Saturday, May 16, 2009

Swine flu? There's an app for that

The folks at IntuApps have responded to the Swine Flu pandemic in the way that only a developer could: By building an app!

The forthcoming Swine Flu Tracker for iPhone and iPod touch (it's pending App Store approval as of this writing) will do 3 things. First, it will display the current threat level as determined by the World Health Organization. Secondly, it drops pins onto Google maps to represent confirmed or suspected cases.

Finally, it tracks and reports on Swine Flu news from around the world. If you're traveling or simply concerned about this problem, it sounds like you might find Swine Flu Tracker useful. Of course, we haven't played with it yet, so the app's actual performance remains to be seen.

We can only hope that Apple's notoriously long review process won't keep Swine Flu Tracker out of our hands for too long, as we want to live to see it.

Things 1.1/Things Touch 1.3.5: Area Sync

Things Touch 1.3.5 has been released along with Things 1.1 and, among a heap of bug fixes and UI improvements, you'll find a new feature for syncing Areas of Responsibility from your Mac to your iPhone (it's not yet possible to create Areas in Things Touch). The feature requires Things 1.1 on the Mac side, which was officially released today, but has actually been available (sans release notes) for about a week (assumedly waiting for Things Touch to make it through App Store approval).
Another new addition (which is more exciting, to me) is full AppleScript support in Things on the Mac. I haven't had a chance to dive into it yet, but it's a topic I discussed with Cultured Code at the last Macworld Expo and I'm excited to see it come to fruition. People using Things in any kind of group setting will appreciate the reconsidered approach to task delegation, as well.
For those who aren't familiar with Things in general, I'll take a quick step back. Things for the Mac has been a staunch competitor in the Mac task-management colosseum. Battling it out with OmniFocus and newer gladiators like The Hit List, it's been recognized by many for its simplicity and elegance. Things is powerful and flexible, while remaining reliable and simple. Things Touch is its iPhone companion, usable on its own or synced with Things Mac.
You may be asking, what's an "Area of Responsibility?" This is one of the features of Things which was hardest for me to grasp. It's not quite a GTD context, and it's not a folder for projects. Basically, Areas provide a flexible means of handling tasks which aren't part of a "project" and aren't necessarily sequential in nature.

Moving your home folder to another disk (or moving it back)

In the older times, with "Mack OSe 9," many users chose to keep their personal files, work, and documents on a different physical disk from their startup disk. It was a safety measure: If one disk goes down, at least the other won't. There was no structural reason to keep files in a particular disk location, other than keeping them out of the System Folder.
I visited a client yesterday whose drive scheme was set up exactly like this, and he wanted to be (finally) upgraded to Leopard. I wasn't sure how Leopard would handle the fact that his Users folder had been moved to a different drive, so (knowing I had backups of his entire system) I cautiously proceeded with the installation.
After the installer finished, Leopard had created a fresh, blank Users folder on the startup disk with a home folder bearing the same username. This wasn't exactly the answer I was looking for. I had to link, somehow, the new Users/hisname folder with his existing user folder on the other volume.
Turns out, Leopard handles this much better than previous versions of Mac OS X. Read on to find out how.
In fact, it's as easy as opening System Preferences, holding the Control key and clicking (or right-clicking) on the account you want to change, and selecting Advanced Options.
You can see that you can easily browse for the user's existing home folder by clicking Choose next to the Home Directory field. Restart the computer, and it's done and dusted. Thanks to our own Michael Rose for this tip.
Hopefully, when you log in, the user's old Desktop, Dock, and everything else is in its place. You can then safely delete /Users/fred in the Finder by throwing it in the Trash. Note that this only changes the path for Fred's home folder; any subsequent users that you create will get home folders in the usual /Users path on the startup disk.
Now, a word of caution. In the past, some security and software updates have been confused by the fact that a user's home folder isn't on the startup disk. While most of the time there shouldn't be a problem, this user's system configuration is now an edge case, and that's where problems crop up. That's why I don't really recommend setting up a client's computer this way. If you're comfortable with the risk, then go for it.
For the truly nerdcore among us, you can also do this via the Directory Services command-line utility: dscl. Note that dscl requires root privileges, so you'll need to preface the command with 'sudo' to get it to work.
When you run dscl, the next step is to navigate to the correct directory within the Directory Services hierarchy (not a literal directory on the disk, mind), and change the value for the user's home folder. In this example, the user's name is fred, the user's new, blank home folder that Leopard created is /Users/fred and his old (correct) home folder on another volume is /Volumes/External Drive/Users/fred. [Line wraps are marked with », that command should go on one line. -- Ed.]
sudo dscl localhost
cd /Local/Default/Users
change fred dsAttrTypeNative:home /Users/fred »
"/Volumes/External Drive/Users/fred"

Restart the computer, and you're good to go. You can remove the empty user folder on the startup disk by dropping into Terminal and typing sudo rm -R /Users/fred and pressing return.
My client eventually wants to change this partition scheme back to a more traditional installation. He also wants to move his data onto one large physical disk instead of two small ones (now that he has Time Machine as his safety net). When we migrate his data onto one disk, we can run this command in reverse to point his username to his home folder on the new, large startup disk.

Amazon has acquired Stanza

Last month Amazon released the free Kindle application for the iPhone in the US [App Store link], shortly after the Kindle 2 hit the market. If you haven't used it yet, it works quite well. Users can buy books (but not subscriptions) from the Kindle Store via Mobile Safari for reading on their iPhones, although the purchasing process is easier from a desktop browser. Unlike the Kindle, the iPhone app is able to display color images, but it lacks text-to-speech as well as a direct connection to the Kindle Store. Whispersync, which synchronizes ebooks between the iPhone app and Kindle, works as advertised.

A few weeks ago, we posted a comparison of ebook readers featuring, among others, the iPhone app Stanza [App Store link]. As Steve mentioned, Stanza works with nearly every ebook format, even Project Gutenberg etexts. I only used Stanza briefly to check it out and I can say that the UI was very nice. Additionally, the folks who created Stanza have an existing relationship with ebook seller Fictionwise. In fact, Fictionwise created an ebook store just for Stanza users.

This week, we've learned that Amazon has acquired the company behind Stanza. We can only assume that aspects of Stanza will make it into a future release of Kindle for the iPhone.

