Kitchen Sync And The Power Of App Simplicity

Have you ever wondered why most of Apple’s free applications are rather simple? That leaves the door open for app developers, whether for the Mac or iOS devices, to create improvements, and up the ante with better features, and that adds to the ecosystem. Apple’s main applications have improved through the years, yes, but most remain much as they were. Simple to use, simple to learn. Safari, Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Notes, iPhoto.

Here’s the tale of an application for iPad and iPhone which does something remarkable in its plainness. We’ve been looking around for a grocery store shopping list app that is quick and easy to use, inexpensive, and synchronizes data between devices (not shared by iCloud or Dropbox; we maintain separate accounts). What I settled on was a very simple shopping list application called Kitchen Sync. It comes with a long list of household and grocery store items. Add items by touching the + Plus sign. Even add it to a category. Scroll down, find an item, touch it, and the item is added to the list, then the list is synchronized to devices connected to the same account.

Kitchen Sync

The benefit here is obvious. Multiple people (husband and wife, for example) can add items to the shopping list, then delete them once they’re purchased; one by one, or tap Clear to remove all the items. The lists are then synchronized again. The learning curve is next to nothing. You already know how to use it.

Touch an item and it’s instantly added to the shopping list. Swipe to remove it from the list. Press + Plus to add an item to a list or category. Press the iOS Sharing Box to email or text the list. The synchronization between Kitchen Sync on multiple devices is handled in the background, no iCloud or Dropbox required (will sync.

Kitchen Sync

The beauty and power of Kitchen Sync is in the simplicity and ease of use. Most grocery shopping list or list making apps have far more features, but usability is more important. When comparing applications, the battle should not be between users and features, but the peace between user and usability.

Kitchen Sync is a delight to use because it just works for the intended purpose. Can you repurpose Notes or Reminders? Yes, but syncing requires sharing an iCloud account. Most of the other grocery shopping lists are cumbersome to setup and use. Kitchen Sync is instantly usable, quickly syncs lists between devices, and seems to get out of the way when being used. It’s also free, but only 99-cents if you want it to sync lists between devices.

Big Brother Is Watching

The problem with Big Brother is this. There are many big brothers and they’re all doing their level best to watch and record everything we do. If it’s not the government, it’s Google. If it’s not Google, it’s AT&T and Verizon– watching our every online move for their own profit. Daniel B. Kline outlines the crazy and expensive way to opt out.

AT&T’s low-cost Google Fiber alternative comes with a fairly huge “catch”.

On the positive side, “GigaPower” service, which is offered mostly in markets where the company competes with Google, offers very high-speed home fiber-optic Internet service for as low as $70 a month. That’s the same price the search giant charges, and on the surface it seems like a fair deal.

The problem is that this price requires customers to opt in to AT&T’s “Internet Preferences” program, “which gives the company permission to examine each customer’s Web traffic,” according to Ars Technica. This leads to targeted ads appearing when you visit websites, email offers coming to your inbox, and even junk mail sent to your home.

Opting out of the traffic-recording program will cost you a minimum of another $29 a month. Add in AT&T’s phone and television service through GigaPower and you will pay as much as $60 a month in privacy fees to keep AT&T from snooping on you, according to the technology website.

That should tell you how much your privacy is being invaded and how much it’s worth to the invaders.

“No Steak For You!”

Soup Nazi, meet Rick Brattin, Steak Nazi. Matthew Yglesias on a Republican congressman who wants to ban steak and seafood. For poor people.

In the ongoing moral panic over what poor people choose to spend their resources on, Missouri Republican Rick Brattin has introduced a bill to the state legislature that would prevent anyone from using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits “to purchase cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak.”

What’s wrong with that? Why should poor people be allowed to eat certain foods?

Human beings are pretty resourceful, and while a cookie ban will certainly annoy lots of poor families and make their lives worse, it’s unlikely to materially impact cookie consumption or improve public health.

What it will do is increase the amount of food stamp fraud, giving politicians more opportunity to complain about food stamp fraud and to cite food stamp fraud as a reason to cut the program.

Sigh.

Boxing, Meet Cellphone

You can’t make up some news. Rodger Sherman:

First off: I didn’t even know boxing shorts had pockets. Considering they’re wearing boxing gloves which definitely cannot fit into pockets, that seems kinda pointless.

Second: Dude, you need fingers to use a cellphone!

Third: Poor Papi Gallo got knocked out. Just not a good night for Marvin.

Watch the video. A cellphone fell out of a boxer’s shorts. While boxing.

