Top 9 Tech Updates: Photosynth, Geocaching, Google Earth, and More
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my land line, which only telemarketers ever called anyway. Now we’ll see what life post-cable is really like—I’ll let you know how it’s going in a future column. Fortunately, there are now convenient video-on-demand services from both Netflix and Amazon; the Roku Player, which now taps into both services, gets good reviews. And I’ve got four seasons of The Wire waiting for me on DVD.
7. Scene stealer. On August 29, I wrote about Photosynth, an amazing visualization tool from Microsoft Live Labs. Photosynth lets you upload up to 300 photos taken in a single location (say, Boston’s Copley Square) and then organizes them into accurate 3-D arrays that you can explore almost as if you were walking through the actual scene. The big news here is that Greg Pascale, a former Microsoft intern, just finished a free Photosynth viewer for the Apple iPhone called iSynth. It works great—in fact, it’s better than Microsoft’s regular online Photosynth viewer, because the iPhone’s multi-touch interface provides such a natural way to interact with the images.
8. Cache is king. My September 19 column about geocaching, “GPS Treasure Hunting with Your iPhone 3G,” was pretty popular. But at the time, doing any serious geocaching required switching back and forth between different applications—one such as Geopher Lite for looking up geocaches and their locations, and another such as GPS Kit for actually navigating to the specified locations. In January, the company that invented geocaching and acts as the official clearinghouse for the sport—Groundspeak—came out with an all-in-one geocaching application for the iPhone 3G. I’ve tested it in the field, and it works great. It’s well worth the $9.99 price tag.
9. Spring forward. My November 21 column was about Springpad, an online notebook service launched last year by Boston’s Spring Partners. This Web application lets you create task-oriented Web pages (called springpads) that include text notes, to-do lists, contacts, calendar events, maps, photos, and other media. Interestingly, rather than pitching Springpad as a general organizational tool—the way Evernote does with its service—Spring Partners has chosen to roll out its technology in stages, starting with a series of specialized springpads with seasonal themes. The first custom springpads were designed to help with holiday shopping and meal planning. And last month, Spring Partners founder Jeff Janer told me about the new springpad designed for date planning (which appeared in early February, in time for Valentine’s Day) and an upcoming wedding-planner springpad.
Janer says the service has been gaining traction among four groups in particular: productivity addicts, including devotees of David Allen’s Getting Things Done time-management method; cooks, who use the popular meal-planning springpad to organize their trips to the grocery store; “mommy bloggers,” a surprisingly large contingent, who use springpads as workbooks to plan upcoming posts; and 25-to-35-year-olds, who appreciate the date planner. “Our core idea is to find repeatable types of activities and events and help people get things done faster and easier,” Janer explains. Coming soon: mobile versions of specific springpad features such as to-do lists.