Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Podcast From an iPad

Posted by tomwiles at 12:35 PM on November 19, 2013

Podcasting has long been a multistep process for the majority of podcasters. There have been a few pieces of software written over the years that attempt to bring all of the podcasting tasks into single pieces of software, with varying results.

Most podcasters have a physical mixer to plug their mic(s) into, an application that records audio and can spit out an MP3 file, some way of editing the ID3 tags, an FTP program to upload the file to their server, and then post it to the back end web interface of a blog such as WordPress to generate their podcast RSS feed. None of these steps are really that hard, but because they are broken up they can be quite time-consuming. It reminds me of people who write paper checks to pay their bills each month and then send them off in the snail mail. The excuse is that it doesn’t take much time. The reality is that writing out checks to pay bills, putting them into the envelopes, making sure the envelopes are properly stamped and finally mailing them at the Post Office is quite time-consuming.

On the Mac I use a now-defunct podcasting application called “Ubercaster” that stopped being developed shortly after OS/X Lion came out. Ubercaster, which runs really well on non-updated Snow Leopard, can record audio with real-time audio effects, play interactive audio, record from Skype or other audio chat applications, edit and even upload via FTP. There is no other OS/X application I have found that can do all of these things the way Ubercaster can. Therefore my Macs will remain forever on Snow Leopard since Ubercaster will not run on newer versions of OS/X.

For some time now I’ve been periodically attempting to podcast from mobile devices, such as an iPad, a Nexus 7, and my Galaxy S3. While it is possible to record, edit and post from these devices, the process has been convoluted and more difficult than it needs to be. Also, the audio quality has been compromised.

I recently came up with a hardware and software combination that enables extremly high quality, no-compromise recordings on an iPad using a high-quality microphone like my Heil PR-40 that has an XLR connector. The piece of hardware is an iRig Pre and sells on Amazon for around $40 dollars. The iRig Pre (not to be confused with numerous other iRig models that offer other functions) runs on a 9-volt battery and can work with either dynamic microphones or microphones that require phantom power. The iRig Pre has a variable input gain that allows you to amplify its output signal so you can have more than adequate output volume. The iRig pre output plugs into a standard headset/microphone input jack on the iPad or even a smartphone such as the Samsung Galaxy S3. The audio quality coming out of the iRig Pre that records onto my iPad is excellent.

The iPad software app that I came up with to record podcasts with is called Bossjock Studio, a universal app for sale in the iOS App Store. It has the ability to load multiple carts, enabling interactive audio. It can render MP3 files. It works with many other apps including Dropbox. Bossjock even has built-in FTP functionality.

Bossjock’s audio quality is absolutely top-notch.

There is only one downside to Bossjock Studio — the MP3 file rendering process is slow. I contacted the developer about this and they say it renders slowly on the iPad because the MP3 rendering process cannot use the GPU and must use the regular processor. On an iPad 2 exporting to an MP3 file is pretty much real time. An hour long file will take about an hour to export to MP3.

However, the good news is on a new iPad Air the MP3 rendering time seems to be greatly sped up, likely due to the processing speed of the new A7 chip versus the A5 chip in the iPad 2. An hour long recording will render to an MP3 file on an iPad Air in about 15 minutes or so. That’s still slow compared to a tradtional computer, but easier to live with than real-time rendering on the slower A5 processor.

Getting a complex interactive MP3 file recorded and uploaded to the server is most of the battle. This leaves only the step of posting the file to a blog such as WordPress. If one is making the blog post via logging in to the backend of WordPress through a browser, posts can be made, but the process is way more clunky than it needs to be. Posting to WordPress through a touchscreen via a broswer is a rather torturous process. If only I could attach a mouse to my iPad… Sorry, not allowed by Apple.

So on the rare occasions I find myself going to a motel room, I leave the laptop behind in favor of increasingly-capable mobile devices that require only a fraction of the space. The process is much easier and more steamlined than it was, but still has some needlessly clunky aspects to it.

