Considering how quickly Apple pulled the deceptively innocent Boyfriend Maker a few months back, it's a little surprising that they let an app called "Bang with Friends" go live in the first place. But it's down now, just a little over a week after its first appearance, presumably because someone at Apple just realized the none-too-subtle meaning behind the name. According to cofounder and CEO Colin Hodge, as reported by Gawker, the salacious app managed to snag over one million users before it was taken down.
It hasn't completely vanished. The website is still up despite a temporary outage earlier, although the App Store section of the site simply states: "Be right back: We're working with Apple to get BWF back into the App Store shortly." There's also text box where you can enter your e-mail address for an update in the event that Apple allows the site to go live again.
At the moment, it's not entirely clear why Apple took the app down after greenlighting it aside from the site's rather obvious intentions. Aside from a fairly explicit logo in the upper left hand corner and a suggestive background image, there's very little that's pornographic about the actual site. The concept, indeed, is simple. You're presented with a gallery of your male or female Facebook friends (your choice), and you press "Down to Bang" under their name if you'd, you know, like to learn how to play drums with them. If they're also using the service and they've selected you, you'll get an e-mail announcing the mutual interest.
Techcrunch suggests that the issue might not be so black-and-white as it initially seems, pointing out that Zynga went after CupidWithFriends because it was using their "With Friends" trademark, not because it was objecting to the content. Yet as CNET reports, Apple's also has a history of removing apps with questionable content, such as one in 2011 that listed DUI checkpoints.
But if you're the kind of person who absolutely needs an app to see if certain things could happen with your friends instead of, you know, asking, you can take heart in the fact that Apple allowed BoyfriendMaker back on the App Store after the developers bumped up the age rating from 4+ to 12+ and cleaned up its act a little. And for what it's worth, Bang with Friends is still available over at Google's no-holds-barred Google Play store.
Follow this article's writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.
Ever since iTunes was introduced in 2001, Apple has continued to tinker with it, updating how it works and how you access and play music. iTunes 11 has introduced some interesting new interface components, the best of which is the new album view. This presents a grid of albums, and clicking one expands a track listing. However, although this feels simple and elegant, simplicity and elegance within iTunes are only skin-deep. The app remains a complex, frequently unwieldy beast, primarily because it now has to deal with managing all kinds of media on your Mac, including books, TV shows, movies, and apps. At best, you can sometimes hide the clutter, but iTunes is no longer an app with a razor-sharp focus, and even accessing music can be done in several different ways, which can cause confusion.
The purpose of this group test, then, is to explore alternative apps that focus on the single act of playing music. Ideally, we wanted to find apps that would enable you to work with your existing music, but that would have more straightforward interfaces and fast search functions. We also wanted any potential replacement to have multiple ways of viewing the app (like the iTunes mini player does) and to be stable and reliable.
Of the six apps we selected, there’s a surprising amount of variation in terms of design. Although some tend to resemble earlier versions of iTunes, others are more akin to iOS apps, and one oddly has the visual appearance of a real-life piece of hi-fi equipment, complete with a massive volume knob. It’s a testament to the dedication of developers that any such apps even exist—it can’t be easy convincing people to try a competitor to one of the best-known and commonly used pieces of software on the Mac. But if you’ve found iTunes to be frustrating or unfulfilling, one of these other options may offer just what you’re looking for.Test One: iTunes Integration
How does it handle your existing music?
All apps in our test except Album Flow and Ecoute can manage their own libraries of music, with Enqueue also providing the means to monitor specific folders. However, there was variation in the way each app dealt with existing iTunes content. Ecoute and Fidelia get it right, directly accessing iTunes library files, the former also optionally enabling you to write metadata back to the library on quit. Album Flow ostensibly also has the right idea, in working directly with iTunes, but, bizarrely, it requires iTunes to be open in order to access its music.
Ecoute uses your existing iTunes library, so it’s immediately ready to rock.The remaining three all rely on an import function, and all had problems. Swinsian fared best, pulling in playlists and albums, but it missed a lot of cover artwork. Meanwhile, Enqueue and Sonora failed multiple times to import everything, often crashing while attempting to do so. Enqueue at least managed to import the majority of our test iTunes libraries, but even missing 10 percent of your music is 10 percent too much.
Test Two: Ease of Use
Is the interface any better than iTunes?
Sonora feels like the app iTunes wants to be. Its album-centric view is reminiscent of iTunes 11’s and is just as usable. Albums can be reordered alphabetically, chronologically, or by popularity. The app is fast and responsive, and we liked its track-queuing system, from which you can save mixes.
