Nicole Martinelli, author at Cult of Mac

These geeky T-shirts put nerd pride on your chest

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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.

Road testing San Francisco’s ‘predatory’ parking apps

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MonkeyParking is under fire by the city of San Francisco. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
San Francisco is going after apps like MonkeyParking that let drivers cash in when they move their cars. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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.

Road warriors share their iPhone toolkits

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CC-licensed, thanks to Moyan_Brenn.

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.

Smart scale slims down even the devs who program it

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The folks at The Orange Chef prepare lunch in their San Francisco offices. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
The Orange Chef's Claire McClendon, left, and Amy Wu lead lunch prep at the company's San Francisco offices. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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.”

Pump-Hub, an ingenious system that keeps bike tires inflated, is ready to roll again

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Kevin Manning has the idea for a hub system which inflates your tires as you ride, eliminating the  need for a bike pump and making sure you have proper inflation every time you hit the street. Manning has the idea the prototypes, but lacks the funds to move into production.
Kevin Manning's ingenious Pump-Hub system inflates bike tires as you ride. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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.”

How Google’s latest acquisition could kill the Apple rumor mill

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CC-licensed via Wikipedia. Thanks Nadkachna.
CC-licensed via Wikipedia. Thanks Nadkachna.

Sooner rather than later, Google will be tracking your every move.

The Mountain View search colossus already knows whether you have the flu or are interested in dropping a few pounds, thanks to its mining of your search data and Gmail missives.

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.

Taking aim at Apple over chemicals

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Elizabeth O’Connell is waging war on Apple from an iPhone 5C with a cracked screen.

O’Connell, campaigns director for Green America, is part of an 80-strong group of environmental and human rights groups that recently fired off a 17-page letter to Apple’s vice president of environmental affairs Lisa Jackson. At the core of the question are known carcinogens, benzene and n-hexane, the chemicals that make your iPhone screen so shiny.

As former head of the Environmental Protection Agency Jackson, protest organizers say, should know better. The effort is part of Green America’s “Bad Apple” campaign, which features a mock app. At this writing, over 2,000 people have signed up for the “app,” which sends an email to Apple asking to cut the noxious chemicals. Organizers say another 20,000 people have signed a traditional online petition.

Top iPhone photos show waning app addiction

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@Edward Adams, courtesy IPPA.
@Julio Lucas, courtesy IPPA.
@Athena Tan, courtesy IPPA.
@Coco Liu, courtesy IPPA.
@Craig Harvey, courtesy IPPA.
@Sofija Strindlund, courtesy IPPA.
@Lee Atwell, courtesy IPPA.
@Michael O'Neal, courtesy IPPA.
@Gerard Collett, courtesy IPPA.
@Danny Van Vuuren, courtesy IPPA.
@Brandon Kidwell, courtesy IPPA.
@Cocu Liu, courtesy IPPA.

Kenan Aktulun founded the iPhone Photography Awards (IPPA) the same year the smartphone launched, when the idea that taking great pics with a camera phone was still pretty optimistic.

Seven years later, iPhone photography has developed to the point of documenting New York Times war coverage and tops four out of five of the most-used cameras on Flickr.

This year’s IPPA winners cover a suitably broad range of the world (54 photographers from 17 countries) and topics ranging from kids and architecture to landscapes and food.

Why no one cares about your app and what to do about it

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Arnold Kim, of MacRumors, listens as a developer explains her app at the AltConf Journalist Pitch Lab in San Francisco, CA, June 3, 2014. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Tara Zirker shows the StayAtHand travel app to MacRumors' Arnold Kim during AltConf's Journalist Pitch Lab. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — You created an app. You think it’s awesome. Your friends say so too. Something nags at you, though: You have zero reviews, your downloads don’t outnumber your Facebook pals, and you need to make rent.

There’s a fancy name for your problem: “discoverability.” Millions of good apps face it, gathering dust between bogus fart apps and Flappy Bird clones.

“It’s hard to make a living in the App Store,” says Michael Yacavone, founder of Individuate, which makes personal-development apps Ace It! and Affirmable.

But there is definitely money to be made in the App Store, to the tune of $15 billion Apple has paid developers so far. Apple recently vowed to improve discoverability by adding an “explore” tab to the App Store, but whether users will search for new and exciting apps remains to be seen. The basic problem remains for most developers: Nearly everyone is ignoring you. Journalists can help, but you have to know how to deal with them.