Hackers Claim To Publish List Of 4.6M Snapchat Usernames And Numbers

A site called SnapchatDB.info claims that they’ve saved usernames and phone numbers for 4.6 million accounts and made the information available for download. SnapchatDB says that it got the information through a recently identified and patched Snapchat exploit and that it is making the data available in an effort to convince the messaging app to beef up its security. We’ve reached out to Snapchat and SnapchatDB for comment.

SnapchatDB said it “censored the last two digits of the phone numbers” in order to “minimize spam and abuse,” but that it still might release the unfiltered data, including millions of phone numbers.

The Next Web did a WHOIS lookup on SnapchatDB’s domain and found it was created just yesterday on December 31. The registrant’s name is protected, but its mailing address and contact number are both listed in Panama.

The site appears to have been created in response to recently identified flaws in Snapchat’s security. Last week, ZDNet published an article on how white-hat Gibson Security researchers had tried to alert Snapchat to ways that hackers would connect usernames to phone numbers for user in stalking, but were ignored. Gibson Security then published the exploit publicly on Christmas Eve.

The firm said that hackers could use two exploits to gain access to users’ personal data, including their real names, usernames and phone numbers, through Snapchat’s Android and iOS API. Snapchat did offer a public statement, but as TechCrunch’s Josh Constine wrote, it wasn’t very satisfactory because it did not offer details on how its countermeasures would work, such as rate limiting, bad IP blocking, or automated systems that scan suspicious activity. Snapchat said:

“Theoretically, if someone were able to upload a huge set of phone numbers, like every number in an area code, or every possible number in the U.S., they could create a database of the results and match usernames to phone numbers that way. Over the past year we’ve implemented various safeguards to make it more difficult to do.”

To be sure, SnapchatDB might be a prank meant to call attention to these issues. On Hacker News, several people have had trouble downloading the data files (I just got an error message for both of them, but that may be because of high traffic). Some commenters who did manage to get ahold of the files said they couldn’t find their own numbers in the lists and entire area codes appeared to be missing.

Either way, the Gibson Security report and SnapchatDB are both reminders that even in an ephemeral messaging service, it would be a mistake to be lulled into a sense of security about the information that you do have stored with the app. “People tend to use the same username around the web so you can use this information to find phone number information associated with Facebook and Twitter accounts, or simply to figure out the phone numbers of people you wish to get in touch with,” SnapchatDB stated on the site.

via TechCrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/99cub5pdBbc/

The Best iOS And Android Apps Of 2013

Congratulations, Planet Earth! We made it another 365 days without crashing into the sun. Go team!

It’s the end of the year, and that means three things: booze, ridiculous sunglasses with numbers on them, and lists. Lots and lots of lists. You’ve seen our list of best/worst gadgets of the year. Up next? The Best Mobile Apps Of 2013.

Now, to be clear: there’s not a lot of science here. If we were going by the raw numbers, some Angry Birds spin-off would be the top app every year for the rest of eternity. Instead, these are the favorites picked by a bunch of geeks who write about this stuff all day, every day. We’ve seen the good, the bad, and the terrible — and after some heated debate, these apps emerged as the year’s champs.

We tried to stick with apps that launched in 2013, or, in some cases, the tail end of 2012. While many of the apps are cross-platform and we considered that a massively positive bulletpoint, we didn’t eliminate any of our top picks just because they were only on one platform or the other. Some are iOS only. Some are Android only. That’s just the way it goes.

Think we missed something? Got a favorite? Let us know down in the comments.

In no particular order:

coverCover (Android only):

Cover is the lockscreen we always wanted without even knowing it. It figures out what apps you use most and when, and automatically pushes shortcuts for those apps straight to your phone’s lockscreen at the right time. Use Gmail and LinkedIn a lot at work? It’ll catch on and have those apps at-the-ready as soon as you walk in the office. Driving? It’ll queue up Waze, or Pandora, or whatever it thinks you’ll need most.


Seene (iOS only):

Poor Lytro! The oddly-shaped camera got its fair share of buzz when it launched back in 2011, with its special sensor that allowed for all sorts of neat tricks (like being able to “shift” the perspective of a photo a bit after you’ve already snapped it.)

Alas, like the landfill’s worth of standalone pocket cameras that fell before it, the Lytro’s functionality has largely been replicated by mobile apps. One of our favorite apps in that group is Seene. Seene lets you take super trippy “3D” photos with just your iPhone. It actually takes a bunch of photos as you move your phone around an object, then intelligently stitches them together using all sorts of computer vision voodoo.


Newsblur (iOS, Android)

When Google Reader died on July 1st of 2013, a million hopeful replacements sprung up around its grave. While there’s no one-size-fits-all alternative, NewsBlur is a very, very solid option. It’s fast, cross-platform, and super pretty.

QuizUp (iOS only):


Right around the middle of the year, Icelandic games studio Plain Vanilla shifted their focus from one-off, licensed quiz titles to an all-in-one quiz game with topics for everyone — and man, did it pay off. With an ever-growing library of 200,000+ questions, a super-clever multiplayer mode that makes games feel realtime when they’re not, and a gorgeous interface, QuizUp is one of the all-around best mobile games of the year.

Cycloramic (iOS only):

Sit your phone down. Push a button. A few seconds later, you’ve got a full 360° panoramic of the room.

How? Magic. And by magic, I mean an insanely clever hack that uses the iPhone 5S’ vibration motor to propel the phone around on a smooth surface. Does it work every time? Nope. But when it does, everyone’s head explodes.

BillGuard (iOS only for now, Android “coming soon”):


BillGuard’s CEO says they’re building “what Mint should have been“, and they’re already doing a damned good job of it (aided, of course, by Mint having gone pretty stale in the years since its 2009 Intuit acquisition). BillGuard tracks your spending, provides a beautiful analytics interface, and quickly highlights any charges that seem fraudulent or that might be hidden fees in disguise. Oh, and it learns where you shop most and automatically finds coupons for you to use next time you go.

Oyster (iOS only):


My New Years Resolution for 2014 is to remember what the hell my New Years Resolution for 2013 was. But if your resolution is to read more, Oyster is for you. Think Netflix, but for reading. $10 a month gets you all-you-can-read access to about 100,000 titles.

HeyDay (iOS only):


Everyone has that one thing that they’ve always wanted to build, only to find out that someone has already made it really, really well. HeyDay is that thing for me. HeyDay is what the company calls an “effortless journal”, automatically pulling your photos, videos, and GPS locations into individual, timestamped journal entries. At the end of the day, you just go back through and add little notes to fill in the gaps.

TimeHop (iOS only):


TimeHop scans your myriad social networking accounts to remind you of all the awesome things you were doing on this same day a year (or two) ago. It’s like a personal time capsule, or a “This Day In History” list for your life. Get ready to drown in endless waves of nostalgia.