If Sonora’s iTunes import was as good as its interface, it’d be a winner.Enqueue and Swinsian ape older versions of iTunes; the former mimics a simplified iTunes 10 with Album List view and is fine, but Swinsian feels like someone described Apple’s app to a dev in a hurry. The result is ugly but still broadly usable.
The remaining three are very different. Album Flow resurrects Cover Flow but is oddly clunky. There’s no way to jump to an artist or album using the keyboard, making it tiresome to navigate large collections. Fidelia’s main view resembles a real-world hi-fi, but the library is a separate window; both feel fiddly. Ecoute takes an odd column-based approach; it’s initially strange to use, but we warmed to its iPad-app-like charms.Test Three: Music Search
How fast can you find favorite songs?
Album Flow is almost surreal with its search. It’s very slow, and on those instances it does provide results, they’re terrible. Given that there’s no other easy way to navigate, this is a particular letdown. Fidelia’s looks like magic by comparison, despite having only a basic list that can be filtered. Having to first select a library to search seems old-fashioned.
Enqueue’s search enables related tracks to be stashed, ready for playback.
Ecoute is more impressive, its search field rapidly providing results grouped by album, artist, composer, genre, and track. However, it’s beaten by Sonora, Swinsian, and Enqueue. Sonora’s search is similar to the one in iTunes 11, but significantly faster; in a snap, you get album, artist, and track results for your search term, and you can also use the sidebar to navigate to specific artists. Swinsian is also extremely speedy, and live-filters all its views (browser, list, art grid) at once. Enqueue is perhaps a touch better in this respect, although it’s somewhat slower; selecting a track from a search result loads all related tracks into the sidebar, ready for you to browse.
Next page: Additional features, the winner, and solutions for streaming music online.Test Four: Useful Features
What further goodies do the apps offer?
With the exception of Fidelia, all of the apps we tested respond to media keys on relatively modern Apple keyboards, and can go full-screen in Lion and Mountain Lion. Ecoute, Enqueue, and Swinsian also offer definable system-wide shortcuts for important actions. Sonora and Swinsian support Notification Center, and all except Album Flow and Fidelia will scrobble played tracks to Last.fm.
The Fidelia mini-player looks nicer than the overly bulky standard interface.
Going beyond the basics, Album Flow pulls in artist biographies, and Enqueue has nicely integrated top artists/songs bar charts. Ecoute and Swinsian have a desktop info window (the former also boasts themes), and Enqueue, Swinsian, and Fidelia have mini-players—Fidelia’s being particularly welcome, since the remote-like mini-player is far more appealing than the default hi-fi interface. Fidelia has “high-def” leanings, which involve optional AU plug-ins, processing, and resampling, although activating them all costs over a hundred bucks through in-app purchases. Its lack of more basic features is therefore baffling.The Winner: Ecoute
In an ideal world, we’d be praising Sonora. The application is elegant and simple, and certainly in a manner iTunes will never be. However, with its inability to import iTunes libraries with any degree of success and development having stalled, we’re forced to look elsewhere for our winner. Enqueue, also broadly impressive, similarly stumbles badly regarding importing iTunes data.
Of the remaining apps, Ecoute almost wins by default, largely in being able to seamlessly work with existing iTunes content rather than messing up an import, and additionally through having an interface that’s not only pleasant to use but that’s also not trying to clone iTunes in some manner. That it’s also free to use doesn’t hurt, either.Bonus Section: Stream Music Online
Although many people like owning music, many listeners increasingly rely on online streaming, either from paid subscription services or music-oriented social websites such as Soundcloud. Tomahawk is an ambitious attempt to pull together sources and services into a single player, but the result is a miserable experience. The interface is confused and cluttered; it’s too easy to get "lost" and, by comparison, it makes iTunes appear to be a bastion of minimalist design.
Spotify can play its catalog as well as your iTunes music.
By contrast, Rdio is sleeker, although it feels very non-native. The streaming service has a large catalog, which you can subscribe to for $4.99 per month ($9.99 if you also want smartphone access), and it aims to match your collection. This also proved disappointing, omitting many items and flagging others as unavailable, despite displaying the same album immediately afterward, fully accessible. Spotify is a better service in this regard. It costs the same as Rdio and the interface is a bit messy, but it reasonably seamlessly merges what’s available online with everything you already have in your local iTunes library.
At last we appear to be seeing some movement on the Apple TV front. We can hardly wait. Sitting around with our little hockey puck sized hobby watching the Roku owners eat our lunch and have all the fun has been hard to swallow, but we expect great things. Find out about these developments and take a peak at one vision of iOS 7 in this week's hottest news.
