Posted on October 23rd, 2012
As expected, Apple unleashed their iPad Mini at today's event... along with some other surprises...
• iPad Mini! The entire point of this product is to compete with the legions of other 7-inch tablets out there... in every way except price. Apple doesn't play the price game, they play the quality & value game... they make their product worth that extra money. Even so, I thought for sure the Mini would start at $299 and was fairly shocked that they went with $329 on the low end. Regardless, Apple is going to sell a bazillion of these things over the holidays...
But... not to me. My iPad 3 with Retina Display is absolutely perfect for the one thing I most use an iPad for... reading comics a full page at a time. The Mini's lower resolution would require that I read my comics panel by panel (again, like with iPad 2) instead of page by page.
But... I still want one. It's that sweet-spot size between an iPhone and iPad that would make it so perfect and handy for everything else I find myself reaching for the iPad to do... surf the web... read a book... check email... play games. And, unlike every other iPad I've owned, I would want it with a cellular connection so I could have internet everywhere instead of having to find a free WiFi hotspot.
I will resist the temptation, of course, because my iPad 3 is enough. But when Apple comes out with an iPad Mini with Retina Display... I just might break.
• iPad 4! The smartest thing Apple did at their press party was something nobody expected... a brand new iPad. This has a lot of people who just bought the iPad 3 six months ago in an uproar because the latest version is faster, has speedier WiFi, and better LTE connectivity. I don't care because I can't read comics twice as fast if the iPad is twice as fast, but there's a lot of people feeling burned.
Two things... 1) Apple simply had to get on a holiday release schedule with their new iPads because that's when most of them are sold... and 2) In the Android tablet world, there are a dozen manufacturers that are coming out with something newer and better every month. Apple is the only seller of iPads, so it feels worse than it actually is.
• 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display! While the small size is a killer feature for a traveler like me... I need a bigger screen to do the work I do. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display I have is perfect... and will be even more perfect when Adobe's apps are fixed to take advantage of the additional pixels. Still, for a lot of people, the compact size of this new model will be plenty big with the denser display being able to show so much more information than the old models.
• Mac Mini! For somebody wanting a cheap Mac, the new Mini is about as good as it gets. Even the low-end $599 model will provide an excellent experience for running desktop apps. And it's so ridiculously tiny, taking up almost no space. You'll still need a display, keyboard, and mouse... but a lot of people have those sitting around from their previous computer, so the Mini is pretty much a dream come true for somebody wanting to switch to Mac in the most affordable way possible.
• iMac! And here it is. The new product from the event that I am most jealous of... the new impossibly thin iMac...
I bought the last generation model of iMac for work, which now seems like a clumsy piece of crap compared to this stunningly beautiful machine.
People who have seen the display say it's one of the most amazing computer displays ever, even though it hasn't got Retina resolution. I still don't know how Apple is going to come up with the processing power to even run a
Apple also made it a lot more powerful... even though it's so damn THIN. But it's not the faster chips that make me covet the new iMac... it's the new "Fusion Drive."
I bought both a Solid State Drive and a "regular" Hard Drive so I could use the SSD for speed and the HD for storage. To make work go faster, I put the project I'm working with on the SSD, then move it back to HD when I'm done. A little bit of a hassle, but the speed increase makes it worth the trouble. Now Apple has come up with "Fusion" which combines the two drives and does all this automatically and seamlessly. New files go on the SSD half of the drive, which are automatically moved to the HD half when you stop working on them. Genius.
Of course I want one... I just can't afford one. Wah!
• Mac Pro? Still no Mac Pro. Apple obviously feels that the iMac line is powerful enough that professionals who use Macs will move to them. They added wicked-fast transfer technology like "Thunderbolt" to make sure of it. And they're right... I moved to iMac because there wasn't a new Pro model available, and I've been very happy with it. But... there is a gaping hole in their lineup that Apple has got to address sooner or later or else they are going to start losing customers (if they haven't already). Supposedly the new Mac Pros are coming next Spring. But it would have been really smart to surprise people with a release today to show that Apple is still serious about professionals that need the serious raw power and expandability that an iMac can't offer. Oh well. That ship has sailed for me, so I won't worry about it.
And... it looks like Apple is all set for the holidays. All their consumer products have been refreshed and made better than ever. Which means they are going to be raking in a fuckton of money over the next two months. Which is nice... I hear Apple could use the money.
