Thursday, September 18, 2008

Big Bang Board [ iPhone ]

I love Freeverse's Big Brain Bang Board games for Mac so I was super excited to hear that they'd ported them over to the iPhone [iTunes link]. And sure enough, many of the great features that make the software such a winner on the Mac are there on the phone: the snarky avatars (yes, you can tap them), the adjustable gameplay levels, the great graphics, and so forth.

But like many other developers out there, Freeverse has overlooked one big design principle. That principle is: Fingers big; iPhone small. Failing this reduces the game from "must have" to "your mileage will vary".

The iPhone is not a desktop machine. Software needs to be re-imagined not just re-platformed. Developers need to re-design around the hardware and human factors that limit the platform. And it's there that Freeverse made some mis-steps, particularly in sizing.

A couple of the Big Brain Bang games are practically unplayable. Backgammon is the worst offender, both in landscape or portrait play. Although Freeverse has done an amazing job minimizing interaction issues on a tiny screen (the legal plays are highlighted in blue and can be tapped), some game spots are nearly untouchable, leading to a dozen taps or more to advance one move in game play. Late in the four-in-a-row game, it's almost impossible to drop your pieces at the two ends of the board due to the height of the stacks.

The problems comes from two sources: first, Freeverse retained its gorgeous 3D graphics in the port. That means that board areas suffer from perspective -- they lose pixels to style. Second, the platform itself only has so many pixels to offer. It's a tiny screen and we interact with fingers not styluses. Freeverse needs to redesign some of those games to make sure that the thumbfingered as well as the nimble can play.

So that having been said, what works? Obviously, the flexible game play the big winner. Big Brain Bang offers Backgammon, Tic Tac Toe, Chess, Checkers, Reversi, Mancala, and 4 In A Row. Chess, Checkers, and Reversi remain the most playable and enjoyable. The audio design matches the desktop experience, which will appeal or not according to taste. Finally, Freeverse loaded up the package with options that allow you to adjust playback difficulty. So there's a lot of win in the package, even if you might be disappointed with some of the specific play features.

Big Brain Bang Board Games[iTunes link] costs $7.99 and can be played on both iPhone and iPod touch, although the latter requires headphones or an external speaker to experience the sound effects.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed [ MacOS ]

Back in July, we got our first glimpse of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for the iPhone. In the demo, the game seemed to make clever (although possibly somewhat distracting) use of the touch screen. In the end, we were eager to try it out.

Today, we finally can. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is now available in the App Store [link]. As of this writing there are only four user reviews written, but each gives the game a four-star rating. It sells for $9.99US.

We're going to begin playing with this immediately, so check back soon for our full review. Star Wars in your pocket? What more could you want?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Font management [ MacOS ]

Universal Type ServerAnother product announced at Macworld Expo, Extensis Universal Type Server, is now shipping. Universal Type Server is designed for corporate font management, requiring Mac OS X or Mac OS X Server 10.4 or 10.5 on a G5 or better machine. My personal opinion is that this would be a perfect application to run on a headless Mac mini.

There are two flavors of Universal Type Server - Professional, which is scalable to any size workgroup, and Lite, for workgroups of up to 10 users. The server and client applications are cross-platform, running on Windows as well as Mac.

Migration paths are available for users of Font Reserve Server or Suitcase Server. The Lite package is available for $1395 directly from Extensis, but you'll want to contact a reseller for the Professional version. If you want to kick the tires before you buy, you can download 30-day free trials for both Pro and Lite.

QuarkXPress 8 [ MacOS ]

Love it or hate it (with the burning fire of a million angry suns), Quark yesterday released QuarkXPress 8, which features new tools for developing for the web, workspace enhancements, and refinements to tools to finally bring it into the 20th century. Steve Sande mentioned back in May that it was coming, and now it's finally here.

Quark 8, the William Shatner of page layout software (old, bloated, sweaty, and desperate to stay relevant), allows you to create content for the web using HTML and Flash without writing any code. This has been a feature of Quark since QuarkImmedia and Quark Interactive Designer, but now appears to be fully rolled into QuarkXPress, to the abject horror of web designers everywhere.

Also, a new feature: A measurements palette. That's right, it's 2008, and they're adding a measurements palette. Also: east-Asian language support and hanging punctuation. Wow. Well done, Quark.

I've been using QuarkXPress since version 3, and having very briefly tried the new version, it's a little depressing to see them keep trying to reclaim their glory years. Small design shops, freelancers, and many printers have largely moved to InDesign for their page layout software. Yes, Quark 8 is light-years ahead of where they were, but still light-years behind where they need to be.