 

A Microsoft Future

Posted by Andrew at 5:56 PM on November 14, 2013

Microsoft Windows 8Last week’s “Microsoft Fantasy” here on GNC suggested that Microsoft was in danger of fading into irrelevance; that it should retreat to servers and gaming; that it should re-orient its mobile strategy around Android. I suggest that Microsoft is now very well positioned to offer far more than its competitors. And to negate any ad hominem attacks, I’m no Microsoft fanboy – I’ve a Linux desktop, Android tablet, Nexus smartphone and a Chromebook – but I can see a better strategy in Microsoft than defeat and retreat.

There are three players in the OS space – Microsoft with Windows, Google with Android and Apple with iOS. Each of these pairings has strengths and weaknesses. Microsoft is strong in servers, PCs and gaming. Google is good in mobile. Apple’s strength lies in PCs, entertainment and mobile. Obviously there are other players, such as Sony who are strong in gaming, but they can be discounted without OS aspirations.

Microsoft is a large organisation. It can be slow to respond and doesn’t always identify and embrace future technologies as fast as it should. The internet and Internet Explorer is a pretty good example. Other times, it moves into new markets, starting slowly and building up: look at the Xbox – it’s the market-leader. Certainly Microsoft has never been strong in the smartphone market being overshadowed previously by Blackberry and Palm, but it has a track record of trying tablet-type devices. Anyone remember Windows XP Tablet Edition? No, you probably don’t, but it existed.

But let’s think about how Microsoft’s competitors can realistically move in on their turf. For all the rise of BYOD, most large organisations use Windows on the desktop, Exchange for email, Ms Server on the tin. Google is trying hard to offer software as service in the cloud but there’s still lots of nervousness about the cloud and the leaks about US snooping aren’t going to help. Apple isn’t big in business by any stretch of the imagination and this is unlikely change. Both Apple and Google are into entertainment but neither have expressed much interest in hardcore gaming. It’s certainly not impossible for a hot Android or iOS console to come out but for now I think we can discount that.

Accepting then that Microsoft is reasonably unassailable (without being complacent) in gaming or business, let’s look at mobile and tablets in particular. Both Apple’s iPad and Android-based tablets are great devices, but even the most ardent fan will admit that tablets are generally best for consumption rather than production – it’s watching videos, surfing the web, listening to music. For creation, most people return to the keyboard and mouse on a desktop or laptop. Looking at business, while opportunities exist for tablets in business without a doubt, the bread and butter is still going to orient around Word and Excel.

The trend to mobile has been going on for years: from the desktop to the laptop to the tablet. But it’s extension to new devices, not extinction of the old. When laptops came out, did all the desktops go away? No. And it will be no different with tablets. We can see the rebalancing in the slow down of PC sales but this is entirely to be expected.

And this is Microsoft’s killer advantage – a potentially seamless suite of devices and form-factors from servers, through desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Business in particular want to use what they have already invested in – ActiveDirectory, Group Policies, Sharepoint. Microsoft and its partners are responding to this with devices that offer both a touch interface via the Modern UI and a traditional desktop for legacy applications where a keyboard and mouse is needed. The bottom line is that there’s no longer any need to shoehorn in Apple or Android onto the infrastructure at extra cost.

But what about the consumers? They’re not businesses, they’ve no investment, they’re not going to be swayed by ActiveDirectory concerns. They want apps! Absolutely, but let’s be honest about apps – most key apps and popular games are available across all platforms, and the relative low cost of apps means that it is easier to jump ship to a different OS.  Windows 8 isn’t perfect, but I would lay good money that if a 7″ Windows-based tablet was available for Nexus 7 money, they’d sell shed-loads. A similar argument follows for smartphones and Windows Phone has actually been doing quite well recently with solid gains according a recent IDC survey.

