Cloudy Days and Connected Nights

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Archive for the ‘Flickr’ Category

iBird Pro for iPhone Revisited: still the best (and even better)!

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IMG_1000000410While we wait for iBird Pro for iPad to appear in the app store, it might be a good time to revisit iBird Explorer Pro for iPhone, in some detail, for those who are not familiar with the application, or who have not considered it in a while.

IMG_1000000421Version 3.0, just released, is a major upgrade…adding, first and foremost, over 5 hours of reference standard sounds from the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, both songs and calls, with multiple recordings for many birds. This removes, to a large extent, the only clear competitive advantage some iPhone field guides have had over iBird. (Note also, the Similar Sounding list…it is much more extensive on some birds.)

In addition, version 3.0 offers multiple Favorite lists and, if you are using iOS4 and the latest iTunes, the ability to sync both Favorite Lists and Species Notes to your desk/laptop. This makes it possible to use one Favorite List as a Life List, and another as a trip list (not ideal yet, but possible). If after syncing you store the lists and notes in separate folders, you can even keep multiple sets. (There is a through tutorial on the More page that helps with the use of multiple Favorite Lists and sets of Species Notes.)

IMG_1000000432IMG_1000000436There are also a few refinements to the UI…most notably Size and Length sliders where appropriate in Search mode, and, though a simple thing, shadowing at the ends of the navigation bar at the bottom of the Species screens that makes it clear (for the first time, see the screen shot above) that the thing slides left or right to reveal more options! A simple thing, but it should eliminate some initial frustration on the part of new users. The Help section has also been refined, with a new, more graphical delivery of the basics, and that should also ease the new user’s pain considerably.

Those are the most important new features, but let us revisit the feature set that makes this the best of the field guides currently on the iPhone. We will begin with the reference section.

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Basic illustrations of all 924 species

Supplemental illustrations of many

Multiple photographs of almost all

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Full size portrait mode for detail

Access to 1000s of Flickr images
And Birdapedia, (No screen shot)

Detailed, accurate, range maps

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Pages of identification detail

Table of interesting facts

Conservation status information

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Family information

Illustrated similar Species list with live links to the species.

ability to add notes to species

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ability to use multiple favorite lists

Where the female is not illustrated…

photos are provided.

But the reference section is only half the program. The search section offers the most comprehensive and useful set of search criteria of any of the iPhone filed guides…setting a standard that will be hard to match. As mentioned above, where appropriate, sliders and pickers are employed, but the real strength is the graphical approach to criteria. Anything that can be illustrated, is.

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Pages of search criteria organized into logical groups.

illustrated, icon driven,  search criteria…

Icons

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Icons

Icons

sound sample for song search

As criteria are selected the number of species that match is shown at the top of the search screen.

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Matched birds update with each criteria.

as so…

you can view any group.

 

A complete list of criteria looks like this:

Basic Group
Location (Common)
Location (Uncommon)
Shape
Size
Habitat
Color Primary
Color Secondary
Backyard Feeder
Family
Conservation Status
Observed State/Month

Song
Song
Song Pattern

Body Related
Length Range
Weight Range

Flight Related
Wing Shape
Flight Pattern
Tail Shape
Wingspan
Leg Color

Pattern Related
Head Pattern
Breast Pattern
Belly Pattern
Back Pattern

Head Related
Crown Color
Forehead Color
Cere Color
Throat Color
Nape Color
Eye Color
Bill Shape
Bill Length
Ear Tuffs

Miscellaneous
Game Bird
Order

As I have mentioned in past reviews, iBird’s search mode can be an excellent tool to teach new birders the kinds of things they should be looking for as they are observing birds in the field.

With this breath of features and depth of solid information, iBird Explorer Pro for iPhone 3.0 continues to set the standard, not only for what a birding field guide can be on the iPhone, but for what any iPhone field guide can aspire to. There is more information here at the tips of your fingers than any birder could digest in a lifetime…but it is all information that a birder might need, sometime, somewhere. The magic is that, with iBird Explorer Pro, it is right there in your pocket!

Written by singraham

August 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Zensify Revisited

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Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr in the same list on the same app: Zensify

Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr in the same list on the same app: Zensify

Back in the Managing Social Aggrivation piece I promised to revisit Zensify periodically to see how it is developing.  Zensify you might remember is the ambitious project and app that, when perfected, will allow you to manage all you social netwooks, from Twitter and Facebook to Flickr and YouTube, from one application on the iPhone.

My major concern first time around was simple speed. It took forever for the your networks to load, and the app was a bit buggy. But then it was a Preview copy…not yet claimed to ready for market.

