iOS 7 Launch – A busy day today

iOS 7 will be released later today, and I’m looking forward to it!

Update: But first, a public service announcement. Don’t forget to BACKUP YOUR DATA (thanks for the reminder Ryan!) Here’s a great how-to from Apple’s support site.

From what I’ve seen, this update of the venerable iOS operating system will be the best yet, not in terms of huge technological leaps and flashy features, rather in terms of subtle usability improvements that really make sense, such as the new way your pictures are grouped, and AirDrop (ok, that’s a new feature for iOS, but it has existed awesomely in OS X).

One thing I’m not so certain of yet, is the number of clicks it seems to take to do certain things, such as back out of a folder in multitask view. I was kind of hoping there’d be a swipe command to get you back to the top level of the desktop, not a button press. My thinking is that buttons can wear out, but the multi-touch swipe tech will last longer.

As well, this week you’ll have noticed a flurry of application updates as developers get their software ready for today’s launch of iOS 7. Being interested in electronic music and photography, here’s a couple of useful articles on upgrading and app compatibility:

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see real-world experiences as iOS 7 goes live later today. If you’re upgrading and feel like sharing, let me know what you think!

How-To: Streaming stuff around your house

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In this increasingly wireless world, it seems odd that it’s actually kinda difficult to get music or other media from one device to another.

In my case, I have photos, movies and music all stored on a central storage device on my network — a Network Attached Storage device, or NAS.

Getting to that media easily with other devices means I have to have a something running and acting as a server to manage access to the media. In my case, it’s a small windows based computer that acts as the server.

Or should I say ‘servers’ because to get my media streamed around the house is a feat that requires more than just one piece of software.

ituneslogo.jpgLet’s start with iTunes
I have that running  and sharing its library (which is pointed at the media on the NAS). iTunes allows any other copy of iTunes running on my network (and that I’ve enabled Home Sharing on) to see the shared library and use the media on it.

So now any computer running iTunes can play music from my shared iTunes library. This means my Apple TV (2nd Gen) can see my media library too.

But moving a computer from soundsystem to soundsystem is a little clunky, so read on, gentle reader, read on.

iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
It’s fairly easy to plug your iDevices into most home sound system these days, so I won’t go into details on that, but that’s how I get the music to the room I want listen in.

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WiFi2HiFi

Now things get a bit more complex. Streaming media to these devices requires another piece of server software running on that server box. And a matching application on the iOS device.

The iDevice is the receiver, and the Server is, erm, the server.

There are currently three solid iOS receiver apps (and matching free server software):

With all three, the basic principal is the same:

1) Point the server software (on the PC) at the directories you want to share with the iOS devices
2) Let the server software build a catalogue

Now things get a bit different
With Air Video and Stream To Me, you just:
3) Point the app (on your iOS device) at your server (usually using an IP address).

If you’re using WiFi2HiFi, it’s easier — you just start the server software, and it automatically detects your iOS device with the app running and streams all your computer’s audio to it. So whatever you’re playing on your computer will be streamed to the iOS device.
4) With Stream-To-Me and Air Video, you have more control. The matching server software lets you view your media libraries and select the media you’d like to stream.

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Stream-To-Me

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Air Video

As of this writing, Air Video only streams video (with on the fly conversion or queued conversion), while Stream-To-Me sends most video and audio formats without conversion.

So depending on your needs, you’ve got hardware and software options for getting your media to you using your existing devices. Very cool, and convenient way to get your stuff to where you are.

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SoundCloud – Flickr for musicians?

SoundCloud Logo

Recently I’ve started poking around synthesizer and music technology on my iPad and desktop computer. I’ve not made anything noteworthy to share yet, but when I do, I’ll be using SoundCloud as one of my mediums to share.

Like Flickr you say?
SoundCloud is very much like Flickr — an online destination where members upload and share content.

In SoundCloud’s case, the content shared is sound – be it music or sound effects or whatever! If it’s audio and is uploadable, then you’ll find it on SoundCloud. And embeddable and shareable — here’s an example:

Smooth ipod (NanoStudio) by NiceThings

Community
Yep, now this is one of the important parts of both SoundCloud and Flickr — the communities that can develop around a particular member, or activity, or group.

