(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.
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App Watch: Sept. 10, 2014
Widget, widgets, widgets. Boy, have we got some widgets for you. And text. Plain text. Plain old text, turned into a calculator. And widgets. Did I mention those? Weather widgets. Battery widgets. And yes, text widgets.
Read all about these new widgets and other new apps in this week's App Watch.
WunderStation from Weather Underground hooks into thousands of privately owned weather stations and presents their data in an iPad app. The smoothly animated graphs are beautiful and can tell you way more than you’d ever want to know about rainfall, barometric pressure and even UV. If you have stations near you, it’s pretty rad. If not, no biggie – the app is $Free
Filthy name, great app. Droool is a “photo gallery for your social networks.” Browse pictures from Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook and more, and index pictures from iCloud and other local folders without moving or copying the files. It’s fast, simple and looks great, and it’s free with in-app purchases. $Free
Terrible name, great app. iBetterCharge monitors your iOS devices’ battery level over your Wi-Fi network, using the same connection that iTunes Wi-Fi sync would use, if you still synced your iPhone with your computer in the space year of 2014. It can pop up warnings when the battery drops to a preset level, and a click on the menu bar shows you the level of all the devices on the network. $Free
This is what the Internet is made for. Photogrammar puts 170,000 Depression-era photos in a searchable, browsable archive. Explore on an interactive map, search or get into the Labs section and browse by metadata sourced from the U.S. Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information archives. Warning: serious time-sink. $Free
PlainTextMenu takes the text on your Mac’s clipboard and transmogrifies it into something useful. It strips out formatting, so you never get big ugly Comic Sans when pasting from a colleague’s Word report, and it can turn the text to uppercase, lowercase or title case along the way. From the school of One Thing Well. $1
Web service re/spin takes Spotify playlists and transforms them into Rdio playlists. If someone’s going to share a playlist, it usually comes from Spotify, and re/spin works with published Spotify playlists. Or you can just paste in a track list copied right from the app. It also works with Last.fm. Remember when PCs couldn’t read Mac floppy disks? It’s like fixing that all over again. $Free
You know all those hard drives grafted onto your Mac? Keep a close eye on them with StorageStatus, an app that turns hard drives into traffic lights in your menu bar and changes their colors when they do something. It knows when they are sleeping, it knows when they’re awake, and it knows when they’ve been good or bad. $3
Not new, but awesome nonetheless. Calca is as close as you’ll get to a plain text calculator. Tap in complex formulas or simple sums and see the results right there in a plain text document. Set variables or just add numbers. And see all your pages synced over iCloud between Mac, iPhone and iPad versions, as well as Windows(!). I love Calca for its balance of simplicity and power. From $3
TVShow Time for iPad
Finally, a version for the iPad. TVShow Time tracks your favorite TV shows and tells you when they’re on. Browse shows and show synopses, and get notifications when something is about to air. See the shows on a calendar, view news about your shows and read about new shows. It’s pretty comprehensive, and looks great on the big iPad screen. $3
Gadget Watch: Sept. 06, 2014
Who needs to go out outside this week? Not us: We have headphones, a home-monitoring video camera, a robot to clean the floors and a keyboard that sleeps on your desk, all ready to play with your iDevices. Determined to leave the house? Take the GoPro PowerPole with you and then offload the footage to a new wireless, battery-powered hard drive from Western Digital.
Forget fiddling with those little magnetic iPhone lenses – the Sony QX1 puts proper E-mount Sony lenses onto your iPhone or iPad. It’s actually a tiny camera that clips onto your iDevice, complete with 20.1 MP sensor and even a pop-up flash, and works in concert with the iPhone via Wi-Fi and a companion app. $400
B&W P5 Series 2 headphones
You could buy these new B&W cans and never switch them on, they look that good. But they should sound good too, with huge drivers that “work like those in a hi-fi speaker” (whatever that means), a sweet padded headband and some shiny silver parts on the outside. The Series 2 even comes with a detachable cable with an inline mic for your iPhone. $300
Baron Fig goes international
Now you can buy the best paper notebook anywhere in the world – almost. The Baron Fig Confidant notebook now ships internationally, so anyone can enjoy its superior design, from the cloth-bound cover to the clever dot-grid paper to the fold-flat design that stays open on the table to the slightly wider aspect ratio for more comfy writing and sketching. And still just $16.
