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RAW Power Review

RAW Power is a powerful image editor reminiscent of Aperture that takes Apple’s discontinued pro photo editing tool a step further than Apple ever did. Whether you use RAW Power as a standalone image editor or as a Photos extension, what strikes me most about it is that with a little experimentation and patience, it’s accessible regardless of whether you consider yourself a pro user.

Before Photos, Apple had two photography apps: iPhotos for average consumers and Aperture for pros. In 2014, Apple discontinued Aperture. Around the same time, Apple evolved iPhoto into Photos, bringing the macOS and iOS apps that go by that name closer together from a feature set standpoint. That left pros and ‘prosumers’ who relied on Aperture in a bind. There are alternatives like Adobe’s Lightroom, but if you preferred Aperture, you were out of luck, until now.

RAW Power, by Gentlemen Coders, has a stellar pedigree. Its lead developer, Nik Bhatt, was Senior Director of Engineering for Aperture and iPhoto, so it’s safe to assume he understands Apple’s RAW engine. What sets RAW Power apart from something like Aperture, though, is its flexibility. Images can be edited non-destructively either in the standalone RAW Power app or from within Photos because RAW Power’s full functionality is also a Photos extension.

Like many people, my photo library is a mixture of thousands of images taken over many years that were shot with a variety of hardware, including old point-and-shoot digital cameras, a variety of iPhones, and a Sony NEX-5N I got in 2011 for a trip to Patagonia. I enjoy photography and have improved beyond taking simple snapshots, but I’ve never gone too deep into the technical side of it. Nonetheless, for special occasions I still shoot RAW images on my Sony camera to give myself maximum editing flexibility when I process my photos. RAW Power’s Photos extension fits my mix of photos and approach to editing perfectly by offering pro tools that are available on my command as an extension from within Photos when I need them, but stay out of the way when I don’t.

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Record Bird Is Apple Music’s Missing Discovery Tool for New Releases

When it comes to keeping track of new music releases from my favorite artists, streaming services have always been a disappointment. After nearly eight years of streaming music every day, I've realized that the problem lies on the two ends of the New Releases spectrum: these days, services either prioritize front page curation skewed towards new pop, R&B/hip-hop, or EDM tracks (the most popular and lucrative genres), or they algorithmically suggest new releases for artists I may like, but which I'm not necessarily familiar with.

I've tried all of the major streaming services since 2009, and only two of them have gotten close to my ideal implementation of "Here's everything artists you already know have released or are about to release".

Rdio (forever in our hearts) had a solid New Releases section featuring a mix of variegate editorial picks culled from a variety of genres, labels, and trends. Unlike the modern equivalents in Spotify and Apple Music, I remember Rdio's New Releases page1 offered a more balanced, heterogeneous mix of new songs.

Spotify, on the other hand, has invested heavily on algorithmic and serendipitous discovery of songs, but it still hasn't quite figured out how to display every new release from every artist you care about. Spotify can send emails for new release highlights, but those are only a subset of new releases from your favorite artists – usually, only the most popular ones. Other Spotify features are similarly focused on highlights.

In comparing the treatment of new music releases among different services, I realized that this is largely what Apple had set out to solve with Connect in Apple Music: a way to follow all your favorite artists and view updates for their announcements – whether they were new songs, video clips, tour dates, or photos.

Apple Music Connect, however, has faltered due to Apple's inability to scale a music-centric network (twice) and because it was predicated on a commitment from artists – both superstars and smaller acts – to post regular updates on their Connect feeds. After an initial spur of song previews and photos published on Connect, Apple Music's network has mostly turned into a ghost town of sporadic updates, often automatically cross-posted to other networks (without any exclusivity), with hashtags that can't be tapped and shortened links that open Safari webpages after multiple redirects. It's not a good user experience. Apple Music Connect is an afterthought; it's also been regarded as such by Apple itself with the removal of the dedicated page in iOS 10.

Fortunately, there are still people who understand what a music lover with a broad range of preferences wants from a tool designed to discover new music. For the past couple of months, I've been using Record Bird, a free iPhone app hailing from Austria, to check on updates from my favorite artists every day, stream songs, watch videos, and even read related stories.

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iOS 10.2.1 Has Reduced Unexpected iPhone 6s Shutdown Issues

Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch following a statement from Apple:

Over the past couple of iPhone versions users have complained of “unexpected” shutdowns of their devices. Some iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus and 6s Plus devices could basically go dark unexpectedly, forcing a user to have to plug them into an outlet to get them to power back on.

