CSS 2.1 emerges as official Web standard

/* Posted June 7th, 2011 at 2:51pm [Comments: none]    */
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Version 2.1 of CSS governs a myriad of details about formatting Web pages.

Version 2.1 of CSS governs a myriad of details about formatting Web pages.

screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

Much of the Web world has moved on to CSS 3, but today the World Wide Web Consortium has declared the CSS 2.1 standard for Web page formatting to be done.

In W3C standards lingo, CSS 2.1 has reached “recommendation” stage. Phillipe Le Hegaret, leader of the HTML working at the W3C group, announced the milestone on Twitter today.

Browser makers, even longtime laggard Microsoft, have turned much of their attention to CSS 3, which offers glamorous new features such as animating the transition from one page to another, endowing boxes with rounded corners, and if Adobe gets its way, magazine-style layouts.

Completing the CSS 2.1 standard still is important, though, given that such technology has a shelf life potentially decades long and that an ever-wider audience of organizations must deal with Web publishing.

“This publication crowns a long effort to achieve very broad interoperability,” said Bert Bos, co-inventor of CSS and co-editor of CSS 2.1, in a statement.

The recommendation stage brings some intellectual-property reassurance, too, in that the standards makers agree that using it won’t incur patent infringement suits.

And don’t discount the fact that the CSS Working Group will have a bit more spare time for CSS3. “Now we can turn our attention to the cool features we’ve been itching to bring to the Web,” Bos said.

That’s important, given its central role alongside HTML and JavaScript–not just in Web pages and Web apps, but in the coming Windows 8 “tailored apps” as well.

A brief tour of iOS 5

/* Posted June 6th, 2011 at 8:50pm [Comments: none]    */
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Apple’s WWDC keynote is now behind us and if they’re not at E3, tech journalists around the blogsphere are taking a rest. We didn’t get a new
iPhone or any new hardware, but Apple rolled out the company’s new iCloud service, its Lion OS, and iOS 5, the latest version of its mobile operating system.

We’ve detailed the full list of changes in our iOS 5 first take–and frankly, they aren’t terribly extensive–but we also downloaded the developer’s version of the update for a test drive. Keep in mind that the final consumer version of iOS 5 may show changes when it becomes available this fall, but this gallery will give you at least a taste of what’s to come. We’ve only started investigated so we’ll add additional conversations and “Easter egg” features (Apple says the update will bring 200 new features) as we find them

iOS 5 hands on


Windows 8 premiere raises more questions than answers

/* Posted June 6th, 2011 at 8:50am [Comments: none]    */
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The successor to
Windows 7 debuted today at the D9 conference, and so far it appears to be
Windows Phone 7‘s interface and tile-style of app management bolted on top of Windows 7.

Code-named “Windows 8″ by Microsoft, the next-generation operating system is notable for two features: it’s the first major attempt by the operating system giants to elevate a mobile OS to desktop status, and it’s expected to be touch-friendly and work seamlessly on
tablets, desktops, and laptops.

Like Windows Phone, Windows 8 on tablets (and every other platform for that matter) has a screen of “Live Tiles” that provide rich data and launch deeper apps. Users can slide the tiles around on the screen.

Rafe Needleman/CNET)

This Windows 8 preview video from Jensen Harris, director of program management for Windows, certainly looks impressive. The “app tiles” concept from Windows Phone 7 has been blown up, expanded to suit a larger, horizontal screen. In many ways, this makes sense. Having a persistent, real-time weather or traffic feature on your desktop is something that you can now achieve with a multitude of programs and widgets, but making them look and feel like mobile apps better positions Windows to reach younger consumers whose first computing experience is likely to be a high-powered tablet or phone, not a 186 running DOS.

Windows 8 also appears to meld Windows 7′s file-sharing tools to the friendlier, touch-tacular mobile interface. You can easily tap locally stored and networked photos to select them, adding them to your albums, the implication being that this would work for documents, videos, and music. Perhaps the world is, in fact, ready for a dual-input computer, one that you can use a keyboard and mouse with as naturally as you can tap, swipe, and pinch its screen. This is definitely one aspect of Windows 8 that must be watched.

