October 16, 2014
We finally advise that it’s safe to upgrade your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8. The number of problems after the upgrade has quieted down after Apple’s updates.
I just upgraded my iPhone to iOS 8 and am taking advantage of the Notification Center.
What is the Notification Center? Put your finger at the very top center of the screen, and swipe down. You’ll get a page of useful info having to do with your day. (Note that at the top you have a Today button and a Notifications button.)
You can edit what shows up in the notification center. To edit: Scroll down to the bottom of the Notification Center page and click the Edit button. You have options to add or remove, such as calendar, reminders, and stocks. You can also change the order by dragging.
Did you know some non-Apple apps have “widgets” to allow you to show relevant into in your Notification Center as well? Here are a few. (You need to download the app first, and then go into Notification Center > Edit and click the plus sign to get them to appear.)
Some of the best apps with a Notification Center option:
Evernote: Add a note right from here
OpenTable: Shows your dinner reservations
Dropbox: Shows the most recent file changes
ESPN SportsCenter: Quick access to scores
October 10, 2014
I read the technology reviews site The Wirecutter, which tests tech hardware and software and advises on what’s the best and why. (I highly recommend you subscribe to their weekly email newsletter; they also have a related site The Sweethome for household items.)
Last week they published an article on “The Best iPad Stylus for Note-Taking” — their pick is the Pogo Stylus, for $20.
So I purchased one at B&H Photo and am testing it out.
My best choice for a stylus up until now has been the Adonit Jot pen, which starts at $20. I like the Adonit Jot because the little plastic disk on the nib makes it easier to do precision writing and drawing, on the exact spot you want. However that little plastic piece is easy to lose (as is the cap), plus it doesn’t feel completely natural to use a pen with a plastic disk on the end.
The Pogo is inexpensive, yet it feels sturdy and easy to hold–and no pieces to lose. The rubber tip doesn’t let you get quite as thin and precise a line as the Jot but it does do almost as well for note-taking. This is something I could throw in my bag without fear of destroying it, and it feels much more natural to write with. Plus it’s also great for tapping buttons and navigating around. So I’d say for ease of use, it wins over the Adonit Jot.
My 2 favorite note-taking apps:
- Notability, $3: Best for basic note-taking plus has a microphone feature to do an audio recording of a meeting or lecture as well.
- 7NotesHDPremium, $8: Its main advantage is that it converts handwriting to text, either as you type or after the fact. (Only the premium version does this.) And it does it very well; it didn’t make one mistake with my handwriting. Pretty amazing.
My conclusion is that unfortunately it’s still much faster to take notes with a pen and paper than it is with a stylus on the iPad…and speed is what’s most important, when I’m in a meeting and don’t want to miss anything. I’m going to try the Pogo and iPad combo at an upcoming event, to get some real-world experience.
October 2, 2014
Some booths at Maker Faire were showing off projects that were a cross between technology and art. Here were our 3 favorites.
This half-scale arcade game console plays any MAME game you want to install on it. Takes up way less room than a full-size console. Cost is $2000.
This handmade piece of jewelry that looks like a 2-D camera etched in wood is actually a real camera that shoots 3.5MB jpgs and HD video. Gorgeous. Cost is $150. Check out the designer, Olivia Barr, and her other projects.
Custom Pinball Machine
Dave Gaskill, who is based in Rhode Island, makes custom pinball machines. He had a Night of the Living Dead machine at Maker Faire that was extraordinary. If you want your own custom machine made, cost will be $5000-$10,000 depending on options. Which is amazingly inexpensive for this one-of-a-kind piece of art. I highly encourage you to check out the website.
September 30, 2014
Check out these music items we saw at Maker Faire that are well designed as well as functional. Either one would be a cool gift for the right person.
This British company’s site says “Make music from anything!” and it’s true. Buy their kit which costs about $100 and then you can set up anything, including vegetables, to make sounds when touched. Ototo can also act as a midi controller. Yes that’s Ivan playing the vegetables.
These beautiful little wooden boxes are voice recorders, with controls for speed and looping. Make your own cool sounds. Each one is made by hand in Brooklyn. Prices start at about $50. Photo from the company’s website.
September 29, 2014
There were dozens of 3D printers at Maker Faire this year, at various price points and with different specialties.
But it wasn’t all about 3D printing. Here are 2 other machines for making objects that we found and liked.
Computer-controlled desktop 3D milling. What does that mean? You can use your Mac computer to create a design, and then use this to incise your design into wood, metal, plastic, or other materials. So you can make your own computer circuit boards, wooden stamps, or jewelry (and lots of other things). Cost is $2200.
This is a desktop wire-bender. So you can draw a wire design on your computer and then use this device to custom-bend based on your computer design. It bends 1/8” and 1/16” wire; uses steel, aluminium, or brass wire; and is the size of a breadbox. Cost is $3200. Check out the very cool photo gallery of light fixtures, clocks, tables, and other cool things that have been made with it.
September 25, 2014
The Raspberry Pi is a very small (Altoids-tin-sized), very inexpensive ($35) computer that uses an open source, free operating system and has been embraced by the DIY/hacker community because of its price and versatility.
