If Free Is Good, Small Is Beautiful, And Less Is More, Then What About This Audio Player?

In an era when audio apps for the Mac are free and do almost everything (Garageband, I’m looking at you) why would anyone create yet another audio player? Because ‘necessity is the mother of invention.‘ Also, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way.’ Not to mention free is good, small is beautiful and less is more.

That’s Taply.

It’s a free audio player for your Mac. It plays audio files. It’s not devoid of features but instead adheres to the less is more mantra.

Where Taply shines is in the simplicity of what it does. It plays audio files from a single floating player window. The only controls are the standard transport controls to Start and Stop, Pause, Fast Forward, Rewind (or, Reverse, depending on your point of reference; mine is audio tape).

Taply for Mac

Taply displays the total length of the audio file being played, and the time remaining. There’s a built-in Shuffle mode. Why? Because Taply can play a whole folder of audio files.

Is Taply a music player? No, though it could be, but doesn’t have all the controls of iTunes.

Can’t you play audio from the Finder? Yes, though audio from the Finder requires more steps to play multiple audio files. Taply has been around for years and used by many Mac users who don’t want to fire up iTunes or Garageband or even QuickTime player to listen to a folder of disparate audio files.

Indeed, small is beautiful, less is more, and Taply is free.

Samsung’s Fingerprint Flop

Apple made the Touch ID fingerprint sensor work rather well (press Home button and hold; done). Samsung’s copycat version just tells everyone how much more work needs to be done to make biometrics a success. John Fontana:

In the Samsung case, its fingerprint scanner has a higher risk ratio than the iPhone in that it is paired with PayPal transactions. Apple doesn’t let its fingerprint technology wander off its own platform, which may be as much a statement on the technology as it is on Apple’s platform superiority complex… These are technologies in progress in terms of authentication methods, but the result is that a combination of contextual information may ultimately be the best way to determine that you are who you say your are. Of course, hackers will set in motion the test of time against all of these authentication ideas just as they have done in the past.

Apple’s Touch ID is paired with an iTunes account; good for music, TV shows, movies, and apps– all downloaded to the device.

Is it secure enough for banking and buying? Not yet (then again, how secure is the credit card you give to the waiter at a restaurant?).

10 Most Disappointing Destinations In The World

Overhyped, highly popular, and mostly disappointing, says Caroline Morse.

Spoiler Alert!

  • Liberty Island, NY
  • Niagara Falls, NY
  • Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland
  • Hollywood, CA
  • Nassau, Bahamas
  • Gibraltar (the Rock of)
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • Disney World, FL
  • Casablanca, Morocco
  • Las Vegas, NV

Disney World is hot and wet. Vegas is hot and dry. Hollywood should be hot and cool but is mostly boring. That’s it for me. I don’t get out much.

300mpg Diesel-Electric Hybrid Volkswagen

Add this to my ‘I’ll believe it when I see it‘ list. The Volkswagen diesel hybrid XL1. 300 mpg.

The $60,000 XL1 is powered by an 800cc, two-cylinder turbodiesel powerplant (half a BlueMotion engine), producing 47bhp, supported by a 27bhp electric motor hat fuelled by lithium-ion batteries. The batteries can be charged from a domestic plug, allowing the car to travel 22 miles solely on electric power.

The good news? The XL1 weighs only 1,750 pounds. The bad news? VW will only make 250 models.

VW XL1

Sweet ride.

The Best Mac App Ever To Download Internet Videos

Using a Mac has certain rewards and risks. The former comes by way of excellent applications which do what they do with elegance, as if they’re a part of the Mac itself. The latter is what happens when you try a new or different app and it fails to live up to expectations.

Stuff happens. But not today.

For every Mac user who’s browsed the web and wanted to collect and save videos from YouTube, Vimeo or hundreds of other sites, here’s the way to do it right. The app you need is called Downie. It downloads videos from websites, including YouTube and over three hundred other video centric sites.

This app is best of class. Here’s why.

