Cloudy Days and Connected Nights

With tablet and iPhone in hand and head in the clouds

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Written by singraham

March 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Super-Stand: a modification for the NewMp3Technology A101it Folio Case

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In my brief review of the NewMp3Tech folio case for the A101it, I mentioned that the stand, while not very functional as is, had potential for an interesting modification. Here it is.

If you bend the front cover of the case the wrong way so the short flap lays flat against the back of the case, and the long flap points down toward the table, you will see where I am going with this.

IMG_5627 IMG_5628
IMG_5629

1) Affix the furry half of 4 little self-adhesive Velcro ovals (available at department stores for hanging pictures, posters, and mirrors) to the appropriate corners of the case: two on the inside near the bottom left and right corners of the leather frame that surrounds the A101it, and two on the top outside corners of the front cover.

   
IMG_5632 IMG_5634
IMG_5635 2) cut two lengths of the grippy half of non-self stick (sew-on) Velcro about 10 inches long. Attach one end of the Velcro straps to the two furry patches on the inside of the case. With the cover bent backwards so the short flap is against the back, adjust the position of the long flap to make a comfortable angle, and then attach the other ends of the Velcro straps around the edge of the cover so they stretch tight across the gap. Flip the case over and stand it up. Be sure the short section of cover flap stays tight against the back of the case and the Velcro straps keep the triangle from spreading. By varying the length of the Velcro straps you can change the angle of the screen to any angle you want, for viewing or typing, or anything in between.
   

Simple as that. You can attach the Velcro strips to the patches when the case is closed for transport, along the long edge of the case, or simply tuck them somewhere safe.

In my humble opinion, this mod turns what is an okay folio case with a marginal stand implementation, into a truly functional travel companion. But that’s just me. 🙂

Written by singraham

January 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Osfoora Updates: now this is getting really good!

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Osfoora has had 2 updates in the short time it has been in the App Store, and since my first review. Considering that it was a strong entry in the iPhone Twitter client sweepstakes, right out of the gate, what could the author have added/changed this quickly?

A few of the changes are evident right here on the Home view. Apparently I was not the only user who found it difficult to navigate into and out of Timeline view with multiple accounts. As you see the Home view has been rearranged, in the very first update, and a large, unmistakable Timeline icon added. The subtlety of this is that you no longer have to get to the Timeline through the accounts manager, and there is now a Home button on just about every timeline view to take you directly back to this master view. Nice. Manage Accounts gets its own button at the bottom of the screen and only needs to be accessed when you actually want to switch accounts or add accounts. Very nice.

In addition to highlighting new features and changes in UI, I want to take the opportunity here to point out some features that I have come to appreciate more as I have used the program since its original release.

First, I may already have mentioned that Osfoora is, hands down, the fastest Twitter client I have ever used on the iPhone. From start up to timeline loads to internal navigation, to the inline web browser…the program is fast and responsive: noticeably faster and quicker when compared to any other Twitter client on my 3G. Actually I know that I already mentioned it…at least twice in the first review, but it is noticeable enough, and important enough to me as a user, to be said again.

Then there are a whole bunch of nice little touches: The reply icon in the timeline views that tells you the tweet you are looking at is a reply to some other tweet (and the In Reply button at the bottom of the tweet view that opens the chain of replies as a conversation), the little image icon that tells you the tweet contains an image (much easier to see the icon when scrolling than it is to look for twitpic or yfrog urls), the elegant retweet presentation with avatars of both tweeter and retweeter and the retweeter’s name at the bottom of the tweet, the double tap to mark all read action on the icon unread counts (see screen shot immediately below for these features), the way DMs are grouped by sender and displayed in conversation style (image 1 below), the comprehensive popup action menu that appears when you touch a tweet longer than it takes to open it (2), the filer tweets text box at the top of timeline views that allows you to search for tweets by username or subject (3), the way your common lists appear at the bottom of the more screen without opening your profile (this actually may be new feature…not sure…but I know I like it! image 4 below), the three icon action bar hidden under the top of every timeline view (5), the quick search engine that pulls up user’s profiles under Find User and when you press the @ icon in the compose view (for addressing tweets, image 6), the way the app remembers your hastags and gives you quick access to them in the compose view, being able to save tweets as drafts, being able to attach multiple images to a single tweet (7), the way the app auto senses when the tweet contains more than one @user and adds Reply All to the reply menu (8)…even the neat way the refresh icon zooms up before it begins to spin when you load a list! All very nice and useful, and simply elegant as well. I appreciate that.

