Archive for category iPad

A Day with my iPad Pro

2c21537200000578-0-image-a-53_1441851880661Artists, designers, and tech pundits have all provided their (generally positive) comments and reviews of the new iPad Pro, but I thought I would add my two cents on the new Apple device. I’m an Apple fanboy who loves the idea of a bigger iPad. Plus, I’ve always wanted to be able to draw directly onto my computer screen. Thanks to Apple, this is now a reality for me (well, except my Apple Pencil has not yet arrived — Back-ordered!)

I can’t say that I know many of the tech specs of the iPad Pro, but I know it’s bigger (duh!) than my gen3 iPad. I believe it’s almost 13 inches across. I’ve just been telling people that the height of my old iPad is now the width of my iPad Pro. You definitely feel that it’s bigger. I had mentioned to my brother that I didn’t love the way the app icons are still the same size as the ones on my old iPad, but now they’re spaced further apart. That seemed kind of silly to me. With a bigger screen area you’d think they would fit more apps on a single screen instead! Surprisingly, now that I’ve been using it for a day, I don’t really mind the waste of space. Do you remember that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer wanted to give drivers a feeling of luxury on his mile of highway by making a three-lane highway into two lanes? It’s a little bit like that. More breathing room isn’t a bad thing.

I felt that roominess certainly when I started playing games on the iPad Pro. Against my wishes, I am getting older and I find that I appreciate a larger size (especially when I’m playing a board game like Talisman), and the cartoony games like Angry Birds, or Nibblers, look so nice blown up. On apps like Flipboard (which has been updated for iPad Pro) it actually fits more content on a page rather than merely enlarging things. I used to be unhappy with the limited number of topic tiles that Flipboard could display on its main pages, but now I get so many more tiles that I can easily access all my favourite topics (without hitting the “More” button). I can’t wait for more apps to take advantage of the available screen real estate.

I actually got a case for my iPad Pro from Amazon (didn’t want to shell out for the pricey keyboard case from Apple) and so now with my iPad Pro in a nice, black folio it feels very much like choir folder (for anyone whose ever sung in a choir). It’s not light, but considering how much bigger it is, it’s not too heavy either. It feels good in my arms, but I think I’d be hard-pressed to hold it in one hand for very long.

I tried the multi-tasking, split-screen view, and it’s not bad, but I don’t know how useful I’m going to find it from day to day (and it kind of pops up too often when I’m swiping from right to left). I don’t actually work with a lot of documents (since I’m not using this device for work). Plus, the view only works with apps that have been updated for iPad Pro. Generally, the iPad Pro feels faster and the wifi is better than on my old iPad (again, I’m not sure how much better the tech specs are). I’ve played many simple games, but also some fast moving games like Marvel’s Contest of Champions. I have yet to play Infinity Blade 3 on it, but everything seems to be quite zippy.

Something else new to me (but not to the rest of you in Appleland) is TouchID. I love how easy it is to use and (now that I’ve set up both thumbprints in the system), I can activate it from any angle and either thumb. It’s no surprise that I would want to get away from entering a number code to unlock my iPad, but since I don’t bring my iPad out so much, it’s probably not as useful as it could be. This experience really makes me want to upgrade my phone to one with TouchID as well.

Knock on wood, I have not yet experienced the unresponsiveness after charging that others have reported, but it’s still early days. I love Apple products, but they’ve given me their share of problems as well. Still, I am cautiously optimistic. For now I will keep enjoying my new iPad Pro while I wait patiently for the Pencil to arrive (hopefully before the holidays).

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Angry Birds: The Next Generation

Angry Birds Space – Game Review

First they were merely slinging birds at green pigs, then they were doing it over various holiday seasons, then they were doing it in Rio (with some monkeys around), but now the Angry Birds have taken their war with the green pigs (who I’ve always suspected of being aliens anyway) into outer space. In typical Angry Birds tradition, there is a loose storyline surrounding the game, and in the latest sequel, the pigs have taken an entire egg planetoid from the birds and they’re not happy. As far as the game goes, it’s a variation on the basic mechanics of the other three (i.e. slingshot the birds at the pigs). I am truly glad they didn’t try to take the birds and put them into spaceships and create a totally different kind of game using the same characters. That being said, there are a number of fresh elements to Angry Birds Space that make it a refreshing new instalment.