The Fast And Easy Way To Add Color Tints To An Image Or Photo On Your Mac

Every now and again I come upon a unique Mac app, a utility which is instantly identified as useful, valuable, and clever. For any Mac user who needs to apply tinting to a graphic image, design, or photo, it’s easily done. With the right application. Photoshop does tinting beautifully but comes with a stiff price and a stiff learning curve. Anything else?

Image Tinter is a Mac app that just does one thing to justify the $1.99 price tag. It has simple tools that make it drop dead easy to apply a tint color to any image. Simply drag and drop an image (graphic design, photo, vector icons, shapes, whatever) onto Image Tinter, select the Tint Image Color, adjust the opacity with a slider bar, click to export. That’s it.

Image Tinter

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wanted to adjust or add tint to a graphic element which required firing up Photoshop or Fireworks (may it rest in peace) and fiddled for half an hour to get it just right. Image Tinter does it in seconds.

Drag. Drop. Click. Slide.

More Image Tinter

Favorite tint colors can be saved in the Favorites section. It even changes the color of graphic icons and the opacity slider creates a semi-transparent tint for special effects.

And, yes, Image Tinter works great on color images, too.

Even More Image Tinter

There’s not much to not like here. It’s fast, simple, elegant, and it works. There are no complicated granular controls, though. Just select a color, adjust the opacity as needed, export.

The Mercedes Truck

What’s special about this story is not so much the Mercedes truck (which looks like a Mercedes), but who the company needs to make it happen. Ben Zhang:

Mercedes-Benz announced last week that it’s planning to build a pickup truck. The news was stunning, given that the pickup segment is ultra-competitive.
But Mercedes likely isn’t going it alone. According to the Wall Street Journal’s William Boston, the company is in talks with Nissan to use the “framework” of the company’s Navara mid-size pickup as the basis for its truck.

That’s right, it’s a Mercedes by way of Japan.

Sources also told the Journal that the Germans are in talks to use Nissan’s factories to produce the pickup.

What would a Mercedes pickup truck look like?

Mercedes Pickup

Think Titan with a Mercedes grill.

Ants In Space

Jospeh Stromberg with a story and a GIF on what happens to ants in space.

The formal experiment was a test of whether the ants could coordinate to search their environment, as they do on Earth. At the start, they were housed in a small corner of their plastic box, but over the course of a few minutes, astronauts removed barriers from it, allowing them to access new territory.

A comparison group of ant colonies on Earth were able to spread out and survey the entire environment within five minutes. Because of the difficulties of microgravity, the space ants weren’t able to cover all the territory within the same time period, but they still managed to spread out and see most of it.

Wherever they are, the ants manage to get around. So, why not gather all the earth’s cockroaches and send them into space as an experiment to see if they can find their way home.

Similar By Design

I’ve often wondered how auto manufacturers prevent similar designs from other makers. On the other hand, if imitation is the best form of flattery, Bentley design chief Luc Donckerwolke should be pleased that Ford’s new Lincoln Continental looks so much like his design. From Reuters:

This behaviour is not respectable. Building a copy like this is giving a bad name to the car design world.

Ford’s spokesperson:

The Lincoln Continental is clearly a Lincoln, we’re very proud of it

Ford stopped making the last Continental in 2002. Bentley has used the Continental name since 1984.

How To Zap Those Pesky Safari Pop-Up Tech Support Ads

Online advertising is what most of us would call ‘a necessary evil.’ Advertising is what lowers the cost of television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and surfing the web. Without advertising to pay the bills, everything on that list would cost more.

Yet, here we are moving rapidly into the 21st century and advertising scams have proliferated; a noxious disease which damages everyone connected to the internet. Three times in the past week I’ve browsed to a site that ran an unscrupulous ‘tech support pop-up‘ advertisement. Chances are good you’ve seen such ads or experienced one yourself while browsing various sites.

In this case, the ad pops up with a window that claims your computer has been infected with a virus, and gives you a number to call for assistance. Normally, I would simply close the pop-up ad and move on, but this one is so bad there’s almost no way to close the bouncing pop-up window which often locks up Safari.

How can you fix it? ScamZapper. It’s free and it does only one thing. It stops those annoying pop-up ads before you get annoyed.

Here’s one of the pop-up add scams that ScamZapper zaps.

ScamZapper - Alert

If you’ve experienced any pop-ad scams that are similar you know how annoying it can be. On once occasion I was able to time Command-Q to quit Safari. On two occasions I had to Force Quit Safari and remove the history manually to prevent the pop-up from showing up again.

What ScamZapper does is monitor specific domains tied to the pop-up ads and prevent them from loading in Safari. The database of domains is updated often, too. An auto-update to the ScamZapper extension would be a big help. Still, ScamZapper is free and it works.

Samsung Galaxy S6

File this one under “What would journalists do if they could not review hardware and had to focus attention only on the software used in a computer?” Still, Zach Epstein tries.

