Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Creating PDF Documents

PDF's are a form of document that makes sharing very easy. Many people send files in DOC format, but not everyone has (or wants to have) Microsoft Word. Moreover, the format of your document can change when it is opened on someone else's computer depending upon their fonts, print settings etc. On the other hand, a PDF is like a scan or photo of a document, it looks the same on every machine or device, is very efficient, and generally allows you to cut and paste the text.

PDF's are usually viewed using a free program called Adobe Reader, although it is an open standard format and read by many programs. However, not all programs allow you to save a document as a PDF.

On a Mac, you can just use Preview to "Save as" or when you Print, select PDF. But if you're unlucky enough to use a PC then your options are more limited.

One of my favorite little programs that I've used for years is called CutePDF. Once you've installed it, it creates a Print Queue called CutePDF. Whenever you want to create a PDF file just print your document selecting this print queue. You will then be prompted to select a location and filename. Voila, you're done.

To get this program, visit CutePDF and download your free version (you don't need the Pro version and if it prompts you, uncheck the option to install a browser toolbar, you don't want that either).

If you want to save websites or documents as PDF's (e.g. recipes) from a smartphone, it's a little more complicated. You'll need an app such as PDF Printer. It's pretty cool and can convert documents, photos, and web pages, but it's not free ($5.99 from the App Store).

Happy PDF'ing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Latest isn't Always the Greatest - Ion Air Copy

We love our Portable Document Scanner (called the Docuscan) and our customers seem to love it too. It scans onto its own SD memory card and so is completely self contained. Every now and again you put the card in your laptop and copy over your scans.

But, what happens if you don't have a laptop like many of our customers who are beginning to travel just with their tablets. How can you scan your photos or documents (other than using something like Genius Scan which we reviewed earlier)?

That's where Ion's new, "better" Air Copy scanner comes in. On paper, the Air Copy looks like a big step-up from its predecessor, the Docuscan. It has a rechargeable battery (something the Docuscan was sadly missing), but best of all, it's able to scan wirelessly over WiFi bringing an affordable portable scanner to Tablet's and Smartphones.

Before we agree to sell anything at TechnoRV, we always go through our testing process, and the Air Copy was to be no exception. When it arrived I was excited, it looked good, felt good and appeared well made. So how did it perform?

No Internet While Scanning

Sadly, it failed at pretty much the first hurdle, the way that you connect to it via its own WiFi network. This means that before scanning, you must first connect your device to the Air Copy's WiFi network. If you're connected to the scanner, then you're not connected to the internet and so can't upload what you've scanned using something like DropBox. You have to disconnect from the scanner and then re-connect back to your regular WiFi.

Poor Software

In order to use the scanner, you have to download a free app. This is then what you use to control the scanner. The problem is that I couldn't connect my Motorola MaxHD Droid Smartphone running Android to the scanner's WiFi. If it did connect, it then dropped off. I then downloaded the app on my iPad and it worked fine. Next I wanted to test it on my Windows laptop. I downloaded the software, but when I went to install it, it wanted to install Microsoft .NET Framework. I don't think so, not on my MiFi connection. Okay, so let's try it on my Mac. Oops, even though the manual, box and website all say it supports MacOS, there is no app available, just a Windows 7 one.

No Charger

I know there is always pressure to control costs, but selling a rechargeable scanner without a charger seems, well, just daft. You do get a short (16") USB cable and then are supposed to charge it from your laptop (if you have one) or I guess some other USB charger (my iPad charger worked well).


If you want a portable scanner to scan photos with your iPad or iPhone, I think you'd be pretty happy with the Air Copy (although some users complain of slow copy speeds on the fine setting). Is it a step-up from my Docuscan as the literature suggests? No, I don't think so. I'm going to stick with my Docuscan for now at least!

Great use of Technology

Nobody actually likes doing laundry, especially me, that is until now. In fact, I actually thought my laundry basket was broken last year. I would put my clothes in it, but they stopped re-appearing in my closet, all clean and folded. I eventually traced the fault to a missing component in the system ... Tracey was in the UK!

So back to enjoying doing the laundry. A couple of weeks ago Tracey and I were staying for a night at Lazydays. Now I'm not a big fan of Lazydays (cramped and small sites, weird raised dumps right at the back of the lot and expensive), But, they have a very, very cool laundry.

Here's how it works. The laundry actually has its own website. From there you can actually see how busy the laundry is and even which washers and dryers are free and how long the ones in use have left on their cycle. The photo above is the view from your computer. You can access the website from your smartphone and you get a simplified view.

Impressed? Well, it gets better. After we'd dragged our laundry down there (Ally had "borrowed" our van so we were without transport), we put it in the laundry, only to find that I didn't have any quarters and no cash on me. No problem, the laundry accepted credit cards so you could charge all your washing to your card. Much more convenient than messing with stupid quarters (always thought how antiquated that was).

After paying with our card, we set off the machines and then went to the pool next door. Nothing special there, expect that after 35 mins I got a text message on my phone from the washing machine to say that it had finished! How cool is that? A quick change-over and then the dryers did the same. I was very, very impressed. Now I can't wait to do the laundry again. The only downside is that, as far as I can tell, there's only one of these internet enabled laundries so far. Hopefully more are coming, so if you meet a friendly campground owner, tell them about this service.