On the off chance that you need further evidence of mobile gaming's rapidly changing landscape, IDC and App Annie recently released the results of a study demonstrating that revenues for iOS and Google Play gaming rose sharply in 2013's first quarter. Revenues for the handheld gaming devices made by Nintendo fell during the same period. Google's still behind Sony and Nintendo's overall revenue for the time being, but with the rate of growth they reported during their recent I/O, it's expected that Google Play, too, will overtake traditional handheld gaming devices sometime during the next quarter.
Keep in mind that the study isn't skewed by non-gaming apps. Games account for nearly 40 percent of all downloads for both the App Store and Google Play, according to the study. The study also reveals that games account for almost 70 percent of consumer spending on the App Store and over 80 percent for Google Play. In some ways, as IDC and App Annie point out, such numbers might seem unfair to Nintendo and Sony. Both companies tend to experience explosive growth during the holiday season, which occurs directly before the first quarter.
But the study reveals that such seasonal cycles mean little to nothing in the world of mobile games for the iPhone and Android systems, particularly when you factor in cost and the availability of almost every game whenever and (depending on connection) wherever you want it. AllThingsD also reported that Nintendo and Sony are also simply against a staggering wall of numbers. The global install base for devices like Nintendo's 3DS and Sony's PlayStation Vita amounted to a "mere" 200 million, whereas research firm Gartner reports that more than 2 billion phones and tablets will ship out in 2013 alone.
There's still time for Nintendo and Vita to reverse their fortunes. One of the most touted features of Sony's upcoming PlayStation 4 is its ability to support gameplay through its Vita device, and in a more dubious move, Nintendo's been working with developers of phone games to create versions for its Wii U. Both companies also have a substantial list of releases planned for the coming months.
But such measures may only delay the inevitable. At least there's a silver lining--if this keeps up, maybe we'll finally see Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda on the iPhone after all.
If you've found yourself wanting a MacBook Air over the last couple of days, you might be better off waiting, according to AppleInsider. In fact, you may even have a hard time finding it. All across the country. from Amazon.com to B&H and MacCollection, resellers and retailers are reporting that the lightweight laptop's completely or nearly out of stock, and the increasing shortage is being trumpeted as proof that Apple will release a new model at WWDC on June 10-June 14.
The news is well in line with the predictions earlier this year by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, which we reported on back in January. Kuo has a knack for accurately predicting Apple's releases, and as MacRumors reports, in April he announced her suspicious than the MacBooks and MacBook Airs built with Intel's latest Haswell processors would be the product highlights of WWDC. MacRumors went on to report that Kuo doesn't believe we'll see retinas displays with the release, citing "cost, thickness, and production concerns."
There's plenty of reason to believe that there's truth to the rumor; after all, reports of dwindling stock by third party resellers have been used to predict the release of upcoming new Apple products many times in the past. Still, it appears some resellers are doing their best to keep some of the virtual shelves (that, or consumers are returning them). In the time between AppleInsider's announcement of the shortages to the writing of this article, the number of available 1.7Ghz 128GB 11.6-inch MacBook Airs on Amazon went up from 10 to 13.
Follow this article's author, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.
We've got some apps that will teach you things and get you your news and even maybe break the ice with that hottie at the party. So what are you waiting for? Go and improve yourself today.Chess Pro - with coach
Want to get better at chess? Of course you do. You could play, or you could let this usually $10 app coach you for free.Web to JPEG
Take screenshots of whole pages and turn them into jpegs. Do it for free, like the pros.Hitpad - See What's Up
Find news by letting it find you and do it for a buck. An Apple featured app.iCatcher!
We're no fans of Apple's free podcast app, but with iCatcher! you have a better solution, currently sitting at $2.Calligraphy Art
Learn the ancient noble art of calligraphy for only a buck. Hey, get some class, eh?National Gallery, London HD
Cheaper than a trip across the Atlantic, this app hooks you up with some incomparable art for one single dollar.GPlayer
ZDNet said this filled the gap made by the departure of VLC, and for a buck you can get some of that sweet any-video action.Funny Fish - Fishing Fantasy
Fishing should be relaxing, not a bloodsport, which is why Funny Fish for free can give you that relaxing time you want with a hook, line, and sinker.You Gotta See This!
