You may recall from a few weeks ago when I reviewed the OBSBOT Tiny 4K AI-powered webcam, that I mentioned how I really disliked the way the remote control was by design rendering the computer keyboard completely useless. Well, just a week after I bought my Tiny 4K webcam, I received an email from the makers of this little camera letting me know that they have released a new remote control that does not mess up the keyboard.
Dispite having owned mine for literally just a week, they did not agree to replace it free of charge, but they are running a campaign that enables registered users to replace their current Remote at around a 70% discount, so I paid just $10 to have a replacement sent over to Tokyo. It took about three weeks to arrive, but I am very pleased to report that I have the remote running, and it works great, and I am typing the manuscript for this Podcast episode at the same time! This was not possible with the old remote.
I am now so much happier with the OBSBOT Tiny 4K webcam and feel much happier recommending it to others now as well. Unfortunately, I just checked Amazon.com and as of April 15, 2022, the company that is selling these remotes is still selling the old version, so be very careful if you buy one of these. People are probably going to try to move their old stock creating unhappy customers before moving to the new stock, and creating happy customers. You could try calling the store from which you buy your remote and check that they will send the new version, but otherwise, probably the most fail-safe way to buy is to go to the mother-ship obsbot.com website, although shipping may take a while. I’ll put the full link to the remote product page in the show-notes for this episode. Design-wise, they are identical to look at, apart from the red “New” sticker on the back of my new remote. This actually came in handy as I still had both of them on my desk earlier this week when I reached over to pick it up, and was able to quickly confirm that I had the right one in my hand, thanks to the sticker.
Anyway, a nice job from the team. They should have gotten this right from the start, and probably only fixed it because I’m sure a lot of people complained, and those that didn’t were probably afraid to speak up after being sent a copy. That would never happen in my reviews because I don’t review anything that I can’t speak my mind about, but as I mentioned in the original review, I bought this camera with my own money, and have received nothing from the makers of the OBSBOT in relation to this or the original review.
I actually don’t really have much else to say this week, as I’ve been working on my new app again! I’m about to release an update that will add a brightness alarm, enabling you to set four different dimming and brightening patterns to dim the screen over a duration that you set, and then brighten the screen again at the time you also set. At this point I’m still not sure that I can make it play a song that you select as part of the alarm, although that is my goal at this point. To enable me to do that in style though, I am integrating PhotoClock Pro with Apple Music, and I am pretty sure that I will be able to enable you to select songs to play as your alarm relatively easily once I have the integration finished.
I created a video that I wanted to share with you, and I’m behind on pushing this out because of the new development work, but I did include the dimming and brightening and show the Apple Music integration to the point I was at two days ago. I am now able to go into the albums and select tracks as well as jump to related albums etc. so it7s shaping up very nicely. I’ll probably do another short video soon once I get the new release out, to share how it finally works.
I’ll embed the video in this post anyway so that you can check that out. If you’d like to pick up a copy of PhotoClock Pro, please visit the product page at https://mbp.ac/pcp or go directly to the App Store at https://mbp.ac/aspcp. You’ll find these links in the show notes below too.
Although it took a few days, or weeks, longer than I’d hoped, I am really happy to be able to announce today that my latest iOS app, PhotoClock Pro has just gone live on the Apple App Store! And, at just $7 I’m starting with a 12.5% discount, saving you a dollar for the first week to celebrate the launch. The price will go to a still very reasonable $8 from April 8, 2022, but I think it’s worth every penny at either price and today I’m going to share with you information on all of the major features of PhotoClock Pro with lots os screenshots and a couple of video captures. I am incredibly proud of what I’ve built over the last three months, so I have been really looking forward to being able to share full details with you.
My Dream App – Hopefully Yours Too!
For many years I’ve wanted an app that does what PhotoClock Pro does, which is in essence, to provide an analog clock on my iPhone or iPad screen and display images behind the clock. The basic design was relatively easy to complete, but as I worked on PhotoClock Pro I started to want more and more features, and have actually added one more feature in version 1.1 which I put in for review today, and I’ll show you that shortly as well. The base price, which as I say, I’ve set at $6.99 for the first week of sales, gets you the fully functional app. I added the Pro designation to the name because many of the features are pro-level, more than a regular consumer app, but that’s how I like to work.
