THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

Agenda

Date-Focused Note Taking


Posts in Featured

Dropbox Acquires Loom

With a notice posted on their website today, Loom, a photo storage and management service originally launched in July 2013, announced that they’ve been acquired by Dropbox and will be joining the company.

Often regarded as “what Apple’s Photo Stream” should have been, Loom was designed to keep one library of photos in sync across devices, with support for albums, full-res versions of the original files, and more. Built to let users delete media from their local devices, Loom featured support for both photos and videos, with automatic upload functionalities in a native iOS app and a desktop uploader for OS X.

From Loom’s original description:

We needed something that works seamlessly. A personal media library that is the same wherever you go, and there when you need it. Something effortlessly expandable, that can grow with your library, so you never run out of space. Easy to organize and manage, giving you complete control.

That is why we built Loom. We’re making it quick and easy for you to access and manage your entire photo and video library on every device, without taking up local storage space.

On April 9, Dropbox officially introduced Carousel, an iPhone and Android app aimed at replacing a device’s local Camera Roll with Dropbox photo storage. Carousel displays photos with a vertical grid of thumbnails reminiscent of Loom, and, like Loom, it supports both photos and videos stored in the cloud; unlike Loom, Carousel doesn’t have iPad or web clients for now, as it’s limited to an iPhone app with basic web sharing features. Loom allowed users to manage uploads on their computers with a desktop uploader, an option that is already available in the official Dropbox app for OS X with automatic Camera Uploads.

From Loom’s announcement:

We know this is a big deal. This decision was made with great care. We have worked hard on our product and feel that our vision aligns perfectly with Dropbox’s vision for Carousel. Dropbox has invested the past seven years focusing on building a secure home for your files. And now with Carousel comes a home for your photos and videos as well. We share the common goal of crafting a high quality product, always putting users’ needs first. After spending some serious time investigating if this was the right move for us, we realized that Dropbox has solved many problems around scaling infrastructure and at Dropbox the Loom team will be able to focus entirely on building great features with a fantastic user experience. We are enthusiastic about being able to contribute our ground level perspective to help craft a beautiful experience for our users. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters most to us.

Loom allowed users to set up a free trial with 5 GB of storage and the possibility to extend free space to 10 GB through referrals; the service had both monthly and yearly plans starting at $4.99 and $49.99 respectively for 50 GB of storage.

For existing Loom users, Dropbox has built a migration tool that will transfer photos from Loom to Dropbox; Loom storage will be converted to Dropbox storage for free users, while Loom Pro customers will keep the same storage on Dropbox for free, for a year. Existing Loom users will be able to continue using the service until May 16, 2014; users will also be able to request an archive of their libraries with original photos and videos in a .zip archive.

Loom marks the second acquisition by Dropbox in the past month – in late March, the company acquired social reading app Readmill for an undisclosed sum.


Bjango Releases Skala Color, Free Color Picker For OS X

Skala for Mac isn’t ready for its public debut yet, but Bjango, makers of Skala Preview and iStat, have today released Skala Color, a free plugin for the OS X Color Picker that comes with useful options for designers and developers and that offers a glimpse of features that will be included in the final Skala app.

Skala Color is a standard OS X color picker, so it works with most Mac apps. Skala Color is free, to help spread the word about Skala, our upcoming design tool.

Once installed, Skala Color adds a special color picker tab to the system-wide OS X color panel, which has supported a plugin architecture for years now (notable examples include Panic’s Developer Color Picker and Jesper’s Hex Color Picker). Skala Color combines a traditional color picker UI with sliders for opacity and 4x precision hue. The hex code of the color you’re currently previewing is available in the middle of the window with a button to quickly copy it in the clipboard; if you already have a color code in the clipboard, Skala Color will automatically recognize it and let you preview it in the picker with the click of a button.