The Setup:

I have been pretty hard on Samsung over the past few years, but let’s be honest: the company deserved it. Time and time again, we’ve seen Samsung launch fantastic flagship smartphones that are class leaders in almost every key area. Samsung’s mobile displays are the best in the world, many of its software additions have mass appeal, and its phones are always among the best available when it comes to performance.

But where design, build quality and materials are concerned, Samsung has always been at the bottom of the pile.

BGR folks need to get out more. There are many, many crummy Android phones out there that make Samsung’s Galaxy class look positively Apple-like.

The Reality:

The absence of a removable battery, a memory card slot and waterproofing certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing Apple’s iPhone lineup down… But there is one thing I can guarantee: Whichever Android phone one might choose over the Galaxy S6, it won’t be as powerful, the display won’t be as stunning, and the design won’t be as sleek.

Except the iPhone 6 has a more powerful CPU, the Galaxy S6 looks exactly like an iPhone 6, but the Samsung display is good for AMOLED fans.

Hawaii Five-O: Where Are They Now?

The new Hawaii Five-O pays homage to the original from 1968-1980, but you’ll see more explosions and murders and violence on one episode than we have in the islands in half a year. As to stars of the original, Answers answers ‘Where are they now?

  • Jack Lord – McGarret died
  • James MacArthur – Danno died
  • Kam Fong – Chin Ho died
  • Herman Wedemeyer – Duke died
  • Harry Endo – Che Fong died
  • Zulu – Kono died
  • Richard Denning – Governor died
  • Peggy Ryan – Jenny died
  • Danny Kamekona – Sgt. Nick died
  • Khigh Dhiegh – Wo Fat died

Good grief. They all died.

Consumer Reports’ Top 10 Worst Cars Ever

I am happy to say I’ve never owned a Top 10 Worst Car Ever. James Derek Sapienza with the scoop from Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports’ road testing is one of the most thorough and punishing automotive tests in the world. Its in-depth and impartial methods separate the serious contenders from the also-rans, and gives an unvarnished view of a car’s real-world performance. Because of this, the magazine has the unique position of being able to make or break a new car in a way that no other publication has. On top of the report card-like rating system, everything from the quality of interior trim to a car’s handling in emergency situations can be summed up in their five-point rating system ranging from excellent to poor. On rare occasions, cars fall below even the lowest poor rating, earning a harsh and foreboding “Not Acceptable” rating.

And the Spoiler Alert!

  • 1968 AMC Ambassador SST
  • 2003 Nissan Murano
  • Subaru 360
  • 1978 Dodge Omni
  • Smart FourTwo
  • Suzuki Samurai
  • Isuzu Trooper
  • 2010 Lexus GX 460
  • 2001 Mitsubishi Montero

Lots of SUVs on the list. I would add a 1998 Dodge Caravan to the list. My last Chrysler product. Ever.

The President’s Car

Dee-Ann Durbin:

Elvis Presley had one; so did Clark Gable. It was even the sedan of presidents. Then the name vanished amid an invasion of newer luxury cars from Europe and Asia.

Now, the Lincoln Continental is back.

Thirteen years after the last Continental rolled off the assembly line, Ford Motor Co. is resurrecting its storied nameplate.

No word on when the Continental will appear in show rooms or the price tag.

How To Free Up Some Dock Space On Your Mac With A Little Help From GhostTile

If you’ve been around the Mac for more than a few years and you’ve begun to collect a few apps, then we have one thing in common. A Dock that’s stuffed with Mac apps. Love it or hate it, the Dock is utilitarian, easy to understand and use, but suffers from a common compression disorder. The more apps in the Dock, the smaller the Dock icons for each app. Here’s a way to get a little more Dock space but keep the applications nearby.

Enter GhostTile, a simple Mac utility which hides applications from the Dock.

Think about the benefits. A much less cluttered Dock of applications, but with app availability. GhostTile even hides the app when you switch from one app to another when using Command-Tab.

GhostTile lets you hide running apps from the Dock three different ways.

GhostTile Screenshot

First, just drag and drop onto GhostTile any app you want to hide from the Dock. Or, select the app from the Mac’s Application folder. Or, click on the app’s icon while it’s visible in the Dock.

Configuration is straightforward, too. Settings let you configure GhostTile on a per app basis. Plus, there are keyboard shortcuts to bring an app to the front. Switching back to a visible Dock app is equally simple. Click on the Menubar shortcut, use the Quick Switch window, or setup an alias folder on the Dock (my favorite).

The OS X Dock has been around as long as the Finder and has received about as much love from Apple. Yes, it works, but could do much more, including an option to view multiple docks with a click. GhostTile frees up a little Dock space but acts like a utility launcher, too.

