Top 5 Camera Apps for Android

Hello and welcome to yet another list of some of my favorite things on Android! This time around, I’m presenting 5 camera apps available in the Google Play Store. It’s a mix of both free and paid apps, and I think all the paid ones actually have a free alternative with some limited features, so feel free to try them out!
To be clear, this list does not contain camera apps that are preinstalled in some phones, like the Samsung camera app, or the HTC, or Sony version. It’s a top 5 list of camera apps available in the Play Store 🙂
All right, here we go!

  1. Google Camera. Aahh, Google. So much you do right. The Google Camera is free, and while it doesn’t offer particularly advanced features, the app is simple and has some excellent exclusive features. 360 degree photospheres to capture an entire place in rich detail, endless panoramas (vertically or horizontally), wideangle shots, and fish-eye features too. Google Camera is quite handy to take photo’s differently than many other alternatives. Only works on Android devices running 4.4 and up though.
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  2. Lapse It. I do enjoy me some timelapse, and Lapse It is a great and simple way to make them. Control everything from taking pictures, to editing it afterwards (even adding music), lapse It is a complete package. Pro version availble for HD timelapses, and more settings.
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  3. Camera FV-5. If you have a DSLR camera, and feel as though your phone doesn’t resemble it enough, or it actually lacks several useful features you know how to use, Camera FV-5 will serve you well, offering advanced settings and controls similar to a real camera. Additionally, if you happen to have ” a real camera” running Android, Camera FV-5 support some extra advanced features.
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  4. Camera Zoom FX. Are you looking for features? Then check this out! Camera Zoom Fx offers great tools to taking pictures, and different ways to take them. Real-time effects, (extremely) fast burst mode, filters to go with them afterwards, Camera Zoom FX offers plenty. Pro version unlock settings, features and filters. And additional plug-ins are available for it, expanding it’s functionality!
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  5. A Better Camera. A Better Camera reminds me of the Sony camera app. It’s just more simple, looks minimalistic, and offers a good amount of features. it looks great, so that’s really what is going for it, so consider it if you want something minimalistic, but also offers good features.
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I love taking pictures, I now have a DSLR for that, but I always have my phone on me. So I want the best camera apps for my phone. i switch around regularly, but I find these apps to be the ones I come back to, and use the most. And I think most smartphones can take excellent pictures in the right conditions today, they may just lack some features and some refinement.

Next list will consist of the best photo editors for Android, so be sure to come visit again soon! Taking the picture is one thing, but being able to edit it just right, with the best quality is quite another. 🙂
If you have some suggestions for me, please leave a comment, follow me on Google+ to ctach my pictures, or on EyeEm or Instagram @the_arcticbear.

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Top 10 Paid Android Apps You Should Consider Buying

I recently did a Top 10 Free Apps, today I have the direct (not so timely direct though) follow-up!
In the beginning of Android history, Android was known for having a bunch of free apps. Popular app on iPhone? There was probably a free alternative in the Play Store (formerly known as the Android Market). Quite honestly, Android was way more practical back then; design and integration wasn’t a priority. That time has changed now, and iPhone apps are also directly ported or redesigned for Android by now. The thing is though, quality apps can require you to spend a little money, and some apps are absolutely worth that price!
Here’s my top 10 paid apps:

