You may recall a certain bun fight that happened a couple of months ago. Apple released a brand new version of their best-selling video editing software Final Cut Pro. They had, they said, rebuilt it from the ground up, because the old code was well past its use-by date. Fair enough, you’d have thought. Only on release the software was nearly universallyderided for being little more than iMovie Pro. Video editors the world over took to the Internet and spat gobs of wordy venom at Apple. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it was free global advertising for what is, let’s not forget, very much a niche product.
It wasn’t that long ago when a desktop wallpaper meant some grim tile and an 8-bit colour scheme. Over the years as our home computers have grown ever more powerful, so has the quality and size of the displays we use with them. This has lead to an explosion on the wallpaper scene, with some truly amazing images now available for us all to personalise our desktop real estate.
I’m a big fan of minimalist wallpapers, but I think it’s a word that suffers from horrendous abuse on wallpaper sites. 95% of the wallpapers uploaded and tagged as minimalist are about as unadorned as an L.A. pimp’s teeth. But I’ve been looking high and low for perfect simple little minimalist wallpapers over the last few months and I’m now ready to show off the autumn collection – 14 great images to adorn your desktop, but not get in the way of work. Shout out to Hellishere for the cool iMac PSD. On with the show …
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.
This is tutorial video for anyone looking to automatically download TV shows from the newsgroups. Getting stuff from the newsgroups means you get it at the full speed of your Internet connection, unlike torrents. Downloading from newsgroups is made a lot simpler by using NZB files, which are the equivalent of .torrent files on Usenet. The site I used to create the RSS feed is Newzbin and the software I used is SabNZB which runs on Mac, Windows and Linux. I’ll be uploading some further tutorial videos soon.
The world-wide web has grown exponentially over the last decade and there’s every indication that it will continue to do so over the next. But a side-effect of that growth is that it becomes increasingly difficult to find anything meaningfully interesting to us, whatever our interests are.
There are many reasons why it’s so hard to find stuff that we care about. For starters, the signal to noise ratio is so high that you have to wade through an awful lot of crap to discover the golden nuggets. According to Netcraft there are in the region of 485,173,671 websites out there and that number is growing by about 22million sites per month. You don’t need to be a maths wizz to realise that that’s a lot of digital content, the vast majority of which is of absolutely no interest to us.
Originally we relied on human-sourced link directories to find interesting content. Yahoo, in its original iteration, was indexed by actual human beings, who vetted all submitted web sites and only included those perceived to have any value. Over time that task became increasingly difficult and Yahoo came to rely on spidered indexes – websites trawled by pre-programmed code. Other search engines, such as Alta Vista and Hotbot, competed with Yahoo for indexing prowess, but they all suffered from the same issue – vast numbers of search returns most of which were irrelevant to the search. It wasn’t until Google came on the scene, with its legendary page-rank logarithm, that it actually became possible to search for stuff easily on the web. Google’s influence on the web cannot be underestimated – I personally find it hard to believe that the web would have prospered even remotely as well as it has, without the awesome search results it made possible.
With over a billion monthly pageviews, Reddit has rapidly risen in popularity and is now one of the elite top 100 most viewed websites on the Internet. Its rise coincided with the implosion of Digg and the disappearance of Delicious amongst link spam and chronic apathy. While both Digg and Delicious may yet turn things around, Reddit’s currently sitting pretty amongst the link-sharing sites thanks to a great user-administrated culture, simple link voting tools and, amazingly, popular ‘sub-reddits’ such as science and atheism.
As functional as Reddit is, however, the site is certainly not a thing of beauty. It features a sparse text-based layout that eschews all graphic adornment as needless frippery. This means that the site’s quick and efficient, but also very bland to use. Well now Mac users can have the best of both worlds, thanks to the launch of Envelope – the first full-blown Reddit client.
There’s little doubt that Envelope has been heavily influenced by the look of the new Mail client in Lion and by Reeder the RSS feed client. On the left of the screen you get the topic headings in the Reddit section, on the right you get content and/or comments. To change to a different sub-reddit, you just click on the link at the bottom of the topic pane or alternatively you can hot-key back and forth between them.