With Skala, Bjango wants to build a “precise user interface and icon design tool”, and today’s Skala Color provides a sneak peek at the development and design-oriented options that will likely be part of the final product. Color codes can be displayed in standard hex, but you can also use Float and CSS RGB/RGBA/HSVA/HSL, as well as NSColor and UIColor formats – Bjango wants to offer options for web, iOS, OS X, and Android developers, so whether you need to pick colors for an iPhone app or a website, Skala Color will come in handy.

Skala Color is available for free from Bjango’s website; you can check out Skala’s teaser page here.


Screens 3 for Mac Review

Since 2010, I’ve been using Edovia’s Screens for all my VNC needs: an elegant client with a polished interface and just the right amount of options, I’ve always been a fan of Edovia’s focus on elegance and simplicity combined with touch controls.

The iOS app has changed quite a bit over the years: notably, with iOS 7 Edovia took the opportunity to completely redesign Screens with a cleaner UI and updated gestures, adding on-disconnect actions, hot corners, and trackpad mode with subsequent updates that continued to strike a good balance between feature additions and intuitiveness. I don’t need to access dozens of Macs remotely every day – I only log into my local MacBook Air (when I’m in bed or in another room) and my remote Mac mini – but I know that Screens for iOS has everything I need.

Screens 3 is Edovia’s latest update to their Mac client, originally released in 2011. A free update for existing Screens 2 customers, Screens 3 is available both on Edovia’s website and the Mac App Store at $34.99, but only the Mac App Store version can offer iCloud sync across devices; because of this limitation, I recommend buying Screens from the Mac App Store.

Read more


Reeder 2 for Mac Public Beta Now Available

Reeder 2 for Mac beta

Reeder 2 for Mac beta

Nine months after being pulled from the Mac App Store following the Google Reader shutdownReeder for Mac, Silvio Rizzi’s popular desktop RSS client, is back with a public beta that offers a glimpse at the app’s new service integrations, refreshed design, updated gesture navigation, and new features that will come in the final version.

During the beta stage, Reeder 2 for Mac will be free to download from Rizzi’s website.

The Reeder 2 beta builds on the design foundation of the old Reeder for Mac and the latest Reeder for iOS to offer a mix of new functionalities and tweaked layouts that should be familiar to both audiences. In July 2013, Rizzi pulled Reeder for Mac from the App Store due to the discontinuation of Google Reader (the RSS service that powered Reeder 1.0) as he couldn’t ship compatibility updates in time for Google’s deadline and preferred to jump directly to a 2.0 update that, however, is taking longer than expected. Originally announced for Autumn 2013, Reeder 2 for Mac still isn’t feature complete according to Rizzi, but he’s confident that the public beta should provide a solid preview of the changes he’s been working on while also serving as a way to gather feedback for what will become a paid app on the Mac App Store. Read more


Thoughts On Dropbox Carousel

Carousel

Carousel

Carousel, a new gallery app released today by Dropbox, aims at providing an integrated solution for all photos and videos stored in a Dropbox account, unifying them in a single interface that automatically sorts files by time and location. As someone who relies on Dropbox and a custom workflow for photo backup, management, and viewing, I followed today’s announcements with curiosity and anticipation – the company’s previous photo products weren’t the most advanced or versatile ones on the App Store, but they showed an interest for turning Dropbox into a cloud-based Camera Roll, which is where Apple is struggling with its confusing Photo Stream.

I’m still exploring various possibilities for my photo management workflow (I played around with Everpix, Loom, Picturelife, Unbound, and many other services and clients) and Carousel offers an interesting take on the problem: it’s photo and video archival based on Dropbox storage, but it’s also a separate iOS app with sharing options that include messaging and public links on the web.