Dyson 360 Eye
Dyson’s first robot vacuum cleaner uses a panoramic cyclops eye up on top of the mercifully muted body to map out your rooms to the millimeter. A full-width brush teases dust out of carpets, and the cyclone separates dirt and dust. It runs for up to half an hour before returning to its dock to recharge, and you can even remote control it from iOS and Android apps. $TBA
It’s called the PowerPole, but that’s not even the best thing about it. The PowerPole takes the useless space inside telescopic 17-30-inch GoPro mount and fills it with batteries, enough for eight continuous hours of shooting. The aluminum pole also has a pair of USB ports for charging other gear. $119
Logitech K480 keyboard
The Logitech K480 is a different take on keyboards for mobile. It sits on your desk, waiting for your devices to dock in its slot, and then performs double duty as a stand and as a Bluetooth keyboard. A twisting knob selects between three paired devices, and the K480 has keys for Windows and Mac. The slot is big enough for a tablet and a phone together and it runs on a pair of AAA batteries. $50
The only way the Shutter Button could be more minimal is if it ditched the fashion stylings and came in plain silver. It’s a Bluetooth remote shutter release for iOS and other devices, and it works by masquerading as a volume switch. Therefore, no companion app is required – any camera, even the built-in one, can work with it as long as the app allows you to take a photo using the iPhone’s own volume switch. From $29.
WD My Passport Wireless
This 1TB/2TB USB 3.0 drive packs a Wi-Fi radio and an SD card slot, making it the most useful pocket hard drive, like, ever. It works with your Mac of course, but also your iPad and iPhone. You can connect up to eight devices, use it as an Internet-sharing Wi-Fi hub and even stream movies to your iPad. The battery lasts six hours for video (20 hours on standby) and you can back up photos direct to the drive using the SD card slot. From $180.
Withings has long been able to track your body with its smart scales and health monitors. Now it tracks your home with this Internet-connected camera. The Home records 1080p video and can alert you to movement via the iPhone app. It works as a security camera, but also as a life-cam, with a timeline mode that lets you make a video diary. It even monitors the air quality inside your home, and works as a baby monitor. If it made breakfast too, I’d marry it. $220
I can’t tell you how much I love Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile. But like an insatiable lover, I want more. Specifically, I want to add my own presets. LR Mobile ships with a selection of the desktop app’s image presets built in, but unlike the desktop version, you can’t save your own settings as a preset, nor can you add any made by third parties. Or can you?
In this tutorial, we’ll see how to add any preset to Lightroom Mobile, using any and all of the image-editing tools available in the Mac version and making them available on iOS.
I like the Lensbaby that I have for my regular camera, but I frikkin’ love the Lensbaby LM–10 for the iPhone. Like most things that make the trip from elsewhere to iOS, the little Lensbaby offers a subset of the original’s features, but they are – dare I say – a more focused set of features.
Let’s just say the iPhone Lensbaby is about the funnest iPhoneography accessory around.
OS X will get a new Photos app next year that will keep all your pictures in sync across all your devices. It will work with the iOS 8 Photos apps on iPhone and iPad to match up your full-res photographs, your albums and even the edits you make to your pictures.
The changes are a ways off, but fret not -– if you use Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile, you can enjoy this fabulous cross-platform photo synchronization right now.
App Watch Sep 01 2014
This Labor Day holiday we take things easy. Whether stargazing with Starwalk 2, taking a walk and remembering the hot spots along the way with Rego, getting a recommendation for a good read with Bookvibe, or adding so retro-style light leaks to our photos with a new set of Prolost Lightroom presets.
