Awesome Apps

This week’s Awesome Apps: 2Do and Overcast

Business App of the Week: 2Do

There a good number of really excellent task management/GTD applications on the App Store these days. From the simple to-do list apps like Wunderlist and Things, through to the comprehensive GTD-derived toolkits like Omnifocus and Todoist, I’ve probably tried them all!

2Do logoOver many years of use, and numerous attempts at refining my work practices and task management approach, the app that I’ve come to feel most at home with is 2Do.

Available on iOS, Android and the Mac, 2Do sets out to offer the perfect blend between a rich feature-set and ease of use. It is super quick to add new tasks, there is the option to run with a GTD Native Inbox (my preference) and the options for triaging and managing tasks in the flow are really powerful. I really find that 2Do works in the way that I need it to in order to suit my mix of business and personal tasks, rather than forcing me to adopt an inflexible methodology that the app vendor has decided upon.

A few more things:

  • there is a fully-functional desktop-class app for iPad, supporting the iPad Pro resolution
    ios_ipadlandscape
  • Apple-watch-bluethe Apple Watch is also supported, allowing access to the most important lists from your wrist, manage upcoming tasks or add new ones using voice dictation
  • the iOS and macOS extensions are powerful and all-pervasive.  It is easy to add a new task from just about any other app, email or web page
  • 2Do is fully supported by my email app of choice, Airmail, on both the Mac and iOS. This allows a one click share of the email contents direct into a new task, with a link automatically added back to the source email, which works even when the email has been archived

2Do is probably the single most effective productivity enabler I have on my iPhone and iPad homescreens – it is such an intrinsic element of my workflow these days. I really couldn’t imagine executing my projects without it!

2Do is free to download on iOS, with an £14.99/$19.99 in-app purchase to ‘Go Pro’ (enabling sync between devices, and customisable alerts) – the Pro features are enabled for 21 days with the free download. It costs £39.99/$49.99 on the Mac.

Leisure App of the Week: Overcast

Overcast logoJust like task management apps, there’s no shortage of very high-quality podcast apps for iOS. There’s a handful that I would recommend ahead of the built-in Apple-developed Podcasts app every single time – Castro, Pocket Casts and Downcast all do a great job.

However, I have a clear favourite app in this category, Overcast. Developed by Marco Arment (of Tumblr, Instapaper and ATP fame), Overcast’s USP is the ability to save you time listening to podcasts whilst also delivering great audio quality. It does this using two technologies that Marco invented for the product:

Smart Speed

Pick up extra speed without distortion with Smart Speed, which dynamically shortens silences in talk shows.

Conversations still sound so natural that you’ll forget it’s on — until you see how much extra time you’ve saved.

Voice Boost

Boost and normalize volume so every show is loud, clear, and at the same volume.

Listen in more places, such as noisy cars, and still hear what everyone says without cranking the volume so high for quiet people that the loud ones blow your ears out.

Many other audio apps offer the ability to speed up the playback of recordings, but what you often find is that the audio becomes more difficult to follow, or that the tone of the voices changes.  What Overcast’s Smart Speed offers is the ability to dynamically shorten the silences between phrases. This has the effect of reducing the length of time it takes to listen to a podcast by approximately 10-15%, with no noticeable impact on the audio quality. In addition, you can then speed the audio up in the traditional way as well, thus saving a total of 25-30% of the duration.

This might seem strange, after all the point of listening to a show is to enjoy it, right? However, I find that one attuned to Smart Speed, it is really difficult to go back. In fact, if I ever catch one of my favourite podcasts live-streamed, it sounds as though the hosts are pausing unnecessarily long between sentences, struggling for the correct phrasing, or simply can’t get their thoughts in order. If you’ve ever seen Over The Hedge, that bit where Hammy consumes the energy drink, and the world appears to slow down? That’s what podcasts are like once you’ve heard the benefit of Smart Speed!

As someone that struggles with his hearing, I love the more subtle but very noticeable benefit of Voice Boost too. It enhances the volume and clarity of voices, and is of use particularly when listening through an amplified speaker or with background noise, such as via Bluetooth audio in the car.

Overcast iPad screenshotLastly, Overcast does the basics brilliantly well – a well-populated directory to make it really easy to add new shows, push notifications when new episodes are released, downloads that are blisteringly fast over wifi or LTE, support for MP3 chapters, numerous options for fine-tuning storage per podcast and in aggregate, and the ability to create dynamic playlists to control the order and priority of episode playback.

Overcast has been through a few pricing models now, but is currently a free download supported by ads. There is an Overcast Premium in-app-purchase costing $9.99 per year, for ad-free use, file uploads, and some future features. I personally had no hesitation buying the Premium version (Qand thus supporting Marco’s continued development of the app), knowing how many hours I spend listening to podcasts in Overcast every single month!

Overcast watch UIOvercast supports the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and CarPlay. There is also a web version for listening direct from your desktop or set-top device. I could not recommend it more highly.

Head in silhouette with headphones

A few podcast recommendations for 2017

As I mentioned on my recent post introducing the WTF Tech podcast, I’m a massive consumer of podcasts as well as having hosted a few in my time.

My listening habits tend to be whenever I’m alone in the car (or driving my 16-year old geek son around – we tend to trade podcast recommendations), when I’m out walking or running, doing chores, or when there’s mindless work to be done (company accounts, expenses etc.). Across all of those situations, I probably get through 20-30 hours of podcasts a week on average.

