AT Friday: Fun with Engineering

While iPad may be a convenient tool to read news or contact friends, it is also a powerful tool to learn about engineering in an entertaining way. The app TinkerBox (by AutoDesk) has taken advantage of the high resolution and sensitivity of the iPad screen to transform the mechanical engineering learning into an addictive game experience.

After downloading the free app from Apple Store and opening the app, you will see a concise interface with different mechanical engineering equipment as background.

There are two main components of the app, “puzzles” and “invent”. To get familiar with how it works, the puzzles would be a great place to start. Here, you can challenge yourself with pre-designed mechanical quizzes by applying your engineering knowledge or intuition. Thanks to the very realistic simulation of physical conditions including gravity and newton’s laws, the puzzles are great tools to train the user as a engineer. For instance, you will be challenged to adjust the angle and position of a solid board to guide an iron ball into the targeted basket. The quizzes starts from the easiest and gets harder gradually. You will also be exposed to challenges in the lab, steel mill, the machine, or even space station and beyond.

The more educational functionality of the app lies in its “Invent” option. Here, you can selects all sorts of equipment to construct your own mechanical lab. The touch screen makes the process very engaging and convenient. After expanding your creativity, you can test the environment you have constructed to learn about how physical laws should govern motion of objects in real life. Without going to a real lab, you are doing experiment. It could also be a great tool for people working on the design of real mechanical projects, as the product of AutoDesk tries its best to stick to physics. You can also load invention made by other people to be inspired by their innovative ideas, such as mechanical mouse trap or even a mechanical car.

In a word, this is definitely an great iPad app to learn and have fun.

 

Tech Tuesday: World Figures by The Economist

Want a visually appealing yet reliable data set to write a research paper or prepare a presentation? While the internet has tons of information, the excessive consumption of it may easily lead to headache. Luckily, we have the Ipad App–World Figures–coming to the rescue.

WorldFigures1As a simple and free app, World Figures presents a surprising amount of data. More importantly, the data are presented in such an intricate way that the reader can easily understand what it going on and figure out how to best use such given figures. There a diverse range of topics included in the data set, such as the internet use, the minimum wage, forestation, car production, etc., across as many as 193 countries worldwide. This is especially helpful if you are writing an economics or social science paper.

There are four main functions for the app. The most obvious one is the ranking topics. It ranks countries in terms of a huge amount of issues, such as population size and growth, inflation, and Nobel Prize winners. Clicking a ranking, the user will then enter a well designed interface with a list of ranked countries with relevant data, a map showing such countries, and a bar graph illustrating the result.

 

WorldFigures2On the other hand, you can check country profiles by rotating the interactive globe. It is very easy to rotate, zoom in and out, and learn about the geography of different nations as well as their demographic and economic figures. In addition, you can even select a few countries to compare their data on a wide range of topics. Automatically, the app will create a ranking list, a map, and an easily understandable bar graph for you. Lastly, in case you get bored in daily life and looking forward to learn some interesting things, you can use the Trivia selection. It will randomly show the interesting features of different countries and cultivate in you both the knowledge about the world, and a sense of curiosity.

In a conclusion, the World Figures app is a good helping tool for academic use or personal development.

Tech Tuesday: Art Circles

Tech Tuesday: Art circles

Technology can be more romantic than you might think. The poetic ipad application, “art circles”, will present to you a new way to think about visual arts.

ac1

The interface of the application is in rhyme with its theme. This free application provides a clear yet intricate interface. It categorizes visual arts into groups of circles, such as “Color”, “Nature”, and “Art Movements”. Within each cycle, there are many subcategories for you to explore. For instance, in the circle of “Color”, there are various collections of art work, identified by blue, red and other color elements. To view all the categories, you can simply spin the circle on the left hand side. The right hand side circle of collections of art pieces will spin at the same time, giving you a taste of what the art collection is like.

 

You can view the item by clicking the button in the middle, and then the picture of amazing quality will show up on your screen. Feel free to zoom in and out to enjoy the delicacy of the art pieces!

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You can use the app for artistic appreciation. Take a short break after hours of work would be the most pleasant thing, especially if the break will cultivate a sense of beauty in your mind. On the other hand, it is a great resource to start conversations with friends, especially when you are bored.

If you really like one of the art pieces, it is very convenient to purchase this piece through art.com. Simply click the button on the right upper corner and the information about the author, the details about the picture, and the price will be presented in front of you. Of course, you can choose size and frame before you buy.

Tech Tuesday: LogMein

LogMein

When you leave home for school or work, have you encountered certain occasions in which you need a few important files that are located in your computer left at home? During research/business trips, have you considered bringing a lighter/smaller device like iPad, but in end rejected the choice because of work concerns?

Once, a friend asked me that, given she is traveling to Asia for a research trip and she don’t want to bring a heavy laptop, if she can just bring an iPad with some powerful applications. If I had known this application beforehand, I would have recommend LogMein to her.

