iPhone App of the Week – iShoot

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I’ve been playing with more and more cool apps lately. However, this week’s choice is iShoot because I’m addicted to it. iShoot is a tank battle game. It’s certainly not my first tank battle game. Before this I was playing CannonGame. What I really like about iShoot is that there is more strategy that has to go into the game play. You start off with a budget of $15,000. With this money, you buy the ammunition for your tank for the battle. You can either buy expensive weapons that do more damage, but run out quickly or less expensive weapons that don’t do as much damage, but cost less so you’ll have more of them. Nothing feels worse than blowing your entire budget on the Vulcan Cannon only to miss the target completely. The more games you win, the more money you will have to buy weapons. Also if you don’t use a weapon during a round, you get to keep it for the next round.

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You can play against the computer with one or more computer opponents or against other users (passing the iPhone back and forth). The game play takes place against photo realistic backgrounds. While you do have the ability to move your tank back and forwards, it gets difficult or impossible if you’re on a hill. One of my favorite tactics is the use the Dirt Ball or Dirt Wall to completely bury an opponent. This way they have to continue to use up their own ammunition to blast their way out sometimes doing themselves in in the process.

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iShoot goes for $2.99 and is compatible with the iPhone or iPod touch. There is also a FREE iShoot Lite version. The free version of iShoot has fewer weapons (6 out of 25), no photorealistic landscapes, and no tank driving. It is otherwise fully featured. You can download iShoot or iShoot Lite from the App Store. Here’s to another app to suck up some of your valuable time :)

AirCurve, it sounds better than you’d think

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I have to admit that when I saw the AirCurve, I was a little skeptical. I received it as a gift for a class I gave and it took me days to even get motivated to give it a try. I just didn’t believe that simply amplifying the iPhone’s built-in speaker would be good enough. I finally decided to give it a try and I couldn’t believe it. It not only worked as advertised by amplifying the iPhone’s built-in speaker by 10 decibels, but it actually sounded decent. No, it didn’t sound as good as a good pair of speakers, but it definitely sounded good enough for use on the road in a hotel room. 

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The AirCurve doesn’t have any electrical or moving parts and therefore requires no power. The AirCurve is designed to amplify your iPhone’s built-in speaker acoustically. It works with both the original iPhone and the iPhone 3g (comes with custom inserts for both models). They even designed it so that you can use your existing sync cable for power or docking with your computer while the iPhone sits in the AirCurve. I also like it because it’s well built, stylish and not flimsy. So it should travel well in a suitcase.

I also gave it a try using the iPhone’s speaker phone while it sat in the AirCurve. It worked fine. When I received a call, the music faded. I answered the call and pressed the speaker button. The person on the other end had no problem hearing me and of course I had no problem hearing them either because of the amplification.

 

The Bottom Line

The AirCurve works as advertised, no question about that. If you’re an audiophile or someone who likes bass, you’ll probably be a little underwhelmed. For everyone else, this is a great low cost solution for amplifying your iPhone’s speaker. Although the second generation iPod touch does come with an external speaker, it’s not as good as the one on the iPhone so it looks like Griffin didn’t bother making an insert for iPod touch users. The AirCurve retails for $19.99. Amazon has it for $13.33. At that price it’s a no-brainer.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Although I consider myself pretty tech and gadget savvy, I can’t know about every gadget out there. Many of the readers of this blog have helped me over the years by suggesting products that were in some cases better than the ones I’ve reviewed or complimentary to them. So I decided to really put your knowledge (geekiness) to the test. I’m looking for a solution to a problem and need your help!

