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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A Tale of Two RPGs

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Two cool Fantasy Role Playing Games have caught my attention lately on my iPad; The Battle for Wesnoth and Battleheart.

Yes, they’re both RPGs, but are so dissimilar in their approach and execution that they’re not really treading in each other’s space, so to speak. Here’s why…

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It’s Big
The Battle for Wesnoth (which I’ll call Wesnoth from now on) is a large, turn-based strategy-style RPG. Think back to the old-school versions of WarCraft and you’ve got it, without the hewing of trees or mining of gold.

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Now if this sounds a bit familiar, well it is. The iPad version of Wesnoth is a port (the official port) of the free Linux, MacOSX, and Windows version of the game.

According to the developer:

Battle for Wesnoth is the official port of a gigantic, complex and detailed full-scale strategy-RPG. We made sure that nothing was cut from the game, everything from flags flapping to skeletons juggling their heads, it’s all here!

Wesnoth is a unique combination of tactical strategy RPGs like Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Panzer General, and Final Fantasy Tactics. Using your hero, you need to capture villages to gain income, and recruit new units to do battle. These units gain experience through combat and can level up into powerful new classes. But make sure to protect your veteran troops, as they can be recalled throughout a campaign!

Yes, it’s big. And fun! And long!

  • Almost 200 campaign scenarios across 15 major campaigns – literally hundreds of hours of gameplay!!
  • Over 200 fully animated unit types in six major factions, all with distinctive abilities, weapons and spells
  • Experienced units gain powerful new abilities as they advance
  • Bring your battle-hardened troops with you as you fight through campaigns
  • Highly detailed and varied terrain graphics
  • Three levels of difficulty for casual to expert players
  • Cross-platform multiplayer matches against iPhone, PC, mac and linux players!
  • Professional music score with 90 minutes of original music
  • OpenFeint integration with achievements

Being turn-based, you have the luxury of time to carefully plot out your moves — not so in this next RPG!

Battleheart
Fun. Cute. Engaging. All words that easily describe my current quick-RPG-fix.
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Battleheart doesn’t really have a fleshed out story, rather it’s more of a RPG forest & dungeon crawl with a set of scenarios encountered by your hearty band of adventurers, here’s my crew.

You progress through the scenerairos, leveling up, collecting loot, finding and spending gold.

As with any good RPG, as you level up you get access to new powers and abilities. And as you get more gold, you can buy better weapons, armor, and magical objects to make your characters more powerful.

Create a unique party of heroes, and lead them in frantic real-time battles against monsters of ever increasing power. Lay waste to your foes with dozens of unique special powers as you gain experience, upgrade your party’s equipment, and craft them into the ultimate battle force!

  • Easily command your army via simple touch commands.
  • Create a unique party from numerous character classes, including stealthy rogues, powerful wizards and stoic knights!
  • Customize your heroes via dozens of unique skills – literally hundreds of class and skill combinations!
  • Make the most of your party’s skills to control the battlefield – turn your opponents into frogs, stun them with poisons, or simply destroy them with meteor strikes and whirlwinds of steel!
  • Over 100 unique items to collect and equip across a 30+ level campaign, complete with epic boss battles!
  • Put your custom party to the ultimate test in survival arenas, where rare and unique rewards can be found!
  • Incredibly sharp animation and art designed specifically for the Retina Display and iPad!

My crew having a BBQ…

A simple and quick game to get into, but one that becomes challenging after a few hours of game play, which it should as it continues to challenge you!

Two Games, for two game experiences
As I mentioned at the outset, these two RPGs are only similar in that they *are* RPGs. Which is great for me because when I tire of pushing my party-of-4 through the next scene in Battleheart, I can switch over to Wesnoth and slow things down a bit, while cranking up the strategy factor. More pure RPG fun!

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The Craft of iPad Music-making [Video]

Synth

Wondering what all the fuss is about with Apple announcing the iPad version of Garage Band? This video will help demonstrate.

From The Future of Music V: The Craft of iPad Music-making” event, February 3rd, 2011.

At this special evening event, attendees heard and saw the musical and visual results as leading electronic artists performed live. Harry Allen returned to moderate discussion between four cutting-edge artists: Peter Kirn, Oliver Chesler, Steve Horelick, and Joshue Ott.

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!

FX Photo Studio is a great addition to your iPad Darkroom

5388162366_abe71bf517_m.jpgIt seems that new photo capture and editing tools for Apple’s iOS devices are being released every day. Often they’re average quality tools available for a buck.
Continue reading “FX Photo Studio is a great addition to your iPad Darkroom”

DOS on the iPad? There’s an app for that.

5374144373_36b6e593f5_m.jpg[UPDATE – looks like Apple has pulled it from the app store again]

I’ve got a rather strange, yet family friendly habit — I tend to collect computer emulators; software written for hardware, that acts like older hardware in order to run older software.

With me so far?

Over the last few years, Apple has been slowly relaxing the emulation standards in the iTunes App store for emulator apps, witness the Commodore 64 and rumored
Amiga emulators — though sadly, I doubt we’ll ever see one for the Apple ][

In the last 6 months, a DOS emulator has appeared, disappeared, and now reappeared in the store. And it’s a pretty solid app. Continue reading “DOS on the iPad? There’s an app for that.”