Posts tagged apps

Door Number One, Door Number Two?
Via Stowe Boyd.

Door Number One, Door Number Two?

Via Stowe Boyd.

cnet:

Apple passes 50 billion App Store downloads

FJP: via CNET, “The person who downloaded the 50 billionth app will get a $10,000 App Store gift card from Apple, and the 50 people who downloaded apps right after that each will receive a $500 gift card.”

cnet:

Apple passes 50 billion App Store downloads

FJP: via CNET, “The person who downloaded the 50 billionth app will get a $10,000 App Store gift card from Apple, and the 50 people who downloaded apps right after that each will receive a $500 gift card.”

Nobody should buy Google’s Chromebook Pixel today. But in five years, we all might have one.

Slate’s Farhad Manjoo has an interesting take on the future of cloud computing. It comes with a review of the Chromebook Pixel that begins like so:

So I’m late to this party. It’s been two weeks since Google unveiled the Chromebook Pixel—a stylish yet mystifying addition to its line of machines that run the Chrome operating system—and pretty much every tech reviewer in the world has already offered his assessment. They all agree, too: With its stylish design and amazing high-resolution touch display, the Pixel is a wondrous machine … and only an idiot would consider buying it.

The Pixel starts at $1,299, but it has a limitation that other high-end laptops don’t: It can run only a single native program, the Chrome browser. Take it away, David Pogue: “If you’re going to spend $1,300, why on earth would you buy a laptop that does nothing but surf the Web?” How about you, The Verge? “Everyone should want a Chromebook Pixel. … But almost no one should buy one.” OK, let’s check in at Gizmodo: “The Chromebook Pixel is amazing. Don’t buy it.”

I wish I could muster up some Slate-worthy contrarianism, but I’m right there with those guys. In the couple weeks that I’ve had the Pixel, I’ve marveled at almost everything about it. Its display is indeed delightful, turning the Web’s ordinarily drab text into the crisp stuff you remember from glossy magazines. Its track pad and touch screen are fantastic; indeed, the Pixel’s is the first track pad not made by Apple that I didn’t want to jab with a sharp stick. Yes, the machine is a little too heavy—at 3.3 pounds it’s about 6 ounces more than the 13-inch MacBook Air, which sells for almost $200 less and does a whole lot more. Yet its extra weight is in keeping with an overall solidity. Made out of dark, precision-machined aluminum, the Pixel looks and feels like a computer designed by Harley Davidson: It’s all sharp, tough angles, and its moving parts are buttery smooth. This thing was made with a lot of care. I hope Apple’s design chief Jony Ive has ordered several of these. As a really rich guy who loves beautiful computers, he’s one of the few people in the world who’d truly appreciate the Pixel.

For the rest of us, the Pixel is foolish, a nice-looking but fatally hobbled bauble…

…So why did Google make it? That’s the mystery I’ve been wrestling with these last few days. And despite the Pixel’s being a nonstarter right now, I’m beginning to think it’s brilliant as an idea, albeit one whose time has not yet arrived. Why? Let me sketch out a few thoughts.

Farhad talks about Google’s potential business model (lowering the laptop’s price and basically wrapping people in all things Google via Chrome). More interesting are his thoughts and predictions on cloud computing and the migration he sees a majority of people making to Web apps that will handle all of what they do.

Five years? It seems too soon. But five years in Internet life is a very long, long time.  

Farhad Manjoo, Slate. The Laptop of the Future.

When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting.

Tagline for LivesOn, a new app launching in March, that will algorithmically post your thoughts after you’ve died. 

Via the Guardian:

Launching in March is a new Twitter app called LivesOn. The service uses Twitter bots powered by algorithms that analyse your online behaviour and learn how you speak, so it can keep on scouring the internet, favouriting tweets and posting the sort of links you like, creating a personal digital afterlife…

"It divides people on a gut level, before you even get to the philosophical and ethical arguments," says Dave Bedwood, creative partner of Lean Mean Fighting Machine, the London-based ad agency that is developing it.

"It offends some, and delights others. Imagine if people started to see it as a legitimate but small way to live on. Cryogenics costs a fortune; this is free and I’d bet it will work better than a frozen head."