If you follow at least a few half-intelligent folks on Twitter, Bookvibe will help you out with recommendations for what to read next. It’s a service that monitors your Twitter feed and winkles out any mentions of books, sending an occasional list via email. Sometimes it’s tricked by a mention of something that sounds like a book, or presents a subject of Twitter ridicule (or Twittercule) as a recommendation, but overall Bookvibe is solid, and I’ve found a few titles from it. $Free
Rego bookmarks places. Add them from a map, from an address search, from your contacts or even by pulling in location data from a photo in your Camera Roll. Make collections, view your places on a map, add stars and customs map-pins, and share. A companion website pulls in Foursquare info and other details. Never forget a place again. $5
UpTime adds every keyboard shortcut you could need in an iPad browser. If you ever find yourself hitting a desktop shortcut on a keyboard hooked up to your iPad, and nothing happens, then you need UpTime, a simple iPad browser that can be driven entirely from the keyboard. Scrolling, searching, tab-switching and even Tweeting can all be done without once touching the screen, and it’s just $4
Eye-Fi IFTTT Channel
Your Eyefi card can now send photos straight from your camera to, well, to anywhere. Evernote, Flickr, Tumblr, OneNote… Even your Great Aunt Flo. Thanks to the new Eyefi IFTTT channel, any photos that’s uploaded from your Wi-Fi-capable card to the Eyefi cloud can be routed to any IFTTT destination that accepts photos. $Free
Jolicloud Drive photo editing
Jottacloud’s Drive web app pulls together all your cloud services into one beautifully-designed place, including Jottacloud’s own secure, secret, Norway-based version of Dropbox. Now you can take any photo from any of these services (Dropbox or Flickr, say), and edit them right there in the browser. $Free
Quotebook is a place to collect quotes and other text snippets. The Universal app integrates with your browser, your Mr. Reader RSS reader, IFTTT and even with Instapaper’s own highlights feature, and turns those snippets into searchable, organizable quotes. New in v3.0 is auto-lookup of sources (you get an icon and description for authors) and x-callback URL support to work with apps like Drafts. $5
Prolost Light Leaks for Lightroom
When Lightroom Mobile accepts custom presets, there will be no need for any other photo editing app on iOS. Until then, you can switch back to the desktop to use things like Prolost’s fantastic Light Leak presets, a set of 480 different faux light leaks, 120 from each of four different vintage-camera styles. Just install, run your mouse over the list on the left of your Lightroom screen and hit the one that catches your fancy. Next up: a plugin that fakes leaving the lens cap on for the entire roll of 36 photos. $30
Perspective icons aren’t an app. They’re a bunch of icons to use in your OS X Omnifocus, but they’re so beautiful, simple and flat that you might want to use them elsewhere, too. For instance, I plan to add them to Scrivener so I don’t have to use the hideous 1990s-era stock icons included with that otherwise amazing app. Perspective icons come retina ready, and cost $10
Starwalk 1 was the app for showing off your iPad back when it first launched. Starwalk 2 adds new views and graphics to the stargazing guide. Hold your iPad up to the night sky and see a map of the stars overlaid on the sky using motion-tracking. You can now see a 3-D view of heavenly bodies from any point-of-view, and add satellites, deep-space objects and more via IAP. So put that bourbon down and use the nighttime for something more useful instead. $3
Gadget Watch: Aug. 29, 2014
Cameras, cameras, cameras. German photographic trade show Photokina is just around the corner, and the big names are outing their latest models before the news pipes get completely clogged with the tangled hair and soap scum of new releases. So this week we have a bunch of cool new cameras and accessories, including a GoPro harness for your pooch, along with the usual mix of gadgets designed to make you want to part with your cash.
