Monthly Archives: December 2011

Favorite iPhone and iPad Apps 2011

Since today is the last day of 2011, I figured I’d write up a post about what iPhone and iPad applications I enjoyed using over the past year. These apps don’t necessarily have to be the “best” or most useful iPhone or iPad applications of the past year, but rather, they are applications that I may have used or heard of and thought they were nice, enjoyable, or useful applications.

Also, just a note that this list is not in any particular order, so the first app listed isn’t necessarily better than the last one listed.

1. TweetBot (iPhone)

TweetBot, by TapBots, is a Twitter client, which allows users to access their Twitter feeds, read and post Tweets, view people’s profiles on the service, as well as other things. TweetBot also features a great looking user interface, which includes sounds and animation and makes viewing and writing tweets fun. Also included in the application is multi-touch gesture support, so users can view, create, and read tweets in a more interesting and interactive way.

In addition, TweetBot supports the ability for users to have multiple timelines within the application, so that, if they have more than one Twitter account, users can view them both within the same application. Users can simply tap on the “Timeline” button, which looks like two figures of people, and is located in the top left of the app, to view their timelines and select which one they would like to use. Also from this menu, users can choose to go to the “Accounts and Settings” page of the app.

2. Saver (iPhone)

Saver, by Alex Solonsky, is an app that allows users to track and view their expenses and features things, such as graphs and lists, where users can see how much money they’ve spent and where it’s going. When a user wants to add an expense to Saver, all they need to do is click on the “+” icon, located at the bottom of the app, which then brings up a screen where users can enter in an amount of money, as well as select, or “tag”, what this money was spent on.

There are a variety of categories that users can pick from, in order to tag their expenses, including “General”, “Kids”, “House”, “Amusement”, “Wardrobe”, “Groceries”, “Auto”, “Food”, “Payments”, “Vacation”, and more! Additionally, each category also has sub-categories, which users can use to further narrow down what they spent their money on. For example, some of the subcategories in the “Food” tag, include “Cafe”, “Fastfood”, “Bar”, and “Restaurant”.

Once a user has added their expenses, they can view them in a pie-chart, which is color coded according to the category of expense. Users can then tap on that part of the chart, which will bring up a list of the user’s expenses. Also, users can select to view their expenses by either the week, month, or year, which is useful if you want to track your expenses only for a certain amount of time.

3. Instagram (iPhone)

Instagram, by Burbn, Inc. is on the list for the second year in a row, as it’s a great application which allows users to share photos, not only on the Instagram app itself, but also on Facebook and Twitter.

Also, Instagram allows users to “edit” their photos by applying filters, which change the overall look and feel of the photo. Users can also select whether or not they want a “frame” around the photo, as well as some other features. \

Once a user has selected a filter for their photo (though, users are free to post a picture without having a filter or any editing at all), they can add and edit a caption for their photo, select whether or not they’d like to share it on Facebook or Twitter, as well as configure some other options for the photo. After that, all one needs to is post the photo and it’s available for everyone who’s following you to see! (However, you can choose not to announce a photo on Facebook or Twitter, if you’d rather not.)

One of the great features of Instagram is that it’s a social app, where users can follow other users and see what pictures they’ve been posting. Additionally, users can “like” or comment on others’ photos, which adds to the social aspect of this application.

4. Oink (iPhone)

Oink, by Milk, Inc., is a social “rating” application that just came out in 2011, and allows users to rate the things in the world around them, rather than just rating the places they have been to. For example, rather than rating a particular restaurant as having good food or being a great place to eat, Oink allows users to rate specific things at the restaurant, such as a specific dish or place to sit, or even the lighting!

Other users can then see what one has posted to Oink and what their thoughts were on the particular thing they rated, and can also add their own ratings and comments to the post. Users are also able to “Like”, “Love”, “Dislike”, etc. the variety of things that are rated, and additionally, users can choose to add something to their “To-Do” list, if they are interested in trying what they saw someone else post about.

Users can also choose to share their ratings and posting on both Facebook and Twitter, should they want to share their experiences with their friends who many not be using Oink or may not have an iPhone.

5. Tiny Tower (iPhone and iPad)

Tiny Tower, by Nimblebit, LLC., is a fun game, where users are in charge of building and running a tower filled with a variety of residences and businesses, as well as managing the citizens who happen to move into the tower and live in the residences.