Apple has been working on this very annoying bug and it says it has come up with a fix of sorts that should mitigate the problem on a majority of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices. The fix is actually already on your iPhone if you have installed iOS 10.2.1 — something that around 50 percent of iOS users have already done. After letting the fix simmer on customer devices, Apple now has statistics to share on how it has improved the issue, citing 80 percent reduction on iPhone 6s and 70 percent reduction on iPhone 6 devices.

These unexpected shutdowns were a different issue than the iPhone 6s battery recall. From personal experience, I've heard quite a few friends mention how their iPhones' serial number weren't eligible for the battery replacement program despite frequent shutdowns. iOS 10.2.1 should fix that, and Apple is also rolling out a new message in the Settings app in case a device's battery has to be replaced.

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Remaster, Episode 29: Waiting for the Switch

We are just one week away from the Nintendo Switch. What do we know?

The Nintendo Switch is launching in a week. On the latest Remaster, we go over the latest details we know about the console, the games that have been announced, and all the hardware we're buying. You can listen here.

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Google Updates Gboard with Dictation, Doodles, New Languages, and Emoji

Nearly one year ago Google launched Gboard, a third-party keyboard for iOS that brought the power of Google search to iOS's keyboard. The company has continuously improved the keyboard over time, with updates including support for multiple languages and a 3D Touch-powered trackpad mode. Earlier this year the keyboard was integrated with Google's standard search app. Today the improvements continue with three separate highlights.

Dictation

The default iOS keyboard has long presented the option to dictate text rather than type it, and Gboard has gained that ability starting today. Users will notice a speaker icon that now appears on the right side of the space bar. Long pressing that speaker icon will engage dictation mode.

Doodles

Google's Doodles add a sense of whimsy to the company's search page, but until today searching through Gboard meant missing out on Doodles. Going forward, whenever a Doodle is available the "G" button on the left side of the keyboard will animate, indicating you can pull up the Doodle with a quick tap.

Languages and Emoji

In addition to support for many new languages – Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Catalan, Hungarian, Malay, Russian, Latin American Spanish and Turkish – Gboard has also been updated to enable searching for and using the new emoji that Apple added to iOS 10.

Gboard can be downloaded from the App Store.


Marshmallow Run Kickstarter Seeks to Teach Girls Programming and Design

Design Code Build and Girl Scouts San Diego are developing a curriculum to teach girls programming and design by building a game called Marshmallow Run. It’s an ambitious program to bring Marshmallow Run to life through Scratch, the web, iOS, and Android as a way to reach girls of all age levels and provide opportunities that will appeal to a wide variety of interests. To make the program a reality, Design Code Build and Girl Scouts San Diego launched a Kickstarter campaign to cover the cost of computers, meeting space, developer accounts, and other overhead.

What’s unique about the Marshmallow Run campaign is its breadth. The project isn’t constrained by the programming platform chosen or other structural decisions that might limit its appeal. Design Code Build has developed the characters for Marshmallow Run, but the rest is up to the girls who participate in the program. The participants will have the opportunity to learn to program physics into a game, design levels, set timers, detect collisions, along with everything else that programming a platformer game entails. Girls will also learn graphic design, storyboarding, audio design, and much more. The result is a curriculum designed to foster imagination and creativity in a fun way that teaches new skills.

The project’s campaign has just 3 days left to reach its goal of $25,000. As of publication, pledges are just over 50% of that goal. If Marshmallow Run is funded, backers will receive a variety of rewards depending on their pledge levels including stickers and t-shirts, but the reward that’s most interesting is a programming starter pack for backers who pledge just $25. The starter pack includes character sprites and other game elements for building Marshmallow Run in Scratch. At higher pledge levels backers receive beta access to the web and mobile versions of the game. The starter pack and access to the betas are a terrific way that Design Code Build and Girl Scouts San Diego are sharing what they hope to create beyond their local community.

I have three boys and have experienced the frustration of trying to find opportunities for them when they wanted to learn to program. There just aren’t enough good programs available for kids in general, and even fewer for girls. Marshmallow Run is a chance to start fixing that, foster the next generation of programmers and designers, and make a difference in addressing the gender imbalance in tech fields.

