Listener’s Poker, Vol. 1

Since my days of fantasy football are just fading memories and old blog posts, maybe we can play a game involving live music.  Liar’s Poker, but with sound.  Somebody pick something good, and others try to top it.  We’re talking playing, and musicianship.  Not just some studio-created and network-marketed nonsense.  Music.  Reeeeeel music.

So, to my kids and their pals who think the music they listen to is so much better the ancient stuff that often comes out of my Sonos, I say simply…

this.

Your turn.

Dictating Blog Posts on an iPad Air 2

I’m writing this blog post on my new iPad Air 2, using the WordPress iPad app and iOS 8.1’s native dictation feature.

The dictation feature is much improved. I love the way I can now see my words typed in real-time, as opposed to having to wait until I’m finished talking, click the “Done” button and wait for the iPad to process a lot of dictation at one time. I also like the way autocorrect suggests words when you tap an incorrect word. It’s still cumbersome to add links and images via the WordPress app, but blogging on a tablet is definitely getting a little easier. [Note- there was no way to search for and link to that prior post via the iPad app.  I had to save this post as a draft and add the link via my desktop computer.]

One nit I wish they would fix in the WordPress app is to add an option to insert two spaces between sentences. Like a lot of people, I learned to type that way, I think it looks better, and that’s the way I want to do it.

Photos are still hard. [Note- when you add photos via the app, it links them to the full-sized copy.  If, like me, you want no link, you have to edit the photo via the desktop, which breaks the photo embed and puts a huge, full-size photo in the post.  You have to delete it and reinsert it in the desired, unlinked size, from the desktop.]

Photos By Trail Camera

It’s getting easier to do some heavy lifting on your iPad, but we’re not quite there yet. Some of it falls on developers to take full advantage of the increased flexibility available in iOS 8. Apple needs to continue to make it easier for developers to write apps for complicated workflows and power users.

In the Sage and the Prickly Pear

pricklypear

Money was no object
There was no money to be had
Back in Carolina
Johnny Law saw that
Up on the high plateau
Where the sage and the pinyon grow
When the stars and planets collide
The Tennessee mare she ain’t never shied
Never Shied

Jimbo Mathus  – Tennessee Walker Mare

The One Frustrating and Needless Omission that Makes Safari Suck

safariicon

I’ve been a Chrome browser user for a long time.  It’s a great browser, but my love for all things Apple occasionally leads me to attempt the switch to Safari.  There’s a lot to like about Safari- it’s fast, and it is deeply implemented in the OS X environment, via Reading List, iCloud, etc.

So recently I gave it another try.  I spent some time setting up Safari on my Macs,  installing my must-have extensions and getting the very customizable menu bar just the way I like it.  And I used it exclusively for a week.

While any new app is a bit of an adjustment, it is now clear that I could easily make the switch to Safari, except for one extremely frustrating, completely unnecessary flaw that makes an otherwise elegant and well-designed piece of software HORRIBLE AND UNUSABLE.

Before we get to that, let’s talk about what this post should be.  A generally favorable review of Safari, with a few mild frustrations that, if fixed, would make it perfect.  For example, I wish there was a way to make bookmarks and favorites open in new tabs.  This should be configurable, on an overall or site-by-site basis.  But it’s not.  You can force sites that want to open in a new window to open in a new tab, but you can’t set the browser to open your bookmarks, favorites or other links in a new tab.  Sure, a setting that caused every single link to open in a new tab would result in tab overkill.  But the option to have certain links (perhaps via an option to check a box on the edit bookmark screen) or categories (such as favorites- the ones I most want to open in new tabs) would be simple to implement and would be a great feature for power users.  I find the LastPass extension in Safari to be more kludgy than its Chrome counterpart.  There are other things that could be a little better.

But I can live with all that.

magnifyingglassWhat I simply cannot, should not and will not live with is THE INABILITY TO SET CUSTOM ZOOM LEVELS FOR THE SITES I VISIT.  Safari has native zoom in and zoom out buttons.  And they work fine.  But I DO NOT WANT to have to click them EVERY SINGLE TIME I VISIT A SITE.  A font-size and zoom level that works on a lower resolution or smaller screen is tiny on a 27″ iMac, and I can’t imagine it’s going to be any better on the beautiful new Retina iMacs.  Chrome lets you select and retain zoom levels, without doing ANYTHING.  Why in the name of Bobby-Elvis and his missing eyeball can’t Safari do this?

