Authors Posts by GrowMap


Best known for writing about Small Business Advice, Gail Gardner is known as @GrowMap on Twitter and other social networks. She sometimes writes about the latest gadgets here and on DIRJournal. Why not subscribe to the entire family of DIRJournal blogs so you can read all her content?


When you’re on the road, the solutions that run your online meetings have to play nice with your mobile devices. That includes being able to not just attend, but also run meetings. Unfortunately, many meeting solutions are not mobile responsive and some of those that are only allow attending – not managing.

Three free solutions are Skype, Facetime and Google Hangouts.  Facetime only works with Apple iOS based devices such as iPhones and iPads. Not all of your attendees would be able to use Facetime.

Both Skype and Google Hangouts can be accessed from mobile devices, laptops and desktops. Both offer apps for smart phones. But attendees have to create an account and login.

If you plan to do presentations regularly, you may want to choose a solution that does not require downloading an app or creating an account. For example, allows you to run a meeting from any device including your type of tablet, smart phone or blackberry. They have an app center to integrate your meetings with social networks and your calendar.

Most importantly, meetings can be run from your mobile device – not only attended on one. To see how easy it is to run a meeting from a smartphone, this video shows how it is done from an Android device:

Video Highlights:

  • Login
  • Start or prepare a meeting
  • Invite attendees and / or presenters
  • Live video
  • Share files and videos

Why Use an App For Online Meetings?

Sure, you could just phone people. But designing a meeting place has many advantages – especially if you do a lot of similar meetings such as presentations to prospective clients, employee meetings, or training.

Brand your meeting room with your company logo and colors. Add an agenda to keep meetings on track. Create an attractive waiting room to encourage attendees to log in early.

Video Highlights:

  • Host meeting
  • Prepare in advance if desired
  • Customize branding and layout
  • Add an agenda
  • Open registration if you wish so others may spread the word and join
  • Personalize your room: header, logo, color scheme, layout, change skins
  • Invite participants and presenters

Most important is that many popular meeting solutions do not support running a meeting from a mobile device. Some haven’t even made it possible to attend meetings without bringing up a laptop or desktop. Even if you plan to run all your meetings from your office, life has a way of surprising you.

By choosing wisely, even if you get caught away from the office you can still run your regular meetings. Getting stuck in traffic or an airport is such a common occurrence.

Never pass up a last minute surprise opportunity to meet with a valuable potential client. Project just the image to close that sale by keeping your meeting solution in your pocket or purse.

Available Apps

Integrate your email and calendar with your meeting apps. Plug in your favorite browser. Add media from YouTube, Adobe, Flickr, Apple iWorks and Microsoft Office. Automatically share your upcoming meetings to Twitter. You can even create a learning platform to organize your meeting presentations using Moodle.

Run your meetings from anywhere using your iPhone, iPad, Android or Blackberry. Stream audio and video or use a whiteboard. Enable text chat to answer questions. And record it all to re-use or for your attendees to replay at their convenience.

Whether you decide to use Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts, Clickmeeting or something else, be sure to run some test meetings to see what works and learn to use the advanced functions.

You’re mobile, so all of your business apps must be, too. Don’t assume they are. Verify with the vendor which devices they support. And then test to make sure they actually work. Waiting until the actual meeting could leave you embarrassed!

LifeBEAM products: bike helmet, cap / hat, visor

Apple’s iWatch is not the only product on the wearable tech market. There is also the Microsoft Band. But neither of these is the most advanced wearable technology available.

That honor goes to LifeBEAM Gear. Originally developed for the aerospace industry, LifeBEAM was developed to accurately measure human performance biometrics in extreme conditions.

Astronauts and fighter pilots wear LifeBEAM helmets so that ground crews can monitor their vital signs while flying. Special Forces uses it on deployments. Now the public can benefit from this technology, modified to be affordable for athletes or to monitor health issues.

