Although we have no idea what (if any) new products will be released, the keynote is sure to be of interest to every Apple fan anxious to see what a Scott Forstall-less iOS 7 or Mac OS X 10.9 will look like.
As always, TUAW will hold a liveblog of the keynote on that date. Be sure to mark your calendar and keep some time on your schedule to join us for the event.
On May 19, 2001, the first two Apple retail store opened up for business. One was located in McLean, Va., while the other was situated in Glendale, Calif. At the time, there were no shortage of critics who expressed serious doubt as to Apple's effort to get into the retail business.
Now, 12 years later, Apple's line of retail stores play an instrumental role in Apple's overall sales, and more importantly, give consumers a chance to actually use Apple products in a fun and inviting environment. It may sound absurd to anyone born after 1986, but I distinctly remember a time when the only place I could test out and potentially purchase a Mac was at a local OfficeMax -- unless, of course, I wanted to mosey on down to a shady corner electronics store that somehow managed to become an authorized Apple reseller.
In short, Apple's retail stores enabled the company to put its products out in front of consumers on its own terms. Today, Apple stores, given their ubiquitous nature, seem like a given. I mean, why wouldn't Apple roll out a line of retail stores?
But back in the dark days of the '90's, back when Apple's marketshare continued to plummet as the company bled money, Macs were looked upon disparagingly and their presentation in the few stores that carried them reflected that perception.
There are no shortage of stories surrounding Apple's foray into the retail business and the factors which led to them becoming the most profitable retail stores on the planet on a per-square-foot basis.
That said, with Apple's first retail stores turning 12 this past Sunday, I thought it'd be interesting to present a few impressive factoids about the current state of Apple's retail operation. Looking back, it's hard to imagine that even the most ardent Apple enthusiast could have predicted the juggernaut Apple retail would go onto become.
- There are now 402 Apple retail stores worldwide.
- 251 of those are in the United States, 151 are located abroad.
- By the end of 2013, Apple will have 432 retail stores around the world.
- In 2013, Apple will be revamping or remodeling 20 retail locations whose success has made accommodating visitors a problem.
- Apple in 2012 spent nearly $1 billion on retail related capital expenditures.
- Apple retail stores in 2012 hosted 372 million visitors.
- Together, Apple retail stores comprise 4.1 million square feet.
- There are Apple retail stores in 13 countries.
- There are 5 states which have no Apple retail presence; Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.
Here are a few factoids from Apple's most recent quarter:
- Retail revenue checked in at $5.2 billion.
- Revenue per store came in at $13.1 million.
- Apple retail stores hosted 91 million visitors.
- Apple retail stores earned $57.6 per visitor.
Lastly, and in the spirit of nostalgia, here's a video of Steve Jobs giving a tour of the first Apple store in McLean, Va. In typical fashion, Jobs' enthusiasm is infectious, and more importantly, authentic. Also, watch closely and see if you can spot boxes of Mac OS 9 on the shelf, you know, from an era back when Apple actually shipped packaged software.
Poser has come a long way from the last time I used it, right around version 4. We're now at 10 for the basic edition (retail US$299.99) and Poser Pro 2014 (retail $499.99) has become a powerful animation tool in its own right. I got to look at some of the new features rolling out today and they are impressive, putting Poser on par with many animation and modeling suites costing much more.
A problem with any humanoid character is how the "skin" folds when you bend it. Poser now offers Pixar's OpenSubdiv libraries, which means subdivision surfaces anywhere you need them. I was impressed with the accuracy and speed at which Poser created subdivisions, which add greatly to the realism already available in Poser. There are also some new characters, both realistic and cartoonish, to help get you started. For basic work the stock characters will keep you busy for quite a while, but there's also a great third-party market for Poser models should you need more.
One pain point for many digital artists are the hair and clothes for models. Getting those to "fit" properly can take a long time. Poser Pro now offers a "fitting room" which speeds up this process. Poser already has a cottage industry of third-party models and props, including clothes and hair. Now with the fitting room you can quickly fit those accessories to your basic models faster. Sure, you've still got the morph targets you've come to know and love, but Poser Pro now offers five specialized tools for interactively loosening, tightening clothes while retaining their physics properties (rigid or soft-body deformations).
