Geeks in Delft: Day 6

/* Posted May 1st, 2011 at 8:41pm [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under SharePoint    */

The Escher museum

 

Exploring the Hague

 

Toasting stuff over the fire.

Unfortunately, we’ve got to come home tomorrow.

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Instant voice mail and online role-playing: iPhone apps of the week

/* Posted May 1st, 2011 at 2:41pm [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under Web    */

iPhone(Credit:
CNET)

Some interesting Apple news this week from AppleInsider revolves around Apple’s acquisition of the iCloud domain name. Apparently, according to sources, Apple paid Sweden-based company Xcerion an estimated $4.5 million for the domain. It is rumored that the cloud service will be announced this summer at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference here in San Francisco.

There have already been plenty of rumors that Apple’s cloud service would enable users to stream music to iOS devices, but according to the article, it may also offer a personalized “locker” where you can keep photos and videos as well. It will be exciting to see how this all pans out at WWDC, and whether people will be more inclined to sign up with iCloud than with MobileMe, which received a somewhat lukewarm response from users.

What kind of things would you like to see offered in an Apple-based cloud service? What would be a reasonable price for such a service? Let us know in the comments.

This week’s apps are an instant voice mail messenger and a full-featured MMORPG that closely resembles one of the most popular games of all time.

HeyTell

HeyTell lets you send your location by hitting the crosshairs button before recording your message.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

HeyTell (Free) is a voice mail messaging app that’s been out for quite some time, but a friend told me about it recently and I thought more people should check it out. The idea with HeyTell is, instead of calling or sending a text message to a friend, you can send an instant voice mail–as long as your friend has HeyTell installed. Start by touching the green-on-white person-shaped icon to add people from your contact list. You also have the option to connect HeyTell to your FaceBook account, but I wonder whether people really want everyone they’ve ever known sending them voice mails. When selecting friends from your
iPhone contact list, HeyTell offers a premade invite you can send via text message to have your friend download the free app.

Using HeyTell is obviously a different way to communicate–replacing text messages with voice mails–and it is definitely fun to hear how people respond to rapid-fire voice messages. The interface plays into the fun: to send a voice mail, you simply press the big orange Hold and Speak button and HeyTell records your message until you let go, kind of like using a walkie talkie. The app keeps all of your shared replies so you can go back and listen to individual messages. You can even save favorite messages to enjoy later.

Beyond its main functions, HeyTell offers a few for-pay Extras (tab on the bottom right of the interface). For $1.99 each, you can add a Voice Changer to create silly-sounding messages; Emoji support to add fun icons to your name (seems overpriced to me); Message Wipe to have messages expire after a specified amount of time; and (for $2.99) Group Broadcast, which lets you send out voice messages to your designated groups of friends. I only downloaded the Voice Changer add-on, but was honestly not very impressed by the results. Any one of these purchases will turn off the in-app ads, but the ads are pretty easy to tune out when using HeyTell.

Overall, HeyTell is an interesting way to communicate and is definitely more efficient than sending text messages. If you like the idea of quick voice mails to get your point across, you should definitely check out this free app.

Order and Chaos Online

The resemblance to World of Warcraft is obvious, but that doesn’t make this game any less fun to play.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Order and Chaos Online ($6.99) is Gameloft’s answer to World of Warcraft on the iPhone, borrowing liberally from what has been called the most popular MMORPG of all time, and however you feel about Gameloft, I think it did a great job. The graphics on the iPhone 4 Retina display are as smooth as can be, and the touch-screen interface will be familiar to anyone who’s played an FPS (or other 3D RPG) on the iPhone–use the joypad on the left to move and swipe a finger on the right to control direction and to look around.

Along with basic movement, Order and Chaos does an admirable job of making all of your interface elements easy to access. A tap on your character’s avatar in the upper left brings up most of your main options, including viewing your inventory, looking at your quest log, checking out your character skills and attributes, sorting through spells, and creating groups. For actions, Order and Chaos does away with the “action bar” found in many desktop RPGs and instead uses a scrollable wheel of buttons in the lower right, which–while handy–is a little hard to navigate when in the heat of combat. You also have a chat window at the bottom and two extra hot bars at the right where you can place things like potions and food for easy access.

