Brushes 3: It’s like New Coke all over again

After an extremely long hiatus Steve Sprang and his team at Taptrix have released a new version of Brushes, the painting programme that took iPhone and iPad art creators by storm.

Serious artists such as David Hockney and David Cassan, who have contributed to the easy and cool things to draw collection in many a children’s book, have given this app much momentum over the years, and even gave Steve the centre stage alongside Steve Jobs when the iPad was released.

Many have waited for years for an update for Brushes to take advantage of the new iPad’s retina screen and perhaps introduce new features. Now it has finally arrived and everyone seems to hate the new version.

Steve doesn’t understand it – and neither do many users who are ecstatic about the new offering. Let’s explore why and how such a strong negative welcome could have been avoided.

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How to use an iPhone on AT&T GoPhone – 2nd Edition

Since I travelled to the US last, AT&T have made some changes to the way you can use mobile data on your GoPhone plan. As of April 2012 you can no longer add data packages to the $2 per day plan. What a shame!

You’ll now have to go on a monthly plan to use data (which you can cancel anytime without commitment), everything else remains and works with my previous instructions.

AT&T still do not officially support the use of iPhone on GoPhone plans. The closet thing is a GoPhone Smartphone Plan which comes with a $65 per month commitment… a little harsh if all you need is to not get lost in a foreign country and then tweet about it.

Lucky for us there’s a much cheaper way to do this – so without further ado here’s a detailed “how to get your iPhone working” guide for all those who are spending a few weeks in the US and don’t want to pay £6 per 1MB roaming charges.

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6 Days to go

A couple of weeks ago we’ve received two additional large rubbish bins. Haringey Council had given us 3 bins ever since I’ve moved in here 12 years ago. Now we have five, the additional two being “green bins” for anything that can be recycled.

This appears to be pretty much everything apart from maybe plutonium and mercury. Everything else (ie plutonium and mercury) still needs to go I the black bins.

Be that as it may, the new bins couldn’t have come at a better time: for the last five weeks we have been producing on average 5 black bags of rubbish every day! You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff we’re carrying out of a one bedroom flat. Lucky for us we’re nearly finished.

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11 Days to go

I’ve never liked the winter. It’s not so much the cold that gets me but the disappearance of daylight. It has always put me in a bad mood, and learning to recognise this recurring pattern made me more aware of it – which in turn has made me even more miserable over the years.

Appropriately this phenomenon is called SAD and puts millions of people every year into varying degrees of depression by December. I feel it as a total lack of energy: all the things I can do in the summer are extra difficult and take twice as long in the winter, or in the period leading up to it. It’s like my body is going into survival or hibernation mode.

Fiddling with the clocks every now and again really does not alleviate this much.

Having said that, this year I have felt that the change from summer time to winter time was a godsend. I started getting up later and later ever since September, 9:30 or 10am wasn’t rare for me. In the summer I can rise at 5am or 6am without problems, but it becomes really hard in the winter.

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13 Days to go

Moving is always a pain. Moving cities is a bigger pain than just moving down the road. Moving countries however is another issue altogether. Believe me, I’ve done this before – and I’m about to do it again.

Moving cities involves packing boxes, loading boxes onto a van, unloading those boxes and carrying them upstairs, accompanied by too much furniture and a lot of stuff we’ve forgotten we’ve actually every owned.

It also involves painting and decorating, talking to people like estate agents, and worse of all it confronts you with having to make decisions that you’d rather not want to make.

Moving cities knows no boundaries – other than the space of the van or car you’re using to move. You can approach moving countries in a similar fashion if you ask an overpriced removal company to store and ship all the stuff for you.

I remember my mentally deranged flatmate did this, and I’ll never forget his face when 40 boxes came delivered some months after we had found a small house in Nunhead, South London. That little room was packed to the ceiling – and he looked as pale as the boxes. Classic!

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14 Days to go

Peter Casasola is my favourite dentist of all time. We had one final checkout with him today before we have to find us a new doctor in Miami Beach. Peter was my wife’s paediatric dentist in Harborne, Birmingham and she said I should check him out. That must have been in late 2004. I haven’t regretted it since.

Forming a relationship with any dentist is difficult: it’s based on a combination of trust, quality and affordability. Peter scores high on all fronts – especially compared to the other crooks I’ve been dealing with in my life.

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15 Days to go

The date of our flight is getting closer, yet so much remains to be sorted out. Finding temporary accommodation in Miami for example, before we can find a place to rent. Or getting one final visit in with our favourite trusted dentist in Birmingham.

Much more important things have been attended to today though: I bought a wireless keyboard for my iPad, complete with case that folds into a stand. Since there’s a lot of writing that needs to be done I thought this a worthwhile investment.

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I’m doing NaNoWriMo 2012

There’s an annual National Story Writing Contest called NaNoWriMo. It happens every year in November and participants have exactly 30 days to write furiously to come up with a 50.000 word novel.

The idea is not to finish a masterpiece in this time, but rather to establish a daily routine in which the goal is to “do writing” rather than procrastinate, edit, try to perfect or think yourself out of a good idea. There are even local groups that come together and write in silence, but also to encourage each other to pull through to the magic 50k.

Many creatives have often remarked that there is no special spark that needs to happen for anything creative to happen, it’s rather about “sitting down and doing it” and not about “thinking about it”.

You know me, I’m up for a challenge – and it dawned on me that with such a cool writing tool as Storyist on my hands, plenty of forthcoming time ahead of me, and an amazing story to tell, NaNoWriMo is just what I need in the forthcoming twilight season I’d like to call Stateside.