Posted on September 20th, 2012
And now... continued from yesterday... my observations on Apple's iOS 6 update. For everybody who hates Apple stuff, sorry... but you have one more day to go.
• Messages. If there's one feature I was most excited about when it comes to iOS 6... it would be Unified Messaging. This means that whether I am on my iPhone, my iPad, iMac, or my MacBook... any time somebody texts me via Apple Messages it will appear on all of them. And I can reply from all of them using my mobile number as the return address so it's seamless to the person I'm communicating with. As if that weren't awesome enough, all my devices archive the complete conversation so it's seamless for me to move between them too. This feature alone makes the upgrade to iOS 6 worthwhile.
The only problem is setting it up. I thought it would all happen automatically but, when it didn't, I finally figured out that you need to log out and log back into your iCloud account on your iPhone, THEN do the same on all your other devices and computers. Works like a charm. All you have to do is choose which email addresses you want people to message you at... and whether you want your mobile phone number to receive messages on that device. Easy.
• Mail. Apple always seems to be hesitant to adopt things they didn't invent. Even when those things are superior to what they've developed. Which is why you could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out that Mail has adopted "pull to refresh"... a feature I've loved ever since I first saw it in Tweetie. Not only that, but they added a really cool widget that stretches and snaps when you pull. It's awesome. And I've been begging for it to happen in Mail for a long time. Another new feature is a VIP Mailbox which collects important email from Very Important People you designate. This can be tied to VIP alerts which will let you know when VIP email arrives. It's quite cool...
AND DID I MENTION THEY FRICKIN' ADDED PULL TO REFRESH?!? HOLY CRAP DOES THAT MAKE ME HAPPY!
• Do Not Disturb. It's a bit tough for me to dig up praise for a feature THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED ON iPHONE FROM DAY ONE. but I'm going to try. Because being able to have your iPhone or iPad shut the hell up during the middle of the night is something worth praising. Even if it's years overdue. Suffice to say that being able to selectively (or automatically) make your iPhone ignore everything but calls from critical people you designate is part of what makes a smartphone a SMART ... PHONE! Long overdue and much appreciated.
• Passbook. One of the buzzword technologies hitting mobile phones is "NFC" which is "Near Field Communication." This allows you to buy stuff or unlock stuff or transfer stuff very simply over very short distances. It sounds kinda cool. No more fumbling for your credit card or airline ticket or room key when you've got your mobile phone! Except... not many people are using it. Yet. And, like all new tech, we don't know if it will really catch on. So Apple is conveniently ignoring it. For now. As a stop-gap, they've come up with Passbook. It's kind of like a wallet for your cards and tickets and stuff. Except instead of using NFC, it relies on good old-fashioned bar codes...
The above image comes from Apple, because Passbook itself hasn't really caught on yet. I think it will. It's just too good of an idea to be ignored. Especially since the cards/tickets/whatever are "location aware" and will pop up automatically when you are near the place they can be used. I look forward to using it. Eventually.
• Facebook/Twitter. And so now you can Tweet and Facebook directly from the Notification Center. You can also Tweet and Facebook stuff from other various apps like Photos and Safari courtesy of the "Share" button. It's kinda nifty...
• Maps. There's no subtle way to say this... Apple's replacement for Google Maps (titled simply "Maps")... sucks. And sucks hard. First of all, there's NO Public Transit Directions. This is just awful for somebody like me who travels to new places a lot and uses public transportation. Second of all, the map data is often good, but sometimes pretty terrible. Things are missing or on the wrong place. Satellite views for some locations are so bad as to be indecipherable. It's just a mess, and even if Apple starts throwing millions of dollars at the problem, it's going to be a while before they are even close to Google Maps.
The good news is that when Maps works, it's pretty frickin' incredible... and so very very pretty. PLUS YOU CAN MAKE THE LABELS BIG SO YOU CAN ACTUALLY READ THEM! Sweet! But the feature that sets Apple Maps apart is their amazing "Flyover" feature that allows you to swoop around some cities in beautiful 3-D. I could play with it for hours...
Turning off the satellite gives you the geometry for Flyover...
There is some freaky imagery with Flyover in places... but when it works, it's pretty great. Like the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago...
Some famous places like The Coliseum and The Vatican are well-rendered...
Others, like the Eiffel Tower? Not so much...