Osfoora1

As far as new features goes: TextExpander integration was added in the first update, which I also really appreciate as I use it all the time. If you do not know TextExpander, it is separate app that allows you to create and save snippets…short letter sequences that stand for longer words or phrases. With the proper integration, typing a snippet in any app with integration, like Osfoora, will trigger the autoexpand TextExpander engine and replace your snippet with the full word or phrase. Just like magic!

This update added Posterous integration, also a feature I really appreciate. The integration even preserves the body of your tweet as text in the Posterous post, using the first 40 characters as title, which is better that sticking the whole tweet in as title as some other apps do…though we will have to wait for a future update to get automatic Posterous galleries when you attach more than one image to a tweet. We also now have inline previews of images from supported image services in the tweet view…very nice…and it would have been even nicer if the previews were actual thumnails and not a crop of the full sized image…the crop often leaves you without enough significant detail to be useful in deciding if you want to open the image viewer (9).

This update also brings TwitLonger inline previews to the tweet view, though, among my tweeple, very few actually use TwitLonger.

There are more features to this excellent Twitter client…in fact I can now say, that with the exception of push notification, Osfoora does everything I expect of the best Twitter clients, and easily ranks right up there with Tweetie, Twittelator, Echofon, and Simplytweet. When you factor in the speed and quickness of Osfoora, it has earned pride of place in the application bar at the base of my iPhone’s home screen! Osfoora has become, in a strong initial offering, and two excellent updates, the one Twitter client I use every day on my iPhone.

1) 2)

3)4)

5) 6)

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Written by singraham

March 13, 2010 at 11:17 am

Qik VideoCamera Update!

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Recently I did a brief review of the emerging video on the 2G/3G iPhone scene and found that, while it is now possible, it was just that: possible as opposed to, for instance, pleasing, or productive.

All that changes pretty much for the better with the recent update of Qik VideoCamera (not Qik the live streaming app, but the other one). The update features up to 15 frames per second, choice of high or low resolution, brightness control, zoom (actually works!), a number of not-so amazing video effects, an audio booster for better sound, wifi sharing with a computer on the same network (through your browser), and, best of all, email sharing. Email means that you can quickly and easily post to Posterous or YouTube. Posterous still gets the video and audio out of sync for some reason, but YouTube works fine!

And the best part of all of this is: it works! Not HD, and not equal to the iPhone 3GS or Flip, but usable video, in a format and with sharing features that make it really useful.

Promised soon: more social media features…direct posting to FaceBook and Twitter, more official YouTube upload, etc., as well as direct posting to Qik itself.

So, now no one has any excuse. The app is $.99. [Note! this is NOT for the 3GS. It does not record video as well as the native app, and the zoom and brightness controls, and I assume the effects, are not available.]

Here is a sample video taken inside well after dark by artificial light. Not bad at all.

 

Here is a little landscape vid made outside this am at normal setting. That is a crow calling. The second vid is at full zoom.

 

 

Not too shabby for a phone that is not supposed to do video! If you are still using a 3G, like many of us, this app is your Video solution. Or at least the best one out so far.