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  1. AutomateIt is an automation app for your smartphone. Your smartphone has a lot of cool sensors built in; a GPS, an accelerometer, a fast processor, data from contacts, cell recievers, wifi, I could go on. What AutomateIt does, is to open a world of posibilities. You can set it to recognize certain wifi signals for example; the movie theater’s wifi, and automatically set your phone to silent. Or you could set a preset setting, for when you open an app (open music app -> set volume to x). Every night at 11 pm, set ringer to silent, and set to normal by 8 am. these are just examples, and there’s plenty more to do. The app has a section for recipies, where people share their unique automations. It’s super easy and effective, there’s a free version with some limits, and a paid version. Try it out! It’s super fun to play with! If you’re looking for something more advanced, I highly recommend Tasker too.
  2. Knocklock is something very simple. Here’s the thing; I love touchscreens. Especially how it feels to just gently touch the screen for actions. I’m never going to have physical buttons again on any phone, but there technically still is; the power button and the volume buttons. The power button specifically, is kind of pointless to me; I only use it for turning my screen on/off. Knocklock is a little spot on the screen which acts as the power button, double tap it, and your screen goes off. Combined with a phone with double-tap-to-unlock, you almost never have to use the power button, so it’s all a touch experience. You may find it useless, but this is absolutely so nice to just have, when you first get used to it. Free version available, but with limited options!
  3. Link Bubble is brilliant on different levels. Basically it opens up links as small bubbles, and loads them. Sounds simple enough, right? It is. Trust me though, the impact is big! Imagine browsing Facebook, or twitter, or just about anything, and you stumble upon a link you want to open. Then you open it, and leave the place you are, and wait for it to load, read it, and then there’s another link. Before you know it; you’re far away from where you began. With Link Bubble, you’re never sent away, and you can continue to browse, while the page is loading in the bubble, resulting in you being more productive (well, maybe not productive, but you simple get more done, and wont wait around).
    The browser itself is quite limited compared to other browsers, and it’s due to the nature of it, but it’s smart by having a very simple way to open it in Chrome (or whatever) if you want to, or sharing it. It can even see if there’s a youtube video included, which you can watch immidiately. Super effective and in high quality. You won’t regret this purchase (trial versioan available).
  4. Lecture Notes is a powerful note-taking app with tons of settings and back-up solutions. There’s options for folders, digital pens, paper styles and much more. It’s a complete replacement for the physical paper. And you can add additional features like voice and video recording. There’s a trial version available. I highly recommend this for students with a 8″+ tablet, or just people who wants notes with lots of options. It works on a phone too, with all the same features, there’s just less room to do it on.
  5. ez PDF Viewer is PDF viewing for those seeking advanced features. While most would be fine using just a PDF viewer, ezPDF goes far beyond that with features like annotations, filling out forms, notes, cutting, voice recording, Google Drive plug-in. I’ve always appreciated having it installed, since it can fill out documents, documents for school or just legal stuff, taking care of it on the go is great. There’s a trial, a lite, and a pro version available. The Lite is $1, but if you want the advanced features, the Pro is the one to get.
  6. Manga Rock is a reader for Manga books. Manga is a cartoon style in asia, and there’s thousands of comicbooks available. With Manga Rock, you can view entire books and chapters on the go. You can also download them for offline viewing, but you are restricted to a few if you don’t pay. Plus you get rid of the annoying ads on the bottom, not to mention you just part ways with $5 to get a huge amount of entertainment!
  7. Archos Video Player is by far the nicest video player for android. It has good features, a great design, online connection with popular movie-sites. There’s plenty free video players, but hardly one as nice as this. Remember to install all the codecs on the side, which will enable the player to play virtually any file.
  8. Afterlight is a photo editor. Now I know I recommended Snapseed the last time, and Snapseed’s free, but Afterlight has plenty of filters Snapseed doesn’t, and frames too. Ones that play really nice with Instagram. The design is good, the features are great and many, so for a single dollar, you get a great photo editor.
  9. Tondo/Naxos iconsYou probably have a nice phone. Nice meaning; it can do a lot. It may not be the best out there, but it’s nice. I think it should look as nice (at least).
    If you followed my previous advice, you’ve installed a 3rd party launcher. One that supports custom icons. There’s an abundance of icons available on the Play Store; free and paid, but my two favorite ones are Tondo Premium (which is extremely hard to find, so follow my link) and Naxos (squared). I like these, because they are colorful and very simple. Perfect for a modern smartphone, signaling simplicity and style, as well as personality. We might disagree on what our phone’s should look like, but you can go in and search for icons you prefer. This will make any phone look more complete and consistant (even more so than the iPhone, without copying it).
  10. Endomondo/Runtastic is for sport activities. I highly recommend a healthy lifestyle, even if it is just casually doing sports (any sport). It has absolutely positive effects on our mind and body, so having an app just for that, may just help keeping you active. Any of these two can track a lot of sports for you, keeping you in the know of how well you’re doing. Helping developers who wants to help you track your sport just seems like a nice gesture, and you get rid of ads and even some Pro features along the way.

