Week 7: VSCO Cam, Fujifilm X-T1, and iTunes Radio

VSCO Cam 3.0

VSCO released an upadate to VSCO Cam for iPhone, their awesome photography app, to version 3.0. The new version adds a few new features, amongst my favourite are:

  • Integration of VSCO Grid into the iOS app. You can now see other photographer's grids and follow them. Check out my VSCO Grid.
  • Tilt & Level alignment. They figured out a clever way to add a level-style function to the camera that helps you align your photographs both horizontally and vertically.
  • You can now order Presets alphabetically with one button. Finally!

There are other new features that you can read about in their blog. If you haven't purchased VSCO Cam, do it now. It's the best photography app I've used on the iPhone. I assume the Android version is just as good, but I've never used it.

If you have issues downloading the presets, here's how I solved it.

Fujifilm X-T1 Reviews

The reviews for Fujifilm's X-T1 are starting to appear. Here are a few I found worthwhile:

This camera is seriously tempting.

iTunes Radio available in Australia

A couple of days ago the icon for iTunes Radio appeared on my Apple TV. I've been playing with it since and so far I like it.

Back in September, I complained about the difference in the US and Australian press releases for iTunes Radio, where the Aussie one had a "in the US" in parenthesis after "Coming this fall". Well, it's finally here in Australia and I'm happy.

Here's the press release.

Week 6: Love, pockets, and Evernote

Find what you love and let it kill you

This week I read an article by pianist James Rhodes in the Guardian titled "Find what you love and let it kill you". It's beautiful and there's really nothing I could quote here without taking away from the piece. Please go read it now. It's worth it.

I've become a fan of Rhodes and just purchased one of his albums in iTunes. Amazing music and he's the type of artist I love supporting.

Via: Steven Pressfield.

Jerry Seinfeld on creating a show today

Jerry Seinfield:

Why would I put a show on a big heavy rectangle in your house when I could put it in your pocket.

This guy is brilliant.

Evernote adds descriptive search

From their announcement:

Imagine walking up to a bookshelf in your home. If you know where your desired book is, you see it and grab it. If you don’t know where the book sits, then you’ll try to recall the color of its spine, neighboring books, chronological placement, or any number of other attributes of the book until you find what you need.

Evernote’s search has always been great at providing the first part. If you know what you’re looking for, type in some keywords and the notes appear. Today, as part of our drive to create great experiences for users with a lot of notes, we’re introducing a new approach called Descriptive Search, which will let you find those notes, even if your memory of them is fuzzy and contextual.

This is great news and it works well if you use tags extensively. Unfortunately, it's not smart enough to look in the titles of notes. For example, I have a notebook in Evernote titled "Blog Post Ideas" where I create a note for each idea for an article I may want to write at some point. To keep them organised, I start the title with a related keyword. For example, articles about Aperture start with "APERTURE: Bla, bla, bla". I know I should use tags for this, but it's easier and faster for me to just start the title with a keyword.

Today I tried to search for "blog post ideas about aperture" and I didn't get what I expected. The search was for notes in "Blog Post Ideas" but that were tagged with "aperture". Since none of those are tagged it didn't give me any meaningful results.

I guess I should start using tags a lot more. There's a whole chapter on tags in Evernote Essentials that I just might read again over the weekend.

Week 2: Album covers, Terry Gilliam, and Gate's books of 2013

Chase Jarvis on shooting award winning album cover art

Chase Jarvis interviewed Mario Andreoni on how a musician chooses cover art for their albums:

So I was flattered — and immediately on board — when Mario Andreoni of !!! (pronounced/also written Chk Chk Chk) asked if they could use the above image for their album cover, Thr!!!er.

It's a good interview and the answers are interesting. The cover is a great photograph, and Chase shares a link in there with some goodies.

Terry Gilliam interview from 1970

This week I came across the interview above. I'm a fan of Terry Gilliam's films (Brazil, 12 Monkeys, The Brothers Grimm, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, etc.), so I really enjoyed watching this video where he explains his process to create a short film he did back in the 70's.

Books Bill Gates read in 2013

Bill Gates shares the books he read in 2013. I like how he introduces the list:

Each of the books on the list below taught me something I didn’t know. How shipping containers helped cut the cost of moving goods between Asia and North America by roughly half. How refined tools for measurement laid the groundwork for the invention of the steam engine. How we’re dangerously overfishing cod, tuna, and other species.

More generally, these books tell amazing stories of human ingenuity. It is this ingenuity that helps explain why the world keeps getting better, and why at the end of each year I look forward to the next one with hope and optimism

It's always interesting to see which books people choose to read.

Week 1: Music, Typography, and Photography blogging

Here we are, the first week of 2014. I thought it'd be a good idea to start off the weekly linked post this year with a few things that might be of value not only now, but for the rest of the year.

John Carey's favourite music from last year

John posted a collection of the music he listened to and liked the most during 2013. It's a pretty good list of music. I found a few gems that I'd never heard of before. My favourite is probably Psychic by Darkside, which I'm listening to as I write this. You can listen to the first song, Golden Arrow, in this YouTube link. It's over 11 minutes and it gets better every time I listen to it. Perfect for writing.

Character of a Typeface

If you're a typography geek, like I am, and you know why the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, then you'll enjoy this short video.

Tips on how to run a successful photo blog

David Cleland wrote a post with 8 tips for anyone thinking of creating a photography blog. It's good advice. He recommends using Wordpress and I do agree to a certain extent. It's what I use for every other site I have and what this one was hosted on originally. However, this one has been on Squarespace for years. At the time, Wordpress needed way too many plugins and between updates to Wordpress itself and the plugins, things broke too often. Fortunatley now most of the functionality you need comes built into Wordpress, so that's less of an issue.

