Our favorite iOS Apps, August edition

August 14th, 2014 | Edited by | software


As we do every month, Macworld staffers got together to chat about the best apps they’ve been using recently. Here are some that have recently captured our imaginations (and perhaps a spot on our homescreens), whether they’re tiny apps from budding developers or the top-grossing apps that everyone is using. Our hope is that, while you might recognize some of these apps, others you might never have encountered. All of them, we think, are worth a look.

Serenity Caldwell: Fly


Recently I’ve been experimenting with different ways of filming and stitching together bits of my everyday life, in order to keep in touch with my far-flung family. Fly (free; up to $10 in-app purchase for full features) may be my most recent test, but it’s also quickly become one of my favorites to play with.
The thought process behind Fly is simple: Record up to four videos (either in the app or elsewhere), then bring them into the Fly timeline and use the app’s innovative multi-touch gestures to quickly sew together a fun little video. The emphasis here is on short (under five minutes), visual, musical videos; there’s no way to fiddle with adding text or time transitions. It’s a delightful little app, and it already has me sharing videos a lot more often than I used to. And that’s not even counting its Multi Cam option, which lets you feed in live video from other iOS devices running Fly.

Dan Frakes: Bike Repair


When I was a kid, I loved working on my bike. It was a single-speed BMX, and I would put it together, take it apart, and tweak and tune it in-between. In the intervening years, my bikes have gotten more complex, but my repair skills haven’t kept up. Which is why I’m a fan of Atomic Software’s Bike Repair ($4). This universal app offers 58 repair guides, and 95 “tips and tricks” for fixing problems, keeping your bike in top riding shape, and even helping you avoid common injuries that stem from poor bike fit.
Browse bike components, and the app shows common repairs and maintenance for each component—mostly basic things, but also more-advanced tasks. Choose a repair or maintenance task, and Bike Repair shows you detailed information and an illustrated guide. The app includes over 300 annotated images, and while the font used on these photos looks a bit amateurish, the information is nevertheless easy to read.
One of my favorite features is My Bikes, which lets you document your bike’s parts, specs, and other information—when you’re at the bike shop, you’ve got everything you need to find the right part. (You can also keep a log of all maintenance you perform.) And Price Search checks over a dozen online vendors for the best price on a part or accessory. It’s a handy app for those of us who cycle for recreation and would like to be a little more self-sufficient.

Dan Miller: Timeful


There are plenty of calendaring apps for iOS—and by “plenty,” I mean “way, way too many.” And the one I’ve been using for years—Fantastical—is plenty good. So why am I trying out a new one? Because Timeful does things a bit differently.
Oh, sure, it has all the usual calendaring accoutrements: daily and monthly views; syncing with OS X’s Calendar, Google Calendar, and Microsoft Exchange; alarms; repeating events; to-do lists; and so on. But it also has some things most other calendaring apps don’t.
For example, it’ll intelligently suggest times on your schedule when you could take care of items on your to-do list. (You can also simply drag to-do items from the list at the top of the day’s window to a specific time.) In a similar vein, it also lets you schedule time to work on good habits—exercise, reading, and the like—that often get crowded out of the day because they aren’t on your calendar. I do wish the app synced with Reminders, my current to-do manager, but the developer said that doing so caused them some UI problems. Will I stick with Timeful? Who knows? I suppose I could always add Use Timeful to the list of habits I want to work on.

Dan Moren: PDF Expert 5


I don’t spend a lot of time marking up PDFs, but when I do, I’ve started turning to Readdle’s PDF Expert 5 ($5). The reasons are pretty clear: not only is it a speedy, well-performing app, but it offers a broad swath of options for annotation. But some of my favorite features may seem almost minor, such as the broad variety of font face and size options that are right at your fingertips.
Add in Readdle’s usual aplomb at dealing with a variety of cloud storage and other network sources, and handy file management features, and what you get is a simple, elegant app that handles PDFs extremely well.

Source: www.macworld.com

How private NAS beats the public cloud for small business

August 12th, 2014 | Edited by | software


The public cloud offers extra features like automated offsite backup – but did you know you can get these things and more with a private cloud solution as well? Here’s a look at three ways private NAS setups are becoming a preferable option for small businesses.


