(You're reading all posts by Nicole Martinelli) Nicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.
About Nicole Martinelli
Summer television used to be all about reruns. If you weren’t addling your brain after day camp on the Brady Bunch (“Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”), you were slouching in a darkened apartment memorizing gags from Seinfeld.
Now, though, there are some fantastic original shows that are keeping us inside when we should be amusing ourselves out-of-doors. Proving that the best part of adulthood may be the discretion to ignore your mom’s advice, even when you know she’s right.
Here are our picks from sci-fi, to crime and drama, including some frothy summer pleasures.
A few even offer free previews on iTunes, so you can dip your toe in before diving in to binge watch.
What’s on your list?
Halt and Catch Fire
In what may be the best new geek drama of the season, Halt and Catch Fire features a pair of mismatched genius underdogs who are under the gun to reverse engineer an IBM PC, way back in the 80s. In case you're wondering, there's less sex and more smart women than Mad Men, but it's still entertaining. Nostalgics will love the references to tech past -- Coleco, Pong, Sony Walkman -- accompanied by an excellent electronica soundtrack.
I Wanna Marry Harry
A regular bloke named Matt who rides to work on a borrowed bike fools 12 American gals into thinking he's Prince Harry. "I think he must be in royalty," one gushes. All are insta-duped and so scary dumb you don't feel sorry for them. Matt realizes that keeping a dozen Yankees entertained is daunting. Ever the gentleman, he calls them "vivacious," then adds "American girls don't have inside voices, apparently" while looking absolutely terrified. And, lied to or not, these would-be prince catchers spent two months in a castle abroad. More than a clever social experiment, I Wanna Marry Harry is a self-esteem boost for viewers.
Brainiac bad girl Catherine Black has a big problem: she's bipolar and, as she purrs suggestively from a ginger fringe and circles of kohl eyeliner, "non-compliant" with her meds. She's an important neuroscientist who can't seem to decide whether she's Dr Jekyll or Ms. Party Pants, cracking difficult cases then going off the rails to freeform jazz music and sleeping with strangers. Black Box is too campy (and glib about mental illness) to recommend for anything more than a summer fling, but we'll go along for the ride.
Murder in the First
Two cops carrying some serious emotional baggage navigate the streets of San Francisco investigating a murder where all the signs point to an bratty wunderkind entrepreneur. Murder in the First is guilty of some mainstream TV peccadillos -- a tech conference called "tech con" and detectives who live in improbable millionaire digs but carry cheap flip phones -- fortunately the story is intriguing and stretches over the series making it perfect for staycation viewing. Also it's not every show where you get app dating, juice cleanses, code stealing and murder all woven in.
Dominion is pretty much the Touched By An Angel of your worst nightmares. Based on the film Legion, it's set in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas where humans live in cyber gated communities to keep out the winged riff-raff. The plot rotates around a rebellious soldier, his spunky princess and then gets so complicated your cylinders will fire all summer long trying to keep up. Inexplicably, some evil angels are half-nude babes and everyone gets naked in communal showers.
The ghosts of sitcoms past haunt this chick detective kitsch fest starring Jenny Garth and Tori Spelling of 90210 fame. In Mystery Girls, Spelling roars along inhabiting her most unflattering tabloid caricature and Garth tries to shoulder the plot which includes faked death, TMZ, sex tapes and hairbrained schemes to find the baddies. Meta-tastic!
Just when you thought you'd never set sail with a pirate yarn again, John Malcovich as Blackbeard will shanghai your TV set with Crossbones. There's plenty of swashbuckling action, a sexy female pirate (Tracy Ifeachor from Doctor Who) and enough underpinning of medicine and navigational tech to keep you hooked. An unrecognizable OTT Julian Sands adds to the fun.
Who are you calling trashy?
The Apple logo was left visible, for inspiration.
Ashtray or paperclip holder?
All photos: Takara Maru, used with permission.
Fitting right in
All photos: Takara Maru, used with permission.
All photos: Takara Maru, used with permission.
The new Mac Pro, with its sleek cylinder design, has gotten a bad rap. While it’s light-years from the bulky, ugly first-generation Mac Pro and “built for creativity on an epic scale,” this ingenious machine, which Apple sells for between $2,999 and $3,999, looks like a common waste receptacle.
The much-trashed design recently got some love from architect Takara Maru, who carved out a spot on this sleek walnut desk for it. Some might joke that it’s to shield users from the Mac Pro’s looks, but really the aim is to reduce clutter on the desk surface so Maru can focus on home design.