 

Wireless broadcasting from my DVR to another HDTV

OK, here’s what I’m looking for: I have a 27″ Toshiba HDTV out in my recreation area that is suspended from the ceiling. It has a built in DVD player and CableCARD so that I can pick up all my digital Comcast channels including HD content. I went out of my way to find this particular set because it was the most self contained HDTV I could find. My goal was to have as few cables/boxes connected to it as possible. Having a built-in DVD player on the side, meant not having to connect an external one. Having a built-in CableCARD slot meant that I could pick up all my Comcast channels without the need for a box from Comcast.  The only box I have connected to it is an Apple TV ,which is great for seeing my movies (ripped DVD collection), music videos, renting movies and iTunes purchased content. I’m just missing ONE thing! There are times that I’ve recorded shows on my TiVo HD that I would LOVE to watch out there. However, I don’t want to connect a big box (DVR). I love the fact that this set is basically boxless. I allowed the Apple TV because it mounts neatly on the wall (thanks to the tvTray). So what I would love is a wireless solution that would stream video from my TiVo HD to this set. 

I’ve looked at the new Slingcatcher, which would be ideal here except that it doesn’t stream HD (which I could live without) AND requires and Ethernet connection or yet another box to be wireless. I’ve also looked at the Belkin Flywire, but I’m not willing to give up my first born to pay for it (they must be totally kidding with that price right? C’mon, seriously?). So what am I missing out there?

 

Requirements:

The ability to stream video from either my TiVo HD or Comcast DVR wirelessly to another HDTV.

Willing to have ONE SMALL box attached if need be.

Can’t cost more than the HDTV, Apple TV and all the furniture in the room (are you listening Belkin?).

Icing on the cake (actually this is almost a must) would be that I would be able to use a remote to control the TiVo HD from the other room.

 

So let’s see how good you really are?! What say you tech community? This post will self destruct in 5..4..3..2……..

V-MODA Vibe Duo vs. Bose in-ear headphones

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Last week I did a review of the NEW Apple in-ear headphones for the iPod. Today we’re going to move up a little in price and I’m going to compare two $99 in-ear headphones. I have used both of these headsets quite a bit, but in different places. I travel with the V-MODA Vibe Duos. They are my fall back earbuds. I like them because the sound is great, comfort is good and they also have an integrated mic and controls for the iPhone. This is why I travel with them. I use them a lot for handsfree calls in noisy places like airports. The V-MODA Vibe Duos come in 3 colors: Nero (black), Chrome and GumetalRouge (red).

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I use the Bose in-ear headphones mostly at home. They also sound good and the small cushions feel good for my ears. Also because they don’t have an integrated mic, I have no use for them with my iPhone. Although these are “Bose” headphones, I don’t really perform any better or worse than the Apple or V-MODAs. Don’t get me wrong, they do sound good, just not better. Because of the bigger ear cushion, they do block out more noise than the V-MODAs. My only real complaint with these is that the ear cushions tend to fall off too easily. As a matter of fact, I lost one because it came off and I couldn’t find it. So I had to order a replacement set. Bose sells the replacements (2 pairs) for $6.99.

 

The Bottom Line

My buying advice is that can’t go wrong with either of these. Both of these sound good for the $99 price. If you’re going to use them with an iPhone, then the V-MODA Vibe Duo are hands down the best choice. Amazon has the V-MODA Vibe Duo’s for $83.95. Amazon has the Bose in-ear headphones for $99.95.

iPhone App of the Week – WootWatch

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Woot.com is a long standing source for some really good deals. The way it works is that they post one deal a day. That’s it! When that item is sold out, it’s over for that day. The next day there will be another deal. Although I love to check and see what’s the “Woot of the day”, I don’t always remember to check. While I can go to a Woot.com bookmark in Safari, it’s even cooler to go to a native Woot app. 

 

WootWatch works great!

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This app is very well designed and does exactly what you would expect it to do (for the most part). When you launch the app, it checks Woot.com for the latest deal. It displays the deal and detailed information about it. You can also see the deals from sellout.woot, shirt.woot, and wine.woot.