Quark makes its money on giant-scale installations at newspapers and magazines, so we'll see how quickly their enterprise customers adopt this new version. My guess: not very, as many printers I've dealt with overseas, especially in Asia, are still using QuarkXPress 6.

A 60-day trial is available, and is a whopping 517MB to download. It requires Mac OS X 10.4 and a G5 processor or higher. New licenses are $800, and upgrades are a scant $300. Discounts are available for education and non-profit customers, too.

Adobe CS4 announcement

Just when you thought you just bought (or just finished paying for) Adobe Creative Suite 3, get ready to take out another mortgage for Adobe CS4, which will be publicly unveiled on September 23. AppleInsider conjectures the software will drop in October.

Adobe will be delivering several webcasts that day to showcase the new software to the public. You can register here to participate in the webcasts.

Improvements to Photoshop and Flash are expected to headline the event. Adobe did not release any details about how the software will be bundled, nor any pricing information. Full versions of Adobe CS3 can cost as much as $2,500 for new users, and $160 for those who want to upgrade.

Adobe released preview editions of Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Soundbooth in late May.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

PopChar X 4.0 [ MacOS ]

PopChar X 4PopChar X, the little utility that gets all of those funky symbols, accents, and other special characters into your documents without having to remember arcane key codes, has been updated to version 4 for Mac.

PopChar has been around for over 20 years and is a favorite of editors and designers. To type a special character, you click on a P in the menu bar and a list of characters appears. Selecting the character you want drops it into your current document. Sure, you could always use Apple's Character Palette tool, but it's slow, and difficult to search for a special character in a particular font.

PopChar X 4.0 adds a new feature for searching Unicode characters by name across font boundaries. Ergonis, developer of PopChar, provides an example of searching for a "cubic meters" symbol in Helvetica. Typing in "cub" produces no results, but you can click a new "All" button to search across all Unicode fonts.

You can download a trial version of PopChar X 4.0, or purchase it online from Ergonis for €29.99. Multiple license packs are available at a discount.

Searchlight, remote Spotlight on your Mac or iPhone

Searchlight 2.0 was officially released last week. Searchlight offers remote Spotlight functionality, allowing you to search your computer's files via a web browser, and it includes an iPhone-optimized interface. I talked with Searchlight's authors, Gravity Applications, during WWDC and got a good look at the pre-release version which left me pretty impressed. I've personally been using the beta for a while now to access the Mac Mini at my house which serves as my central file repository. Read on for a Searchlight overview ... and an exclusive TUAW giveaway!
The foundation of Searchlight is a fairly simple concept: use Leopard's built-in technologies to navigate, preview and download remote files. This means that from your computer (or from your iPhone), you have access to anything you've allowed Spotlight to index, including emails, calendar events, images, documents, and so on.
Using Quick Look for previews means you can quickly get thumbnail views and previews of a broad range of filetypes. It even recognizes some Quick Look plugins, allowing me, for example, to search for and preview EPS files. I can also search for snippets in source code and see a code-highlighted version with the Quick Look preview or the entire source by choosing the Download option.
Searchlight is a search-only interface; browsing through your folders isn't an option. This could be a deciding factor based on the usage scenario. For me, there are two reasons a Spotlight search is ideal. First, I use a tagging system and a limited folder hierarchy, so even when I'm at my computer I find everything through Spotlight or Spotlight-based applications. Second, the primary reason I access my remote machine and its large external drives is to search for either images or code snippets. My image collection is a vast array of fairly meaningless filenames, and if I'm searching for code I rarely know which file contains the snippet I want ... a Spotlight-powered keyword or content search is my best hope.
Searchlight deals very well with almost every type of file, including emails, events, images and all manner of documents. Searchlight offers good poster frame previews of movies, but one failure of every application I've tried has been movie downloads. Even movies which are already iPhone-compatible fail to play on the iPhone. Searchlight's authors tell me they're looking into this and plan to have a solution soon.
Searchlight's interface is one of its strongest features. Rather than describe it, I've put together a gallery which you'll find at the end of the post.
You can try out a demo version of Searchlight for free. If you're digging it, TUAW has 10 Searchlight licenses to give away to randomly-selected haiku entries. Feeling poetic? Just drop some 3-line (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables) verse about remote file access (or a creative abstraction thereof) in the comments for a chance at a free license for the $99 application.
Web LoginPreference Pane
Thumbnail Results
To enter the giveaway, please read and follow the rules below:
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
  • To enter, leave a haiku in the comments.
  • The comment must be left before August 17, 11:59PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter once.
  • 10 winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Winners will receive a full license of Searchlight ($99):
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Flash Player 10 [ All Platform ]

Update: Flash Player 10 release candidate was released on 8/11/2008 and includes new features and bug fixes. Please download the new version.

