Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Determine Your Location With Geosense Location Sensor [Windows 7]

Determine Your Location With Geosense Location Sensor [Windows 7]:

geosense for windowsWith Windows 7, Microsoft introduced the Windows Sensor and Location platform, which theoretically enables your computer to adapt to its current environment through location-aware applications. Even if your computer does not contain a GPS chip, its current location can be determined in a number of ways, including IP lookup, WiFi triangulation, and cell tower triangulation.

Geosense is a sensor that can use this technology and feed the data into location-aware applications.

Setting Up Geosense

After installing the sensor, you need to enable Geosense. Go to your > Windows Start menu, search for > location, and select > Location and Other Sensors from the results listed under > Control Panel.

geosense for windows

Check the box next to > Geosense Location Sensor and click > Apply to enable Geosense.

geosense windows 7

To view more information about the Geosense Location Sensor, change its description, change who can access the sensor, and to uninstall Geosense, click on > Geosense Location Sensor.

geosense windows 7

Now that the sensor is enabled, you can use it with location-aware applications.

Google Maps

To demonstrate the functionality of Geosense, its developers have created a Google Maps demo client, which you can download from the Geosense homepage or through this link (ZIP file). The app reveals your current location on a Google map and allows you to quickly locate facilities in your area.

geosense windows 7

In my tests, the accuracy was so good that the street address displayed in the Google Maps sidebar diverted only by meters, i.e. it calculated that I was sitting in the house next door.

This location-sensing Google Maps client can be very useful for travelers. When stranded in a foreign city, not knowing your current street address, all you have to do is connect to the Internet, launch the client, and it will tell you right where you are. You can then use the Google Maps > Search nearby feature to look for restaurants, bars, or other public facilities in the area.

geosense windows sensor

We have written many interesting articles about Google Maps, check out some of them here:

Weather Gadget

The Windows 7 Weather gadget for your desktop is a location-aware application. To add it to your desktop, search for > gadget in your Windows Start menu and select > Desktop Gadget Gallery from the results under > Programs.

geosense windows sensor

When the Gadget Gallery has opened, double-click the > Weather gadget and it will load on your desktop.

desktop gadget gallery

If it works, you will see a blue WiFi signal next to your location, which indicates that your location is detected. If it does not work, this little icon will be marked with a red cross and it will probably display the default city, which is Seattle, Washington.

geosense for windows

More cool Windows 7 desktop gadgets can be found in these articles:

Another application that supports Geosense is MahTweets, a social network client for Twitter, Facebook, and FourSquare, including multiple accounts for each. Since its release in early March 2011, however, not much has happened and it seems like it has not been developed further. Therefore I will not explore this application further.

Unfortunately, although the Windows Sensor and Location platform and the relevant technology have been around for several years, there are very few location-aware applications for Windows 7. Geosense hopes to “kickstart a pool of cool location-based or location-enhanced applications on Windows 7.” Until further applications are available, the tool remains a fun demonstration of how accurate free location sensing technologies are these days.

If you are concerned about your privacy and don’t want to share your location under any circumstances, be sure to check out this article: How To Disable Or Fake Your Location In Firefox, Internet Explorer & Chrome.

What do you think of this technology? Do you use location sensing on your mobile devices and would you like to see more location-aware applications for Windows? Or does this kind of thing scare you with its privacy implications?

Image credits: Tobias Machhaus

Create A Really Useful Personal Information Dashboard Page With Google Sites

Create A Really Useful Personal Information Dashboard Page With Google Sites:

google sitesCreating webpages used to be such a tedious process. Aside from the hassle with deciding where to publicly host the page, you needed to learn HTML and then figure out how to program the page so that it didn’t look like some amateur threw it together.

These days, there are countless websites that will let you create a webpage in mere minutes, without any knowledge of HTML whatsoever. We’d covered all sorts of websites and tools that you can use for this, like the four web design tools I wrote about, or other tools like OnePager or Zooloo. One of the fastest and quickest tools that I previously covered was Google Sites.

