Your first Raspberry Pi: A buyer’s guide


If you’ve taken a look at some of our Raspberry Pi tutorials and have decided you’d like to take the plunge and get involved, knowing exactly what purchase can be somewhat daunting. There are different models and cases to consider, various methods of connectivity and storage options to factor in – not to mention planning what you’re going to do with it. It’s a lot of work for something that’s the size of a deck of cards.

In this guide, I explore the wide number of options there are when it comes to selecting the right Raspberry Pi kit so that you’re ready to take on any project.

We’ve been experimenting over at Mactuts+ recently and recently began publishing electronics-based tutorials that involve the Raspberry Pi or Arduino. For newcomers, I’ve written a complete buyers guide for anyone looking to get involved with the Raspberry Pi that covers everything you might need, from the case to the keyboard.

FaceTime audio will be the new iMessage

One of the most understated features of iOS 7 that almost no-one is talking about is FaceTime audio. FaceTime calls can still be made as normal with the camera, or, new to iOS 7, as an audio-only call. That’s right, no more trying to look your best or wasting time putting on clothes.

The FaceTime icon has been split, replaced by new video and audio symbols within iOS’ contacts list.

FaceTime now has two call icons, video and audio

Although it’s basically FaceTime with reduced functionality, the ramifications of this new feature are enormous. iMessage pretty much destroyed the requirements for text messaging between iOS users by providing a data connection-driven way of sending messages1. No longer did you need to know how many texts your phone contract gave you or how much extra you’d have to pay to send a picture message or a message to someone in another country, iMessage made all of these factors redundant by allowing your messages to be sent using the iPhone or iPad’s data connection.

FaceTime audio will potentially have the same effect for voice calls, at least between iOS users. It brings all of the benefits of services such as Skype, providing free peer-to-peer VoIP calls, at no cost other than any cellular data you may use2. For people often in places where there’s Wi-Fi, this means voice calls without any cost whatsoever and, for international calls to other iOS users across the globe, this eliminates any long distance charges completely.

Apple certainly wasn’t the first to provide an easy to use voice communication tool that works over the internet. Skype, a company that recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, is far more wider-reaching than FaceTime audio due to its cross-platform nature, but it’s a longer process to initially set up when compared to FaceTime. You have to download the Skype app, set up or sign in with a Skype account before finally spending time finding and importing your contacts who also use Skype. I’d wager that the vast majority of iOS users who often conduct video calls to other iOS users use FaceTime rather than Skype, simply because it’s easier.

iOS prompts you to either sign in with an Apple ID / iCloud account or create a new one if you don’t already have one, making FaceTime available right from the start. There’s no importing of contacts as iOS automatically identifies other iMessage and FaceTime users that you have in your contacts list, it just works.

Make no mistake, FaceTime audio is a completely understated feature that has the potential to be as much a game changer to the way iOS users make calls as iMessage did to text messaging, and Apple has been seeing upwards of 2 billion messages sent every day.

To paraphrase Obi-Wan: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if CEOs of phone carriers suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”

  1. Sending SMS messages to non-iPhone users is still applicable but, really, how many SMS messages have you sent from your iPhone in the last week, month or year? I can count them on one hand. 

  2. FaceTime has supported 3G since iOS 6 so you can make FaceTime audio calls using your data plan. 

Good content is too valuable to die

Vitaly Friedman at Smashing Magazine writes about the complete clusterfuck (there’s no other word for it) that was the move of .net magazine’s online content over to Creative Bloq:

Yesterday over 9,500 articles published throughout the years on .net magazine disappeared over night. Sadly, only the top 500 articles were moved to a new home while others just vanished from the Web within a couple of seconds.

For a publication that specialises in the web design and development, this complete shambles of a move couldn’t have been more ironic. Yes, this sort of effort is a big undertaking if you’re moving from one CMS to another but this is where planning and preparation is key. I’m sure given a little time, any code monkey could’ve come up with a simple script to import the content, even the images could’ve been left where they were, temporarily hotlinked then dealt with later. As only the top 500 articles1 were migrated, it really does sound as though it was done by hand, otherwise whatever automated system was put in place could have migrated all of them.

  1. As many iOS users who have waded through the top charts of the App Store will know, being in the top insert number here doesn’t make it good. 

Cook, Ive and Federighi interviewed by Businessweek

A great interview by Businessweek:

To Cook, the mobile industry doesn’t race to the bottom, it splits. One part does indeed go cheap, with commoditized products that compete on little more than price. “There’s always a large junk part of the market,” he says. “We’re not in the junk business.” The upper end of the industry justifies its higher prices with greater value. “There’s a segment of the market that really wants a product that does a lot for them, and I want to compete like crazy for those customers,” he says. “I’m not going to lose sleep over that other market, because it’s just not who we are. Fortunately, both of these markets are so big, and there’s so many people that care and want a great experience from their phone or their tablet, that Apple can have a really good business.”

