I’m a Photographer…

‘I’m a Photographer’: those are the words that conjure up an image in the reader’s mind making them think, “he’s a Professional”, but that’s not always the case.

To me, we’re all photographers, every one of us, whether we’re using the most expensive all bells and whistles camera, or the cheapest mobile phone: we’re all photographers.

Why do I say that? Well, we all have the dream of taking the most amazing images, those that will stand the test of time and leave future generations in a place of wonderment, but I don’t consider myself a professional because of that.

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Can The iPad Replace Your Mac For Photo Editing?

Being an old geezer, I’m a little set in my ways and can be a little resistant to new fangled apps and software. It’s not that I don’t like technology or the latest toys and software, I’m a Mac user after all, but when it comes to my photography work, I’ve always been in the Mac and OS X/macOS universe, so when it was suggested that the iPad could some day be my main photography editing device, I’d have laughed at you… but not any more.

I’ve listened to podcasts for a long time and on many, professional photographers have said that the iPad would never be a viable device to produce professional work on but… yes, it’s that ‘but’ word… maybe it could.

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iOS 11… The Future

I’ve been using the iOS 11 public beta’s for some time now and I’ve had mixed feelings about the way iOS 11 works… some features are really useful, and others are not, some are really intuitive and some are… not.

Some nice features that I have been discovering, such as the drag and drop multiple items feature, has been really useful, but due to them being so different, I keep forgetting about them. One of those was the multi drop feature, which this morning I remembered about when I decided to rearrange my apps due to storage issues. I’ve been finding that iOS 11 (Public Beta 8) has some annoying ways of working. Whether this is meant to happen when space is at a premium, or just an annoying bug I don’t know, but we will see when the full version finally arrives later this month.

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How I record and edit the Essential Apple Podcast

Audio Hijack Pro Podcast Editing

Several listeners have asked me about how we record and edit The Essential Apple Podcast. I decided to give a bit of an overview of how I go about the process. Part of this article is based on a piece I posted on Medium in reply to another article on how to record a podcast.

There are dozens of different recording and editing applications available from the very basic to the extremely complex, (like Adobe Audition or AVID Pro Tools, for example) and there is no “right way” to do any of this. As is so often the case, you can choose from many paths and all of them have their own challenges – but in the the end they all take you to the same destination.

I use a Macintosh and all of my links are for the Mac or iOS platform. Some of the programs are cross platform, others are not. However I am sure a similar quantity of applications is available for both Windows, Linux or Android users.

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Studio Envy

Yesterday in New York Microsoft showed the world what they have been working on recently and, in all honesty, I was not expecting much. However, as the presentation entered its final stages they revealed the Surface Studio all-in-one PC and instantly grabbed my attention.

At first it just appeared to be a standard, rather pretty, iMac lookalike but then, with one simple manoeuvre, the Surface Studio’s screen was pushed down and rested in a position similar to a draftsman’s desk allowing the user to lean over the display and use the Surface Pen and the new Surface Dial to interact with the gorgeous 28” touch screen.

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I used my last Windows machine back in 2010 before moving to a Mac and I have never been tempted back, until yesterday. Having said that though the odds of me switching OS are still remote, but my tech-lust has certainly been stirred.

The reveal did remind me of an old Patently Apple story that was doing the rounds back in 2010 that revealed a patent from Apple detailing something called the ‘iMac Touch’ that would allow an iMac to be pushed down and interacted with using touch just as the new Surface Studio does. This rumour was followed shortly afterwards however with Steve Jobs statement that using touch screens on desktops and laptops resulted in what he called ‘gorilla arm’ usage; forcing users to raise their arms and reach out for the screen. That might have been the case then but the Surface Studio shows that a change in design can solve that possible problem.

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Apple, to increasing disapproval from some quarters, appears to have allowed the form factor of recent Macs to stagnate, relying on aesthetically pleasing but now ageing industrial designs with internal specification bumps to mark their evolution.

It is yet to be seen whether the Surface Studio will spark interest in the markets it is aiming for but it certainly does offer a new idea for desktop interactivity when it comes to computer usage.