The main panel can be configured to show a post’s content, its comments or both in either vertical or horizontal modes. Neither of the hybrid modes is perfect,particularly if you’re viewing a picture posting of some kind, because there’s no way to zoom in or out of any pictures. Also, there’s no reflowing of text in the comments panel, so you usually have to scroll horizontally to view all the text in a comment.
While Envelope borrows many design cues from Reeder, it lacks that app’s brutal attention to detail. Text is not rendered in a very attractive way and while you can configure the font size and choose between either Helvetica Neue or Lucida Grande to display text, neither of them look particularly great in this context. It doesn’t help that there’s no gutter around the text so it tends to set right next to the edges, adding to the cluttered feel of the app.
If a post you’ve clicked on references a web page, then Envelope renders that in the main content window, but again, there’s no text reflow so you have to scroll horizontally to read all the text if you’re in vertical display mode. YouTube and Vimeo videos will play happily in the content window, because it uses the WebKit (Safari) browser engine and so will display anything your browser does. This means you don’t have to keep flicking between browser tabs.
Commenting is probably Envelope’s strongest feature. Comments are rendered clearly and you can up or downvote directly from the window. If you want to reply to a post, you can do that too, but you’ll see none of the formatting tips that you’ll find on the website, so unless you know your Reddit shortcodes off by heart, you’ll need to reference the website.
Amongst the other quirks we noticed while testing the app was the fact that the full-screen button for Lion disappears from the button bar once you use it. Also comments when viewed all conform to the same 640pixel wide column, no matter which view mode your in – it would surely make more sense to have this reflow across the width of the screen? Even worse, there’s no indication in the topics panel of which articles you’ve read – formatting does not change once you’ve read something.
This is a promising application, but it feels unfinished and sloppy for a first release. If the developer was aiming for the look and feel or Reeder, Mail or Sparrow then he fell well short of the mark. There are bugs, display issues, inconsistent navigation and strange formatting errors everywhere. With some time and attention to detail I feel that this app could equal the quality of the afore-mentioned apps and over time I’m sure the developer will take care of the issues mentioned in this review, but at the moment I find it hard to recommend this over simply visiting the website in your browser.
When HP decided to pull the pin on their promising TouchPad tablet, it lead to some extraordinary events. Faced with warehouses full of virtually valueless stock, HP gave retailers permission to slash the price of their WebOS powered devices. The fire sale lead to long queues outside electrical retailers all around the world as word spread on Twitter and the link-sharing sites that the $99 was now the sort of bargain you simply couldn’t ignore. Within about 24 hours all the units had been sold and thousands of people regretted not hearing about it sooner.
The TouchPad debacle lead to increased interest in budget tablets and soon the social networks were abuzz with news of another tablet which, while it was nowhere near as good, still represented excellent value for money. Here in Australia the ZTE9 tablet was being sold by local mobile telco Optus as the MyTab for $99AUD with a 6Gb data package. Within about 36 hours all stocks of the tablet had gone and all retailers both high street and online had sold out. As a Mac and iPhone using geek, I was interested in finding out just what use a $99 tablet is, so I picked one up from electrical retail chain Dick Smiths via their online store. With postage and packing it cost me the grand total of $129. Two days later I took delivery of my cheapo tablet and started to take it through its paces.
Apple often comes in for abuse regarding the applications they ship with their operating systems. They certainly copped a bit of flack for the implementation of Safari on iOS devices and while I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was a bad mobile browser, it’s certainly a little dull. There are of course many alternative browsers already in the App Store, such as Mercury, Opera, Atomic and Skyfire, but Dolphin is, as far as I’m concerned, the first real contender.
Dolphin has landed on iOS by way of Android, where it enjoys a well deserved reputation as being innovative, stable and beautifully designed. It works equally well on iPhone and iPad, but we took it for a roadtest on iPhone because if you can get the browser experience working well on that diminutive screen, then you’re onto a winner.
For all the bells and whistles that you get with modern web browsers, there are actually very few features that have crossed over into the mainstream. Principle amongst these is tabbed browsing and this is something that Dolphin handles particularly well. Rather than creating ever tinier tabs as you open more of them up, they stay the same regulation size and you simply swipe backwards and forwards through the list to the one you want. It’s effective and slick and entirely intuitive.
