My iOS App Picks for 2014 – iOS Photo Apps

I tend to keep my photography over on iPadDarkroom, but since I’m writing about iOS photo apps that I’ve discovered or have dominated my work this year, it seemed fitting to look at apps that have influenced my photo work.

You’ve likely seen some work created with these apps before, but they’re worth profiling again as my picks because they’ve stood head-and-shoulders above the other apps in the photo editor / filter space.

So, on to the apps… Continue reading “My iOS App Picks for 2014 – iOS Photo Apps”

My iOS App Picks for 2014 – eBook Readers

It’s that time of year again — the year is ending, coming to a close. And we often take time to look back at things we’ve done. In my case, I thought I’d look back at the iOS apps that have most engaged me over the last year.

I’ll basically select a ‘winner’ and a ‘runner up’, and give a few reasons why the app captured my attention and interest.

So, without further preamble, here’s my first category and selections: Continue reading “My iOS App Picks for 2014 – eBook Readers”

Captain on the bridge

About a year or so ago I downloaded a nifty little PC game called Artemis – Starship Simulator.

Actually, that name’s a bit misleading — it’s more of a Star Trek bridge crew simulator. There are other reviews that cover it better, but suffice it to say it’s a cool game to bring to a LAN party or a friends place where you have easy access to the network and a fist-full of laptops. Great if you have access to all that gear, but not that great for a quick and spontaneous game with friends.

Today I discovered the iOS version, and my above comment is nullified.

The iOS version of Artemis works and plays with the PC version, yet does it all on an iPad — even my original iPad 1 running iOS 5.


Each bridge position is controlled from one iPad, though with a quick settings change you can control multiple positions with on a single iPad.

The really cool thing is that an iPad can even act as the game server.


Now, Artemis is not a game for everyone. It’s really a collaborative starship combat simulator, but if you’ve got a few friends and a few iPads, it’s now much easier to host a pickup game on gamenight.

Shields up! Red Alert! Arm photon torpedoes, we’re going in!

Immelmann your way to victory in Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol for iOS

After checking out PocketTactic’s piece on the limited (to Canada) release of a new Sid Meier game, I thought I’d take a little time tonight and check out Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol for iOS, especially there’s not a lot of game info either on 2K’s page (they’re the publisher) nor on FireAxis’s page (they’re the developer).

Basically Ace Patrol is a turn based World War I air combat game — in the style of the old Avalon Hill games from late in the last century. You move your aircraft a hex or two at a time during your turn, maybe shooting, and then your opponent does the same.

Actually Ace Patrol kinda reminds me of Richthofen’s War in some of the missions and turn mechanics.

Unlike Richtofen’s War, turn progress happens much quicker with missions unfolding in a campaign sequence mirroring major battles of The Great War.

I’m not going to write a full-up review as the world-wide release of the game doesn’t happen until May 9th. For some reason, the Canada iTunes store was selected to test-launch the title so is available there currently. So I’ll  just touch on a few of the things I found interesting about my brief play with the game.

  • Jaunty music — I rather liked the soundtrack. Cool music and, if you stay on the store or other static menus, you hear some sort of aviation background chatter and noise after the music ends.
  • Good graphics — the aircraft are kinda cartoony, but overall it works. The map is rendered nicely and the animations are pretty smooth.
  • User Interface – the 3d rotation around your aircraft and the battle is intuitive and essential to understanding what’s happening in the flying furball of combat.
  • Four nations and campaigns — An abridged British campaign comes free with the game. The complete British campaign and three others are available as in-app purchases.
  • The turn-based movement mechanic forces you to think a few turns ahead and attempt to anticipate the flow of battle.
  • Single and multi-player through turn handoff or local network play.

So yeah, to summarize, Ace Patrol is fun, and yeah, I’ll be playing it quite a bit more, and perhaps investing in some of the additional content through the in-app purchases.

Whoops! Almost forgot the price breakdown of  some of the in-app purchases, followed by a cool gameplay video ( 20+ minutes!)