The Pi was everywhere at Maker Faire this year.
Representatives from the Raspberry Pi nonprofit organization were onsite and spreading the word about all the useful tools on their website. A few of them were:
- Script Minecraft using Python
- Make a time lapse Raspberry Pi camera
- Check out lots of other great projects on their site
Other cool things we saw, related to the Pi:
Raspberry Pi User Guide, Third Edition book from Wiley, $25, coming October 2014
A mini arcade cabinet kit so you can play old video games using your Raspberry Pi. Kickstarter project that’s already been fully funded.
Slice Media Player
Kickstarter project that has been funded; it runs off a Raspberry Pi and has 2TB of storage, plus it’s small enough to take with you when you travel.
September 23, 2014
The NYC area has lots of maker-type groups and events. Here are some of the ones we learned about at Maker Faire this year.
This shared workspace in Brooklyn offers classes in soldering, Arduino, Python and iOS programming, and more.
A community hackerspace on 14th Street; they have open house every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm.
Art in Odd Places
October 9-12, on 14th Street from Avenue C to the Hudson River. Visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.
Based on Gowanus, Brooklyn, this group “fights planned obsolescence” by getting together to fix things. Drop by with something to fix or creatively reuse, or just to watch and learn.
This group of “theater artists” pops up in a different neighborhood for a short while, so you can bring your items by and have them fixed. Prices are low. The first pop-up was in Inwood; join their mailing list to find out where will be next. Or become one of their Repair Wizards.
There are hackerspaces throughout the country, including lots in the tri-state area, so do a little searching to see if there’s one near you.
September 22, 2014
We went to Maker Faire this weekend, at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. We saw a lot of exciting projects, ideas, and objects; we’ll share those with you over the next few blog posts.
Today we’re sharing 4 cool Do-It-Yourself projects we saw at Maker Faire.
This self-setting rubber means you can fix your computer power cables, put a better handle on your stovepot, fix a leaking shoe….You have 30 minutes to apply it, and then it hardens in 24 hours. This kit costs $22.
Use their special inks (which come in lots of colors) to use sunlight to print onto cotton fabric. Make your own one-of-a-kind t-shirts, scarves, pillows. Very easy to use. They have kits if you want to just get to work! Sold in stores around the country (including AI Friedman in NYC) or buy online. Kits start at $25; a bottle of ink is $30.
DIY Tesla coil kits. Check out the TinyTesla kit, the “little singing Tesla coil anyone can build” – it “shoots sparks, plays MIDI tracks, and exercises your soldering skills.” Starts at $149.
DIY Map Quilt Kit
Make your own quilt that’s a map of Manhattan or Brooklyn (or Boston, Chicago, Paris, New Orleans, or other cities). There’s also a constellation kit. Prices start at $38.
All images are from company websites.
Best of CES Roundup (2014)
September 19, 2014
Yes, iOS 8 is now available for the iPhone and iPad! You can upgrade if you’re on an iPhone 4S and up. The reviews have been very positive. Here is a selection of the best reviews we have read.
Ars Technica: iOS 8, Thoroughly Reviewed by Andrew Cunningham
“iOS 8 is transformative on a functional level…. The new OS is all about adding flexibility, and it’s no longer a given that all iPhones and iPads will have to look and work exactly the same way.”
Wall Street Journal: A New Phone Without Buying One by Joanna Stern
“It isn’t the size of the screen but what’s on it that is pushing the iPhone ahead…. iOS 8 pulls out ahead of the competition by leveraging the greatest strengths of the iPhone: its apps and ecosystem.”
New York Times: With Big New iPhones, the iOS 8 Software Inside Shines by Molly Wood
“The iOS 8 software doesn’t look greatly different, but many refinements make it more powerful and flexible.”
Mashable: Widgets, Keyboards and Notifications Make a Good OS Great by Christina Warren
“iOS 8 is something that should enthuse all iPhone and iPad owners….A lot of the real magic with iOS 8 is going to come from third-party developers….As a result, even though iOS 8 is fantastic today, it’s bound to get even better tomorrow.”
TechCrunch: Refinements and Relaxed Limitations Add Up for a Better Experience by Darrell Etherington
“Using it on the new iPhone 6 hardware revealed lots to love in the new mobile OS from Apple, some easing of restrictions that could lead to big advantages for third-party apps, and a lot of potential to change the basic mechanics of the iOS ecosystem.”
September 16, 2014
Is your iPhone set to back up automatically to iCloud?
If your phone is lost or stolen, or you drop it in the toilet (I haven’t done that yet but I know it will happen one day), wouldn’t it be great to just go to the Apple Store, buy a new iPhone, enter your iCloud account, and boom! You are back in business!
Here’s how to check your iPhone is backing up:
- On your iPhone, go to Settings > iCloud.
- Scroll down to Storage & Backup, and click it.
- At the bottom, see if iCloud Backup is turned on. If it’s not, turn it on! (It will warn you if you need more storage space.)
Don’t forget your device needs to be on a wifi network, and plugged in, and locked for it to back up. So make sure this happens regularly.