Be sure to register for the NosillaCastaway party on January 28th at 6pm during Macworld, and check out mymac.com #325 to hear me with Guy and Gaz, the G-men. David Allen of Mac20Q reviews Art Text from belightsoft.com and also in the MacUpdate bundle. Sticking with our Vector art theme, Donald Burr of Otaku no Podcast from otakunopodcast.com reviews the VectorMagic bitmap to vector art conversion service. Kirschen is back with a review of the teleprompter software Prompt Puppy from promptpuppy.com, and ConnorP of the International Mac Podcast at http://impodcast.tv/ reviews Waterfield Design’s Muzetto laptop bag at http://sfbags.com/. For the first time we have Kevin Allder, aka Big_in_Va wiht a review of the Cinema Seat for iPad by Griffin Technologies. Shai Yammanee of shaiyammanee.com joins us for Chit Chat Across the Pond to walk through his Video and Audio plugins.
Listen to the Podcast Once (1 hour 13 minutes)
Today is Wednesday December 23rd, 2010 and this is show number 292. I’m recording early this week because of Christmas, but thanks to the NosillaCastaways, we have a bunch of great audio reviews so I can take a day off to be with family, and all of you don’t miss a show! We have some regulars this week and we have some new contributors so it’s going to be a great show. In Chit Chat Across the Pond we have Shai Yammanee back one more time to spend more of your money as he describes his audio and video plugins. Hide your credit cards kids! Let’s get this show on the road now.
NosillaCastaways Party at Macworld
It’s time to get excited about Macworld, and one way is to make plans to attend the NosillaCastaways party. It’s on Friday night the 28th at Jillian’s, which as Connor corrected me is across the street from Moscone West where Macworld is going to be held this time. I believe I’ve beat a plugin into submission for registering for the party – just click the big podfeet button on the right hand side at podfeet.com and follow the directions. Hope you can come, and remember this is a party just for fans of the show, not some big drunken crazy party with free drinks!
This week I had the great pleasure of joining Guy Searles and Gazmaz on the MyMac Podcast. You’ve heard Gaz before on the show as one of the hosts of Chit Chat Across the Pond. I’ve become a fan of the MyMac podcast over just the last couple of months so it was a real treat to join the G-Men as we talked about tech, and for some reason squirrels. check out the MyMac Christmas show #325 at mymac.com
ArtText by David Allen
Ok it’s time for some listener reviews. This first one is from David Allen, host of Mac 20 Questions.
=========insert David’s review=============
I saw on the MacUpdate site that they have a bundle of 8 or 10 applications for sale for 50 dollars. Most of them I have or have applications that do the same thing. One that caught my eye though was Art Text. One of the things I like to do is to have nice looking headers and other graphics on my sites. I am fond of the letters that look a bit 3D. To that end I recently bought Pixelmator, well partly because it was half price too, so that I could make this type of image. There is a quartz composer filter that does the 3D sculpting of objects on a layer in a bitmap/ I got my hands on it from one of the main guys in the Pixelmator forum.
I love the way some of the filters work and the graphical way they are represented while being used in Pixelmator. They are Mac like, which means they look pretty at the same time as being very functional. There is a kind of wire or floppy cord metaphor which dangles from the filter controls to where the filter is having its effect on your artwork.
Well the thing is that despite all that mac loveliness in Pixelmator and the sexiness of Quartz composer filters I saw that the Art Text application does what I want but so much easier and more of a dedicated tool for working with text. To be honest the final result is also that much better because of the better control you have over the text. For instance there is a choice of flat edges rounded edges or concave edges. The rounded edges give you the pillow 3D button sort of look.
I like that I can use it to put as many outlines around the text as I want with full control over the width and colour of each of them. Also it does the drop shadows and the glow effects too. Nice and easy.
All of that was nice but not enough for me to buy it because I could do what I wanted in Pixelmator but it just took a little longer – the main thing that took it a stage further and made it a no brainer to get was the ease of being able to take a section of the text and shape it which ever way you want and still have editable text to work with. I can shape individual letters or apply shapes to the whole design and get a very sexy looking logo out of it. Brilliant! The application is a bitmap application but the editing of the text is more like it would work in a vector based application like Illustrator.
