The top 10 secrets of the Eiffel Tower →

November 25, 2014 |

I know it sounds like a clickbait headline, but it’s actually a pretty cool article by Michelle Young for Untapped Cities. For example, did you know there’s an apartment right on top of the tower?

Within a year of the completion of the Eiffel Tower, it was reported by writer Henri Girard that Gustav Eiffel [was] “the object of general envy.” But it wasn’t for his engineering and design feat, it was for an apartment he had at the third-to-highest level of the Eiffel Tower. Girard wrote that the famous apartment was “furnished in the simple style dear to scientists.”

Eiffel used mostly for meeting important guests like Thomas Edison, who visited in September 1889, rather than for debaucherous parties. Here is a lovely essay on the apartment, describing how the apartment embodied many of the philosophical dreams of 19th century thinkers. Today it also contains mannequins of Eiffel and Edison.

Via Messy Nessy Chic.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

The amazing interior designs of BRICKS Amsterdam →

November 25, 2014 |

BRICKS Amsterdam is an Amsterdam-based interior design studio created by James van der Velden. They have some incredible projects, including this stunning industrial loft that they created in what used to be an old garage:

Garage Loft by BRICKS Amsterdam

Garage Loft by BRICKS Amsterdam

Garage Loft by BRICKS Amsterdam

Garage Loft by BRICKS Amsterdam

Also, check out this other loft, comparing before and after pictures. It’s just as impressive, if not more.

I love how some talented designers can truly transform a space beyond recognition. It’s an incredible skill that requires a unique blend of really good taste, impeccable craft and a very vivid imagination.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Christoph Waltz tipped to portray Ernst Stravro Blofeld in Bond 24 →

November 24, 2014 |

Great scoop by the Daily Mail:

It’s been more than 30 years since James Bond faced evil Ernst Stavro Blofeld, his most feared adversary.

But now the intimidating baddie – famous for his trademark white cat and for gruesomely disposing of his failing underlings – is back. Django Unchained star Christoph Waltz is tipped to play the evil genius in a new 007 movie which is due to begin shooting next month.

I so want this to be true. Christoph Waltz is a perfect casting choice for Blofeld, one of the most iconic villains in movie history.

After 30 years of litigation, the rights to the Blofeld character once again belong to EON, the producers of the official Bond films. This is why they’re now able to bring back not only Blofeld himself, but all of SPECTRE with him.

With Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw already confirmed to reprise their roles, Léa Seydoux being announced as the next Bond Girl, and now possibly Christoph Waltz as the legendary cat-loving villain, Bond 24 is shaping up to be a pretty exciting movie indeed.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Apple Announces World AIDS Day 2014 Campaign for (RED) →

November 24, 2014 |

Apple, in an official statement:

To mark World AIDS Day 2014, Apple® and leading app developers are inviting customers to help (RED) achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation. For the next two weeks, a special section of the App Store℠ called Apps for (RED) will offer 25 apps with exclusive new content where all proceeds will go directly to the Global Fund to fight AIDS. In addition, Apple will donate a portion of sales at Apple’s retail and online stores around the world on two of the biggest shopping days of the year: Friday, November 28 and Monday, December 1.

What a great idea. If you wanted to try some new apps, this might be a good time to do it.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢
♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

The New York Times faces layoffs if buyout offer falls short →

November 24, 2014 |

Edmund Lee, Re/code:

So far, 29 people have applied for the exit and 14 have been accepted by management, according to two insiders. Applications, due Dec. 1, are still incoming, but based on an informal survey, the Times could fall short of its goal by as many as 25 to 30 positions, according to one person with knowledge of the matter. The Times could also be satisfied with less than 100 volunteers so long as the jobs being eliminated allow the Times to hit their financial goals.

The New York Times is in a tough spot. Of course, a significant part of the problem lies in their lack of understanding of digital media:

A big part of the reason for the cutbacks is that the paper’s new subscription strategy, based on the idea of multiple apps, isn’t working. The Times has already planned to shut down its NYTOpinion app, four months after it launched, because not enough people were buying subscriptions for the service, marketed at $6 a month.

