Meerkat

Mar21

A new social app, Meerkat, was introduced at the SXSW (South by South West) conference in Austin TX last week.  I discovered it through a tweet by Mashable who was using it at the conference to give a virtual tour.  Since then, I have checked in occasionally and experienced a live bike tour through the San Francisco water front and  a walk through New York in the recent snow storm.  It is essentially a moving webcam with sound.  It only runs on iOS devices and is one-way video.  That is, the person hosting the video can show what they want, but viewers only participate through text messages that appear on the screen for other viewers to see.

It is works with Twitter for users to post the link to the Meerkat session and uses Twitter account for the viewers to login.  Viewers’ Twitter icons appear in a scrollable horizontal stream at the top of the screen.  Touching an icon shows the Twitter user’s account name and short description that you normally see in Twitter.

Each Meerkat broadcaster has a score which appears to be related to the number of users that follow them in Twitter multiplied by the time they broadcast plus some factor of the number of real-time viewers.  They are displayed on a Leaderboard screen by this score.  At the present moment, the Leaderboard shows Mashable with the lead with jsneedles in hot pursuit, both with scores over 60,000.  Jeff Needles who is a producer at TWIT.tv is on a 24 hour Meerathon to try and become #1.  Notable other high scorers are Jimmy Fallon who shows his daily rehearsal and Guy Kawasaki who is promoting his new book. Jimmy, with his millions of users, does not need to be on very long for a high score, but Jeff with about 800 users needs the time accumulation.  KARE11 was also Meerkatting some of their news broadcasts the last few days but I haven’t seen anything today.  You could see the studio and off-air talk during commercials.

Any Twitter user can setup a Meerkat session which is suggested to be scheduled with a tweet to their followers.  If you fire up the Meerkat app, you will see some of the sessions in progress on the main screen. This seems like a little random or maybe being modified.  When I first connected to Mashable, I saw a list of about 6 more. Recently, I see primarily the ones that I follow.

Meerkat has its own Like list which you select from the Leaderboard and then can edit from your own profile.  When they first started about a month ago, they were using the Twitter “social graph”and were growing very fast.  Twitter recently bought a similar company/product named Periscope and cut Meerkat off.  Meerkat can still use Twitter for login credentials and promotion through tweets and probably will expand their services in future updates.  Expect Twitter to bring Periscope online to compete.

I discovered that when you click on a link like  in Twitter or Tweetbot which I use on my iPhone. you go to a web page showing the Meerkat session.  The screen shows the session apparently without adding you to the list of viewers.  You don’t have to download the Meerkat app.  I am not sure if you have to register through this mode since I found this after I had already registered through my Twitter account.  Meerkat appears in the iOS Settings for Twitter access.  You can also find sessions by searching for #meerkat in Twitter.

There is also a web site http://meerkatroulette.com that will show you a random Meerkat session from which you can switch to other sessions.  This best done on an iPhone since Meerkat is formatted for a portrait display.

Note that Meerkat sessions are not saved on their web site but are saved on the broadcasters device and could be posted somewhere later.  I haven’t tried broadcasting myself but it may have some use for our user group.

jsneedles is closing in on Mashable and may be #1 when you read this.

Please comment if you learn anything more or if I got anything wrong.

Calculators

Feb19
calcbot

Calcbot

Today Tapbots finally released an update to Calcbot on iOS.  I used Calcbot for many years as an alternative to the stock iOS calculator mainly for the expression view and history tape.  Calcbot is also available as a Mac app and can sync your history through iCloud.

When Calcbot wasn’t updated for the iPhone 5/5S, I ditched it in favor of Kalky.  Kalky is gesture-based for the delete, clear, use result and save functions.  It definitely doesn’t look as nice as Calcbot, but it has the features I want and works fast.

kalky

Kalky

Most have agreed that the best calculator on iOS is PCalc, however it is way more than I need on a normal basis.  For now I’ll stick with Kalky but Calcbot certainly is a great alternative.