Opening the door for affordable virtualization services

NAS has come a long way since its origin as a system for secure, on-site data storage. Today’s NAS devices can serve as platforms for virtualization services that would otherwise require expensive and complex hardware to manage. The opportunity to take advantage of NAS as a more economic alternative to a pricey contract with a company like VMWare is a huge benefit for small businesses.

QNAP’s Virtualization Station allows you to create virtualized desktops that run Windows, Linux, or Unix operating systems and manage them all from one simple interface. You can assign separate network resources to each virtual machine, and create snapshots of each virtual machine’s status at any point in time. If a VM experiences a failure, you can quickly roll things back to an earlier environment. The biggest advantages to using NAS for virtualization are cost (virtualization is built right into the NAS) and safety (file transfers are delivered within the LAN, instead of over the Internet).

Security and stability you can trust

When it comes to ensuring your data is safely stored, it simply doesn’t get any better than using a QNAP Turbo NAS. Public cloud services have recently come under fire for breaches caused by hackers and lengthy service outages that have left customers unable to access their data for hours. With a locally hosted NAS device, uptime is no longer a question mark, and your data is always accessible rather than potentially held hostage by the vagaries of the unstable Internet.

Furthermore, your data is always protected by multiple security measures while it resides on your NAS. Sensitive files are encrypted, and unapproved IP addresses are automatically locked out by Turbo NAS software. Integrated antivirus detection (with email notification) and full military-grade encryption on both internally and externally connected hard drives give you excellent all-around protection from security breaches and malware.

NAS boosts the benefits of the public cloud

Public cloud services like Microsoft Azure and Amazon S3 are convenient ways to add storage on a pay-as-you-go basis. But setting up these services on multiple client computers can be complicated and time-consuming. More importantly, when you’re finished, you’re left with only a single cloud-based copy of your data as a backup.

With QNAP Turbo NAS, you can use Azure and S3 directly through your own private QNAP hardware. With S3 and Azure – both available as apps for the QNAP Turbo NAS – you simply back up data from your network directly to your Turbo NAS, then use the app to make a secondary backup that’s sent to Azure or S3. That way, you maintain a local copy of your data on your own network, and a second copy resides in the public cloud, letting you double down on backup security. These apps even increase your level of data protection through the addition of client-side encryption and the ability to restore accidentally deleted data.

Public cloud and private cloud services can coexist, working hand in hand to ensure your company’s data is safer, easier to manage, and faster to access. You can reap the benefits of each by using the public cloud where it makes sense, but leveraging the cost savings and superior speed of a NAS-based private cloud to pull off many of the same tricks more sensibly.

Source: www.pcworld.com

Apple announces OS X Yosemite, deepens its ties to iOS

July 31st, 2014 | Edited by | software


Apple on Monday 30th jun announced that the next version of the Mac OS—dubbed OS X Yosemite, after the popular National Park in California—will be available as a free upgrade to the public this fall.
The jam-packed operating system update features a significant user interface overhaul, rich with bright colors and translucent effects, plus numerous changes to the visual identity of almost every system app that brings them closer to their iOS counterparts. The interface now also comes with a “dark” mode, which dims system elements like the Menu and Dock and allows apps to be more prominent.
The changes, however, are more than skin deep, as many system components have been updated and improved. Spotlight, for example now appears as a convenient text box in the middle of the screen and provides access to information from a large variety of sources, including the various App Stores. Notification Center is now fully customizable—and includes support for third-party widgets.


Among Apple’s own apps, Safari now sports a slimmer interface that leaves more room for content, and includes improved support for advanced Web technologies such as CSS and WebGL. Mail’s improvements include the ability to annotate and even sign messages and attachments directly within the app, and sharing them with others.
The company’s services ecosystem will also experience several improvements when Yosemite hits the digital shelves: iCloud gains a new Drive feature, which offers access to file-based cloud storage à la Dropbox. A new feature, called Continuity, allows users to begin tasks on one device and continue them seamlessly on another, and is based on the same technology as AirDrop, which will finally work across both iOS and OS X.
Speaking of iOS, the integration between Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems now extends to the ability to easily share cellular phone calls and SMS messaging, with support for both baked right into OS X, which will be able to make and receive calls seamlessly, so long as an iPhone is within reach and paired via Bluetooth.
In a departure from tradition, the company will also institute a public beta program that will allow users to test the new operating system before its general availability, regardless of whether they are part of the company’s developer program.