You start by choosing from four available races, then pick from four classes: Warrior, Mage, Monk, or Ranger. You also can pick your gender, choose from a few different hairstyles, and alter the features of your character’s face with a few different presets. Once you’ve chosen a name, you’ll be dropped into a beginner area of the world and the game does a good job of showing you the ropes for movement, obtaining quests, and engaging in combat.

As you complete quests, you’ll gain experience and be able to level up your character with new skills (or spells depending on your class) and unlock items you couldn’t use at lower levels. Each character has two skill trees that slowly unlock as you advance in levels, giving you the option to pursue specific skills to specialize your character.

Gameloft borrowed just about everything from Blizzard’s hit game: the cartoonlike artistic style, the look of the landscape, the character design, the onscreen text colors, and just about everything else. But Order and Chaos Online lacks the imagination and storyline of World of Warcraft; you end up feeling more like you’re working to advance than like you’re playing a game. Every quest has the familiar “Kill six of these monsters” or “Gather 10 of these minerals” kind of feel, with little in the way of an interesting storyline to pull you along.

Even with these issues, new skills and spells will probably be enough motivation for most players to continue grinding away. Order and Chaos Online is easily the best MMO available on the iPhone, with a very smooth RPG experience that anyone who plays games from the genre will enjoy. As with any game with this much depth, I have to wonder how much time people are willing to spend playing on the small iPhone screen (if you have an
iPad, the larger screen will definitely help), but either way, having a full-fledged MMO in your pocket is a pretty amazing thing.

It’s important to note that when you log in you are given a free three-month subscription, but after that you’ll need to subscribe for 99 cents per month, $1.99 for three months, or $2.99 for six months. While you might be put off by a subscription, my guess is that most people won’t mind paying for a few months and then canceling once the next big game comes along.

What’s your favorite iPhone app? Do you agree that HeyTell is a fun way to communicate with friends? What do you think about long and involved games on such a small device? Let me know in the comments!

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GParted Live: A Boot Disk ISO You Can’t Afford to Be Without

/* Posted May 1st, 2011 at 2:41pm [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under News    */

If you ever need to partition or edit the partitions on your hard drives without an existing OS on the computer, then GParted Live should be in your PC toolbox. The free GParted Live is based on a live version of Linux, (i.e. one that will boot from a disc or USB drive), and the Gnome Partition Editor, a.k.a. GPartEd, or more commonly GParted. GParted Live boots quickly, and handles virtually any partition type, including nearly all Linux, OS X, and Windows types.

GParted Live screenshotGraphically, GParted Live is primitive. However, capability-wise, it’s as good as it gets.Available options will vary slightly by the file system your OS uses, but in most cases GParted will detect existing partitions as well as let you create, read, expand or shrink, move, copy, check and rename them. I’ve been using the USB bootable version for over a year now and it has quite often booted when my Linux-based favorite, Parted Magic (which also uses GParted), wouldn’t. Note, however, that version 6.0 of the latter has replaced its GUI-based boot menu with a character-based (DOS-like) boot menu and now boots more reliably. I favor Parted Magic because it doesn’t require any command line intervention (GParted Live requires typing two commands) and it contains the Memtext86+ memory diagnostic tool, which I often use.

GParted is easy to use, but you need to understand partitioning to use it effectively. Back up your hard drive and read up on the task before you use it. GParted Live is a large download (though 40MB smaller than Parted Magic), but it’s a good practice to keep several boot discs, both Linux- and Windows PE-based on hand. This should be one of them.

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xDink v1.08

/* Posted May 1st, 2011 at 8:41am [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under Xbox    */


This is a port for the Xbox1 of FreeDink (http://www.gnu.org/software/freedink/) a free, portable and enhanced version of the Dink Smallwood game engine done by Sylvain Beucler and possible thanks to the SDLx libs by lantus.

Dink Smallwood is an adventure/role-playing game, similar to Zelda (2D top view), made by RTsoft.

The game features the twisted adventure of young Dink Smallwood, a pig farmer who leaves his town and goes on a quest to save the world.

TODO
- D-Mods support.