An update to the already-discontinued X20, this compact swaps the old optical viewfinder for a hi-res electronic finder, gets a bigger tilting rear LCD and adds a control wheel around the lens. It keeps the amazing X-Trans II sensor and 28-112mm (equivalent) ƒ2-2.8 zoom, and packs a new Classic Chrome film mode. I want this so hard. $600
Evernote Pfeiffer Collection
Evernote’s Pfeiffer Collection is not – as you might hope – a range of productivity tools designed by 1980s actress and icon Michelle Pfeiffer. It is instead a set of desk tidies, made from various materials including walnut and “bright.” They’re intended to hold old-school detritus like paperclips and pens, plus modern junk like iPhones, SIM cards and even an iPad. $106
The best part of Pentax’s new mid-level K-S1 is the strip of pulsing LEDs on the hand grip. Pentax missed a chance to build the “Knight Rider of cameras” with its choice of green over red LEDs, but still. This pointless addition will flash to count down the self timer, and the light around the shutter release will turn red in video mode. $750
Bluelounge’s Soba is a cable-routing kit that will wrangle wayward wires, keeping them tidy in a “Vortex” tube and letting them exit where you need them. The kit comes with 10 feet of zip-closed tubing, a y-splitter and mounting caps (brackets). I have one here and ready to test, but it looks like there’s some effort involved in planning it all out, so maybe I’ll just have one more coffee first… $25
Of course GoPro’s dog harness is called the Fetch. Of course. The Fetch straps onto the dog’s back, secured around its shoulders, chest and belly, and the camera can be mounted up top or down below. This is probably my favorite product of the year so far, and the photo above is definitely the best product shot for 2014. If I had a dog I’d be out with one of those playing frisbee right now. $70
Olympus Pen E-PL7
Olympus makes the best Micro Four Thirds bodies right now (and that’s coming from someone who owns a great Panasonic). This one’s even better, with a 180-degree flip-screen that activates “selfie mode” when fully extended (there's a shutter button on the touchscreen), built-in Wi-Fi to share that selfie to your iPhone, a 16MP sensor and a 14-42 mm (equivalent) ƒ3.5-5.6 kit lens. From $700.
Moleskine Livescribe notebook
Moleskine’s newest notebook has an almost-invisible dot pattern on the pages that makes it work with your Livescribe pen. The pen has a camera in its nose that tracks your every stroke and scribble and sends it all to your iPhone or iPad as editable text, creating a perfect digital copy of your paper notes. Now you can continue your Moleskine habit, but with added digitization. $30
iPhone magnetic lens plates
Love: accessory iPhone lenses. Hate: Those stupid stick-on metal rings the lenses’ magnets stick to.
The answer is the new magnetic plate that now ships with every set of lenses sold by Photojojo. The plates, color-coded to your iPhone, stick over the entire glass strip at the top rear of the iPhone 5/s, so you can use these lenses and still get the iPhone in a case. Bonus – you can slide the lens out of the way when not in use. From $20.
This Schiller water bike is to the pedalo what a sweet S-Works road racer is to a recumbent bike. It’s slick, speedy and way overpriced. A Gates carbon drive turns a NuVinci transmission, which turns two propellers. You can even use the handlebars to steer the thing, and it’s only $6,500.
What’s the difference between a businessperson and a regular person? According to Evernote, a businessperson has secrets, whereas a regular person is happy to share everything. This somewhat cynical take is a pretty good model of the world, and it is embodied in the Evernote Business Notebook, a “collabo” with Moleskine that lets you snap/scan a photo of your pages into Evernote, and selectively share the result.
Let’s take a look.
If you live in the Southern hemisphere, I have some great news for you – there’s a new waterproof e-reader coming out, the Kobo Aura H2O, that will ship in October, just in time for your summer.
For everyone else, this upscale reading gadget looks like a great Christmas gift.
If you like mechanical keyboards, but those inconsiderate jerks in your office or home can’t stand the clackety racket they make, then you might consider something that uses “tactile” keys instead, which look and work like clicky keys — only without the click.
And if you’re into wireless keyboards, but you don’t like the NSA van parked outside snooping the connection and recording your keystrokes, you might like something with an encrypted wireless connection.
Well, guess what? We have just the thing. The Matias Secure Pro, a tactile keyboard with 128-bit AES Encryption.