Monthly Archives: December 2010

Favorite Apps 2010

With only about an hour and 20 minutes left of 2010, I figured I’d write a post about my favorite iPhone and iPod Touch applications that I have used or heard about in 2010.

While not all of these applications came out in 2010, I still think they are worth mentioning, so here are my favorite iPhone applications of 2010: (in no particular order)

1. FaceBook

The FaceBook application for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad has made it easier to see what my friends and family are up to, as well as keep in touch with them on the go. Also, the FaceBook mobile application has made it easier to share photos on the go, as there is no need to upload any pictures to a computer first, as they can be uploaded on the fly.

2. Twitter

The Twitter application is on my list because it makes it easier to view and create Twitter status messages on the go. In addition, the application makes it easy to search for and follow other Twitter users, without having to go on a computer to do so. The Twitter mobile application, formally Tweetie, which used to cost $2.99, was acquired by Twitter in April of 2010 and released for free soon after.

3. FourSquare

FourSquare is a geolocation application that enables users to see the different places and venues that people, such as friends, family, and co-workers are checking into. Each time a user checks into a location, they are awarded a certain number of points. Also, users can earn different badges by doing and accomplishing different things, such as checking into 25 different venues.

The FourSquare user who checks in at a certain location the most is called the “mayor” of the location and in some instances, the mayor of a location can be offered deals by the venue. While not many of my friends and family use FourSquare, I still find it interesting to see where they are checking into, as well as fun to check in myself.

4. Shazam

Shazam is on the list because I find it to be really useful when you’re trying to find out the name of a song or perhaps the artist who created it. All you need to do is take out your phone, launch Shazam, and press the “Shazam” button, and the application listens to the song, sends the information, and then returns the name of the song, artist, as well as other information. There is also an option to purchase the song from iTunes, which is nice if you enjoy a particular song. All of the songs that you “tag” are available in a list, as well, which is also a nice feature.

There is a free version of Shazam, as well as two paid versions, Shazam Encore and (Shazam)RED, which donates money to help fight AIDS in Africa. Both Shazam Encore and (Shazam)RED can be downloaded for $4.99.

5. Instagram

Instagram is a relatively new service, which enables users to share photos that they have taken with or have on their iPhone or iPod Touch. However, unlike other photosharing applications, Instagram allows users to apply filters to their photos, changing the way they look. Like other social networking applications, users can follow each other, as well as comment and like the photos that their friends, family members, and co-workers have taken. People can also geotag their photos, as well as post links to them on websites, such as Twitter and FaceBook.

6. DailyBooth

The recently updated DailyBooth application makes it easy to view and post pictures to the DailyBooth website, which is a social networking website that enables users to post pictures of themselves. The second version of the DailyBooth iPhone application also allows users to comment on and like people’s photos, as well as view users’ profiles, in addition to other features.

6. Plants vs. Zombies

Plants vs. Zombies is a tower-defense style game where users have to place various plants around a backyard, in order to prevent a variety of different zombies from getting to a house.

However, zombies are able to eat the plants that are placed, so users have to be careful to prevent the zombies from getting to their house. As the levels progress, more plants become available for use, but more and different types of zombies also show up, so users have to keep on their toes to defeat the zombies and protect their house!

7. geoDefense

geoDefense is another tower-defense game, where users have to prevent a variety of different "creeps”, or creatures, from getting to the end of a specific track. In order to do this, users are provided with different types of towers, such as blasters and lasers, which damage and destroy the “creeps” that are trying to get through. Like Plants vs. Zombies, as the levels progress, the “creeps” get more and more difficult to defeat, so it creates a fun challenge to create a good defense.

8. The Sims 3

The Sims 3 is a fun game in the Sims series, in which you have to control a character that you create, performing everyday functions, such as cooking, going to work, and even going to the bathroom. Characters are able to obtain jobs, as well as play mini-games, some of which award money, which can be used to purchase new items and upgrades for the character’s house.

9. Tetris

The Tetris application, by EA, enables users to play the classic game of Tetris on their iPhones and iPod Touches. Users can move the tiles and blocks around, as well as rotate them and more, simply by tapping, dragging, and swiping their iPhone or iPod Touch’s screen. There are also two different game modes that users can play, which are “Marathon” and “Magic”. “Marathon” mode enables users to play a familiar game of Tetris and “Magic” mode adds some new things, such as power-ups, the ability to draw your own brick, as well as other things, to the game.

