IK Multimedia releases ‘Modo Bass’ bass guitar synthesizer

As a bass player, my skin crawls a little at the thought of technology that threatens to put my brethren out of a job, but IK Multimedia’s Modo Bass looks intriguing. It’s a software recreation of a bass, rather than an app that stitches together recorded samples.

The company says Modo Bass uses a “completely new technology where sound is generated by recreating the physical properties of an instrument.”

The program contains a collection of 12 “physically modeled” electric basses, including iconic instruments like the Fender Precision Bass, a Rickenbacker 4003, a Gibson Bass Man 5 and others. (My own Yamaha BX-1 is absent from the list, so maybe I’ll still be able to get work.) The software can also recreate three playing styles: pluck, slap or pick. Other adjustments like hand position, stroke direction and which finger is used to play can also be made.

Don’t underestimate IK Multimedia’s ability to pull this off. “Physically modeling” an instrument sounds like marketing hype, but if anyone can do it, it’s them.

Modo Bass is available at an introductory price of $150. After December 4th, the price goes to $200.

More information, including video demos, is available on their website. An overview video is below.

CMRA looks to bring Dick Tracy-style video to Apple Watch

Read the earliest thoughts on the yet-to-be-released Apple Watch from back in the day and you’ll see countless references to Dick Tracy’s “two-way wrist radio.” But better yet, why stop at radio? Why shouldn’t Apple add actual video chat to its new watch? Given the company’s investment in FaceTime, it made perfect sense.

It never happened.

Blame the sluggish performance of the original watchOS, or Apple’s concern-slash-obsession with battery life, or a combination of the two, but we never got anything more than the ability to take your voice phone call from the watch. And it doesn’t look like that’s about to change anytime soon — even the Apple Watch Series 2 lacks any onboard camera(s).

Enter CMRA (think “camera” with most of the vowels removed.) It’s a strap for the Apple Watch that includes not one, but two HD cameras — much like the front and rear camera on an iPhone or iPad — that let you take and share photos or video, including real-time video chat via the Glide app.

CMRA is the brainchild of a former Apple Watch engineer Shawn Grening and Glide CEO Ari Roisman. CMRA is on pre-order for $149 and includes a charging stand that will charge both the CMRA strap and the watch simultaneously. The strap is scheduled to be available in the Spring of 2017, at which time the price will be $249.

The company’s videos are impressive, but spring is a long time away. Even more impressive is the company’s claim that CMRA will support any Apple Watch running watchOS 3 or later. That includes the original Apple Watch.

If CMRA works as advertised, it looks to be an incredibly cool product. We’re in touch with the company and are looking forward to checking it out.

‘Hello again:’ Apple event scheduled for October 27th

As expected, Apple announced an October event, set for Thursday the 27th, and likely to be the last held in its Cupertino Town Hall.

The company is widely anticipated to announce updates to the Mac lineup, which has grown long in the tooth. The invitation for the event reads “hello again,” a clear nod to the message that introduced both the original Macintosh as well as the first iMac. The use of that phrase would suggest that Apple is presenting something similarly important — something similarly worthy of an “introduction.” Using that special phrase for anything less would be disappointing.

The question is: How many Macs will be updated. The Mac Pro and Mac mini have gone especially long without a refresh and Apple’s attention to these products will likely be viewed as indicators of how seriously the company takes the markets they serve — especially the pro market.

Also to watch: Will new Macs follow the iPhone in getting rid of the headphone jack? (Almost certainly not.) Will they trade in the MacSafe connector in favor of a USB-C port? (Probably.) Will the function key row be replaced by a dynamic LCD or e-ink panel? (Maybe.) Only time (and Tim Cook) will tell.

The event will be streamed live on AppleTV and from the Apple website.

Ulysses gains WordPress publishing support, other features

I’ve mentioned that pretty much every word I write for Macworld and The Mac Observer is done on Ulysses — a terrific Mac and iOS app. I use it because of its great support for Markdown and for its excellent synching capabilities, as well as the clean, focused writing experience it provides.

With version 2.6, Ulysses gains the ability to publish directly to WordPress. According to the press release, “Bloggers will be able to publish their texts with just a few clicks or taps; no more exporting as HTML or Markdown, no cumbersome pasting to the WordPress backend. Bloggers can add tags, categories, excerpts and featured images, even schedule a publishing time, and preview their posts – all from within Ulysses.”

The new version also adds full support for Dropbox; the iOS version gets the “Quick Open” feature of the Mac app; and it introduces “Typewriter Mode” for an even more focuses writing environment.

Ulysses is a 2016 Apple Design Award winner. The update is free for all existing customers. The Mac app is available for $44.99 on the Mac App Store. The universal iOS version is available for $24.99 on the App Store.

For me, the update also fixed a crash-on-open bug with the macOS Sierra public beta.

