Archive for the ‘Software & Services’ Category

A Sad Day in Pyslent History

February 24th, 2021, 4:45pm by Mike

Fry’s Electronics is going out of business. I think about Fry’s every time I go to Microcenter, the crappier version of Fry’s here in Boston.

When was the last time that you guys went to Fry’s?

The Board App!

January 10th, 2017, 8:20pm by Mike

No, not an app of the blog, but rather one for the original Board. I think it’s seriously exactly The Board algorithm put into a modern iOS app

It looks pretty good!

Photo backup

May 30th, 2015, 5:20pm by Mike

Wondering what you guys do to back up and view your photos. I’ve investigated a couple of options, but not found anything that really suits our needs. 

Our needs:

  1. Upload 40GB (20k) photos currently stored in Photos for Mac (side note — Photos is OK, but not great, and not a meaningful upgrade from iPhoto as far as I’m concerned. Among other things, I hate that you can’t edit geotags, but I imagine that’s coming in some future update). 
  2. Allow our family to upload, download, and see the photos, via a single, shared account — ideally on our mobile devices.
  3. In the event of a catastrophic crash of our local machines, be able to redownload the photos easily (i.e., get them out of the cloud).

The options we’ve investigated:

  • iCloud Photo Library. We’ve actually gone ahead and authorized $3.99 per month for 200 GB. The biggest gripe is that it’s associated with a single iCloud account, and has no Family Sharing support (we’re all an iCloud Family here, which means we can all share music, apps, calendars, etc, but not photos). This is so ridiculous and such an obvious deficiency that I can’t imagine that it won’t be fixed soon. In the meantime, I can see all of our photos on my iPhone and iPad, and every new picture is uploaded automatically, but not photos that Joanie takes — and she can’t see them through her own iCloud account.  We’d set up w dummy iCloud account, but the Photos app doesn’t have its own iCloud connection, so it uses the system’s iCloud info — which is tied to iMessage, apps, etc — so that won’t work either.
  • Amazon Cloud Photos. It’s free for Prime members, which is good, but very rudimentary, and has the same issue with family sharing (we are a prime family, but cloud storage is by Amazon ID, and doesn’t understand families). 
  • I’ve thought about Flickr, OneDrive, and the new Google Photos, but haven’t tried any of these. 

I can’t believe it’s 2015, digital cameras have been mainstream for 15 years, and most people probably have as many photos as I do — and like me, would be heartbroken if anything happened to them, even though we really aren’t doing much with them. There is a huge opportunity for the company that gets this right first — but so far, I don’t think anyone’s nailed it. 

Any advice? 

No More Google Reader, Part 1: Pay for Service

March 14th, 2013, 12:26pm by Mike

You’ve probably read that yesterday, Google announced that Google Reader will be shut down in a couple of months. May not mean much to all of you, but I probably spend 70% of my online time reading RSS feeds (via Reeder for iPhone and iPad), and enjoying that my RSS reading experience gets synced across my devices. I also use Zite and NextDraft to feed my news addiction, but I love that with RSS, there’s always something new to read, tailored to stuff I’m interested in reading.

It seems obvious to me why they’re doing this. There’s no way to generate revenue from RSS with their current model. By their own admission, usage is declining, so they’re not collecting more personal information to link to individual Google accounts, and with more people using apps to access the sync capabilities of Google Reader (vs using the website), there are no ads being pushed. I would have thought that the self-driving car would have been a more appropriate target for the axe, but oh well.

The broader issue is that I think the glory days of the web for free are coming to a rapid close. It’s clear that there’s a steep price to be paid for these “free” services — usually in the form of sellable nuggets of information to advertisers. I’m actually OK with that most of the time — hell, I’d rather see targeted ads in things I’d be interested in buying than random ads for stuff I don’t care about. But the shift is that the services are catering more to the advertisers than users — their “customers” are the advertisers, not us. Hence Facebook privacy settings changes, Twitter promoted tweets and API changes, and on and on.

In that vein, I find to be really interesting. At its base, it’s a Twitter clone, with its only real differentiating factors being (a) a 256-character limit, and (b) a community pretty much exclusively made up of nerds. Oh, and it costs $5/month (after the free trial ends). The reasoning is pretty solid — they’re going to grow and function based on subscribers, not on advertisers — and they have a community dedicated to adding features to the site (they’ve already got integrated chat rooms, a file manager (with 10GB of space), and more).

But there’s a limit to this. Would you pay $5 a month, each, for Twitter, GMail, and now, RSS? Do you pay for Dropbox? Web hosting for blogs? Music streaming? It all adds up quickly, but I think that this really is the future of the net. The alternative is the equivalent of watching TV — you have to consume what they providers provide, they can cancel at any time, and you’re constantly interrupted by ads you don’t care to see.

If only there were another way… stay tuned for Part 2, Roll Your Own.

IE 9 RC out

February 11th, 2011, 5:09pm by Kelvin

Love the way that title looks—Does Microsoft know catchy product names or what?

Anyway, downloaded the new IE9 release candidate—has a nice, efficient UI and seems just as speedy as Chrome. I can see myself using it instead. Although I’m not sure why I would.