How Bio-Sensing Wearable Technology Works

Mentioned as one of Time’s 6 New Must-Have Gadgets for getting in shape, using LifeBEAM Gear allows the wearer to monitor their condition in a way similar to exercising in the controlled environment of a lab.

Lightweight, precision sensors measure physiological responses including:

  • calories burned
  • heart rate
  • blood flow
  • skin temperature
  • Galvanic Skin Response (GSR)
  • Peripheral capillary oxygen saturation (SpO2)
  • activity profile analysis
  • distance traveled

The data is transmitted to smartphone apps, watches, computers or ANT+ equipped devices via the low-energy Bluetooth chip embedded in the back of the wearable product.

LifeBEAM products: bike helmet, cap / hat, visor

The LifeBEAM Gear is just being rolled out. The first product to hit the market was a bicycle helmet. The sensors are at the front and the transmitter at the rear. Popular in the biking community, early reviews indicate the technology is very accurate.

Caps and visors are also available with more products to come. LifeBEAM has signed contracts with top fitness apparel brands to add sensors to clothing as well as more tech. Sensors have already been developed that measure at the temple, forehead, inner ear, wrist, arm, and foot.

Samsung Partners with LifeBEAM

Samsung has aligned with LifeBEAM to give the Apple iWatch and Microsoft Band a run for their money. While these watches are primarily fashion accessories, the Apple iWatch does have a practical purpose. Wearers can use it to purchase products using Apple Pay. But neither of these appears to be positioned to compete with LifeBEAM.

Samsung is using LifeBEAM to power devices using the Samsung Simband platform. Samsung’s idea is to have health related apps developers incorporate the use of sensors to measure skin temperature, heart rate, skin conductivity (how much a user sweats), blood flow, and other data.

Products using this type of technology can go beyond wearables and health monitoring. Samsung demonstrated a tennis racket made by Balobat at a developer’s conference. Using the sensors in the Simband platform, the racket measures a player’s movements. These measurements are then used to improve the player’s game.

Gadgets in your clothing or sports equipment could make you a better golfer or increase your score in any number of sports. Medical professionals could use wearable tech to diagnose intermittent health conditions. Read more about the Samsung partnership here.

Interested in seeing how it works in a live demonstration? Check out this video:

Want to know what other wearable tech is on the horizon? Read 5 Wearable Gadgets to Watch Out for in 2015.

Understanding Mobile Responsive Design 640

Smart phones are everywhere with new models coming out every week. In Q1 2014 according to MarketingLand (citing U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report) 66% of emails were opened on smartphones or tablets. If you are sending email messages, they absolutely must be mobile responsive.

What is Mobile Responsive?

While it would seem simple, it actually isn’t. Web pages and email needs to be easy to read on devices of all different sizes. Images must resize themselves. Videos need to play with the phone or device held both vertically or horizontally.

Understanding Mobile Responsive Design 640

If 66% of emails are opened on mobile devices, what happens to those that display poorly? While marketers would hope the recipient would simply wait and read it on their desktop or laptop, many say they simply delete messages that don’t look good on mobile. Unless you want to continue to risk having your important email messages deleted, now is the time to get serious about mobile responsiveness.

Typical Non-Mobile Responsive Problems

What is likely to be happening when non-mobile responsive emails are views on mobile devices?

  • Templates are typically too wide, leading to unreadable microscopic text
  • Mobile users must continually pinch, scroll, and zoom
  • Call to action buttons are too small to be touched instead of clicked

Many won’t bother, leading to poor email marketing results.

