While you might not be able to replace Siri’s voice with GLaDOS (yet), you do have control over how your iPhone notifies you of incoming calls and messages. New to iOS 5, the iTunes Store includes a special tones store where you can purchase new tones starting at $0.99 for alerts, and $1.29 for popular ringtones. The tones available feature everything from Star Wars sound effects to your favorite music from the 90s.
Apple Airs New iPhone 5 Commercial: “Music Every Day”
Apple Confirms WWDC Keynote on June 10
Evernote Launches Reminders
Keyboard Maestro 6.0 Adds Syncing, Browser Actions, Device Triggers, And More
TextExpander Touch 2.0 Brings Fill-In Snippets, Formatted Text To iOS
When Apple posted the location tracking Q&A to address the questions raised after two researchers discovered iOS was keeping a database of cell towers and WiFi hotspots iPhones and iPads used in the past stored unencrypted on a user’s computer, the company also revealed that, besides crowd-sourced WiFi hotspot and cell tower data, they were also collecting crowed-sourced traffic data to build an improved traffic service to launch in the next couple of years. Much speculation led to believe Apple was finalizing work on its own maps service after the acquisition of poly9 and Placebase, though a report from last week and a tidbit from Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt confirmed the upcoming iOS 5, which will be unveiled on Monday, will keep using Google Maps.
Whilst Apple’s mapping technology and traffic service seem to be in the works for a future version of iOS, perhaps iOS 6 in 2012, a new patent uncovered by AppleInsider today gives us a glimpse at how Apple could use traffic data, GPS signal and the Calendar application to build a service that keeps users informed on appointments and meetings and how long it would take to get there, with real-time information. The patent, entitled “Dynamic Alerts for Calendar Events”, was filed in 2009 and published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently. According to the application, Apple is envisioning a system where an iPhone can send a calendar alert based on location and time required to get to a specific location; by analyzing upcoming events and appointments, the operating system would be able to look at the location, consider external factors such as weather and traffic, and calculate how much time it would take to get to the destination. The user would be alerted with a popup on screen, which in the patent design shows “map” and “routes” options as the system would also provide a way to find the best route based on road conditions, traffic, and so forth.
Location-based alerts and scheduled reminders are currently possible in a variety of iOS applications — however, a centralized system developed by Apple would rely on years of crowd-sourced data collection to bring extensive information and, perhaps, accurate predictions on traffic and road conditions. Apple is expected to preview iOS 5 at the WWDC keynote on June 6, though such traffic service won’t likely find its way in the new OS.
Developed by Orbicule, the creators of computer-tracking utility Undercover, Witness is a new application that’s aimed at remotely locking your Mac, and detecting motion in front of your computer’s camera. Let’s face it: every time we’re away from our Macs, we think about what could ever happen if someone broke into our house or office and stole them. Whilst data protection is essential and there many things you can do to hide critical information stored on your machine (such as disabling automatic login, choose a strong system password or keep everything safe into 1Password, possibly synced with Dropbox), knowing the identity of the person that actually took possession of your computer — or entered your office without authorization — is a whole different story. Unless you’re planning on setting up a relatively expensive home monitoring security system (even with DIY sets, you’re still going to spend a couple of hundred bucks + software to monitor everything) or just carrying your MacBook away with you all the time, there’s no easy to know what’s happening in front of your computer’s screen, and take action at the same time. Orbicule wants to provide an easy and powerful solution to remotely lock a Mac from virtually anywhere, detect motion and be notified with photos and video of who’s doing what in your house.
There are many tweaks and hacks available online to turn your iSight into a security system, as well as utilities to lock your Mac from an iPhone or iPad while on the go. I bet many of you have heard of these methods or at least tried to follow one of those tutorials once. Witness, however, does exactly what a great app has to do: it combines multiple functionalities into a beautiful, easy to use and full-featured package that requires minimal setup and just works. Witness can lock and unlock your Mac from an iPhone, an iPad or the web browser thanks to a system that’s based on an account you’ll have to create on Orbicule’s website. Once authenticated with the account on your Mac, iOS devices and browser, you’ll be ready to start using Witness and be alerted of activity in front of your Mac’s iSight. Witness also requires a desktop companion app that comes as an installer and will restart your computer upon successful installation. The Mac app handles the location of your computer, your account’s credentials, and also lets you decide whether Witness itself or the screensaver should be used to lock OS X. If you choose Witness, a panel will come in the foreground asking for your system’s password. If you don’t want to use the iSight and you have configured other cameras with your Mac, you can choose a different capturing device from the Preferences.
On the iOS side of things, Witness comes with a free remote app that runs universally on iPhones and iPads. The UI is gorgeous, and the app provides a set of functionalities to lock a Mac with a simple swipe, monitor your various machines associated with a Witness account, and browse the history of alerts you’ve received. Being heavily based on the cloud, Witness for iOS will constantly check for updates, pulling images and videos from the Internet if they’re available (meaning: you’ve locked your Mac and something’s going on). If an alert comes in via push notification, you’ll be able to see pictures and videos recorded by your iSight (audio is supported, too). You can email photos directly within the app, and delete alerts you’re no longer interested in. All these features are available on the web counterpart as well.
In my tests, Witness has been very reliable and quite fast both on WiFi and 3G. I was able to lock / unlock my iMac in seconds, receive push notifications moments after motion was detected and download full sets of photos and videos shot through my iSight. A Witness account will cost you $39 as a one-time fee (student licenses available) and gives you access to OS X, iOS and web tools. I highly recommend Witness not only because of the beautiful interface approach and usability — it’s the “just works” factor that combines a utility to lock a computer and turn it into a home alarm system that truly impressed me. You can create a Witness account here, and check out more screenshots below. (more…)
A few minutes ago Apple announced the availability of calendar alerts on me.com. Just like on any iOS device, you’ll be able to set up alerts for upcoming events and be reminded in the-browser as long as the Calendar webapp is running:
The new MobileMe Calendar web application now includes the ability to set and edit alerts to remind you of upcoming events. Like the calendar alerts you can already set on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and PC (with Outlook), they will be displayed on whichever device you’re using to remind you that an event is about to start.
The redesigned and improved MobileMe Calendar went public for all users in October.
Back in September I reviewed Due, an interesting new app to quickly create reminders and set up timers on your iPhone. The first version of the app featured a cool UI and a good set of functionalities, allowing you to easily switch between the reminder and timer window. Most of all, the best thing about Due was that it looked great and enabled you to just forget about the app once reminders were set.
It’s really simple: once you enter a new item you can choose a due date & time, but there are some handy shortcuts in the same screen. If you find yourself constantly using some reminders as countdowns, you can create a timer. That’s it. The interface is clean and polished, and the app doesn’t even need an internet connection to work as it’s based on iOS 4′s local notification system.
The new 1.2 version, which was approved yesterday and I have been beta testing for a while, adds terrific new features to an already great package. If you tap on a reminder in the main screen, for instance, you’ll be presented a bar containing shortcuts to turn snooze on and off, set the reminder as repeating, reschedule the whole thing to 10 minutes, 1 hour or 1 day later. Useful. The developer added reminder management (something many fans hoped they would not, in order to keep the app simple) but by stuffing it in a bar you’ll only see after a tap, they didn’t clutter anything. It feels good.