Support this Kickstarter campaign to help to relieve refugee crisis

Support this Kickstarter campaign to relieve refugee crisis

UN Refugee Agency, together with Kickstarter, is running a special campaign for the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe. 

This isn’t a typical Kickstarter project. There’s no all-or-nothing funding goal. The rewards are all about giving, not getting. And we’ll be donating 100% of our usual fee to support these aid efforts.

Millions of refugees are driven from their homes by violence and war, many have crossed nations on foot and open water, carrying little possessions with them. More than half of them are under 18. They need help. Visit the campaign to help if you can.

6 notably hyped apps in first half of 2014

Hype for an app can be a result of it being good, bad, addictive or disruptive. Irregardless, we highlight 6 such apps that caught our attention in the first half of 2014.

Flappy Bird

 notably hyped apps in first half of 2014 angry bird

Angry Bird is undoubtedly the most talked about mobile game so far this year. It was released in 2013 and received huge rise of popularity in early 2014. It is additive but was also criticised for its difficult level and alleged plagiarism in game arts. The Vietnam-based developer Dong Nguyen had removed the game from App Store in February due to “his guilt over the additive nature of the game”.  This take-down did not stop the demand for Flappy Bird download, and resulted in a dozen or so Flappy Bird clones occupying the App Store game chart days after the removal. 

2048

notably hyped apps in first half of 2014 2048

2048 is a puzzle game that is compared to Angry Bird for its addictiveness and numerous spinoff clones. Created by 19-year-old Italian Gabriele Cirulli, the game design is inspired by Threes! and was initially available as a web app with its source code readily available to the public. Cirulli has since ported the game to iOS and Android.

Secret

notably hyped apps in first half of 2014 secret

Secret allows you to share picture and message anonymously with your circle of friends, friends of friends or the public. Founded by ex-Googlers David Byttow and Chrys Bader-Wechseler, the app is one of the leading app in the anonymous sharing space. Such apps oppose the openness of sharing platform such as Facebook or Google+. The ethicacy of anonymous sharing is debatable, just be cautious of what you share or who you trust if you intend to try out the app.

Monument Valley

notably hyped apps in first half of 2014 monument valley

Monument Valley must be one of the most beautiful looking puzzle games on the App Store. In the game, you direct Princess Ida to unlock mechanics and clear the path through to each levels map exit. Monument Valley is a winner of Apple Design Award 2014. 

Tinder

notably hyped apps in first half of 2014 tinder

Tinder is a location-based app that uses your Facebook profile for match making. The app analyses your social graph and select potential candidates who are likely to be compatible to you. With a simple tapping or swiping, you select or reject those you like. If two users like each other it is a match and Tinder then introduced each other and open a chat room for both.  

Yo

notably hyped apps in first half of 2014 yo

Yo is an app with the sole function of sending your friend the word “yo”. It is so simple and brain-dead that one might wonder how could it be popular. It has over a million downloads and was able to reach number 3 in App Store chart ranking. Truly hyped.

Basic command line editing keyboard shorcuts in OS X

Basic command line editing keyboard shorcuts in OS X 

This post is part of a series of tutorials on OS X command line. Please read the following first to get started:

We continue our exploration of OS X command line by highlighting editing keyboard shortcuts in the Terminal app. These keyboard shortcuts described are the default editing settings for a terminal running bash shell under OS X. Many of the keyboard shortcuts will also work in standard text field you encountered in any Mac app.

  • Right Arrow or Control-F to move the cursor forward one character
  • Left Arrow or Control-B to move the cursor backward one character
  • Delete key or Control-H to delete one character
  • Control-D to forward delete one character
  • Control-A to move the cursor to the beginning of line
  • Control-E to move the cursor to the end of line
  • Control-K to delete everything from under the cursor to the end of line
  • Control-U to delete everything from under the cursor to the beginning of line
  • Control-W to delete from under the cursor to the beginning of the word
  • Esc-F to move forward one word
  • Esc-B to move backward one word
  • Control-R to recall previous command by searching through command history
  • Control-T to transpose (swap) with one another the two characters before the cursor
  • Esc-T to transpose (swap) with one another the two words before the cursor
  • Up Arrow or Control-P to go back previous commands in history
  • Down Arrow to forward previous commands in history. It is the reverse of Up Arrow/Control-P.
  • Tab to auto-complete name of file, folder or program
  • Control-L or Command-K to clear the screen 

The above is not an exhaustive list of all editing shortcuts and capabilities, but is sufficient as a starting point to get you productive on the command line.