Most importantly for legacy Windows users, including all of us on Windows 7, getting to the Windows 7-based view is simple. All you’ll have to do is swipe up from the bottom of the screen, although it’s not really clear how well this would work with a mouse. Windows 7 programs are expected to work on this new version, said Steven Sinofsky, president of Windows, although this doesn’t jibe with what we heard at Mix 2011 about Internet Explorer 10. The next version of IE, at least as of April, was not expected to work on pre-Windows 8 computers. What’s more logical to conclude, although not guaranteed, of course, is that the Windows 8-specific features of Internet Explorer 10 won’t function in Windows 7 or older, although the more traditional aspects of the browser will.

Another important nod to current users is that legacy Windows 7 hardware is expected to support Windows 8–again, at least so far. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that Microsoft could pull an Apple here and force people who want to upgrade to buy newer hardware.

So, we’ve got probable legacy hardware support, potentially easy access to the traditional interface, what appears to be some smart sharing features, and a nifty split keyboard for mobile usability. We also know that there are questions surrounding programs, how many major core Windows legacy programs will be supported, and how the traditional Windows 7 programs that do work on Windows 8 will function under the greasy touch of a finger when they currently require the precise control of a mouse.

Screenshot of Windows 8

Screenshot of Windows 8

via AllThingsD)

That leaves us with the two biggest questions, ones that will only get answered once consumers get their hands on whatever Windows 8 winds up getting called. The first is, do people really want a dual-operating system setup? BlueStacks seems to think so, offering an intriguing marriage of Windows 7 and Android, but that hasn’t hit the public yet. Although Microsoft says that the integration between the HTML5 and JavaScript-powered Windows Phone 7 side and the traditional Windows 7 side is tighter than many would expect, that doesn’t mean that a double-dose of Windows is the upgrade people want.

Riding the tail of that question, we’re also left wondering whether Windows Phone 7 has had the kind of consumer impact that warrants this elevation. According to Neilsen market research, Windows Phone 7 commands only 1 percent of the U.S. smartphone marketshare, and as CNET’s Donald Bell noted during CNET’s Live Blog of the Windows 8 reveal at D9 (read the transcript here), the WP7 interface is the successor to the discontinued ZuneHD.

There’s too many reasons that this isn’t “Vista II: Electric Boogaloo.” Windows 7, and this successor, are both Microsoft’s first hardware-downgrade compatible operating systems in more than a decade. That means that the new operating system will run on less than cutting-edge hardware. Windows 7 is also a proven, successful base to bolt a more touch-friendly interface to, a critically acclaimed one that users have demonstrated they want by the still-increasing Windows 7 adoption rates in the marketplace, more than a year and a half after its release.

Were Apple to do this–bolting the popular and intuitive iOS on top of OS X with a smooth way to transition between the two–there would be far fewer uncertainties. Still, hedging bets on a look and feel that has not set the world on fire is a gutsy move, and congratulations are due to Microsoft for being the first to attempt it.

Microsoft limits daily approval of Windows Phone apps

/* Posted June 4th, 2011 at 8:50am [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under Web    */

Microsoft will now limit the number of Windows Phone apps it will approve per day.

Microsoft will now limit the number of Windows Phone apps it will approve per day.

Lance Whitney/CNET)

Microsoft is now restricting the number of Windows Phone apps that it will approve from a single developer to 20 per day.

In a blog posted yesterday, Microsoft said the new restriction is aimed at cutting down on “bulk app publishing,” a process through which developers can flood the Windows Phone Marketplace with hundreds of apps over the course of just a few days.

Though these apps may meet Microsoft’s certification guidelines, the company is concerned that such apps can push other recently-published apps out of the “What’s New” category, thereby degrading and “reducing the diversity of the shopping experience” for Windows Phone customers.

