Friday, December 23rd, 2011 ∞
Friday, December 23rd, 2011 ∞
Saturday, December 3rd, 2011 ∞
Path originally came out last year right after Instagram and was, essentially, an awkward way to share photos with a few friends. The design felt stale and the concept seemed very “me too!”. I could never figure out what the application was supposed to be. The company who made Path came out with an application, not long after, called With. With was a application for sharing who you were with. Again, awkward. I was impressed earlier this week when Path relaunched.
Path is essentially a private social network for you and your friends. You can only have up to twenty-five followers and no more. Path allows you to share photos, who you are with, your location, what you are listening to, thoughts, and when you are asleep. That last one, sleep, may sound weird and personal but remember this is for your friends and who could not benefit from letting people close to you know when you are asleep? I hate hearing my phone buzz while I am asleep.
My friends and I all got on board with the relaunch of Path this week. My followers on Twitter and Tumblr do not need to know what I am doing in my personal life but it is fun to have a way to share that with your friends. The great design of the application? That is a bonus.
Saturday, December 3rd, 2011 ∞
In this world of recording and downloading television shows it is hard to keep up with what shows you like. Following a television show on Twitter and Facebook is the worst. Entertainment blogs? Do not get me started! A new website has came in to save the day.
When you sign up with Fav.tv it will ask you if you would like the TV shows you have liked on Facebook to automatically be followed. The shows you follow will show up in your personalized TV schedule that you can subscribe to in iCal and on your iPhone and iPad. When the show you are following has aired a new episode it is added to your queue so you can mark it as watched, and say whether or not you enjoyed that episode. I can also see what my friends are watching and what they have to say about the shows.
Their iPhone application is simple, but it works out really well. I have been using it to see how many more episodes of Boardwalk Empire are left in this season and when they air. According to this application I have two more intense weeks of Nucky Thompson!
Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 ∞
It is the holidays and with holidays comes family. One of the questions I get asked every year is, “what is your major?” Another question, when they hear i work with “computers” is how I keep up with technology. It appears to them that this is something that I am actively doing, but really it is more passive at this point. Used to I would watch TechTV, but now I subscribe to RSS feeds. An RSS feed is a file generated by a website that contains the most recent posts. There are many ways to subscribe to an RSS feed but there is only one method that lets you keep up with that articles you have seen and which ones you have not seen amongst all your devices.
Reeder for iPhone, iPad, and Mac is a beautifully designed application that connects to your Google Reader account for subscribing to RSS feeds and keeping up with them anywhere you are. Reeder took some natural touch gestures and made them work so well for reading RSS articles that I would consider them standard ways to interact with an interface. When you are looking at a list of headlines you can swipe to the left to mark at article as read, swipe to the right to star the article to read later. Tapping on an article in list view will bring the full article up to read where you can then pull down, while at the top of the article or bottom of the article, to go to the next and previous articles in the current list. If the article does not show the full post you can tap on the couch icon and it will attempt to show you the rest of the post without having to go to the source’s website. Alternatively you can send any article or link in the article to Instapaper.
I subscribe to 103 different RSS feeds ranging from blogs, technology news sites, webcomics, and social networking sites. I have Pinboard, a bookmarking site, set up to give me an RSS feed of any website I bookmarked with the tag “later” so that I know to check it out later. I have a RSS feed from YouTube and Vimeo set up so I can see what videos I have marked to watch later and what videos my friends are posting. I rarely keep up with Flickr, so I have a feed of what new photos my friends on Flickr are posting. With Reeder, all of these updates are visible across my iPhone, iPad, and my Mac. 103 feeds may sound like a lot but they do not all update everyday, and even if they did it would not take long to skim through all of the things that did not fully interest me.
Sunday, November 20th, 2011 ∞
When I download a new application I like to explore the application. It is like an adventure game to find every nook and cranny, observe every setting. When given a new notebook I will think about if I should dedicate it to a certian topic or put everything in it. All that this really does is distract me from doing what I need to do in a notebook: write. A writer does not need a million settings, they need to write. A text box, a keyboard, and a way to store what has been written. Elements from Second Gear does exactly that. Here is a text box, a keyboard, and it will store all of your notes automatically in your Dropbox so you can access it from anywhere.
Elements stores plain text files in your Dropbox, displays the word count, allows you to publish your notes to Tumblr and Facebook, print it wirelessly to your printer, and write and preview in Markdown. That last one is key. Those who know what Markdown is will agree and those who do not are about to have their mind blown. Markdown is a way of writing in plain text to make formatted text.
This sentence has *italic* and **bold** text.
This is an example of a [link](http://alltheapps.tumblr.com).
This sentence has italic and bold text.
This is an example of a link.
The example above is very basic, but if you have ever coded HTML or tried to format text on your phone you can instantly see how much of a benefit this method is. Sites like Tumblr will allow you to write your posts all in Markdown and they will convert it to HTML formatting for you. For example, everything on this site is written in Markdown.
