#346 EyeTV, Manfrotto Tripod, iMicrophone, Downcast, Task Paper, Mac App Store

Bad Cracker joke contest complete, EyeTV Review from Mike McPeek (@dscchipman), Manfrotto MKC3-H01 tripod review (Amazon link). Robert Harper with an i-Microphone Review (Amazon link). Kirschen from FreeRangeCoder.com gives us a Downcast Review from http://downcastapp.com. In Chit Chat Across the Pond Bart gives us a Task Paper review: OSX Version in the Mac App Store and iOS version in the iTunes Store, and then we chat about how the Mac App Store looks to us one year out.

itunes

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 January 1st, 2012 and this is show number 346. Happy New Year everyone, hope you had great holidays and maybe took some time to relax with friends and family. Steve and I did a combination of both – driving all over the place to see relatives, but then a whole bunch of hanging around the house playing, so it was a perfect holiday for us.

Bad Crackers

Last week on the show @OzRose challenged the NosillaCastaways to save bad jokes from their Christmas Crackers/Poppers and submit the worst of them to StevieP to be the judge to find the worst of the worst. Steve took this task very seriously and posted the contest on Google+. I take NO responsibility for any of this, but I’m obligated by the bylaws of the NosillaCastaways to read what he sent me.

@spsheridan would like to thank you all who contributed. You made his day a bit brighter with your awful humor. He had a difficult time selecting the worst jokes, but here are the winning bad jokes, starting with 3rd place.

  • From Steve Stanger aka @tmasteve: “A patient goes to the doctor and says “Help! I’ve got an amnesia what should I do?” The doc says “Forget about it!” Steve said that one was just plain funny.
  • Second place from Allister Jenks aka @zkarj: “Q: Why was 6 scared of 7? A: Because 7 8 9.” Steve liked that one because if you turn your head side was and squint you can pull a Star Trek reference out of it (7 of 9) even if unintentional.
  • And the 1st place winner of the bad joke Cracker contest is from Kevin Allder (aka Big_in_VA), “Q: What did the pencil say to the paper? A: I dot my i’s on you. ” Sigh. Steve says it’s a bad joke with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Now I had to have him explain that to me, I guess the lower case i’s made him think of Apple?
  • Like I said, I bear no responsibility for this whole thing, I personally thought Bren Finan’s bad joke was the best one, ” Q: What do you call a rap about global warming? A: An Al Gore Rhythm!” Maybe that one was disqualified because it’s actually clever and funny? Let’s cleanse our palettes with a listener review.

    EyeTV Review – Mike McPeek

    Hello Allison and fellow Castaways, Mike McPeek the Hi-Tech Custodian here with a software review. In my last review I said I was platform agnostic and Allison used the term “slider” for someone who slides from one OS to another. The first thing I thought of when I heard that was the Tv show from the 90’s called “Sliders” starring Jerry O’Connel and John Rhys-Davies as characters that slide from one alternate universe to another through a wormhole. Which brings me to the subject of my review, recording TV shows and this time ironically it is a non-slider solution because this is a Mac only program . But first let’s examine the situation.

    Like I said the last time I am one of two custodians of our high school. We work 2 shifts, one from 5:30 am to 2:00 pm and the other from 2:00 pm to 10:30 pm. Then we switch off every 2 weeks. This means for 2 weeks at a time I don’t get to watch my favorite shows, which includes NCIS, and if I don’t get to see my share of Gibbs slaps I get kinda slappy. So what is a cranky custodian to do.

    The first thing I tried was watching the shows on line through Hulu but not all of them are there. Or from the shows websites but the networks in their questionable motivations decide not to put some of the shows online until 8 days after broadcast on TV, so you will always be one show behind.

    Our rural TV/internet/cable cooperative has a dvr option. The problem there is that I can’t off load it to my iPod touch or Android tablet so that I can watch the show at the coffee shop in Walmart while waiting for my wife to get done shopping.

