Archive for January, 2010

Did The McGraw-Hill CEO Steal The Apple Tablet Thunder? – Updated

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Listen to this CNBC interview with the McGraw-Hill CEO. At around 2:50 in he confirms the Apple Table, along with the fact that it will be based on the iPhone OS. My guess? He might be on Steve Job’s Sh-t list. (Via MacRumors and CNBC)

Update

It get so fun to watch this stuff unfold. Could McGraw-Hill have been pulled from the Apple iPad event because of his comments on CNBC? While I think Apple is more than willing, as it seems they have done in the past to punish someone, McGraw-Hill claims they were not tossed.

iPhone age restrictions do not hide 17+ apps, just their screenshots

Monday, January 18th, 2010

“Tasty Pasties 18+ Amateurs” and “Boob Party” are currently on the Top 25 Free Apps in the Apple App Store. I know this because my 8 year old showed me. But let me back up a little.

I have purchased each generation of iPhone as they came out. When I bought my 3GS, I had two leftover iPhones and two clever young ladies who are equally enamored with technology. I set each of my daughters up with the deactivated iPhones working essentially as big iPod Touches. And they were happy. Ecstatic. I am the coolest Dad ever.

I took the expected precautionary approaches. In Settings: General: Restrictions: I turned off the following:

  • Safari
  • Mail
  • YouTube
  • Location
  • In-App Purchases
  • and at first, Installing Apps (App Store)

Since I would be the one managing any media on the device, I didn’t set any age restrictions on music, movies or apps. Eventually, I turned on the App Store so they could browse and choose an app as a reward for a good grade, helping around the house, etc. Standard parental incentive program.

This wasn’t really a risk at the time, Apple was not allowing apps that weren’t family appropriate. Since then, Apple has opened the flood gates of soft porn (but not Google Voice). Again, I know this because my 8 year old showed me. The app screenshots were the iPhone equivalent of a “Girls Gone Wild” TV commercial. All the naughty bits were covered with black dots, very small black dots. This set me into panic mode. I quickly exited the App Store and began trying to keep this kind of material out of reach.

I’m not a Puritan. I understand the market for these products. I also understand that I am responsible for what my girls have access to. As a responsible parent, I went back into Restrictions and limited apps to 12+. Sweet! That was easy. Thanks Apple!

Relieved at such a simple fix, I went back into the App Store and guiltily typed in “boobs” to see if I had successfully addressed the issue. Nope. There were plenty of apps willing to fill my request. A little disappointed, and still feeling uncomfortable about doing this on my daughter’s iPhone, I went searching for the screenshots. They were gone. I can find the apps, see their icons and read their full description, but the tiny black dots and the ladies underneath were gone. Not what I wanted or expected. I wanted the apps to be completely invisible. No app, no name, no busty icons.

This restriction also caused two more problems. First, it turns out that enabling Restrictions will include the catchall “Unrated”.  Any app that is unrated gets the same treatment as a 17+ app. Second, some apps are given 17+ ratings, not because of age-inappropriate material, but because of the ability of the app developer to push unfiltered content to the app (see example below).

An example: Horse Lover. A natural for my girls. They love horses. Eat, breath, play horses. This app is currently “Unrated”, probably because it fetches a daily photo from somewhere “out there”. That means that you can’t use it if you have ANY age restrictions on the iPhone.

My girls came to me immediately after enabling Restrictions for apps asking why I deleted some of their programs. They wanted all of their apps back. If I turned off restrictions, they would be exposed to the new wave of grownup apps in the store. So, there was only one choice left… the App Store is now turned off. I am no longer the coolest Dad ever. I guess the title wasn’t going to last forever, but it was fun while it lasted.

AT&T, The Bars Are a Lie

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

I was at Disneyland in Anaheim, Ca yesterday because my son’s high school marching band was going to be in the parade. Since I help the band by taking photos & video, and I host their website, my plan was to stream the band live for those parents that could not attend. I had been wanting to try one of the new iPhone streaming apps anyway, and this was my chance. I did a quick test of the two major iPhone streaming applications, UStream Broadcaster and Qik. I settled on UStream as my app for the day.