Microsoft is basing the 20-app limit on its own evaluation and feedback from users as well as developers. Developers can still submit more than 20 a day, but only 20 will be certified per day.

To further deal with bulk app developers, Microsoft said it’s already removed certain apps from the Marketplace, giving those developers an opportunity to refine their apps in an attempt to cut down on the sheer quantity of them. The company has also offered to work with developers to help them better create fewer individual apps instead of producing large numbers with similar functionality.

The new policy goes into effect immediately, though Microsoft added that it’s open to changing the limit based on the growth of the Marketplace and further feedback from customers and developers.

Platformer arcade games for iOS

/* Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 8:50pm [Comments: none]    */
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Once game consoles hit their stride in the ’80s and ’90s, the platform game became enormously popular. Especially with the release of the now legendary Mario games, just about every developer rushed to produce a game that offered that perfect mix of running, jumping, and collecting items for points, all while exploring a strange and often fantastical world.

This week’s collection of apps includes modern twists on the old-school platform games many of us remember. The first lets you explore deep mines for treasure; the second will bring back memories of precision-heavy, rage-inducing platform classics; and the last offers up cartoonlike graphics as you explore a dreamlike fantasy world.

Miner Disturbance (99 cents) is a fun platformer mining game that will immediately remind you of arcade classic Dig Dug, but it offers much more. The object of the game is to complete goals as you dig downward into each mine. Some goals will require that you collect a certain number of minerals, and others will only require that you’ve dug to a specific depth.

Miner Disturbance

You’ll need to dig around fossils and relics to claim them for points.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

But as you dig your way deeper, you’ll face baddies like moles, bats, and other underground dwellers that you’ll be able to defeat by swinging your pick. As you go farther into the game, you’ll face water-filled caverns forcing you to go up for air, and hot lava that may mean certain death. All this adds up to plenty of variation on the digging mechanic, and remains exciting for even after several days of playing.

Miner Disturbance lets you navigate from mine to mine by tapping on circled locations on the main map or, if you have collected cash rewards, lets you buy better mining equipment at the above-ground store. The controls are a bit tough to get used to at the start (as any touch-screen directional systems tend to be), but quickly become second nature as you dig deeper into the mines.

Along with the main map, which features several mines, all with different goals, Miner Disturbance includes a second snowy map where you’ll face different challenges and a Volcano mine where you can compete for the high score with other players online. Overall, if you’re looking for a game with a little more depth than Dig Dug and some light RPG elements, Miner Disturbance is a steal at 99 cents.

League of Evil

In this frustratingly hard game, there seems to be spikes everywhere.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

League of Evil (99 cents) is like an iOS remake of the popular and recent console and desktop game Super Meat Boy. For those who haven’t played Super Meat Boy, it’s a platform game that has become well-known (dare we say, “legendary”) for being extremely difficult. League of Evil is probably not quite as hard as the game it emulates, but you’ll find the same rage-inducing effect when you’ve restarted some of the later levels for the 20th time.

Like other platform games, League of Evil gives you directional controls for movement on the lower left part of the screen and buttons for jump and attack on the lower right. Your goals are to complete a level in the shortest amount of time possible, find and retrieve a hidden briefcase, and take out the scientist at the end of the level. The first several levels are not too bad, but once you get into the second tier of levels (54 levels total across three tiers), your old-school arcade skills will definitely be put to the test.

League of Evil is not for those who are new to platform games; even the most skilled gamers will be challenged by this title. But if you like the challenge of getting your run through a level exactly right and are willing to try the same level again and again for that feeling of finally succeeding, we highly recommend this game.

Storm in a Teacup

Pilot your teacup to great heights as you try to find sugar cubes and other items.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Strom in a Teacup (99 cents) is a new platformer that lets you explore a dreamlike world, offering tons of unique levels and plenty of challenge despite its cutesie feel. You play as Storm, a little man who rides in a Teacup collecting sugar cubes and other items as you navigate your way past obstacles in more than 40 levels of gameplay.

