Monday, November 26, 2012

Paste multiple images from Photos app into a single e-mail message

11/27/12: Updated, after additional testing in which I discovered a second way to copy and paste multiple images.
11/28/12: Updated again, after additional testing in which I discovered a third way to copy and paste multiple images.

On my iPod, skimming through iPad 2: The Missing Manual, which I'd borrowed from the library as a Kindle e-book, I was surprised to discover that in the iOS Photos app, you can copy multiple images and paste them successively into a single e-mail message (or perhaps into any app that can accept them). This copy feature is listed on page 56 of Apple's iPod touch iOS 5 user guide PDF file, but even had I read that file cover to cover, which I did not do, I could easily have missed that. I suspect this capability was also available in iOS 4, as well, or maybe even earlier.

Previously, I would select each image in turn, then send each one as a separate e-mail message using the arrow-emerging-from-rectangle button. It would have been better and clearer for the recipient had all the images been in a single e-mail message, with intermingled explanatory text as appropriate.

Three options:

(1) If you don't already know the entire group of images you want to copy, you can copy one at a time in Camera Roll by using tap-hold on a single image until "Copy" appears. Tap that, switch back to Mail, and paste it into a message wherever you want.

(2) If you know the entire group of images you want to copy (and subsequently explicitly paste), in Camera Roll tap the arrow-emerging-from-rectangle button. Tap on each image you want so that it shows it's been selected with a checkmark in a red circle (tap again to de-select it), then tap the Copy button at the bottom. Switch back to Mail, and paste them all into a message wherever you want. They apparently get pasted in their order in Camera Roll, not the order in which you selected them.

(3) If you know the entire group of images you want to mail directly from the Camera Roll, tap the arrow-emerging-from-rectangle button. Tap on each image you want so that it shows it's been selected with a checkmark in a red circle (tap again to de-select it), then tap the Share button at the bottom. Tap the Email button (Message [for iMessages] and Print are also options). Mail capability will be invoked, with the images copied into the message area in their Camera Roll order.

(1) and (2) may come in most handy if you have already started writing an e-mail message and only later realize you want to paste in one or more images.

I tend not to work with images much; perhaps all the above is common knowledge for people who work with images frequently.

Apparently iOS 6 allows direct inclusion of photos or video into e-mail messages, presumably without having to leave the Mail app, obviating the need to switch between it and the Photos app. However, primarily due to iOS 6's loss of the ability to display the entirety of the text of a podcast's description (which I mentioned here), I will be sticking with iOS 5 for as long as I possibly can.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Flixster app

12/29/12: I think that version 5.7.9 (?), which is already an older version, may have been the last one which allowed playing one's locally saved movies without requiring an Internet connection. At least in some newer versions (5.8.0 and 5.8.1, I believe), Flixster started inserting a preliminary screen which advertised a new movie each time you (cold-?) start the app. According to my recollection, without an Internet connection there was no way to bypass that screen, preventing you from proceeding to your locally saved movies.
I no longer have version 5.7.9, but this app doesn't really provide much benefit to me aside from my fewer than half-dozen Ultraviolet movies, so I deleted it. I may reinstall it in the future if I ever want to view any of those movies again on an iOS device (or, perhaps, if I learn that they have dropped the Internet connection requirement to see locally saved movies).

The (free) Flixster app (version 5.7.1) provides assorted information about movies, similar to that provided by IMDB (whose movie still images incidentally seem to load more quickly). I don't watch enough movies to use either of these apps regularly for general movie information, but I found it impossible to resist what eventually totaled 4 free movies from Flixster.

I had previously made both a Flixster and an UltraViolet account. Doing so was necessary in order to access, on an iOS device, the digital download copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, to which I was entitled, having bought the movie discs (Hmm, I think that was also the last movie I saw at the theater). When registering for those accounts, I did not use the e-mail address which I use with my Facebook account. With those accounts, I was able to download the movie over wifi to my iPod and play it in the Flixster app.

