Wednesday, August 4, 2010

TheAppleBlog (4 сообщения)
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  • Conundrum: Syncing Personal Media From Multiple Sources

    So you’ve got this great Mac, and you’ve probably got some great photos or video of the family, or that mountain bike adventure, or the last rock concert you and your friends attended. Whether you like to show off these great moments and experiences on your mobile iDevice, or at home on the computer or high-def TV, the same conundrum can occur: How do you store and organize all this great stuff so it’s easily accessible in one place all the time?

    I’m sure I know what you’re grumbling right now: “iPhoto/Aperture does that, what’s the big deal?” Well, if you want to get right to the good stuff — all the good stuff — without scrubbing through the chaff first, there may be a better way to address the situation.

    The situation as I see it, looks something like this:

    • Over time, I’ve used iPhoto, so I have some photos there.
    • I also, and exclusively now, use Aperture.
    • I’ve got random video clips from the point-and-shoot camera that are scattered around Finder and iPhoto.
    • I’ve got Flip video in the Flip version of iPhoto.
    • I’ve got photos and HD video from my iPhone 4 in Aperture.

    I realize that maybe I’m just sorely disorganized (ok, I know I am), but I’m guessing similar conditions probably exist in many a household out there in reader-land. Sharing all of this from my Mac is one thing. At least it’s all right there, so even if I have to switch apps and dig a little bit, I can get to it. But then there’s the real kicker: How do I elegantly get all of the good stuff synced to my mobile iDevice to share on the go?

    My Solution

    The solution I came up with isn’t necessarily the best (please share your own in the comments for the good of the community!), but it has certainly proven to suit my needs. Basically, I siphon all of the photos and personal video from their various locations (older iPhoto libraries, various Aperture libraries, Flip Video, Finder, and so on) and drop them all into a single iPhoto library (which I’ve named ‘sync’).

    If you’re unfamiliar with creating a new iPhoto library, it’s quite easy. When you launch iPhoto, hold down the Option key, and a dialogue will ask you if you want to select a different library, or create a new one. Once I created the new library and dragged all my media in, I made sure it was organized in a way that made sense for me to show it off. So I’ve got ‘Family 2009′, ‘Family 2010′, ‘Photography’, and ‘Home Movies’ albums for easy access to everything. Of course, you may want to drill down to specific events like iPhoto and Aperture do, so do whatever makes most sense for your needs.

    The beauty of this particular solution is that since Aperture is my main photo application, iPhoto is left untouched. Therefore, leaving the ‘sync’ library as the default in iPhoto means it’s always available for syncing to my iPhone. And of course if I’m at home I can pull up iPhoto on the MacBook or big screen to easily share the content that I want without having to sift through tons of other media that isn’t nearly as interesting.

    The downside here is that whenever you have new photos or videos, you have to manually drag and drop them into your new ‘Sync’ iPhoto library. Although with a little time and know-how, Automator could be utilized to solve this problem as well.

    If you’ve run into the same problem, and developed your own workaround, we’d love to hear your solution as well.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Cool Tool: CardMunch Transcribes Business Cards Using Your iPhone Camera

    Hopefully soon we’ll all stop using business cards in favor of more direct and persistent connections, but for the time being almost every time you go to an event or a meeting you end up with a stack of cards. A new startup called CardMunch today launches a handy paid iPhone app that quickly transcribes and organizes those business cards on the go.

    Here’s how it works: you open the CardMunch app, point your phone camera at a card for about three seconds, and it goes up into the ether. Human card readers from around the world transcribe the card, and it’s returned to you later that day direct to your phone address book (right now it’s just a few seconds later, but as more people start using the app CardMunch guarantees it will keep turnaround time “within a few hours”).

    Today the app goes on sale at $2.99 for 10 credits, with a free version (a separate app called CardMunch Free) giving five free card transcriptions as a sample. Down the road, credit packs work out to about $0.25 per card. Android and BlackBerry apps are on the way.

    One neat thing the company does is understand that your phone address book might not be the right place for business cards from people you hardly know. The company does integrate with the iPhone address book, but you also have the option to store each business contact in a separate CardMunch addressbook and export contacts as .vcf (vCard) files.

    CardMunch CEO Bowei Gai says his company’s price point is similar to services like CloudContact and Shoeboxed where you mail in your cards, but CardMunch guarantees 100 percent accuracy and turns cards around more quickly and conveniently. He thinks his workforce of transcribers around the world can currently handle 50,000 cards per day.

    CardMunch is based in Mountain View, Calif., and backed by K9 Ventures.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Apple in the Cloud: What I'd Love to See

    For a company that’s in the mobile business as heavily as Apple is, its cloud strategy is embarrassing. Some parts of MobileMe work fine, like contact, bookmark, and calendar, but others, like iDisk, fall on their face so often I can’t count on them for production work. After one too many syncing errors, I’ve found iDisk to be a great place to store large files I want remote access to, but it’s not reliable enough for my day-to-day syncing; for that I use Dropbox. Lets face it, while the “It just works” slogan is mostly accurate, Apple’s Cloud strategy just doesn’t play well.