For the shaping of the text you go to the right side of the application and choose the Geometry tab. In there you have a few preset shapes you can use to stylise the shape of the text and then there are four different shaping modes where you take the nodes available to drag them around until you get the shape that you want.
You can use all of the symbols available in fonts in logos and do the layers with a multitude of blending modes to choose from.
In the Styles tab on the right hand side you have a choice of Buttons and icons or headings. There a number of styles that you can choose from and just go in to change the text to say what you want it to say in the headings or take a button style and add some text on top of it. All you have to do then is to export it out to png with the background set to transparent and you have something that you can have fit in perfectly with your web site or it could be used in an application you are programming in Xcode. Another reason I got interested. iPhone apps have to look pretty too.
I suppose most of the work in ArtText will happen in the effects tab, You choose the layer to work on and set the depth of the effect and direction of the light that is shining on the letters, shape or icon. This is where you can give it a stroke or outline a shadow or that glow.
With the shadow and the glow there are more settings such as the colour, the amount of blur, the distance and the angle of the shadow from the letters or object. There are a large number preset effects to choose from to give plastic, glass, metal artistic and simple texture effects. Perhaps the gold or bronze effects are the ones that float your boat. Just choose it and then twiddle with the settings so that you have it just right. If you mess it up no worries just select your starting effect once more and you are ready to mess it up again.
One more thing- you can apply textures, there are a few included with Art text and what you can do is to duplicate the layer and duplicate the object in so doing then apply one of the effects then change the blend of the top layer to give you a 3D button with a texture or a pattern on it.
Of course with all of this artistic twiddlin and fiddlin you have to make some artistic and aesthetic decisions along the way to make some final art work that looks good and that no one will laugh at. At least with Art Text you have all the tools that you need to be able make something that will suit someones visual sensibilities even if it is only yours.
I like the application and give a Mac20Q thumbs up
. Follow David at twitter.com/mac20q
Well David I was trying to decide whether to buy into the Mac Update bundle this year, and you answered the question for me – just to get Art Text I think I will! By the way, David forgot to mention the developers of Art Text, so I wanted to make sure to give them a direct plug. You can get ARt Text from belightsoft.com Evidently this show should have been called This Week in Vectors, because Donald Burr has a recording for us that also has to do with Vector artwork.
Donald Burr on VectorMagic
I have great artwork for my podcast, but it’s a raster (or bitmap). I wanted to get some stuff printed up (mic flags) – and most places recommend vector art, and for good reason. Bitmaps when you resize them get all jaggy and nasty. Now if you had grandmaster artisan skills and maybe a Wacom tablet you could hand trace your raster images and turn them into vector, but that takes a lot of time. And I can barely draw a stick figure let alone trace out some intricate artwork. So I found a great online service, VectorMagic, that automates this procedure.
You upload it your file (they support all the common bitmap formats, including jpg png and photoshop), then it analyzes it and does its best conversion. You then get placed into a web based editor where you can tweak the parameters – type of artwork (photo? artwork with and without anti-aliasing/blended edges? etc.), image complexity, color palette, etc. With enough fiddling you can get some pretty decent results. Obviously not the same as what a professionally trained artist given enough time could get, but pretty darn good, and definitely good enough for the purposes I need it for.
Three options: Pay by month, $7.95/mo billed every 3 months at a time ($23.85 every 3 months), One time fee: or a $295 one time (windows only?), Edu and nonprofits get 50% off the desktop edition only, Or you can buy individual download tokens – one time, no monthly fee. Each download takes 1 token. You can buy a 5 pack for $14.0510 for $26.65, 20 for $48.60. Your images get stored and you can re-edit them, and can redownload and it doesn’t cost again
if your image is particularly complex and the automated tools don’t quite cut it, you can have it hand traced by a human. They promise turnaround in less than 48 hrs, and also offer expedited service if you need it for an additional fee. They give you an instant quote – just upload your image and their wizard walks you through several questions, to judge the image type, complexity, etc. Hand drawn can be delivered in more formats; in addition to eps svg and pdf, you can also have it in illustrator corel draw dxf and dwg (used by CAD software). I submitted my logo for a quote and got $26, seems pretty reasonable to me
All in all pretty satisfied. They offer a free option which is perfect for one offs like me, and if you need to do this kind of thing regularly they have pricing models to suit everyone. Check it out at vectormagic.com
I talk a lot about ScreenSteps on the show (hey, they pay me to do it, right?) but I often forget all of the different ways ScreenSteps can integrate your lessons into other tools. I was just checking out the Blue Mango Learning site (home of ScreenSteps) and I took a look at all of the options. You can export ScreenSteps lessons into blog posts using WordPress, TypePad, Blogger, Movable Type, and Square Space. You can create plain html files with pre-built templates or completely customize your own. You can create gorgeous PDF files (I use that a lot when I send instructions to my father-in-law, he has a whole book going!).
