App Watch Aug 12 2014 — Lists, learning, coffee and spaaaaace



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 2

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


Übersicht displays javascript widgets on your Mac desktop, kind of like a cross between Dashboard and GeekTool. Widgets are written in JavaScript or CoffeeScript, and because they use CSS you can place them where you like, and make them look as pretty as can be. You can pipe in the weather, show your to-do list, or pretty much anything else in the world, ever. $Free

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 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

AeroPress Timer

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.

Sci-fi toys spring to life in filmic photos


Sci-fi toys come to life in Robert Larner's photos

Alien Tourist

A scene you won't see in Star Wars

AT-AT in the Snow

Black Riders

Borg scout ship


Close Encounter

Face to face


Giant Robots

Haunted House

King of the Monsters

Long Snoot

Looks like The Doctor took the wrong turn to Metebelis Three...

Moonlit Interceptor

Multi-coloured Daleks


Party Wagon

Planet of the Apes Picnic

Who said Greedo doesn't fire first?

"Oh oh!"

"What'll it be? We've got squishees, overpriced coffee, blue milk..."

"What's that noise?"

By day, Robert Larner works for an investment firm. By night he directs Stormtroopers, Transformers and Daleks.

Using toys, camera tricks and a keen sense of story, the photographer delights Flickr and Instagram fans with movie stills. But the movies don’t exist.

The Scotsman grew up a discerning cineaste with a taste for the Indiana Jones, Back to the Future and Ghostbusters movie franchises, but his greatest inspiration — in film and toys — was Star Wars.

“I could probably track my interest in toys via Star Wars,” Larner says. “When I was a kid in the early ’80s, I was completely swept up by the original Kenner 3.75-inch range. Then, in the ’90s, the remastered movies came out along with whispers of the prequels so the Star Wars toy range was reintroduced, so that caught my interest again. However, it was when Lego had the bright idea of making Star Wars Lego sets in 1999 that I really got sucked in and I haven’t looked back since!”

iPhone or Canon? A veteran photographer debates digital versus analog


Pros and cons of iPhoneography

Longtime photographer Dan Marcolina tells why an Apple smartphone can be the ultimate tool of his trade.

Untitled traditional portrait

"I’m tall and shy -- so I can’t be inconspicuous. That means a lot of my traditional portraits are shot from the side or the back," Marcolina says. In this 2009 shot, he was able to compose it carefully, because the subjects weren't facing him, and it expresses his "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" no-cropping philosophy for analog photography.

Untitled mobile portrait

"Mobile photography is more like sculpture - you're poking at the pixels to make them talk," he says. The color of the ribbons was amped up with app Snapseed afterwards, "making the story a little more intense." While he could've captured this from the doorway with a traditional camera, Marcolina walked in close with his iPhone and the man never stirred.

While it's generally easier to go stealth with an iPhone, "people are getting a lot more savvy about having their photos taken," Marcolina says.


"The traditional work is from a collection of standard film cameras ranging from Toy Holgas to 2x2 Rolleiflex to Canon 5d digital. This work is never manipulated and rarely cropped, what you see is what I got." In this portrait of a bride with MS, note the shadow of Marcolina in the foreground.

“You’d never get this shot with a traditional camera,” Marcolina says. “It would be weird to be so close as this guy does a handstand in front of his girlfriend.” With an iPhone, you can control the camera in creative ways, getting this sculpted look by with a slow shutter and rotoscope effect.

"Photoshop is a production tool, not a discovery engine in the same way apps are," he says. And while the bathroom darkroom may have gone the way of the daguerrotype, the bog can still serve as an editing room for digital images, along with the supermarket checkout line.


Digital portrait

This is one of those shots, Marcolina says, where paring down the image digitally really made the shot.

During his 25-year career as a photographer, Dan Marcolina has captured moments of everyday despair and delight, from beaches and backyards to bus stations and wedding celebrations.

His work exhibits the ease of an inside joke or a knowing wink; the images are visual juxtapositions that live up to a high point of praise from Richard Avedon, who once commented that Marcolina makes images that aren’t “trying to be beautiful.”

Don’t wait for Handoff — these 5 apps sync seamlessly today

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: Tar, totes, tarmac and notes


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

Franklin Tote

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.