You can add as many images as you like, although I will warn you that if you try to add more than 50 or so the app may crash, depending on the spec of your device. The method defined to limit the number of images imported doesn’t work, although I’ll keep working on this area. For now, though, try to limit imports to 50 or fewer images at a time. In addition to your own images, as we’ll see, the app actually comes with In-App Purchases that enable you to buy additional Background Image Packs of my photos, if you want to use them. Most photographers though and probably many people are going to just use their own photos, so the optional image packs are completely optional and can be hidden when you don’t need to see them. So as not to unnecessarily take up space on your device with my images, apart from multiple app icons that you can choose from, there are no images actually stored inside PhotoClock Pro when you buy it. They are only downloaded and stored on your device if you buy them. Even the thumbnails for the Background Image Packs are only downloaded as you need them, so out of the box PhotoClock Pro is a relatively lean 50MB download.
Here is a series of three screenshots that I’ve captured to show you the ten image packs that I’m launching with, and you will also notice a My Image folder at the top of the list. If you don’t want to see my image packs, just tap the eye icon in the top right corner and they’ll collapse away, leaving just the user albums visible. We start off with one album for you to load your own image into, but as you can see in the right-most of the three screenshots, you can slide the albums to the left to reveal an option to create a new album. When you no longer need an album, you can slide it to the right to delete the album and all of the images inside it.
When you tap on an album you go inside to see a list of thumbnails showing what each image looks like and provides a few more options via the management panel at the top of the list and by sliding the images themselves. In the user albums, if you tap the pen in the top right corner you can edit the album name and description, to help you organize your albums as I’ve organized the image packs. If you enter an image pack that you don’t yet own, you will see a button at the top of the list to buy the pack, as you can see in this screenshot of my FlowerScape pack. Note too that there is a cloud icon below each image title showing that the pack is not yet downloaded. Once you buy an image pack it will be automatically downloaded and all images marked as Included, meaning that they will be included in the slideshow behind the clock, which we will get to very soon.
As you can see in the center of these three screenshots, if you swipe the band above the list of thumbnails there is an option to exclude all images in that set from the slideshow. If you swipe there again, they will all be reincluded in the slideshow. You can also swipe the top band to the right to delete all images in the folder. Swiping on each individual image includes or excludes that image. There is a second image swipe option that enables you to change the master photo for any of the albums. Unfortunately at this point, you have to close and reopen the Image Manager for that change to take effect.
To get into the Image Manager you just have to tap the center icon in the bottom toolbar. Note that the bottom icons dim and become almost completely transparent after seven seconds, so that they don’t obscure the background images in the slideshow. They are still easily visible while the Image Manager or Settings screens are displayed, but can be difficult to see while images are displaying, depending on the contents of the image, so you may need to tap down there to un-dim them when you need to change an option.
OK, so I created a short video capture of PhotoClock Pro on the iPad, running through the twelve images in the FlowerScapes image pack with the default clock showing, and I’ve embedded that here for you to check out. Of course, you can change the duration of the slides from 3 seconds to 5 hours, via a pulldown list in the settings, and you can also simply pause the background image by tapping on the Play button right of the center button at the bottom of the screen.
The default clock is one of 12 preset themes. There were originally going to be ten themes, but then the Ukraine situation arose, so I added a theme called Ukraine Pride using the yellow and blue national colors, and eleven themes felt clunky, so I added one more to make it twelve. Then I realized that it would be nice to be able to create additional groups of themes, so I added that feature, but an empty second theme also felt clunky so I added seven more. Then I realized I could simply enable the creation and deletion of themes to your heart’s content, and because you might at some point decide that you just want all of the default themes back, I added an option to reset all of the themes back to their default twelve and seven in two groups. Because there are so many options, there are a lot of pull-down menus that save space, and I added two sections that collapse down until you hit the gear icons, to the right of the Clock Theme Groups section and the Background & Frame options.
Here are four more screenshots, with the two on either side showing all of the options on the settings screen, the second showing the theme management options, and the third showing what I internally called the theme maniac options, and they are where you can change the color of the clock hands and digits, etc. At the top of the Settings screen, you’ll find the most commonly used settings for the clock itself. As you can see, you can change pretty much everything about the clock, including the color and opacity of the background, the color and thickness of the frame, and whether you use Arabic numbers or Roman numerals. If the writing is a bit small in the screenshot click on it to open it up in the Lightbox for a better view.