If you’re a fan of Microsoft Word (I mean really, who isn’t?) you can export from ScreenSteps Pro to Word so you can create an entire manual or book including a table of contents. Do you use Google Sites? Post your lessons directly there. How about MindTouch or Confluence or Zendesk? ScreenSteps Pro works there too. If you’d rather just email lessons around, that’s easy peasy with the “copy to HTML clipboard” feature.
And finally they just created ScreenSteps.me which is a way to share images and documents online so you can tweet them, Facebook them, send to forums, email and chat. You can even customize your html templates in ScreenSteps.me to make the look and feel all your own. I’m always amazed at how many new features and capabilities the ScreenSteps folks put into their tool! When you do go to ScreenSteps.com and buy ScreenSteps Desktop for $40 or Pro for $80, be sure to use the coupon code NOSILLA to get 25% off the purchase price!
Next up is a review from another one of our usual suspects and a regular NosillaCastaway, Kirschen, let’s hear what she has to tell us about.
Kirschen on Prompt Puppy
Hi Allison! Here’s my review of the teleprompting program for Mac OS X called Prompt Puppy. I first heard about Prompt Puppy from Cali Lewis’s GeekBeat TV podcast in which she describes her video recording studio setup. She mentioned that she was using Prompt Dog as her teleprompting application. I took a look at the Prompt Dog website and immediately noticed a “light” version called Prompt Puppy – which is by no means light weight in features.
Now, you might ask, what’s the problem to be solved? Well, I’ve been recording reviews and comments for some of the podcasts I listen to. I’ve discovered one thing. If it’s anything more than a quick thirty second soundbite comment, my mind quickly goes blank and fills in the empty air with way too many umms and ahhhs. So I took to writing out my notes so I could read them and realised that I’d lose my place in the text just as quick. This of course meant several takes and edits before I had an audio file which I could send out.
By way of introduction, a teleprompting program puts up the text to be read and then you can control the automatic scrolling of the words, both in speed and direction. This is much like what newsreaders and speech givers have in front of them to present their material.
I initially tried different teleprompter programs and found that I lost my place quickly as the text scrolled by because I didn’t have a reference to the current line. The difference with Prompt Puppy is that it has an arrow on the left hand side to indicate the line to be read.
When you start Prompt Puppy you are presented with a two pane window – the left pane contains a font selection pop up menu, text size and line spacing sliders as well as a checkbox to turn the prompting pane (which is on the right) from the normal white text on a black background to black text on white. There’s a large button at the top labelled “Start Prompting” – you click that to turn on prompt mode. To import text into the prompt pane, select Import Text from the File menu or type Command-O.
You’ll first notice that the text does not move when you click the Start Prompting button. You’ll need to use the up or down arrows to control the scroll speed of the text, or you can use the scroll feature on your mouse (and I imagine, also Magic Trackpad). The space bar can be used to toggle the prompt mode. Hit the keys or move that scroll wheel and away you go to record your reading!
The other nice part about using a teleprompter is that I will have created a transcript of my review or comment, ready for inclusion in the message to the podcaster!
I found a couple of things in Prompt Puppy, which I believe can be easily remedied by the developers. These include: saving the program’s preferences for font, text size, line spacing, window size and location – so I don’t have to set these up each time I start. Prompt Puppy also opens .txt files only so you’ll have to remember to save with the .txt extension – well, I’d rather have the program check to see if the file I give to it contains text.