10. Camera+

Camera+ is a camera application, similar to the iPhone’s native camera application, but with some additional features, such as a grid to line up your photos, image stabilization, burst mode, and the ability to edit your photos. Once you’re done taking and editing your photos, you can upload them to a website, such as Twitter or FaceBook, or export them to your iPhone’s camera roll.

What iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad applications do you enjoy using? Please feel free to post them in the comments below!

I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, and safe New Year!

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Camera+

If you’re someone who enjoys taking pictures on the go with your iPhone or iPod Touch, but would like to have a camera application with more features, perhaps you should try using Camera+, by Taptaptap.

Camera+ is an application that is similar to the iPhone’s native camera, but has many more features, including touch exposure and focus, a photo flashlight, a variety of different shooting modes, a grid so that you can line up your shots, 6x digital zoom, as well as many other features.

When you first launch the application, you will see a viewfinder, which is similar to the iPhone’s native camera application. Also on the screen, there is a zoom slider, as well as buttons to see the photos that are in your lightbox, a settings as well as a menu button.

If you tap on the button that looks like a gear, which is located next to the shutter button, you will be able to choose between four different settings for taking pictures, such as a “Normal” mode, an image stabilizer, a  five-second timer, as well as burst mode.

The menu button, which is located at the bottom right of the screen, has options, such as turning the application’s sounds on and off, as well as enabling and disabling the zoom and grid options. There are also options to restore purchases that you may have made, as well as to choose the image quality from either “Full” quality, which saves the photos in their full resolution or “Optimized” quality, which saves the images with a maximum size of 1,200 x 1,200 pixels. There are also sharing options that you can configure, as well as the option to view information about the application.

Once you’ve taken a picture using Camera+, it will get saved to the application’s lightbox, where you can view the photos that you have taken, as well as export them to your iPhone or iPod Touch’s camera roll. Also, you can edit, save, copy, as well as share the pictures that you have taken.

If you would like to try using Camera+, you can download the application for $0.99 from the iTunes App Store.

Website Update

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a very happy holiday and I would like to welcome you back to TechnicalCafe.com!

As you may already know, TechnicalCafe.com has recently been moved from WordPress.com’s hosting service to GoDaddy’s hosting service. The reason for this is because a self-hosted WordPress blog provides more options than are available on the free WordPress.com hosting service.

While WordPress.com provided a great hosting service with many fantastic features, users are not able to upload or use their own custom themes, plug-ins, or widgets. Now that TechnicalCafe.com is being hosted on it’s own webspace, we can choose what we would like to add or remove. Also, we are now able to place and run scripts and such on the website, which may come in handy, should we want to use a web statistics or analytics service.

Due to switching hosting providers, you may have noticed that some features may be missing or different, so please feel free to leave a comment below or use the Contact page let me know what you think and if you would like to see something new or different!

Also, if you would like to view the WordPress.com hosted version of TechnicalCafe.com, you can do so by going to technicalcafe1.wordpress.com. However, new posts and updates that are posted here may not be added as frequently to this version of the website.

I have prepaid for GoDaddy’s WordPress Economy hosting plan for one year, which includes 10 GB of disk space and unlimited bandwidth, so we should have plenty of time and space to test this service out and continue to improve TechnicalCafe.

As for posting recently, I apologize for not having a new post up for the last week or two, but I would like to have at least a couple of new posts out a week and perhaps a video every now and then.

I would like to thank everyone for visiting TechnicalCafe.com and for helping to make it a resource for a variety of different technology topics. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or perhaps a technical support question, please feel free to use the Contact page to send me an e-mail!

Also, you can follow TechnicalCafe on Twitter (@TechnicalCafe) for links to the latest posts, as well as for website updates and information and, if you’d like, you can follow me on Twitter (@Jamiemcg) for the latest updates on what I am up to, as well.

Thank you,

Jamie McGibbon

Cut the Rope: Holiday Gift

A while back, I posted a blog post about a fun puzzle game called Cut the Rope by Chillingo, Inc. where the goal of the game is to get a piece of candy that is suspended by one or more ropes to a little green monster, so that he can eat it.

Recently, a holiday version of the game was released, with the same purpose, but with some festive new updates.

Cut the Rope: Holiday Gift is very similar to the original version of the game, as you still have to get a piece of candy to a hungry green monster, who loves to eat candy. While doing so, users are supposed to try to collect as many of the three stars that are in a level as they can, in order to earn more points. There are also certain obstacles, such as spikes and spiders, that users should try to avoid, as they can make the candy break or by eaten.

