Using Flickr as an iCloud Photo Stream replacement

When Apple first released Photo Stream as part of their iCloud service, I was excited to finally have all my photos automatically transferred between my devices. They were in addition automatically backed up to my Mac, which meant that the need to sync my iPhone to iTunes would be a thing of the past.

What I failed to realize at the time was that although automatically backing up all photos to my Mac was a breeze, there was no convenient way to view older photos the way they were meant to be viewed – on the crisp Retina Display on my iPad.

There are services which have tried to achieve ubiquitous access to all photos, and Everpix was just that kind of service. Once configured, it was basically a set-and-forget solution where all photos were automatically uploaded to their servers. If you followed the above link, you will notice that they are no longer in service since they apparently ran out of money.

I found another solution to my problem, and I think you have heard of this service before. It comes from Yahoo and is called Flickr.

In a recent Flickr for iOS update, the ability to automatically upload captured photos to a private set was added. This gives you the same set-and-forget setup that Everpix once brought, and with 1 TB for free you will undoubtably last a very long time without running out of space.

The problem with the Flickr iOS app is still the viewing part however, which is why I bought Flickring for iPhone and iPad. It connects to your Flickr account and shows your sets and photo stream in a beautiful way.

Since both Aperture and Lightroom support publishing to Flickr, you will always have access to all your photos taken with your traditional camera as well, as long as you have internet access or have synced the photos for offline viewing using Flickring.

Retina iPad Mini now available

The new iPad Mini with Retina Display was silently released by Apple earlier today.

There have been reports of a low initial stock, so be sure to order one online immediately if you want that retina goodness in time for Christmas. If you are lucky enough to live in the US, you can schedule a pickup from your local Apple Store today.

I went ahead and ordered the space grey 32 GB LTE model, together with a product red Smart Cover. Estimated ship dates in Sweden seem to be set for the first week in December, even though apple store says 5-10 business days.

Photo credit: closari

Surfing the Mavericks

As you will indubitably have heard, Apple just released the next major version of their operating system. Having run out of cats to name the releases, they have now switched to Californian landmarks, and the first to be Applified is Mavericks.

If there is one review of Mac OS 10.9 you should read, it’s the one by John Siracusa for Ars Technica.

OS X 10.9 Mavericks: The Ars Technica Review

Spotlight in iOS 7

One of the least used features on my iPhone has traditionally been Spotlight search, located on the left most home screen. You know the one you accidentally swipe to when you are really looking for something else.

Things have changed considerably for iOS 7. There is no longer a specific screen for Spotlight search; it is in fact part of all home screens, and can be activated by swiping down with one finger anywhere on the screen, except the top and obviously the bottom edges.

Spotlight is used to find things, fast. It will find anything in your calendar, contacts and even in email and notes. It has another feature as well; you can type in the name of any installed app, and it will find it for you. With one single tap, it can subsequently be launched.

Why even bother with this?

The brilliance behind this approach to launching apps lies in the fact that you can only fit a limited number of apps on the first page of your home screen. If you are like me, the first page contains the most used apps, while the rest are tucked away neatly (or perhaps more at random) in some folder where you will never find it again.

What this all means is that instead of swiping to the correct screen and opening the correct folder to find the application you are looking for, just casually swipe down and type in the first few characters of the app’s name and then launch it. Spotlight will even learn which applications you most often search for and display them on top.

Launching apps have never been easier. I would however, like Apple to take this to the next level and have a dedicated home screen far left, which will automatically populate with the most used apps, and perhaps frequently used contacts.

1Password 4 for iOS released

A new major version of 1Password for iOS has just been released, and it is a major overhaul of not only the application design, but new features such as a tab for favorites and an improved browser. Get it now for more than 50% off.

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad

The iPad is great for so many things, yet many people believe its primary usage is media consumption, in contrast to creating content. A bare iPad does not have the exact precision of a pencil, nor the same touch typing experience of a regular keyboard, making those points undeniably valid.

There are however things you can do to augment your iPad, and achieve a reasonable precision when drawing, and to get that special touch type experience you only get from a physical keyboard.

Impressions

I recently purchased a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for my iPad 3. Its backside resembles the brushed aluminum back of the iPad, which makes them go perfectly together. The keyboard side is made from high-gloss plastic with matte keys, and the groove where the iPad rests feels solid and will not break easily.

