Falling Oil Prices A ‘Catastrophe’

So says Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud who remains richer than rich thanks to high oil prices.

Unlike those in the oil business, my plan is not to complain as oil prices drop.

Can’t Find Airport In Hawaii

AP:

Mokulele Airlines is the first commercial airline to offer service out of a west Oahu airport that’s at a former naval air station. On July 1, the airline began offering three roundtrip flights a day to Kahului, Maui, out of the Kalaeloa Airport.

The problem is that visitors cannot find Kalaeloa Airport. Why not?

There’s no airport sign on the freeway, and the road to the airport has a series of merges and turns through some unpopulated areas.

Hawaii isn’t known for the clarity of road signs.

This Mac Graphic App Is Not Illustrator Or Photoshop, But, Man, What An Absolute Bargain

Every now and again a Mac app comes along that fills a void; either a gap where no comparable app exists, or a gap where the established industry leaders dare not go. Mac using graphic designers know the value of Pixelmator vs. Adobe’s flagship Photoshop. What about those who use Illustrator? Is there a comparable vector-based bargain tool?

Take a look at Affinity Designer. You’ll pay more in a few months to rent Illustrator than it costs to buy Affinity Designer outright. What you get is a bargain-priced tool, with professional level capabilities, worth of a few hundred five star reviews.

This new app uses an artful blend of vector tools delivered in a Photoshop-like presentation. Sure, it imports PSD files, but also handles PDFs, SVGs, AIs, EPS files, and even Freehand (remember that blast from the past?).

Unlike Pixelmator, Affinity Designer handles CMYK as well as RGB, LAB and other color models with full ICC color management at 16-bits per channel. And, yes, the tools are completely familiar to anyone who’s used Adobe’s flagship monthly rental suite.

Affinity Designer Screenshot 1

Affinity Designer has tools which blend both vector and rester in editable layers, complete with pen tools, curve editing, geometric operations, smart shapes, textures, masking, and customizable brushes.

All the OS X basics are built-in, too, including OpenGL support, Core Graphics, Grand Central, and 64-bit power with multiple core processor capability.

Yet, for anyone who’s ever used any app from Adobe, Affinity Designer is instantly familiar.

Affinity Designer Screenshot 2

Let me be clear about one thing. Affinity Designer is not Illustrator, and not some funky blend of Photoshop with vector tools tossed in. It’s more like the Pixelmator of vector-based graphic design apps; bargain priced, but with enough tools to get plenty of professional use.

It doesn’t have the rich set of tools and add-ons you’ll find with Adobe’s far more expensive apps, but it is surprisingly robust considering the nominal price tag. If you’re a graphic designer wannabe and balk at Adobe’s monthly rental fees, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and impressed with Affinity Designer’s capabilities; especially the price-performance ratio.

High recommended, but with one caveat. Affinity Designer is Mac App Store only, so there’s no try-before-you-buy option. That is sorely needed.

iPhone And iPad Knockoffs: ‘Lazy’ and ‘Theft’

Steve Kovach with interview details from Apple’s design honcho Jonny Ive interview.

An audience member asked Ive how he feels about companies copying Apple designs. Ive called it “theft” and laziness. He said Apple designers give up so much to design products, that it’s offensive when someone copies.

So, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery?

Ive:

There is a danger…I don’t see it as flattery. I see it as theft. (Talking about copying desings in general). When you’re doing something for the first time and you don’t know it’s going to work. I have to be honest the last thing I think is “Oh, that is flattering. All those weekends I could’ve been home with my family…I think it’s theft and lazy. I don’t think it’s OK at all.

2,000 HP Nissan GT-R Trashes Lamborghini

Video from Justin Hyde on a race between cheap and expensive.

Last weekend, the fall Texas Invitational held its King of the Streets competition that drew 42 of the highest-power Lamborghinis, Vipers and Nissan GT-Rs available. This year’s winner: the Alpha Omega GT-R of AMS Performance, driven and built by Ivan Phipps, featuring at least 2,000 hp from the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6, enough power to set a new 1/4-mile record for a GT-R at 7.7 seconds/186 mph.

Bombs That Killed

Interesting list of movies that totally bombed in the U.S. but killed it at the box office overseas.

Spoiler Alert!

  • John Carter
  • The Golden Compass
  • After Earth
  • Poseidon
  • Waterworld
  • The Wolverine
  • Pacific Rim
  • The Mummy 2
  • MIB 3
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Last Airbender

I wonder why foreign movie audiences like disastrous movies more than Americans?

