This week’s live show was described by the NosillaCastaways as “The Epic Fail Whale Sausage Show”. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, but we managed to persevere and get the show out against those odds. Review of iExplorer from macroplant.com – a free app unless you want to use most of the features then it’s $50. In Dumb Question Corner, Caleb aka Geekosupremo on Twitter asks why his new Lion machine lets TextEdit quits when he swaps away from the application and whether he should consider re-buying all his apps in the Mac App Store or just upgrade with his existing licenses. Shai Yammanee reviews Prosoft’s Data Rescue from prosofteng.com for recovering data from failed drives and other media. George from Tulsa explains how he got whacked from the $5.99 unlimited data family plan on on T-Mobile and how he plans to move forward with a $100 prepaid phone-only plan to save $1000 for his family. Links from his discussion: Lily Tomlin at BrainyQuote.com, Lily Tomlin as Ernestine the Operator (YouTube), T-Mobile Prepaid, Engadget: Unlock your iPhone, Top Ten Signs of Cell Phone Addiction, Are you a “Smartphone” Addict ?. Clarify from Bluemango Learning on sale for 25% off at MacUpdate. Knightwise from knightwise.com tells us about the open source media center software called XBMC from xbmc.org. In Chit Chat Across the Pond, Bart and Steve (Sheridan) discuss Final Cut Pro X.
Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday April 22nd, 2012 and this is show number 363. This was a particularly rough week for me, my mom had a stroke on Tuesday morning. I raced down to her bedside to find her paralyzed on one side. Oddly though by later in the day she began to move that side and within 2 days she was feeding herself and walking with no visible signs of the stroke! The bad news is that she has what they’re calling speech and cognitive aphasia. Basically she talks half gibberish and can’t understand a lot of simple things. The good news is that the neurologists, nurses and speech therapists are telling me that the brain is very plastic (even at 91) and that she’ll build new pathways to regain her speech and understanding. They tell me she will recover, and I sure hope they’re right. By the end of the week I was a train wreck, but my brother came into town to take over. Steve and I snuck away with our dear friends Diane and Bill to go wine tasting to celebrate Steve and my joint birthday. We had a great time and I’m charged up and ready to go back down to take care of mom again.
Now this might make you wonder how I’m putting out a show today. Well the NosillaCastaways have come to my rescue! I can’t believe how many people came to my aid when I needed it, it truly talks to the caring of the community. Anyone who tells you that online friends aren’t REAL friends is all wet. In fact, I got so many contributions, I think I’ll be able to hold over a couple of them to help me with NEXT week since I’ll essentially be in the same boat then too. I had done a little bit of work on the show before everything happened so I’m even going to contribute here a little bit too. The other good news is that Bart, Steve and I recorded Chit Chat Across the Pond a week early so we’re covered there too.
Just to make things more entertaining, somehow Google has decided that my podfeet.com email address that I route through Gmail apps is 99% full. This happened right before I ran away for the weekend. I deleted a couple hundred emails (sorted by size) and suddenly I was only 23% full. There’s no way I threw away 5 GB of the 7.7GB they give me in those 200 emails, but I was happy. A few hours later it said I was 99% full. then some time today (Sunday) mail started FLYING into my inbox, starting from way back last Friday. I still don’t know what’s wrong though because the mailbox on Gmail.com is still saying that I am at 99% full. If you try to get in touch with me, and the message bounces, try my other gmail account, email@example.com. Ok, let’s get into the show then, shall we?
iExplorer from Macroplant
Have you ever needed to get something out of your iDevice or maybe INTO your device and not been able to figure out how to beat iTunes into submission to give it to you? I talked a while back about the great OSX built-in utility Image Capture to selectively pull photos and videos off of your iDevices, and to even delete them from your iDevice.
But what if you want more advanced information, like application data? I actually had a need to pull some artwork from an app and that’s a tricky bit of work right there. Maybe you just want to peruse the files on your iOS device, say find the audio recording you made more easily than fighting with iTunes.
My buddy Niraj turned me onto a free Mac app called iExplorer from Macroplant from macroplant.com. You may have seen this app before, it used to be called iPhone Explorer, but some mysterious thing caused them to change their name. Niraj showed me how I could use iExplorer to navigate the folder structure of my iPad to get to the artwork I needed from an application we’d built. We had rights to this app’s data, but it IS interesting that anyone can get to this data. While iExplorer was a lifesaver in this case, it sure isn’t easy to find what you’re looking for.