Today Apple will get their chance to show what they have planned for the Mac’s future, although probably concentrating on their laptop lines. With rumours of bumped specs, new colours and an OLED touch bar, Apple may find their efforts to impress fall short following the reveal of Microsoft’s Surface Studio. Maybe however it will spur Apple on to possibly blow off the dust from the rumoured iMac Touch patent and get Jony Ive designing once again. I’m pretty sure that shortly after ‘that’ reveal I’ll be shouting quite loudly ‘Shut up and take my money!’ but until then I’ll just have to suffer Studio Envy.

Bring Back The Best Games Of YesterYear With Retro Gaming On Your Mac.

Gaming on the Mac is a strange beast. Take a look at some top tier games and you’ll find an array of information telling you what isn’t compatible, rather than what will work. I’m looking at you X-Com 2. Running a system a couple of years old will stand you in good stead especially since Apple hasn’t updated some product lines in over 300 days, but even then if you don’t have the top of the line model you may be struggling with some of the most demanding  games.

But what if your kit is like mine, perfectly adequate for day to day use it still runs the latest Mac OS betas fine but getting your game on isn’t going to happen and funds don’t permit purchasing of a new shiny? There’s retro gaming.

Retro Gaming has seen an incredible resurgence recently even more so as the process of gaming in the yesteryear era is now substantially easier.  Before emulation / retro gaming could be a complete hassle. Previously it was a case of finding an emulator, finding a ROM to boot the emulator[1], configuring the emulator and then finding the ROM for the game you wanted to play. Depending on the game, you may have to tweak the emulation experience and then, finally, you’re  up and running (hopefully).

However there is an easier way thanks to the excellent website GamesNostalgia All of the pain has been removed of configuration leaving you to just search for a game, download and run. That really is all that’s needed and I should know as I’ve wasted more than a few weekends rolling back the years with Speedball 2 or just one more match on Sensible World Of Soccer.

Thousands of games are available from a huge range of old console and computer formats such as Amiga, C64, Spectrum,  Megadrive, SNES, Atari, Coleco, Gameboy… The list goes on and on, each game running near flawlessly on all my aging kit, including my 2009 MacBook Pro and my i7 iMac with a huge amount of ram powered by a weedy Intel HD graphics card.

Running retro games on a big screen did make me feel all nostalgic and for the brief moment I considered trying to work out how I might find a CRT and connect that up just so it would look fuzzier for the full old school gaming vibe.

Granted the experience hasn’t been perfect for a couple of reasons. Back in the day designers worked with the limitations of CRT screens. Back in those days colours would bleed together and on today’s LCD screens it looks almost jarringly sharp but that doesn’t detract from a horrendous level of addictiveness of some games. Also I don’t own a microswitched competition pro joystick or being a bit more up to date an Xbox controller, which is easily configured to work on the Mac, and has now been ordered from Amazon[2].

So if you want to game on your older equipment and you don’t fancy playing an iOS version of some games via airplay onto your TV go check out GamesNostalgia

[1] Not all emulators need this but the interesting ones like Dolphin and Playstation do.  
[2] All the Amazon links here use our affiliate code. It would be great if you used them when shopping at Amazon.

Rumours and Rumours and Rumours, Oh My!

With only a few weeks remaining until Apple reveals the new hardware it has been working on the tech press is naturally filled with rumours. The audio jack will be removed, dual cameras, OLED screen bars and countless other supposed rumours and hearsay that ‘people familiar with the matter’ or ‘unnamed sources’ seem more than willing to share.

Now I realise that these sites have to meet their daily post quotas and usually any attention grabbing headline with the word Apple in it is bound to generate some interest, be it positive or negative, but things appear to be getting out of hand this cycle.

There have not only been the usual rumours but now it seems a fresh cry has joined the chorus. That being that this year’s iPhone will be so lacklustre in new features that you’ll most probably be better off waiting until 2017 before upgrading.

What appears to be the main reason for this? Well, it relates to the fact that next year is the 10th anniversary of the iPhone and some believe Apple will really push the boat out for that model and load it with countless technological treats that we can only gawp at in wonder from way back here in boring old 2016. For some even the 2017 model is not good enough and it’s the 2018 model that we’ll ‘really’ want.

Now I want to give these publications the benefit of the doubt and trust their opinions are shared in the best interests of us mere consumers, however, I can’t help but feel a little cynical when I read these articles. I understand Apple has its detractors and I can see why some of the choices it makes can infuriate users and commentators, not to mention bewilder the competition and analysts alike. But to believe that Apple’s flagship device, the device that earns the most every financial quarter, would be allowed to lapse and lay stagnant for twelve, or even more ridiculous, twenty-four months is almost laughable.