Free: Recover Lost, Deleted, Or Corrupted Photo Files From Your Mac, USB Drives, Or SD Cards

Who among the Mac faithful has not lost a photo or two? Or, 100? It happens and it’s usually not the Mac’s fault, though I’ve had that happen, too. It happens less these days, but mass storage media is prone to occasional file corruption, and if you’ve just taken a few hundred photos of a holiday gathering or vacation, there’s a distinct intestinal sinking feeling when you find out they’re missing.

How can you recover lost or deleted photos from your Mac, USB drive, external disk drives, or SD cards?

Exif Untrasher is the odd and not-so-memorable name of a free Mac utility that specializes in recovering JPG photos on almost any storage device that connects to your Mac, and it couldn’t be much easier to use to find those photos you’re sure you had but just don’t seem to be there anymore.

Open Exif Untrasher, choose the storage volume to scan (it just needs to be connected to your Mac).

Exif Untrasher

Then, click the Start Data Recover button and Exif Untrasher begins the scanning process.

Remember, it’s looking for specific files; more specifically JPG photos that are not visible in the Mac’s Finder (and perhaps not even visible in your camera’s SD or flash card).

When it finds files that match they will be copied to a location you choose.

Exif Untrasher

There are only two real negatives to using Exif Untrasher. It does not work on any photo files except JPG; that means no RAW files, often used by advanced photographers. Second, it does not always work which means the photo files may be corrupt or deleted beyond the ability of the app to find the files. If they’re gone, they’re gone.

When it works, Exif Untrasher is a life saver (so to speak) and quickly finds and copies photos by the hundreds that are not visible in the Mac’s Finder or on the storage device (I’ve tried it on both SD and standard flash storage cards, but not my Mac).

This is one of those utilities a photographer should download and keep handy. I can count on one hand all the times my storage media has deleted photos of its own accord, and all but one time where utilities like Exif Untrasher could not retrieve them.

And it’s free.

8 Annoying iPhone Default Settings (with fixes)

I love these lists, but this one from Jason O. Gilbert is down at the bottom of the usefulness barrel.

Many of the default settings of the iPhone can be worrisome, imperfect, or downright annoying. Here are eight settings that I would change first thing to make your iPhone experience a bit more pleasant

Some of these are good for improving battery life. Another Spoiler Alert!

  • Stop telling people your email is “Sent from my iPhone.”
  • Give yourself a distinctive ringtone.
  • Put all your Apple apps into their own folder.
  • Make sure those apps don’t eat your data.

Others, such as Do not track don’t do much.

10 Things To Know About Fast Food Drive-thrus

For me, the first one on the list is that fast food and drive-ins are no longer fast, no longer cheap, but Brad Tuttle came up with others.

Here are some fascinating factoids that’ll make for great conversation the next time you’re waiting on line at the drive-thru—and that perhaps will even influence what you order.

Probably not, but here’s the official Spoiler Alert!

  • Drive-thru is slower
  • Afternoon drive-thrus are faster
  • The first drive-thru was not McDonald’s
  • McDonald’s first drive-thru was 1975
  • Wendy’s drive-thru is fastest
  • Chick-fil-A is most accurate drive-thru
  • Starbucks has drive-thrus
  • Chipotle does not have a drive-thru (yet)

Cheap: How To Replace The Mac’s Dock And Work Faster With A Tabs-based Launcher

We need to give credit where credit is due. Apple should receive kudos and props for being disciplined enough not to monkey around with the basics in OS X. The Dock in OS X Yosemite has more functionality than ever, but it’s still just an app and document ‘dock’ which works well for a few apps, but comes up lame and limping for Mac users with needs beyond the basics.

Enter Tab Launcher, a Mac utility with floating, movable, customizable, Dock-like app icons where tabs rule.

This is one utility which is so good, so useful, and so inexpensive that it can replace your use of the Dock entirely. Think of how good the Dock would be if it had tabs and multiple docks. Here’s how it looks and how it works.

Tab Launcher Mac

Instead of a Dock of icons (which get smaller the more icons or documents are added), Tab Launcher gives you options to customize smaller ‘dock-like’ docks with tabs. The tabs display whatever app icons you choose, and displays the currently running apps.

Tabs can also be folders so you can navigate through documents. Each tab icon can be customized. If an app in the tab is running, moving the screen pointer over the tab will display a visual preview of the app.

Each app also has controls over color, sizes, style and tab names, and each can receive a keyboard shortcut, too.