    We’ve ranted enough here that we don’t need for me to beat on the MobileMe horse. Instead, I’d like to offer up some ways I’d love to see Apple in the cloud, or, rather, Apple in the cloud better.

    iTunes Account

    I love how Apple copied, err, adopted Amazon’s Whispersync idea into iBooks — where it syncs bookmarks, notes, and progress (and any eBook in iBooks; not just iBookstore books) via my iTunes account. I’d like to see this carried over to movies, TV shows, and podcasts on multiple devices. For example: Driving home from my parents today I was listening to “This Week in Tech” on my iPhone. To keep listening, I can either plug my iPhone into some speakers, figure out where I was on the iTunes copy, or sync my iPhone to my Mac. Why can’t my iTunes account also track my position on media?

    While I’d love Apple to introduce wireless syncing, I’m also not sure shoving large files like movies to my iPad via Wi-Fi is all that efficient. However, I’d love playlists to be synced via my iTunes account — and, thinking about it, the songs are small enough that I’d love at least a Wi-Fi cloud option for songs and playlists.

    One feature of MobileMe I really love is bookmark syncing. When it works (why is that such an oft-used statement with MobileMe?), I love tagging content on my iDevice and syncing it back to my Mac. I’ve got a folder named “Take Action” which is usually a bookmark of something for research or something I need to download back at the home base. However, this isn’t really worth the MobileMe subscription. I feel it’s more like the “player to be named later” in a baseball trade. Bookmark syncing via my iTunes account is something I feel Apple should provide for free, and, as a bonus feature, it should work with Firefox on the Mac and PC.

    iWork, iDevices, and iDisk

    One of the mind-boggling problems I have with my iPad is how gosh-darned hard it is to get documents to and from the thing. Actually, getting documents onto it isn’t that hard with the Dropbox and iDisk app’s “open with” feature, but after you’ve made an edit, God help you if you want to get that back onto a Cloud account in under three steps. is an under-utilized feature. I know it’s still in Beta, but I think it’s given that label because Apple felt it needed to do something, but still isn’t sure what. Like Apple TV, it’s a hobby, I feel. iWork is an oddity on the iPad, in that it’s actually easier to get content onto it, than from it. All iPad iWork documents have a handy “share on” feature that makes it very easy to share content.

    If you’ve never used, it’s a way to share a document for review. People can download the file, or view it online and comment on it. Using it for that, it’s a fairly handy service. I recently had to give a presentation, and was able to solicit feedback using very easily.

    I just can’t help but think there’s a way to set up iWork apps on OS X and iOS to use a form of push-sharing. Apple hasn’t announced iWork ’11 yet, but I’m offering up the requisite tech sacrifices in my backyard that between the next version of iWork and the next version of iOS, somehow, Apple will make it easy to at least get the desktop and mobile versions of iWork to sync data in the cloud.

    Apple should be ashamed, ashamed of itself that other Office-style apps on the iPad integrate better with iDisk than its own apps. Quite frankly, the fact that I need to transfer a file via iTunes to iOS Pages should have resulted in a Jobsian rant, not a product release. GoodReader makes it very easy for me to transfer video, music and just about any kind of file format from any kind of cloud disk onto the iPad. Apple’s iBooks app can’t even “open as” a PDF without crashing the entire app and erasing all the PDFs except the one I just imported. I’m sorry if I sound bitter, but that’s because I am.

    Final Thoughts

    Frankly, I’m not a big fan of the cloud as a main resting place for data. Every piece of data I’ve entrusted to the cloud, I’ve got local copies of, and those copies are backed up multiple times — and yes, some of those backups are also in the cloud. However, Apple markets its iDevices as satellite devices. My iPhone and iPad all require an iTunes connection to operate, and thus, need a USB cable to transfer data. Apple is long touted as not releasing a product or service without a clear idea of what its role is, but I disagree. My iPad and iPhone are needless islands unto their own, bridged by a USB Cable to the Mothership iTunes.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: Report: How Mobile Cloud Computing Will Change Tech

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Apple's Instruments for Developers


    When Steve Jobs told the media at the July 16 Press Conference that Apple loves its customers, he meant it. When 5,000 developers gathered in San Francisco for the WWDC a few months earlier to discuss how to build apps for these customers that Apple loves so much, the company provided training, as well as several new tools called instruments, to help developers build the best possible applications for users of Apple devices.

    There were no less than a dozen sessions at this years WWDC on how to improve apps throughout the development process, with another handful showing how to move processes off of the main thread using Blocks and Grand Central Dispatch. The message was loud and clear: Build apps that do what they say they will do; build apps that do not use any private or undocumented APIs; and oh yeah, most importantly, build apps that don't crash. When developers have ignored these three basic things, their apps were most likely rejected from the App Store.

