Fantastic sounding drums at your feet. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
There’s always that moment when your drummer can’t show up for rehearsal. She’s got some other commitment. He’s got another gig. Her boyfriend needs her to take him to the hospital.
It happens. When it does, you can do what I’ve always done – pound your foot against the floor and try to muddle on through – or you can use a drum machine. The problem with standard drum machines is that they’re made to be used by hands or, in some cases, drum sticks. I’m not a drummer (no sticks) and I need my hands to play my guitar. What I really need is a drum machine I can play from the floor, guitar-pedal style.
That’s what caught my eye about the BeatBuddy – this is a guitar-pedal-style device that lets you use your foot to play back drum beats in a variety of styles, fills and different parts included. This is my new best friend when the drummer can’t make it to practice, and it may become my new stage pal if I take my act solo.
TC-Helicon’s Play series has all you need to sound like a pro. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
It’s hard enough to sing and play guitar at the same time, let alone manage a floor full of guitar effects pedals. Add to that trying to create vocal effects like most listeners expect and you’ve got a solo musician’s worst nightmare.
The folks at TC-Helicon have come up with a couple of pretty nifty floor-style pedal boxes that have you covered though: You can dial in a fantastic guitar sound for either acoustic or electric guitar, fill a room with amazing vocal effects and backing harmonies, and even loop musical phrases to create a song with multiple parts on the fly. Dubbed Play Acoustic and Play Electric, these simple stomp boxes contain some serious technology in an easy-to-use platform.
While the story doesn’t give too many specifics, it does note that the project relates to “a new digital music format [the band hopes] will prove so irresistibly exciting to music fans that it will tempt them again into buying music –whole albums as well as individual tracks.”
Although this sounds the kind of counterintuitive move that utterly goes against Apple’s most recent promotional music stunt (where it paid U2 and its record label a reported $100 million to put out its album for free), U2 notes that it’s thinking about more than just itself:
Following Apple’s Tuesday keynote Mann is back in Apple territory with a new musical tour-de-force entitled “Apple Watch: The Musical,” which somehow manages to compress Apple’s entire Tuesday event into just 3 minutes and 13 seconds.
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
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
As Bono came in chanting and The Edge power-chorded his guitar for the radio-friendly chorus of “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” today, we hoped for a revitalized big-arena rock band performance from the biggest Irish rock band of all time.
What we got was the boys miming a well-rehearsed, highly-produced single that sounds like anything but The Ramones. Bono sings, “I was young/Not dumb/Just wishing to be blinded/By you/Brand new/We were pilgrims on our way” and, frankly, we wish they were young again. We wanted to be blinded by rockstars, but we really only got an ad for Apple.
At first listen, Songs of Innocence is a musically safe choice, a collection of songs that will sound just fine in the background as you wait in line for your first latte of the day at Starbucks. This isn’t the same band that had us thrilling to “In the Name of Love,” or “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” let alone snake-dancing to the mysterious syncopations of “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” or the gospel-tinged “One.”
The new album is being pitched by the band as intensely personal, but it comes off as more craftsmanship than artistry. It’s not all bad, and chances are U2 super-fans would have bought it even if it weren’t free, but the music lovers in us were a little disappointed.
Sony is hoping to boost digital record sales with a new iPhone app that offers a discounted album every 24 hours. Prices are slashed by as much as 70 percent in the Album of the Day app, and all purchases are made through iTunes.
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
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, 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
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.