Microsoft is ahead of the game in recognising that the future is not a tablet future, but a touch future, and building touch into the core of Windows is a winner. For me, all Microsoft needs to do it get the prices down, tweak the usability of Windows 8 and continue with the “Windows Everywhere” advertising. It’s a Microsoft future.

Practical Meter for USB Charging

Posted by Andrew at 5:09 PM on November 13, 2013

Practical MeterWith the plethora of USB charging power sources and charging rates, it was probably inevitable that someone would develop a meter to measure the power going to a device. The bragging rights go to Utah-based Power Practical and the Practical Meter, a USB in-line power meter. Looking much like a USB dongle, 5 LEDs show the power transfer from 1 W up to 10 W.

Originally a Kickstarter campaign that met its funding back in the July raising nearly $170,000, the Practical Meter has been today recognised as International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree.  “Just last week we shipped out the 10,000 pre-order units we received during our Kickstarter campaign to have the Practical Meter come to market,” says Matt Ford, CEO of Power Practical. “It’s crazy that a week later we’re being honored by something as prestigious as the CES Innovations awards.

As a pure USB device, it will work with anything that charges via USB such as smartphones, mp3 players or battery packs. Practical Meter is available now for $24.99 online and includes a 3-in-1 fast charge cable with mini-USB, micro-USB and Apple connectors.

Practical Meter Charging

Apple Discontinued their Cards App

Posted by JenThorpe at 4:30 PM on September 15, 2013

Apple LogoApple has decided to discontinue their Cards iOS app service. September 10, 2013, was the last day it was usable. The service is no longer available.

If you were someone who used, and enjoyed, the Cards app this news may come as a disappointment. Apple says that you will still be able to view your previous purchases by opening the app and tapping “Saved Cards”. That is the only function that the app will continue to have.

What are your options for replacing the app? Apple suggests that you use iPhoto instead. In the announcement about the discontinuation of the Cards iOS app, Apple points out that you can order letterpress cards, customized with your photos and text, through iPhoto.

You place your order, and the cards will be shipped to you “through a carrier such as FedEx rather than through the United States Post Office”. I’m not sure why Apple has decided against using USPS, but there you are. Apple has a page with lots of information about iPhoto Print products that you can check out if you are considering using iPhoto as a replacement of the Cards app.

Free eBooks From Your Local Library

Posted by Andrew at 8:19 AM on September 13, 2013

These are tough economic times and if you want to save yourself a few pennies, stop buying ebooks, join your local library and borrow ebooks for free. The OverDrive Media Console app lets you download and read ebooks offered by your local library for nothing, and if audiobooks are of more interest, the app can handle those as well. The OverDrive app is available for most common smartphones and tablets, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Kindle Fire and Nook tablets. If you have a Kobo, Sony or Nook ereader, you can still borrow books from your library but you’ll need to use Adobe’s Digital Editions to download via your PC. If you have a Kindle ereader, you’re out of luck.

The app can be downloaded from most app stores and directly from OverDrive if your device’s app store doesn’t host the app. In the first instance, the app asks you to find your local library via simple search. Poking around I was able to find libraries in UK, USA, Canada, Mexico, Germany, India and Japan, so it has worldwide coverage but I’ve no real idea of how extensive it is.

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For my library, I had enter my borrower number and again I assume it will be similar for most public libraries. Once you are in the system, you can browse for your favourite novels and authors, and then borrow the book you want. Before you can download the book, you’ll need to sign-up for an Adobe ID and put it into Overdrive’s settings. This is all part of the ePub DRM, but getting an ID is straightforward and free of charge.

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Obviously the range of books is entirely dependent on your library but I found a good selection of books available (several of which I already owned!) and once you’ve got your reading selection downloaded, you can swap to Overdrive’s bookshelf to see what’s available for reading.

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As a reader app, OverDrive Media Console is good. There’s a bit of delay when opening a book for the very first time, but after that it’s snappy. All the other usual features are there – typeface selection, font size, line spacing, colour schemes, animations, but overall it’s well done. Reading books is easy and a pleasure.

