Back on a minimalist tip again this week and here’s a very cool wallpaper brought to you by BSA-Danny. CuBe’D WaLL was created using some neat Cinema 4D shaders and is available in a multi-resolution pack, comprising 16:9, 16:10 and iOS variants. You can get it, here or there’s an alternative isometric variant of this wallpaper, here.
If there’s any MP3 player that deserves the tag of legendary then it is, without doubt, Winamp. If you’re a Windows users then the odds are that it was the app you used to play your very first MP3, I know it was mine. It was released in 1997 about five years before most people ever even heard of the MP3 format and helped kickstart the entire application skinning scene. Since then it has had a problematic existence, surviving an AOL buyout and a damaging law suit or two.
Fourteen years after it was first released, Winamp has finally made the transition to Mac and the obvious question is – why? Or more accurately – why now? And the answer to that question is quite simple – Android. Winamp for Mac is designed to be an iTunes equivalent for Mac owning Android users.
First things first – this is a beta release so it may well contain bugs and it won’t be feature complete. That said, anyone expecting a large feature-set from Winamp, particularly those things for which it is famous (such as skins) is going to be disappointed. Nullsoft are calling this release Winamp for Mac Sync Beta. The emphasis is on syncing your music to your Android device, not playing music on the Mac desktop.
Perhaps the most useful feature of Winamp for an iTunes using Mac owner is that it syncs seamlessly with the iTunes library, including all media and playlists. This is not a one-time sync either – it will keep your playlists up-to-date every time you run it. Alternatively you can just import your music folder and bypass iTunes completely. Syncing worked flawlessly for me – just install Winamp on your Android device and you can transfer songs or playlists via USB or wi-fi.
The actual player component of Winamp is minimalist to say the least. There are very few features beyond simple playback in this beta release. You can’t, for instance, add columns to the library view, you can’t click on the playback timer to switch from time elapsed to time remaining, you can’t change skins or view visualisations. Pretty much all you can do is select songs and play them.
So is Winamp worth getting. If you’re an Android user that’s fed up with iTunes and wants a decent application to sync music then absolutely yes. If you’re after an MP3 player for your desktop then you’ll find Winamp seriously lacking in pretty much every department. That said, it’s great to see a native OSX version released and I have no doubt that it will gain some of the Windows versions features over time.
What do you get if you take two former Apple engineers, a common household gizmo and an ecological mindset? You get an uber-cool adaptive thermostat that makes the unlikeliest household appliance ever look sexier than a B&O telephone. Nest will program itself based on the temperatures you set as you go about your life in your home. Over time, it learns your personal schedule and after as little as a week it will start automatically turning down heating or cooling when you’re away to save energy. It will retail for $249.
Quirk Books, the publishers behind the popular Jane Austin zombie novel have now released a lovingly created interactive iPad version of the book. It’s in the App Store now at half price ($4.99) fora limited time. Braiiiiinnnnsssss.
One of the cool features of Android is that if you don’t like the default interface (the launcher) then you can swap it out for one you do like. There have been some great releases such as Launcher Pro, ADW, Slidescreen and Go Launcher, but our current favourite is Espier Launcher which is available free in the Market.
Espier is based on the iOS interface with clear gridded icons, drop shadows and a dock. The launcher behaves exactly as you’d expect it to – you can drag icons on top of each other to create folders, which in turn can be renamed. You can also press and hold on icon to enter configuration mode and then either move apps between screens or uninstall them by clicking on the little ‘x’ icon.
I particularly liked the implementation of dynamic icons so that, for instance, you get your unread SMS message count right on the icon as per iOS. In terms of performance you’ll need a device with a bit of juice – running on my underpowered ZTE9 the screen redraw’s a bit on the slow side, but on any recent phone and a good tablet, it’ll rock.
While this blog is based in Australia, I don’t often include Australian-related news because I like our articles to be accessible to everyone. However this particular issue, namely the pricing of Apple’s products in Australia, continues to irritate the living shit out of me. For whatever reason, Apple feel compelled to stiff its loyal customers down under by jacking up the price of all its goods and services. We pay more for music in the iTunes store, we pay more for apps in the App Store and we pay considerably more for Macs in the Apple Store.
Recently Apple, no doubt stung by some verynegativeattention in the national media, dropped the price of apps in the App Store to near parity with the American app store. With this in mind, and as I’m looking to update my mid-2009 15″ Macbook Pro to one of the new models, I checked out the prices in the store. As you can see from the screenshot below, Apple are still charging Australian customers a hefty premium. On the top of the range 17″ Macbook Pro, Australians are being charged over $3000USD – a full 20% more than the $2499USD that Americans are being charged. There is no justifiable reason for this – it’s a simple and cynical rort.
