(You're reading all posts by Charlie Sorrel) Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie on Twitter at @mistercharlie.
About Charlie Sorrel
App Watch: July 21, 2014
We've got lots of film-related apps this week, from a slo-mo stabilizer and an on-the-go moviemaking app for the iPhone to a video collaboration editing suite for the Mac. You’ll also get reminded to do errands when you arrive at a certain right place, and you can even tell the temperature. By crickets.
Cinamatic for iOS is like Instagram’s video recorder, only better (and not just for Instagram). It comes from the makers of Hipstamatic, and brings all the filters you’d expect because of that. I’ve been using it a ton over the weekend, and I love how easy and fast it is to make an edited video with sound – you just hold the big button down to record, release to stop, and repeat until you’re done. All video is square, and many effects are free. You can even add music from your iTunes library. Free
PlaceUs, from Google Maps developer Sam Liang, is a kind of tracking app for you and your family or friends. It uses location data to track users, and you can share your location (and even your route) with others. You can also use it to track your own movements, and it can even learn your routines and automate tasks – the example given is that PlaceUs would see you’re going to Starbucks and warn you to buy proper coffee elsewhere. Just kidding – it would automatically message your friends and ask them if they want anything from Starbucks too. Free
Aperture Exporter is a free tool for those fleeing Aperture after Apple shut it down. It’s a beta, but that’s cool because you can still use Aperture for now while you wait for the final version. Aperture Exporter will mirror your collections as folders, save the original files with XMP metadata sidecar files, and even retain your ratings, comments and other metadata. What you won’t get is your image edits, but that’s because Lightroom and Aperture are so different. Free
Ballloon is a Chrome browser extension that should really be an iOS app. It is a quick and easy way to add any pictures or files to your Google Drive or your Dropbox. Hover over an image and a Dropbox and/or G-Drive icon pops up. Click it and your image is saved to a (user-definable) folder. Links can be saved by right-clicking. This would be neat-o in Mobile Safari, but isn’t even in regular desktop Safari yet. Still, it’s free, and very handy indeed. Free
Did you know that you can tell the temperature by crickets? If you own Money Mark’s album Mark’s Keyboard Repair, and have listened to the track Insects Are All Around Us, then you do. Cricket Temperature is an app that uses the iPhone’s mic to listen to crickets and turn the pitch of their chirrups into a temperature reading. You can also do it manually: Count the number of chirrups in 15 seconds and add 40. The result is very close to the temperature on the Fahrenheit thermometer. $1
Frame.io looks nothing short of amazing. This collaboration tool for video artists lets you upload clips, view them, rearrange them on a grid and share them with others. Your collaborators can comment and sketch on your clips, and you can even check out a clip to work on, adding it back as a new version. Then these versions can be watched side by side. It pretty much replaces all the crap you’d need to do this manually with one integrated app. Coming soon
Spillo is the first OS X Pinboard app that is as clean and simple as the Pinboard bookmarking service itself. You can browse all your saved bookmarks in a three-pane window with entries for private, public, starred and unread, plus another section for community-sourced bookmarks. My favorite part is Collections, which lets you make smart collections based on tag, title, URL and more. You can even save a search of public Pinboard bookmarks, making this a great place to keep up-to-date on, well, anything. Spillo costs $10, with a free trial available.
Steady Camera is like a Steadicam for your iPhone, in app form. You can shoot stabilized video and slow-mo and preview the results instantly. The app works with any iPhone from the 4s up, and can smooth video shot even while you run along. Options are simple (square or 16:9 format, choose which clips to save to the Camera Roll), and it costs just $2.
Todoist location reminders
To-do app Todoist can now remind you to take certain actions when you get to a specific place. Premium users can set location-based alerts and get reminded when they arrive at or pass by that location. I use Siri for this, as it’s incredibly easy to set a reminder to do something when I get home, but I guess if you’re already a Todoist user this will be a great addition. Todoist costs €21 per year for a premium subscription.
Gadget Watch: July 19, 2014
This week's Gadget Watch has a special summer something for everyone. Fixing up the house? Laying around the house? Getting drunk and stumbling about the house? Then these toolboxes, breathalyzers and hands-free, in-bed iPad stands will serve you well.
