Two recently recovered story lines from the wildly popular Doctor Who TV series were released on the iTunes Store on Thursday, making them available for the first time in 45 years. The story arcs, "The Enemy of the World," and "The Web of Fear," both feature Patrick Troughton as The Doctor. "The Enemy of the World" let Troughton play both The Doctor and the story's villian, and "The Web of Fear" gave us the first appearance of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart -- a character that later became a regular on the series. Completely recovering both stories was a special find since so many of the early Doctor Who episodes were presumed lost thanks the BBC's practice of reusing the video tapes all of its shows were recorded on. "The Enemy of the World" and "The Web of Fear" are priced at US$9.99 each.
There's a very cool app called Frax that offers a beautiful way to explore the world of fractals and fractal math. I found it when reading an excellent piece at CNet about how Apple's A7 processor in the iPhone 5s speeds performance in the Frax app by 90 percent. This is because the math used by Frax is particularly well suited to take advantage of the A7's 64-bit nature, as well as some other technical issues in the A7. That's super cool, and all, especially in light of the Great Qualcomm A7 Dis of 2013, but whoa boy, the Frax app is cool! The screenshots show some of the amazing imagery Frax generates, but that's just the tip of the fractal iceberg. When you're actually running the app, you can zoom in endlessly on the fractal landscapes, move them around, change the colors, animate the landscapes, change the lighting, and more. Frax for iPhone is US$1.99 and Frax HD for iPad is $3.99. There are in-app purchases you can get, too.
Fitbit is expanding its wristband fitness tracker lineup with the new Fitbit Force. The Force tracks your activities much like the Fitbit Flex, including steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and sleep patterns. Like the Fitbit One, it includes an altimeter for more accurate tracking the number of floors climbed, and uses Bluetooth 4.0 to wirelessly sync to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. It also sports an OLED display for showing more details about your daily activities. The Fitbit Force is prices at US$129.95 and will be available in the next couple weeks.
Foursquare is always on the hunt for new ways to keep its location-based social networking service interesting, and its just released app update for the iPhone and iPod touch aims to do that by making it easier to see when your friends are nearby. The version 6.4 update also shows the most recent checkins for your friends, lets you quickly see their previous checkins, and more. Foursquare 6.4 is a free download at Apple's iTunes-based App Store, and requires a free Foursquare account.
1Password is one of those apps that changed things so dramatically for me that it's hard to imagine how we got by before, which is why I am excited that AgileBits released 1Password 4 for the Mac on Wednesday. 1Password is a password and login keeper that works via browser plugins in the major browsers. Better yet, if you store your database on Apple's iCloud (MAS version only) or DropBox, you can sync your passwords on all of your Macs and iOS devices. It's insanely useful. The new version comes with a new interface and a handy-dandy mini app you can access from your Mac's menu bar. You can also have separate vaults, and it works with Mavericks out of the box, plus a lot more that's new. It's $39.99 for a new license. Upgrades from 1Password 3 are free if you bought it in 2013 (and free, period, through the MAS), otherwise they're $24.99.
Former Apple executive Tony Fadell's company, Nest, launched a new product this week called Nest Protect, the company's effort to reinvent smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors the same way it reinvented thermostats with the original Nest. Nest Protect features "heads up" warnings for less serious smoke detections, and it can be silenced with a wave. The device speaks with a human voice, and if you have multiple units in your house, they speak to one another and let you know where the problem is being detected. If you have a Nest thermostat, it will turn off your furnace if Nest Protect detects CO. One of the niftiest things is that when the lights go out, Nest Protect has a glowing ring that lights up green to let you know the batteries are OK, or yellow to let you know they need to be replaced. No chirping in the middle of the night! They're priced at $129 for pre-order, and come in either a battery-only and wired-power versions.
Jonathan Zufi of ShrineOfApple.com has published a coffee table book called Iconic that has photographs of and information about almost all of the amazing (and a few less-than-amazing) products that Apple has made since its founding in 1976. Desktop computers, portable computers, peripherals, iOS devices, prototypes, and even lots of photographs of Apple's famous packaging. Mr. Zufi said he thought it would be great to see Apple's past products photographed with the same attention and look of today's Apple's products, and this 326-page coffee table book is the result. It's super cool, and it's priced at $75. There's an awesome "Deluxe" edition with a hard plastic case that looks like it could be an Apple ][ peripheral. The video below explains what it's all about.
Mmmmm...feel that washing over you? That's the good feeling you could only get from knowing your iPhone case was made out of solid (14-karat) gold. That is, if you have the US$10,000 to buy one from Miansai. The company has apparently been selling such a case since the iPhone 4S was introduced about two years ago, but I saw it from a MarketWatch piece. The pictures below show the original case, but I bet if you kicked in a few grand more they'd make one for your iPhone 5 or 5s. This is yellow gold with a matte finish, but the company offers a shiny finish, and then rose gold in either matte or shiny finish. If that doesn't grab you, Miansai plans to introduce a solid silver case in the next six months. With silver priced at about 1.7 percent the price of gold, my guess is that it'll be about $300.
The New York Times has published an amazingly detailed behind-the-scenes story of how Apple created the original iPhone. It includes tidbits from many of the engineers who worked on the project, and it has a wealth of information that was new to me. The story is based around the Macworld Expo (now Macworld/iWorld) keynote demo in January of 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced the device. It describes in fascinating detail things like the "Golden Path" of tasks you could perform without crashing the device, which was still in a very early stage of development. It describes how Apple kept everything secret, how decisions were made, and much more. Go and read it and let me know what you think. (Image made with help from Shutterstock)
Meet Susan Bennett, the voice actor whose work became the original voice of Siri—for the record, my internal jury is still out on Siri's new voices in iOS 7. In the video below, you can hear elements of Siri's speech; at the same time, you get the tiniest glimpse of the monumental effort it takes to turn recordings of nonsense strings of words into a synthesized voice, because Susan Bennett and Siri are not exact matches. As a voice actor paid by the hour, Ms. Bennett didn't know what she was being hired for by Nuance (the Dragon Speech and Dragon Dictate folks) in 2005. She didn't find out until until 2011—when Apple released the iPhone 4S and Siri—when "a colleague e-mailed me [about Siri] and said, 'Hey, we've been playing around with this new Apple phone. Isn't this you?'" CNN's companion article also has some interesting info.
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