If you find you’re getting more and more of your TV shows via Torrent and Newsgroup than Cable and Satellite, then you’ve also undoubtedly encountered the issue of TV show naming. Everyone that uploads a show to the torrents or newsgroups uses a different naming convention and these often mean that your media centre software has a hard time working out what the hell they are.
Filebot is a TV show renamer, subtitle downloader and SFV validator that’s perfect for anyone with a large digital library. It features a well designed drag-and-drop interface and leverages the power of online databases like TVRage, IMDB and TheTVDB to kick your filenames into shape. It’s available (free) for Mac, Windows and Linux over at Sourceforge.
The iPhone 4 has a great camera and the iPhone 4S improves on the winning formula by upping the pixels and improving the optics. As a result of that, the iPhone is one of the most popular cameras on the planet – it’s been number one on Flickr for some time now. The key to that success is that, unlike your DSLR or point-and-click, you always have your phone with you.
However even the biggest iPhone fanboy/girl leaves their phone on land when going snorkelling. Or at least they used to. The Aqua Phone Case ($25) means you never have to be separated from your iPhone again – it’s a waterproof case with a form-fitting inner seal that can protect against sand, dust and snow. The case also features a touch-sensitive skin meaning that it’s fully functional, even under water. The case is only good down to one metre in water though, so resist the urge to take it wreck diving.
When I was a kid I got my first camera – a Kodak 126 Instamatic. It took little rolls of film that came in plastic containers, each with 26 exposures. When you’d taken all your photos you’d drop the film off at the chemists and a week later you got your photos and your negatives back. To be honest, it was a pain in the arse. It was expensive and, due to the costs of getting photos developed and printed, a painfully drawn-out process. I do not miss the mechanics of film photography but I do miss the soul that those old photos had.
When Hipstamatic came out for the iPhone it was in response to the somewhat sterile photographs that the iPhone (and indeed all digital cameras) take. With Hipstamatic on your iPhone you could reclaim a little bit of that old film photography feeling, even if it was the result of carefully created effects and not the random effects of light on cellulose and chemicals on paper. Hipstamatic went on to become a phenomenon, inspiring countless clones and knock-offs including most recently Instagram.
Up until recently however there wasn’t any way of bringing those retro photo styles to your Mac and, if you wanted a Lomo or Holga look to your photos you had to use Lightroom or Photoshop. Analog from RealMac Software is the first proper attempt to bring retro photography retouching tools to the Mac desktop and more importantly to everyday users, not just Photoshop experts.
Analog comes with 20 effects built-in and 14 different frames. To use the app you simply drag your photo into the window, select an effect, choose a border and export when you’re ready. The focus is clearly on simplicity first and foremost – there is no way to alter the effects or borders – all you can do is rotate, crop, filter, border and export. If you’re the sort of person who likes fiddling with settings then this is not the application for you – if you’re the sort of person that just wants a quick and easy way to enhance an otherwise dull photo then you’ll love it.
The effects themselves are somewhat disappointing. There’s some classics in there, such as cross process, Lomo, Fuji and Holga, but none of them slap you in the face with their funkiness. Best of the bunch are Kyoto (nice light leak filter), Lomia and Noir. The borders are fairly unexciting too, with the usual smattering of Polaroid style squares and film negative embellishments. Once you’ve settled on a filter and/or border, you can export your photo, send it via email or upload to CloudApp, Facebook, Flickr or Picassa.
RealMac have endevoured to bring some variety to the filters by adding random elements to them. Light leaks appear in different sizes and locations, dust and scratches are positioned randomly and grain is applied differently each time, so it’s worth clicking on and off the same effect a few times to achieve the look you want. It’s also worth adding that’s a well written application that performs well and is bug-free.`
We’ve all come to see the possibilities of retro-styled digital photo retouching, but the problem is that apps like Hipstamatic hammered the living shit out of the concept and Instagram slammed its coffin shut. For someone with no technical expertise at all and a taste for cheesy photo effects, Analog will be a big hit. However if you’d rather your photos didn’t look like everyone else’s, or you don’t feel the need to festoon your snapshots in light leaks and bokeh (no matter how simple it is), then this is not the app for you.
Over the years there have been myriad solutions to the issue of headphones that stay on your head when you’re exercising. There have been loops over the ears, in-ear buds and headphones embedded in sunglasses (thanks, Oakley). However this is the first time we’ve seen a combination beanie/headphone solution.
The Sound Disk Sports Beanie from Aerial 7, is being sold for $60USD and combines a sports beanie stitched from wicking fabric (to draw moisture away from your bonce) and two small adjustable ‘sound disk’ speakers. The idea is that you can either cover your ears completely with the sound disks (a la headphones) or position them just behind your ears so that you can stay aware of your surroundings (think lady joggers and dark nights). The beanies are available in black, blue, red and white.
