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.

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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!


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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 — coördin­ated 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 coördin­ated 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 coördin­ate 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 coördin­ated 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 coördin­ated action. We will see more of this, maybe aimed at polit­ic­al insti­tu­tions, nation­al gov­ern­ments, or launched by envir­on­ment­al act­iv­ists. Wel­come to a new real­ity.