Good riddance Google Reader

The big news yesterday on the internet was the discontinuation of the Google Reader service as of July 1st.  There are a ton of great posts on this topic.  Many people are upset about loosing the web view but the only thing that I initially felt there would be a temporary loss of was the syncing of the RSS feeds.  A few months ago I wrote a post about services I would pay for.  Reader syncing was one of them.  

Why Google did not just leave the sync services and charge users for access seems odd to me.  I am glad to see so many people respond with ideas and plans to replace this neglected service.  

  • Great tip from Dave Caolo on how to get your information out of Google here.

The Magazine – Marco.org

Marco Arment has just released his new iOS application called “The Magazine“.  The app is the most visually clean reading application since Instapaper.  Each issue comes with four technology articles.  The application allows for subscribing in newsstand for $1.99 a month.

Based on the first issue and the great writing this application will be a hit for sure

Crafstman Software Development

The other day I was listing to Build and Analyze episode #95 This Unicorn Doesn’t Support NFC. Toward the end of the episode Marco Arment demonstrates how his application, Instapaper, uses voice assist to help others may have some visual impairment. He also went on to showed how a few other applications in the category deployed or attempted to deploy a similar. I was very impressed by the demo but did not think about it to much initially.

Since then Marco has released two updates to the popular Instapaper. The first update was for iOS 6 compatitbilty but it included some other features as well.

I consider Marco to be a craftsman developer. His product is great, he is meticulous about the features he adds and why and he is always moving the product forward. In the last 2 releases (4.2.5 and 4.2.6) Marco has taken time to add features for what I can only imagine is a very small percentage of his user base. Marco has added fonts to aid the accessibility of customers with little or low vision.

The first version 4.2.5 added the Open-Dyslexic font to assist reading for people with Dyslecia. 4.2.6 added FS Me which has been used in the past to assist people with learning disabilities. I actually love this font and it seems to make things very sharp and easier to read for a long time.

So why did he add these new fonts? Did he have a plea from the community of visually impaired to add these? Does 70% of install user base need these? Is he getting pressure from his competitors to be feature competitive?

I speculate that none of these are true. I imagine he decided it was the right thing to do and it would assist some small portion of his user base. He took a craftsman approach to taking something really really good and making it even a little better. Instantly I think of the back of the cabinet approach Steve Jobs father spoke of –

“the back of the cabinet should look as good as the rest of it”.

Nice work

Tweetbot for Mac public alpha available for download | TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Icon

Tapbots released Tweetbot for Mac today in a public ALPHA release.  I expect it to will initially be rough around the edges but I so look forward to using this on my Mac as my official client (provided Twitter does not take issue).  One of the key reason is the Tweet Marker service that allows you to pick up your i-device (hopefully Mac as well) and pickup your timeline where you left off.  This I find a tremendous time saver.  

Tweetbot for Mac public alpha available for download | TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

(Via. TUAW)

Announcing nothing !

Is it me or does it seem odd that after the announcement of the Microsoft Surface the excitement I read most about is the integrated kickstand and the keyboard?

I am glad to see Microsoft trying to do something different. Competion can force other innovations.  I am also glad the Surface is going to be built by Microsoft instead of left to partners.  But I find it incredibly hard to annouce a product and leave out the what I think are the critical things.  MG Seigler says it best below.

No Price, No Date, No Apps, No Problem. No Wait — Problem.

The turd is dead

Dave Caolo at 52Tiger linked to this piece form the NY Times today.  A few things crossed my mind:

  1. What took so long? (6 years)

  2. Who is the marketing genius that thought brown was a good color? and does he still have a job?

  3. Does anyone know someone who has one?

  4. What took so long to kill it?

Microsoft kills the Zune:

The New York Times:

“Microsoft spokeswoman, Melissa Stewart, confirmed [at E3] that the Zune brand is going away so Microsoft can use the better-known Xbox brand for its entertainment services, including its online video service.”

It was a bad idea to make the Zune brown (it resembled a turd), but even worse to “chase Apple,” as former Microsoft executive Robbie Bach explained at a Northwest Entrepreneur Network in May:

“We just weren’t brave enough, honestly, and we ended up chasing Apple with a product that actually wasn’t a bad product, but it was still a chasing product, and there wasn’t a reason for somebody to say, oh, I have to go out and get that thing.”

Users who’ve created playlists will find them intact in the new Xbox Music Service.

(Via 52 Tiger)

Amtrak to use iPhones for ticket scanning

A couple of stories about this popped up in me RSS reader over the last couple of days.  I think this is great.  Actually I want to say its about time.  There are many many great apps developed for the iPhone but there are not a lot of apps that try and re-work the existing status quo.  One great example that I can think is is the Mobile Starbucks payment application.  The app allows you to add money to your card and to show a bar code at check out and have the card debited.  When I go to Starbucks I would estimate that at least half of the people in line use it if not more.  Starbucks also created versions for Android. It does not slow the line down and its super easy.  

Its hard to throw a rock today without hitting a person using an smartphone let alone an iPhone.  I would like to see more real world ways that people can use their phones to make the user experience better.  