Clumsy Ninja (iOS only):


Clumsy Ninja is kind of like a Tamagotchi, if the Tamagotchi was a lil’ drunk dude in a ninja costume. You play games with your ninja to teach him new skills; where at first he can hardly walk without tripping over his own feet, you’ll quickly have him doing backflips and karate chopping dodgeballs out of the air. Sure, it’s a bit silly — and sure, it’s a classic time-killer/grinding game. But it’s also truly remarkable to see something like this running on a phone. The animation blending/ragdoll system alone is mindblowing.

Agent (Android only):

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 5.47.10 PM

Agent is one of those Android apps that could pretty much never exist on iOS, unless Apple either makes some big ol’ policy changes or builds it themselves. Agent makes your smartphone smarter in lots of little ways. Battery dying? It’ll dim the screen and turn off Bluetooth. Sleeping? It’ll silence your phone, but offer up callers/texters a way to ring through in case of an emergency. Driving? It’ll reply to texts to let people know you can’t respond right now, AND remember where you parked.

Tinder (iOS, Android):

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 5.42.32 PM

Tinder is dating boiled down to an almost absurd level of simplicity: a single swipe. Like someone? Swipe right. If they’re not quite for you? Swipe left. If they’ve seen your photo and liked what they saw enough to swipe you to the right, Tinder matches you up.

It ain’t my kind of thing (read: my girlfriend would punch me right in the schnoz), but the single folks at TC all swear by it.

Digg (iOS, Android):

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 5.44.00 PM

Surprise! After a rebirth under a new owner in 2012, Digg actually started a decent amount of traffic around the web again in 2013. Bigger surprise: they built a mobile app and it’s actually pretty damned good. The editor-curated content provides a quick glance as to what’s popular on the Internet at any given time, while the built-in news reader is another super solid alternative to the late great Google Reader.


Duolingo (iOS, Android):

You’d be hardpressed to find anyone saying anything bad about Duolingo – it’s this year’s Internet golden child, and rightly so. It’s one of the best tools I’ve ever seen for learning/brushing up on a language… and it’s completely free. As part of your training, you translate bits of real world text from sites like CNN and BuzzFeed (which is how Duolingo makes any money.)

Sunrise (iOS):

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 5.43.46 PM

Hate what Apple did with the calendar in iOS 7? Me too! Fortunately, a couple of folks from Foursquare broke away to remind us that calendars can be pretty and easy to use. Looking for another calendar, but not feelin’ Sunrise? Honorable mentions to Fantastical (iOS), Tempo (iOS), and Any.do Cal (Android)

Vine (iOS, Android):


Acquired months before it even launched, Vine is one of the stranger tales of 2013. Focused entirely around sharing 6 second looping video clips, many a pundit predicted Vine’s death upon the launch of Instagram Video — and yet, Vine continues to be where most of the Internet’s funniest short videos end up.

via TechCrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/GEH33eIfsLU/

I, Spammer

As I approach the half-way mark of my crowdfunding project, I wanted to address the thing that makes me feel the worst about this whole process: the spam. As I intimated in in my last post, moving from passive content producer to active content salesperson is hard. As someone used to fire-and-forget posting, convincing others to buy something I’ve built is a hard thing to do. And the best way to do it, sadly, is through spam.

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 11.05.33 AM

I pride myself on trying to be a nice guy. I post crowdfunding projects on TC all the time because I think they’re cool and I tend to use social media to either make dumb jokes or talk about projects I’ve seen. Now, however, I have to use social media as a sales tool. I contact the vast majority of my Facebook friends directly, have retweeted comments about the book, and even resorted to contacting my LinkedIn and Google+ contacts although I barely use those services. How did I get the most traction, however?


Take a look at the image above. Aside from a massive Facebook push around Christmas each of those spikes were driven by an email blast sent out on or around that date. Emails took a few days to appear as pledges but after each email I was able to push the total up by at least $1,000. Even given the horrible click rates, those are very compelling numbers.

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 11.15.32 AM

Now, to be clear, I don’t think it was just the email. These lists consist of people who have signed up for my various projects and folks I’ve met in my travels. They know me and many have the ulterior motive of staying friendly with a TC editor. Would I have the same results of I were some dude selling penis pills online? I sincerely doubt it. However, I could see this working if the email list were in the millions and not in the thousands.

In short, direct contact works best. As one crowdfunder told me “When someone gets an email from you they can do one of two things: ignore it and feel bad/indifferent or act on it.” In my case I was lucky that so many acted on it.

Again, I’ve been consistently amazed how little Twitter and Facebook – aside from direct messages – have contributed to the process. While these tweets and twoots are great for getting the word out – I’m not ungrateful by any means – the actual conversion is limited. Broadcasting “Buy This!” is far less effective than saying “Hey, friend, buy this.”

Do I feel bad about this spam? Well, I’ve tried to keep it to a minimum and now that I’m well past my original $8,000 goal I feel bad for continuing to market. But, in the end, this is a project I love and feel deserves to do well. What would I change in the future? I’d create some sort of system so I don’t re-target backers who have already helped out – that’s something that really upset me and I’ve received two emails from friends about it. Essentially I haven’t found any system for truly segmenting out who I contact although I’m sure solutions exist (and feel free to let me know if you have one).

Still I’m amazed at the reach and power at good old email. It sucks, but it’s true: spam works and it works well. In the end, a nice message, carefully wrought, results in far less blowback than a wonky diet pill email, but the process is the same. Like it or not, direct email is a crowdfunder’s best friend.

This is part of a series on crowdfunding, The Mytro Project . For future posts I’m looking for more input from online analysts and other crowdfunding platforms so please email me at john@techcrunch.com.

via TechCrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/wVwJ4yP23BY/

13 biggest moments in cleantech in 2013

So we’re still sticking with the term “cleantech,” eh? Well, six years after launching the focus on this subject for Gigaom, I still don’t have a better description for the next-generation of energy technologies, which include both clean power, and energy efficiency, as well as the better management of resources like water and food. So, yep, again this year, we’re keeping it around, though I’m sure we can all agreed its flawed and now a dirty word for venture capitalists. Anyways, onward!

From the outside, 2013 looked like a horror show for cleantech, with high profile bankruptcies of solar and electric car startuups, and a continued drop in VC funding. However, it actually turned out to be a pretty good year for cleantech outside of the Valley VC ecosystem. Solar panels turned out to be a rock star, Internet companies like Google and Apple whole-heartedly embraced clean power, and large corporations started to invest more in resource innovation. Connected, smart technologies — from software, to sensors to robotics — also continued to have a major cleantech effect on industries like the power sector, agriculture, and transportation.

These are the 13 things that stood out in my mind from the year:

13). Agriculture became smarter, connected, and more robotic in 2013: Large companies and startups alike focused on selling connectivity products, sensors, software management systems, drones, and big data tools to farmers this year. Startups we kept an eye on included Harvest Automation, OnFarm, mOasis, Blue River, SoilIQ, Libelium, and OlaSmarts. GE’s Industrial Internet has products for agriculture, too. And who could forgot one of the biggest acquisitions of the year, with Monsanto buying data company Climate Corp.

