(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
iOS 8 will bring Extensions to your iPhone and iPad. Extensions are essentially miniature versions of apps that can be run inside other apps. For instance, if you have Evernote installed on your iPhone, you could pop up the Evernote Extension when you’re running the Mail app, and save a snippet of that email to your Evernote account.
Clearly this is huge. It’s something that Android and Windows Phone users have enjoyed for a while, but Apple has – typically – taken its time to get it right. In fact, you have probably used Apple’s own “test” Extensions already: Whenever you see the Mail sheet roll down inside another app, or you access the built-in Twitter sharing box, you’re using an Extension.
But what kind of things can Extensions do for us? I’ve been thinking about that, and here’s a wish list of Extensions I’d love to see.
App Watch: Aug. 18, 2014
Movies, writing and photos. If you like any of these things, then you’re going to love this week’s App Watch. We have apps for slo-mo, retro, Drobo and to help you find that lost photo.
Slow Fast Slow
Studio Neat’s Slow Fast Slow is an iPhone video app that lets you shoot and edit short clips, then dicker with their speed. Record at up to 120 frames per second (when using an iPhone 5s) or 60 fps (everything else), then manipulate the playback speed by dragging the timeline (a literal line at the bottom of the screen) up and down, left and right. It also has pitch control (keeps the sound normal even as the picture changes) and can flip video and play it backward. As slick as you’d expect from Studio Neat, and just $2.
Prolost Bespoke Vintage Presets
Prolost will whip you up your own set of vintage, retro-style photo-editing presets for Lightroom. It’s kind of a better version of Prolost’s own Plastic Bullet iOS app, where you can just keep tapping a button and cycle through almost infinite variations of filters. Only instead of infinite options, you set up 300 presets, specially generated for you when you order. I use the Prolost LR presets already, and find them excellent, so these should be worth a try. From $40
Draft Control will track changes for any app you write in. Run it alongside your text editor or word processor of choice and it saves versions and tracks changes. You can compare any two versions with a visual editor, and you can find them in a constantly updated timeline at the side of the main window. It’s free to try, and you can unlock it for just $20.
MacPhun’s Lost Photos does one thing: It connects to your email and dredges up all the photos that have slipped down the back of the virtual sofa. You probably have zillions of old, forgotten pictures in your Gmail or wherever, and Lost Photos will find them and show them to you, then let you share them straight from the app, via Twitter, Facebook or – in a fit of recursion – email. Free to try, $3 for unlimited photos.
Taxonomy makes moving files easy. The window has source folders on the left, target folders on the right and a giant file preview in the middle. Zip through your files and simply click a target folder to send files there. It’s great for wrangling a whole lot of files, sending them off to different places or doing routine filing operations. Get it on the Mac App Store for just $5.
Drobo Time Machine
Poof! With the wave of its software-update-generating wand, Drobo has added Time Machine support to its redundant multi-disk storage devices. Now you can specify how much of your storage you want to be given over to Time Machine, and your Drobo will make only that much available for your Mac’s incremental backups. Normally, Time Machine would totally take over the disk like a cancer, growing until it was completely full. The update is free.
EditReady claims to be the fastest video transcoder, like, ever. It will crunch your video into a different format in around half the time of rivals, and it does it with an ultrasimple, minimal interface. This interface belies the software's power, though, as you can do anything from editing a clip’s metadata to picking one of many pro-level destination formats, right from EditReady's main window. How much for this fast pro tool? Just $50.
Folia is an impressive collaboration app from the folks behind the iAnnotate PDF app. It comes on iOS, Mac, Windows and Android, and it’s a streamlined word processor that lets you mark up and annotate your documents. Better, these annotations live in the cloud, separate from but married to the document, so they persist even as you update the source files. You can also attach more documents to any section of your master file. To be honest, I can’t quite understand it yet, but it looks rad, and costs nothing.
Overcast (no, not that Overcast) is a beautiful B&W weather app for the iPhone. If you were to write the weather forecast in your favorite text editor, and then sprinkle it with some high-quality monochrome clip art to represent clouds, rain and sun, then you’d have Overcast. Except that unlike Overcast, your RTFD document wouldn’t offer hyperlocal forecasts from Forecast.io. Free.