Whilst I’ve been a fan of podcasts since the start (2005 or so), there have definitely been phases were I’ve fallen away from listening. In particular, around 2010-12 it seemed as though every podcaster was heading towards video as the medium of choice, rather than straightforward audio MP3s – I personally felt that was a backward step, not that we don’t need informative community-generated video, but that the natural place for news and conversation-led shows is via audio.

There has undoubtedly been a resurgence in podcast production in the past 2-3 years, with a number of focused audio podcast networks growing rapidly – organisations like Relay, 5by5, and The Incomparable are launching new shows on a regular basis.  Meanwhile, major broadcast corporations such as the BBC, CNN and NPR are putting an increasing number of their productions out in podcast format to allow replay and listing offline.

If it has been a while since you checked out podcasts as entertainment, I’d wholeheartedly recommend that you take some time to peruse some of those listed below. There’s some real gold to be found!

So to kick us off, a number of sites have aggregated really comprehensive lists of the best podcasts of 2016, with their first picks:

The Guardian – The 50 best podcasts of 2016:

Mortified

People read highlights from their childhood diaries in front of a crowd of strangers. Wonderfully cringeworthy.
Episode of the year: The Summer Camp Spectacular, largely for the line: “Dear Mum and Dad, I cut my penis when I flunked my canoe test …” Rowan Slaney

The Atlantic – The 50 Best Podcasts of 2016:

1. Heavyweight

Heavyweight explores the tricky business of redemption and estrangement by starting with the premise that to make something right, you have to first get over the idea that someone is at fault. You also have to laugh, to the point of tears, as much as possible. Each episode finds the host Jonathan Goldstein moderating a fraught moment intensified by years of distance: a time when someone broke a promise, or another person’s heart. The hurt is still there—sometimes for everyone, sometimes for just one person who can’t let something go (like the time a man named Gregor lent the then-unknown musician Moby a collection of CDs that were never returned). As Goldstein presides over these thorny divisions, he injects the narrative with a buddy-cop mania, letting the listeners laugh at how flawed his subjects (himself included) are, without ever being demeaning. Goldstein leads special-ops soul-searching missions, seeking common ground between the aggrieved and the blissfully ignorant. With him as the host, Heavyweight can’t help but try to make amends with everyone it seeks out.

Fast Company – Your Must-Listen Podcast Playlist For 2016

Aisha Tyler may be best known for her work on TV—she plays Lana on Archer, hosts The Talk, and has been seen on Criminal Minds, Friends, 24, and CSI—but she also has some serious interview chops that she showcases on her podcast, Girl on Guy. Tyler started out in show business as a stand-up comic and she uses her quick wit and stage-honed reflexes as she interviews the actors, comics, chefs, writers, and Hollywood coworkers who stop by the show to talk about their passions, their lives, and their ideas of fun. Whether she’s hanging in a gaming lounge, kicking it at Comic Con, or throwing back whiskey with her fascinating guests, Tyler is engaging and entertaining.

All three lists offer some really great recommendations, along with terrific descriptions of why you should give them a try. I’ve used them to pick out 5 or 6 new shows to add to my playlists for 2017, including a few that are well and truly outside my comfort zone. The great thing about podcasts is that you can try one episode and simply unsubscribe if you don’t enjoy it.


Next up… my own recommendations.

Now it’s fair to say that I have a heavy tech focus, and within that area I also tend to head towards Apple-biased shows – after all, most of my ‘daily driver’ tech is Apple kit. Definitely not all the shows listed below are that way inclined, but some definitely are. So, with that in mind, and without any further ado, here are my top 10 shows you should try out this year…

1. Hello Internet [iTunes, Overcast]

CGP Grey and Brady Haran talk about YouTube, life, work, whatever.

No question, my favourite podcast of the past year or so, and I wish I’d found it sooner. CGP Grey and Brady Haran are educational YouTube creators, who get together about once every two weeks to chat over a wide variety of interesting topics, usually in a very funny and informative way.  Topics range widely, but have recently covered the New Zealand flag referendum, self-driving cars, the county flags of Liberia, movie reviews, the mighty Black Stump of Australia, and much more.  There’s plenty of YouTube and social media conversation as well, plus a heavy dose of personal productivity. There’s a huge and very loyal following growing around HI, and there is a real sense of community spirit that pervades the show. They even produced a recent episode on vinyl. Why? Just for the fun of it… I really can’t sum it up in a paragraph – just give Hello Internet a try.

2. ATP (Accidental Tech Podcast) [iTunes, Overcast]

Three nerds discussing tech, Apple, programming, and loosely related matters.

Hosted by well known Apple bloggers Marco Arment (co-founder of Tumblr, creator of Instapaper and Overcast), John Siracusa (author of those massive Mac OS X reviews) and Casey Liss (an iOS developer), ATP is ‘accidental’ in the sense that it started out as these three hosts getting together to discuss cars in a podcast called Neutral, that was rapidly cast aside as the tech took over. Topics are mostly Apple news related, but there are regular trips into the world of application development (discussions of the relative merits of Go, PHP, Swift etc.), alternative tech solutions, AI and cars (usually in the after-show). The hosts are insightful, well-informed, funny and never short of an opinion. They are definitely not wholly pro-Apple, that’s for sure. A weekly show, that is also streamed live.