Source: www.macworld

Apple tech note illuminates purported ‘backdoor’ services

July 29th, 2014 | Edited by | software


Just a couple days after a security researcher alleged that iOS contained “backdoor” access to user information, Apple has posted a knowledge base article explaining many of the systems that were under scrutiny.
In the article, iOS: About diagnostic capabilities, Apple calls out three services: a packet capture tool called “pcapd,” one called “file_relay,” and a third dubbed “house_arrest.” According to Apple, all three of these technologies are used “to help enterprise IT departments, developers, and AppleCare troubleshoot issues.” The company also emphasized that users must unlock their devices and connect them (via a cable or iTunes Wi-Fi Sync) to a trusted computer for the information to be retrieved; and even then, data transferred between the two is encrypted, and the keys are not shared with Apple.
Only a brief overview is provided for each of the three tools. Pcapd is intended for diagnostic packet capture—that is, network troubleshooting—and determining problems with third-party apps and enterprise VPN connections. Further information is available in documentation on packet traces in Apple’s iOS Developer Library.


File_relay, which security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski called the “biggest forensic trove of intelligence” on iOS devices, is, according to Apple, intended for “limited copying of diagnostic data from a device.” The company also says it’s separate data from backups that user makes, can’t access everything on the device, and respects third-party encryption. It’s specifically used by Apple engineering on internal devices and, in some cases, by AppleCare, for diagnostic purposes.
Finally, house_arrest is the tool underlying iTunes File Sharing, letting you copy documents to and from third-party apps that support it. Xcode also uses the service to transfer test data for apps in development.
While Apple’s tech document may not allay all concerns about these tools—specifically that they, in some cases, seem to have a broader access than is really necessary for certain diagnostics—the fact that Apple unabashedly posted a tech document describing them does take a certain amount of air out of the argument that any of these are “secret backdoors” intended for snooping on users.
More to the point, Cupertino appears to be continuing to uphold the transparency that it’s touted around privacy issues. That’s the attitude we’ve come to expect from Apple, and it’s good to see the company live up to that.

Source: www.macworld.com

‘It has to be able to fit their buttocks’: Foxconn CEO mocks curved displays on phones

July 26th, 2014 | Edited by | hardware


The curved displays on new smartphones coming from Korea were the target of a joke by Foxconn Technology Group’s CEO, who mocked the products as phones designed to fit the rears of consumers.
“People are talking about, wow, displays that can transform, but they forget that you have to be able to use the device,” Terry Gou said at the company’s shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday.
Both Samsung Electronics and LG have come out with smartphones built with curved screens, but Gou is less than impressed with the technology. The Taiwanese manufacturing giant assembles Apple’s iPhone and also competes in building TVs.
Gou recounted visiting the show booth of one of the Korean companies, where he asked the sales reps why the curved displays were needed.


“They explained that if the men want to put a large phone into their jeans, it has to be able to fit their buttocks,” he said. “This is a company ranked worldwide number 1, number 2 in displays, and their marketing is saying this.”
Gou also dismissed a sales point that the curved phones are easier to hold when making phone calls. “Do you listen to your phone, or do you look at your phone? You look at them. So if you look at them, why do you need a curved screen?” he recounted saying to the sales rep. “If it’s a curved screen, then you won’t be able to see the display clearly.”
It’s not the first time Gou has taken a job at his Korean competitors. He has reportedly vowed to beat Samsung in the display business.
Despite Gou’s complaints, some critics are liking the curved displays found on the phones. “The bend in its body actually makes it easier to hold,” wrote TechHive of LG’s G Flex phone, adding, “It makes the phone feel more ‘premium’ than it actually is.”
Foxconn plans to respond to its rivals with its own smartphone innovations. On Wednesday, Gou said the company was developing one such handset built with a 35-megapixel camera that sits flat on a device’s surface. “If you want a 35-megapixel camera on a phone now, you need to buy it as an attachment,” he said. “What we are working on will be flat.”

Source: www.pcworld.com

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