This is a prerelease version of the Adobe® Flash® Player 10 software for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux platforms. It is being made available for developers and consumers to test their content to ensure new features function as expected, existing content plays back correctly, and there are no compatibility issues.
The Flash Player 10 beta is available in all supported languages; however, the prerelease installers are only in English and we can only accept feedback in English at this time.
Release versions of Flash Player 9 are now available from the Flash Player Download Center on

Terms of Use
Your use of Adobe Labs, including the downloading of software and submission of comments, ideas, feature requests, and techniques, and Adobe’s rights to use such submitted materials are governed by the Adobe Labs Terms of Use and the Adobe Online Privacy Policy. By downloading, copying, or using Adobe software and related materials, you also agree to the appropriate Adobe Software License Agreement, including the limitations related to prerelease Software.

DOwnload :
۞  Download Plugin for Windows (EXE, 1.75 MB)

۞  Download Plugin for Macintosh (DMG.ZIP, 5.32 MB)

۞  Download Plugin for Linux (TAR.GZ, 3.85 MB)

۞  Download Plugin for Linux (RPM, 3..84 MB)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Egnyte File Server [ MacOS ]

Egnyte, another entry in the list of "cloud storage" applications, has updated to version 1.5 with some valuable new features. Geared toward organizations and businesses needing centralized document storage, it provides a cross-platform solution for uploading, storing, sharing and collaborating on files. The latest version of Egnyte features:
  • Shared and private folders
  • File versioning
  • A tagging system for non-hierarchical file organization
  • Readily-available previews of compatible image formats
  • Folder export with zip archiving/compression
  • WebDAV support and an accompanying Mac desktop application
  • Continuous backup of local files
  • Cross-platform compatibility
  • Per-folder access control
Egnyte 1.5 has become a viable FTP replacement for medium to large organizations with multiple, project-specific FTP repositories. A new drag and drop interface allows any user to upload multiple files of any size, and provides in-memory compression for faster transfers. A "Hot Sharing" feature quickly generates public URLs for hosted files, allowing easy collaboration with users outside of your Egnyte account without requiring a login.
Pricing begins at $15/month per "Power User" (administrative users) and includes unlimited access for "Standard Users" (everybody else). Standard Users don't get the desktop access (WebDAV) or its related ability to automatically back up local files to the Egnyte server; add $15/mo for each user who will require those capabilities. Special pricing is available for non-profits and academic institutions.
See the Egnyte homepage for more information.

NetNewsWire [ iPhone ]

Probably the single most used application on my Mac is NetNewsWire, and so I've been really looking forward to on the iPhone optimized version. It has now appeared and on first glance it appears that developer Brent Simmons has built yet another class leading RSS reader.

Like the desktop version NetNewsWire for iPhone (iTunes link) syncs with the Newsgator servers for your subscription list, clippings, and read/unread status. And like the desktop version it's free. However, if you're like me you're not going to want your entire feed list on your iPhone. Fortunately, there is a way to use a desktop browser interface on to select only a subset of your feeds to appear on your iPhone. Brent explains how to set this up at his site.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Chrome Browser Powered by : Google

The very last thing I expected to see from team Google was such an overt shot across the bow of the good ship Microsoft, but Google Chrome is indeed a fascinating utility application released just days after Microsoft gained much buzz for its latest Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) release. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Why is Chrome so interesting? Because it's really the Web-based front-end to what's clearly shaping up to be GoogleOS. Most Web browsers run a single process and manage all tabs, all separate windows, within that process. Google Chrome, on the other hand, runs each tab as its own thread, its own instance of the browser. This means that from a user's perspective if one tab goes weird it can only affect itself, not the other tabs in the browser. Nice!
Google Chrome - Firefox competitor - LogoBehind the scenes, however, this means that Google Chrome also has many of the core features of an operating system, including memory management, task management and the like. Hmmm... it also has Google Gears integrated into the browser, which means that you'll be able to have your Google Docs open and live, even if you're offline. Web browser + office suite + IM client (Gtalk, a part of Gmail) + web-based email system. Sounds like the Google folk are moving closer and closer to being a plug-and-play replacement for Windows, not just the apps therein.
Let me show you how to grab your own copy, then you can download it and explore what is available, what's coming soon, and what it all means.
Start by going to the Chrome home page at You'll see this:
google chrome download
Click on it (or click on the image above, which takes you to the same place) and agree to their End User License Agreement (EULA). While you're at this step, however, I encourage you to consider also agreeing to letting Google collect usage stats:
google chrome sent stats
Some people are paranoid about Google collecting usage data, but, to quote Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy, "privacy is dead, get over it". :-)
As is now common with really big downloads, the installation process is in two steps. The first is to download a small app that manages the bigger download. That app is called ChromeSetup and you'll need to agree to have it saved on your system:
google chrome download 2
This doesn't take very long to download: it's a small file. When it's done, you have a new icon on your desktop:
google chrome setup
Double-click on it and your Windows XP system should - hopefully - confirm that you really want to run an app downloaded from the Internet:
google chrome run setup
Let's trust Google, just this once, and say "Run". Now it starts the main download:
google chrome downloading
After a few minutes - or faster, if you've a good 'net connection - you'll see this:
google chrome finish install
Now we're doing well!
Agree to the options specified, or click on "Customize these settings" to tweak things, click "Start Google Chrome" and after a few short seconds...
Preview .............