Both the Pro and basic editions now offer Bullet Physics, which simulates rigid-body and soft-body dynamics. Applying regions of soft-body dynamics is as easy as painting on your character, and the results are truly impressive with very little learning curve for newbies.
That's the power of Poser, really. Many of the trickier elements of 3D modeling and animation are done for you (if you've ever rigged a biped using IK you know how tedious it can be!), leaving you to "play" with the models, lighting and accessories to get just the right look. With models already rigged, and now with Bullet Time, it has become easier than ever to get realistic animation out of the box with very little effort.
Poser has become a powerful tool for graphic novelists as well, allowing artists to quickly pose and render characters. The latest addition offers a Comic Book Preview mode which allows artists to dial in the correct amount of lines and shading throughout a scene, even animated. Doing this in your 3D tool counts for a lot, and the examples I saw were impressive and fast. If you've ever set up a scene, added a cartoon render and discovered lines going funky when you animate, you'll be pleasantly surprised by Poser's ability to lock down lines and shaders in Comic Book mode.
In addition to all this, there's a more capable Morph Brush for enhancing models, and a Live Simulation preview which allows you to quickly render ray traced models or preview animation using Bullet Time. Poser has become more capable and faster -- exactly what you want in a 3D modeling and animation tool.
While the cost isn't cheap, Smith Micro is offering a deal through June 20. Poser 10 will be available for $239.99 and Poser Pro 2014 will be $399.99. If you're upgrading, check the Poser site for more details. Compared to 3ds Max and other tools, Poser is a steal at those prices. If you find yourself needing character models (for medical illustrations, graphic novels, stock photos, etc.) I think the basic version will make you very happy. If you need animated characters with lifelike skin, hair and clothes, Pro is simply brilliant and priced very competitively for what it delivers. No, these are not hobbyist tools exactly, but they are accessible to anyone and powerful enough to be used in professional situations. Check out Poser if you need a reliable solution to character animation or modeling needs.
· New 3D characters
· Subdivision Surfaces
· Bullet Physics with soft body dynamics
· Interactive Raytrace Preview
· Comic Book Preview Mode
ALISO VIEJO, CA - May 21, 2013 - Smith Micro Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: SMSI) Productivity and Graphics Group today announced the newest version of its 3D animation software program, Poser(R) 10 and Poser(R) Pro 2014. Perfect for artists, illustrators, animators and graphic designers, Poser enables users to easily create full 3D scenes with digital humans, animals and props. In addition to an extensive library of pre-loaded characters and content, Poser 10 and Poser Pro 2014 come equipped with new features such as Subdivision Surfaces for improved bending fidelity, Bullet Physics for adding increased realism to animation and Live Simulation mode for previewing dynamics in real-time.
Watch a video teaser for Poser 10 and Poser Pro 2014 here.
"It's our goal to provide illustrators, graphic designers, animators and 3D artists as well as novice users and hobbyists with a resource for telling their stories in 3D, via images and video," said Steve Cooper, senior product manager of productivity and graphics at Smith Micro. "Poser not only provides professional users with powerful tools for creating 3D character content and scenes, but also offers a variety of easy-to-use features and pre-loaded figures and props that allow beginners to get into 3D art without forcing them to master figure modeling, texturing and rigging."
Poser comes with pre-built, ready to use 3D characters that enable users to begin posing and animating right out of the box. Supported by a multitude of tutorial videos as well as by an experienced team of content creators, developers, QA testers and customer service and support teams, the full featured software is reliable, well documented and easy-to-learn.
"With each new version that is released, Poser continues to raise the bar for 3D illustrators and artists," said Brian Haberlin, co-artist and co-writer of the multimedia sci-fi adventure saga Anomaly. "Poser gives users the ability to create exceedingly realistic animations and illustrations and has emerged as the digital artist's secret little helper."
Poser 10 and Poser Pro 2014 provide new professional level features, even at the base version of the software. The integration of Pixar's OpenSubdiv library enables artists to define subdivision levels by prop, figure or even individual body part with ease. This feature, known as Subdivision Surfaces, improves bending accuracy, smoothens polygonal surfaces and boosts overall performance by enabling lighter poly-count content. Poser's new Bullet Physics tool simulates rigid body dynamics, soft body dynamics and even dynamic strand-based hair. Poser artists can now add jiggle and bounce to any prop or character, paint soft body constraint weights to animate and more. Users can even preview their animations in real-time with the Live Simulation feature.
