PlanOn SlimScan: Never lose a receipt again

We allo know what a nightmare it can be trying to collect all of our receipts together when it comes to claiming our expenses back. Usually your entire desk becomes excavated, your ill-fitting suit turned inside out and you end up with your arms shoved behind the sofa desperately trying to locate that elusive cab fare ticket. If this sounds like a familiar story, then PlanOn’s new SlimScan pocket scanner might just be what you need to save the hairs on your head and calm your blood pressure down to somewhat less stressful levels.

SlimScan

Roughly the same size as a credit card, this micro scanner can be used on a wide variety of items to scan and save for when you need them. Anything from business cards, tickets, notes, and yes, even receipts. They can all be scanned and stored in your pocket, saving the need to carry around items of paper that can easily be screwed up or misplaced.

The 300 bit dpi 24-colour scanner is small enough (2” x 3.1” x .12”) to fit into your wallet, meaning it is always to hand whenever needed. You can print your scans when you like, and organise them into folders for easy access – up to 600 images can be stored, meaning you can keep your receipts all year long. You can even create Excel reports containing all your stored information. How handy is that?

Available now directly from PlanOn themselves priced at $139.99 (or around £90), or from ‘leading retailers’. Keep any eye out for this one – if you are as unorganised as I am, it may just save your blushes when it comes to paying your expenses.

For more information on the PlanOn SlimScan, please visit www.planon.com.

Is Wunderkit the new productivity wunderkind?

We have so many productivity and time management apps to tinker with and organise, it’s a wonder we get anything done. So that makes Berlin-based software company 6Wunderkinder even braver for taking on what is an already competitive market and releasing their new Facebook meets Things lovechild, Wunderkit.

WunderKit

Wunderkit is an online application that helps you organise your tasks and projects, collaborate on group projects and share your progress with friends and family.

Your account is divided into different projects, which can be anything you are currently working on, or categories for your tasks. Each of these categories is called a ‘Workspace’. Each Workspace has its own status updates, its own tasks and its own sub-projects. Within a Workspace, you have a Dashboard, a section for tasks and an area for Notes.

You can choose to make individual Workspaces public, where any of your Wunderkit followers can see what you’re up to, or set the project to private. You can still collaborate with other Wunderkit users on private projects, but you have to invite them first.

Wunderkit’s privacy settings are simple yet effective: not only can you set entire projects as private, and therefore hidden from your public profile, but you can also choose to set just the details of a project as private, allowing you and your team to brew some exciting products in peace, but still post public status updates about the project’s progress to other Wunderkit users.

When you get tired of looking at your own projects, you can head over to another Wunderkit user’s profile. Like Facebook, you can post status updates on their profile, see which users they’re following and which users are following them. As well as this, you can also view the public areas of their Workspaces and leave comments cheering them on.

Although the software is marketed as a personal productivity app, the group-sharing and social functions of Wunderkit make it a handy little tool for team projects and public launches. Still in Beta version, the app needs to gain more momentum before the social aspect really takes off. It is, however, incredibly easy to use (take note, Omnifocus) and, while it doesn’t have the depth or complexity of other productivity apps, it is quick to set up and allows you to get all your tasks out of your head and onto the screen with simplicity and ease.

Be the perfect party planner with Usher

Are you busily trying to organise all kinds of Christmas events – and are you getting bogged down trying to keep track of who’s doing what and when?

Maybe you need a little hand from MicroStrategy’s iPhone app, Usher. This app lets you set up and manage all those parties and drinks events from start to finish.

Usher

How does it work? Well, first of all it allows you to send out personalised invitations using Facebook. Create an event from your iPhone and then use filters to identify who you want on the guestbook – so no laboriously scrolling through your long contacts lists,.

You can then manage your guest list – checking RSVPs in real time, managing VIP lists (if it’s that kind of event!) and sending out last-minute invitations. Usher will sort a printed guest list for you too if you wish.

Mobile tickets are then delivered to your guests’ smartphones, so they don’t need to worry that they might forget a printed invite. For those without a smartphone, tickets can be accessed on a browser or printed from the web.

If you have doormen (or women) at your events, they can check people in using Usher on their iPhones and validate their tickets using a Facebook photo, QR Code, Sight Code, Usher Code or Phrase Code. The organiser can then see who has arrived by checking their own phone.