    This year, however, developers quickly discovered that the stakes were a little higher. With Multitasking in iOS 4, the apps must also play well with others. There’s an omnipresent watchdog monitoring apps as they try to do their thing. If the app takes too long to perform certain tasks (like launching), or consumes too much memory (especially when suspended), it may be forced to quit. Fortunately, there is a series of tools that developers can use to ensure that the apps they build are of the highest quality possible, and behave as good little apps in the iOS kingdom.

    Writing Better Code

    XcodeXcode’s Build and Analyze. The first line of defense is the static analyzer. Xcode’s built-in static analyzer is based on the open-source Clang Static Analyzer, a source code analysis tool that find bugs in C and Objective-C programs. This static analyzer works like a compiler and examines source code, looking for logic flaws and instances where certain coding best practices are not followed. This can help a great deal in cutting down on unused variables and other memory management issues.

    Bug Hunting in the Simulator

    AllocationsAllocations Instrument. The Allocations instrument can be used to take snapshots of the heap as apps perform their tasks. If taken at two different points in time, it can be used to identify situations where memory is being lost, not leaked. The test case would be to take a snapshot, do something in the app, and then undo that something, returning the state of the app to its prior point.  If the memory allocated in the heap is the same, no worries. It’s a simple and repeatable test scenario of performing a task, and returning the app to its state prior to performing the task.

    LeaksLeaks Instrument. The Leaks instrument will look for situations where memory has been allocated, but is no longer able to be used. The most common situation where this occurs is with buried or overly complex logic that’s supposed to release memory, but under certain circumstances doesn’t get executed. These memory leaks can lead to the app crashing or being shut down. If an app is holding on to too much memory when the user decides to suspend the app, the watchdog may have no choice but to quit the app in order to free memory. By keeping a lean application, the chances of this happening are minimized.

    ZombiesZombies Instrument. The majority of crashes are caused by trying to access an object that doesn’t exist. Memory gets allocated and released all the time, and if an app releases something before the app is done using it, the app may crash. This is usually a very difficult scenario to track down with just the debugger. The Zombies instrument keeps an empty or 'dead' object alive (in a sense) in place of objects that have already been released. These 'dead' objects are later accessed by the faulty application logic and halt execution of the app without crashing. The 'zombie' objects receive the call and point the instrument to the exact location where the app would normally crash.

    On Device Performance

    Time ProfilerTime Profiler Instrument. Although the Time Profiler instrument can be used in the simulator, it’s recommended for use on a device. The main reason for this is that performance will vary greatly between the simulator on a Mac and various iOS devices. Apple recommends developers try to perform time measurements on the slowest supported device, which would undoubtably be an iPhone 3G with iOS 4 installed. When used, the Time Profiler will illustrate how much time is being spent in each code segment. This allows developers to prioritize which bit of logic needs to be refactored prior to release. Some things may not be fixable, but it’s possible other factors could be reviewed in order to see if there’s a better way to address the issue at hand, possibly by moving logic off the main thread using Blocks and Grand Central Dispatch. As easy as Apple has tried to make this programing task, developers still don’t want to waste time optimizing the performance of code that’s already performing well.

    Use In the Field

    Energy DiagnosticsEnergy Diagnostics. The Energy Diagnostics instrument is potentially the most exciting tool that Apple gave to developers. This instrument allows for field testing that’s as close to real world scenarios as possible. The data collected can later be analyzed to see how much of the device’s battery life each function consumes. It will tell the developer how long each of the devices various components is used. If you need to know the user’s location, it will tell you which devices were turned on and for how long. GPS is a particular resource hog and consumes much of the device’s battery life. Turning off location services once a location is obtained is ideal. The Energy Diagnostics instrument will help identify optimum use of the device’s resources.

    Monitoring Customers Experiences

    iTunes ConnectCrash Reports. iTunes Connect is used by developers to interact with Apple's App Store, and is used to submit apps to Apple. It’s also where Apple collects crash data from users of each developer’s apps. These Crash Reports can be analyzed by the developer and used to pinpoint where users are having bad experiences. The reports indicate when there is a watchdog timeout during a launch, resume, or suspend event, as well as when the user force-quits the app or the system performed a low memory termination.  You can’t always rely on the user to submit bug reports or inform developers of a bad experience. With as many alternative solutions out there for similar tasks, it’s much easier to simply install a similar app than inform the developer of a bug and wait for a solution. Crash Reports may be the only means to rectify bugs that were not caught during field testing.

    These are a few of the tools that Apple has to offer developers, and are most were emphasized during WWDC this year. While Steve Jobs can’t hold all third-party developers to the same high standards he does his internal staff, he can provide the tools necessary for developers to build the best-possible apps. When Apple released all the WWDC sessions via iTunesU to all registered developers, you could sense that Apple was serious about helping developers provide the best possible apps for customers who choose to buy products on Apple's platforms.


    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »

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