Tab Launcher Preferences and Configuration

Tab Launcher is at once familiar– it’s a dock-like bar attached to a window, it contains app and document and folder icons, and each one launches with a click. But the Dock has a visual limit which Tab Launcher does not. The more app icons you add to the Dock, the smaller they get. Tab Launcher uses customizable tabs so you can actually have more apps, documents, and folders in a much smaller screen space.

Just as Path Finder makes it easy to replace the Mac’s Finder with even more features, Tab Launcher makes it easy to replace the Dock with something more functional. Considering all it does, this is one inexpensive Mac app.

iOS 8 Keyboards

Apple opened iOS 8 for iPhone and iPad to third party keyboards, and some, including Swype and SwiftKey are very good. Except for one thing. What you type gets sent to a server in the cloud. I’ve used and like SwiftKey. Josh Centers reviews the iOS 8 keyboard conundrum, as well as how to install and use keyboards.

But I don’t trust it. I didn’t trust it on Android, and I don’t trust it on iOS. There are a few reasons for this:

It’s free. On Android, SwiftKey makes money by selling themes and other features through in-app purchases. But those have not arrived on iOS yet. There has also been talk of offering advertisements on the keyboard, though that is expressly forbidden by Apple’s App Store guidelines. In any case, I’m unconvinced by these business models, and I’m less trustful of companies that don’t seem to have a clear, dependable revenue stream.

It’s more insistent about requiring Full Access than any of the other replacement keyboards I’ve tried, to the point that it’s practically unusable without it.

It “helpfully” offers to scan my Facebook and Gmail accounts to learn my writing style. Creepy. No thank you.

The USB Security Problem

USB devices are ubiquitous, and it may not be long before the nearly undetectable USB security flaw known as BadUSB spreads throughout the world. Russell Brandom explains:

Anyone who plugged in a USB stick was opening themselves up to the attack, and because the bad code was residing in USB firmware, it was hard to protect against it without completely redesigning the system.

The good news is that there’s a fix on the way. The bad news is the fix won’t be implemented any time soon.

In the meantime, any time you plug a USB drive into your computer, you’ll be opening up a huge vector of attack. It’s easy to imagine a pile of dirty USBs being dumped onto a table at CES or desk at your local Kinko’s. Unless you can track a device’s provenance from the factory to your computer, the only real protection avoiding USB drives and devices at every turn — covering over your USB ports the same way you might cover your laptop camera.

Container Ship Crash

Obviously Hawaii is home to giant container ships but I don’t recall seeing them crash into one another. Zach Doell has a video:

Slow moving cars are generally pretty easy to stop: just mash the brake pedal and pull the e-brake. Giant slow moving container ships however– that’s a different story.

A pair of behemoth freighters collided at the north end of the Suez Canal on Monday. While the reason behind the incident remains unknown, the crash itself is surely not something you’ll see every day

Add A Photo Lab To Your Mac (if you dare)

Photography just ain’t what it used to be. It wasn’t that long ago that photography consisted of cameras, extra lenses, add-on flash units, film, processing, and prints. If you wanted to do anything special with a photograph, that required a dark room or an expensive scanner.

Today an iPhone takes great photos and all you need to enhance photos are a few apps. One of the more interesting for Mac photography apps is called Photo Lab FX (as in ‘effects’), a modestly priced app packed with loads of effects and filters that render photo lab-like results with simple point and click effort.

Photo Lab FX doesn’t blaze any new trails other than an option to mix photo effects and filters with a few drawing and painting tools, seemingly tossed in as an afterthought. So, instead of using two apps to dress up a photo, one app will do (unless the one doesn’t have the right tools, which is often the case).

The app’s interface is familiar and simple to master. Basic tools line the top Toolbar while each effects, filter, or drawing tool can be dropped in with a click to the Sidebar palette.

Photo Lab FX

The list of effects and filters you can apply to a photo is extensive, though. Brushes toolbox, color picker tools, canvas and image cropping and rotation, color tools, a text toolbox for fonts, shapes (part of the drawing package), and a variety of filters.

This is where Photo Lab FX is competitive. I counted a dozen blending options from color to burn to screen blend and overlays. Distortion effects are many; from bumps to glass to pinch and twirl.

The app does blurs, color, luminance, unsharp mask, color maps, and color masking. The list is extensive and mostly point and click.

Photo Lab FX Sample

Most of the standard Mac file formats are handled in Photo Lab FX, including JPG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, BMP and even HDR files.

The problem I have with Photo Lab FX is one I have with a number of such Mac apps which pile in a long laundry list of filters and effects without giving thought to long term value or a customer relationship. In terms of capability, it doesn’t hold a candle to Pixelmator; far more features, less money, and a long-time Mac citizen.

