andora is an innovative online streaming music service that uses the digital fingerprints of music to suggest tracks you might like. And it’s got a vast library too, so the odds are that you’ll get to hear lots of great tracks you’ve never heard before.
The problem with Pandora is that its web based interface is, ermm, crap. Alright, not completely crap because it does work – but even if I was being charitable it could best be described as functional. It’s also not very convenient having to have a browser tab constantly open.
So it’s a resounding thumbs-up from me then for Pandoras Box – a little Pandora client that lives in your menu bar and gives you access to the awesome Pandora library without the hassle of the awful Pandora website.
It’s a full-featured client that enables you to create stations, give tracks the thumbs up/down, scrobble to Last.FM and basically do everything the full service can, only without the annoying browser. It’s available now, for $7.99
Snapheal 2 – $19.99 – App Store
Photoshop has always been the go-to tool for any kind of retouching and it’s not hard to see why. With advanced features like the Content Aware Fill, it can perform photographic magic, not just removing blemishes, but inventing whole potions of a photo out of the ether. There’s no two ways about it – it’s an incredible app – it’s also bloody expensive.
If all you want to do is remove blemishes from your photographs then it’s difficult to justify Photoshop’s hefty price-tag and that’s where an app like SnapHeal comes in. It doesn’t offer the feature-set of Photoshop and it doesn’t pretend to either – this is a product aimed squarely at ordinary Mac users who want to tidy up their photos.
SnapHeal 2 is the ideal software for someone who’d love to get the same results as a Photoshop user, only without the cost. It focuses squarely on the task of removing stuff from photos, whether that’s a few zits on someone faces or a whole person that’s in the way. But that does not mean that it is any less capable, in this regard, as Photoshop.
To be honest I was amazed at how well SnapHeal 2 performed – in fact in several instances it did a far better job of removing elements of a photograph than Photoshop. It did particularly well at removing items and restoring the background. In Photoshop the Content Aware Fill often uses an obvious source area which can sometimes look like crude cloning, but I had no such issues with SnapHeal.
There are three removal tools available and the one you choose depends on the item(s) you’re trying to get rid of. These have been given the exotic names Shapeshifter, Wormhole and Twister. You deploy each based on different removal critera – Shapeshifter is used when you have large objects to remove, Wormhole for things like small skin blemishes and Twister for things like clouds and small tree branches.
To get rid of a troublesome object in the photo, you can either brush over the affected region or drag the marching ants around it. The area is then highlighted in red and you can choose your removal tool. I tested it on my three year old Macbook Pro and it was speedy even with multiple selections. I didn’t have to wait for more than a minute no matter how complex the scene.
Certain removal scenarios worked out far better with Snapheal than Photoshop – in particular the removal of smaller fiddly objects like twigs. You have to be realistic about it though and if you try remove a massive bulk from your image then it may be obvious where the source pixels were taken from.
In addition to its excellent removal tools, Snapheal also has a selection of traditional retouching tools such as a clone stamp, image adjustment sliders (contrast, saturation etc) and crop and rotate tools. It can access photos in your Aperture or iPhoto libraries and can export back to them or share directly on the main social networks.
I feel there’s a very strong case for the addition of Snapheal to any photographers software library. If you regularly take family photos and get frustrated by imperfections in your photos then it’s definitely worth buying. In fact given the quality of the removal tols, I think there’s a very strong case for existing Photoshop users to have Snapheal on hand too – I’ve certainly come to rely on it when Content Aware Fill’s not cutting it. Recommended.
TriggerTrap is one of our favourite products. It’s an app and hardware solution for photographers that enables you to create incredible timelapses or record spontaneous moments. It can be used using a smartphone’s internal camera, but it most useful when paired with a cable and used for ramped time lapses and the like. More details here.
I have no idea why it has taken so long for developers to come up with a decent blogging app. The first one that came anywhere near being usable was Blogsy by Fomola, prior to that a WordPress blogger was basically stuck with the utterly wretched official app and users of other platforms like Blogger were basically screwed.
Thankfully that situation has changed – Blogsy has matured into a genuinely good app and even WordPress have pulled their finger out of their arse long enough to make their official client usable. However Posts
is little short of a revelation. It’s the first iPad app that I’ve ever used in preference to my laptop and a browser.
When you first open the app you see a dashboard full of posts arranged Pinterest-style in date order. You can edit one of these existing entries or you can create a new post, page or draft. You can also search for content or quickly go to a specific date using either the calendar or the slider.
The editing window offers everything you’ll need to format your posts. There are text tools (size, style, appearance and alignment), a link editor, a read-more button and an indent tool. Everything has been thoughtfully designed with the touchscreen interface of the iPad.
At the top of the editor screen are buttons to access the properties windows, media, previews and HTML. The properties windows enables you to change post title, tags, categories and article visibility. The media window enables you to insert photos directly from the iPad or from an online image or movie somewhere like Flickr or YouTube. The HTML button gives you access to the raw code to do any markup styling or further additions.
At any time you can save your draft post either locally or online, meaning you can easily switch between iPad and a browser window. The ability to save locally also means you can write blog entries without Internet access and upload your work when you’re online again. If there are any downsides to the app it’s that it doesn’t give you access to any plugins you might have installed – for instance SEO management.
If you’ve never been tempted to try updating your blog on your iPad, Posts is probably the app that could change your mind. It’s a beautifully designed app, thoughtfully created and is sure to become one of the essentials. It’s available now for $9.99.
Here’s a terrific gadget which we’d love to see go into full production. The P&P Office Waste Paper Processor takes ordinary A4 printouts, combines them with lead and a bit of glue and spits out perfectly formed pencils in seconds.
So I’m a leg bouncer. When I’m working, sitting daydreaming or otherwise involved in any pursuit that does not require ambulatory movement, I bounce my leg. Turns out that this habit (which infuriates some people) is fairly common and, amazingly, very useful. According to this excellent question on Quora, leg bouncing and fidgeting in general (if allowed to happen) improves cognition. Apparently skipping can also greatly benefit memory retention.
Grid is a spreadsheet app that’s better suited to lifestyle than regression analysis or loan amortization tables. It uses voice input, images, calendars and embedded social media tools to streamline the planning of activities, events or anything else that needs a bit of forward thinking.
There are hundreds of mapping and GPS apps for all the brands of smartphone, enabling people with a poor sense of direction or map reading skills or both to get out into the world. However according to The Guardian, the apps just don’t cut it when used for their intended purpose and hikers are getting lost. The Guardian quoted the head of a UK mountain rescue team who said, “Last night alone, we were involved in two separate incidents, involving a total of 16 people, who had relied on smartphone apps to navigate on the high tops, were very poorly equipped for the conditions, and become lost.” Today’s takeaway – learn to use a map and compass as well as your smartphone.
You might be familiar with the Heart Rate app which can detect your pulse by pressing your finger against the iPhone’s camera. Well Cardio is a new app that takes such voodoo to a whole new level – it can detect your heart beat just by being pointed at your face. It works by analysing the amount of light reflected off of your beautiful visage – you just hold your phone and look into the camera to see your BPM. It’s out now for $4.99.
They probably won’t catch on with burglars or spies, but for everyone else a glow-in-the-dark iPhone case could prove very useful. If you’ve ever spent some time searching around in the dark for a phone after a regrettable sexual liaison or if you’ve dropped your phone while out dogging then I imagine it would be worth its weight in gold. SlickWraps glowing iPhone covers are available in five lurid colours, the retail at $24.95.