$10 (iPhone app) – $10 (Mobile Dongle) – $10 (Camera Cable) – TriggerTrap.com
Thanks to digital sensors and the high quality and affordable pricing of medium to high-end DSLR cameras, there has been a renaisance in the photography scene. Swing by a site like 500px and you can quickly see how much high quality imagery is being produced by hobbyists and pros alike. This renewed popularity has lead photographers to experiment with different techniques, such as timelapses, low light, astrophotography, tilt-shifts, HDR, macros and underwater photography. What we’re also starting to see are add-on hybrid products that bridge the gap between pro gear and consumer gear.
There’s an expression I hear a fair bit, that’s associated primarily (but not exclusively) with big budget action movies which is, the willing suspension of disbelief. What this means is that we all know the story couldn’t actually happen, but we are asked to hit pause on those parts of our brain that suggest something is not sensible. My wife finds this particularly hard and will often say something like, “that’s ridiculous, there’s no way you could fall off a building that high and walk away.”
And now I feel that there’s another phrase we need to get into common circulation, which is the the willing surrender of privacy. What I mean by this is that we all know that Facebook and Google are earning billions from our most intimate personal information, but we choose to let them, because we get globe-spanning social networks out of the deal. The number crunching that advertising agencies are now using to profile us in incredible detail is all thanks to Facebook and Google and the other wannabe social networks.
At this moment in time I’m aware of the way my likes, dislikes and gossip are being used to create commercials for companies that produce flavoured sugary carbonated water but because it all goes on behind the curtain, I let it persist. However there may come a day and it may come soon, where I decide that enough is enough. If and when I decide to pull the plug on the social media sites I’d like to know that there is an exit strategy.
With all that in mind, we’ve had a look at the account deletion protocols for the big social networking sites. So if you decide to stop prostituting yourself at the alter of Zuckerberg’s glorified births, deaths and marriages register and you’ve had enough of Google reading your email over your shoulder, here’s how to opt out.
About the only thing I’m more excited about than the release of Prometheus in cinemas is the fact that they’re seriously looking at a Blade Runner sequel and have most of the old team on board. Anyway – here’s a terrific wallpaper which was produced by the guys over at the Prometheus website. I’m not a huge fan of the text blocks top and bottom, but they’re pretty easy to snip away.
Hipstamatic might have kickstarted the retro camera craze with their ground-breaking app, but it was Instagram that famously popularised it. Over 50million Instagram users worldwide use the app to turn otherwise dull looking snapshots into moody creations thanks to the apps simple built-in filter schemes. But what if you’d like to emulate the look of those apps on your Mac or PC? Here’s how.
The health and fitness section of the App Store is one of the busiest areas of the shop, featuring thousands of apps that promise to get you healthier and fitter. It’s also fair to say that the health and fitness section of the App Store has the widest range in quality of those apps outside the wretched ‘Entertainment’ section. With so many fitness apps vying for your dollar-spend and with so much blatant copying going on, it’s difficult to separate the good from the bad, the flab from the fit and the snake oil from the Omega 3.
In this feature we’re looking at a total fitness suite, a selection of apps that will cover your entire fitness regime, from exercise tracking to health monitoring and food consumption. With summer on its way in the northern hemisphere, why not spend a couple of bucks, bust out those trainers and get trim for the warm season.
Aggregated news readers have become a sizeable niche market on pretty much all mobile computing platforms. There are two main varieties of these readers – the user-curated ones and the producer-curated ones. Flipboard, Zite and Longread are all producer curated news readers, while Instapaper, Readability and Pocket are user-curated.
Pocket used to go by the name of Read It Later and it was the best of the read-later news apps available for smartphones and tablets. It has now been redesigned, rebranded and relaunched and, more importantly, is now free (it used to cost $3). We’re taking a look at the iPad version of the app, although it is also available on iPhone, Android (phone and tablet), Kindle Fire and in your browser.