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PSPident 0.74

/* Posted May 1st, 2011 at 8:41am [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under PSP    */

gets an update this weekend. As developer of adds new PSP model support. is the perfect tool to ID and confirm if that PSP of your take run custom IPL or perma flash a new custom firmware like 6.20 PRO-B5. Its easy to use, just run . Then it will display all the info, like motherboard model, PSP generation and even give you a nice print screen of the info saved to your memory card.

Changelog:

  • Latest PSP models (TA-095) support
  • You can now see your PSP generation

Source: PSP King (German)

Download: PSPident 0.74

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Sony Details PlayStation Network Revival, ‘Welcome Back’ Gift

/* Posted May 1st, 2011 at 8:41am [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under Video Games    */

Sony will turn on most features of the PlayStation Network within a week and offer its customers a selection of free downloads, it said early Sunday morning.

The PlayStation maker’s online service for its PlayStation 3 and PSP consoles will come back online this week following a massive security breach in which the personal information of over 70 million accounts, possibly including credit card numbers, was obtained by a hacker, Sony said in a Tokyo press conference.

Online gameplay for PS3 and PSP, access to account management features, the PlayStation Home virtual world and other features will go live this week. Other features, including the PlayStation Store downloadable games shop, will not come back online until later in May, Sony said.

As an apology to PlayStation owners, Sony said it would give them a variety of goodwill gifts. A selection of downloadable content will be offered to users at no charge. Every user will receive 30 free days of PlayStation Plus premium service.

All PlayStation 3 owners will have to download a system update and change their passwords before they will be allowed to sign in to the service again; all password changes must take place on the PlayStation 3 console on which the password was originally registered. This, says Sony, is an additional security measure.

Sony has issued a press release detailing the rollout of service and the “Welcome Back” package.

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iPad 2 vs Motorola Xoom (Wi-Fi Only Models) Features Comparison

/* Posted May 1st, 2011 at 2:41am [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under Gadgets    */

Tablet PC continues to be one of the hottest trends in 2011 mobile computing, attracting quite a number of tech giants to rush to grab a slice of tablet market share by releasing more high-end tablet. With no doubt, the hot-selling Motorola Xoom and iPad 2 premium tablets’ rivalry is huge in a highly fragmented market. Anyway, some of you might feel that Wi-Fi only tablet is good enough, and no point to pay more for 3G capability. If you are considering to purchase either Wi-Fi only Apple iPad 2 or Motorola Xoom, and would like to check out the differences of features and specifications between both devices before making a decision, then you can refer to the simple comparative table (iPad 2 versus Motorola Xoom) below for a quick comparison.

Motorola Xoom vs iPad 2

From the table above, you can notice that Motorola Xoom packs a slightly better specifications than iPad 2, such as bigger memory of RAM and larger touchscreen. However, iPad 2 has gained a great reputation with its innovating team and brand, and constantly topping the list of best-selling mobile tablet.

For pricing information, the iPad 2 Wi-Fi version that offered in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB model is now available for a MSRP of $499, $599 and $699, respectively. While the 32GB Motorola Xoom Wi-Fi tablet is priced at $599.

Note: The WiFi-only Motorola Xoom also will hit Sprint stores on May 8 for around $600.

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HBO App Released for iOS devices

/* Posted May 1st, 2011 at 2:41am [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under iPad    */

HBO has recently released an iOS application for HBO GO streaming video service that provides its subscribers that own an iPad, iPhone and the iPod with access to more than 1400 HBO shows on their devices.

20110430 hbogo HBO App Released for iOS devicesOne nice feature is that this feature is available to existing HBO subscribers for absolutely no additional charge, HBO GO will allow its users to view its programs over a 3G connection or Wi-Fi. This feature makes the extensive line-up of these shows and movies available to its users, even while they are on the go.

20110430 hbogo2 HBO App Released for iOS devices

Moreover, there are other exciting bonus features and several behind the scenes extras that are included in this service. The app enables the users to create a personalised watch-list  and manage a ‘Series Pass’ list that makes the task of following the user’s favourite shows easier.

HBO GO is only available in the U.S and as mentioned before, requires the user to have a 3G connection or access to Wi-Fi in order to view content. The iOS app requires the iOS 3.2 version or later and an iPad, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS or 3rd or 4th generation iPod touch.

The HBO GO is available in the App Store for absolutely free.  It is worth a look.

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