That’s it, all 10 apps I recommend having and spending a little bit on, to help you get through your busy day. There’s obviously way more apps I’d like to share with you, and those are in the works as well. But these are sort of basic apps i need on my phone, that just makes it nice and capable in many ways. Be sure to follow my blog, or follow me on Google+ for regular updates!
If you have any apps you’d think should’ve made the list, please comment below and tell me why it’s so good. It’s always great to get some feedback and simply get different perspectives 🙂

As a final note, I’d like to say that we should support the developers for their hard work and creative ideas. These apps aren’t all that expensive, and considering what they give you, it’s a small price to pay for some quality work. We should move on together, from demanding free apps with lots of features, to being greatful for what they give away, and showing appreciation by sending a few dollars their way. It’s a win-win situation, as we both get what we want; awesome apps!

Top 10 Free Apps To Get, Straight Out Of The Box

Everybody’s got a smartphone, right? Right, almost. Over 1 billion smartphones across the world are active today, and sales and availability for them is reaching further and further, which is awesome in so many ways! However, it’s not a rare sight to see people have a smartphone without necessarily knowing what it can do, and what apps you can take advantage of (for free!). So in light of that, here’s my top 10 free apps, you need right out of the box!

  1. Google Now. Your phone technically has this app pre-installed, and will update as soon as you give it permission from the Play Store. However, you need to launch the Google Search app, and activate it’s true power: Awareness of where you are, what you’re up to, and what you need. Besides being a voice-assistant, Google Now will notify you with activities ranging from sports, transportation, news, weather, scheduled meetings, as well as movie-tickets, airplane plans and information. Google Now is extremely convenient to activate and is super simple to use. Activate it. Now.
  2. SwiftKey Keyboard. Every time I get a new phone or tablet, I install SwiftKey right away. It’s free, it’s fast, it learns, it’s super smart (3 languages simultaneously), and is connected to the cloud, meaning you can change your phone, but your way of typing is never lost.There are perfectly good alternatives, some may fit you better, but I highly recommend SwiftKey.
  3. Aviate Launcher from Yahoo. Aviate is similar to Google Now, but for your homescreen. You can choose your absolute favorite apps to be on the front page (which is usually up to 10). This keeps the front page far less busy. To it’s left you have what will change throughout the day. Morning at home? Your phone will show you the most relevant apps. In the car/bus/train? The phone will show you the most relevant apps. At work? The phone will show you your most used apps for work. Shopping for groceries? … You get the point. Aviate knows, and will change accordingly. It’s fast, it’s beautiful, it’s simple, and it’s powerful like that. To it’s right you can have big folders (automatically categorized, or manually if you prefer) with other frequent apps, and to the far right, all your apps are in alphabetical order, so nothing is ever more than 3 flicks away. Brilliant!
  4. Google+ (Photos). Yes, the social network everybody seems to ignore is very handy to use. Even if you won’t use it for social networking. Google+ is packed with unique features, of which backing up photos is included, you just have to activate it, and choose which directories to back up. Camera photo’s and videos, the download folder, image editor apps. Anything going into your phone that is an image or video, google can back it up. You have 15 GB free to use, and if you just back up in 4 mega pixels (or lower), photo’s don’t use any of that space, which means you can upload an unlimited amount of photos in good quality. Additionally; Google can edit and fine tune those photos for you, automatically, and it works very (very) well! It also makes cool effects, like animated GIFs, collages, multi-shot photos, panoramas, and filters. All automatically and for free!

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    It’s no secret I’m a heavy user of Google services and apps, but I think they provide some of the best features and services around. Be sure to check out other apps they have in the Play Store!