The Flare pan looks like an oversized aluminum cupcake cup. It has heat-catching fins on the outside, like the opposite of a heat sink, and a regular-shaped inside. The idea is that the heat (not the flame – keep that turned down like you would for a regular pan) from your gas hob will stream up the sides and pump its energy into the pan through the increased surface area of those fins. The best part of all? It was designed by a real rocket scientist. $150
Excell+1 lens adapter
This magical adapter performs the seemingly impossible. Not only does it put Nikon (or Canon) lenses on your Micro Four Thirds camera body, but it also boosts the speed of the lens by one stop. That’s right – it doubles the maximum amount of light your lens can gather. It also reduces the crop factor of your lens by 0.72x. That won’t keep your wide-angle lenses wide, but it will stop them from turning telephoto. I’m in. $160
When I saw the Tablift, my first thought was “LOL.” And that was my second thought, too, if I’m honest. But as a person who uses his iPad in bed far more than is healthy, I began to see how the stable stand could help me. What’s better than hands-free viewing in the sack? Angle-adjustable hands-free viewing in the sack, that’s what. Yup, you can even tilt it down to watch while lying in bed. You might scare yourself when you wake up, but you’ll never fall asleep and drop your iPad onto your nose ever again. $60
I’m writing about this gadget mostly because of its name – Forked Lightning. It lets you charge two devices off a single USB port, which is certainly handy for those travel situations where you only have access to one power outlet (I’m looking at you, cheapskate hotels). You probably don’t want to plug two iPads 4 into one iPhone charger, but other combinations should fare better. $50
RØDE iXY mic
I don’t even care that RØDE makes great microphones, I just want the new Lightning-compatible iXY to play with. Look at those stereo mics: Don’t you just want to twiddle them? Or try to jam your finger between the barrels? No? Perhaps you’d rather record sound through the two half-inch condenser capsules and onboard analog-to-digital converter. You can totally do that. $200
These Japanese toolboxes, painted in bright blue enamel, are tough enough to use every day, but pretty enough to live in the house without anybody complaining. They go from a stackable small trunk-style box up to the big cantilever model with a double-hinged top level and movable dividers. From $20
Vio Smartphone Breathalyzer
Do you know how many drinks you should have if you’re driving? None. That’s how many. What if you had a couple and then you need to drive, for an emergency or whatever? Nope. Get a cab, or you’ll be killing a cyclist or a pedestrian to do whatever thing is so important that you’re happy to risk another person’s life doing it.
If you insist on drinking and driving, breathe into the BACtrack Vio Smartphone Breathalyzer first – if you’re not too far gone to use the keychain device. The Vio will measure your blood-alcohol content, send the result to your iPhone via Bluetooth, and even estimate how long it’ll take you to return to zero. $70
Solio Sun-Powered Charger
Let’s face it – the people you go to the beach with are boring. They either spend the whole time with their nose in a paperback, or they insist on annoying the rest of the folks on the beach by kicking a volleyball around the place, or whatever it is you do with a volleyball. So, you should either pack some weed and just get stoned, or bring along a Solio Sun-Powered Charger to keep your iPhone going in the bright sunlight, so you never have to interact with your “friends.” $70
An iPad case should:
- Add features
- Look good
- Not weigh a ton
The Logitech Hinge manages the first three of these, and were it not for the failure on point No. 4, it would be my new favorite case. As it is, the cool Logitech Hinge is my favorite case for using around the house.
The Tile is a tiny plastic widget that never gets lost. In theory anyway. It talks to your iPhone via low-power Bluetooth and lets you track the Tile itself, and anything the Tile is attached to.
I’ve been using one for the last couple of weeks, and it works just fine. But so far it doesn’t seem to be much more useful than one of those keychain finders that beeps when you whistle. Why? Because to be truly useful, the Tile needs to reach a critical mass of users.
App Watch: July 14, 2014
Whether you're watching the weather or making music, clipping notes or snapping photos, this week's selection of new and updated apps should have something for you.