These devices that we use are not rushed and pieced together a few months before launch. They are worked on for years. In an interview Jony Ive has discussed how as Apple was preparing to launch the iPhone 4 his team was already working though the form factors for the iPhone 6.

Apple is a long term company, especially when it comes to hardware. They are in the enviable position that they do not need to rush to market. Whereas other technology companies may release a number of different devices throughout the year and hope the sales are significant enough to earn a profit, Apple, until recently with the iPhoneSE, releases one model (albeit in two different sizes) but they still need it to be a successful in real terms. They need to make this one phone the best they can because they will not be able to correct it for another 12 months following the launch. They also have to build enough units to satisfy the enormous demand, a daunting logistical nightmare that they usually handle competently.

I have no real clue what Apple will announce this coming September, and from the looks of it neither do most of the tech press. This is not their fault as Apple is one of the most secretive companies around, something that is not surprising seeing how many of their designs are copied shorty after launch.

As a result it is no wonder the tech sites and press scramble for every morsel of information, no matter how outlandish, how brazen or, ironically, how predictable (it will be thinner and faster). Fortunately Apple will soon reveal their new devices and there will be a few glorious hours when rumours will take a backseat to actual facts. So once Tim Cook takes to the stage next month enjoy that brief respite, as it will only be a few days, I’m sure, until we’ll start hearing about the iPhone 7S or iPhone 8… and apparently this one will read your mind, an ‘informed source’ tells me.

Decoding The WWDC 2016 invite / Predictions

Onavo iPhone App

With only hours to go before WWDC, which just happens to be 30 minutes after Microsoft are doing their E3 announcement, here is our stab at decoding the invite sent to developers

Hello love at first swipe. 

Mark: An update to the lock screen. More information, maybe a more notification style view like you get from swiping down from the top on the home screen? although that might be contradictory with Apple’s your data is private mantra.

Serenak: Some other sort of swiping API? The ability to create “gesture commands” from shaped swipes perhaps?

Karl: Apple is getting into Tinder territory? 

Hello other side of the road

Mark : This could be a sign of iMessage coming to Android maybe?

Serenak : Some form of peer to peer messages. I am thinking both Android and based on some sort of iDrop type technology

Karl: Other side of the road? It’s official! The Apple Car will be unveiled…or Apple Streeview. 

Hello yogi on my wrist. 

Mark : If that isn’t a hint towards more Apple watch faces I don’t know what is. Perhaps Apple has a licensing deal with Hanna Barbera?

Serenak : A yogi is also a practitioner of Yoga… and yoga is about more than just all them “tantric positions” – there is a lot of that “if a tree falls in the forest” stuff too…”. Or perhaps a stream of inspirational stuff messaged to you?

Karl: Your Watch will nag you even more to stand up, except now it will say stand up, walk about, eat more kale, do star jumps and loose some damn weight fatty.

Serenak: Ha ha – no it will demand you assume the Tiger Stance / Now the Crane / And Relax….or perhaps make you sit on a bed of nails 😀

Hello driver, fast as you can.

Mark : Baked in Uber commands. Wonder if this will extend to other cab companies such as in London. Here’s hoping for a worldwide roll out and not just USA only. Also it will translate english into the native language of the Uber driver so it knows there the heck I am.

Karl: Apple Maps with realtime traffic updates like Waze…or a native get-away driver app

Serenak: Something more advanced for the Apple Auto Mode? I like Karl’s idea

Hello workout in my living room.

Mark: Improved fitness tracking. In the far flung reaches of my mind something on the Apple TV (apps) where you can work out to and the Apple watch will gather some stats.

Karl: Mandatory monitored fitness regime. We no longer want fat people using our thin products…’Yeah, we ARE looking at you Madden’

Hello every pitch, every highlight.

Mark : Say hello to a tie in with the MLB coming to your watch. Perhaps you will receive instant notifications with a more video / interative twist that won’t require your iOS device, just a working internet connection. Failing that what about real time Darts updates when someone bangs in a 180?