  5. Google Drive/Dropbox/Box/any cloud storage. If you use the cloud in any way, with any product, you should get the client for Android. With it, you have access to any file you have in the cloud. It’s just that simple, have files you need every now and then, without taking up space on the phone itself. I use it as a game directory for example, for my emulators, and my private library of animated GIFs. Always available when I need them!
  6. Snapseed. Snapseed is a powerful mobile editing app for images. It’s simple to use, have a lot of features, and it’s free. It’s no Adobe Photoshop, but consider it a mobile Adobe Lightroom. If you want stickers, collages, or something similar, you need a different app, but for image editing, Snapseed is great.
  7. AppSales. I love sales on the Play Store, and AppSales keeps me posted on any app or game on sale, and you can even tweak it so it only bothers you with certain apps that qualify. You can see pricing history, percentage of savings, and you can put apps on it’s watchlist, so it’ll notify you if a paid app you want goes on sale. It’s free, and given you can save quite a bit, depending on apps, you should get it.
  8. Timely. We all need to get up in the morning (or at some other point), so why not have a great alarm clock? It’s free and it’s beautiful. It has a decent amount of features too, like syncing with other devices. Animations are gorgeous, navigation is easy, sounds are easy on you. What’s not to like?
  9. Inbox by Google/Mailbox by Dropbox. Emailing is still a thing, the trouble is, it can be pretty cluttered. You should get a powerful email app! Either of these feature unique features that makes categorizing, reminding you, and keeping your inbox at zero. An inbox in control, is an inbox you can more easily work with. Either of these are free, though at the moment, Inbox is on an invite basis (leave a comment below if you want one, I have a handful to spare).
  10. The Cleaner. Your Android smartphone is multitasking, apps run in the background, and it’s not always easy to actually close those apps. The Cleaner is simple to use, will regularly advise you to clean up the RAM and cache on your device, which should keep it nice and fast. It also monitors your app usage, providing you with a list of apps you don’t really use, so you can consider deleting it.

That’s it! The top 10 free apps I highly recommend with any new phone you get, or simply don’t have installed yet. I personally use all of these apps, and they sure help me get through the day. 🙂
I’ll be back soon with another top 10 about paid apps, because we should all contribute to a developer’s hard work and services. Free is always nice though, and all of these apps are available and great to use, even if you don’t pay for the small extra features.

What are your favorite apps, or most important apps to install when you get a new phone? Leave a comment down below!

News And Plans For 2015

Happy New Year, I hope last year treated you well and I hope it continues for the year to come 🙂
I want to take the time to plan the contents I will be producing this year, and share some general ideas, plans, and news with you, that will be included in this blog.

First up; I want to write more. I really enjoy researching around and write my own thoughts on ideas I may have. And since my studies will change into the more humane part of technology this summer, I think it’s an excellent way for me to already get into the field now, and make some thoughts about it already. I have a few ideas ready to be made that are very basic, so I aim to write them off as soon as possible, so stay tuned for content soon about basic Android topics.

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credit to Juza @ http://www.juzaphoto.com

Secondly, I got a wonderful gift from my mother; a Canon 70D camera, with 3 batteries, and 3 lenses. I don’t plan to review this device though, as I’m no photography expert. I just enjoy taking pictures, and people say I have a knack for motives, so I hope to improve my skills.
What this means however, is I can now make quality videos (I just need a decent mic now). I’m considering to make video reviews alongside writing reviews, but I really want to make it so they compliment each other, rather than I overlap them with a bunch of the same information. I do not prefer watching reviews like that, so I will avoid that and work on taking the two contents from two different perspectives. After all, they are two very different mediums.
I will also be shooting my own photographs for my reviews, showing interesting details or the overall look of it. I hope you’ll enjoy those!

Additionally, I’d like to share some thoughts on what devices I want to buy this year, giving you a rough idea of what content I’ll be making.

Apple is releasing their Apple Watch this year, and it will surely make a big splash in wearable technology, what I hope is that Android Wear further evolve and mature. I’d really like to get a smartwatch again (I had the Sony Smartwatch 2 a few years ago), and I’m just waiting and seeing where this will go.

I also want a new tablet, my Galaxy Note 10.1 from 2012 is finished. I have an eye out for the Nvidia Shield tablet, and seeing they just announced their new Tegra X1 chip, I assume a new tablet is in the works coming this summer. Nvidia has proved to be an excellent producer of tablets, bringing great hardware, with clean Android software for a reasonable price, and as an added bonus, they’ve updated their software extremely fast.
I am however considering a Sony tablet, as I’m very pleased with their products as well.

