Simple Tip: Send Big Files Easily

Have you ever needed to send big files like videos such as machinima or backup zips but they were too big to send on email or Skype? Or perhaps your intended recipient was not FTP savvy?

By far the easiest way to do this is with JustBeamIt.

All you do is drag and drop your file onto their website, click on ‘get link’, then give this link to the recipient.

Just Beam It

The other advantage of this is that it doesn’t store your file(s) on any cloud server, it’s using peer to peer transfer, so it goes directly from your computer to theirs. There are no logins to do, no passwords to remember, no apps to download or file space charges or limits. It just does the job.

If you have a large file (there is no file size limit) and you need it sent quick, then this service seems the most handy to use.

Streaming between Android and Windows

In our last Android-Windows review, we looked at Android apps that allow transfer and sharing to/from your Windows PC.

In this post we will look at some free apps that are aimed at streaming media. Our Android device is the handy and very capable Nexus 7.

When you have large (think multiple gigabytes) music folders on your PC or library of videos, it’s not practical to copy them over to your Android device. Streaming them would be the better option, so we looked at four of the most popular and free streaming apps available for Android.

BSplayerFREE from BSPlayer Media

Setup with the BSPlayer is easy enough – select ‘LAN mode’ from Settings, then press and hold on your selected network to enable login details if your network is password protected. This will list all your shared folders on that PC.

BSPlayer 01 BSPlayer 02

Response time seems to be just as quick as viewing from any PC on your network; there are no long waits for caching, although if you have thumbnail generation selected this will slow things down. You can turn off thumbnail generation in settings.

BSPlayer works well with music files and videos, and seems to play most formats. It also includes subtitle support (ssa/ass, srt, sub, txt) and options for video. We were pleased to see it found multiple audio streams and both external and embedded subtitles. It will even find subtitles automatically.

Of the apps we looked at, this was the most trouble-free, with a minimum of setting up. However, it doesn’t seem to recognise picture formats, so this app is not what you want if you need a streaming slideshow viewer. One other downside is a rather clunky interface for navigating your LAN folders. There are no “up/parent” buttons, so you need to keep pressing the device’s “back” button to get back to return to the previous level or folder.

aVia Media Player from Videon Central

aVia 01aVia 02If you can get this one working – we had issues on certain networks and PCs – it’s a potentially useful app. We found this difficult to set up, with varying results connecting between users and networks.

The aVia Media Player uses Windows Media Server, if you have that enabled on your PC. It seems to work with some and not others – we enquired and the author told us the app does not support password protected media servers.

It does give the option of local sources and lets you connect to and stream from some cloud services such as Dropbox, Picasa and Facebook.

With the media servers that it did work with, there is some wait time for caching, but it does support photos/pictures, unlike BSPlayer. Some video formats may need some extra codecs installed, and some of those formats were those that BSplayer played out of the box. We would recommend comparing aVia with BSplayer to see which is best suited to your needs and your network.

XBMC

This app was not created by a typical company; instead it was originally developed by a group of like-minded programmers in 2003 and has become an award-winning, free and open source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub for digital media that works on Windows, Linux, OSX and now Android.

XBMC 01 XBMC 02

Because it is multi-platform software, you won’t find it on Google Play. You’ll need to disable the third party security options in your Android device’s settings to install the app. It is just about usable on a 7-inch Nexus tablet, but it can get a bit ‘fiddly.’ It was originally designed for the home theater PC, but is now available on many platforms.

XBMC is very feature-rich. It’s probably overkill if you merely want to stream music and video. It seems to cache very quickly, but the interface can only be viewed in landscape mode. It works with many sources including Windows (SMB) networks, NFS,UPNP/Windows Media Server. It has lots of options beyond just pictures, music and video, so give it a try, it’s worth checking out. It even has a weather monitor, if that’s useful to you while you’re streaming.

BubbleUPNP from Bubblesoft

This app seemed to work better with local access rather than streaming from the network. It’s a simple enough interface, good for using with any local music/video and other files. However, when streaming from the network it seemed slow to cache (especially with 40-gigabyte music folders). It also seems to constantly refresh on every menu, even when it has been opened previously, so we spent a lot of time waiting and got timeout errors.

BubbleUPNP 01 BubbleUPNP 02

The free version is very feature-limited (reduced playlists, limited streaming time, etc.) so it’s hard to say what improvements the paid version would offer. We recommend trying any of the above apps before paying for the Pro version of this one.

It’s worth noting that you may need to enable some things on the PC you’re streaming from to get these apps running, such as ‘Wake on LAN’ or remove the sleep timeout setting, but it is definitely worth experimenting with these apps. You’ll gain access to large media libraries through your portable Android device. Give them a try!

