Saturday, 22 December 2012

Recommended App: Photo Transfer App for iPad and iPhone

A quick and simple way to transfer photos and video clips from an iPad or iPhone to a computer, using Wi-Fi. Launch the app, select photos and videos, then open up a web browser on your computer. Just browse and download items individually, or as a zip file of everything.

On a recent holiday I shot a large number of video clips on an iPhone. Back at my room, with my laptop and iPhone on the same Wi-Fi connection, I was able to transfer the day's videos to a MacBook Air, then import the video clips into iMovie.

If there's no Wi-Fi available, create an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network from your computer, join your iPhone or iPad to this network, then transfer photos and videos as above.

Photo Transfer App can also be used to upload photos and videos.

Recommended App: GoodReader for iPad and iPhone

See GoodReader on iTunes preview

The iPad has no built-in file system, so files are stored locally within individual apps. GoodReader is my preferred app for handling files, and it provides a file storage system, complementary file handling tools (rename, zip, unzip, email, organise, and "open in other apps"), a web file download facility, connections to numerous file storage services (e.g. Dropbox, Skydrive, Windows/Apple servers, FTP), and connections to popular email/webmail services for downloading attachments.

GoodReader has an embedded web server, for directly transferring files to/from a computer over Wi-Fi, and can also transfer files to/from a computer over the iPad's USB cable, acting as an external drive.

GoodReader began life as a PDF reader, and can be used to open and annotate PDFs, documents, images and photos,.GoodReader can also play music and video clips.

Typical use cases are based on file handling, and storing files for offline access:
  • Download and store files from websites (e.g. PDF documents)
  • Store email attachments on the iPad (e.g. booking confirmations and boarding passes)
  • Upload files from a computer to the iPad over Wi-Fi or USB cable (e.g. non-itunes music and video)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Week With Windows 7

This week I've switched from using a MacBook to using a Windows 7 laptop, in my job as a network manager. Here are the five things that struck me on the first day, in no particular order:

1. Windows is perfectly fine
I'm satisfied that the choice between OS X and Windows is largely a personal preference, and not a compromise in functionality. I'm now more wary of anyone who tells me that one system is better than the other. However, the choice will be governed by familiarity with conveniences that each system offers (see below).

2. I need a mouse!
Within minutes I connected a mouse. The laptop's trackpad feels cramped, and seems unsuitable for anything other than small, occasional mouse pointer movements. This is a criticism of the hardware, not Windows, although I rarely see laptops with a trackpad as large or responsive as the Macbook's.

3. Task Switching
I tend to have 3 or 4 application windows open at any time, and I need to switch between them. In OS X, a three-fingered flick on the trackpad tiles all open windows, and a click selects a window.

The nearest equivalent I could find in Windows is switching tasks using the Windows Key and Tab, which cycles through all open application windows. This feels awkward and disruptive to the "flow" of work. Maybe I should just get used to clicking applications in the Taskbar?

4. Dashboard
OS X supports "spaces": multiple desktops, which can be swapped using a trackpad gesture. The first of these spaces is the Dashboard, which contains "widgets": simple applications like Calculator and Sticky Notes. I use widgets regularly for keeping notes and for calendar checking, but I couldn't find a Windows alternative for quickly reaching these applications. Browser tabs were the temporary solution, which is a functional but poor equivalent.

5. Trashcan
Maybe I'm paranoid, but I never directly delete files or folders. I prefer to drag these into the Trashcan, then empty the trash from time to time.

The OS X trashcan sits on the edge of the Dock, at the bottom-right of the screen, and is always visible. The Windows Trashcan sits on the desktop, and is obscured by the stack of application windows I'm using. The technique I've adopted in Windows is to drag a file to the bottom-right corner of the screen, wait for all the windows to minimise, drag into the Trashcan, then restore the window I was working with.

I know about the DEL keyboard shortcut, but I'm looking for a simple drag/drop mouse pointer action. I've read about hacks to add the Trashcan to the Taskbar, but this is unsuitable when I visit many laptops during the day. Is there a better solution?

Thursday, 19 July 2012

My Burning House Photo

1. A Taste Of Freedom, Ajahn Chah. A collection of Buddhist lessons. Passed on by Rob, whom I met working on a farm on St Martin's, Isles of Scilly, in summer, early 1990s.

2. Passport.

3. Broken pin from 2010, when I coxed the ladies Islander gig rowing crew in the World Pilot Gig Championships. A great bunch of girls!

4. Pink strip of gauze from summer 2009, from a certain person. One of the most memorable years of my life.

5. 10 litre rucksack to carry it all, from a recent trip to the Scottish highlands.

6. Magnetic cow fridge magnet, from my sister.

7. 2-step verification thing from my bank. A necessary evil.

8. MacBook Air

9. iPhone

10. Samsung featurephone. It goes where the iPhone cannot. I believe this to be indestructable.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Most Uninspiring Film Of 2011: Archipelago

Archipelago: my most uninspiring movie of 2011, which is a shame because it's the one film I looked forward to seeing and most wanted to like. I live where Archipelago was filmed, and ultimately thought "what a wasted opportunity".

The Scillies are a unique part of the British Isles, and a film made here should leverage the location in some way to drive the plot, give a sense of place, or set a mood. Archipelago did none of these things, and could have been filmed at any other coastal or rural setting without changing the feel.

I could forgive this if the plot or the performances could have lifted the story. After all, a film must made somewhere. However, the experience felt like a dreary trudge along a muddy path with aching feet in bad weather, rather than a walk on the hills on a bright, breezy sunny day. Not the worst film I've seen, but many better examples exist of this type.