Farm with tractors

12). The under $10 LED bulb from Cree: In the Spring of this year LED chip maker Cree launched a consumer LED bulb for under $10. This is one of the lowest priced LED bulbs out there and represents the future of what lighting companies could eventually deliver in bulk. For years many of these bulbs have been over $20, $30, and even $40 per bulb.

LEDs from Cree (not the ones being used by Xfinity Home)

LEDs from Cree (not the ones being used by Xfinity Home)

11). The big cleantech bankruptcies this year: While the second half of 2013 hit a more positive note, there were a decent amount of high profile bankruptcies from cleantech startups selling solar panels and electric cars this year. Companies that soured this year included electric car startup Fisker Automotive, thin film solar startup Nanosolar, solar giant Suntech Power, electric car charging startup Better Place, thin film solar company SoloPower, electric car startup Coda Automotive, and electric car charging company ECOtality. And that’s just to name a few. There were others who were sold off for basement prices to aggressive acquirers, and others that just quietly faded away.

There were so many failures in these two sectors because the electric car market has taken longer than many expected to mature, and silicon solar panels became super cheap over the past few years. Many of these startups were backed by venture capitalists, and the VCs stopped funding them after a certain point when they failed to get traction.

Fisker Karmas

Fisker Karmas

10). New power grid batteries are making progress: One area of innovation that is still being seen from startups is next-generation batteries made for the power grid. These batteries need to be cheap, and be able to provide different applications that utilities and power grid companies want. Some of the startups showing progress in 2013 included Eos Energy, Ambri, Solar Grid Storage, Stem, and Aquion Energy.

Energy storage in general got more attention this year, and according to researchers there’s 420 energy storage projects installed globally. Energy storage includes batteries, but also tech like compressed air storage, pumped hydro storage and other more funky technologies like “gravel on ski lifts.” California also launched a revolutionary energy storage mandate, which calls for utilities to install a large amount of energy storage projects by 2020 to help the state meet its renewable energy goals (here’s why you should care about it).

power grid hurricane sandy

9). Facebook plans to power a data center entirely with wind: Facebook hit a milestone in 2013 with its declaration that it plans to build a data center in Iowa partly in order to take advantage of the powerful wind corridor there. When the data center is built it will be run entirely off wind turbines. Facebook is working with a local utility there and the move shows how Internet companies can negotiate with utilities to get the clean power they want.


8). Kleiner Perkins restructures away from cleantech: While Kleiner Perkins has been making this move for awhile, the firm’s leader John Doerr admitted that such an aggressive bet on cleantech wasn’t the best idea and has promised to do better. 2013 is also the year that Kleiner’s bet, beleaguered electric car startup Fisker Automotive, officially declared bankruptcy.

The firm is under going restructuring now and talks about investing in “sustainability.” It’s a big deal because Kleiner was the most high profile VC firm that made the most aggressive bet in Silicon Valley and it caused them a lot of trouble. That said, some of Kleiner’s cleantech investments were pretty good, including Nest, Opower (could go public soon), Clean Power Finance, and Silver Spring Networks (went public). Bloom Energy could turn out to do well in the long run.

Cleantech venture capital investments overall cratered in 2013 and in the third quarter of 2013 dropped down to pre-2006 levels. Some firms are still going strong though, with alternative strategies. The energy fund of private equity group Silver Lake managed to raise $650 million for later stage energy and resource management companies in 2013, and The Westly Group closed on a $160 million fund for cleantech this year.

money dollar bills benjamin franklin cash

7). Some huge next-gen clean power plants came online: Beyond the revolution happening with solar panels, other types of utility-scale clean power came online this year, too. The solar thermal plant Ivanpah delivered its first power to the grid, while the solar thermal plant Solana in Arizona was completed. Solar thermal farms use mirrors and lenses to turn heat from the sun into electricity (while solar panels convert the light directly into electricity).

In England, the massive offshore wind farm the London Array was finally finished this year. More controversially, startup Skyonic broke ground on one of the largest commercial carbon capture plants in the U.S., being built at a cement factory in San Antonio.

An aerial view of Ivanpah with towers 2 and 3 in the background

6). Sustainable food tech was hot in 2013: This year Silicon Valley embraced startups that are innovating around sustainable food tech. Startups we watched this year included Hampton Creek Foods, Unreal Candy, Nu-Tek Salt, Sand Hill Foods, Modern Meadow, Beyond Meat, Bright Farms, Zevia, and more.

Josh Tetrick, the CEO of Hampton Creek Foods

Josh Tetrick, the CEO of Hampton Creek Foods

5). Solar panels in the U.S. are breaking records: While the analysts are still tallying up numbers for the entire year, the third quarter of 2013 saw the largest number of American homes in history install solar panels on their rooftops. The solar panel industry was also back to growth this year. SunPower said recently it plans to build a new solar cell factory, which is a move that reverses the trend of solar manufacturers shuttering factories to deal with an over supply of solar equipment worldwide that began in 2011.

U.S. Army solar

4). Obama takes a stance on regulating carbon emissions: President Obama took one of the most aggressive stances to date in the U.S. on limiting carbon emissions from power plants this year. Obama proposed limits on green house gas emissions for new natural gas plants at 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour and new coal plants will have to hit 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide.

What can coal teach us about the cloud?

What can coal teach us about the cloud?

3). The sharing economy went mainstream in 2013: Sharing physical goods, like apartments and cars, officially went mainstream in 2013, with companies like Airbnb and Lyft breaking out. Airbnb hit the 10 million guest stays milestone this year, and Lyft reached the 1 million rides point this year. Most people wouldn’t call these companies cleantech, but the more efficient use of physical goods, is good for the planet overall.

Airbnb neighborhoods San Francisco screenshot

2). Apple’s ground-breaking bet on solar: This year Apple finished building the largest privately-owned solar panel farms in the U.S. in North Carolina to power a large data center. The move was disruptive because Apple threw down the gauntlet in a state where the local utility, Duke Energy, was taking its sweet time offering some of the giant data center customers in the area access to clean power. Following Apple’s decision, this year Duke Energy launched a new program to sell clean power to customers that are willing to pay for it. Apple also hired former chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, to help the company grow its energy efficiency and clean power plans next year.

Apple's solar farm in North Carolina

Apple’s solar farm in North Carolina

1). Tesla officially disrupts the auto industry: While Tesla has been building its business for a decade, it took the company this year to show how it can make a small profit and use its popular electric car to compete with competitors in the auto biz. A post on this subject was the second most read story on Gigaom in 2013.