There is one thing I would have expected though. I actually tried to buy something via the WootWatch app and it took me to Safari (web browser) to make the purchase. While there’s nothing actually wrong with that, the Woot.com site asks for your user name and password which I could not remember. By the time I got home, I completely forgot about the deal. So I missed out on this HD camcorder. One thing I like about 3rd party iPhone apps vs websites and web apps is that they CAN save your login info and password. It would have been great if this info could have been stored in the WootWatch app. Other than that, I really like this app and it helps me to not miss out on some good deals.

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The WootWatch app is FREE and works on the iPhone and iPod touch. You can get it here from the App Store.

Apple’s NEW In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic

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Although I’ve never really been a fan of in-ear headphones, I’ve been using them more and more when I travel. So I’ve been experimenting with many different models. Over the next few days, I’ll be reviewing the various ones that I’ve tested. I’m going to start at (believe it or not) the low end of the price range for the ones that I’ve been using. It’s rare that Apple is at the low end of a price range. However, their new $79 In-Ear Headphones are actually the lowest cost ones I’ve tried recently. The others start at $99 and go up from there. 

 

Why I usually don’t like in-ear headphones

The reason that I haven’t liked in-ear headphones in the past is because quite frankly they hurt my ears. The older models were supposedly one size fits all. Remember the original iPod earbuds? They sucked so badly that I couldn’t stand to have them in my ears for more than a few minutes at a time. Apple has been refining them over the years and the latest ones aren’t as bad. However, the higher end models including their own new in-ear headphones, usually include 3 different sized (small, medium and large) cushions. I usually find either the small or the medium ones to be the most comfortable. With the new Apple ones, the small and medium ones feel about the same. The medium ones are probably best for me to isolate external noise.

 

What they got right

icon-controlApple spent some time on these and they are probably the best ear-phones they’ve ever produced (not the best I’ve used). They are much more comfortable than any other previous attempt. The sound quality is decent (not stellar). Beyond the basics, you also get an integrated mic and remote control. The remote allows you to control the volume (on the iPod nano (4th generation), iPod classic (120GB), and iPod touch (2nd generation)). You cannot control the volume on previous iPod models or the iPhone. Since I’ll be using these with an iPhone more than an iPod, I was really interested to see what worked and what didn’t. If you’re an iPhone user, these will control everything just like the supplied iPhone earbuds, except for the volume (which the supplied earbuds don’t control either). So you can play, pause advance tracks when the iPod app is running. You can answer calls and use the integrated mic for handsfree communication. So these do make a great replacement for the iPhone earbuds. 

 

What could be better

I like bass in my music, so I would like to see a little more bass in these. However, they do sound pretty good as is. The other thing I was stunned by was that the volume control didn’t work on the iPhone. After all, it’s not like they are from a different company. It’s Apple. You would think they would be able to make the iPhone/in-ear headphones work together. It’s not the end of the world, just puzzling. 

 

The Bottom Line

For $79 you get a better, more comfortable set of earbuds than the ones that originally shipped with your iPod or iPhone. If you’re an iPod touch 2nd generation user, you stand to gain the most as you’ll be able to use all the features including the integrated mic for recording into third party apps. The iPod touch doesn’t have a built-in mic, so this headset is a plus. I have other headphones that cost more and sound better. However, I have not tried any other ones in the $79 price range that are better. So for the money, these are the best for iPod and iPhone users. You can get them here for $79.

EOS Multi-room wireless iPod Speaker System

 

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I had a very specific need to be able to hear the music coming from my iPod in 3 rooms at my photography studio. So I set out to find the best solution without spending a fortune. At home my solution is to use the AirTunes technology built-in to the AirPort Express and Apple TV units. However, that solution was overkill for my studio and more than I wanted to spend there. Plus AirTunes is for your computer/Apple TV and not your iPod. 

