I’ve been a bit enamored with Kickstarter lately; while I had heard of it quite a while ago but only recently have I started perusing some of the campaigns that the site has hosted. There are many worthy projects; I’ve posted on a couple of the accessory-themed ones I’ve invested in: AirBudz, the passive sound enabling earbuds (still not yet fully funded), and Foco, an iPad sound-enhancing device that reached their funding goal and is currently in production.
Kickstarter isn’t just for hardware; I’d like to share yet another worthy project with you courtesy of SuperPunch: Lilly Looking Through. Lilly Looking Through is a game in development for every OS: Mac, Windows, and Linux. The game’s beautiful illustration and animation initially caught my eye; I love animation and the game has a classical Disney-esque feel. The heroine Lilly must be guided through a series of puzzles and challenges “…as she seeks to rewrite the past, change the present, and unlock the ultimate mystery. “
I spent a short while playing the free demo version and was immediately hooked. The musical score adds to the ambiance of the game, and the demo is very polished for a teaser. The mechanics of the game are similar to another favorite indie puzzle title, Machinarium. You guide Lilly and interact with the environment with your mouse (or trackpad); solving puzzles in order to progress further into the game. On the game’s initial screen you have to overcome obstacles in Lilly’s path both through direct interaction and by having her perform specific tasks. If you are having a hard time figuring out how to solve a puzzle or progress to the next task just click the help icon for a visual clue.
Games of this sort don’t fit neatly into any one category. It’s part strategy, part casual game, and a ton of indie charm. The Kickstarter donation levels start at very low contribution levels (just $10 will get you a digital download of the game, two high resolution desktop wallpapers, and regular updates on the status of the project should it be fully funded).
I think the reason I’ve become so enamored with projects like Lilly Looks Through is that Kickstarter has become such a great tool to bring innovation and creativity to life. Not that long ago projects such as this one would need to seek funding from family (if possible) or a loan (often difficult to obtain). Not only does your investment help someone bring their dream to market, it can net you a great deal on a unique product or service. Check out the embedded video and try the free Mac, Windows, or Linux demo; if you enjoyed it as much as I have please donate to their campaign.
Read Full Post »
If you’ve seen Iron Man or the massively popular Avengers movie, you’ve likely coveted how Tony Stark was able to interface with his computer: three dimensional holographic display that responded to natural gestures, no keyboard required. How would you feel to know that it’s now a lot closer to reality?
Leap is quite simply the next step in computer interface and control. The iPod-sized device and accompanying software creates a three dimensional plane that senses the position of your hands and fingers in real time; providing a whole new realm of possibilities. The demo video does more than words ever could (if you look closely one the games being demonstrated is one of my all time favorites- the Lost Coast chapter of the venerable Half Life series!):
It’s only available as a pre-order, but the cost is a surprising $69.99- less than the Kinect interface for the XBox 360 yet far more sensitive. Leap will be compatible with both OSX and Windows versions 7 and 8. Set up is about as simple as possible- plug in the unit to a USB port, load the software, and do a quick wave through the sensor plane to calibrate. Some of the non-game interactions mimic tablet touchscreen functions without actual physical contact. This would be of great benefit with computers in a healthcare setting; the spread of infection from touch is a constant concern, and disinfecting equipment is both time consuming and causes wear and tear on the devices (when it is even done- keyboards and mice are rarely thought of as a vector for infection yet they are touched throughout the day by healthcare providers).
I find this sort of new technology absolutely fascinating, particularly for OSX. Apple has already laid a good foundation for an interface like Leap through OSX’s multitouch gestures; a third party input like Leap would mesh well with existing features. Since the introduction of the Magic Trackpad I’ve only used a mouse for gaming; the trackpad is far easier and more functional than even Apple’s competing Magic Mouse. The makers of Leap are looking for developers to help take advantage of the possibilities of this new input, but even a Luddite should realize its value.
