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.


Moment Review: Get the Right Shot

In my early pick for 2017’s “App Description of the Year,” Moment’s Eun Seong Kim tells a story about his frustration and disappointment after the dreaded “Storage Almost Full” message caused him to miss an exciting moment at a Toronto Raptors basketball game. It’s an elevator pitch that ends with the question that drew me to Moment: “What if I could keep video recording but only capture the last 5 seconds?”

I instantly identified with Kim's hypothetical. When I’m shooting video, I’m often only looking for the 5 or 10 seconds of action, but I'm stuck with a multi-minute clip that I have to edit. Moreover, even though my iPhone has plenty of storage now, there’s a real chance I will run into the same problem in the future.

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Doctors Report Findings from ResearchKit Study of Seizures

Tim Hardwick of MacRumors reports on the results of a recent ResearchKit-powered study:

The 10-month study involved 598 people who tracked their seizures with an iPhone app called EpiWatch, which was built by Johns Hopkins using Apple's ResearchKit software framework. The app features a custom Apple Watch complication that provides patients with one-touch access to record accelerometer and heart rate sensor data. When participants felt a seizure aura coming on, they were asked to launch the app to let it record their heart rate and movements for 10 minutes.

Apple reported on the launch of this study back in October 2015, so it's exciting to have some of the data from the study brought to light. Triggers for seizures was a major data point gleaned from those participating in the study.

Stress was revealed to be the most common trigger, and was linked to 37 percent of the seizures, while 18 percent of sufferers identified lack of sleep as another contributing factor. Meanwhile, menstruation was found to be a cause in 12 percent of recorded seizures, and overexertion accounted for 11 percent.

In the full press release on the study's results, study author Gregory Krauss, MD, notes:

"Seizures are very unpredictable," said Krauss. "Our eventual goal is to be able to use wearable technology to predict an oncoming seizure. This could potentially save lives as well as give people with epilepsy more freedom. The data collected in this study helps us take a step in that direction."

ResearchKit was first announced by Apple in March 2015 at its spring event. At March 2016's event, we received an update on the health initiative. If recent tradition holds true, we may receive another update from Apple soon.

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Instagram Posts Expand to Include Multiple Photos

Today Instagram announced a new feature that will be rolling out to all users soon: the ability to share multiple photos or videos within a single post.

Here's how it works:

When uploading to your feed, you’ll see a new icon to select multiple photos and videos. It’s easy to control exactly how your post will look. You can tap and hold to change the order, apply a filter to everything at once or edit one by one. These posts have a single caption and are square-only for now. On your profile grid, you’ll notice the first photo or video of your post has a little icon, which means there’s more to see.

As you browse your feed, a post that contains a collection of photos or videos will show a number of small dots underneath the first image, with each dot representing a photo or video you can swipe through.

This update comes with Instagram 10.9, released yesterday, but isn't yet available to all users. According to TechCrunch, it will roll out globally over the next few weeks.


Apple Park Slated to Open in April

Apple announced this morning that Apple Park, its 2.8 million square foot, 178 acre campus that will house 12,000 employees will open in April. The process of moving so many people to Apple Park is anticipated to take around 6 months. In addition, work will continue on portions of the building and grounds throughout the summer.

Apple Park includes several notable features including:

  • the world's largest curved glass panels;
  • a 1000-seat auditorium with a 20-foot tall, 165 foot diameter glass cylinder entrance with a metallic carbon-fiber roof;
  • a 100,000 square-foot employee fitness center;
  • over 2 miles of walking and jogging trails;
  • over 9,000 native and drought-resistant trees;
  • a 17-megawatt rooftop solar facility that will supply all of Apple Park's power needs; and
  • a visitor's center with an Apple Store and café.
Steve Jobs Theater

Steve Jobs Theater

The theater, which is one of the new facility's marquee features, is named the Steve Jobs Theater in honor of Jobs who would have turned 62 this week. Tim Cook had this to say about Apple Park and Steve Jobs' legacy:

Steve’s vision for Apple stretched far beyond his time with us. He intended Apple Park to be the home of innovation for generations to come. The workspaces and parklands are designed to inspire our team as well as benefit the environment. We’ve achieved the most energy-efficient building of its kind in the world and the campus will run entirely on renewable energy.

Lauren Powell Jobs commented that:

Steve was exhilarated, and inspired, by the California landscape, by its light and its expansiveness. It was his favorite setting for thought. Apple Park captures his spirit uncannily well. He would have flourished, as the people of Apple surely will, on this luminously designed campus.

Apple's press release is accompanied by a short video of workers putting the finishing touches on Apple Park, which provides a sense of the scope of this enormous project.

Apple Park up close.

Apple Park up close.


Pad & Quill Introduces a Leather Grip for the Apple Pencil

Apple device accessory maker Pad & Quill debuted the Leather Apple Pencil Grip that does more than just help you grip your Pencil. The grip, which is made of American full-grain leather, comes in three colors: Whiskey, Chestnut, and Galloper Black (think brown, dark brown, and black) and features a ‘hand finished baseball stitch closure’ that uses parachute-grade nylon stitching.

Pad & Quill’s accessory consists of two pieces. The first is the grip part, which slides over the barrel of the Apple Pencil near the point. The second sits near the top of the Apple Pencil and incorporates a clip and tethered holder for the cap. So, in addition to presumably making the Apple Pencil more comfortable to grip, the top portion of the grip lets you clip your Apple Pencil to a pocket or notebook and should keep it from rolling off tables. Also, the leash means the cap will stay nearby when you are charging the Apple Pencil, making it harder to lose.

Pad & Quill’s leather grip aims to solve three of the most common complaints I’ve heard about the Apple Pencil. If you find the Apple Pencil uncomfortable to grip, don’t like how it is prone to rolling off tables, or worry about losing the cap, Pad & Quill’s Leather Apple Pencil Grip is worth considering. The grip is available for pre-order only from Pad & Quill for $49.95.