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iPod

The iPod Touch Grows Up

The iPod Touch has traditionally been touted as a handheld gaming console for children. That perception is likely to change with the new iPod Touch 5 being a considerable upgrade on previous models. Along with the increase in screen size to match the new iPhone, the camera has also been upgraded and there is a much faster processor with the addition of a dual-core A5 chip.

As a test, for the past month I have given up all other devices and relied solely on the new fifth generation iPod Touch for all mobile activities, both work and play.

Thumb-tall display

As with the latest iPhone, the screen of the iPod Touch has been extended – it is now taller with a ratio of 16:9, at a resolution of 640 x 1136 pixels and 4 inches (diagonal) in size but is not quite wide as previous iPod Touch versions.

5th and 3rd iPod Touch models' width compared
5th gen model is not quite as wide as the earlier 3rd gen iPod Touch

Comparing with the iPod Touch 3, which was my last iPod Touch, the improvement in the quality of the display is not obvious even though the iPod Touch 5 has the new retina display.

In fact, when looking at them side by side with both set on full brightness the screen of the new iPod Touch looks yellow and not as white as the iPod Touch 3 screen. After doing some research I’ve found this is a commonly reported problem, with many saying that it is due to the glue used on the screen having not fully cured. Some have reported that this yellowing goes away after a few days. After a month of use I haven’t seen any improvement yet.

3rd and 5th gen models compared to show 6th gen's yellow screen
The yellow iPod Touch 5 screen

The retina display is another major new addition to the 5th gen model and has received great reviews. I personally wasn’t overwhelmed by it, to be honest, I don’t find it very easy to tell the difference between the retina and non-retina displays on such a small screen.

One use in which the retina is said to particularly useful is when reading small text. When comparing the two side by side, set on full brightness with the same book in iBooks at a few centimetres away from the screen it is easier to see how much better the new retina screen actually is. Unfortunately, this difference is a lot less noticeable in normal use, at normal brightness and at the more typical distance of 30-40 centimetres away.

Powering through: the thick and the thin

The length of battery life, however, is very noticeable. Contrary to the specs listed on the Apple website that claim a music playback time of up to 40 hours and a video playback time of up to 8 hours when fully charged, I found that after just a few hours of use the battery level had sunk to less than 50%. To combat this and ensure a longer battery life I now tend to leave the brightness set at about 20%, further reducing the effectiveness of the retina display.

Unfortunately, due to thinness of the device at just 6.1 mm, the light sensor has been removed so there is no automatic ambient lighting adjustment. It’s not ideal as I have to manually alter this level whenever the surrounding environment changes. Because of this much reduced battery life the light sensor is required more than ever to preserve battery life.

I would have prefered Apple’s concentration on thinness to be eased in favour of a thicker, longer lasting battery and room for an ambient light sensor.

One consolation was that I found that it only took about 20 minutes to charge to 100% from about 20% capacity. The Apple website claims a much slower charge rate with a fast charge in about 2 hours (80% capacity) and a full charge in about 4 hours.

Facetime / iSight

Not having any camera on my previous 3rd gen model I feel spoiled with both a front and back camera. Video conferencing with Facetime or other apps like Skype is now a breeze as long as you have a wi-fi connection to the Internet.

Both cameras give surprisingly good images and I’ve found myself using it a lot to take photos and video with.

Back camera: 5 megapixels, 1080p, up to 30 frames per second
Front camera: 1.2 megapixels, 720p, up to 30 frames per second

The LED flash is very powerful and can double as a torch by using the free Flashlight app.

Another new addition that came with iOS 6 is the new Panorama node for easily taking panoramic photos.

Strap it on

Another new feature that has not appeared on iPods until now is the strap. Apple have ingeniously designed a pop-out button about the same size as the camera. It is located on the back of the device and on the same side as the camera but at bottom. It’s size and position looks as though it was created to match the camera, which also protrudes slightly from the otherwise flush back.