The folders in the iOS devices are not at all intuitively named, they’re usually just a big long string of numbers. If you’re motivated enough like I was, it was worth the trouble, but don’t expect to be able to jump to just what you want.
I put an example in the shownotes of what you can find. Let’s say you’re Don McAllister doing a Screencasts Online episode of your iOS tutorials and you want some high quality artwork for the app Ocarina App from Smule.
When you drill down into your iDevice, you see two folders, Apps and Media. So far so good. In the Apps folder you can find a specific app and drill down so I found Ocarina, and inside there you’ll find Documents, Library, Ocarina.app and tmp plus some iTunes files like iTunes Artwork. Oddly this was a text edit document with the logo embedded in it, while all of the other .png files sprinkled about the folders were all unopenable as image documents. No clue why that is. If you were hoping to use this to snake a cool looking button from an app or a nice background, you could be out of luck.
Let’s see what else iExplorer can do for me. There are a series of buttons across the top, let’s walk through them one by one. The first one says Copy Music. This will allow me to move music off the iDevices to my Mac which can be handy if you assume your iOS device is the backup for your music. I clicked on that button and it offered to let me BUY Phone to Mac…for $25. Grrr. iExplorer is a free app but this capability does NOT come with it.
Ok fine. Next button in the menu bar is called Open Files on iDevice. Cool, that’s something we want. Click that and AGAIN it offers to let me buy something. this app is called Awesome files and it lets you get files on and off your device. now that’s kinda weird, since I was able to drag that Smule logo off my iPhone and I was even able to drag files into the iDevice (but that made me kind of nervous because I had no idea what the directories did where I dragged the files. At least Awesome Files is only $5 in the iTunes store for iOS, but still it’s kind of annoying.
Next up is Mount Disk. I don’t believe this – yet ANOTHER option to buy another tool. This one is called Phone Disk and all it does is let you mount your iOS device as a USB drive to your Mac…for another $20! Aw c’mon, you gotta be kidding me, $20 to have my iOS disk act as a drive?
I’m almost afraid to click any more of the buttons on iExplorer. The last three don’t cost money – you can add a new folder, or delete something. I added a new folder, but then the delete button did NOT let me delete it! It went off for a long time pretending it was going to delete, but never disappeared from view. I tried refreshing the view with the next button but still that folder won’t go away. Great.
The last button is for Bookmarks which might be good – because of how arcane the folder names are in the iOS devices. I navigated to a folder deep in the system, and added it as a bookmark. I navigated away from that folder and then tried to open the bookmark but it wasn’t entirely clear to me how to do that. I think the problem is that there’s a pretty significant lag before the iOS device responds so I was clicking away thinking it wasn’t working when eventually it would respond.
You know one of the frustrations in doing reviews for you guys is when I work for days with an app and then in the end decide that I don’t like it. I spend the time but I have nothing to show for it because it seems lame to review an app just to tell you it’s garbage. Perhaps that’s information you want, but instead of giving it to you I feed that info forward to the developer in hopes that they’ll improve their software so it can become better for all of us.
In this case, iExplorer does do a few things I need it to do, but to use all of its capabilities, instead of being free it would run you $50! And since this is pretty non-standard stuff, they aren’t selling in the Mac App Store so that’s for a single user. Way way way more money than I’m wiling to spend, I think it’s dramatically overpriced and it feels sort of underhanded that most of the capability of iExplorer is an extra fee. If you need a tool to pull some specific data from your iPhone and you can’t find any other way to do it, iExplorer from Macroplant will do this for you.
Dumb Question Corner
This week, NosillaCastaway Caleb, aka Geekosupremo on Twitter has a dumb question for us:
Dear Cpt. Allison and fellow NosillaCast-aways,
Let us begin with the usual progression, a problem to be solved: My wife and I have been on an old G4 Powerbook for the last um … seven or so years. The obvious solution is buy a new Mac, which arrived last week. (gleeeeee). Now that we’re on Lion there’s some oddities that we’re trying to figure out. The first one is that if TextEdit doesn’t have a window open, and you switch away from the app it closes. (Bet you were expecting “natural scrolling”) Is this, automatic quitting a normal behavior? In all of the version of MacOS that we’ve used (10.4 and .5) an app doesn’t close till the “quit” command has been issued.
Also having been on a PPC compatible version of MacOS for this long has put us in a position where almost all of our apps need an upgrade. Should I re-buy through the Mac App store? or use my existing app serial numbers and do no app store “piece-meal” updates?