Interestingly, I noticed it renders colors a little differently—compare this screencap of IE vs. Chrome displaying the same Flickr photo. IE’s is a bit warmer (more red) and noticeably brighter. Odd right? Jake, do you why this is?


IPhone HDR Extremes

September 22nd, 2010, 3:41pm by Kelvin

Did some testing of the new iPhone 4’s HDR capabilities today at the Apple Store. Here’s what I found– It’s real HDR and it’s useful in certain (high contrast) circumstances. Since the iPhone saves both versions (standard exposure and an HDR), it’s certainly nice to have the option, as Joanie noted. Click through for the comparison shots. 

Google Voice: Voicemail Tip

September 19th, 2010, 4:43pm by Mike

I’ve written many times before about Google Voice, but I’ve just discovered something I didn’t know: Google Voice can be set to handle your voicemail, even if you are not using a GV number as your main contact number. Why would you want to do that?

Here’s my use case:

I’m traveling to Europe with my AT&T iPhone, on which I’d like to receive emergency calls, but not calls from random people who don’t know I’m out of town. It’s not made clear on any website, but AT&T charges $1.29 per minute when roaming in Europe. While you’re not charged if you don’t answer incoming calls, you are charged at the $1.29/minute rate for the duration of any voice messages left, regardless of whether you listen to them or not. (Practical joke idea: bankrupt your friends by calling them when they’re in Europe! Imagine the fun when they get a thousands-of-dollars phone bill! Won’t that be hilarious?!?)

Here’s the fix:

  • Set your iPhone’s voicemail to use GV voicemail. There’s a setting in the Phones tab of the Voice Settings, next to each eligible phone, saying “Activate Google Voicemail on this phone.” It’ll direct you to do the same thing as in this blog post.

  • Set GV voicemail to forward transcripts of your calls by email.

  • Check your email via computer or iPhone when in wifi coverage. Otherwise, keep your phone in airplane mode (and keep in mind that you can toggle wifi on while in airplane mode — activating airplane mode deactivates both the wifi and 3G radios, but the wifi radio can then be turned back on independently).

Following this plan, you’ll get notified of voicemails as often as you check your email (which for me, is often, especially when hotels and business locations increasingly have wifi). From the transcripts (which vary wildly in their accuracy, in my experience), you can at least make out the gist of the call, and decide whether it’s important enough to call back (and call back via Skype). The downsides: If your caller doesn’t leave a voicemail, you won’t see any notification of missed calls unless you log into Google Voice (which you can do via wifi from your mobile phone).

Of course, if you’re already using GV as your main number, this isn’t news, but for those of us who haven’t made the big switch for everyday calls, this is great.

Location Alert: Lance Held was nearby!

June 21st, 2010, 12:50am by Jake

Just got the below item after I installed a new, working, Google Latitude app on the Pre so I could keep tabs on Kelvin. Interesting feature… or creepy? You decide.

Google Location Alert

Lance Held was within 31 km of you in Long Beach, CA at 9:22 PM. Lance is usually 112 km away in San Marcos, CA on this day and time. Check Google Latitude to see where Lance is now.

You received this alert because you’ve shared your location with Lance using Google Latitude, and they have chosen to send Location Alerts when Latitude friends are nearby. Location Alerts are only sent when your friend is at an unusual place during a given time of the week based on their location history, filtering out routine locations such as a daily commute. Lance also received this alert. Learn more in the help center:


Enable Location Alerts for your Latitude account to receive and send alerts when friends are nearby. Go to


You may choose to not receive future Location Alerts from any Latitude friends by changing your settings at


June 16th, 2010, 12:37pm by Kelvin

The App Doctor’s App of the Week is WeatherIcon (free), the latest in a long line of weather-related programs for webOS. This particular app is intended to unobtrusively display your current weather by altering its icon to reflect the temperature and conditions. In this respect, its raison d’être is similar to SimpleWeather ($1) and Weather Dashboard Lite (free), both of which also attempt to serve as weather "widgets" that serve up data at a glance. Weather Dashboard runs constantly in the Notification Area, but that gets in the way if you like to clear your notifications often, as I do. SimpleWeather, of course, is not free, but it does seem comparable to WeatherIcon in both conception and implementation.



June 1st, 2010, 7:46pm by Jake

I searched, but couldn’t find, a Pyslent post about the Chrome browser. I did find an old gem presaging the creation of Chrome. So at the risk of redundancy, here it is. As you know, I’ve long been a Firefox holdout, barely touching Chrome on Mac or PC. But upon seeing Firefox suck up hundreds of megabytes of RAM, decided that was enough to give it a shot. Seems fine so far, after 20 minutes of use, although this experiment will end quickly if I can’t find a Chrome Flashblock extension.

Thing is, I feel some loyalty to Firefox. Used Mozilla back before it was a 1.0 product, even as its market share stagnated. Then I tried this Phoenix browser, which was the browser-only version of Mozilla (no usenet client, email client or page editor). After I few false starts, stuck with it through the Firebird and finally Firefox iterations, and cheered as it hit 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. As you probably know, I’m what I like to characterize as a stubborn early adopter– trying the new stuff early, then sticking with it after the rest of the world has adopted and begun to move on. Hence the Palm Centro. I’m still a Firefox fan, hopefully the next version will debloatify Firefox the way Firefox made Mozilla lean & mean. We’ll see.

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