The biggest change is that now rather than having the birds on one side, targeting the pigs on the other side of a single horizon, often we are dealing with entire planetoids. What that means is that there is gravity to deal with. What used to be a simple arc trajectory for the birds is now curved even more according to planetary gravity (I’m no physics expert, but I’m trying … ). In some cases, you can even shoot your bird past the planetoid and the gravity will cause the bird to “slingshot” back and orbit the planet for a second shot at the pigs (it’s way cooler than I’m describing it). Also, since it’s space, there’s atmosphere and atmospheric gravity to deal with. Sometimes the pigs are floating in bubbles. If you pop their bubbles, they will die in the vaccuum of space (I know, it sounds terribly cruel, but it’s still a cartoony game — suffocation is all in fun). Also, when your birds lose momentum, they float through space very slowly without gravity until they reach the atmosphere, then wham, straight down to the planet! I love these kinds of clever rules of physics that have been added to this fresh, new variant on the Angry Birds basics. The game makers have clearly given thought into how to continue the tradition of fun gameplay that they’ve already established.

If you’re wondering what new birds there are, most of our familiar feathered friends have joined the space program, but now they have funky cool space capes and goggles. Red bird is still our main guy, blue bird still splits in three, bomb bird still blows up. However, yellow bird has been replaced with purple bird who not only speeds across the screen when you tap, but actually follows the location of your finger for a target. After a few screens, you will also be rewarded with three free Space Eagles. Similar to the eagle from the original game, the Space Eagle basically finishes the screen for you if you get stuck.

The game play is still fun and simple; with the same broad appeal that the rest of the series had. I hope that Rovio will keep coming with the updates like they have for the others (that’s definitely part of what makes the games appealing). Even after very little time, I’ve already finished two thirds of the first set of screens (albeit not all with three stars), so it won’t be long before I’m looking for more. If you’re already a fan of the birds, this is more of the same with a twist. If you’ve never slung a bird at a pig, you’re probably better off with the original game as a starter — more bang for your buck. But you’ll soon be ready for the space birds, and I’m sure they will be waiting. (4.5 out of 5)

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My bumpy road to iOS5

It’s funny when you get an error message and you start to Google it and see the undercurrent of comments and posts about how other people have been having similar errors. It’s almost like an underground movement of fellow victims, trying to help each other out. Anyway, when I tried to update my iPhone 3GS and iPad (v.1) to iOS5, I quickly encountered an error during the backup step of the upgrade (when iTunes backs up all your info and media so that it can restore it after it’s wiped out your device and put on the new OS).

An error occured while backing up this iPad (-5000).  Would you like to continue to update this iPad? Continuing will result in the loss of all contents on this iPad.

Don’t you just love those scary parts at the end? “Oh, BTW, you can click continue if you like, but you’ll mostly likely be screwed if you do. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!” So, I didn’t click. I started to Google instead. Apparently this problem has been around for a while, going back to several updates, and has happened with iPhones, iPod Touch, etc. Since it was happening with both my devices, I figured that it wasn’t my device’s fault, but something more general.

The help on the boards was not great. There were people who found that retrying the process did the trick (but others tried it over 30 times with no joy). Some people said that turning off their Microsoft antivirus did the trick (which was useless for me, as I had no Microsoft anything). There was also some suggestion that just using the Restore to factory default would give you iOS5 as well and you could just use one of your backups to restore the rest afterward. Some people found that to be the solution, however there was a whole conversation string devoted to people complaining how backup errors wipe out your previous backups so there is no way to restore once you encounter the backup error.

Hilariously, there are often people on these boards who have too much time on their hands and like to deride others with real problems. One guy complained at having lost all his years of tweaking and customization done to his iPhone. I totally get that as my number one priority was not to lose my Angry Birds progress! So another guy responded to the first post by expressing disbelief at the amount of tweaking the first guy had done, suggesting that he’s just being a whiner. Have some sympathy, man! Don’t kick us when we’re down. We have the right to have all our tweaks (no matter how trivial) preserved if they can be.