"Poser offers a variety of features that help everyone from beginners to professional animators alike," said Monty Oum, director of animation at Rooster Teeth Productions. "Whether you are just jumping into 3D animation or are a skilled digital artist, Poser has tools that will help bring your art to life, while cutting down production time and cost."
Comic Book Preview Mode and new Fitting Room:
Poser's new Comic Book Preview Mode enables illustrators to create color or black and white comic art with improved line control and outlines with persistent shading, even when rotating or animating their point of view. Users can also interactively fit existing clothing and props to any Poser figure with Poser Pro's Fitting Room, which provides five intelligent methods that interactively loosen, tighten, smooth and preserve soft and rigid features. With the click of a single button, designers can generate a new conforming clothing item, using the original figure's rig, complete with full morph transfer.
For a full feature-listing visit here.
Pricing and Availability:
From now until June 20, 2013 Poser 10 is available for $239.99 and Poser 2014 for $399.99. After this time, Poser 10 will be available for $299.99 and Poser 2014 for $499.99. For more detailed product, pricing and tiered upgrade pricing information, please visit the Poser website.
About Smith Micro Software, Inc. - Productivity and Graphics Group:
Based in Santa Cruz, Calif., the Smith Micro Software Productivity and Graphics Group produces award-winning software that inspires consumer creativity and enables efficiency. The group's creative suite of programs provides artists of all skill levels - from novice to professional - with the tools to illustrate, animate and create 2D and 3D art. Some of the Productivity and Graphics Group's award-winning creative and utilities products include Poser, Anime Studio, Manga Studio and StuffIt. For more information, please visit: www.smithmicro.com. (NASDAQ: SMSI)
Safe Harbor Statement:
This release contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, including without limitation, forward-looking statements relating to the company's financial prospects and other projections of its performance, the existence of new market opportunities and interest in the company's products and solutions, and the company's ability to increase its revenue and regain profitability by capitalizing on these new market opportunities and interest and introducing new products and solutions. Among the important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements are changes in demand for the company's products from its customers and their end-users, customer concentration given that the majority of our sales depend on a few large client relationships, including Sprint, new and changing technologies, customer acceptance and timing of deployment of those technologies, new and continuing adverse economic conditions, and the company's ability to compete effectively with other software companies. These and other factors discussed in the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its filings on Forms 10-K and 10-Q, could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in any forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements contained in this release are made on the basis of the views and assumptions of management regarding future events and business performance as of the date of this release, and the company does not undertake any obligation to update these statements to reflect events or circumstances occurring after the date of this release.
Smith Micro, the Smith Micro logo and Poser are trademarks or registered trademarks of Smith Micro Software, Inc. All other trademarks and product names are the property of their respective companies.
Poser 10 and Poser Pro 2014 available, bringing new characters, physics and more originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Tue, 21 May 2013 09:40:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Spring means migration and the return of birds to many parts of North America. It also means warmer weather and sunny days that are perfect for birding. Here is a list of apps to help you get outside and start learning about our feathered friends (all prices are USD).
Field Guide for birds [iOS Universal; $0.99 to $19.99]
There are several big name field guides that include photos and illustrations to help identification, bird calls, range data and other information about each bird species. Included in this list of guides is Audubon, Peterson, Sibley, and the all-digital iBird.
Audubon Birds is a digital version of the popular paperback field guide. It has excellent images of the birds, range maps and multiple calls and songs for each bird. It also includes NatureShare which allows you to find and share local bird sightings. The Audubon Birds app is on sale now for $3.99, down from $14.99.
Peterson is another pocket guide to North American birds that has made its way to the digital platform. Peterson has a full version of its paperback guide that sells for $14.99. The company also recently introduced a Pocket edition of its traditional guide that features a lower price tag (99-cents) and a few less details.