There I am, ready to go with full bars, and 3G, when it happens. UStream can’t log in. Hmmm. I try just browsing and still nothing. I try various other data tests, and still nothing. I decide to reboot the phone and try again.

It boots…

It searches…

It has bars…

and, it has 3G.

I launch UStream and… nothing. The phone has no data ability at all. At this point, and for my final test, I bring up the handy AT&T Mark The Spot app to report the data failure. It won’t send the report at that moment because, well, I have no data (and it can’t get GPS coordinates). The cake was a lie (Portal reference), and so are the symbols telling users that they have full bars, and 3G. As for the video, I ended up recording it, via iPhone, and posting it to the site the next day.

Once I was back home, I brought up the Mark The Spot app and reported the failure. It allows you to specify the location of a problem by placing a pin on the map. I doubt it will have any affect, but it did make me feel better.

If you are wondering why I choose UStream, the audio was better. I will post some comparison clips, and a mini-review, when I get some time.

N.O.V.A. – Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance Mini-Review

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I am constantly on the lookout for new apps for my iPhone. Usually, I look through the Featured category in the iTunes store for what’s new or hot, but I also watch the iPhone Game Reviews and New iPhone Apps sections on MacRumors. Those links take you to the MacRumors related TouchArcade and AppShopper. I am not looking for a word processor mind you. I am looking for something to pass the time when I am at the car wash, or for some interesting tech utility.

NOVA Capture 1A few weeks ago I ran across N.O.V.A., which stands for Near Orbit Vanguard Allience, from Gameloft. I always browse for some online reviews before I buy anything, and in looking at the reviews on N.O.V.A., I kept seeing the phrase ‘HALO-like’. That was enough for me, I had to try it. The day I went to buy it, the iTunes App Store showed over 500 reviews, and this thing was still five stars! As of this writing, there are 2976 reviews and it still has a 4.5! Considering there are always unhappy, borderline nutty, reviews I thought it looked good.

This game is very fun, and there is a lot of game play for $6.99. There are 13 single-player levels, as well as online or local multiplayer support. The multiplayer games support up to four players in online or local WiFi play, and up to two players via a Bluetooth connection.

During my review search, I noticed some comments on the voice-overs. Having done voice-overs for over 25 years, I agree that these are cheesy. I don’t mean funny cheesy by the way. It feels like Gameloft didn’t take their own game seriously. I think some changes to the voice work could greatly effect the immersion of the player into the game. I am not faulting the V.O. talent, they accomplished what was obviously the idea of the director. I just think it sold the game short.

On the controls, I am not the best reviewer. I am an old Quake player, and never really got comfortable with the dual thumb-stick style controls present in most console systems. That said, I feel like I am now. The game play just made sense to me. Although there are multiple control setups to choose from, I have it set so that the left joystick moves the player forward/backward/left/right, while the general screen area controls looking up/down/left/right. The controls do have some issues. There have been times when, simply walking along a path, the controls have gone crazy. Suddenly I am looking at the floor, then the sky, then into a wall. This never fails that it happens while I am being shot at. Very frustrating. The worst glitch has been when, in the middle of a fight, the left stick seems to want to control the look instead of the movement. This could be more of an issue with the nature of touch screen controls than the game, but it hurts to get shot because you could not move.

NOVA Capture 2Both the single-player, and multi-player maps, are nicely done. There are a selection of weapons, health and power-ups throughout the levels. The levels are multi-story, and use transporters or escalators to get you moving up. The graphics look very good, but are often glitchy. I walked near the edge of the jungle and ended up in the trees, well, actually on top of the trees. That would be cool in a Deathmatch, but I was unable to move anywhere and had to exit the game, causing me to return to the last progress/checkpoint. This happened maybe 10 times throughout the 13 level game, way too much.