3. Cortex [iTunes, Overcast]

CGP Grey and Myke Hurley are both independent content creators. Each episode, they discuss the methods and tools they employ to be productive and creative. Hosted by CGP Grey and Myke Hurley.

Another show featuring Hello Internet host, CGP Grey. This time he joins Relay co-founder and serial-podcaster Myke Hurley, to discuss their respective creative tools and approaches, the challenges of running small businesses, how they use technology and apps to help them stay efficient and profitable, and their somewhat unusual methods of staying focused on the task in hand (spoiler: one of the hosts uses two Apple watches and as many as 5 iPads in their daily routines!). Published every two weeks.

4. Do By Friday [iTunes, Overcast]

A weekly challenge show hosted by Merlin Mann, Alex Cox, and Max Temkin.

A new show from the very funny Merlin Mann, framed by the three hosts attempting to accomplish a named task by the end of the week (this week’s was ‘take a nap’, last week’s ‘watch an episode of Star Trek: Voyager’ and then to discuss the experience on the show. However, this is really just the start of a very entertaining romp around their lives, the internet and our relationships with one another. Unlike many shows on this list, Do By Friday is relatively new, being only 10 episodes old, so there’s no time like the present to jump in, and then catch up on the back-catalog!

5. Mixed FeelingsMixed Feelings [iTunes, Overcast]

A show about news, politics and pop culture. Every episode, your hosts talk about their favorite stories of the week … and probably at least one random current event that has nothing to do with anything. Hosted by Gillian Parker and Quinn Rose.

Many of the shows listed here are a) tech-related and b) hosted by men. Mixed Feelings is delightfully different. Two US-based students, Gillian Parker and Quinn Rose discuss current affairs, including a heavy focus on the lead up to the US elections and the fall out since. Entertaining, informative and educational, I find this show to be a real breath of fresh air…

6. Canvas [iTunes, Overcast]

Hosted by Federico Viticci and Fraser Speirs, Canvas is a podcast all about mobile productivity. Armed with iOS, Federico and Fraser will be walking through workflows, exploring the best apps for the iPad and iPhone and helping users solve problems.

Despite being an iPad user since the first device was released in 2010, it was only when I switched (almost) full-time to the iPad Pro as my work environment of choice back in the summer that I began to realise the true abilities of the iOS platform from a productivity and creativity perspective – before then, the succession of iPhones, iPads and iPad Minis had primarily enabled consumption and communication triage, anything serious waited for my Mac to be available. This podcast, and the other work of host Federico Viticci, were a significant driver for my switch to making the iPad my workhorse rather than an accessory.

Canvas focuses on how iOS can enable true mobile productivity, whether on the iPad or iPhone, and each week the hosts zone in on a specific area where iOS and third-party apps are delivering benefits.  Their recent series on using the incredible Workflow app is a must-listen for anyone interested in improving their efficiency on the iOS platform. The

7. Community Signal [iTunes, Overcast]

Community Signal is a weekly podcast for community professionals. Social media is set of tools. Community is a strategy you apply to those tools. Marketing brings new customers. Community helps you keep them.

Hosted by Patrick O’Keefe, this show zones in on the art and science of community management – whether on the social web, inside organisations, or in other kinds of online community platforms. Recent shows have discussed the career prospects for community managers, why some associations struggle with online communities, and how to manage interactions with law enforcement if or when they are required.  The host is clearly very experienced in the field, and produces and engaging and educational show. If you come at enterprise social networks and collaboration platforms primarily from the technology aspect, then this show may really widen your perspective as to the methodologies and challenges involved in deploying and managing the communities they enable.

8. The Talk Show with John Gruber [iTunes, Overcast]

The director’s commentary track for Daring Fireball.

For those that aren’t familiar with John Gruber, he is one of the best known Apple commentators, having been around the industry for the best part of two decades – he developed one of the most-respected editors for macOS, BB Edit, invented the Markdown syntax, and writes prolifically on his blog, Daring Fireball. John has hosted podcasts for a number of years, and the latest self-published incarnation is typically a 2-3 hour (yes really!) conversation with a guest co-host from around the Apple community. Perhaps the highlight of The Talk Show back-catalog are annual live shows with Apple executives at WWDC, though my personal favourite is this election-results-night ‘holiday party’ special with Merlin Mann, when neither of the hosts could really bring themselves to discuss the results, instead consoling each other on-air and talking about stuff that makes them happy. A 2 hour+ show may seem like an extravagance, but it is always entertaining and seems like a much shorter show. If I have a long drive to a customer, it’s very often The Talk Show that  I turn to.

9. Unjustly MalignedUnjustly Maligned [iTunes, Overcast]

A pop culture show about the sometimes strange things we love, that other people… don’t. Each episode, comics and games writer Antony Johnston asks a new guest to explain why that thing you hate is actually really great.

There are plenty of pop culture shows out there, and in essence, thats what The Incomparable network is all about. However, this one takes a different tack, instead of the show being about pop culture fandom, it asks the guest to justify their decision to like their favourite publication, movie or series. The format means that you are guaranteed a great conversation, and in most cases, a new entry on your play- or wish-list… 😏

10. Judge John HodgmanJudge John Hodgman [iTunes, Overcast]

John Hodgman’s Today in the Past podcast is now The Judge John Hodgman Podcast. Have your pressing issues decided by Famous Minor Television Personality John Hodgman, Certified Judge.