I have no doubt that Apple is going to invest the time and money to keep improving Maps to the point that it eventually eclipses Google. The question then becomes... how long is that going to take? Could be years. Which means I really need my Google Maps back for serious use. Hopefully Google will give us an app for that... but, until then, I guess there's always their mobile maps site. Sure I'll lose the "turn-by-turn directions" that Apple has... but I'd take time-tested, reliable maps over flashy add-ons any day.
• Photo Stream. One of the things that drives me insane is how difficult it is to transfer photos. Transfer to my iPad. Transfer to my Mac. Transfer to friends. Transfer anywhere, really. At first I just emailed them to myself. Then I bought an app that had a klutzy way of setting up a link between my iPhone and my Mac. Apple's "Photostream" technology came along, but YOU don't choose what gets put there. Enter "Shared Photo Streams" with iOS 6. Now you can create your own custom streams, invite whomever you want to view them, then post photos until your heart's content. Bonus? You and others can COMMENT on the photos. Pretty sweet. It's not direct, instant transfer to somebody you're talking to, but it's good enough.
• Facetime. And so FaceTime over cellular is now possible with iOS 6. Unless you're unwilling to give up your grandfathered unlimited data plan. Then AT&T decides they're going to FUCK YOU JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN... THEY ARE GOING TO DENY YOU THE ABILITY TO FACETIME OVER CELLULAR LIKE THE GREEDY BASTARDS THEY ARE. Data is data. How they can differentiate how you use that data is pretty fucked up and should be illegal. And what about their customers that are deaf?!? A deaf person could really make use of this technology... but only if they want to sign up for a data plan that AT&T decides they can make money off of. Holy crap do I loathe cell companies.
That's not all the new features in iOS 6, but it's the ones that matter to me. Sure there are loads of other niceties... like being able to dismiss calls with a text... and the nifty panorama camera feature that's head and shoulders above the third-party apps for shooting panos... and shared iCloud tabs across devices from Apple's Safari browser is sure handy... etc. etc.
Well, as I said, Maps is a problem. It can be pretty, but it's not nearly as usable as the Google Maps it replaces. At least not yet. I wish Apple would have waited a while longer until their Maps were more functional. Other than that? Not a lot. My older iPhones don't seem to run any slower, which is always a concern. All the features that are available on each of my iPhones seem to be working as advertised. I suppose I could nitpick on little things, but the truth is that I am very happy with iOS 6... despite the fact that it's not much of a leap over previous iOS versions when it comes to the experience. Probably because Apple got it right the first time, but I fully admit I'd like to see a few more bells and whistles in the way things work. The iPhone 5 that's coming out tomorrow is leagues faster and more powerful than the original iPhone... why doesn't it have more whiz-bang visuals to take advantage of that? Not enough to distract or slow-down the gadgets running iOS, but something to make it feel a bit fresher than the original iPhone.
Because other mobile OS's like Windows 8 and Android may be behind the curve... but they're closing in a lot faster than Apple is willing to admit. Publicly. Hopefully behind the closed doors of Cupertino it's a different story.
Posted on September 19th, 2012
And so Apple has (finally) unleashed the latest version of there iPhone-iPodTouch-iPad operating system. Unlike the Mac OS X updates which get cool names like "Mountain Lion," iOS updates get a boring number increment, which means we're at "iOS 6" now.
I had no problem updating my iPad 3, iPhone 4, & iPhone 4S and, so far as I know, everything is working perfectly. I'll get to my thoughts on the bulk of the iOS 6 new features tomorrow. But tonight I want to focus on Apple's controversial virtual assistant software named "Siri."
Siri is considered "controversial" because "she" is a feature that sparks a lot of strong feelings amongst iPhone users. Some people I know love her. Some people I know hate her. Most people I know ignore her and rarely (if ever) use Siri. Personally, I love love love Siri and use her constantly. For the most part, she understands me and interprets my instructions correctly. And there's just something magical about being able to say "I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow at 3pm" only to have Siri add it to your calendar without you having to type a thing. Welcome to the future!
Because, unlike the computer on Star Trek, Siri can be one fickle bitch. One minute she will understand something odd that you never thought she would get... the next minute she'll completely blow a simple instruction for reasons you can't fathom. Fortunately, Apple is improving Siri all the time, so she's getting smarter and more capable with each new release, but life with Siri is far from perfect.