Great Mac apps have a balance of usability and functionality. In other words, easy to use, modest learning curve, but with most of the additional features you may want or need within easy reach; a click or two.

That’s Downie.

Want a video from YouTube? Drag and drop the video’s URL from Safari onto Downie.

Downie - Drag and Drop

Downie finds the video and begins the process to download the video to your Mac. Monitor the progress from the download page.

Downie - Downloading

That simple process makes Downie about as easy to use as is possible short of someone sending you every video you want. Downie supports more than 300 different websites including YouTube and Vimeo, including HD videos, and up to 4K from YouTube. That’s right. 4K videos.

Downie can be setup to store the video in iTunes automatically. Just want the audio track and not the video? Can do. Not sure where to go to find sites with videos you can download? Downie handles that, too, with a click to the Preferences and Sites tab.

Downie - Progress

If Apple decided to create an app for video downloads it would probably look, feel, and function much like Downie. A user once called Downie the 1Password of video downloads. That description fits. Unfortunately, you won’t find Downie on Apple’s Mac App Store. In deference to Google, the internet thief, Apple doesn’t allow apps which download videos from YouTube.

Laughably Samsung

I’m not sure how this was done without laughter in the courtroom, but Samsung designer Youngmi Kim denied being inspired by Apple’s designs while working on Samsung’s notoriously copycat products.

If we were to work on the same thing as Apple, that would not give us any advantage in terms of differentiating our products, so that would not make any sense

The end result of Samsung’s efforts to not copy Apple’s designs is obvious.

Samsung vs. Apple

Laughable, indeed.

13 Must See Cars You Won’t See Soon

These are showing soon at the New York International Auto Show and features both upcoming models and cars you’re never going to see ever.

My favorite:

Corvette

The List:

  • Corvette Z06 Convertible
  • Ford Focus ST
  • BMW X4
  • Rolls Royce Ghost II
  • Alfa Romeo 4C
  • BMW Concept X5
  • Mercedes S63 AMG (600 HP)
  • Acura TLX
  • Kia Sedona
  • Land Rover Discovery
  • VW Jetta SportWagen
  • Cadillac Escalade
  • Jeep Renegade

800 HP 1967 Shelby GT500 ‘Tribute’

It’s a restoration in honor of the Ford Mustang’s 50th anniversary, but hot nonetheless. Stephen Edelstein:

Dubbed RK527, the customized GT500 makes over 800 horsepower, according to its creator, which is sent to the rear wheels through a Tremec T56 six-speed manual transmission. The car has been significantly updated, with features like Fast XFI electronic port fuel injection and modern BF Goodrich G-Force Sport tires.

800 horsepower.

The Inexpensive App That Every Mac User Needs

Most Mac owners use many of the same apps on a daily basis. Safari. Mail. Contacts. Calendar. iPhoto. iTunes. iMovie. More of us use the iWork suite– Pages, Numbers, Keynote– because they’re now free with every Mac.

Beyond the basics Mac users become more diverse and we use specific apps based on taste and need or job or school requirements. That brings me to an app, or rather, a type of app that every Mac user should have and use every day. Who among us does not spend a little too much time browsing through websites?

There’s a better way.

Actually, there are many better ways, all summed up in three letters. RSS. Alright, that’s just two letters, but one is duplicated. RSS has been around for many years and is the most efficient way to gather and sort through headlines, summary, and website webpages in the shortest amount of time.

Through the years I’ve tried a dozen or more RSS readers and most of them, despite a wide disparity in features, do one basic thing. RSS readers let you subscribe to a website’s RSS feed so you can see headlines, a summary of an article, or the entire article– without opening Safari, clicking on a bookmark.

The website articles come to you.

This week I’m trying out an updated version of an RSS reader that I like. It’s called Reeder and it’s almost devoid of a learning curve. List websites in the left column. Click on a site and the headlines and summary appear in the middle column. Click on one and the entire article appears in the main window.

This is the way browsing websites should be done.