In order to collect the stars, you can choose to utilize a variety of different items and such, which are available in the game, such as cutting certain ropes, using bubbles to make the candy float upwards, blowing the candy in a certain direction, as well as others.

However, some additions in the holiday version of the game include festive backgrounds, like a Christmas tree and accessories, like reindeer antlers that the little green creature wears.

For gameplay, there are new stockings, which, when a piece of candy enters one, will shoot out of another stocking of the same color, at the same speed that it went in. These stockings can be good for “teleporting” the candy from one spot to another, allowing users to collect stars or get the candy to the candy loving creature.

If you would like to try playing Cut the Rope: Holiday Gift, you can download the game for free from the iTunes App Store.

Geek Gift Ideas

If you know someone who is interested in technology, but aren’t quite sure what gifts you should get them during this holiday season, perhaps these ideas will help you to find them the perfect gift! I saw some other people posting gift suggestions, so I figured I’d give it a try, as well.

However, I’d just like to include a little disclaimer that I have not tried using a majority of the products that are included in this list.

Amazon Kindle – $139.00

The Amazon Kindle has been out for a while, but is a great way for people to read without having to carry their books around with them. The Kindle includes an e-ink screen, which works well in sunlight and also has smoother and more natural looking fonts that an LCD screen. You can purchase the Kindle with Wi-Fi or both Wi-Fi and free 3G service, so that users can download books while on the go.

Roku Player – $59.99

The Roku Player is a device that allows users to stream content and media to their TVs, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD, Pandora, as well as other services, such as Revision3 and TWiT, with a constantly expanding media library. Also, users do not need to have a computer in order to use the Roku Player, as it’s a set top box that you can just plug in, connect to the Internet, and begin using. The device is less than 5 inches wide and is only 1 inch tall.

Boxee Box – $199.00

Boxee is a device that allows users to stream content and media, such as TV shows and movies, to their TVs. There are also a variety of different applications that users can download to their Boxee, including applications for video, music and photos, such as Pandora, FaceBook, Flickr, Vimeo, MLB, NHL, as well as others.

Boxee also has a “watch later” feature, which enables users to send web videos, including TV shows, to their Boxee Box from any web browser, in order to watch them later on.

If you happen to have an extra computer laying around, you can actually build a free Boxee Box, by connecting the computer to your TV and downloading and installing the Boxee software.

MacBook Air – $999.00

Apple’s latest version of the MacBook Air may be the perfect gift for a technology lover. The MacBook Air comes in two sizes, an 11 inch model, as well as a 13 inch model. (The 13 inch model price starts at $1,299.00.) The MacBook Air features a multi-touch trackpad, as well as a long lasting battery, which should give users around 5 to 7 hours of use.

Also, the MacBook Air has a high resolution display, which can be used to chat with friends using Apple’s FaceTime service. As for connectivity, the MacBook has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities and 2 USB ports. In addition, the MacBook Air uses flash storage, which offers uses a stand-by time of up to 30 days.

XBox 360 Kinect – $149.99

The relatively new Kinect device for the XBox 360 is a pretty neat device that allows users to control and play games, using only their motions and voices. For example, a player could control a game by simply waving their arms or jumping, if the game supports it. Players can also control their XBox 360 using voice commands, for things, such as watching a movie so that they don’t even have to use a remote control.

Nikon CoolPix S4000 Camera – $169.95

The Nikon CoolPix S4000 camera is a point-and-shoot camera that offers great image quality at a decent price. The S4000 can shoot photos at 12 megapixels and can also record 720p HD video. Users can view their images and videos on a 3 inch touchscreen and can also use the included stylus, if they prefer, rather than their fingers to navigate through their photos and videos.

In addition, users can choose from a variety of different scenes, depending on the environment where they’re taking their pictures or users can simply set the camera to an auto-scene mode, which will automatically adjust the camera’s settings so that they can just focus on taking pictures.

The Nikon CoolPix S4000 also features a variety of other settings, including a mode that automatically takes a picture when a smile is detected. For those who would like to manually adjust the camera’s settings, there are adjustable ISO and other settings. The camera features a removable, rechargeable battery, as well as about 45 MB of internal memory, with the ability to use an SD card for more storage.

I actually received this camera as a birthday present in September and think it is a great camera and has a decent price. I like that this camera offers a 3 inch touchscreen and the ability to record 720p HD video. Also, the rechargeable battery is a nice feature, so that you don’t have to worry about purchasing new batteries for it. Overall, I would recommend this camera to anyone who is looking for a great camera that can also record HD videos, but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money.