And when I decide to move up to Prompt Dog with its additional features, such as editing the prompt text in the program itself, I just pay the difference – which is a neat offer from the developers. You can download a trial version of Prompt Puppy from promptpuppy.com.
Kirschen, you’re a girl after my own heart! Your reasons for looking into a teleprompter application are EXACTLY why I do such a detailed set of shownotes for the podcast – I also found I filled dead air with ums and ahs if I didn’t have something to read! I looked up Prompt Puppy to see how much it costs and I see it’s $20, and the enhanced feature version, Prompt Dog, is $60. I also see that there’s a special launch discount going on right now, not sure how much you get off but it might be worth checking out the free 10 day trial. Thanks for a great review, Kirschen! And next up, let’s hear about ConnorP’s new laptop bag.
Muzetto Laptop Bag from ConnorP
Hey Allison and all you Nosillacastaways! Connor P here, answering Allison’s rallying call to make her life easier next week. I come bringing gifts. No, not Gold, Frankincense, or Myrrh, but rather, a review of my absolute favorite laptop bag. It is the Waterfield Design’s Muzetto bag, and is available at sfbags.com . It is available in 5 different sizes. A 15 inch, 13 inch, and new 11 inch for laptops, including the snazzy new 11 inch MacBook Air, as well as two smaller versions. A 10 inch ‘portable’ Muzetto which fits the iPad in a case perfectly, and a slightlyly smaller ‘personal’ Muzetto, to act as a nice bag to carry around all your bits and bobs and miscellaneous items, as well as a naked iPad. It would make a very nice purse, or even a tremendous man-purse.
The Muzetto is a wonderful bag that I got this past January to take to Macworld with me, and I have fallen in love with it. It is a vertically oriented bag, which helps keep it from banging around your knees like a big messenger bag, plus I think it just looks nicer. The outside is covered with a beautiful brown leather, and the main compartments close with a large flap. There is no closing mechanism like a clip or a magnet, but the flap is substantive enough to keep all your goodies safe and sound, while keeping the bag attractive and easy to access. The underside of the flap and the front of the bag are made of a nylon material of which you can change the color. I went with the green version, but it is available in several other colors, such as red, black, and pine. This bag is designed to be flexible enough to be used with, or without a laptop, so the main laptop compartment has little in the way of padding or cushioning, and Waterfield recommends that you put your laptop in some sort of sleeve, and then put it into the Muzetto. Waterfield makes their SleeveCase laptop sleeve which I intend to get, because they make it in both a horizontal and vertical orientation, so I would get the vertical one for my Muzetto.
The main compartment is make out of a gold ballistic nylon. The gold is fantastic because when you drop something into your average black bag, it’s almost impossible to see it. The gold lining makes small items incredibly easy to find. On the side of the main compartment is the Muzetto’s only zippered pocket. It is a very deep pocket with two smaller pockets on the side, also with the gold colored lining. Since this is the most secure of the bag’s pockets, I usually keep my wallet or keys in here, as well as a few things I rarely need to access.
To the front of the main compartment is a smaller front compartment, lined with an extremely soft fleece material, which will not scratch any gadgets. It also has the one big compartment with two smaller pockets on the side. I keep my power adapter and other items in here, and when I want to carry both my laptop and my iPad with me, The iPad fits perfectly in this front pocket with my laptop in the main compartment.
On the back of the bag is a large pocket lined with that same gold nylon, to put things like loose papers, a small umbrella, or a notebook.
The Muzetto is designed as a shoulder bag, and comes with a nylon shoulder strap that matches the leather quite nicely, as well as a leather shoulder pad on the strap. The strap is not replaceable or removable, however the shoulder pad is. My one quarrel with this bag is that it has no carry handle other than the shoulder strap. If you want to pick up the bag, you either need to take the shoulder strap, or grab the bag itself. This really isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things, however.
I love my Muzetto bag. I take it to school with me every day to schlep my laptop around, and it comes with me almost everywhere. I am hoping Santa will bring me one of the portable Muzettos for times when I just want to take my iPad in a slightly smaller bag, since, when I don’t need my laptop, the 15 inch Muzetto is a little large.