Reeder Screenshot

Reeder’s left Sidebar displays the websites you’re subscribed to and lists how many unread articles are available from each site. Click on a subscription and you’re presented with the headline and summary in the middle column. Click on one that you find interesting and the whole webpage displays in the right main column.

That’s it. There’s no faster, easier way to scan through dozens of websites in a short period of time. Subscriptions are like bookmarks except that Reeder (as well as other RSS apps) check the website subscriptions automatically and download the headline and summary for you to view.

Reeder isn’t the most feature laden RSS reader, but it’s elegant and comfortable. Adding a subscription is just a click.

Wait a minute. Website reading habits have changed since the iPhone and especially since the iPad arrived on the scene. There’s a Reeder app for iOS– iPhone and iPad and it works much the same way. Only better.

Reeder for iOS

Reeder 2 for iOS has multiple themes, and a long list of sharing services starting with Safari Reading List, but also includes Instapaper and Pocket, as well as Evernote, Pinboard, Twitter, Facebook and many more. Sync, though, is handled through Feedly, Readability, Feedbin and others, and I miss the landscape mode (the developer says its coming).

The Mac version, as of today, remains in beta but is downloadable and worth a try.

First Look: iPhone 6

Don’t hold your breath. Zach Epstein thinks he’s spilling the beans on Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6.

Ming-Chi Kuo has made a name for himself using a slightly different method: his predictions are almost always correct. As such, we should all pay attention when Kuo issues new research on Apple’s plans, and on Thursday morning he sent out a massive report covering what seems to be just about everything there is to know about the upcoming iPhone 6 and iPhone phablet.

Think bigger iPhone, faster iPhone, thinner iPhone, lighter iPhone, and more expensive iPhone.

Lunar Eclipse: In Color

It doesn’t happen often, but this one is likely to be the most photographed lunar eclipse in history. Marcia Dunn:

North and South America, get ready for the first eclipse of the year— in color. Next Tuesday morning, the moon will be eclipsed by Earth’s shadow. This total lunar eclipse will be visible across the Western Hemisphere. The total phase will last 78 minutes.

How does the moon get a color eclipse?

Even though the moon is in the Earth’s shadow, it should appear a bit colorful, some shade of red or orange. That’s from light around the edges of the Earth — essentially sunrises and sunsets — splashing on the lunar surface and faintly lighting up the moon

Set your alarms and get the camera ready.

Calorie Bombs

In the world of calories, I’ve been nuked. Interesting that the author of The Sneak Calorie Bombs Busting Your Diet isn’t named.

It may seem like a little mayo here and there isn’t so bad, but the those dollops add up. In fact, just one tablespoon of mayo adds an extra 90 calories to your sandwich, and ketchup is full of added sugars.

If catsup and mayonnaise are diet busters, then I’m a dead man.

Cheap: Desktop Wallpaper That Spans Across Multiple Mac Displays

Customization is one of the benefits of Desktop wallpaper on your Mac. The option to add a photo or graphic design or just a pleasing color is one feature most Mac users take advantage of when personalizing a Mac.

What if you have a Mac and multiple displays?

Desktop wallpaper works fine on Macs with multiple displays, either with the same image on each display, or different backgrounds on each display. What if you’d like to have a photo or image span across each display?

That’s where OS X’s personalization and custom options end. However, the option to put up a single image and have it span across two or three Mac displays sounds cool, and you can do it by chopping up a very large photo or image and making each piece fit the connected displays.

Or, just add Multi Monitor Wallpaper.

Instead of slicing and dicing a photo or image to make the pieces match the resolution of each display, Multi Monitor Wallpaper does the dirty work with a few clicks. In fact, it’s drag and drop easy.

Multi Monitor Wallpaper

Easy? Drag a photo or image onto Multi Monitor Wallpaper’s window, position the image the way you want for each display, then click Save. The app can do an auto fit, or you can move the image the way you want.