So here’s your slightly random pick of the bunch! I love John Hodgman – his work on the Apple ads, and many TV chat shows was topped off by his appearance at a tech conference I attended a few years back, where I was hugely happy to get the chance to have a brief conversation with him. Incredibly funny guy. This podcast has a simple setup – a listener emails their issue to John, he hears the evidence and rules on the appropriate decision. Straightforward, huh? Always good fun, and great to have a break from the news and tech of the day!


So there’s ten of my favourite podcasts for you to try out in 2017.  I hope you enjoy the shows!

Do you have any podcast recommendations to share? I’d love to have you add them as comments on this post – that way we can all give them a try…

Awesome Apps

This week’s Awesome Apps: Bear and Infuse Pro (plus a bonus, Duet Display)

Throughout 2017 (and potentially beyond), Monday is going to be Awesome Apps day here at McIntyre Towers. As yesterday was a holiday here in the UK, we’re a day late this time, but we’ll be back on track next week!

Since going iPad Pro back in the early summer, 95%+ of my online hours are now spent on iOS. Between the 12.9″ iPad Pro and iPhone 7 Plus, I am at the stage where almost the entirety of my consultancy business can be run on the iOS platform. This has taken some work, with innovative solutions required for specific elements of my workflows, workarounds needed for where specific vendors do not support admin or creative functionality on mobile, and new apps discovered to replace tried and tested options used on OS X macOS. I’ll spend more time discussing the benefits and challenges of the transition in later posts, so let’s crack on with this week’s apps.

Each Monday I’ll be selecting a couple of tried and tested apps that I use on a regular basis – one that is business or productivity-related and another that adds value during leisure or down time.  Given my professional focus is on collaboration and community, and my work involves documenting and delivering strategic recommendations, facilitating workshops and training large groups of executives and community members, I’d expect that a good number of apps will be useful in those and similar scenarios.

So with that in mind, let’s get started…

Business App of the Week: Bear

Taking Notes

I spend a lot of time in workshops, remote meetings, presentations and on public transport heading to and from customers. In all those situations, it is imperative that I can effectively gather copious and detailed evidence of the discussions and decisions that took place, my thought processes around next steps and recommendations, and to document the actions that will follow. Often the notes are in the form of long bullet lists of key concepts and participant quotes, however there are usually also diagrams involved, photos of whiteboard and flipchart sketches, and the occasional audio recording too. Therefore an app that enables efficient and flexible note-taking is an essential element of my mobile kitbag.

First, Evernote…

Evernote iconLike many in this industry, I’ve spent many years using Evernote for this task.

Evernote was one of the first truly platform-independent note-taking apps, and offered a ton of productivity tools in an relatively easy-to-use freemium app. Whilst it always had its UI oddities and weirdly-implemented features, the ability to easily share notes with others, to capture paper documents quickly and effectively using the Scannable app, and to organise groups of notes into Notebooks were all very powerful.

However, over time it felt as though app development stagnated (at least partly as Evernote started to focus on selling themed accessories such as backpacks and water bottles, rather than the service itself), the organisation model somewhat fell apart as note volumes scaled into the thousands, and the cost of the paid service was increased (currently the top-level plan is £44.99/year). Also, Evernote always seemed to take a little too long to adopt new iOS features, and as an iPad Pro user, it felt as though the Evernote UI didn’t really make the best use of the screen estate available. Lastly, the recent privacy scare suggesting that Evernote employees can read our content hardly gave users the reassurance that their ideas and business IP was safe on the service.

Some Alternatives

So, over the past six months I’ve spent significant periods trying other options in this space. Honourable mentions must go to Apple’s Notes (included in iOS) and Microsoft’s OneNote, plus I’ve tried a number of other smaller third-party apps. Ultimately, none has quite satisfied as my primary notes app.

Apple NotesNotes does a great job in a few areas, most particularly in terms of Apple Pencil support – even a year into Pencil availability, I haven’t yet found another app that does such a fantastic job of responsive interaction with the stylus. It is a real pleasure to sketch out diagrams and schematics in Notes, and annotation works really well. Of course, Apple gets some major advantages in terms of owning the platform itself which clearly helps with Pencil support, but also when integrating with other apps – particularly first-party options like Mail (not that I use Apple’s own apps often). Note sharing and and synchronisation are also well-implemented. However, the rest of the Notes experience has been disappointing – the organisation options are limited (folders, but no tags), and I long for more formatting controls in the Notes themselves.  I also worry about using a first-party Apple tool in terms of being able to fully export content later on, and with major updates being linked so tightly to the annual iOS release

Microsoft OneNote iconOneNote is receiving a lot of positive press since its last update, and it’s fair to say that I’ve been impressed with the UI and the functionality it has offered. As you’d expect, it is truly cross-platform and is free to use on iPhone – to get the full value from the app on iPad, you’ll need an Office 365 subscription. The drawing tools are great, they’ve done a good job of multimedia support, and the UI is as intuitive as Microsoft tools ever are. Whilst I’ve never been a fan of Microsoft Office, I have to say that they’re knocking it out of the park in terms of their recent iOS releases – the apps are way more appealing and enjoyable to use on iPad and iPhone than they have ever been on Windows or macOS.