Someone is going to point out that you can set minimum font size in Safari, via the preferences.  Sure, but have you tried it?  Some sites look fine, but many become a jumbled mess.  Need to see what I’m talking about?  Set a largeish minimum font size and go to Feedly.  A horrible, unnecessary mess.

Yes, I looked for an extension.  There is one, but it doesn’t work on any of my Macs running the current version of Safari and Yosemite.  Yes, there may be complicated workarounds that let you impose custom CSS functions, but those break as many things as they fix.

At the risk of sounding like a baby: I WANT CUSTOM AND STICKY ZOOM LEVELS IN SAFARI AND I WANT THEM NOW!

But since I don’t have them, it’s back to Chrome for me.

I Seem to Forget What the Question Might Have Been

NOBI24-141020

To repair this broken situation
I’ve come to tie one on
And if I tie it tightly
It won’t come undone

Cahalen Morrison and Country Hammer – Over and Over and Over Again

Three iOS Photo Apps You Need Now

One of the best things about the new iPhone 6 (both models) are the improved cameras.  Like many iPhone users, I have largely abandoned my traditional video camera and my DSLR in favor of my iPhone.  iPhone photography has been great for a while, and it just got better.

In addition to better hardware specs, the iPhone 6 cameras benefit from the new extensions feature of iOS 8, which allows you to use third party photo apps from the native Photos app (e.g., your camera roll).  Not only is this quicker and more efficient, it solves the problem of having duplicate photos on your iPhone- the original one in your camera roll and the edited one, as modified by the third-party app.

I’m sure it will evolve as I discover more iOS 8 optimized apps, but my current photo tool box consists of the native iOS Photos app, plus three great third-party apps.

Camera+.  This has been the best iOS photo app for as long as I can remember, but now you can use its editing features directly from the Photos app (again, what you probably think of as your camera roll).  Simply tap on the photo, tap Edit in the upper right hand corner, tape the circle with three dots in it at the bottom.

photosapp

And you can edit that photo with your third-party photo apps.

photoextensions

So I often experiment with my Camera+ filters before saving or sharing a photo.

camerapfilter

Paper Camera

I only recently  discovered this app, but I love it.  The effects are really well-done, and you can flex your creative muscle without a ton of work.

papercamera

DateStamper

I do not miss the early digital photo era phenomena of super-imposed dates in the corner of your photo, but there are definitely times when you need to note and prove when a photo was taken.  DateStamper does this, again right from the Photos app.

datestamper

There’s a lot to love about the new iPhones and the new iOS, and the ability to take, edit and manage your photos is near the top of the list.

Batting .550: My Kickstarter Experience

kickstarter

Kickstarter is an awesome idea, and a pretty good execution of that idea.  It’s the leading crowd-funding site on the web.  Have an idea, but can’t or don’t want to go the traditional funding route?  Kickstarter may be the answer.  Need something that you can’t find?  If enough people would buy it, there’s a chance someone is trying to fund it via Kickstarter.  I’ve had some good experiences and a few bad ones.  Overall, I’m still a fan, though the inevitable conscription of the concept as a marketing tool for already existing products has taken a little of the fun out of it.

Here’s the best and worst products I’ve backed (Kickstarter lingo for purchased), and a complete list of every product I’ve backed, why I did so, and what I currently think about it.

The Absolute Best

everdock

EverDock.  By a long shot.  Until EverDock, I had not found an acceptable iPhone or iPad dock.  I bought several EverDocks, and have one on my desk at work, in my office at home, at the farm, and on my bedside table.  They work with my iPhone (including the new 6+) and my iPad.  They are great.  I love them.  I have also backed the maker’s next project, an EverDock for the car.

The Absolute Worst

instacube

 

Instacube.  A long time ago, back in 2012, I used a then-hot photo app called Instagram (yes, I’m sort of messing around; some folks still use it).  So when I saw a retro-looking cube that promised to display my nifty Instagram photos, and which would be in my hands in the Spring of 2013, I happily backed the project.  Over two years later, nothing.  Even if it ever comes- and I actually got an email this week saying that mine has finally shipped- I don’t care any more.  I no longer use Instagram.