Hate iTunes? Of course you do – you’re only human. Equilibrium lets you ditch it (or its interface at least) by putting a control and popover window up in your Mac’s menu bar. Control iTunes, Spotify, Rdio and Vox, scrobble to Last.FM and set custom keyboard shortcuts so your can skip and play/pause tracks even without dedicated media keys. $3
Great self-leveling video app Horizon will take horizontal video however you hold your iPhone. Version 2.0 adds to the non-vertical-video action with still-image support, 2K-resolution video, 60fps (at 720p), plus updated live filters and a revamped UI. It’s my favorite video app for iOS. $2
Take Creative Vocal Recorder
Take Creative Vocal Recorder is like Drafts, only for musicians. Tap the red button and you’re recording, making an audio note. Then, you can loop that sound and add another couple of tracks alongside it, add effects and sketch out a track, right there in the app. It looks way better than the built-in Voice Memo app, and it even has processing to make your iPhone’s mic sound better. Free
Polymo for iPhone wants to replace not just your iPhone camera but your iPhone Camera Roll. It lets you pre-tag your pictures before taking them so, say, every snap snapped at a party will be tagged on the go. This makes finding and organizing way easier.
It has a beautiful interface, plus some features that iOS should have as standard, like swiping across multiple photos to select them all. $2
Photo Book Flip
Photo Book Flip builds faux paper books on your iPad. Import pictures from your Camera Roll or Photo Stream and “curate” them into books with a 3-D flipping effect on the pages.
I like the idea of making photo books for sharing pictures with friends. It’s far better than forcing them to see every damn photo you took on your vacation. $1
Hit ⌘-space on your Mac and a window pops up asking for instructions. If you don’t hate yourself, the window is from an app like Launchbar or Alfred, and not from OS X's built-in Spotlight. Launchbar does everything Spotlight does, and then some, letting you browse inside text files, mail search results and browse your iTunes.
And now it brings something called Staging Area, which is just like Quicksilver’s old “comma trick.” Search for an item, and instead of telling Launchbar to act on it right there, you hit the comma key and it is added to a buffer. Add more items every time you hit the comma, and then act on them all at once. Currently only available in a nightly build of v6.1, this should be coming soon. €24
Everclip 2 is an update to the fantastic iOS Evernote clipping app, and does more of the same, only cleaner. Like the original Everclip, Version 2 runs in the background and watches the system pasteboard. Whenever you copy a link, image, chunk of text or pretty much anything, it clips it to the app. Then, you can gather these snippets into one big document, or send them individually to Evernote. You can pre-specify a notebook and tags, edit snippets before sending and – best of all – the URL of the original webpage (if you clipped from the Web) is preserved. It’s a great research and scrapbooking app, and v2 runs way longer in the background than v1. $7
My favorite weather app, WeatherPro, has gotten a new companion app that focuses on weather alerts. Appropriately, it’s called AlertsPro, and it sends push alerts for extreme weather conditions, based on location. It monitors your current location by default, and you can add others for anywhere in the world. You can also see the warnings displayed on a map. $2
Gadget Watch: July 12, 2014
Whether the weather is wet or dry, we've got you covered this week. Waterproof headphones and speakers, and some nonslip bike pedal covers, will let you carry on in the rain or in the lake. And a flash-booster, replacement keycaps and a big twisty knob will keep you entertained indoors. Don’t forget your umbrella (or sunglasses)!
Got slippery bike pedals? You need Grippine, a silicone sleeve that slips onto any old platform pedal and sticks to your soles. These colorful covers stretch over the pedal and stop it from getting slippery in wet or dry weather. They’re also soft on shoes, but I’d like to test some to see how long they last. €26
Myro:Air AirPlay speaker
AirPlay – who doesn’t love it? It always, always works, never dropping out or requiring that you set the speaker so close to the wireless router that you may as well have just used a cable. And who won’t love the Myro:Air, an AirPlay speaker whose only fault is that colon in the middle of its name? Even that is a totally cool and positive thing, because we all have a colon inside us, right?
The Myro:Air packs optical output, two-way AirPlay control, RCA outputs and even an RS-232 port for connecting up to – well, anything. It’s also pretty reasonably priced, as these things go. Oh, and the thing looks frikkin' awesome. $600
Rogue Safari Pop-Up Flash Booster
The pop-up flash on your DSLR is only good for one thing — triggering bigger, better flashes. But what if you really want to use the weak little unit that Canon or Nikon grafted on there as an afterthought? Then you need the Rogue Safari Pop-Up Flash Booster from ExpoImaging.