Gadget Watch: Aug. 16, 2014
Cooking, charging, carrying and, uh, cufflinking. Yes, this week’s Gadget Watch is all about the c-word. We even have a cubic camera, a keyboard with a nipple (which doesn’t start with "C" but it’s close -- and clicky).
OXO Goodgrips Silicone Collapsible Colander
Tiny kitchen? Hatred of unitaskers? Try the OXO Goodgrips Silicone Collapsible Colander, a fold-flat colander that can be used to wash and drain food, and also to cook it – heat-resistant to 600˚F, it can be dropped in boiling water to quickly boil veggies, then dish-washed, collapsed and filed back on your shelf. $30
LIFT standing desk
Who needs a standing desk when you can just drop the LIFT on top of the desk you already own? Sure, it might look a little like a crappy TV stand flipped upside-down, but it is in fact a smart desk with cable routing, a drink holder, a mousemat (!), tablet and phone docking slots, and even a dry-erase whiteboard. Plus the height can be configured to suit you. It’s also a lot cheaper than a standing desk, although not cheaper than my repurposed €40 workbench with sawn-off legs. From $248
Waterfield Vertigo bag
Waterfield is on a roll this summer, and the Vertigo is the latest bag I want to sling over my shoulder. It’s a vertical notebook bag that looks and works a lot like Waterfield’s Franklin Tote. Inside the main zip-open chamber are pockets set into a golden lining, with a magazine pocket on the outside for even more gear. Hand and shoulder straps are made from soft-an-strong seat belt webbing, and you can choose from black ballistic nylon or waxed canvas, in two colors and three sizes (from iPad Air to MacBook Pro). From $129.
Bike chain cufflinks
These bike-chain cufflinks are frikkin awesome. They’re also probably a little too heavy for anything other than the most stiffly starched of double-folding shirt cuffs, but who really cares? They’re also pretty easy to make if you have access to an old chain and a chain splitter – and if you’re even reading this it’s pretty certain that you do. Thankfully they’re not too pricey, although the shipping from Australia might be. $50
Endurapro buckling spring keyboard with nipple
It’s hard to express how much I love my clicky Filco Majestouch keyboard, but I’ll give it a go. “Nyyyyhhhhaaah!” That’s the sound of a man’s “exit push,” as it were. But I’m willing to forego my Cherry MX Blue key switches for a while in order to try out the awesome Endurapro, which uses buckling spring switches (like the old IBM Model M keyboard). Not only that, but it even has a red nipple and mouse buttons, so you don’t need to reach out like 5 feet to the right, over the cursor block and number pad, just to reach your mouse. £99
Vier Compact Collapsible Lock
I’m skeptical of buying a bike lock off Kickstarter, but I appreciate clever new design, and the Vier is certainly clever. It’s like two U-locks combined, with twin locking bars and dual side shafts. This lets it collapse down into a small package, but it also means you have to fasten two separate locks, one on each cylinder. $80
The Biolite KettleCharge was invented when somebody put a TV remote on top of a giant pub ashtray and something clicked in their brain. The result is a kettle that boils water and simultaneously charges your USB device (the 10-watt output will even fast-charge iPads). The kettle has a thermoelectric generator in its base, which uses the difference in temperature between the hot fire/stove beneath and the cold water above to create a current. But all you need to know is that you can make you morning coffee and charge your iPhone at the same time. $150
Polaroid Cube camera
This cute cubic camera is a lifelogger with a Polaroid label. The 1080p, 6MP camera shoots wide (124-degree) stills or video and has a built-in mounting magnet in the base. It can also connect to various mounts (tripod, bike) and even slide into an equally cute waterproof case. When I see a lifelogger camera I just quail at the responsibility of organizing all those hours of footage, but a stronger person might enjoy the fact that they can gather hours of boring video for just $100.
Grovemade walnut keyboard tray
Grovemade’s beautiful tray not only holds your Apple aluminum wireless keyboard, it also converts the useless gap underneath into a handy storage space. Better still, that space is sculpted into compartments, with space for spare AA batteries (three of ‘em), paperclips (a piece of stationery that is now only used for ejecting SIM trays and resetting routers) and – LOL – business cards. Price? $59
I took the Filco MiniLa Air Bluetooth keyboard with me on vacation this year to use with a MacBook Air propped up on the fantastic Roost stand. I use the tenkeyless Filco Majestouch at home, and I was hoping for the same super-accurate, clicky-key action in this battery-powered, portable wireless version.