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So, if you don’t want pay for ebooks and you’ve a tablet or smartphone, download the OverDrive Media Console, join your local library and start saving money. It’s a no-brainer!

Catch Notes for iOS, Android, Web Closing Down

Posted by J Powers at 8:09 AM on August 5, 2013
Catch Notes Closing

Catch Notes Closing

Last year I reviewed Catch Notes, a way to not only take notes, but also tag and catalog those notes for quick reference. After a year and a half in production, Catch has decided to close the app.

The Evernote competitor had a small but good following to the app. It was available for both Android and iOS devices, along with a web interface. Catch had integration with Citrix Ready Worx Verified Program, amongst other partnerships. However, from their blog they wrote:

Catch has made the difficult decision to take the company in a different direction. As such, we will be terminating service next month. We value our users and have greatly enjoyed providing Catch to millions of people over the last several years, but it is time for us to move on.

Catch.com (formerly Snaptic) was founded in 2008 and had received $11.6 million in funding within the last 3 years.

If you are looking for an alternative to Catch, other notepad options include  OneNote, Simplenote or Springpad.

Day One: A Journal for the 21st Century

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 1:28 PM on July 31, 2013

day one iconDay One is a journal for the digital age. I decided several months ago to start keeping a daily journal. Many people were recommending Day One on the Mac and iOs but I resisted, thinking the price was too high. It is $9.99 for the Mac app and $4.99 for the iOs version. I tried a couple of free journals including vJournal, but I wasn’t satisfied. Finally I decided to put down the money for Day One on both iOs and the Mac.

If you are going to start a digital journal and are in the Apple ecosphere then Day One is well worth the price. The first thing you will notice when you open up Day One is that it is well made and designed app. Along the left hand side you have a plus button which opens up a new entry window. Below that you can pull up your previous entries either in list form or by calendar date. You can also find the post you have starred as important and also set a daily reminder. Across the top of the window , you can add tags, location and images.

You can use Day One this way and it is worth the price.  However by combining a script by Brett Terpstra called Slogger, with Dropbox or iCloud and IFTTT along with Hazel you can do so much more, including having any image you post to Tumblr, InstagramFlickr or Facebook go into your Journal. Drafts an iOs app will also work with Day One. To set some of this up does require working in the terminal and some work with a script. If you take your time and follow the directions provided in the links in this post, you should be ok. Once you have it set up though, you can have things sent to Day One automatically,personally I love this option.

As you can tell I have become a big fan of Day One. I use it as a personal journal, however I do know some people who use Day One as a business journal. There are some problems with Day One, first is there is no trial version, I think a lot of people stay away from Day One because of the price. If there was a trial version I think they would be hooked. The second problem is security. You can set up a password to lock down Day One, however you cannot encrypt the entries. If you are on a Mac or iOs and are interested in starting an electronic journal I would recommend Day One.

30/30 Productivity App Review

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 3:34 PM on July 18, 2013

30/30 If you have seen the movie Up you know that the dogs that are in it are well-disciplined except when they see a squirrel. Unfortunately like a lot of people I have a lot of squirrels in my life: email, Facebook, and Twitter just to name some. I have been trying to become more disciplined and more productive by ignoring the squirrels. One of the applications that I have been using lately to help me in this effort is the 30/30 app by Binary Hammer. If you are familiar with the Pomodoro Technique the 30/30 app is built around this technique.

The 30/30 is a very nicely designed application. There is a time indicator at the top and then below a list of task for the day. Once you finish with a task, there is a sound and then the next task begins. You can schedule your whole day, even when it is time for coffee breaks, social media and email. Each Task is divided into 30 minute sections by default, however you can go into the settings and change the time period for any task. You can also adjust the alert sound and change the icon for each task. You can also set up more than one schedule if you need to. You can also have it show you the duration of each task and the time of day. The 30/30 app also sync with iCloud.