    After doing some research I found a solution that works for me. It is EyeTV software from Elgato. This coupled with a usb TV tuner and you have a TV/dvr combo on your computer. At it’s simplest you can use it to pause and rewind live TV so if you get interrupted or want to re-watch the killer’s confession to make sure it all adds up you just hit the arrow keys to jump back 30 seconds. But it’s abilities go beyond that.

    If you subscribe to the TV Guide service, you will get a spreadsheet layout of what’s on TV. All you have to do is type in your zip code and pick your provider and all your channels show up. If you are able to tune channels directly from the television then this is simple. Find the show you want to record, click the record button next to it and you are done. For me it is not so simple because we have to change the channel from the set top box so it becomes a two step process. I do the same as above and then tell the box to auto tune to the show I want to watch. This could be made simpler by installing an IR Blaster on the computer to tell the cable box which channel to change it to but then the computer would have to be next to the box and that is not a good solution.

    Now you have your show recorded what else can you do. With the TV Guide service installed it will automatically add the show title and information about the length, date and a short synopsis of the show. If you install the ETVComskip software from Google Code it will mark the commercials and skip over them for you. It isn’t always 100% but it’s not too bad. EyeTV also has a built in video editor to cut out the commercials. From there you can have it encode it in a format for iPod or Apple TV. This way you can build a library of your favorite shows if you want to re-watch them sometime.

    The software also allows you to make smart lists. For example you could have a smart guide that would go through the TV listings and find shows based on genre, show title, actor, content or a number of other criteria. You could also have it make a custom channel list so if you want skip over those mind numbing sports channel and just have the sci-fi and tech shows you could. Or make a playlist of shows for an afternoon of show watching. There is also program to allow EyeTV to operate with Front Row.

    I have hit the major points of the EyeTV software but if you want to know more go to Elgato.com to see more features and a list of compatible TV tuners. I will include in the show notes a list of all the other software that I mentioned. I hope this helps with any television watching problems you may have.

    Thanks Mike – this sounds like a great solution for you. One thing I worry about – did you have to buy a Drobo to store all the data of these downloaded shows? I figure they’re not optimized when you record them so they might pile up if you don’t keep a watchful eye on them!

    Manfrotto Tripod Review

    In 1978 I got my first film Single Lens Reflex camera, the Minolta X700. Gosh I loved that camera – the jump in quality was amazing from the old 110 cameras to grown up 35 mm camera. At the same time I got a tripod to go with it. Over the years that tripod has served us well – many of our Christmas photos were taken with it over the years, all the way up to our recent efforts to capture the lunar eclipse. While I upgraded my camera many times, I never got a new tripod, it actually didn’t occur to me that perhaps in 30 some odd years, tripod technology MIGHT have advanced just a tad at the same time cameras were advancing.

    Last year we were at a conference, I think it was Macworld when Steve was hanging out with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices.TV. Steve hanging out with Chuck has cost me more than just about anything – remember the video camera Chuck made me get Steve two years ago??? So anyway, Chuck pulls this slim, light, and yet oddly sturdy tripod out of his backpack and shows it to Steve. It was the Manfrotto MKC3-H01. I’d like to talk about the advancements the Manfrotto brings vs. my 34 year old tripod.

    Surprisingly the legs extend and are clamped in place by nearly identical mechanisms, but the Manfrotto sports cylindrical aluminum legs that are very thin, vs. the rectangular extrusions of the old tripod. They look REALLY spindly, and when they’re not clamped in place they’ll give you pause because they do wiggle around quite a bit, but flip that clamp lever over and they’re pretty sturdy for such a light tripod.

    My old tripod head extended up and down by a wearying hand crank – it moved pretty quickly but you had to sort of flip the crank around to get it into position. The Manfrotto uses a single flat wing nut that you give a turn and then pull the whole head up or put it down. Really fast, AND you don’t have the hand crank to get into just the right position when putting the tripod away.