Swiping left or right on the main browser window reveals the two main toolbars. On the left, you get all your bookmarks and on the right you get the control bar featuring full screen, downloads, gestures, clear data and settings buttons. As with everything else in Dolphin, it’s really well implemented and fits in perfectly with the whole iOS ecosystem in a way that other browsers simply don’t.
At the bottom of the browser window is a navigational toolbar that features backward and forwards buttons, a gesture toggle, bookmarks, coverflow and URL management. If you’re not a fan of pushing buttons, then you might like to give the gestures ago – these are actually easy to use and close at hand and if you don’t like the way they’re set up then you can change them.
Along with tabs, one of the other features to enter mainstream use is the Speed Dial. Originally introduced by Opera, these enable you to keep your absolute favourite websites close at hand. Create a new tab and you’ll see your speed dial buttons ready for access. The design of the speed dial page is crisp and clean and perfectly designed for podgy fingers instead of clicky pointers.
Tapping on the address bar initiates the on-screen keyboard so you can manually enter an address. So far so obvious. However where Dolphin differs from Safari is that the keyboard is tailored to URL entry and features prominent .com, period and back slash buttons along with special buttons for .net, .org, .edu and space. Underneath the address window are a list of your most recently visited websites, in case you want to return to any of them. It’s all imminently useful and cleverly designed to make mobile web browsing a joy and not a grind.
One of my favourite features in Dolpin is the Webzine. This is like a mobile version of an RSS feed in which you can add up eight content-focused websites to your reading list. Feeds are organised in broad categories such as news, health, science & tech and entertainment and you simply choose your favoured feeds from the supplied list. The only drawback to this great feature is that you’re only allowed eight webzines in total and you can’t ‘roll your own’ – you have to choose from the pre-defined list.
Browsing the web on a smartphone sized device is always going to be a testing experience – those tiny screens were simply never designed to show sprawling web pages. And yet with a browser like Dolphin you don’t feel restricted by that screen size in the way that you do with Safari – particularly if you use the fullscreen mode. Apple’s Mobile Safari had all but beaten the desire to browse the web on my iPhone out of me, but Dolphin’s a game changer and has now taken a coveted place on my phone’s main dock. If you struggle with mobile web browsing too or if you’re simply frustrated by Safari – give Dolphin a go and I’d surprised if you went back.
The web is booming like never before. More and more businesses are setting up online portals and funky new web services are starting up every day. Which is all well and good, but it also means that web surfers spend a lot of time entering the exact same details into online forms over and over again. But it doesn’t have to be that way – by installing a form filler add-on for your browser you can complete mundane form entries in a single click.
My son doesn’t have a clue what a tape deck is and while his dad used to earn a living as a DJ, I’m sad to say that he doesn’t have a clue what a record deck is either. Why should he? The sun has well and truly set on that kind of technology and while there will always be hobbyists keeping such things alive, the mainstream moves on. And so it was with with DOS, the operating system that powered all PCs in the pre-GUI interface era. As soon as Microsoft released Windows 95 it was discarded with joy by PC users.
But the fact is that there were some terrific games released for DOS over the years – the formative era of PC gaming. Sure they look pixelated as hell and the sound won’t win any awards for sonic fidelity, but the gameplay’s the key and gameplay’s what you’ll get. Install a DOS emulator and you can wallow in nostalgia until your PS3 or Xbox 360 throws a hissy-fit. There are plenty of games available for download, some of which are considered Abandonware and thus available for download, some of which are still commercial games and can be bought through services such as Gog. And there’s always the third option for getting hold of your games, which I’m sure needs no further explaination.
Far and away the best DOS emulator for the Mac is Boxer which is a free download. It features a slick Mac interface, a customised library and a drag-and-drop import facility that makes running games a snap. It comes with a couple of demos to get you going, including X-Com, Commander Keen, Epic Pinball and Ultima Underworld. To run them, just click on the configurable box art and off you go down memory lane.
Boxer features a number of enhancements to leverage the power of the modern Mac including a CPU setting (as some games will run too fast to be useable), smoothing (Mame or HQX options) and, brilliantly, the ability to use your iPhone as a joypad. It’s an incredibly well designed bit of software and heartily recommended to retro Mac gamers or Generation Y who just fancy a good laugh.