Create unique, artistically inspired, spacial collages of images that you take by slowly moving the camera around in 3D space. $2 when it's usually $7.Fingle
Like Twister for your fingers, this game will break the ice and get you hand-holding in no time for only a buck.ToonCamera
Turn your mug into a cartoon with this photo app and it only costs one single comic book we call George Washington.BusyCal 2
We've heard nothing but good things about BusyCal 2, save that at $50 it's a chunk of change. How about if it was $29.99. Save $20 and grab it now while the getting's good.Mathemagics
But why do we want to learn math tricks with summer coming up, your kids will whine. But you know this $2.99 will keep them on task and having fun until next year.Bluenote
A neat little note taking app that syncs, encrypts, and saves on the fly. It's 90 percent off from AppyFridays, so it's only one buckaroo.
[This is an advertorial. Maclife gets a portion of each unit sold.]
Do you ever look at your iTunes library and suddenly have flashbacks to being a kid and having your mother scold you for not keeping your room clean? We all love iTunes for its ability to deliver music, but it really makes all of our laziness front and center when there is missing information or duplicates. Get those taken care of and make your iTunes look pristine with Tunes Cleaner. It's on sale in our latest Deal.
Tunes Cleaner is like your personal iTunes nanny, cleaning up everything that you've been neglecting. If you have an album by the same artist with their name spelled different ways, missing information about a certain song, blank album artwork, or anything else that may require a little bit of maintenance, Tunes Cleaner has you covered. It will even eliminate songs you have multiple copies of, clearing up some space for new songs to fill.
Tunes Cleaner from Leawo Software Company usually retails at $30. If you'd like to save on that price, head over to our Deals tab and take a full 83% off the cost. That means you'll pay just $5 for this powerful app. Get Tunes Cleaner while you can and get your iTunes in order.
We've done it before, we're doing it again. Today's refurb specials are all right around the $1,000 mark. There are plenty of great Macs out there that won't break the bank. Sure they're not $400 plastic PCs that will fall apart after one year's use, but these are still some great deals. Plus great accessories, hand-picked just for you.Mac
Refurbished 11.6-inch MacBook Air 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
4GB memory and a 64GB flash storage nets you this superlight model for only $849.
Refurbished 11.6-inch MacBook Air 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
Bump that storage up to double the previous model and slap down $60 more for $909, and walk away with this bad boy.
Refurbished 13.3-inch MacBook Air 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
This one tiptoes right up to the edge. $999 and you get everything from the previous model and a bigger screen.
Refurbished 13.3-inch MacBook Pro 2.5GHz Dual-core Intel i5
It's only $20 more than our limit for the week, but if you drop $1,019, you can leave the Air's flash storage behind and get 500 GBs of hard drive.
Refurbished iMac Core 2 Duo 3.06 GHz
'Tis true. Even the desktop model is hooking it up with a $929 price tag. Sweet deal.
Refurbished Mac mini with OS X Server 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
In another direction entirely from the portability of laptops, we have the tiny marvel that is the Mac mini and this workhorse will only set you back $759.
Refurbished Thunderbolt Display (27-inch)
Now, if you want a great monitor for that mini, you can't go wrong with this behemoth. Only $829.
Refurbished Time Capsule - 3TB
Storage will always be an issue, but for now we're thinking 3TB will be sufficient. $429 and you're set.
Refurbished Apple TV
Way under $1,000 comes this $85 refurb of the latest Apple TV. We figure with all the money you saved with one of these cut price computers, you'd deserve a treat, so here you go.iOS Accessories
Klipsch G-17 AirPlay Wireless Speaker System
Great snakes, jump on this woot deal before it's gone. AirPlay speakers for only $179??? Get on it now!
XtremeMac Tango Air
Another AirPlay deal, this $49 speaker puts out good sound and looks slick to us.
LaCie 1TB Rugged Triple Portable Hard Drive
Refurb madness continues with this hardcore 1TB portable from LaCie for only $115.
Apple iPhone 4 / 4S Bluetooth Keyboard Case
The days are numbered for physical keyboards but for $15 you can keep the glory alive on your iPhone.
12X Optical Zoom Mobile Telescope Camera Lens + Tripod + Case For iPhone 5
Now the iPhone has a good camera, but check out this $17.80 super lens. Yeah, now we're talking.
Altec Lansing MZX2071S Noise-Reducing In-Ear Stereo Headphones
Headphones are always a great deal here and these $9.99 models with inline mic are the way to go.
OZAKI iCoat Notebook+ Folio Case with Stylus for iPad
You'll look quite the smooth operator with this case that's all business for $44.95.Really Darn Cheap
Pirate Piggie Silicone Case for iPhone 5
Did we say really darn cheap? Well, we meant really darn cute to boot. Turn your iPhone into this cute little porker and do it for one single buck.
