Three essential PDF readers for iPad

A while ago I wrote about ways to read PDF files on your iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. Well that post is showing it’s age, so rather than completely redo it, I thought I’d discuss my current three top PDF readers, and why.

GoodReader
GoodReader is my first choice, go-to PDF reader on my iPad.

First off, getting files into GoodReader. It’s simple, and supports iTunes file transfer, Network transfer via WiFi, or downloading from shared services such as;

  • DropBox
  • Google Apps
  • Mobile Me
  • SugarSync
  • FTP servers

Next, it’s under active development, with frequent new features, updates and bugfixes.

As expected GoodReader supports PDF and TXT files, but it can also display all of the most popular file types including:

  • MS Office – .doc, .ppt, .xls and more
  • iWork’08/’09
  • HTML and Safari webarchives
  • High resolution images
  • Audio & Video playback in some formats

Yes, GoodReader is my PDF reader of choice. But, there are cases where an alternative is important. Enter…

CloudReaders
This is a more simplistic app that I use primarily for reading graphic novels and comic-book files. Some are in PDF format and others in CBZ or CBR format.

CloudReaders allows WiFi upload by running a small server that you connect to using your desktop computer. Here’s some of the cooler features of CloudReaders:

  • Multi-task support
  • Rotation lock
  • iPhone/iPod/iPad touch support
  • Automatically add books when files were transferred via iTune application
  • Auto page alignment (on iPhone/iPod touch)
  • Smoothing (from Settings app)
  • Default page-orientatin (from Settings app)

As a free eReader and PDF reader, it’s a bargain. There’s also an in-app purchase that allows you to share (via P2P) with other local CloudReaders users. Very neat.

Stanza
This is my go-to eBook reader on the iPad, and has been one I’ve used on the iPod Touch previously.

I’d written about it here, and it’s still a solid app you should check out, especially since it’s free!

Need a mic? Find a Yeti.

In the last few years it’s gotten a bit easier to use a microphone to record audio on your home computer — USB headsets with quality microphones have been available for a while, but only recently have USB desktop microphones oved out of the niche and specialty retailers into the mainstream, driven mostly by the development of podcasting and Garage Band recording systems.

But quality desktop microphones were expensive — the keyword there is were — now we’re seeing a bunch of new, high quality USB desktop microphones in the retailers at a much more reasonable price-point.

The Blue Yeti is one such microphone that has quickly developed a bit of a reputation for itself, in a good way, of course. So let’s take a look at some of the reasons the Yeti is getting some buzz.

All this on a microphone?
First off, the Yeti isn’t just a microphone. Inside the sturdy, heavy, burnished aluminium case is actually 3 condenser microphone capsules, strategically located to provide 4 recording patterns. I’ll get into those in a moment.

And it’s a THX certified microphone:

THX certification is either pass or fail. And product pricing is never a driving factor. If a product meets the THX testing standards, then certification is granted. With all of this testing from THX, the consumer is assured that the TV, receiver or speaker  system they are purchasing meets the highest standards for quality and compatibility right out of the box.

backcontrols.jpgAlso inside the unit all the hardware necessary to translate the analog audio into digital audio, and then pump it out the mini-USB port and into your computer.

This hardware includes a pre-amp (controlled by the Gain knob on the back) and a zero-latency headphone jack so you can monit or the microphone audio without having to plug your headphones into your computer, and  experience that annoying bit of audio lag (latency).

Three, no four mics in one.
Cap_300.jpg You see this neat shot of the three condenser mic capsules? Well the way the Yeti uses them is kinda cool, because these three mics working together give the Yeti the flexibility of four distinct microphone pickup patterns.

The illustration below shows the patterns and their best usages.

pattern.jpg

Mobile Recording Studio
One of the other reasons I wanted to take a look at the Yeti was to explore it’s functionality in a highly mobile environment — specifically how it worked when connected to the USB input in Apple’s Camera Connector Kit for the iPad.