Future Selfies

We’ve observed a trend in social media, like the one of people documenting even the most mundane, eye-rolling things in their everyday lives: “Ooh, my cat just rolled over!” Overshare much?

This trend is selfies, self-taken photographs that are plastered onto the Instagram, Flickr, Facebook and Pinterest accounts of self-absorbed Gen Xers.

Andy WarholIt can be fun to snap a self-pic and toss it up onto a photo sharing site – there are even apps for Android and iPhone that make it alarmingly easy to do this. Done with purpose, they can be quite effective. Some celebrities have it down to a near science while others elevate it to an art form. Still others haven’t a clue and so they relentlessly snap and upload, shot after redundant shot. The famous and beautiful aren’t the only ones, however. The ‘regular people’ among us share their life stories through selfies as well; some perhaps a bit too much.

It could be said that the next generation won’t need to watch TV soap operas (not that anyone needs to anyway) as they publicize their own lives in an ‘I feel famous’ sort of way, but the reality of it is somewhat off the mark. Breakups, engagements, love lives, all becoming public view. To be seen as being fun/happy and enjoying, seems more important than actually enjoying the moments yourself, as many music artists have noticed at their concerts these days. Rather than enjoy being there, people will hold up their phones and watch through a small shaking screen or text to show & tell to others they are there in some ‘don’t you wish you were me’ way. It’s a paradox: being more social makes you more selfish, almost narcissistic for some.

There are also very many of us who haven’t a single selfie, for fear of being seen as vain, vulnerable, or flawed in some way. Help is available, if you want to give it a try.

The self we show to others in the form of a snapshot is exactly that – a snap taken of a single moment in time, frozen for anyone to view. It is different from the moving, living image in the mirror that we see. It’s not vain to present an image of yourself to others that you hope projects what you want; we rely on the feedback of our peers and others to develop and continually refine our self-image and social self.

Creating selfies is free, fun and easy. We can even learn more about ourselves and others. But please…do it wisely.

For your reading pleasure: The Rise and Rise of the Selfie, Bim Adewunmi, The Guardian.

Windows 8 Featured App: Toolbox

Two weeks ago, we featured a Windows 8 app called Metro Commander; this week, we want to talk about Toolbox.

Before we get into that, we’d like to mention an upcoming Windows 8 update codenamed Windows Blue has been leaked which reveals a number of user experience enhancements that include, but are not limited to, the following features:

  • Expanded range of app tile sizes for the Metro UI
  • A “Personalize” Charms bar menu enabling custom backgrounds, background colours and accent colours
  • Easier access to Windows 8’s settings
  • New configuration options for SkyDrive
  • The ability to edit the Lock screen
  • A new section for Network and Apps-related settings
  • A separate “Update & Recovery” menu
  • A new “Screen” menu to edit related settings like power-saving features
  • Strong split-screen treatment for Windows 8 apps (hold that thought!)

Windows Blue will become available as an official public preview sometime in the next few months (that’s about as specific as Microsoft is willing to be about the release date).

Now, back to that thought about split screens. Windows 8 lets us “snap” another app to the left or right side of the screen on the desktop, but it’s a mere sliver, which to us is mainly good for our chat app, like IM+, so we can chat while working on something. But suppose we also need to snap another app to the other side? We can do that, but Windows 8 currently limits us to only two 25/75 (rather than 50/50) views at any one time: the desktop and one app sliver. It’s not truly ideal for multitasking; we’re only able to toggle between one or the other snapped-on app, or to use the left-drag to bring out the list of various open apps and select the next one you want to work on – again, it’s still a toggle rather than adding another screen to the view for multitasking.

Toolbox is an app that we see as a partial solution to this. At least it has potential. At present there are ten tools, with more added from time to time.

Toolbox 02

  • Web – Defaults to Bing, but works like a little browser
  • Calculator – Nothing new or special, just handy for those who use one often
  • Convertor – a multi-conversion tool for all sorts of measures
  • Tool Depot – news about development of this app
  • Facebook – integrates with your Facebook account
  • Voice Notes – allows you to record voiced notes for yourself
  • Notifier – a reminder utility
  • Clock – configurable clock views
  • Weather – up-to-the-minute weather for the location you specify
  • Doodle – a simple drawing app that lets you doodle

You can have the same tool more than once with different configuration settings if you like, and there are many more possible split screen configurations to choose from than even the coming Windows Blue update promises, easily configured by right-clicking and selecting your desired layout.

Toolbox App for Windows 8

As with other Win8 apps, you can set defaults using the Charms bar, like your desired home page for the Web tool, or your location for the Weather tool. While we recognise this app may become redundant later this year, for those of us who need and want some semblance of the split-screen functionality in Windows 8, this may suit you well.