A Photo Project, An Update, and a Contest?

Ear­lier today the folks behind one of my favourite iOS dig­i­tal dark­room apps (FX Photo Stu­dio) announced a great new col­lab­o­ra­tive pho­tog­ra­phy app and project, in the form of a contest:

As a ges­ture of appre­ci­a­tion to its loyal fans, Mac­Phun is also devel­op­ing the first ever jointly col­lab­o­rated, free stand­alone wall­pa­per app that will show­case user-submitted pho­tographs edited with FX Photo Stu­dio and other pho­tog­ra­phy iOS apps. With MacPhun’s sup­port, the app will pro­vide the ideal plat­form for aspir­ing artists and pho­tog­ra­phers to gain increased expo­sure for their work. To kick off the sub­mis­sion process, Mac­Phun will be hold­ing a two month pro­mo­tion on their Face­book page. Prizes include iTunes gift cards, photo print­ing gift vouch­ers and much more. For more infor­ma­tion on this con­test, please visit: http://www.macphun.com/photoproject/

To help kick off this great idea, FX Photo Stu­dio & FX Photo Stu­dio HD have been updated to iOS 4.3 and now include a new fil­ter cat­e­gory, Sketches:

Mac­Phun has col­lab­o­rated with estab­lished artists from North Amer­ica and Europe to cre­ate a new “sketches” cat­e­gory. The newly added cat­e­gory con­sists of six cartoon-styled fil­ters pro­vid­ing users with a total of 187 fil­ters to mix, match and share with friends. The addi­tion of more pre­cise tun­ing con­trols for con­trast­ing, adjust­ing hues and sharp­en­ing fil­ters, pro­vide even more unequiv­o­cal tools to users, mak­ing one of the most use­ful image edit­ing apps on the mar­ket, even better.

And to make it even eas­ier for new iPhone and iPad2 pho­tog­ra­phers, FX Photo Stu­dio and FX Photo Stu­dio HD will both be dis­counted to $0.99 and $1.99, respec­tively, for a very lim­ited time.
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Free photo app Instagram just got better

iglogo.jpgThe free and popular instant photography sharing app for iOS, Instagram, just pushed an update through — and it’s a nifty little update too!

Aside from some bug fixes, two new filters were added in the 1.0.7 update;

Walden
walden.jpg

Hefe
hefe.jpg

And one has been retrieved from the cutting room floor after a bit of a populous revolt;

PopRocket
poprocket.jpg

I love the filter upgrades, but the app upgrade didn’t go off without a hitch.

In my case, Instagram lives on my iPad, which I use for post-production editing and sharing of my photos. I like to think of it as my iPad Darkroom.

And this update to Instagram had me worried for a moment — it wouldn’t read any images from my photo roll or photo albums.

But after a full shutdown and restart, whatever database issues it had seemed to clear up, and I’m happily playing in the darkroom again.

iOS devices seem to be the most prolific when it comes to mobile digital darkroom apps, for now. I’m thinking that once more developers get busy working on the other devices, there’s going to be a whole lot more awesome photography happening out there… and I can’t wait!
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Kobo eReader updated — much better!

Though it’s a great device, I’ve always been a little disappointed with my Kobo eReader. Sure, I got the cool black one, and it will let me read my ebooks, but the reading experience was never that polished. It’s almost as if the software running the eReader was unfinished.

Some of the things that annoyed me were:

  • strong flicker when changing pages
  • confusion over power light status (blue/red/purple — means what?)
  • confusion over charging process / status
  • battery life wasn’t as good as I thought
  • text size was not changeable  for some ePubs

But the key word above is are ‘annoyed’ – past tense.

Not Annoyed
Kobo’s released their latest firmware update, and it addresses many of my concerns. And after doing the update, this thing feels new. Snappy! To quote from their website:

What’s In the Upgrade

Everything that we talked about here, here, and here.

The highlights:

  • The ability to resize fonts for any ePub file, no matter where it comes from.
  • Improved battery management
  • The ability to hide/show the preloaded free classics
  • Charging lights that make sense (red/violet when charging, blue when finished)

The Upgrade Process
Initially the upgrade was available to people who signed up to an ‘early access‘ program — ostensibly to help manage the rollout of the upgrade and catch any bugs that may still be in the code.

Then, after a period of time, the update was enabled for everyone.

Here’s how the upgrade works:

  1. Launch your Kobo desktop software on your computer.
  2. Connect your Kobo eReader to your computer.
  3. When prompted, download and install the updated Kobo desktop software.
  4. Restart the Kobo desktop software, and reconnect your Kobo eReader.
  5. Follow the prompts as the Kobo desktop software recognizes that your eReader hasn’t been updated yet.