And I almost got it. But for one major flaw, the MiniLa is almost as good as the desktop version. The good news is, that flaw might just be a personal quibble.
Dream your way into space with the new IFTTT NASA channel, put notifications and widgets on your desktop with Übersicht and make the perfect cup of coffee with the latest AeroPress timer. This week we even have an app just for processing B&W photos.
Listary, my favorite iPhone list app, now syncs with Dropbox instead of Simplenote (which in turn means no easy nvALT syncing), adds smart lists, a URL scheme that lets you ad tasks from apps like Drafts, icon badges and sharing. It’s also free, with an in-app purchase to unlock advanced features. $Free
IFTTT Space Channel
Now you can get an iPhone notification eery time an astronaut enters space. This radness is thanks to the new NASA IFTTT channel, which offers seven triggers that can feed their info into other IFFFT actions. Want to flash the Wi-Fi-controlled lights in your house every time the International Space Station passes overhead? No problem! And best of all it’s free – you just need an IFTTT account. $Free
Now Vox, the Mac app that streams music from internet radio along with pretty much any music format stored on your Mac (it integrates with your iTunes library too), now works with SoundCloud, which is the place all the cool kids publish their music these days. It supports SoundCloud queues and Collections, and grabs the highest-quality stream available. It’s free, with an in-app purchase to unlock the good stuff. $Free/$3
MediaFire for iOS
MediaFire, the service that forces you to click and load way too many web pages just to get an image from your email, has relaunched its iOS app as a photo-sharing, media-streaming powerhouse. v2.0 now auto-syncs your iPhone and iPad photos to its servers, along with improved streaming of audio and video. The service also adds a new pricing plan, starting at $25 per year for a terabyte of storage. Take that, Dropbox! $Free
JoliCloud’s Drive is both a front-end for the privacy-focussed Norwegian cloud storage service (which I use and love), as well as a place to combine all your other cloud accounts. You can access Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, MediaFire and more, plus the amazing cloud torrent service Put.io. You can also use it to view and edit photos, watch movies, edit photos, listen to music and even read ebooks. Now the web app is even better thanks to a new large-icon grid view for your files. How much? Amazingly, it’s $Free.
Tonality takes your boring old color photos and turns then into amazing B&W images. It works with most images, RAW and JPG included, and does most of what Adobe’s Lightroom does, only it’s focussed on monochrome images and doesn’t do anything for color. You can tweak the color channels to really play with the B&W result, and there’s even gimmicky a one-touch-HDR feature. But the best part is layers, letting you save yourself to a bigger app like photoshop. I like it quite a lot, but I miss Lightroom’s built-in cataloging features. Regular or Pro for $20/$60
Learnist for iPad
You know how cool the TED talks are, where super-smart folks tell you about awesome things? Well Learnist is kind of like that, only instead of lectures it curates lessons, and now it comes on the iPad too. People like Gus Van Sant add lessons, along with qualified teachers concentrating on specific subjects. It’s also free to download and browse. $Free
If you don’t have an AeroPress then go out and buy one right now. Pick up a burr grinder while you’re at it, and some delicious, freshly-roasted beans. Got it? Good. Now you can enjoy the free AeroPress Timer app, new and improved and at version 2. The app provides a whole slew of recipes, with extra recipe packs for $2, available as in-app purchases. Choose a recipe, get your gear set, your water hot and your coffee ground, and hit Go. The timer will count you down to the perfect cup. $Free.
Yet more traveling gear this week with a super-stylish camera bag, fake backgrounds to make your photos look like they came from a better camera, an all-in-one iPhone case and bike toolkit, plus an all-new old-school Super 8 film (yes, film) camera. Delightful.
