Two Years with Line2

Line2: Great service, less-than-great app

I’ve come to the end of two years with Line2, a cloud phone service that has replaced my business landline, and overall I’ve been pleased with the service. However, there are a number of niggling things with the iOS app itself which keep me from fully enjoying the service and which the company is slow—or unwilling—to fix.

The biggest issue for me is that there is no alert/banner or sound for new voicemail messages. Due to the lousy service from Sprint in my area, it’s not uncommon for a call to go straight to voicemail instead of ringing my phone. I only learn of the message through an email and I have to trigger the push notification through a Mail rule.

But there are more:

  • It takes too many taps to initiate a phone call to a given contact: three instead of one
  • Actions for voicemail messages are difficult, since the UI uses small tap targets
  • The mic button is disabled 90% of the time for voice input of text messages
  • The speaker turns off between messages when listening to voicemail
  • Favorites show the wrong contact in some cases
  • Anonymous callers are incorrectly shown as an existing contact in my recent calls
  • Dialer key feedback is either too loud or doesn’t exist at all
  • Contacts are mis-sorted
  • The app takes far too long to access my contacts and update call history, etc. with contact names when I’ve not been in the app for a while
  • The layout of the keypad screen is cluttered; the digits and contact name need to spread out a bit and the Call button needs to be smaller

In addition I’d like Line2 to support URLs to dial a number: line2://dial?885551212 for example. I could use this with Launch Center Pro and I’d step up my efforts to get Marketcircle to support third-party dialers in Daylite. But, as I said, Toktumi rarely fixes anything in the app and even more rarely shows up in their Community Forums.

Ember Keeps LittleSnapper's Flame Burning

Ember Keeps LittleSnapper's Flame Burning

I’m a screenshot nut. I take screenshots every day for documentation, support, explanation, etc., and I’ve tried just about every Mac app out there that claims to do the job. Except for a short flirtation with Skitch that ended badly, my utility of choice for the last four-and-a-half years has been LittleSnapper. Back in July, Realmac Software released Ember, the next version of LittleSnipper, and now that a demo is available I’ve had a chance to put the app through its paces.

As expected, Ember [Mac App Store, $50] offers the standard fullscreen, object, and area snaps. Timed (5 second delay) snaps are available, but only for fullscreen captures. Of particular interest to me is the app’s ability to capture web pages, either by using a Safari extension or Ember’s own in-app browser. Like LittleSnapper, Ember allows the user to select a specific DOM element (button, text area, image, etc.) from the page in addition to the entire page, but—unlike LittleSnapper—it’s not possible to either open the current website in Ember or snap the current website from the menu extra. Sure, both actions are still possible with a couple steps, but with LittleSnapper it was possible with a single keystroke.

Ember Library

Once you’ve captured all or part of your screen, Ember saves it within its library and (optionally) shows the app. There are options in Ember’s preferences that allow you to add a drop shadow to window snaps and copy the capture to the clipboard; unlike LittleSnapper it’s not possible to include the cursor in a fullscreen snap. I’d also like the ability to toggle those options (drop shadow, cursor) on the fly, perhaps with a modifier, since it’s a chore to change the preference from the default—usually after I snapped a window with the wrong option.

LittleSnapper’s library has gotten a facelift in Ember: gone is the ability to add folders (which would group snaps, Collections and Smart Collections) and some viewing options have been moved around. Two changes I’m not fond of in the library are the removal of the thumbnail sizer and the placement of the inspector into a popover instead of the right sidebar. A new feature in the inspector, however, takes you to the URL of any web snap (only in your browser—the app won’t open the WebArchive itself in the in-app browser as LittleSnapper did).

Speaking of Smart Collections, the criteria for creating one have been halved. It’s no longer possible to filter on annotated state, tag, Collection, notes, sharing name, or sharing URL. But it is possible to filter (and search) on colors, a new feature in Ember that analyzes your images and figures out each snap’s primary color.

Ember Annotation Tools

Snapping and organizing your snaps are nice, but also important is the ability to annotate your snaps. At first I was concerned that Ember had removed the bulk of LittleSnapper’s editing options; lines, arrows, ovals and rectangles seemed to have been replaced by a single freehand drawing tool. However, Ember adds a smart drawing feature that intelligently guesses if you’re drawing an oval, rectangle or arrow and smooths out the shape.

You’ll note that straight lines are not supported. Ember also removes the ability to resize and fill objects and greatly restricts your options for colors and stroke width of objects. Further, the highlight and blur tools have been removed and, while text no longer has a bezel around, text formatting (font, size, style) has been removed. LittleSnapper’s callout feature is also gone.

Getting images out of Ember is as simple as before—just drag a thumbnail from the library to the Finder, a Mail message, etc.—and, if you use the Export feature, Ember adds an option to export as PDF. This replaces LittleSnapper’s more front-and-center Export Website to PDF command and extends the export format to any image. (Alas, the ability to resize an image upon export has been removed.)

