Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Slideshow Builder (Lite) 2.3.2 by BitWink Ltd.

Initially tested under iOS 5.1.1 on a 4th generation iPod touch.

I wanted to make, entirely on my iPod, slideshows with captions. Primarily, I wanted to be able to share such slideshows in person, but ideally they could also be shared with (at least) other iOS users. The latter is possible, although the other parties must similarly install the free Slideshow Builder Lite (or the paid version SlideShow Builder) app, and then download slideshows. Users of the Lite version can make a single slideshow (at a time; you can delete one and make a different one repeatedly). I used the free Slideshow Builder Lite to test whether this app suited my needs. Subsequently, I bought Slideshow Builder.

Within the iOS Camera Roll, the right-facing triangle starts slideshow (you would presumably use an album of images for slideshows, as opposed to the entire Camera Roll), but captions would have to be added to the images in some other app, after which the images would need to be re-added to the Camera Roll (and your targeted album). Music is an option. Beyond these Camera Roll's basic capabilities, Slideshow Builder allows:
  • Reordering of pictures
  • Basic captioning (3/28/15: When viewing a slideshow, captioned images can be saved as iOS screenshot images, which I first did under iOS 6.)
  • Sharing of slideshows
  • Special effects
  • Option to store independent copies of images and music, insulating slideshows against deletion of the original source from Camera Roll or the Music app, at the cost of using more storage memory. I particularly like this option because I prefer my slideshows kept separate from Camera Roll.
  • Each slideshow can be saved either on only the device where it was created, or on all devices using the same Apple ID. In the latter case, updates (at least revised captions) will automatically be shared across devices via iCloud.

Lite has a limit of 20 pictures, and includes one advertising slide (which is displayed for a shorter time than the default 3.5 seconds of other slides). 20 slides may be a decent limit even in the paid version to avoid taxing viewer tolerance.

Slideshows can be shared with other iOS users via Dropbox/email/iCloud (time limited) running either the Lite or full version of the app, so iOS only. iPod photos with their relatively low resolution don't look great on an iPad 2 up close, but look "good enough" (depending on your photographic sensibilities) from farther away. iPhone picture quality is better than that of an iPod so shouldn't suffer as much. According to what I see, the Dropbox/iCloud (though I only tested iCloud) apparent advantage over email is that until the recipient downloads the slideshow, you can continue to make changes (e.g., tweaking captions), so the recipient will see the most up-to-date version when they download it.

My settings choices (in case I ever have to reinstall):
  • Photos and Music: Copied to Slideshow
  • Default Settings for Slides (can be overridden for any slide):
  • Play Each Slide For: 3.5 seconds (default)
  • Zoom to Fill Screen OFF
  • Ken Burns effect OFF
  • Faces Animation OFF
  • Slide Transition: Dissolve

My two Chinese keyboard choices (Chinese - Traditional: Handwriting; Chinese - Traditional: Zhuyin) are not available for captions.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mnemonic for the tone of 摸 (and 磨, 摩)

I have long had trouble remembering the tone of 摸 (mō; to touch). One of the reasons may be that the following two other characters, which have formal or implied meanings of "to rub" (sort of close to "to touch" in meaning), both have mó as their Pinyin:

I normally remember the tones for those two characters. They are parts of multi-character words which are firmly in my vocabulary, and of which the pronunciations of all syllables come easily to my mind:

摩/磨擦 (mócā; friction)
按摩 (ànmó; to massage)

However, the most common usage for me of 摸 is the much less distinctive:

摸不到 (mō bù dào; can't reach [some physical object])

The last two characters 不到 commonly follow a wide variety of verbs, in all cases (that I can imagine) with a similar meaning of not being successful at something. Being so generically and commonly used, those two characters don't facilitate (for me, anyway) remembering the tone of 摸 or of any other verb placed before them.

In any case, my new way to remember that 摸 is first tone:
Extend the idea of 1 being less than 2 to the characters' tones -- a touch (摸) is lighter ("less") than a rub (磨/摩).

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pairs of two-syllable Chinese words having swapped Pinyin spellings in their syllables

Here are some pairs of reasonably common, two-syllable Chinese words, of which the Pinyin spellings (disregarding tone) of the two syllables of each word could be swapped to yield the other word of each pair. As usual for this type of blog entry, I may modify this list over time.