There are many iOS music creation apps, but very few that are designed primarily as real-time multi-FX units. Turnado instantly takes the throne as the king of iPad audio processors. It’s a powerhouse of 24 different audio effects – all highly programmable and sonically luscious – resulting in a monster effects unit suitable for both studio and live performance that sports excellent audio quality and some truly insane sound mangling potential. This app won’t make noise by itself, but when coupled with the internal microphone, external audio hardware, and AudioCopy or especially the Audiobus app, Turnado becomes a truly awesome sonic processor.
Turnado's core is formed by 24 effects modules, which can be placed onto your virtual rack with up to eight used simultaneously – and all of them sound quite excellent. With a ridiculously deep level of programmability, it's enough to daunt casual users, but positively delight those with a technical bent. There is something here for just about every type of ear, with an emphasis on crazy delays, reverbs, stutter and time slicing effects, and filters – including a nifty combed envelope filter (think of the guitar riff in Green Day's “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”). Add in pitch shifters, a phase shifter, and a flanger, and the list is truly comprehensive. The software provides four X-Y pad controllers, each one managing two effects simultaneously for instant live performance mayhem.
And then there’s the rather terrifying, appropriately named “Dictator” mode, which gives you one master fader control to move all eight effects knobs at once, something akin to a master button that fires all weapons simultaneously. Suffice it to say, it’s insanely chaotic, and might just blow out your speakers – or eardrums. Or both! While it’s fun to open iTunes songs and run them through Turnado, it’s when you plug this into the effects slot of Audiobus that the real magic starts to happen. And then there’s the extensive MIDI support – you can have each and every control and knob in Turnado respond to just about any type of MIDI input, further opening the creative floodgates.
The bottom line. It'd take pages and pages to describe the depth and sweetness of Turnado, though at $20, it may seem expensive. However, at less than a dollar per effect, it’s an absolute bargain for musical maniacs.Review Synopsis
iPad running iOS 5.0 or later
Comprehensive selection of audio effects. Extensive programmability. Live controls. High quality sound.
Not cheap for an iPad app.Score: 5 Awesome
Summer is rapidly approaching, and with that comes the burden of moving. Whether your family is expanding and needing more space, college kids are returning home, or you're a young urban professional fearful that your roommate is trying to cook you into a stew, we all get locational angst. With all of the sketchy services out there, it can be exceptionally difficult to find the living situation that works for you. Well, be bound by Craigslist and its Machiavellian promise no longer.
Realtor.com's Rental app offers a narrower scope than their traditional app, which is actually a blessing. Providing both a Google Maps or Earth view, you can see the listings that are in your area, or you can search based on an address or neighborhood. The parameters for price range, bedrooms and bathrooms are easily adjustable with sliders, and the search results are nearly instantaneous. The coolest feature, however, has to be the boundaries you can draw for yourself within the region you wish to live in.
While only one source for available apartments, what the Rentals app really does best is provide a lay of the land for the prospective renter. Whole neighborhoods and their price borders are readily apparent, and thus you can plan accordingly. Of course, be wary of the usual realty tricks, especially if you're in an urban environment, lest you find that the trendy neighborhood you're hoping to move to stretches on indefinitely.
Click here to download Realtor.com Rentals from iTunes.
What gets Apple fans almost as excited as a new retail store opening? How about when a key U.S. city announces plans to have a high-traffic location moved to an even more perfect area?
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday that Apple plans to move its existing retail store location at the corner of Stockton and Ellis to a new space in the city's Union Square area a few blocks away.
City supervisor David Chiu claims the new "silver box-shaped" Apple Store would help "turbo-charge" the area, which is currently home to a number of other high-end retailers. The existing Apple Store has been a fixture in San Francisco for nine years.
The former Levi's location at Stockton and Post streets will reportedly be 45 percent larger than the current store, and Apple plans to add an additional 50 jobs to the 350 already employed there.
“We’re thrilled to be working with the City of San Francisco,” an Apple spokesperson said following a talk on Wednesday at the Market Street retail store.
The city of San Francisco is hoping the move will increase foot traffic in the Union Square area, although neither city planners nor Apple have offered a timetable on when the relocation might take place.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter
Network television streams have been rumored for the Apple TV for quite some time, but we're finally getting a glimpse of what Cupertino may be working on, thanks to a new deal with The CW.