One of the new thing Siri understands with iOS 6 is movies. I had thought this would be limited to displaying showtimes at local theaters, but she's much smarter than that. Want to know what the last movie Gene Hackman appeared in? No need for IMDB, Siri has got you covered...
Interesting that Siri knows to capitalize "Hackman" but not "Gene"... even though she spelled "Gene" correctly. But she still knows how to answer, which is pretty darn cool. Unfortunately, she's less smart for other queries. For example, Siri will still ask you "Which one?" when asking about a movie title that's been used for multiple movies, even if you specify the one you want...
With the new iOS 6 update, Siri also knows sports. As I type this, the Mariners are playing a game. When I ask how they are doing, Siri responds with a score and some stats...
Nice! One of the things Siri also knows about is players. At the Apple Event where iOS 6 was introduced, they showed how you could find out "Who is taller, Kobe or LeBron?" just by asking. This seemed very cool... until I found out that the number of players Siri knows is severely limited. If I want to check up on how Jarrod Saltalamacchia is doing, Siri goes brain dead. She doesn't know who Salty is no matter how I pronounce his name... or even if I ask for him by number. And she doesn't seem to know what "stats" are, even if you say a player she recognizes. This seems crazy given that she will bring up a player stats card when you ask somebody's height, but oh well...
Siri does have Saltalamacchia listed as a player, so I guess there's that...
Siri is supposed to have a handle on international sports, so I thought I'd try a name that wasn't as complicated as "Saltalamacchia." Like Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard...
Lampard is a hugely famous player. He's been with Chelsea for ten years now. How can Siri not know who he is? I dunno... maybe if I were in the UK this would be different, but overall I find player stats to be a hugely underwhelming feature (unless you're wanting to know about Kobe Bryant or LeBron James!). Maybe I'm asking wrong or something. But I tried dozens of questions about Frank Lampard covering everything from his height to goals and still nothing.
One area I was hoping Siri would get smarter about is travel, because she doesn't seem to know a damn thing. Train schedules, bus routes, flight times, or whatever... Siri is clueless. And nothing has changed in iOS 6. This would seem to be a no-brainer. I would love to get to the train station and ask "When does the next train arrive?", but I guess that's too complex for Siri to figure out. And she knows it...
When it comes to alarms, Siri can still be inexplicably stupid. She can't even recognize alarms she just made for you...
You can't set, change, or find an alarm for a specific day? Why the fuck not? These are the very basic things a virtual assistant should know how to do. And you set the alarm just fine, so why is deleting the alarm with the same language I used to set it a problem? It's things like this that make me understand why some people are not Siri fans.
One of my favorite things I use Siri for on my iPhone is setting reminders. They are frickin' genius because they are location-based. Tell Siri to remind you to make a call when you get to work, and she will do exactly that. So now that Siri is available on third-generation iPads, I was excited that I could add reminders from there too. Except... turns out you can't...
Can't create location-based reminders on this device? WHY THE FUCK NOT?!? You DO realize that any reminders I make on my iPad will be synced to my iPhone, right? I mean, I know that my WiFi iPad doesn't have a GPS, but I'm not expecting it to remind me of a damn thing... that's what my iPHONE is for! Siri should just create the damn reminder and warn you that it will only work for iPhone or something... not flat-out refuse to do something that makes total sense.
With iOS 6, Siri now knows about dining. You can ask her about restaurants in your area or types of foods or whatever, and she'll link with Yelp! to help you out. This is a very nice feature for travelers like me who end up in cities they're unfamiliar with. It can also be a very depressing feature when you're hungry for falafel and the nearest place to get it is over 70 miles away...
Added coolness points to Siri for being able to link up with OpenTable so you can make reservations in the restaurant you find.
Another new feature is being able to post to Twitter and Facebook as easily as you can send texts and emails. Siri will even warn you if you need to set this up before she can take action...
As always, Siri dumps anything she doesn't understand into a catch-all "Wanna look that up in a web search?"...
Not that I was expecting Siri to get into a deep discussion over how Mitt Romney has been so terminally fucking stupid every time he opens his mouth lately... or how utterly fucking tragic it is that politicians are screwing the men and women who risk their lives to defend this country... I just wanted to show how Siri does a bang-up job of figuring out what I'm saying, even if she doesn't know what to do with it.
