Sunday, November 04, 2007

Leopard users: Make you own audiobooks from any text file..

Leopard makes it really easy to create some useful scripts. In just a minute or two, I cobbled together this script. When you run it, it gives you a box to paste any amount of text into. Hit "OK" and "Alex" will read and record the text, place it into a new playlist in iTunes and add a numbered extension to the file. Do this for each chapter in a book then upload it to your iPod.

It's a simple automator script you can get Here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Why All the Coverflow?

Designers and the rest of us mere mortals have been clamoring about the incorporation of coverflow into everything apple. iTunes has now made full use of it, it will be a major part of the iPhone interface, and in Leopard the finder seems to be all about it.

But what is the big deal? Why has Apple based so much of its UI around it? I mean, it's pretty and all, but it really is a very difficult way to find something. Horizontal scrolling with a mouse is just difficult and slow. So why has Apple invested so much in it? I believe the answer gives us some insight into future Apple products.

Take a second look at the iPhone. OK, you've probably looked at it more than once by now, anyway. Take yet another look. This interface is the future of the mac platform. If Apple can get people used to typing on a screen, and they can use iPhone early adopters as beta testers for on-screen typing to really tweak it until it's good, then you can expect to see the iPhones's touch screen on your next macbook. What, did you think they could only make it 3.5 inches? Your next macbook will have no external buttons. Just a screen and a home/sleep/wake sensor.

So how does coverflow prove this? When you're looking again at the iPhone, notice how anyone interacts with coverflow. Flicking left and right with your fingers is extremely natural. It's even more natural than vertical scrolling. Think of it like reading a book and flipping pages. It's a very natural wrist movement. Apple introduced coverflow to iTunes way back when, but the iPhone was already in design at that point.

Face it, we are being primed for touch-sensitive tablet macs, and coverflow will be the center of the new mac OS UI.

Monday, June 11, 2007

iPhone's Not-So-Hidden Features

Many people have said "I don't want my phone to be several things, I just want it to be a phone." What they haven't realized is that the convergence of devices opens many new features to each individual device. Here's a list of things that convergence will allow you to do... if not upon immediate release, then only a software or firmware update away.

1. Wi-fi iPod
People have been clamoring for a wi-fi enabled iPod for some time now. We want to be able to sync our iPod without the wires. We want to download songs from the iTunes music store wirelessly. We want to share songs with other iPod users. Now you have it. Every iPhone (and thus iPod) has wi-fi and Edge, so all of the above is completely possible. It won't be long until you see the iPhone version of iTunes, so you can download songs, TV shows and movies over wi-fi or even edge. Sharing songs between iPhone users ala zune? It will be here before you know it.

2. An iPod with a built-in speaker.
Wouldn't it be nice to lay at the beach and listen to your music without earphones and without lugging around extra speakers? The iPhone has a built in speaker phone, so listening to your music and movies through the speaker is right around the corner, if not already possible.

3. An iPod with a built in mic.
No more line in mics. Record lectures, meeting notes... long format memos directly to iPod using the built in phone mic.

4. An iPod with built in bluetooth.
Expect many bluetooth earphone accessories very soon. EXTRA NUGGET: Go to Apples new iPhone section here and notice under "bluetooth" it reads "instantly connect to the iPhone Wireless Headset and other bluetooth enabled devices". Looks like we can expect Apple branded bluetooth headsets... no doubt with music listening support.

5. Email your voice mail.
Your voice mail will be treated as individual audio files, meaning you will be able to attach them to email on your phone and send them to others to be played on their computer.

6. Call the internet.
It's a wi-fi phone, people. Why hasn't this been said before? How long until skype builds a web app that let's you make free wi-fi calls from your iPhone? If you can pull up skype and use your built in mic and speakers on your computer, you better believe people will be racing to create this for the iPhone.

7. Add your phone to your organizational system.
When developers start creating online apps for safari on iPhone, expect communications to be at many of their cores. Access basecamp from your iPhone, and touch a contact to call them immediately, then record the conversation and save it in basecamp. Think of it this way... you can organize every communication but phone calls, until now.

