January 27, 2012

Hands On With the Uber-Useful Launch Center, An Automator For iOS [Macworld 2012]

Here’s a quick look at AppCubby’s $ 0.99 Launch Center app, a very cool and useful app launcher that’s like Automator for iOS.

The app allows you to set up all kinds of actions and schedule them. Version 1.1 adds actions to iOS’s Notification Center. Take checking your Facebook messages, for example. This normally takes several steps: searching for the Facebook app, launching it and finding the messages tab. In Launch Center, you can set it up to check your messages every morning from just one finger-tap on the Notifications screen.

The app can be configured to work with a ton of apps and perform pretty complex actions, like calling your mom every week or adjusting the screen brightness down every night. Today’s update has prope and is already in the App Store’s Top 100. Here’s the app’s creator, David Barnard, showing how it works.

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Cult of Mac

Check Out The Original iPhone Film Festival Winners [Macworld 2012]

Check Out The Original iPhone Film Festival Winners [Macworld 2012]

OIFF Founders at MacWorld. @Cultofmac.

SAN FRANCISCO, MACWORLD / iWORLD 2012 — The inaugural edition of the Original iPhone Film Festival (OIFF) gave out awards to small-screen Steven Spielbergs.

OIFF founders Corey Rogers & Matt Dessner were on hand to talk about common iPhone filmmaking problems, like getting release forms and copyright snafus. (If you want to take your iPhone videos from crappy to snappy, check out our exclusive interview with some great tips from Dessner.)

Nancy Lee – Music Video from The Original iPhone Film Fest on Vimeo.

Looking to laud the people who harness the power of the iPhone to become walking Fellinis, the contest received hundreds of entries, about 75 percent from amateurs, from countries including Iraq, Peru and the Philippines.

• The Grand prize winner, featured above,  is “Nancy Lee” Directed by Alen Petkovic.  It’s an old-school music video featuring band Vintage Trouble, shot with four iPhone 4s at once.

• Fiction: “The Latter” Directed by Micah Moss

• Non-fiction: “Kalapukan (Mudplace)” Directed by Michael Guhil.

• Brand film: “Veuve Cliquot – Wish You Were Here” Directed by Melissa Martens.

You can check out all the finalists here.

The second edition of the OIFF is already in the works, the organizers hope to grow the community of iPhone filmmakers around a new blog called iphonefilmaker.com.


Nicole Martinelli is a San Francisco native who has lived in Milan and Florence, Italy. She’s written for Wired.com, The New York Times and Newsweek. You can find her on Twitter , Facebook and Google+.

If you’re doing something new/cool that’s Apple related, email her about it.

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Cult of Mac

New Yorker Writer Susan Orlean Threatened Divorce To Convert Her Husband To Mac [Macworld / iWorld 2012]

New Yorker Writer Susan Orlean Threatened Divorce To Convert Her Husband To Mac [Macworld / iWorld 2012]

SAN FRANCISCO, MACWORLD / iWORLD 2012 — Talking on stage about her love of technology and gadgets, New Yorker writer Susan Orlean rhapsodized her iPad, and told how she converted her husband to Apple technology.

A self-confessed geek, Orlean told how the iPad solved all the problems she had with working and traveling with technology. She had a Danger Sidekick, but would go nuts taking notes on it. She finds her MacBook too heavy to carry all day.

She also not afraid of losing or damaging her iPad. “I can it take with me to take notes but it won’t have my life on it if it gets lost or stolen,” she said. “It solved all of my problems.”

And her favorite app?

“I’m a complete app obsessive,” she said. “I’ve done some app reviewing because I love it.”

Orlean said she has a “million” apps, all stuffed in folders, but her favorite app, the one she absolutely couldn’t live without, is Evernote, a popular database app for saving notes, photos, webpages and other ephemera. She uses it for reporting and in her personal life.

However, because the official Evernote app is clunky on the iPhone, she uses FastEver and FastSnap for capturing notes and photos instead.