Fabricating Your Own Useful Dashboard

After using Google Sites for a while, I discovered some additional cool ways that it is integrated with other Google tools. That integration makes it a very powerful and easy way to put together your own personal information dashboard in no time.

To build your own person data/information dashboard, start by going to Google Sites and creating a site of your own. Give it a unique name, but at the bottom of the page, make sure to check off “Only people I specify” to make the site a private one.

google sites

This is important, because some of the information that you’re going to bring into the page may include personal details or statistics that are only for your information. This might include information you don’t want the public to see, like the Analytics data from your website, or the RSS streams you’re following to come up with new ideas to write about.

On the main page of your new Google site, click the “Edit” button at the top of the window.

google web sites

This puts the page in edit mode. What many people may not realize is that there are a bunch of premade gadgets and widgets that can help you make a very dynamic website with very little effort. You can see those by clicking on the “Insert” menu item.

google web sites

Then, click on “More gadgets…” to view the Google Gadgets database.

google web sites

There are tons of really useful, high-quality gadgets listed in here. But, don’t get me wrong, there’s also a lot of junk. Try to stick to the “Featured” category for the highest quality gadgets.

Embed RSS Streams To Your Page

One of the ones that I find to be the most useful is the “Google RSS” feed gadget. Choose that gadget, and then you’ll get to the Properties page.

free google web sites

This is where you can integrate an RSS stream widget onto the site that is tailor-made to provide you with a collection of information tailored specifically to what you want to see. How do you do this when there’s only one RSS feed URL field?

Easy, check out RSSMix, and use it to combine as many different RSS streams from around the net as you like into one core stream that you can embed on your own personal information page. Depending on the type of dashboard information page you’re trying to build, this stream can be a collection of whatever specific information that applies to the purpose of the dashboard. Is it your own finance dashboard? Collect relevant RSS streams from around the web and display that on this page.

Display Spreadsheet Data In Graph Form

The other really cool Gadget that you’ll see in the Insert menu is if you click on “Chart” rather than “More Gadgets“. The Chart gadget is integrated right into Google Docs. You can import any spreadsheet of data in your Google Docs account to create graphs of that data right on your new dashboard.

free google web sites

All I did to create this particular chart is export my Google Analytics website data to a CSV file (you can do this from inside Analytics), and then stored that CSV file in my Google Docs account. This allows Google Sites to see that data and import it into graph format.

Once you’re done laying out the data in the way that you want it to display in the graph, just click okay and now the graph is updated on your page. Pretty cool huh?

Display Dynamic Calendars On Your Dashboard

Another useful gadget in the “Insert” menu is the Calendar tool. This lets you insert any of your personal Google Calendars into your Google Site page. If you think about it, having a calendar embedded on a web page often takes a bit of work, because you need to use embed code to pull data from some calendar stored on another site, or a calendar app installed on your own server, in order to have a dynamic calendar.

But with Google Sites, it’s completely seamless.

Choose your calendar, click “Select” and you’re done. If you choose a two column layout for your page, you can easily lay out these gadgets side by side on the page.

free google web sites

Once you’re done integrating your Google services and embedding various gadgets onto your Google Sites page, save it and then check out how cool your new, dynamic webpage looks.

google sites

This is a lot like other dashboard pages like Netvibes, but it is more tightly integrated with your Google services. I’ve noticed that the gadgets here seem to work better and update faster than when you try to embed your Google information into a page like Netvibes. It’s also nice to quickly import docs, spreadsheets and charts right from Google Docs with just the click of a button.

If you’ve put off trying Google Sites, I highly recommend revisiting it, and trying out all of the cool integration tools that you’ll find in the “Insert” menu. You may be surprised just how dynamic and useful a dashboard page you can create for yourself.

A Variety Of Calculator Apps For Both Basic & Advanced Calculations [iPad]

A Variety Of Calculator Apps For Both Basic & Advanced Calculations [iPad]:

calculator apps for ipadFor some reason, Apple decided not to include a calculator app for the iPad, as they do for the iPhone. So I signed into the App Store to hunt one down and was a little surprised – though I shouldn’t have been – at the number and variety of apps available in the genre. Though there are little variations in the names of these apps, the design and functions vary enough that you will want to browse the many offerings to see what might fit your needs. I ended up purchasing Soulver, which I will explain why below, but many of the free offerings will suffice if your calculator needs are pretty basic.