The interface consists of left and right directional buttons on the lower left, and a jump button on the lower right. To complete a level, you need only get to the end (a red and white target on the ground), but you’ll also want to try to gather all the sugar cubes and other bonus items to truly finish a level. A tutorial will get you acclimated with all the controls, but in my experience, one of the moves described doesn’t work as advertised. The tutorial suggests double-tapping the jump button to get higher, but when we tried it, double-tapping didn’t change the jump height whatsoever. Even with this flaw, we were able to get most items, but we hope the developer will fix this in coming updates because certain items remained out of our reach.

On first glance, Storm in a Teacup doesn’t seem like it should be taken seriously. With the rainbow colors, cutesie enemies, and cartoonlike graphics, you might dismiss the game thinking it was made for kids. But even after only a few levels, we realized the game offers much more than cute graphics; trying to complete levels and gather all the bonus items can be very challenging, and some of the obstacles require pinpoint precision.

Overall, Storm in a Teacup is a fun and challenging platformer with great-looking graphics and numerous levels to explore. If you’re looking for a unique twist on the platform genre, check out this game.

Got a better platformer game than the ones listed? Let us all know in the comments!


Panda 2012 focuses on building a better virus trap

/* Posted June 2nd, 2011 at 8:49pm [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under Web    */

A new interface capstones changes that otherwise are under-the-hood improvements made by Panda Security to its 2012 suites, released today exclusively with CNET Download.com. There are four available to download: Panda Antivirus Pro 2012, Panda Internet Security 2012 for Netbooks, Panda Internet Security 2012, and Panda Global Protection 2012. Many of the features that Panda is touting as new were in fact soft-launched in last year’s updates. Along with some decent gains in program benchmarks, the new and updated features include file encryption and shredding, remote access and control, system optimization, safe browsing, and silent mode.

Panda Global Protection 2012′s new interface.

Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

The new interface keeps the dark theme from previous versions but exposes more of the program’s features up front. The navigation tab sit on top, with value-added features like the USB vaccine, SafeCD, and the virtualized Safe Browser on the bottom.

Many of those value-added features received tighter integration into the 2012 update. These include the USB vaccine for ensuring that your computer doesn’t receive a virus via USB stick; the SafeCD based on Debian for creating a rescue disc or USB key before disaster strikes; the network manager for seeing and managing protection on other home computers; safe browsing in a virtualized browser that protects sensitive data and banking transactions; and the Panda Safe Vault, which includes local file encryption for protecting your files from prying eyes and a file shredder for secure file deletion.

Panda 2012 offers a one-click fix system that worked surprisingly quickly.

Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Under the hood, Panda has updated its antivirus engine with tighter cloud-scanning integration, reflecting some of the gains the company has made with its free Panda Cloud Antivirus. The new behavioral analysis engine, which Panda calls TruPrevent, helps the program detect newer malware groups. Pedro Bustamante, Panda’s Senior Research Advisor, said of the protection engines, “Our heuristic engine is updated every two weeks, and Panda doesn’t rely only on heuristic detection to check on threats. Other companies update their engines less often.”

Panda also reports some performance gains in the 2012 version. Panda consumes 0.4 MB less when idle in this year’s version, as well as impacting system performance less. The time it takes the system to stabilize after booting was seven seconds faster with Panda 2012 than Panda 2011, and the overall performance loss was 6.9 percent in last year’s version, compared to 6.5 percent in this year’s.


One out of eight people now uses Chrome

/* Posted June 1st, 2011 at 8:49am [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under Web    */

Chrome is still the third-ranked browser in terms of worldwide usage, but its share is steadily climbing.

Chrome is still the third-ranked browser in terms of worldwide usage, but its share is steadily climbing.

Net Applications)

Chrome is now used by one out of every eight people on the Internet, new statistics show, but Microsoft’s latest browser is showing signs of steady growth, too.

