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Tech Lab Plus

FixYa app serves up free advice

FixYa advice app, by FixYa Ltd.

Free for Apple iOS devices

FixYa is one of many advice sites on the Internet. You can ask for help in using or fixing millions of everyday items, from cars to computers, and get answers from fellow consumers. Now there’s an app that lets you carry FixYa in your pocket.

FixYa lets users post videos; the app lets you create the videos with your phone. Say you’re not sure how to replace the serpentine belt on your car’s engine. Shoot a video of it, and describe the problem you’re having. The app transmits your voice and video to the FixYa website, and makes it available to other smartphone users, as well.

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You can also select questions posted by others. If you know the answer, you can send a text message or a video that demonstrates what they should do. You get points for answering questions. These can be traded for goodies ranging from baseball caps to a Kindle Fire tablet computer from Amazon.com. But you need way too many points to win anything worthwhile. It’s more of a gimmick than a genuine rewards program.

Still, lots of people like to answer technical questions for the fun of it. And if you’re that type, FixYa’s got just the app for you.

Lemon Wallet digital wallet app, by Lemon Inc.

Free for Apple iOS, Google Android
and Microsoft Windows Phone 7 devices

One of the more confusing features of Apple Inc.’s new iOS 6 smartphone software is Passbook, a digital wallet that’s supposed to let you store credit and debit cards, loyalty and discount cards, and airline boarding passes. But for now Passbook has lots of limitations and is difficult to set up. Here’s a free app that suffers from limitations of its own, but is a lot easier to work with.

With Lemon Wallet, your phone’s camera snaps a photo of the card you want to digitize. You don’t even push a shutter button; just aim the camera and it’s done. You can type in your credit card number and get a little on-screen QR code that a merchant could scan in order to ring up purchases. It’s the same basic idea as the payment app Level Up.

However, you currently can’t use the Lemon Wallet to make payments.

Luckily, it does work with your loyalty cards, so you can use your phone to get discounts at Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, or just about anyplace else that issues such cards.

In addition, Lemon Wallet features a receipt scanner. You can capture images of all your receipts and store them in a digital file for easy access and accurate record keeping. All the stored data are encrypted and protected by a PIN, in case you lose the phone.

And if you buy the “pro” version, priced at $9.99 a month, Lemon Wallet can automatically block access to your credit or debit cards if you ever lose your real wallet.

Lemon Wallet has a way to go before it becomes a full-fledged substitute for plastic, but it’s an appealing first step.

DBEST London Transformative Bluetooth speaker system and MP3 player

$249.99 at Amazon.com

Add this one to the long line of odd but attractive Bluetooth speaker systems. The Transformative’s speakers can be twisted and rotated in just about any direction to aim the sound where you want it. It ­also works as an MP3 player and speakerphone system.

The Transformative runs off a battery that you recharge through the USB port on a computer. It comes out of the box looking like a ring, with its two speakers mounted on either side of its central control panel. Twist the speakers up and around and they’ll face forward or to the sides. Fire up the control panel and sync the Transformative to the Bluetooth radio in a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The process is painless, and the sound quality is quite respectable.

There’s an MicroSD ­memory card slot in the back where you can plug in your MP3 tunes if you don’t have a Bluetooth device handy. But if you’re playing music through your phone, the Transformative doubles as a speakerphone system. It will shut down the music so you can field incoming calls.

As Bluetooth speakers go, this one is unusually pricey, but the engineers at DBEST can’t be faulted for lacking a sense of style.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.
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