I think when I die I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. — Michael

6 reasons why most journalists are underestimating the mobile revolution

Via corybe:

Most newsrooms know that mobile is growing fast.  Everyone can see mobile usage (phones and tablets) creeping up on their desktop numbers. For example, The Guardian recently said mobile visits hit 35%, outpacing desktop at certain hours of the day.  A growing handful of media brands — including where I work at Breaking News — have watched mobile soar over desktop in audience.  And we’ve all seen the stories about the unprecedented growth of tablets, the fastest-growing product in the history of consumer electronics.

Soon, mobile will be the primary way people get their news.

If that’s really the case, then why isn’t mobile dominating journalists’ discussions on Twitter?  Packing sessions at journalism conferences?  Sitting at the top of “most popular” story lists on journalism blogs?

I have a few theories:

Cory Bergman is the general manager of NBC News’ Breaking News and points to social media’s ease of use; the overall newness of mobile as a form factor for delivering news; and the potential threat mobile poses for advertising dependent organizations among other factors that many news organization have been slow to enter mobile. 

Read through for his explanations of each.

See also Jason Pontin’s great article from last year in Technology Review about why publishers don’t like apps. This isn’t to say they don’t like mobile. Instead, Pontin explains why TR ditched their native app in favor of HTML5.

Building USA TODAY’s Election Night Maps
MapBox General Manager Dave Cole walks us through the realtime election mapping platform it created for USA Today for last week’s election.
Via Mapbox:

Throughout the 2012 election cycle, we’ve been fascinated with idea of visualizing realtime election results. On election day starting when voting concludes on the East Coast, newsrooms race to process and visualize vote totals in each of the 50 states, 435 congressional districts, and 3,200 counties across the country. The Associated Press provides a feed of results data aggregated from staff deployed across the country on eight minute intervals. Since nearly all news outlets subscribe to this data, the race to report results first is really about having an incredibly short time to publish, while maintaining a steadfast focus on reliability during what’s often the highest traffic night for news websites. The excitement of the night and availability of a reliable source of fast data make this a really exciting problem to solve.

The stack includes:
Live rendering tile server
Server-side static map image generation
Client-side dynamic image manipulation
SVG vectors with VML fallback
Map Rendering
Geodata Processing
Ultimately, MapBox and USA Today developers then created a JSON API to pull the AP’s XML data in to the application for both Web and mobile display.
Read through to learn how it was done and what tools were used.
Image: iPad view of USA Today’s live election results, via MapBox.

Building USA TODAY’s Election Night Maps

MapBox General Manager Dave Cole walks us through the realtime election mapping platform it created for USA Today for last week’s election.

Via Mapbox:

Throughout the 2012 election cycle, we’ve been fascinated with idea of visualizing realtime election results. On election day starting when voting concludes on the East Coast, newsrooms race to process and visualize vote totals in each of the 50 states, 435 congressional districts, and 3,200 counties across the country. The Associated Press provides a feed of results data aggregated from staff deployed across the country on eight minute intervals. Since nearly all news outlets subscribe to this data, the race to report results first is really about having an incredibly short time to publish, while maintaining a steadfast focus on reliability during what’s often the highest traffic night for news websites. The excitement of the night and availability of a reliable source of fast data make this a really exciting problem to solve.

The stack includes:

  • Live rendering tile server
  • Server-side static map image generation
  • Client-side dynamic image manipulation
  • SVG vectors with VML fallback
  • Map Rendering
  • Geodata Processing

Ultimately, MapBox and USA Today developers then created a JSON API to pull the AP’s XML data in to the application for both Web and mobile display.

Read through to learn how it was done and what tools were used.

Image: iPad view of USA Today’s live election results, via MapBox.