OneNote iPad screenshotSo all that said, why am I not using OneNote full-time? Whilst it is an impressive app in its own right, I am always fearful of the potential for lock-in to the rest of the Office suite – I’m a real believer (particularly on iOS) of well-integrated best-of-breed apps versus a one-size-fits-all solution that requires subscription to multiple apps that one may not use. Secondly, and more specifically, I’m starting to rely on Markdown as my writing format on choice, and OneNote on iOS does not support this (neither does Notes).

If you’re not familiar, Markdown is a universal text markup language (developed by John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame), that allows text to be formatted using an easy-to-learn syntax thus enabling intuitive text- and keyboard-only writing that is easily transferable between applications and platforms. As use of Markdown becomes increasingly natural – I’m starting to ‘think’ in Markdown these days – support is becoming a non-negotiable when selecting applications. Whilst this isn’t yet the case for everyone, I do think that even the larger app creators (and web platform developers) are starting to get the message that Markdown (or more accurately, MultiMarkdown) is an important standard to support going forward.

So what about Bear?

Bear iconThere is definitely space for an independent note-taking app that competes head on with Evernote, Notes and OneNote, and whilst it is still relatively early days, I definitely believe that Bear is one that has a real chance of doing so.

Bear was released back in the autumn by Italian-based developer, Shiny Frog. Available for macOS, iPhone and iPad, it promises to be a ‘beautiful writing app for notes and prose‘, and I think it hits the mark in a big way.

Bear ipad screenhotIn Bear, all are stored in plain, portable text and hashtags are used to organise content in a flexible and adaptable way to suit your needs. Advanced Markdown is supported, as are multiple alternative formatting options including custom markup shortcuts to allow styles and links to be added with a keystroke or tap. The editor supports and automatically highlights more than 20 programming languages. Images can be embedded inline, and todos can be added to individual notes. Rich previews are available whilst writing so you see prose, not code.

Search is powerful, with options to search for specific types of content using search triggers – e.g. @task to find all your todos, @tagged “ideas” to find your notes that are waiting to blossom, or @files to find all notes with attachments.

Tagging of content is super simple – just include a hashtag in your content, and the note will automatically be tagged with that term. Bear can also group related tags together as sub-tags, e.g. #social/twitter – the ‘twitter’ tag will become a sub-tag of ‘social’. Multi-word tags are also supported – just add a second hash at the end of the tag, e.g. #social/blog platforms#. Cross-note links can also be used to build a body of work, quickly reference other notes, somewhat akin to wiki links.

Bear screenshots

One feature I’m really enjoying is the Focus Mode, allowing notes and other options to be hidden when getting content down is what matters.

Bear screenshotsBear really is as beautiful to use as the developers suggest it is. The design has obviously been very carefully considered, and there are a lot of delightful touches that become apparent as you dive into the more advanced areas of the app.

Bear is available for iOS (iPhone and iPad, including iPad Pro 12.9″ support) and macOS, and is free to download. There is a Pro plan, which costs $1.49 monthly, $14.99 annually, and is bought via an in-app subscription. This includes several of the more advanced features, such as sync between devices, application themes and exporting. I’d purchased the Pro option within a few hours of using the app – that’s how good it is.

Here’s the promo video for the Bear app, demonstrating some of the key features:

If you want to reader a deeper analysis, and to get another independent perspective, check out Federico Viticci’s MacStories review.

I genuinely enjoy using the app on a daily basis, and have migrated both my Evernote and Notes content into the app. I do miss some of the sketching and media options available in Notes, but the capabilities and design of Bear more than compensate, I simply use other apps for those requirements (there we go again, best of breed versus one-size-fits-all…). The scanning and capture aspects of Evernote have been replaced by Scanbot, which has similar abilities, but also supports saving to iCloud, Dropbox and many other services.

I heartily recommend you give the free version of Bear a try. There have already been significant improvements to Bear since it was first released, and even if you don’t migrate across today, it’s well worth having on your device to keep checking back as it develops further.

Leisure App of the Week: Infuse Pro 5

There are no shortage of really impressive video consumption apps on iOS, but the issue is usually getting your videos onto the device versus watching them.  Also, all too often, the attractiveness of the content itself is rather overshadowed by rudimentary user interfaces and ill-conceived menus and options.

Infuse iconInfuse is a freemium app that is simply beautiful to use (not unlike Bear), that really adds to the content you are watching. It supports streaming and local media, two-way trakt sync, subtitles (both stored locally and automatically downloaded) and can cast via AirPlay to AppleTV and to other devices such as ChromeCast, or display via an HDMI or VGA connection. It plays just about any media format (all the way up to 4K), including the standard MP4, M4V and MOV – plus MKV, AVI, WMV, MTS, FLV, OGM, OGV, ASF, 3GP, DVR-MS, WebM, and WTV. Includes fully certified Dolby Digital Plus (AC3/E-AC3), DTS and DTS-HD audio.

Infuse 5Infuse can stream videos stored on your Mac, PC, NAS, Wi-Fi hard drive, UPnP/DLNA apps like Plex and Kodi (XBMC), or from cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive – no syncing required (though you can sync the files locally for offline use as well).