ViewExif to view exif metadata of photos on iOS

Feb16

viewexif

ViewExif is an iOS extension which allows you to view exif metadata of photos.  Exif metadata is data about the photo like dimensions, taken date, ISO speed, F number, exposure time, focal length and more.  It will add a button to your share sheet in not only the Photos app but any app that displays photos.  Since Apple does not give up this information directly in the Photos app, this is a handy extension to have.

Download ViewExif for free

Apps that are on Sale

Dec16

A number of apps for OS X and iOS are on sale today. You can find more apps on sale at AppSanta.co.

Mac Apps

Day One (Journal / Notes / Diary): $7.99, normally $9.99 (4.5 stars)

Record life as you live it. From once-in-a-lifetime events to everyday moments, Day One’s elegant interface makes journaling your life a simple pleasure.

Better Rename 9: $1.99, normally $19.99 (4.5 stars)

Better Rename 9 is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That’s why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on Better Rename to organize and maintain files. Better Rename’s user interface supports complex renaming tasks without sacrificing ease and speed of use. Simply drag the files you want to rename straight from the Finder into the large preview table or the application icon.. or use our Finder context menu and hot key.

Deliveries: a package tracker: $3.99, normally $4.99 (4.5 stars)

Deliveries helps you keep track of all your packages, so you always know when they’re going to arrive. Whether it’s the latest gadget you’ve preordered online, or a new graphic novel you can’t wait to dive into, Deliveries will keep tabs on it so you don’t miss the doorbell.

PCalc: $6.99, normally $9.99 (5 stars)

PCalc is the powerful choice for scientists, engineers, students, programmers, or indeed anybody looking for a feature rich calculator. It includes an optional RPN mode and multi-line display, a choice of button layouts, an extensive set of unit conversions and constants, a paper tape, multiple undo and redo, engineering and scientific notation, as well as support for hexadecimal, octal, and binary calculations.

Unibox: $1.99, normally $17.99 (4.5 stars)

Unibox is an email client that groups your messages by person. This way your emails are organized automatically and you always find what you are looking for.

NetSpot Wi-Fi Reporter: $1.99, normally $49.99 (unrated)

Installing a wireless network isn’t always easy. Interference from neighboring networks, and radio noise from electronic devices can cause serious connection problems. While you can overcome those by trial and error, there’s a much better solution: NetSpot is here to do the job for you!

Prizmo 3 – Scanning, OCR & Speech: $24.99, normally $49.99 (3 stars)

Prizmo 3 is a scanning application with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in over 40 languages with powerful editing capability, text-to-speech, and iCloud support. No matter what capture device’s at hand, Prizmo is the key for scanning and performing OCR. It works with pictures taken with your iPhone, iPad, or digital camera, with documents coming from connected or Wi-Fi scanners, even with screenshots! It will help you easily scan any documents (invoices, receipts, boards, giant advertisements…) of any sizes (US Letter, US Legal, A4, and custom)…

iOS Apps

Vert – Unit and Currency Converter: Free, normally $2.99 (5 stars)

Vert is the most amazing, efficient, elegant unit and currency iOS converter. You can personalise it to meet your requirements at its best. Let it be students, people of business, worldwide travellers, rock climbers, anyone who uses on-line recipes or shops on-line, etc. – they all appreciate Vert’s functionality. It blends in with your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad beautifully.

PCalc – The Best Calculator: $6.99, normally $9.99 (5 stars)

PCalc is the powerful choice for scientists, engineers, students, programmers, or indeed anybody looking for a feature rich calculator. It includes an optional RPN mode and multi-line display, a choice of button layouts, an extensive set of unit conversions and constants, a paper tape, multiple undo and redo, engineering and scientific notation, as well as support for hexadecimal, octal, and binary calculations.

Day One (Journal / Notes / Diary): $0.99, normally $4.99 (4.5 stars)

Record life as you live it. From once-in-a-lifetime events to everyday moments, Day One’s elegant interface makes journaling your life a simple pleasure.

