Mix your music and experience an artistic adventure: iPhone apps of the week

/* Posted April 23rd, 2011 at 2:39am [Comments: none]    */
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iPhone(Credit:
CNET)

The big news this week from the world of Apple was the discovery that iPhones have been tracking users’ locations as they go about their daily lives. Apparently, whenever you use Google Maps, or take a picture, or do anything that consults the GPS, your location and a time stamp are recorded in a log file on your
iPhone. Apple is not using this information for anything, but it’s not surprising many people find this particular previously unknown feature pretty unsettling.

Like probably anyone who heard this news, I had a lot of questions about what was being recorded, why it’s being recorded, and what Apple has to say about it. Fortunately, our very own Josh Lowensohn and Elinor Mills put together an extensive FAQ to help you get all the info about the iPhone location-tracking function. Apple has not yet commented, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks and whether the company will strip this functionality from later versions of the iOS.

This week’s apps are a DJ app that lets you mix music on the go and an artistic adventure game that is both challenging and very engrossing.

Djay for iPhone and iPod Touch

The easy-to-use controls make it a snap to find the right music for the mix.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Djay for iPhone and iPod Touch (99 cents for a limited time) brings two turntables to your touch screen so you can beatmatch, scratch, and record mixes of music from your library. A unique interface lets you hold your iPhone sideways to view the turntables side by side, or you can switch to vertical and view a single turntable to adjust the EQ and BPM and get more screen area in which to work with your mixes.

Djay boasts a “hyper-realistic low-latency touch-screen interface,” and I found that it definitely feels more precise than similar DJ apps in the category. As an added bonus, your cover art will show up on each record, making it easy to identify your music at a glance.

Along with the basic controls for selecting songs, playing, and crossfading between tracks, Djay comes with a few more controls that will come in handy for mobile mixing. You can match songs on your own and adjust beats per minute for smooth transitions or you can have Djay autosync BPM for you. There is even an Automix function to let the app mix your music automatically. The app recognizes your playlists as well, so just queue up a big playlist of dance songs, for example, and then let the app do all the transitions for you.

Among the many other features are the ability to create a cue point trigger to start the music on one track at a specific point; full visual waveforms, so you can pick out specific parts of a song quickly; and auto-cut scratching, which lets you use two fingers while scratching for beatmatched cutting.

Overall, Djay for iPhone and
iPod Touch is probably the best low-cost DJ app I’ve seen yet in the iTunes App Store. The unique screen orientation feature that lets you view one or both turntables makes mixing and fiddling with settings easier, and automated mixing and beat-syncing features mean just about anyone can create a good mix.

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery

As soon as you begin playing, you’ll notice this game’s unique visual style.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP ($4.99) is a stylistically unusual and engrossing action and adventure game that focuses on artistic audio and visuals. Immediately upon starting the game, you’ll notice it has a very distinctive style and you’ll get onscreen cues that teach you how to control your character. As the story unfolds, you’ll travel across a mythic realm and solve puzzles as you go.

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery offers a unique experience and an interesting control scheme that sets it apart from other side-scrolling games. As you travel the world, you’ll run across impassable areas that require you to solve visual puzzles before you can move on. The game is sometimes frustrating early on because it’s a learn-as-you-go type of experience, but even though you may die a few times, the solution becomes that much more rewarding when you figure it out.

As a mythical knight, you have a sword and shield for when you need to do battle with occasional monsters. What’s interesting here is that to wield your sword, you need to turn your iPhone vertically to get into battle mode. The buttons are a little bit awkward at first, but I really like the idea of turning the iPhone to switch control modes. As you get further into the game, you’ll also unlock spells that will help you defeat your enemies and solve puzzles to continue.

Overall, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery is an exceptional game for its artistic and musical style and interesting ways of presenting puzzles you need to solve. If you’re looking for hack-and-slash or shoot-’em-up action, this isn’t your game, but if you want to take in an audio-visual experience while solving interesting puzzles, this app is a good option.

What’s your favorite iPhone app? Do you have a better DJ app than Djay for iPhone and iPod Touch? What do you think of using iPhone orientation as a way to switch control schemes in either app? Do you like the somewhat mystical and slower pace of Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery? Let me know in the comments!

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Software firm says e-mails stolen in server breach

/* Posted April 22nd, 2011 at 2:39pm [Comments: none]    */
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Ashampoo, a German maker of Windows utilities and security software, warned this week that customer names and e-mail addresses were stolen and could be used in targeted malware attacks.

“Hackers gained access to one of our servers. We discovered the break-in and interrupted it instantly,” Ashampoo Chief Executive Rolf Hilchner wrote in a message on the company Web site earlier this week.