Read Full Post »
When Google announced their Google TV initiative I was among the few anxiously anticipating its release. The initial product videos were very promising- tight media integration across multiple inputs plus the ability to search for shows like you search the internet sounded like the best of all possible worlds. Fast forward to today; Google TV flopped like an intoxicated spring break cliff diver. Content providers refused to play along, severely limiting the set top box’s entertainment possibilities. Competitors like the Apple TV and Roku offered better options at lower prices; now you’d be hard pressed to find a Google-enabled TV or set top box on retailer’s shelves.
Unlike other Google ideas that flopped (Wave, Google Answers, Buzz, the list goes on) Google TV might not have been abandoned. A recent article posted by Engadget alleges that the makers of my favorite media center software Plex have let slip that their product will be built into a Google-powered Sony TV. For those of you unfamiliar with Plex, it’s a fantastic answer to enjoying multimedia on your Mac or PC. Plex provides a simple, clean interface to categorize, sort, and watch or listen to media of any sort. Apple attempted to provide a media consolidator with the now-discontinued Front Row, Microsoft has done the same with the latest version of their Windows Media Center but neither come close to the user experience afforded by Plex.
If the rumor is true, this could be a device that allows consumers to comfortably bypass set top boxes as a means to enjoy the full range of entertainment out there. Whether you want to enjoy media saved to your home computer, watch streaming video from providers like Hulu or Netflix, listen to streaming music, catch the latest viral video on YouTube, or show guests pictures of your last vacation on the big screen in your living room a Plex-powered TV would be a boon. Anything else Google or Sony includes would just up the ante.
Read Full Post »
I don’t do as much downloading from multiple sources as I used to in the heyday of P2P sharing, but I still nab the odd compressed/archived file from time to time. While OSX does have the ability to natively open ZIP files, there are plenty of other formats you may encounter that your Mac can’t do without help from an app.
Regardless of what kind of archived file you need to open, The Unarchiver will do the job. The small (3.9 megabytes) app quickly and efficiently detects and extracts your data from just about any format of compression, from ARC to ZIP. The list of compatible filetypes is as impressive as it is comprehensive. Want to peruse the contents of an archive without unpacking it? No worries, The Unarchiver has a sibling program to do just that: the Archive Browser.
While the Unarchiver is free via the Mac App Store, at heart it’s shareware: if you use it and think it’s as valuable as I do please donate to the app’s maker.
Read Full Post »
Remember a few short years ago when Netbooks were all the rage? Pundits and publications both tripped over themselves to proclaim the tiny and inexpensive mini laptops to be the future of computing. Apple and then-CEO Steve Jobs were panned for refusing to develop a netbook, Mr. Jobs going to far as to claim that Apple couldn’t produce “…a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.”
Fast forward to today: Toshiba announced that they will be exiting the rapidly failing netbook market, citing tablets and ultra books as the future. The failure of netbooks has been chronicled by several sources, from Consumer Reports’ article questioning if netbooks are dying as a category to PC Perspective’s retrospect on the overhyping and eventual failure of the Atom processor. Dell saw the writing on the wall back in 2011 and exited the market, and Samsung has been rumored to have ceased producing units with 10″ screens common in netbooks.
It’s common thought that netbooks suffered greatly with the introduction of the iPad. While the iPad’s OS isn’t as open as what usually runs on netbooks (WinXP, the ‘starter’ version of Win7, or various flavors of Linux) those limitations allow for a better overall user experience. Accessories can provide the same physical keyboard as netbooks if the user needs one, and the iPad (even in a case) is sleeker and lighter, with better battery life.
I’ve had very poor experiences with netbooks. While I never owned one, I have repaired a few for friends and coworkers and found the devices to be teeth-gnashingly annoying to use. Underpowered, slow, and bulkier than just about any competing device; netbooks have just one competitive advantage- price. Even this one advantage is being eroded by falling laptop prices; an entry-level Dell Inspiron can be had for $399, not much more than many netbook models but offering more power, a full sized keyboard, and an optical drive.
