Reviews

Tweetie 2 for iPhone

0

(8/10)

tweetie For some time now I’ve resisted the urge to try out any of the pay-for Twitter applications on the iPhon, mostly because I’ve found the free ones to be more than sufficient for my needs. Tweetdeck for the iPhone has delivered all the functionality that I’ve needed and it was responsive enough for me not to be on the lookout for anything better. I’ve also used Echofon before I tried Tweetdeck. Another great client, but I stopped using it when I started using Tweetdeck on my laptop.

Tweetie 2 was recently launched (well not that recently) and included some new features I wanted to try out. The old app had also received some rave reviews so I decided to spend the £1.79 (about R22, hardly a kings ransom) and buy it from the the app store [iTunes link].

One capacitive click after installing the app and I was on my way to Twitter bliss (Twiss ?). The interface is clean and well organised. Everything is where you expect to find it and the app is super responsive. At first I thought it was just gimicky, but there is an awesome function that allows you to refresh/reload the screen you’re on by pulling the screen down and then letting it bounce back – sounds complicated, but you’ll love it once you give it a try. Icons are cached so timelines load quickly and their layout also looks great.

There are some features that I’ve grown used to and couldn’t live without:

  • URL shortening with a bit.ly account
  • Read later with Instapaper
  • Image posting with Posterous
  • Nearby search
  • Saved searches

Other features that I don’t use, but that I know others find very useful:

  • Support for multiple accounts
  • Video upload using yFrog or TwitVid
  • Customisable quote/retweet syntax

Rumour has it that Tweetie 2.1 is imminent and will add support for lists. Awesome.

It just makes you a better Twit.

Commodore 64 emulator for the iPhone

0

(7/10)

C64-icon.pngAfter some initial hiccups with getting (and keeping) the application in the iTunes App Store, Manomio are back with C64 (iTunes link) and 8 free games.

At first you may find yourself questioning your sanity, but after dropping £2.99 in the iTunes store and playing one of the old classics, you’ll be pulled right back to you gaming roots.

Now maybe it was just because I was stuck on a two hour flight and had nothing else to do after I had finished reading my Stuff Magazine, but after playing Dragons Den for 10 minutes, I just couldn’t stop. It was clear that my life depended on me getting to the next level. I had my headphones plugged in and turned up loud to allow the 8 bit beeps and boops to be enjoyed at their optimum monaural magnificence. The people on either side of me clearly thinking that there was a crazy man bashing some ancient technology with his thumbs about to go postal on the flight.

The control system allows for a joystick and a single button – that is all we needed back in the day. You can also orientate the the phone in portrait or landscape to either have a view of said button and joystick or not. Playing the game fullscreen in landscape was my choice as the additional screen real estate made everything that much bigger. The only problem is that with this orientation your thumbs can block out some of the graphics. Nothing serious though.

The emulator is responsive and tracks your finger movements for the joystick and copious amounts of button mashing pretty well. I’d give the app a higher rating, but at the moment the games library is a little limited. When they release more content and they say they will, there is a change that this little gem could deserve an 8 or maybe even a nine.

C64-screen.jpgIf you can still remember loading games on that beige C64 tape drive and waiting hours just to get to the good part, you’ll love how your old favourites now load instantly !

Check out the video below to see what you’re missing out on.

Plex and the ultimate media center setup

1

(10/10)

I’ve been using XBMC on my old Xbox as a media center for a few years now and it has served me well. In fact, it is still serving me well, but it doesn’t have the horsepower to get HD content onto my TV. It also doesn’t have some of the features that I’m after in a media center.

Plex for Mac

Plex for Mac

Some time ago I started playing with the free app Plex (Plex was born out of XBMC) on my iMac at home and I was very impressed with what it could do. The only problem was that my iMac was nowhere near my TV and it is used for all sorts of things other than watching movies or listening to music.

I lost interest in the application as I didn’t see a way to integrate it with my existing media setup. I was sad to see it go as the interface was really slick, it worked with the Apple remote (it actually doesn’t work with the mouse at all 🙂 and it was exceptionally good at going to sites like imdb.com and tv.com to fetch movie posters, box art, plot outlines and theme music.


