OS X Tips: Taking Charge of the Color Picker

Spinning Color Wheel

The infamous color picker is present among many of the built-in OS X (s aapl) applications and is quite a powerful tool once you dig into it. With the ability to store your favorite colors in “wells” and use them between applications, the color picker can quickly become an indispensable tool in your daily workflow. Here’s some tips and plugins to supercharge the color picker.

Color Picker Basics

Not all applications support the OS X color picker, but to see if one does, look in Format, View, or Window menus for an entry called “Show Colors.” The color picker is not just limited to the Apple-developed applications, as third-party apps such as Coda, Billings, Daylite and others also include support.
The color picker features “tabs” across the top dividing it into the standard color wheel, color sliders (allowing to you fine tune a color by RGB, HSB, CMYK, or Grayscale sliders), color palettes, image palettes and crayons.
You can pick custom colors by tweaking them in the color picker, or by using the magnifying glass to “pluck” a color from anywhere in the system.
To apply a color, simply highlight text and click the color you want. Or drag the color onto an object.
As mentioned earlier, you can organize your favorite colors by dragging them into one of the wells at the bottom of the picker. If the default amount is not enough, simply click the dot and drag down to allow for a total of 250 places to store your color swatches. Read More about OS X Tips: Taking Charge of the Color Picker

Zii Egg Could Give the iPhone and iPod touch Some Real Competition

It’s the world’s first handheld StemCell Computer. It sports 1080p HD output, X-Fi Audio processing, a ten-point multi-gesture capacitive touchscreen, text-to-speech engine and expandable SDHC memory. It’s got lots more, too.

And it’s running Android.
In short, it’s a mobile device that beats the pants off the iPod touch — in hard, cold specs, at the very least. The Egg is built using the new wave of multimedia hardware and software from ZiiLABS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Creative Technology. Here’s the blurb from the official website.

“The Zii EGG is an energy efficient handheld StemCell Computer based on the powerful ZiiLABS ZMS-05 media-rich applications processor. Besides its multi-touch 3.5-inch LCD screen, it can also output HD video at up to 1080p. The ZMS-05’s 24 floating-point processors deliver up to 8 GFLOPS of raw processing power, while the StemCell Computing’s flexible architecture allows stunning display of 3D graphics on a small handheld battery powered device.”

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Apple Releases New Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio


Today, Apple (s aapl) released a huge update for its Pro series of audio/video editing applications, including both the Final Cut and Logic Studio suites of applications. People (and businesses) who need the extra muscle of Pro applications (as compared with the iLife suite, for example) will be happy to note that with this latest update, Apple has dropped the price for Final Cut Studio by a very respectable $300, from $1,299 to $999 for the full studio package, or $299 for existing users to upgrade.

Final Cut Studio

Final Cut Studio includes Final Cut Pro 7, Motion 4, Soundtrack Pro 3, Color 1.5, Compressor 3.5 and DVD Studio Pro 4. While all of the applications included in the suite received an upgrade, Final Cut Pro bears the most significant changes over its previous iteration.

New features include iChat Theater support, so that you can actually edit collaboratively in real-time while working remotely. It’s a great way for Apple to leverage existing tools in an innovative way to provide a truly useful function for people editing media, since collaborators don’t even need to have Final Cut installed. There are also new Change Speed and Share windows, which give you better control over video speed changes and the ability to preview your content when exporting for web, Blu-ray or Apple devices. Read More about Apple Releases New Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio

Fluxiom: Asset Management for Creative Teams

fluxlogoDistributed creative teams face the unique challenge of having to collaborate on a product without being able to quickly and easily access files and works in progress via an on-site file server or intranet system. Emailing files to one another can get messy very quickly, and if you’re not careful, you’ll have multiple versions of the same documents in no time.