As I mentioned up top, Infuse is gorgeous to use, with an attractive magazine style UI, with media artwork and metadata automatically downloaded and added.  The latest version (Infuse 5) also supports iOS 10 features such as Split View and Picture-in-Picture.

The paid version, Infuse Pro, enables additional video formats, surround sound, AirPlay and Google Cast, videos stored in cloud services and syncing between devices. Infuse 5 Pro is currently $12.99 to download as a standalone app, or bizarrely (probably due to a seasonal discount) is significantly cheaper as an in app purchase upgrade in the free version of the app.

I use Infuse all the time, particularly for loading movies and downloaded YouTube videos onto my iPad before business travel.  I love that I can simply point the app at my Plex server, or at a Mac system and suck down whatever videos I need, which are then auto populated with meta data, images, subtitles and the like. Do give the free version a try, in most cases this will be all you need.

Lastly, a Bonus App… Duet Display.

Duet Display iconThe top paid productivity app in the App Store right now is Duet Display.

This will come as no surprise to those that run both Mac and iPad platforms, as Duet is an app that adds value to both by allowing the iPad (or iPhone actually) to be used by the Mac as an additional display. Simply purchase the app on the iOS device, download the free helper app on the Mac and then connect the two with the usual USB-Lightning cable. The Mac sees the iPad as an additional display, and the standard Mac display options are then available – arrangement, scaling, dock location etc. You can even use touch and/or Pencil input on the iOS screen. It’s fantastic, seriously!

So why mention this as a bonus?

My iMac/iPad Pro/Duet setup
My iMac/iPad Pro/Duet setup

A couple of weeks ago, the Duet Display app was updated with Touchbar support. Yep, that’s Touchbar as in the #1 new feature included in the latest Macbook Pros.

So how does this work? Well it’s definitely of most use on a desktop Mac such as an iMac, Mac Pro or Mac mini. Place your iPad on your desk between your keyboard and your desktop display, connect the iPad to the Mac, start the Duet app and enable the Touchbar option. Now, the Touchbar UI takes up the bottom 1cm or so of the iPad device, with the remainder of the iPad display available to the Mac as your second (or third screen). This faux-Touchbar acts just as the hardware Touchbar does on the Macbook Pro, and automatically adjusts depending on the Mac application that has focus.

Of course, in this scenario, the Touchbar will duplicate the function keys on your hardware keyboard in some situations, but in many cases you’ll gain significant new flexibility in terms of manipulating application features such as video scrobbling, colour selection and so on.

Duet Display is currently on special offer in the App Store and is available for $9.99.

Wrap Up – The Links

Do you use these apps? Or maybe you prefer alternatives?

Let me know what you think… Add a comment below!

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Blogging 365

New Year, New Start and all that… 

Looking back, there’s no doubt that my blogging output has fallen away over the past few years as other forms of social contribution have risen (podcasts, Twitter, enterprise communities), and I want 2017 to be different. 

I love that blog posts are the one form of created content that still offer a continuous timeline from the early days of social media through to today. As other platforms have risen, become popular and then fallen away again, the ability to add content to one’s own hosted blog (and to always retrieve it again) has remained constant. Even as I’ve allowed domains to lapse (and there have been a few!), or shifted blog engines (RIP DominoBlog) it’s been possible to easily consolidate posts and to keep the thoughts and comments they contained online. 

Even if no one ever reads the posts (which thankfully isn’t the case!), there is more than enough value in the journalling aspect to justify the time taken to write and publish.

So, 2017 is going to be the year that I finally get organised and refocus on my blogs, particularly this one. To that end, I’m going to take my own advice that I offer to just about all enterprise community managers, and to get serious about a publishing schedule! A weekly set of planned post categories that reduce writing inertia, making it easier to get the virtual pen to paper, plus space to allow the more creative thoughts to bubble to the surface. 

No more leaving posting to the vagaries of the daily workload, or to the late afternoon when tiredness and family distractions tend to kick in.There’s nothing like a daily to-do notification (or even paper calendar entry) demanding to be checked to not only kick off a new habit but to keep it going. Once a streak is past a month or so in length, it tends to become far less stressful to keep it going than to let allow it to lapse. Well, that’s the experience I’ve had anyway!

2017 is going to be the year of 365+ posts here on Stuart-McIntyre.com. A minimum of one per day. A year to make blogging (and the conversations that it starts) a core element of my personal and professional contribution once more. Better get cracking…

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Droneboarding in 360

Remember that Casey Neistat holiday video I shared a couple of days ago?  (If not, go watch it now, I’ll wait here…)

Well, Casey has now shared the footage from the many Samsung 360° cameras that were used in the shoot, and the footage is impressive to say the least:

Do move your device to see what’s around. On many touch-screen devices, you can do this by sliding your finger across the screen as well.

There’s little doubt that 360° video has been one of the break-through technologies of 2016. I’m looking forward to producing content in this format for community launches and the like in 2017 – so much potential, but also plenty of opportunity for over-use too.

What do you think? Is 360° video a flash in the pan, or here to stay in a meaningful way?

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Introducing a new podcast: WTF Tech

Those who know me well will have realised I have a bit of a thing for podcasts, firstly in terms of consumption (20-30 episodes a week on average since the early days of TWiT back in 2005/6), and then in hosting and producing my own shows (Collaboration Matters, the Lotusphere Podcast, This Week in Lotus, Serendipity) since 2007.