I’m now in the process of putting together a new setup which I think is the ultimate combination of features and cost.

An older Mac mini

An older Mac mini

You can pick up an older Mac mini with the appropriate video adapter for a pretty decent price and it will easily deliver the goodness I’m after (just make sure that it has at least a 1.8Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo if you want HD). It will run Mac OS X and will boot straight into Plex. I’ll use an Apple remote (with a view to upgrade to a Logitech Harmony at some point) to control the whole setup, with the option to use a wireless keyboard and mouse if I need to hop onto the Internet or use iTunes. I use my iMac as a NAS (it has Terabytes of external firewire storage courtesy of Lacie) so all I’ll have to do is point the Plex at my “Movies”, “TV Series” and “Music” shares and it will do the rest. Depending on the size of your media library it will take some time for Plex to go and fetch all the stuff it needs from the Internet to populate its database with the relevant text, images and sound and then you’re set. Sit back on the couch and enjoy.

Logitech Harmony

Logitech Harmony


Whenever you add something to your media library, Plex automatically detects it and goes and fetches everything it needs. For TV shows it automatically sorts everything into seasons, it keeps track of what you’ve already watched and plays the theme music in the background while you’re choosing and episode.

Plex also has plug-ins for just about every decent media service on the Internet: Hulu, TED, BBC iPlayer, Youtube, Flickr and iPhoto, just to name few. So even if you don’t have your own media on a local server, you have access to hours of entertainment at your fingertips.

 

It almost seems to easy, but with the initial testing I’ve done and reports from other people on the Internet, I’m confident that it will be money well spent and will see me well into the future.

 

Plex showing you everything you need to know about BSG

Plex showing you everything you need to know about BSG

Protect your iPhone

3

(9/10)

I’ve never really been a fan of cell phone covers or cases. Usually because you end up compromising on the functionality of your device or you end up doubling its size. My 2G iPhone ended up looking like a expensive German bathroom fitting that had been attacked by a child with an angle grinder. Not a pretty site, but I never saw a cover that appealed to me. Mind you, I wasn’t really trying very hard to find one.

I was determined not to let my shiny new iPhone 3GS suffer the same fate. I saw a few covers that didn’t look too bad and decided to head out on a Saturday morning to pick one up. I was quickly reminded why doing your own research online and then ordering from an e-tailer is always the best option. All the staff in all the stores I went to were completely useless. I was really impressed with how little they knew about the products they had for sale in their respective stores.

In the last store I visited (why is it always the last store you go to ???) I finally found something that I liked. A little surprising as the cover was completely different to what I originally had in mind for my 3GS. As soon as I saw it I got flashbacks of Portal. It was brilliant white with grey buttons and hugged my iPhone like they were made for each other – which they obviously were.

They iPhone Candyshell from Speck

They iPhone Candyshell from Speck

The Candyshell from Speck is a little pricey compared to some of the other covers that are available, coming in at around R350 depending on where you shop. It also comes with a screen protector (and a great little cloth to polish the screen before you apply it) which a lot of the other covers don’t have, not that they are expensive, but it’s great that I only had to buy a single product.

My 3GS now feels almost indestructible. The rubberised edges also give you that extra sense of security when you put it down on a hard surface or drop it. You can access all the buttons and the dock connector without any issues and the camera isn’t obstructed at all. I’ve also had zero issues with the phone overheating with the cover on.

If you love your iPhone and I know you do, buy it this cover and it will be with you till your next upgrade and beyond.

