Once a week we delve into the tips box and share some of our favorite reader tips. This week we’re looking at voice control for Android (similar to Apple’s Siri), DIY flash diffusers for digital photography, and sending text messages to groups.

Iris: Android’s Answer to Siri


Alec writes in with the following tip for Android users:

After hearing about all the fun people were having with Siri (Apple’s new voice-driven assistant in iOS 5), I set out to find a similar app for Android. Iris seems to fit the bill. I’m still feeling Iris out but so far it seems to work pretty well, as well as an alpha-release voice control app can be expected to work, at any rate! You can issue commands to send text messages or call contacts, make other requests, and even ask it questions. I’m not going to admit to how many minutes I wasted talking to Iris.

Time to pit ChatBot against Iris and see what happens. Thanks for the tip Alec!

Super Cheap DIY Flash Diffuser Performs On Par with Commercial Models


Nikki writes in with a tip for photography buffs:

I’ve noticed the great DIY photography articles and Photoshop tutorials on your site. I thought you might appreciate this guide to creating your own Lightsphere-like flash diffuser. For readers who might not be in the know, the Lightsphere is this $40 flash diffuser that everyone raves about and loves. The guide I linked to on Instructables shows you how to turn a silicone drawer mat from IKEA. You can get a huge roll of the stuff for a couple bucks, more than enough to make a Lightsphere clone, a backup or two, and a few for your friends.

Keep up the good work!

Thanks for sharing Nikki! A couple of us around the office has been looking at the Lightsphere; we’ll have to get some drawer liner and try out this nearly-free solution first.

Send Group-Based Text Messages in Android


Marty writes in with a time saving tip for Android users that do a lot of heavy texting:

We use text messaging hand over fist at my work. I used to have to create a message and add each contact individually. That was a huge pain, let me tell you. A few weeks back I found this Android app called Multi Texter. It has a variety of functions that make text messaging more than one person pleasant but the real value for me is the Group function. I can create specific groups (my team+boss, just my team, friends, family members I MMS cute kid picture to, etc.) for my specific needs. It’s so easy to fire off a text to 20 people. What used to take me 4 minutes of annoying tapping is like 2 seconds now.

Handy for sending cute kid pics to your relatives you say? Saves time? We’re downloading it now. Thanks Marty!

Have a tip to share? Shoot us a message at and then look for your tip in the next From the Tips Box roundup.