Specifically, Chrome usage increased from 11.9 percent in April to 12.5 percent in May, according to statistics released today by Net Applications. The company bases its findings on population-adjusted measurements of visitors to Web sites using its analytics tools.

Google has been promoting Chrome widely, taking out ads, publicizing it on YouTube with Lady Gaga songs and sentimental videos, sponsoring developer events, and devoting a full day at Google I/O to the browser and its close relative, Chrome OS. The company’s primary objective: make the Web a faster, more powerful foundation for software and services.

Although the company offers Chrome for free, Google sees it as an indirect revenue source. For one thing, the company benefits when greater activity on the Web leads to more search and display ads. For another, it offers two options that dovetail with Google’s talking point du jour–the lucrative business of building a platform. Chrome OS, sold in laptops and corporate subscriptions, is one; the other is the Chrome Web Store, through which Google hopes developers will sell Web apps.

Chrome’s growth continues a steady trend, along with a couple others: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer overall lost share, from 55.1 percent to 54.3 percent, and
Firefox stayed about level, from 21.6 percent to 21.7 percent. Apple’s
Safari has been gaining in usage for months, but it didn’t budge much, moving from 7.2 percent to 7.3 percent. No. 5 Opera dipped from 2.1 percent to 2.0 percent.

One important new browser, Firefox 4, outpaced its predecessor in May. It had 10.1 percent of usage compared to 9.1 percent for the earlier version 3.6. Firefox, after years as the top alternative to IE, is itself now an incumbent defending its turf: Chrome, Safari, and Opera together account for more usage than Firefox, and Chrome has well over half Firefox’s share.

IE9, which emerged in March and embodies Microsoft’s effort to become competitive in the modern browser market, is making steady gains. It rose from 2.4 percent of users in April to 4.2 percent in May, Net Applications said.

Microsoft prefers to measure IE9′s success on a significantly smaller market,
Windows 7 machines. IE9 doesn’t run on Windows XP, which is still very widely used, or on Macs or today’s mobile devices. In that market, IE9 was used by 12.2 percent of people in May, Net Applications said.

IE6 is steadily diminishing in usage worldwide.

IE6 is steadily diminishing in usage worldwide.

Microsoft/Net Applications)

The Internet’s present development is held back by the widespread continuing use of IE6, which doesn’t support a wide swath of modern Web standards and which runs JavaScript programs very slowly. It’s particularly common in China, South Korea, and India, but globally, IE6 usage dropped from 11.4 percent in April to 10.9 percent in May. Microsoft is trying to coax people to upgrade by promoting its IE6 Countdown site, which provides scary-looking banner graphics and reasons to upgrade.

One notable item: IE9 is due to arrive in Microsoft’s “Mango” update to Windows Phone 7, set to debut by the end of the year. Given WP7′s low market usage today, don’t expect that to significantly change IE9 statistics anytime soon.

Apple’s iOS, though, is a different matter. The OS is gaining in usage, accounting for 2.2 percent of operating systems used to browse the Net. Unlike on Mac OS X, it’s pretty unusual for people to use a browser besides Safari, especially since alternatives must use Safari’s rendering engine underneath.

Google has made a different choice with its mobile OS, Android. First, Google permits other browsers, and Firefox and Opera Mobile are available for Android, complete with their own Web page rendering engines. Some Android devices even ship with Opera Mini–a “proxy” browser that actually relies on a remote server to process Web pages.

Another difference from Apple and and Microsoft: Google chooses not to brand the mobile browser shipping with its Android mobile OS as Chrome. At May’s Google I/O conference, Chrome leader Sundar Pichai said the reason is that, although the Android browser is derived from the same WebKit open-source project that Chrome (and Safari) use, it’s not the same code base as Chrome.

That may seem like a fine distinction, but when it comes to brand issues–for example, a Web developer promising visitors that a Web site “works with Chrome”–compatibility and feature support is a real issue.


