In Praise of the Google Translate App

IMG_1044If I were inclined to write poetry today (I’m not– the muse is not in the building), I would write an ode to the Google Translate app. As you may or may not know, in my job  I work mostly in mobile app support for the WordPress app. Since 27% of the Internet runs on WordPress, and many users worldwide use the app, I get a lot of issues in languages I don’t understand. Generally a cut-and-paste into a translate tool works wonders, but it gets problematic when someone send in a screenshot of an issue. That’s when this app comes in really handy.

I have the Google Translate App for both Android and iPhone.  When I get a screenshot, I open the app, download the applicable language then select camera in the app, and I get a translation. This has been invaluable in my work habits. And I’ve also found it really handy in travel.

When Chris and I were in Perugia, we hit the amazing National Archaeological Museum with fabulous history, but very little in regards to English translations. No problem. The app totally covered that, and we learned all sorts of stuff about amulets and recoveries from archaeological digs. So cool.

Now that we are spending a month in a new home in a land where we are far from fluent in the native language, we’re finding the app super handy in basic tasks such as grocery shopping. When you want to make a bean stew and aren’t sure which canned bean is which? The app comes to the rescue.

And it totally saved me from accidentally getting lemon tea when I thought I was getting mint.

It doesn’t just do images. I can type a phrase in English and have it translate to another language. I write my sentence, find a store-keeper, and point to the screen. We are all much happier and effective in our communications, I find.

Oatmeal – Aveia?
We don’t have it – Nós não temos isso.
Communication effectively achieved (I’m not thrilled with the result, but now at least I know to not keep scanning shelves fuitlessly).

Yay, app!

Free Kindle Books You Can Read (Even if You Don't Own a Kindle)

Winter is coming, my bookshelf’s getting fat…my virtual bookshelf, that is. Ready to cozy in with the kiddos for some great winter reading? You don’t have to worry about risking your life heading to the library during a snowstorm, you can download a book onto your computer or electronic reader using your Kindle. Your computer? Yes, that’s right. Many don’t realize that you don’t have to own the actual device. But it’s true. You don’t.

The Kindle Question – Do You Really Need One?

Okay. A while ago I published an ebook that could be read on the Kindle (I would name it here, but this article is about free books, and I haven’t figure out how offer that book for free now that it’s listed). I sent out an email/Facebook blast when it went live, and a bunch of people expressed interest in reading it, BUT they couldn’t because they didn’t have a Kindle. What they didn’t realize was that you don’t need to own a Kindle to read Kindle books.

I have many friends who swear it’s worth the investment to purchase the handheld device anyway because they adore their Kindle experiences, but that’s a whole different topic. So, moving on, you can get a free Kindle Reading app for reading free Kindle books by going to the Kindle App website and selecting whether you want to download it for your iPhone, Windows PC, Mac, BlackBerry, iPad, Android, or Windows Phone 7.

How to Get Free Books For Your Kindle

I have 82 books on my iPad Kindle App at this very moment. Around 75 of them were free. How did I do that? By checking my email. I subscribed to receive Ereader News Today, an email that lists bargain Kindle books and FREE Kindle books (guess which ones I go for?). I love how I can easily browse through the email, checking out topics that interest me since each book is clearly labeled. The daily offerings include book genres such as sci-fi, children’s, young adult, religion, romance, Christian romance,  financial management and horror (not to be confused with financial management – those really are two separate categories).

Sometimes I go days without seeing any topics that interest me, then other days I grab three or four titles off the page for free download. You click the link in the email, and it opens another window on Amazon.  Select what device you wish to download to, and “purchase” your free book. ***TIP–Always double-check to make sure the price is set at $0.00 (it warns you of this in the email, but it’s easy to overlook). Most of the time the prices are accurate, but I’ll admit to clicking too fast at times and accidentally paying a fee.