Gameplay consists of ensuring that the various business and stores in the tower are stocked with the items or services that they carry or sell, as well as helping to move the tower’s guests or residents, called Bitizens, to the various businesses by use of an elevator, which the user can move up or down, to get the person to the correct floor, which is specified by the Bitizen in the elevator.

When a user accrues a certain amount of money, they are able to purchase more floors for their tower, building it higher, and adding to the number of residences or businesses that are available for Bitizens to use. However, after a new floor is added to the tower, the next floor’s price will increase, so a user has to save up more money to build it.

Additionally, stocking and restocking the businesses in a tower requires that a user use their coins to do so. Though, users can opt to purchase (with actual money) TowerBucks, which can be spent on much of the same things that regular coins can be, but, similar to FarmVille or CityVille, allow things to be completed or done faster than if a user were to strictly use coins.

TinyTower is a fun game with a 8-bit style user interface and doesn’t require that users play it for hours at a time. Because of the nature of TinyTower, with running businesses and such, users can choose to restock a product, etc., and come back later when it has run out, without having to sit around and watch the game run to do so.

6. Zombieville USA 2 (iPhone and iPad)

Zombieville USA 2, by Mika Mobile, Inc., is a fun game, where the user’s main task is to infiltrate a zombie infested city or town, and take out the zombies. In order to do this, the user is given a choice of a variety of weapons, including clubs, knives, guns, and grenades, though some weapons are only available after the user earns enough money in the game to purchase them.

Additionally, users are only allowed to carry three weapons at a time when they are fending off the zombies, which is a good thing, as occasionally, one or two of the weapons being carried can run out of ammo, causing the user to have to switch to their third weapon, whether it be another gun, a grenade, or a baseball bat (which doesn’t require ammo and doesn’t “run out”, like the other weapons do.)

The gameplay is pretty simple, with users using a “joystick” style control and three buttons, each in control of switching to and firing or using one of the three weapons that is being carried by the user’s character. Also, thoughout the level, users can find and shoot or hit boxes and other things (including mailboxes, signs, etc.), which may house money or extra ammunition, which can then be used to help the user purchase new weapons or to reload their current weapons.

Once the user has reached the end of the level, a helicopter comes down, thereby rescuing the user once they jump onto the ladder that is hanging from it. Then, a user will be notified of how much money they have made during the level, how many zombies they managed to kill, what their accuracy was, as well as some other information.

7. Powers of Minus Ten (iPhone and iPad)

Powers of Minus Ten, by Green-Eye Visualization, is an application that enables users to zoom into the human hand, in order to learn about biology and to see what goes on in the human body at the cellular and molecular level. Also, according to the app’s description on the iTunes App Store, the 3D content in the app is scientifically accurate, so users are able to get a real feel for what goes on in the human body.

Additionally, Powers of Minus Ten also features a “game” aspect, where users earn points and such for finding and identifying certain structures within the human body, including proteins, organelles, and more! There are also games that users can play, such as a matching game, in order to help them learn about processes, like Mitosis.

One great aspect of Powers of Minus Ten is that the graphics are great and can help students, or anyone interested in the human body or biology, view what perhaps microscopic structures and cells look like within the human body in an interactive way.

When viewing a particular section (or magnification level) of the hand, users are able to pan around and view where things are positionally, as well as what else may be going on or is located in that particular area.

Overall, Powers of Minus Ten is a great application, with some fun games included, which can help users view the human body in a way that perhaps they haven’t seen before, especially when it comes to the microscopic level.

8. Where’s My Water  (iPhone and iPad)

Where’s My Water, by Disney, is a great puzzle game, where the object of the game is channel water from one area of the screen, to another, where an alligator named Swampy is waiting for the water to take a bath.

Where’s My Water starts off pretty simply, with users having to dig a path for the water to reach Swampy, but as the gameplay progresses, getting the water to Swampy’s bathtub begins to get more and more challenging, as different challenges are added.

For example, once the user reaches a certain level, switches are added to the puzzle, causing the user to have to channel water to a switch, in order to operate it and get water to Swampy’s bathtub. In some levels, there may even be more than one switch that has to be activated, in order to beat the level. However, some levels include a water spout, which allows users to turn on and add more water as they need it, so they don’t have to worry about wasting the water they may have started the puzzle with.