Sibley, another paperback guide, is known for its great illustrations and these details look great on the iPad and iPhone. The Sibley eGuide also has a handy comparison tool and a bird song repeat feature so you can call out to other birds while you are in the field. The Sibley eGuide to North American birds costs $19.99.
iBird offers a variety of guides to meet your pocketbook and your geographical location. If you want a guide that covers 938 North American and Hawaiian species, then you should check out the iBird Pro Guide to Birds, currently available for $19.99. This version also includes audio songs and calls, a search feature that lets you save frequently used searches and iCloud syncing for your notes and favorite birds. There is also a Plus version available for $14.99 that has less search filters than the Pro version. iBird has affordable versions ($6.99)for regions like the Midwest, West, South and North. iBirds also has a backyard birds version that'll get you birding from the comfort of your deck longer for $2.99.
Larkwire Birdsong Series [iOS Universal; $14.99 or less]
If you want to turn memorizing bird calls into a game, then you should check out the Larkwire Birdsong series. Similar to the bird guides, Larkwire has several universal iOS apps to meet the needs of a variety of birders.
A Master Birder version is available for both land birds and water birds. The master land bird version includes 394 sounds that cover 343 land species, while the water bird version has 253 sounds from 135 species of water birds. Between these two guides, almost all the major North American land and water birds are covered.
Chirp! Bird Song USA+ [iOS Universal; $2.99]
Chirp! Bird Song USA+ is part bird song app, part reference app. It uses GPS to find bird calls that common in your location. As your bird calling skills improve, you can branch out to include all 263 bird song and calls in the app. Besides the audio recordings, the app has snippets about each call and quiz feature to test your knowledge.
Cornell Lab Bird Q&A [iPhone; $2.99]
The Cornell Lab Bird Q&A app is an educational app about birds. It features a question and answer format that cover cool facts about birds, bird feeding, migration and more. These frequently asked questions are answered by the experts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Birdwatchers Diary [iPhone; $12.99]
Birdwatcher's Diary is a journaling app that allows you to log your bird sightings while in the field. Each entry includes field notes, a time stamp, location information and more. When you are done, you can upload your birding lists to eBird or back them up to Dropbox.
Five apps to help you identify birds and their beautiful songs originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Mon, 20 May 2013 14:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
"Wait, who's Brett Terpstra? Does that guy still write here?" Yes, he does, on special occasions. The release of Lick of the Day 2.0 seemed like a decent reason to come out of hiding.
Lick of the Day is an app from Agile Partners for iPhone and iPad which teaches guitar players new skills in an easy to digest video and interactive format (see previous coverage by Matt Tinsley). With each lesson you get a high-quality video that includes explanations, fast and slow versions as well as tips for making the most of picking patterns and finger positions. Each lick also includes tab/notation, text narrative and backing tracks for practicing. The live fingerboard representation as the tab plays for you is one of my favorite parts of the app.
In version 2, Agile partners with TrueFire to include 20 new Lick Packs that cover 500 blues, rock, jazz, rockabilly and acoustic lessons. Basically, if you play guitar, there's something there to enhance your ability, whether you're just getting started or a seasoned pro. They don't talk down to you; they present the music theory and techniques while building from the simple to the highly skilled, with enough instruction on the way to get you there.
My personal guitar skills have enhanced ten-fold over the last year, due in large part to this app. I'm excited to see all of the new content and features coming out in such a valuable part of my music toolkit. Check out Lick of the Day in the App Store. It's free, with each "Lick Pack" being an in-app purchase ($2.99 US) with free samples from the pack to try out before purchasing.
Museum buffs and tourists might want to download Google's Field Trip app right now. As we've told you before, the location-based app shows you cool things to do while on a trip. For a limited time, the app will also get you into 13 major US museums for free, as Google announced on the Field Trip Google+ page:
Rumor has it you can visit 13 museums in 6 cities for FREE with Field Trip...
RUMOR CONFIRMED!!! For a limited time you can walk into any of these for free:
Conservatory of Flowers, SF
California Academy of Sciences, SF
Walt Disney Family Museum, SF
Museum of Contemporary Art, LA
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Adler Planetarium, Chicago
The Field Museum, Chicago
Museum of the city of New York, NY
Museum of Arts and Design, NY
National Building Museum, DC
Portland Children's Museum
Portland Art Museum
Pittock Mansion, Portland
If you are around one of the following 13 museums, you will get a Field Trip card with "Free Entry" in the title (check the 'nearby' tab). Show the card on your phone to the admissions staff and they'll take care of the rest.