Billing information, including credit card and bank account numbers, was not affected, he said, adding that German law enforcement is investigating but “unfortunately, the traces of the well-concealed hackers currently disperse abroad.”

Attackers often send e-mails with malware-laden attachments to e-mail addresses found in the databases they breach, pretending to be a confirmation of an order from the company, Hilchner said.

The company did not disclose how many customers were affected.

People should be cautious about opening unsolicited or unexpected e-mails, even from companies they know, and keep antivirus software up to date, he said.

The news comes two weeks after dozens of big companies in the United States, including Citibank, Chase, Capital One, Walgreens, Target, Best Buy, and Verizon, warned customers about the potential for targeted phishing attacks in the wake of a data breach at e-mail marketing service provider Epsilon.

You Don’t Know Jack is back–and it’s awesome

/* Posted April 22nd, 2011 at 2:40am [Comments: none]    */
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You Dont Know Jack has finally arrived for iOS!

You Don’t Know Jack has finally arrived for iOS!

(Credit:
Jellyvision)

The best Jack since Bauer…is back.

I’m talking, of course, about You Don’t Know Jack, the hilarious PC (though not always “PC”) trivia game that debuted way back in 1995. It spawned all kinds of sequels, but has been AWOL for over a decade.

That changed a few months ago, when YDKJ came roaring back for Windows and game consoles. And today, I’m giddy to report, Jack has hit the App Store. The verdict? It is, without question, the best iOS trivia game to date.

For those unfamiliar with the series, YDKJ plays like a game show, complete with wisecracking host Cookie, who reprises his snark- and sarcasm-filled role from the originals. Each episode (there are 20 in the game) consists of 10 timed questions: some multiple choice, some “specialty” types of question like DisOrDat and Who’s the Dummy?

The faster you answer each question, the more money you earn–or lose, if you get it wrong. Each episode ends with the Jack Attack, a kind of bonus round.

The questions, most of them drawn from pop culture, range from wacky to irreverent. And at least a few are incredibly timely, with topics including Elizabeth Taylor’s burial (careful, it’s a trick question) and Charlie Sheen.

The only thing missing here is the social element: YDKJ for iOS is exclusively a one-player exercise. Developer Jellyvision promises “episode and feature updates” in the near future, and I hope that means some multiplayer love.

Even so, YDKJ is definitely worth the $2.99 asking price ($4.99 for iPad). Not convinced? You can try the two-episode You Don’t Know Jack Lite edition absolutely free.

Bottom line: If you like trivia, or laughter, or fun of any kind, you’ll love this game.

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uTorrent 3 ready for beta testing

/* Posted April 21st, 2011 at 2:39am [Comments: none]    */
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uTorrent Remote for Android

(Credit:
BitTorrent)

uTorrent 3.0 (download) graduated to beta yesterday, combining some impressive new features with initiatives from parent company BitTorrent to encourage legal torrent usage.

The new beta can stream videos and music while the files are still downloading, using progressive and sequential download technology. The streaming feature can also be used to preview a file before committing to a full download. The preview feature can lend itself to the new basic socialization features in uTorrent, which serve as a passive reminder while downloading that you can interact with other people also seeding or leeching the torrent.

You can now rate a torrent with from one to five stars and comment on the torrent, directly from the uTorrent interface. While some users are expressing concern that this will add bloat to what is most often thought of as a lightweight program by definition, socialization features also happen to be the fourth-most requested item in uTorrent’s Idea Bank.

Another socialization feature that’s been implemented in uTorrent 3.0 is the ability to send files, such as home movies or cell phone videos, directly from uTorrent. The feature creates a Web link that you can send by e-mail or post on Twitter or Facebook.

The new uTorrent works in conjunction with the uTorrent Remote Android app, which allows you to manage torrents from your Android device. You can also remotely send a completed file to the Android device.

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TechTracker Plus for Mac: Package deal offer

/* Posted April 20th, 2011 at 2:39pm [Comments: none]    */
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TechTracker Plus(Credit:
CNET)

As an editor at Download.com, I can’t really state an opinion on software made in-house for obvious reasons. But with that said, I can’t help but think this latest promotion for TechTracker Plus is a pretty good deal. Starting today, for a limited time, you can get TechTracker Plus for
Mac for $19.99 (down from $29.99) and receive a free copy of MacPilot as part of the deal.