Camera and loop button compared
Camera on one end, loop button on the other. Both protrude from the back

Popping it out by firmly pushing it like a button enables the strap to be hooked on. The strap is probably a good idea to ensure the device is not accidentally dropped, especially when using it as a camera. I was surprised at how secure the strap fastens to the pop out button and no matter how violently I jiggled it around I was unable to get the device to detach itself from the strap. It can be easily removed intentionally.

Controversial connector

There was a lot of fuss made over the switch from the older 30 pin connector to the new 8 pin connector. A lot of iPhone and iPod users have bought accessories that will no longer fit with the newer models. Apple does sell a convertor….for $29, which many grumble about not being included for free. The newer, smaller connector is a huge improvement over the older connector. It is stronger and much less likely to break. It is also reversible – meaning that it cannot be plugged in either way. The socket into which it plugs in the bottom of the ipod is much more compact and looks a lot more resistant to water, should you accidentally drop your device in water.

EarPods dumbed down

Unlike the EarPods that come with the iPhone 5 and new iPads, the EarPods that are included with the iPod Touch 5 do not come with a built in microphone or inline remote control which is both surprising and disappointing.

The manual, which can be downloaded from the iTunes store says that the EarPods can be used for listening to Siri, another new comer to the iPod Touch. There is not much point in just listening to Siri though, which is mainly used for issuing commands or requesting information.

I was concerned that the iPod’s internal microphone may be turned off when the EarPods are plugged in, as is normally the case. After plugging them in and running a test I found that the internal microphone does remain in use even when the EarPods are plugged in.

Speaker out loud

The speaker is very much improved and is easily audible even when not on the highest volume setting. I often prefer to listen to podcasts and music and watch video without the EarPods and this easily achieved, indoors at least, with the 5th generation iPod Touch.

The small speaker holes at the bottom
The small speaker holes at the bottom of the device

Shaping up to other Apple products

There is often a lot of thought and consideration that goes into Apple product design with a history of focusing on the human element of the consumer. The switch to the 16:9 ratio, for example, is advertised as being based on the average reach of the human thumb.

The white top, rounded corners and brushed aluminium gives it the classic Apple look. I’ve noticed something else about the adjustments to the size and shape of the iPod Touch 5, and of course the iPhone 5, and how this newer size relates to existing Apple products.

The taller iPod Touch 5 is now the same height as the Apple TV Remote, which was also recently made taller when it switched from the plastic white controller to the brushed aluminium remote control.

Apple TV remote and iPod Touch 5 compared
The taller design now equals the height of the Apple TV remote

The iPod Touch 5 certainly makes a better remote control for the Apple TV with it’s touch screen interface. All the functionality of the traditional Apple TV remote control is available through the free Remote iOS app. But the iPod Touch’s potential as an alternative remote control is really with the ability to watch video apps such as ABC’s iView and BBC’s iPlayer using AirPlay. The number of TV stations that are developing iOS apps is always expanding, which makes iOS devices like the iPod Touch the perfect way of getting content onto the home TV.

Thinking about Apple and an expandable remote control for TV in this way reminds me of the universal TV remote control that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak invented and ultimately left Apple to design and release in 1987, the CL9 CORE.

Wozniak's programmable Core TV Remote and the iPod Touch compared
Wozniak’s programmable Core TV Remote and the ever expandable collection of viewing apps on the iPod Touch that can be AirPlayed to the Apple TV

Shortly before his death Steve Jobs made it clear that the TV was his next goal. He told his biographer, Walter Isaacson:

“‘I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.’

Is Apple about to come full circle with a ‘programmable’ TV remote control in the form of iOS devices such as the Pod Touch 5?  With Siri now onboard ‘changing channels’ could be as simple as asking Siri to switch to a different app.

Author: Vincent Brown
Web: www.vintuitive.com
Twitter: @Vintuitive
GooglePlus: +Vintuitive
Flickr: Vintuitive

Fieldrunners HD

Subatomic Studios has this great Tower Defense game called Fieldrunners HD that I received as part of the Humble Bundle 3 for Android collection. And so far it’s my favorite game of the bunch.

I like it so much that I’ll dare to say the whole bundle is worth throwing a few bucks at just to pick up Fieldrunners alone.