It’s really that simple. You may have to repeat steps 1 and 2 a couple of times as it seems that the Kobo desktop software doesn’t always ‘phone home’ to see if there’s an update.

Oh, and you will need a paper clip (to hit the recessed reset button) and a bit of manual dexterity as you have to push 2 buttons and the middle of the Navigation Pad all at the same time to set the unit into update mode.

The firmware it didn’t ship with
Kudos to Kobo development staff for listening to customer concerns and getting this update out. While I’m glad to see this firmware release fix these issues, it’s unfortunate that the Kobo eReader didn’t ship with this version initially.

But hey, it’s out now and it works well. Time to read another book!

Battery life of a Microbe

My wife uses an expression to describe battery-powered technology that runs out of juice before it ‘should’ — Battery Life of a Flea, is how she describes it.

Well, if you thought you had problems with iPhone or iPod Touch battery life before, the new iOS4 update will not make you happy.

According to many anecdotal reports in this article, after applying the update, iPhone/Pod users began noticing drastically reduced battery life on their devices:

Perusing the Apple tech support forums, it seems that many users are concerned about the impact iOS4 has had on the battery life of devices that apparently worked just fine prior to upgrading the OS. It isn’t clear, though, whether multitasking is at fault, or if the battery drain is a result of certain, poorly-written apps gobbling up power.

The thread begins with this user post “I just downloaded iOS4 on my 3GS. And…wow, has my battery life shrunk over the past two hours. I’ll admit I haven’t had the OS for that long so I don’t know how much it’s the actual factor, but I’ve been trying new features and whatnot (minus multitasking much) and it’s just sucking away at my battery.”

Our experience is similar; the device now needs daily charging,  and the only way to extend battery life is to kick it into ‘Airplane’ mode.

As the article also points out, Apple seems to be aware of the issue, though they’re recommending a full reinstallation of the OS, though that seems to get varied results.

And there doesn’t seem to be a way to ‘revert’ your OS back to the previous version. I’m sure the Jailbreakers will have something on this shortly 🙂

Disappointing update, Apple. No wallpaper or multi-tasking  for my 2G iPod Touch — and now a battery that dies quite quickly.

Oh, if you want to read another perspective on the iOS4 / iPhone 4  update, check out this list of 8 Downfalls Of The New iPhone 4.

Apple just made my iPod Touch even more useful – not

Today Apple (well, Steve Jobs) announced a number of things at WWDC (Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference).

The one caught my attention  was the announcement of iOS4 – the operating system previously known as iPhone OS. Sure, there was a new iPhone, and a bunch of other stuff, but I have an iPod Touch (2nd Generation) and want to keep using it… so was looking for news that would let me keep my Touch humming along. And I found it.

Or so I thought.

The Apple iPod Touch page is big on promised features, but at the bottom, in the standard disclaimer grey area the text pulls back some of the lovely benefits mentioned above.

Not all features are compatible with all devices. For example, multitasking, custom wallpaper, and Bluetooth keyboard support are available only with iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and the third-generation iPod touch (32GB and 64GB models from late 2009).

So, the cool features that I’ve been looking forward to will not work on my iPod Touch. Bluetooth Keyboard, Multi-tasking, Folders…all very cool features. And my device does support them — if I Jailbreak it. But not using the official update.

Well then, it is a free upgrade, and I’m sure I’ll get *some* benefit from it, but I’m not ready to retire this iPod Touch yet. Maybe Jailbreaking is the way to go.

How to view PDF files on your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch with DropBox

Dropbox really is an amazing computing and file sharing application. I was initially introduced to it when I needed to easily share files with various computers across the internet — and email was not an option.

Recently my wife asked me for another solution to viewing PDF files on her iPod Touch. She’d been using this process where you load the image into Stanza on a Desktop, then share it with the Touch. It works, but takes too many steps. Is klunky, she said.

Dropbox basics

On your desktop computer, when you install Dropbox, it creates a watched and shared Dropbox directory.  Anything put into this directory is shared with your online Dropbox account.

Any other computer you install Dropbox on will immediately have access to your online Dropbox account, and have access to those files  you saved on the other computer.

Dropbox has an app for that

For the iPhone and iPod Touch to access those files, you’ll need to install the free Dropbox app. Once you’ve set it up with your login credentials, viola! You have access to those same files you dropped into the shared directory on your desktop computer. Including media and document files.

Tech with family at the holidays

This Christmas has probably the most intensive tech-soaked holiday period I’ve had with friends and family. It was refreshing to see the ways that recent tech developments have allowed us to enjoy the gathering, events, experience and excitement. …more



This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.