At the bottom of the third screenshot, you’ll also see that there is an option to force the screen of your device to always stay on if you want it to. With that option active you can of course still lock your screen manually, and it will stay off, but unless you do manually lock your screen, it will stay illuminated so that you can always see the clock. This is useful if you want to keep it displayed on your desk, or even as a night clock beside your bed. You may not want to keep the screen on full time using your main iPhone, but if, like me, you have some old devices hanging around, this is a great way to give them a second life, rather than pushing them to the bottom of a drawer.
Just below that is a button to open the icon browser, where you can choose from 19 icons using the twelve default themes and another 7 copies of some of the themes with photos in the background. I like to roll the iPhone over to landscape orientation when looking at the icon browser because the 3D effect that I applied to the icons is more obvious in landscape mode. Just tap an icon you like and press OK to apply it and then when you close PhotoClock Pro you’ll find that it’s using your newly selected icon.
The themes are of course just ideas, so show you some of the possible combinations of settings. There are literally thousands of combinations that you could create, and although you’d get lost with that many, you can save anything that you create as well. Note that changes are saved as you make them, so you have to save a copy of something that you like before you start to modify it. I mentioned a new feature earlier that I added a new feature that will be released in the first update after the initial version goes live, and that is that you can now double-tap the clock to switch to the next theme. You can also long-press the clock to move through the theme groups. I did this mainly to make it easier to show you all the themes without going into the Settings screen every time to select a new theme. It enabled me to create this second video capture showing the themes and group names in a small notification at the top of the iPhone screen.
Moving the Clock
The right-most icon in the bottom toolbar changes the size of the clock. To move the clock you simply press and drag it. We remember where you place the clock for all of the orientations of the device, so you can have the clock in a different location for landscape and portrait modes, and we separately save the location for landscape and portrait orientation flat modes, for when you lay the device down. The clock generally starts in the middle although occasionally, if you install and first launch PhotoClock Pro with the device at a certain angle we can’t get the coordinates and it appears in the top left corner. Once you move it though, we’ll remember where it’s placed.
The lightbulb button on the left of the toolbar is to change the screen brightness. If you leave the Brightness slider at the bottom it will simply use the brightness set on your device. If you move the slider though you can change the brightness and we remember where you place it, so you can set it, for example, to a very dark screen for use in bed. When you close PhotoClock Pro though we set the brightness back to your original device brightness, so it doesn’t interfere with your usual settings.
OK, so I think that just about covers all the features of note in my latest software release, PhotoClock Pro. I am really excited to be able to put this out into the world, and really hope that you find it useful. I can imagine a professional photographer sitting at their desk with a client and an iPad sitting there running through some of the photographer’s best work, or a family with photos of old family holidays rolling through while they have dinner. I think PhotoClock Pro has the potential to become a major part of peoples’ lives, regardless of what you do for a living. It’s probably as useful on a personal basis as on a professional basis, so I’m really hoping that people like it. There are a few areas that I’d like to build out more and will work on them in due course. Before that, I’m going to start working on an Android version, and hope to have something for you within a few months. If you’d like to pick up a copy for iOS though, you can do that today, using the button below or the short link https://mbp.ac/aspcp
I do hope that you find PhotoClock Pro useful, and if you come up with an elegant, beautiful, or completely whacky clock with all of the customization options available to you, please do a screenshot or a value capture and share it online, and send me a link so that I can check it out.
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February has flown by so quickly, that I’m left with just a few hours to put down some thoughts to share before we welcome in the third month of the year. Unfortunately, February 2022 is going to remain in the memories of many as the month that Vladimir Putin finally completely lost his marbles, and sent an already insane world into yet another downward spiral. I’m hoping with all my heart that we see an end to the current madness in the early days of March.