MacPilot (usually $19.95) is one of our favorite apps for fiddling around with your Mac, optimizing it to run better and unlocking the hidden potential of OS X and many applications–all without having to use the command line. Everything from changing the boot mode (64-bit or 32-bit) to tweaking the behavior of the Finder and Dock to activating hundreds of “secret features” in many apps, are only some of the functions made easier by using MacPilot.

TechTracker Plus helps keep your software and drivers up-to-date, scanning your hard drive for programs and then matching them up with our database to check for the latest updates.

Like I said, you’ll have to act as the reviewer of the improved TechTracker Plus for Mac, but with the addition of a free version of MacPilot and a reduced price all around, it’s hard to pass up what I think is a pretty great deal.

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RockMelt makes an iPhone grab

/* Posted April 20th, 2011 at 2:39am [Comments: none]    */
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Social networking Web browser RockMelt expanded its reach to the
iPhone today, debuting a browser that synchronizes the desktop versions’ features to your iPhone. These include the new Read Later option for saving URLs to be read in the future, as well as RockMelt’s full Twitter and Facebook management tools.

RockMelt for the iPhone opens shared links on the fly.

(Credit:
RockMelt)

This means that in addition to Twitter and Facebook basics, such as retweeting and wall posting, you can add photos, geotag, and open links on the fly. This last feature is unique to RockMelt for iPhone. When you tap an update from a friend on either service that contains a link, the text of the update will appear at the top of the iPhone and the URL will render below it.

Some features that are in the desktop version have not been ported to the iPhone one. There’s no tabbed browsing, nor is there a private browsing option.

When demonstrated last week at CNET’s San Francisco offices by RockMelt CEO Eric Vishria, the feature appeared smooth and was striking for cutting out the extra step of having to tap the URL to see it. However, the process also potentially opens up security risks with shortened URLs that haven’t been verified. Vishria said that there will be a feature in the first update to the iPhone app that will allow users to expand URLs on the fly. The update is expected about a week after the app’s initial release, which is itself expected within a few days. Visria cautioned that he had yet to receive a specific date and time for the launch from Apple.

Vishria added that RockMelt is seeing interesting behavior among its users, which he counted in the hundreds of thousands. He noted that 65 percent of RockMelt users check two or more RSS feeds, and that 41 percent of its users are high school and college students around the world. That means that a majority of RockMelt users are invested in a technology that, Vishria said, many average browser users would be hard-pressed to define. “The feedback is clear that many do not know what RSS is, just what it does.”

RockMelt expects to release a version soon that’s optimized for the
iPad, and is currently “looking at” an Android version.

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Crackle: Free movies, TV shows on iOS devices!

/* Posted April 19th, 2011 at 2:39pm [Comments: none]    */
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Crackle brings full-length movies and TV shows to the iPhone and, even better, the iPad.

Crackle brings full-length movies and TV shows to the iPhone and, even better, the iPad.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Rick Broida)

Sure, you can watch movies and TV shows on your
iPhone or
iPad, but there’s always a catch–usually a monetary one. Hulu and Netflix cost money. PlayOn costs money and requires you to leave your PC on. The ABC Player is iPad-only and, well, ABC-only.

Enter Crackle, a new app that lets you watch dozens of TV shows and a couple hundred movies, all free of charge (but with ads, natch).

Available for iPhone,
iPod, and iPad (the app is universal), Crackle delivers much of (but not all) the same content as its eponymous Web service. On the TV side, you’ll find shows like “10 Items or Less,” “Barney Miller,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and AMC’s new “The Killing.”

Unfortunately, a lot of the available series are merely “minisodes,” not full eps. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I don’t want 5 minutes and 30 seconds’ worth of “Fat Albert”–I want the whole show. Hey, hey, hey!

On the plus side, Crackle recently added a batch of classic “Seinfeld” episodes, and plans to swap them for 10 different ones every month. I’m literally pausing my writing every few minutes so I can get back to watching “The Chinese Restaurant.”

As for movies, they’re mostly older titles, and mostly a mix of B-, C-, and D-grade stuff. I don’t watch “Big Daddy” or “Joe Dirt” on cable, so I’m certainly not going to watch them here. What’s more, a lot of the listed movies aren’t full-length, but rather batches of clips. (Thankfully, you can filter the list to show only full-length titles.)

That said, there are a few gems to choose from: “Ghostbusters,” “Easy Rider,” “Starman,” “Dr. Strangelove,” and “A Few Good Men” are among those worth your time. (Underrated gem: “Go.”)

The app is easy to use, smart enough to resume playback if you have to leave in the middle, and able to stream over 3G and Wi-Fi alike.

And did I mention it’s free? Sure, the selection could be better, but if you’re looking for something to watch and don’t want to pay Apple, Hulu, or anybody else, Crackle can definitely keep you entertained.