Related to the last question. It seems that some of my apps (namely WireTap Studio) aren’t Lion friendly. Should I start looking to alternatives?
Excited and mildly disgruntled, Caleb
Congratulations Caleb on the new computer! In between gruntling it must be awesome. Now onto your questions.
The good news is your TextEdit is just simply busted, it’s definitely not supposed to behave like that. It’s not some new fangled “feature” of Lion. I’m not quite sure how/why this has happened but the fix should be pretty easy. First quit TextEdit.
What we need to do is delete the plist file for the TextEdit application. Now in the old days you could just jump into the Library and find the preference folder, but Apple doesn’t want to frighten you by letting you actually SEE the Library folder. There’s a lot of workarounds for it (Macworld document 18 separate ways to do it: http://www.macworld.com/article/1161156/view_library_folder_in_lion.html) but we’ll start with a real simple way. Go to the Finder, and click on the Go menu. You’ll see a list of places you can go, like All My Files, Documents, Desktop, etc., none of which are the Library you’re looking for. that was just to tease you. Now let go, and this time hold down the option key and click on Go. Voilà! there’s the Library folder!
Click on Library, go to Preferences and find the file com.apple.TextEdit.plist.lockfile and delete it. Restart Text Edit, and test to see if the problem has disappeared. Hopefully it will have been fixed so you’ll think I’m a genius.
Here’s another solution – there’s a terrific free little text editor called Bean that I like to use from bean-osx.com. Maybe you’ll like it!
Now onto the more interesting question, whether to re-buy apps through the Mac App Store or to update your apps using existing serial numbers. I’m a HUGE fan of the Mac App Store, and in a few cases I have re-bought through it for apps I already owned, but in general if I’ve already bought an app I stick with the old method. it really is irritating now to put up with silly license files and such but I’m pretty cheap when it comes to buying something I already own. Sometimes it’s worth it if you have more than one Mac, because you get to use these Mac App Store bought apps on every Mac you own. I would definitely search the Mac App Store first before buying new apps but I think you’re good to go with your existing apps too.
Wiretap Studio is sort of compatible with Lion – it lets you record ALL of your system sounds but not separate applications. I used it for all my Skype calls till Lion and I was really disappointed that Ambrosia chose not to update it. Evidently they’re unwilling to change the way the program works to accommodate Apple’s plans for sandboxing. The good news is that Rogue Amoeba has adapted and can record different applications in two different applications. On the high end they adapted their flagship product, Audio Hijack Pro to work with Lion. Audio Hijack Pro is available at rogueamoeba.com and will run you $32 and they have a free trial to see if you like it. Isn’t it great when the high end is $32? Audio Hijack Pro allows you to record all different applications and microphones by “hijacking” them and sending them out to different sources. I use it to pipe the audio from my mic and from GarageBand into the Icecast server so that people can listen to the live show on iOS.
Now if that’s too rich for your blood, or too much complexity, they came out with a beautiful little app called Piezo which you can get in the Mac App Store for only $10. This is a classic Tim Verpoorten app – it does one thing and does it well. You tell it which app you want to record (in my case Skype) and then choose the quality (only a few to choose from), I choose Music, low quality which makes a 128kbps stereo AAC file. Then click the big red button and that’s it! Not very flexible but if it fits your needs it’s a lovely application.
I hope all of this doesn’t overwhelm you – it’s a lot to absorb! I sure hope you’ll send along more dumb questions about Lion, this was fun!!!
Shai on Prosoft’s Data Rescue
Thanks Shai – this is definitely one to keep in our back pockets, hoping we never ever need it. I’m sure your shipmates really appreciate you coming to their aid with Data Rescue. When we’re in a crisis like that, there are so many scammy options out there, it’s great to have a real world test of this tool and if some precious data is lost, $99 isn’t too much to ask. Thanks for coming on the show even with a cold! I hope you feel better soon.
George from Tulsa on
Last month T-Mobile whacked my Family Plan’s $5.99 a month unlimited data. The data deal is why we signed up with T-Mobile in the first place, kept paying $1,584 a year, for years. It was sold as “grandfathered” for life. Without the iPhone, T-Mobile’s having trouble recruiting new customers, and bleeding old ones. Didn’t matter.
My visit to a T-Mobile store was like chatting with Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine the Operator, “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.” And the company’s actual response when I asked that our data be turned back on? “Sign here, pay more.” Fat chance.
