Saturday, January 10, 2009

Google Picasa 3 [ Mac ]

Picasa 3
iPhoto haters rejoice! Google recently released their popular photo management and editing program, Picasa, for Mac OS X. In my early testing, it didn't crash or seem sluggish, but like many Google offerings, this version still bears the "Beta" designation.

Picasa integrates nicely with Google's online photo-hosting service, Picasa Web Albums, by allowing album syncing, uploading, and access control. Album syncing allows you to change a photo (by retouching, changing the caption, cropping, etc.) and have the changed photo appear in seconds on your web album.

Your iPhoto library can be viewed in Picasa in "read-only" form. If you want to make edits to photos in your iPhoto library, you'll have to let Picasa make a copy of the photo and then edit it. Picasa also lets you upload photos to Blogger, create videos of your photos, and create a collage.

It's nice to have a solid option aside from iPhoto to manage our photo collections locally and on the web. LINK 2 DOWNLOAD :
Picasa is a free 17MB download.

City of Heroes [ MacOS ]

Along with EVE Online and World of Warcraft, Mac users have another popular MMO to play with. It took a while, but NCsoft has finally brought their superhero massively multiplayer online game, City of Heroes, to OS X. When we heard the game was ported over by TransGaming, we flinched a bit, but NCsoft has assured us that there is no funny DRM on the release, and our colleagues over at Massively have tried out the client early, and put to rest any major questions about the quality of the port, saying that it runs well, save for a few bumps when the action gets crowded on screen.

As promised, the Mac "Special Edition" is a digital release, and comes with both the City of Heroes and the City of Villians expansion, as well as a month of game time (after that there's a subscription fee to play along), and two exclusive items: a Mission Teleporter power, to get you directly into missions, and a special "Valkyrie" costume set. The game is available for $19.99 over on NCsoft's site right now, so if you've been waiting to get some superhero MMO action underway, now's your chance.

Boxee opens up alpha, adds iPlayer support for UK users

It isn't just about Macworld; shockingly there is some other tech news happening this week as well. Our pals over at boxee have just announced a new version, some love for UK users and some great news: no more invites needed!
Instead of hounding me (I kid, I never minded) for a boxee invite, you can sign-up yourself at and get downloads for the Mac, Apple TV and Ubuntu. The Windows alphas are still in closed testing, but progress is moving quickly.
Here's a run-down on what's new and improved:
  • iPlayer support for UK users -- no more crying over the lack of overseas Hulu; you can now get the iPlayer via boxee
  • Joost support
  • MTV Music support
  • dual-screen support
  • Netflix improvements
  • search in Hulu
  • updates to the SMB library
Netflix is still only working on the Mac and not on the Apple TV, but this is a great update. I've been seeing some of the private builds and the improvements are nice. A reminder, boxee is still in alpha, but the development process is on a tear!

Edge (the game) coming to the iPhone [ ***next week ]

No, not the Edge network from AT&T, but a rather unique app from Mobigame that uses the motion sensors of the iPhone and some powerful animations to make for a unique gaming experience. Looking a bit like something out of the movie Tron, Edge allows you to control a cube through several hazardous environments and traps that get more and more complicated as you move along.

The best way to get an idea of what the game looks like is with this YouTube video Mobigame has posted. Edge has been available on other platforms like the Sony Ericsson handsets, but it will debut on the iPhone and iPod touch next week. There are 26 different mazes to navigate, using the iPhone touch screen and accelerometer.

Edge has been nominated for several gaming awards in Europe and has the potential to be a major hit on the iPhone/iPod touch. We'll be anxious to try this one ASAP.

iPhone 3G unlock (finally) crashes everyone's party

While everyone was assuredly watching the ball drop in in NYC and finishing off glasses of bubbly, the iPhone Dev-Team was hard at work pushing out the iPhone 3G unlock. They previously stated that an iPhone 3G unlock would occur in the final hours of 2008, and though the unlock was made available a few hours in to 2009 it is currently being released as a beta.