Where’s My Water is a fun puzzle application, which I personally liken to another iPhone application, Enigmo, involving getting water from one area to another, using a variety of different tools. If you’re interested in puzzles or challenges, perhaps you should check out Where’s My Water, by Disney. Additionally, this application is good for children, as well, as it features colorful graphics, and the fun of trying to get the water to Swampy so he can take this bath!

Which apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad did you enjoy using throughout 2011?

Thank you for reading this blog post, as well as the TechnicalCafe blog throughout the year! I hope everyone had a great 2011 and that everyone has a happy, healthy, fun, and safe 2012!



What is Binary?

If you’ve been using computers for a while or have seen the Matrix movies, you have probably seen, or at least heard of something called “binary”, which consists of a variety of 0s and 1s, arranged in seemingly random patterns.

However, did you ever stop to think what those 0s and 1s mean and how they are arranged?

In order to understand what the binary number system is all about, it is a good idea to have an understanding of the number system that we use all the time in everyday life – the decimal, or base 10, number system.

In the decimal number system, we can represent things, such as the number of people in a room, the time, how many apps you have on your phone, as well as a whole array of other things. All of the quantities that were just mentioned are probably written using the numbers 0-9. Including 0, there are 10 numbers in the decimal number system, which is why it is called “base 10”.

These numbers can be arranged in any order to form other, larger or smaller numbers, depending on which “place”, or position, a particular number is in. For example, if you have the number 123, there are three places, the one’s place, ten’s place, and hundred’s place.

If we wanted to, we could represent 123 by raising 10 to the power of the position a particular number is in, starting at 0 and going from right to left and then multiplying that figure by whatever number is in the position.

For our “123” example, we can represent 123 as:

3*100 + 2*101 + 1*102

When these numbers are added and then combined, we will arrive at the original number of 123.

(3*1) + (2*10) + (1*100)

= 3 + 20 + 100

= 123

The same is true of the binary, or base 2, number system. However, unlike the decimal number system, there are only 2 numbers which are used in the binary number system, which, as you probably guessed, are 0 and 1.

In binary, rather than having each “place” or position raise in value by powers of 10, they raise in value by powers of 2.

If we have, for example, the number 1010, in binary, which, in order to prevent readers, as well as people converting from one base to another, from getting confused, we can represent by putting the value in parenthesis and adding a “2” subscript, simply to represent the fact that the number is in base 2 and not base 10 or decimal, or even some other base, we can figure out what it is equal to in decimal notation, by performing the same process as we did earlier.

(1010)2 = (x)10

(1010)2 = 0 * 20 + 1 * 21 + 0 * 22 + 1 * 23

= (0*1) + (1*2) + (0 * 4) + (1 * 8 )

= 0 + 2 + 0 + 8

= (10) 10

So, 1010 in binary is equal to 10 in decimal, or base 10, notation. Because of the fact that this conversion happens to only involve the numbers 0 and 1, the parenthesis help to prevent confusion between which base is which, as 10 in decimal can be converted to 2 in binary.

Now that we’ve learned a bit about the binary number system, what does this have to do with computers or technology?

Well, at the most basic level, computers do not understand letters, numbers, symbols, or even pictures as the symbols or colors that users see when typing or viewing them. Computers see these things as strings of 0s and 1s, which, to the processor or CPU, means “on” or “off”.

Also at the basic level, programming languages, such as C, C++, or Java, which are intended to make things easier for programmers, rather than having to input large strings of 0s and 1s, are complied into a language which the computer can understand, which is sometimes referred to as “machine code”.

Eventually, this code is read by the computer’s processor, or CPU, as a binary file, and the computer then follows the instructions in a language that it, rather than users or programmers, can understand.

So, the next time you see a movie or come across something that involves binary, hopefully now, you’ll be able to understand a little more about how things are converted to binary, as well as what binary notation is actually used for, in terms of computers and technology.

If you’d like to learn more about compilers and what they do and are used for, as well as other topics, you should check out, which is where I got some of the information regarding compilers and what they do, included in this post.

Also, if you have a computer related question that you are curious about, or perhaps just a tech support question, please feel free to send me an e-mail, using the “Contact” page! You can also follow TechnicalCafe on Twitter (@TechnicalCafe), as well as me (@Jamiemcg), if you’re interested in what I’m up on on a day-to-day basis.