Tuesday, June 30

Phandroid: Hangouts 4.0 for iOS

It’s probably not the Hangouts update Android users have been expecting, but Hangouts 4.0 rolled out today for iOS users and brings a slick new user interface and a few other tricks along with it.

While we have yet to hear a peep out of Google, we’re crossing our fingers that an Android version isn’t too far behind. With “Update Wednesday” soon approaching, it could be no more than a few days away although we wont get our hopes up. Maybe Google will finally allow Android users to send video clips — like they already do on iOS — as well?

Does Google update their apps for iOS first because that’s where the users are or because it’s easier1 on iOS? Or is it a little bit of column A, little bit of column B?

  1. I’m being a lot facetious here. I recognize Android has the market share and some features are probably a lot easier to implement on Android versus iOS.  ↩
Thursday, June 25


“Some websites cannot be designed. They need to evolve over time.”
Wednesday, June 24

Dark Sky: Crowdsource and Custom Alerts

Dark Sky Summary View
Dark Sky Summary View

With an update released last week, Dark Sky, my favorite iOS weather app and data source, puts weather data collection in your hands. The updated app can now utilize the barometric sensors in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to collect weather data and allows you to report conditions in your location. These new data collection options are opt-in only and the makers of Dark Sky aren’t ready to talk about what or how the data will be used, but they hope to tell us more about it soon.

Report weather in your area.
Report weather in your area.

The update also brings customizable alerts and a slightly tweaked UI that enhances hour-by-hour conditions display and incorporates new metrics into that view; adding wind, humidity, and UV index forecasts to the list that already included temperature and chance of precipitation. Great update to an already fantastic app.

Tuesday, June 23

The Verge: Google Photos and the unguessable URL

So why is that public URL more secure than it looks? The short answer is that the URL is working as a password. Photos URLs are typically around 40 characters long, so if you wanted to scan all the possible combinations, you’d have to work through 10^70 different combinations to get the right one, a problem on an astronomical scale.

Or as we like to call it in the biz, “security by obscurity”.

Wednesday, June 17

Spoken.co: Don’t Call Me Radio

Spoken.co | Like Instagram for Audio
Spoken.co (2015)
Terrestrial, over-the-air broadcasted radio died for me about a year and a half ago but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on radio as a medium. Instead, I’ve migrated my listening habits over to music curated by taste1 rather than balance sheets and to podcasts, or as others have referred to it, time-shifted talk radio. Portable audio, a fast-changing medium over the last 30 years now approaches its golden age as near-limitless access to music and talk radio in ever-diminutive pocket computers proliferates throughout the developed world.

Now enters Spoken.co, the self-described Instagram for audio. Intended to be consumed in short bursts, Spoken.co presents an opportunity to quip and to be heard, but please keep your quip to four minutes or less. The Instagram comparison is more glamorous, but Spoken.co smells more like a tweet in a bloggy blog world, giving talk audio the 140 character or less treatment. Already, we have gems like introspection from Benjamin Brooks, Shawn Blanc taking us back to his independence day, great insight on priorities from Cameron Moll, and poetry from the always delightful Patrick Rhone. Video might have killed the radio star, but audio is alive and well. Long live the spoken word.

  1. Both human and heuristic.  ↩
Monday, June 08

Reading, Tweeting, and Keeping a Schedule

Three of my favorite apps saw fairly notable updates last week so I thought I’d highlight the changes and use that as an opportunity to promote the apps. They’re all paid apps, but totally worth it in my opinion.

First up is one of my all-time favorite apps and the first “expensive” app I ever purchased for iPhone, Instapaper. Created by Marco Arment, but now in the capable and prolific hands of betaworks and lead developer Brian Donahue, Instapaper has seen a steady flow of updates since being sold off by Arment1 and the app just gets better and better. Last week’s update gives us Notes, the ability to add comments or annotations to highlights in the app. As I’ve been blogging more frequently (and in more places), I’ve been relying on Instapaper more and more to help me organize reference and direct links and to jot down notes or comments that I want to make sure I remember about each link or article. Up until now, I’ve been hacking my way with comments but editing the article summary in Instapaper’s web app or by highlighting passages and trying to remember later what it is I found interesting about that specific passage. Now with Notes, I can add my thoughts and associate them directly with each passage and then reference those comments later when I sit down to write.

Next up is Tweetbot 2 for Mac by Tapbots. Tweetbot 2 for Mac has been teased for a while now and it finally saw the light of day last week, the week before WWDC. That’s somewhat notable because Tweetbot 2 is the Yosemite-inspired redesign of the application, and the Yosemite design aesthetic entered our collective consciousness just a year ago at last year’s WWDC. A redesign like this is significant, though, and it was executed very well, fitting right in with the new look of Yosemite. I loved the unique shape of the old dock icon, but the more square icon of Tweetbot 2 is a nice reminder that this app has a fresh new design. Relatively speaking, Tweetbot 2 isn’t cheap at the now-reduced price of $12.99, but if you are a heavy Twitter user and, especially if you have multiple accounts, it is well worth the price. Columns, a staple feature of Tweetbot version 1, is improved in this new release with a new, more obvious icon (a rectangle divided into columns replaces the old gears icon) and gives you quick options for commonly created columns. I love using columns for multiple accounts and especially for special events like the upcoming WWDC where I can create a column with a specific hashtag search.

Finally we have Fantastical 2 for iOS, by Flexbits, which now includes a bundled Apple Watch app. The Watch app is getting great reviews so far, and is a great alternative to the built-in calendar app. Due to WatchKit limitations, it doesn’t feature a complication that you can add to a watch face, but it does give you access to your reminders, which, curiously, is something Apple doesn’t currently provide through any stock Watch apps. Sadly, I don’t have an Apple Watch (yet), but if/when I do decide to get one, Fantastical will definitely be front and center in my app cloud.

  1. Arment’s inability to update the app as frequently as he wanted and with the features he wanted are what compelled him to sell the app. That doesn’t always turn out well, but betaworks has done a fantastic job of making the app their own, adding new features and a great redesign, while also maintaining the core essence of what makes the application and service so great. I can’t overstate how great that acquisition has turned out.  ↩

Wednesday, June 03

Reconcilable Differences

Just last night, I was talking to a couple of friends about how I need to winnow down the list of podcasts I subscribe to. Today I learned, right on cue, two of my favorite podcast personalities have joined forces for a new podcast, Reconcilable Differences, on Relay FM. John Siracusa. Merlin Mann. ’Nuff said. Podcast playlist downsizing postponed.

Monday, June 01

Google: All Your Photos Are Belong to Us

Last week at their annual I/O developer conference, Google announced Photos, the long-rumored separation of Google+ and the great photos product held captive within. Along with the news came the big reveal that the service offers free, unlimited storage for everyone with only the slight caveat that you accept Google’s generous terms of a per-file cap of 16MB and acceptance of Google’s lossy but supposedly very good compression algorithm. Oh, and then there’s that license agreement thing, too.

I don’t personally fear the Google as much as I probably should, so I’m at least trying out the service with a small subset of my photos1. Because I’m silly, I shoot primarily in RAW format with my almost 10 year old Nikon DSLR, so I won’t be using Google Photos as my primary photo backup service in the foreseeable future. It’s a compelling service, nonetheless, and a lot of people will justifiably jump on board and love it.

  1. Right now I’m giving the Goog all of the photos on my iPhone.  ↩