Exporting is not your only option: while LittleSnapper only allowed you to publish to Flickr and FTP, Ember excels at sharing, adding options for Mail, Messages, Facebook, Twitter, CloudApp, and Tumbler. There’s also an option for sharing via iCloud, but I wasn’t able to test this (I believe) because I was using the trial version—only the Mac App Store version will work with iCloud. And AirDrop is supported, only not on my Mac.

Once again, where Ember giveth, Ember taketh away: FTP is not an option for sharing.

Ember Subscriptions

But an area where Ember steps beyond its predecessor is found in Subscriptions: online sources of inspiration that you can browse and select from for addition to your library. You can choose from the dozen or so recommended subscriptions or add your own (from RSS); whenever a subscription is updated, a notification is displayed and adding an image to you library is as simple as double-clicking.

For me, Ember is a disappointing update to an app I’ve used daily for quite some time. Although sharing options have been expanded and Subscriptions will be helpful for some, its annotation features have been stunted. Realmac has already released two feature updates, though, so I’m hopeful that annotating gets more powerful in the future. And I’m looking forward to using it with Ember for iOS, which was teased just yesterday.

An App Store Updates Bug

An App Store Updates Bug

It seems the App Store has a bug, something that I noticed first when I went to download an update to Daylite and then to Instacast. Neither of the apps was showing in Updates, even though an update had been released. And when I searched for the apps, both merely showed an “Open” button on their cards. However, tapping the card to review the listing revealed an “Update” button.

This doesn’t happen with every update, fortunately.

Instashare Adds Clipboard Transfer

Instashare Adds Clipboard Transfer

Last February, I reviewed Instashare, an app [Free ($1 in-app upgrade to remove ads), iOS; $3, OS X] for sharing files between your OS X and iOS devices.

The Problem with Outsourcing Sites

The Problem with Outsourcing Sites

Anyone see a problem here? Need I say more?

Update 9/7/2013: Apparently I do. By “outsourcing sites” (without naming such sites) I mean sites where you go to outsource the work. Generally speaking, those looking to hire from those sites aren’t willing to pay for quality work, hence the project asking for a Drupal programmer at $10/hour.

Monitor an App's Internet Usage

Monitor an App's Internet Usage

Every once in a while I want to watch how an app is connecting to the Internet from my Mac, but outside of using Little Snitch’s network monitor I’ve not been quite sure how to do that. Today I was introduced to lsof, a Terminal command to list open files. After reading the manual (man lsof) I found this syntax to work very well for me:

lsof -a -i -c Dropbox

The “-a” ANDs the next two options—without it, the following options would be ORed.

Daylite Content Moved

Daylite Content Moved

Following my certification as [a Daylite Partner][partner], I have moved all of the content on this site related to Daylite to [a new site][dminsights].

Swapping Axes in Numbers

Swapping Axes in Numbers

I was working on a spreadsheet in Numbers and it occurred to me that the data could be presented better—when I convert it to HTML—if I were to swap the X and Y axes.

Creating iTunes Affiliate Links

Creating iTunes Affiliate Links

Every once in a while I’ll review an OS X or iOS app here and I, of course, post a link to the app. I finally got around to looking into the iTunes affiliate program and what I found wasn’t pretty:

http://click.linksynergy.com/link?id=yC4uoyBXOnA&offerid=146261.623799272&type=2&murl=http%3A%2F%2Fitunes.apple.com%2Fapp%2Fcloud-mate%2Fid623799272%3Fuo%3D5

Seriously, that example link is just ugly.

Enhancing Drupal's Multiple Term Filters

Enhancing Drupal's Multiple Term Filters

The Pathauto module for Drupal makes your links look pretty by automatically creating URL aliases when content is created. For example, when dealing with vocabularies, “example.com/taxonomy/term/1” can be gussied up as “example.com/tag/apple”.

The WWDC 2013 Keynote

OS X Sea Lion

This week’s WWDC keynote was, for a user (at least this user), very exciting. As I watched it, these thoughts occurred to me:

  • Craig Federighi was awesome! Smooth, witty, and articulate.
  • iCloud keychain isn’t new—MobileMe and (I believe) .Mac before it also synced your keychains between devices. Password auto-fill has existed in desktop Safari for some time.

Markdown, Images, and Drupal's Image Styles

Markdown editor for BUEditor

Generally speaking, there is no reason for me to use a WYSIWYG editor in Drupal when I’m using Markdown. Unfortunately, I needed an easy way to add images to my content as well, using a file browser/uploader.

Fortunately, the best image/file uploader and browser for Drupal is, in my opinion, IMCE.

Add CSS Classes to Images with Markdown in Drupal

Markdown

For some time I’ve been writing my blog posts here in Markdown and using the Markdown input filter module to process the text in Drupal. Recently, as I found myself updating some older posts, I needed to be able to add classes to links and images and wondered if there was some way to specify these in Markdown.

Direct Mail 3.5 Adds Unsubscribe Syncing

Direct Mail 3.5 Adds Unsubscribe Syncing

Direct Mail 3.5, released earlier this month, adds syncing of unsubscribes back to Daylite. In previous versions, when a subscriber unsubscribed from your list there would be no indication of that within Daylite. Now, the subscriber will be moved to an “Unsubscribes” sub-group of the Group that is synced with Direct Mail.