Archive for the iOS Category
Posted at 6:00 am by Rob in iOS
While I have phone apps on the brain, I decided to bang out a quick note about Downcast. Downcast is a podcast management tool for iOS (iPhones, iPods, and iPads). Unlike Any.do it’s not free, but if you own an iOS device and are even remotely into listening to podcasts, you should buy this app.
Downcast is a complete podcast management tool that operates independently of iTunes. If you’re like me and rarely (if at all) use iTunes, Downcast is a lifesaver. By entering in the iTunes or RSS feeds of your favorite podcasts, Downcast will (when launched) automatically download the latest episodes. Among other options, you can configure how many episodes of each podcast you with the app to download and/or save. I have mine to save the five latest episodes of each one on my phone. If you want to listen to older episodes that are no longer on your phone, or brand new episodes that you haven’t downloaded yet, Downcast supports streaming.
Downcast has a built in search feature that links to the iTunes podcast category. You can search by title or genre or keyword and find podcasts to listen to. The app handles both audio and video podcasts, and also supports simply listening to the audio of video podcasts if bandwidth is an issue.
Where Downcast absolutely excels is in its settings. You can set the app to only download when connected to wi-fi, to take it easy on your data plan. You can schedule when you want the app to check for updates by time or location. You can configure it to retain a set number of podcasts, or a set number of unlistened to podcasts. You can set up playlists. You can set it to play back audio at a higher rate of speed. One feature I love is, if you use iCloud, you can configure the app to share your podcast lists with other iOS devices — that means the podcasts I subscribe to on my phone will also appear on my iPad. Too cool.
Downcast costs $1.99 in the App Store and is worth 10x that to anyone on the go who likes listening to podcasts.
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Posted at 6:00 am by Rob in iOS, Main
I use my smartphone all the time for sending and receiving e-mail, engaging in social media, playing games — oh, and occasionally making phone calls! Lately I’ve been looking at some productivity apps to help me with various tasks. A lot of times these apps get installed and removed within a matter of hours after discovering that they either (a) don’t work as advertised, or (b) I simply don’t use them. The ones I find myself using for more than a week, I typically keep. One I’ve been using for over a month now is Any.do.
Any.do is a simple task management application that allows you to schedule and juggle tasks.
The first thing you’ll notice is that instead of using a calendar, the app’s default view displays four folders: Today, Tomorrow, This Week, and Later. This makes so much more sense to me. Let’s say I need to wrap some Christmas gifts. I can add myself a note to do it tomorrow. Tomorrow, that task gets moved to Today, and the app will remind me to do it. Cool! As tasks are completed you can draw a line through them with your finger. Tasks can also easily be reordered or moved to different folders by dropping and dragging them with your finger.
Another cool feature of the app is that it can sync with other phones. If you use Google Chrome, you can install a Google Chrome app and sync with it, too. By using the Google app, if I’m sitting at my computer and think of something I need to do tomorrow, I can add it to the app and it’ll sync to my phone. More typically though, I think of things I need to do tomorrow or next week while driving, or watching television, or sitting at my desk at work. In those cases I simply add the tasks to the phone. If I need to re-prioritize them later, I can do do. Any.do is promising a web version of their app is “coming soon.”
Any.do offers Facebook and Twitter integration as well, features I don’t use. I don’t need my phone sending out tweets or posting to my timeline every time I mail out a package or wash the car. Any.do can also access your contact info (if you let it), if you want to add tasks that involve other people. I always freak out when apps ask for access to anything extra so I initially denied it, but later recanted and granted it.
Did I mention Any.do is free? Any.do is free. Free for the iPhone, free for Android, and free for Chrome. I don’t know if the web version will be free or not, but I assume it will be. I have no idea how the creators of Any.do make money or how they plan to make money.
Any.do has been panned by some who say that it doesn’t have enough features. For me, that’s exactly the beauty of it — Today, Tomorrow, Next Week, Later. It’s very simple to install and begin using. And, it’s free.
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Posted at 6:00 pm by Rob in iOS, Main, Photography
When I got my new phone a few months ago I spent a few hours scouring the internet looking for some new backgrounds to use. I have since decided that it’s more fun to make my own. Here are three that I recently added to my phone.
The first one is a picture that Morgan drew for me last week at daycare. It looks suspiciously like 8-bit pixel art, although Morgan wouldn’t have any idea what that is. It reminded me of the old school days when I would plot out sprites and graphics on graph paper.
The second and third pictures were taken by me while riding shotgun in Susan’s new car and aiming my phone straight up to take pictures through the sunroof.
The middle picture was taken through the sun roof on a sunny afternoon. I actually had to shoot two pictures. The first one randomly caught an overhead power line in the shot.
