This video about the fall of MoviePass feels like truth

Johnathan Movie is losing his shit and it's all our fault. Read the rest

Terminal-based task manager

So you like Trello but like your terminal even more? Taskwarrior and Taskbook are apps for task management and note-taking that live in the dark space of pure text. From Taskbook's homepage:

By utilizing a simple and minimal usage syntax, that requires a flat learning curve, taskbook enables you to effectively manage your tasks and notes across multiple boards from within your terminal. All data are written atomically to the storage in order to prevent corruptions, and are never shared with any third party entities. Deleted items are automatically archived and can be inspected or restored at any moment.

I am very fond of high-quality single-purpose text apps, the sort that only require keyboard input. Yes, there is the whiff of empty rustic nostalgia about it, but I'm too young to have ever used textmode apps in a way anyone would be nostalgic about (first PC: 1996) so I can confidently say it's the empty faddish minimalism that appeals to me. Read the rest

I'm an Android loving iPhone user

Hardware reviews are a big part of how I put bread on the table. In order to do my job properly, I’ve got to be something of a platform agnostic.

While I do most of my writing using Apple devices, I also have to consider other platforms in my coverage: software that works well on a laptop running Windows 10 may be a dog’s breakfast on a MacBook once it’s been ported.

A bluetooth speaker that sound great when paired with my iPhone 7 Plus, for example, might sound like hot garbage when linked to another audio source. So I invest in other hardware that may not be used as part of my day-to-day life, but which I still need to think about when doing my job.

About six months ago, I came to the conclusion that maybe hauling the hardware out when it came time to test something and then throwing it back in a box when I’m done with it wasn’t enough: to really understand whether, say a pair of headphones that comes with an app to control their EQ or noise cancellation, without seeing how it fits into my day-to-day life using a given platform. So, I upped the amount of time that I spend working in Windows 10, I now read books on both Kobo and Amazon e-readers and, in a real shift in how I live my lift, I’ve spent more than half a year using Android-powered smartphones as my daily drivers. In the time since I last used an Android device as my go-to, things have improved so much, I was taken aback. Read the rest

WordTsar: WordStar updated "for the 21st Century"

In an age before Microsoft Word, even before Corel WordPerfect, WordStar ruled the DOS word processing world. Beloved to this day for its simplicity, power and wealth of keystroke commands, some writers never gave it up: G.R.R. Martin maintains a DOS machine just to run WordStar 4. Enter WordTsar, a clone cut to run on modern machinery, brings the classic into the 21st century.

The keyboard controls we love. WordTsar understands most of the Wordstar keyboard controls, and more are on the way,

The user interface we all know. WordTsar gives you a look and feel similar to the original interface.

A new GUI. WordTsar gives you a Graphical User Interface that will feel right at home.

There's something odd about just how many apps are made with writing (rather than coding) in mind, but how few of them offer much tooling for prose—let alone the ability to write and edit without mousing. Read the rest

Instapaper leaves Pinterest

A couple of years ago, online read-it-later darling Instapaper got sold to Pinterest. Then, in the lousiest possible way, nothing happened. No real updates, tweaks or refinements for Instapaper the service or the app. It was frozen in time! Currently, it's not even possible to use it in Europe as its not in compliance with the new GDPR rules put in place in May. Fortunately, aside from the GDPR thing, everything still runs as smoothly as it did a few years back--users save content cleaved from the internet to read in their browser, on a Kindle or with a tablet or smartphone app, just like they could before the acquisition. But, as Instapaper's chief competitor, Pocket, has continued to add new features, better e-reader support (its app for Kobo E-Ink devices is frigging great,) and slicker mobile apps to its arsenal, it's been hard to stick by Instapaper, which feels stale by. Hopefully, all of that's about to change.

This morning, in a press release, the team that sold Instapaper to Pinterest announced that they have bought the service back:

Today, we’re announcing that Pinterest has entered into an agreement to transfer ownership of Instapaper to Instant Paper, Inc., a new company owned and operated by the same people who’ve been working on Instapaper since it was sold to betaworks by Marco Arment in 2013. The ownership transfer will occur after a 21 day waiting period designed to give our users fair notice about the change of control with respect to their personal information.