See some of my photos of the Isles of Scilly, or browse Flickr (Scilly), Google Image Search (Isles of Scilly), or YouTube (Isles of Scilly).

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Favourite Movies Of 2011

Below are ten favourites that I got to see during occasional visits to the mainland, and to put these into context, a wish list of movies I missed.

Country Strong (12A)
Commanding central performance by Gwyneth Paltrow as an iconic country singer fallen from grace. Charming romance from Leighton Meester and Garrett Hedlund, supported by a strong Country and Western soundtrack performed by the cast. This year's Walk The Line.

Drive (18)
A getaway driver gets mixed up with the wrong crowd in this year's most stylish and atmospheric thriller. Had me hooked from the start; one of those movies with instant appeal. The director keeps tight control of the pace, alternately flooring the throttle then stamping on the brake to deliver a tempestuous ride. Compelling dialogue, nasty characters capable of horrific brutality, all backed by a hypnotic soundtrack.

The Ides Of March (15)
Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman fight for control of George Clooney's political campaign in a standout drama. The politics are purely a backdrop; this story could be about control of a company or a sports team. What underpins this movie is the sparring between the two characters and their aides, as morals are tested, agendas and allegiances change, and stories are spun to a baying press corps. A career-defining role for Hoffman.

Source Code (12A)
High concept action thriller as a man searches for a bomb on a commuter train. An awkward setup and steep learning curve are compensated by a touching conclusion that suggests a sequel. This movie demands that the audience keeps up, and raises questions of how you would respond to a similar challenge under intense pressure.

The King's Speech (12A)
Colin Firth plays the reluctant King George, seeking therapy for a speech impediment, in preparation for addressing the nation on imminent war with Germany. What begins as a man's trial to control a stutter becomes a suspense thriller as the ominous task of making a seemingly-impossible speech looms ahead. Gentle pacing gives rise to climactic tension. Colin Firth delivers an outstanding performance as the king, with Geoffrey Rush in a compelling role as his unconventional therapist.

The Way Back (12A)
A group of convicts escapes into the Siberian wilderness and fights the elements, and each other, for survival. Painfully real scenes of suffering and hardship make this an uneasy watch. Despite a simple plot and shallow character definition, this true story of survival remains absorbing as the group encounter great obstacles under impossible odds. Breathtaking scenery and temperature extremes abound; watch this with a roaring fire.

TT3D: Closer To The Edge (15)
A glimpse into the world of motorbike racing on the Isle of Man's public roads, seen from the perspective of several riders. Candid and insightful, down-to-earth characters, edge-of-the-seat action sequences and a profound sense of loss at the fatalities make this a well-rounded documentary of a thrilling event.

Hanna (12A)
A young girl, raised in the arctic by her father and trained in combat and survival, goes on the run from US authorities in an international game of hide and seek. Sensitive portrayal of a girl torn between childhood and having to fight for her life against sinister government agents and experienced killers. Warm and touching, with an instantly-hummable soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers.

Limitless (15)
A secret new drug gives a man super-human intelligence, but the drug falls into the wrong hands and he must fight to protect his life and his girl. A classic moral tale of the pitfalls of not being yourself, raising questions of "what would I do", but very watchable as the man becomes more deeply embroiled in a job and lifestyle made possible only by a fast-reducing bag of pills.

The Mechanic (15)
Jason Statham is the Englishman who has quietly carved a niche for his own brand of action movies. Delivering exactly what the action movie genre demands, and little else, this is a satisfying and indulgent blast, with fights, chases, stunts and Jason's unique charm. This year's "The Transporter".

Notable others..

Super 8 (12A): A Steven Spielberg tale of a group of kids making a home movie in the 1970's, against the backdrop of a train crash and mysterious disappearances in the town. Doesn't approach the highs of ET, but a solid drama with likeable characters. Stay until the end credits to see the kid's final production.

Friends With Benefits (15): Probably this year's best romantic comedy, with a strong chemistry between the leads and some great one-liners.

Senna (12A): the fatal crash seems all the more poignant and devastating, coming at the end of 106 minutes of gripping storytelling. Equally good for fans and non-fans of motor racing.

The movies I missed

Midnight in Paris, The Guard, Rise of the planet of the apes, The Help, One Day, Contagion, The Skin I Live In, In Time, Melancholia, Hugo, The Muppets, The Artist, My Week With Marylin, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Sherlock Holmes: a game of shadows, Mission Impossible - ghost protocol, The Iron Lady, The deep blue sea, A Separation, We need to talk about Kevin

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Publishing QuickTime Screen Recordings On YouTube

Screen recordings made with QuickTime on a Mac lose audio/video synchronisation when published on YouTube. The longer the recording, the greater the skew. Here's how to fix it.

What happens?

The problem lies with the mov file format, and the conversion process within YouTube when a video file is uploaded. This can be overcome by converting the mov file to a specific format before uploading. MP4 video and AAC audio seems to be a reliable combination.

YouTube's file format and editing tips for Apple users gives details.

How to convert

First, open the mov file in iMovie (begin a new project, import the mov file as a clip, then add the clip to the project).

Next, choose Export using QuickTime from the Share menu.

Enter a file name to save as, and choose a location to save to. Then click the Options button to specify the file format.

The Movie Settings dialog box opens.

Click Settings for video and choose MPEG-4 Video as the compression type.

Click Settings for audio and choose AAC as the format.

Confirm all changes with the OK button, then wait for the finished mov file to be produced. Upload this file to YouTube using the YouTube website upload tools.