The 0.9 beta release of "yellowsn0w" does still have some noted issues, but a big feature worth noting is that the unlock will work with the latest modem firmware (02.28.00). In other words, if you have an updated iPhone 3G at version 2.2, it is possible to unlock your iPhone without having to exploit holes only found in previous versions of the firmware. Even though this release is dubbed a "beta" reports are pouring in at the Dev-Team blog of success stories.

For more details, issues and experiences (positive or negative) head on over to the Dev-Team blog. While this intrepid blogger will be passing on the unlock, if you have any luck trying this out, let us know in the comments.

Incipio Lloyd iPod nano microphone

Have you ever forgotten something, or said "I wish I had recorded that?" If you have an iPod nano and the Lloyd microphone, you will be able to instantly record anything. A while back we mentioned that the Incipio Lloyd microphone had begun shipping. Well, I was able to snag one for review purposes and I'm going to tell you about this very cool accessory for the iPod nano.

The Design
Lloyd was specifically designed for the iPod nano 4th generation, and you can tell that by just looking at it. The microphone attaches to the bottom of the device, and plugs into the audio line-out / microphone line-in port on the bottom. It is nearly the same width/thickness of the iPod nano, and fits well in that regard. I like the fact that the microphone does not add any heft to the device at all. It does, however, add some height. So understand that if you plan on leaving the microphone connected that some cases might not fit it.

Lloyd features a microphone in the center, and an audio line-out port on the left side. The audio out port allows you to leave the microphone connected, while still having the ability to play your tunes. The microphone does cover up the 30-pin Dock connector, so you will need to unplug/reposition the Lloyd while syncing/charging.

I really like this microphone. The sound quality is great, it's easy to carry around, and it doesn't hinder me from using my iPod nano as an iPod. I especially found it to be useful when recording lecture audio, but it could be used virtually anywhere you need to quickly capture audio. My only gripe is that it disables the play/pause/skip button on the iPhone headset while it is attached to the line-out port on the Lloyd microphone. I'm hoping this can be improved in a future version of the product.

At $17.99US, this microphone is an excellent accessory for your iPod nano. The device is available directly from Incipio and is available in either black or white.

Apple introduces iLife '09 at Macworld Expo

Earlier today at Macworld Expo, Phill Schiller announced that availability of iLife '09. Not a huge surprise, as a few of us guessed we'd see an iLife update today, but it does offer some cool new features.


iPhoto has been updated with two features called "Faces" and "Places." Faces, as you may have guessed, lets you tag photos by subjects' faces, similar to what Facebook and Picasa have done. iPhoto makes its best guess as to the identity of a subject based on previous tags and asks for confirmation. Of course, Phil called it "..the best technology we've found for face detection."

Places allows for geotagging of photos. Some cameras and the 3G iPhone will use GPS information to tag photos on longitude and latitude. iPhoto then organizes those photos by location, or "place." Also, Flickr and Facebook support are built-in. Those without GPS access can retro-tag photos by hand.


Ah, iMovie '08. You either love it or you hate it. In any case, it's been replaced. Phil started his presentation of iMovie '09 by admitting that the '08 version wasn't very popular ... kind of. "Not every feature was there for every customer... some people missed the features," he said. That's as much of an admission of wrongdoing as you're going to get from Apple, folks.

iMovie '09 includes a few new tricks, like animated travel maps (think "Indiana Jones") and auto stabilization for shaky video. More impressive features include drag-and-drop editing, which lets you drop a clip between others. The skimming that was introduced in iMovie '08 is still intact, while "Precision Editing" is new. Now you can move audio from one clip onto another. Not exactly the "extract audio" option from iMovie 06, but still slick. They've also added some cute effects like cartoon, x-ray and aged film, as well as sweet dynamic themes.