The only game she plays is Bejeweled. “It’s like being a chain smoker,” she said. “It’s an addiction.”

Orlean is an author and staff writer for The New Yorker. Her bestseller, The Orchid Thief, was made into a movie staring Meryl Streep. Her latest book is Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend about Hollywood’s most famous canine movie star.

Orlean said there are four iPads in her household: one each for her and her husband; one for her son and one for their nanny.

“We got one for our nanny as a Christmas present,” she said. “I’ve never seen such joy on someone’s face.”

She also told how she converted her husband — described as a “Windows guy” — to Apple technology.

“Do you want to stay married?” she joked, which got a good response from the Macworld crowd.

She converted him because on trips he would always forget his PC power adapter and chargers for cell phone and other gadgets. Orlean would nevr forget hers, so it made sense for him to get the same devices.

“I persuaded him,” she laughed. “I got him in line. Now he has an iPhone, an iPad, a MacBook. He’s a changed man.”

Cult of Mac

Hands On: Keep Your Business Relationships Close at Hand With VIPOrbit [Macworld / iWorld 2012]

Hands On: Keep Your Business Relationships Close at Hand With VIPOrbit [Macworld / iWorld 2012]
SAN FRANCISCO, MACWORLD / iWorld 2012 — At the media preview last night at Macworld/iWorld, VIPOrbit Software had a ton of news to offer.

First, they unveiled a new version of VIPOrbit for the iPhone. The latest version has new features requested by its users, an improved user interface and an enhanced Dashboard.

Then they debuted VIPOrbit for iPad, bringing signature features from the initial iPhone app to iPad users.

VIPOrbit integrates your contacts with the calendar, providing quick access to all details of your business relationships. You can schedule appointments quickly, communicate easily and even bring social media into the mix if you’d like. The interface for both the iPhone and iPad are clean and easy to use, allowing quick access to the details you need and the Dashboard summarizes your activity for the day so that you’re never out of the loop.

There are customization and organizational tools built into VIPOrbit, and you can create reports and connect using a variety of methods such as email, Twitter, LinkedIN and text. VIPOrbit lets you build relationships and have them with you wherever you are, especially handy if you’re spending a lot of time travelling in your line of work.

For people who are looking for a heavy-duty contact manager that doesn’t look or feel too complicated to wrap your head around, VIPOrbit is worth a look. Regularly priced at $ !9.99 for the iPad (once the app is through the approval process) and $ 9.99 for the iPhone in The App Store, each product will be available for 50% off until March 1.

Cult of Mac

Macworld | iWorld 2012: Abvio reveals new features for Runmeter 7.0

There are a lot of Runmeter users on the TUAW staff, and when Abvio invited us to take a look at the upcoming Runmeter 7.0 (along with Cyclemeter and Walkmeter, which are the same app geared toward different users) at Macworld | iWorld 2012, we gladly took the chance to see what’s in store.

The app update, coming later this quarter, has an updated stopwatch that shows more than 150 data items, a new history navigation, social media interaction and more. My favorite feature was the ability to use the remote on Apple headphones to stop and start the app as needed. It’s great for pausing at red lights or to take a quick break. CEO Steve Kusmer also showed me the Wahoo Fitness Blue HR Heart Rate Strap, which the app now supports for capturing heart rate data via Bluetooth.

Check out the video below to see Kusmer demonstrate the new features. Runmeter is $ 4.99 in the App Store.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

How To Make iPhone Videos That Don’t Suck [Macworld / iWorld 2012]

How To Make iPhone Videos That Don’t Suck [Macworld / iWorld 2012]

SAN FRANCISCO, MACWORLD/IWORLD 2012 — If your iPhone videos are so lame that even your loved ones won’t watch them anymore, we’ve got some advice for you.

Cult of Mac talked to Matt Dessner, co-founder of the Original iPhone Film Festival (OIFF),  about choosing a subject, keeping it steady, getting enough b-roll and what he calls the Golden Tip of Editing.