So for Pocket to be useful to you, you need to get into the habit of forwarding on interesting articles to it. The idea is that when you encounter some interesting online story or feature, but you don’t have the time there and then to read it, you send it to Pocket and later on, when you do have time, you read it. If you’re not the sort of person who can get into the habit of sending on those links then your Pocket library is going to look somewhat bare.
When you start the app, your articles are presented in a cool Pinterest style block array with headline and image or headline and text depending on the story – you an also switch to a simple list based layout. You can further refine your list of articles by viewing just articles, just videos or just images. I must admit that using an app like this to store interesting images never occurred to me – I’ve always used it purely for long text based articles.
When you view an article you can view it in a reduced text format, or simply the original article on an embedded web page. None of these aggregating apps are very good at extracting just the text from articles and about 50% of the time you’ll have to view in original article mode if you want to read it at all. Pocket’s no different in this regard.
When viewing in article mode you can ramp the point size of the text up, switch between a serif and a sans-serif font and boost the leading to make the on-screen text more legible. There’s also a night mode that inverts the display and a brightness setting so you can dial down the screens’ intensity for less over-powering light when reading in bed at night.
Should you decide the article is worthy of onward sharing then there’s also a long list of apps and services you can send to, including bookmarking services like Pinboard and Delicious, link sites like Reddit and LinkedIn and a long list of Twitter apps. You can also copy it, email it or open the article in Safari. Once you’re done with an article, you can mark it read (with the tick button) and it’ll get moved to your archives. There’s also a bulk archiving tool on the main screen of the app.
Pocket’s a great read-later app, but it’s not one that will prove useful to all people. If you prefer to have your news served up for you in a channel based format then Flipboard or Zite are a better option. But if you’re the sort of person that likes collecting interesting articles and prefer to give them the attention they require at a later date when you can fully absorb the details, then Pocket’s fine. I wouldn’t say it was any better than Read It Later and I definitely feel the cool black and tan colour scheme of the old app was much better than the trendy rainbow colours of the new one.
We live in a time-poor world in which we snatch moments to ourselves with our mobile devices on train platforms, queues, waiting rooms and swingers parties. Quite often we’ll encounter a story or an article or a review or a recipe that looks really interesting, but we don’t have time to read it. Or we’ve got all the time in the world to read it, but the website that features it is a butt-ugly digital car crash of spastic font selections and whacky colour schemes.
It was from such misery that the deferred reading application was born. These are applications that receive URLs from you and save them for later. In addition to simply harvesting those URLs, they also prettify the text content, stripping out the nasty formatting and weird fonts and presenting you with a gloriously unsullied slab of perfectly rendered text. The idea is that instead of hurriedly skimming an interesting article, you forward the address on to your deferred reading application of choice and later on, when you’ve found a quiet cubicle with plenty of loo-roll and a comfortable seat, you can give the article the attention it deserves.
Technology has always attracted high levels of tribal behaviour. I can still vividly remember the 8-bit console era – Megadrive and SNES owners would never miss the opportunity to diss the other’s choice of gaming platform – it was Sonic Vs Mario. During the 16-bit computer era Amiga owners would look down their noses at Atari ST owners and deride the graphics and soundchips. And when Apple was flying well below the radar and producing products that few but the old faithful were purchasing, Linux users would ignore Cupertino and instead waste no opportunity to have a pop at people who had Microsoft Windows installed on their PCs. Windoze, Micro$oft, Crapple, iSheeple – we’ve heard it all.
This week’s wallpaper is the awesome Brazomar Beach by M.Mendo. If, while staring at this wallpaper instead of working you’d like to better visualise the location, the beach in question is located here. And you can get the wallpaper, here.
Caffeinated – $8.99 – GeekyGoodness
Reeder – $9.99 – Silvio Rizzi
So by now you all know that the best way to check your favourite websites is via an RSS feed, right? Rather than clicking through all those hundreds of bookmarks, you can focus on the stories themselves, no matter what source they come from and thus get down to the facts without the fluff. You also know that the best way to manage those RSS feeds is by using Google’s Reader webapp, right? Cool. (If you don’t, please start here and then go here.)