Finally, after weeks without any luck (even waited for 5.0.1 to see if that version was any better), my plan was to do normal backups (which I could do for some reason) and copy the backups out of the backup folder (\Library\Application Support\MobileSync\Backups) into another folder. Then when the upgrade process wiped out my backup I could still copy them back after I clicked the Continue button to install iOS5, wiping out my device. Then I could restore my files and tweaks from a backup of the backup. However, in the process of backing up the backups, I discovered that the backup folders were protected (at least for me). I could only copy them, not move. And even after copying, I had to log in as administrator to rename them. This turned a light on in my brain. [Cue flashback dissolve effect] When I got my new MBP and restored my folders from Carbonite online backup, I unwittingly changed the name of my admin account from my previous iMac and so the folders that I copied over were protected in this odd way. I needed to log in to make changes to them.

Realizing the problem, I didn’t need this backup of my backup anymore. I decided to try an experiment and I renamed the original backup folders in the original location, and made a new folder called “Backups” in the same location (new folders are not protected in the same way as the other ones were). Then I went to run the update in iTunes, and voila! It worked!

Now I am happily using Notifications, enjoying the multi-touch gestures on my iPad, and trying to manage the confusion that is iCloud. Plus, ironically, I’ll be able to do future updates through the cloud, and avoid these same problems. (I wrote this post not because it’s likely that any casual reader would be having this problem, but since I found no one out there posting this exact same solution to their -5000 problem, I wanted to put my story into the ether and hopefully in future if someone else does, they will Google my blog and find this solution. Here’s to you, future backup error sufferers!)

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Qwiki, Hitpad, Zite & Flipboard: The next generation of iPad info apps

In only one short year, the iPad has changed the way we consume internet information. Wikipedia, RSS, Twitter, and other online sources of info and input are not new, but who isn’t sick of scanning through endless streams of text headlines? The iPad provides a great platform for users to get this kind of info in a media-rich way, and the latest batch of apps (all free!) makes that experience even more enjoyable and exciting.

Qwiki is a brand new app which makes interacting with Wikipedia much more lively. While Wikipedia takes the traditional paper-bound encyclopedia and adds not only the mass-authoring dimension, but also the online searchability of the information provided. Qwiki takes a leap forward by making Wikipedia more like a tv/video program. It takes the various images associated with a topic and shifts focus from one image to the next all the while a pleasant computer voice reads out the summary text from the Wikipedia entry itself. For most of us raised on TV and other kinds of active media, this is a lot more engaging than having to read each entry for ourselves. It even makes me want to browse around Wikipedia even more than before. For those who are interested in more detail, there are links to the actual Wikipedia page as well as other relevant sources at the end of the readout, so people can click to open those within the browser.

Hitpad a slickly-designed aggregator of info from a few different sources. Across the screen it displays columns for News, Twitter, Videos, Web and Photos. Each column pulls from various sources to collect different types of info and media about the topic in question. On the left there is a trending topics bar which allows users to discover topics which are popular on the internet at the time (according to Hitpad, anyway). Once you click on one of those topics, the columns all repaint with info and media relevant to the topic you’ve selected. While the trending topics are mildly interesting, I often prefer to look up other topics, so the search bar allows me to enter my own. Hitpad will pull together info and media from across the internet for topics that I query as well. So far I don’t find Hitpad as useful as the other apps simply because the limited number of topics (or the additional steps required to enter my own topics) make it slower to get info that is of interest to me. However, Hitpad brings back all kinds of media results which the other apps don’t, and the interface is extremely well made and fun to use.