In old, but still relevant, news; Windows is getting on my nerves. I simply don’t need all it’s features and software anymore. So this year will be the year I’ll switch to Chrome OS, and with the switch belongs a new laptop; a Chromebook. I have a good feeling we’ll see excellent additions to the family this year. I’m currently interested in the Chromebook 13 from Acer, which was made with Nvidia and has a Tegra K1 chip, we’ll see if anything new shows up with the new X1 though.

A little side-note; I’m thinking about switching things up with Squarespace, the service seams like a great way to make a website and post content. Maybe i can make it about photography and essentially this blog. I’ll be sure to update on that later. If you want to see my mobile photography (mixed with photos from the 70D), you can find me on Instagram or EyeEm @the_arcticbear.

So far, 2015 will be a very interesting year for me. I’m hoping the changes will result in some changes for the better, but I will have to put in a solid amount of work into it.
A new direction in education, new perspectives in how technology and humans work, new (wearable) devices, and an Operating System based on the cloud. That makes me see a lot of new potential in my self and how I use computers. I hope you’ll join me for that!

Android 4.0 and the Arrival of Holo UI

The most important UI change came to Android in version 4.0, what key aspects changed can be boiled down to these 3 points:

  1. Unified design language in phone and tablet.

  2. All-touch navigation.

  3. Flat and modern design language.

But before we dive into these key changes, I’d like to explain a few things; what is UI? And what was the reasoning behind the changes?

UI stands for User Interface, it is the interface you are met by when you use your phone, or tablet, or even your computer. Anything you can interact with, basically has an interface. The radiator even has that knob that controls the heat. UI is how it looks, and how it works for you. It is a key player, in terms of  user’s experience. Now let’s move on.

Android was growing rapidly in the phone market, it had already surpassed the iPhone and iOS by the time Android 4.0 came out, but iOS was still considered the leader of smartphones, namely because the design of the UI and the still larger numbers of quality apps.

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Google set out to change that with Android 3.0+ Honeycomb, which they carried over to Android 4.0. Android 3.0 was an experiment to Google, it was primarily used for tablets then, and it was never released as an AOSP, it was a closed experiment for Google to use, and only a few devices shipped with that version of Android.
Google used this experiment to build the blocks of a modern Android, which is Android 4.0. With Android 4.0 Google set out a design guideline for anyone developing for Android devices. They called it the Holo UI.

Hardware buttons was no more, the UI changed to a dark, clean, and robotic look, which translated well with bright colors as well. Google set out to make Android pretty, it was well aware of Apple’s dominance and superiority in design, and addressed them accordingly. What it meant was Android became more streamlined; the home button, the back button, the menu and settings, everything was going to be found at the same place, and even look much the same. Apps would work more like each other, and users would more easily find themselves at home with any app.

The process has been a rather long journey. It has taken a year or two to become the norm with almost any app, especially among the new and serious apps. Over the past 2 years, Google have only updated the Holo UI slightly, and at the latest with Android 4.4 KitKat, made Android a flat, clean and bright design powerhouse. Savvy users of smartphones now (in large numbers) prefer the all touch navigation due to it’s flexibility and others (like me) simply enjoy to use it because it feels very modern and just right, to navigate everything by light touches.

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All this came from Android 4.0, and furthermore, Android 4.0 applied to both phones and tablets. The design language enables phone apps to more easily transform into tablet apps, optimizing your Android experience for larger devices, be it a small 3,5” phone to the huge 5,9” phablet (a crossover of phone and tablet, phablet), as well as into the small 7” tablets and larger 10” sizes too. All Holo UI apps that are true to that nature will find itself nicely in almost any Android device. That isn’t to say a phone app will translate well into a 10” tablet, but the app will be optimized more easily by the developer, and the user will find it easier to use the app too.
This is a huge deal for Android. It shows how much the system has matured as an OS over the last 8 years, because to this day, the Holo UI is still among the best looks to find on phones.

What this means for you is, that by using an Android phone for a week or two, you should be able to find your way around Android with no problems. It’s true that Android has a bit of a learning curve to it, compared to the iPhone and the iPad, but once you get into that, it’s very likely you’ll feel comfortable and empowered by the possibilities.