And so there she is... the new and improved Siri virtual assistant.
Slowly getting smarter, but still in desperate need of an intelligence upgrade.
Which pretty much describes every person on this planet, so it's hard for me to fault Siri. Most of the time I still love her more than buttered toast.
To be continued...
Posted on August 7th, 2012
Back in April, I wrote about a Kickstarter project that I desperately wanted funded...
"The holy grail for Stanley Kubrick fans (outside his movies, obviously) is a copy of a book called Full Metal Jacket Diary by Matthew Modine, who was an actor in the film. The reason it's such a big deal is twofold...
I was over the moon when the project was successfully funded.
Today the app was finally released. And it doesn't suck...
The menu system is fantastic, and disappears when not needed.
The photos change as you scroll the text, which you can have author/actor Matthew Modine read to you.
All the amazing photos have been scanned at hi-resolution and can be zoomed in on at any time.
On the contrary, it is a stunning app. Not only do you get the entirety of the original diary book, but you get complete audio narration by author Matthew Modine. All of which means nothing if the app is bad and hard to use... but it isn't. This project was a labor of love through and through and it shows. Everything is really well thought out... and optimized for Retina Display, which means if looks fantastic.
If you have any interest in film and want some insight into the mind of a true artist of the medium... or you're a fan of Full Metal Jacket... or you're a fan of Kubrick... or you just want to see the kind of apps that iPad was made for... click here to go get a copy. It's just $14.95, and worth every penny.
Posted on June 11th, 2012
As I catapulted off the runway of San Francisco International Airport this morning, a kid in the row across from me shouted "WOW! THIS IS JUST LIKE ANGRY BIRDS!"
This was good for a laugh, which I desperately needed. Because as we were taking off at 10:10am, I knew that I'd be missing out on all the cool stuff happening back on the ground in San Francisco's Moscone Center. It was there that Tim Cook would be taking the stage to introduce some of the cool new stuff that Apple had been working on, and I was going to miss it.
After landing in Seattle, I drove 2-1/2 hours, went to work until 7:30pm, then (finally) made it home so I could plop in front of the television and watch the Apple WWDC Keynote stream from my iPad to my Apple TV box. What follows is the deranged ramblings of a Certified Apple Whore, so proceed at your own peril...
The Siri intro was pretty darn funny. Tim Cook was suitably channeling his inner Steve Jobs. The crowd was enthusiastic and the energy in the room was high. Then Tim ran through the astounding numbers touting the unprecedented success of the company and its products. After that, it was time for one of those heartwarming videos that Apple does so well... informative and inspiring without being sappy or tacky. And then? Off to what people really want to see.
I need a new laptop to replace my aging, banged-up MacBook Pro, so I was understandably excited when Phil Schiller took the stage. I wanted so badly to have a machine with the power and 15-inch screen-size of a MacBook Pro, but the thinner form, lower weight, and fantastic SOLID STATE HARD DRIVE from the MacBook Air. At first, I didn't think I was going to get it, because Phil just rambled off expected bumps in speed and features for the existing models. But then something happened...
Introducing the MacBook Pro with Retina Display... AND ALL THE STUFF I WANTED IN A NEW LAPTOP! Thinner? Lighter? Faster? Quieter? SOLID STATE HARD DRIVE?!? Yes please. I am now officially poor, as there was no way I could pass up on something that will save me a lot of time, money, and agony when trying to work while on the road...
• MAC OS X - MOUNTAIN LION
Call me jaded, but it seems as though innovation is coming a lot slower to Apple's desktop products than their mobile products. In fact, the features shown for OS X that interest me most were those that make it easier to go from my laptop to my iOS mobile devices. Where are the compelling new OS X features that are redefining the non-mobile user experience? I dunno. Instead we get tighter integration with Twitter and Facebook. Whee. Don't get me wrong, any improvements or new features are appreciated)... especially for a jaw-dropping $20 price tag... but come on. This was kinda lame. Especially when you take a look at what Microsoft is up to for their next OS.
• iOS 6
Uhhh... yeah... it all sounds great. BUT I HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THIS FALL?!? I'm assuming that this release date will coincide with the release of a new iPhone, but sheesh.