Bonus Benefits of the Kindle App

As if free books and portability weren’t enough, the Kindle app offers even more great stuff. It’s the perfect teaching tool. You can highlight and take notes to your heart’s delight. You can also use your Kindle books on up to six devices at one time. For example, last month I read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which I decided would be the perfect way to open up discussion on World War II with my 12-year-old son. I had already purchased the book so all I had to do was sign into my account and add his device to it then I download the onto his device even though it was still on mine.

When you or your child want to highlight something or take notes, all you have to do is tap the word or section and select “note” or “highlight.” The notes and highlights sync devices and merge into a single page you can access online when you log into your account on your Amazon Kindle page. You can also get the definition and pronunciation of words by double-clicking the words in the text. It’s perfect for homeschoolers and others who love to dissect and savor text.

Lighting and Fonts on the Kindle

People frequently wonder about the lighting. You can choose a black background with white text, a white background with black text, or a sepia background with black text. After choosing one of these, you can adjust the brightness with a slider bar. On all apps, including the one on the computer, you can choose the size of the font.

We figure that using the Kindle App on our devices goes a long way in saving energy while reading in bed at night. The kids are more apt to read in bed, and overhead or bedside lights don’t keep sleeping companions awake. As far as I’m concerned, anything that encourages reading is a good thing, and the Kindle sure goes a long way in making reading enticing for our family members.

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Publish Ebooks as a Family

Fact or fiction –  you and /or your kids can make a professional-looking book as easy as pouring yourself a cup of tea.

You know those really cool action shots you took on last summer’s vacation? Turn them into a wild, crazy fictional adventure. Or, if you’d rather, take a nature walk and photograph the plants and animals that amaze you. When you get home, write about what you have seen, adding in a bit of research.

These are tried and true ways to bond as a family, but now you can take your adventures one step further. You can make them into an ebook for the iPad using the uber-affordable Blurb or the free Demibooks Composer app.

Use Blurb to Make and Publish Ebooks

I just read about Blurb on the  ReadWriteWeb blog. You can use this program from any computer , and it doesn’t require any downloads. Simply use the template offered, or choose to design your own. Import your images, write your blurbs, and save the final product.

If you want to purchase the final product in a book form, , you can choose a softcover or hardcover with a dust jacket, or even an ImageWrap cover. My personal favorite feature of this book making process is that it’s a wonderful way to give loved ones a special birthday or Christmas gift.

Use Demibooks Composer to Your Ebook an App

As a professional writer, I have to say I LOVE this idea of the free Demibooks Composer app I discovered on the iLearn Technology blog. How fun would it be to write a book with my bambinos then use our iPad to turn our story into an app that we can share with others?

This app lets you create as you learn all about storyboards and creating effects without every having to learn how to code. It even lets you add audio! I’m going to make it a personal priority to use this one soon. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Find My Friends App – Yes, Your Mother is Watching…

This morning my son in college Skyped me, telling me that he had a new family-friendly electronic tool for me to write about. I was about five minutes ahead of him, having just downloaded it, which made me feel really good. That’s right, ladies and gents, the free Find My Friends app  is live and ready for download in the iTunes store.

The purpose of this iPod/iPhone/iPad app is to show people where you are and to help you find your friends.


Not really. You have control of who sees you and when. Friends are added by invite only, and you can choose whether they add you for a certain period of time or indefinitely. Adding friends is simple. Tap on the icon with the people at the bottom of your screen and an invite message appears.

If you have guests with 3G, you can track them as they travel to your home. This helps you pop dinner in the oven in a timely manner. It can also help if they have traveling difficulties. You will know right where they are so you can offer appropriate help.

I’m curious to see how accurate the tracking is. Will it locate my children if they are in town? We’ll try to figure that out within the next few days, and I’ll get back to this blog with our discoveries. For now, I can look at my screen and know that my son is safely tucked away at his college, and it makes me feel connected to him. That’s always a good thing.

UPDATE: Well, I’d have to say it’s pretty accurate. I “found” my cousin in Boston, and I can tell when my son is in class, in his dorm or out on the town. Very impressive.

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