MacRumors reported Thursday that The CW will be coming to the Apple TV in the near future as a standalone app similar to the one already available for Microsoft's Windows 8 and Xbox 360.
The network announced the news to advertisers at its annual upfront presentation in New York, which CW President Mark Pedowitz views as a way to expand its viewerships without the subscriber authentication that plagues other solutions.
"This year we're reaching more viewers on more platforms," said Pedowitz. "We are reaching our audience everywhere they are, and we want you to be with us everywhere we go."
The CW already offers an iOS app for streaming content to mobile devices, but its arrival on Apple TV would complement existing services such as Hulu Plus and Netflix.
"It's a dedicated CW app that will work like our Xbox and mobile and tablet apps," a CW representative told MacRumors. "No cable authentication required, full episodes of our shows available next day after air, ad-supported."
The network didn't elaborate on exactly when the app might be added to Apple TV, but sometime between now and the new fall television season in September would be a likely bet.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter
Apple CEO Tim Cook is headed to Washington, D.C. next week to testify about the company's offshore cash hoard, a rare public appearance which is being preceded by an interview that offers a glimpse of what's to come.
Politico published an interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook on Thursday, only days before the executive heads to the nation's capital to discuss more than $100 billion the company has sitting in reserve overseas.
Cook's testimony on U.S. tax reform before a panel of Senators puts Apple on the offensive over recent accusations that it should be bringing more of its offshore profits home, where it would be subject to a 35 percent corporate tax.
“I can tell you unequivocally Apple does not funnel its domestic profits overseas," Cook stated defensively. "We don't do that. We pay taxes on all the products we sell in the U.S., and we pay every dollar that we owe. And so I'd like to be really clear on that."
The mere fact that Cook is headed to Washington, D.C. at all is remarkable -- his predecessor, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, avoided government completely for the better part of his tenure.
"We don't have a large presence in Washington, as you probably know, but we care deeply about public policy and believe creative policy can be a huge catalyst for a better society and a stronger economy," Cook said.
Ironically, Apple is already one of the nation's largest taxpayers, having paid out almost $6 billion for its 2012 fiscal year -- an amount that Cupertino expects to increase by another $1 billion this year.
While Cook didn't get into the details, he also elaborated on plans to invest $100 million into manufacturing domestically, which will begin with "a new version of a current Mac product" later this year.
“We’re going very deep in this project,” Cook said, with Arizona, Texas, Illinois, Florida and Kentucky earmarked for component manufacturing or final assembly of the mystery product.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter
(Image courtesy of AllThingsD)
It's our last recap of the week, which means the weekend is once again upon us! There are plenty of Thursday updates you'll want to get a heads-up about before wrapping up the work week, particularly for owners of mid-2012 MacBook Air models. Don't be shy, dig in and enjoy our bite-sized nuggets of tech news -- it will only take a few minutes!Apple Releases MacBook Air Flash Storage Firmware Update 1.0
If you own a mid-2012 MacBook Air, Apple would like you to download and install the MacBook Air Flash Storage Firmware Update 1.0 it released on Thursday. The 1.69MB update "addresses a storage firmware issue that, in rare cases, may cause a system to fail to recover from a crash," which certainly sounds important enough to set aside some time in your day for installation. Apple recommends doing a full backup of your MacBook Air flash storage prior to updating, which is a warning we wouldn't ignore given what the firmware is actually patching.eBay Updates iPhone, iPad Apps with Shopping Cart, UI Improvements
Frequent eBay shoppers and sellers will be delighted to learn the company has pushed out updates to its existing iPhone and iPad apps on Thursday, which introduce a new look and feel alongside a Shopping Cart for U.S. and U.K. buyers. In certain U.S. states, new eBay customers can scan their driver's license straight into the app for faster registration (and therefore, quicker buying!), and eBay promises that your last-minute bidding will be vastly improved over previous versions as well. The free eBay for iPhone 3.0.0 and eBay for iPad 2.3.0 are now available from the App Store.BlueHarvest 5.5.0 Leaps from Prefs Pane to Full App
Mac users who work with network-attached storage or Linux and Windows hard drives have no doubt discovered all of the annoying little DS_Store and invisible folders OS X spreads around. A little $14.95 application called BlueHarvest makes short work of this dilemma, and thanks to the version 5.5 update released this week, no longer takes up space in the System Preferences to do so. Available for OS X Mountain Lion or Lion, BlueHarvest 5.5 is now packaged as a full-fledged application with optional menu bar icon, which also adds a new blacklist function for deleting arbitrary files. The update is absolutely free for existing users, and installs right over the old version, removing its pane from System Preferences. Can anyone guess what famous sci-fi movie the name "Blue Harvest" was derived from? Chime in with a comment if so...UPS for iPad Delivers Package Tracking, My Choice Features