As good as Google Reader is, the web browser is not the best environment for reading articles, mainly because the text renders so poorly. It’s preferable to utilise a specialised Google RSS News Reader application because it gives you that one central location for all your feeds, improves feed management and renders the articles better.
Now for a long time the only Google Reader app worth actually paying for was Reeder. It has ruled the roost for some time now – other challengers have come and gone, but Reeder continues. Recently however a new contender arrived on the scene, by the name of Caffeinated and for the first time it looks like it has a genuine chance of knocking Reeder of its perch. As a hardened RSS news feed junkie and long-term user of Reeder and user of Caffeinated since beta, I’ve had a long hard look at each app and these are my thoughts.
Internet Radio has been around for longer than you think. I can remember tuning into some American stations way back in 1995 courtesy of Real Audio’s player. I couldn’t stay online for long because I was on a metered ISDN line, but it was amazing listening to that station and its adverts and traffic reports.
More than 17 years later and now the vast majority of broadcasters transmit their shows online as well as over-the-air. There are also specialised Internet-only radio stations and you may even find that you can get some stations unmetered over your broadband connection. Sure you’ve got Spotify, Pandora, Last.FM and Google Music offering their services too, but proper managed radio shows remain the easiest way of listening to music you love and discovering new songs.
So the question is – what’s the best way of listening to these stations? Now it’s worth pointing out that iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp and Banshee can all play streaming radio stations, but we’re not interested in some bloated media centre behemoth hogging memory and CPU cycles – we’re after something specialised, lightweight and flexible. These are the three best Internet radio players for Mac, Windows and Linux.
Screamer Radio – Windows – Free
Screamer Radio has two things going against it. Firstly, it has a stupid name and secondly it has an interface only a mother could love. Neither of these things detract from that fact that Screamer is far and away the best Internet Radio player for Windows and we shall just have to accept the name and the interface in the name of quality and flexibility.
Unlike some other radio player applications for Windows, Screamer comes fully equipped with one of the most comprehensive lists of stations I’ve ever seen. These have been divided into four sections – Categories (Dance, Rock, Hip-Hop, News etc.), Country, Foreign Language and Network. So for instance if you wanted to listen to the Essential Mix on BBC Radio 1 (and why wouldn’t you!) you can find the station in Network > BBC and in Country > UK. If you listen to a particular station a lot, add it as a favourite for speedy access.
Amongst Screamer’s other tricks are recording (it’ll record individual tracks or blocks of time and can even be set up to record on a schedule), lossless audio encoding and basic audio effects. It’s incredibly easy to use, comes fully loaded with all the stations you’ve need from install and can be minimised to the System Tray for easy access. Yes, the interface is very plain, but that also makes it very simple to use. I’ll take Screamer over iTunes any day of the week.
Radium – Mac – $24.95
If I’d been writing this article six months ago, then I’d have chosen RadioShift as the best Mac Internet radio player thanks to its massive TuneIn powered database of over 100,000 listings. Unfortunately Rogue Amoeba have ceased development of that app and so while it’ll continue to work for existing owners, everyone else will have to look elsewhere. That means that Radium is currently the best Mac radio player you can buy.
Radium lives in the menu bar for ready access to all your stations. It doesn’t come pre-loaded with stations – you need to search for them and then add them as favourites. This cuts down on clutter and listings for stations and shows you’ll never listen to, but it means you need to be a bit more pro-active at discovering listening sources. You can search for station names, country, city, language or genre and then click on a search result to listen or add it to your favourites.
Amongst Radium’s neater features are full AirPlay support, social network sharing, customisable shortcuts, Apple remote support and an equaliser. There’s also an awesome history feature which lists all the songs you’ve listened to online in the past and enables you to listen to them again or buy them on iTunes. Radium’s an awesome little radio player, always at hand thanks to its menu bar interface and surprisingly powerful once you start exploring it.