4 things Windows users probably should not do when migrating to OS X

There are fundamental differences between Windows and OS X for its user interface, security model and design principle. If you’re new to OS X coming from years of using Windows, it might take a while to get comfortable working in OS X. 

The best way when adopting OS X is not to resist the changes. You should adapt to Mac’s way of doing things, rather than bending OS X, installing utilities to make it behaving like Windows.

1. Natural scrolling

Things Windows users should not do when migrating to OS X

In OS X, when you swipe up with two fingers on the trackpad, the content moves up. This is Natural Scrolling and is the default behaviour since OS X Lion. Natural Scrolling follows the behaviour of iPhone/iPad and Apple touted it as the “right way” to be doing scrolling. 

Natural Scrolling is the reverse of what Windows users have been accustomed to all these years. There are setting in System Preferences > Trackpad to reverse this behaviour but it is not recommended. Stick to the default natural scrolling and its a matter of time for it to feel natural to you.

2. Function keys 

On Mac’s keyboard, the top row keys are for system controls such as screen brightness, volume level and media playback etc. Function keys are delegated for secondary purpose as you’d have to press and hold the fn key in order to access the F1, F2, F3…F12 functions.

Things Windows users probably should not do when migrating to OS X function keys

You can switch things around in System Preferences > Keyboard so that you don’t need to press and hold the fn key to use them as function keys.

You probably would want to keep the default behaviour as function keys are not commonly used by Mac apps. Unless you’re using an app that makes heavy use of function keys, it is more convenient to just use the keys as system controls.

3. Windows software

It is common for new Mac users coming from Windows to install a copy of Windows on their Mac, either using a Boot Camp partition or a virtualization software such as VirtualBox, Fusion or Parallels.

Mac and OS X is now a common platform. Many apps and games that were Windows only are now making it to OS X or have a web-based version. You should switch to use Mac or web-based equivalent apps as part of moving to OS X. Unless you have an enterprise app that is Windows only, you should be able to move off Windows apps and remove Windows completely from your Mac.

4. Anti-Virus software

It is not uncommon for Mac user to not have any anti-virus software installed. OS X includes everything it needs to help you to protect it from viruses and malware. With common sense and caution, you can be free from ill-intended software on your Mac without an anti-virus software.

There is still a debate if anti-virus software is needed for a Unix-like operating system such as OS X. Anti-virus software gives you peace of mind but it has the potential of slowing down and destabilise your Mac.

You probably should consider an anti-virus software, but it should not be the first software on your mind and on your Mac especially if you’re a savvy computer user.

9 essential new features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite

Apple unveiled tons of details at the WWDC keynote about its next-generation iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. New end user features are demoed and new platform technologies are introduced. Many developers are overwhelmed by the amount of new info and excited by the possibilities. We handpicked 9 essential new features and technologies that are likely to change how you use your Mac and iOS devices.

1. iCloud Drive 

Essential new features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive is your files and folders in iCloud. You can add any files and folders and organise them with tags. Adding files is simple, just drag them into iCloud folder in your Mac. Or you can create new files using apps that save to iCloud.

iCloud Drive is Apple’s answer to Dropbox. iCloud Drive has many advantages to other cloud drive providers by being tightly integrated with iOS and OS X, and there is not a need for another user account and login.

2. Health and HealthKit

Health is an iOS app that stores your health info such as blood types, allergies, heart rate and blood sugar. It gives you a dashboard view of your health in one glance and contains your health info for emergency purpose.

Essential new features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite HealthKit

Health app is meant to be a central depository that collects health data from all health and fitness apps and devices. Apple is publishing a HealthKit for developers to enable their apps to work well together with Health app.