Definitely falling into the "what took so long?" category is this week's release of UPS for iPad, a free tablet-only app for tracking packages and freight shipments from everyone's favorite brown carrier. Like the iPhone/iPod touch app, UPS for iPad can be used for some basic functionality without having to log in, but those with a My UPS ID will receive the most benefit from the app, including syncing recent tracking information from the website and the ability to enroll in UPS My Choice and even change preferences for incoming shipments to your address. The free UPS for iPad is now available for download from the App Store.Stupid Raisins Debuts 50 Animated Titles for Final Cut Pro X
The folks at Stupid Raisins teamed up with CineFlare to introduce a new batch of animated Final Cut Pro X titles in a package called Title Pop. Available with the latest FXFactory version 4.0.6 from Noise Industries, the $49 plug-ins offer 50 customizable titles, complete with 32 build in/out, 10 highlight and eight animation loops with such varied names as Fidget, Kookie, Quiver and Sketchy. Of course, once you start customizing the presets, there's no end to the number of options you'll probably come up with! Title Pop is available as a free trial so you can give it a spin before committing to the purchase.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter
If you were a gamer with an Apple II in the mid-'80s, there are a few names likely to stir nostalgic echoes somewhere deep in your heart; names like Choplifter, Hard Hat Mack, Ultima, and (most relevant to this review) Karateka. The first-ever game by Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner, Karateka finally reappeared as a rhythm-based remake in late 2012, but now Mechner's giving old-school Karateka fans what they really want: the unvarnished original, adapted for iOS and fitted with tweaks designed to tug at our sense of nostalgia (while also making the game less frustrating).
One of the first games to use cutscenes and motion-captured animation, Karateka was a marvel in 1984, although it's relatively simplistic today. As a nameless karate master, your task is to save the princess Mariko from the clutches of the evil warlord Akuma. This you'll accomplish by running through his fortress and beating down his henchmen in lengthy, one-on-one fights. You can punch and kick in three directions (up, down, and straight ahead) using comfortable, clearly marked onscreen buttons, and your enemies grow progressively tougher the further you go. Standard stuff, really.
Still, Karateka holds up surprisingly well. Its characters are still fluidly animated, pummeling enemies is still fun (and features the same satisfying crunch/pop sounds when fists and feet connect), and getting through Akuma's castle and its occasional traps is still a challenge. There are a few flaws that weren't apparent 29 years ago -- since all attacks do roughly the same amount of damage, for example, there's almost no practical reason to ever use any of them except for the front kick, which has the longest reach -- but these are minor.
Karateka Classic also features a few cool additions not in the original; while death in 1984 meant having to start the game over, you can now simply rewind to your last victory by swiping left across the screen. Additionally, nostalgic fans can alter the game's appearance to better fit their memories, with the option to see the game in monochromatic green or amber, or even with horizontal scanlines that mimic an old CRT display. Obviously, this won't hold the same appeal for someone new to the game, but the chance to try an important-but-obscure piece of gaming history for $0.99 is nothing to sneeze at.
The bottom line. Karateka Classic is a superb port of an excellent (if ancient) fighting game, and is a great way to rekindle old memories or to simply see what all the fuss is about.Review Synopsis
iPhone, iPod touch or iPad running iOS 4.3 or later (optimized for iPhone 5)
A faithful, extremely playable revival of the 1984 original. Onscreen buttons are comfortable and unobtrusive. New rewind feature effectively eliminates any frustration from a late-in-game death.
Rewind also ensures that the game can be finished in 15-30 minutes. No way to get rid of black border and expand to full screen. Fighting system feels simplistic by modern standards.Score: 4.5 Excellent
"Going green" has been a bit of a buzz-phrase for some time now, but it's definitely not a passing trend. More and more people have made the effort to live their lives in ways that reduce the mark they leave on the environment. You don't have to make major changes to your entire lifestyle; even the smallest modification, like biking to work one day a week or unplugging the television when it's not on, can help make your way of living more sustainable. We've collected eight apps that can help put you on the track to a greener lifestyle, which will benefit you just as much as it does the earth and its many inhabitants.
You kind of have to admire the timing. While most of the tech world is focused on the ramifications of Google's I/O yesterday, Apple followed up its perfectly timed 50 billion app downloads milestone with today's minor but notable update for iTunes. New features include a pleasing new interface for the miniplayer and additional support for multi disc albums. It doesn't reverse many of the unpopular design shifts made with 11.0, but it's good to see an update that adds some cool new features without adding unnecessary bloat.