FlipCam Ultra HD – $149.99 (4GB)

While FlipCams have been around for a while, they still remain great devices for capturing video on the go and aren’t that expensive, either. The FlipCam Ultra HD is one of the three current models of Flip Cameras and comes in two different versions, one with 4GB of storage (about 1 hour of video) and one with 8GB of storage (about 2 hours of vide0).

The Flip Ultra HD camera can record 780p HD video at 30 frames per second with H.264 compression. Once you’re ready to upload your videos to your computer, you simply flip out the built in USB connector and connect the camera to your computer, where you can use Flip’s editing software, upload them to video sharing websites, such as YouTube or export your videos to your computer.

The FlipCam Ultra HD also offers a child safe mode, so that your videos can not be accidentally deleted. In addition, the FlipCam has a silent mode, which can be useful for recording in sensitive places, such as during an presentation.

While I have not owned a FlipCam Ultra HD, I do own a FlipCam Ultra and I think it’s a great camera for recording things on the go. It’s also easy to upload your videos to your computer and share them on websites, such as YouTube. I’d recommend this camera to people who are looking for a video camera without all of the “bells and whistles”, but can still record HD quality videos.

If you were looking for gift ideas for a techie, I hope my geek gift guide has provided you with some of those ideas! Please feel free to comment below with any personal experiences or reviews on the above products! Also, please feel free to suggest your geek gift ideas!



Geared

If you’re someone who enjoys playing puzzle games, perhaps you should try playing Geared for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Geared is a game where you have to solve puzzles, in which you have to place different sized gears on a grid that contains a spinning yellow gear and one or more blue gears, with a goal of making the blue gears spin, as well. Once you’ve connected the yellow gear to the blue gears, using the different sized gears, the blue gears will begin to spin and you will have completed the level.

However, each level only allots you a certain number of of the five different sized gears that you’re allowed to place around the grid to try and make the blue gears spin. As you progress to higher levels, there will be added challenges, such as a red area where you are not allowed to place gears, which make the game more difficult.

You can, however, drop gears into the red area from above it. There are also similar purple areas that you aren’t allowed to place gears in. However, unlike the red areas, the purple areas can move if you tap on them, although they can only be moved where there is a “track” for them to move.

Also, depending on the level you’re on, there may be more blue gears that you are required to make turn, which may add to the difficulty of the game. Another challenge that is included in the game are orange gears, with arrows on them, that you are unable to move, like the other gears.

On the menu page of the game, there is an option to select your level, from 1 to 150, with 50 more levels that you can purchase in app for $0.99.

If you’d like to try playing Geared, you can download it from the iTunes App Store for free.

Google Nexus S Phone

Earlier today, Google announced the launch of their new Nexus S phone, the predacessor to Google’s Nexus One phone, which was released in January of this year. Also announced was the latest version of Google’s Android operating system, Gingerbread, or Android 3.2.

The Nexus S phone was co-developed with Samsung and is the first phone to run Gingerbread. The phone features a 4 inch (480 x 800) WVGA, AMOLED contour display, with a curved glass screen. The screen also has an anti-fingerprint coating and a capacitive touch censor. The phone also gives haptic feedback vibrations.

As for size, the Nexus S measures 63mm wide, 123.9mm long, and x 10.88mm thick and weighs 129 grams, or 4.6 ounces.

The Nexus S also features a 5 mega-pixel back facing camera, with a flash. The camera is also capable of recording video at a resolution of 720 x 480, using either H.263 or H.264 compression. There is also a front-facing VGA camera, which has a resolution of 640 x 480.

In addition, the phone contains a three-axis gyroscope, an accelerometer, a digital compass, a proximity sensor, as well as a light sensor. Also included on the Nexus S phone is a 3.5mm headphone and microphone jack with software noise cancellation.

The Nexus S also has a 1500 mAH Lithium Ion battery, which is capable of providing users with 6.7 hours of talk time on a 3G network and up to 14 hours of talk time on a 2G network. The battery provides up to 17.8 days of stand-by time on a 3G network and up to 29.7 hours of stand-by time on a 2G network.

The phone also comes with a variety of different Google or Android applications, including YouTube, GMail, Google Voice, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Maps, as well as others.

If you’d like to learn more about Google’s new Nexus S phone, you can do so from the Nexus S website.