This Week in Lotus album artI’ve made no secret of mourning TWiL – it was so good to get together with Darren Duke and our panel of guests every week for two and a bit years, discussing the burning topics of the day. Of course, we zoned in on news from around the IBM/Lotus community, but you may recall that our focus frequently wandered to other vendors in the tech space – Blackberry, Apple, Microsoft and others fell into view on a regular basis. Darren famously predicted the end for RIM/Blackberry way back in 2011 – an event that seems to have finally occurred just this week with news that they will no longer even be designing their own hardware. We had great fun on the show, produced interesting content, and I believe that TWiL really did help to sustain the community during a difficult period – even if some felt we aired genuine concerns a little too vocally at times!  There is no doubt that the 4-5 hour production effort for a weekly show turned into a bit of a grind over time, particularly when it conflicted with paid consultancy work, but I genuinely would not have changed a minute of the history of that show. In listening back through some of the shows as we recover them to a new site infrastructure, I’ve really enjoyed the conversations and reflected on how relevant many of the discussions still are, and how we foretold many of the changes that have happened to that particular product set.

So at an event in Austin in the summer, two years on from the previous TWiL show, it was fantastic to get together again with Darren (and his wife and occasional TWiL co-host, Lisa). Amongst many other discussions, we came up with the idea of a new podcast that took the best of TWiL in a brand new direction – taking a rather large step away from the IBM/Lotus pond and dashing headlong towards the much larger and rather less stagnant lake of broader enterprise technology.

Alongside the change of target focus area, we agreed that it would be fun to shift from the ever-changing weekly panel model of TWiL to a consistent set of hosts meeting regularly, and thus developing a narrative that would flow from episode to episode. Whilst Darren and I would still co-host the show, we agreed that a third host was needed. It didn’t take us any time at all to agree that Jesse Gallagher was the ideal guy to bring some additional positivity, humour, development tooling insight, a less-cynical younger perspective and all round knowledge of the industry to the party. Thankfully Jesse didn’t run a mile when we asked, and actually jumped at the opportunity – crazy, huh?

To kick things off, Jesse joined Darren and I to put TWiL to bed back in September with a final episode (115: Doing a three-way) discussing the MWLUG event, and offering a final ‘state of the union’ view on the ICS landscape.

And with that, WTF Tech was born… 

A three-way enterprise tech news and opinion show, asking ‘WTF were they thinking!?‘, recording on a semi-regular basis (usually every 2-3 weeks), hosted at wtftech.fm and available in your podcast app of choice.

Thus far we’ve recorded and published three shows (all 50-75 minutes long), with the latest being released yesterday:

  • 001: What have they been doing for two years?!? (discussing that week’s events and announcements from IBM, Microsoft and Apple)
  • 002: Slack Knockoff Fatigue (trying to avoid mentioning the US election, but end up discussing “fake news”, the new UK surveillance law, followup on the new MBP USB-C ports and Touch Bar, plus the newly announced Microsoft Teams)
  • 003: It’s All About Me (taking aim at Fitbit’s acquisition of Pebble, rumours of IBM refactoring Connections using modern web frameworks and the upcoming Connect conference. We then start a new recurring topic reminiscing about old tech, kicking off with first computers…)

You won’t be surprised to hear that we are really rather proud of the shows we’ve recorded so far. Interesting topics, good conversation and lots of laughs. We have even brought back the much-loved tips from TWiL, with a good balance of technology, apps and development tips shared so far.

If this sounds up your street, then please go try out one of the episodes listed above – you can stream it direct from the site. If you like it, subscribe to the show…

Here are a few links that might be helpful:

Have a listen (maybe on your final commutes of the year, or whilst ‘driving home for Christmas’, and do let me know what you think!

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Ruark Backpack II: Wishing Sonos offered something similar

The new BackPack II transforms our R1 deluxe tabletop radio and MR1 wireless speakers into completely portable products. It frees these miniature marvels from the mains power socket and into the bathroom or onto the decking and the great outdoors. Placing batteries inside takes valuable speaker capacity which can result in unrefined sound, but BackPack II allows R1 and MR1 to retain their rich mains powered performance, but with complete portability.

A total evolution of the original, BackPack II attaches seamlessly to R1 and MR1 and once fitted can be left permanently in place as it charges automatically whenever the music systems are connected to a mains power supply. A full charge will deliver up to twelve hours of mains free listening depending on volume.

Whilst the material design of the Backpack II may not be terribly elegant, the use case it solves is a common one (wanting to use a wireless speaker or radio system a distance from a power supply, but still within range of a wifi signal – for example, in the garden or by a pool).  The device can be used with mains power day-to-day, and then disconnected and used on battery power when required.

I’d love to see Sonos or a third party offer a similar solution for the Play:1

(There have been several discussions on the topic on the Sonos community forums, with rumours that Sonos worked on a battery solution for a couple of years but shut it down. One can hope!)

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Sonos Play:1s reduced by $50/£30/€30 in Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale

Excellent saving on the baby Sonos, the play:1.

sonos-bannerA fantastic place to get started with the Sonos experience, to equip a teenager’s bedroom, or to add to a home cinema experience in a main room.

Savings are as follows:

  • US – $199 $149 – Saving $50
  • UK – £169 £139 – Saving £30
  • EU – €229 €199 – Saving €30

Sale ends on Monday 28th November 2016.