Peggle [ iPhone ]

Bad news for those of you who've been drooling to play Peggle on the iPhone. As you may have noticed, it didn't come out in March as we were originally told. The good news is that our friends at Joystiq have gotten a new date for the addictive PopCap game's release on the App Store, and it's close. The game will be out, we're being told, on May 12th. There's no price given yet, but we're with Joystiq on this one too: it probably won't be as low at 99 cents. At $9.99, it would probably be worth it (Peggle is awesome) but pricey -- we're guessing the price will end up right around $4.99.

Joystiq's been playing the game too (lucky peg-hitters), and while they are saving their full impressions for an upcoming review, they hint that the game won't disappoint. We can't wait -- even though Peggle is pretty much everywhere already, from the Mac to Xbox Live to the classic iPod and even in World of Warcraft, there's still room for a little portable Peggle in our lives.

Flick NBA Basketball brings shootaround fun to the iPhone

Since my team isn't in the playoffs this year (next season, Knicks fans!), I've had to sate my basketball jones by watching some of the sworn enemies of NYC... shame, too, as this Boston-Chicago series is unbelievable. Four out of six games going to OT? I mean, c'mon. Anyway, just in time for the race to the championship, Freeverse's Flick NBA Basketball is shipping for the iPhone and iPod touch.
The game combines several "All-Star Saturday Night" staples, including a 3-point shootout, H.O.R.S.E, and a long shot competition, along with a pop-a-shot machine and a finger spin mini-game. While the 1.0 build currently on the store is marred by some crashing bugs and overly challenging (at least, to my middle-aged fingers) shooting mechanics, the submitted & soon-to-arrive 1.1 version improves stability and gameplay. There's also a big additional feature coming in the 1.2 update, date TBA: dunking! We've got an exclusive video demo of the dunk UI in the 2nd half of this post.
Of course, the big thrill of Flick NBA is the NBA part -- Freeverse has licensed pro player likenesses and team uniforms, giving players the choice of competing as Chris Paul, Shaquille O'Neal or other pros from all the NBA teams, 30 in total. If you've ever wanted to try your skills on the court as Yao Ming or Dirk Nowitzki, here's your chance. It's not clear if the individual players have unique skill levels, but it's still a thrill to pick your pro and hit the court. The 3D quality, audio and arena graphics are all excellent; it's still a pleasant surprise to see playable 3D on the iPhone screen.
The individual game modes vary in challenge level and enjoyability; in my play testing, I enjoyed the 3-point shooting contest the most, as you can start to get into a 'zone' as you round the ball racks. The 1.0 implementation of H.O.R.S.E. was too difficult to be much fun, but the 1.1 update ratcheted down the shot control speeds a bit and I felt more competitive with my computer opponent (you can also play against a human in Vs. mode). Surprisingly, the pop-a-shot minigame is actually a lot of fun, and the 1.1 update improves the ability to grab balls at the bottom of the ramp without having them collide with other ones rolling back from the basket. The long shot and ball spin minigames were less sticky for me -- the long shot contest is still tough enough to make it frustrating even after a few practice rounds.
For $4.99 in the App Store, Flick NBA Basketball provides a good mix of playability and 'wow, check it out' value. While it's not the head-to-head game sim you might wish for in an NBA title, it's still fun (and more stable with the forthcoming 1.1 update, live in the store as soon as Apple clears it). With the 1.2 and future updates adding dunks and more modes, you'll be getting even more b-ball value for your purchase.

Former Blizzard devs at Booyah plan iPhone app

Booyah is a company put together by former Blizzard devs (makers of classic games like World of Warcraft and Diablo) and funded by the iFund, and they've been keeping fairly mum on what they've been up to. Until now, that is -- they've updated their website and dropped a press release, and it looks like they're working on some iPhone software. What kind of software, exactly? Well, we're not quite sure -- it sounds like a game, because there's playing involved, but they're also using phrases like "life companion" and "social experiment," which makes it sound like a social networking app with some sort of game or virtual pet mechanics involved. And they are also hinting at a larger pattern of charity or cause-based action -- they told Kotaku that they want to tap into people's "life passions," and Gamasutra was told that the app itself is a "kernel miniproduct" that they plan to expand into a larger movement.

Blizzard's own Rob Pardo is an advisor to the team (and the product was originally pitched to Blizzard), but really that's the only clue here that this is anything more than startup hype -- we've seen social networks flash and fizzle already on the iPhone, and even game-based social networking tools like Foursquare haven't really found their tipping point yet.

But we won't judge fully before we've seen it -- Booyah says they'll be showing their cards "this spring" (so before June 21st?). We'll be watching.

Kerio MailServer 6.7

Kerio Technologies released Kerio Mail MailServer 6.7. The mail and collaboration server, often used as a replacement for Exchange, has added several new features, including a few geared toward Mac users.
The Kerio Global Address List (GAL) is a new feature that provides a simple way to get address and contact info from clients like Outlook or Entourage. It syncs and authenticates with both Microsoft Active Directory and Apple Open Directory, as well as Kerio's own user directory. In any company, people join and leave the group, and users are often required to manually update their address books to add and remove entries. With GAL, it's a single directory in a single place, and changes are transparent for users. It supports Entourage, works with the iPhone and functions offline. 
Kerio MailServer 6.7 also comes with an auto-configuration script for Entourage 2008, downloadable within the Kerio client, providing pre-configured account setup. There's support for private events in iCal, allowing users to maintain personal schedules without requiring a separate calendar application. AddressBook gets some additional love with support for synchronizing groups (which become Categories in Entourage).
Kerio has had good support for iPhone users for a while now. For non-iPhone mobile users, there's new support for viewing HTML emails on Nokia devices, as well as DataViz RoadSync compatibility.
The MailServer itself is now a certified VMWare appliance, and promotes compatibility with two new Linux distributions: Ubuntu 8 and Debian 5. CentOS is the preferred platform for running on VMWare. IT admins and users alike will appreciate the dramatically improved anti-spam engine, which has been optimized for multi-CPU use, parallel processing of email messages for large queues, improved heuristics and 13 layers of spam protection.
In addition to some of the previously available migration tools provided by Kerio, a new IMAP migration tool relieves what is undoubtedly one of the biggest headaches in switching mail servers: keeping your old mail. It's a cross-platform utility which moves messages, folders, accounts and domains from the old system to Kerio MailServer. The IMAP migration tool has been fully tested with OS X.
Kerio's pricing has remained the same with this release. Starting at $499 for 10 users, there's a range of options available for different configurations and add-ons, as well as subscription pricing. See Kerio's pricing page for more details.

iTunes Connect now lets developers see crash reports

Apple has offered developers a glimpse as crash reporting since the iPhone 2.0 firmware was released, however, it was a kludge to get users to email you the crash reports from their ~/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/MobileDevice directory. Apple has a solution that will make this a lot easier.

Enter iTunes Connect, where Apple recently added the ability for developers to view crash reports from users. iTunes connect is where developers can manage applications they have on the App Store, check their sales, and get promotional codes for their apps. When you log into iTunes Connect you will be presented with the following information regarding crash logs:

Crash logs for applications are now available. To view them, go the Manage Your Applications Module below, click to view the desired application's details, then click View Crash Report.

When you navigate to Manage Your Applications > your app details > View Crash Report, you will be presented with a few items that could help you debug apps. Namely, developers can view most frequent crashes, timeouts, and memory usage right from iTunes Connect. You can find out more about crash logs on the iPhone by going to Apple's Developer tech note.

External battery packs for Mac laptops

In what looks like a first for the Mac laptop line, support of MacBook and MacBook Pro owners everywhere, a 3rd party is offering external battery packs for MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook air models.

The batteries, from Sanho in California, are available in 4 different capacities, 60Wh, 100Wh, 150Wh and 222Wh, giving a computer like the MacBook up to 32 hours of battery life. The company is also offering a car charger. These items are all available for pre-order and will ship later this month. Prices are $149.95US (car charger), $199.95 (60-watt-hour battery), $299.95 (100Wh), $399.95 (150Wh) and $499.95 (222Wh). The batteries also come with a USB power port so you can charge an iPhone at the same time or separately.

The first thing I thought of when I saw this announcement was how the company was able to offer a charger with a MagSafe adapter, because that design is protected by Apple patents. I checked with the company president, Daniel Chin, and he told me: "What we did is obtain the MagSafe connector and cable from the original MacBook AC adapter, remove the adapter and splice in our own charger plug, which interfaces with our battery and car charger products. Since we are using the original Apple MagSafe plug and did not modify the actual plug (which the patent in question covers) in any way, we are still respecting Apple's IP and in no way infringing upon their patent."

That might or might not satisfy Apple, but it did allow the company to offer these chargers which are likely to be highly desired by some customers. At the very least, I'm surprised Apple has not offered a car charger for laptops. I can think of many times such an adapter would have been handy.

Update: Several commenters have pointed out the QuickerTek and MikeGyver power solutions for the MBP line, which predate the Sanho offering and use the same approach of sacrificing a MagSafe adapter to provide the plug connector. Apple's Airline adaptor, while electrically similar to a car adapter, is not recommended for automotive use (some have tried it with success, your mileage may vary). Lastly, you can of course use a DC inverter for in-car charging, but please be careful not to obstruct vents or leave the device plugged in and unattended... they can get very hot while in use. Happy motoring!

Spring clean your Mac with smart folders

Call it what you will, but "Spring Cleaning" is just as important on your Mac as it is in real life. From cleaning out old files to organizing music/movies/TV shows that you "threw" into iTunes over the past few months, spring cleaning is a necessary evil.

One way to find large files that might be eating up space on your Mac is with a smart folder; it's easy to set one up right from the Finder. To create a smart folder that will find large files on your hard drive, simply follow these directions:
  1. Open a new Finder window and select File > New Smart Folder.
  2. In the resulting window, select "Other" from the first drop-down menu (the default selection is "Kind), and search for the key word "size." If you wish this item to remain in the menu, select the "In menu" check box. Select the OK button once you select the "Size" item.
  3. Select "is greater than" from the next drop-down menu.
  4. Type in the size that you would like to search for files. I would suggest searching using 1 GB, but you can use any size you wish.
Finder will immediately begin searching your Mac for any files that match the description that we just specified. When you are ready to save your smart folder, select the "Save" button from the top right of the Finder window. You will then be asked to specify a save name and location. Now whenever you want to look for large files that might be hogging space on your system, just open this smart folder, and let the search begin!

Beyond this tip, if you are looking for utilities that can help you keep your storage lean and free of bloated, legacy files, you may want to check out GrandPerspective, WhatSize or OmniDiskSweeper.

Dropzone [ Mac OS X ]

The Mac OS X Dock is a great UI invention, but it doesn't have all the functionality that it could have. That's why one developer is looking to expand the functionality and make it even better with an application that he calls "Dropzone."

Dropzone is a small application that you can install on your Mac, and as the app name suggests, drag stuff onto. When you drop a file on the icon, you will get a list of options depending on what type of file you just dropped. For instance, you could drop a picture onto the icon and get an option to email, send to Flickr, or upload to an FTP server.

Different applications can "register" to work with Dropzone by using a simple API, the documentation for which can be found on the Aptonic website. The more applications that decide to work with Dropzone, the better (developers, did you hear that?). There is currently no shipping date set for this handy little Dock tool, but you can check out a teaser video on the Aptonic website, and also apply to be a part of the beta program.

Special Ops [ iPhone ]

Digital Chocolate has nabbed the 24 license (along with a few sounds and music bits) from Fox, and they've released an iPhone game based on my favorite TV show ever. Unfortunately, things don't get quite as good as they probably should, but the run-and-gun gameplay mixes it up with a nice variety of minigames, so if you're a 24 completist (and have an iPhone -- apparently this doesn't work for iPod touch at the moment), it might be worth spending the $5.

If not, there's a "lite" version on the App Store which will take you through the game's first few "hours" (in reality, just a few minutes per segment) of stages. The game itself features Jack Bauer backed up by Chloe doing what else but saving Los Angeles from various terrorist threats. The grid-based action gameplay is simple but fun, and the shooter stages are broken up with encryption and driving minigames. None of it is brilliant, but just like the show, watching Jack Bauer kill bad guys is usually good enough.

It's too bad they didn't do more -- 24's strengths have always been in its breakneck story pace and twists and turns, and just from playing the first few hours in the lite version, this seems like a Jack-and-Chloe story only (Bill appears in a suit on the menu screen, so apparently he shows up later, in some role at old CTU). If there are any cool story twists or turns, they take place more than four hours in -- it would be great to see Michelle or even Nina (if this is before Day 3) again, but I doubt we get that. Still, it's got Jack killing and blowing stuff up, and that's never a bad thing.

SlingPlayer for iPhone: A ray of hope?

Could it actually be coming? A search at the iTunes App store for Sling Media brings up the name of the company, but no application attached to the name. That's a pretty healthy sign that the SlingMobile app for the iPhone and iPod touch is 'in the system', although I wouldn't call it proof positive the app has been or is about to be accepted.

It's been more than a month since the application was submitted to Apple for evaluation, and it has been a month of ups and downs. AT&T seemed to re-write its terms of service to eliminate Sling products on the network, but then AT&T relented. Then there was a rumor that the Sling app had been rejected, but that turned out to be an apparent hoax.

The last we heard, the folks at Sling Media say everything is just peachy, and be patient. The fresh listing of the company at the App Store is a good, but not definitive sign. Hopefully, it is not another chimera, and we'll all be streaming our media to our iPhones and iPod touches soon.

Citrix Receiver [ iPhone ]

Citrix, the folks who provide a popular way to run applications on remote servers using a thin client, have announced the immediate availability of Citrix Receiver for iPhone (click opens iTunes). We saw the Citrix guys running around the show floor at Macworld Expo this year, surreptitiously demoing an early build of this app to anyone who walked within range.

Receiver is a free app that enables iPhone and iPod touch users to run any Windows application as a service on their device. Connecting to a Citrix XenApp environment, iPhone fans can securely work with apps from Oracle, SAP, McKesson, Cerner, and other vendors. The only information sent over the wireless connection consists of screen taps and gestures, keyboard input, and screen updates, so it is simple to keep data secure.

Receiver for iPhone uses Citrix HDX to deliver high-definition content to the device so that Flash and Silverlight content can be viewed as well. Flash on an iPhone -- now there's an idea!

In enterprises such as hospitals that depend heavily on Citrix already, Receiver is going to be "well received." This should help Apple's iPhone sales efforts in the enterprise market really take off.

Bento [ iPhone ]

FileMaker, Inc. provided one of the surprise announcements of the last couple of weeks with the introduction of Bento for iPhone and iPod touch. Designed a both a standalone database management application and companion app to the Mac version, Bento for iPhone is an inexpensive, well-designed, and usable app for collecting, searching, and displaying information.

TUAW has been able to put Bento for iPhone through its paces both as "just" an iPhone app, and as a synchronizable add-on to the desktop Bento. Check out my review of the app by clicking Read More.
TUAW readers who were listening to the TUAW Talkcast on Sunday, May 10th, are aware of the discussion that took place during the show. A few of us were describing apps that we've installed on our iPhone that we're not using, or are not likely to use. For example, several of us brought up the fact that we were initially enthused about Evernote as a common, cloud-centric location to keep all of our digital stuff. However, some of us find ourselves not using Evernote for one reason or another.

I commented that I felt the same way about Bento based on my use of version 1.0 of the desktop application. In the old days of System 7, I used FileMaker frequently, not only for large flat-file databases but for personal databases that weren't really covered by any of the included Mac apps of the day. With the advent of OS X, I stopped using those databases. When the desktop version of Bento arrived I thought it might be time to try another database app, and since it wasn't as complex as FileMaker, I figured I'd be using it constantly.

I was wrong. Instead of capturing my time spent on consulting gigs in Bento, I found myself using my time-honored system of capturing the start and end times for work on an iPhone or Post-It® note for future invoicing. When it came to the integration between Bento and Address Book, I found I didn't want to add extra information to my contacts. The same with the iCal integration -- I just didn't find it necessary to link Bento and those other apps. When Bento 2.0 came out and was a paid upgrade, I decided not to bump myself to the new version.

Along came Bento for iPhone, and the lure of integration between the iPhone and desktop versions of the application got me excited again. After working with the app in concert with the 2.0 desktop version for a week or so, I'm surprised to find myself starting to think of ways that I can use Bento to hopefully bring a bit of organization into my life. Will I actually use it? Time will tell, but I don't like to use overly complex apps and Bento is not a complex or difficult app to learn or use.

So enough of this rant, already! Let's get on with the review.

Bento for iPhone and iPod touch (click opens iTunes) is a US$4.99 companion to the popular personal database application from FileMaker, Inc. with the same name. The app weighs in at about 3.0 MB, which is surprisingly small considering that 26 pre-designed templates are included. Then again, the templates really don't consist of much in terms of graphics; they're simply lists of fields that have been predefined by Bento. There's a Cover Flow-like interface that you can flip through showing all of the templates and what they're used for.

Those templates are the same as those that are provided with the Mac edition of Bento. For a complete list, visit this page and click the "View templates" link about halfway down. In addition, there's a blank template for creating your own customized library on the iPhone.

In the business analysis classes I teach in my real job, I often talk about the value of keeping an updated issues list to track and resolve problems associated with IT projects. I was pleased to see that one of the templates included with Bento was for issue tracking. After tapping on the Create Library button, Bento created a library (database) with a sample record. All records are listed in a view that looks suspiciously like Contacts on the iPhone. The letters of the alphabet are listed down the right side of the iPhone screen, with a search field at the top. There are also icons at the top of the screen for setting sort options and display fields, as well as adding a new record.

You then begin to tap through the pre-assigned fields, entering information along the way. In this particular example, there are twelve fields including Status and Date Created. I usually have a Date Closed field in my issue databases, and I also like Project On Hold as a status. Fortunately, changing the fields in the Bento templates is a piece of cake.

Tapping on the Fields button at the top of a record takes you into a Modify Fields screen where you can add or edit fields. You can't change the type of an existing field; if you wish to do that, you need to delete the field, then add it back in as a separate type. To add a field to a library, you tap on the plus sign icon in the Modify Fields screen. A standard rolling picker appears, with fifteen different fields types including Media (a picture, movie or sound), Address (which includes all parts of a street address), URL, and IM Account to name a few. Tap the create button, and you're asked to enter a name for the new field. Tap the create button again, and either the field is added to your library, or you're asked to enter other attributes (like the choices available in a Choice field) for the field. If you want a certain field higher or lower in your record, you tap an area on the far right of each field name listing, then drag the field up or down.

That's all there is to taking one of the standard Bento templates and tweaking it to your personal preferences. I found this to be very easy to do, and much faster to perform than on some of the other personal iPhone databases on the market.

So what about syncing the library with my Mac? Tapping on the Sync button at the bottom of the Bento screen the first time provides you with a Help screen with instructions on how to set up syncing. As with several other iPhone apps with Mac or PC companions (Mark/Space's Missing Sync for iPhone and Fliq apps, for example), setting up the sync requires that Bento be running on both devices and that a four-digit code that is generated on the iPhone be entered into a special screen on the Mac. Pairing the devices in this way assures you that nobody else can accidentally sync their Bento information to your iPhone and vice-versa. You can, however, set up syncing with multiple Macs on the same WiFi network if you'd like and then set up only certain libraries to sync with specific Macs.

Where this feature could be powerful is in an office environment. Let's say that you need to have time billing information sent to an accountant, order information sent to an order processor and prospect contact information sent to a marketing rep. It would take no time at all to set up the Bento libraries on the individual computers in the office, then add the sync links so only the appropriate information is synced to a specific computer.

After pairing is completed, all you need to do to start syncing is tap that sync button again. I found the syncing process to be lightning-fast. It took no time at all to sync even fairly large (600+ record) libraries between my Mac and iPhone.

As with the first version of many iPhone apps, Bento has some minor bugs. When attempting to add a Project library to my iPhone, the app crashed. The next time, the same action worked perfectly. There are also some tasks that you may want to perform on the Mac version of Bento only. For example, the Project library has a field for linking to Team Members. On the Mac, the Team Members field links to the Address Book so you can pull up all contact information for a person through one simple click and drag. There's no similar ability on the iPhone version. Likewise, Bento for iPhone doesn't show tasks or events from iCal like the Mac version does, since the iPhone OS (at least in its current form) doesn't allow apps other than Calendar to access that information. And let's face it; data entry is a lot faster and more convenient with a real keyboard than it is with a virtual one. You should probably only enter data into Bento for iPhone when you're in the field, otherwise depending on the Mac's keyboard and mouse for speedily entering your records.

FileMaker provides a caveat that the iPhone product may not support large databases "due to mobile device memory limitations". More information about that and other limitations can be found in the Bento knowledgebase.

Can you use Bento for iPhone without the Mac version? Of course. But I honestly feel that the true power of Bento for iPhone is to use it as a mobile extension of the Mac version. I always thought Bento would be a great tool for doing a home inventory, but with Bento for iPhone I can finally realistically think about walking around my house, entering info into the iPhone and snapping pictures, and then sending the results into my Mac with the tap of a button. Had it not been for Bento for iPhone, I wouldn't even be considering using Bento on the Mac.

As a US$4.99 standalone personal database app for the iPhone, Bento stands alone as a professional and fast solution. It's even more outstanding when paired with the US$49 Mac version. How good is the iPhone version of Bento? I'd love to see it bundled with every iPhone sold. 'Nuff said.

Saving InDesign CS4 files for InDesign CS2

Here's a frustrating problem: You have InDesign CS4, and your buddy needs your file, but has InDesign CS2. "Easy!" you think, "just save an InDesign Interchange (INX) file and send it to him."
Lo, wonder of wonders: InDesign saves an INX file that's compatible only with the immediately preceding version of InDesign. (As I found out the hard way today.) CS4 saves a file for CS3; CS3 saves a file for CS2. If you don't have both versions on your computer, you're out of luck. Way to Quark it up, Adobe.
An INX file is just a glorified XML file. And Adobe, clever lads and lasses they are, inserted a version number in the file. Adobe CS2 looks at the version number, sees that the INX file is targeted for CS3, and pops up an error message without even trying to open the file. Curses.
But Mike Rankin figured it out last November: Open the INX file with your favorite text editor (like TextMate or BBEdit) and change the version number. Replace line number 2 (which looks like this):
<?aid style="33" type="document" DOMVersion="6.0" readerVersion="5.0" featureSet="257" product="6.0(352)" ?>
with this:
<?aid style="33" type="document" DOMVersion="5.0" readerVersion="4.0" featureSet="257" product="5.0(662)" ?>
Easy peasy. Open the INX file in InDesign CS2, and you're good to go. Use caution, though: This works best for simple layouts. The more complex your layout, the more likely it will unexpectedly change when re-imported into a lesser version of InDesign.

DVR Remote 2 available, but you may want to wait

Stutsman Software has released version 2 of DVR Remote, an app we covered a while back that lets you use your iPhone or iPod touch as a remote control for your TiVo Series 3 via WiFi.
One user, however, is reporting an issue with a Now Playing list that never ends -- that is, its contents are repeated over and over again -- but Derek Stutsman, the developer, is working on it. On the product's page in iTunes (link opens iTunes), Stutsman suggests you may want to wait until he releases a fix before upgrading from 1.x.
New in this version is improved keyboard support, rewritten networking support to handle transfer interruptions, and a faster "Now Playing" list. Also included is support for skins. You can select from one of many attractive themes for your remote, or create one yourself. Pictured here is the "Starry Night" theme.
DVR Remote is available in the App Store for $2.99.

Twitterrific 2.0: It's real, and it's SPECTACULAR.

I'll be honest, I adore Twitter. I don't mean "Oh it's so cute and Oprah's on it," I mean in a way that is likely unhealthy. It was just another technology I had an account for but only sort of used until I found out that the Iconfactory created an application for my desktop called Twitterrific that allowed me to have a little corner of my desktop devoted to microblogging. So then I used it a little more.

Then I got my iPhone 3G and the Iconfactory made a version of Twitterrific for that, too. Today, here I sit more than sixteen thousand updates later. Twitterrific was among the first desktop and mobile Twitter apps and terribly exciting. Then some other folks came on the scene, having re-imagined what an iPhone Twitter app could look like. We got Twitterfon and Tweetie, and I found myself very disappointed to have bumped Twitterrific from my home screen.

All of that has changed. Twitterrific 2.0 is out and once again I have an Iconfactory app on my home screen. There are loads of changes, but the standout feature is the option to turn some of these off and on as you desire.

Multiple account support was the revolutionary feature of other clients, and it has now been added to Twitterrific. Adding more is a piece of cake, and the nice thing about it is that your account(s) live on a "Sources" page with the public timeline, saved searches and a list of the current trending topics. I really like this view and it makes things very convenient, especially if you want to check the trending topics on the go.

You'll notice you get three views of your timeline: A "mini" view with just a name and a tweet, the "standard" Twitterrific view of an avatar and bold name with a tweet, and an additional "mega" view, with a larger picture and the text a bit bigger as well (including the client). So far I am loving the mini view, since I can scan easily.

In case a black background with lighter text isn't your thing, you also have the option of three different color schemes, Raven (the classic black), Snowy (lighter, with some 3D elements for selected tweets), and Basic (a black and white option). Right now Snowy is the one that's working for me. I really like the way selected tweets stand out.

Now you can also pick your reply method which is one of the most impressive features. If you have a tweet selected when the entry window comes up, you get your pick of whether or not to tweet, tweet a public @ reply, or DM the author of that tweet based on which tab you choose at the bottom of the window. You can also hide the keyboard to peek back at the timeline in case you want another look at the tweet. This is a really elegant method for entry since a lot of times I want to reply via DM to someone who sent me something publicly, or inadvertently have a tweet selected but I don't want to reply to it. Every time I use this interface I am happier with it in a new way.

To keep from using a lot of screen for the buttons for different views (one each for your timeline, replies, and DMs) there's a little funnel you tap that pops up a bar with those view options in it. As a fan of the mini view this helps me pack even more information on the screen and I like how it's implemented. Next to this icon is a little snowflake/asterisk icon you can tap to get buttons for a link to a selected tweet, retweet, reply to the author, the author's info page, see the conversation thread, email it, or favorite it. You also get a button to mark a tweet. Marking a tweet is like a favorite, but currently those marks are only saved on your phone (it has been mentioned that this will sync with the desktop version eventually).

Other features I really like: the left-handed option made it forward from the previous version, configurable options for tapping an avatar (1, 2, or 3 taps can be set to different actions like show the author or the conversation, add it as a favorite), and there is a notes field on authors so if you are out and about and add someone you can take note of where you met them or how you know them or whatever else you can sometimes want to keep track of.

I love the new version, and I like to think it came about because others came along and innovated which made the Iconfactory step up THEIR game, so now there are a variety of easy to use and nice looking

iPod touch, iPhone required for journalism students

Brian Brooks, associate dean of the University of Missouri's Journalism School, knows how his students learn. "Lectures are the worst possible learning format," he told Columbia Missourian. "There's been some research done that shows if a student can hear that lecture a second time, they retain three times as much of that lecture."

I can distinctly remember a former French instructor giving us cassette tapes of lessons from week to week (this was long before iPods, kids), and walking around with the voices of Mireille and Robert in my ears. Even all these years later, I can still manage marginally useless phrases like, "The red shirt of my brother is on the dresser."

The point is repetition increases retention, and that's why Mizzou is requiring incoming journalism students to have iPod touches or iPhones to carry audio versions of class lectures. Mr. Brooks points out that students who lack an iPhone or iPod touch won't be punished or miss out on anything, but they've described them as "required" so that students with financial need can include their cost in aid.

Apple has historically offered a laptop/iPod combo as a back-to-school special that these students could potentially take part in, provided that the touch is included (the iPod is typically a nano in the bundle).

The good news is, if you're going to Mizzou next year for journalism, you've got an excuse to buy a shiny new gadget.

What happens when your iPhone overheats

The iPhone Blog has posted a screenshot of a warning screen that the iPhone 3G produces when it's over heated. According to Apple, it's totally legit. From the Knowledge Base:
"Operate iPhone 3G in a place where the temperature is between 0º and 35º C (32º to 95º F) ... If the interior temperature of iPhone 3G exceeds normal operating temperatures, you may experience [the] Temperature warning screen."
Here in New England, we don't see temperatures above 95º F often. Still, I have felt it heat up pretty good after playing music for two hours straight during a summertime commute. It does get cold, however, and two weeks ago we saw a frozen iPod come back to life. It's nice to know that these devices can survive (or protect themselves from) temperature extremes.

File Magic 2.0 [ iPhone ]

File Magic 2.0 (click opens iTunes) is the newest entry into this market from SplashData, an app development firm with years of history in the mobile space. As with the other apps of this type, File Magic provides a way to send files from a Mac or PC to an iPhone or iPod touch, then view those files on the handheld.

For those of you who are using Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, you'll be happy to know that File Magic supports the XML-based .xlsx, .docx, and .pptx file formats for viewing, as well as a number of other document, sound, image, and video file formats. Like Quickoffice, File Magic does not support any of the iWork file formats.
One feature that I felt was a bit of a throwback is the use of a dedicated application on the desktop for transferring files back and forth. While the software, File Magic Desktop, is available for free for both Windows and Mac, you need to download and install the desktop software on any Mac or PC you're going to use File Magic with. Other apps now use Bonjour or web browsers as a way to transfer files without a dedicated desktop app. The last thing I want to have to do is remember to load software onto a computer in order to move data; I'd prefer to just use the tools that are already part of the operating system or default software.

File Magic 2.0 differentiates itself from many of the other file viewing / transfer apps in that it can send files to and receive files from other iPhones on the same Wi-Fi network that are also running File Magic. Those files, of course, can only be those that are actually stored by File Magic; you can't send photos, address cards, or other such iPhone-specific items to other users.

I'm not sure why, but File Magic 2.0 was slower in terms of performing file transfers than similar apps. For example, the large files and folders that I sent to my iPhone with Quickoffice moved very quickly. With File Magic, the same transfers were relatively slow, and several times I had the app actually lock up during a transfer, forcing me to restart the app and try the transfer again.

Depending on your personal preference, you may be thrilled or dismayed by the user interface on the iPhone. The app uses a large, bold-face font to label different folders for different types of files. Those who are app design purists will be appalled, while those who are tired of squinting at tiny type in iPhone apps might rejoice. For me, it's a mixed blessing because I think it's easier to read, but it isn't as nice looking as some of the other apps of this genre.

While using File Magic 2.0, I experienced several bugs. First, importing a PowerPoint file never worked properly for me. My test files are all about 100 slides in length and contain graphics, and when opened on the iPhone, I only saw three slides in each file with none of the graphics appearing. Second, if a file was large (13 MB for one Word document), an error message was displayed telling me that I shouldn't continue to try to open the document, and then File Magic crashed. For small files, File Magic 2.0 worked fine.

As for the pricing of File Magic, US$4.99 is about average for this type of app. Quickoffice Files (click opens iTunes) is less than half the price at US$1.99, Files (click opens iTunes) is more expensive at US$6.99. At the same price is the much more capable Air Sharing (click opens iTunes), which uses WebDAV and Bonjour on the PC or Mac instead of a proprietary desktop application, and which also has the ability to view those pesky iWork documents.

Personally, I think that file transfer and viewing functionality should be built into the iPhone. Most other smartphone platforms have done this for years, and it seems odd that it isn't already in the iPhone. Perhaps we'll see this as a surprise addition to iPhone 3.0? Who knows...

What's your favorite file transfer and viewing app on the iPhone? Leave your comments below, and be sure to check out the gallery for images of File Magic at work.

PlaceTagger answers the 'where was this picture taken?' question

I have a Canon 5D DSLR. It's a great camera, but one of the things I wished it had was an on-board GPS receiver to keep track of where my photos were taken. That would be especially nice since iPhoto and some other apps support reading location metadata embedded in the image.

I've looked at some of the outboard units, like the Amod GPS Logger, but didn't really want to shell out the cash or carry an extra device. Of course, you can take geotagged photos with the built in camera on the iPhone, but they aren't going to match a dedicated high quality DSLR.

Now there is a nice, fairly low cost solution that uses the iPhone you are probably already carrying. PlaceTagger [App Store link] keeps track of where you are from minute to minute, recording your latitude, longitude and altitude. When you unload your camera, an app running on your Mac finds your iPhone using Wi-Fi, and matches the time on the logger software to the time your images were taken. It then embeds the info into the image metadata.

It may sound confusing, but it is pretty simple. When the Mac app launches, it asks you to locate your images, and make sure your iPhone has been found. Your images show up as thumbnails, and when you are ready the software associates the GPS location to each file. The files then display a map of where the image was taken, as well as the specific numerical lat, long and altitude info. When I looked at the information in iPhoto, I saw the above data as well as the city, county, state and country I was in. Cool.

The app is on sale at an introductory price of $7.99US and that is a bargain compared to the outboard electronics packages you could buy. The developer is also doing a Windows version of the app for those that don't have a Mac. The Mac version requires Leopard, and of course an iPhone with GPS capability. Older iPhones will work, but the location won't be as accurate.

The software also includes an Aperture plug-in, and can export the data as XML via email. Of course, this app won't work in the background in the current iPhone software, so if you get a call or have to do something else you'll have to restart the software and get a fresh GPS fix.

All in all, these are a pair of clever applications. They worked as expected, and I liked the ability to see the photos I took with a displayed map and numerical location information all on my Mac.

US Military Handbook [ iPhone ]

We know that a lot of TUAW readers are either active duty or retired US military personnel, so this iPhone app should be of special importance to our friends in (or out) of uniform.

The US Military Handbook (click opens iTunes) provides detailed information for all of the US Armed Forces, and is constantly updated at information changes. The app is currently on sale for US$9.99, and is worth every penny in terms of the volume of info that it contains in its nearly 24 MB of size. While you should visit the developer's website to see all of the details, here's a sampling of what you can expect:
  • Income Matrixes, including active duty base pay, allowances, and sea duty
  • Reference materials, including the Code of Conduct, Officer Oaths, Drill and Ceremony Q&A, and even the songs and lyrics for each branch of the services.
  • Rank, insiginias, and titles for each branch
  • All current ribbons and medals, in order, for each branch
  • A list of over one thousand Veterans Administration facilities, including the phone number, address, and a picture of the facility when available (a network connection is required for images and maps to the facilities).
When I mentioned the constant updates earlier, I wasn't kidding -- the app has had 8 updates in the last 4 months. The US Military Handbook also displays the information in a choice of five different color schemes. If you know a current or retired serviceman/woman with an iPhone or iPod touch, let 'em know you appreciate their service to their country by giving them a copy as a gift for Memorial Day.

Calling all iPhones! Emergency scanner apps on the loose!

Sometimes it's uncanny how many similar iPhone apps appear at about the same time. Over the past week or so, we've heard about a number of new apps that "tune you into" streaming police, fire, and emergency medical service radio services. Apps like this can be useful to volunteer firefighters, off-duty policemen, news crews, scanner enthusiasts, and the occasional ambulance-chasing lawyer.

The first out of the box is Police Scanner 1.1 (US$2.99, click opens iTunes) from Juicy Development. This app now features over 1,100 streams from 7 different countries and a streamlined interface for getting to your favorite local emergency radio, The developers will add any compatible stream to their app within hours of being notified of that stream, so if there are no local radios listed now, there may be soon.

Next in the queue is Emergency Radio 1.1 (US$0.99, click opens iTunes) from Edge Rift. It's available in a free "Lite" version if you want to try it out on a handful of major cities, or you can spend a buck to get over 900 feeds from all over the US. I personally thought the code lists (see photo) are a nice touch.

If you prefer a little music with your police calls, Wunder Radio 1.6 (US$6.99, click opens iTunes) not only captures the same emergency radio streams from as the other two apps, but is also the best (IMHO) iPhone app out there for listening to local radio stations. It also gives you NOAA weather information for US locations, not to mention railroad crew and dispatch calls.

Regardless of which scanner app you select, it's sure to give you hours of fun, and it's definitely worth listening in on why the cops visited your neighbor's house at 3 A.M.

SlingPlayer [ iPhone ]

This is a painful review to write, because the SlingPlayer for iPhone had so much potential before AT&T decided to cripple it. One can understand the terror at the thought of a million SlingPlayers draining network bandwidth dry, but in fact, AT&T seems to be violating its own Terms of Service by allowing other smartphones to run SlingPlayer without interference.

OK, so how does the SlingPlayer [App Store link] for iPhone/iPod touch work on a WiFi network? Pretty well. The video can be a bit choppy, but it is quite watchable, and basically gives you a full-featured television receiver (or DVD player if you are set up that way) wherever you have an accessible network.

Set up is pretty easy and does not require a manual. The only pain point is inputting your unique Sling ID which requires typing long strings of upper case letters followed by numbers. This can be skipped if you have a Sling account configured in advance.

In my case I have a SlingBox Pro, connected to a DirecTV HD receiver. The remote worked fine, and it is a transparent overlay so the video shows through. Entering a command results in a 4-5 second wait for it to be executed, but that is understandable considering what is going on behind the scenes. Entering pretty much any command to the remote pauses the video and audio, which again, is understandable but not desirable.

If you have a DVR, the SlingPlayer app will control it, which is a real benefit to users who are away from home and want to catch a program, or play it back remotely.

The loss of 3G functionality is sad. In the old days I used the SlingPlayer on a Motorola smartphone. When traveling, it was easy to catch a newscast or get some ball scores from any location. Now, you have to have a Wi-Fi connection, which seriously limits your options.

Finally, there is the matter of price. It is hard to endorse paying $30.00US for an app that has lost a major feature. Sling charges the same price for versions of the app that do run on 3G. It seems unfair given all that has happened to this app.

It is certainly true that Sling Media is not to blame for the business decisions of AT&T, but the company certainly controls the pricing of the app.

I think there will be a lot of people who want to buy and use SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone. On the other hand, many people have had their enthusiasm severely dampened by the current situation. Unfortunately, no matter how clever the app, and it IS clever, AT&T, Apple and Sling Media have all been damaged by this drama.

Nothing is forever, and policies can change. All concerned will have to figure out if the decisions made so far with this app are worth the damage to reputations and corporate image.

Note: The Sling web site is running pretty slowly as I write this, and I was surprised to see that the iPhone version of the app is not listed in the support options.

Twin 1.0 for Mac OS X

Time Machine made it easy for Leopard owners to back up their Macs on local external hard drives, and lately we've seen a number of online backup services such as Carbonite, BackBlaze, and MozyPro debut for the Mac platform. These online services are great (I personally use BackBlaze), but there's a monthly cost associated with them. What if you already have access to a large volume of server space?

App4Mac has just announced Twin 1.0 for Mac OS X (US$39.67, €29.00), an online backup solution that works with all sorts of servers: FTP (all varieties), WebDAV, Amazon S3, and even MobileMe. Unlike many of the other online solutions, Twin claims that it retains all the Mac OS X file metadata, ACLs, and privileges, and your data is kept safe with AES-256 "Jack Bauer quality" encryption. In addition to the online backups, you can use Twin for backing up your files to local drives and have the backups begin when the external drive it plugged in.

I'm impressed with the powerful scheduling capabilities of Twin, which include a way to use logical operators to determine exactly when backups should proceed or not. Having an offsite backup is that extra bit of security that every Mac user should have. Check out the gallery below for some screenshots of the app in action. You can also download a free, limited-capability trial of Twin if you're interested in kicking the tires.

Dealing with app-noxious app-oholics

The other day I had the fortune of hanging out with TUAW's own Mike Rose and our old colleague David Chartier in Chicago, and my main fear going into the meeting was that, given what a bunch of iPhone geeks we were, we'd just spend the whole time showing off apps on our iPhones. Not that seeing cool apps isn't awesome, but if you've ever had anyone excitedly show you what an app can do, I think it gets to be a little much. And I'm not alone -- though yes, the iPhone does a lot of things that we have never been able to do before, it is possible to get "app-noxious," a term coined by MSNBC to describe people who are way too excited about what their iPhone can do. Yes, we know already, there is an app for that. Give it a break.

This isn't the first time this phenomenon has popped up, and if you own an iPhone, you probably already know about it anyway -- I was definitely looking for made-up ways to use SnapTell Explorer when I first installed it. So next time you feel the urge to break into someone else's conversation to let them know about this app you bought last night that does exactly what they're talking about, hold your tongue, at least until you're not interrupting.

And of course that doesn't mean that app nerds can't still be nerds about it -- yes, though Rose and Chartier and I didn't spend the whole time showing off apps to each other, we each did bring out phones at least once to show off just how great this new app we just got was.

iCombat's stats on app pirates

Miguel Sanchez-Grice, creator of the iCombat app (a remake of the old Atari game), sent us these stats on piracy of his app after writing a blog post about the same thing, and I find them fascinating. Instead of building DRM into his app, he just detected if the player was using a copy that wasn't from the App Store, and then forwarded them onto a web page that he could track. It seems like he equates unique visitors to his Pinch Media site as users (though he doesn't go into detail about exactly where those "Pinch Media New Uniques" numbers come from), and then subtracts legit app sales from those numbers to get the number of pirates. And while he says the numbers are lower than he expected, they seem pretty high to me: there is a substantial number of people out there using cracked apps.

Maybe this is strange to my point of view because I used to use hacked and cracked apps -- when I was in college and didn't have $50 to my name, much less to spend on the latest and greatest games (not to mention a line in to a fat campus Internet connection), warez was where I went. But nowadays I've got the money to do right by developers, and especially as cheap as things are in the App Store, piracy doesn't really seem like a viable route. But apparently for quite a few people, it is.

Miguel isn't that angry -- he believes that hackers are a bigger help (people tweeted a lot about playing the cracked app) than a hurt (he definitely doesn't equate all of those hacker numbers to lost sales). And he says that hackers are often early adopters -- look how many hackers jumped on the app right away, and then those numbers tailed off later on. But he does say is that the best solution is to create a lite version for apps detected as hacked, and then push for the upsell. In fact, he even tells us that one of his hackers has become a big evangelist for the app, creating demo videos and contests. Hackers and crackers are the folks who are most interested in getting to your app early and fast, and If you can convince them that it's worth it to pay the buck, or even just spread the word, they could serve you pretty well as a developer.

Contest: Design the first three-sided Apple Store

Chicago's Halsted Street will soon be the site of a unique Apple Store -- the first with three sides exposed. When seated on the odd piece of land, the store will offer visibility from every direction and 650 linear feet of storefront.

As you can see from the map at right, the architects at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson have a tough task ahead with this project. wants to know, how would you design this store? They're running a contest now to find the most interesting or clever design. Submit your drawing to by June 15, 2009, and the winner will receive a $100 Apple gift card.

They note that you needn't worry about the store's interiors in your drawing. Note that Apple's chunk of property is 215 feet on Clybourn Ave., 220 feet on Halsted St., 123 feet on W. North Ave., and a curving 81 feet at the back of the transit station.

Pocket Universe [ iPhone ]

There is something about the tremendous size and scope of our observable universe that is inspiring and humbling at the same time. It's why I get excited about the variety of astronomy programs for the iPhone.

The latest is called Pocket Universe [App Store link]. For the $2.99US price, your iPhone or iPod touch gets a star atlas of 10,000 objects, a guide to moon phases, a list of what's up on any particular night including meteor showers and any visible planets, as well as live links to astronomy news.

The app also includes an accurate rendering of the positions of the 4 easily visible moons of Jupiter, but your best bet in seeing a planet this time of year is Saturn which is high in the southeast.

As we move toward summer, more and more people will be heading outdoors. That makes it it is a great time to learn the constellations and be able to understand what you are looking at, as opposed to just wondering what that bright thing is.

A nice feature of the app is auto tilt, so when you are pointing the right direction, you can tilt the phone up to get a view higher in the sky and the star map will follow your tilt. If, as rumored, the iPhone adds some kind of direction finding compass, apps like this can be even more helpful as you turn and tilt, as the map should track your movements exactly.

Pocket Universe has a very clever locate feature, where you can select an object, and there are on-screen directions to take you to the object by superimposing arrows on the screen. This feature didn't always work perfectly. I asked the program to find Saturn. It told me to follow the arrows, but no arrows appeared. It seemed to work fine on other objects I was looking for, and Saturn was properly placed on the sky map.