Today Zensify released v1.2.3, the first without the Preview splashed across the icon. It is indeed faster…much faster…those little coding elves must have really worked their magic on this one…and, so far, it is completely stable.

I really like the way it handles images, from Flickr or from Facebook, putting a group of image thumbs in the same message box and providing you with a little slide show viewer when you open the message. Better by far than any of the dedicated Flickr clients for iPhone.

And in general the interface is attractive an efficient. Of course, the tell-tale empty comment (reply) icon on the Flickr and Facebook pages does indeed tell the tale. You can reply and retweet Twitter posts, but you can only open Facebook and Flickr posts in the built in browser. You can of course, comment fairly easily on Flickr images, since the browser opens the m.flickr.com interface, but commenting on a Facebook update is ardous, since you have to read really really small, or pinch and spread the page to legible size. Slow process too.

You can now post pics to both Twitter and Facebook, and make simultaneous, or single updates to those services too. You can Direct Message your twitter friends. You can retweet a tweet, or twitter a link to Facebook updates and Flickr images (and YouTube videos I presume).

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And, of course, there is still no ability to really manage your accounts. No follow or friend, block or unfriend, etc.

So, Zensify gets credit for moving forward with an ambitious project. The increased speed (even, by the way, on my 3G with OS 3.0) demonstrates the potential even more clearly. This could be huge. (Provided TweetDeck does not implement the full Facebook API and stays away from Flickr…and that Seesmic for iPhone does not come along and blow them both out of the water.)

I am actually use Zensify as a front end for my Flickr contacts.

And I am watching closely to see where it goes. I am intrigued by those empty comment/reply icons everywhere but Twitter!

Written by singraham

July 9, 2009 at 10:51 am

Managing Social Aggravation on the iPhone and Desktop

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Seesmic Desktop Preview, feedalizer, zensify, Darkslide, Mobile Foto (with Tweetie and TwitterFon thrown in the mix) and a brief encounter with PeopleBrowser.

Seesmic Desktop Preview: Twitter accounts and Facebook in one app.

Seesmic Desktop Preview: Twitter accounts and Facebook in one app.

In this day of multiple social networks and multiple social network personalities, the task of keeping up with your Facepeeps, Tweeps, and Flickr buds can be daunting,  even for the least social.

And then too, many of us are multiple device folks: desktop, laptop, netbook, internet connected smartphone, etc., etc. so we are often tracking our networks from two or three directions at once.

Of course there are several good desktop and iPhone clients for Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr…in various combinations.

My favorite for  Twitter and Facebook is Seesmic Desktop Preview, which handles multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, updates, replies/comments, friend/news feeds, follow and unfollow on Twitter, and most of the essential features of both sites. It is still a work in progress (it lacks the ability to view your own friend/follow list for instance), but it is excellent already and only stands to get better as it develops.

Recently I discovered zensify on the iPhone. zensify is a social network aggregater  that puts my Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr feeds in the same list on the same app, and allows me to update, reply, comment, etc. on each of them, with more or less ease.

Twitter interaction is pretty good, on a basic level, mimicking closely the functionality of  other iPhone Twitter apps like Tweetie and TwitterFon. You can choose to Reply or Direct Message. You can post images.

zensify: one stop social aggreation for the iPhone

zensify: one stop social aggreation for the iPhone

Flickr interaction is very good also. zensify displays single or multiple new image posts from your contacts list, and at it also captures images with new comments. In cases where there are multiple images opening the viewer provides a slide show effect where you can flip through the offerings. To comment you have to tap the image (lower right corner seems to work best) and the Flickr .m site opens with the image displayed. Commenting is quick and easy and relatively fast.

Facebook interaction is the weakest so far (though there are hints they are not done with this section).  It collects your friend’s status updates just fine, and you can view them the viewer, and like them, but to make a comment (so far) you have to open the friend’s profile in the browser. Awkward.

One good feature is that you can make simultaneous posts to Twitter and Facebook.

Of course, there is a whole layer of functionality provided by dedicated clients for these networks that is missing so far in zensify. You can not view followers/friends, follow or friend, unfollow or block, view friend’s/follower’s timelines, view follower’s followers, see the update that was replied to, etc. etc.

zensify takes a while to aggregate all that information too, and clearly strains the limits of what current iPhone hardware is capable of.

Therefore, wonderful as it is being able to interact with all my important social networks in a single app, zensify will not be replacing Tweetie or TwitterFon for Twitter, or the Facebook app for Facebook until it reaches a more complete level of development (and maybe not until I upgrade to a new iPhone).