3. Family Sharing

Family Sharing allows up to six family members to share their music, movies, TV shows, books purchases from iTunes and App Store. No longer is there a need for all family members to share one Apple account. Each member can have his/her own Apple account, and sharing can be enabled as long as members are using the same credit card number.

Essential new features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite Family Sharing

Purchases by your kids can now be setup to request for permission from you for approval. This will reduce ‘unauthorised’ purchases and will safeguard your wallet.

Other than purchases, Family Sharing can also setup to share photos and videos, a family calendar and location. You can even track each other’s iOS device using Find My iPhone app. 

4. Continuity

One emphasis by Apple in this keynote is the so called ‘Continuity’ effort. It is an effort by Apple to build features that enables a seamless experience when using your iPhone, iPad and Mac together.

Essential new features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite Answer Call on Mac

You can make and receive iPhone calls and text messages on your Mac without picking up the iPhone. For example you can answer an iPhone call on your Mac while your iPhone is ringing in another room.

Handoff is a feature developer can add to app to make it aware when iOS device is near a Mac and vice versa. You can for example edit an email on your iPad, and then walk over to your Mac and pick up and finish writing your email on your Mac.

Instant Hotspot makes it trivial to connect to your iPhone’s personal hotspot and get online with your Mac.

5. Extensions

Apple has finally open up by allowing more inter-app communications by means of extensions. Apple is slow to launch this much requested feature due to its secure by default design.

iOS apps and OS X apps on the App Store are sandboxed. Each app has no access to data outside of itself. This makes it safe and consequently inconvenient when it comes to data sharing between apps. Extensions is Apple’s effort to add flexibility for data sharing among apps.

Essential new features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite Extensions

Third party apps can now create widgets which can be added to Notification Center in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. This allows quick access to app info without opening up the app.

Third party camera apps can now expose their filters as extensions. These extension filters can then be called up and applied to picture right from within Photo app.

Developers can now add extension to website for use within Mobile Safari. One example is an extension by Pinterest that allows you to pin picture right within Safari. Or an extension that translate the language for the text on a website.

Developers can now customise the system Share and Action sheets to add their own extension items.

Third party keyboard can now be used to replace the stock system keyboard. 

Storage providers such as Dropbox, Google Drive can add their storage extension to iOS and OS X. The storage services will then be selectable as options when user is using the system wide document picker.

6. Touch ID API

Essential new features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite Touch ID

Touch ID is introduced with the launch of iPhone 5s last year. This year’s new iPhone and iPad are all expected to come with the finger-print scanner. Apple has created an API in iOS 8 to allow third party apps to make use of Touch ID as authentication mechanism. We foresee this to be widely adopted by third party apps.

7. HomeKit

HomeKit is Apple’s technology and standard protocols to enable developers to make use of iPhone as controller to smart devices in your home. One example cited in the keynote is to give the voice command “Get ready for bed” on your iPhone, and your home will automatically dim the lights, shut the garage doors and lock the doors.

8. SpriteKit, SceneKit and Metal

There is a noticeable push of gaming API in this WWDC keynote. SpriteKit and SceneKit, Apple’s 2D/3D frameworks for casual gaming are greatly enhanced in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. What surprised everyone is the introduction of a new Metal framework which aims to retire the standard OpenGL framework.

Metal is designed to be closed to the GPU and makes console-quality games possible in iOS devices. This seems to suggest that a new AppleTV with games is likely this fall.

9. Swift programming language

Objective-C is the current de facto programming language used to create apps for iOS and OS X. Apple bombed its developer community by announcing a new programming language called Swift that is meant to replace Objective-C. Swift has a modern design, safe and is faster than Objective-C.

Essential new features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite Swift

The early feedback on Swift has been mostly favourable. By adopting a modern, enabling and more powerful language, Apple is making iOS and OS X a more enticing platform to create better quality apps.

Getting around the Terminal in OS X

The Terminal app in OS X presents an old school command line interface, but sports modern configuration to change the font, background color and other advanced shell options. Go to Terminal app’s Preferences… and click on the Settings tab to configure terminal settings.