Ordered by Pinyin. Different members of a pair may share characters, though such a shared character doesn't necessarily have the same meaning in both words.

  • 部分 bùfen part (of something)
  • 分部 fēnbù branch (e.g., branch store of a larger company, etc.)

  • 記念 jìniàn commemorate
  • 年紀 niánjì age

  • 解釋 jiěshì explain
  • 世界 shìjiè world

  • 時鐘 shízhōng clock
  • 重視 zhòngshì attach importance to; take something seriously

  • 相信 xiāngxìn believe
  • 信箱 xìnxiāng mailbox
The above pair show two qualitatively different meanings of 信; the first is a verb, meaning to believe/give credence to, the second is a noun, meaning letter (as in mail).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Same word in English and French: position of consonant sounds swapped

Recently, while listening in the background to a French podcast ( #1914, Villes anglaises (UK cities)), my mind partially registered the word for mosquito, a word I didn't recall ever having learned. Some time later, relying on my audial impression (mistaken, as it turned out) of how it "should" be spelled in French, I searched for "mousquite" in my Larousse English-French dictionary app, but couldn't find it. I went back to the podcast and discovered my spelling-impression error.

The positions of "qu" and "t" are swapped between English and French: mosquito / (le) moustique
I imagine it may be relatively rare that consonants are so transposed.

I also looked up la moustiquaire (mosquito net/screen), which, with respect to consonant sounds, has a similar transposed position relationship to le mousquetaire (musketeer), plus a mildly different middle vowel sound.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Usage of depuis to mean "from"

I suspect that when I first learned the French word depuis, the textbook, quite reasonably, listed only the word's first two, more common English meanings of "since" and "for", both of which relate to the passage of time. Someone learning basic vocabulary is less likely to be able to take in all possible meanings, so should be exposed to those that are most likely to be encountered. Podcasts, or similar sources of regular native usage of a language, can help fill out gaps in one's knowledge.

The parenthesized definitions below are from my Larousse French-English dictionary app, followed by my own comments:

  • Since (depuis le 10 mars; since March 10th)
  • For (depuis 10 ans; for 10 years)  Duration. I have long understood this meaning, but at a certain level I never thought specifically about an English translation for it. Internalizing the language this way would, however, be problematic if you aspire to be a translator.
  • From ([dans l'espace, un ordre, une hiérarchie] (il lui a fait signe depuis sa fenêtre; he waved to him from his window))  English phrases where "from the vantage point of" or "originating from" sound natural are ones where depuis likely works well in French.  I heard such usage in episode 151 of News in Slow French (depuis Gaza), where it no longer surprised me, since, according to my memory, in some other podcast episode I had previously heard this usage. In that case, it was concerning a space exploration vehicle sending images from the vantage point of some other planet (depuis Saturne? I no longer remember.).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

FaceTime no longer works for older iOS versions as of April 2014

This is a PSA (Public Service Announcement) for folks like myself who are using earlier versions of iOS. In April 2014, FaceTime stopped working between devices unless both were using more recent iOS versions:

I'm hanging onto iOS 5 for as long as I can (because of a con in all subsequent iOS versions, which I mentioned here), so my usage of FaceTime will now dwindle even further from "almost never". However, it's still a shame to lose that functionality, unless you're willing to upgrade your iOS version -- I had to hunt this down recently on one of the "almost never" occasions when I was trying to use FaceTime.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How to reveal iOS 5 iMessages timestamps!

Sometimes I come back to iMessages on my iPod after having received multiple messages from the same sender, and want to know the time that a particular message was sent.

Timestamps of messages can be found with a swipe in iOS 7. In iOS 5 (and, I suspect, iOS 6), there is also a way to find the timestamp of any message in an iMessages conversation. In some cases you must delete surrounding messages, but you could copy their content elsewhere first (long-press or double-tap a message, and Copy), if you needed it (I myself rarely need such).

(1) If the message for which you want the timestamp is from "today" (after the most recent midnight), then:
(1a) If it is the last message in the conversation, you can go ("back") to the Messages list to see its timestamp.
(1b) If it is not the last message in your conversation, then:
(1bi) If it contains a string which isn't found among the conversation's other currently loaded messages (or if found chronologically first in your target message), go to the Messages list, search for that string, and you will see the intraday (hours:minutes and AM/PM) timestamp there. As needed, you can "Load Earlier Messages" at the top of a conversation; those are cleared by quitting and loading the iMessages app again.
(1bii) Delete other, later messages from the bottom up, until it newly becomes the last message in the conversation, then see (1a) above.