You’re trying to prevent an invading Army from getting into your strong hold by placing Gatling Towers, Goo Towers, Missile Towers and Flame Towers along side Shotgun Towers, Tesla Towers and Mortar Towers.

You start with a limited budget, and build up as you start to kill your enemy. After you build up your bank then you can buy towers or upgrade them for more firepower.

As the assaulting army starts marching in, your towers go to work trying to stop or slow the enemy down in their various ways. If you can prevent the wave from getting soldiers in you make it to the next round. Once they get 20 attackers in, it’s end of the line, game over, and you are done.

Strategy Tip!

I’ve found building a Six Flags Serpentine line you not only slow down the progress of the attackers charge, but you get the Opportunity to hit them on both sides as they march up and down the line.




I totally dig Fieldrunners, I give it a four out of five stars. It’s available for the iPhone, iPad, Android as well as your computer via Steam. I’ve already spent several hours in the game with another several planned in the near future.

Bily Foster – That iPad Guy

 

i.Trek SupaMount F

Today I’m going to talk to you about this nifty little tool I came across on Amazon. It’s the i.Trek SupaMount F. Which is a mouth full of of words to say a super cool tripod mount/stand for your mobile device. The packaging list any mobile phone/iPod of course it also says ‘you will no more need a digital camera.’ :)

The key thing is how adjustable the ‘clamp’ is so that you can use it on a variety of devices and with a good selection of cases as well. And while it doesn’t say that it works with the iPad, it does for the most part. I say for the most part because you can use it as a stand pretty well, however it doesn’t hold as security as I’d like in order to trust it as a tripod mount for my iPads, but as you can see in these photos it works well as a stand.

It’s crafted from solid aluminum and has a nice sturdy feel without feeling heavy. The clamp is padded so it won’t scratch the device, however if you aren’t careful the padding can activate the touch sensors of the screen so make sure you have it on the bevel.

The SupaMount also has two different mounting holes to give you a options when you need to put it on to a tripod. It’s a nifty little stand that works really great for phones and some tablets, however with my 7 inch Nexus the edges are too curved and it can’t good and decent grip on it. However with the Kindle Fire it seems to get a nice tight fit.

I would definitely use this more for mobile phones then I would a tablet, I give it 4 out of 5 stars for mobile phones but only a 2 out of 5 for tablets.

Bily Foster

Apple TV 2012 – G.B.U. review

by Brian Booher

So what can I say about the new Apple TV that hasn’t been said already?  It has been out for a couple months since I wrote this article, but I figured I would write my own review.  Yeah you can go read the reviews from famous writers like Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, David Pougue of the New York Times, or various tech review companies like CNET, Revision3, PC World, etc.  Do realize that many of these people who write the reviews get the devices from Apple in advance before it goes on sale, so they tend to be biased in Apple’s favor.  There’s nothing really wrong with that, but if there is a flaw in the device, they don’t want to shine much light on it since they’re trying to help Apple sell them.  Fortunately for me, I am not bound to any contract with any company when it comes to reviewing the Apple TV.  This should be to your advantage as a consumer because I am giving my good, bad, and ugly, or G.B.U., review of the Apple TV 2012 edition.  I bought the device with my own money.

THE GOOD

Setup

It’s made by Apple, so we know it works and works very well, so all you Apple fans can get up and cheer hysterically now.

The Apple TV is very easy to set up.  All you have to do is plug in the power cord, HDMI cable, and ethernet cable if you don’t want or have a home wireless network.  It does have an optical audio port if you want to connect to a sound system using fiber optics.  There is also a micro-USB port that is said to be mainly used for servicing the device.

As for the power cord, the Apple TV does not really use a proprietary kind of plug or power system.  I am currently powering my Apple TV using the power cord that came with my old Sony PSP and it fits and works.  Since there is no external power adapter to have to connect to, I don’t see any problems.