    The single coolest feature of the Manfrotto is the ball joint head. on my old tripod I had two degrees of freedom in rotation – roll (rotating around the line of sight from landscape to portrait) with an annoying screw to loosen or tighten, and pitch (up and down) with another annoying screw. With the Manfrotto, right where your thumb naturally rests, you’ve got a wheel you can turn forward to loosen, or back to tighten in just a few degrees. When the thumb wheel is loose, you can rotate the head into any position on a ball joint – complete freedom matched with a very easy thumb wheel clamp.

    The Manfrotto has a quick release plate on top that you can keep on your camera if you like so you can shoot freely and then pop it right back on the tripod with ease. It’s not a lot easier to get on and off of that plate in my opinion, I think having a quarter handy for the slot head screw might be in order, but I might not have the hang of it yet.

    The Manfrotto only weighs 1.15kg, or 2.5 pounds, but it can hold 1.5kg or 3.3 pounds. When the Manfrotto is completely collapsed, it’s only 44.5cm (17.5 in) long so it easily fits in a backpack for taking on a plane, but it expands to 154cm (over 60 inches tall). I had expected this fancy pants Chuck-endorsed tripod to cost me an arm and a leg, but the Manfrotto MKC3-H01is only $51 – I put an Amazon link in the shownotes for your shopping pleasure if you too are interested in upgrading from a 1970s vintage tripod.

    ScreenSteps

    A few weeks ago I talked about an EPIC ScreenSteps document I created, 122 pages long, it was a User Acceptance Test document for a very complex web-based tool. I know very few people will do a test that long, but I figured out a strategy to get people to do it. The Epic Test Document of Doom (as my good friend Donald Burr would call it) had about 12 chapters, where each chapter was a major segment of the tool. The first two chapters contained information that everyone needed to go through, but I thought it would work if we could get volunteers to test only two sections, that might get more people to help.

    So I’ve got piles of chapters, but I need to break the ScreenSteps tutorial up into just two chapters but add in the first two chapters for everyone. How could I do that easily? Why I’ll tell you! ScreenSteps Professional includes the ability to mark each chapter as Not Finished/Needs Revision (designated by a red ball), Needs Review (yellow ball) and Finished (green ball). That’s super handy if you’re working on the Epic Test Document of Doom because you can send out chapters for review before you publish. So you’ve got your document of doom, you can export to PDF or Word, and within that export menu you can choose whether to publish draft chapters or not.

    So I used that feature, and set the first two chapters and two additional chapters to Finished, and exported to PDF. That gave me four chapters for one test group. Now back to ScreenSteps, change the two chapters back to draft, and pick another two chapters to set to finished and export again – another four chapter set to give to a new test group. It took a while but then again it WAS the Epic Test Document of Doom, right? I published all of these test documents to my customer and let me tell you, they were THRILLED! I know it’s not a traditional way to use the tool, but it’s an example of how flexible ScreenSteps is for doing super complex tutorials.

    If you haven’t checked out ScreenSteps yet, head on over to BlueMangoLearning.com and download a free trial of ScreenSteps, or maybe you don’t’ need the Epic Test Document of Doom, you just help out friends and family with small things – then give Clarify a spin. No obligation – just go have some fun! But be sure to tell them Allison sent you!

    Robert Harper i-Microphone Review

    Hello Allison and fellow Nosilacastaways. This is Bob Harper AKA @Lorethian with a review of the I-Microphone EIM-001.

    First lets start with the problem to solve:
    My son is a high-school sophomore who takes three advance placement classes that involve lectures every week. In this case the apple does not fall far from the tree and he is an auditory learner like myself. During the lectures he does his best to keep up with notes but as he takes these notes he often misses a very important detail. If only there was a way he could take the lecture with him to refine his notes later. Our first thought was to have my son record these lectures with his Iphone. This idea helped but the classroom is large enough that it is hard to understand the teacher I thought I would give you a feel for what I mean as I have been recording this review up to this point with the Iphone built-in microphone.