Yelper Shamed

As is the case with nearly everything on social media where members can comment, take what is written or posted with a skeptical grain of salt. Here’s a perfect example of Yelper who gave a one star review on a restaurant where he didn’t even bother to eat. Andrew Dalton:

According to Yelper Dan W., the staff of the small family-run restaurant refused to seat his party of one on a busy recent Wednesday night, leaving him with practically no choice but to leave a smug review of a place he apparently didn’t even bother to eat. Unfortunately for Yelper Dan’s budding career as a casual restaurant reviewer, the restaurant’s own footage from their Dropcam appears to disprove his story flat-out.

As the video displays clearly, Yelper Dan W. lied about his dining experience.

2016 Jaguar XF

The cars look and perform better than any Jaguars ever, but the company struggles to make a profit. Here’s the latest to bear the name. From Autos:

The big Jaguar sedan that competes against the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series and Audi A6 has been overshadowed in recent years by the British luxury brand’s more sporting models. Jaguar hopes to change that with a 2016 version of the XF that’s up to 265 lbs. lighter than the outgoing version thanks to an all-aluminum chassis. Power will come from a 3-liter supercharged V-6, tuned to either 340 hp or 380 hp, with modern luxury effects in the interior like a 10.2-inch dashboard touchscreen.

That’s bigger than iPad size.

NFL’s Top 5 Most Loyal Fans

No, not individual fans, but the base of fans. This is what happens during the break between NFL and MLB (basketball isn’t a real sport). Matt Reavy:

Forbes recently did some digging into the NFL, and came up with some interesting ways to measure for all the types of NFL fandom, from stadium attendance over the last three years to merch sales to, yes, Facebook and Twitter fandom, as well as how many local people actually watched the games. It was a pretty comprehensive effort, and it serves as the bedrock of this list of the five best fan bases in the National Football League. Does your team make the cut?

No. But here’s the Spoiler Alert:

  • Baltimore Ravens
  • New England Patriots
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Denver Broncos
  • Green Bay Packers

It should not be a surprise that fans love perennial playoff teams

How To Password Protect A Zip Archive On A Mac

Unfortunately, I’ve been a Mac user longer than most, and though I don’t create many AppleScript utilities to automate processes here and there, I’ve collected more than my fair share of scripts that do what OS X or various apps do not.

Here’s a perfect example of AppleScript in action and it’s free.

How do you create a .zip archive? It’s easy. How do you add a password? Not so easy. Select a file, files, or folders of files in the Finder, right click, and select Compress from the contextual menu.

That creates a nicely zipped up archive suitable for storage, backup, or sending and sharing with others. But what if you want to add a password to the archive? That’s easier said than done, but it’s actually easy.

One of my favorite Mac utilities is ZipperSnapper which zips up files and adds protection from the Mac’s Menubar, but it comes with a nominal price tag.

OS X Daily has a good tutorial on how you can user the Mac’s built-in Terminal.app to zip up files and add a password. It’s free but not for the faint of heart unless you’re comfortable around OS X’s command line interface.

If you’re still interested in free but have no interest in using Terminal.app to do the deed, there’s EncryptZip, a simple AppleScript utility that does what the command line does, but easier and faster.

Drag a file, files, or folder of files onto EncryptZip, then enter a file name for the archive, and a password.

EncryptZip

It doesn’t get much better than free and easy.

Illegal TV Shows And Movies Chase Legal TV Shows And Movies

You’ve heard of Netflix but have you heard about Popcorn Time? Jacob Siegal:

If you’ve been keeping track of streaming services over the past year, Popcorn Time has undoubtedly been on your radar. This questionably legal app allows users to stream movies and TV shows directly from torrent files online through a slick user interface, avoiding the bothersome downloads and the unsavory advertisements that accompany most torrent sites.

Hmmm. Sounds like competition for Netflix.

And Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is well aware of the competition. As Wired reminds us, Hastings referred to Popcorn Time by name after stating that “piracy continues to be one of our biggest competitors” in a note to investors earlier this year.

I suspect that most people don’t understand that downloading and viewing TV shows and movies via any of the Popcorn versions is just as illegal as Netflix is legal.

America’s Most Reliable Cars Come From 2 Car Makers

This is one of those lists that everyone can argue against, even if you own a car made by one of the two most reliable car makers. Benjamin Zhang outlines the rules.

To find out, J.D. Power sought the responses of 34,000 original owners of 2012 model cars, asking them what it’s been like to own their three-year old cars over the last 12 months. The results of these questions have been assembled for the 2015 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study.

So, the cars were three years old and owners were surveyed for reliability. Who won? Toyota and General Motors (which says more about GM than Toyota).