Size

The Apple TV is about the size of a standard hockey puck.  It is square shaped with rounded corners.  Each side measures about 4 inches long.  It’s about 1 inch tall.  All of the ports or on the back side.  It is all black color.  The Apple logos are on the top and bottom of the device and are shiny as well as the sides.

Remote

Each Apple TV comes with a remote that is about 5 inches long and made from aluminum.  The buttons on it are black with white lettering.  It has a Menu, Play/Pause, directional pad, and selection buttons on it.  It does have a battery in it.  The battery is a CR2032 3-volt disc battery.  Remember the model of battery when you have to replace it sometime in the future.

Software

The software is based on iOS like on the iPhone and iPad, only customized to work with the remote.  When you turn it on for the first time, you will have to do the basic setup like language, network connectivity, location, and logging in.  After that, it’s much like using iTunes on the PC.

Network Connectivity

The Apple TV is a great device when it comes to connecting on a network.  If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you can use the Apple Remote app to control the Apple TV rather than using the original remote.  Believe me, it is better with app because you then won’t have to pick and choose letters to spell stuff, you just type it out.

When you activate Home Sharing on iTunes on your PC or Mac, you can stream all your content to the Apple TV.

Airplay allows you to connect your iOS device to the Apple TV and watch movies, pictures, or play music that exists on the iOS device.

The coolest feature I have found is Airplay mirroring, where you can share your screen on your iOS device to the Apple TV and see it on the TV.  This is especially great on the iPad.  Some apps will give extra features on the iPad when you mirror it to the TV.  One idea is turning the iPad into a driving wheel for racing games.  Angry Birds will just do mirroring, but it can be fun to show off your pig bashing skills.

Content

You can rent movies and TV shows and stream online radio and music from the device.  It does have Netflix access as well as MLB TV, NBA Network, and NHL TV for those who have subscriptions.  You can stream podcasts, both video and audio from iTunes.  I could go on, but it’s better that you find out yourself.

Price

The Apple TV is priced at $99.  Depending on where you buy it, you might have to pay sales tax too.  I don’t know what else to say about the price point.  For an Apple product, this is a great thing to get.

 

THE BAD

Now that we have gone through the good parts of the Apple TV, it’s time to go into the bad parts.  I won’t categorize the parts, but mainly just list them off with explanations.

The Apple TV can ONLY be connected using HDMI.  Long gone were the days of the analog component cables that the old versions of Apple TV once had.  You might be able to get converter from digital to analog, but with the amount of copy protection Apple uses on the movies and TV shows, that may not work.

I guess in order to save costs and maybe try to push people to buy more Apple products, the instructions for the Apple TV are very basic out of the box.  You have to go to the Apple website to get more info on how to do certain functions.  As much as a computer geek as I am, I had to search the website just to find out how to use Airplay and mirroring.

The remote for the Apple TV still uses the infrared (IR) signal like most other remotes, meaning that it is a line of sight device.  One competitor of the Apple TV, the Boxee Box, uses a radio frequency (RF) remote, so you don’t have to point at the device to operate it.  But to counter this issue, Apple released the Apple Remote for iOS that can turn your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch into a more functional remote.  It is also a pain to have to use the directional pad on the remote to spell out stuff for like addresses or passwords.  I suggest using the app instead.

THE UGLY

Now that we have gone to through the bad parts of the Apple TV, let’s go through the ugly. This part is more focused on what could be improved on the Apple TV to make it a truly superior product.

Apple TV is basically nothing more than a $100 version of iTunes.  Whatever iTunes on your PC or Mac will play, Apple TV will play too.  If iTunes does not play a certain video or audio format, Apple TV will not either.  Any home networking of video or audio has to be done through iTunes.  Whereas the Boxee Box can detect external hard drives used for streaming, the Apple TV only focuses on Apple products.

I will say right here that for those of you who have Macs and did not upgrade to Lion yet, “Front Row” is much more functional than Apple TV.  It will play formats that Apple TV will not.  Apple took “Front Row” out of Lion, though with some searching on Google, you can get that capability back on Lion.