    Enter the I-Microphone EIM-001:

    This high-sensitivity 3.5mm microphone plugs into the audio jack on the top of an iPhone, Ipad or Ipod and makes a significant difference in the audio pick-up. With this little mic (and it is VERY small) my son can record his teacher from across the classroom. As you probably have guessed I am now using it to finish this review instead of the Iphone internal Mic.

    Let’s review the Pro’s:

    • Small and has great audio pickup
    • Easy to hook up and use (My son uses Evernote)
    • Comes with a nice wind screen

    Let’s spend a moment on the Con’s:

    • Small and easy to lose
    • With the great audio pickup comes additional background noises

    My overall opinion:
    This little microphone does a great job of solving our problem with little negatives.

    How to buy your own I-Microphone:
    To buy this nice little tool please click on the Amazon link at www.Podfeet.com and do a search for the EIM-001. You get a great little Mic and Allison gets to continue entertaining us all.

    Thanks Allison for loaning me the mic and now back to you.

    Thanks so much for handing the mic back, Bob. this looks like a great little device – it’s only $24 on Amazon (and yes the affiliate link works even after Christmas). The difference in audio quality is pretty dramatic with such a tiny little device. You mentioned that it’s easy to install, I looked at the picture on Amazon, all you do is plug it straight into the headphone jack on the iPhone. There’s a video on Amazon’s site too that replicates what you did doing the before and after use of the iPhone 4, in their case they did it in a warehouse about 20 feet from the phone. Thanks Bob for a great review, because it does solve a problem I bet a lot of people have!

    Kirschen Downcast Review

    Hi this is Kirschen from FreeRangeCoder.com and my review is of the iOS application Downcast from Jamawkinaw Enterprises.

    Here’s the problem to be solved. I’d like to download and listen to my subscribed podcasts without having to sync with iTunes. Before Downcast I had to download all the podcasts using iTunes and then plug in my iOS or iPod device to sync the podcasts to the device. This meant that I had to lug a Mac along on my trips _just_ to listen to the latest podcast releases.

    There are a couple of podcast downloaders and playback applications available in the iTunes store. My criteria was pretty simple: (1) subscribe, download, and playback podcasts (including video podcasts), (2) handle password protected podcasts, for example the Mac Geek Gab Premium podcast, and (3) most importantly, it must be a universal app, that is one which runs on both iPhone and iPod touch as well as the iPad. Downcast fulfills all three criteria perfectly.

    Downcast is available from the iTunes app store for $1.99. Visit their website at http://downcastapp.com – it redirects to the iTunes app store.

    Here are the features I really like:

    • Subscribing – you can search or paste in a URL. You can also enter a user ID and password for protected URLs. There’s a list of top podcasts by genre as well.
    • Podcast check and refresh – when at the top of the podcast list, simply swipe down on the topmost item and release.
    • Playlists – collect a number of podcasts together
    • Playback control – Playback speed – 0.5x to 3x. Slow to ludicrous speed!
    • Gestures – swipe to go back / forward 30 seconds. Mark podcast as listened, and navigate to next previous podcasts
    • Priority – assign priority to podcasts to have them automatically sorted. You can also override by doing a manual sort, for example if you’ve got a podcast you’re listening to and want it to go to the top.
    • Schedule – Timed checking and downloading. However, Downcast will schedule checks based on the time you last did a manual update.
    • Data option – avoid using your 3G data plan, or include it. Wifi is always used to download whenever it becomes available.
    • Volume control – set volume boost or reduction for podcast playback. This lets you equalize the volume between the podcasts so they’re about the same loudness.
    • Chapter support for AAC podcasts – lets you skip to appropriate sections.
    • URL browsing for podcast information which includes links – neat for checking out references while listening.
    • Import / export via OPML, which stands for Outline Processor Markup Language. You can export the current podcasts from iTunes and import them into Downcast this way. There are a bunch of good podcast tips at Apple’s page (http://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/)

    There are much more features than those I’ve listed. I’ve provided a link to the app in the Show Notes. Some features I’d like to see in future releases are: (1) being able to set the exact time to download podcasts, and (2) secondary podcast sorting – presently Downcast uses the priority number first and then alphabetically sorts the podcasts which have the same priority.