All of the above ideas except for (1bii) were mentioned on, which was the best solution I had found before doing the investigation which led to this blog entry.

The next method is not limited to messages from "today".  Every message has timestamp data, but iMessages only shows that to you under certain conditions.

When you start exchanging messages, that delineates the beginning of what I call a "snippet", which is a piece of your conversation (someone else referred to this as a "chunk"). iMessages identifies that with a center-justified snippet header which shows both the date and time. After some period of inactivity (15 minutes? That's someone else's guess; I didn't research it.), iMessages will end that snippet. Subsequent messages between you and the other party will generate a new snippet with its own snippet header.

By deleting earlier messages in a snippet, you can update the snippet header to show the timestamp of the first remaining message in the snippet. Not exactly obvious, but that's how you can find the timestamp of any message, no matter how old.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

iOS keyboard shortcuts: leveraging repeated letters

iOS keyboard shortcuts, such as iOS 5's default example of "omw", which can expand to "On my way!", provide an option to save typing. They are however, only useful if you can get used to using them often enough to make the step of creating them worthwhile.

I do a fair amount of typing on my iPod (drafting blog entries like this one, among other things), and am generally interested in making that faster and more efficient. I frequently am only able to use a single thumb or a single finger on my iPod to type, which increases the value of keyboard shortcuts to me.

For some "extreme" keyboard shortcuts, I took a cue from Apple's time-saving option of converting two spaces into a period and a space (Settings > General > Keyboard > "." shortcut*). You can be more efficient any time you can tap a key twice and get the option of an alternate result which is more useful than the double characters actually typed. For instance, when I type "ff", a keyboard shortcut of mine, I can choose to get "from", which I use far more frequently than I need "ff" at the beginning of a word. The space bar being the largest key, it's typically easiest to tap, and is a fine activator of keyboard shortcut expansions, provided that you want to insert a space after the expansion (and usually continue writing more text). It is typically not necessary to use the space bar to get the expansion; you can usually tap near the offered expansion to get it. I've also observed that, in certain situations, expansions of keyboard shortcuts are not offered, sometimes clearly correctly, but other times less so.

I use many of the double letter possibilities for keyboard shortcuts. I skipped doubles that had a pre-existing use which was important to me and therefore should not be replaced, e.g.:
  • "mm" for millimeters
  • "cc" for carbon copy / cubic centimeters
  • "ee" which prompts to see if you really meant to type "we"

For one particular sentence I use very often, I'm even using both "fff" and "ffff" as keyboard shortcuts. I try to tap f three times only, but If I inadvertently tap an extra f, the quadruple f accommodates my true intentions.

Since many words/phrases in Chinese (and their associated Pinyin spellings) or in French come easily to my mind, I sometimes leveraged personalized "codes" for them. Having multiple languages from which to draw such codes makes it easier to come up with a practical variety of doubled letter keyboard shortcuts for things, given that there are but 26 letters in the alphabet. Farther below are some of my shortcuts, which may provide ideas for anyone seeking to do something similar. I would change the expansion for any of them if I found a more useful one.

I'm usually typing general prose. If you regularly type specialized or technical prose (e.g., part numbers!), keyboard shortcuts similar to what I describe here may not work well for you. Owing to how often they are needed, prepositions are frequently useful keyboard shortcut expansion candidates. Some paired characters such as "()" are also useful to me.

A sample of my keyboard shortcuts which are, or are based on, letter tuples (repeated letters):

  • aa: after. I accept a little inconvenience when typing AA for batteries or American Airlines.
  • bb: before.
  • ff: from.
  • gg: change. From the Chinese 改變 gǎibiàn. As mentioned above, I didn't want to make "cc" a keyboard shortcut even though "change" starts with the letter c. For verbs, I often find it very useful to append the letter d for the past tense, the letter g for the -ing form, and the letter s for third person singular verb present tense conjugation OR noun plural. I use ggd, ggg, and ggs for changed, changing, and changes, respectively.
  • ii: iOS. I type iOS often, and want to bypass the occasionally offered "ups" correction which is seemingly built into iOS, or at least iOS 5.
  • jj: just.
  • nn: agaiN.
  • oo: only.
  • qq: when. From the French quand.
  • tt: (). From the French parenThèses, which has a t sound for the th; I'm using pp for something else.
  • uu: you.
  • ww: with. I also use the natural "wo" keyboard shortcut for "without".
  • xx: rest. From the Chinese verb 休息 xiūxi, although it is both noun/verb in English. believe; from the Chinese verb 相信 xiāngxìn.
  • zz: sleep. Even if three or more z's might be more common usage having an informal association with sleep.