Tesla Model S

Happy New Year!

via Gigaom http://gigaom.com/2013/12/31/13-biggest-moments-in-cleantech-in-2013/

Hypedmusic shuts down after receiving cease and desist notice from RIAA

Free music streaming app Hypedmusic shut down this month after receiving a cease and desist notice from the recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Luke Li, the developer of the app, explained in a blog post Tuesday that he always thought Hypedmusic was legal and protected under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), but that he simply didn’t have the resources to defend his point of view:

“I’m 18 years old, and I definitely do not want to get sued… Again, just to reiterate: I did not make HypedMusic with the intention of infringing copyright, I thought I was operating in a legal area after seeing different, large companies do similar things. Once I saw the RIAA’s email, I complied immediately.”

Hypedmusic was a web, Android and iOS app that allowed users to find and stream music hosted on services like Soundcloud, YouTube and Tumblr through a simple UI. Users could also generate playlists, which were synced across devices — think of it a bit like Spotify, but without any subscription costs.

Li assumed that the service itself was legal because the sites that were actually hosting the music are protected by the DMCA, and he offered copyright owners a way to remove their recordings from the Hypedmusic catalog. However, the RIAA disagreed, writing in an email to Li:

“By indexing, linking to, transmitting, retransmitting, providing access to, and/or otherwise assisting users in streaming and downloading infringing copies of sound recordings emanating from various unauthorized sources on the Internet, these applications are violating U.S. copyright law.”

The timing of the takedown is curious: Just last week, Ex.fm announced that it was shutting down its free music service as well, citing various “takedowns and legal emails” as one reason that made it challenging to keep the service up and running. At this point, it’s unclear whether Ex.fm was the target of a RIAA-issued cease and desist letter as well. An RIAA spokesperson wasn’t immediately available to comment on the matter when contacted for this story, and I have yet to hear back from the Ex.fm team.

However, even the possibility of a more concerted effort by the major labels to take down services that tap into music hosted on third-party platforms could spell trouble for the music startup scene, as this is how many companies build their first products.

via Gigaom http://gigaom.com/2013/12/31/hypedmusic-shuts-down-after-receiving-cease-and-desist-notice-from-riaa/

Apple officially denies helping NSA spy on iPhone users

Broken iPhone ScreenEver since the revelations this past year regarding the NSA's domestic spying program, tech companies -- including Apple -- have been facing increased scrutiny about exactly how much access they've provided the US government to users' devices. On Sunday, German news site Der Spiegel published an in-depth article about the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit, which it used to gain access to foreign computer systems. However, the most frightening details for US citizens and iPhone users came via the revelation of a division named ANT and its program DROPOUTJEEP.

ANT collects methods of hacking into consumer electronics. According to Der Spiegel, DROPOUTJEEP is an ANT program that allows the NSA to spy on iPhone users. Today, Apple released a statement to our sister site TechCrunch, disavowing knowledge of the NSA's backdoor into the iPhone and promising that it has not worked with the agency to create such security breaches.

Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone. Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products. We care deeply about our customers' privacy and security. Our team is continuously working to make our products even more secure, and we make it easy for customers to keep their software up to date with the latest advancements. Whenever we hear about attempts to undermine Apple's industry-leading security, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate steps to protect our customers. We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who's behind them.

Earlier this month, Apple joined a number of other tech companies to call for government surveillance reform. Programs like DROPOUTJEEP are at the heart of that call. Using DROPOUTJEEP, the NSA can access contacts, read SMS messages, locate phones via cell towers and activate a phone's microphone and cameras.

According to a leaked document shown below, the DROPOUTJEEP program must be manually loaded onto the phone before it can spy. The Der Spiegel report reveals that the TAO unit would intercept packages after they had been sent from manufacturers to install its various spy apps.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed http://www.tuaw.com/2013/12/31/apple-officially-denies-helping-nsa-spy-on-iphone-users/?ncid=rss_truncated

TUAW Editor's Choice Award Winners for 2013

Today is the last day of 2013, which means that it is time to announce the TUAW Editor's Choice Awards. This is a compendium of the best of the best, the apps and physical products that we felt best represented the top of a specific category. Some of the products are brand new, others are old favorites, but all of them earned a place in our list.

You probably have favorites that we didn't include in our list, so feel free to use the comments below to add your own "best of" items for 2013. Happy New Year!


Accessory -- Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air

With the release of the thinner, lighter iPad Air from Apple this year, Logitech somehow managed to make the popular Ultrathin Keyboard Cover even more svelte. At this time, it's simply the best keyboard available for the newest iPad. Long battery life, easy pairing, and lightweight, durable construction make this the top iPad accessory for 2013. (US$99.99, available in black or white) Steve Sande

Sleeve/Case -- (Tie) DODOcase Durables Sleeve / Pad & Quill Aria Case

If you're just looking for en-route protection for a naked iPad of any vintage, you can't go wrong with the DODOcase Durables Sleeves ($69.95 for full-size iPads, $59.95 for iPad mini). Stylish, thin and protective, these waxed canvas and twill sleeves are well-made. For more complete protection and propping up your iPad Air or mini, there's simply nothing better than Pad & Quill's Aria Case. The luxury of leather, subtle embossments, and Pad & Quill's durable and beautiful Baltic Birch frames make this the Mona Lisa of iPad cases and an instant classic. ($129.99 for iPad Air, $99.99 for iPad mini) Steve Sande

Game App -- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas may have originally released for the PlayStation 2 way back in 2004, but its triumphant return to the modern gaming landscape via the iPhone was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2013. Yes, the year was filled with Candy Crushes and Clashes of Clans, but this saga of crime, tragedy and redemption simply can't be missed. ($6.99, universal) Mike Wehner

Music App -- AudioPhile Music Player

I like the high quality music playback that AudioPhile Music Player offers for headphone users. It also sounds great on external bluetooth speakers. (Free, iPhone app also available) Mel Martin

Photo App -- FaceTune

We had a lot of fun with FaceTune earlier this year thanks to its ability to perform digital portrait makeovers. In a crowded app genre, it stood out for its ease of use and surprisingly powerful tool selection, and for its ability to make mugshots look like glamour shots. ($3.99, iPhone app available for $2.99) Mike Wehner

Productivity App -- DeskConnect

The ease with which DeskConnect lets you transfer files, links or contacts from iPad to computer or between iOS devices is a wonder. (Free, universal and for Mac) Mike Rose

Social Networking App -- Flipboard

Flipboard turns your favorite social network content and news sources into an easy-to-read magazine made just for your iPad. (Free, universal) Kelly Hodgkins

Utility App -- Delivery Status Touch

Delivery Status Touch tracks multiple packages from multiple sources and looks great on the large screen of the iPad. ($4.99, universal) Kelly Hodgkins

Video App -- Twitch.TV

Twitch.tv is a website for watching people play video games live and chatting with the broadcasters, and its popularity is skyrocketing. The Twitch.tv app has seen some serious growing pains, but in the second half of 2013 a few key updates have helped it evolve from frustrating to fantastic. If you had previously given up on the app, give it another try and you'll be blown away. (Free, universal) Mike Wehner