It’s a 2-ounce polycarbonate widget that clips into your hotshoe and puts a lens in front of the pop-up flash unit, concentrating the beam for up to 8x more light (you’ll need to use it with a lens of 100mm or longer thanks to the narrow, concentrated beam). $35
A few years and 90 degrees at a time, Apple is slowly moving the iPad’s speakers into a spot where you can hear them. Right now they are located on the bottom edge of the iPads Air and mini, but the SpeakerSlide skips an evolutionary step and points those stereo speakers forward.
The polycarbonate peripheral sticks onto the bottom of the iPad, by shoving a proboscis into the Lightning port, and then reflects the sound forward. If you want to charge the iPad while using the SpeakerSlide, you just pop out its plug and thread the cable through the hole. It’s ingenious, and has an advantage over other options because it works in stereo. $20
MindShift Filter Nest
Protect your camera filters with the new Filter Nest from MindShift, a two-part nylon case that mounts on your belt so you’ll look really cool. Really, really cool. The padded, zippered outer shell protects the removable inner, which has color-coded slots for your filters. The design lets it mount to several of MindShift’s camera bags, but the belt-mounted option is both the easiest and – by far – the coolest-looking option. $45
Double-shot Filco keyset
The best keyboard I’ve ever used is the keyboard I’m typing this post on right now. It’s the Filco Majestouch with Cherry Blue keyswitches, and it clicks and clacks reliably every morning and every afternoon of every day. But apparently – eventually – the letters wear off the keys, and some folks don’t like that. This replacement set of keycaps (the plastic parts you hit with your fingers) is a “double-shot” set, which means the white lettering runs all the way through the plastic, like the letters in a stick of rock.
The caps are also taller, heavier and rounder than the standard caps, and will only fit Filco keyboards. £39
Griffin DJ Connect
It’s a knob! A $100 knob that turns your iPad or iPhone or even your Mac into a lean, mean, dual-output DJing machine. The DJ Connect packs a pair of line-level RCA outputs on the back and a mini headphone jack on the front. Hook it up to your iDevice via Lightning or your Mac via USB and fire up Algoriddim’s djay app, and you can cue up tracks through the headphones and blast them out the back through the line output. That big knob on top lets you control the headphone volume. $100
It used to be that if you saw some ill-kempt man in the street muttering to himself, you could be sure you’d just seen a crazy person. Now, in the age of Bluetooth headsets and in-line microphones, you can never know. So how do you spot a nutter? That’s easy: transistor radios. Next time you see the local nutjob cruise by on his bike with like 50 rear-view mirrors on the bars and his dog in a basket, check to see if he has a battery-powered tranny on his dash.
What he won’t have is a Divoom Voombox-Ongo, which is a Bluetooth speaker for sane people: a water-resistant, shockproof speaker with an eight-hour battery life, two 1.5-inch drivers and an included bike mount. $70
BlueAnt Pump HD
Even if you sweat like Steve Ballmer working himself into a developer-devoted lather, you won’t break the BlueAnt Pump HD headphones. These waterproof Bluetooth buds wrap over your ears and play for up to eight hours in even the wettest conditions, and on-ear controls let you leave the iPhone safe in a pocket. $130
The Brompton’s not a new bike. It’s not even new to me. But it is the best folding bike around, and it will change how you travel long distances, too. I’ve had mine ever since I recovered enough from a broken leg (busted playing bike polo) to hobble up to the local bike shop and order one. That was a few years ago, and since then the bike has come with me to three different continents, traveling on planes, trains, trams, automobiles and buses.
You can even ride it to the airport and pack it up when you get there.
iOS 8’s Handoff feature looks totally rad. Imagine starting off a task on your Mac and then being able to continue where you left off on your iPhone or iPad without waiting. Just pick up the device and everything has already synced.
But wait! There’s no need to imagine this, because you can already do it right now, and you don’t even need iCloud. Handoff looks truly useful, and will blur the lines between our devices more than ever before, but let’s take a look at some apps that already work seamlessly between platforms.
Gadget Watch: July 5, 2014
Load up your manly new leather tote with dreamy camera filters, stick a handmade lens on your Leica, slip into a hideous, advertising-overloaded shirt from Rapha and jump on an outrageously expensive bike that’s unique selling proposition is its paint job. What could be more fun this July 4th weekend?