1_500.jpg

By combining a high-quality microphone with some of the sophisticated digital audio editing software for iPad (such as MultiTrack DAW), a potentially powerful podcasting setup could be created.

3_500.jpg

Sweet Sounds
Yep, the Yeti works as a very nice and clean mic in a mobile situation.

I recorded some audio of my wife setting up her acoustic guitar, and while I’m no sound engineer, was quite impressed with the sound! Much better than any of the home / consumer mic’s I’d tried previously.

Stereo Normalized by bgrier

And, of course, I recorded the first paragraph of this blog post to give you an indication of what voice sounds like through the Yeti. The Yeti was connected through an inexpensive USB hub to the iPad, which was running Multitrack DAW. Yeti gain was up a bit, and the mic was set into the Cardioid pattern.

Yeti Mic Test by bgrier

Then Apple Changed Things
Sadly, in the last OS update, Apple changed the way power was supplied through the Camera Connector Kit USB port — and the Yeti stopped working *when connected directly to the iPad*.

The workaround is that you now need to put a powered USB hub between the Yeti and your iPad in order for the system to work again.

Mostly Mobile
So, as things stand, I’ve got a mostly mobile recording and podcast studio.  The one major drawback with the Yeti is it’s heft – it weighs in at 1.85kg.

Add to that the need for a powered USB hub now, and things are a bit more complicated — but not enough that I’d not consider using the Yeti / Hub / iPad combination in a mobile setting.

Need a mic? Find a Yeti.
If you compare prices on similar mics, you’ll find the Yeti extremely inexpensive — considering the number of additional features you get built in (multi-pattern, THX certification, internal Pre-amp, etc), well worth a serious look, or listen.

[ad#Future Shop Post Attribution]

Looking for a smart phone? Consider the Palm Pre 2. Seriously.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been checking out the Palm Pre 2 — the next generation keyboard / touch screen dataphone from HP. Previously I’d not considered a webOS phone much of a contender against the traditional leaders (Blackberry and iPhone), but this little unit changed my mind.

hp_palm_pre_2.jpg

In this review, I’ll touch on the things that appealed (or didn’t) to me about the unit. I won’t be going into a long description about each and every feature though, so if you’re interested in that, you can read more here.

For a $99 phone (with 3 year contract) there’s a lot going on inside this little black box. Continue reading “Looking for a smart phone? Consider the Palm Pre 2. Seriously.”

Boppin’ with the BeBot!

bebot.jpgiPad music and synth apps all seem to be trying to exactly replicate the
experience of using a real synthesizer or instrument, like Virtuoso Piano 3 .

Recently I discovered BeBot, an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad music app that breaks that stereotype.

According to the developer, BeBot is:

…Part synthesizer, part animated robot.

Touching the screen causes the robot to move and make sounds controlled by your movements. Play it like a musical instrument, or just have fun watching the robot and making sounds with your fingers.

Features 4-finger multitouch polyphony, multiple synthesis modes, user-definable presets and scales, tweakable synth settings and effects, and more!

And for me, this reads as pure fun! Robots! Synths! What more could you want.

Well, how ’bout a Theremin? Yep, the developers have built in a preset that emulates a Theremin pretty darn well.

Some will see this as a musical time-waster or toy, yet it can have serious musical applications. Check out the video  below of Jordan Rudess working the BeBot on an iPhone.

So, for $1.99, I’m thinking this is a pretty versitile piece of musical tech. How ’bout you? Got a favourite musical iOS  app? Let me know about it in the comments.

And, as an aside, check out this awesome video of a Theremin being used to play the Star Trek theme!


[ad#Future Shop Post Attribution]

My top Apps of 2010

bestapps.jpgEveryone’s got a Top ‘something’ of the year list, so I thought I’d jump in with my picks for Top Apps of 2010 — with a little twist; only one app, per platform, amongst the 3 platforms I use (Windows, iOS (iPad), and Internet). Yes, Internet, for my purposes is a platform — it’s mostly device agnostic, and had great new apps this year.