New Opera beta tightens password security

/* Posted May 31st, 2011 at 8:49pm [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under Web    */

Secure password synchronization, Speed Dial extensions, and an easier way to get Opera’s developer’s builds graduated from alpha to beta today, as the Norwegian browser maker upgraded its latest alpha to beta status. Opera 11.50 beta 1 (download for Windows, Mac, and Linux) adds the long-missing password syncing to Opera’s syncing component, Opera Link, along another long-missing feature: the ability to customize the new tab landing page layout known as Speed Dial with extensions.

Speed Dial extensions land in Opera 11.50 alpha, giving the feature more real-time functionality.


Opera revealed in a blog post at the beginning of May a simplified take on how the password security works. Basically, Opera generates a long, random encryption key the first time you send your passwords to Opera Link. On the user side, this key then gets used to encrypt all the data sent to the Opera Link servers. The key is also sent to the servers, with a twist: it’s encrypted with your Opera Account password. So, by tying the Account password to the encryption key, Opera is essentially setting up a two-step verification process.

Opera recommends to existing Opera Link users that they change their Opera Account passwords once they begin using the new feature to ensure that it’s a strong password.

The Opera 11.50 beta itself represents a stabilization of the improvements that debuted in Opera 11.50 alpha about a month ago. Another debut at the same time as the alpha gave users the ability to stay on top of cutting-edge Opera changes with Opera’s version of a developer’s build, called Opera Next. These three changes will place Opera on a similar feature level as
Firefox 4 and slightly ahead of Chrome 11, assuming that the password synchronization makes it to Opera’s mobile versions.

You can test the Speed Dial extensions with one that Opera wrote, which puts real-time weather data in one of the dial windows.

Opera 11.50 does more than introduce new features. It also expands support for the still-in-development HTML5 standards, including datalist, session history, navigation, classlist, and the element. The full Opera 11.50 beta changelog can be read here.

Fun video apps for iPhone

/* Posted May 30th, 2011 at 2:49pm [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under Web    */

Mogo Video

Retroactively capture the action without having to record every moment of an event.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

It doesn’t seem that long ago when we would have to lug around a VHS camera to capture video of family events, vacations, and other memories we could relive later by inserting the VHS tape and hitting the play button on our VCRs. While it was a workable solution for capturing memories in motion, lugging around a video camera everywhere we went wasn’t exactly practical.

Fortunately these days, there is no longer the need for fresh VHS tapes or making sure to pack the digital video camera because we have the ability to shoot reasonably good video right on our smartphones. With the
iPhone 4‘s front- and rear-facing cameras, we have even more options for shooting videos, and with hundreds of cool video apps in the App Store, we have tons of interesting (and sometimes strange) options.

This week’s collection of apps gives you some options for shooting good-looking videos. The first app lets you film the action from before you hit the record button, the second makes retro-looking videos using effects you control, and the last app gives you some professional options for shooting more-serious movies.

Mogo Video (99 cents) lets you shoot videos on your iPhone, but offers a unique twist. With Mogo Video, you can actually record action that happened before you hit record. As long as the app is on, Mogo is recording, but not saving what you see through your iPhone camera. So, maybe you think your child might take his first steps, for example. With Mogo Video turned on you can point your iPhone at your son, and when he does successfully walk on his own, you can hit the record button to capture what happened a designated number of seconds before you hit record.

Mogo seems like it might come in handy for many things beyond the above example and you get a few options to make it work better for the action at hand. Say you’re watching a basketball game, as another example. You can set Mogo Video to record 10 seconds in the past so you can capture the play that leads up to a rip-roaring dunk. No longer will you need to be lucky to capture an amazing moment because the app doesn’t limit the amount of time it will record in the past. But, obviously, the app won’t be able to record what happened before launching the app. Along with the ability to edit the amount of time, you also can turn the flash on and off on the iPhone 4 and you can switch between the front- and rear-facing cameras.