Tips for Mobile Responsive Messaging

Even if you’re using mobile responsive templates, creating the optimum mobile responsive messaging requires some changes. This slideshare provides some great tips:

[slideshare id=35426686&doc=emailformobileoptimisation-140603062947-phpapp02]

SlideShare Highlights:
  • Why should emails be adapted for mobile (slide 2)
  • Mobile open rates have grown 300% since 2010 (slide 9)
  • Example comparing good vs bad mobile rendering (slide 12)
Design Highlights:
  • Simplify your emails (slide 19)
  • iPhone subject lines cut off at 35 characters, so front load your keywords (slide 20)
  • Reserve the top for your call to actions (CTAs)
  • Move social media links and buttons further down
  • Go easy on images; alt-text are vital (slide 21)
  • Use Capitals in titles
  • Good mobile rendering examples (slide 22)

Be sure to include or offer a plain text version because older phones including many older smart phones do not recognize mobile responsive coding.

How to Create Responsive Email Designs

Coding for mobile responsiveness is complicated, so why not take the easy way out? The latest versions from leading email solution providers such as GetResponse include responsive email design built-in. To get a feel for how it works, watch this short video:

Video Highlights:
  • Create your own templates from scratch
  • Drag and drop elements
  • Preview changes live
  • Easily paste and edit text
  • View changes as you go
  • Automatically adjusts to mobile
  • Looks great on any device
  • First truly responsive email design

Remember that your emails should lead your subscribers to a site which is also mobile responsive. Be sure to test any ‘mobile responsive themes‘ you consider, because many are not fully mobile responsive – even though they claim to be. When testing, ensure that headers resize and videos can be played when the device is rotated in any direction.

Just as emails can be created using mobile responsive templates, you can also create mobile responsive landing pages – sometimes using the same solution.  Mobile growth is only going to keep skyrocketing, so putting off going mobile responsive is just a very bad idea.

Thank goodness the new wearable technology is too small to read email on!

Smartphone with app icons in a circle around it
Image Credit: ©Depositphotos/koya979

While we would usually think of rooting any device as only for techie geeks, in the case of Android the practice is so widespread there are even apps to help you do it.

There are some risks that if you don’t do it correctly you will turn your Android phone into a paperweight, so DO be sure to follow the instructions.

Rooting Android is NOT Jail Breaking

Just to be clear, rooting simply means gaining access to the root directory of the operating system that your smart phone runs. That is different than jailbreaking.

As Gary at TrendingPhones explains in How to Root Android:

“Rooting is something which is allowed and it is needed to run some applications. There is little to no chance of damaging or ruining your phone more info

because if you have problems attempting to root your device you can simply restore to factory settings.”

Gary assures us that this is the very best video explaining the process:

How to Root Your Android Phone [VIDEO]

Many apps need you to have root access, so more and more people are rooting their Android phones.

What about you? Is your phone rooted? How did the process go for you?
Tell us why you did it and how it works for you in the comments.

I’m sure you will want to check out these Best Android Apps, too.

CES 2013 Best Products and Trends

CES is where manufacturers roll out their latest goodies and serious reviewers share what they love – and hate – about new gadgets of all kinds.

This infographic, courtesy of The Editors at Electronics Reviews shares the very best in these categories:

CES 2013 Trends:  What Will They Think of Next?
Image source: Best Choice Reviews

Have you seen these new devices? Were you at CES 2013?
Tell us what you like and don’t like in the comments below.

Sony Xperia water-resistant phone
Sony Xperia Z Water-resitstant phone. Click image to see full specs & more photos.

Sony kept specs for their new flagship smartphone under wraps until yesterday at CES 2013. Previously some images had been leaked and rumors indicated the phone would be an Xperia C650x Odin.

What Sony actually announced at CES 2013 was the Sony Xperia Z and ZL.
Whether this is the same phone or a different model has not yet been determined.

Only now can we share with you the complete details on this new phone Sony hopes will be their giant killer flagship product. The camera on this phone is getting rave reviews – but the most unique feature is being fully touted visually.

Xperia Z ~ The First Water-resistant Smartphone

The coolest thing about the new Xperia Z is that it is water-resistant – but given the way it is being demonstrated by reviewers, buyers will think it is waterproof.  There are videos of this phone being totally underwater in a fishbowl (for 10 minutes the video claims) and this video from CES 2013 of Sony’s Dunking Test:

Hopefully Xperia Z buyers will realize that the phone is only water
resistant if the plugs are all closed and in good condition!

