I've had a lot of very lovely Christmas/holiday greetings from some terrific Mac and iOS companies cross my desk this year, but Twelve South's stood out because the company is offering a free gift to everyone. Twelve South commissioned four sets of wallpapers from San Francisco photographer Scott Gordon designed for people with two displays. The one I included is called Nightscape, but there's also Fall in San Francisco, Cloudveil, and Soma. Each comes with a left image and a right image (though any one of them would be great for one-screen Mac setups, too), and they've been formatted specifically for seven different screen sizes, from an 11-inch MacBook Air to a 27-inch iMac/Thunderbolt Display.
Marko Korošec is a weather chaser and photographer, and he grabbed some amazing photos in Slovenia after an freezing ice fog storm event. Dashburst has the photos laid out all nice and pretty, and they're stunning. Apparently Mr. Korošec climbed Mount Javornik and Mount Nanos after three days of freezing fog and rain—as one does—and captured nature at her most artistic. Check it out.
Serial is the season's stand out podcast, which makes it a prime target for Saturday Night Live. The weekly sketch comedy show did Serial justice with a brilliant take that has Sarah Koenig investigating an elf named Chris who breaks into people's homes to leave presents for children. It's almost as if you're watching an actual episode of Serial. Pure holiday magic.error
I love Apple's new spot called "The Song." It was released on Sunday, and on Wednesday Apple published a behind-the-scenes video called "The Story Behind 'The Song.'" It explains the concept evident in the commercial—a young woman finds a a record of a love song her grandmother made for her grandfather. She then takes that recording, which was made in a Voice-O-Graph booth , and adds guitar and vocals to turn it into a duet. More interestingly, however, the video also shows how Apple worked with Third Man Records—the label owned by Jack White—to make the video. The actress who played the grandmother in the late 40s recorded the song used in the commercial on a 1947 Voice-O-Graph owned by Third Man Records. That same booth was filmed for the commercial, too. Check it out—it's very cool.
Karelia checked off a big to-do from its task list on Wednesday with the release of Hit List 2.0 for the iPhone. The update for the task manager app gained sync support with its Mac counterpart, plus it has a new way for organizing your to-dos with its Today and Upcoming lists. Hit List supports tasks with subtasks, tags and lists for organizing projects, repeating tasks, batch task editing, and more, all in an easy to use interface designed to take advantage of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus's bigger screens. You can pick up Hit List 2.0 at Apple's iTunes-based App Store at its introductory US$9.99 price.
Basketball and volleyball players rejoice. There's a new tracker just for you that monitors how you jump. The tracker, called VERT, monitors how high you jump, your jump rate, and tracks other jumping-related data, too. VERT sends the information wirelessly to your iPhone or smartwatch, and there's a companion app for coaches who want to monitor players in real time. VERT is priced at US$124.99, and the basic companion app is a free download at Apple's iTunes-based App Store. The app for coaches costs $99.99 and includes the ability to monitor for potential injuries before they happen.
Planck's constant is one of the fundamental constants in the universe. For example, it defines the relationship between the energy of, say, a photon and its frequency. It's widely used in the mathematics of Quantum Mechanics. Recently, using just a Lego kit and some other equipment, including a laser, Leon Chao at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, showed how to make this measurement. This is for real, and it works because the experimental technique simply requires a well crafted balance. It's all written up in the M.I.T. Technology Review. You could actually do the experiment yourself because the costs of parts is only about US$500. Very cool.
What do you get when you cross The Hobbit with The Office (the original UK version, not the US one)? A brilliantly wonderful SNL sketch starring Martin Freeman as a morph between Bilbo Baggins and Tim Canterbury. Tim, by the way, was the role Martin played in The Office. SNL did a great job of recreating the Ricky Gervais version of the series, and Martin had no problem at all slipping back into the role of Tim with a perfect splash of Bilbo thrown in. Bonus: Gollum as Gareth, and Orcs and elves as office mates.
Apple has produced a wonderful and powerful commercial called "The Song" embedded below the fold. It features a young woman who discovers photographs of her grandmother along with a 45 record the grandmother made to send to her boyfriend/husband. On the 45 record, the grandmother sings an a capella love song, and the young woman uses her iPad to put a guitar line to it along with backing vocals to make it a duet. Apple's tagline accompanying the commercial says, "With a Mac, iPhone or iPad you have the power to create thoughtful, emotional gifts and memories that transcend time. It could be a movie, a homemade card or a song that brings two generations closer together." I think this is a great ad that's as powerful as last year's "Misunderstood" spot.
YouTube has posted a retrospective for 2014 called YouTube Rewind: Turn Down for 2014. Professionally filmed and produced, the video features mainstream celebrities like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmle, Chris Hardwycke, Chris Hardwick, Conan O'Brien, and Big Bird. But it also includes many folks who have become celebrities through YouTube itself, including The Fine Brothers, Kid President, Corridor Digital, iJustine, Freddie Wong, AmazingPhil, Grace Helbig, Enjoy Phoenix, Epic Rap Battles, and many more. The music is mostly a mashup of Pharrell's "Happy" and various other songs that have been popular on YouTube, and it was put together by DJ Earworm. It's a great video. It's funny, clever, well-made, and entertaining.
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