While I’m sure netbooks will be around for a few more years, I believe the category has already started its death spiral. Between ultra books like Apple’s MacBook Air or tablets consumers simply have too many superior options to keep netbook sales viable.
Read Full Post »
A post from BGR (formerly the Boy Genius Report) has reinforced the rumor of an upcoming release of an iOS version of Microsoft Office. The site references a “reliable source”, so I don’t accept the rumored release as concrete. That being said, Microsoft would be turning their back on a very large (and growing) demographic of iPad and iPhone users that have either been assigned an iOS device by their employer or those that joined the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) crowd and are using their devices in a professional setting.
While some argue that Microsoft would be better served keeping Office to just Windows devices (especially the pending tablets running Windows 8), I’d wager the money to be had from iOS users will outweigh any benefit exclusivity might provide. Exclusivity has already been ignored thanks to the OSX version of Office, and considering that iOS is founded on OSX it would seem that transitioning it for Apple’s touchscreen devices would be a fairly straightforward affair. I’ve restricted all my productivity tasks to iWork apps (specifically Numbers and Pages) and have been very satisfied with the experience so far, but many businesses are heavily vested in Office, and Microsoft’s file types have become industry norms.
Read Full Post »
Posted in News on May 25, 2012 |
2 Comments »
Courtesy of TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog): there’s a big game sale happening this Memorial Day weekend at the iTunes App Store! Both big titles from titans like EA and indie games have been marked down to 99 cents or FREE.
There are some great titles here, from World of Goo (I’ve bought this one for both the Mac and iOS and wholeheartedly endorse it) to Cut the Rope:Experiments. There are even some non-game apps available like Business Card Reader (marked down to $2.99). Check it out soon, these markdowns won’t last long!
Read Full Post »
Posted in News, Reviews, tagged Appstore, Facebook, Google, iMac, LinkedIn, Stephen Fry, Wolfram Alpha, YouTube on May 24, 2012 |
2 Comments »
While OSX comes well equipped with useful applications, I’ve found over time that there are a few must-have add ons in the App Store. Some are simply convenient (Day-O), some are functional (Moom), and some make my daily iMac experience that much more powerful (MacX DVD Ripper).
Liquid Words manages to include aspects of all three of the aforementioned aspects. It provides a measure of information and assistance I haven’t seen in any other OSX application- acclaim for the app come not only from media outlets like CNN and BBC but from celebrities such as Stephen Fry (national treasure!)
At first glance Liquid Words seems like a simple dictionary plug in. Select any text and hit Command-Shift-1 to open a reference panel capable of accessing Google Definitions, Wikipedia, Wordnik, Wolfram Alpha, IMDB and Etymo Online. While this alone would make the app worthwhile, it does more-much more. Liquid Words allows quick searches of Google, Google Images, Google Maps, YouTube, Flickr, Amazon, and LinkedIn. It also provides translation services between dozens of languages via the same method you use to access reference sources. It will even calculate any equation in the text bar including conversions between currencies and temperatures, area, speed, distance, volume, weight, and just about any other numerical data you can want.
When the built-in keystroke commands are used the app becomes even more simple to use. For instance, highlight text and hit Command-Shift-1 followed by t, e, and j to translate the selected text from English to Japanese.
Best of all, the app is a paltry 99 cents via the Apple App Store. For those of you that would rather try it before you buy the makers provide a free Firefox and Chrome plugin that includes a sharing feature compatible with your email client, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and more. If you use your Mac for more than just browsing for the latest LOLcats Liquid Words is a great addition to your App arsenal.
Read Full Post »
This handy tip for those of you that need to protect younger members of your household from the darker corners of the web comes to us courtesy of Macworld.
As any web-savvy person knows, the internet isn’t the most family-friendly place at times. Even a simple Google search can turn up plenty of sites you’d probably not have a child venture to. While many have turned to third party software like NetNanny or Cybersitter, Mac users have a native option.
The video leads you through the creation of a user account with parental controls and illustrates what those controls entail. The controls are fairly powerful and thorough, covering a surprisingly broad range of topics.
Read Full Post »