For my usage, these tuple keyboard shortcuts can't be separated from non-tuples. That is, I have keyboard shortcuts whose expansions are somehow related to each other, but some of them are tuples and some are not (like "ww" and "wo" above). I have many more keyboard shortcuts based on non-tuples. Examples include:
  • amt: amount.
  • wx: I think. First two letters of wǒ xiǎng Pinyin syllables for an equivalent 我想 Chinese expression.
  • ya: there is. y a is short for il y a in French, which means "there is/are".

In iOS 5, there is inadequate protection against mapping the same shortcut twice. You can avoid doing that by first checking to see if you already have a keyboard shortcut with the name you are seeking to save (which might be new, or a [potentially dangerous] renaming of an existing one). If the expansion phrases differ, the last one assigned apparently trumps the other. If the expansion phrases are the same, your ability to access Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts probably broke, and you will may need to restore your device from a backup to regain that, though existing keyboard shortcuts likely still work. On one occasion, after deleting an unintentionally duplicated keyboard shortcut (deleting one removed them both; they were adjacent to each other in the list) and experiencing the just-described breakage (keyboard shortcuts still worked), I ejected all apps from RAM, powered off and on my iPod, and was again able to access Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts. Those are my recollections (probably reasonably accurate) of my own troublesome experiences; I did not test to verify them for this blog entry.
6/17/14: The unexpected duplication occurs if you have an extant Phrase without a keyboard shortcut, then edit it to make a keyboard shortcut. Delete it and recreate it to avoid the problem (which, as I described, is still fixable). I consider this an iOS 5 bug.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Imitating "Do Not Disturb" in iOS 5

iOS versions later than 5 include a Do Not Disturb feature to keep your device from sounding audible alerts (or, I believe, from potentially vibrating, for iPhones).

The following workaround solution serves me well, though on my 4th generation iPod I normally allow ("suffer") only these items to sound audible alerts:

  • Calendar
  • iMessages
  • iOS: Low Battery (20% of remaining battery alert)
  • iOS: beep when starting to charge

Another relevant aspect is that I have gotten very used to seeing the same Apple-supplied wallpaper design on my Home Screen, probably starting from late 2011 when I upgraded from iOS 4 to 5.

I needed a way to frequently switch the iPod to be silent and, equally importantly, to have a way to remember to switch it back later, to once again sound audible alerts.

That requires doing two things:

  • Sounds > Ringer and Alerts: Set the volume slider all the way to the left (silent).
  • Wallpaper: Temporarily choose a design that I would notice immediately, so I would know that something was different from what I consider to be the iPod's normal state of playing audible alerts. I chose one that I consider rather garish, which naturally attracts my attention. That leads me to rectify things quickly if I actually want audible alerts but the wallpaper indicates that I'd previously muted them. I change the wallpaper on the Home Screen only; you might choose Lock Screen as well.

Occasionally, despite my having muted the alerts, the iPod still sounds a quiet beep when starting to charge, which I imagine is due to a bug. That hasn't been a problem for me.

Normally, I put the Ringer and Alerts volume slider underneath the S in the Sounds screen heading, which is generally a good volume level for me. Periodically I need to set the volume louder than that, for which I choose another different wallpaper design, one which also easily catches my attention. That combination is the "Really Disturb" configuration.

I expect that the times when I forget to toggle the audible alerts appropriately with this workaround would still occur even if I were using a higher iOS version's official Do Not Disturb functionality.

See here for why I prefer iOS 5.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Chinese vocabulary for airplane flights

  • airline 航空公司 hángkōng gōngsī
  • flight 班機 bānjī
  • plane ticket 機票 jīpiào
  • boarding pass 登機證 dēngjīzhèng
  • airport 機場 jīchǎng
  • to take off (plane) 起飛 qǐfēi
  • to land (plane) 降落 jiàngluò
  • customs 海關 hǎiguān