CONCLUSION

For all the amazing things that Apple does for their products, I was fairly disappointed in the limited capabilities that the Apple TV can do.  I did some research and found that the Apple TV can be jailbroken, though the newest version has not been yet.  I am hoping that when I do get to jailbreak this device that it will open up capabilities and make it much more functional than before.

Although I wasn’t blown away by this device, for $100, you really can’t go wrong.  I like the ability to use Airplay and stream the content of the iPad on my TV, giving me a bigger picture.

The Apple TV is a great extension for those people who are locked into the Apple ecosystem, where all their music and videos come from iTunes.  This is not a universal media player.  If you want a media player that is more universal with video and audio formats, go get a Boxee Box for $180.  I have one and it’s awesome.  I like having the best of both worlds, so I will use both devices when I want to.  I do not like limiting myself to one spot.

Please do not look at this review as a purely positive or negative point of view.  I am merely stating my experience with it.  I will keep this device and hope to have lots of use out of it.  I hope that jailbreaking it in time will make it work even better.  For $100, it’s a good media center choice, if you don’t mind the “walled garden” experience.

Have fun and geek out!

Follow me on Twitter: @brianbooher and

Follow me on Google+: +Brian Booher

Review: Splashtop Remote Desktop

by: Brian Booher

Ever since I got my Amazon Kindle Fire, I have been wanting to find a way to stream my music and movies from my external hard drive and PC to my Kindle Fire.  While most searches ended with having to convert the files to be compatible with the Kindle Fire, I didn’t want to deal with converting and copying to the Kindle Fire’s small 8GB storage drive.

Enter Splashtop.

Home

I found a video on CNET by Brian Cooley on how to stream audio and video from your PC or Mac to the Kindle Fire using Splashtop, found here.  The app itself cost me 99 cents on the Amazon Appstore, which was on sale from $4.99.  It is well worth the cost, even if it is not on sale.

Splashtop is a remote desktop app that allows you to take control of your PC/Mac like doing remote desktop from another regular computer.  The cool thing is that you can control your PC/Mac with your finger, though you will be controlling the PC/Mac with the mouse cursor.  You will be required to enter a password on the desktop side for security of which you enter again on your mobile device.

The coolest feature I like about Splashtop is that you can stream movies to your remote device, whether it be on iOS or Android.  If you are on your home network, the sound will sync with the videos, so they look awesome.  There might be a slight, and I mean slight, slowdown due to the speed of the processor, but it’s not a big deal and if you watch the movie long enough, you don’t notice it.

You do have to get the Splashtop streamer program to run on your PC/Mac. The nice thing is that this program is free.  It is the app that you access the PC/Mac that you have to pay for.  I bought mine for as low as 99 cents from the Amazon Appstore and from Apple App Store, though they were on sale at the time.  The iPad app is currently on sale for $4.99 in the U.S.  Just realize that the prices can change anytime.

One minor downside I did find with Splashtop is that when you connect to your PC/Mac, the resolution will be changed on the computer to fit the smaller screen of your device, though you do have the ability to change it back in the settings.  I have not found a feature that keeps the resolution of the remote computer’s resolution the same.  It can be a slight annoyance, but nothing major.  When you log off the computer, the resolution will return to normal if you did not change it on the mobile device.

You do have the ability to access your PC/Mac through the Internet if you might be at work or on vacation.  Splashtop will do this using your Gmail address.  There is a feature in the desktop settings that you enter your Gmail username and password. When you are on different networks, all you have to do is do a search on your mobile device and it will find the computer using your Gmail account.  How cool is that?

Splashtop Gmail

I do recognize that there are other remote desktop apps for mobile devices that may offer more functionality as well as apps that may be a lot more expensive or cheaper, like free.  I could have done the same thing, but since I was able to get the app for a good price, I think it is well worth the money.  There are other great apps that Splashtop makes as well. Products include Splashtop Touchpad that makes your device into a virtual keyboard and mousepad and Splashtop XDisplay that works by turning your iPad into a second monitor.

You can get all the info from the Splashtop website.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can find me @BrianBooher

I can also be found on my Google+ page as well here.

Have Fun and Geek Out!!

 

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