This might sound like a skateboard trick done in Johnny Rad’s place, but it is in fact a clever little widget that adds a permanent kickstand to your MacBook. The Kickflip sticks to the bottom of the Mac with an adhesive strip and stays out of the way until you need it. Then it flips (folds) open to lift the rear end up a few centimeters. This promotes air flow and raises the screen. Available in two sizes for 13 and 15-inch MacBooks. €18
Logmar Super 8 camera
Ever use a Super 8? It’s simultaneously amazing (great retro-style footage!) and terrifying (only a few minutes per reel!). And it’s also back, in the form of the Logmar, a modern-day take on old-school home video. The film itself is stabilized in the camera, and can be shot at anywhere from 18-54fps. It also has a flip-out LCD viewfinder screen, and records sync sound onto an SD card. How much? $5,000, once the initial run of 20 has been delivered.
Cycling Ride Pouch
This pouch carries everything you need on a ride. It’s a toolkit holder that fits in your jersey pocket, and has its own pockets for cash, cards and your iPhone. The phone is coddled in an ultrasuede-lined slot, and there’s a window on the outside so you can see and view the iPhone without taking it out first. In short, this is the perfect pouch for traveling light. $69
Lastolite Out of Focus Backgrounds
I love this low-tech solution to a high-tech problem. Instead of using a proper camera with a fast lens to achieve out of focus backgrounds, you can just buy a background that’s already out of focus. These folding, portable screens from Lastolite unfurl to give the out-of-focus highlights and blur you’d get if you used a wide aperture over a largish sensor – two things the iPhone doesn’t have.
The price? Well, you might think about buying that camera after all, because they’re $205.59 each.
Kelly Moore Kate Shoulder Bag
Kelly Moore’s Kate shoulder bag is a leather and canvas camera bag designed for men or women. The padded satchel has plenty of pockets, and also features a removable padded insert so you can safely stow lenses and cameras, or just use the thing as a big one-chamber sack when you’re not shooting. Yes, this is a camera bag so stylish that you will want to use it all the time. The price isn’t bad either, as these things go – $200
It’s no Opti-Grab, but then OptiKlip does look pretty useful. It clips to the collar of any shirt, or to the button strip if you like, and gives you somewhere to hang your specs. In the summer I’m forever swapping between my regular glasses and my prescription shades, so I’m totally behind this little widget. If it ever makes it to market that is – currently the OptiKlip is not even a Kickstarter
Catalyst waterproof case
Catalyst has ditched Griffin and is going it alone with its v2.0 iPhone case. Waterproof down to 5 meters (16.4 feet), dustproof, drop resistant and with a hard plastic lens cover to let the light get through to the camera without too much interference, it sounds like they improved on everything I didn’t like in our review of the original. $65
All the power of a Drobo, in a little portable package. The new Drobo mini takes 4 2.5-inch drives (SSDs recommended), and connects to your Mac using Thunderbolt. This makes it blistering fast, and also lets you daisy-chain it to other Thunderbolt devices with the second port. Now you can take your redundant backup with your on the road – it even has a carrying case. $650
Tall Boy Pint Cup
Do you love craft beers and home-made cordials, but hate to drink out of anything that isn’t a soft-drinks can? Then you need to Tall Boy Pint Cup, an 18/8 stainless steel vessel in the shape of a can of Coke. It holds a U.S. pint, which is 16 ounces and not the 20 ounces in Great British pint (which is the reason and Englishman can out-drink any U.S person), and costs just $12
I was supposed to get a Roost to review last year after the successful Kickstarter went into production. I didn’t, but we fixed that at the beginning of this summer, and think God we did – this stand will change the way you use your MacBook.
The Roost is a crazy collapsible scaffold that unfolds from nothing to become a sturdy stand the holds the MacBook at eye-level. Assuming you combine it with regular breaks, and set your keyboard at the right height, you will never have to experience neck, arm or back pain ever again.
Travel can be a chance to practice minimalism, or an opportunity to drive yourself nuts. What am I talking about? Luggage. You can pare down your essentials to fit in a carry-on – even if you’re away for a month – or you can throw in every item of clothing and every charger you have. The second approach will result in a broken back, and you’ll still find that you left something essential at home.
Over the years, I’ve perfected my packing technique so that I only take the bare minimum. And when I say “perfected,” I mean “struggled with.” But it works for me, and the principles can be applied even if you’re the kind of person who hires a boy to carry your trunks for you when you take a cruise on the Titanic.