Please note however that this post is written by someone who hasn’t done even algebra calculations in over twenty years. So I haven’t reviewed much about scientific function features such as the root, power, exponential, factorial, logarithm, and other operations in advanced calculators. Instead, I have presented a sample variety of the free offerings. I did however try to focus on calculators that also include at least memory functions, such as the M+ function that adds a number on display to its memory, which enables that number to be recalled by the MR (Memory Recall) button.


Calculator++ was one of the first apps that caught my attention because of its simple design and user interface. The buttons are nice and large, and you can actually change the skin of the app – eight different themes to choose from.

calculator apps for ipad

When you rotate your iPad in the landscape position you get access to a wide range of advanced trigonometric and scientific functions. Don’t ask me to explain them, but they are there.

Some user comments in the App Store complain about ads in this app, but I didn’t see any in the latest update.

Simple Calculator & Converter Free

This ad-supported Simple Calculator won’t win any awards for design, but it does include a handful of number crunching features that you might find useful.

free calculator apps

In addition to doing very basic calculations (there are no memory functions), Simple Calculator also includes a calculator for metric conversions, another one for splitting a tip, and if you are a worldwide shopper there is a feature for finding the equivalent clothing shoe size from different countries.

Pocket Calculator

If you’re looking to get beyond the geeky design of traditional calculators, Pocket Calculator delivers something different. This is a basic arithmetic calculator with a sort of retro design. It also includes a paper tape to keep track of your calculations, which you access in the landscape position of your iPad.

free calculator apps

The biggest turnoff however to this free version is that the ads pop up at the top of the user interface and are very obtrusive. The ad-free premium version is 99 cents.

Simple Loan Calculator

This app does only what is named to do – compute the loan, interest rate and number of years over a fixed time with fixed monthly payments. Sure, anyone could do the same calculations with pen and paper, but for most of us this ad-supported app will do the numbers faster.

free calculator apps


No calculator can increase your tax refund, but if you want to get a quick estimate of your return, TurboTax’s TaxCaster calculator might very well be of help.

best scientific calculator apps for iphone 4

According to the developers, TaxCaster “uses the same tax calculator found in the best-selling TurboTax tax software“. If the results are not to your liking, you might make a few last-minute moves to get more money back.

Calculator Pro

Calculator Pro seems to have received the highest customer ratings (2,801) for this type of app. Its design is similar to Calculator++. It includes basic calculations in portrait mode and much more advanced functions including degrees and Radians calculations in landscape mode.

best scientific calculator apps for iphone 4

This is also an ad-supported app, but the ads are not too obtrusive at the bottom of the screen. The premium version costs 99 cents, and you can also order some beautifully designed skins.

Jumbo Calculator

The best apps for the iPad are ones that beautifully designed and make effective use of the screen size. Jumbo Calculator is a large buttoned calculator that makes computing a breeze. The buttons and functions, including squaring and square-rooting, are nice and large so you don’t have to hunt for them. Best of all, it’s free.

Jumbo calculator

Free Tip Calculator

There are several tip calculators to choose from for both the iPhone and iPad, but I chose this free offering because it includes a pretty good design, nice sized keyboard, and a record display of your most recent calculations.

best scientific calculator apps for iphone 4


I purchased Soulver ($5.99), the notepad calculator, because it is what I use on my desktop Mac. It saves all your recent computations, and if you make a mistake as you type numbers, you don’t have to start over because the app allows you to edit computations in the text editor. You can even use descriptive words in your compensations (e.g. $199 for an iPhone + Voice plan is $55 a month x 24 months.)

calculator apps for ipad

You can also see running totals and other statistics as you crunch the numbers. Soulver has many more advanced features and functions than an average user like myself will ever use, but it is great if your math skills have declined over the years.

For more examples of free calculator apps for the iPad, check out Top 20 Free Apps for Your New iPad, and Top 10 Free Apps For the iPad. Let us know about a calculator app that you find useful.