8. Wi-fi camera
2 mega-pixels is nothing to sneeze at. Take a picture, it automatically is uploaded to flickr. Share pictures with other iPhone users wirelessly.

As you can see, convergence brings many new possibilities. These are simply a few, there are many more. Hopefully this list will get you thinking. Why not leave your ideas in the comments for all to see?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Music and Food

They go together so well, why has no one made a symphony of it?

Match a meal with a symphony. 5 course meal, 5 movement symphony. Match the flavors with the feeling of music. Heavy, light, playful, serious. Music and food both have distinct emotions connected with them. Have a conductor choose a symphony that has 5 movements with different feels for each movement. He then explains the music to the chwf, who prepares a five corse meal to match.

You could probably only monetize this by using a few pieces... strings, horns, etc. Place them on a platform. Prepare one 5 course tasting menu. Everyone gets the same thing... no menu. Everyone arrives at the same time. The conductor and chef greet the audience and explain what they will be hearing, what they will be eating, and why the two pieces pair well. The first course is delivered as the first movement is played. As they end, the plates are taken away and the second course is brought out... until it is finished.

One night, one performance, one group. Repeat 3 times each weekend for a month, then change the menu and music. I haven't run numbers to see if this could be profitable, I just know that I have longed to experience food paired with music for several years now and would love to see it happen. If this were happening in chicago or new york I would fly in just for it.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Spiderman 3 - First Review

The movie of the summer is here, and here's your first look... no spoilers, I promise!

In a word: letdown. I hate to say it, but the movie just wasn't that good. It was very reminiscent of the latest Superman movie. Lot's of hype, lots of expectations, but in the end it just didn't live up.

To begin, well, it didn't. It literally took about a half hour just to get moving. Lots of setup. Lots of melodrama. Little action. I kept wondering when the action would start. Back-story. Foreshadowing. Love scenes. Drama. No action. I could have stood for about 10-15 minutes of setup, but it took twice that.

"This is an intricate story," you say. "It needs detailed setup." I'll give you that. However, I think what made it so unbearable was the fact that the lines were awful and the acting was worse. Comic book movies are supposed to be a little cheesy, I know, but the audience was literally groaning from the cheese factor.

After the action did begin, it didn't last. There were long, excruciating bouts of drama. Poorly written, terribly acted drama. A friendship between two main characters was so sappily acted that the audience was shouting gay jokes. The writers try to force some kind of drama between Peter and MJ and the plot is very weak. Think daytime soap opera. A good action scene would ensue, only to be followed by 10-20 minutes of "Days of Our Lives."

Speaking of the plot, the writers make a failed attempt at twists, only to end up weaving a weak web that is not believable, even for a comic book movie. Characters are connected by weak threads and driven by shallow, predictable motives. "You killed my Dad, you killed my uncle, you kissed my girl, blah blah blah."

Let's move on. Everyone wants to see black spiderman. How did he turn out? Bad. Very bad. At one point, the guy next to me called him "Emo Spiderman." There is a scene with Emo-man that is so cheesy it rivals Jim Carey's "The Mask." At one point it felt like I was watching the blooper reel, or deleted scenes instead of the actual film. Like the editors just finally gave up and left everything in. Remember that easter egg in the Star Wars DVD where Yoda dances with the Storm Troopers? Yes. That's exactly what you'll see. I'm not kidding. It's that bad.

But what about the action scenes? In the beginning, they were very enjoyable. But after the first two, it got old. It was almost as if they had no new ideas. They kept using the same fights over and over. Not to mention that there comes a point when the "camera" is moving so fast that all you can make out is a blur for the entire scene.

Without giving anything away, I'll also say that there a many things left unexplained. And not in a "we'll explain them next time" kind of way. There are just things that happen that are only there because they had happen for the movie to move forward. No connection at all.

Is there anything good to say about this film? Yes. I am amazed what they are doing with special effects. The first time you see Sandman, you will be impressed. Incredible detail, excellent effects.

It's just too bad it seems they spend all their time on the FX, and no time on the acting, writing, or plot.