The link to Photo Lab FX’s support and website is to a Domains For Sale page. Attention to detail is nominal, too. Note the floppy disk icon in the Toolbar used to save a file. Macs haven’t had floppy disks since what? The last century?

The Missing Spare Tire

No, this isn’t about losing a few pounds. It’s a trend among some car manufacturers. Here’s an increasingly common experience. Jim Travers:

It wasn’t until Bob Kronberg of Carolina Shores, N.C., drove his new Kia Optima home from the dealership that he got an unpleasant surprise. Instead of finding a spare tire in the trunk, he saw a tire-inflator kit, with a small air compressor and a can of sealant to use in case of a flat.

When he called Kia USA, a representative told him that the spare had been eliminated to save weight and, therefore, gas. The rep added that he could purchase a temporary spare-tire kit from his dealer’s parts department for about $200 to $250.

Is there still space in the trunk for a spare tire?

The Average Bugatti Owner

You’ve always wondered what it’s like to have the Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous. As it turns out, they have lots of stuff. Take the average Bugatti owner. From Bugatti honcho Wolfgang Dürheimer:

The Bentley customer on average owns 8 cars. The average Bugatti customer has about 84 cars, 3 jets and one yacht.

84 cars?

Earth’s New Moon

Someone needs another definition for ‘moon.’ Phil Plait on 2014 OL339:

…a 150-meter (or so) diameter rock discovered serendipitously in July by a team of asteroid hunters. Its orbit is highly elliptical; it crosses the orbit of Venus and gets out as far as Mars. It’s also slightly tilted compared with the Earth’s orbit by about 10… the numbers work out such that it takes—get this—364.92 days to circle the Sun once. Sound familiar? That’s only a few hours less than the Earth’s orbital period (one year, of course). When two objects orbit with periods very close to the same number (or simple multiples, like one taking exactly twice as long as the other) we say they are in resonant orbits.

So, it’s not earth’s new moon?

A Free Blast From The Past: Edit Fonts On A Mac

Way back in the day, too far back in the 20th century to be comfortable, Apple introduced fonts to the world with the Mac and a year or so later, the LaserWriter printer. Unfortunately, fonts were few and far between (or, excessively expensive from Adobe), so many Mac users, including yours truly, made our own. That’s right. Mac users with the Fontographer app could create and edit their own fonts to use on a LaserWriter (which came, if memory serves me appropriately, with Courier, Times Roman, Helvetica, Symbol, and Palatino; not exactly a great selection).

For anyone who wants to create and edit their own fonts, Fontographer in the 21st century is alive and well, runs on both Mac and Windows, but is anything but free. So, if you’re a Mac user on a budget but also have a desire to figure out how to create and edit fonts, there’s BirdFont, a donationware app that isn’t exactly Fontographer, but gets the job done.

Most of the basic font editing tools you’ll need are in BirdFont, including an option to create graphic and vector-based fonts.

BirdFont

What you won’t find in BirdFont is built-in help on how to use the variety of tools, though there is a tutorial which will walk you through the basic options. There are many, including tips on how to draw with a grid, drawing glyphs over background images, converting images to vector-based fonts, font kerning, and more.

More BirdFont

In the end you’ll end up with a greater appreciation for how fonts are designed, created, and published (including the work it takes even for a single, customized font), and not have spent as much money as you would with Fontographer (which, in all fairness, is the granddaddy of font editors for Mac users), and it might give you an appreciation for how the world of fonts on Macs and PC has developed and improved over the years.

‘The Rematch Is Subject To Change’

Last year the St. Louis Cardinals roughed up Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers. A rematch is possible and could feature two 20-game winners in Kershaw and Adam Wainwright. But the math is messy. Dylan Hernandez:

Should the Dodgers pass the Nationals and finish the regular season with the league’s best record, they would then play host to the winner of next week’s one-game wild-card playoff, likely between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants. The winner of the Central Division, which is currently led by the Cardinals, would then play Washington.

Pittsburgh can still pass the Cardinals in the Central, though, and the Milwaukee Brewers could catch the Giants in the wild-card race, all of which would complicate everything.

Storybook Ending

Some careers end badly. Other careers end as if they’re a Hollywood script. How did Derek Jeter’s career end at Yankee Stadium?

Of course it ended like this. This is Derek Jeter we’re talking about, he’s always lived a charmed baseball life. And in a moment that seemed so perfect, Jeter stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game, with a runner on second base and lined a base hit into right field.

Yankees win. Jeter’s the hero. Where have we heard this story before?

Well done.