SAN FRANCISCO — When they learned they were next in line for a cease-and-desist letter from the City Attorney, three young entrepreneurs made haste to City Hall to salvage their dream of making circling the block for parking a thing of the past.
Parking app Sweetch lets you alert prospective parkers that you’ll be moving your car. The person leaving the spot gets $4 in credit and the person arriving pays $5. Positioning itself as a community app, Sweetch lets drivers donate the money to local charities. (If you use the Web app version, like we did when we took it for a test drive, the money is only symbolically exchanged. Your credit card details and hard cash are only required for the iOS app.)
“It was really cool that they were open to talking to us — we clarified that we’re not auctioning parking spots or holding them, we’re not anything like MonkeyParking, and they understood that,” Sweetch co-founder Hamza Ouazzani Chahdi told Cult of Mac by phone, adding that they spoke with two deputies at the San Francisco City Attorney’s office for about an hour. City Attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey confirmed that officials met with Sweetch but didn’t have specifics on whether the cease-and-desist order had been halted as a result of the meeting.
Glenn Jones didn’t set out to build a one-man T-shirt empire. The Aukland, New Zealand-based designer and illustrator started emblazoning tees with his visual witticisms on Threadless in 2004 and then hit the virtual shelves with his own store featuring just six designs in 2008.
He now sells more than 100 designs at Glennz Tees — you may remember his Melting Rubik’s Cube worn by Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory — all of which look as home at South by Southwest as they do at your favorite watering hole.
SAN FRANCISCO — In a city obsessed with parking, app developers who came up with disruptive ideas to turn vacant spots into cash found their apps targeted by local officials. But the crackdown might be unnecessary: So far, the sharing economy seems to stall when it comes to auctioning off parking spots.
Cult of Mac offices are in the Mission District, epicenter of the parking crunch, so we took MonkeyParking and Sweetch — two of the “predatory” apps named in a cease-and-desist letter from San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera — for a spin.
In the interest of saving you time (and money) when you travel on apps that won’t help you get from point A to point B, we’ve sounded out dozens of road warriors — including flight attendants, serial conference goers, travel writers, CEOs, expats and even a comedian — to find out what they really need when stuck in an airport or mired in the daily commute.
Here are their picks – which just may get you some extra airline points or mellow out on the way to work.
All Cult of Mac’s top news stories and features to peruse on your iPad or iPhone. This week we’ve got the 411 on the forthcoming iWatch, plus views on the fruit loop Apple campus, more on the hidden features in iOS 8 and the new iMac.
SAN FRANCISCO — James Armstrong might be one of the few iOS engineers who loses weight while on a coding bender.
Armstrong is lead developer at The Orange Chef Co., the company behind a smart kitchen scale called Prep Pad. It weighs your food and, based on the nutritional profile you set, gives you a more accurate idea of how much you should eat. While working on a companion iPad app called Countertop, Armstrong beta tested his meals and realized how super-sized they were. So he cut the portions and shed 30 pounds.
“I had to buy new clothes twice,” he says.”I bought a bunch of clothes, then I had to buy ‘em again — it’s made that much difference.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Sometimes even a great idea falls flat at first. Take Pump-Hub, a self-inflating bike tire gizmo. It was rolling along at trade shows and getting lots of good press before the financial crisis of 2008 sidelined the project.
Now its creator, engineer Kevin Manning, is getting back on track with a new team behind him and plans to expand his original idea — an automatic, adjustable, tire-inflation system housed in the hub of a bike wheel.
For cyclists, the Pump-Hub means no remembering to check the tire pressure or pack a pump, no fiddling around with the valve and then racing to put the cap back on before the air wheezes out and your aching arms have to start all over again. It inflates the tires to the proper pressure while you ride, making a gentle clickety-clack sound reminiscent of spoke cards from childhood days. When the tire hits the designated pressure, the fluttering sounds stop. If you get a flat, just upend your bike and spin the wheel until pressure is restored.
“It’s like how using a Macintosh is easier than using a command-line interface,” Manning says, turning his Gunnar bike upside down on the Embarcadero to show me how the Pump-Hub works. If you really boil down all the technology behind his invention, he adds, the main advantage basically ends up being “it’s easier.”
Sooner rather than later, Google will be tracking your every move.
Thanks to Google’s recent bargain buy of tiny satellite company Skybox Imaging — a purchase that cost Google just $500 million, or 1/38 what Facebook shelled out for WhatsApp — by 2016, Google may be able to predict market-moving factors like consumer spending and oil prices.
That means Google might be able to foretell when you’ll be waiting in line for the latest iPhone.