The Muzetto is not a cheap bag. The smallest, personal Muzetto is $179, and the 15 inch laptop Muzetto that I have is $259, with the other three falling in between. However, the quality of this bag is absolutely outstanding, and for a fine leather product, I have seen bags that were much more expensive than this for this caliber of leather bag. Waterfield Design creates and makes all their bags in San Francisco, California, with no outsourcing. The quality is fantastic, and the customer service is even better. I cannot recommend this bag enough, and you would have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.
Again, you can find the Waterfield Design’s Muzetto at http://sfbags.com/, highly recommended. Check out some of their other bags, too!
And you can find me over at ConnorP.com, and the International Mac Podcast at http://impodcast.tv/. Cheers, Allison!
Next up is a long time NosillaCastaway, great friend to the show, and first time contributor.
Griffin Cinema Seat from Kevin
Hello Allison, QA/QC director Steve and fellow NosillaCastaways. Kevin Allder also know as Big in Virginia here to give you my take on iPad accessory I recently purchased and road tested with my three children. In true NosillaCast fashion we must start with a problem to be solved. With the holidays here many of us will be hitting the road with our families for some long drives. So how do you entertain active kids on a long drive? With the modern day panacea of course, mobile video. Now what to use to play this video. Built in video entertainment system in the vehicle, nope none of our vehicles have that. Portable DVD player? Well yes there is that but it has its own issues, more on that later. Video iPods for everyone? Are you nuts I am not made of money and syncing them all would be more of an issue then I am willing to endure. So I turn to my trusty iPad. Perfect screen size and great battery life for video play back. Since I was going to take my it along anyway for my use and entertainment why not just use it.
So what was the test? Well recently the family and I decided to make our annual trip to Strasburg just outside Lancaster PA to ride the santa train. A great experience for both young and old and I strongly recommend you try it if you get the chance. In the past we had used a portable DVD player that was purchased 3 or 4 years ago. However, the last time we took it on a trip, the performance was less then acceptable. It had some difficulty reading DVD’s we tried to play even though these same DVD’s had played just fine in other DVD players. Then there is the issue of having to carry all of those DVD’s with us, changing them, the power cord stretched across floor of the van, the occasional skipping and other such problems associated with mechanical devices.
The aforementioned DVD player had its own stand so I was going to mount the iPad in our van easily without making any permanent changes to the interior. Enter the Cinema Seat for iPad by Griffin Technologies. As the name implies it is meant to be used with the iPad for watching videos. The seat part is where it comes into solve my problem.
There is a link to a picture in the show notes but let me describe it for you. The case is made with an open slot on one side used to put the iPad in. It then has cut outs for the home button, headphone and microphone, dock connector and speaker. The volume rocker and the new mute switch (thanks Apple for getting rid of the orientation lock button, jeez not that I am ticked about it or anything). Then on the rear is a small net pouch that can be used for earbuds and such.
Also on the back is a velcro strap that allows you to secure it to the headrest of your vehicle so that passengers in the rear seat can watch video’s being played. This is a thick strap and it is secured to the back of the case about a third of the way in from the edge and is counter balanced on the other side by a metal loop equally spaced in from the opposite edge. The strap passes through the loop to hold the case level when secured to the headrest of a vehicle. The directions for mounting it are simple, wrap the strap around the headrest and secure back to itself using the velcro. If the headrest is to large for the strap to do this, raise it and wrap the strap around the supports of the headrest and secure it. Either way you have a secure and stable platform for the iPad to travel in.
For most people what I have outlined here will work just fine however it did not go exactly as planned for me. The strap was not long enough to mount in either of the suggested configurations in our Chevrolet Venture van. So I had to get a bit creative. I was able to secure it to a single headrest support and by pushing that headrest down firmly against the top of the seat it held in place for our trip but, not in as nice and as level of an orientation as I would have liked. I am sure the 18” strap fits many vehicles for the recommended mounting methods but not ours unfortunately.