For the iPod (and the iPad), Flixster needed at least one (and hopefully only that one) invocation while connected to the Internet to be able, when lacking Internet access and cold-starting the app, to select and play a movie that you own and had previously loaded onto the device. I don't think that that Internet-connected-invocation was needed in previous versions for such usage. In any case, you may wish to start the app at a time when you have wifi each time you upgrade, and confirm this behavior continues in order to be sure you can play movies without wifi.

Each time I started the Flixster app, it dangled the prospect of a free movie, provided that I linked my Flixster account to my Facebook account and created an UltraViolet account. Exactly which movie sometimes changed across a small set of movies when I restarted the process of seeing the potential freebie. It's obviously their prerogative to have that Facebook requirement, but I was reluctant to link up my Facebook account. However, when I was sick recently, I broke down and agreed to link the two accounts, wanting to have more entertainment at my fingertips.

I discovered I had come relatively late to this game, since within Flixster, 40 or so of my Facebook friends appeared as having done that before me. One of those friends had used Flixster so long ago that he was quite surprised when I mentioned his appearance among my "Flixster friends".

Anyway, after I got my free movie, I was surprised to see that Flixster subsequently offered more free movies, one each to:
  • Install the Flixster Mobile App into my Facebook account
  • Rate 5 movies out of a small set of movies
  • Add 10 movies out of a small set of movies to your Want To See list
  • Invite friends via SMS (I drew the line here!)

All these subsequent free movies were "surprises". Unlike the first free one, I could not know in advance what they were.

Obviously you are trading your (or your friends'!) data for the additional free movies. A very reasonable data-gathering strategy from Flixster/UltraViolet. While it would of course be possible to randomly select movies for the 2nd and 3rd tasks above, I have the feeling many people wouldn't do that because:
  • There is the possibility that your choices will influence the freebie you will get, so you would do yourself no favors by clicking on movies that don't appeal to you.
  • Depending on the settings you allowed, your Facebook friends may see some of your movie information, and you may care what they see.
  • Social Media (including blogging...) leads people into thinking their contributions are of some value to others, so in some areas you are perhaps more likely to state your true positions. Everybody wants to be a movie reviewer/critic whose opinions are valued, right?

Having watched 3 out of the 4 movies, I have to say that it is quite nice to have this additional access to these downloaded movies. I have poor wifi throughput, so streaming is not a viable choice for me; the movie would typically pause at random times, and the video could be blocky.

The download time for each movie could be a couple of hours (I never tracked the exact duration); I simply downloaded when I wasn't otherwise using my wifi. You must leave the Flixster app running in the foreground (you cannot put the device to sleep) during the entirety of the download, though you can interrupt the download without losing the portion that's already come to your device.

The app retains the downloaded movies from each of my two Flixster accounts, but I can only see the movies for one account at a time, whichever account I'm logged into. That also means that the storage space used by all the movies can only be seen within the app by looking at both accounts in turn. If, at the time that I signed up with Flixster/UltraViolet for the Harry Potter movie, I had known that I would later download free movies via the Flixster app, I would have used my Facebook-linked e-mail account back then, but that's water under the bridge now.

I prefer to store downloaded movies on my PC, which has plenty of hard drive space, and copy selected ones from there to my iPod on an ad hoc basis (which takes only a couple of minutes), deleting them from the iPod afterward in order to save space there. To my knowledge, this is not possible through Flixster/Ultraviolet, but it is possible through iTunes. So it seems Flixster/UltraViolet have successfully sold me on the idea of buying digital movies...from Apple through iTunes, at least if the prices are comparable. Indeed, I bought my first iTunes movie shortly after this Flixster/UltraViolet experience (It was Standard Definition, and iTunes claimed it would take 3 hours to download -- I went to sleep.).

Still, Without convenient access to your pc (I use lowercase pc to mean PC or Mac) to access previously downloaded iTunes movies, Flixster/UltraViolet has rather more appeal and iTunes are likely pretty comparable. Your entire UltraViolet and iTunes movie libraries would likely be available to you at any time via wifi download, which could be great for travelers. There might, however, be international licensing restrictions on such downloading.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Confusing second and third tones in Mandarin

I have never had the easiest time distinguishing between second and third tones in Mandarin conversation. Knowing more vocabulary helps compensate somewhat, such that even without totally precisely hearing tones, I might be able to extrapolate words correctly based on context. Two conversations I had more than a decade ago show how misinterpreting second and third tones can thoroughly confuse the speaker's meaning.