Written by singraham

January 16, 2010 at 8:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Echofon Pro 3.0

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My very first Twitter client on my iPod Touch, before I even owned an iPhone, was Twitterfon, and it was the winner in my first show-down review of iPhone Twitter clients. That is way back in the day when Twitterfon was only available in a free version, and was clearly the best of the clients available for free. There were a lot of things I liked about Twitterfon, but it was soon overtaken in the features race by Tweetie, then Twitalator Pro and finally by SimplyTweet, which combined the simplicity of Tweetie with the feature set of Twitalator for what I consider to be the best tweeting experience on the iPhone.

Twitterfon Pro (in the next show-down review) was a valiant effort to regain ground. In the meantime, legal issues forced a name change: from Twitterfon to Echofon. The independent developer, working for the fun of it in his spare time, became a business with hopes of making a profit, and Echofon for the Mac and Echofon Pro for the iPhone were born.

I bought Twitterfon Pro, as you can see from the review sited above.  Echofon has one really great feature. Since the Twitterfon days, Echofon is one of the few (if not the only) Twitter client to offer active links right in the list views…user names and @s, hashtags and urls are all highlighted and live. Touch one and it opens the appropriate view directly, without opening the tweet in tweet view. This makes so much sense that I have always wondered why all the clients don’t do it that way.

I keep my copy of Twitterfon/Echofon Pro updated and install it after each update to see how it is developing. A version or so ago Echofon became only the 4th iPhone Twitter client to offer fully integrated global push. Most of the top selling Twitter apps rely on Boxcar for Push, and, as good as Boxcar is, it does not offer the functionality of true native push. Twitbit, TwitBird, and SimplyTweet all do push right (though you pay extra for it, as an in-app purchase, in TwitBird). Echofon joined that crew as soon as they offered global push, and they even offer a user adjustable sleep timeout for pushes (which not all of the others do).

Beyond that, I am happy to report that with version 3.0, Echofon has achieved a rich enough set of features so that, when combined with one of the better UIs going,  I would consider it as a alternative to SimplyTweet as my primary Twitter client. In fact it is doing that duty right now, while I wait for the next SimplyTweet update.

For one thing, Echofon is fast. It caches past tweets so it comes up with list views populated, and it only downloads the past 200 tweets or so (and provides a count). While I like SimplyTweet’s down load all since last view policy…because I like, for some bizarre reason, to know how many tweets I am not reading…it does slow ST down on launch…and I have come to realize I will never read most of those 6 hour old tweets anyway. 200 (which with my 900 tweeple is between an hour and two hours depending on the time of day) is enough. Especially if means the Echofon is up and running fast.

In other features, Echofon Pro 3.0 maintains live links in the list views, along with instant reply (just tap the avatar). It adds support for Twitter’s native lists and geotagging. The list interface is particularly robust. Anything you can do with a Twitter list, you can do from Echofon, quickly and easily.

Echofon Pro also has a feature I have not seen before anywhere: there is a search box at the top of every list view, and it allows you to search your own timeline, mentions, or DMs for whatever text occurs to you (see the screen shot above left). I was not sure how valuable it was until I actually needed to find a tweet I remembered reading and wanted to look at again. There is some power in that search box!

Echofon also has both Twitter native retweet and old-style RT (which still allows for commenting RTs). Then there is full Profile editing; conversation view of replies and DMs; thumb-nail of images in tweet view, easy user look-up in Composition view; search by username, name, or company (which I believe is actually a feature unique to Echofon); and Nearby search with map.

Unfortunately the Map nearby search is somewhat awkwardly implemented. The initial search area is way too small, at least here in semi-rural ME, and it seems to take a long time to find tweets. So far I have had to move the map off center to get it find any tweets at all. You can pinch zoom the map down to cover a larger area, but it only finds tweets on the current section of displayed map…and list view only shows those tweets already found in map view. Other clients that feature a nearby search seem to pull down a list really fast, and those that feature a map view (TwitBird for instance) have a selectable search radius, and seem to be much faster (plus the TwitBird map search graphics, with a sweeping radar effect, are just way cool!). Nearby search is not a feature I use, so for me it is not a deal-breaker…but your usage and needs may differ.