In any event, the new features really do sound great. The new maps look fantastic (and apparently the data is served up by TomTom, so they're be functional too!). Siri just keeps getting better. FaceTime over cellular and Mail "pull-to-refresh" are long overdue. Passbook is going a long way towards helping people lighten their wallet. The new integration with Twitter and Facebook is nifty. And the Accessibility enhancements are GOLDEN when configuring iOS products for non-techies.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE "PHONE" PART OF iPHONE?!?
I still think it is embarrassing (and fucking stupid) that there's no auto-redial on my iPhone. WHY?!? Why in the hell would such an obvious and useful feature keep getting the shaft at Apple? Insanity! But at least they are addressing my long-standing complaints regarding having some control over your incoming calls. They call it "Do Not Disturb"...
FINALLY... AT LONG LAST... I will be able to block unimportant calls and mute non-essential notifications when I don't want to deal with the shit. LIKE WHEN I'M SLEEPING! And, from what I can see, it looks pretty smart. Apparently you can one-touch do not disturb AND have an automatic do not disturb schedule going... hopefully both at the same time.
And that's all she wrote. No new iPhone... yet. No new desktop Macs... yet. No new iToast... yet.
I guess there's always next year.
Posted on April 5th, 2012
I've been so busy that I haven't had time to play with the new iPad (third generation) much. That's a darn shame, because it's kind of expensive to just have sitting around on my nightstand. I had to get one for the apps I help develop, so what can I do but sink even more money into Apple's ample coffers? The latest iPad has an all-new hi-res screen, and I have to be sure that stuff I design looks good on it. Otherwise, the iPad3 didn't look to bee much different than the iPad2, so I probably wouldn't have bought one otherwise.
Except, now that I've had a chance to read my comic books on it, I would totally have spent the money on it. I've read a few reviews in the press bitching about how iPad3 wasn't enough of an improvement over iPad2 for Apple to have bothered... which I now know is a huge load of bullshit. If you do any reading on iPad, this is a complete game-changer. Four-times the pixels make for a hundred times better screen, and I am loving it more than I ever thought possible.
The screen is so crisp and clear that I can now read ComiXology "CMX-HD enhanced" pages full-screen without having to zoom in on the individual panels...
Now, when looked at on a "regular resolution" computer screen, the change may appear subtle. But when reduced four-fold, the "SD" panel on the bottom becomes a blurry mess that's a bit difficult to read. The "CMX-HD" panel on the top, however, is razor sharp on iPad3.
So now the iPad is a real option for reading comics. Yes, the screen size is smaller than a "regular" comic book, but it's bigger than a digest, which is perfectly acceptable. And, unlike a digest, you can zoom in and see details if you want without having to find a magnifying glass.
So, my hat is once again off to Apple for once again making an awesome product even more amazing. iPad2 was already leagues above any of the competing "tablets" I've had a chance to play with, but this is entering a whole new dimension, as this snapshot from Apple's website demonstrates...
A few things...
Otherwise, for the most part, iPad3 is pretty much the same as iPad2. Which is not a bad thing at all, because iPad2 was so kick-ass. Indeed, when it comes to comparing it with all the tablets I've seen, Apple has the only game in town. Sure iPad is a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for, and what you get is pretty darn amazing.
It's products like iPad3 that make it so dang easy to be an Apple Whore.
Posted on November 17th, 2011
And so tomorrow I'm flying to Atlanta.
Assuming the snow that's been forecast doesn't close down the airport. That would be a huge problem for me. On the bright side, being stuck at home would mean I could stay in bed all day. I've been working from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed every day for the past three weeks, so I could use a break.
Hopefully all will go as planned, in which case I'll just have to take my break on the plane. I've become addicted to digital comics, so I've got a bunch of those loaded up on my iPad... along with episodes of the Hey That's My Hummus podcast... so I should be good to go.
Well, maybe not "good" to go... probably more like "good enough" to go.
In other iPad news, one of the best iPad games ever, Ticket to Ride, has been shrunk down to fit on the iPhone with Ticket to Ride Pocket. It only has the USA map, and internet play is absent, but it's a very good translation (and you can still play against somebody on iPad/iPhone/iPod locally via Wireless or Bluetooth!). I thought the game would be hard to play on the small screen but, thanks to the iPhone's Retina Display, it's actually quite easy...
If only I had time to play it.
And now it's probably time to pretend I don't have insomnia and go to bed.
I've got a long day tomorrow.