Friends and Groups work as you’d expect them to. For example, there’s an online mobile music site called Palm Sounds — and they’ve got a Group on SoundCloud that I’ve joined.

In that group, I can listen to content that other members of that group have uploaded to SoundCloud and shared with the Palm Sounds group.

This is exactly the same way that Flickr handles groups and image sharing.

There are other similarities, but I leave that for you to explore for yourself if you’re interested.

I am, and you can find me on SoundCloud here — I’ve shared a couple of sound items, mostly things I’ve featured in past blog posts.

And if you’re on SoundCloud, give me a ping and let me know what you’re into!

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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When is an iPad not an iPad?

sj.jpgOk, perhaps it is actually “magical and revolutionary”. Or perhaps we’re just moving toward the day that yes, there really is an app for that.

Smart phones and tablet computers are set to explode this year, but what will really move the hardware is innovative software created by developers who can see beyond the traditional fare that is currently available on the software menu. Continue reading “When is an iPad not an iPad?”

Reinventing the Walkie Talkie

walkie.jpgBack in the day, this kind of thing was what people used to talk to each other over distances, using radio waves. You were limited by the power of the unit and the type and number of obstacles between you and the person you were talking with.

And generally, your conversation could be overheard by anyone else using a similar device.

Fast forward to this century and the digital dataphone. And this nifty Android & iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app called HeyTell, brings the Walkie Talkie concept up to date.

Simple, but it works
HeyTell is a simple app. On an iOS device (I assume it’s similar for Android), HeyTell uses your contact list to manage contacts and invite others to the app.

Using HeyTell is drop-dead simple:

1) Select the contact to speak with

2) Push the ‘Hold and Speak’ button
That’s it. The voice message is beamed to their device. They can talk back to you immediately.
And that’s the way it works. It’s not real-time two-way communication, rather staged delivery of voice messages… a great way to check in, update someone, when it’s not convenient or practical to send out an email.

And it’s free (excluding Internet charges).



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.


Little Screen:Big Screen

card_200.jpgIf you own an iPhone or iPod Touch, you may be a bit concerned about adding an iPad to your hardware arsenal. I know I was. Especially since I was dreading purchasing new HD versions of some of the games I’d already had running on my Touch. But I made the leap and have a few observations to share.

Sure, Apple promised you’d be able to ‘upsize’ the visuals — and yes, this is possible. And actually, the upscaled image in most of my games isn’t really all that bad.

Basically you hit a 2x button in the corner of your iPad and the unit zooms in to fill the screen with what was otherwise a very tiny (iPhone sized) display area in the centre of your iPad screen.

Since the iPad was released, some developers went back and made hybrid versions of the games, able to run on both the smaller Touch screen, and also able to recognize the larger iPad screen and select higher-resolution graphics when appropriate.

Now, what’s really cool is that some of those iPhone games actually play better on a larger iPad screen.

Carcassonne — an awesome board game and a pretty cool app. Playing this on the iPad is much closer to playing the board game than on a tiny iPod Touch screen. Having spent many hours playing it on the Touch, and a few more recently on the iPad, I won’t be going back to the smaller screen.

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Angry Birds & Plants VS Zombies — also great games when played on a larger screen. With Angry Birds I find I have much better control over the slingshot direction and angle than I did with the smaller screen. In PvZ, the advantage is that the subtlties of the animation and rendering are much more apparent. On the smaller screen, I’d not seen the Elvis Zombie’s classic moves.

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Of course, not all games scale appropriately. I found that driving or flying/space games that required you to hold and maneuver with the device the most problematic. The key problem being the weight of the iPad vs the iPhone or iPod Touch. Cranking through a banking space shooter with a 1.whatever pound steering wheel quickly gets tiring. And placement of the controls, while great for a smaller screen, require very large hands to seem natural on the iPad.

So, your mileage may vary, depending on the app and how the developers have (or haven’t) anticipated it appearing on different sized devices. Just be aware, that the games you’ve already bought may just work fine, or even better, on the larger screen.

Or, you could always just pick up the enhanced HD version for the larger device, if the upsampling really bugs you.


This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.