Enjoy your Field Trips!
Living in Europe I'm pretty spoiled, as almost every major museum is free. But looking at the list above -- especially seeing three of Chicago's best museums (my old stomping grounds) -- leaves me feeling a little envious of my US friends at the moment.
Field Trip is a free download for iOS and Android.
Google's Field Trip app gets you into 13 museums for free right now originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Mon, 20 May 2013 11:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
After less than 10 days on the App Store, Apple this past week gave the boot to "Bang With Friends", an app that seemingly runs afoul of Apple's efforts to keep the App Store as reasonably wholesome and free of smut as possible.
In case you're unfamiliar, "Bang With Friends" is an app that seeks to match up Facebook users with friends who share a common interest in, oh, how shall I phrase this, amorous relations.
This past weekend, "Bang With Friends" co-founder and CEO Colin Hodge confirmed the app's removal with Valleywag. Hodge did, however, note that he's currently working with Apple to get it back in the App Store.
While it stands to reason that the app was removed due to its mature nature, Hodge says that Apple hasn't yet given him a reason as to why the app was removed.
Interestingly enough, TechCrunch this past Friday ran an article detailing how Zynga -- the purveyors of the ever-popular "Words With Friends" app -- recently served the developers of "Cupid With Friends" with papers indicating that the name of their app infringes upon Zynga's trademark.
Zynga's letter reads in part:
Zynga has consistently used and promoted the 'WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks together as a family and, as a result of Zynga's extensive marketing efforts and commercial success, the 'WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks is strongly identified by consumers with Zynga's reputation for quality.
That being the case, perhaps its also possible that the removal of "Bang With Friends" has something to do with Zynga's efforts to protect its intellectual property.
That theory is somewhat flawed, however, to the extent that the app is still available for download on the Google Play store.
In any event, while Apple's App Store rejection and approval process is no longer the hot-button controversy it once was, every so often Apple gives us a little reminder of its desire to keep the App Store clean. For instance, Apple this past January temporarily removed the popular photo-based 500px app due to concerns that users could too easily use it to search for nude photos. One week later, the App was reinstated after developers added a new feature enabling users to flag inappropriate content for removal.
Apple removes 'Bang With Friends' from the App Store originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Mon, 20 May 2013 09:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
I was lucky. My mom and dad had me while they were finishing up their graduate work in the 1970's at North Carolina State University. My dad was, at the time, a bit of a gadget nut. Of course, back then "gadgets" were more commonly found in the kitchen and came from companies like Ronco. My dad was more into the electronics side, and I remember seeing TAB books about building robots around the house. We never built those robots, but my dad did buy two pieces of tech which changed my life forever. One was an HP programmable calculator, the other was an Apple II.
For those who don't remember, the early programmable calculators from HP had less than 4 kilobytes of memory on them. My dad would program the equations needed to solve various math problems (he was getting his Ph.D in chemical engineering at the time), then he'd let the HP crank away on the math over the weekend. So yes, computers were a little slower back in those days.
While the HP lived at my dad's office on campus, and I only saw it a few times until he graduated, the Apple was a Christmas present for the whole family. He bought it in a bicycle shop, as there were no real computer shops at the time. In the back of this bike shop there was a hobbyist's corner filled with old computers like the Altair, and various electronics kits and projects for the budding "computer" hobbyist. As the Apple II had a keyboard and available software, it was an easy sell.
I still remember plugging it in to our color TV and hearing that beep as we loaded up Integer BASIC and tried out a game of Star Wars using a casette to load the program. We had 2 paddles to play, and Star Wars was hard to play with those paddles; one controlled your X-Wing's X-axis, and the other the Y-axis. That is no way to fly, for sure. More fun was Breakout, and later a Star Trek game where we obliterated ASCII Klingons in turn-based play. Even more fun than that: getting to program our own applications using AppleSoft BASIC, made from a little shop called Microsoft and licensed by Apple for use on the platform (the sad story of why AppleSoft BASIC for Mac never made it to market will have to wait for another day).