With LogMein, your life could be much easier. It is a powerful application that allows iPad user to remotely access their Mac/PC left at home. For instance, if you forget to send a document which is located at your desktop harddisk to your professor/colleague/partner, with an iPad, you can simply login to your desktop remotely and send the document. You can even edit a document remotely, given that the quality of the service is pretty good.

What all you need to do is to:

  1. Sign up for an account and download the LogMein app onto your iPad
  2. On your Mac/PC, download the LogMein Host software and install it on your computer. (After signing in to http://www.LogMein.com, there will be a download link on your home page)
  3. Make sure that your Mac/PC is turned on, connected to internet, and is not in sleep mode. This can be set before you leave home
  4. On your iPad, open your LogMein app and click on the computer you want to remotely control. After entering the security password, you will to able to see and control the screen of your home computer, and do whatever things you want to do.

If the internet connection is good, you can select HD image quality without compromising the connection speed. The user experience is usually smooth and pleasant, and you can definitely simulate the case that your computer is actually with you and retrieve whatever files you want to use.

There are a few other options that you can choose. For instance to ensure your privacy, you can even blank your computer screen while you are remotely controlling your computer. Such small yet useful functionalities make LogMein even a better choice. Moreover, for normal use, we can simply download the free version; if you are serious about business, you can definitely get more out of the app by using the paid pro version, on which you can transfer files remotely, hear the sound produced by your remote PC/Mac, share your desktop with guests and ask them to remotely work on your computer together.

To sum up, it is a powerful tool providing you with a lot of ease and options.

-Hao Wan

AT Friday: Asana

Asana: powerful online collaboration platform

//http://www.asana.com

Asana is a free online collaboration platform. The convenience it brings to its users is definitely a great plus. Firstly, the sign-up procedure is very simply. Go to the link above and enter your email, then you will be able to get a free online account. Or, you can simply login with your google credentials, without having to memorize new password.

After login, you will see a concise yet informative interface. To initiate a collaboration, you can send invitations to people who will be involved in this project. By following the link in the invitation email, the invitee can add to the project content and tasks directly.

The left panel provides you with the ability to create new projects and add people to this group. You will also have your own message inbox specially for this group. What is even better is a clear list of your tasks, which, once done, can be marked as completed. At left lower corner, there is a link to a shortcuts list, with which you can definitely improve your efficiency of managing your tasks.

In the middle is the main panel. Here you can sections for your project. Under each section, you can add tasks, and assign different tasks to people by filling in their names or email. There is also a quick button to assign the tasks to yourself. For each project, you can add due date to it. To better extract the relevant information you want, you can sort/filter the list of tasks. Since this app is smoothly linked with google, you can share your project in the same way as sharing a google docs; you can also sync it with your calender, to keep you up to date with the project. Another interesting feature is the tag functionality. It is powerful tool manage all the projects you have. By assigning tags to project, the team could have a better idea of the architecture of the collaboration.

The right panel can be hidden. It helps user to manage individual project/task, for you can attach relevant files to each task, change due date, add teammates and subtasks.

To sum up, Asana provides its users a free collaboration experience that is full of ease.

-Hao Wan

AT Friday: Windows Live Movie Maker

Don’t be shy: you have the artistic talent in your blood. You have a unique view of the surroundings.  How about making a piece of video art in your style? You can definitely manifest your character, implicitly or explicitly, through the music, pictures, and video clips you have selected for your piece of art. What you need is simply a technical nudge on the back: here we have a simple yet powerful tool, Windows Live Movie Maker.

The first step is to create your new project. Let’s start by examine the main elements offered by this software. On the home tab, in the add section, you can firstly add media files (video/photo/webcam/snapshot/music), subtle or credits to your video. After adding the flesh to your project, you will observe a video track on the right side, with a vertical black line indicating which part you are currently playing on the left hand side. By dragging the vertical line, you can move to other moment of your video. You can also shift the sequence of your material by simply dragging them to different parts. For a single video track, there are three horizontal parallel lanes. The top lane indicates the music you have added. You can adjust the starting time or length of your chosen music by modifying the Options tab for music tools. The middle lane is visual material lane. You can edit it in the Edit, or video tools tab. The bottom lane is the text lane, which includes caption, subtitle and credits. You can edit those in the text tools.

For a single clip of video or music, split function is especially useful, for it allows you to break a media file into multiple parts at your selected time with ease. It is located in edit and options tabs. After splitting, you can then dragging each sub-division into their respective positions.

With these functionalities above, I believe that you can build your own art already. For a little more advanced usage, you can go to Home tab, AutoMovie themes section, or animation tab, or visual effects tab, to add styles to your video. Those functions are pretty straight forward: for most part, you just need to click on the style you would to apply to the currently selected video part.

Lastly, if you want to adjust the vertical/horizontal ratio of your video, or the weight of different sound track (from both the video and your music track), you can do it in the project tab.

-Hao Wan