There’s some chuckles in there, too:

Federighi is quite tall and has a mane of gray hair—his nickname is “Hair Force One.”

Moving from Feed Wrangler to Feedly

Feed Wrangler experienced some downtime last week, thanks in no small part to the popularity of Reeder 2 that had launched the very same day. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the first downtime the service has experienced and there’s been the odd service issue every now and then. It’s never been prolonged downtime but it was enough for me to start looking at alternatives.

As Feed Wrangler was, at the time, the best choice for a feed reading service in a post-Google Reader world, I never really explored the services that came onto the scene after I subscribed. It was certainly the first with a business model and, because of that, I was more than happy to spend the $19 for a year’s membership. David Smith, the developer, built the service from scratch with pricing in mind.

I’ve never really been 100% happy with Feed Wrangler, not in the sense that it was unreliable but in the way it works. I could never get used to Smart Streams, the feature it uses in lieu of folders, as they could only really be configured via the web interface. This would mean I’d often not get round to setting them up or updating them. Worse still, most apps that support Feed Wrangler can’t modify or create Smart Streams. As most of my feed reading is on an iOS device, this was a constant thorn in my side.

I have been tempted by Digg Reader a few times, a service that I have used from time to time1 but as there’s no developer API, it means sticking to their own app which is good, but not great.

After Reeder 2 was released, I began to explore the services that it supports and found Feedly to be as close to what Google Reader used to be as any other service. I’d actually used Feedly some time ago but couldn’t stand their own iOS app, so much that I never gave the service a chance. Now that their feed reading service has a comprehensive API, I can now manage my folders using a compatible feed reading app, such as Reeder 2.

Feedly’s website is much better than Feed Wrangler’s and its organisational settings are easy to use and very intuitive. Again, that’s not a dig or complaint, both Feedly and Feed Wrangler are two completely different companies. Feed Wrangler is a one-man operation while Feedly is a VC-backed startup.

Feedly does, unfortunately, require a Google account to work. Not a deal breaker for me but anyone who doesn’t want to be evil may want to skip it. On the plus side, Feedly does have a business model that includes a monthly or annual subscription. I’m using the free account though expect to subscribe once I’m settled in.

Both Feed Wrangler and Feedly support the import and export of OPML files so switching platforms was a piece of cake. I’d still recommend Feed Wrangler and have absolutely no regrets paying for a year’s membership when I’ve switched away after only three months (it’s only $19) and, as Shawn Blanc writes, Smart Streams can be a powerful tool.

  1. Switching between feed reading services frequently is generally not a good idea. 

BlackBerry to lay off 40% of workforce


Another week, another spot of bad news for BlackBerry – and its employees. The company’s shares tanked Wednesday on a report that BlackBerry will soon lay off up to 40% of its workforce.

Smart. Wait for Apple to release iOS 7 and while everyone is too busy updating their devices, quietly announce massive layoffs.

App updates for iOS 7

In addition to being notified that there’s a new version of iOS available, your App Store icon has probably been displaying a badge with an ever-increasing number.

Unlike other iOS updates, iOS 7 has been driving developers to release app updates that better reflect the overhaul that Apple’s latest offering has had. While there are a huge number of apps that have been released, here’s a selection of notable apps that have had updates for iOS 7 today:

Troublesome Apple product names for TextExpander

It seems some bloggers and websites are in denial about Apple’s move to lowercase lettering with the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, ignoring the product name and insisting upon capitalisation.

It is somewhat of an annoyance that Apple has released the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5s but for anyone who is writing about the latest iPhone models, getting the case right should be as important as the spelling.

With that in mind, here is a collection of TextExpander snippets that you can download and use to prevent this. In addition to making sure you’re always using the correct case for the new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, I’ve included some previous iPhone models and other products Apple has released that often causes confusion when it comes to capitalisation.

  • iPhone 5c
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 4S
  • iPhone 3GS
  • iPad mini
  • iPod nano
  • iPod shuffle
  • iPod touch (also includes a special snippet if you attempt to use iTouch)
  • iPod classic
  • iPod mini
  • Mac mini

All snippets are not case sensitive so will trigger regardless of the case you attempt to use. If nothing else, it will at least ensure consistency when writing about the above.

Download Troublesome Apple Names Snippet for TextExpander.