ComicNerd is a Best-in-Class Reader for Mac



The paper-based comic book has been, for at least a decade, an absurdity. Each 32-page issue takes up a significant amount of space without delivering very much story. And the idea of taking a fat stack of them on vacation or a plane ride is as bad an idea as it appears on its face. Even more so than the novel, comics and electronic readers are a natural match. And the Mac now has a signature way to read comics in the form of ComicNerd, a new app from A Nice Cut of Tea and a Sit Down LLC. As the owner of a huge comics collection, much of it digitized at this point, I can state unequivocally that this is pretty much exactly what I’ve been looking for. And it’s hard to imagine anyone doing it better.

Review: Blogsy is First Professional-Class iPad Blogging Tool




I’ve been looking forward to the day that I could swap my MacBook for an iPad as a blogging tool. I can write nearly as fast on the tablet as I can on a real keyboard, and I also tend to take it everywhere, unlike the laptop. Until the last week, however, every blogging app I’ve downloaded for the iPad so far has been inadequate. The official WordPress client is just a disaster — I’ve literally never gotten it to work with Cult of Mac’s hosted account. BlogPress has broad compatibility but generates crummy posts that look like they were put together on a BlackBerry Pearl.

So it was with considerable excitement that I ponied up my $3 to download Blogsy, a new app that promises to be the MarsEdit of the iPad. Having used it for nearly a week, I’m extremely pleased. It has serious formatting capabilities, HTML and rich text modes, administration tools for your blogs, and built-in content import from Flickr, Picasa, YouTube and Google Images, not to mention a popover Web browser. Basically, it takes all of the multitasking inherent to blogging and turns it into a single app.

Special credit should be awarded for the app’s genius media layout mode, which involves tapping and holding on an image to convert it into a friendly alien mascot, then dragging the mascot to the exact location desired for the picture. Simple.

That’s the good news. Though I am blown away by the features and user interface of Blogsy, the software is still too unpolished to rely upon. Sometimes when I start it up, it claims my connection to the CoM home base is corrupted. Other times, it crashes while trying to save a draft, wiping out writing with no chance of recovery. It’s really not ready for heavy use yet. I look forward to its improvement, however. Once the bugs get worked out (and they add Tumblr support), Blogsy will become the platform of choice for on-the-go writers.

Until then, it’s a great novelty. I wrote this post in it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t post it, so I had to email it to myself to save the text.

Cult of Mac rated: [xrr rating=5/10]

White iPhone 4 With T-Mobile 3G Surfaces



The entire Internet is aflame, at least by. The standards of your average Saturday night, on word that Boy Genius Report has gotten ahold of a strange pre-production white iPhone 4 loaded up with admin and field-testing apps and running quite nicely on T-Mobile 3G. That’s quite newsworthy, as no shipping iPhone supports the obscure 1700 MHz AWS band that T-Mo rolls in the U.S.

There are many number of ways of faking this — I still find it hard to believe that you wouldn’t take some serious pictures of the hardware in search of differences from the existing iPhone 4 if you actually had it in your hands — but the various software screens are fairly convincing, including a number of apps I’ve heard are used in testing, but that mere mortals like us never see.

On the one hand, it makes sense for Apple to expand it’s reach to as many standards as possible now, especially since AT&T will likely own T-Mobile unless anti-trust regulators hold up the acquisition. On the other hand, the intent of that deal is to convert all of T-Mo’s towers to LTE fairly rapidly. It’s interesting.

Have a look through the gallery and let us know what you think — I’m actually most skeptical of Apple Connect. Would Apple really copy pattern unlock from Android?

Amazon Cloud Player Forces Apple to Make Up Ground (UPDATE: Workaround for iOS Playback)



Late tonight, Amazon took the wraps off of Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, free services for network storage and playback of MP3s and DRM-free iTunes audio files. Just as Ed predicted. Anyone with an Amazon account can sign up for 5 GB of space, and then you just upload your music library for access through any Flash-based browser or a brand-new Android app. From now forward, any Amazon MP3 store purchase will automatically be added to your Cloud Drive and won’t count against your storage quota. Larger capacities are available at $1 per GB per year starting at 20 GB.