A Mainland Chinese friend and I had previously arranged to have lunch together. Before our meal, she called me, and said:

"我們吃完飯以後... (Wǒ men chī wán fàn yǐhòu...; After we eat...)

I mistakenly thought she said:

我們吃晚飯以後... (Wǒ men chī wǎn fàn yǐhòu...; After we eat dinner...)

My misunderstanding led to thorough confusion, since she had no idea what I had been missing in the tone realm. My recollection is that English had to come to the rescue to clarify which meal we were actually getting together for on that occasion. 吃完飯 is a pretty common phrase in my experience (now!), but that could have been the first time I'd heard it in casual conversation, as opposed to in some classroom lesson context.

Another time, a Kinmen friend who had much more English experience than her younger brother offered to give him an English name. He responded by saying:

沒一個好聽. (Méi yī gè hǎo tīng; None of them sound good.)

I mistakenly, and completely incorrectly, thought he said:

一個好聽. (Měi yī gè hǎo tīng; They all sound good.)

Had he actually meant that, the phrase should actually have been:

每一個好聽. (Měi yī gè dōu hǎo tīng.)

However, that grammatical indicator escaped me at the time.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Blogger app

At long last, Google has released an upgrade of their (free) Blogger app (version 2.0.0) for managing (Google) blogs (like this one). The previous version (1.0) had very limited functionality, so I never used it for anything but experimental tests. This version has enough functionality that I am using it for at least some of my entries here (starting with this one, at least the first time round; a snafu wiped out its contents and I am rewriting it on my PC to be safer).

On my (iOS 5.1.1) iPod, Blogger recently (?) started reporting a warning about Safari not being a supported browser to manage blogs:

With the Blogger app now usable for basic posts from the iPod, I now have an alternative to Safari (although I continue to "risk" using Safari for some Blogger use).

In the Blogger app, you can assign labels, though without the benefit of seeing existing labels.

You cannot preview an entry.

You cannot schedule a publication time for an entry.

You can include a picture from the Camera Roll (or even take a picture live to include, although I don't expect to have need for such). Current reviews in the Apple App Store suggest that images can only be positioned after all text, and that if you put in more than image, their final order is not guaranteed.

You can style your entries with raw HTML, although the spacing between lines of the final product is a little odd (e.g., when using unordered lists).

I had already edited this already-published entry in the Blogger app several times when it had text only. I then tried to add an image (the above image), and all my existing text was wiped out. I mistakenly thought Blogger had gotten confused and was trying to create a totally new entry, so I chose Save, which wiped out my existing text. Had I chosen Discard, it's possible that my existing text would have been preserved. Like another person who reviewed this app in the Apple App Store, I usually write my entries in another app (Notespark) before accessing Blogger, at which point I do final editing, so at least I still had some of my original observations from which to work. The Blogger app also crashed on me a couple of other times through 11/18/12, but I only lost data once (the incident just described).

On the iPad interface (new with this version), in addition to a Publish button, there is a Save button. If you are editing a previously published entry, using Save will actually take that entry out of circulation (remove it from being seen on your blog) and place it in Draft status. The entry still retains its timestamp, so when you re-publish it, it will fall into its previous place among other entries. Having learned of this Save button behavior, I will probably forgo its use. I'm not sure if I will ever want to, only temporarily, remove an existing entry from circulation.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Unicode Numerical Character References (NCRs) for Chinese

I recently learned of the following two web forms (there are likely more) into which you can enter Chinese characters and receive back the decimal forms of Unicode Numerical Character References (NCRs), which can be used in web pages having a Unicode charset:

NCRs are combinations of ASCII characters that can be copied and pasted into, e.g., text editors that won't accept native Chinese characters. The first web form above gives this example:

台北 (Táiběi; Taipei) = 台北

I have been using a small quantity of native Chinese characters on my web site (not this blog) for years, but had not made any new edits of that Chinese in perhaps a few years, having inadvertently deinstalled my favored Chinese software, an older version of 自然輸入法 (Zìrán Shūrùfǎ; "Natural Input", although I don't remember if it had an actual English name), and having misplaced the installation CD.  I was recently surprised to discover that somewhere along the Iine, the web hosting company converted the native Chinese characters in my files into NCRs.