Accessory -- Motrr Galileo

Despite growing pains as a Kickstarter project, Motrr's polished Galileo robotic iPhone mount shipped this year and it was worth waiting for. A growing number of photography apps work with the Galileo to provide precise motion control of the iPhone. It's the perfect companion to another Editor's Choice Award winner for 2013 -- Sphere: 360 Camera. ($149.95) Steve Sande

Case/Sleeve -- Mophie Juice Pack Helium

I have reviewed hundreds of iPhone cases, but the one I use every single day is the Mophie Juice Pack Helium. The iPhone 5 version of this classic battery case works with the iPhone 5s, providing plenty of power to go for those days when your iPhone use goes a little crazy... ($79.95, also available with more capacity as the Juice Pack Air ($99.95) or Juice Pack Plus ($119.95) Steve Sande

Game App -- QuizUp

QuizUp's claim to be the biggest trivia game in the world certainly seems to have become reality, with the free app (with in-app purchases) taking over the hearts and, more importantly, minds of the App Store faithful. With a whopping 150,000 questions spanning 280 topics, there's something here for everyone. Mike Wehner

Music App -- Rdio

With personalized music service, new "stations" feature (which works great in my experience) and a streaming that almost never stalls out, Rdio is my favorite music experience on the iPhone. (Free, universal, with in-app purchases) Dave Caolo

Navigation App -- Navigon

Still the best of the navigation apps although there are many to choose from. Onboard maps, Google search and Street View, and integration with the Garmin HUD makes Navigon the best of breed. (Price varies depending on country/region, universal, with in-app purchases) Mel Martin

Photo App -- Sphere: 360 Camera

Whether you're "connecting the dots" to take a manual spherical image with your iOS device or using a Motrr Galileo robotic mount to do the snapping for you automatically, the Sphere: 360 Camera app brings a whole new meaning to panoramic photography. An update this week brought "brushstroke recording" to the app for even more fun. Creating immersive, wrap-around images that anyone can view is a winner. (Free, universal) Steve Sande

Productivity App -- OmniFocus 2

Last September, The Omni Group released OmniFocus 2 for the iPhone, and there was much rejoicing. It looks fantastic on iOS 7 and continues to be my go-to project manager. ($19.99, separate iPad app available for $39.99) Dave Caolo

Social Networking App -- Tweetbot 3

Tweetbot 3 is the iOS 7-optimized version of arguably the most powerful Twitter client available on iPhone and iPad. ($4.99, Tweetbot 2 available for iPad for $2.99) Kelly Hodgkins

Utility App -- DeskConnect

No AirDrop between iOS and OS X? No problem! DeskConnect manages this magic, works perfectly and is free. I use it almost daily. Did I mention that it's free? Dave Caolo

Video App -- Vine

When Vine launched in January nobody really knew what to make of it, but in the months since its debut it has blossomed into a massive social force. Its brief, gif-like video format has become a standard for self expression and it's showing no signs of slowing down. (Free) Mike Wehner


Accessory -- Audioengine D3 DAC

A relatively reasonable way to improve the audio coming from your Mac, the Audioengine D3 is a high quality DAC (digital to analog converter) that plugs into a USB port and lets your music come alive. ($189) Mel Martin

Peripheral -- Logitech Easy-Switch Bluetooth Keyboard

What's better than a really great backlit Bluetooth keyboard for Mac? How about a backlit Bluetooth keyboard that can also link to two iOS devices (think iPad Air and iPad mini) and switch between the three devices with the push of a button. The Logitech Easy-Switch Bluetooth Keyboard has it all, and is simply one of the best keyboards I've ever used. ($99.99) Steve Sande

Game App -- BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite is a ridiculously fantastic game that bridges first-person shooter mechanics with action and a story that will bend your mind. It's being offered on the Mac App Store for a rock-bottom price of $19.99, which will leave you feeling like a thief. Play it, and you won't regret it. Mike Wehner

Music App -- Anytune

Anytune is a music practice app that allows you to import music from your iTunes library, adjust the pitch and tempo with great detail -- without affecting sound quality -- and select and mark certain parts of the song to loop for focused practicing. ($29.99) Kelly Hodgkins

Photo App -- Photomatix

Now at version 5.0, Photomatix still leads the field for processing of high dynamic range (HDR) photos. There are a least half a dozen similar apps for the Mac, but Photomatix trumps them all. ($99 for Photomatix Pro, $39 for Photomatix Essentials) Mel Martin

Productivity App -- Dragon Dictate 3

Recently updated for OS X Mavericks, Dragon Dictate 3 is the standard bearer for voice dictation. Apple has added very sophisticated speech recognition to OS X, but nothing is a powerful or accurate as Dragon Dictate. You can even play a digital file of speech into it and it transcribes it quite well. ($179.99) Mel Martin

Social Networking App -- MenuTab Pro for Facebook

MenuTab Pro for Facebook sits in your menu bar, providing instant access to your Facebook account. The app's outstanding feature is its notfications that allow you to see whether you have a new friend request, new wall post or new message. ($1.99) Kelly Hodgkins

Utility App -- Shush

A cough button for your Mac, so that you can mute yucky noises when recording audio. Shush works in FaceTime, iChat, Skype, Podcast Capture and more. I recently used it during the Talkcast, and it blocked every snuffle and cough! ($2.99) Mike Rose

Video App -- MPlayerX

MPlayerX ranks up there with VLC as a must-have playback app. It bundles up the FFmpeg and MPlayer libraries, enabling it to handle a wide range of media codecs without requiring you to install anything extra on your machine. (Free) Kelly Hodgkins


Headphones -- JBL Synchros S700

JBL has nailed balanced, neutral headphones with the Synchros S700. These are comfortable, sturdy and built for anyone who appreciates clear, balanced audio. A special LiveStage audio enhancer, when activated, adds even more brightness to recorded audio. ($349.95) Victor Agreda, Jr.

Speakers -- Wren V5BT and V5AP

Hands-down, Wren's V5 speakers are the best looking high-end speakers I've seen all year. The AirPlay-compatible V5AP and Bluetooth-friendly V5BT speakers don't come cheap at $399, but provide awesome sound and compliment any decor. Save your pennies and buy one; you'll be very happy you did. ($399) Steve Sande


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed http://www.tuaw.com/2013/12/31/tuaw-editors-choice-award-winners-for-2013/?ncid=rss_truncated

Daily Update for December 31, 2013

It's the TUAW Daily Update, your source for Apple news in a convenient audio format. You'll get some the top Apple stories of the day in three to five minutes for a quick review of what's happening in the Apple world.

You can listen to today's Apple stories by clicking the player at the top of the page. The Daily Update has been moved to a new podcast host in the past few days. Current listeners should delete the old podcast subscription and subscribe to the new feed in the iTunes Store here.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed http://www.tuaw.com/2013/12/31/daily-update-for-december-31-2013/?ncid=rss_truncated

LG May Be Taking Another Stab At The Wearable Activity Tracking Formula

CES 2014 is just around the corner, along with enough new gadgetry to fill several lifetimes. Last year we saw a glut of activity trackers pop up in the wake of notable hits like the Fitbit and Jawbone’s UP, and now it looks like LG is taking yet another stab at the wearable fitness formula with its newly leaked (thanks to @evleaks) Lifeband Touch.