Being water-resistant is a very useful feature for any smartphone. Who hasn’t accidentally splashed liquid on a phone or even had one fall out of their pocket into the toilet? Note that the phone is WATER resistant.

While it will stand up to other liquids better than most phones IF the plugs are closed, remember that anything sweetened or carbonated could be a very different story.  You can often dump water out of a computer keyboard, let it dry, and it will still function. Sweeteners will stop your PC keyboard from working and substances like Coca-Cola are even worse because they will lift land patterns right off circuit boards!

In a pinch you can use cola to clean your battery cables – so don’t let water-resistance cause you to take unnecessary risks with even a water-resistant smartphone.


Trendingphones tipped us to their post about the Sony Xperia Odin being the top search on their site, so we know that Sony has been able to generate interest and curiosity about this new phone.

GearBurn writer Robin-Leigh Chetty provided more details about Sony Odin models, but not enough to know whether the Z is the rumored Odin or another phone with the Odin still under wraps.

SitesGadget reported the Sony Xperia Odin and Yuga Comes With A Slim Body which these two new phones do have. This post by Chris Smith at AndroidAuthority gives the Xperia Odin and Yuga Specs – and it sounds like the Z.

PhoneArena speculated that Sony would call the Odin the Xperia X and the Sony C660X would be called the Xperia Z.

VIDEO REVIEWS of the Sony Xperia Z:

In this video, shares unknown before now details in the video below and their Sony Xperia Z Review.

Sony Xperia Z Specs:
  • Water resistant – possibly even waterproof
  • 5″ HD display ~ 1080p screen
  • 13 MP camera
  • Quad-core SoC
  • 2400 mAh battery
  • Sony NFC TV
  • Google’s Android Jelly Bean OS
  • Available colors: purple, white, black

Sony Xperia ZL is similar in specs to the Xperia Z, but not water resistant.


 What do YOU think about Sony smartphones?
Do you own one? Are you planning to buy one?
Tell us in the comments.

Selecting keyboards for PCs
Image Credit: ©Depositphotos/rozelt

Keyboard manufacturers have quietly changed their keyboards and they do not make it easy to notice BEFORE you order it online or buy it and get it home.

Before you buy a new keyboard, here’s what you need to know:

Many are NOT traditional desktop size or layout any more. The default has changed to a laptop layout with flatter keys in a different place. The keys may also be smaller than you’re used to and the keyboard may be flimsy and have a totally different feel.

Here are the choices you have to make to choose the right keyboard:

  • Wireless, USB (flat connection), PS/2 (round, purple connector) or ADP jack (Apple) ~ Not sure what these are? See the images on this page.
  • Layout: QWERTY (what most of us use), AZERTY, QWERTZ, HCESAR or one-handed?
  • Standard (traditional desktop), laptop (flatter, smaller with the insert, home, end, delete, page up and page down keys in a different location than PCs originally used),
  • Standard, illuminated, lighted or backlit ?
  • Special keyboards; ergonomic, multi-media, gaming, “Internet”, membrane, glass, larger keys or larger print type



Not a computer geek? One thing you’ll want to know is the difference between commonly used cables. Originally, mice and keyboards used what are known as PS/2 connectors. The keyboard connection is purple and the mouse is green. See the image below:

Old style computer keyboard connection
jack PC keyboard with PS/2 connection ~ Image Credit: ©Depositphotos/jannyjus

Newer keyboards and mice and many other peripheral devices usually attach using USB connections. (See the image below.) A USB cable has a flat end and newer computers have many USB ports on them – sometimes on both the front and the back. There are also storage devices that plug into USB ports as do wireless keyboards and mice.