Some other design miss steps I noticed are, there is no cut out for the sleep/wake button and the case is to thick to be able to press the button through the side so if you want to sleep the device you have to wait for the sleep interval to kick in or remove it from the case partially and then press the button. Another is that while the iPad fits fairly secure in the case there is nothing securing it there, so make sure if you are using the case that the slot is always on top to avoid having the iPad accidentally slip out.
OK so what is the final opinion of the case? With a suggested retail of $49.99 US it is a good value. It was a success and functioned more the adequately for our use. Matter of fact it will now be a regular part of our traveling gear. Now I just need to solve the issue of piping the audio output from the iPad through the sound system in the van and all will be perfect. I have a few solutions in mind for this so stay tuned for a future review on that. I have provided Allison with links to the things mentioned and in the mean time if want to know what I am up to you can follow me on twitter at twitter.com/Big_in_Va. Until then I wish you all a joyous and happy holiday season.
It’s been raining cats and dogs this week in California – we’ve had more rain in a week than we normally get in a year. Nice time to stay snuggled down in the house and tweet my complaints to unsympathetic followers. In fact I think they kind of enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t 72 degrees and sunny here all week! Anyway, all this rain got me thinking about Honda Bob and Lindsay’s tires. Just about a month ago Honda Bob was doing some routine maintenance on her car and told her that her tires were getting really low and she’d better get new ones. Lindsay’s absolute trust in Honda Bob made her immediately go out and get new tires. I sent Honda Bob (and Lindsay) a note where I told them I was really glad he told her to get new tires.
The responses from Bob and Lindsay were both interesting. Bob wrote back simply, “That IS my job!!!” Isn’t that perfect? He says we should expect it! Lindsay wrote back, “SERIOUSLY! For the last 5 days every time I get on the road, I think “thank god honda bob told me to get new tires!!!!!!!!” really really thankful :)”
If you live in the LA or Orange County areas, and you drive a Honda or an Acura, give Honda Bob a call at (562)531-2321 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. HDA Bob’s Mobile Service is not affiliated with Honda, Acura or Honda Worldwide.
Evidently the entire tech industry from goodware to malware developers are taking a holiday break because we have the lightest of all Security Lites, there is nothing at all to report! That means we get to jump right into Chit Chat Across the Pond without eating a single vegetable.
Chit Chat Across the Pond
Shai Yammanee of shaiyammanee.com joins us to walk through his Video and Audio plugins.
- Demo of –Colorista (Magic Bullet Suite)– Red Giant Software : Amazing plugin to control the colour of your piece. It blows me away what this can do http://thurly.net/0dqo
- Friends copy of –Looks (Magic Bullet Suite)– Red Giant Software:I used this for a dancer’s demo recently and was able to give different moods to each dance, even though lit the same and from the same studio.http://thurly.net/0gqe
Very handy…. now I just need to save up
- Demo of –Denoiser (Magic Bullet Suite)– Red Giant Software:Fantastic noise reduction in video footage. Best plugin I have found yet for noise reduction on video http://thurly.net/0dqp
- Plural Eyes– Singular Software:This plugin is magic! It automatically aligns audio and video in the timeline for you. Perfect for multiple video clips with audio from different sources. Perfect especially for things like music videos. This only takes minutes where it used to take me many painstaking hours! No need for clappers, timecode or special preparation. Love this plugin!http://thurly.net/0dw1
- Melodyne–Celemony : Like Auto tune, allows you to manipulate the waveform of audio tracks. I use this mainly for vocals to correct pitch, vibrato and timing. Incredible piece of software. http://thurly.net/0dqq
- Ivory– Synthology: http://www.synthogy.com/if you get a chance, have a listen to some of the demos.You really can not tell that these clips were done with audio samples and a keyboard.
- Akoustic Piano–Sound samples of Grand Pianos. Use it with Logic to create wonderful piano tracks for vocalist demos. Wonderful, realistic sound samples. http://thurly.net/0dqr
I hope all of you are having a safe and relaxing holiday, or least haven’t killed off any of your relatives yet! The next show will be back on the Sunday schedule, on January 2nd, 2011. Assuming I’ve survived our annual New Years party! I missed the NosillaCastaways this week without the live show (lonely to do this without them) but I’ll see them all in the new year. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.