I began researching alternatives by looking at my use history on T-Mobile’s website. 49 Megabytes.
That’s right, in the month before T-Mobile dropped its guillotine, I’d used just 49 MB of their precious bandwidth. Two reasons that unbelievably low number was correct. First, I’m rarely away from WiFi. I even have decent WiFi while walking Bert the Schnauzer, thanks to neighbors broadcasting open networks along our two mile route. Second, I’d come to view my continuously connected phone as a gateway drug luring me from real life toward an electronic facsimile, and in defense stripped it to basic. Turns out programs like Gmail sip mere kilobytes.
Disappointment at T-Mobile aside, I’m considering their $100 prepaid phone-only plan. More minutes than I need, good for a year. If all three of us converted, we’d drop $1,300 in the bank. My part alone is $428. iPhones off AT&T contract could save $1,000 a year, or more. Not sure you can live without constant data, even to save $1,000 a year?
Easy to test. Map out some handy WiFi locations, then turn off Mobile Data in your phone’s Network Settings. If your head feels like it’s going to explode, you’re addicted beyond the gateway level, and might need help. But if you feel fine, you’re on the way to saving $1,000, which should buy lots of coffees at Starbies where you can also enjoy their free WiFi.
As always, you’ll find related links in Allison’s shownotes at Podfeet.com:
Thanks George. I’m afraid in my case I’m not near accessible wifi for about 10 hours a day, so I would not be able to go with this but I know so many people happily bought wifi only iPads so maybe this will help out others. I’m hoping that this new iPhone unlocking deal will make my older iPhones more valuable when I go to sell them – people will be able to easily use them on T-Mobile now! Sorry they were such snots to you – and Lily Tomlin was one of my heroes growing up. Ernestine and Edith Ann. And that’s the truth. pppbbbhhhhhhtttt!
Clarify on Sale on MacUpdate
I’ve told you guys about Clarify from Bluemango Learning, the fantastic tool to allow you to create quick little documents with annotated screenshots to show a developer how a bug is affecting you in their tool, or to teach a relative or friend how to do a simple task on the computer or just to make a little reminder document for yourself. The only thing that would be better than Clarify would be Clarify on SALE! It turns out that it’s on sale for 25% off through May 3rd over at MacUpdate. I put a link in the shownotes so you can be sure to get right to it. I love this tool and I know you won’t regret it. If you get a chance to shoot a note to the guys over at Bluemango Learning to tell them you heard about it here, that would be cool too!
Knightwise on XBMC
XBMC is an award-winning free and open source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub for digital media. XBMC is available for Linux, OSX, and Windows. Created in 2003 by a group of like minded programmers, XBMC is a non-profit project run and developed by volunteers located around the world. More than 50 software developers have contributed to XBMC, and 100-plus translators have worked to expand its reach, making it available in more than 30 languages.
xbmc is available for OSX, OSX on PPC, Linux, Windows, AppleTV, AppleTV 2, iOS and XBMCbuntu.
What is it about your enthusiastic delivery that makes me want to take on these crazy projects you come up with? I might just try this one – with xbmc being able to run on OSX, OSX on PPC, Linux, Windows, AppleTV, AppleTV 2, iOS and XBMCbuntu, how can you not have one of those running around to play with? Thanks so much Knightwise for coming to my rescue here too, I really appreciate it.
Chit Chat Across the Pond
Main Topic – Final Cut Pro X
Bart is coming from iMovie, Steve is coming from Final Cut Express (couldn’t abide by iMovie past HD)
Despite the hubbub from the pro community, FCP X is still a pro-end tool, it’s just a lot less fiddly than previous pro tools, and a lot cheaper, priced so that amateurs can afford it too.
In some ways the interface is very like the new iMovie, only much more powerful. You still drag and drop the clips into your timeline, but you have much more control, and can stack clips and audio in as many layers as you want. Video layers stack up from the main timeline, audio layers down. You can have as many of each as you want, something you can’t do in iMovie. The stacked clips connect to the main timeline by little connecting lines, and if you move around a clip in the main timeline, all the connected clips come with it. As you move things around, the clips around the one you are moving snap together to swallow up empty space, or move apart to let the clip you are dropping slot in automatically. This is why it’s called a magnetic timeline. You can’t accidentally create gaps in your timeline, and it’s very hard to leave parts of your clip behind as you re-order things.