Posted on July 19th, 2011
Getting a whole six hours sleep last night (pharmaceutically-induced, alas) was everything I dreamed it would be.
Anyway, just a few things I keep forgetting to review...
• Chilly Pad! A while back I was shopping for a soldier at AnySoldier.com (which I talk about here and here) when I was told about a product by Frogg Toggs called "Chilly Pad." It was billed as some kind of "cooling towel" that sucks the heat away via evaporation. That sounded like a load of crap to me, but who am I to deny a soldier something to make his life easier... especially if it only costs $12? Just for kicks, I ordered one for myself too.
Imagine my shock when, holy crap, it actually works!
Just pour some water on it and be amazed as the super-evaporation cells go to work, causing the darn thing to become cool to the touch! Amazing! For the ultimate test, I wore one around my neck on my trip to Waverly Hills where there was a heat index of 105° and was pretty darn comfortable the entire time. I now keep one in the trunk of my car and will always have them on hand to send with my AnySoldier care packages. Worth checking out! I got mine at Sports Authority, but I'm sure they're available other places too.
• Spotify! Europeans have been enjoying the music mega-service Spotify for years, but Americans have been left out. Until now. For those unfamiliar, Spotify has a massively huge database of music available for streaming. In order to get at it, you have to sign up for an account. Free accounts are ad-supported and have a song limit. Unlimited accounts ($4.99/mo.) are ad-free, allow unlimited songs to be streamed, and have added sharing and organizational features. Premium accounts ($9.99/mo.) have even more features (like the ability to listen offline and stream to your mobile phone) and better sound quality. Free accounts weren't available yet, so I went for the $4.99/mo. Unlimited package.
The biggest selling point of Spotify is that they have a plain crazy-huge collection of songs. They pretty much boast that they have any track you want...
Except they really don't. There are many songs both obscure and popular I wanted to listen to which aren't available. That alone is a bummer, but what makes it unbearable is that a big chunk of their library is karaoke versions of songs, and every frickin' search you make is literally overwhelmed with karaoke crap I have absolutely no interest in.
Here's an example. Today I wanted to listen to Miley Cyrus's The Time of Our Lives (don't judge until you listen to it... it's a nice song!). Spotify doesn't have it available. What they do have is four karaoke versions...
WTF? And it gets worse when you do more generic searches like "Hall & Oates" where you get all kinds of karaoke shit mixed in. After a while, I figured out that you can do restrictive searches to cut out karaoke. Well, most karaoke... not all karaoke songs are described properly...
This should be an option in preferences to get rid of karaoke tracks if you don't want to see them, but I couldn't find one so I have to instead add "-karaoke" to every search, which is a pain in the ass. Other irritations? The Spotify app is clutzy and unintuitive compared to the iTunes interface I'm used to. I've also experienced "outages" of a sort, where certain artists simply will not play. Today I tried for quite a while to listen to Weird Al's new Alpocalypse album without success.
As you might guess, my final verdict is more negative than positive. I will be happy to keep my free account for occasional ad-supported listening, but I'm going to cancel my $4.99 "Unlimited" membership. Perhaps eventually they'll address my issues and I'll find it worthwhile, but for now I'm giving it a pass.
• Suits! Burn Notice. White Collar. Covert Affairs. Fairly Legal. Psych. When it comes to successes, USA Network has a pretty good track record for airing some really good television shows. Because of this, I'm willing to give any new show they come up with a shot. Their latest, Suits, sounded good on paper... but I wasn't sure how it was going to play out on the screen...
The story premise is that of a very smart guy with a photographic memory, Mike Ross (played by Patrick J. Adams) who tries to escape his dicey past by going to work at a prestigious law firm. He passed the bar on a dare, but doesn't have a law degree. His new boss (played by Gabriel Macht) is impressed enough to hire him anyway. The result is an uneasy partnership that is beneficial to both of them, even if they have to hide Mike's true nature from everybody at the firm.
And it works.
It works very well.
The cast is fantastic (Gina Torres!), the writing is sharp, the stories are smart, and the show as a whole is entertaining. My only concern is how long they can keep the premise interesting. Will people eventually find out about Mike? Will his scary past catch up with him? In all honesty, it doesn't really matter, and I hope they don't keep hanging the show on them when there's no need to do so.
Right now? Highly recommended. Only time will tell if they can keep it that way.