But that leaves me without an easy means of keeping up with my flickr account. I can easily fall 400 images behind on my contact’s submissions if I am away from the netbook for more than a few hours!

Darkslide: list view, Mobile Foto: grid view of contact's recent images

Darkslide: list view, Mobile Foto: grid view of contact's recent images

I have had the free, ad supported, version of Darkslide on my iPhone for some time, but never gotten into the habit of using it. After zensify I gave it another try and liked it so well, I ended up buying the paid version.

Darkslide implements the full feature set of Flickr, including image uploads, groups, sets, etc. etc. but for me the best part is that it  gives you quick easy access to your contacts’ recent posts, with an excellent viewer and easy commenting and is just the thing for keeping up with the image flow on the iPhone.

Unfortunately Darkside has two annoying habits. 1) when you reopen it, it stalls and refuses to reload whatever you were viewing last until you manually initiate a reload by tapping, for instance, My Photos if you are in Contacts, and then retapping Contacts. Annoying! Then too, Darkside is evidently working without a parachute (no local cache) so it has to reload everything every time you work with it. That can take a while if you have a lot of contacts, and forever if you have a lot of images yourself. Annoying. (Interestingly there is a Cache size readout in Settings, but it is always blank.) [Note: v 1.6.1 (current in the app store) is apparently broken in several ways, prone to crashing, and to hanging up internally when switching functions. The company is aware of the problem and working on a fix.]

Which lead me to search for alternatives. Mobile Fotos presents itself as a full featured Flickr client, and it is just that. Since it does cache locally, it is much faster than Darkslide, and it auto reloads on launch. I do not like the way it displays Contacts’ images quite as well as Darkslide, which groups multiple images from a single contact together under the contacts name in a list view, and it has one glaring omission (shocking!): there is no Activity function to look at activity on your own images.

Which lead me back to Flickr’s own m.flickr.com site, which is, afterall, very good. Not as fast as Mobile Foto, but in many ways the layout, look and feel, is just about as elegant as Darkslide (except no dark background view of images!!!, and the new postings are not grouped by contact), and it actually works better than the standard web version in that it returns to the actual page of contacts you were commenting on when you complete a comment…rather than poping all the way back to the first page of contacts’ images. For now, it might just be the easiest, fastest, way to keep up with contacts’ new postings.

zensify did make me wonder about developments in similar functionality for the desktop. FriendFeed I find somewhat limited from the interactive aspects, and I don’t enjoy being tied to my browser, but the availability of Adobe AIR has spawned quite a few social aggregation desktop apps beyond Seesmic Desktop.

You may have seen postings around the net for PeopleBrowser. People browser looks to be the ultimate be all and end all for social networking: once it is finished. Though a beta was announced this week, all I can find is the most recent alpha, which shows the potential. Unfortunately it appears unnecessairly complex and seems to produce inconsistent results at best. I will be tracking development on this one but it does not seem ready for prime time yet.

feedalizr: one stop desktop social aggregater

feedalizr: desktop social aggregation

feedalizr is an older, more mature app that looks like it might have been the inspiration for zensify.

Functionally they are much the same. You set up your accounts and then feedalizr aggregates them into one list. Filters are provided so you can see just what you want in the primary list, and you can open all kinds of things (other accounts, individual tweeps or Facepeeps, groups, searchs, etc.) in tabs beside the primary list. So far, I have not found a way to show new images of those who are not classifed as Flickr friends…all my contacts are missing.

Interaction with the various networks, updates, image posts, comments, replies, etc.  is pretty easy and works well, with pop down posting boxes, drag and drop for images for Twitter and Facebook, and image titling, tagging and description fields for Flickr uploads (up to 10 images at a time).

As with zensify, feedalizr appears to lack the second layer of functionality for Twitter and Facebook: friend/follow, unfollow, etc. (You can do these things but it kicks you out to the main Twitter site or Facebook to do them.) It does have a groups feature which is quick and easy (or was, until it mysteriously stopped working for me).

So, just as on the iPhone, the all in one solution on the desktop does not seem to be quite there. Seesmic Desktop still comes closest, but lacks the Flickr feed.

And I have yet to find an equivalent for Darkslide or Mobile Foto on the desktop. There is an Adobe AIR program called DestroyFlickr which attempts to be the equivalent for the desktop, but it will not run well on my netbook’s 1024×600 screen (AIR seems to still have trouble with windows).

The upstart of all this is…with the really strong social networking apps on the iPhone, it is getting to be more fun, and faster, to track my networks on the phone than it is on the netbook. This does not, somehow, seem right, but there it is!