The OIFF is about to announce 2012 winners here; with a little practice you might win next year’s competition and a MacBook Air.

Cult of Mac: What’s the best way to shoot steady with an iPhone?

Matt Dessner: Ahh, the puzzling question: “To mount or to grip?” Like many challenges, there are often several good solutions.

When shooting with an iPhone, it always helps to have something to steady the ship. One way to go is to use a mount like ALM’s mCam. I really like this mount because it has 1/4” holes to put it on a tripod or mic stand and additionally offers so many additional spots to add a light, mic or anything else you can screw into a 1/4” hole. Without going into a full-on review, I assure you it should be one of the first mounts to consider.

The other option is a lightweight run-and-gun grip, like one from Zacuto called the iPhone zGrip. It’s simple to use and you can literally point your iPhone and shoot with one hand — and get the steady shots you could never do unassisted and one-handed…If you intend to attach other iPhonefilmmaking accessories and build a rig, go mCAM. If you’re on the run and want something simple you can keep in your bag for those eyewitness moments – grab a zGrip.

CoM: What makes a good subject for an iPhone film – since you’ve got some limitations with the field, etc.?

MD: A good subject is always something the iPhonefilmmaker feels passionately about. Yes, it sounds a bit Tony Robbins or Hallmark-like, but  if you are not 100% committed your audience will pick up on it immediately. So when picking a subject to shoot, if your passion is in place then there are really no limitations. The emerging ecosystem of iPhoneFilmmaking accessories and apps are amazing and can provide a solution for most challenges.

The iPhone in many ways is like a blank canvas; as a filmmaking device it can be dressed up in many ways to achieve amazing cinematic imagery.

CoM: Where do you stand on the “zoom” issue – is using it good idea for an iPhone video or better to  take separate shots?

MD: This really relates to shooting style and what is the best way to capture a shot that forwards the story being told.
I’m a fan of separate shots. It’s just the way my mind works and the way I see a story being built. I actually visualize a storyboard in my mind and see the shots broken down in sequence.  Every shot is a unique step in the staircase of the narrative that fits in a certain spot.

Zooming has its place but it often is overused and reminiscent of home movies shot on camcorders. Now if zooming is something that is integral to your style of shooting, then I’d look into a lens adapter like one that encinema makes. You can that pop on a DSLR lens and really control your zoom without having to artificially blow up the frame with a digital effect.

CoM: Do you have any editing shortcuts/tips?

MD: I come from a post-production background having designed, edited and animated TV commercials in New York City. So post is one of my favorite parts of making a story come to life. Whatever the flavor of the month is in the production world, one rule holds true: “garbage in, garbage out.” That simply means that you can’t rely on the old adage “We will fix it in post.” You need to get good shots in the can.

So now here is the golden tip..wait for it,wait…OK here it is: When it comes to iPhonefilmmaking, make sure that when you offload your footage onto your drive (assuming you are cutting on a computer not the phone) you want to grab the UNCOMPRESSED footage off the iPhone.

This will ensure you are starting with the most pristine version of the digital file. A great app to do that with is the Photo Transfer App. You can pull the uncompressed raw files over to your mac and it works wirelessly. Just brilliant.

CoM: The best advice I ever got from a producer was “b-roll, b-roll, b-roll!” (meaning you can never have enough supplemental/extra footage), does this hold true for iPhone films? What makes good iPhone b-roll?

MD: B-roll is always great because it visually fills in holes that can act as a bridge between cuts/shots. Good b-roll starts with having it in the first place. Remember to remain a “first-time viewer” when making your story. People are not as familiar with your subject as you are. Bring out the details of the story by showing the viewer some of the things they would observe as if they were actually experiencing the shot in person.

Naturally, we don’t lock our eyes on one point of view when we witness and experience something. We look around, we notice…we take stock. We see that the blue collar worker we are talking to has rough skin on his hands from working all day outside. Or that the child eating a lollypop telling a story had thrown the wrapper halfway into his jeans pocket and it’s sticking out. Get a shot of the hands to cut away to during your edit! Get a close up shot of the wrapper poking our of the jeans pocket and use it – these details are the moments between the shots that engage us.