Finally: Amtrak to use iPhones for ticket scanning:

Our nation’s rail system is about to take a big step forward by placing less emphasis on paper tickets and introducing the iPhone as an important tool for conductors.

The New York Times has a story on Monday about the ongoing trials in which Amtrak is using the iPhone as a ticket scanner and a more efficient way of boarding passengers and filling in empty seats. The report says Amtrak has been training conductors since November 2011 to scan tickets with the iPhone. It’s only been active on a few routes — between Boston and Portland, Me., and from Sacramento to San Jose, Calif. — but they’re planning to expand.

This might sound simple and not totally novel; there are local metro systems like Boston’s MBTA that are about to start using smartphones as tickets. But as I’ve recently learned, this is a welcome improvement for the tens of thousands of people that commute daily or often travel by rail.

Amtrak isn’t a factor in people’s daily lives in places I’ve lived like San Francisco or Los Angeles to the same degree it seems to be in the Northeastern Corridor. Since moving east I’ve become acquainted with Amtrak commuting between Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C. What has most surprised me about rail travel has been how truly old-school it still is. Yes, it’s a transportation technology first invented almost 200 years ago, but it seems little progress has been made in terms of administration and passenger logistics.

Retraining conductors and passengers

I can buy an Amtrak ticket online, sure. But when I get a ticket confirmation email with a bar code, I can’t just walk up to a kiosk at the train station and scan the code from my iPhone’s screen — I either have to print the bar code or swipe a credit card. But the thing that needs the most improvement is what happens once on board: conductors still physically punch your ticket once you’re seated. He or she then pockets your ticket stub before you get off the train and sends them to a central location.

As you might imagine, passenger information and seating charts might be something useful to have in real time, especially when people change what stop they get off at or take an alternate train at the last minute. The NYT report includes how iPhone-scanning and real-time info will be a change from the current process:

With the new iPhone-powered system, conductors can monitor passenger check-ins in real time. That will help them manage seating: if there are passengers who don’t show up, for example, it will be easier to fill empty seats with other passengers.

“When it was all a manual system there was a lot of guesswork involved,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which contracts with Amtrak to operate the train service from Boston to Portland.

This is great news for Amtrak — though it will cost the agency $7.5 million for the hardware and software to institute the new process. But it should also make life easier for passengers, which is why I’m so eager for late summer: that’s when Amtrak says the devices will be rolled out across the country, to more than 1,700 conductors.

(Via The Apple Blog)

Drafts updated to version 1.01

Drafts by Agile Tortoise has only been out a few weeks and is already incredibly popular. It’s fast its clean its simple and supports Markdown. It is the perfect place to write a quick note or list. It’s so simple so easy it is amazing.

Tonight the developer released an update, to version 1.01, with a few great new features.

The first I am thrilled about is support to send a quick note into OmniFocus. Drafts is the perfect tool to add something to your inbox when you quickly think about it and now with OF integration it is even easier. Support for Things for Mac has also been added in this release.


Drafts actions to OmniFocus 

The second thing was better support for “Open with”. Now if you start a draft you can select which application you want to open it in to finish a longer piece.


Drafts Open With Function

The update is fantastic. I am not sure what is on the roadmap for Drafts but here are a few things I would love to see:

  1. The ability able to re-order actions in the send to list
  2. Even though I use Tweetbot I still have the Apple/Twitter integration turned on. I know I can deactivate those and just use Tweetbot but there has been a few times when I have used the native integration. It would be great if you could “hide” an action you do not want to use.
  3. The same example would also hold true for the “open with” action. I would love to be able to hide an app that I do not use frequent without having to delete it from the phone.

The full change log is below and listed on the site blog. Drafts, v1.01

[ADD] “Open in…” action to export to other apps with support text files.
[ADD] Omnifocus action.
[ADD] Things action.
[ADD] Echofon and Echofon Pro actions.
[CHANGE] Reduced time before app assumes you want a new draft after it’s been in the background to 2 minutes. Still tweaking this number and am interested in your input. [CHANGE] Search keyboard can now be hidden with “Done” key to browse results. [CHANGE] Improved display of draft text in lists, allows for longer preview now. [FIX] Better handling of incoming URL create method.

Auto-dimming

I am huge fan of Instapaper.  I think I have written about it before.  I love how this application looks and works and I rely on it for a better reading experience everyday.  I also have come to use it as a holding ground for research.

In one of the last updates, I believe it is 41 or 4.1.1 there has been a small tweak to the dark mode.

At night, switch to Dark Mode for more comfortable reading. Instapaper can even switch automatically after sunset.

I use dark mode at night when I am reading in bed.  One of the things that bothered me slightly was even though the background was dark and the text was white on it.  Images though were glaringly bright.  So if you were reading and there was a large image in the layout at night it could feel like there was a small hotspot in the middle of the display.

Marco has added a feature that I believe is being overlooked on just how good it is. Now when you are in night mode the If you need to see in more detail and tap the image it will illuminate to normal brightness.  It is a brilliant UI implementation.


Dark Mode with image dimmed

Tapping on the image in dark mode will raise it to normal brightness.


Dark Mode image illuminated