Getting around the Terminal in OS X Default Profile

Profiles

Settings are grouped under profiles and Terminal comes with a number of stock profiles such as Basic, Grass, Homebrew, Man Page, Novel etc to get you started. Each profile comes with a separate configuration for the font, background color, window, shell etc settings. You then specify the profile to use when you open a new terminal window.

Getting around the Terminal in OS X using profile

You can specify a profile as default by selecting the profile and click on the Default button at the bottom. The default profile is the settings used when you open a new terminal window using Command-N.

You can add a new profile by clicking on the ‘+’ button. And you can remove a profile using the ‘-‘ button. When creating a new profile, it is advisable to duplicate the settings of one of the stock profile.

Getting around the Terminal in OS X Duplicate Settings

Tabs

It is typical for person who is fluent in using command line to open a number of terminals while working on their Mac. You can open terminals in separate windows, or you can open them in tabs similar to Safari and Finder. Use Command-T to open a new terminal in a tab. 

Getting around the Terminal in OS X Tabs

Give it a try to see if working with tabs suit you better. It is a matter of personal preferences.  

Closing a terminal

You can close a terminal in a window or tab by using Command-W. Or you can simply close the terminal window by clicking on the red close button at top left corner of window. These are OS X system methods of closing window, and is forcefully closing your terminal including any running commands.

To properly end a terminal session, it is a good habit to enter the exit command instead. This will ensure no hanging running process and a clean exit.

Getting around the Terminal in OS X Exit

Once the exit command is entered, bash shell will logout your session and display a message “[Process completed]”.

At this point the terminal is dead and you can no longer enter any further command. The terminal window however is left open and you have to issue Command-W to close it. You can setup your terminal profile so that window is automatically closed after an exit command.

Go to Terminal > Preferences > Settings and select the profile. Under Shell tab for the option When the shell exits, select the option Close if the shell exited cleanly.

Getting around the Terminal in OS X close window

Note: This is a continuation post of a series of tutorials on OS X command line. Please read the post Basic OS X command line utilities and tips to get started.

9 tips for great iPhone photography

iPhone is not the most capable camera in the world, but it is the best camera in the world as it is always with you. For many, iPhone is replacing the compact camera and is the only camera for them. In proper hands, photos from iPhone can be stunningly great. Here are 9 quick tips to get you started into the world of iPhone photography.

1. Learn to quick launch Camera app

The Camera app can be accessed from the lock screen by swiping up from the camera icon at right bottom corner. It is also available from the Control Center at the bottom right corner.

Tips for great iPhone photography quick access control center

It pays to learn to be able to activate Camera app quickly. This is to ensure you do not miss out any opportunity shots.

2. Hold your iPhone steady

As with any camera, hold your camera steady while taking a shot to reduce blurry pictures. Blurry photo will appear sharp when view on the small screen of iPhone, but all the defects are apparent when looking at it on your desktop screen or HDTV.

Hold the phone with both hands to keep your iPhone steady. And use the Volume Up button as camera shuttle. The idea here is to avoid or reduce relying on tapping on the on-screen shutter button.

For truly steady shots, mount your iPhone into a tripods and use the volume up button of the earphone as remote shuttle.

iOS 7 comes with auto image stabilization feature to reduce motion blur and hand shakiness. This aids to reduce blurry shots but is no replacement for steady hands.

3. Do not use zoom

Optical zoom is achieved by magnifying image through camera lens. This magnification via optical physic keeps the image distortion free. This is in contrast to digital zoom, which enlarges the pixel of captured image to result in loss of picture detail. 

iOS device does not come with an optical zoom. Thus it is not advisable to use the zoom feature in iPhone or iPad. 

Instead of zooming, use your feet and move closer to your subject.

4. Have ample light

The latest iPhone 5/5s is capable of low light photography, but its small sensor makes taking proper exposures under dim light a challenge. This is especially true when you are shooting indoor during day time. Turn on the lights and the camera will thank you by giving you great looking pictures.

iPhone’s camera works best with abundance of light. But you need to avoid shooting directly into the sun. Position your subject so that the sun is behind you the photographer.