How my Apple Watch saved my life (really)

I had a health scare a couple months ago. I haven’t talked about it to many people, not because I want to keep it secret, but because that kind of sharing just doesn’t come naturally to me.

Writing about it is a different story, however; like any journalist worth his salt, I can’t resist a good story — even if it’s my own. So I wrote about it for Macworld, and I’ll share it with you all that way.
For the record, I feel great. I have no restrictions on what I can do, other than take one little pill every day. That’s a small price to pay for remaining upright.

I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me to have my wonderful family through all this — especially Judy, who for some reason I still don’t fully understand, wants me to stay alive as long as possible (despite my reminder that I’m worth a lot more dead.) She is — as always — my rock, my center and my soulmate.
Anyway, if you want to know the story, here you go.

Parallels Desktop celebrates 10 years of putting Windows on your Mac

Parallels is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its virtualization software, Parallels Desktop. With Apple’s switch to Intel processors, running Windows on the Mac became possible, but it was Parallels that made it not just practical, but powerful. Adding innovative features that integrated Mac features into the Windows environment, Parallels arguably made running Windows on a Mac even better than on a standard PC.

One of my favorite aspects of attending Macworld Expo as press (or a speaker) was getting my annual not-for-resale copy of the latest version of Parallels Desktop. Because while I was lucky enough that I never needed to run Windows on my Mac, I looked forward to seeing what features Parallels had added with each release. It also gave me a chance to stay up to speed on what Windows was offering its customers.

There are lots of great reasons to use Parallels Desktop’s virtualization — to run Linux, ChromeOS, even other instances of Mac OS X. If you’re curious but haven’t tried it out yet, there may not be a better time — Parallels is offering 25% off Parallels Desktop 11 to celebrate its anniversary. You can even try it for free.

I’m happy to see that Parallels is still innovating and I hope they stay at it for many more years to come.

SolarTab Review: A bright spot in outdoor charging solutions

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: The SolarTab is the best solution I’ve seen for using solar energy to charge your gear in the wild. The problem is, with the ubiquity of cheap, high-capacity external batteries, I’d pretty much written off solar chargers as obsolete. But more on that later.

A bright spot in solar charging

The SolarTab combines a high-capacity 13,000 mAh battery with a 5.5W, mono-crystalline silicon solar charger. The “mono” part is important. Older solar chargers use poly-crystalline panels—the ones with that fish scale look. Mono-crystalline chargers are much more efficient at turning light into energy.

The company says the SolarTab’s turns 21 percent of the sunlight it receives into energy; that’s right near the top of the charts for consumer-grade — even residential — panels. Commercial grade and “concentrator” panels have higher efficiency, but you wouldn’t want to carry them around, even if you could afford them.

It’s also the best packaged solar charger I’ve seen. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for an iPad — its dimensions are almost identical, and in its protective case, it’s a dead ringer for one. This makes it a breeze to slip into a backpack or travel case — if you can fit your iPad, you can fit a SolarTab. It’s a sleek, slim alternative to the traditional canvas, foldable solar chargers that dominate the market.

Read the rest of this article on The Mac Observer.

Apple car and other rumors on BTNS ‘Mac Show’

A happy change in scheduling meant I was able to rejoin my colleagues on the British Tech Networks “The Mac Show” last week. We had a great time as usual, with the added bonus of having tech luminary Andy Ihnatko join us.

As usual, we did a lighthearted round up of the week’s Apple news, which included more rumors about an Apple car, how long Apple expects you to use its devices (and a conspiracy theory about how they might enforce that) and of course — a slew of “cool things.”

Another rumor is that I might be coming back to the show on a more regular basis. (I can neither confirm nor deny any such rumor.)

I hope you’ll give it a look.

Pre-review PSA: Solartab solar charger/battery combo at 25% off

I’ll have a full review shortly, but I like the Solartab portable solar charger enough already to pass along the news that it’s currently on sale for 25% off its list price. The iPad-sized solar charger has an integrated battery powerful enough to recharge even an iPad.

Solartab Premium Portable Solar Charger for Phones and Tables
$97 (25% off) at Amazon.com

BTN Mac Show: ‘Greenie’s Arse’ (and content blockers)

On the latest episode of The British Tech Network’s “Mac Show,” host Ewen Rankin was kind enough to wait for my return to discuss a topic I really wanted to discuss: Content Blockers. New to iOS 9, content blockers prevent ads from loading and stop websites from tracking you — among other things. It’s a fairly controversial subject, with advertisers (and some content creators) calling foul. I sympathize with the content creators, but increasingly obnoxious and intrusive ads have made this day inevitable. Ads that cover up what you’re trying to read and make it intentionally hard to close make reading some sites feel like a bad game of whack-a-mole. My hope is that this will be a wake up call to the ad industry, but I fear it’s just the next round in a game of cat and mouse.

There’s a lot more to the conversation — it’s worth checking out.

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