Category Archives: itunes

App Review: Image Resizer



This app is exactly what I needed! Recently, iTunes made a change to the specifications for show artwork for podcasts. Now, your image must be a 1400 x 1400 jpg. This made things a bit difficult for me.

For a while now, I have been creating original artwork for one of the podcasts that I am involved in. I have a background in Art Education, which means that every so often I just feel the need to create some hands-on, not done on a computer, type of art. After the art is finished, I would take a photo of it, upload the photo to my computer, and then use it as art for an episode of my podcast.

The new change meant that I wasn’t going to be able to do things as easily anymore. The photos I was taking were at least twice the specifications that I now needed to fit the artwork into. What I needed was an app that could quickly and easily resize that image for me, (without costing me a fortune to use it). I also needed it to be Mac compatible.

I started my search by clicking on the App store icon that was at the bottom of my screen. After a little looking around, I found an awesome little app called Image Resizer. It was created by Bitten Apps, and only cost $2.99. The price was nice, so I decided to give this little app a try.

I found it to be incredibly simple to use. Open the app, and an interface immediately pops up. Drag the image that you want to resize from your desktop, and drop it in the app. It will keep the image aspect ratio of the original image (unless you go and uncheck the box that tells it to do so).

Unlike some of the other image resizing apps, this one allows me to type in the dimensions that I want the image to be changed into. All I had to do was type 1400 into each box, and click the button that says “Resize!”. Just like that – I had turned an image of my artwork that was too big to use as podcast art into something that fit into iTunes new specifications. I highly recommend this app.


MyFord Mobile – The Future of Smart Driving?



Adoption of electric vehicles in the United States has been a bumpy road, at best. If it wasn’t cost, it was availability. And if it wasn’t availability, it was functionality. For whatever reason, electric cars can’t seem to get traction.

With a new app announced today, Ford is looking to set the tone for what owning an electric car should feel like. Owners of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric can now download the MyFord Mobile iPhone app from either iTunes or www.myfordmobile.com.

The new app makes owning and operating the new electric Focus seem challenging and fun – a little bit like a game. No longer do the selling points of an electric car have to be contained to economic and environmental advantages (although, those are pretty important, too). MyFord Mobile gives you tools to manage your vehicle – like you would manage your calendar or finances.

“The Focus Electric is a fun car to drive and helps save customers money at the pump; with MyFord Mobile, the enjoyment and savings continue after the vehicle is parked and charging,” Bill Frykman, Business and Product Development manager, said. “This innovative app also offers new ways of sharing your driving experiences to create a “cool” factor while educating new Focus Electric drivers on the perks that come with an electric vehicle lifestyle.”

Among the features of the new app:

  • Users can monitor the battery display for the current charge level and for how long the car will need to be plugged in to get a full charge or reach a desired range.
  • A MapQuest-powered trip planner built into both the app and Web portal enables users to find available public charging stations and plan efficient multi-destination routes.
  • Value charging technology (developed with Microsoft) helps customers charge the vehicle at lowest possible costs based on varying electricity rates depending on location, season and time of day. The app uses Microsoft’s cloud computing platform to check local utility rates and then automatically starts charging after the prices drop.
  • Users can program driving schedules and set a desired cabin temperature.
  • Drivers can learn to be more energy efficient by automatically uploading and processing vehicle data from each trip.

The link between smartphone and car is possible via an embedded AT&T wireless module through which drivers can log in at any time.

Of course, app users can make their Ford Focus Electric ownership a social experience by participating in forums on the MyFord Mobile website – featuring leader boards, achievements and social networking. Driving achievements and statistics can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter – probably leaving your friends and followers wondering why your car is talking to them and possibly eliciting references to 1980s TV classic Knight Rider.

Drivers interested in the MyFord Mobile can check out the site and the app as a guest. MyFord Mobile will also work with the upcoming C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids.


iTunes will not Shut Down



iTunes I have a Mac Mini with Lion and the latest version of iTunes installed. Occasionally iTunes will do something strange and today was one of those days. I was on iTunes listening to some music and podcasts. When I was finished I went to shut it down. After I shut it down it popped back open. I tried to shut it down again and the same thing happened. I then tried to force close it and still it popped open. The only way I could get rid of it was to shut the computer down by using the power button. This is not a practical solution so I started to do some research.

I started to search the Apple forums for an answer. The first answer I found said to repair your disk permissions. To repair permissions you go under Utilities, then Disk Utilities and then choose your home hard drive and then click repair disk permissions. Repairing disk permissions took about twenty minutes and when it was done, I restarted iTunes and then closed it down and again it popped back open. Another person suggested moving the iTunes .plist from the Preference folder which is in the Home Folder to the Desktop. So I tried that and again iTunes popped back open. I went back and re-entered the search string and realized I had been looking at an older forum. I found a more recent forum from 2011 and one of the posters commented that on occasion a dashboard widget can cause this problem. The light bulb went off in my head, when I remembered that I had attempted to use the Red Alarm Widget earlier in the day. I deleted the widget and that solved the problem.  I still not sure why it worked since when I reinstalled the widget and restarted iTunes with the alarm turned on, I was able to successfully close iTunes down. The same thing had happened once before several months ago and that time the problem application was Plex. Again when I uninstalled Plex and then reinstalled it everything worked normally.  Have you run into this problem and did you find a different solution. Finally does anyone know what is causing this problem to spring up every once in a while.