So here’s the Cult of Mac Guide to Traveling Light, a roundup of strategies, product recommendations and other tips to make your next trip a breeze.
App Watch: July 29, 2014
We've got lots of creative apps in the hopper this week, from the comic-book-artist-friendly Procreate 2.1 to the art-sharing app August. There's also stuff for metadata-hungry photographers, as well as a note-card app for screenwriters. Get to work.
Procreate, already my favorite painting app on the iPad, just got a huge update. A few highlights are the new color wheel for selecting shades, with pinch-to-zoom for even more accurate picking; ColorDrop, which auto-fills color areas for you; and a new Reference Layer, which lets you designate a layer as a kind of template for filling other layers. Thus, you can make a color-fill layer under your line art, still using that line art as the reference for the fills. I love Procreate, and it keeps on getting better. $6
Together for iOS
Together for iOS syncs with the venerable OS X version, giving an Evernote-like everything-bucket that you can use and access anywhere. Create text files, add photos and import documents from other apps, then tag them and let them sync with the Mac version (and other iOS versions) over iCloud. iCloud sync means you’ll need the Mac App Store version of Together to make it work. It looks fantastic, and way easier to use than Evernote. The only problem is that it can’t search inside any of your documents. $10
Slick, secure and open messaging app Telegram has just been updated with a native iPad version. The already-impressive app now brings GIF support, broadcast lists and an iPad-friendly interface, along with the same great cross-platform access, letting you read your messages anywhere, even on the Web. Free
PhotoMeta shows you everything about your photos that the iOS photos app doesn’t. You can view all EXIF data, from shutter speed and aperture to the direction you were facing when you took the shot. You can even browse photos from your Dropbox, and this latest update to the app lets you view the focus points your camera used. $3
Summbot summarizes the news for quick reading. That is, it takes a link as input, parses the page and gives you a processed summary, a short version. I can think of a few sites I’d like to try this on. The problem is that you need to paste a link into the app for every page, easily wasting any time you might save from reading the condensed view. With any luck, this will be turned into a fuller-featured app in a later version. $1
Matter is a 3-D version of Pixite’s other amazing photo apps. Instead of adding stripes and patterns to your pictures like LoryStripes or Tangent, Matter adds 3-D objects to your 2–D photos. You can even animate them, and the objects reflect the lighting around them. I don’t often add strips and patterns to my photos, but when I want to, I reach for the Pixite folder on my iPad or iPhone. $2
If you’re already in the (minimum $10-per-month) world of Celtx screenwriting apps, you’ll want to take a look at the new Celtx Cards, an ultra-simple index card app for the iPhone and iPad. Each card gets a title, a big text field and tags. You can color code the cards, and drag to rearrange them. And – if you have a Celtx account – you can sync them with your other Celtx apps. Seeing as sync is the biggest hurdle for all other index card apps I’ve tried, the fact that this integrates closely with other apps is a huge selling point. Free
August is a new kind of social network, kind of a hyper-focused Tumblr or an Instagram without the cute cats. With added music and film. The idea is that artists posts their photos, music and videos to their August streams, and followers can either save that stuff to their own streams or share to other places (Twitter and Facebook etc.) Thus you might follow someone who has great taste, but produces nothing of their own. The service is currently accepting requests for invites.
Islander is Norwegian musician Jarle Bernhoft’s new take on the music album for 2014. The app contains 48K 24-bit versions of the tracks, but that’s not all. You can also interact with the music using a virtual mixing console, and even add your own percussion. This combines with liner notes and all the other ephemera a music nerd could want. Plus, if every musician goes in this direction, you will have the added problem of finding an album on your iPad – just like finding a vinyl record in a stack on the floor. It’s so damn authentic. $20
This is Waterfield’s Franklin Tote and I l-l-love it. It’s an open-topped leather bag with hand/shoulder straps and a bunch of pockets inside and out, and it’s just about the most practical daily carry-around I’ve ever used. Does is replace a backpack? Of course not.
Does it do the job of a messenger bag when on the bike? No frikkin’ way. But can I reach into my backpack as I walk to grab sunglasses, or drop in that sweet cantaloupe I just bought from the fruit store on the high street? I think you know the answer to that one.