twitter, as well as store to online services like Dropbox and Evernote.


Smart Writing Tools 7note iPhone App


7. OCR Application:

Download Prizmo ($9.99)
LEADTOOLS OCR Application (Free)

OCR applications are used to convert printed text from a book, magazine or article into digitized text. They are very useful in transcribing passages out of books or that useful article from the magazine you just found at the dentists. Of the many to choose from, Prizmo has the best results and sharing options. But it is pretty pricey and so you can download the free LEADTOOLS app which does a good and quick job with the occasional hiccup. It has a good set of options and is very easy to use, requiring no internet connection to work.


LEADTOOLS OCR Application for 



8. Dragon Dictation:

Download here

Here's a useful dictation app for those with slow typing speed (or the ultra lazy).  Dragon Dictation is great for typing up long passages of text. I often use dictation applications when having to write pages of "my own words" out of books or webpages and this is my go-to app for the iPhone. This app requires a working internet connection to work; it would've been better if it could work offline, if you're on a data plan or not in Wi-Fi range you can always use the Window's own built-in narrator application on your laptop. iPhone users who possess their own virtual assistant in the form of Siri can order her to type up short memos for you.






9. Quickoffice


This free app from Google lets you create and edit Microsoft® Office documents, spreadsheets and presentations on your Android phone and tablet. Your files automatically backup in Google Drive allowing you access from any device. It can also be used to open and view PDF files.



10. Calculator:

The stock calculator app in the iPhone and iPad has all the basic and most of the advanced computations needed in class. For those who don't know, if you hold your phone horizontally in landscape mode your basic calculator turns it a scientific one. You can also access more functions by pressing the 2nd button located left most on the second row. 


iPhone Stock Calculator



11. Textbooks!

Apple's iBooks
Amazon Kindle

Amazon and other services are continuously adding textbooks to their libraries, but even so not all your textbooks are available online. Now and then, I would find a book online and loved having them on my tablet and, for the others I owned in paperback I would scan certain chapters using the handy app (item #12) below and add them to my library within the Kindle app or iBooks. Furthermore, you can highlight text and add notes at any point in the book. Most of all you'll enjoy the search feature; it is ten times more useful than an index. You can also find cheap or free textbooks on apps like eTextbooks for the iPad and Boundless Textbooks




12. Studyblue Flashcards

As the name suggests, STUDYBLUE is an app which lets you create flashcards with text, pictures or audio. The online search feature gives you access to millions of other flashcards available online. Furthermore it offers quizzing, tracking for study session progress, messages to your classmates and more. 


13. Wolfram|Alpha

Download here ($2.99)

An app to answer all your mathematical and factual questions in math, art, computer programming, economics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, finance, history, and much much more. This beats Google by giving you a straight-up answers to complex mathematical formulae and in-depth reports on almost every topic imaginable.



14. CamScanner - Phone PDF Creator

Download Free or Paid ($4.99)


CamScanner is an intelligent document management solution, which basically turns your smartphone into a scanner. So no need to buy that fancy new HP scanner you were eyeing if you've got a good camera-phone. It is the perfect fit for those who want to scan, sync, edit, share and manage various contents on all devices and lets you quickly scan documents with optimum quality. The bonus features of the paid (ad-free) version are extracting text from documents, 10GB of cloud storage, higher quality scans and no watermarks.


15. Khan Academy:


The official app of Khan Academy features video lectures from the popular website, which can be viewed and downloaded onto your phone for offline viewing later. For those unfamiliar with Khan Academy, you'll find this website and app pretty useful in understanding topics which books and teachers aren't able to help you with. For free you can learn about math, art, computer programming, economics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, finance, history, and more. It's good for those moments when you hit a roadblock when studying, and in revising concepts. 

Khan Academy Video Playing iPhone App

Bonus: 16. My Grades and Homework

Download here ($0.99)

A great app to keep track of all your grades and assignments, as well as calculate your current grade or GPA for you. It comes packed with lots of customizable features and allows you to backup your data to Dropbox for added protection.



Also view our list of 15 Favourite Android Apps Students will love to use in Class.
Kindly leave a comment and share this post using the buttons below or in the right sidebar. Follow by email to stay updated and thank you for reading!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

15 Android Apps Students Will Love to Use in Class


As a student I have loved using my smartphone and tablet both in and outside the classroom, especially when studying last minute right outside the examination hall. It's just so handy having all your needs in one place and saving so much time and energy, to do other important stuff like catching up on GOT. These apps will help you in so many ways and make life simpler for you, but one thing they can't do is study for you. Tough luck, you're on your own there.

1. Evernote:

Download here

How can a list like this start without mentioning Evernote. I'm sure most of you have heard and used this app by now; if not, (a) stop reading (b) download it here now and then (c) come back and see what other cool apps I'm about to show you.
Evernote has taken the simplicity of jotting down a note onto a whole different level. It has great options to help organize your notes into notebooks, by adding labels and sorting them by dates and location. You can take a photo of your scribbled notes and it'll transcribe it into text for you.
It has great formatting tools to give your notes a more polished feel, and that's why you can type entire letters and assignments on to this app complete with bullet points and a bold red headline.
All of these features are great, but what makes this app fantastic is that you can access it everywhere; via apps on your smartphone, tablet and computer and online (from its website) through your friend's computer. I've often used this to take notes (or discreetly write articles for my blog) in the classroom and sync unfinished papers between devices.


Further more, as a privileged android user take advantage of placing widgets on your home screen to make the app more accessible and easier to use. You have to download a separate app, Evernote Widget, to get the whole range of widgets (makes no sense to me either) but its worth the extra space.