In almost every regard, it’s exactly like Lala, the totally amazing cloud music service that Apple bought almost a year and a half ago and then promptly shut down. The only difference is that Lala also offered 10-cent song purchases for cloud-only use (as opposed to downloaded for offline use). This makes it all the more ridiculous that Apple still doesn’t have a cloud music service released. We’ve been hearing for some time that the iTunes Locker will arrive any day to offer something comparable, but Amazon’s move shows just how much Apple has slow-played its move toward streaming.

It would actually be fascinating to see Amazon release an iOS client for Cloud Player to really hold Apple’s feet to the fire. My over-riding concern with what I’ve heard about iTunes Locker is that Apple wouldn’t even match Lala’s old ability to offer songs from your entire music library and would instead offer access only to iTunes purchases. With Amazon offering something this simple and successful, Apple will have to go all out. This is why real competition is a very good thing for Apple users — it forces the company to leap over its own bar, not just hit it. Moreover, it will mean pushing ahead even if terms with record labels aren’t perfectly favorable.

— Sent in by everyone in my Twitter feed.

UPDATE: I’ve just discovered that if you visit your Cloud Drive through Mobile Safari, it is possible to play back audio on an iPhone, but only one track at a time through downloads. Hardly a useable solution, but an interesting trick nonetheless.

Now, far more useful is that you can also play back video loaded into the Cloud Drive on an iPhone, so long as it’s in a format Safari supports (preferably H.264). Amazon isn’t making a big deal out of video yet, but there is definite potential here. Especially if the geniuses at VLC or Plex figure out how to pull down a stream from your Cloud Drive…

Instacast Closes One of iPhone’s Most Glaring Gaps [Review]



Way back in the early days of the App Store, an early hot property in the store was Podcaster, a simple utility that allowed users to browse, subscribe to, and download podcasts to the iPhone. It was very useful, both for finding new things to listen to on the go, but also for eliminating one of the key reasons for unnecessary and redundant syncing to a computer.

Naturally, Apple had it removed. Then it came back as RSS Player a few months later. And got stripped out again, in both cases for providing redundant functionality, an absurd claim, as Apple’s built-in iTunes app is only capable of searching for podcasts — subscriptions aren’t allowed. Fortunately, Apple has  finallycome to its senses and now allows podcasting apps to be installed on non-jailbroken phones again, including the original Podcaster. Better still, the choices have multiplied, which brings us to the stellar subject of this review, Instacast.

This $1.99 app (a price I happily paid), approaches phone-based podcast management exactly the way I would like it. Its sole focus is on subscriptions rather than individual files. It uses a simple search mechanism that was able to track down every podcast I wanted to track. It also offers recommendations for popular series. You can also subscribe to any podcast you currently have loaded onto your iPhone. Rather than downloading these podcasts immediately (a potential nightmare), Instacast snags episode descriptions including links to either download or stream any given podcast. Piece of cake.

But the simple power of the app only becomes clearer with longer term use as you build out your library. It implements the increasingly-standard swipe down to refresh gesture first seen in Tweetie. This pulls down descriptions for any newly released episodes within your existing subscriptions and adds them to the existing queue. I have only synced my iPhone once since I downloaded Instacast, and that was to install iOS 4.3.1. I’m actually strongly considering deleting my podcast subscriptions from iTunes.

Now, the app isn’t perfect. Though the UI is fairly intuitive (usually through borrowing conventions of Twitter/Tweetie and Reeder) it has a few oddities, including an easy-to-miss play button, no on-screen volume controls, and no obvious way to delete a downloaded episode (you have to mark it as read). I assume such issues will be resolved in the near future, and the positives definitely outweigh the disadvantages.

In short, Instacast fixes part of a problem of both the iPhone and iPad: much as Apple has defined a new class of mobile computers that doesn’t rely on a desktop or laptop for full functionality, the company has also pushed administration of such devices onto desktop and laptop devices. It’s impossible to boot up an iPad for the first time without syncing it to a computer, and neither machine can install its own software updates without a tether. While this attitude is understandable for firmware and OS updates, it makes no sense for podcasts and other kinds of content. The longer I use Instacast, the more it feels like I’m finally cutting the cable.

Cult of Mac rated: [xrr rating=8/10]