Tar Field Notes
This is basically three of Blackbird's Pitch Black Field Notes notebooks, stuck together at the spines with real tar and wrapped with a cord that has had its tip dipped in yet more of the special Field Notes tar formula. If it sounds like some kind of Clive Barker-esque nightmare, that’s because it is. Don’t write the names of any loved ones in this book. Just in case, you know… $24
I tote-ally want this bag for the summer. It’s a carry-all version of WaterField's Rough Rider messenger bag, fashioned from the same tough leather with colored panels and pockets. Nonslip shoulder grips and interior pockets organize your gear, and a big central chamber will swallow all your other crap. $289
Lee filters for GoPro
Got a GoPro? Want to add some sweet filters in front to pep up your pics? Then you need Lee’s new Bug Action Kits. There are two kits: one for underwater and one for everywhere else. The underwater kit slips green or blue color-correction filters in front of the lens in a special mount, and the dry-land (and air) kit features a polarizer and neutral-density filters, for amping up saturation or cutting out excess light. They’re reasonably priced, too, starting at around £45.
Perar 24mm ƒ4 for Leica M
Still got money left over after wasting ten grand on a Leica M? Then you might want this handmade Perar 24mm ƒ4 pancake lens to go with it. The millimeters-thick sliver features a 10-blade aperture, full manual focus and rangefinder coupling, and can even be converted to fit other cameras. Around $660
Rapha Team Sky jersey
Rapha makes lovely clothes for cyclists that don’t make you look like a dork when you’re off the bike. Usually anyway – the Team Sky jersey is not only as dorky as can be, it is also plastered with logos, so you are effectively paying the $225 asking price to become a human billboard. But you’ll be a very comfortable human billboard, with mesh fabric, angled rear pockets and a full-length zipper. I’ll stick with my merino wool.
S-Works McLaren Tarmac
Not long ago, anyone could buy the best bike in the world. Whichever bike that might have been, it would have been affordable to Average Charlie with maybe just a bit of saving up. But then things got ugly. Take the S-Works McLaren Tarmac, a bike as useless to the non-team rider as an F1 car is useless on the road. This carbon-fiber princess costs $20,000, and its prime feature is that it is painted in the “same location where the $1.2 million McLaren P1 supercar is painted.” If you like, you can read the specs with a calculator close at hand and tot up the weight savings – 30 grams here, 10 grams there. Then you can chuckle to yourself that the dentist who buys this bike will add all that weight back with a single hamburger.
Cargo Works MacBook Module Sleeve
Strictly utilitarian, the Cargo Works MacBook Module Sleeve will carry your notebook plus anything else you need to take along with it. Carved from a block of 900-denier polyester canvas, closed with YKK zippers and trimmed with “military grade” webbing, the pouch and pockets keeps your MacBook, power supply, trackpad and other essentials all together. Not that you ever actually need a power supply with today’s MacBooks, but you could always stow a delicious sandwich in there instead. $60
Nissin i40 Micro Four Thirds flash
The Nissin i40 is billed as a flash for Micro Four Thirds cameras, but it’ll work just fine with anything that has a hotshoe up top. The MFT part really refers to the size – it’s small enough not to look ridiculous mounted on a tiny camera body. It also has two sweet clicky dials on the back so you can easily set the output power (for manual use) and select the auto-modes if you hate having control of your own photos. $269
Photojojo Dream Scope
It’s Instagram IRL, for your iPhone or other cellphone camera. The Dream Scope clips onto the iPhone and an adjustable filter mount can be finagled into place over the lens. The filters themselves are graduated circles of color, clear at one side and red, blue or yellow at the other. Use alone to hop up the hue of a dull scene, or combine to get totally psychedelic. Best of all, the whole shebang costs just $30, and nobody will be able to snoop your metadata and call you out as a #nofilter faker.
Take the Xistera out of its box and you’ll be disappointed. It’s ugly as hell, like a cheap corkscrew, and it looks like it won’t really do much. But hidden in those graceless curves and eye-gouging corners is what a lazier journalist than me would call a “Swiss Army knife of iPhoneography.”