Within a few years I was happily using BASIC and fastidiously entering lines of code from books and magazines to make games, "screen art" and other fun things. When we moved to Tennessee I wound up getting a Laser 128, which, along with an external disk drive, allowed me to use some of the best software on the market -- for kids and adults.
Some of the software of the 1980's also had a big impact on me. Bill Budge's Pinball Construction Set featured a visual interface for easily building virtual pinball tables. Music Construction Set similarly allowed the Apple II to turn into a synthesizer. Adventure Construction Set, while primitive, was used to make entire interactive worlds using little sprites and your imagination. All of those were from Electronic Arts, a rambunctious little gaming startup at the time. Then there was Broderbund, who brought me Lode Runner and The Print Shop. Lode Runner (still around today, sort of), had a level editor that allowed total freedom. I made dozens of levels; later, when I taught game design at a technical college, the lessons in game balance I learned from play testing those Lode Runner levels were not lost on me.
Then there was The Newsroom by Springboard (there's an archived review for the Atari here). Of course Broderbund made a killing with The Print Shop -- a simple software package which allowed anyone to easily print (on dot matrix!) posters, banners and other things. Every school in my town had a copy of The Print Shop, and judging from Kodak Disc photos of birthdays back then, I think most of the parents had a copy as well. But The Newsroom was like an advanced version of Print Shop. It was basically a desktop publishing package, complete with layout options, text editor, "image" editor, plus a couple of floppies worth of clip art. The Newsroom used the metaphor of an actual newspaper, complete with layout room and copy desk, to guide kids through the process of making newsletters. It was a powerful piece of software, and required several floppies (front and back!) to create and print your work.
I was also fortunate to grow up in a small East Tennessee town with a couple of taxpaying big companies located there. Eastman Kodak and Mead Paper had operations where I grew up, and because they paid so much in local taxes our schools were quite good. I remember attending computer programming camp where we worked on the Apple IIe at a local elementary school one summer -- apparently this was not common, and certainly rare in an otherwise agrarian locale. Along the way I got Microzine, a brilliant digital magazine available on floppy disk from Scholastic.
When my dad got our first Mac, it was an SE/30. The SE/30 was a great machine, but more importantly we got our first modem with it. Naturally, I was the first in my family to infect our computer with a virus. The virus came from a downloaded sound pack (remember when you could customize sounds on Mac OS?) featuring Monty Python noises. Virus writers definitely knew their audience. If you were on the Internet back then you'll also fondly remember how it was primarily a text interface, and "finding" stuff was largely done via print or word of mouth. Ah, BBS -- back when trolls were smote daily by mods.
I recall a youth filled with electronic toys, too. I still have a Speak & Spell, and a Entex Electronics Soccer game, briefly seen in TRON: Legacy. My dad was nice enough to get me several Erector and Capsela kits, and those awesome 100-in-1 electronics project kits, the old ones with springs and a million colored wires which inevitably became tangled up. Perhaps my most prized possession was Verbot from Tomy, a voice-recognizing robot which you could order around the house by shouting commands into a microphone. Verbot worked almost as well as Siri, so there you go.
In high school I helped our yearbook staff modernize. Mine was the first class to skip the old pasting methods, creating the yearbook digitally with Pagemaker (from Aldus at the time) and Freehand. I still have Freehand 1.0 on a disk somewhere. We also bought one of the first affordable color printers, which used thermal paper, and I remember being disappointed by the quality of the images.
One big side project in high school involved taking correspondence classes in electronics from NRI. My specific degree was to be in electronic music technology, but I only took the courses up until I made a mixer and a really terrible PC. The mouse was so cheap as to be non-functional by design. Building your own PC way back then gave one an appreciation for the fit and finish of Apple products.
It was also during high school that I continued my fascination for building things in software. I was never very good at it, but when HyperCard came along I churned out dozens of choose-your-own-adventure games. Often I was the only one playing them, but it further ingrained a sense that computers were the fastest way from thought to created reality.
By the time I was in college, and after switching from Electrical/Computer Engineering to Communications, Apple had started cranking out lots of Mac models. My first personal Mac was a Centris 610, the "pizza box" variety. I wanted a Mac TV, but had to wait until I treated myself to a graduation present of a PowerMac 8500. Until then I was an active member of several boards on Prodigy, took some time to make a fake ID with my Mac, and published a 'zine using, again, PageMaker. I remember not having enough RAM to load some of the photos.