My favorite podcast recording tool, GarageBand, also received a nice update with iLife '09. This time around, GarageBand goes beyond letting you drag and drop tracks into the timeline and actually teaches you how to play an instrument with the new "Learn to play" feature. Watch the HD video of the instructor has he moves you through different aspects of learning two bundled instruments -- guitar and piano.

If you really want a fun experience, check out the artist lessons from celebrities like John Fogerty, Sting and more. Cool! They can be purchased for $4.99US via a built-in store. Along with the lesson, the artists share the stories behind some of their most popular songs. Wow, GaragBand as a new, ongoing income stream for Apple

iLife '09 will be available in late January as a $79 upgrade while family pack will cost $99. iLife '09 ships on all new Macs.

tart your lectures: ProfCast 2.3.0 arrives

Educators and professionals who need to record and podcast lectures often turn to Humble Daisy's ProfCast, a tool for adding enhancements to PowerPoint or Keynote slideshows to create powerful podcasts.

ProfCast today received a major update to version 2.3. The original app allows recording of live presentations, syncing slides with an audio track, and full RSS feed generation and publishing support. The new version incorporates several improvements, the most significant being support for PowerPoint 2008.
The app now automatically detects whether Keynote or PowerPoint is being used for a presentation, and then begins the process of recording and publishing the lecture with all slide timing and voice narration.

Humble Daisy also killed a number of bugs from the previous version of ProfCast, and version 2.3.0 is a free upgrade to existing owners of the application. The program is $59.95 for first-time buyers, and educational discounts are available. ProfCast can be purchased from the online store.

Beejive IM updated to 2.0, includes audio messaging

Beejive IM [iTunes link], the Swiss army knife of instant messaging on the iPhone, was recently updated to version 2.0. Beejive allows you to connect with many different instant messaging services including: AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN/Live, Myspace IM, and Yahoo messenger. This application was already top-notch in the previous versions and this new version just makes things a lot better. Let's take a look at each of the changes to Beejive.

You are now able to send photos directly from your iPhone and have them show up in-line with the body of the chat. In addition, you can now easily see photos sent to your iPhone. Probably one of the coolest new features is the ability to record and send voice notes to your fellow chatters. Tapping on the toolbar at the top, which lists the current chat name, gets you four options. One of those options is a small microphone; tapping this icon makes your iPhone show a recording view, and instantly start recording audio. When you tap the stop button, your recording will be saved. You can play or record your voice note over again; if you want to send the voice note, tap the "Send" button and your voice note will be directly transferred to the current chat.

In addition to being able to send/receive audio on your iPhone or iPod touch using Beejive 2.0, you can also receive and open multiple types of files, including:

- Most image, audio, and video files
- PDFs
- Word documents
- Excel spreadsheets
- PowerPoint documents

I found that once you receive these types of files, you can also forward them to another person on your buddy list. Once you accept the file transfer, you will get a small blue button that will give you more details about the file that you just received; when you are in this view, you will be able to tap the forward button and find another person to forward it to.

By default, Beejive will use the default sounds for incoming/outgoing messages. These sounds are very similar to the sounds that iChat ships with; however, if you get tired of them, there is an option for you in this new version. You are now able to change the sounds in the Beejive section of Under "Sounds," you are able to change between default, AIM, and Yahoo sounds.

I found that there were two settings for transferring files, and both are useful. Under the "File Transfer" section of > Beejive, you are able to choose between two ways of sending files: post a link or direct send preferred.

In my testing, version 2.0 of Beejive seemed extremely stable, and included features that made a big difference. I especially liked the ability to send/receive files right from the device. Beejive is available from the iTunes App Store for $15.99. While the price is high, this application is definitely worth it when you consider all of the capabilities you gain.