There isn’t a massive amount of variety for Linux users when it comes to listening to Internet radio (with the caveat that media players Banshee and Amarok will do this) but it only takes one good app and everything’s sorted. That’s definitely the case with Radio Tray, which takes its design cues from Radium and serves as a simple and reliable radio player for all Linux users.
I installed Radio Tray via Ubuntu Software Centre, but you can grab the tarball or Ubuntu distributable from the website if you want a direct download. It’s a tiny application that sits in the system tray and has to be configured manually with radio stations. Stations can be grouped in categories and are added directly via URL. It’s a bit of a pain in the arse adding all your stations manually, but you only need to do it once.
Radio Tray can play most streaming audio formats, including PLS, M3U, ASX, WAX and WVX formats. That selection encompasses pretty much every streaming broadcaster meaning it’s unlikely that you’ll find a station that the app can’t play. Audio quality was great, with swift connection to audio sources and a cool notifier on-screen showing station and song information.
If you don’t want to install an app to listen to your radio then it’s perfectly easy to do it directly within the browser. Most radio stations have their own feeds on their homepages, but if you want a comprehensive list of stations and shows then TuneIn is where you should look. You can search for stations worldwide at TuneIn and listen to shows directly in your browser using the site’s Flash/Sliverlight powered player.
Shoutcast have been serving up streaming audio for nearly as long as the format has existed and they’re still going strong. They offer 50,461 right in the browser and supply good listening to over half a million people daily. Finally, there’s RadioPaq provide access to radio station worldwide.
Ah, mountain scenery, the views, the peaks, the snow-capped ridges – you can almost smell that cool fresh air. We’d like to celebrate mountains with a round-up of some of the better wallpapers out there. We’ve poured over Wallbase, tip-toed through InterfaceLift and managed to filter out the anime bollocks that infects every single category at DeviantArt to bring you the finest mountain wallpapers around. Enjoy.
Mt. Santa Chocobot 2.0 – Download
Fresh and classy wallpaper for you this week, chosen in particular for those of you in the northern hemisphere who are in the depths of winter. Morning Wallpaper is by Majk M. Miklavc from a photo by John Nyberg. You can get it, here.
Those of us who began our computing journey with the typed command line interface have always had a penchant for keyboard shortcuts and, many years later, the ability to navigate your system using just the keyboard has always marked out the hardcore Windows users from an easily befuddled point-and-click-only punter. With today’s sophisticated WIMP interfaces and multi-touch displays you’d be forgiven for thinking that the keyboard’s days were numbered. But you’d be wrong.
The app launcher is a pretty unique bit of software that leverages your speedy typing abilities to quickly and simply launch apps and perform other useful desktop related tasks. Typically these utilities are launched using a hotkey sequence that pops up a floating command prompt in the middle of the screen. You then just type what you want the launcher to do – so for instance, typing ‘Word’ and hitting return would launch Microsoft Word. Most app launchers can do a hell of a lot more than that of course.
While I’ve never been a full-time Linux user, I’ve always tried to stay abreast of developments on the platform. With the recent release of Ubuntu Unity and all the controversy that it has thrown up, I thought it was a good time to road-test some distros. However I’m not interested in installing Linux on my desktop PC because I like playing games on it. No, I need Linux for my older PCs and laptops.
For the purposes of this round-up I used an IBM T60 Thinkpad – an old road-warrior’s laptop that I picked up for free from an old employer after it had done its three years active duty. It’s equipped with 500Mb of RAM, a 60Gb hard drive and a T2400 Centrino Duo CPU running at 1.8Ghz. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a powerful PC, by modern standards.
However Linux has always run well on this laptop and despite the system specs of my test machine, I didn’t envisage running into any huge issues. Turns out that I was somewhat naive in that belief – Linux, in many of its main distributions has evidently moved forward a lot since I last checked it out, about 18 months ago.