Lately there’s been some rumours, that Google is working on a major update to the UI of their own apps, perhaps giving new guidelines. From what we’ve seen, this is true, and the design seems to be aiming at more vibrant and vivid colors, and an even simpler look. It’s hard to judge these changes, but I’ll be sure to form an opinion and it’s implication once it is official and there’s been enough time to actually use this. Be sure to come back soon!

You can tell me what you think of the Holo UI in the comments below, and how you experience Android. Have you noticed the design of your apps? And have you been an Android user before Android 4.0, how have you experienced the change?

 

A brief look into what Android is

My first Blog entry will focus on the the basic blocks of Android. It will be short, but I will bring some technical terms along the way. This is solely on a nice-to-know basis, so you have an idea of what Android, at least on the surface, represents and enables.

Android is an operating system based on the Linux kernel and is an open-source project. What this means is that the Android OS is openly available to anyone who wants to utilize the OS. The OS can be used on virtually any electrical device, but is most commonly seen on phones and tablets. What this means, is that anyone wanting to build any device can get the Android OS, and incorporate it into their own device, completely free.

There is an important distinction I would like to make though; The Android Open Source Project (or AOSP) isn’t equal to the Android you probably know from your phone. Manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, HTC, and LG (among many, many more) have an agreement with Google (the owner of Android), which gives them access to a bunch of Google services, named Google Play Services. This is a way of branding Android phones with Google software; things like Google Search, Google Maps, and Gmail. This essentially means that the Android OS can freely be downloaded and used as pleased, but without Google’s approval, it won’t have access to the services provided by Google.

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As you can tell, Google actually has a certain amount of control of Android. It gives Google an edge to promote their own services, and with it, a golden standard of apps and services. These services are however completely avoidable and replaceable, and furthermore, on Android it is possible to make certain apps and services a standard operation, which means your Android experience isn’t connected to Google’s services. As a user, this means if you prefer the Firefox Browser, you can download Firefox for Android, and set that browser as a default, which means that any time you open a link in any app, Firefox will open the link. This procedure can also be done on the Play Store (where you get apps), if you don’t want to get involved with Google, you can get apps from a lot of alternatives, from the web itself, from Amazon, from Samsung, or from any 3rd party essentially.

I will dive into customization later on, with blogs and videos, to demonstrate how Android is a extremely flexible OS. For now, just know that Google owns Android, and does what it can to deliver certain services.

Android is a special mobile OS. What makes it special is the way it works; Android supports true multitasking, like you know from Windows or Mac. Apps can work in the background and even side by side. What it enables is to work more effectively; apps can work silently in the background monitoring your device, and be aware of any known changes, apps can also run invisibly all the time (as an example, you can drag your finger from the edge of the screen to pull out a task switcher), apps can pop-up on the screen too if anything happens, while you don’t leave what you’re currently doing. It’s true multitasking, and you see tons of optimized apps only for Android.

One of my absolute favorite apps is called Tasker. Tasker is quite complicated, but what it does is work in the background and monitors everything my phones does, and by doing so, I can make my phone to things, completely automatically. A great example is to recognize I’m at a cinema, and it will automatically turn completely silent, and as soon as I leave, turn on the sound again.

I couldn’t possibly write everything about Android, but I believe I’ve mentioned the basics into understanding what is possible on Android. What I will strive to do from this day, is to make you understand more of the OS, and make it a truly personal phone. A phone that will work for you, and a phone you can take advantage of.

Every time I see a person with a smartphone, and that person only uses it to the most basic tasks, like facebook and texting, I think a phone is being wasted. I encourage you to be aware of what is possible, it can ultimately make your life a little easier and more fun!

So I hope you’ll join me in doing this, I love helping people out, and I think I can do this in a simple and effective way. Feel free to comment down below, or contact me on Google+. Maybe you just got an Android smartphone, or maybe you’ve had one for a while, but feel like you could learn more. I will cover the basics and I will move onto intermediate stuff, having everything you need in one place; my blog, my YouTube channel, and you catch me on Google+!