And while the Times’ slimmed-down digital subscription app, NYT Now, will continue to operate, it hasn’t seen the adoption the company has hoped for, the Times has said.

It’s sad to see the Times struggling but let’s face it, their digital subscription model is downright ridiculous. For example, the smartphone and tablet subscriptions are priced separately, and if you want to read the NYT in both your phone and your tablet you need to pay for both.1 It feels like 2010 all over again.

I can’t believe we still have to say this in 2014, because it’s just obvious: people pay for the content, not the app. And the New York Times is the same whether your read it on your computer, your tablet or your smartphone. Trying to charge separately for these types of access is simply shameful, and it will only hurt them in the long run.

This is a problem that all newspapers are facing, and it’s caused by their institutionalized — and completely illogical — fear of digital media. And the problem is not going away.

It may take a long time for them to die, but make no mistake, the Times is in trouble. Either they change their ways — and soon — or I’m afraid they’ll continue to struggle until their eventual demise. And it won’t be pretty.

  1. Technically, you’re paying for a combined, “All Digital Access” subscription that includes both the smartphone and tablet apps, and that conveniently costs exactly the same as buying them separately. So, you know, it’s totally not paying for both.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

The tall tales of “Little Nicolás” →

November 24, 2014 |

Terrific article by Javier Ayuso, in which he explains some of the mysteries that surround the story of “Little Nicolás”, a 20-year-old con artist whose arrest recently shocked Spain’s society:

Soon after, Fran, Nicolás or whatever his name may be (conmen tend to use different names) made another noteworthy appearance on the balcony of Pinto City Hall, during a tribute to the cyclist Alberto Contador. He managed to get up there by passing himself off as the Marquis of Togores and an assistant at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. He had been using the title of Marquis of Togores for months to get into the elite Puerta de Hierro Club and impress his lunch guests.

Also, don’t miss the side-story, where we learn how he managed to atteend King Felipe VI’s coronation ceremony and even shake the monarch’s hand:

Invitations for the reception at the Royal Palace were sent by email given that there was not enough time to send out printed versions to the more than 2,500 guests. But the email contained a scanned, personalized invitation. Nicolás never received such a personalized invitation, instead entering the reception as the guest of businesswoman Catalina Hoffman. The pair appear in a now-infamous photo greeting the new king.

You can’t make this stuff up. The whole mess is so unreal that it feels like a shameless ripoff of Catch Me If You Can.

I thought this story, incredible as it is, would slowly die after his arrest, but here comes the twist:

But now, Francisco Nicolás Gómez Iglesias, who was born in Madrid in 1994, has decided to “spill the beans.” He is threatening to disclose sensitive information while shamelessly asserting that he works with the CNI, the government and the royals. He also claims to be in possession of evidence that will back up all his statements, and has announced a series of television appearances to discuss all these issues. He also made a point of stating (up to 10 times at one point) that he would do it for free, even as rumors circulated that the production company Mandarina had paid him €100,000 to appear on its program.

I guess we’ll find out. One way or another — whether in a courtroom or a TV set — the truth will come out eventually. Now I’m just missing some popcorn.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Russian miner spends his breaks taking photos of foxes in the Arctic Circle →

November 24, 2014 |

Bored Panda shows the amazing pictures of Russian miner and photographer Ivan Kislov:

Kislov, who lives in the north-eastern port city of Magadan, works in Chukotka as a mining engineer. When he has time during his long shifts, he looks to photography for “relaxation from routine.” He likes to go on “hikes to inaccessible places, raftings,” or just simple walking tours to “observe the wildlife.”

Though he takes pictures of everything from bears and reindeer to wolves and stoats, Kislov says the foxes are often very willing models: “Foxes are curious and can come very close, and I shoot with wide angle and telephoto lenses.”

A word of caution, though: the aforelinked article contains several pictures of incredibly cute foxes that may induce a sudden desire to start using Firefox again. Limited exposure is advised.