It’s tempting to think of FCP X as iMovie Pro, having the same basic interface and features, just with more capabilities added. This is not true though. In some regards FCP X has LESS features! You can import a basic iMovie project into FCP X, but not if you used advanced features like the animated maps which simply do not exist in FCP X. I’m (Bart) very disappointed by this, and think it’s a poor show by Apple. The FCP X interface is also a lot more complicated than iMovie, and more customisable. Allison will like that the timeline is linear, rather than wrapping like it does in iMovie. You can also choose to remove the thumbnails from the clips, and hide and show the wave forms, you can even change the side of the wave forms relative to the thumbnails. Instead of there being just three panes, there are at least 4, but can be as many as 6 depending on how you set things up. You have your pane with source material, you preview pane, your timeline, your properties pane, and your effects browser. You really need all 5 of these visible while you’re working to get much done.
Given what FCP X does, it’s probably no surprise that it’s an absolute resource hog. It happily chews up my entire 12GB of RAM, and I’m sure it would take more if I had it! It does work acceptably on my Core 2 Duo iMac with 256MB of RAM, but I think it would be a lot smoother on a more modern CPU and with a graphics card with more VRAM. I know people use it without problems on MacBook Airs, so it can work on constrained machines, but it will be much smoother on stronger hardware.
I loved iMovie HD ’08 but couldn’t stand when Apple went to the new iMovie ’09 because they removed timeline control at the individual frame level that I needed. They eventually fixed that in iMovie but I never went back. Transitioned to Final Cut Express, then to FCP X as soon as it came out.
FCP X is the most non intuitive Apple app that I’ve used. Normally I just jump in and start using an app when I first get one. The way I generally learn is by using the app, then research and read up on a topic only when I run into a problem. Tried that with FCP X and I was immediately challenged. I’ve been to the help menu more times than I can count, and even then it’s not obvious how to perform some functions. Joseph Nilo who does this stuff professionally has also helped me out on a few occasions.
Word of advice for new FCP users. Be attentive to where you will be storing your video material. FCP has a unique directory structure and requires several folders for each Event and Project that you edit. If you do a lot of editing there’s a good chance you will use quite a bit of storage It pays to do a little planning on where you will be storing your video material and how it is structured before you start accumulating projects.
FCP X is a prime candidate for a video tutorial to help people learn how to use it. I now hear (thank you Bart) that Don has done an FCP X tutorial, but amazingly I hadn’t discovered that. Right after this recording I am going to check it out. Another good FCP X tutorial for video editing and in particular FCP X is Izzy Hyman and his Izzy video tutorials. Izzy reallyknows his material andexplains things in a very easy to understand manner. He has a 26 part on-line video tutorial for FCP X and it is FREE! http://www.izzyvideo.com/final-cut-pro-x-tutorial/ You pay for the tutorials if you want to download them along with the practice media that he references in his tutorials. Normal price is $49 for the entire 2 hr 39 min of tutorials but it is currently discounted to $37. Knowing Don’s products though, I’m pretty sure his tutorial will do it for me.
FCP X app has so many features that I am not using yet and it is very powerful. FCP X got a lot of bad press when it first came out because it was (and still is) lacking some of the features the pros need to do their job. Many of those relate to video professionals who collaborate and share the video editing process. That has never been a problem and probably won’t be for me, so FCP X meets my needs.
I am also using Compressor and starting to get into Motion – both apps also non intuitive in the same vein as FCP. Compressor is nice because you can off load the encoding process for multiple jobs and still use FCP. Motion is good for creating moving graphics and animated effects that export nicely into FCP. For example, you can create templates for animated titles/bumpers, similar to the default templates available in FCP.
Due to the many windows required to use FCP X, you need lots of screen real estate to perform efficient work. It’s the main reason I have two monitors. Agree with Bart that it is a resource hog – memory and throughput. Just got a quad core i7 iMac from Allison for my birthday. Was doing some encoding yesterday and all 4 cores were just about 100% loaded. For the first time I heard a fan on an iMac.
Bottom line – if you are an iMovie user and don’t need more features to edit your movies, I would not recommend moving to FCP X. iMovie is a pretty powerful video editor and there’s a big learning curve for FCP (at least for me). But if you find there are functions/features missing in iMovie and want to really get into video editing, I highly recommend FCP X.
That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsor for helping to pay the bills, Blue Mango Learning at bluemangolearning.com makers of ScreenSteps and Clarify. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if the regular one bounces, follow me on twitter at @podfeet. I contribute a fair amount over on Google Plus nowadays so just search for me by name if you want to circle me up. If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.