    I can now travel light – just the iPad and iPhone, and not miss any of the podcasts I listen to. The iPad is subscribed to all my video podcasts while the iPhone handles the audio ones. You can only guess which of my podcasts have priority one…

    You can find me on twitter as @kirschen and at my website freerangecoder.com. I’ll see you in the bitstream!

    Thanks Kirschen! I’ve heard a few reviews of podcast download apps and didn’t really get the why of them. You sure give some compelling reasons why Downcast is a good move, so I jumped on iTunes and bought it. I normally listen to podcasts using my iPod Nano so using something like Downcast wouldn’t be that helpful to me, but then we were in the car driving and realized we didn’t have the latest episode of a show we wanted to hear, so I whipped open Downcast and subscribed over 3G. It worked perfectly! I haven’t tried all the options yet, but I think I may change my Video podcast subscription model to using Downcast not he iPad and leaving my Mac to just download audio podcasts for my Nano. Have to see how that works out. Thanks for a great review.

    Smile

    Have I ever mentioned to you how much I love TextExpander from smilesoftware.com? I can now give you the stats from a whole year of using it to reduce my keystrokes, speed me up, and reduce repetitive stress. After 12 months I saved 221,354 characters, expanded 9259 snippets, saving 12 hours and 30 minutes (If I type at 60 words per minute). Think about it – I saved more than a HALF A DAY of my life by using TextExpander. Is a half a day worth $34.99 to you? It sure is to me! There are very few things in life that actually give you time, and TextExpander is one of them. You can get TextExpander from the Mac App Store for all your Macs, make it a New Years Resolution to gain time in your life!

    Chit Chat Across the Pond

    Security Light

    Main Topic 1 – Task Paper

    What is it?

    • A very simple app for managing tasks that are NOT time-bound, this app is not about managing schedules, but about managing the tasks and sub-tasks that make up your projects
    • The interface is deceptively simplistic. At first glance you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s just a plain-text text editor like Notepad.exe on Windows, but it’s not!
    • The interface works around the idea of automatically formatting your text based on simple rules:
    • Any line ending in a : is that start off a project
    • Any line starting with a dash followed by a space is a task
    • Any line that’s neither a project heading nor a task is a note
    • Indentation determines what belongs to what, and you can have as many sub tasks and projects as you want, nested as far down as you want
    • You can also add keywords using the @ symbol
  • Once you have your items entered the app will automatically take care of making it look right, and it will add handles for your projects and tasks which you can use to move them around (and mark tasks as done)
  • The project handles are arrows, and if you click on one you ‘focus’ on that project, with all other projects being hidden
  • You can also display a side bar next to the text area that shows all your projects (and sub projects), and focus on individual projects by clicking on them
  • You can also filter your view by tags
  • I’ve been using the Mac version of this app, but there is also an iOS version, both are available from Apple through the relevant App Stores
  • The Good:

    • The very simple and very clean interface is an absolute joy to use, it totally gets out of your way, so you can focus all your attention on organising your projects
    • The Developers have released a great video to get you started on youtube.com
    • It took me no more than a few minutes to feel completely at home in this app, and it’s become indispensable very quickly

    The Bad:

    • The price is a little high, especially if you want both iOS and OS X versions. I’d expect an app like this to be on the lower side of €20 (though the higher side of €10). I this is this another example of ‘old world pricing’
    • In theory, DropBox sync should allow you to share your documents between Macs and with your iOS devices. But, as Lisa Simpson put it, “In theory communism works” – In practice, sync with Task Paper is a train wreak. Just looking at a document on iOS was enough to trigger all sorts of warning on my Mac. I still save my projects in my DropBox, but I NEVER open them on two machines at the same time, and avoid ever using the iOS version except in case of emergency. Basically there is no sync support, the app just fails gracefully when it detects a change to the copy on disk. In practice you need to always remember to close documents on one machine before you open them on another, which is a massive pain.
    • Because of the sync fiasco, the iOS app is effectively useless