Einstein’s Brain is Now an App
When Albert Einstein died in 1955, a pathologist named Thomas Harvey removed the brain during an autopsy, had it sliced into sections and then stored it in his basement.
Harvey hoped these brain samples would be used by researchers to explore what made Einstein tick and on occasion he’d send out small samples to those who wanted a closer look.
Except for a famous cross country road trip in the 90s where Harvey tried to return it to Einstein’s granddaughter, the brain has sat mostly undisturbed since its original removal.
But now you can explore it via a $9.99 iPad app from the National Museum of Health and Medicine:

Neuroscientists, researchers, educators and the general public now have access to Albert Einstein’s brain via this new iPad app that will allow its users to examine the Nobel Prize-winning physicist’s neuroanatomy as if they were sitting in front of a microscope.
Dr. Thomas Harvey was the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Albert Einstein at Princeton Hospital on April 18, 1955. Dr. Harvey removed the brain for study, segmented the brain into approximately 170 parts, roughly grouped by the various lobes and brainstem, and then sectioned those parts into hundreds of microscope sections. These sections were mounted on microscope slides and stained to highlight both cellular structure and nerve conductive tissue. Harvey’s estate donated the collection to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in 2010. In the spring of 2012, the National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago (NMHMChicago) obtained private funding support to begin digitizing this collection. This app makes available to the public the portion of the collection that has been digitized to-date. Subsequent releases of this app will add additional materials as their digitization can be completed.

So, there’s that. Famous brains are now apps.
Image: Screenshot, Einstein’s brain, via the NMHMC Harvey app (iTunes).

Einstein’s Brain is Now an App

When Albert Einstein died in 1955, a pathologist named Thomas Harvey removed the brain during an autopsy, had it sliced into sections and then stored it in his basement.

Harvey hoped these brain samples would be used by researchers to explore what made Einstein tick and on occasion he’d send out small samples to those who wanted a closer look.

Except for a famous cross country road trip in the 90s where Harvey tried to return it to Einstein’s granddaughter, the brain has sat mostly undisturbed since its original removal.

But now you can explore it via a $9.99 iPad app from the National Museum of Health and Medicine:

Neuroscientists, researchers, educators and the general public now have access to Albert Einstein’s brain via this new iPad app that will allow its users to examine the Nobel Prize-winning physicist’s neuroanatomy as if they were sitting in front of a microscope.

Dr. Thomas Harvey was the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Albert Einstein at Princeton Hospital on April 18, 1955. Dr. Harvey removed the brain for study, segmented the brain into approximately 170 parts, roughly grouped by the various lobes and brainstem, and then sectioned those parts into hundreds of microscope sections. These sections were mounted on microscope slides and stained to highlight both cellular structure and nerve conductive tissue. Harvey’s estate donated the collection to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in 2010. In the spring of 2012, the National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago (NMHMChicago) obtained private funding support to begin digitizing this collection. This app makes available to the public the portion of the collection that has been digitized to-date. Subsequent releases of this app will add additional materials as their digitization can be completed.

So, there’s that. Famous brains are now apps.

Image: Screenshot, Einstein’s brain, via the NMHMC Harvey app (iTunes).

Apple Rejects App That Tracks U.S. Drone Strikes

It seemed like a simple enough idea for an iPhone app: Send users a pop-up notice whenever a flying robots kills someone in one of America’s many undeclared wars. But Apple keeps blocking the Drones+ program from its App Store — and therefore, from iPhones everywhere. The Cupertino company says the content is “objectionable and crude,” according to Apple’s latest rejection letter.

It’s the third time in a month that Apple has turned Drones+ away, says Josh Begley, the program’s New York-based developer. The company’s reasons for keeping the program out of the App Store keep shifting. First, Apple called the bare-bones application that aggregates news of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia “not useful.” Then there was an issue with hiding a corporate logo. And now, there’s this crude content problem.

Begley is confused. Drones+ doesn’t present grisly images of corpses left in the aftermath of the strikes. It just tells users when a strike has occurred, going off a publicly available database of strikes compiled by the U.K.’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which compiles media accounts of the strikes.

FJP: A short demonstration of how the app works (both text alerts and a map-based visualization) can be seen on Vimeo.