Overall, Mogo video is an interesting concept that will come in handy in specific action-oriented situations. If you want to catch the big play, or witness a first moment with your kids without having to endlessly record the action, Mogo is a fun and effective way to capture life’s exciting moments.

8mm Vintage Camera

Choose from several presets to get the 8mm style you want, but all have that certain grainy feel.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

The 8mm Vintage Camera ($1.99) app lets you make old-timey videos with some cool feature variations and effects. Right when we launched this app we were reminded of popular camera app Hipstamatic, because 8mm Vintage Camera offers a vaguely similar feature set, but is instead used for making stylized videos.

Start your project by flicking the wheel in the bottom right of the screen to choose from five different video effects like the black-and-white 1920s setting or the grainy ’70s setting. Then, you can swipe the viewfinder in the upper right to choose from film effects like a shaky border (like old films) or a burning effect that makes the outer edges of the film seem to melt as you shoot. Different lens and film combinations give you several options for how your video will turn out.

Unlike Hipstamatic, 8mm Vintage Camera lets you adjust all your settings on one main screen. In addition to the film and lens choices, you have the option to use the iPhone 4 flash for brighter scenes; there’s a button that gives your film a frame jitter effect; and you can switch between the iPhone 4′s front- or rear-facing cameras.

When you’re finished, you can hit the My Reels button to browse through your shot videos, and touching a specific project gives you options for saving your video to your photo library, sending via e-mail, or uploading directly to YouTube.

Overall, 8mm Vintage Camera is one of the best apps I’ve found for making old-timey movies in the iTunes App Store, with just enough lens and film variations to give you plenty to experiment with. Anyone who likes old 8mm films should definitely check out this app.

Filmic Pro

Shoot your own professional-looking movies with an advanced tool set of video options.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Filmic Pro ($2.99) gives your iPhone camera a new front-end for shooting higher-quality video, with professional tools for controlling exposure, focal point, and more. As we know, the hardware and HD capabilities behind the iPhone’s video camera are impressive on their own–but its built-in controls for shooting video are frustratingly primitive for more-experienced filmmakers, and the iPhone isn’t always smart about handling factors like exposure and white balance.

Filmic Pro offers an interface that is clean and simple, and all of its controls run along the bottom of screen, making it perfect for keeping a steady thumb grip on your camera. On the left side of the screen, you have buttons for locking and unlocking focus, exposure, and white balance, and turning on your LED torch. On the top, in the main window, you have two reticles (or optionally one, for run-and-gun scenarios) which you can drag around to set focus, exposure, and white balance wherever you want in the shot. On the right side, you have a record button, clip library, info (a quick-start guide to the interface), and settings, which includes a ton of extras such as controls for resolution, variable frames per second, color bars, and a customizable slate with automatic advancing for each take.

Overall, Filmic Pro is a great value and worthwhile download whether you’re a budding cinematographer or a filmmaking vet. This app can vastly increase the quality of your videos, letting you get much more out of your iPhone camera without adding any extra gear.


Killer tips for mastering Google Chrome

/* Posted May 30th, 2011 at 2:49am [Comments: none]    */
/* Filed under Web    */

It’s been a long time since CNET’s first collection of Google Chrome tips, so we’ve got a new batch of tricks to help you get the most out of Google’s browser. We’ve split our advice this time around into three categories: using Incognito, powering up with the “about:” commands, and keeping your hands on the keyboard with a list of 30 hot keys. You can download Google Chrome for Windows, Mac, or Linux.

The simplest way to start Chrome in Incognito is to right-click on its taskbar icon in Windows 7.

Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Tip one: Keep your browsing private with Incognito.

Incognito mode is a private browsing mode that turns off the regular in-browser tracking such as your history and cookies. While it lends itself well to “porn mode” jokes, it’s actually a useful tool for a heightened level of privacy, such as when conducting online banking. It’s so useful that Chrome OS uses Incognito for its Guest account log-ins, so you can share your Chromebooks with friends and not have to worry about having your tabs accidentally deleted, for example.