    Conclusion:

    I both love and hate this app. The interface is wonderfully clever and really well implemented. It’s a dream to organise things with this app. But, it’s stuck in the stone age. If you only had one device, it would work perfectly, but who still lives in that world? If this app is to have a future, it needs to move away from files, and towards a database model like Evernote. If I could get the seamless sync of Evernote with the UI and functionality of TaskPaper I’d be in heaven!

    Main Topic 2 – Pondering the MAS:

    It seems like for ever ago, but it’s only been about a year since the Mac App Store opened!

    Things Bart Loves About it:

    • One place to get updates
    • A safe (or at least safe as it gets) place to let family search for the apps they need
    • Some great deals!

    Things Bart Dislikes:

    • The Mac interface is poor at best. It’s basically all web content, but with none of the advantages of using a browser. The lack of support for tabs in particular makes it needlessly hard to compare apps
    • No returns window – since we can’t have trials, at least give us 2 hours to play with the app and return it if we’re not happy!

    Bart’s Random Observations:

    • There’s a big difference in what I call ‘old world’ and ‘new world’ pricing in the MAS. Our old favourites like Transmit and TextExpander are still priced at their old prices, but new apps by new companies are coming in with much more competitive prices. I think the new apps will win out, volume beats price!
    • There has not been a race to the bottom (good!)
    • Lots of apps that were once free are now available cheap, e.g. JellyfiSSH and Smultron (in the case of Smultron the MAS actually resurrected the app which had been killed off!) – I think it’s great that the MAS makes it easy for small developers to get paid for their work.

    Well I hope that was slightly less head bending of a Chit Chat Across the Pond than last week – I think I kept up a lot better this week! That’s going to wind things up, many thanks to our sponsors for helping to pay the bills: ScreenSteps, and Smile. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at allison@podfeet.com, 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.

    5 thoughts on “#346 EyeTV, Manfrotto Tripod, iMicrophone, Downcast, Task Paper, Mac App Store

    1. Lynda Gousha (Goo-shay) - January 2, 2012

      Re Bart’s review of Task Paper. Like Bart, I would love an app that both has a clean interface, is simple to learn, *and* syncs well with both iOS, and between Macs.
      Currently, I use ‘Things’ – since, I like the option to put in a specific time, but often I don’t choose to do that.
      I know that Omnifocus does sync well, but it is way more complex than I need or want.
      If someone were to find an app that *does* sync well, and is straightforward, I’d love to know about it.
      Thanks to Bart for a very useful review.

    2. Tim McCoy - January 4, 2012

      I enjoyed the “slightly less mind bending” chat with Bart. I did want to mention that I, too, bought the newly resurrected ‘Smultron’ from the App Store when it became available; (I’ve had used it for years) I wanted to reward the developer. But when ‘Smultron’ disappeared – it was replaced by free ‘Fraise’ for quite a bit (each had a different strawberry icon (smultron[swedish] = fraise[French] = strawberry[English]))

    3. Chuck Provenzano (podlurker) - February 2, 2012

      Installed Downcast today on iPod (ios 4) and 1st gen iPad (ios 5), both wifi-only devices. I had heard of it and Kerschen’s review really tipped the scales. I subscribed to several podcasts and it went well except for one– this one! Both devices returned errors. Has anyone else had the same problem?

      I’m sending a note to the developer via a support link built into the app.

      Chuck

    4. podfeet - February 4, 2012

      For the rest of the folks reading – Chuck wrote to the developer and it turns out there’s a bug to do with podcasts tracked with Podtrac. Should be fixed soon!

    5. Isa Schwipps - December 27, 2013

      Your article is really good. Keep posting!

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