Windows 10 Preview

I finally got round to downloading and installing the Windows 10 preview this morning to allow me to test our web app with it and the latest version of Internet Explorer. I had also wanted to take a look at Project Spartan but it seems that isn’t available yet.

Like so many others I wasn’t a great fan of Windows 8 but based on the very brief look this morning Windows 10 is a vast improvement on what went before. The start menu has been restored and the titles are not incorporated and it’s not a bad look.

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There is also a revised looking “power” menu which makes a lot more sense than before.

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Microsoft are in a good position in that the OS will be pre-installed on many machines but they have some work to do making up for the mess that was Windows 8.

2 Great Apps to Help you Show and Tell

Working in a small business you have to get involved in all sorts of areas that might be outside your core skill set. In my case that includes producing training material to help our clients understand our products better. In order to make that as painless as possible here are a couple of great apps that I use.

Clarify

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Producing documentation with screen grabs can be a real chore and while it is possible to use something like Microsoft Word it is much, much easier to do with Clarify.

The beauty of the app is the way that it lets you collect screen shots and then annotate them adding call-outs, arrows, highlighted and blurred areas and more. You can then add the text that you want associated with that picture and decide where you want it to appear.

You can then add as many screen grabs and accompanying text as you need until you have cover the whole process. It really is very quick. Once done you can either save the file as a PDF, with options to create your own templates to suit any branding you might need, or to the web.

More on Clarify

Camtasia

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Camtasia does for video what Clarify does for screenshots. It allows you to quickly and easily stitch together video along with other media, such as pictures and audio to create great looking videos. I really like the way that you can zoom into an area of the screen to direct the viewers attention to something important. The tools for call-outs, arrows, highlighting and blurring areas are great too.

As with Clarify, Camtasia is really easy to use and there are a series of tutorials (made with Camtasia of course) here which really helped me.

More on Camtasia

I use both Clarify and Camtasia on a Mac but, unusually, both apps are available for Windows too so there can be no excuses for producing great materials… well apart from your script of course!

Why the next iPhone Might have an Inbuilt Coffee Perculator

No sooner had the iPhone 6 been released did the tech sites start wondering just what might be in the NEXT release. Would it be the iPhone 6S? Would it have inductive charging? Might it be made from a metal only found on Mars? Could there be room for a larger battery? (actually Jony Ive says we wouldn’t like a larger battery and what the fuck do we know as users?)

This speculation is almost always unattributed and lacks any credible sources and is accompanied by a title containing the word “may“, “could” or “might“. And once one “news” outlet has run with the story it proliferates and becomes unstoppable.

I don’t know whether this phenomenon is unique to Apple products and the iPhone in particular and whether it is caused but the drought of information emanating from Cupertino but either way it is tiresome clickbait.

So I want it be known that I have it on completely unreliable (i.e. non-existent sources) that the next iPhone may have a built-in coffee percolator. You heard it here first but, no doubt, this nugget of information will be on BGR and Techrunch within the hour!

Hitting $1M in Pebble Time

I waited a long long time for my Pebble to arrive after backing it on Kickstarter. But since the arrival of iOS8 and several updates to the watch firmware it was worked well and I really like the watch.

My only gripe would be that the font size is a bit small (even on the largest setting) and I wish that they would make it bigger. Apart from that it is just about perfect.

With all the news about the Apple Watch I had wondered what Pebble’s answer to it would be and yesterday we found out with the launch of the Pebble Time. It looks awesome and I have ordered one but it seems that I am not the only person to think so.

The above image shows when Pebble Time reached it’s first $1M in under an hour making it the fastest to that price point on Kickstarter. As I type this the total is just a shade over $9m and there are still 30 days to go! Deliveries begin in May.

FYI the image above has been reduced from 1 minute 20 seconds to nine seconds.

Setting the Nest to Away

I love the Nest learning thermostat now that it has built up a schedule but I feel that it could be doing more to help us save money.

One way to do this is set the Nest to away when I am, well, away. I currently have two ways of doing that:

1. via the standard Nest iPhone app, or
2. via the Nest Pebble app, Leaf.

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Both these work well but you need to remember to actually do it and I never do. Worse than that if I do remember I then forget to turn it back on again.

Enter Skylark, an iPhone app that connects with your Nest to automatically set it away and back to home. It works by checking the proximity of your phone to your Nest and setting it to away when you get a certain distance away and then back on again when you are within proximity. It can also work by when you connect/disconnect to your home wi-fi.

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One of the great things about Skylark is that if multiple people have the app installed connected to the same Nest then it will only be set to Away when everyone is out of the house.