On the PC there are several good DOS Emulators but far and away the best is DOS-Box. It emulates 286/386 CPUs in realmode and protected mode, the Directory FileSystem/XMS/EMS, Tandy/Hercules/CGA/EGA/VGA/VESA graphics and SoundBlaster/Gravis Ultra Soundcard for that authentic ’90s audio. All of which means it’s capable of playing pretty much any old DOS game you throw at it.
Unless you fancy getting truly old school and using the DOS prompt to mount and play your games, DOS-Box is best paired with a front end such as CBoxrun, DBGL or D-Fend. Any of these free downloads will enable you to utilise a simple interface to manage and play your games and, to be honest, pissing around with DOS prompts is one part of a retro gaming experience most people would gladly live without.
If you fancy tackling X-Com again or Bullfrog’s seminal Magic Carpet is calling to you from the mists of time, you can find a full list of compatible games here. To kick off your collection, check out the library at Abandonia.
Well what do you know, Friday’s here again. Is it just me or has this weekend blown by faster than a deposed dictator’s escape convoy? With that thought in mind, we bring you a little something to ease you into the weekend – a long form commercial featuring the incredible rally driver Ken Block, doing what he does best on the Universal Studios backlot. They’re selling sneakers too, but we’ll forgive them given the insane driving in this clip. Check out the bit with the forklift trucks.
Couple of months ago we produced a short feature on some cool cheat sheet wallpapers that we’d turned up online. It proved to be a very popular article and indeed it’s still clocking up plenty of daily hits. So we thought you guys might like a new batch of cheat sheet wallpaper goodness and we’ve plumbed the depths of Wallbase and DeviantArt (but mainly the former) to find ‘em for you. This time round we’ve also zipped them all up into a single archive and made them available for download in one hit, right here, or click on an image in the slideshow below and right-click ‘save as’ for individual walls.
If you’ve been watching the videos of the forthcoming Windows 8 interface you might be wishing you could start using that lovely interface now. If the Metro UI has got you all hot under the collar then we humbly call your attention to the Static 2.0 theme for Windows 7 which has been produced by Johannes Zimmerer.
Static 2.0 features three visual styles which will render your desktop in the style of the Metro phone 7 GUI that will also be deployed in Windows 8. It also has there different explorer frames, a Metro-friendly wallpaper and a custom Start orb. The theme is 32-bit and 64-bit Windows friendly and comes with full instructions.
You’ll need to tweak a few system files using Universal Theme Patcher in order to use this theme and if you’ve never tried it before then this tutorial will tell you everything you need to know. To get the complete Metro look, I suggest you have a look at the icons and wallpapers that Johannes mentions in the theme description. You might also like to theme your Firefox browser in a Metro style with this extension and for the finishing touch this rather neat custom jquery start page will ensure you can enjoy that Windows 8 vibe whenever you open a new tab.
Writing tools for PCs have really come full circle now. As companies like Microsoft added feature on top of feature, the ‘word processor’ changed from being a simple text tool and morphed into bloated desktop publishing applications. The fact that most people used them to simply write letters to the local council and shopping lists seemed to escape the attention of the software companies for a long time.
Minimalist writing apps are the polar opposite of the Microsoft Words and Apple Pages and Abiwords of this world. Where word processors sport myriad menu bars, they sport none. You will not be able to embed an ActiveX slideshow into your page, add a realtime horoscope or render the page in five shades of gold. The main feature of these apps is a gloriously simple blank canvas.
ZenWriter ($9.95) from Beenokle is equipped with the usual array of writing-centric tools. It has a simple page layout, with a brief menu list on the right. The background can be switched from ‘day’ to ‘night’ modes (black on white or white on black) and you can choose from one of five screen fonts according to your tastes. There’s a selection of tasteful (and not so tasteful) backgrounds and you can toggle typing noises on or off. Text is pleasingly centred in the middle of the screen and there’s a spell checker on hand if required. It’s a great little app – well written and bang on task for hammering out words.