A close second in the worst ever category would be the eleMount, an iPhone and iPad mount.  To say that this thing doesn’t work would be an insult to everything else in the world that doesn’t work.  It won’t stick to anything.  Except the bottom of the trashcan (but only thanks to gravity).  Which is where I put mine.

The Others

Here’s a brief look at everything else I’ve backed, from oldest to newest.

What: Mary Lou Lord’s new record.
Why: Because I like a lot of her music, and she will eventually do a cover of whatever song I pick.
Do I have it: No, it’s years late.
Does it work: Not yet.
What do I think:  I’m cool with it.  Mary Lou’s had some problems, and it’s OK.

What: The Possum Posse’s new record.
Why: Because of this.
Do I have it: Yes.
Does it work: Yes.
What do I think:  Great record from a great band who made the best videos ever.

What: gTar.
Why: At the time, my girls were taking piano, and planned to take guitar lessons.
Do I have it: Yes.
Does it work: Yes.
What do I think: It’s a good product, but my girls held a mutiny, that they will regret as adults, which led to the end of piano lessons.  Here’s sort of why.

What: Touch the Wall, a movie about Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce.
Why: Delaney is an elite swimmer.  Raina and I inadvertently backed this separately.
Do I have it: No, it’s late.  There are also questions about the promised signed photos.
Does it work: Not yet.
What do I think:  It’s been too long now.  My zeal for watching this has faded greatly.  This project had great promise, but was handled horribly.

What: MOS Menos, a system to keep your iOS cables in check.
Why: I have lots of iOS devices.
Do I have it: Yes.
Does it work: Yes.
What do I think: It works, exactly as promised.  Good work.

What: Bringrr, a device to help you keep track of items.
Why: It seemed like a cool device.
Do I have it: No.
Does it work: Not yet.
What do I think: It’s a little late.  The jury’s still out.

What: Flag, an app that prints and mails your photos for free.
Why: Ads on the back sounds like a good business plan.
Do I have it: No, it’s a little late.
Does it work: Not yet.
What do I think: I’ve lost confidence, based on the updates, that this project will maintain its focus.  Doubt I’ll ever use it.  Try Bill Atkinson’s PhotoCard app.  The prints aren’t free, but they are wonderful.

What: Neutron S, a shielded magnetic device to hold iPhones and iPads.
Why: I thought to use in the car, but now I use it to hold an iPad Mini on the wall (as a Sonos jukebox of sorts).
Do I have it: Yes.
Does it work: Yes.
What do I think: It does what it promises.  I’m happy.

What: The Right Arm, a universal tablet stand.
Why: I thought it would be cool to use to read in bed.
Do I have it: Yes.
Does it work: Not at all.  It broke within a week.  Plus it’s really hard to get the iPad off once you put it on there (I could engineer around that, but I can’t engineer around broken).
What do I think: It was a decent idea, but seems cheaply constructed.

What: imitone, a songwriting app.
Why: It was an impulse purchase.
Do I have it: Yes, at least an alpha version.
Does it work: I don’t know.
What do I think: I never got around to trying it, which is my fault, not theirs.

What: Ca7ch Lighbox, a wearable camera.
Why: Super cool concept, like a better GoPro.
Do I have it: No, but it’s not late.
Does it work: Not yet.
What do I think: I’m excited.

What: MOS Reach, an elegant and powerful power strip.
Why: I have never found a perfect solution to outlets near the floor and my gear on a desk.
Do I have it: No, but it’s not late.
Does it work: Not yet.
What do I think: It’s not a life changer, but I think it will be useful.

What: GripSnap, a magnetic iPhone holder for taking photos and video.
Why: I shoot 99% of my photos and videos with my iPhone.
Do I have it: No, but it’s not late.
Does it work: Not yet.
What do I think: I think my iPhone 6+ is really big.  I hope it will fit.

What: LIFT, a sitting or standing “smart” desk.
Why: I’d love to have a stand up desk, but only some of the time.
Do I have it: No, but it’s not late.
Does it work: Not yet.
What do I think: I think it’s a cool concept.  Looking forward to trying it.

Batting .550 would make you a baseball star (and get you banned for juicing), but when almost half of your backed products are broken or late, that’s not a hall of fame situation.  Even so, backing these sorts of projects is inherently more risky than ordering an existing, and likely customer-reviewed, product from Amazon.  All things considered, I’m moderately satisfied with my Kickstarter experience.

How about you?