This sounds a great idea for the party planner and anyone who organises PR events. Try it out for free by heading to the www.usher.com website and clicking on the link to the App Store.

The kitchen that teaches you French

Okay, so we have long had it drummed into us that French chefs are the best in the world and British cuisine is utterly comical – especially our gravy. But really, a kitchen that teaches you French? Is this going just a step too far?

French-Kitchen

Don’t worry chaps, it’s not some subtle Gallic ploy to convert us all in Francophiles – no, in fact it has been developed by a team of computer scientists and language experts at Newcastle university (which strikes us as being a bit more Hairy Bikers than Jean-Christophe Novelli, but hey).

The kitchen tracks your actions with motion-sensor technology (rather like a Nintendo Wii) and speaks to you like a sat-nav device, while you prepare your classic French dish.

It builds on the provem technique (we’re taking the language experts’ word on this!) of Task-Basd Language Leraning (TBLL), where students are prompted by instructions in a foreign language to carry out specified tasks. TBLL has never been used in cooking before – but given its enormous popularity in rei Bake-Off, Hairy Bikers, River Cottage et al) it is hardly surprising that the boffins came up with the idea.

On a tablet or laptop computer incorporated into the kitchen, the user first selects the French recipe they want to follow. Digital sensors built into utensils, ingredient containers and other equipment then communicate with the computer to make sure the right instructions are given at the right time, or to give feedback to the user if they go wrong.

At any time, the user can ask for an instruction or a piece of information to be repeated, or translated into English, simply by pressing the touch screen.

All grammar and vocabulary has been carefully selected to ensure that using the kitchen adds to basic proficiency in understanding French.

After a session, the user can test what they have learnt by carrying out a short test on the computer.

The kitchen has been designed to be installed in schools and universities – even in homes. It has been trialled in the catering kitchens at Newcastle College.

The kitchen is slated for release by the end of 2012 – and portable versions are already being taken out on the road to be demonstrated at schools in the North East. One will be installed at the Institut Francais, a London charity dedicated to teaching the French language.

For more details head to www.youtube.com/user/EPSRCvideo?feature=mhum)

Proporta and Onanoff team up to keep your cables tidier

Even though we haven’t even had Halloween yet, there’s already been a lot of talk about Christmas – so why not move straight on to New Year’s resolutions? So if you’re going to resolve to be tidier and more organised in the New Year, why not make an early start, with the help of mobile device and gadget accessory manufacturer Proporta?

Proporta has teamed up with Nordic company Onanoff to bring together a bundle of devices to help you keep cables tidy, screens clean and music shared.

OnandOff

First step to a more tidy and organised you is the Magneat Cable Tidy, which lets you say goodbye to tangled earphone cables and keeps other cables tidy too – how annoying is it when you open your suitcase to find your charge cables wrapped around your underwear? All you have to do is wind the cables around the stem of the Tidy and then feed them through the slot and everything will be kept neat and straight and you’ll never have to spend an hour unknotting your headphone cords instead of lying by the pool again. All for the bargain price of £7.95.

The Magnum Ear-Bud Headphones with LoveJack come bundled with the Cable Tidy. This lets you share your music with a friend using the double headphone jack, and stops you getting tangled up in each others’ cables. This is plug and play, with no need for sharing ear buds (yuk!) or separate splitters. It comes at a price though – £39.95 – so the question is, do you love someone enough to share your music (and nearly 40 quid) with them?

Meanwhile, if you’ve got your hands on a nice shiny iPad 2, and want to keep it that way, splash out £21.95 and you’ll get a Multi Shield Screen Protector, which uses similar technology to that used on a Formula One driver’s visor screen. Apply the protector in one sheet and should it get scratched or dirty, simply peel back the film to reveal a new layer. Each product includes three layers.

Electronic Dictionary Bookmark : e-reading functionality in an analogue world

I’m a sesquipedalian. If you need to look that up don’t worry – it means I’m a prentious fool (more technically it means I’m given to using long words but they are pretty much one and the same). Whilst other kids had friends and sporting activities to busy themselves with, I spent countless hours nose deep in books and a good deal of that time was spent deciphering phrases my inchoate vocabulary had yet to acquire in large, unweildy dictionaries (this was in the old days when all the words in the world didn’t reside on a internet connected phone in my pocket). One of the best things about e-readers is the ability to quickly look up words without really leaving the text – really handy for complex academic works, but also useful when the occassional bon mots throws you in a novel.