There’s an option to layout your displays (and the image applied to each) onscreen the way you use your Mac (MacBook, connected display, third display, for example). Images can be scaled or simply moved to fit the screen sizes.

Multi Monitor Wallpaper Example

Multi Monitor Wallpaper has a built-in Flickr browser so finding photos to use beyond iPhoto or OS X’s built-in wallpaper is easy, too. MMW does the chopping, dicing, and splicing to make the photos or images fit the displays.

Nicely done. Fun. Cheap. Another reason to have additional displays connected to your Mac.

Apple’s iPhone 6 Will Demolish Android

Rocco Pendola is not following the standard narrative that Apple is doomed, and points out that the iPhone maker often improves upon whatever the competition is doing.

That’s what Apple did to the artist formerly known as RIM. We don’t stop and think about this enough. People were so addicted to their BlackBerries we called them CrackBerries. No, not crack babies, CrackBerries. And then Apple came along and just freaking demolished RIM as Jim Balsillie was busy trying and failing to secure an NHL franchise for the Canadian hamlet of Hamilton.

Why? How?

Sort of like a great hockey team trailing 4-1 in the 3rd period. I harken back to last season’s NHL playoffs when my Toronto Maple Leafs held that lead over the Boston Bruins. If the Leafs won they would have advanced to the second round of the postseason. But the Bruins, while concerned, did not panic. They kept their heads down and, even as the texts poured in congratulating me on the anticipated Leafs win, I knew the game wasn’t over. Boston tied and promptly won the game in overtime, leaving Toronto stunned.

So, Apple is like a great hockey team.

OK.

The Ford Falcon Lives

At least for awhile. This Ford Falcon comes from the company down under. Viknesh Vijayenthiran:

The new special edition will be called the Falcon GT F, and is expected to feature a supercharged version of Ford’s 5.0-liter ‘Coyote’ V-8 tuned to deliver close to 470 horsepower. The current Falcon GT models already feature this engine, but with output tuned to 450 horsepower. A six-speed manual will be standard with a six-speed automatic offered as an option.

My father had a Ford Falcon when I was a teenager. It did not have 470 horsepower.

UFO On Mars?

The old adage “If the headline ends in a question mark, the answer is ‘no’” probably applies here, too. Abby Ohlheiser with news of a UFO spotted on a NASA photo from Mars.

An image transmitted from Mars to Earth by NASA’s Curiosity rover has some alien enthusiasts seeing the (artificial) light about the possibility of life on Mars. The image, visible at the raw images database from NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory, depicts what appears to be a white speck of something in its upper left-hand portion. Curiosity snapped the image shortly after arriving at the “The Kimberley” waypoint on April 2. Over the past few days, UFO-spotting blogs have picked up the image as a sign that something … is out there.

Sigh.

Something is out there, all right.

Make A Smaller Photo? Easy. Blow Up A Photo? Not So Easy. This Mac App Does It Right

Most cameras these days take very large photographs, often 5,000 pixels across; a size far larger than most of us need to share photos with friends, or post photos online. Making a photo smaller and retaining a crisp, sharp image is child’s play. What about blowing up a photo and making it larger than the original image? That’s not so easy and few apps for the Mac do it well.

Enter Blow Up.

This Mac utility lets you blow up a photo to double or triple the original size and yet retain most of the crisp sharpness of the original without visual artifacts. If the proof is in the taste of the pudding, then visual examination of a Blow Up should raise your interest level.

Here’s an original photo.

Blow Up Sample

Ordinarily, blowing up even a high resolution image will result in the standard jaggies or visual stairstep artifacts. Some photo enhancement apps apply what is known as bicubic interpolation to smooth out the jaggies to create a sharper image.

Blow Up’s method results in an even sharper image. Look closely at the original on the left, and the 200-percent enlargement from Blow Up on the right.

Blow Up Samples

Click on either photo for a larger, pop-up view with more detail?

How does Blow Up accomplish a sharper image? Obviously, Blow Up’s technology is proprietary, but creating a much larger image or photo without the typical visual artifacts is easy.