In a recent article at the Columbia Journalism Review, Dan Gillmor reminds us how news organizations’ reliance on technology companies is increasingly problematic. For example, and sticking with Apple:

Governments and businesses are creating choke points inside that emerging ecosystem—points of control where interests unfriendly to journalism can create not just speed bumps on the fabled information highway, but outright barricades…

…Consider Apple. The news industry’s longstanding love affair with what has become the most valuable company on Earth expanded with the death of Steve Jobs. But Apple has a long history of controlling behavior. If you create a journalism app to be sold in the iPhone or iPad marketplace, you explicitly give Apple the right to decide whether your journalism content is acceptable under the company’s vague guidelines. Apple has used this to block material it considers improper, including (until the company came under fire for this) refusing for a time to allow Mark Fiore, who has won a Pulitzer Prize for his cartoons, to sell his own app. Given the dominance Apple now enjoys in the tablet market, journalists should have a Plan B. Apple’s paranoia (not too strong a word) and secretive ways have led it to attack journalism itself. In 2004 the company tried to force several websites to disclose their sources in their Apple coverage; the case was a direct challenge to fundamental business-journalism practices. (Note: I played a small role in that case, filing declarations on behalf of the websites that they were engaged in protected journalism.)

Read through to Gillmor’s article for more about how telecommunications providers, government, and entertainment and technology companies threaten journalism and innovation.

Mobile Reporting Field Guide
Students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism have put together a great field guide for mobile reporting.
Available as a PDF or iBook, the guide walks through and evaluates a number of audio, video and photography apps.
Via the Guide:

During the Spring semester of 2012 a small group of students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism enrolled in an eight week mobile reporting course to experiment to see how far they can go only using their wits, drive and the smartphone in their pocket…
…A lot of attention in the news industry has been given recently to the idea of using mobile devices for reporting. This class decided to serve as a case study on how well these devices, apps and third-party accessories work in the creation of multimedia. We attempted find all the accessories that had potential to aid a mobile journalist in the field, then we bought them all…
…This field guide is the result of the hard work of students, Casey Capachi, Matt Sarnecki and Evan Wagstaff.
Each item is presented with a brief review, followed by Pros, Cons and a final rating. Where appropriate we also included sample videos, images and audio so you could judge for yourself.

Multimedia Shooter, Mobile Reporting Field Guide.

Mobile Reporting Field Guide

Students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism have put together a great field guide for mobile reporting.

Available as a PDF or iBook, the guide walks through and evaluates a number of audio, video and photography apps.

Via the Guide:

During the Spring semester of 2012 a small group of students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism enrolled in an eight week mobile reporting course to experiment to see how far they can go only using their wits, drive and the smartphone in their pocket…

…A lot of attention in the news industry has been given recently to the idea of using mobile devices for reporting. This class decided to serve as a case study on how well these devices, apps and third-party accessories work in the creation of multimedia. We attempted find all the accessories that had potential to aid a mobile journalist in the field, then we bought them all…

…This field guide is the result of the hard work of students, Casey Capachi, Matt Sarnecki and Evan Wagstaff.

Each item is presented with a brief review, followed by Pros, Cons and a final rating. Where appropriate we also included sample videos, images and audio so you could judge for yourself.

Multimedia Shooter, Mobile Reporting Field Guide.

thenextweb:

(via A graveyard of cancelled Google products, collected on Pinterest by a helpful Microsoft employee - The Next Web)

FJP: The end of Google’s throw enough at the wall and some things might stick strategy.

thenextweb:

(via A graveyard of cancelled Google products, collected on Pinterest by a helpful Microsoft employee - The Next Web)

FJP: The end of Google’s throw enough at the wall and some things might stick strategy.

An App to Build Your Own Newscast

Knight News Challenge winner Watchup is a curatorial iPad app that allows users to build their own newscasts by self-selecting a series of news stories. Think along the lines of Pulse News but with video.

via Nieman Lab:

Pick 10 stories from 10 channels, then lean back with your morning coffee and watch as the stories roll past without user intervention. Channels cover topics like finance, technology, breaking news, business, and other news categories. The app comes preloaded with 10 channels, but users will be able to customize from a list of about 40 total.