So b-roll can really elevate the production value and provide a deeper emotional connection for the viewer.

Cult of Mac

The Omni Group’s Ken Case talks with TUAW at Macworld iWorld 2012

One of the most innovative and longstanding software development firms in the Apple ecosystem is The Omni Group. The company originally developed software for Steve Jobs’s NeXT in the 1990′s, created some of the first OS X software in the 2000s, and has gracefully made the transition to iOS with the advent of the iPhone and iPad. On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of talking with Omni Group CEO Ken Case about the company’s latest technical achievement — building Siri capabilities into OmniFocus for iPhone — and the history of this venerable favorite of Apple fans worldwide.

Over the next week or so, TUAW will be posting a number of interviews with both established development firms like The Omni Group and new startups that are just beginning to make their presence known in the Apple world. Be sure to visit often to check out our video offerings.

You can check out more of our Macworld|iWorld 2012 coverage here.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Take a tour of the Macworld | iWorld 2012 show floor

Just as soon as the show floor opened at this year’s Macworld | iWorld 2012 in San Francisco, we grabbed a camera and did a run through the exhibitions on display. You can see all of the various booths and their vendors and showcases in the gallery below (everything from Mac and iOS accessories to app developers and even content producers), as well as shots from the “Macworld Midway” displays and the registration area.

Things are hopping on the first day of the conference. There are some big names missing from the show floor; Apple obviously isn’t officially here, and some of the big vendors from previous years aren’t around. But as you can see below, there are plenty of exhibitors here, both big and small. We’ll have lots more coverage from Macworld | iWorld all this week, from most of the exhibitors in the gallery below and even more. Stay tuned!

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Hands On: PocketInformant Is The Most Elegant And Compelling Way To Manage Your Productivity [Macworld 2012]

Hands On: PocketInformant Is The Most Elegant And Compelling Way To Manage Your Productivity [Macworld 2012]

As a bit of a productivity nerd, it was great to see a couple of apps that revolve around that niche having a presence at the Macworld/iWorld media preview. One of these apps was Pocket Informant, which looks both elegant and compelling. And its available for both the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. For those looking to get a little bit more productive and want a pleasurable-looking experience while doing so, this might just be the app for you.

Pocket Informant fully integrates your calendar, tasks, notes and contacts into one spot, which allows you to focus on everything you’ve got going on in a day. This is a bit of a departure from other productivity-type apps in that they tend to put the emphasis on your tasks and let everything else fade into the background. Pocket Informant keeps everything close at hand and visible so that you don’t miss out on somewhere you’ve got go, someone you need to get in touch with or something you have to do.

It’s not only robust (and pretty to look at), but it is customizable so that you can change the look and feel of Pocket Informant to suit your needs. The syncing feature in Pocket Informant allows seamless access while on the move, with sync occurring automatically every 45 minutes while the app is running – and it will also re-sync the next time you run it. Pocket Informant supports Google Calendar sync (even multiple calendars), Google Tasks sync, native iOS Calendar access and plenty of other syncing options as well.

Pocket Informant is in a very crowded space – there are a lot of apps available for people wanting to be more efficient and effective with their work and life. But if you’re looking for somethnig that can handle everything you can throw at it and be a “catch all” for all of the things you’ve got on the go, Pocket Informant might be what you’re looking for.

Pocket Informant is currently on sale at $ 9.99 for all iOS devices and is available in the iOS App Store now.

Cult of Mac

Daily Update for January 25, 2012

It’s the TUAW Daily Update, your source for Apple news in a convenient audio format. You’ll get all the top Apple stories of the day in three to five minutes for a quick review of what’s happening in the Apple world.

You can listen to today’s Apple stories by clicking the inline player (requires Flash) or the non-Flash link below. To subscribe to the podcast for daily listening through iTunes, click here.

No Flash? Click here to listen.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog