Sunday, April 5, 2009

Texas bans Microsoft Vista from Government Use

In fact, Microsoft makes some very fine products for the Mac including some very useful ergonomic keyboards and some terrific mice. They also make a pretty decent suite of Office applications that many Mac owners use each and every day.

Heck, a guy even made a movie using Microsoft products, which we featured right here at TUAW. However, after seeing that the entire State of Texas has decided that Microsoft Windows Vista should not be used in any government agency, we might have to take a minute and reconsider our opinion on the giant from Redmond's flagship product.

According to Sen. Juan Hinojosa, vice chairman of the Finance Committee who proposed the ban, he did so because "of the many reports of problems with Vista." He goes on to say that:

"We are not in any way, shape or form trying to pick on Microsoft, but the problems with this particular [operating] system are known nationwide. And the XP operating system is working very well."

Agile Messenger [ iPhone ] [ iPod touch ]

We'll have a head-to-head comparison of the just-released Agile Messenger [App Store link] versus Beejive in a few days, but why not test drive Agile Messenger yourself first? Four lucky winners will get to do just that, courtesy Agile and TUAW. Just tell us which chat protocol you prefer (AIM, Jabber, Yahoo, etc.) and we'll pick four winners at random. Sorry, we've got to limit the winners to the US, as promo codes don't work anywhere else.

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older. (Sorry, we know our international readers want to participate, but promo codes don't transfer outside the US.)
  • To enter leave a comment telling us your preferred IM protocol (AIM, Jabber, etc.).
  • The comment must be left before April 3, 11:59PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Four winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Prize: Promo code for free copy of Agile Messenger for iPhone (US$9.99).

Mars Edit 2.3 adds Tumblr support

MarsEdit has long been one of my Mac apps and save my writings for TUAW and Download Squad, it's what I use for almost all of my online publishing. For almost two years, I've been embroiled in a love/hate relationship with Tumblr. I love the idea of the service, but until recently, the simplicity it offers has come at the expense of features I really, really need. This week, I've come one-step closer to making Tumblr a bigger part of my digital life, because MarsEdit now supports Tumblr blogs!

MarsEdit 2.3, which was released on Tuesday now supports Tumblr, in addition to WordPress, Movable Type, LiveJournal and other blogging platforms. Daniel Jalkut, the developer of MarsEdit, announced that he was planning support for Tumblr back in December, after started working with Tumblr's Marco Arment on improving the Tumblr API.

After a brief beta period, official Tumblr support is finally here, and it is good. To my knowledge, MarsEdit is the only blog client, for Mac or Windows, that supports Tumblr. Sure, there are some great iPhone (and even a BlackBerry application), but there hasn't been any support for an actual desktop client.

Inevitably, some users will question why Tumblr needs client support at all. After all, isn't the whole point of Tumblr to be fast, easy and simple? Sure, but when composing longer entries or when you want to write drafts, an external client is still superior. There's nothing worse than having all of your hard work erased by a misbehaving web browser, or wanting to access a draft or an old post while on a plane or some other place without Internet access.

MarsEdit 2.3 supports text, photo, quote, link and chat post templates (though you can easily use HTML to embed video and audio in a regular text post). You can also easily add tags to a post. Image posting is extremely easy, just drag an image from the web, your own library or a folder into the image button at the top of the post.

If I had any real request, it would be that the "tweet this post" toggle be included as a MarsEdit option. Otherwise, my Tumblr needs have been addressed.

MarsEdit 2.3 is a free upgrade for existing users and news users can snag a copy for $29.95. It requires Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.5.


Last October, we posted about another iPhone app -- Weightbot -- written by Mark Jardine and Paul Haddad at Tapbots. Now the company has shipped their second app, an iPhone conversion calculator called Convertbot (iTunes link).

Like Weightbot, Convertbot is a classy-looking and extremely functional iPhone app. Every detail of the user interface shows obvious thought, resulting in an app that is easy to use and look at. As with Weightbot, Convertbot also features sound effects that provide an extra level of fun.

What can you convert with Convertbot? Temperature, time, volume, work, angles, area, currency, length, mass, power, pressure and speed. How do you do it? There's a rotating selector wheel on the Convertbot screen to choose the type of conversion (temperature, for example), and a button to select the units (degrees Fahrenheit, for instance). To enter the known unit, you tap the converter display to bring up a keypad for tapping in numbers. As you tap in the numbers, Convertbot is busily converting the units.

If you're an aspiring developer and want to see a well-designed app, or if you're an iPhone or iPod touch owner who just likes cool apps, check out this US$0.99 app. There are tons of conversion apps in the App Store, but Convertbot is just too nice to pass up.

Daylite Touch

Marketcircle has made a name for themselves with their Daylite Productivity Suite, which is a powerful customer management, calendaring, and project management tool. On Tuesday, Marketcircle announced the availability of Daylite Touch, an iPhone / iPod touch companion to Daylite, in the App Store (click opens iTunes).

TUAW is currently working on a full review of the latest releases of Daylite, the new Daylite Server, and Daylite Touch, so this is just a cursory overview of the iPhone app. From what we've seen during the last few weeks of use, the app is a worthy companion to Daylite and offers much of the powerful capabilities of the desktop package in a handheld format.

Perhaps the most impressive tool in Daylite Touch is its ability to sync to a remote Daylite Server. Daylite Server is required if someone wishes to use both Daylite on the Mac and the iPhone, and it has just been shipped with the new Daylite 3.9. The sync capability includes a remote wipe function, important for organizations that have deployed groups of iPhones loaded with Daylite Touch and syncing to company-proprietary information.

Daylite Touch is free for download, but requires that a $49.99 annual license be installed on the server. While this may seem a bit expensive, it's an absolute bargain for any person or organization that wants the power of Daylite in their pocket or purse. Stay tuned for our upcoming full review of Daylite 3.9, Daylite Server, and Daylite Touch.

iPhone OS 3.0 brings the speed for JavaScript

mobile safari in iphone os 3.0 to get speed boostArs is reporting the 3.0 speed improvements to Mobile Safari's JavaScript engine range from 3x to 16x -- a blessed boon to web developers everywhere. No one seems to know if Mobile Safari will be sporting Nitro or SquirrelFish or what, but whatever it is, it'll be faster. If you check out the benchmarks originally posted on Wayne Pan's blog, iPhone OS 3.0 blazes past 2.2 in every category except divisions (the benchmarking tools are available at Craig Hockenberry's blog here).

It's nice to see progress, but I don't think anyone expected Apple to let the JS engine in Mobile Safari lay fallow for long. Every day browsers like Opera Mini and Android's WebKit-based browser are getting better. Heck, even WinMo's version of IE is supposed to support H.264, Flash and Silverlight. Will the upgraded js engine and technology like CSS3 and Canvas draw more developers to iPhone web apps? I doubt it, but the speed improvements will make many browser-based services feel more responsive. That's certainly a win for consumers.

Apple Stores selling contract-free iPhones

Last week came the sneak peek at internal AT&T memos meant to coach employees on the sale of unsubsidized iPhones. Today, there's news that Apple has begun selling no-contract iPhones at their retail stores. You can grab an 8GB iPhone 3G for $599 or a 16GB model for $699, take it home and do what you will. Unlike restrictions set up by AT&T, Apple Store customers may purchase as many unsubsidized phones as they please.

With WWDC and the release of iPhone OS 3.0 both scheduled for June, it looks like Apple might be clearing house for something new. Perhaps the current model will drop in price and become the entry-level iPhone to make room for the rumored 2009 model.

In any case, go and pick up a contract-free iPhone directly from Apple, if that's your thing.

The Levelator, friend to podcasters everywhere

We've mentioned it before (via Laurie and Scott's posts back in ought-six) but it's worth a Friday Favorite: if you're looking for a free, cross-platform tool that does one thing to audio and does it very very well, you need to download The Levelator today.

The Levelator is offered by The Conversations Network as a single-purpose tool: it takes uncompressed audio (WAV or AIFF files) and performs a small miracle. The file is leveled to a uniform loudness level, even if varying parts are recorded with different microphones, audio settings, or even in diverse corners of the world (if you've ever tried to record a podcast over Skype, you know what I'm talking about). While many audio apps have normalization or 'leveling' functions, in my admittedly amateur audio experience I haven't heard anything like The Levelator; those with more savvy in this area tell me that the output is akin to what you would get with a human engineer 'riding the meters' to adjust the sound dynamically as it varies.

The really nice thing about The Levelator -- and this is an odd thing to say about a Mac application -- is that it has, for all practical purposes, no controls. Drop a file on it, wait an appropriate amount of time and watch the blinking lights, then take your output file and continue on your merry way; the final file will simply sound way better than the original did. It's made my life much easier in editing the TUAW Talkcast, and if you have any hand in producing spoken-word audio it might do the same for you.

The Levelator is a free 48 MB Universal Binary download, and will work on either 10.4 or 10.5, as well as Windows and Linux. Enjoy!

The Bad Decision Blocker prevents dialing mistakes

Enough of the fart apps -- here's an iPhone function we really need. The Bad Decision Blocker (BDB for short) is an iPhone app that will let you block any of your phone's contacts for a predetermined set of time.

We've all been there -- you go out Friday night, get a few drinks in you, and suddenly calling up your former friend, or a girl you're trying to ask out, or a girl you used to go out with (who decided not to hang out with you any more thanks to all the drinking) becomes something you're suprisingly willing to do. BDB, however, will say no, and keep that contact out of the contact list, until whatever time you'd said it was OK to let it back in. And, presumably, by that time you can be in a more sober state of mind, and realize that you don't need any girl whose idea of a good time is keeping you from having fun. Take that, Susan!

It's helpful for sure. All the program seems to do is erase (and rewrite) whatever contacts you choose in your address book, so you've got to re-open the program after the set time if you want your contacts back. Also, the app doesn't actually block the phone, just the contacts you choose, so if you have their phone number memorized, you might still end up doing a little drunk dialing. But you never know -- BDB might be just the thing to help you leave that old relationship right where it is, or at least come to your senses long enough to not sabotage that new one. It's in the App Store right now for 99 cents.

DirecTV beams down iPhone app

Long rumored and eagerly awaited, DirecTV has finally posted their free iPhone app for finding and recording content. The DirecTV app [App Store link] has been pretty hard to find. It didn't come up in an iTunes search last night and this morning, but that may have been fixed.

Locating programming is much faster and friendlier than using the iPhone friendly web page that had been the way to look at the DirecTV schedule.

The new app allows you to search for any shows up to 14 days in advance. You can browse the DirecTV schedule by date and time or by channel. You can select from multiple DVRs if you have them, and you can record a single episode of a program or a series.

The app runs on either the iPhone or iPod touch with version 2.2.1 software or above. You can search the schedule even if you're not a DirecTV subscriber, but if you want to trigger recordings you must use your DirecTV password. I set up a few tests and all the recording worked, one DVR request was made 2 minutes before the program started and the data made it to the DVR via satellite in time to catch the show.

I liked the old web-based method, but this is light years better. You get good program descriptions and ratings when available, and speed over the 3G network or even EDGE was quite usable.

Note: DirecTV says the app requires DIRECTV Plus® DVR (models R15, R16, R22), DIRECTV Plus® HD DVR (models HR20, HR21, HR23) or TiVo® Series 2 receivers with 6.4a software.

What's new in iPhoto 8.0.2

Last week, Apple released iLife updates with typically terse descriptions. Dissatisfied with "...overall application stability improvements," I explored iPhoto 8.0.2 for obvious changes. Here's what I found.

First, Faces offers Address Book contacts as potential matches for unrecognized faces (based on initial letter), each labeled with an Address Book icon. Formerly, you'd be presented with the names of previously identified faces only.

Also, the label that identifies an unknown face has been changed from "unknown face" to "unidentified."

This one could be just in my head, but zooming in on the Places map with a double-click seems a lot faster now.

They're minor changes, but definitely welcome. Many people dismiss iPhoto, but as a snapshot professional, I love it.

A different kind of Alarm Clock

We've reviewed some iPhone alarms before. There are free alarms and alarms you pay for. Some were pretty good, and there is always the built-in alarm. In an attempt to improve upon the standard alarms, some Russian developers have created Easy Wakeup [App Store link] which has been available for jailbroken phones, but now is available at U.S. $9.99 for both the iPhone and iPod touch.

Why would anyone buy an alarm app for 10 bucks? Well, this is a very different kind of alarm app. Using the motion sensors on your iPhone, you strap your iPhone to your wrist with one of the readily available products that do that, and go to sleep. You tell the software at what time you absolutely must be awakened, and by analyzing your movements through the night, the software will pick what it believes is the most opportune time to get you up. The alarm can wake you to music, vibration, and even a message you record with the iPhone microphone.

There are some drawbacks. Your iPhone can't be locked. You have to put it in airplane mode, which means you won't be getting any calls through the evening. That might be a good thing, depending on how you like to live your life. The developers say you'll drain about 20% of your battery overnight, which might be bad if you have a big day planned and no time to recharge. When you select your alarm, you can't select music from your own playlist. You can select Apple built-in ring-tones, but not any you imported or created yourself.

The alarm supports snooze, and when you get up you can look at some graphs to see how restless you were during your sleep.

There are similar products that work on the same principles. The Axbo Sleep Phase Clock costs between U.S. $150-250. It is a bedside alarm clock with a wrist band and data cables.

I can't vouch for the science behind these products, and I decided I didn't love my iPhone enough to sleep with it to test this out, but for those familiar with the technique of computer aided alarms it might be worth a try. Just be careful when you roll over.

Take 3d pix [ iPhone ]

I admit it. I am a sucker for 3D. I loved 3D movies as a kid (and still do). I had 3D comic books, and a View-Master to look at 3D pictures of exotic locations far from my Midwest home.

Now, my iPhone can create pretty impressive 3D images, with just a few clicks. [App Store link] is U.S. $1.99 and easily earns a permanent place in my collection of useful apps. Unlike the 3D cameras of old, your iPhone only has one lens, so you get depth by taking a picture, moving about 2 inches to the right, and take another. The software guides you through taking the two images, and allows you to discard one or both of the pairs if you're not happy with them. TwinShot3D then creates an overlay of the two images, instructing you to drag one of the images so that part of the image in the background lines up. Then press the '3D' button, and you get an anaglyph image that can be viewed with standard red/blue 3d glasses. You probably have a few pair sitting around, and if not you are provided a link to get a free set, or you can buy as many as you need.

When you are done the pictures are saved to your camera roll, where they can be viewed right on your iPhone, or exported. You can even print them on a color printer, and get a photo that will work fine with the anaglyph glasses.

In my experience, the software worked quite well, and I was able to produce several images that had nice depth. You can experiment with the distance between the two images. More distance gives you an exaggerated 3D effect. Too much, and the illusion falls apart and the images can't be converged by the brain.

Version 1.0 of the software was reported to be pretty buggy, but the current version 1.01 is nice and solid. I had no surprises, freezes, or shut downs. If you are as hooked on all things 3D as I am, TwinShot3D is a lot of fun for the money.

Here's a link to view some 3D images taken with the camera. You'll need 3D glasses to view them, of course. Below is a gallery of some of my test images.

Watchmen: Justice is Coming is an impressive tech demo

There's a whole lot of promise in the Watchmen: Justice is Coming game for iPhone/iPod touch. Unfortunately, the game is beset by some bugs and gameplay fumbles. The more I played, the more I got used to the quirks, but eventually there's a certain monotony to the game that left me rather unsatisfied. Hopefully, as Mike reported, Last Legion Games will take note and keep improving the experience. I'm not saying it is bad -- it is an amazing glimpse into the power of Apple's mobile platform -- but it's more a tech demo at this point than finished game.

The gallery will take you through most everything in the game that I've found thus far. Essentially you start with a male or female character, do a cute "personality test" and your stats are generated. Your bikini-clad crimefighter is born, and aside from a username/password for accessing the server, there's not much customization you can do -- yet. As you go through the streets you're able to check dumpsters, where you'll pick up more costume parts. As you fight more bad guys (there are preset NPC's throughout, but you can also challenge other human-powered characters -- this is a MMO, after all), you'll get more experience and you can eventually level up and enhance various skills.

Life in the game is simple, but there's a story too. In fact, the game has a point system based on your random adventures as well as points for the story. So you can ditch the story and wander around, or you can focus on finding your sister. I won't spoil any more of the story, but it's not bad, and the progression is well done. If you're a fan of the GTA series, where you can wander around or go on missions, you may be a little disappointed. There aren't missions, really. Just one story arc and a bunch of random encounters to be had.

I haven't finished the game, but I will say that, after I rebooted my iPhone to stop the incessant crashing, I find myself playing Watchmen every other day or so. Keep reading for more about the good, the bad, and the ugly in Watchmen: Justice is Coming.

NeoOffice 3 [ MacOS ]

We had a lot of mail from users eager to let us know that the NeoOffice 3.0 is now available. NeoOffice is a Mac OS X native open-source office suite originally crafted from the code used for OpenOffice, and its developers are boasting about the following features not found in the current release of OpenOffice for Mac:
  • OS X Services support
  • Media Browser support
  • Native floating tool windows
  • Magnify and swipe trackpad gestures
  • Menus available when no documents are open
  • Import images from scanners and cameras
  • Command-clicking on window titlebar
  • Mac OS X Leopard grammar checking support
A more in-depth look at these features can be found here. The suite is a fantastic alternative to paying full price for Microsoft Office and has come a long way in the past few years.

NeoOffice 3.0 is a universal binary offers separate Intel and PPC packages, and it requires OS X 10.4 or higher, 512 MB of RAM and 400 MB of free disk space. Please note that Universal Access support from OpenOffice is not available on NeoOffice at this time, so using OpenOffice, Microsoft Office, or iWork is suggested to access that feature. A token donation is requested of all downloaders to help support the project. At Bat 2009

Opening Day of the Major League Baseball 2009 season is just around the corner, and At Bat 2009 (click opens iTunes) has been released. Beware -- this post contains bad baseball metaphors.

This year's app has all the tools. After you agree to a list of Terms and Conditions as lengthy as a major-league player contract, a list of all of the games currently in progress or scheduled for the day appears. Starting on April 6th, every game will have Gameday enabled, which lets you view stats and a pitch by pitch recap of what's happening. Tapping a player's name brings up a virtual baseball card, complete with career and season stats and a line score for the game in progress.

Also on April 6th, a new feature will touch all the bases -- live Gameday Audio from either the home or visiting team radio announcers streamed to your iPhone. As with last year's At Bat app, you'll be able to pull up video clips of games shortly after key plays occur.

Do you miss plays while buying a beer or standing in line for the men's room? No problem, since the app also has a live box score. At Bat 2009 hits a home run! You can get the entire season (including postseason play) for US$9.99. Note that you'd pay $14.99 for just the Gameday audio on There's also a rookie (lite) version available for free that doesn't include the streaming audio. Check out the gallery below.

HearPlanet [ iPhone ]

HearPlanet Premium [App Store link] is a new and enhanced version of the free iPhone app HearPlanet. The premium version is U.S. $5.99.

HearPlanet Premium gets your location from GPS, or you can enter any location manually. It then provides quite a bit of text information, generally sourced from Wikipedia. HearPlanet can tell you what is around you, like tourist locations, museums, geological features, and read the descriptions out loud, or you can read them yourself without the audio. The app has worldwide coverage.

We took a look at the original HearPlanet and found much to like. Apparently, we weren't alone, as 300,000 copies of the travel app have been downloaded. One of the most requested features from users was maps, and now HearPlanet contains detailed maps of many locations. The maps are sourced from the Open Streets Map project, and are quite attractive to look at. Other similar apps can link you to Google Maps, but they throw you out of the program. HearPlanet Premium has everything in one place.

When you find locations, there are often thumbnail images that go with an entry, but you can't enlarge them. One of my suggestions for the free app was the inclusion of phone numbers, pretty important in a travel guide, but since the source of much of the information is Wikipedia, there still aren't many phone numbers that I could locate. The developer says there are phone numbers, and as data sources are added the amount will increase.

The maps allow you to zoom and pan, giving you a good idea of what is around you. You can reference the maps while the program is speaking, and the ability to look around while learning about a location is very nice. HearPlanet premium is a nice upgrade from the free version, which is still available at the app store. If you want the addition of maps, HearPlanet Premium is the way to go.

HearPlanet and HearPlanet Premium both run on the iPhone or iPod touch. Of course the touch does not have GPS, but it can usually derive your location via Skyhook's WiFi capability.

Neat Receipts Origami Organizer

The Neat Company is best known for their diminutive scanner and powerful scanning software. You'll remember that we gave away a few of their Neat Receipts scanners a while back. Well, their innovations continue with the announcement of the Neat Receipts Origami Organizer. (Sorry about the use of the Windows Vista screenshot below; their Mac version isn't available yet...but has been announced).

This new device and software not only perform the same organizational tasks as the original Neat Receipts, but now also provide the added functionality of turning your receipts into beautiful works of art. Simply touching the new Origami button on the Neat scanner (below) scans and folds your receipt, turning the receipt into useful data and either a swan, elephant, sea lion, or hummingbird.

The Windows version ships today, April 1; Neatco announced that they'll be shipping Neat Receipts Origami Organizer for Mac coincident with the June 30th ship date for Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard".

Starmap up for Arthur Clarke award

We've posted about Starmap before -- it's a full-featured map of the sky on your iPhone that will let you find stars, constellations, and "deep sky" objects in the blanket overhead. Despite a few glitches and slowdowns, the app is pretty popular, and now it could be the only iPhone app nominated for a Sir Arthur Clarke Award. The yearly awards ceremony recognizes notable contributions to space exploration, and this year's list of nominees includes Frederic Descamps, creator of Starmap, for Best Individual Achievement. He's got some rough competition: Richard Garriott, creator of videogames like Ultima Online and Tabula Rasa, is also in that category, presumably for his recent trip into space. But Garriott's in quite a few other categories, so the iPhone developer has at least a fighting chance.

But we're sure that, as the creator of an iPhone app, it's an honor just to be nominated. It's doubtful this is the last non-software award something released for the iPhone will be winning.

RapidWeaver 4.2.2 adds JS-Kit and improved Safari 4 support

Realmac Software has just released version 4.2.2 of TUAW favorite RapidWeaver. Although it may appear to be a minor point release, there are actually quite a few bug fixes and backend additions in this update.

Highlights from the release notes:
  • Completely re-written contact form with support for multiple attachments, better security and spam protection and better support for Windows servers.
  • JS-Kit commenting for blogs. If you were using the previously built-in Haloscan comments, everything works just fine, whether you migrate your account to JS-Kit or not.
  • Improved Safari 4 support
  • Better RSS handling
As a user who was using the 4.2.2 betas just for Safari 4 support, this update means the end of lots of headaches. Use the auto-update function within RapidWeaver or head to Realmac's site to download the latest version.

RapidWeaver 4 requires Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and is $79 US.

iPhone 2.2.1 SDK on a PPC Mac

There's a great tutorial at Apokalypse Software for getting the iPhone 2.2.1 SDK working on a PPC Mac (up until now, doing development for the iPhone meant getting an Intel-based Mac). It takes some work, but nothing that will pose a problem for most developers. Before you begin, remember that you must have 6GB of disk space available. Also, if you've tried to install the SDK on your target volume before, you'll have trouble until you uninstall Xcode with /Library/Developer/3.1/uninstall-devtools.

If you don't want to go through the hassle, you can buy an installer for just $5. As a guy who still uses his G4 iMac, I understand the appeal of using an older Mac.

iPhone app roundup: Quickoffice, Otto Matic, Evernote 2

In the hustle and madness of yesterday's wayback machine activity, there were a couple of App Store introductions (and a notable upgrade) that might have slipped through...
First up: The long-awaited version of Quickoffice for iPhone that allows editing of Word and Excel files hit the store today and was demoed at CTIA. [Looks like the new Quicksheet is available now, but the full bundle and the Quickword standalone app aren't on sale yet as of Thursday morning.] While QO has had a 'mobile files' tool on the iPhone for a while now, this is the first build of the venerable portable office suite (which has been a favorite on Palm handhelds for years) that can do editing in both formats.
Quickoffice for iPhone can do font formatting and cut, copy and paste within Word documents -- presumably to be tied in with system-wide C/P in the OS 3.0 world-to-come. Both the Excel and Word tools will support landscape mode for extra editing area.
Files on the iPhone can be transferred off the device using WiFi to a local Mac, or straight to a MobileMe account. Quickoffice for iPhone is shipping now for an "introductory price" of $19.99, but if you just want the Excel spreadsheet editor (formerly MobileFiles Pro) you can have it for $12.99; the Word document editor is also $12.99. Quickoffice Files (previously known as MobileFiles 2.0) is $3.99 and offers similar file transfer capability to Readdle and other file managers. We're getting a review copy for a more thorough walkthrough later this week. It's worth noting that a Microsoft exec hinted at a version of Office itself for the iPhone that may be coming sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Second... who doesn't love a good robot game? For $4.99, you can now dive into Pangea's classic Otto Matic series with the company's new title for iPhone, Otto Matic: Alien Invasion. The B-movie style game pits Otto against the attacking Brain Aliens from Planet X; his job is to save as many humans as possible. Otto Matic: Alien Invasion features 10 levels and 25 different enemies, multiple weapons and activities, and quite a bit of fun.
Lastly, the TUAW top pick Evernote has been updated with a nifty landscape mode, thumbnail viewing, improved performance, favorites sorting, and an embedded web browser to reduce the tap a link --> Safari --> back to home screen --> scroll around --> relaunch Evernote loop-the-loop annoyances. Evernote 2.0 for iPhone remains a free download, and the basic Evernote service is also free; a year of pro-level service costs $45.

Send mock-threatening messages from iPhone with ease

I thought I'd seen pretty much everything, but as more and more iPhone apps come out, there are an increasing number that lean toward the bizarre.

A good example is Corbeau, [App Store link] a U.S. $1.99 application that lets you create ransom notes or threatening emails with little effort. Of course, it's all in fun, but one wonders about the mind behind some of these apps.

With Corbeau (French for crow, which is slang for someone who sends anonymous notes) you simply use the keyboard on your iPhone/ iPod touch, and type your brief note. If you are sending to a Mac or another iPhone they get the note as you created it. If you are sending to another device, you can save your note as an image to your photo roll, then forward it as an email attachment. The current iPhone software does not allow 3rd party apps to send attachments, although that is fixed in iPhone OS 3.0.

You can change the size of the letters, and drag and drop the letters to change their position before you save your work. You can also choose a photo that's on your iPhone to use as a background. You can shake the iPhone to clear the screen, or you can tap the trash icon.

I don't know how much use people will get out of this app, but I would think it might be handy to send notes to people or companies you are unhappy with.

One final note. Although the app is called 'Corbeau', when you save it to your iPhone from the U.S. App Store it is called 'Blackmail'. An appropriate name, if ever there was one.

Aurora Feint

Danielle Cassley took one of the strangest paths you might find to game designer -- just out of a computer science degree at Berkeley, she was trying to get a job as a babysitter when she met Peter Relan of the YouWeb Incubator. And rather than have her take care of his kids, he decided instead to put her in an idea farm and see what happened.

Aurora Feint was what happened -- she and Jason Citron, full of ideas, created a game in just ten weeks that took over the App Store out of nowhere in its infancy. The game originally released for free, and while it promised to be an MMO, it started out as a puzzle/RPG game -- people didn't quite understand what it was, but they liked it anyway.

Almost a year later, Aurora Feint has spawned four different versions and even a social platform, and Danielle and Jason are still full of ideas. In this exclusive interview with TUAW, she talks about how Aurora Feint came to be, what she thinks of the App Store so far (and if developers will ever be able to charge the prices they want), and what's next for the Aurora Feint series (they've just released a new version of The Arena called Daemons) and the iPhone platform. Click the link below to read on.

Geocaching 2.0 for iPhone 3G

Hey, it's your resident geocaching geek here. I was scoping out iPhone app updates tonight and was pleased to find that's official application for the iPhone 3G has been updated to version 2.0. In case you're not familiar with the terminology, geocaching is a game/sport/hobby in which participants use a GPS receiver and information on the website to find hidden containers with logbooks and loot.

When the Geocaching 1.0 launched, a lot of iPhone-carrying cachers were less than thrilled with the app. You still needed to switch to Safari to check out hints and see where local caches were in relation to your coordinates. In addition, the app was slow and the compass pointer was often inaccurate.

It's obvious that the developers from Groundspeak were listening to the criticism, as Geocaching 2.0 (click opens iTunes) has added speed, embedded maps (topo or street) showing the location of nearby caches, and the ability to save caches for offline use. If you don't like the maps, you can view single caches on your choice of Google, Windows Live Search, or Yahoo Maps.

Version 2.0 retains the ability to submit field notes for found caches, which was added in an interim update. The app is $9.99, and well worth the cost if you'd like to try geocaching but don't want to spend money on a dedicated GPS receiver. Be sure to check the app page on the Geocaching site for scads of screen shots.