EyeTV Hybrid hardware gets a performance boost

Elgato's EyeTV Hybrid has long been the standout among the Mac options for HD television tuners, in large part because it comes with the excellent EyeTV software for program guide info, scheduling and recording. This week, the product gets an overhaul with refreshed hardware (including an FM radio tuner) and the new 3.1 version of the application with a bundled copy of Toast Basic for DVD burning; the combo is impressive. The revised software swaps out the TitanTV electronic program guide source for the more detailed (and, after the first free year, $20 paid-subscription) TV Guide data. The new EyeTV Hybrid is immediately available in the USA and Canada for US $149.95 and works on Mac OS X 10.4.11 and higher; decoding HD content requires an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU. EyeTV 3.1 will be released as a free update for existing owners in the coming weeks.
Update: Several commenters noted that earlier versions of the hardware allowed for decoding HD content with a Core Duo (as distinct from Core 2 Duo) processor, and questioned whether anything had changed. Per the specifications page for the new unit, a Core 2 Duo chip is indeed required for 720p or 1080i content.
EyeTV's hardware has always packed some impressive functionality into a small USB dongle; however, the previous units (designed and built by OEMs like Pinnacle and Hauppauge for bundling with the EyeTV app) didn't always shine when it came to holding onto weak HDTV signals, and recordings were sometimes plagued with dropouts and jitter when used with borderline-adequate antennas. The new hardware design has been insourced to EyeTV's team and custom-built with a focus on improving signal handling; the results are pretty good.
In my preliminary testing with the new unit I got much better signal on some stations that had previously been on the fringe, and the picture is still crystal-clear (HD sporting events on a 24" iMac screen are a revelation). The only annoying quirk I saw in the EyeTV 3.1 app was a propensity for the video aspect ratio to flop between 16x9 and 4x3 as commercials or other standard-ratio content interrupted a widescreen program. Other than that, it works quite well, even with a $12 pair of Radio Shack rabbit ears.
The new TV Guide program info is quite a bit more detailed than the Titan TV or over-the-air ATSC listings, with full cast and capsule review data available. EyeTV now allows for a 'season pass' preset that will capture all episodes of a particular program, and parental controls are now implemented to allow responsible adults some control over the viewing and recording habits of the household. Recording a show is still just as easy, although you need to maintain a Titan TV account to do remote scheduling; the iPhone and iPod conversion and WiFi sharing capabilities remain as before, and can be supercharged via the turbo.264 outboard compression dongle. As always, be sure to keep plenty of hard drive space available if you want to maintain a library of HD recordings.
We'll be stopping by Elgato's booth at Macworld Expo this week for a video tour of EyeTV 3.1; if you're at the show, you can catch them at booth #2126. See the gallery below for some views of the new hardware and software.

SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone / SlingPlayer for Mac HD

Our sister site Engadget is reporting that Sling Media, maker of the Slingbox, is going to be demonstrating SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone at Macworld Expo 2009 this week.

Sling had produced a proof-of-concept back in June of 2008. Now the word is that the app will be submitted to the powers-that-be at Apple for certification and acceptance into the App Store sometime before the end of March, 2009.

If you're not quite that into watching your Slingbox streams on an iPhone, Sling Media is also demoing a prototype of SlingPlayer for Mac HD. This application enables Slingbox PRO-HD owners to zap HD streams to their Macs. This Mac app is expected to be available free of charge, while pricing for the iPhone app has not yet been determined.

Stay tuned for our continuing coverage of Macworld Expo 2009, where you'll find news, photos, and video of the flood of announcements coming out of Moscone Center.

VixML debuts iPhone development middleware, demos 'TrueFlirt'