 

A quick Google search lead me to EOS

 

The EOS system was EXACTLY what I was looking for! EOS is a multi-room wireless speaker system for your iPod. The base unit resembles all the other iPod speaker systems out there where the iPod docks in the middle and you have stereo speakers on the sides. However, the EOS base unit has a built-in antenna that can broadcast the music wirelessly to up to 4 additional stereo speakers (5 rooms total). The base unit ships with one wireless stereo speaker. So out of the box you get a two room system. I wanted three rooms, so I ordered one additional speaker. The system doesn’t rely on wi-fi or any other network. It has it’s on 2.4GHz wireless setup. EOS advertises a range of up to 150′ feet. Think of it as a cordless phone like speaker system. So I’m sure the 150′ is under best case scenarios. Real world range is probably less.

 

How well does it work?

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The EOS system works exactly as advertised! Once you plug in the base unit all you have to do is take the additional speakers to your other rooms, plug them in and turn them on. The first speaker I turned on wasn’t detected automatically. I returned to the base and pressed the scan button and it detected it and paired to it right away. The second speaker paired automatically the minute I turned it on. The next thing of course was to dock the iPod and try it out. I docked my 3rd generation iPod nano, selected a playlist and started playing a song. The music was crystal clear. There was no distinction (to my ears) from the music coming out of the base to the music coming out of the wireless speakers. No static, no drop outs, no lag, no distortion!

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The power adapter is integrated into the back of the remote speakers so that they can actually hang right from the wall outlet OR you can separate the adapter and plug it in while the speaker is on a shelf.

 

The EOS system touts what they call SRS WOW!™ digital sound enhancement technology, which aims to more bass and a 3D surround sound like atmosphere. In all honesty I can’t really tell that this is making all that much of a difference and since there is no way to turn it off I can’t really tell if it makes a difference or not. The system I’m replacing with this was the original Bose SoundDock which sounded really good to begin with. The EOS ships with an IR remote to adjust the sound volume, pause, advance, etc. the tracks. The EOS comes in your choice of Black or White and also ships with various iPod universal dock adapters for the older iPods.

It’s also not just for iPods! Although there is a built-in iPod dock, there is also an auxiliary line-in port on the back of the base unit. So you could plug in just about any audio source including your computer. This would also help iPod shuffle users. They even supply the cable you’d need to plug in another audio device.

 

The Bottom Line

If you need to hear your iPod in multiple rooms in your home, office, etc. then it’s hard to go wrong with the EOS system. While I was prepared to pay their retail price, I was very happy to see that they offered refurb’d units at much lower prices. I got the base unit (which includes one extra speaker) and a second speaker (3 rooms in total) for only $218 (free ground shipping). That’s less than cost of a new base unit alone (at their retail price of $229). I do have a couple of issues with it though. The first one is that it’s not able to power the latest iPods/iPhones. If you have a 4th generation iPod nano, 2nd generation iPod touch or iPhone 3g, then you’ll see a message that “charging is not supported by this accessory.” You can solve this with the addition of the Scosche passPORT Dock. Hopefully, they’ll come out with a newer model that provides power over the proper pin in the dock connector for the newer iPods. The other issue I have is that while the additional speakers have an on/off/volume knob, I don’t see a way to turn OFF the base. Granted I never turned off my Bose SoundDock either, but the EOS base has blue LED lights on it that stay lit all the time and I don’t want others trying to figure out how to turn it off. So I just unplugged the power when I was ready to leave. I thought it was odd that the wireless speakers had the ability to be turned off, but not the base. To learn more or place an order, check out their site.

iPhone App of the Week – Keynote Remote

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I give presentations all the time and while I’m not a big fan of slides, when I do have to give a slide presentation Apple’s Keynote is my app of choice. Prior to my iPhone I used to use Salling Clicker on my Palm Treo 650 to remote control my slides via Bluetooth. I do miss that one aspect of my old phone. As you know, I’m a big fan of Apple’s “Remote” app that allows you to control your iTunes app or Apple TV via your iPhone or iPod touch. The app is very well done and feature complete. So needless to say, I just figured that when Apple announced that they were releasing another Remote app that allowed you to remote control your Keynote ’09 presentations, it would be just as good.