Fluxiom is a web-based digital asset management system for creative teams that offers a nice, visually rich interface and the ability to scale depending on your needs. It has a number of useful features, and there’s a free version available, so I wanted to see if it could function as a tool for helping people collaborate on a wide variety of media including text, photo, audio and video. Read More about Fluxiom: Asset Management for Creative Teams

Artician: Showcase Your Creative Work

articianIt’s easy to get lost in the mix when you’re a creative professional working online. Competition is fierce, and the space will only become more crowded as people are laid off and forced to seek out new sources of work. That’s probably part of the reason many new creative portfolio and networking sites like Artician have launched lately, including the similar MyFolio, which I took for a test drive a little while ago. Read More about Artician: Showcase Your Creative Work

Sound Blaster for iTunes to Give Your Library a Boost

Today, Creative announced yet another addition to their venerable Sound Blaster line of products. The device had its debut not at Macworld, but at CES, which, I might remind some of those with Apple tunnel vision, is going on right now in Las Vegas. While desert grit isn’t normally great for electronics, CES is, and the new Sound Blaster for iTunes might have some Apple hi-fi fanatics excited.

Like the X-Fi (xtreme fidelity, in case you were wondering) external audio card whose technology it uses, the Sound Blaster for iTunes is an external, USB peripheral. It’s main purpose is to enhance the quality of your iTunes music library, and anything else you may use iTunes for, including internet radio streams and movie audio. Curiously, it also claims to improve the quality of things like Pandora, and basically any sound your computer makes, so I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between this and, say, the X-Fi Go.

Upon closer inspection, the Sound Blaster for iTunes does boast the somewhat ambiguous quality of “enabl[ing] you to use the iTunes interface.” Also, it works as a transmitter for Sound Blaster’s wireless stereo system components, including regular speakers connected to their Creative Wireless Receivers, and directly to the Creative T20W Series II speakers, which have a receiver built in. I actually have a pair of the Creative T20 Series II speakers (the non-wireless ones), and I’m more than happy with them, so the prospect of wireless ones is intriguing.

When it’s released later this year (target is Spring 2008), Sound Blaster for iTunes will retail for $99.99. Considering the Sound Blaster X-Fi Notebook is the only current option for laptops that comes with the wireless transmitter built in, and requires an ExpressCard slot, all for $89.99, it’s not too bad a price.

Godfather of Ambient Creates iPhone App

Seemingly not content with having fathered an entire musical genre, pioneered generative music, produced U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name, collaborated with Bowie and generally rubbed-shoulders with a raft of modern music legends, Brian Eno has now released his first iPhone app dubbed Bloom ($3.99).

Developed by Peter Chilvers, in collaboration with Eno, the app is described as, “Part instrument, part composition and part artwork…” The idea is that anybody can play with Bloom and coax gentle melodies and ambient soundscapes out of their iPhone.  Having downloaded the app, plugged a pair of speakers in to my iPhone and cranked up the volume, it took only a few moments to compose an authentic ambient piece that sounded like a convincing out-take from Eno’s Music for Airports.  It works and it is a joy to toy with.

Being a sound-based app, the screenshots on the store do it absolutely no justice, Bloom ends up looking somewhat staid.  It’s in hearing Bloom and experiencing the ambience that it creates, that you truly understand how magical it is.  According to the App Store product page, “… Bloom’s innovative controls allow anyone to create elaborate patterns and unique melodies by simply tapping the screen.”  Setting aside the marketing spiel, Bloom is utterly unique — a truly enchanting experience, like nothing else I have experienced on the iPhone, this is an app that will make you smile.
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Mac mini: Creative Uses for the Little Mac that Could

Last year, AppleInsider claimed inside sources foretelling the forthcoming discontinuation of the Mac Mini. This year, they are claiming that not only is it going to stay around, but that it is going to get a big bump in specs, including 45-nanometer 2.1 Ghz Intel processors and Intel XMA X3100 graphics controllers. So, not only has the Mac mini not been discontinued, it looks to have a long life ahead of it.

Many people have done some very creative things with the Mac minis, and while I don’t have any sales numbers from Apple, it is possible that all these creative minds have helped Apple decide to keep this machine on. After all, we know what happens when you see that prominent Apple logo on the top of the Mac mini.
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