Wait, hold on, another stab? Let’s not forget that LG showed off an awfully familiar looking quantified self contraption at last year’s CES, a device that never found its way to store shelves. That earlier unit was capable of connecting to certain compatible LG smart TVs in addition to just tracking your movement, which has to be one of the savvier approaches to building a wearable I’ve seen yet.

After all, if you’re going to insist that people wear your wrist-worn doodad for days on end, what better way to go than to connect it to more things you’re likely to interact with often anyway. Sadly, there are precious few details to go on at this point so the Lifeband is

If we’re being honest, the Lifeband’s existence doesn’t come as much of a surprise — LG has already confirmed that it’s continuing to work on wearable devices, and some recent rumors pointed to a health-conscious angle. The real question, though, is whether or not these things will ever actually see the light of day.

The quantified self market is still a relatively young one, but it’s already got its fair share of big-name incumbents that seem to get the lion’s share of attention from the press and consumers alike. Then again, the Galaxy Gear seemed like one of those kooky vaporware projects for a while before Samsung (for better or worse) decided to push it out the door — maybe LG will throw caution to the wind and release this thing after all.

via TechCrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/Sl5yAT7wZIA/

Sony Rumored To Be Considering A Windows Phone Handset In 2014

According to The Information, Sony could release a Windows Phone device, diversifying its mobile device lineup, bolstering Microsoft, and perhaps demonstrating a growing wish among hardware firms to hedge against an Android-dominated future.

Sony appears to be strongly interested in the project. The Verge wrote this morning that the company has continued the project despite Microsoft’s plan to purchase Nokia’s handset business. Its willingness to consider building a Windows Phone device despite the platform having a firm home-advantage tilt towards Microsoft’s own hardware is indicative.

For Sony the move would diversify its mobile line away from Android, a platform now generally associated with Samsung hardware. The irony to that is the simple fact that Nokia is the de facto Windows Phone OEM, so Sony would be entering into a second realm where it would be a second-place player.

The winner in Sony’s potential entrance is Microsoft, even if the release of a Vaio-branded Windows Phone handset could potentially slow sales growth of its — soon to be owned — Lumia phones. Microsoft would collect a per-unit fee, perhaps enjoy faster overall platform sales growth, and, of course, there has ever been an implied connection between the Windows Phone and Xbox product lines. We have yet to see hard evidence in my estimation that one leads to greater use of the other, but the shared Xbox platform experience must have some impact on consumer activity.

Therefore, Sony building a Windows Phone would have some positive impact on Xbox. And that would, presumably, come at the cost of Playstation momentum.

According to the latest public data, Nokia’s control of usage share in the Windows Phone hardware ecosystem is now more than 92 percent. That’s dangerous for Microsoft as betting your mobile platform on a single device stack could lead to platform risks (a poor hardware update cycle could slow growth for a year, etc.), meaning that Sony’s joining the Windows Phone cadre could better moor Windows Phone.

When Windows Phone launched, it did so with OEM partners as diverse as Dell. There has been a winnowing. If Microsoft can flip that trend, it will have gone a ways to proving that the progress it made in 2013 was no fluke.

Top Image Credit: Flickr

via TechCrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/bViw7umvuOw/

The Best And Worst Gadgets Of 2013

How the Internet’s Founders Feel About The NSA Scandal

As the co-fathers of the Internet, Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn tend to be pretty protective of their digital masterpiece. Both were early Defense Department engineers of the communications architecture that underlies the modern Internet, and both tend be outspoken about threats to a free and open information superhighway. For instance, when a United Nations body, the Internet Telecommunications Union, tried to assert more control over Internet governance, Cerf was immediately dispatched to Washington D.C. to preempt the power grab.

The National Security spying scandal has, likewise, been hailed as a global threat to privacy and the Internet itself. In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times, Cerf and Kahn had a more reserved concern for government surveillance.

Here is Cerf on the NSA:

Q. Edward Snowden’s actions have raised a new storm of controversy about the role of the Internet. Is it a significant new challenge to an open and global Internet?

A. The answer is no, I don’t think so. There are some similar analogues in history. The French historically copied every telex or every telegram that you sent, and they shared it with businesses in order to remain competitive. And when that finally became apparent, it didn’t shut down the telegraph system.

The Snowden revelations will increase interest in end-to-end cryptography for encrypting information both in transit and at rest. For many of us, including me, who believe that is an important capacity to have, this little crisis may be the trigger that induces people to spend time and energy learning how to use it.

To give a bit of background, Cerf has suggested that privacy is a relatively new concept (and, historically, he’s correct). During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln collected all telegrams, in a move that has been compared to the modern surveillance state. It appears that this type of mass surveillance, followed by new privacy laws, is typical in American history.

Khan seemed far more reserved in opining how the NSA affects privacy:

Q: Is there a solution to challenges of privacy and security?

In the 1990s when I was on the National Internet Infrastructure Advisory Committee, Al Gore showed up as vice president, and he made an impassioned pitch for Clipper chip [an early government surveillance system]. He said, “We need to be very aware of the needs of national security and law enforcement.” Even though the private sector was arguing for tight encryption, the federal government needed [to be able to conduct surveillance]. It never went, and it’s not anywhere today. I think it’s probably easier to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem than it is to solve this.

A bit of background, in the 90′s, the government proposed a hardware backdoor to cell phones, known as the “Clipper Chip”. Hackers and activists successfully fought its implementation. Privacy is a perennial problem on the Internet–one that may never be solved.

Read the full interview here.

via TechCrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/syVs_5uysGs/

Four tech notions that need a fresh start in 2014

The end of the year always brings out the best intentions. Out with the old bad habits, in with the new. To that end, here are some fresh starts worth embarking on January 1:

The NSA/privacy: Revelations accusing the U.S. government of snooping on well, everyone, and companies allegedly cooperating in that personal data gathering seem to trickle in every day with no signs of slowing down in the new year. We can’t really put the genie back in the bottle, but at least we’ll be a little more educated about the issue 2014.

Microsoft: The Redmond giant’s enterprise business is doing just fine. But the consumer side needs some work. The Surface tablet is a dud (my colleague, Kevin Tofel, was thankful his firmware update failed — not a good sign), Windows Phone is still not a major player and the Xbox One rollout hit some bumps (along the way to selling more than a million units upon its debut). Steve Ballmer’s exit this year will bring in new blood and hopefully some new energy — and at least we can all stop talking about who Microsoft’s next CEO will be and the company can focus on business.