How they hope to make money:

Farano says Watchup plans to generate revenue from pre-roll ads that will air before videos, and the plan is to give news organizations a cut. The trick will be to create an interface that’s appealing enough to users that they’ll abandon engrained habits and be willing to watch ads that they might otherwise be able to avoid. Farano argues it’s also an ideal solution for news organizations like The Wall Street Journal that find they can’t produce enough video to meet advertising demand.

Its funding will come as a venture capital investment rather than a grant.

FJP: Could be wonderful, could be tricky to sustain. Check out the other Knight news Challenge winners here.

Live Streaming as Activism

  • BROOKE GLADSTONE: A lot of people think of live streaming as a paragon of objectivity. Is this really the case?
  • MANS ADLER: No, but it's definitely much harder to fake. I mean, it has the potential of validating things that a lot of other tools have a hard time of validating. Since Twitter is only text, it's very hard for a news editor to validate if someone writes that there is 100,000 people on Tahrir Square at the moment. However, if they are live streaming, then a news editor will be able to send a real time chat saying, can you broadcast to the right, and they will validate that this is going on right here, right now...
  • BROOKE GLADSTONE: …What is the relationship between news outlets and this live streaming?
  • MANS ADLER: A lot of news outlets pick up our videos, use it around their websites or even in their traditional broadcasting scenarios. We have deals with all the public broadcasters in Scandinavia and also a couple of the private ones.
  • When the bomb exploded in Oslo in the 22nd of July this year, there was a person starting a live broadcast, and he - with the bomb they had taken out, and that video was directly picked up by the Danish national broadcaster. So it took four minutes from he started his broadcast until that broadcast was live on the television in the market.
  • FJP: Mans Adler is a co-founder of Bambuser, a live streaming mobile app. Read on at http://wny.cc/JzCDUn

Learning to Finger Paint

Last weekend I bought Brushes, a digital finger painting app for iOS devices created by Taptrix.

While my drawing talents haven’t improved much since the second or third grade, I thought finger painting would be a great way to occupy my daily subway rides. Besides, there’s aspiration going on here: Jorge Colombo created five New Yorker covers using the app.

Here’s some general background: Brushes, as the name suggests, is a painting app that uses brushes. If you’ve used Photoshop, they’re the exact same thing. The app has 19 different ones and you can change each one’s size and overall style with some sliders that give you overall control.

Importantly, the app also uses layers so you can draw on top and underneath objects. The layers aren’t limitless so you end up using a few and then merging them when you have the need to move on to a different part of your picture.

Other essentials include a color picker, paint bucket for large fills, and opacity and brush size control. The eraser is handy and the history and redo controls are image saving.

So, a few days into my drawing with Brushes extravaganza, here’s what I’ve discovered:

  • My fingers are fat, maybe a little too fat: I’m using Brushes on an iPad and while I can zoom in on specific parts of an image to work on a detail, and am getting more facile with this the more I use it, I’m thinking of getting a stylus.
  • Drawing on an iPad in the subway is a great conversation starter: four or five people have come up to me over the past few days and asked about the app.
  • I need to practice more: I’m finding this very addictive so this shouldn’t be a problem.

If you want to see how people are using Brushes, and what its potential is, check the Flickr user group. And if vector’s more your thing, Taptrix has another iOS app called Inkpad.

Images: Chickens are People Too, by me (Michael Cervieri); various screenshots of the Brushes app showing layers, color pickers, and brush types.

UK newspapers reveal Saturday-only sales for first time

New figures have revealed the extent to which UK national newspaper Saturday circulations far exceed sales on Monday to Friday.

The shift in reporting the circulation figures for particular days, instead of lumping them together may seem like a small change to reporting figures but it also signals the beginning of a seismic shift in the business model of UK newspapers. If Saturday is the best day to publish a newspaper, maybe it’ll become the only day?

As the shift to online reporting via iPad, apps and the web itself continues, we could see newspapers using their websites during the week and the Saturday edition become bumper packages with more long form journalism, features and lifestyle stories.

This could be a long-drawn out affair or a quick one - after all, The Economist has seen steady increases in readership and initiatives like Matter show that there is an appetite for less noise in users consumption of news. Intriguing times.