The only problems seem to be that: it only works with iOS 8.1 and it doesn’t work on Android. Apart from that it is pretty perfect.

Here’s to lower energy bills.

Twitter Cards Validation Error

Twitter have had a neat feature for a while now that allows for additional information to be included with a tweet that is then displayed when you expand the tweet. This is how it looks:

Card on the Web

Card on the Web

And on a mobile client:

Card on a mobile device

Card on a mobile device

To enable these you need to set-up some meta data on your website (there is a good guide here) and then validate this information with Twitter here. When I did so I was greeted by the following message:

ERROR: FetchError:exceeded 4.seconds to Portal.Pink-constructor-safecore while waiting for a response for the request, including retries (if applicable) (Card error)

This message while not the most clear means that your website is taking too long to return the requested page, more than four seconds in fact. This led me on a journey to try and get the response time down to something respectable because if Twitter was having problems you can bet that potential customers would be experiencing the same thing.

In the end, in our case,  I determined that the server was underpowered and so threw some resources at it and the problem went away. Given that Twitter cards are free and easy to set-up I would thoroughly recommend  doing so, they even work through link shorteners as you can see from the images above.

Adding New Fonts to iOS for use in Word, Drafts and other Apps

I have long loved the font that is used in iA’s Writer app but while I love the app I really wanted to be able to use the font elsewhere and particularly in Drafts.

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After a bit of searching it was clear that the font used in Writer wasn’t available but there was a free alternative as part of Google Fonts called Cousine. The rest of this post will show you how you can get this font onto your iOS device. Firstly download the font package from the Google site.

You will need a copy of a font installation app. There are a number available but the one I am using is InstaFont which costs £1.49. You will also need a way of getting the font onto the device. I used Dropbox but anything that can allow you to download the file and open it in another app will do so you should be able to use Google Drive/OneDrive/Box or a Mail app.

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Once transferred you should see the font appear in your custom font list. Select it and the install button in the top right will show (1). You can then click this to move on to the installation.

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When you press the Install button the app will switch to Safari and them almost immediately to the settings app where you will then see the Install Profile screen:

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You will then see a warning message about the profile being unsigned. You can safely ignore this and press Install:

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For some reason pressing Install twice isn’t enough for Apple so go ahead and press it once again:

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The installation is now complete and so you can press the Done button:

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The font is now installed and ready to use in other apps. For example here it is being selected for use in Drafts:

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And finally here it is in use. You can compare with the original in iA Writer immediately below it. Pretty similar I think.

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Why I can’t get my Head Around Evernote’s Work Chat Feature

In the last major release of Evernote a new feature called Work Chat was introduced. It is described by Evernote as allowing you to “discuss your work in Evernote, in real time, with the people who help you get it done.”. So it is sort of like an inbuilt chat facility and as that it works as described.

The problem is that what is the most natural thing to want to do while chatting over a note? For me it is to update it with the other party and for both to see the updates but when you do that you get the following and an unholy mess to have to unpick.

Evernote_Premium

Playing with Work Chat yesterday leads me to conclude that, as it stands, this feature is no better than, say, using Skype and passing Word documents around via email and much better would to use a Google Doc or a third party service such as Live Minutes.

I know that the syncing was changed in the last version of Evernote so I can only hope that live and true collaborative editing of documents is something that is achievable and coming soon.

Seeing Double – Duet Display for iPad

There has been a lot of noise this week about a new iOS app called Duet Display. This allows you to turn your iPad into an extra display for your Mac. This has been done before but the difference with Duet Display is that it claims to have no lag as it is connected over the lightning/dock cable rather than using wifi.

Duet Display was release yesterday afternoon and I installed it on my iPad Mini and iPhone 6 along with the mandatory companion app on my iMac.

The good news is that it certainly works as described. I was able to manage the device as an additional monitor through System Preferences dragging it to where I wanted it to appear in relation to my other two existing monitors. I was then, as you can see from the images, able to drag Skype to my device and use it from there. The touch screen works on the device allowing you to move the cursor around the screen and interact as you would with a mouse, which is pretty cool.

The bad news is that it has made my iMac incredibly unstable with Chrome and the Messages apps both crashing at will. How can I be certain that this is to do with Duet Display? Because as soon as I quit the app normal stability was resumed.

So right now I couldn’t recommend the app. Of course your mileage may vary, as they say, and I haven’t seen any problems highlighted in the reviews I have read but for me it is unfortunately unusable.

Duet Display on iPhone 6

Duet Display on iPhone 6

You can download the app from here.