And expensive.

Blow Up is a professional level plugin for Macs and Windows PCs running Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Photoshop Lightroom, so it’s not a product aimed at the average Mac user. The plugin interface is rather simple, though. Drop in the photo and crop or resize as needed. A slider bar sharpens edges and grain can be added or reduced using a similar slider bar, so some trial and error is required.

Blow Up can handle photos or images stretched to 300,000 pixels per side, which just happens to be the maximum that Photoshop can handle. It can even handle CMYK images and 16-bit/channel images often used by the photo and printing pros.

Jobs And Jealousy

Michael Andronico:

Steve Jobs, the CEO and public face of Apple until his last days in 2011, never seemed to lack confidence in his product. However, a newly uncovered e-mail that Jobs sent to Apple execs exposes some jealousy toward Google’s Android, going as far as mentioning a “holy war” between the two tech giants.

The actual email message:

2011: Holy War with Google — all the ways we will compete with them. Google and Microsoft are further along on the technology, but haven’t quite figured it out yet.

No mention of actual jealousy.

jealousy |ˈjeləsē| noun (pl. jealousies)
the state or feeling of being jealous: a sharp pang of jealousy | resentments and jealousies festered.

Maybe it was more like anger and hatred that Google’s Android stole technology and designs developed by Apple.

Apple Employees Complain

Real news would be Apple employees who don’t have a complaint. It’s the nature of employees. Jim Edwards made up a list of complaints.

  • Robert Bowdidge: “I couldn’t tell my wife anything; she knew I was working in a different building across the street and pulling very late nights, but she didn’t know what I was doing. When I had to travel to Manchester UK to work with more of the Transitive folks, she asked to come along. I had to say ‘no way’ – she worked for IBM at the time”
  • Anonymous Coward: “Internally, the culture is of extreme secrecy, even more extreme politics and marketing driven decision making. Everything, and I mean everything, is decided by the marketing team at Apple, and 2 reviewers in east coast newspapers.”
  • Owen Yamuachi: “Having my own (needlessly huge) office meant that I could literally go an entire day without talking to anyone else. This has upsides (I had the longest periods of intense concentration I’ve ever had in my life) and downsides (it got quite lonely).”

Employees who grumble. Oh, the shame, Apple.

Cheap: New Mac Pixel Tools For Your Mac (with a cleverly descriptive app name)

Color me old but I’ve been pushing pixels since before there was a Mac. Since the original graphic user interface of the mid-1980s I’ve tried and tested hundreds of Mac apps which push pixels; everything from Photoshop to Pixelmator, from GIMP to Fontographer (back in the days of PostScript fonts and original LaserWriter printer).

Here’s yet another tool that graphic designers and web developers can use to measure pixels. This set of utilities is cleverly named Pixel Tools and it combines a handful of the most convenient tools.

For example, there’s a floating loupe which tracks the onscreen pointer and magnifies any area of the Mac’s screen.

Pixel Tools

Big whoop, right? Color grabbing loupes are a dime a dozen these days, and often less. Pixel Tools can also measure the distance, in pixels, between any two points on the Mac’s screen (height, width, and line distance.

Color values are also captured in RGB or HSB. All the basic grabbing and pointing functions can be handled from the keyboard with shortcuts (some even when Pixel Tools is not the front most app, which helps to measure pixels within other apps).

Also unique is how Pixel Tools can be hidden out of the way, yet called to the screen in an instant. It even measure pixels underneath itself when it covers a part of the screen. Most measuring apps are useful on large screens with many pixels, but Pixel Tools is handy even on Mac notebooks with smaller screen resolution.

The app works well on Macs with multiple displays, spanning measurements across screens. It’s packed with a bunch of unique features not found in most graphic design or web developer apps. It’s well done, useful, usable, and just a few dollars. Pixel Tools isn’t a victim of feature creep, either. Email is not built-in (thank you, OS X Mavericks).