I took Carousel for a spin[1] this afternoon, and I collected some first impressions below. They’re not exhaustive, but I believe they’re fairly indicative of the app’s current state and limitations. Read more


Apple Announces WWDC 2014: Kicks Off June 2

Apple has announced the official dates for WWDC 2014. The developer event kicks off in San Francisco on June 2 and runs through June 6. This year, Apple will give tickets to attendees through a random selection system (effectively, a lottery). Developers will be able to apply today through Monday, April 7 at 10 AM PDT, and they will know their status by Monday, April 7 at 5 PM PDT. Last year, Apple pre-announced the sale of tickets, which caused issues on the company’s website when the tickets went on sale due to the high amount of traffic, in which tickets were still sold out in less than two minutes. Read more


Monument Valley Review

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Monument Valley is a game about paths that don’t exist – unless you want to see them. In its beautiful intricacy of platforms and perspectives that defy the laws of physics, geometry, and gravity, Monument Valley, developed by London-based studio ustwo, impresses visually and technically thanks to a fantastic combination of gorgeous artwork, intuitive controls, and just the right amount of puzzle-solving that works perfectly for an iPhone or iPad.

In Monument Valley, you control Ida, a silent princess that has embarked on a quest for forgiveness that will require her to find exits in monuments once built by men but now inhabited by crow people, totems, and other strange entities. “Tap the path to move Ida”, Monument Valley begins, and, sure enough, tapping on the screen advances the character on a linear path, accompanied by a sound effect. The first stage of Monument Valley is immediately perplexing: while Ida can walk a few steps, the aforementioned path isn’t connected to anything. Hold and rotate a wheel next to the path, however, and a pillar changes its orientation, creating an optical illusion that allows Ida to walk over the path and reach the exit of the stage. Monument Valley perpetuates a lie – that perspective can be used to alter physics – for the sake of gameplay, and, ultimately, that’s fun and intriguing.

Read more


Fantastical for iPad Review

Ever since Apple introduced Reminders in 2011, I’ve been looking for a truly great app capable of combining my todos and calendar events in a single, coherent interface. Fantastical for iPad, released today by Flexibits, is that app.

Based on the solid foundation of Fantastical 2 for iPhone, Fantastical for iPad expands the app’s functionality to take advantage of the larger screen while retaining intuitive features and powerful advanced options. I put Fantastical in my dock when I received the first beta in November, and I wouldn’t be able to go back to using Apple’s Calendar and Reminders apps on my iPad.

Read more


Google Turns Google Maps App Into Pokémon Catcher for April Fools’ Day

For this year’s April Fools’ Day, Google has decided to turn its Google Maps app for iOS and Android into a Pokémon experience by letting users catch 150 Pokémon to become Pokémon Masters and complete a Pokédex inside the app. The feature, called Pokémon Challenge and announced in a promo video that shows augmented reality functionalities and virtual monsters captured using a phone’s camera, is actually based on Pokémon characters laid on top of Google Maps’ traditional view.

Dozens of wild Pokémon have taken up residence on streets, amidst forests and atop mountains throughout Google Maps.

To catch ‘em all, grab your Poké Ball and the newest version of Google Maps for iPhone or Android. Then tap the search bar, “press start,” and begin your quest.

Once enabled, the Pokémon Challenge will turn the app into a an experience aimed at exploring maps to find Nintendo’s monsters scattered across the globe. The locations of Pokémon aren’t documented anywhere yet, and the app will keep track of a user’s progress in catching Pokémon with a built-in Pokédex that displays additional details for each creature.

Google’s April Fools’ joke goes as far as having a Pokémon Lab available at the CERN in Geneva (and others at Google Japan and Mountain View) and Poké balls (the tools used to catch monsters in Nintendo’s franchise) laid on top of maps in the location where a Pokémon was previously caught.

Google isn’t new to April Fools’ jokes, but this year the company hasn’t simply released a fake announcement or promo video – rather, the Pokémon Challenge is a full mini-game available inside the Maps app for iOS and Android with information about Pokémon and sharing features for players.

The Pokémon Challenge is available in Google Maps for iOS, and it doesn’t require an app update from the App Store.

Read more