Zite and Flipboard are similar apps that aggregate from your RSS feeds (specifically whatever you’ve subscribed to using Google Reader). Both apps use the iPad’s touch interface to allow you to swipe the screen to flip pages and tap on articles arranged in grids in order to read more. They both take images and fill the grid with them in order to increase visual appeal, and they both make use of the folders you’ve set up in Google Reader to organize feeds by topics. The one main difference is that Zite will also seed articles from other feeds that you haven’t subscribed to or selected (which got them in a bit of trouble from some publishers of those feeds/sites). Nevertheless, this feature is both a plus and a minus in my books for using Zite over Flipboard. When I run out of new posts on Flipboard, I’ll probably fire up Zite to find more posts to read. However, I prefer Flipboard on a regular basis because it’s less cluttered by feeds that I didn’t actually subscribe to. (I know it’s a bit of Catch-22, but that’s how I feel, OK?) Regardless, both are very nice to use and make reading RSS feeds much more of a pleasure than NetNewsWire and other similar apps ever did.

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Infinity Blade – Game Review

If you think that games on the iPhone and iPad are all puzzle games about cutting the rope or flinging birds at pigs, and wish that there were something more exciting, visually impressive, and more violent (You can’t help it, you’ve been desensitized by TV, right?) then you should try the impressive Infinity Blade. Originally there was a free demo that showed how amazing the 3D environment could be rendered on an iOS device, but now it’s a full-blown game. The title is completely apt because essentially you play a knight in a fantasy realm trying to get to the top of a castle where you face the evil God King (this isn’t much of a spoiler because it happens right away when you start the game) and you end up dead very quickly. Fortunately, your descendant (who’s got the same equipment, gold, experience as you did) comes back to try again. Along the way into the castle and up its tower, you do battle with a number of enemies (though not a very large number of enemies) before you face the God King again (and probably die again). This cycle keeps going again and again until you defeat him (and even then it goes on).

What makes this game good is firstly the graphics. The 3D CGI is amazingly sharp and you really feel a sense of the virtual depth. The characters, their weapons, armour, etc. are really imaginatively-designed and look good (My favourite enemy is called a Wood Jester, look for him!). The gameplay functions perfectly for a player like myself. I like things simple. I don’t like having to manipulate 10 different parameters, or perform a complex series of gestures just to get my character to do something. Instead, there are two arrows at the bottom corners of the screen to allow you to dodge to the left or right when the enemy attacks. There are also blocking moves, parries, stabs, etc. To attack, you just slide your finger over the enemy in a slashing motion. Again, the graphics are nice and fluid. On top of all that, there are spells that you perform by drawing a certain pattern on the screen with your finger once your magic gauge is full. Even on my iPad 1, the responsiveness is excellent, and my knight moves quickly and responds to all my commands (for the most part) immediately.

As you continue to fight, after each victory, you get gold and experience. The experience also goes towards mastering your weapons and armour (which is actually kind of a bad thing because there’s a gauge on each item which fills with experience points and as they fill up, they increase your overall experience and allow you to level up. Unfortunately, once you master an item, there are no more points added to your overall experience, so levelling-up goes much slower until you can buy and equip more items. Items cost gold, but there is a way to make in-app purchases for more game-gold in exchange for real-world cash. If you have the patience to spend many virtual bloodlines to do it, you probably can earn the gold in the game world eventually without shelling out more actual dollars.

Anyway, after you level up and get good weapons and armour, you will probably defeat the God King. Unfortunately that doesn’t automatically get you to the next level (I thought that surely the Infinity Blade which the God King uses would have been given to me and then I could use it to unlock the second level in the basement, but I have to earn the gold to buy the Infinity Blade myself — and it’s not cheap!). Anyway, once you get the Infinity Blade, you put it into a small obelisk in the castle basement which then opens three more doors to the Deathless Kings cells (this is the new content that was part of a free upgrade from the company). The Deathless Kings are even tougher than the God King, and pretty cool looking to boot.

As far as tips go, it was a great tip that I got from another blog which recommended that after a certain point, I should restart level 1 (keeping all I had acquired) because the enemies would be easier now that I’d levelled up and I could get more gold and experience quicker than ever. Another tip is that a healing ring is a must-have for any big battle. It allows your knight to become almost deathless himself.

