Things I like this week, volume 4.

OmniFocus for iOS
I’ve been using OmniFocus on and off for years. It’s such an amazingly powerful platform for task management, but it comes with a learning curve. But once you get it, it’s seriously transformative in how you think about your time.

The Omni Group has been going through a process of making all its apps universal and OF got the treatment last week, bringing feature parity to iPhone and iPad. This new version of the app is absolutely fantastic. It adds some new customization abilities, and if you go Pro, you can do some seriously advanced stuff from anywhere now, including your phone.

The company has also been terrific and transparent about assisting with upgrades, free Pro unlocks for previous users, and rebates for folks who’ve already purchased parts of the suite. The people at Omni truly care about their users, and it shows in every interaction, and shines through in the choices they make for their software.

OmniFocus for iOS / OmniFocus for Mac (MAS) / OmniFocus for Mac (Omni Store)

Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi
I’ve written about how much DCFC’s Plans means to me. I love many of their other recordings, but some didn’t quite land with me in the same way. Could be a product of timing, mood, or almost anything else, but I don’t love everything the way I love Plans.

Kintsugi has some potential. I’ve listened to it a few times since picking it up last week, and I keep coming back to it. I’m still in the phase where I’m listening for patterns and things I like in the music more than the lyrics, but it’s good. Really good.

Plans / Kintsugi on iTunes

Private APIs aren’t open to interpretation.

There are a lot of political injustices imposed on people around the world every day. Suffering is nearly limitless, and horrible problems erode basic human needs and rights almost everywhere. Developers misusing a service’s APIs and then being shocked when their behaviors are called out is not among these injustices.

Ars has a story about a kid who built an app to upload photos to Instagram being “threatened” to take it down. At first glance, a lot of us that don’t work in the corporate world or for a large company see this and would probably think, “Man, that sucks. Boo, Instagram.” The problem is that Instagram’s API has never allowed for uploading to the service. That’s why you could only ever use the main app to send pictures in. Caleb Benn decided that when he saw all the other Mac apps that didn’t have this functionality, he had a market opportunity on which to capitalize.

As a developer, he had enough savvy to hook into the service and build and release a functional Mac app. But whether out of naiveté, ignorance, or disregard, he decided to use a private API to do something the service didn’t permit. The story on Ars positions him as a pawn entangled in a corporate maneuver to oppress independent developers. It talks about how he’s headed off to UC Berkeley to study CS, and he was just solving a problem.

If you read the API terms of use, it doesn’t explicitly say you can’t upload, which may be the problem. But any developer who sees over a dozen apps for a photo service that all don’t do what seems to be the obvious thing they need to do has to then ask “why is that?” and be prepared to do a little digging, and potentially not like the answer. That the company came after him is unsurprising, and well within its rights. That he’s disappointed with this outcome is within his rights. It’s a lesson. That it’s being picked up as a David and Goliath story is bad journalism.

The EFF is now weighing in on this, which really saddens me.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Coders’ Rights Project” suggests that Benn might be within his legal rights to make the app.

“According Instagram’s [sic] website, reverse engineering the API is indeed a violation of the terms of use,” Corynne McSherry, the legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Ars in an e-mail. “That said, the general terms of use refer in turn to an API ‘license.’ Whether or not an API is copyrightable expression as opposed to a method of operation, is by no means a settled question.”

“It’s shameful that Instagram is trying to use its its [sic] terms of service to impede users’ fair use rights and stifle add-on innovation,” she added.

The EFF has many, many, MANY better battles to fight around the world. That it’s deciding to spend its resources re-interpreting the language of an API optionally provided by a service that does not need to do it at all is troubling.

Believe me, in 99% of these matters, I’m almost always in favor of the little guy getting a shot to do something. But this is either a) careless development and unfortunate overall, or b) a calculated stunt by a smart kid who wanted some attention. It’s not political oppression, and it’s not worth the EFF’s time. It’s business, and it’s totally reasonable, although maybe not what you’d want.

Life isn’t always what we want it to be.

Things I like this week, volume 3.

Here’s a few things I’m enjoying this week.

Carousel by Dropbox
When Carousel launched, I’ll admit I was underwhelmed. I have a lot of pictures stored in Dropbox, and they’re all neatly organized into folders (big surprise there, I’m sure). Initially, Carousel’s performance seemed lacking with massive libraries, and the app would pick up images from throughout your Dropbox, with no way to specify which folders to use. The option to proactively pick a “photos” directory is still missing, but the app did get the ability to hide entire folders from the web. Previously, it was possible to hide individual images from the iOS app, but now if you visit on the web, you can right-click to select an entire folder to disappear as well. There’s also a “flashback” feature which we’ve seen with other photo services before, but which is a nice addition since I used it last. This stuff, plus some nice speed enhancements, which make it very usable with my large library, have given me a reason to throw it a second look.

Amazon Music with Prime Music
Another app that’s improved over time is Amazon’s music offering. While the title evokes a Microsoftian naming convention, the app’s UI has gotten a little better over the past few months, and the Prime streaming service, while nowhere near as comprehensive as Spotify, Rdio, et. al., has improved a bit as well. It still lacks the super deep catalog of those other services, but I have been pleasantly surprised at what I did find as I browsed. The curated playlists and recommendations are pretty good (for me at least), and it’s gotten more fun to use, with some swipe controls to move through the different sections of the app. If you’re a Prime member, it’s worth taking another look. If you have little kids, there’s a ton of great music on there that you can stream and add to your library for free.

Things I like this week, volume 2.

Here’s a few things I’m enjoying this week.

MacID
I’m usually very skeptical of utilities that allow you to do something with your Mac’s login, but this one is solid. MacID lets you configure your computer to unlock via Touch ID when your iOS device gets a notification. You can auto-lock it again when you walk away, and it also does proximity unlock when you come back–as well as clipboard sharing and audio controls. I’m only currently using the standard unlock without the other stuff, but it works really fast, and if you have a crazy password (I do, surprise!) it does save a ton of time. Plus, it’s pretty fun. Learn more about it and download the companion app here.

Fantastical 2
This one’s a biggie. Fantastical has long been one of my favorite apps on the Mac and iOS. This new Mac version was released yesterday and blew my mind. Formerly a calendar accessory, F2 is a full calendar replacement. Adding some impressive new functionality along with a beautiful Yosemite interface, this app merges simplicity and power in a great way. You can buy it direct from the Flexibits website or find it in the Mac App Store. It’s on sale for the launch event (20% off).

Things I like this week, volume 1.

As I find things I really enjoy, I’m going to try to share them here. I can go into more detail than I can on Twitter, and it’s nice to have a quick way to look back at these things from the future and see what’s changed (or how I have myself). So here we go: here’s what I’m digging this week.

Lore
A great new podcast by my friend Aaron Mahnke. It focuses on folklore, history, and stories that scare us. He shared the first episode with me shortly before he launched it, and I was immediately hooked. It’s brief, well-produced, and full of rich storytelling and historical detail. Here’s the site for the show.

Blink
A new app by another friend, John Voorhees, that makes searching for media and generating affiliate links from the iTunes stores exceptionally easy. With a nice, clean interface, and iOS 8-friendly extension, it’s a great addition to your device if you find this process tedious on iOS. Blink is out today.

Launcher
This app has a rather storied history, but it’s back now, and I missed it the first time around, so I’m getting into what it can do. Short version: you can pin shortcuts to other apps and actions in a Notification Center widget. Which means all kinds of cool functionality is now only a swipe away. A perfect complement to Launch Center Pro and Workflow, you can pair it up with the other powerful automation apps you might be using and make a crazy Voltron of mobile productivity. Get it here.