Third-party Access to 1Password via iOS 8 Extensions

This is terribly geeky but it’s a huge moment for mobile software: thanks to the new support for extensions in the forthcoming iOS 8, you will soon be able to access your 1Password database from within mobile Safari and third party apps. This video from 1Password publisher AgileBits demonstrates this in action.

Access to login credentials is one of the biggest pain points in mobile software, maybe even the most important one out there if you consider not just the inconvenience of retrieving logins but also the potential security implications of users mitigating that friction with insecure passwords. I’m really excited.

Read more at AgileBits.

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The False Promise of “TV Everywhere”

“The Americans”

BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield recently got some publicity for documenting what many of us already know: accessing film and television content on an on-demand basis is largely a mess, even for paying cable subscribers. Greenfield blogged about his travails trying to binge-watch the first two seasons of the TV series “The Americans” via various means including Amazon Prime, the FXNow site, video on demand, and various set top and tablet devices. He was repeatedly thwarted either by restricted availability or un-skippable advertisements; at one point all of the episodes of the show’s second season suddenly became unavailable, and he was forced to purchase the last two episodes.

Somewhat ironically, Greenfield’s blog post is available only to subscribers, but Forbes has recapped it here. Public radio station KCRW also included an interview segment with Greenfield in its latest episode of its excellent podcast covering the entertainment industry, The Business.

There is way too much video out there for anyone to watch, all provided through a multitude of methods that are, in the grand scheme of things, much less difficult than say hunting down your own food. Complaining about the accessibility of a TV show seems somewhat petulant, but from a business standpoint, from the perspective of evaluating the efficiency of the market and the soundness of the customer experience, it really is remarkable how bad it all is. For myself, I only recently started watching “The Americans” after I realized it was available on Amazon Prime’s streaming video service; which as a Prime subscriber I’ve had access to since day one but never really bothered to look into. Keeping track of what can be watched from where and via which methods is difficult if not impossible, but it’s the burden that’s been placed on us by media companies who simply can’t get their act together. As Greenfield says in his interview, the few outlets that succeed, like Netflix, do so because they base their decisions on users, whereas most players in this field base their decisions around their own interests.

As a side note, I’m nearly finished with the first season of “The Americans,” and it’s a very, very good television show, far better than I expected that it could be. I’d say it’s pretty much worth the trouble I went through to hunt it down.

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The Adobe Illustrator Story

Adobe’s Photoshop is the graphics software brand that successfully crossed over into the zeitgeist, but the company’s Illustrator product was no mean achievement either. This nineteen-minute documentary by Ami Capen tells its story, starting with its antecedents in traditional graphic design (if you remember Koh-I-Noor’s Rapidograph pens, you’ll smile or cringe or both) and through its evolution into a new category of software. In many ways, Illustrator was the breakthrough that created a whole new breed of designer; it’s nice to see it get a bit of the credit it’s due.

Via John Nack.

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Select Stories from The New Yorker

The New Yorker has opened up the last seven years of its archive for free, public access for the next three months—when a new paywall of indeterminate restrictions will go up—so you should take advantage of it now.

The New Yorker Archive

There is so much good content here that you could lose yourself for days. In fact, I find that the editors are being too shy about showcasing their best stuff, doling it out in batches of five or six at a time when they could be highlighting many, many more articles and highlighting the enormous breadth of content published just since 2007. Over at Slate, they’ve put together a pretty good list of some thirty articles that their editors deemed “not to be missed,” which is a great place to start.

My own list of personal favorites include “The Cost Conundrum,” a famous 2009 article about healthcare costs by Atul Gawande; ” “A Fine Romance,” a 2007 essay by film critic David Denby on the decline of the romantic comedy; and this phenomenal chronicle of “The Hunt for El Chapo,” one of Mexico’s most notorious drug traffickers, written by Patrick Radden Keefe (I blogged about that piece back in May).

Hurry up and start Instapapering before it’s too late.

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Sketch Toolbox

If you want to get a sense of how vibrant the community around Bohemian Coding’s Sketch is, take a look at the plethora of plugins being written by independent developers to supplement the app’s core functionality. They’re a small but growing number, and full of creativity and ingenuity. Some of my favorites are RenameIt, which allows you to quickly change the name of a group of layers with sequential numbering, and Content Generator, which instantly creates objects with dummy data.

This plugin market is still in its infancy; almost all of them are free, and most all are ongoing GitHub projects rather than completed works. The new utility Sketch Toolbox, now in beta, may help advance the state of the art though. It provides a user-friendly plugin management interface that gives you access to virtually all known Sketch plugins at a glance; you can install any plugin directly from Sketch Toolbox without having to manually download and install it. This surmounts a huge barrier for accessing these plugins; grabbing one from its GitHub page is not difficult, but it’s far less convenient than it could be, as Sketch Toolbox ably demonstrates.

Sketch Toolbox Interface

If it’s successful, Sketch Toolbox could spur developers to create more polished plugins, and may even give them an opportunity to sell them, essentially creating an App Store-like ecosystem. That’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves, though; for now, it does plenty in simply providing an elegant solution to an annoying problem. I’d say it’s an invaluable aid to any designer working in Sketch, and during the beta it’s free, to boot.

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From Paper to Screen

This graduate video project from French designer Thibault de Fournas is a brief visual recounting of the transition of typography from paper to cinema screen. At just over two minutes, it doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive. Nevertheless it’s lovely.

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Instant Lab

The Impossible Project has built an unlikely (if not, um, impossible) business on top of the ashes of the iconic but now defunct Polaroid empire. Their reconstituted version of Polaroid’s instant film has been commercially available—and has sold well—for some time now. They also operate a studio in New York City where customers can get large-scale portraits of themselves taken on instant film; the studio doubles as a shop for rentals and retail sales of refurbished vintage Polaroid cameras and other instant photography paraphernalia. It’s pretty impressive.

Instant Lab

The company’s first original product is interesting too: Instant Lab is a US$199 device that transfers Instagram photos to real world, analog instant film prints. You put your iPhone in one end and a pack of Impossible Project film in the other end, and voila, a pretend Polaroid photograph becomes a real world Polaroid-esque photo print (a free app controls exposure time). The dizzyingly meta implications and reality-questioning implications aside, the idea is pretty smart. More at the-impossible-project.com.

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Google Catches Itself in the Mirror

This is a brilliant if spooky Tumblr from artist Mario Santamaria that exposes a meta-layer of the Google Art Project, which documents artworks, galleries and ornate buildings around the world. Santamaria has collated instances wherein Google’s camera captures its own image in the mirror. The hint of self-awareness, even if illusory, is surprisingly terrifying, perhaps made even more so by its inadvertency.

The Camera in the Mirror
The Camera in the Mirror
The Camera in the Mirror
The Camera in the Mirror

Many more images here.

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