Karl: Watching all the sports highlights you want. I hope they include THE ENGLISH TIDDLYWINKS ASSOCIATION

Serenak: It will be a live stream of SharkTank / Dragon’s Den… once you sign in you find there is not any “I’m OUT” button 😀

Hello selfcombusting selfies.

Mark: Say hello to sherlocking (part 1) the idea from SnapChat.

Karl: It may be too late for Anthony Weiner but this selfie will selfie-destruct in 5…4…3…2…1…pfft.

Hello double tap heart.

Mark: Can anyone remember how to use the Tap the screen and send it to someone feature?

Karl: built in defibrillator that following a double tap will use all remaining iPhone power to give a bit of a jolt…or double tapping a photo means you really, reeeeeeaaallly like it.

Hello rain in five minutes.

Mark: Say hello to sherlocking (part 2) of Dark Skies coming to Apple watch but more baked in. Localised weather is great providing that it’s not just for the USA as normal to start with.

Karl: updates to the Weather app to make it more real time…or just predicting rain every five minutes for UK users, as it will probably be spot on 90% of the time.

Serenak: Either it is sherlocking Dark Skies et al or Karl’s nailed it – either that or Apple have created weather control and you can order your own weather in advance 😀

Hello 6 seconds of fame.

Mark : I’ll take a pass on this unless we’re back to snapchatting.

Serenak : Vine type video service. who says it has to be to the Watch? I am thinking some sort of 6 second video thing tied into maybe iMessages?

Karl: Because 15 minutes was just too long dammit.

Serenak: Even Andy Warhol admitted that 15 minutes was probably a massive over estimation before he died

Hello big idea.

Mark : Sharing and collaborative working? Will Swift get a new dev environment to work within?

Serenak: What if “Big Idea” is more like the “one more thing” and is actually a BIG IDEA unfortunately I am not Jony Ive or TC so I have no idea what that might be

Karl: Because there are no small ideas, just small actors…no, wait.

Why is it rumoured that the new OS will be called Fuji? That’s not in California… and if they only managed 3 in that series that’s a bit pants boys and girls… 
 

Third-Party Apple Watch Straps That Won’t Break The Bank

I love my Apple Watch. There, I said it. The device has had many detractors since it was first announced, some of them reasonable and some not. Personally it is the best watch I have ever owned. The two main reasons being Apple Pay and notifications. Obviously all of its other functions are also valuable, but these two features really make the device invaluable for me.

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Apple Getting Serious About SIRI?

In a recent article published on iMore, Rene Richie makes a very valid point regarding the recent comparisons between SIRI and Amazon’s Alexa. The tech press does seem to have a massive love for Alexa from Amazon without ever seeming to quantify the slight issue that if you are outside the borders of the United States of America then ‘Hey Alexa’ gets you “diddly squat”.

I know that most tech publications are US-centric but I have even started noticing a few UK publications gleefully lamenting the fact that SIRI can’t compete with Alexa when it comes to digital assistants… if you omit the rather tiny issue of it not being available that is. Yes Alexa is soooooo much better, I mean it must be, it’s not made by Apple so QED better, right? If we had ever had the opportunity to try it I’m sure it would be better… Obviously.

I don’t want to be that guy who feels they have to defend Apple. They are big enough and rich enough to do that themselves (though they do tend to keep quiet most of the time) but let’s get some perspective here. Technology can be a wonderful thing, as can choice, also competition can lead to some fantastic advances and discoveries but simply saying something is much better because in one small area it currently exceeds the alternatives seems a little juvenile and shortsighted.

When Apple bought SIRI it was a much more US-centric service that could perform a number of tasks such as booking you a table for dinner. Apple tends to look at the bigger picture and doesn’t just focus on the US market. As a result SIRI was stripped of a number of its features but its language understanding grew considerably so that today it can recognise and respond to 33 different languages, including its most recent addition, Hebrew.

Rumours are now growing that SIRI will see a significant upgrade at this year’s WWDC following Apple’s acquisition of UK-based VocalIQ. Apple is also possibly making an SDK available to developers and rumours of a stand-a-lone SIRI device persist, such as the recently announced Home by Google. This might just be the start of big things for Apple’s digital assistant, even for those of us outside the borders of the great US of A.

How do you think the current digital virtual assistants are performing? Are any of them up to a level where you feel you can use them constantly?