2. Presentation Remote:


I love this app. As a business student, I was required to deliver 2-3 presentations a semester. I would make and practice it to perfection, but my biggest hassle wasn't the speaking part, rather it was coordinating the slide's timings with the person sitting next to the laptop. This app is such a blessing, as it allows you to control your presentation from afar through your phone or tablet. It connects both devices via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and works seamlessly allowing you the freedom to stray away from your laptop, switching slides from the palm of your hand. It also has a built-in timer.

3. Subject- Specific Dictionaries:


I think this goes into the list without saying why its important. My favourite English dictionary which includes synonyms and offline access is Merriam-Webster. But when you're studying a certain field of education then subject-specific dictionaries are the best. In class my friends would score brownie points with our teachers by checking the definitions of business terms asked, under their desks. When choosing between subject dictionaries in the Play store, look for those with offline access. The best ones in Law, Medicine, and German are mentioned above.
Image taken from app description in Play Store 


4. Pocket:


Pocket is perfect for saving webpages. It captures articles, videos or websites you want to check out later, in a smart and easy-to-use layout. This is especially helpful for students when gathering online content for class research, which you want to use or read later. You can save class readings onto your device to read later at the bus stop. The best part is that it is deliciously fast and allows for offline viewing. The second best part is that it syncs across your phone, tablet, and computer so you can view it anytime on any device, without an Internet connection.


5. Cloud Storage:


Cloud storage is the floppy disk of today, only its invisible. From the many services to choose from, the most popular is Dropbox followed by Google Drive and Microsoft's Skydrive (if you don't know what all this means, stay tuned for an explanatory post coming up on cloud storage by subscribing via email on the left).
I'm sure you use it already to backup files and photos, but its golden purpose in college lies in the one click transferring of files between your computer and smartphone. Assignments, class readings, presentations, notes... you name it; just drag and drop the file into the dropbox/drive folder on your computer, and you can pick up from where you started on your phone and work offline.

6. Mobile OCR:

Download: Free or Paid ($4.12)

A handy app to convert all your handwritten notes into regular computerized text - image to text. For those more comfortable jotting down notes by hand in class or the slow typers, this app will help bring you the dark side. Typed notes can be immensely useful; you can make notebooks in Evernote and organize your notes by tags. Searching a particular word from all your notebooks takes less than a second. Most of all, it saves space and is great for travelling. All of your notes available on your phone, tablet or laptop, backed up and always available.
Image taken from Lifehacker

7. ListNote Speech/Text Notepad:

Download Free or Paid ($4.99)

Here's a useful dictation app for those with slow typing speed (or the ultra lazy).  Listnote is great for typing up long passages of text for you and then let's you further organize those notes or ideas by category and colours. I often dictation applications when having to write pages of "my own words" out of books or webpages, but I usually fluctuate between the Android keyboard's own built in voice command and Listnote. If you can afford to shell out $200 go for the Dragon Naturallyspeaking app on PC and its companion app on Android.

8. QuickOffice:

This free app from Google lets you create and edit Microsoft® Office documents, spreadsheets and presentations on your Android phone and tablet. Your files automatically backup in Google Drive allowing you access from any device. It can also be used to open and view PDF files.


9. RealCalc Scientific Calculator

Download Free or Paid ($3.25)

Math is everywhere when studying, you'll need this.

10. Studious


I wish I had found this app sooner. I have been the joke of the class with many thanks to my phone singing pop songs during lectures. For the forgetful student whose Mum loves to ring during school hours, this app will save you the dirty looks from your teacher by automatically turning your ringer to silent for class, according to your timetable. You can also add notes and set homework and test reminders.


11. Books!

Play Textbooks
Amazon Kindle
Amazon and Google Play are continuously adding textbooks to their libraries, but even so not all your textbooks are available online. Now and then, I would find a book online and loved having them on my tablet and, for the others I owned in paperback I would scan certain chapters using the handy app (item #12) below and add them to my library within the Kindle or Aldiko app. Furthermore, you can highlight text and add notes at any point in the book. Most of all you'll enjoy the search feature, it is ten times more useful than the index.

12. Studyblue Flashcards

As the name suggests, STUDYBLUE is an app which lets you create flashcards with text, pictures or audio. The online search feature gives you access to millions of other flashcards available online. Furthermore it offers quizzing, tracking for study session progress, messages to your classmates and more. 
Image taken from app description on Google Play

13. Wolfram|Alpha

Download here ($2.99)

An app to answer all your mathematical and factual questions in math, art, computer programming, economics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, finance, history, and much much more. This beats Google by giving you a straight-up answers to complex mathematical formulae and in-depth reports on almost every topic imaginable.

14. CamScanner - Phone PDF Creator

Download Free or Paid ($4.99)

CamScanner is an intelligent document management solution, which basically turns your smartphone into a scanner. So no need to buy that fancy new HP scanner you were eyeing if you've got a good camera-phone. It is the perfect fit for those who want to scan, sync, edit, share and manage various contents on all devices and lets you quickly scan documents with optimum quality. The bonus features of the paid (ad-free) version are extracting text from documents, 10GB of cloud storage, higher quality scans and no watermarks.
Image taken from app description on Google Play

15. Khan Academy:

Download Free or Paid ($1.99)

The unofficial app of Khan Academy features video lectures from the popular website, which can be downloaded onto your phone and saved for offline viewing later. For those unfamiliar with Khan Academy, you'll find this website and app pretty useful in understanding topics which books and teachers aren't able to help you with. For free you can learn about math, art, computer programming, economics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, finance, history, and more. It's good for those moments when you hit a roadblock when studying, and in revising concepts. This app just about does the job on your phone, but it still needs much work to be done on it. In some ways you may be better off accessing the website from your desktop, but its worth a try.



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