When you write Markdown in Elements it will generate a preview of the outputted format on your iPhone and iPad when you tap on the circled star. There is an option to copy the output as HTML so you can paste it into a HTML document or a blogging application you may have.
The whole point of Elements is that you have these notes everywhere. So what about your computer? If you are on a Mac you have applications like nvAlt. If you are on Windows you can use ResophNotes. These are both terrific applications that allow you to work in the same Dropbox directory of notes you use with Elements on your iOS device. They even support viewing your Markdown documents in a formatted preview. Now that you know about Markdown you will start to notice how it is everywhere, just like your notes in Elements.
Sunday, November 20th, 2011 ∞
Before the iPhone came out Flickr was a really popular source for sharing photos and keeping up with the photos your friends have taken. Flickr is still insanely great today, but the introduction of Twitter and sharing photos with friends instantly has overtaken it on the mobile side. This is where Instagram comes in. Think of it as Twitter for images, instead of text. You follow people, “like” photos, attach a GPS position to the photo you post, and share your photo to other sites like Flickr and Foursquare.
Instagram has been out for a year and it really has not changed much in that time period. You can take a photo inside their application or import a photo from your camera roll. Optionally you can apply a filter to your photo to portray a mood. You can also apply a tilt-shift effect by directing focus on to a part of the photo while blurring everything else out.
Photos on Instagram are restricted to a square shape. That is not a bad thing because with a square it is easy to keep track of one of the basic rules of composing a photo, the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is when you align objects in your photo to a grid, kind of like the squares in The Brady Bunch’s intro. Your iPhone has an option in the built-in camera application to turn on a grid mode to make applying this rule easier. Aligning your photos to this grid will help your photos turn out nicer than always putting your subject in the center of the photo.
Using Instagram has taught me a lot about photography. Not because of the filters and the tilt-shift, but because it has inspired me to take more photos of things. Just like good writers are constantly writing, a good photographer is always taking photos.
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 ∞
One of my favorite things in all the Internet is podcasts. I love podcasts. I love them so much I attended the first ever live Diggnation in Chattanooga, TN and went to MaxFunCon at Lake Arrowhead, CA. The iPhone is potentially the greatest device for listening to podcasts, but the built in application is lacking. You cannot download any podcast over twenty megabytes over a cellular network using the iTunes application, podcasts do not automatically update, and you cannot stream podcasts to your device. There is an elegant solution to this problem.
Instacast from Vemedio is a sleek application for the iPhone and iPad for listening to podcasts. You can download episodes to listen to offline, stream them, and sync your playback position amongst devices using iCloud. You can import the podcasts you listen to from iTunes with Dropbox or add them by hand. You can even read the show notes from within the application, and if there is a link to an article you can send it to Instapaper to read later.
I use Instacast with my Jambox from Jawbone. It is a Bluetooth speaker that will work with your laptop, iOS device, and even with your phone as a speaker phone. I typically fall asleep in the shower so what I do is connect the Jambox to my iPhone and stream a podcast with Instacast so that I can hear it through the shower curtain. Productivity in the shower is up.
If you like Instapaper, the application for marking things to read later, you can turn this application in to the Instapaper of podcasts. You can get a bookmarklet for any browser from Huffduffer that will detect when you are on a webpage that has a podcast on it and will send it to your custom podcast feed of things you have marked to listen to later. This is great for that podcast you do not want to subscribe to, but you really want to hear the episode where they interview Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston.
Monday, November 14th, 2011 ∞
Have you ever came across something on the Internet you wanted to read but did not have the time? What about a long car ride with nothing to do? With Instapaper you can mark articles posted to the Internet to read later. Instapaper will download the articles to your iPhone or iPad and strip out all of the things that are not related to the article you want to read.
This application was made by Marco Arment, who is one of the co-founders of Tumblr. He had the idea for it while riding the train to the office in New York. He would lose service on his phone and would not be able to load articles to read. So he made Instapaper and now works on it full time.
There are a few ways to get articles in to Instapaper. You can manually copy and paste a link in to the website or the iOS application. Most quality iPhone and iPad applications have an option to send a link to Instapaper. You can also use the bookmarklet from any browser to send the page you are currently looking at to Instapaper.
Reading an Instapaper article is one of the most impressive parts of the application. You can adjusts the font and the size of the text. The iOS application has a dark and light theme. Tapping on a word will give you the option to define that word. You can choose to read an article in a page-by-page mode by swiping left and right or by scrolling through the text with your thumb. One of the nice bonus features of Instapaper is to have it automatically send your unread articles to your Kindle every night.
If you ever run out of things to read you can always see what your friends on Twitter and Facebook are reading. If your friends have Instapaper you can see what articles they have liked from Instapaper. Instapaper will only share with your friends articles that you have liked.
I use Instapaper to mark articles that my friends post to Twitter or long posts of people I follow on Tumblr. I got started using Instapaper by storing the online novel Chokeville, by Joshua Allen, in it to read while flying across the country. Instapaper is just as good as the stuff you choose to read, and the Internet is full of great things to read.