The third picture (my favorite of the three) was also shot through the sun roof — this time in a car wash.
Below are links to all three pictures in full size. If you view them via your phone’s browser, you should be able to take a screen shot and save them onto your phone and use them as wallpaper. Or, you can do like I did and go make your own!
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Posted at 6:00 pm by Rob in Interactive Fiction, iOS, Main
Kickstarter.com is a website that allows people to pitch ideas, set a financial goal, and ask people like you and me for pledges. Traditionally, users offer funders things in exchange for their money. For $x, you’ll get this. For $2x, you’ll get this and that. For $5x, you’ll get this, that, and the kitchen sink. For $100x, I’ll hand deliver all those things to your house and bake you a cake to boot.
The first successful Kickstarter fundraiser I personally saw was Jason Scott’s. Jason Scott said “$25k will keep me going for at least 3-4 months, and probably longer. That’s full-time, constant work on saving computer history, speaking, and presenting.” 342 people thought this sounded like a good idea, and $26,658 later, the Jason Scott Sabbatical had officially been funded. Sure, 7 people pledged $750, but 63 people pledged $50 and 127 people pledged $25. A lot of little payments can add up.
On November 1st, Andrew “Zarf” Plotkin launched his own Kickstarter fundraiser. Plotkin is one of the cornerstones of modern Interactive Fiction (Text Adventures), and said that, should he raise $8,000 in 35 days, he will quit his day job and work on multiple IF projects, full time. The biggest of these is Hadean Lands, Plotkin’s latest game, but that’s not all. Plotkin plans on releasing the game for iOS. Not only will he develop the framework, but he’ll release it as open source. Plotkin has his hands in several other web-based interpreter projects as well, which he has promised updates for.
Not to spoil the ending, but Plotkin received $8,000 worth of pledges on the first day. And that’s not all. Three days into the pitch, and the project has been 208% funded. And people keep pledging.
While I think this says something about Mr. Plotkin, I think it says more about the current state of Interactive Fiction. It seems like people are ready to give text-based games another chance.
I can’t wait.
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Posted at 12:00 pm by Rob in Interactive Fiction, iOS
Two things came into my life around the same time — a rekindled interest in Text Adventures/Interactive Fiction, and the iPad. Over the past month or two, I’ve been searching for a way to connect the two. While the iPad’s virtual keyboard (similar to the iPhone’s, but obviously bigger) isn’t designed for banging (touching?) out novels on, it’s certainly adequate for typing text into a work of Interactive Fiction. The portability of the iPad is a plus, too.
As I mentioned in my previous post (edit: HERE), iDOS (formerly DosPad) officially hit the App Store this week. iDOS is a port of the popular DOS emulator DosBox for iOS. It runs on the iPhone and iTouch, and contains a few additional features for iPad users. iDOS only lasted for a few hours in Apple’s App Store before it got yanked, but if your iOS device is jailbroken, you can download iDOS via Cydia, directly from the developer’s site.
There are a few works of Interactive Fiction (and Choose Your Own Adventure-style) available for iOS, and thanks to Parchment I have been able to enjoy several IF games on my iPad via the web, but that leaves a whole lot of games unplayable. Like games written in Hugo, which my friend Robb Sherwin primarily uses.
A few minutes of searching turned up a DOS-friendly version of Hugo. It doesn’t display the pictures and music like the Windows-based Hugo interpreter I’ve been using, but it does work. iDOS may have some performance issues when it comes to emulating graphic-intensive DOS programs with the iPad’s processor, but it seems to have no problem running DOS-based game interpreters.
Click to Enlarge
This is a screenshot of Robb Sherwin’s “A Crimson Spring”, written in Hugo, running on the iPad.
In the big scheme of things, running old DOS-based interpreters on new hardware via emulation is probably a step in the wrong direction. Ultimately I would like to see web-based interpreters for all the major IF languages. (And no, before you ask; coding such a solution is way beyond my skill set.) I think platform-agnostic interpreters would help widen the acceptance of Interactive Fiction. In a world where essentially everybody and everything connects to the web, it makes sense to put your game there.
Until that happens, we are occasionally left with coming up with alternative solutions, which sometimes means forcefully shoehorning old games onto new devices. iDOS lets me do that.
(Note: I write a lot of these the night before they hit the site. Because of that, there is always a possibility that, due to conky scripts and janky timers, blog posts could appear out of order, causing the appearance of an odd ripple in the space/time continuum when I refer to other posts that (A) haven’t appeared on the site yet, but (B) hopefully fill by the time you read it. While writing them, I am often forced to refer to things in past tense that haven’t appeared on the site yet. When it all works, it’s a beautiful thing; when it doesn’t, I appear kooky. Here’s to everything working!)
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