I like the 30/30 app, however I think it works best in conjunction with other apps or methods, like full screen mode. I am also still trying to figure out how to stop it from looping automatically back to the start. The biggest problem with an app like 30/30 is that you must have the discipline to use it. I think that a lot of people download it with good intentions, use it for a short period of time and then stop. If you are disciplined and use it I think that the 30/30 app can boost a person’s productivity. It is a free and available in the iTunes store.

IF This Then That Comes to the iPhone

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 10:42 AM on July 11, 2013

IFTTT Today If this then that (IFTTT) came to the iPhone. If you are not familiar with IFTTT, it is an automator tool for the Internet. For example I use Feedly and Pocket and I use an IFTTT recipes that sends any article I save on Feedly to Pocket. There are hundreds of recipes that users have created on IFTTT from the very simple to the very complex. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again on the Internet that can be described as If A happens then Do B then you need to take a look at IFTTT.

Previously IFTTT was only available through the desktop. Today it was released to as an application to iOs, specifically for the iPhone, although it will work fine on the iPad. The app has added Contacts, Photos and Reminders function to IFTTT adding more recipe possibilities. I have already set one up that sends any photo I put in a specific iPhoto album automatically to Flickr.

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The bad news per Gizmodo is the app has to be active on the iPhone for the recipe to work. Unfortunately Apple doesn’t allow apps to run persistently in the background. This means that if you want to use a recipe you will have to open the IFTTT app first and then proceed. This kind of removes the automatic part of the equation. This problem will not exist on Android which does allow apps to run in the background. Despite this I do think it is worth downloading and giving the IFTTT app a try.

Dispatch for iOs versus Mailbox for iOs

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 10:02 AM on July 5, 2013

Dispatch I wish someone would make an iOs email application that would combine both Mailbox and Dispatch. Currently I am using a combination of both. I like Mailbox because it allows me to easily sweep emails I want to look at more closely later into three boxes Read, Buy or Watch. The rests are quickly archived or deleted.  I can also label an email to do later in the day, tomorrow, on the weekend, next week, in a month or a specific date. I subscribe to a lot of newsletters from websites like MacWorld, Fast Company, and TechDirt Daily and I like to quickly go through them and send the links I want to read later to Pocket . To do this in Mailbox I have to click on the link and then click share and then the email icon and then put in the Pocket email address and then re click the email icon and then hit send. The fact that I have to click the email icon twice doesn’t make sense to me and it is a constant source of irritation.

Then I saw a lot of people recommending  Dispatch, so I decided to take a look at it.   Unfortunately  I immediately ran into a problem, Dispatch doesn’t have labels or tags or folders, so when I first go through the email I can not organize my email into the various categories. My only option without opening the individual is to either leave it in the in box , delete or archive. I like to have the ability to label or tag them for later processing. However when you pull up an individual email, then the power of Dispatch comes through. You can quickly send the email to your favorite Getting Things Done GTD application like Omnifocus, or Things. You can also send an email to Evernote, Draft, or Create a Reminder, If you click on a link in an email you are then given the option of adding it to the Safari Reading List, opening the link in a browser, copying the link or sending it to your favorite read later application including Pocket and Instapaper. If it is an event link you can create a Calendar Event or a Reminder. If there is a phone number you can make a call, pull up Skype or FaceTime directly from the application.

As you can tell I really like Dispatch, but I miss the ability to use folders, tags or labels that Mailbox offers me. So I end up doing my initial process in Mailbox and once I am finished the initial processing I then move all the emails I haven’t archived back into the inbox. When I am ready to process those emails I open up Dispatch and go through the individual emails and send the links to what ever application makes sense: news links go to Pocket, receipts or things I’ve cancelled to Evernote, things I want or need to do in the future go to Omnifocus and those items that are due today go into the Reminder’s application. If I had to choose between Mailbox and Dispatch, I think I would choose Dispatch I really like how it is integrated with other applications, still though I would miss the folders in Mailbox.