Apple Pursues Perfection



Apple iPad 3As the Apple roadshow rolls out of town for another few months, I doubt anyone will claim that this was a classic performance. Even the most zealous worshipper has to admit that it was a straightforward and by the numbers presentation with no real surprises. You might even argue that there have been two mediocre events in a row and while it was easy to give Apple a bye last time because of the death of Steve Jobs, this time there’s no such luxury.

What did Apple announce today? An improved set-top box, a faster tablet with a better screen, an OS point release and some jazzed-up software. Hardly big news – Samsung had a better showing last week at MWC by miles.

So what’s gone wrong? Resting on their laurels and counting their considerable cash pile? In a previous post I mentioned that Apple was about perfection, not innovation and today’s event backs this up. Nothing ground-breaking but good solid improvements which undoubtedly will sell well. Not a mis-step, but not a stride forwards either.

To be fair, it’s easy to be armchair critic without contributing anything – what would I’d have considered as new innovations from Apple?

  • iOS Apps on the Apple TV. Not unique to Apple but an interesting step forwards with great potential.
  • Full control of the Apple TV from iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. What you see on the TV, you see on the device in your hand, making it easy to control.
  • Similar situation but in reverse. Show off your photos or movies from your iPhone or iPad on the Apple TV without cables.
  • Pass running apps between iOS devices. Playing Angry Birds on your iPhone but now want to play the iPad? Pass it on over and continue playing from where you left off.
  • (Inductive charging would be nice, too.)

This would create an even more tightly knitted hardware ecosystem that would encourage owners to be all-Apple, rather than the existing media-orientated ecosystem.

Apple, while you might be raking in the cash, you need to and can do better. Next time round, let’s see some real innovation. Perfection is boring.


Withings Internet Connected Baby Scale



At CES in Las Vegas, Withings has announced its wireless Internet-connected baby and toddle scale, winner of a 2012 CES Innovations Award. Developed by the French company, the Smart Baby Scale incorporates WiFi, Bluetooth and the low power Bluetooth Smart connectivity and allows parents to accurately record their child’s weight from birth.

Withings Smart Baby Scale

Using the Smart Baby Scale, parents can view the weight readings from any net connected device, such as PC, laptop, iPad, iPhone or iPod touch using the already available WiScale app. Parents can easily pass on their child’s weight profile to their doctor, family and friends and the scale can also update Facebook and Twitter. Messages can be sent to email addresses with new readings and, if desired, parents can put together a scrapbook with notes and photos to create a story of their child’s growth.

Cédric Hutchings, Withings co-founder says, “We are very excited to announce our Smart Baby Scale and offer parents an amazing new way to take care of their newborn or young child. The success of our WiFi Body Scale has proven the benefits of connected weight tracking on adults and we were eager to also bring these benefits to babies and children. We are thrilled that our Smart Baby Scale was awarded the prestigious CES Innovation Award and this further reinforces our vision of designing smart communicating devices that help families take better charge of their health”.

The Smart Baby Scale complements other Withings products such as the adult Withings WiFi body scale and the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor. Parents are able to monitor their child’s weight on the same dashboard they view their own weight and blood pressure. (Hmm, I wonder if parents are as inclined to put their own weight on Facebook!)

No news on pricing but the Smart Baby Scale will be available from Q2 of 2012. The WiScale app is available now for iOS devices from the App Store for free.


Apple Releases New iTunes Beatles Ad



It seems Apple thinks you may want to give the gift of the Beatles this holiday season as they have released a brand new iTunes Beatles ad.  The new ad comes right on the heels of a free children’s eBook hitting the iTunes store.  The Yellow Submarine eBook carried with it the simple “For Steve” dedication and tells the tale of the 1968 movie in the form of a children’s book, with clips from the film, animated illustrations, and a read-along from actor Dean Lennox Kelly.

The new TV ad, which was posted to YouTube by Apple yesterday, features a clip from the song Magical Mystery Tour as the video rolls seamlessly through a history of the Beatles albums with real and animated pictures.  The commercial excludes U.S.-only Beatles releases like “Meet the Beatles” and focuses exclusively on the core U.K catalog, ending with Abbey Road.  The ad ends with a simple “The Beatles on iTunes”.

With Beatles music still fairly new to the digital form and still just as popular as it was when it was released more than 30 years ago, it’s not really a surprise that Apple would put out this little reminder in time for holiday shoppers looking for just one more little gift.  The Beatles music has now reached a whole new generation of fans, including my own children who were 13 and 10 when we took them to their first concert two years ago – Paul McCartney won them over.


Starbucks’ Free Pick of the Week



Starbucks Coffee CupI’m possibly a bit slow on the uptake here, but Starbucks in the UK are offering a free “Pick of the WeekiTunes download. Some weeks it will be a music track, other weeks it will be an e-book, some will be well-known, some will be up-and-coming.

I came across this freebie last week while frequenting my local coffee house but after checking on-line, it looks like the promotion has already been running for a few weeks.

You’ll find little credit card-sized vouchers with a download code on the back close to the tills. I picked up The Damned United by David Peace. Enter the code into iTunes / iBooks and it’s added to your collection. Easy.