If you can’t avoid shooting with bright lights behind your subject, turn on the flash to reduce the shadows and to reveal more detail in the photo.

5. Turn on grid

Grid is a helpful on-screen aid that can serve two purposes. The first is to assist you to position your subject during composition. And it can serves as visual cue whether you are holding your iPhone properly in horizontal position.

To turn on the grid, go to Settings > Photos & Camera and turn on the Grid switch.

Tips for great iPhone photography turn on grid

6. Use flash only when necessary 

There is not much control given to photographer for the camera flash in iPhone, except for an auto mode. This auto-mode most often than not gives an less than ideal exposures especially on the skin tones of people. Generally it is advisable not to use the flash.

Use the flash as a fill flash when the subject is behind strong light. And use the flash when there is no option for light in dark places.

iPhone 5s comes with a “True Tone” dual-LED flash which is meant to improve the colour tones of photos taken with the flash. It might aid in the exposures for low light situations. Experiment with it to see if you like the results.

Tips for great iPhone photography iPhone 5s true tone flash

It is common for people new to photography to take all photos with flash on. Flash has a limited reach, even more so for small flash in your iPhone. Thus if you’re taking a photo with a subject far away, such as tennis athletes competing in a court, your flash has no impact on the outcome. You will be just wasting your battery if the flash is on.

7. Use HDR in tricky situations

HDR combines several exposures to create a single picture which improves on the detail and dynamic range of colors. Experiment on using HDR to see if you like the HDR look. Some people might not like the stronger dynamic in HDR photos, and prefer a more natural tones. HDR however could be saviour for high contrast scenes or with tricky lightning condition. If you’re unsure, take one shot with HDR switch on and another one with HDR off. 

8. Tap subject to focus

Normally when you aim at your subject with the camera app, it focuses quickly. At times when the lightning condition is not ideal, the camera will hunt for the subject to focus. To assist, simply tap on the subject to bring it to focus.

9. Learn about composition

Composition is at the heart of each great photo. Know your subject and what you’re trying to convey in each photo. Your subject should not always be at the center. Take interesting shots by taking the subject at different angles and distances.

Tips for great iPhone photography Understanding Exposure Bryan Peterson

The whole art of photography can not be covered in a post. To get started, we recommend the classic photography text Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

More iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 wishes

More iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 wishes

We have touched on our wishes for the 8 things we want in iOS 8 early this year. With the impending release of next-generation iOS/OS X info at WWDC in June, this post is a timely follow-up with more wishes and improvements we hope to see in iOS 8 and the next version of OS X 10.10.

Download folder for iOS or iDrive

iOS is build upon the same foundation as OS X. One notable difference is the lack of a Finder app. iOS app manages its files and documents within the app’s sandboxed container, it can store its documents in iCloud, but is has no access to other local files/folders.

iOS wants you to think not of files and folders but documents. Documents are managed by the app that is used to create them. This creates a tedious situation if you want to manage your files across document types, for example grouping of Pages and Keynote documents by project.

The idea of a world without files and folders is just an ideal situation. The current implementation by iOS does not give the comfort that it is the right direction. It is also hard to convert the world out of its over 30 years of computing habits. We’re just so used to files and folders. This is evidenced by the popularity of Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive etc, all are services that provide files and folders over the Internet.

It is uncertain if Apple is still in its strategic direction to continue to push us a world of mobile computing without the notion of files and folders. Or it is in the midst of introducing its own iDrive and Finder app for iOS.

Irregardless, we’re hoping Apple could at least introduce a Download folder in iOS 8. This folder could be managed by Safari app and will be one unified place for our files downloaded from the Internet or imported from other apps.

Shift key in iOS

iOS 7.1 brings an annoying changes to how the Shift key works in the grey/white version of the keyboard. In normal mode, the color of the Shift key is darken while the rest of the keys is in white. In Shift mode, the color of the Shift key is in white, same as the other keys. It should be the reverse. The dark color version of the keyboard however is behaving correctly. This Shift key changes has been criticised by many as a design mistake. It is likely to be corrected in iOS 8 if Apple is still listening to its users.