Borderlands – conquer it with your friends

0

(7/10)

I’m still not sure about Borderlands. I can’t really fault the game. The graphics are great, it makes me laugh and it’s built from the ground up for online co-op. It walks a fine line between a FPS and RPG, probably my two favorite genres, but there still just seems to be something missing. I’m probably only about 25% of the way through the game, almost all of which has been done with at least one buddy in co-op, but I haven’t had that, “I must lock myself in the house and play this until the neighbors complain about the smell” feeling.

borderlands-box

The story is also pretty cool. You are searching for a mythical vault that is packed with alien technology and secrets. I mean, who wouldn’t want to find that ! As with most RPG’s, you start off with miserable stats, miserable weapons, miserable everything really. You progress through the first 15 levels is pretty quick and if you spend your money wisely you can amass a fairly decent arsenal especially if you get lucky with one of the “daily specials” at the vending machines.

borderlands-crew

If I had my life over, I would probably wait to pick it up second hand, it is however a great way spend all night chatting to your buddies and making alien heads explode with your sniper rifle. Doesn’t really get much better than that.

Better than WiFi: Ethernet over power

6

(8/10)

Yip, you read that correctly. Ethernet over power, not power over Ethernet.

For years I’ve been having performance and coverage issues with WiFi at home. Most of the kit I have is pretty good quality stuff (Apple and Netgear mostly), but for applications like streaming video I just never seemed to be able to just turn my devices on and then sit back and relax. I always had to fiddle with something here or reconfigure something there. Eventually I just got sick of it and either gave up or ran a length of CAT-5 to temporarily solve the problem. Not pretty but it got the job done most of the time. I yearned for a sexier long term solution and no matter what I did, WiFi just didn’t cut it.

I then stumbled upon “powerline” technology, pretty much by accident, and thought that it sounded too good to be true. After reading a number of online reviews I picked myself a pair of these Netgear Powerline HD babies:

3983-IMG8884s.jpg
From the front.
NetGear+Powerline+HD+(200+MBit+s)-194958.jpg
From the side.

Essentially you plug these units directly into a power outlet. One near where you want tp get from, the other where you want to get to. The devices then connect to each other over your homes existing power cabling delivering a cool 108Mbps (with QoS if you choose).

No more need to run that CAT-5 between two impossible parts of your home. The electrician that originally wired up your house already did all the hard work.

These devices have been livesavers for me and you can run up to 12 in the same home.

Clean. Easy. Reliable. Just the way I like it.

Side scrollers making a comeback ?

0

(10/10)

A mate of mine told me how awesome Shadow Complex was one night while we were defending the Earth from a locust horde invasion. I asked him what it was all about and he basically told me that it was based on the idea of the old 2D side scrollers we enjoyed in our youth, but that this was actually pretty awesome. I dismissed his comments and steadied my shotgun for another headshot.

shadow_complex.png

A few days later I thought I’d see what he was on about. Well, let me tell you. It was almost the best 1200 M$ points I’ve ever spent.

The game is almost as addictive as Trials HD.

The game isn’t particularly difficult or particularly long, but while you are playing it you seem to be transported back to a time when you wished you had one more 20c piece to stick in the Elevator Action arcade machine.

Except that this is even better. I really thought that I’d get bored of a side scroller very quickly, but getting XP, collecting power-ups and adding to the most awesome suit of armour ever created results in hours in front of your 360 with little frustration over some lame puzzle or impossible boss that feature in so many games.

Donwload it. Play it. Love it.

There is nothing more addictive

0

(8/10)

You have got to play Trials HD on Xbox 360. It is available for a heft 1200 points as an arcade download on Xbox Live.

Trials_HD_XBLA.jpg

I’m not even sure what it is about the game that I can’t stop playing it.

There is nothing deep about it at all. Finish the track as quickly as possible whilst making as few mistakes as possible.

If you mess it up try again. And again. And again. When you finally get it right you see the times that your friends have achieved for the track, so it’s back to the drawing board. You try using a faster bike, but it clearly has too much power the track, so you go back to a slower bike and try everything to shave another two seconds off your time so that you aren’t the loser at the bottom of your friends list.

If you haven’t already sworn enough at your controller and your TV, give the tournaments a try. You generally need to complete 4 tracks in succession with your time and faults accumulating along the way. 10m away from the finish on the last of the four tracks you wipe out. @#$@%!@#%$. You start again from track one as you made too many faults. Awesome.

Download it !

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