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Karelia iMedia Browser 1.1.1

It's easy to get spoiled using Apple's Media Browser, that little tool that pops up in many of the iLife and iWork applications and provides access to photos, music, graphics, and movies. But what about those cases where you want to use Media Browser and the application you're in doesn't support it?

Karelia Software, makers of the popular website creation tool Sandvox, has just shipped an update to iMedia Browser. iMedia Browser 1.1.1 works with Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and 10.5 (Leopard). It provides all of the functionality of Media Browser, but for just about any application on your Mac. This update adds international support and new media sources.

iMedia Browser now supports the following media (information from Karelia's website):
  • Browse Photos: iPhoto / Aperture / Lightroom library, Pictures folder, and other predefined folders.
  • Browse Music: iTunes library, GarageBand songs, Music folder, etc.
  • Browse Movies: iTunes and iPhoto libraries, Movies folder, etc.
  • Browse Links: Bookmarks from Safari, Camino, OmniWeb, etc.
  • Drag and drop any folder into the source list to add to your library.
As the really old song says, "the best things in life are free", and iMedia Browser is no exception. Download it and start enjoying your media in almost every application you use.

Easy iWeb Publisher 3.0.3

Easy iWeb
Although I've written a book about iWeb, I often tell my clients to avoid using it for their websites if they're planning on hosting anywhere but on MobileMe. Why? When you post to MobileMe from iWeb, you "Publish" and your site is uploaded. Minor changes to a site only take a few seconds to upload, since iWeb uploads only the changed files to your web server. That doesn't happen when publishing to other servers. Instead, you publish to a local folder, and then usually upload the entire folder to your web server. That can take a long time with a large site.

Plyxim's Easy iWeb Publisher 3.0.3 fixes that problem. The shareware ($7 donation requested) application makes it simple to publish to any web host. It's an ftp client that takes the local folder you've published your iWeb site to, compares it to the folder on your web server, and then uploads just the files that have changed.

I've found that Easy iWeb Publisher works much faster than most dedicated ftp clients when syncing iWeb files that have been changed, added, or deleted. Until Apple fixes iWeb '08 to make publishing easier for people who don't use MobileMe, this is a great way to work with your own hosting.

Turn your iPhone into a wireless drive with DataCase

DataCaseOne feature of many other handheld devices is the ability to use the device as a portable flash drive to move data between a couple of computers. DataCase works with Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) and Bonjour to allow any Mac on the same network as your phone to transfer files to and from it.

Your iPhone appears as a Mac volume, so you just drag-and-drop data you want to take with you. If you're a Windows or Linux user, DataCase gives you the same capabilities from your iPhone using HTTP and FTP.

In case you want to view those files you've moved to your iPhone, DataCase lets you read Microsoft Office, PDF, and text files. You can create up to 16 different volumes on your iPhone, each of which can be set up with read/write/browse permissions. Volumes can be made invisible to protect data from unauthorized people or iPhone snatchers.

Monday, September 1, 2008

iTunes : global search

As the iTunes Store has grown, its search feature hasn't. Enter a bit of text in the search field, and you get results for
  1. Albums
  2. Podcasts
  3. Movies
  4. TV seasons
  5. Music videos
  6. iTunes Essentials
  7. iTunes U
  8. Apps
The results were manageable when we were just browsing music, television and movies. Today, it's just too large. Even some of the sub-categories are getting crowded. Recently, the App store was receiving a lot of eBooks from AppEngines. Earlier this week, a "Books" section was added to the App Store.

That's a good step, but I'd like to be able to filter results before execution. For example, an App Store search, a music search or podcasts. iTunes Power Search [link] does this pretty well, but I'd bet that most users don't use it. This ought to be the default search procedure.