PDF support in iOS 

Creating a PDF file is second nature in OS X as it is baked into the base of the operating system. PDF support however is totally missing in iOS as a system feature. A “Save as PDF” function in iOS 8 stock apps such as Safari and Mail will be a great start. Ideally Apple could just add a system wide PDF soft printer driver in AirPrint. This will allow user to create PDF document from any app by printing to this PDF printer.

FaceTime 

Not sure if Apple is positioning FaceTime as just a bare video chat app. These are some feature requests:

  • Group video chat
  • Share app screen
  • Recording of video chat
  • Photo Booth effect integration

Messages

It would be awesome if we can send voice recording and location map directly from within Messages app. Would be useful too if there is a quick toggle button on the main screen to switch between iMessage and SMS text message.

Smarter smart folder in OS X

Smart folder in OS X allows you to create a view of a folder based on filters that you setup. For example you can create a smart folder for files in a folder that are PNG images greater than 4MB size. Smart folder however is useless as the folder content is a snapshot at the time of creation. There is no auto refresh of the view when content changes.

It appears that the current implementation of smart folder is half-cooked and there is a chance that it will be genuinely smart in OS X 10.10. 

More location dependent features in iOS

With location spotting getting ever more accurate, iOS could make use of more location dependent features and settings:

  • Switch the phone to silent mode base on location or “Busy” calendar schedule. For example when entering office, a hospital, a theatre etc.
  • Turn on Do Not Disturb mode base on location such as when you’re home in the evening.
  • Turn off passcode base on location or base on connected Wi-Fi spot. Some people do find passcode lock annoying when at home.

Offline support for iOS

The fact is Internet is not yet everywhere. This is especially true when you’re travelling and do not wish to pay the roaming charges. Lets hope we see offline mode support in Maps and dictation in iOS 8.

Language translation

It is about time Apple introduces language translation as a system feature. It could be a standalone translate app or as part of dictation. It can also appear as a translation service in Siri. 

Spotlight

App Store search should be integrated into Spotlight so that we can search for apps directly from within Spotlight without launching App Store app first.

In addition to “Search Web” and “Search Wikipedia” in Spotlight for iOS, there should be a quick access to dictionary directly from Spotlight.

Data roaming in iOS

There is a “Data Roaming” switch in iOS settings that allows you to turn off data roaming when travelling. This is an all-or-nothing settings. This could be enhanced so that we can selectively allow certain apps to use data roaming. For example, disabling all apps but allow Messages app and Siri to use data roaming.

Guest mode for iOS

Since we can’t create user accounts in iOS, the least Apple could do is to build Guest Mode into iOS to allow us to easily and safely share our iOS devices. This is especially useful for parents wanting to share their iPad with young kids. We should be able to create one or more guest mode. With each mode, we can select allowable apps and restrictions to content such as Camera Rolls. 

Music for iOS

Music app for iOS should support adding of music files directly. This is to allow import of music files from third party apps or downloaded from the web.

Reminders

One feature missing in Reminders for iOS is the ability to manage shared list from within the app. Currently you have to manage shared lists using Reminders for OS X or via iCloud.com.

And URL links in Reminders should be clickable.

Notes

Notes for OS X allows attachment of picture and file. Attachment however is not supported in iOS. And in iOS you can’t view the content of files you attached using Notes on your Mac. 

Hide stock apps in iOS

I guess it is not too much to ask for settings to selectively hide Apple stock apps from appearing on home screen in iOS.

Wallpaper auto changer in iOS

Wallpaper auto changer is available on OS X, so why not in iOS? This will be a welcomed feature by many iOS users.

Low battery alert in iOS

The low battery alert in iOS is a prompt that requires your attention. It is annoying especially when you are in the midst of a heated game. Instead it could be just a banner with striking color on top, similar to how notifications work.

Podcasts for iOS 

Podcasts for iOS is probably the buggiest app by Apple. Can we expect some love from Apple?