Tempting — Battlelore: Command

Yeah, this little gem looks pretty cool. Yes, it comes in a bit  pricy at under $10, but then again, it looks like there’s some ser­i­ous game­play value.

The fine folks at Pock­etTactics pulled togeth­er a rather pos­it­ive review:

I’m start­ing to feel a bit spoiled. Ser­i­ously, what was the last major board game release that ended up a dud? It sure as hell isn’t Battle­L­ore: Com­mand, the latest release from Fantasy Flight Games, which, des­pite a major omis­sion, is still a strong con­tender for digit­al board game of the year.

If you’re a fan of board games or just strategy games in gen­er­al, Battle­L­ore: Com­mand is going to trip all your trig­gers.

How your mobile phone or tablet could save your life

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Believe it or not, there are many ways your mobile smart phone could be used when you find your­self in the middle of an emer­gency situ­ation,  aside from the obvi­ous — mak­ing a phone call for emer­gency assist­ance, I mean.

The recent events in Japan and New Zea­l­and have shown that when dis­aster strikes, get­ting the most accur­ate inform­a­tion is likely the best way to make choices that could save your life.

Browser
Provided the event hasn’t taken out the loc­al mobile net­work, your mobile phone’s browser will help, link­ing you with many loc­al, nation­al, and inter­na­tion­al news ser­vices, as well as many dif­fer­ent chan­nels of com­mu­nic­a­tion (email, voice chat, twit­ter, etc).

Hard­ware
f1.jpgBut there are oth­er ways your smart phone can help. For example, many smart phone’s dis­play screens are bright enough to be used as a make­shift flash­light when the power goes out. Col­or Flash­light is a lead­ing Android app and Flash­light 4 is one of the most pop­u­lar ones in Japan right now.

As well, most phones these days know where they are in the world, either by tri­an­gu­lat­ing between com­mu­nic­a­tions towers, wifi sources, or built-in GPS sys­tems. Tie this in with any of the pop­u­lar map­ping applic­a­tions and you have a good visu­al under­stand­ing of where you are. Help­ful when you have to find an altern­ate route or trans­port­a­tion sys­tem in an unfa­mil­i­ar city.

An app for that? You bet!
As you can ima­gine, there are many things that you could need in an emer­gency. And, of course, there are some apps that can help.

Dur­ing the Tsunami warn­ings fol­low­ing the Japan earth­quake, inform­a­tion like that provided by this Hawaii­an-developed Dis­aster Alert app helped keep islanders informed about the impend­ing waves.

And after an event, find­ing people and shel­ter is a pri­or­ity.

Google launched their Google Per­son Find­er dur­ing the Christ­ch­urch earth­quake, and updated it for the Japan event.

And the Amer­ic­an Red Cross has released their free Shel­ter View app.

So as you can see, with just a few book­marks, per­haps an hour of app-store brows­ing, and a few dol­lars invest­ment, you can have a pretty good emer­gency pre­pared­ness kit all tucked neatly into your mobile data phone.

I think it’s time I star­ted on mine, what have I missed that I should add?
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

Protecting your tech

When ever I get a new tech device, espe­cially one that’s small, port­able, and has a dis­play screen, I imme­di­ately look to pro­tect­ing that screen and device. I’m kinda clumsy at times, and any­thing that can pro­tect my hard­ware from *me* is a worth­while invest­ment. I dropped my iPod Touch down the stairs last year, without a case, and the screen developed a hair­line crack that killed about 2% of the pixels. The Touch works fine oth­er­wise, but it’s annoy­ing to have to deal with that flawed dis­play part.

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Pro­tec­tion
On my cam­era, I pro­tec­ted the view-screen with a clear adhes­ive pro­tect­or.

In the past, with my vari­ous Palm devices, I’d gone with an alu­mini­um-lined leath­er book-style case, and a clear adhes­ive plastic screen pro­tect­or.

For my iPod Touch, I have a simple leath­er pouch, and my wife has a flip-style case — also with an alu­mini­um pan­el over the screen, and a rather nifty full-body ‘skin’ from BestSkinsEver.com. It’s trans­par­ent, made from rein­for­cing plastic used in heli­copter blades, and very tough.

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For my iPad, I opted for a port­fo­lio-style leath­er case from Fossil, and a full body clear skin sim­il­ar to the one on my wife’s iPod Touch. She’s got an Apple sil­ic­one iPad case.

Defence in depth
So you see a bit of a pat­tern here. I’m using two lay­ers of pro­tec­tion on my devices; a robust and shock-absorb­ing case to carry the device in, and a clear pro­tect­ive skin to pro­tect the unit from scratches and wear. The skins make it easi­er to keep the devices clean, and I have less worry when using them in a mobile envir­on­ment — if the skin gets too scratched, simply peel it off and replace it.

Your turn, how do you pro­tect your mobile devices?



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

Desktop, mobile or web app?

Twit­ter is in the midst of rolling out it’s new, all-encom­passing inter­face, and I’ve been able to take a look at it in ‘pre­view’ mode.

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My ver­dict: quite nice, but it won’t replace desktop twit­ter apps for me, just yet. Tweet­deck and See­smic Desktop both offer great­er func­tion­al­ity than the new Twit­ter inter­face.

Though I’ve not delved into every nook and cranny of the new Twit­ter look, the one short­fall that imme­di­ately came appar­ent was the way con­tent is presen­ted. I like the multi-pane look of Tweet­deck, and really enjoy being able to scan-at-a-glance all the con­tent com­ing in through vari­ous filtered streams.

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The Twit­ter web inter­face just doesn’t offer that. If you’re inter­ested in more of what the new Twit­ter inter­face has to offer, read on to the bot­tom; I’ve inser­ted the ‘offi­cial’ video there for your review :smileyhappy:

Mov­ing to mobile, Twit­ter cer­tainly has raised the bar on the iPad app — it blows everything else I’ve used on the iPad out of the water!

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For me, the coolest fea­ture is the integ­rated web view of any web­site or photo links embed­ded in tweets. Someone spent some time think­ing about how people will want to use Twit­ter on the iPad. Essen­tial.

But that’s just me. If you’ve got access to the new Twit­ter inter­face, what do you think? And how ‘bout mobile? Are you a Tweet­Deck-every­where type of user, or do you mix and match? Let us know what and why in the com­ments!



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