So, without further adiu…
Continue reading “My top Apps of 2010”

Kodak All-in-One is awesome asset in the digital darkroom

“Man that sucker’s huge”, was my first thought as I unboxed Kodak’s new flagship All-In-One photo printer. But that stands to reason, as the Kodak ESP 9250 All-in One Printer (henceforth known as ‘the 9250’ or ‘Kodak Unit’), does a lot more than just print.

k1.jpg

And that’s why it’s so hard to write about these Swiss army knife computing appliances — there’s so much that you’d use regularly (printing, scanning, copying), and the other things that you’d never use. In my case, it’ FAX — I don’t use it so I’m not going to talk about it :smileyhappy:

Continue reading “Kodak All-in-One is awesome asset in the digital darkroom”

Commerce in a post-Wikileaks economy

cc.jpgYou’ve likely seen the news that Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and others are under distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks by folk who feel that WikiLeaks headman Julian Assange is being persecuted for distributing sensitive information he’d received from others.

Setting aside that entire espionage, sex-by-surprise, persecution, journalism and right to information thing, what’s left is the hacking attempts — coordinated attacks on key points of the infrastructure of commerce. This, as we are in the midst of the holiday buying season. A juicy target indeed.

What’s happening
The coordinated attacks seem to be having some small effect on commerce. According to one report:

MasterCard, calling the attack “a concentrated effort to flood our corporate website with traffic and slow access,” said all its services had been restored and that account data was not at risk.

But it said the attack, mounted by hackers using simple tools posted on the Web, had extended beyond its website to payment processing technology, leaving some customers unable to make online payments using MasterCard software.

How it’s done
By using freely available tools to target and coordinate these attacks, *anyone* can join in the action. Find the right IRC server, download the tools, and turn them on — poof, you’re a ‘hack-tivist’ and  your computer (or computer network) is now part of a botnet:

The weapon of choice is a piece of software named a “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” (LOIC) which was developed to help Internet security experts test the vulnerability of a website to these assaults, the distributed denial of service attacks. The LOIC is readily and easily available for download on the Internet.

The LOIC can be controlled centrally by an administrator in an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel, a type of computer chat room; it can seize control of a network of computers and use their combined power in a DDoS attack. The attack is aimed at the target website and when the LOICs are activated they flood the website with a deluge of data requests at the same time.

The DDoS attack prevents the overloaded server from responding to legitimate requests and slows down the website to a crawl — or shuts it down totally. The attacks are coordinated in the IRC channel, and on Thursday, around 3,000 people were active on the Operation: Payback channel at one stage.

One side effect of all this is that the participants are also testing the limits of the commerce infrastructure for hackers and others who’s intentions may not be so noble as preventing a perceived injustice.

The impact
So what does this mean for retailers and customers in the next few weeks and months, and what does this mean for the future of online commerce?

  • Slow or blocked online commerce — if the servers are clogged, your online merchant may not be able to process your credit card or PayPal transaction, and can’t complete the sale
  • Increased attacks — depending on how this spate of incidents turns out, copy-cats will use the same techniques against new targets, or evolve their own methods and tools
  • Increased unease — new online consumers will have another reason to *not* shop online, preferring to continue shopping at brick and mortar shops as they’ll feel more secure
  • Increased security — essential to recover control of the commerce infrastructure and to demonstrate to consumers that online commerce works and is safe
  • Increased cost — better and tighter security isn’t free, so this ‘cost of doing business’ will be factored into the retail process, resulting in higher prices

The Genie is out of the bottle
Yep, the tools and techniques have been around for a while. It’s taken one event like this to catalyze a motivated and unconnected group of people around the world to participate in coordinated action. We will see more of this, maybe aimed at political institutions, national governments, or launched by environmental activists. Welcome to a new reality.