OmmWriter Dāna has enjoyed considerable success on the Mac platform thanks in part to an incredibly uncluttered interface. Windows users can download the original version for free or purchase version two for whatever they choose to pay (the average is $7). The software itself is virtually identical to its Mac counterpart and makes much of the restful sonic soundscapes that can be played while writing – in fact you’re advised that it’s best used with headphones when you first start it. There are a series of tasteful backgrounds, four fonts to choose from, four font sizes and the main window can be scaled according to your tastes. Try the free one and if it appeals, pony up for version two.
Dark Room makes ZenWriter and Ommwriter look like Adobe InDesign. This free application takes minimalism to new heights, presenting you with a stark and gloriously retro green on black interface with the old courier font. This can be changed to any other font in the preferences, but there’s something so utilitarian about courier that suits this app. Maybe I’m showing my age, but it has echoes of the old Amstrad PCW screens. It launches full-screen and can be set to automatically load the last document you were working on meaning you can sit down at your PC, fire up Dark Room and begin working with no fuss or complication.
If Dark Room’s that little bit too stripped down for your liking then WriteMonkey could well be exactly what you’re looking for. It sports a similar green courier text on black interface but is far more configurable. This free app is shortcut and markdown code friendly, meaning you can leave your mouse unmolested while you put your thoughts down onscreen. Extra dictionaries, typing noises, white noise effects, language packs and fonts can be downloaded from the website. WriteMonkey also includes such useful additions as timed writing, a progress screen and (my personal favourite) segment focus so you can concentrate on just the bit of text you’re currently writing. Oh and it’s also designed to be portable too, meaning you could bung it on a USB stick and get busy writing anywhere there’s a Windows PC available.
Given that the idea of these apps is to create a calm and simple writing environment, it’s amazing how much they differ. If I had to pick one app for my desert island, then I’d plump for WriteMonkey – it neatly balances the need for simplicity with genuinely useful tools. That said, all four are great applications and I suggest you take them all for a spin and find the one that best fits with the way you write. Remember, a writer writes always.
In the modern era of operating systems, no programmer creates every facet of their application – frameworks and programming environments are utilised and libraries (usually created by the developer of the OS) are deployed. While this means that a programmer doesn’t have to be fluent in binary to create software, it does mean that many applications carry a lot of unnecessary bloat. This bloat means that they take up more space on your hard drive and, more importantly, take longer to load.
So the whole point of XSlimmer is to strip out the unnecessary code from Mac applications and save them out in a slimline version with the end result being speedier loading times. The code that XSlimmer targets are the bits that aren’t relevant to your Mac and therefore never get executed – these are located inside the Universal Binaries. In addition the software will expunge all those redundant foreign languages that just unnecessarily hog hard drive space.
To compress an application you just drag it into the main window and XSlimmer will then analyse the app in question. Before any compression takes place, the software checks its software blacklist to make sure compression won’t break the app, then it determines if there are any space savings to be made. Once it’s happy it will determine how much space you’ll save and you can decide to proceed with the sudden weight loss diet or not. For safety reasons, XSlimmer will back up your applications before compressing them so that if anything goes wrong you can just revert the app back.
By way of a test we compressed the latest version of iMovie which weighed in at 407Mb. We did a test load of the software and it took 25.4 seconds to start up on a 2009 MacBook Pro with 8Gb of memory. Then we put iMovie through the XSlimmer wringer and it emerged the other side at a svelte 332Mb. Not the most massive massive space saving, but we were pleasantly surprised by the load time – it now took just 16 seconds to load on the same system. We had no issues using the application either – the slimming procedure didn’t appear to have harmed iMovie.
The principle downside to this application is that most of the apps we were most interested in compressing in order to speed up loading times, were on the blacklist. Most of the Adobe CS5.5 suite was ruled out (including Dreamweaver, Flash, InDesign and Photoshop) and so was the whole of the Microsoft Office 2011 suite. iTunes was also blacklisted, but Pages and Numbers were given the green light as was (surprisingly) XSlimmer itself. So where it can be deployed there are useful load time and hard drive space reductions to be made, but don’t expect to be able to trim those traditionally sluggish apps from Adobe and Microsoft, they don’t want to be the biggest losers.
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 |