Electronic-Dictionary-Bookmark

Bringing some of the joy of the e-reading experience to the paper novel, the new Electronic Dictionary Bookmark is a much easier way to help you out if you are suddenly stumped by the meaning of etiology, bromide or abjure in a story without loosing track of where you are or detracting too much focus from the book in hand.

The tiny bookmark has been crammed full of 38,000 definitions from the Collins Gem English Dictionary 15th edition so you will never be lost for words again. As you’d hope, it’s really easy to use. When you come across a word you don’t know, simply press the power button to begin, type in your word on the keypad and press OK to find out what it means.

The Electronic Dictionary Bookmark comes in a choice of three colours (pink, white, and grey) and is thin enough to slip unobtrusively between most books.

The Electronic Dictionary Bookmark is available to buy for £19.95 at www.gizoo.co.uk or by calling 0800 376 4818.

Strato’s Hi-Drive: 5GB of free high security cloud storage

For storing files, the world is taking inspiration from England’s summer: it’s all about the Cloud. And while Yahoo!, Gmail and Hotmail rule cloud-based e-mail, YouTube is the King of cloud video, Flickr and Facebook champion cloud pictures, Dropbox is the only big name in cloud-based file storage. That’s something German-based Strato plan to change.

Strato

If you haven’t heard of Strato, it’s because they’ve mainly been focussed on the business market. Now, however, they’re turning that experience to the consumer side.

To get people interested in their new service, the company is offering 5GB of free storage via www.free-hidrive.com – over double that of Dropbox or Wuala.

The main selling point of Strato, however, is not the extra storage space – it’s the way the company stores your data. Everything is saved at two ISO2709-rated data centres – the same protection banks use to keep your money in their vaults.

The CO2-free server farm is based in Germany, which means that access to the data is protect via Germany’s strong data privacy laws – tougher than those found in the US.

In terms of usability, files can be added to Strato in four ways – web browser, e-mail, a mounted local drive and the Windows Phone 7 and Androids apps. An iPhone app has been created, although it’s currently stuck in the limbo that is Apple’s approval process.

One reason for this hold-up may be down to the Android app’s ability to open, send, share and even stream music and video files – if this was on iPhone, it might be a potential rival for Apple’s own cloudy plans.

Meanwhile on Windows Phone 7, the app is actually the first third-party application on the OS to allow cloud storage.

Like Dropbox, the service also comes with Backup Control, so you’ll be able to access different versions of saved files.

If you love the service, you can soon buy 100GB for €9.90/month, or 500GB for €29.90/month with multiple user accounts.

‘Play’ video memo pad puts fun onto fridges

My fridge has all kinds of magnetic things stuck on it. Everything from a bug eyed frog post card holder, to a welcome to Ibiza badge I won in a hotel raffle once. Good old fashioned post it notes decorate the rest of it in the hap hazard filing system I use to remember everything.

Play-Memo

Imagine then my delight at learning about the new Play memo pad, perhaps the perfect solution to my often disorganised way of trying to be organised.

Play is a video memo pad that can store three minutes of video as either one full length message or in bite size chunks that you can stick on your fridge door. The possibilities are endless or the ultimate nightmare scenario depending on your perspective. On one hand you can record cute little messages to your loved ones before leaving the home or kids can create amusing vignettes for a bit of fun. Then of course there is the ultimate horror of a video chastisement from your partner or flatmate for not doing something you promised to do!

The memo pad comes with a built in microphone, speaker, camera and a 2.4 inch LCD monitor and needs just three AAA batteries. It comes with a magnetised backing and strap and a variety of colours including green, pink, blue, purple, red, white, black.

John Brunner, managing director of Play creator Native Union comments “It’s a lot more fun to leave a to-do list for your kids or a shopping list for your other half with video, but more than that, we hope that Play will encourage kids and adults alike to leave funny, heartfelt, or loving messages for each other more often”.

The Play video memo pad will be available at the end of September for £49.99.