Read the rest

Adobe to announce Photoshop for iPad

"FINE," Adobe said in a press release. "I hope you're goddamn satisfied."

Adobe’s chief product officer of Creative Cloud Scott Belsky confirmed the company was working on a new cross-platform iteration of Photoshop and other applications, but declined to specify the timing of their launches.

“My aspiration is to get these on the market as soon as possible,” Belsky said in an interview. “There’s a lot required to take a product as sophisticated and powerful as Photoshop and make that work on a modern device like the iPad. We need to bring our products into this cloud-first collaborative era.”

Adobe refused to do so until now, claiming that iPads could not replace traditional computers for creative work. But Affinity Photo made a fool of it. Read the rest

New smartphone app lets museum visitors point at art, then see artists discuss the work

The Hirshhorn Eye (nicknamed "hi") is a new smartphone application that lets visitors to Smithsonian's Hishhorn Museum of Art point their phones at art and hear messages from the artists themselves. Read the rest

Adblocker for radio

Tomek Rękawek, irritated by ads on the radio, created an app that mutes them. Radio Adblock uses digital signal processing to detect distinctive audio patterns that signal the beginning and end of breaks. (via Hacker News)

I also prepared a simple standalone version of the analyzer, that connects to the Trójka stream on its own (without an external ffmpeg) and plays the result using javax.sound. The whole thing is a single JAR file and contains a basic start/stop UI. It can be downloaded here: radioblock.jar. If you feel uneasy about running a foreign JAR on your machine (like you should do), all the sources can be found on my GitHub. Apparently, it works :)

https://soundcloud.com/tomek-r-kawek/commercial-block-muted

To make it work universally, perhaps DSP could detect the use of extreme waveform compression. This makes ads sound as loud as possible without increasing the signal volume, and is a technique that advertisers and radio stations supposedly use to skirt the regulations that forbid them from doing just that. It would also have the bonus of silencing shitty pop songs. Read the rest

Grafx 2 is "the ultimate" 256-color pixel art app

Designed to look like something running on the Commodore Amiga but with all the modern conveniences, Grafx 2 is pitched as "The ultimate 256-color painting program."

GrafX2 has a long history, with the first versions being published in 1996. The development by the original team (Sunset Design) continued until late 1999, when they stopped working on it because no one had interest in running a DOS drawing tool by then. Fortunately, they published the sources so that their work would not be lost.

In 2007, PulkoMandy recovered these sources and ported them to modern operating system. This was the rebirth of GrafX2, which then saw many improvements and finetuning, making it the great tool you know and use today.

Neat touches include extreme custom resolutions (including nonsquare pixels), powerful pallette manipulation (including color cycling) and a prominently pixelated King Tut, as is mandatory for all pixel-art related Amiga shenanigans. Read the rest

plainbudget: do your budgeting with a plain text file

plainbudget is a minimalist budgeting app that lets you sum your cashflow in plaintext: think Markdown, but it's a spreadsheet.

There are two kinds of value groups: cashflow and expense. A cashflow value group always starts with one or more + operations, followed by one or more - operations. Calculating a cashflow group will add an extra line with the result:

A more powerful command-line budgeting app is Ledger. Read the rest

New version of Pixatool, great app for turning images into pixel art

Pixatool (previously), an excellent app that turns any image into perfectly-tuned pixel art, is already on its second edition: a complete rewrite that adds a much better user interface, can batch-process images, and can load restrictive palettes for all your peculiar 8-bit nostalgia needs (I'll be making use of this to conform work to the Amstrad CPC pallette, one of the 1980s' more masochistic examples). Best of all, the new version's on sale at $9.95.

The creator, Davit Masia, also created a simple online toy that turns pixel art into bead art or lego. Read the rest

Die With Me: a chat app that only works when you have 5% battery life remaining or less

Dries Depoorter & David Surprenant's Die With Me is a chat app available for iOS and Android, but only if your device is on its last legs: "The chat app you can only use when you have less than 5% battery. Die together in a chatroom on your way to offline peace." Read the rest

lossy-compress GIF animations

Who needs mp4 and the mystery meat data within? Kornel Lesiński's lossygif compresses GIF images, including animations, at the cost of noise. Though GIF does not offer true lossy compression, superimposing long horizontal lines of identical pixels gets the job done before encoding. Photoshop already does this, but this is better at it and it's free.