• Fotopedia! If you're a fan of travel photography and have an iOS device, run... don't walk... to the iTunes Store and grab everything you can from Fotonauts. Their Fotopedia apps have always been great, but the new stuff they've been cranking out has been amazing. North Korea (free) and Dreams of Burma (free) are well worth your time... but their latest collaboration with National Geographic, Above France ($2.99) is stunning...
They work on iPhone but, obviously, have a better presentation on iPad. Highest possible recommendation.
And now... bed. And hopefully another night of half-way decent sleep.
Posted on June 6th, 2011
Well smack my ass and call me Sally... it's Bullet MONDAY?!? Given all the crazy crap that's gone on since yesterday, I guess it's going to have to be!
• STEEEEEEVE! I don't know what it is about a Steve Jobs keynote event that brings out my maternal instincts, but every time I see one I end up thinking about how much I'd like to have Steve Jobs' baby. Today's spiffy keynote from Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference was no exception. So much cool stuff in the pipeline for all my Apple Whore toys... including Mac OS X Lion... iOS 5... and the all-new iCloud service...
I could spend the next half-hour writing about the many new features which had me soiling myself with happiness, but that's a full-load in my pants that nobody wants to hear about. Might be better if everybody just watched the Stevenote for themselves and decide which features are worth freaking over.
• WEEEEEEINER! And so Representative Anthony Weiner now admits he's a freaky-ass pervert who likes to send shirtless photos and pictures of his schlong to young ladies. A few thoughts...
If I was in this good of shape, I'd send photos like this to everybody I know. Everybody.
So... to sum up... whatever. Color me disappointed, but not surprised. These asshole politicians don't seem to know how to act any other way. About the only positive thing I can say is that at least he wasn't a total hypocrite here. It's not like he railed against homosexuals and was then caught trying to hook up for gay sex in a bathroom somewhere. In any event... way to stay classy, Representative Weiner.
• LEEEEEE! In much sadder news... Lee J. Ames has died. You may not know who he was, but I assure you that you've undoubtedly seen the result of his efforts. In fact, since you are looking at this blog, I can guarantee it! Mr. Ames is famous for his art instruction books, of which I am a massively huge fan...
He has an uncanny knack of being able to effortlessly break down objects to base elements, and his "Draw 50" series of books taught me to see things this same way. Lil' Dave... Bad Monkey... and most everything I've ever drawn here... it's all using techniques I first learned from studying Lee J. Ames. As with all things which are done well, his books still hold up even today. If you know a kid who is interested in learning how to draw, you could do a lot worse than to track down these wonderful publications at your local library or art store. Rest in peace, Lee... and thank you.
• BULL SHEEEEEET! So much for the separation of Church and State. Such fucking bullshit.
• SLAAAAAAAAYER! It's the International Day of Slayer today!
♫ The root of all evil is the heart of a black soul... a force that has lived all eternity! ♫ A never ending search for a truth never told... the loss of all hope and your dignity! ♫
Annnnd... now I have to spend a couple of hours preparing for another long, hard day of work in the morning.
I'd add a long, hard photo here to drive that point home, but I think we've all seen enough wieners for a while.
Posted on May 23rd, 2011
Tomorrow I leave for Chicago. And, despite having work piled so high that even light cannot escape its gravitational pull, I just spent the last 90 minutes playing Ticket to Ride. That game is SO addicting. Like crack cocaine. Or so I've heard. If I didn't already have an iPad, I'd probably end up buying one just to play this game.
I finally had to pull myself away from playing with trains so I could write in this blog.
Thanks a lot, blog.
In the interest of full-disclosure, however, I should tell you that I am not really concentrating on whatever it is I'm writing here. Most of my brain is still playing Ticket to Ride.
For example, when I typed the words "Tomorrow I leave for Chicago," I immediately started thinking of what route I would take to get to Chicago if I were playing the game. In case you're curious, it would probably look something like this...
Then I find myself compelled to count how many cities I haven't been to (Six: Winnepeg, Sault Ste. Marie, Duluth, Omaha, El Paso, and Helena). And note which are the most connected cities (Helena, Denver, and Pittsburgh). And worst connected (Vancouver, Las Vegas, and Boston). And calculate which route would be the most disastrous if your opponent blocked you (Seattle to Portland, which goes from one train car to fifteen).
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Like I said, my brain won't stop playing.
Maybe it will stop if I play just one more game?