So there it is. Three things that I'm sure I'll come back to a few times. I hope you enjoy them as well.

iTunes Radio coming (in the US)

iTunes Radio press release in Australia

One of the features I was looking forward to with the release of iOS 7 was iTunes Radio. On launch day, I was too busy exploring the new OS, installing new apps (and deleting many) to get to the Music app, but that night I read a great article by Gabe Weatherhead from Macdrifter about it and it got me excited.

I opened up the Music app and... nothing. What the hell?. I went back to Gabe's article and compared his screenshots. Something was different with my Music app.

Of course, I went searching for an answer.

I quickly found myself in the Apple website reading the press release for iTunes Radio. One paragraph read "Coming this fall (in the US), iTunes Radio...". Hang on. What's this about "in the US"? I don't remember them saying anything about different availability at the WWDC keynote. I then noticed a .../au/... in the URL, meaning I was reading the Australian version (where I am).

I removed the /au/ and reloaded the page. This is what that same paragraph says in the US version of the press release:

iTunes Radio press release in US

In hindsight I guess it shouldn't have been unexpected. International rights to music are difficult and even the iTunes Store has different songs and prices between the US and Australian stores. But why didn't they mention in the keynote that it would only be available in the US?

On storing your music in the cloud

Shawn Blanc:

Once I signed up and was ready to add music to my Amazon Cloud Drive I had to download their uploader. Once I had done that, it made me install Adobe AIR, then scanned my laptop for MP3s and playlists, compared what was on my computer with what I may already have in their Cloud (which at that time was nothing).

This sounds dreadful.

There is no way I'm installing Adobe AIR in my Mac ever again. I installed it back when all the Twitter apps needed it (Tweetdeck, Seesmic, Twhirl) and regretted it straight away after I started experiencing regular crashes. Of course, I can't be 100% sure it was Adobe AIR causing them, but they didn't happen before and stopped after I finally managed to get it off my system.

Shawn also mentions he uploaded a single album and it took 45 minutes. I can't even imagine how long it would take to upload an entire, multi-gigabyte library.

This idea of storing your music in the cloud has been all over the place. Amazon and Google have launched their services and Apple is rumoured to launch their iTunes Locker (or whatever they call it) soon. I have to admit I saw absolutely no need for this service and have been wondering what the fuss is all about. I'm perfectly happy keeping my music on my MacBook Pro and syncing it to my iPhone or iPod as needed. I've never felt the need to put music on my iPad, but that could be just me. And although I do keep my entire library on my old iPod as a back up, I couldn't imagine needing access to my entire music collection at all times.

That is, until I read Shawn's post where he writes:

The reason an iTunes locker sounds appealing to me is primarily because my iTunes library is on an external hard drive up in my office and I am currently writing downstairs on my couch.

Since I live in a small apartment, that never crossed my mind, but it's a valid point. It could also come in handy at a party when you want to play that specific song that you didn't sync. But even so, I don't really see this as a big deal. And after reading Shawn's experience with Amazon and his thoughts on Google Music it sounds like it's more trouble than it's worth.

Is the iPod Classic not a good choice anymore?

Marco Arment wrote an article about choosing the right laptop for your needs. It’s an interesting post and one you should read if you’re looking at buying a new MacBook. However, since I’m not in the market for a new laptop, it’s the following quote that made me stop and think:

The iPod Classic still exists for people who “need” to bring their entire music collections with them everywhere. (Some people really need that, but most Classic buyers simply “need”; it.) They can do that, but it comes with huge tradeoffs, most notably an outdated, limited design with an often-sluggish interface that misses out on the much more broad usefulness of the iPod Touch. And many Classic buyers would actually be much happier with a 32 GB Touch if they were willing to budge on their all-music-all-the-time “need”.

He’s using the iPod as an analogy, but if I look at this comment in itself, I can see there’s a lot to it. I thought about this when I got my first iPhone. It was a 32 GB iPhone 3, and I never used up all the space, even while carrying more music than I could effectively listen to. At the time, my old 80 GB iPod Classic was spending a lot of time in a drawer, abandoned in favour of my new toy. I thought about selling it more than once, but never did.

And then I changed cars. In my previous car I hooked up the iPod (and iPhone later) with one of those radio transmitters. It sounded awful and I got static and interference constantly. It sucked. So when the time came to get a new car, the iPod/iPhone connectivity was at the top of my list of required features. The car I eventually got talks directly to the iPod/iPhone and I can control it from either the main audio system in the dash or from the controls in the steering wheel. It’s bliss. Almost.

The car doesn’t recognise the iPod/iPhone wirelessly (which would be absolute bliss). I have to connect it to a cable in the glove box to listen to music, so it has to sit hidden away out of reach.1

That’s where my trusty old iPod Classic comes in handy. I just plug it in when I get in the car and leave it there. I’ve got all my music, podcasts, and audiobooks and I don’t have to think about it. I also can keep the iPhone in my pocket and don’t have to mess with it every time I get in/out of the car. Plus, an iPod Touch would really be a waste as I never use or even look at the iPod’s design or interface. In fact, that “often-sluggish interface” is completely irrelevant.

This setting works great for me and I believe a great use for the iPod Classic. True, I don’t need my entire library with me at all times, but with some great playlists it doesn’t affect me either. And I always have a full back up of my iTunes library.

  1. UPDATE: I guess I wasn’t clear on what I meant as a few people have asked so I wanted to clarify. The car can connect to the iPhone via Bluetooth but only for the phone part. To see the music library I need to physically connect it via a cable in the glove box. It’s dumb. So in order to have the best of both worlds I need to keep a device in the glove box for music and a phone in my pocket for the phone functionality. That’s why I love my old iPod again. It stays in the glove box and I just keep the iPhone in my pocket. ↩