The game play progresses nicely, and there are checkpoints often. It does have a bit of repetitiveness to it, but I didn’t seem to mind. Ammo is well placed in the maps. On multiple occasions, just as I felt I would run out of ammo, like a gift there was some waiting for me. Well done. There are also mini-game puzzles used to unlock storage containers. I found these weak. It felt like an interruption of the game play, and a waste of time, to make me try to unlock something that is so easy. If I can always solve the combination in 10 seconds then just remove these. I would like to see either some real puzzles, or none at all. I’m not talking MYST hard, but something game worthy.

The multiplayer system works. I have not tried the online system yet, but I tried local games over both WiFi and Bluetooth. Oddly enough, the Bluetooth was more stable. On WiFi, my son had a very hard time staying connected. He would join and drop almost instantly. On Bluetooth we were able to complete a few 5 minute/5 frag games (I’m not saying who won). I experienced no lag at all, but he did. It could be that I am on a 3GS, while he is on an older 3G iPhone. He did not like the game enough to complete the single-player mode due to the lag. I never had that problem on the newer hardware. The one complaint my son brought up was the display of user names in multi-player games. I could see where my kid was, from across the map, as soon as he spawned, because his name was over his head. I wish that could be turned off. It made a fast test game easy, but in serious play could make it too easy.

All-in-all I love it and suggest, if you like first-person-shooters, that you spend the $6.99. It’s a very addicting game, unfortunately for my family. Now onto the Hard setting.

My Top 20 iPhone Apps for 2009

Monday, January 4th, 2010

I live on my iPhone. In fact, it has changed my relationship to the data I consume more than any technology I have ever used. Part of the reason for that is the App Store, and in 2009 the choice of apps exploded. Below is a list of 20 apps, in no particular order, that I either use regularly, like a lot, or think show promise for the future. While I use and love many of the default iPhone apps, such as Google Maps, I tried to keep this list based on app store downloads. This was much tougher than I thought it would be. It started as a top 10 list, but there are some apps I could just not remove from the list. Some I have barely used, but I feel they could be game changers after a few updates. Oh yeah, many of these are free. Enjoy!

Tweetie 2 – The ultimate Twitter client. With multiple account support and many advanced features. My primary twitter interface.

N.O.V.A. Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance – My Favorite first person shooter to date.

IMDb – The Internet Movie Database. Lookup a movie, tv show, or celebrity, and get all the related details.

Shazam – Identify the songs you hear playing in movies or the radio.

RedLaser – Check online prices by simply scanning a products bar code.

Flickr – A great way to view your flickr images, or those of your flickr contacts.

U-verse TV – Only useful if you have U-Verse TV, but this has come in very handy for programming my DVR when I’m not at home.

AP Mobile – The latest news, via Push Notification.

Domain Scout – Find that new domain name, fast and easy.

Lookup – A great DNS lookup tool. Lookup A, CName, NS, MX, SOA, PTR and more.

UStream Broadcaster – Stream live video from anywhere you have a WiFI or 3G internet connection.

Reel Director – Video editing for the iPhone. Amazing app with transitions, titles, trimming and more.

Slowmo – Create fast or slow motion videos right on the phone. Combined with Reel Director (above) you have a video studio on the phone.

Pano – A simple way to take panoramic photos with your iPhone.

TrueHDR – Merge two photos with different exposures to get photos with better dynamic range.

TiltShiftGen – Simulate the effect of a Tilt-Shift Lens to create miniature looking photos.

PS Mobile – Photoshop Mobile, enough said.

Wolfenstein 3D Classic Platinum – Great memories of an old game.

Now Playing – Find the movie times, and reviews, you need, based on your location.

iSSH – An SSH, telnet, raw, X11 and VNC client. Yes, all of them.

There are more where these came from but it’s a start. If you have others then mention them below or contact me and maybe I’ll do a more comprehensive, category based list for new iPhone owners.