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Gil Scott Heron

‘Mandate my ass!’

Not much has changed in 35 years…

Full lyrics (via azlyrics):

Well, the first thing I want to say is: Mandate my ass!

Because it seems as though we’ve been convinced that 26% of the registered voters, not even 26% of the American people, but 26% of the registered voters form a mandate or a landslide. 21% voted for Skippy and 3, 4% voted for somebody else who might have been running.

But, oh yeah, I remember. In this year that we have now declared the year from Shogun to Reagan, I remember what I said about Reagan, I meant it. Acted like an actor. Hollyweird. Acted like a liberal. Acted like General Franco when he acted like governor of California, then he acted like a Republican. Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president. And now we act like 26% of the registered voters is actually a mandate. We’re all actors in this I suppose.

What has happened is that in the last 20 years, America has changed from a producer to a consumer. And all consumers know that when the producer names the tune, the consumer has got to dance. That’s the way it is. We used to be a producer – very inflexible at that, and now we are consumers and, finding it difficult to understand. Natural resources and minerals will change your world. The Arabs used to be in the 3rd World. They have bought the 2nd World and put a firm down payment on the 1st one. Controlling your resources we’ll control your world. This country has been surprised by the way the world looks now. They don’t know if they want to be Matt Dillon or Bob Dylan. They don’t know if they want to be diplomats or continue the same policy – of nuclear nightmare diplomacy. John Foster Dulles ain’t nothing but the name of an airport now.

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can – even if it’s only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse – or the man who always came to save America at the last moment – someone always came to save America at the last moment – especially in “B” movies. And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at -like a “B” movie.

Come with us back to those inglorious days when heroes weren’t zeros. Before fair was square. When the cavalry came straight away and all-American men were like Hemingway to the days of the wondrous “B” movie. The producer underwritten by all the millionaires necessary will be Casper “The Defensive” Weinberger – no more animated choice is available. The director will be Attila the Haig, running around frantically declaring himself in control and in charge. The ultimate realization of the inmates taking over at the asylum. The screenplay will be adapted from the book called “Voodoo Economics” by George “Papa Doc” Bush. Music by the “Village People” the very military “Macho Man.”

“Company!!!”
“Macho, macho man!”
“Two-three-four.”
“He likes to be .. well, you get the point.”
“Huuut! Your left! Your left! Your left, right, left, right, left, right…!”

A theme song for saber-rallying and selling wars door-to-door. Remember, we’re looking for the closest thing we can find to John Wayne. Clichés abound like kangaroos – courtesy of some spaced out Marlin Perkins, a Reagan contemporary. Clichés like, “itchy trigger finger” and “tall in the saddle” and “riding off or on into the sunset.” Clichés like, “Get off of my planet by sundown!” More so than clichés like, “he died with his boots on.” Marine tough the man is. Bogart tough the man is. Cagney tough the man is. Hollywood tough the man is. Cheap steak tough. And Bonzo’s substantial. The ultimate in synthetic selling: A Madison Avenue masterpiece – a miracle – a cotton-candy politician…Presto! Macho!

“Macho, macho man!”

Put your orders in America. And quick as Kodak your leaders duplicate with the accent being on the dupes – cause all of a sudden we have fallen prey to selective amnesia – remembering what we want to remember and forgetting what we choose to forget. All of a sudden, the man who called for a blood bath on our college campuses is supposed to be Dudley “God-damn” Do-Right?

“You go give them liberals hell Ronnie.” That was the mandate to the new Captain Bligh on the new ship of fools. It was doubtlessly based on his chameleon performance of the past: as a Liberal Democrat. As the head of the Studio Actor’s Guild, when other celluloid saviors were cringing in terror from McCarthy, Ron stood tall. It goes all the way back from Hollywood to hillbilly. From Liberal to libelous, from “Bonzo” to Birch idol, born again. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights: …it’s all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it, first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

Nostalgia, that’s what we want…: the good ol’ days, when we gave’em hell. When the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it. To a time when movies were in black and white, and so was everything else. Even if we go back to the campaign trail, before six-gun Ron shot off his face and developed hoof-in-mouth. Before the free press went down before full-court press, and were reluctant to review the menu because they knew the only thing available was…Crow.

Lon Chaney, our man of a thousand faces: no match for Ron. Doug Henning does the make-up; special effects from Grecian Formula 16 and Crazy Glue; transportation furnished by the David Rockefeller of Remote Control Company. Their slogan is, “Why wait for 1984? You can panic now…and avoid the rush.”

So much for the good news….

As Wall Street goes, so goes the nation. And here’s a look at the closing numbers: racism’s up, human rights are down, peace is shaky, war items are hot. The House claims all ties. Jobs are down, money is scarce, and common sense is at an all-time low on heavy trading. Movies were looking better than ever, and now no one is looking, because we’re starring in a “B” movie. And we would rather had…John Wayne. We would rather had…John Wayne.

“You don’t need to be in no hurry.
You ain’t never really got to worry.
And you don’t need to check on how you feel.
Just keep repeating that none of this is real.
And if you’re sensing, that something’s wrong,
Well just remember, that it won’t be too long
Before the director cuts the scene. yea.”

“This ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really ain’t nothing but a movie.”

[Refrain repeated approximately 20 times]

“This ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really ain’t nothing but a movie.”