Smart watches: Not since Christopher Walken’s speech in Pulp Fiction has so much time been spent talking about watches. Speculation that Apple would release a smart watch earlier this year fueled a timepiece frenzy. Apple’s no-show notwithstanding, Pebble released its crowdfunded chronometer, Samsung gave us the Gear and Google is supposedly getting into the game. Despite all that, we still haven’t hit the sweet spot with a watch that provides a useful extension of our notification-filled lives. Though that’s shaping up to change over the coming year.

Smart homes: My colleague Stacey Higginbotham thinks 2014 will not be the year the smart home goes mainstream. There is tons of promise in the sensor filled, connected home of the future, but first we need standards, not a raft of competing radio signals: Zigbee, Z-wave, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, etc. People just want to plug stuff in and use it, so let’s spend the next year getting that straightened out.

via Gigaom http://gigaom.com/2013/12/31/four-tech-notions-that-need-a-fresh-start-in-2014/

Watch a swarm of drones fly in formation and avoid crashing into a person

A new video out of the University of Illinois Aerospace Robotics and Control Laboratory depicts a swarm of drones that can sense their surroundings to respond to commands and avoid obstacles. Watch from the beginning to see a person use their hands to guide the drones, or skip to the 1 minute mark to see the tiny quadcopters avoid a person that walks through their midst.

via Gigaom http://gigaom.com/2013/12/31/watch-a-swarm-of-drones-fly-in-formation-and-avoid-crashing-into-a-person/

Apple's iconic '1984' ad originally premiered on December 31 in Twin Falls, Idaho, not during Super Bowl 28

Apple's iconic "1984" ad is largely heralded as one of the greatest commercial spots ever created. Directed by Ridley Scott, the award-winning ad introduced the world to the Macintosh, promising users a world where they could finally break free from an existence presumably defined by IBM-controlled conformity.

While it's commonly assumed that the famous ad aired only once in its entirety -- during the 1984 Super Bowl -- the truth is that the ad originally premiered a few weeks earlier. On December 31, 1983, just a few minutes before midnight to be exact, the ad hit the air in Twin Falls, Idaho, on KMVT-TV. The reason behind the peculiar airtime is that the advertising folks over at Chiat/Day (now TBWA\Chiat\Day) wanted the commercial to be eligible for that year's advertising awards.

Tom Frank, the TV operator who initially aired the commercial for KMVT-TV, commented many years later that he "was under explicit orders to make sure it aired and aired correctly." He also added that the tape containing the commercial was immediately mailed back to the ad agency after air.

As to why Apple's ad agency chose Twin Falls, Idaho, as the prime spot to premiere the commercial, Frank speculates that it all boils down to geography.

Probably because of our remote location and small nighttime audience. Remember, they were trying to qualify for the next awards season. They really didn't want anyone to see it and comment on it. The Super Bowl was to be the official "premiere."

While the full 60-second ad only aired twice, it's worth mentioning that a 30-second version of the ad did air across 11 US markets, including Boca Raton, Fla., as the city at the time was home to IBM's PC division. Just a subtle jab from Apple to Big Blue on its home turf.

Lastly, Apple commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Mac by remastering the commercial for Macworld 2004. The video is notable insofar as the runner in the revamped commercial is wearing an iPod. Perhaps for the 30th anniversary of the Mac, the woman won't be running at all, but rather walking slowly, head down and fully engrossed in a game of Angry Birds on her iPhone 6.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed http://www.tuaw.com/2013/12/31/apples-iconic-1984-ad-originally-premiered-on-december-31-in/?ncid=rss_truncated

These are a few of my favorite things - 2013 Edition

Favorite Things 2013

As 2013 comes to an end, here are a list of my favorite Mac apps that I used over the past year. Now there are a few important things to remember: you'll notice that many of these are not "new" apps because, well, I don't care when the apps were made nearly as much as I care if they're good and I find them useful. Instead, this is a list of the apps that I used or enjoyed the most in 2013, and expect to keep using in the future.

All prices listed are in US Dollars, rounded off to the nearest whole dollar (because we all know that 99¢ is just a marketing way of saying $1, right?). If there is no price listed, then the app/utility is free, although most gratefully accept donations.

Favorite New App of 2013

bartender app iconBartender ($15) is the app I never knew I wanted until it existed, and now I never want to use a Mac without it installed.

Bartender lets you hide apps on your menu bar, as well as organize the ones you want to remain visible. You can even use it to hide built-in OS X menu bar icons such as Notification Center and Spotlight.

I even use Bartender on my Dell UltraSharp 29" Ultrawide monitor which is essentially one monitor as wide as two monitors.

Favorite App of 2013

Keyboard Maestro app iconKeyboard Maestro ($36) is my favorite "non-new" app of 2013. Version 6 came out in 2013 and the app is continually improved. The more I learn about Keyboard Maestro, the more I'm impressed with it. I have written about it a lot and posted several macros on Github. I've even done some one-on-one consulting and training. Even after all that, I'm still learning new tricks that it can do. (Peter Lewis, Keyboard Maestro's developer, commented that he's still impressed to see what users come up with to do with his own app!)

Keyboard Maestro's cost may seem high in a world where software is often reduced to "fart-app pricing" but it does the work of several apps. It can launch applications, move and click the mouse, execute scripts, insert (static or dynamic/variable) text, manipulate windows, control menus, create/move/copy/rename/delete/trash files, control iTunes, capture images, control iTunes, send notifications, and more.

Keyboard Maestro comes with a 30-day trial which is enough time to overcome the initial learning curve and start making it work for you. The developer is very responsive to questions and support requests, and there many others using Keyboard Maestro too, so you're likely to find more tips in the year ahead if you read their sites too.

More Automation on the Mac

Keyboard Maestro is only the tip of the automation iceberg. TextExpander ($35) and Hazel ($28) both continued to be essential tools in 2013. In case you're not familiar with them: TextExpander inserts text (or images, or runs scripts) on demand when you type a shortcut, and Hazel automatically responds to changes in files and folders.

TextExpander app iconTextExpander is great if you find yourself needing to re-type the same thing over and over. I use it to insert frequently referred-to links, create templates for shell scripts or MultiMarkdown documents, and mail signatures. You can even "nest" snippets within other snippets. A Mac without TextExpander feels broken.

Hazel Helper app iconHazel can do so many things I don't know where to start, but here's one set of recipes I use more than any other. All of these are actions taken on files added to my ~/Downloads/ folder:

  • If there is a new archived file (.zip, .tar.gz, etc) then unarchive it and store the original file in ~/Downloads/Archives/ (in case I want to copy it to another Mac).

  • If a new .app file is found, move it to /Applications/ and replace any older version

  • If a new text file is found (.txt, .md, .mmd, etc) is found, move it to ~/Dropbox/txt/

  • If another kind of document (.pdf, .docx, etc) is found, move it to ~/Dropbox/Documents/

  • If an image is found, move it to ~/Dropbox/Photos/ (where another Hazel rule then sorts them by date)

There are lots of other possibilities, those are just a few to get you started. Hazel is one of those tools that works in the background doing tedious things so you don't have to. It will even keep your Trash from getting taking up space with old files or oversized files.