Deliveries: a package tracker: $2.99, normally $4.99 (4.5 stars)

Deliveries helps you keep track of all your packages, so you always know when they’re going to arrive. Whether it’s the latest gadget you’ve preordered online, or a new graphic novel you can’t wait to dive into, Deliveries will keep tabs on it so you don’t miss the doorbell.

Printer Pro – print documents, photos, web pages and email attachments: $2.99, normally $6.99 (4.5 stars)

Print attachments, documents, web pages and more right from the iPad on any Wi-Fi or USB printer. Printer Pro lets you wirelessly print from the iPad. It can print directly to many Wi-Fi printers or any printer attached to your Mac or PC via helper application installed on your computer.

Mileage Log+: $4.99, normally $9.99 (4 stars)

Mileage Log+ is an essential app for anyone who needs to track mileage for tax deduction or reimbursement. With predictive input, auto-entry, auto-calculation, and quick access to frequent trips, Mileage Log+ does the hard work for you. A few quick taps will create useful data ready to search, sort, and generate email reports.

Prizmo – Scanning, OCR, and Speech: $4.99, normally $9.99 (3.5 stars)

Prizmo is a universal photo-based scanner app that lets you scan and recognize text documents, business cards, and images, and then export them as PDF/Text, vCard, or JPEG/PNG. Prizmo relies on state-of-the-art technologies, like a highly accurate OCR, real-time page detection, and beautiful image cleanup. Using iCloud, you can even shoot the picture on your iPhone, and finish editing on your iPad or Mac. All of this in an elegant and intuitive user experience.

Brighten your podcast day with Overcast

Aug14

Overcast is, at least for my purposes, the best podcast listening client for the iPhone. Created by Marco Arment, original author of Instapaper and The Magazine, Overcast is opinionated software. The application reflects Marco’s ideal as to what constitutes a perfect listening tool rather than trying to be all things to all people. Fortunately for me, Marco’s opinions (on this topic) largely coincide with my own.

The Overcast interface is clean and simple

Overcast allows you to create smart playlists—a feature common to many podcasting clients—and to reorder episodes within those lists at any time. Unique to Overcast is the ability to define priority podcasts within the playlist. So MacBreak Weekly and John Gruber’s The Talk Show rise to the top of my all unplayed list whenever new episodes are released.

Favorite shows get the VIP treatment and are sent to the head of the queue

Marco developed his own audio engine for Overcast, enabling two special features, Voice Boost and Smart Speed. Voice Boost normalizes the level of voices—makes them all the same volume—allowing you to more easily hear less-than-perfectly engineered podcasts under less-than-ideal listening conditions. Earlier this week I was listening to a show in which one of the hosts was talking from across the room, well away from the microphone. Driving down 494 with the windows down and the sunroof open, I had no problem following the conversational flow, and I didn’t have to crank the volume up on the car stereo.

Smart Speed intelligently reduces the natural pauses in speech, compressing the length of a podcast in a way that sounds very natural. This is Apple’s playback at 1.5x speed feature done right, and after only a week or two, I can’t imagine going back to listening to podcasts in real time.

You can set preferences for Smart Speed and Voice Boost on a show-by-show basis

One of the downsides of not using Apple’s audio engine is losing access to the built-in streaming tools. Overcast is currently download only. It also won’t work with video podcasts; this is a listening tool.

Overcast uses its own web-service sync engine, so you will need to register for a free account before using it. Although the app is currently iPhone only, it can be used on an iPad, or you can access your podcasts on the iPad or Mac using a web app.

The web app looks a lot like the iPhone App

Overcast is free to download, but there is a single-in app purchase to enable unlimited playlists and remove a time limit on Smart Speed and Voice Boost. Many will find the free version useful, but if you try to listen to a lot of podcasts regularly, Smart Speed alone is well worth the upgrade cost.

If you’re interested in the backstory, Marco has written extensively about his development vision and process on his blog at marco.org. He has also spoken at length about it on episodes of Debug, The Talk Show (Part two of that discussion is here), and in several episodes of The Accidental Tech Podcast that he co-hosts with John Siracusa and Casey Liss. Of course, the best way to listen to Marco’s musings is using Overcast.

 

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