If you want to make a pledge, you can do so on the Marshmallow Run Kickstarter page.


iPad Diaries: Clipboard Management with Copied and Workflow

One of the common challenges involving a switch from macOS to an iPad is the lack of desktop-like clipboard managers on iOS.

By nature of the platform1 and technical restrictions imposed by Apple, apps like Pastebot or Alfred wouldn't be able to adapt their Mac capabilities to the iPad. Third-party iOS apps can't constantly monitor changes to the system clipboard in the background; similarly, it isn't possible for an iPad app to register as the handler of a keyboard shortcut at a system-wide level. An app would have to at least be currently in use via Split View to listen for clipboard changes, but, even in that case, it would have to be active to receive external keyboard commands.

With these limitations, it's no surprise that clipboard managers aren't a flourishing category on the iPad App Store. However, once we accept the intrinsic differences between the Mac and iPad and if we look at the problem from a different perspective, there's plenty we can do – either with apps or automation – to go beyond Apple's modest clipboard offerings on iOS.

After years of testing iPad clipboard managers and automation/scripting strategies, this is what I've come up with.

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The Omni Group Announces Low-Cost Version of OmniOutliner

Ken Case, CEO of the Omni Group, wrote today about a new detail of its upcoming OmniOutliner 5 software. In addition to the traditional Pro version, OmniOutliner will also come in a new Essentials version.

In OmniOutliner’s new Essentials edition, your entire focus is on your own content: there are no distracting sidebars or panels. You can choose to work in a window or in a distraction-free full-screen mode, selecting from a set of beautiful built-in themes. As you write, you’ll be able to see some key statistics about your content so you can track progress towards your goals. But our goal is to help you focus on your content and whatever task you’re working on—not on the tool you’re using.

With the Essentials edition, we’ve lowered OmniOutliner’s entry price from $49.99 to an extremely affordable $9.99. And since we want our upgrade price from Essentials to Pro to be $49.99, the new list price for Pro has been lowered to $59.99:

While Case's post references OmniOutliner for Mac specifically, he later confirmed in a tweet that OmniOutliner Essentials would be coming to iOS as well.

This announcement represents a shift in direction for the Omni Group. The company's traditional offerings have included Basic and Pro versions of each program, but the Basic version has historically not been anywhere near the price point of this upcoming Essentials edition. It will be interesting to see if this new approach expands to Omni's other apps over time.

Today's news is the second major shift in pricing strategy the Omni Group has made in the past year. Last September saw news that they would begin offering software as free downloads in the App Store, with an In-App Purchase to unlock full functionality. This change in pricing model made it possible to offer free trials, such as with OmniGraffle 7; trials are currently not possible on the App Store under the paid up front model.

OmniOutliner 5 for Mac is currently in a public test that can be downloaded here. More information about the Essentials version is available here.


Castro 2.3 Brings Podcast Triage Through Rich Notifications

Today the team at Supertop announced the release of Castro 2.3, which introduces rich notification support for the podcast app.

Castro 2 launched last August with a new interface for managing podcast episodes that centers around an inbox and queue. With an increasing number of great podcasts available, the traditional model of subscribing to a show and adding all of its episodes to your feed can get overwhelming. In Castro 2 the solution to this problem is to have new episodes land in an inbox. The inbox allows users to decide which episodes make it to their queue for listening, and which don't.

Previously, when notifications for a new episode came in, you were presented the options to play, queue, or archive the episode. But unfortunately, while the episode's title would display in the notification, with many podcasts a title isn't enough information to properly decide whether the show's content is something you'd be interested in. As such, taking action on a notification often couldn't happen in an informed way without opening the full app anyways. That changes with today's update. Thanks to its implementation of iOS 10's rich notification framework, a notification from Castro will now display a show's artwork and a portion of the episode description along with the aforementioned action buttons. So now when a show's episode title is San Frosé, you can be well informed about what the subject matter actually is.

Besides using rich notifications as a triage method, Supertop has one other interesting implementation of the feature. If you pause an episode when there are less than three minutes remaining, Castro will immediately send a silent notification that presents you with the option to archive the show and, optionally, play the next show in your queue. So if a show has a couple minutes worth of outro that you prefer to skip, rather than hitting the skip button several times you can now simply hit pause, then interact with the notification that appears in order to either move to the next show or end playback altogether.

The full list of changes in Castro 2.3 is available on Supertop's blog. Castro can be downloaded from the App Store.