Unfortunately there are a few flaws to the game as well. I already mentioned problem with mastering items. Another problem is the repetitiveness of the game (but that can actually be fun because you’ll become a better fighter by learning how each enemy fights). It would be nice if there were more paths within the castle, more choice. Also, maybe because it’s such a large app to have in RAM, it crashes not-infrequently. Thankfully your progress will likely be saved in the system so you can come right back to where you left off.

After I beat the final boss, I’ll have to look back at how distracting this game has been. I’ve spent many hours playing this game, and enjoyed every minute. (4 out of 5)

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In Defense of iPad

In the tech world it feels like old news, especially for the US who have had their iPad for months. In Canada, it’s been less than a month since the magical little device made it to our shores and I still get all kinds of questions from people when they first see me with mine. I guess it’s a testament to the hype and reputation of Apple that everyone seems to have heard enough about the iPad to form some opinions about it (can’t say the same for the latest HTC smartphone or Google Android device). Most people are just curious and are not really intending to judge me for buying an iPad, but since I shelled out the big bucks for the top of the line 3G model, I guess I always feel some need to justify myself as an early adopter and why I don’t think I got scammed.

Do you love it? What do you do with it?
I have to say, even though I don’t believe it’s magical, I do love my iPad. I use it every day, a few times a day. Mostly I’m either checking up on my Godfinger worshippers (it’s a game where you are God, taking care of a bunch of farming minions), or reading on Early Edition (it’s an app that lays out my RSS feeds to look like a newspaper — very cool!). Also, it’s a lazy-man’s device for sure. Even though I’m only a few feet from the computer, whenever I get notifications of new gmails or tweets, instead of getting my butt off the couch to check, I just pull out the ol’ iPad and saved myself from burning a few extra calories. On top of the convenience, I actually find myself really liking the way it runs so smoothly and the way everything looks on it. I’m looking forward to journaling on it as well when vijournal M (a journal app that syncs to my Mac and my iPhone) makes its way to the iPad.

Isn’t it just a big iPod touch?
It’s true that in essence it’s a big iPod touch. It is not as revolutionary as all the marketing from Apple would have you believe. However, my counter-argument is that it’s a big iPod Touch in the same way my recently-purchased 42 inch LCD TV is a big version of my old 26 inch CRT TV. Everyone is clamouring for new big flatscreens, but they’re just essentially bigger versions of the smaller TVs we used to have — but there’s the rub! The larger TV allows for an HD signal to look noticeably better. Similarly, the larger screen real estate of the iPad makes games look better, but also many apps can take advantage of the extra space for menus, lists, etc and still maintain a good sized screen on the right. (Case in point, an app called Air Video lets me stream video from my computer. On my iPhone, the menu takes up the screen until the video comes on, at which point that takes over the entire screen. On the iPad, there are menus on the left, while a decent sized video can fill in the right.) And don’t get me started on how great a reading device it is for comic books, magazines and regular eBooks. The bigger screen makes all the difference.

But it still doesn’t have a camera, or support Flash, right?
Well, those are both true, but frankly, I have yet to care. I have a camera on my iPhone, and I don’t do much chatting, let alone video chatting. I definitely don’t need to be doing that on my iPad. Plus, there’s no way I would be caught dead holding my huge iPad up to my face to take a photo. Similarly, there’s only been a handful of times I’ve come across sites on my iPad where missing Flash posed a problem (plus I was reading something recently stating that for most mobile phones, the Flash they support is not the most recent or capable of displaying a lot of the flash video out there on the web.

Does anyone really need an iPad? I could have purchased a computer for that price.
It’s also true that the iPad is a luxury item. For the most part, if you have computing needs, you’d be better off getting a cheap laptop (or maybe even a netbook) but for the rest of us, that is not nearly as fun. Apple does a great job of creating things that developers get behind and support with 1001 inventive new apps/functions. It’s cool to be part of that community. No one needs an iPad, but everybody wants one (at least those people who have had their hands on one). It’s an easy sell.

Bottom line is that it puts so many wonderful things at my fingertips and fills so many of my needs for convenience. It’s a fantasy come true after watching years of Star Trek and seeing them hold their PADD devices in their hands. Now I finally have my own version of one (now if Steve could work on getting me that starship!)

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