The early-to-mid 90's were not exactly kind to Apple, but there were some important innovations. I watched my first QuickTime movie on a double-density disk in my Centris on afternoon in my dorm room. It blew my mind. That's also what got me into the video streaming business way back in 1999, at a now-defunct dot com startup. By then I had enough experience to know that if you could create something in the computer, you could *publish* that content in any form.
Now that video could be shown on a personal computer, the final wall had been broken. Of course I didn't consider bandwidth concerns, etc. but that was the origin point for my former stab at a multimedia shop, Superpixel.com. I founded Superpixel having grown up making stuff in computers, either in BASIC or hand-coded from a book, or in a construction set. Using software like HyperCard, and building electronics, printing yearbooks and editing video on a computer early in life also prepped me for the work I was to do later in life, both in education and blogging.
With a PowerMac 8500 under my arm, and After Effects 3.0 and Premiere 4 loaded onboard, I set off to film school. The 8500's analog output resulted in some hilarious attempts at visual effects. I spent far too much time painting fire and lightning effects frame-by-frame in Painter, and not nearly enough time writing scripts in Final Draft (still one of my favorite word processors ever). Still, by the time my final year rolled around the blue and white G3 had become available, so I grabbed one of those, a Canon XL-1 and an ultrawide SCSI hard drive with a whopping 8.5 GB of storage on it. With this setup I shot my final project, a sort of live action Robot Chicken, with a slight touch of Tim and Eric Awesome Show.
I briefly worked in the video industry, assisting AVID editors (who used Macs) and making labels and other assistant-editor duties on an ever-evolving lineup of candy colored iMacs. By the time I left that industry Apple was on the verge of releasing the first iPod.
After a brief stint making commercial websites and internal software solutions, all on Windows machines, I wound up teaching multimedia, then game design, again mostly on Dell computers. Still, 3ds max only runs on Windows, so I was quite fortunate to graduate from Bryce, Poser and Ray Dream Studio on my Mac to a "big boy" 3D toolset. While teaching I honed my skills in Photoshop, Director and Flash. Yes, this was back in the earlier part of the century when Flash was actually useful.
While teaching is awesome, there are times when you're sort of waiting around. During those times I would log in to Slashdot, or dial up a new site called Engadget. Phillip Torrone was a podcast host at the time, and I remember going from Phil's Flash hacking blog to Engadget. Through Engadget I discovered TUAW, where I wound up becoming the top-ranked commenter -- go figure! In 2004, Ryan Block wrote up my iPod case made from a milk jug (which hack-a-day had posted first). I also wound up writing a concept for a Mac mini-based home studio, much as Barb Dybwad did on Engadget, and that's how she and I met.
Eventually, the company then known as Weblogs, Inc. decided to launch a software blog, so Jason Calacanis asked David Chartier and I, along with Jordan Running and Marc Perton, to write for the new site. I learned a lot from or first lead, Marc, who went on to work at Consumer Reports before landing at gdgt. Funny how things come full circle, as gdgt is now also part of AOL!
Anyway, Download Squad was a sincere effort to find and review the best software out there, and report on the industry. What we didn't realize was that the industry would be forever changed as the concept of "software" became more mobile, more pervasive, ultimately morphing into "apps" with a huge growth curve in mobile. Download Squad was closed by AOL just a couple of years ago, but I like to think there's still a market opportunity in quality software reviews, covering all platforms that matter.
Once AOL acquired Weblogs (not long after the launch of Download Squad, incidentally), I started full time as a programming manager, in charge of several sites at once. I assisted in the administration of all of the foreign Engadget sites. I oversaw BBHub (a BlackBerry blog, can you imagine?), DVGuru and some of the rogue, hyper-niche sites we used to have -- like a site about web radio, and The Unofficial Yahoo Weblog (yep, that was a thing).
The rest is history, I suppose. As AOL shifted focus and CEOs, I kept working on making the sites great. We launched DIY Life at some point, with an eclectic and somewhat geeky bent, but that was folded into Lifestyle and is more home-focused now.