Viximo has debuted TrueFlirt, a $5.99 iPhone application that demonstrates the capabilities of VixML, a simple development environment for creative entrepreneurs.
TrueFlirt, as you might suspect, allows you to send animated "flirts" to other users of TrueFlirt. You can "FlirtBack" with one of a few pre-populated "playful" replies.
TrueFlirt is -- while perhaps not suitable for the iTunes "productivity" category -- an interesting technology demonstration of VixML, an XML-based content creation platform that enables interactive designers to create native iPhone content for Viximo applications.
The way it works is a content creator signs up with Viximo, who provides them their framework and tools for development. Developing VixML uses structured XML that -- at first glance -- seems easy to understand, and includes code support for animation, interaction and music. Viximo says it's a much lesser investment in terms of time and money, since you don't need to become an Apple developer, nor pay to submit the app to the App Store.
Once an application is developed, Viximo will check it for problems, and submit it for publication in the App Store. It's unclear how pricing is structured, or how much of a cut Viximo gets for each application.
VixML applications are analogous to standalone Flash animations, but obviously they don't use Flash. Instead, they use the OpenGL 2D and 3D graphics engines built into iPhone OS. Applications can send and receive data (like TrueFlirt), as well as interact with the iPhone and iPod touch's built-in accelerometer.
Viximo, in addition to TrueFlirt, is releasing more titles expected to arrive in the App Store during the first quarter of 2009. TrueFlirt is available in the App Store now (for $5.99), and a free version is coming soon. The free version will be able to receive flirts, but the paid version can both send and receive them.

Skype for Mac 2.8 Beta offers screen sharing

Good news for Skype users. Skype has announced the availability of Beta 2.8 for the Mac, which offers two huge new features: Screen sharing and WiFi access for a MacBook or MacBook Pro via "Skype Access."

Screen sharing works via the Skype video channel, of course, and allows for a complete view of a participant's screen. For now, only a Mac may act as a source, though a Linux or Windows machine can view its screen. File transfer is also possible, though a lot of detail wasn't available on this.

The other major feature, Skype Access, offers WiFi access for a MacBook or MacBook Pro via any Boingo access point. These include McDonald's, hotels like Marriott and Hilton and more than 500 international airports. Skype Access will run you $0.22US (€0.16) per minute using Skype Credits.

While we haven't had a chance to play with it yet (we're a bit distracted by a little trade show today), the pitch from Skype sounds interesting. Let us know if you give this a try.

Hardware that supports iPhoto '09's geotagging

I spent yesterday afternoon like many of you: Hunched over my keyboard in a posture-defying mound, my eyes locked on 1440 x 900 pixels of real-time information and fingers tapping keys like so many coked-up woodpeckers. A Mountain Dew and Cinnabun stood at the ready, should I need refueling. I was a gold-encrusted invitation to hypertension if you ever saw one.
It's what I call a Mario Batali Moment. I'm a real Mario fan, but every time I watch his show, I get a little depressed. As Mario sits down to a small family table in Umbria, olive trees and screeching cicadas in the background, I think, "There's another incredible Italian salami I'll never get to try."

A brief Google search turned up good news. I didn't have to spend several hundred dollars on a GPS-aware camera. Here are several devices that will get the job done without breaking the bank.

  1. The Wolverine GEO connects to several Nikon and Fuji DSLR's and embeds GPS coordinates in an image's metadata (EXIF) during exposure. Just click and you're done. The Wolverine GEO costs $149.99US.
  2. The GiSTEQ PhotoTrackr is a small GPS device that you carry around as you shoot photos. As you take pictures, you camera records the time. The PhotoTrackr also records the time and the GPS location. The included software merges the two. Small, tidy and $129US (the "lite" version is $99US).
  3. Similarly, the Amod AGL3080 GPS Data Logger connects to your Mac via USB port, allowing you to grab the recorded log in standard NMEA format. Mac-compatible software is included. The AGL3080 will run you about $70US.
So there are three relatively inexpensive options. Yes, I realize that the 3G iPhone will tag photos with GPS information, but it isn't the greatest camera in the world. You can also add this information by hand, but who wants to do that? Instead, there's good news:

iPhoto geotagging needn't be your forbidden salami.