 

Review: Griffin Beacon Universal Remote Control (iOS version)

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The Griffin Beacon universal remote control is an interesting device. It’s a little bit larger than an Apple TV2 (or a hockey puck if that’s closer to your frame of reference) but it’s got an odd, Zen-like IR ‘stone’ on the top that’s where the control signals come from. Not your everyday IR blaster.

On Paper
Using Bluetooth to talk to your mobile device (iOS or Android) it uses the smarts of your device to manage your home entertainment systems. All well and good, but wait, there’s more! It’s not just the Beacon alone doing the work…

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Well, actually a very cool app called dijit does the heavy lifting. The dijit – Beacon pair is quite powerful, with dijit not only bringing listings and management to your mobile device, it also brings social to your TV viewing with content discovery and social sharing. The duo:

  • Transforms iPhones and other iOS devices into an easy-to-use, never-lost remote for home entertainment systems
  • Converts Bluetooth signals from iOS device into infrared signals required to control AV components
  • Beacon connects compatible iOS device via Bluetooth with Dijit’s free Universal Remote App
  • iOS device’s MultiTouch screen display becomes the remote with Dijit’s Intuitive Program Guide, allowing users to change channels, volume, input, program DVR and much more
  • Dijit App uses a constantly updated device code library to make setting up controls for TV, set-top box, sound system, media player and more, simple and intuitive
  • For components not yet included in Dijit’s library, the App also includes an integrated learning feature
  • Beacon’s low-profile design blends unobtrusively with any coffee table decor
  • Powered by 4 AA batteries, eliminating messy wires and power cables

In Practice
Getting the Beacon setup and running is a pretty simple job of installing the included 4 AA batteries, paring the Beacon with the Bluetooth on your mobile device, and installing and running the dijit control software.

Then it’s a simple matter of letting the dijit software know which components you want to control, and binding those components to activities.

For example, to watch TV, I need to turn on my receiver, my set top box, and my TV. I had to configure those devices in dijit, then bind them to an activity (Watch TV). You also can configure the layout of your ‘custom’ mobile remote control in your mobile device — reducing the number of buttons to just the critical ones needed for any specific activity.

A similar process is used to define other activity and device combinations. Pretty simple once you get the hang of it, and I like the ability to customize the layout of the remote control buttons.

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I had the iOS unit to review, and it easily hooked up to my first-gen iPad as well as my iPhone 4s. On the iPad, I really appreciated the extra screen space to display TV programming information and social media content.

Since the Beacon runs on AA batteries, it’s portable, which means you can move to various rooms if you have more than one entertainment centre.

The unfortunate downside is that the Beacon doesn’t have an AC adapter, which means that every so often, about as often as a handheld remote, you’ll be replacing 4 AA batteries when the Beacon fails to respond. Which may or may not be a big thing for you.

Watching TV
In the end, this is a pretty cool unit. I must admit, it took a bit of retraining for me to start looking at my iPhone or iPad for TV programming information, rather than using the device as a remote to control the set-top box’s menu system. But once I got over that niggle, using the Beacon and dijit software is actually quite natural.

So if you’re looking for an inexpensive master / universal remote control unit for your home entertainment system, you may just want to check out the Griffin Beacon and dijit combination.
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Review: Logitech Harmony 900 Universal Remote Control

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All things in life, as with the Force, have a Light Side and a Dark Side. The Logitech Harmony 900 Universal Remote Control has both.

A bit of a background
I have a history with Logitech Harmony remotes and currently own a Logitech Harmony 720. I’ve always found them challenging to program and set up. As well, in my experience, Logitech has never really succeeded in pairing ‘Activities’ (watching TV, listening to streamed music, etc) with my devices or components. My wife sets up and maintains our current Harmony remote — I get frustrated with it. :smileyvery-happy:

So, when I was offered the chance to take a look at the Logitech Harmony 900 I was curious. Has Logitech been able to address my concerns? Let’s find out… Continue reading “Review: Logitech Harmony 900 Universal Remote Control”