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Discovering Storyist for iPad and Mac

I’ve just discovers a new software called Storyist. It’s a tool for writers that lets you outline ideas on index cards, then shift them around using drag and drop. Full written sections follow along in the manuscript.

For me as a lifelong Word user, discovering Storyist is like discovering plutonium!

I’m writing several how-to manuals for clients and I’d like to expand them into larger editions for sale on Amazon. Writing these longer-than-5000-word articles proves to be a pain in Word and Pages because even though these are very great text processors, they not support creative brainstorming.

So I was looking for an iPad app that behaves like index cards. I heard that writers often use them, and I can understand the benefits of such a workflow. My original idea was to use index cards to jot down loose ideas, bringing together what I want to write in principle but not worry about the correct order. I would then move them into something that makes more sense to the reader, adding chapter marks as appropriate and then start writing accordingly.

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Testing Views App for iOS

I was just browsing through my archive and stumbled upon an iOS App I’ve made a few months ago. It looks great on the new iPad due to really hi-res images – but what’s even better is that it’s written almost entirely without code!

It’s still using Xcode so it’s a native app of course, but there are no complicated Objective-C statements in there (apart from one but it’s not essential to the app).

Here’s how I did it – I even give you the source code too.

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Exciting Broadband Connection

Let me test something here real quick: speedtest.net We take speed for granted and that it’s getting faster and faster by the month. This here is the upload and download we’re getting at work in 2012 (and over the last few years). This isn’t even possible with my home “g” WiFi. In a few years …

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How to replace the hard drive in my MacBook with a Crucial Solid State Drive

After a year of becoming a Mac user I’ve taken stock: it was a very good decision, but just like PCs, even Macs are getting slower the more stuff you put on.

I remember my Mac was extremely fast to boot up when it was new, but now that I’ve installed man heavy Adobe apps and a lot of other stuff it’s taking its time. Nothing I couldn’t live with, but something that could certainly be improved upon.

So I thought to myself: how about one of those Solid State Drives? I wonder how much they are, remembering that this time last year a 512GB SSD would set me back a hefty £1k. As techie prices drop all the time, now it’s just under £300 plus VAT – excellent!

Scouting out some recommendations and how-to’s on the internet, I found the entire thing an extremely simple process. Let me show you how I did it and how it’s improved the speed of my Mac for the better.

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Percolated Purple Holga

I was showing Dave how the Percolator App on his new iPad works. This came out rather by accident, I love it. Thanks, Percolator 😉

Paper gets support for PDF export and DropBox integration

This morning my beloved iPad app Paper by FiftyThree received a long awaited update: they’ve just added an option to export an entire book as PDF. Hurray! This turns an extremely good doodling app into a solid professional graphics tool.

Now I can share an entire book rather than a single sketch either via email or to any iPad app that supports the “Open In” option. This means that there’s no limit on what other apps can receive your work: DropBox, iBooks, EverNote. Rather than Paper dealing with each API, Paper lets the iPad deal with all that techie stuff. Genius!

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Photoshop CS5 Default Brushes

Sometimes it’s nice to come back to the very basics of how Photoshop came when you’ve first installed it. Sadly the Reset Brushes command doesn’t always work so I’ve decided to upload the default brush set right here. Simply unzip the following file, choose Replace Brushes and and load it in: Download Photoshop CS5 Default …

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New Logo for 2012

Due to a fluke my logo disappeared from this site. I think it happened because I upgraded a plugin which inserted it via a HTML statement – sadly this plugin now has more functionality, however lost my logo in the upgrade process. It’s amazing how organized I am with other people’s work, but my own …

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Blue Bush

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On my way to work I discovered this extremely blue bush on Devonshire Road – it looks amazing with a bit of sunshine on it. I never knew plants could be so blue.

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Premiere Pro CS6: the Sneek Peek they’ve shown us at NAB

I’ve seen a couple of demos on the upcoming Premiere Pro CS6 which will become available in a few months. You may recall my earlier post about a hands-on experience with Premiere Pro CS 5.5 so I’m eager to see what else the team have improved.

Not having tried the product myself yet (since that’s impossible) I can however give you a quick opinion on what I’ve seen demonstrated at NAB 2012 at Adobe’s stand.

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Adobe: Watch out for our Creative Cloud Announcement on Monday

When I visited Adobe at this year’s NAB in Vegas only a couple of days ago I enjoyed a couple of great demos about the upcoming features in Premiere Pro CS6.

But what I really wanted to know was: when will Adobe Creative Cloud be launched and how much will it be?

Sadly that information was not available, but I was told that all my questions and more may be answered this coming Monday, 23rd of April…

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How exciting: I’ve just written a Web Browser for the iPad!

Today you find me rather speechless: because I’m sitting here with my iPad which is running a web browser that I’ve just written in Xcode!

As in “written myself, working and doing what I’m expecting it to do”. I’m in SHOCK!

This is seriously cool – and it didn’t take long either. Let me tell you how this happened, how it works and even share the code with you.

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Dear Amazon Kindle Support

Today Amazon have released a new version of their Kindle for iOS App (3.0.1). This must be a direct response to some feedback I have sent over after the last update (3.0 for Retina and Amazon Cloud Integration). The previous update didn’t show new content after I had purchased it.

I love my Kindle, and I love my content. And I love the Kindle App on all my other devices: I can read on anything I happen to have with me: Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Laptop. That rocks!

Here’s a slightly annoying email thread I had with Amazon’s low level support who clearly didn’t understand the issue I was bringing up – from one developer to another.

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