Newer PC keyboards have USBs
PC keyboard with USB cable ~ Image Credit: ©Depositphotos/eteimaging

Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of the above. Unless you or the person you’re buying for have special needs, here are some tips to help you:


  • If the person using it primarily uses a laptop they might want one of the new laptop layout keyboards so the keys are in the same place and the keyboard feels the same.
  • For a desktop computer user or someone who does data input or types for a living, avoid the new smaller laptop layouts and choose a standard size and layout with curved key tops.
  • Serious bloggers who spend a lot of time online and especially those who are over 40 might love a lighted, large print keyboard like the AZIO 3 color LED Bold x2 Large Print keyboard I’m typing this on.
  • If maximum productivity interests you and are willing to learn a new layout, consider testing a one-handed keyboard
  • Some swear by ergonomic and split keyboards, but most who try them don’t like them or end up sticking with them. More might use them if the cost of trying them out weren’t so high.

You can’t really know how you will like a keyboard until you use it. I had a friend pick up a replacement keyboard and that is when I found out that the default style had changed.


The new Logitech Wireless Combo MK360 is very different than a traditional Logitech. Even though it was obvious the layout was different, the size was smaller, the keys were flat and even the mouse was downsized, I thought I would eventually get used to it. I didn’t.

These smaller, flatter keyboards are harder to stay centered on so you make more typos. The little nub that tells you you’re on the right keys is less obvious so when you move the mouse and back you end up on the wrong key.

The smaller keys and mouse make my hand cramp – and I have really small hands. So I really doubt that men or anyone who types a lot would prefer this smaller size.

It is likely that many major brands will be defaulting to a laptop type keyboard, so if you use a desktop or type for a living you’ll want to be more selective. If you primarily use a laptop, you may want to scoop up this deal:

Logitech MK360 mouse keyboard wireless combo
Clearance Priced Logitech Wireless Combo MK360 at


I almost didn’t order the AZIO keyboard because some of the reviewers did not like the difference in how the keyboard feels. It has a lighter, bouncier touch than the keyboards I usually prefer.

The keyboard having choices of three colors of lighting (blue, red, or purple) makes it easier on my eyes. Personally I prefer the blue, but reviewers have other preferences.

For me as a power user, there is no perfect keyboard because what
I most want is a lighted keyboard with curved keys, larger type,
and action like the original IBM and DELL keyboards had.

The only way you’ll know for sure is to try one – and they are fairly inexpensive, so if being able to type without other lighting on and read keys in less than optimum conditions appeals to you, I encourage you to take one for a spin.

My eyes and hands appreciate the one I have. The image below shows the three colors and the larger keys with big letters. Perfect for someone who needs reading glasses, but doesn’t wear them when typing. Click the image below for product reviews and more details.

AZIO Large Print Lighted PC Keyboards
Image Credit: ~ They have this keyboard at a great price.


If you’re buying online, you may have to look at many images to try to figure out which keyboards have flat versus curved keys and which layout they use (standard or laptop).  You can also read the reviews to help you decide. See my tips in Deals or Duds: How to Save Big and Avoid Getting Burnt.

While big box stores and Amazon are good places to read reviews and see all the choices, I encourage you to support your small local computer repair shop or independent online ecommerce store.

Amazon and corporate brands are cheaper because they squeeze their suppliers and retailers and keep the profits for themselves. This creates economic decline and eventually we end up with only businesses that are barely surviving or have already failed and jobs that do not pay a living wage.

Spend a little more and have the satisfaction of knowing you made the world a better place. You’ll also get better service and have someone to get assistance from when you have a computer problem.

Image Credit: ©Depositphotos/Leonardi


Did you know there are an average of 103.9 Android apps launched every day? How can you possibly figure out which apps are worth downloading? Get recommendations! Here are some posts worth reading:

If you love your apps, do your app developers a favor and instead of buying from Amazon Apps, buy from these top alternative app distribution sites so more of the profits goes to the little guy:

  • Slide Me
  • GetJar
  • Mobango
  • Appsfire


Why do some apps make the big time and others fizzle? How do app developers and app distributors promote apps?