 

Basic Functionality

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The Keynote Remote app pairs with your iPhone/iPod touch and your Mac running Keynote ’09 via Wi-Fi. So both your iPhone and Mac need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. That in and of itself could be an issue depending upon your presentation venue (more on this later). Once you have the two paired you can open a Keynote presentation on your Mac and then start playing it on your iPhone. Once Keynote is in “Play” mode you can see the current slide right on the iPhone’s screen including your speaker notes. To advance to the next slide you swipe your finger across the screen. You can also go back to the previous slide. There is a few second delay from the time the slide appears on the big screen until it appears on your iPhone’s screen. That’s about it!

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My slides displaying on the iPhone complete with the speaker notes that were keyed into Keynote.

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What’s missing?

Although this app does what it advertises, there is so much more that it could do. The first thing that I missed was a configurable slide/presentation timer. In other words, I’d like to see how much time I have left while doing my presentation. I’d like to configure a 10 minute and 5 minute warning beep or vibrate. While I appreciate the coolness of a finger swipe to advance slides, it would be more practical to have a large forward/back onscreen overlay button. If your thumb is at the top of the screen it would advance the slides forward, if it’s at the bottom, it would go back a slide. These are simple fixes that Apple can add. However, the big thing is that this App works over Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth. Bluetooth is such a natural fit for this kind of app. Granted the range wouldn’t be as good, but there’s no reason why the app couldn’t work over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Since it only works over Wi-Fi this means that you would either need to have a Wi-Fi connection in your presentation venue OR you would need to setup an ad-hoc network between your Mac and iPhone. Another concern that presenters shouldn’t have to worry about. Although the app allows for controlling your presentation in portrait or landscape orientation of your iPhone, you have to set it in the preferences. I would have expected Apple to take advantage of the accelerometer and simply allow you to tilt your iPhone to change the orientation.

 

The Bottom Line

The Remote app for iTunes/Apple TV sets the bar for remote apps on the iPhone! Unfortunately, the Keynote Remote app doesn’t live up to this standard. I was also stunned that Apple charged 99¢ for this app. Considering that Remote is a FREE app and the Keynote Remote app requires Keynote ’09, you would think it would just be included in iWork ’09 or FREE. With these limits, you might be wondering WHY would I name this app, App of the Week? I chose this app because it does work, but more importantly it does have potential! The things that it needs (with the exception of Bluetooth control) are easily added! If Apple quickly follows up with a 1.1 update that adds the things I listed above, then this app would kick butt. Luckily this isn’t the only app that allows you to remote control a Keynote presentation. The favorite seems to be “Stage Hand.” $7.99

Apple’s Keynote Remote app is compatible with iPhone and iPod touch and of course requires a Mac running Keynote ’09. You can check out Keynote Remote here on the App Store for 99¢.

Adobe CS4 Stuff

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As an Adobe employee it’s my job to tell customers about our products and what’s new. However, I can’t reach everyone all the time. So I was quite pleased to see that my friends over at NAPP (The Photoshop Guys) helping out by showing digital photographers (and others) what’s new in Photoshop CS4 and more importantly reasons why you’d want to upgrade?

Be sure to check out Scott Kelby’s 4 Part Series on the subject complete with videos. 

 

In other CS4 news

InDesign CS3/CS4 users on the Mac will be happy to know that the Leopard Command-H (hide) bug has finally been laid to rest in Mac OS X 10.5.6. I want to personally thank the hard working people over at Apple and internally at Adobe that helped get this fixed.

 

Where can I learn more about how to use Adobe’s products?

I get this question all the time. While there are certainly some really good training partners out there providing quality online and lecture based training, there are a ton of learning resources that are FREE!

 

Here are just a few of my favorites:

Adobe Creative Suite Video Podcast – by yours truly – shameless plug alert

Adobe TV

Photoshop User TV

The Russell Brown Show

Julieanne Kost

John Nack’s Blog (Photoshop Product Manager – Must read)

Lightroom Killer Tips

Layers TV

InDesign Users Groups

Adobe Design Center

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