I’ve spent 98% of the last month trying to finalize a new iOS app that I’ve been working on since the end of December. I’ll share a few details today as I don’t have time to say anything else that I wanted to say. I’ve backed myself into a corner and my time management skills go completely out of the window when I start coding. This is partly because I really enjoy it, but mostly because it’s not my core-competence, and having loaded a ginormous three-dimensional map of how my app is organized into my gray-matter, there’s either little room for anything else or my fear of the structure shattering to the floor like a house of cards prevents me from walking away for any length of time.
For the last few weeks I’ve woken up pretty much every day telling myself that I must create a Podcast, and even today, on the last day of the month, I’ve spent until almost 4:30 pm messing around trying to complete my app. I wanted to finish it, get version 1.0 out of the door, and then spend a few days creating some quality content and a marketing page, etc. but it’s just proving very difficult to finalize a few of those devilish details. The main problem is that I decided to write my latest app using SwiftUI which is Apple’s newer programming language that is incredibly powerful, but almost nothing like the Swift programming that I taught myself a few years ago, and have become pretty proficient with.
Because of this, a good portion of my time was taken up by learning new technology, but the result is that I’ve built a highly responsive very lightweight app that looks great without any graphics other than the app icons embedded in the package. Another major advantage that I’m looking forward to exploring more is that this puts me a lot closer to an Android version than my Photographer’s Friend app which I’m still trying to port. Once I have my second app in the App Store though, I do intend to spend some time working on porting them both to Android, although I’ll start with my latest offering, not Photographer’s Friend, mainly because of the porting benefits that the SwiftUI architecture brings.
I did, of course, spend some quality time with my Patreon community in our monthly Question Time event, and I have done some private mentoring sessions, and I lost a day to an almost 39-degree fever after getting my COVID vaccination booster last week, but I was happy it was only one day. I lost two days to both of my first two jabs. As the month progressed almost every day I’ve felt as though I could push the new app out and see how it flies, but it’s still not quite ready, and I’m now trying really hard to complete a way to save and restore theme settings, but once this is completed, I’m going to release it, and add the other few new features that I have in mind after that. The themes seemed like a good idea and I got really close to getting it working in just a few hours, but that was four days ago now, so I’m regretting not leaving that until the first update as well.
Anyway, I don’t want to give away too many details and to be honest, it’s such a simple idea that you’ll get most of it anyway, I’ve basically created something that I’ve wanted myself for a long time but have never been able to find a good answer to my personal wishlist of features for an iOS-based desk clock. I have a charging stand on my desk that can sit my iPhone on at about a 70° angle in either portrait or landscape mode, and I have a similar stand beside my bed. I did buy a desk clock a few years ago, but it always seems to get in the way and has been pushed way under my iMac screen, almost out of sight, but my iPhone sits on its stand in a prominent position, so it would be perfect to display a nice looking clock. Here is are a few photos of what I’ve created, to give you an idea.
My biggest wish was for the ability to load images that would cycle through in the background, so I’ve designed my app with the ability for the user to load images from Apple Photos. I realize though that although photographers have lots of great photos hanging around, some people are going to want good photos but need an easy way to load them, so I have added the ability to buy additional packs of my images, all theme-based, like Winter Landscapes, Flowers, African Wildlife, etc. and there will be eight packs available at the time of launch, but I’ve designed the app so that I can add new packs by modifying a web page and changing the settings on Apple’s developer’s website, without updating the app itself, so I will add a number of new packs in the weeks after launch.
The clock face is so customizable, that I decided to build an automated demonstration of all the settings. This was another feature that took just a few hours to get completed, but that was actually what led me to start work on the theme presets, which has added this extra four days at this point. You can change the color of the clock face and opacity from 0 to 100% and you can also change the color of the frame, as well as the frame’s thickness, from no frame at all, up to a very thick frame, and as you can see, you can select Arabic or Roman numerals, and show all 12 numbers, just the 12, 3 6 and 9 o’clock numbers, or no numbers at all. You can also remove the second marker for a very minimalistic clock. You can of course change the size and position of the clock as well.
There are a bunch of other features as well, but I’ll save that all for the launch when I’ll create a walk-through video as well. Hopefully, it won’t be many more days or weeks now, but I’ve been saying that since the end of January, so don’t hold your breath. Anyway, I’m out of time. It’s six o’clock on the last day of the month, so I had to get this recorded and posted. We’ll get back to some regular episodes very soon.