Sell more Android apps


Need someone to make a mobile app for you? Check out these listings:

Do you develop Android apps (or applications for iOS, iPhone or other mobile devices? Get listed in DIRJournal so people can find, hire and buy from you.

Dress your rat up as R2D2

Who could better appreciate R2D2 costumes more than people who love gadgets? Check out the huge variety and we challenge you to share any you have seen.

Young costume designer Henry created this costume or his white albino mouse – or is that a rat? Either way, you can find out more about Henry on his site Ringo’s Rat Tales.

Dress your rat up as R2D2

We have an R2D2 rat so we must need an R2D2 Cat

Cheezeburger r2d2 costumes for cats:

R2D2 Costumes for Kids

The cutest R2D2 costumes are for children. Here are some of our favorites:

Home-made R2D2 costumes for kids

Nathan’s mom made this R2D2 costume from Tyvek, a clothes hamper
and various tapes (duct tape, electrical tape, Tyvek tape)

Make an R2D2 costume out of a cardboard box

I don’t know what it is about this R2D2 from a cardboard box? –
but we like it. Found on Twicsy. Shared on Twitter by @Nooli68

R2D2 costume for toddlers

Adorable Star Wars Clothing for Toddlers

Create an R2D2 Costume for special needs children in wheelchairs
Image Credit: eSpecial Needs Blog

How To Create A Special Halloween Costume For Your Child

R2D2 Costume won costume contest for tiana martin

Tiana Martin won Best Individual Costume for her R2D2

Create Your Own R2D2 Costume

Even shares How to Create Your Own R2D2 Costume

How to make an R2D2 costumeR2D2 Costume Mom Blogger and Etsy Seller Morgan Moore made

Laundry Hamper R2D2 costume

Make your own R2D2 costume out of a laundry hamper.

c3po and r2d2 couple costumes

If you want to make your own homemade costumes check out the other
R2D2, C3PO and Star Wars costumes at Coolest Homemade Costumes.

Cheezeburger Cat
Image Credit: Flaming Zombie Monkeys

Have you seen a great R2D2 costume we should include here?
Share a link to it in the comments and we will put the best ones into the post,
with attribution to the source and who shared it.



Apple Stock Drops Over Lower Than Expected Sales

While one analyst claimed lines were 89% longer and this C/Net iPhone 5 Review gushes that this is the “iPhone we’ve always wanted”, Apple’s stock has already dropped because sales of the iPhone 5 are less than expected.

iPhone 5 Social Media Mentions

Almost as many negative comments as positive have been recorded on social networks – which are quite likely reducing desire to buy the new iPhone. These graphs show there is not a great outpouring of positive comments on social media about the iPhone 5.

Further analysis would be necessary to find out exactly which of the issues are causing the most negative comments. See the video reviews below for what those issues are.

iPhone Video Reviews

C/Net Video iPhone 5 Review Pros:

  • Larger screen (longer)
  • Faster processor
  • 4G speeds which can be twice many people’s home wifi

iPhone5 Review Cons:

  • Some networks can’t do voice and data at the same time
  • iPhone 4 cables won’t fit


Engadget iPhone 5 Video Review

  • IOS 6.0
  • Extra row for apps at the bottom
  • 1136×640 display size
  • Panorama Mode
  • Passbook
  • Thinner, lighter, taller than 4S
  • Two tone colors
  • 8 mega pixel camera

Social Media Sentiment

Murray Newlands talks about why he feels fans are so disappointed in this short video:

Having watched those iPhone Video reviews what do you think?

Is that the iPhone you’ve been waiting for or will having to buy new cables, or not being able to use voice and data at the same time on Sprint or Verizon or not liking the new Mapping app put you off buying?

Tell us whether you’ve bought one, want one –
or decided it isn’t for you in the comments.