Update: Our readers continue to offer additional suggestions. Keep them coming, folks! Here are a few from the comments.
  • David notes that "...the GISTEQ product does NOT support geotagging of RAW images," so keep that in mind. His solution: "I ended up using the perl scripts from and HoudahGeo ($30US)."
  • jadam points out another solution: "If you have a standalone GPS that supports track logging, turn tracking on and bring it along with you on your next photo shoot. Then once you are finished, use the free GPSPhotoLinker (Free) to geotag your photos."
  • Tim suggests the SD GPS Data Logger ($125).
  • John Fischetti and a couple of others suggested the Eye-Fi Explore Wireless card ($99US).
  • John suggested the Jobo photoGPS (couldn't find a price for some unknown, frustrating reason), which mounts on your camera's hotshoe.
Others have recommended iPhone/iPod touch Geo Tracking software, like OnLocation ($2.99US) [App Store link] and Trails ($1.99US).

TechSmith's Jing goes Pro

Although Camtasia Studio, the pro-level screencast offering from TechSmith, is still a Windows-only affair (hopefully not for too much longer), the company is present on the Macworld Expo show floor with a booth highlighting the website and Jing, one of our favorite screen capture tools. Jing's free offering continues to provide easy and quick screen snaps with tight web integration and handy SWF video capture, but the new announcement here is the introduction of Jing Pro, a new paid plan with additional features for heavy screencasting use.
Jing Pro, for $14.95/year, offers users H.264/MPEG-4 compression in addition to the FLV files produced by the free version; these videos are ideal for upload to YouTube or other online services (in fact, the Pro version includes a Send to YouTube button). The Pro build is capable of capturing full-motion video off your screen, putting it in the same league with tools like Vara/Telestream's $99 Screenflow. You can also skip the Jing ad banner placed on snaps created with the free version. Encoding MPEG-4 does require a bit more horsepower, so the minimum CPU for Pro is a 2Ghz Core 2 Duo Intel processor.

Pandora 2.0 [ iPhone ]

Pandora's app was one of the iPhone's best of 2008 on iTunes, and while I've only recently started using it, I have to agree: even over EDGE, it's a great way to get some music you've never heard on the iPhone. And they aren't sitting on their laurels, either -- they've just updated the app to version 2.0, and it's better than ever.

New in this version is the ability to access a progress bar for the songs you're listening to, and the option to create new stations from songs or artists right there in the app itself. It's definitely worth a look [iTunes link], and you can't beat the price of admission (still completely free).

I've followed Pandora from the beginning, and they've constantly updated both their website and their features since they first released -- it's all developed into a really impressive set of functionality for listening to and finding new music. They have suffered some rumors of shutdowns, but hopefully those rumors are just that. Between the remarkable set of functions on their website and this iPhone app, they're becoming more and more invaluable for serious music listeners.

Facebook for iPhone and iPod touch updated to version 2.1

In the online social networking space you've got your big guns: MySpace, to a lesser extent Twitter and for business users, LinkedIn. Facebook is also extremely popular and now, Facebook's client for iPhone and iPod touch has been updated to version 2.1.

Among the changes for this update include fewer crashes (that's an important one), corrected timestamps for all time zones, improved sync time and faster loading of the inbox. It's also worth noting that Facebook for iPhone and iPod touch requires iPhone 2.2 firmware.

Other iPhone and iPod touch apps updated recently include Pandora, Things, Darkslide, Lists and the trifecta of iSteam, iFog and icanhascheezburger. So, fire up iTunes or the Applications app on your iPhone / iPod touch and go get 'em!

Parallels Desktop 4 updated

Popular virtualization software Parallels has been updated to build 3810. The software offers many upgrades and fixes, including Windows DirectX 9.0 with Shaders Model 2 support, as well as "experimental" support for Snow Leopard and Windows 7 beta.

The "experimental" caution, as you might surmise, means not all features will work. For example, in Snow Leopard, there is no USB support, and Parallels notes there is no shared networking support.

Parallels has been running a competitive race against VMware Fusion as each software solution tries to out-feature and outperform the other.

The Parallels update can be downloaded at this link, or you can select "check for updates" from the Parallels application help menu.

A complete list of the enhancements in this build can be found here. Some users are reporting faster performance and some improvements with use of peripherals.