What Echofon does not do…

  • provide landscape in all views (it only has it in Compose)
  • display real name with tweets (come on guys, this one is so easy…either display both as SimplyTweet does, or make it user selectable as several others do)
  • have TextExpander support (I use this, like all the time (latt), in SimplyTweet)
  • provide an easy way to quote or repost a tweet (totally possible with copy and paste, of course, but Tweetie’s quote and SimplyTweet’s repost one touch actions have me spoiled).

Echofon Pro 3.0, with global push and a unique mix of features, including the latest Twitter native lists and geotagging, has got to be a strong contender for the best Twitter client on the iPhone, and the one Twitter client you will use everyday.

Visit Echofon for more information, or purchase on the App Store at EchofonPro. (iTunes link).

More screen shots, pretty much self explanatory.

 

 

Written by singraham

January 9, 2010 at 6:25 am

Video comes to the 2G/3G iPhones! (sort of…kind of…maybe…)

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If, like me, you were caught in mid-contract by the iPhone 3GS release, the one thing you might have missed by not upgrading (besides the overall speed boost) is video recording. You may know that Apple relaxed control over the camera API just before Christmas, in order to approve the Ustream live video streaming app for 2G and 3G iPhones. Of course, just like magic, or like mushrooms (or maybe like magic mushrooms) a whole bunch of Video cam apps have sprung up in the App Store over the past two weeks. It is like they were all there, in the approval process somewhere behind an Apple dam, and suddenly the dam broke, and they are all loose.

Ustream was followed quickly by Qik (sorry) for the 2G/3G iPhones. Both are technically live streaming apps, tied to their respective video sharing services, but both have an off-line mode that allows shooting and saving a video to your iPhone for later upload. Since they are free apps, I tried them both.

Video on a 2G/3G iPhone is limited (so far) to 7 frames per second…so don’t expect high quality. Still, all things considered, both Ustream and Qik do a decent job of capturing and displaying short videos from your phone. The off-line mode is somewhat limited, since you have to upload before you can do much of anything with the videos, but it is there. Both allow auto posting to Twitter, Facebook, etc.

There are now quite a few 99¢ dedicated video recorders for the 2G/3G iPhone in the App store as well. iVideoCamera, iVidCam, Showtime, Camcorder, etc. It has been a moment since I looked so there are probably two more by now. Just like magic mushrooms.

Each has it’s own unique degree of functionality and quirkiness.

IVideoCamera for instance, is one of the few that will save to your Camera Roll or Photos app. Saving to Photos is important, since the Photos app has a built in video editor. iVideoCamera provides easy upload to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, and Twitter. However it only shoots 3 frames per second at 160×213. An update is promised that will shoot higher res and 10 frames per second (maybe they know something Apple does not).

iVidCam, which I bought, features a 10x, two finger, zoom, 320×427 video @ 3-7 frames per second, wifi destop transfer, and a YouTube uploader. However, you can not share the video until you upload it, and it does not save to your camera roll…so there is no way to edit the video. In my tests it also produced very choppy video…certainly nearer 3 frames than 7.

Then we have Camcorder for the iPhone, which I also bought. According to the app description, Camcorder shoots 320×426 @ an unspecified frame rate (in my tests, certainly closer to 3 than to 7 frames) and saves to camera roll. Video quality is very similar to iVidCam, and similarly disappointing. You can also email the videos, to yourself (your laptop, etc) or direct to a posting service like Posterous.

Showtime records 320×240 @ 6 fps but in avi format…not in QT. Even though you can email vids out to get them off the iPhone, avi means that you can not send your vid to another iPhone user for viewing. Also it apparently does not save to camera roll. Users are reporting difficulty deleting vids once recorded.