While we’re on the subject of streaming video, check out these related posts:

Watch recorded TV shows on your iPhone

PBS for iPhone streams public-TV shows for free

PlayOn Mobile hits the App Store

Hands-on look: Hulu Plus for iPhone, iPad

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Expect some freshness from Jaymar Cabebe

/* Posted April 19th, 2011 at 2:39am [Comments: none]    */
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(Credit:
Josh Miller/CNET)

As you may have gathered (or not), I’m new here.

I’m Jaymar Cabebe, CNET’s newest Associate Editor, and I wanted to briefly introduce myself to all of the wonderful readers who frequent our site. Officially, I’ll be covering Mobile and Windows software, BUT being the unabashed tech-geek that I am, I may just chime in on some other topics as well. All in all, I am incredibly excited to add a fresh voice to your daily tech news stream.

I come to CNET with a rich background in digital, including work in interactive advertising, and stints with Current TV and “microvolunteering” network Sparked.com. Outside of office walls, I like to trek outdoors, train in Mixed Martial Arts, and explore the culinary delights of local hole-in-the-wall establishments. Call me an aspiring adventurer.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions I’d LOVE to hear from you, so feel free to send me an email, blog comment, tweet, carrier pigeon, whatever. That’s all for now. Stay tuned!

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Angry Birds gets a free Easter update

/* Posted April 18th, 2011 at 2:38pm [Comments: none]    */
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There’s a major holiday approaching, and that can mean only one thing: a new Angry Birds Seasons update! Sure enough, version 1.4.0 just roosted in the App Store, bringing with it 15 new levels for everybody’s favorite chocolate-infused holiday (besides Halloween): Easter.

As Angry fans know, this is becoming a regular happening. After Angry Birds Halloween made its debut last year, developer Rovio followed up with free Christmas-themed levels–and changed the app’s name to Seasons.

In February, things turned romantic with new Angry Birds levels for Valentine’s Day. In March, the Birds celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with more new levels. And, here we are, just a month later, with pigs wearing bunny ears.

As with all previous updates, this one’s free. If you’re new to Angry Birds, the 99-cent app comes with all five holidays’ worth of levels–around 115 in all, by my count.

And that’s before “liking” the game on Facebook (by tapping an in-game button), which unlocks a handful of bonus levels. All told, Seasons delivers quite a lot of bird-flinging bang for the buck–and there’s no doubt more to come. (What holiday will be next? I suppose Father’s Day isn’t too likely, darn it.)

Angry Birds Seasons 1.4.0 is available for Android, iPhone/iPod, and iPad. And while we’re on the subject of Easter, be sure to check out these six egg-cellent Easter apps for iOS.

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How to back up your Android phone

/* Posted April 18th, 2011 at 2:39am [Comments: none]    */
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Android doesn’t offer a native backup service, so it’s easy to ignore the need to do so. But don’t wait until it’s too late to start thinking about backing up your phone. Many of us rely on our phone cameras to snap day-to-day photos of our lives and save text messages to have some of the most important conversations. So before a thief swipes that phone, or a spilled cup of coffee bricks it, follow these tips:

Google has your back. Go to Settings Privacy, and make sure that “Back up my settings” and “Automatic restore” are checked off. Go to Settings Accounts and sync, open your Gmail account, and check off all options. With these settings in place, your contacts, system settings, apps, calendar, and e-mail will be restored whenever you set up a new Android phone with that same Gmail account.

Photos. Google hasn’t implemented a native photo backup service yet, so look to third-party apps to safeguard your photos. You might want to consolidate your mobile photos with those you already have stored in a cloud service. For instance, Photobucket Mobile will automatically upload newly snapped photos in the background to your Photobucket account. Flickr Companion and Picasa Tool are also free apps that allow mobile uploading but don’t do so automatically.

Drag and drop. Back up photos from your Android the traditional way. Connect your phone to your computer via USB, set it in Disk Mode and locate the drive (on the desktop for
Mac, in My Computer for Windows). Open the drive, find the DCIM folder, and drag the photos you’d like to back up onto your hard drive.

Text messages. Folks at SMS Backup + figured out a smart way to back up your text messages in the cloud. The free app automatically sends your SMS threads to Gmail and stores them under a new label, “SMS.”

Let someone else do it. If you like the idea of having someone else back up your data, download MyBackup Pro. The $5 app backs up everything–SMS, photos, apps, call log, contacts, system settings, bookmarks, and more–to your SD card or its online server at no extra charge. MyBackup also allows you to restore your data, should you need to do so.

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