See also Gifski, the author's high-definition GIF movie encoder. It does the exact opposite thing, manipulating the GIF format into showing thousands of colors per frame at the cost of massive file sizes. Read the rest

Apps to help free you from addiction to apps

You can't game your way out of the ludic loop any more than you can smoke your way out of a crack habit, but Katie Bloom's found some interesting apps that aim to help us take back control.

My favorite tool for doing this is Forest, an app that costs $1.99 and looks like it was designed for children, which is sort of pleasantly degrading. It’s been the #1 productivity app in the App Store for over a year; its only purpose is to help you stop touching your phone. Tap a button, sprout a little digital plant, and leave your phone alone until the allotted time is up. I use Forest every day, which has made me realize how often I pick up my phone for no reason, a feeling like walking into a room only to forget what I was planning to do there. It is depressing but instructive. As the stakes are technically nonexistent, I imagine this app is only truly useful for Catholics and others with a highly refined guilt palate.

Read the rest

Environments: a pioneering 1970s ambient soundscape series now in app form

In 1969, Irv Teibel(1938-2010) released a record that would have a profound impact on ambient and New Age music that's continues to this day. "Environments 1: Psychologically Ultimate Seashore" was the first in a catalog of albums that melded pop psychology with environmental sound recording to sooth the mind. Over the years, Treibel's company Syntonic Ressearch Inc. produced 11 albums with 22 soundscapes ranging from "Optimum Aviary" to "Wood-Masted Sailboat" to "Ultimate Heartbeat."

"The music of the future isn't music," Teibel said.

Now, audio archaeologist Douglas Mcgowan, curator of the sublime I Am The Center New Age compilation that I raved about here, Syntonic Research Inc, and the fine folks at Numero Group have brought the Environments catalog to iOS. Environments is now a fantastic $2.99 app with all 22 remastered long-form soundscapes in easily swipeable form. It's intuitive, beautifully minimalist, and a perfect evolution of the original work. Turn on, tune in, chill out.

Environments for iOS (iTunes)

For the whole Environments story, read: Natural Selection (Pitchfork)

Read the rest

Apple says no to app that detects net neutrality violations

Motherboard reports that a university professor created an app that detects net neutrality violations -- that is, when service providers block, throttle, prioritize or otherwise interfere with legal internet use. It's like a speed-test app, same as all the others, but with more detail and a serious research goal in mind. Apple, sadly, finds it contains "objectionable content" that lacks "direct benefits" to its users, unlike utilitarian AppStore mainstays such as iFart: The Original Fart Sounds App and Thump Trump.

An Apple App Store reviewer told Choffnes that “your app has no direct benefits to the user,” according to screenshots reviewed by Motherboard. According to Apple’s reviewer, the app contained “Objectionable Content,” a catch-all for apps that Apple doesn’t want to let into its App Store. Apple is blocking the app and no one is quite sure why, including Choffnes; neither Apple nor Verizon responded to requests for comment for this article.

Wehe is is designed to be part of Choffnes’s research work to determine geographic and carrier-related differences in video throttling. When you open the app, you are presented with a consent form that “invites you to take part in a research project.”

Can't imagine why deep academic research, performed by the general public at the app layer when the Senate is one vote from enshrining Net Neutrality in law and permanently undermining the federal regulator that ISPs spent years capturing, might set off alarm bells in the walled garden at the world's most profitable phone company Read the rest

Pixatool turns images into pallette-perfect pixel art

You could load an image up in Photoshop, reduce the color depth and fiddle with the pixel diffusion slider a bit. Or you could get Pixatool, a brilliant app completely dedicated to tuning pixelated images to the finest and most authentic details. Line and contrasts are rendered so well there's often an uncanny suggestion of hand-drawing, and the dithering smokes what mainstream painting apps offer.

It's $30, with a free-of-charge demo version. There's more examples. Artists are sharing their work with the #pixatool hashtag.

Update: check out the new version. Read the rest

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