I'm incredibly proud of the team at TUAW, as many of us have been here for several years. Dave Caolo was at TUAW before me, in fact, and now he's full-time with AOL to make sure the trains run on time every morning. We were fortunate to have Laurie Duncan introduce us to Mike Rose, as his editorial love, deep knowledge and brilliant mind consistently bring clarity to the team and the site. (Mike's a damn fine writer, too. This farewell tribute to Steve Jobs is one of the best things I've ever read.) Steve Sande just joined AOL full-time as well, although I sometimes think he was installed as a patch during some overnight update -- the guy knows his Apple tech!
Oh, I also made a fart app video.
I've also been lucky to have worked with some amazing TUAW talent, now elsewhere. Brett Terpstra is now a developer with AOL Tech, but he produces a podcast and writes some amazing software. Drew Olanoff is kicking ass with TechCrunch. Christina Warren is with Mashable, but before she was big time, here's her interviewing David Pogue. I practically watched Nik Fletcher grow up! All amazing people, and there plenty of other, equally amazing ones I haven't listed because I'm afraid I'll forget someone -- it's been that great a ride.
Over the coming months I'll let the rest of the team tell their origin stories as well. Stay tuned for those, and lots more good stuff to come here on TUAW.
Apple has announced that customers have now downloaded over 50 billion apps from the App Store. The 50 billionth app — Say the Same Thing by Space Inch, LLC — was downloaded by Brandon Ashmore from Mentor, Ohio, who received a $10,000 App Store Gift Card to commemorate the milestone. “The App Store completely transformed how people use their mobile devices and created a thriving app ecosystem that has paid out over nine billion dollars to developers,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “We’re absolutely floored to cross this milestone in less than five years.”
A teenage girl alone in a remote farmhouse; an absent father, a boyfriend off at college... and a locked door that conceals a tragic secret. These are the creepy, chilling tropes on display in Haunting Melissa, a serialized video horror story delivered in the form of an iOS app available today on the App Store. Watching the first episode is free, and then you'll wait -- and pay -- to keep going with the narrative.
Haunting Melissa, and the underlying Hooked Digital Media content management platform that drives the serialized episode releases, is the brainchild of Hollywood producer Neal Edelstein. Edelstein has some serious scares on his resume: he produced the US versions of the scare-your-socks-off thrillers The Ring and The Ring 2.
He describes the Haunting Melissa experience as "a ghost story created to be consumed in a dark corner with headphones on and iPhone or iPad in hand." Push notifications alert viewers when the next segment is ready -- and they'll come when you least expect them. Melissa even has a Twitter account (as does the actress who plays her, Kassia Warshawski).
You might think that a spooky, atmospheric serial would suffer in the scale-down from cinematic or TV size onto the iPad or iPhone/iPod screen. In fact, watching Melissa and her friends explore her haunted house (in HD) from a first-person, "Blair Witch"-esque perspective is quite immersive. Adding headphones to the experience ramps up the creep factor dramatically; Edelstein and his creative team have the sound design chops to scare your ears just as much as the cinematography scares your eyes. If you do want to watch on the bigger screen, the app supports AirPlay output to the Apple TV.
Haunting Melissa is designed to be social, with viewers sharing their impressions and guesses as the mystery deepens, and calling out details and clues that may have been missed on the first viewing. (What really happened to Melissa's dead mother? Why is Brandon being so cagey about coming home from college? Is Holly's little brother just a lovesick kid, or a malicious superhacker? Why doesn't Melissa close her laptop when she goes to bed? And what's the deal with all the crucifixes?) Personally, I'm not a big consumer of thrillers or horror films, but if that is the sort of thing you enjoy, Haunting Melissa raises the bar on quality when it comes to purpose-built iOS experiences.
The basic Haunting Melissa app is free, with in-app $0.99 purchases for individual episodes and a Season Pass option for the entire experience. Edelstein notes that he is in discussions with other directors and producers to explore bringing their creative ideas to this new storytelling platform. "The technology supports story first and foremost... [we believe] this new app technology will change distribution forever," he says.
You can watch the Haunting Melissa teaser trailer below. Keep the lights on.
Chills and thrills for your iPad with Haunting Melissa originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Thu, 16 May 2013 08:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.