That has the benefit of making it possible for me to add Chinese directly when editing web page text files on the Unix server (using, e.g., the WebSSH app), although I need to (painfully) look up the NCR for each Chinese character.

The regrettable accompanying downside is that the Chinese in my files is now only visible as Chinese when viewed in a browser, and is no longer visible as Chinese in plain text editors.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A common Chinese term having positive and negative connotations in different contexts

好看 (hǎo kàn) is a Chinese term whose meanings are typically learned by students of the Chinese language in the following order:

(1) good-looking; nice to look at (although in my experience, when describing people it is more common to use different Chinese terms, e.g., 漂亮 [piàoliàng] or 帥 [shuài])

(2) interesting/entertaining to read or watch, as in books and movies (of these three meanings, I feel that I hear 好看 used this way most often)

and the third meaning, which, unlike the previous two, has a negative connotation:

(3) embarrassed; (to) look bad

I learned the 3rd meaning from (Taiwanese) woman A many years ago. She related to me that woman B had done something unpleasant to her, and woman A intended to "讓他好看" (ràng tā hǎo kàn; make her [woman B] look bad).

That phrase (or, more precisely, the sound of it) came to mind recently when, at a salad bar, I saw blueberries had been placed in the hollowed-out open shells of yellow and orange sweet peppers. (Taiwanese) Woman C asked if the combination was meant to be eaten that way, or if they were just that way to "讓它好看" (ràng tā hǎo kàn; make it [the whole arrangement] look good). It was surprising to hear how switching the object from a person (他) to a thing (它) changed the meaning of 好看 from a negative to a positive one in an audibly identical phrase.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Google Search app: Voice Search

Today's update of the (free) Google Search app (version 2.5.1) calls attention to its Improved Voice Search:

I almost never used this app, normally using Google through the search bar in whatever browser I was using. I just tried out Voice Search for the first time I can recall, doing a few test searches, speaking slowly and clearly in a quiet room. I was very impressed with the voice recognition accuracy, and the resultant suggested links.

The results were so good that I've moved the Google Search app out of its former app group and into one of the "coveted" four slots at the bottom of the screen, so it's now one of the four apps which are always visible, no matter which Home Screen you are on.

Owners of devices which can run Siri are unlikely to be excited by this (presuming they are happy using Siri), but iPod users like myself may find this a good way to avoid typing for at least some searches. Theoretically, that should speed up the process of getting search results.

The Google Search app has plenty of other capabilities which I am not discussing here, but I'm probably likely to use the app mostly or entirely for Voice Search.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Vocabulary investigations, starting from the French verb noyer

I periodically browse the Europe Échecs website, combining my love of chess with my love of the French language. A while ago I read some unfortunate French chess news which led me to look up the verb noyer (to drown [transitive]) in my Larousse French dictionary app. As I often enough do, I then looked up some "peripheral" words.

(Le) Noyer as a noun means walnut (the tree, or its wood), while (la) noix is used for walnut the nut. Larousse also mentions noix de cajou (cashew) and noix de coco (coconut), and has this comment about the English word nut:
terme générique pour les amandes, noisettes, noix etc.
(generic term for almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc.), which made me wonder, "Is there no generic word for nut in French?"

Given the usage of noix as a component of other nut names, I had some suspicion that it might fill the bill. A native French speaker, a retired French professor (Merci, Mme J.), confirmed that noix could be so used, despite / beyond its primary meaning of walnut.

I also looked up se noyer, which means to drown (intransitive), potentially including the reflexive use of intentionally committing suicide that way. Just as in English, without adequate context (e.g., additional verbiage), it would not necessarily be clear which usage is meant.

Soon thereafter, I came across the word noyé (a drowned person) in Port Coton, a French pop song by Zaz, which I mentioned in this other blog entry. You never know where you'll come across new vocabulary words again, so grab as many as you can hang on to!