Since Qik Live works well, you can imagine my excitement to see a stand-alone 99¢ Qik VideoCamera app appear in the store. This has all the functionality of the Qik live-stream app in off-line mode (which means decent video and audio quality, including landscape recording), plus it has real-time encoding, really small file sizes, and will save to camera roll for editing. Sharing to Social sites and Qik is promised for a future update. Unfortunately, until Qik adds those features, there is no easy way to get your video off the iPhone, short of a complete sync, since the Photos App does not allow emailing videos, and it is not a feature of Qik. You can, I found by dint of a good deal of experimentation, copy the vid from the player within Photos, and paste it into an email in Mail (only in Mail…it does not work with GMail on Safari or Perfect Browser). I sent video it to myself and it plays fine in Quicktime Player. I have sent it directly to Posterous and it shows up there as a post, but the video plays at double speed while the audio is normal. Very strange. Emailing to self and then uploading to YouTube from the laptop also works. I have not yet got YouTube’s upload by email to work with my iPhone.

So far, both Ustream and Qik offer better video recording, playback and sharing options, albeit tied to their own sharing services. At least they work, which is, so far, a little more than I can honestly say for the stand-alone apps I have tried.

My contract runs out before Apple will release the iPhone 4G next June (if they stay true to form)…so these apps, for me, are a stop-gap anyway. 5mp camera…HD 720 HD video??? Watchawanabet? I can’t wait. But I will have to.

Take a look at these sample vids from the four apps I have on my iPhone right now. (Not the best subject or light…I will replace them when we have better weather.)

And finally a sample on the Qik Live site.

[qik url="http://qik.com/video/4237388"%5D

Written by singraham

January 1, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Windows Live Writer: a blogger’s dream!

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LiveWriterS Okay, so maybe everyone already knows about this. I know I tried it months ago, on my Windows XP netbook and found it not worth the trouble…but now, maybe updated, and running on Windows 7 on a much more powerful CULV based machine, I do not know how I managed my blogging life without it.

To put it plainly, creating a blog in Live Writer saves significant time and stress over creating it on the WordPress.com editing page in your browser of choice. At least it does for me. It might for you too.

For one thing, Live Writer downloads your theme info, for as many blogs as you want to register, and formats the composition page to the exact width you have to work with for each, plus providing an appropriate background and the correct typefaces. That sized to width thing I find invaluable! I don’t know how many times, when composing on the WordPress page, I have struggled to figure out how image placement is going to effect text flow, or how wide an image can be before it breaks out of the theme.

Second: instead of the little cramped composition box on the WordPress site, Live Writer provides a full sized composition page, similar to a wordprocessor layout, with menus and a toolbar at the top, controls along the bottom, and a side-bar on the right for context sensitive actions. I find that breaking out of that WordPress composition box is amazingly liberating. And the toolbar is always there for links, pics, etc. (I find that I am always scrolling around the WordPress page to get back to the controls at the top of the composition box.)

Third: spell check is quick, easy, and accurate.

Forth: Live Writer does tables…and does them well.

Fifth: at least in Windows 7, you can insert a pic from a website by simple copy and paste. Live Writer does the linking for you. Resizing is as simple as grabbing a corner and scooting it up or down to fit the column. It will either snap to edge or provide an auto margin. Just select the pic and hit either hyperlink icon, or right click and choose hyperlink from the pop-up, to bring up a dialog where you can back link the image to its source page. Very fast and very intuitive. It is also easy to specify a margin around the image in the actions panel on the right. The only thing I have not figured out how to do is to add a caption to a pic.

Sixth: you can manage and compose all your blogs from one central app. Live Writer will connect to as many blogs as you own, and, as above, tailor the composition space to each one individually.

Seventh: Live Writer saves local drafts, and, of course, you can easily compose a whole blog without any internet connection, and publish when you are connected again. This is truly liberating for those of us who spend significant amounts of time in the air (or at least will be until they take our netbooks away from us on airplanes).

There is, as far as I am concerned, a lot to like about Live Writer for the blogger. I now use it all the time.

Maybe best of all: it is free!

Get it here.

Written by singraham

December 29, 2009 at 10:05 am

Posted in Uncategorized