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Koogeek HomeKit-Enabled Smart Plug and Light Socket Review

Koogeek may not be a name brand that jumps to mind when you think about home automation, but the company has built a substantial lineup of HomeKit-enabled devices. I’ve had a Koogeek smart plug for about a year and recently received a Koogeek lightbulb socket for review. I’m fairly new to home automation and have found both products to be a good way to dip your toe into home automation despite some limitations.

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NotePlan Calendar + Markdown + Notes Comes to iOS

When I first heard about NotePlan, I was intrigued. It was a Mac app that used a text format (Markdown) as a calendar-based system, a note for each day, allowing you to easily create tasks and take notes, then see it all in an organized calendar. NotePlan for iOS was released today, and it's enough to sell me on the idea.

I have a lot of side projects (I suppose my whole life is side projects these days), and organizing todo lists is vital. I love using the TaskPaper format, with TaskPaper on Mac and Taskmator on iOS, to track action items for individual projects. I also have a calendar, and a bucket of notes. Combining all of this in one place is appealing to me, and being able to use it on both Mac and iOS makes it truly useful.

In NotePlan, tasks are created as Markdown lists. You can have it recognize any list item as a task, or tell it that only lines with a checkbox (- [ ] Thing to do) are action items. There's an extra keyboard row available when editing that makes it easy to create items, complete or cancel them, or even schedule them for a future date.

Tasks can sync to Reminders lists as well, so it can incorporate into other workflows (and even shared lists). In the calendar view you can tap a day to see the note and associated task lists for that date.

Each day on the calendar gets a note, and you can add freeform notes in the All Notes area. A note can be bits of information, its own action list, or both. You can use #tags anywhere in the notes to organize, and wiki style links ([[title]] or [[YYYY-MM-DD]]) to reference other notes. Tasks added to freeform notes can be scheduled to the calendar with a tap, so you can use notes as a central project repository and schedule out the day's (or week's) tasks as you're ready to tackle them.

NotePlan on iPhone

NotePlan on iPhone

On the new iOS version, you can drag and drop tasks around by pressing a text block until it turns blue and sliding it into place. You can also press and hold until it turns blue, then release and press another one to expand the selection between them, at which point NotePlan will offer you a toolbar to allow batch completion, rescheduling, etc.

I'd label NotePlan as a day planner, not a task manager like OmniFocus or Things. It's ideal for planning out your day, Bullet Journal style. You won't find extensive project management features or perspective overviews, but the combination of scheduling, tagging, and (plain text, portable) notes in one place makes it a true productivity tool.

If words like productivity, GTD, Markdown, TaskPaper and Bullet Journal cause a stirring within you, you're probably the right audience for this one. Check out NotePlan for iOS, and then try out the Mac version for fully-synced productivity. Today and tomorrow, NotePlan for iOS is $11.99. After that, the price will be $14.99. NotePlan for Mac is $16.99.



PiPifier for iPad Expands Picture in Picture Support to More Safari Videos

An excellent new utility called PiPifier was just launched by developer Arno Appenzeller. PiPifier may sound familiar, as it was originally released as a macOS app on the Mac App Store. But now the app had made its way to the iPad.

PiPifier is a tool that enables viewing any HTML5 video using the iPad's Picture in Picture feature. It works as an action extension from the share sheet that you run within Safari. Simply load a site containing a video, then run the PiPifier action extension, and the video will instantly enter Picture in Picture mode. This is tremendously useful on sites like YouTube that do not support Picture in Picture by default, and in my testing has worked perfectly.

PiPifier is a free download on the App Store.


Funnel Brings News Updates to Your Ears

I don't need to tell you how crazy the news cycle is. Between world and tech news, I’m often drowning in a sea of headlines and big stories, confused about what’s really important. The result is a time consuming attempt at finding the best information that ends up being more of a hassle than its worth.

Funnel aims to cut through the chaos and bring you the most recent news through audio segments that are only a couple of minutes long. The app includes seven news outlets that refresh at the top of the hour so they're always up-to-date.

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Game Day: Steredenn

I live near a huge arcade called the Galloping Ghost that’s packed with classic arcade games. I visit once or twice a year and am always struck by how hard some of the early space shooters, like Defender, are. I got the same feeling the moment I launched Steredenn, a fast-paced, insanely difficult space shooter from French indie game studio Pixelnest that is equal parts addictive and fun.

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Screens 4.0 for macOS Adds Curtain Mode, Drag-And-Drop File Transfers, Touch Bar Support, and More

Screens 4.0, which was released today, is a complete rewrite of the screen sharing app from the ground up that adds features previously available only in the iOS version as well as some exclusive macOS-only features. What’s made Screens my favorite way to connect to a remote Mac is that it has managed to abstract away the complexity that accompanies many VNC apps. That hasn’t changed with Screens 4.0, which is even easier to use and more versatile than before.

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Game Day: Old Man’s Journey

Old Man’s Journey by Vienna-based Broken Rules is equal parts game and story. You play as an old man who receives a letter that seems to upset him. He immediately grabs a backpack and walking stick and sets out into the countryside on a journey. Along the way, you clear a path for the traveler by manipulating the landscape to solve a series of puzzles. The puzzles aren’t difficult, but they help draw you into the beautiful interactive environment and pique your curiosity about the man’s story. Before long, I found myself completely absorbed by Old Man’s Journey.

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Things 3: Beauty and Delight in a Task Manager

Today Cultured Code launched the long-anticipated next version of its task management app, Things, for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Things has been one of the go-to task managers on Apple platforms since its initial release in 2008, and for good reason; the team at Cultured Code is known for the thought and care they put into their apps. For much of its life, Things has been a shining example of quality iOS and macOS development.

Over the last nine years, Things has been quick to adopt the latest OS features introduced by Apple in an effort to keep the app current; more substantial updates, however, have been few and far between. It took four years for Things 1 to give way to Things 2, and the gap between versions 2 and 3 has been even longer. Many of the once-loyal Things users have moved on to newer, more modern options for task management. But now, Things 3 has finally arrived.

Was it worth the wait?

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