The keyboard shortcut to launch a new Incognito window is Ctrl+Shift+N. In
Windows 7, you can launch an Incognito window directly from the desktop taskbar by right-clicking on the pinned Chrome icon and choosing “New Incognito window” from Tasks. You can also open a link directly into Incognito from a regular session of Chrome by right-clicking on the link and choosing “Open link in Incognito window”.

Right-click any link on a Web site, and the context menu will give you the choice of opening it in Incognito mode.

Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

You can start Chrome in Incognito mode by default, too. Create a Chrome shortcut on your desktop, then right-click it and choose Properties. In the Target field, go to the end of the line and type ” –incognito” (space, dash, dash, incognito, no quotes), then hit the OK button. That shortcut will always launch Chrome in Incognito, and it won’t conflict with another, regular shortcut.

Another essential Incognito tip is that you can toggle your installed extensions to run while in Incognito mode. Go to the Wrench icon (or Preferences on a
Mac) and choose Tools, then Extensions. Enabled extensions that can run in Incognito mode will have a check box that you can tick to allow them to run. This is not the safest way to use Incognito, however, because it’s possible that the extensions will record browsing tracks that the browser won’t. Still, it’s appropriate for each user to make the decision about which extensions ought to work while the rest of the browser’s tracking methods have gone silent.

Tweak the command line with –incognito and you can force Chrome to always open in its tracking-free browse mode.

Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Tip two: It’s all about the “about:”

Chrome has a different set of about: functions than
Firefox, and it’s a good idea to memorize some of the basic ones that you can type into the location bar. One of the most important is about:flags, which provides access to experimental features. The list is constantly changing, as Chrome engineers develop new features that they want power users to play with, but that might decrease the stability of the browser as a trade-off.

Currently, some of the best options in about:flags include Side Tabs, for moving tabs from the top of the browser to the side, great for wide monitors; Grouping, which adds a grouping option to the tab context menu to keep related tabs together; Better Omnibox history matching, which gives a kick in the pants to the location bar’s search feature; and the various GPU-related choices. These will likely decrease your browser’s stability, but you will also see dramatic gains in browser speed, especially on Windows XP or older machines, as these flags toggle the more experimental aspects of hardware-accelerated browsing.

Type about:flags into the Chrome location bar and you’ll get a list of experimental options to play with–even in Chrome stable.

Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Another smart “about” to remember is about:memory. This shows you not only the memory that Chrome is using, both in its entirety and broken down into individual tab processes, but also the memory usage of any other browser you’re running at the moment. (I used it for gauging memory usage during the most recent CNET browser benchmark battle.)

Chrome doesn’t yet have a hot key to jump you directly to the Extension manager, but it does have about:plugins, which will take you there.

Chrome’s about:memory reveals not just how Chrome is using your computer’s memory but how your other browsers are doing so as well.

Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Many of the rest of the about: features get deep into browser management and reveal important browser data to developers. You can always check out the full list of 18 standard about: pages, and the list of seven additional ones that will force different kinds of crashes for developers, by typing in about:about.

Tip three: Use the keyboard, Luke.

Hot key combinations not only improve finger strength and dexterity they also help you navigate faster. Chrome and the coming Chrome OS have an extensive list of hot keys, and the list of 30 hot keys below includes both basics and some of the more esoteric options.

Google has also made a full list of keyboard shortcuts you can read.

More hints

There are, of course, many other hints, tips, and tricks you can use to maximize your Google Chrome experience. One is the ability to click and drag tabs off the tab bar to create new windows, and to drag them back to re-integrate them into one window. Another that’s currently only available to Chrome dev users is the return of the ability to create desktop shortcuts for Web apps and Web sites, like Gmail or Flickr. If you’ve got a favorite hint, tip, or trick for Chrome that wasn’t mentioned here, let me know what it is in the comments below.


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