The most visible new changes are those made to the miniplayer, which now displays the cover artwork for the album you're playing to the left of the minimalist interface, which now includes a progress bar. Is that's not enough album cover goodness for you, you can also expand the miniplayer to display a larger version of the cover art, along with an adjustable progress bar towards the bottom.
We were also pleased to see that the update heralds the return of the expandable playlist for the miniplayer that went missing in action with iTunes 11, along with the new ability to search your entire iTunes library through the miniplayer.
The update also brings with it the ability to play multi-disc albums as one album, ridding some of us of the need to make specialized playlists when we wanted to listen to a full album spread across multiple CDs. Another addition includes the ability to see all your individual songs with the album artwork (accessible through the "View" options in the menu bar), as well as a welcome sorting option to keep videos from playing when you have your entire library on shuffle.
It's a patch that mainly focused on aesthetics, then, and one that might reveal yet another example of Jony Ive's work in overturning the some of the design decisions of predecessor Scott Forrestal.
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A slick cyberpunk vibe with a futuristic neon glow sets the stage nicely for Frozen Synapse's brain-twisting tactical combat encounters. When it first launched on Mac and PC, this cool indie strategy game garnered high praise for its unique asynchronous take on turn-based combat and play-by-email style multiplayer matches. This iPad port gloriously packs all of the clever strategizing and insane resolutions of the original – and even lets you play against desktop users – without losing anything in the jump to the portable format.
Frozen Synapse sports a strong story-driven campaign to supplement its multiplayer focus, but regardless of mode, the maps are randomly generated, which adds exciting unpredictability and variety to the squad-based battles. Each round tasks you with queuing up sequences of commands for each neon soldier in your unit. Like many turn-based strategy games, the idea is to outmaneuver, outsmart, and outgun your A.I. or human opponents. However, the fact that both you and your foes spring into action simultaneously after planning each turn's moves throws a wild and crazy wrinkle into the mix.
During the planning phase of each round, you focus on moving your troops, tweaking their aim and stance, and using cover, all while trying to anticipate your enemies' movements. Meanwhile, your opponents are doing the same, and once both sides are ready and locked in, the resolution phase engages and all hell breaks loose as the bullets fly. A cool fast-forward feature lets you "test" your plans before committing, but the way things actually play out can be very different depending on what plans your opponents unleash. This unpredictability keeps you guessing and adjusting plans on the fly, which makes the matches intense and exciting.
Different unit types add sniper rifles, shotguns, machine guns, rockets, and grenades into the fray, and each has its unique advantages. There's a lot to wrap your head around at first, but video tutorials do a good job of explain the ins and outs of the initially complex control system. Once you get a feel for how everything works, Frozen Synapse opens up the throttle on some of the best tactical strategizing you'll find on iPad.
The bottom line. This great indie port flops turn-based strategy on its head with delightful asynchronous chaos and intense multiplayer matches.
iPad running iOS 4.2 or later
Thrilling asynchronous battles. Tons of strategic depth. Great multiplayer experience.
Minimalistic neon art direction is a bit garish.Score: 4.5 Excellent
To the surprise of virtually no one, Android and iOS dominated almost all of the smartphones shipped in the first quarter of this year, but the real surprise came with the two companies duking it out for third place.
International Data Corporation (IDC) announced Thursday that Android and iOS continue to rank as the top two smartphone operating systems worldwide, capturing a whopping 92.3 percent of all shipments made during the first quarter of 2013.
Unfortunately for Apple, Android has gobbled up 75 percent of that market with 162.1 million devices shipped in Q1 for a 79.5 year-over-year increase. The data shows that iOS actually slipped from a 23 percent market share in Q1 2012 to only 17.3 percent this year, with 37.4 million devices shipped.
However, the real story will be welcome news to Microsoft and hardware partner Nokia: Windows Phone has now dethroned BlackBerry as the third largest smartphone OS, capturing 3.2 percent of the market thanks to seven million devices shipped in Q1.
That's an impressive 133.3 percent year-over-year change for Windows Phone, but it comes at the expense of fourth-placed BlackBerry, whose year-over-year shipments dipped by more than 35 percent.
It should be noted that BlackBerry's latest Z10 flagship handset didn't ship until late in the first quarter, so the company could see its fortunes improve this quarter, which will also see the addition of the QWERTY keyboard-enabled Q10 next month.
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