If you like these images — and if you don’t, you’re probably dead inside — don’t forget to check out Mr. Kislov’s website and his 500px page for more Arctic fauna in all its enchanting glory.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

AirParrot 2

November 21, 2014

Today Squirrels introduced AirParrot 2, the next major version of their excellent screen-mirroring app for OS X (and Windows).

AirPlay is an Apple technology that Macs and iOS devices use to stream audio and video to the Apple TV, among other things. It works great and it’s the perfect way to watch all of your iTunes movies and TV shows on your big-screen TV instead of on your device. However, as with most Apple technologies, there are several areas where AirPlay falls short.

For instance, AirPlay doesn’t support audio or video transcoding, so you can only play iTunes-compatible media from your Mac to your Apple TV. But what about all those MKV and AVI files you’ve collected over the years? With AirPlay, you’re out of luck.

Newer Macs (from 2011 on) can find a way around this by screen-mirroring their desktops to the Apple TV using AirPlay. Screen-mirroring works great for sharing your desktop or giving a presentation but in my experience, it’s really not ideal for watching video. It doesn’t create a buffer, which makes it extremely prone to jittering issues, and it doesn’t allow you to control playback with an Apple remote, which makes it a lot less convenient to use. And if your Mac is more than three years old, screen-mirroring is probably not supported to begin with.

AirParrot 2 can solve all of these problems. It’s a small app that lets you do screen-mirroring from any decently-specced Mac: it only requires a Mac with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 1 GB of RAM. If you’re running Yosemite, chances are your Mac will be more than capable to handle it. AirParrot 2 also allows you to customize the audio and video transcoding quality to fine-tune performance for every Mac. This enables older Macs to enjoy the same features as the newer machines.

The Mirroring Preferences tab allows you to fine-tune performance for your particular machine

That’s already pretty sweet, but there’s more. AirParrot 2 introduces a new feature called Media Streaming that allows you to directly play media files on your Apple TV — or any other compatible receiver. This is a fantastic feature that essentially allows you to enjoy all the benefits of AirPlay with non-iTunes compatible files: you get buttery-smooth playback, playback control via Apple remote, lossless 5.1 surround sound, etc. It’s amazing.

You can adjust video transcoding quality in the Media Streaming Preferences tab

Now, in my experience, there were still a few bugs when using Media Streaming. This is completely normal in a major new version of any app, and it’s nothing critical. MKV files in particular were a little finicky to play and would cause the occasional crash. Then again, MKV files were always finicky to begin with, so I’m not sure how much AirParrot is to blame here. In any case, the app works great with AVI and other file types that I’ve tried, and I wouldn’t consider these issues a serious problem.

Besides, there’s a full-featured 7-day trial that you can download and install to make sure it works well on your Mac and with your own media files before committing to a purchase.

AirParrot 2’s Control Panel displays everything you need to use the app

AirParrot 2 is also remarkably easy to use. The control panel is accessed via its menu bar icon, and displays everything you need:

  • In the FROM section, you can select which streaming mode you want to use: sharing your own display, an extended desktop mode, sharing windows from a specific app, sharing only audio or streaming media.

  • In the TO section, you can select your destination device. AirParrot 2 is compatible with the second and third-generation Apple TV’s, but also with Chromecast devices, as well as AirPlay-compatible audio receivers. Just pick your device from the list — it should appear automatically — and you’re set.

In the case of Media Streaming, you can even drag your media file and drop it into AirParrot 2’s menu bar icon, and it will automatically pick it up and send it to your selected destination. I find this is a much more convenient way to open files and it makes me want to use the app more.

AirParrot is one of my favorite apps, and I use it almost every day. AirParrot 2 is a huge update, and it’s available today. You can purchase a single-computer license for $14.99, or a 5-computer license for $62.99. There’s also a special discount for owners of the previous version.

If you ask me, the Media Streaming feature alone is more than worth the price of admission. If you own a slightly older Mac and want to enjoy non-iTunes compatible media on your Apple TV, it really is a no-brainer.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢
♤ ♧ ♡ ♢