Read more at TUAW

Most Taken-For-Granted App I Couldn't Live Without

Dropbox app iconDropbox. Good lord, I don't even want to think about using a Mac without Dropbox. Unless you have been literally living in a cave, you must have heard about Dropbox by now, right? If so, here's a summary: it's a magic folder which syncs to all of your computers (Mac, Windows, even Linux) which you can access on your iOS devices, and even on their website (unlike iCloud documents). It is supported by tons of iOS devices which use it for document sharing and more.

You get 2 GB for free, and up to 500 GB for $500/year. All accounts come with 30 days of versioning so you can go back to previous versions of documents.

Other Dropbox articles to check out:

Sorry for the bulleted list. These are great apps, but they are either better-known or more easily explained.

  • This was the year I switched to Alfred ($0 for most features, $28 for "Powerpack" extensions, or a little over $50 for lifetime updates) from LaunchBar ($35). LaunchBar is still a great app, I just wanted to be able to use some of the workflow features in Alfred.

  • Alfred, LaunchBar, and Keyboard Maestro all have clipboard functionality built-in, but if you want an app just for saving multiple clipboards, get Flycut. Even has Dropbox sync.

  • MailMate app iconMailMate ($50) definitely deserves its own review, and I suspect I'll be using it even more in 2014, but 2013 saw me start to move away from Gmail, especially Gmail.com which was redesigned but did not get better. If you use email, you owe it to yourself to checkout MailMate.

  • OmniDiskSweeper ($0) remains my go-to app for finding out what is using all of my hard drive space.

  • I'm still using version 1 of Skitch ($0) whenever I need to quickly take a screenshot then annotate and/or share it. Skitch version 2 has gotten better since its initial atrocious release but "saving" a Skitch in version 2 goes to Evernote instead of just staying locally, and I have no desire, need, or interest in saving Skitch to Evernote.

  • Soulver App IconSoulver ($12) is the first 'calculator' that I have really enjoyed using. I've never been great at math, I can't do a lot of calculations in my head. Using a regular calculator always left me frustrated, and half the time I wasn't sure that I had done the calculations properly. With Soulver, I understand regular real-life math a lot better than I ever have. That isn't to say that it doesn't have a lot of powerful options which are useful to people who are good at math. It does. But if you've never struggled with math, you can't understand what it means to have something like this. The word "empowering" has been overused to the extreme, but here it fits, at least for me. I bought the separate iPad and iPhone versions without hesitation or complaint, but I am glad to see that Soulver for iOS is now a universal app (currently on sale for $2).

  • Need to turn a bunch of CDs or audio files into an audiobook? Audiobook Builder ($5). It will not only 'chapterize' it for you, it will also let you easily add cover art using any image file.

  • Want to make sure your Mac doesn't turn itself off for a certain amount of time? Try Caffeine.

  • GIF Brewery ($5) easily takes a video clip and turns it into a GIF.

  • Use your Mac's keyboard for any iOS device (or any other Bluetooth capable device, including another Mac) using Type2Phone ($5).

  • Growl ($4) still does a few tricks that OS X's notifications don't.

  • Use PCKeyboardHack and KeyRemap4MacBook to make a hyper key.

  • If you want to edit, create, or learn about launchd, get LaunchControl ($10, free unlimited demo). Hugely useful.

  • Need to cut up an audio file, maybe to make an iPhone ringtone, or maybe just to trim it for some other reason? Fission - Fast & Lossless Audio Editing.

  • I still haven't learned git but thanks to GitHub for Mac I've been able to fake my way along.

  • If you use a calendar, get Fantastical ($10) for quick "natural language" entry menu bar access, and get BusyCal ($50, 30-day trial) for a better Mac calendar.

  • Print from iOS to your Mac with Printopia ($20). You can save the file as a PDFs (or JPG or PNG if that's what the file was originally), or send them to any printer connected to your Mac.

  • Default Folder X ($35, 30-day trial) lets you quickly jump to favorite folders, or assign specific folders as the 'default' for certain apps. This is another one of those tools that: a) feels like it should be built-in to OS X, b) when I use a Mac without this installed, it feels broken.

  • Trying to monitor your Mac's bandwidth usage and prevent apps from covertly connecting to the Internet? Little Snitch ($35) is the tattletale little brother than those apps wish had never been born.

  • SlimBatterMonitorSlimBatteryMonitor is a better battery monitor that OS X's own; MagiCal lets you easily create a menu bar clock that shows the time and/or date exactly as you want it; FreeSpace Tab shows available hard drive space in the menu bar; and I've stopped using all three in favor of iStat Menus ($16, 14-day trial) which also knocked OS X's Activity Monitor off my Dock.

  • Of course I use VLC for most of my video-watching, including Blu-Ray discs thanks to MakeMKV ($0 for some features, $50 for Blu-Ray features, although they are free during beta see here for more info which is also what I use for ripping Blu-Ray and DVDs, almost exclusively via Batch Rip Actions for Automator which are capital-A Awesome if you are ripping lots of DVD/Blu-Ray discs. When I'm done I clean everything up using Name Mangler to get the filenames right and then I can watch my collection in the Plex Media Server.

  • Last but not least I use Mountain ($2) to mount and unmount drives from the menu bar, Flashmount (see previous coverage) to quickly mount DMGs. and DiskWarrior ($100) to check and repair my disks. (By the way, DiskWarrior might be the most expensive piece of software on this list, but it's worth every penny. Get it to help fix little problems before they become big problems.)

Looking Ahead

Wow. That's a lot of great software. Here are a few apps that I'm keeping an eye on because I suspect they will be on next year's list:

Shortcat App IconShortcat (currently $16 during beta, planned $24 after): "Keep your hands on the keyboard and boost your productivity! Shortcat is a keyboard tool for Mac OS X that lets you "click" buttons and control your apps with a few keystrokes. Think of it as Spotlight for the user interface."

let.ter app iconlet.ter ($4): "The tiny Markdown powered app just for writing emails." I've been using a send-only email app for 2.5 years now, but I like what I see so far in Letter. Recently released and still lacking some essential features such as multiple account support (which is planned for the nearish future), but I bet this eventually replaces what I've been using.

Vellum app iconVellum is the new-app that I'm most excited about. Anyone who has tried to make ebooks knows that it's a pain because each device has its own... "quirks." Serenity Caldwell likens making ebooks today to making websites in the late '90s when web standards didn't really exist or weren't implemented by the companies that made web browsers. Vellum bills itself as the tool to help you overcome the madness by letting you import a .docx file and export properly formatted books for iBooks, Kindle, and Nook. This is the next app on my "to test" list and I can't wait.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed http://www.tuaw.com/2013/12/31/these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things-2013-edition/?ncid=rss_truncated