The keys feel firm and has a good resistance to them when pressed, and can be compared to the keys on a Macbook Pro. The keys are only marginally smaller, with the exception of the Nordic layout which have the special characters å, ä and ö pushed together next to the enter key. After a few minutes of typing though, you will get used to them and it will not bother you.

The Smart Cover magnets

The iPad has magnets to hold the Smart Cover in place. The Logitech Keyboard Cover uses these magnets to latch on to the iPad, preventing it falling off when the keyboard covers the screen.

When the iPad is docked in the keyboard groove, the magnets will latch on to the bottom, which is a great reassurance if dropping the iPad is a big concern. You can even pick up the iPad, and the keyboard cover will still hang on firmly.

It does only work in landscape mode though, since there are no opposing magnets on the portrait side of the iPad. It does work fairly well in that mode as well though, as long as the keyboard is resting on a flat surface.

Vim and escape

One of the main reasons for using the keyboard cover is to access remote servers using SSH in addition to typing articles and documents. I mostly use a combination of Diet Coda and Screen to attain some level of productivity.

The main problem however, occurs when using vim to edit files. It extensively uses the escape key, which poses a great problem since the escape key is conveniently mapped to the home button. This means that every time the escape key is pressed, the application closes and one is taken back to the home screen.

The only solution I found is to double-press the escape key, making the multitasking bar appear on the iPad, and then tap it again to get back to the application. Other than that particular gripe, things have been working very well.

Battery life

I was very skeptical when reading the specs indicating six months of usage from a single charge. This was supposed to be possible because of the magnets, which automatically powers the keyboard on and off when it is attached to the screen.

I was wrong.

I have not charged it since the unboxing, and it is still going as strong as ever. Even with it being powered on for entire days at a time. It charges using a micro-USB connector, which is right next to the power and sync buttons.

Conclusion

Having used the keyboard cover for about a month, I have found both good things and bad. I do not regret getting the keyboard and will continue to use it daily.

One issue with the keyboard cover is that it basically doubles the thickness of the iPad, making the iPad feel a bit bulky when you are carrying it around.

The main problem however, occurs when you want to use the iPad for reading, browsing or some other activity not using the keyboard. Where do one put the cover? The original Smart Cover would just fold around, but the keyboard has to be placed somewhere.

On a more positive note, writing has been a breeze and everything from instant messaging and using ssh to connect to remote servers, to writing articles and just browsing the web has become a lot faster and easier. It almost feels like typing on a real Macbook, with the exception of not having a trackpad.

iPad Mini

Looking forward, I am not sure what to do once I get the iPad Mini (the cellular version has just been released in Sweden and is out of stock). On one hand, the iPad together with the keyboard cover makes for a great workstation when on the go, but on the other hand, the iPad Mini is just too perfect to pass up. Would a similar keyboard cover for the iPad Mini work, or would the keys be too small?

Find and Call: Leak and Spam

our analysis of the iOS and Android versions of the same application showed that it’s not an SMS worm but a Trojan that uploads a user’s phonebook to remote server. The ‘replication’ part is done by the server – SMS spam messages with the URL to the application are being sent from the remote server to all the contacts in the user’s address book.

The first malicious application has reached the AppStore. While it is “only” a spam application, it does makes on think about the approval process and how it got through. It is a pretty good track record for Apple though, with only one (publicly known) trojan since its inception.

Podcasts on the iTunes App Store

Apple just released a new app for podcasts called… Podcasts. It allows subscribing, downloading and streaming of podcasts available in the iTunes Store. To sync podcasts between devices however, you will need to subscribe to them using iTunes on your computer, which is very sad.

I will continue to use Downcast for now, which features syncing of podcasts, settings and subscriptions using iCloud directly, which means there are no dependencies on iTunes.

AirPort Express (2012) Macworld Review

Having both bands available at once in the 2012 AirPort Express (a feature added in 2009 to the Extreme and Time Capsule models) allows your network to perform at the highest possible speeds no matter how distant a device is from the base station while it remains in range of a signal. That’s a significant improvement, and makes the Express a much better value, especially compared with equipment from competing manufacturers, such as Linksys.

Surface vs. iPad

On Monday, Microsoft held a secret press event in Los Angeles where it announced a new family of tablets under the Surface moniker. Along with Surface, the event revealed a branding shift for Microsoft, one that values the unity of hardware and software, and the idolization of aesthetics. Something about it felt familiar…

Interesting similarities in the presentations of the Apple iPad and the Microsoft Surface.