Dubstep emerged from the two step, garage and dub scene in London about a decade ago. It has slowly gained popularity, but exploded into the mainstream last year. The key to many dubstep tracks is the distinctive bass wobble noise which is introduced on the drop and has been known to cause localised earthquakes when played through a decent sound system.
Wobble Base Station enables you to spit out dubstep wobble noises at will – in this sense it’s sure to eclipse the faithful fart generators that have amused teenage boys for years. The app includes 15 drum loops, eight different effects and four percussion sounds which you can modify with the (I’m not making this up) ‘Filth-scope’. If anything signifies the beginning of the end for this genre of music – it’s this app.
Some absolutely cracking clips in this week’s trending YouTube video collection. Highlight of the week is the incredible Qu8k homebrew rocket that soars to 122,000 feet and returns safely to earth. Low point is definitely the 10th video which features the most vomit-inducing manufactured group since Boyzone called it a day. If there’s someone you truly hate, be sure to forward on the clip of Heart2Heart.
One of our favourite to-do apps is Wunderlist, a lovely looking program that’s available on Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android and online in a browser. However as great as Wunderlist is and as useful as it was to be able to sync to-do lists on all of our devices, it was also lacking in several key areas.
Well the good news is that the nice people at 6Wunderkinder have been working hard on a brand new version of the software called Wunderkit, which is now ready for beta testing. The software has moved on from simple to-dos and is now a full-blown task management suite. The core of the suite is still the faithful to-do, but now the concept has been expanded out.
Amongst the new features promised are sub-tasks (so you can break a larger task down into smaller chunks) and recurring tasks (the single missing feature that stopped me from using Wunderlist on a daily basis). The dev team have also created a workspaces concept that works like a project – you can have notes in there, follow people within a project and get an overview of progress in the new dashboard. There’s a full write-up over at 6Wunderkinder’s blog and a waiting list to get in on the (currently closed) beta.
By all accounts, Siri is an amazing application and I can fully understand why owners of phones on other platforms would like something similar. As good as Siri is, Apple still put a Beta tag on it, because they cannot guarantee either 100% reliable voice recognition or 100% reliable parsing of instructions. Like many Google products, I suspect that Siri will remain in beta for the foreseeable future.
So how would you suppose a Siri knock-off, created in eight hours and utilising Google voice recognition software, would compare? Let me put it this way – any Android users hoping for a bit of one-upping on their iOS using chums are going to be very disappointed. Iris was created by staff at Dexetra, during a hack day. The name stands for “Intelligent Rival Imitator of Siri” or perhaps they just reversed the name Siri – it’s hard to tell. So what’s it like to use?
Well, Iris might have been a fun project for the coders at Dexetra and while nobody should expect miracles from a day’s hacking and some off-the-shelf code, Iris is good for little more than a proof of concept. The voice recognition they borrowed from Google isn’t very accurate and the responses from the software to the questions asked are often weird. I got the best results with simple fact-based questions. Here are some example questions and responses:
Me: Schedule a meeting at 11 o’clock on Monday at head office. Iris: Which office?
Me: Are there any Italian restaurants in the area? Iris: Fries.
Me: Will you marry me Iris: Will You Marry Me? is the 1992 single by Paula Abdul
Me: Wingardium Leviosa Iris: Avarda Kedavra
Me: Who’s better – boys or girls? Iris: No-one.
Me: How many litres in five gallons? Iris: 18.93litres
Me: Will it be sunny in Sydney this weekend? Iris: Do you want tell good bye, please!
Me: Remind me to call the vet. Iris: Hey, yea you, you there!
Me: I’m in the mood for Italian food in North Beach. Iris: Who do you love?
Is Iris any good in the real world? No – not even a little bit. Is it an interesting technology demo? Definitely. Download it yourself, have a play, just don’t expect it to be organising your life like Apple’s synthetic secretary. You can download Iris (Alpha) now, from the Android market.
HydraCoach; calculates your need for hydration (don't know if I need this but it's a nifty gadget).
This is a hybrid bike with not only exceptional performance but stunning aesthetics as well. The motor power and battery capacity is well over the industry standard and a truly futuristic look will sure attract some eyeballs around you. The Terminus is the ultimate trail-machine for the ones who appreciate the best availa
Camalien LED concept watch changes its colors depending on your surroundings - Designers Peter and Sam have come up with a concept watch they’ve dubbed the Camalien. It’s an LED watch with a sleek design that also comes with a camera built into it that will record your surroundings and will change the watch’s color accordingly. | #Design #Watches |