IPhone app review: RedLaser

This is a capsule review of the iPhone app, [RedLaser](http://www.redlaser.com/). It’s a barcode-scanning application which looks up scanned products on amazon and google. In short; start the app, point your phone at the barcode, get online price comparisons.

The app is extremely simple to use, and cheap, too. It can save you money in a purchase or two. I used it at Borders the other day, scanned a book, and found a copy six quid cheaper somewhere else online. Since the app costs less than two quid, it’s a great little moneysaver. It also acts as a nice ‘outboard memory,’ storing a list which can form a wishlist. Scan in books you want to remember, and it’ll keep the list and let you email it off.

Because it uses amazon amd google product search, it doesn’t work well with things that are very cheap, or own-brand products. I wondered if I could use it as a shopping list (scan stuff as it runs out) but, well, no-one sells paxo stuffing on the Internet, so no dice.

What it seems to excel at is products that make good presents; books, DVDs, xbox games, and board games all worked well. I think I will be using it for my own christmas wishlist, and for keeping track of presents for friends and family.

PS: a little tip. I had a couple of books fail to scan properly, until I noticed that the books had _two_ adjascent barcodes. Cover up the smaller one with your thumb and it’ll work perfectly.


A better spell checker

Somewhere between spell checking and grammar checking is a need for context-specific word checking. I’ve been doing a little writing on the soft keyboard of the iPhone and noticed that while the spell checker is great at correcting mis-spelled words, it is not good at helping you out with words within a certain context. Consider typing this;

Science diction

Now, that’s a single character incorrect; both words are spelled correctly, but so rarely occur together in English prose that we may suppose there is probably a spelling mistake here. Any mobile provider that gets this right will probably make these keyboards entirely workable. It may not be so relevant on full-sized keyboards, but these smaller keyboards have implicitly more mistakes. Much smaller keys combined with big fat thumbs makes this kind of mistake much more likely. In fact, I’ve done it four times this post;

Fill-sized keyboards
Big far thumbs
Done it twice this lost
Dome it three times this post
Done it four tomes this post

Awful. I can’t even wrote the list of my mistakes without making the same type of mistakes over and over.

Anyway, I think if this kind of correction could be built into a smartphone editor, it would lead to much faster typing. You would be able to slap in text much faster, not worrying so much about what you really typed, and have the editor figure out from a corpus of English text what you probably meant.

Google voice search on iPhone

Good lord. I have just discovered that Google’s ‘Google Mobile’ application on the iPhone has voice search. Go to the search page and bring the phone to your ear. The accelerometer tells the app to start listening. Then just speak your search, and away it goes. I’ve done a half-dozen searches and it has been spot on every time.

The future really is with us, my friends. Just to prove it to myself, I held the device up to my mouth and asked it for information on ‘transparent aluminium.’ It worked. I am Scotty, and the idea of accessing the databanks with a mouse and keyboard are starting to seem a little quaint.

IObit SmartDefrag — windows program to defrag drives

For the last few months, I’ve been using [IObit SmartDefrag][sd]. It
is a freeware defrag program that keeps your drive running
fast. Basically, you install it and it runs in the background, like a
librarian silently alphabetising your book collection. Your machine
can find and load files faster. Anyway, it feels like my machine has
stayed fast, where I would have expected it to slow down over
time. Anyway, it’s freeware, it seems to be reliable, and it’s kept my
machine fast. Can’t go wrong.

[sd]: http://www.iobit.com/iobitsmartdefrag.html