The Pebble Watch

Pebble Watch

 

I often support interesting projects on KickStarter and one I supported was the Pebble watch. Mine arrived a few days ago.

First impressions were good, it arrived in a nice custom cardboard box and the watch and charge cable were in a custom cardboard holder. All made from recycled and recyclable cardboard. There were no instructions beyond a note to “Get started at go.getpebble.com”.

The introduction page you end up on needs some work but I managed to get the watch hooked up to power and talking to my iPhone without too much trouble. It hooks up to power with a custom USB cable with a magnetic latch and two power dots. This is so that the watch can be totally waterproof – you can swim or shower with it on.

I then updated the software on the watch and added a couple of watch faces using the iPhone app.

The appearance of the Pebble is acceptable, for me it is a fraction too large but it is certainly no larger than a lot of mens watches. I really like the “Text Watch” face that tell you the time in words. I may have to change the band as I prefer a metal or leather band to plastic in Sydney’s warm weather.

The screen is a low power LCD with a backlight – in dark conditions you can turn on the backlight by touching a button, tapping the phone or even giving it a shake – a quick rotate of my wrist works fine. The screen is 144 by 168 pixels – large enough for a decent watch face or to show an SMS. The screen is easily seen in most daylight and office conditions though the white is more a light blue-grey.

Inside is an ARM processor, an accelerometer, a light sensor, a BlueTooth radio and a small vibration motor (easily felt when it’s on your wrist).

Once connected to my phone it worked fairly well. Due to some problems with iOS 6 it has trouble showing notifications from a lot of apps but it does fine showing an SMS, caller ID or details of a song when you use your watch to control your music.

At the moment that pretty much sums up all the functionality of the watch, there is promise of more to come with Pebble promising more software updates to add more apps and more functions to the current software.

Every so often the iPhone pops up a dialog asking of it’s OK for the app to communicate with the watch and hitting OK runs the app. When it does this is totally mysterious.

At the moment I have to say that the Pebble is a great start and a perfect addition to my network of things. I think the people at Pebble have been a little overwhelmed by the demand they’ve seen. I hope in the weeks to come we get some of the promised apps. I’m waiting for the cycle computer or Run Keeper apps in particular.

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Review: Temple Run 2

Temple_Run_2

20 million downloads in the first weekend, it would seem that Imangi Studios have a hard core hit with Temple Run 2 (TR2), their follow up to the popular Temple Run.

TR2 takes the concept of Temple Run and improves every aspect. The basic concept introduced in the the first game is that you guide a person running down a track, turning corners, jumping over or sliding under obstacles. You steer, jump and slide with a fingertip and bear to the right or left of the track by tilting your phone. Along the way you collect coins and jump to collect powerups.

TR2 adds to the basic concept by improving the graphics enormously, making the straight track curve, rise and fall and adding new features such as rope slides and guiding a mine cart through a mine. Along with collecting coins you can now also collect gems which can be used to resurrect your character.

The original game was extremely playable though not one I played constantly. The new version is even more addictive, it also seems to be more learnable, I have now played hundreds of games and I keep on improving. The improved graphics add a great deal to the better feel of the game.

It’s strange, while a lot has changed in TR2 a lot has stayed the same but in the end Imangi Studios have taken a good game and made it great.

The game is free to install and free to play but you can plonk down hard cash to buy coins and gems if you wish.

Review: Ski Safari

Ski Safari

Hurtling down the slopes on the skimobile while a yeti and pengiun grab a lift.

Since we are now in the festive season I thought it might be time for a break, let’s play a game on two on the iPad.

Ski Safari is my favourite “endless runner”. Sure, others might talk of JetPack Joyride or Tiny Wings but this is the 2D side scroller for me.

The concept of Ski Safari is that you control Sven who is skiing down an endless mountain trying to stay ahead of an avalanche. You tap the screen to jump and hold it down for Sven to rotate counter-clockwise so that he hits the now at the right angle or perhaps does an entire backflip.

As you descend the mountain you run into various creatures such as penguins and yetis that will give you a ride down the mountain faster, running into an obstacle deprives you of your ride. The ultimate speed boost is a skimobile, but take care as penguins and yetis will grab a lift slowing your snowmobile. At the same time you have to avoid obstacles such as houses, rocks and trees. Doing a backflip gains you a temporary speed boost and ups the score multiplier.

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Review: Four Text Editors For iOS

I just started to write a few words about Byword for iOS and realised that I’ve got a bunch of editors on my iPad and they all deserve a few words. So here you have them all in the one post.

Before I start if you are already running one or two editors and you’re just looking for a good comparison list of iOS editors to find your perfect one (or you want to check all the features of the four I’ve reviewed below) Brett Terpstra recently crowd sourced the definitive list.

Byword

On the Mac Byword is my go to editor for writing, so how does it stack up on the iPad?

Quite well. Of course it supports Markdown well, including a good preview. Like all good editors on the iPad it has an extra row of keys above the standard keyboard. The extra keys are optimised for typing Markdown syntax including a key for headings, inserting hyperlinks and creating lists. One neat trick I haven’t seen elsewhere are that the extra row keys include ‘(‘ and ‘[‘ but not the matching close, when you type the opening character the key changes to the matching close.

For file storage it supports both iCloud and Dropbox.

It has a good range of export possibilities including the ability to copy a HTML conversion to the clipboard and email a number of formats.

I don’t really use it that much, I’m much more likely to use either Nebulous or Textastic.

Byword • A Simple Text Editor for Mac and iOS

Elements

Elements is the first editor for writers I tried and at first I liked it’s clean look but it lacks a number of features I need. The export options are limited, the font is fixed, there is no extra keyboard row.

It does have a good, clean look. It supports MarkDown syntax with a single button preview. It supports TextExpander. It does export the HTL of your MarkDown to the clipboard, though it takes a moment to find it – preview the MarkDown and at the bottom of the screen is a “Copy HTML” button.

The one good feature not commonly seen is a small scratchpad for taking a quick note while you are editing a document.

I don’t think I could recommend Elements unless you want a really simple editor, even then the lack of the extra keyboard row is a drawback.

Elements — A Markdown Text Editor For iOS

Nebulous

Nebulous is neat, really neat. It has some great features.

The look is highly customizable with four themes and from there you can change colours, fonts and sizes.

Even the extra keyboard row is customizable with full macro support, these are real macros with support for cursor positioning not just text substitutions. This is the killer feature that keeps it on my home row. My only request would be the ability to easily switch between a couple of custom rows — I’d like one for writing and one for coding.

If you want to get really geeky then Nebulous’ latest update supports URLs in the iOS URL scheme so you can have Launch Center or bookmarklets do such things as open a file or add a line of text to the end of one.

As well as Dropbox support it’s the only iPad editor I know that will save your document as a note in Evernote, extremely handy since I don’t really like the editor in the iPad Evernote app.

The one weakness in Nebulous is that it doesn’t automatically sync with Dropbox or iCloud, it keeps a local copy of your file and I’ve been unable to figure out exactly when it decides to sync with the online file.

Nebulous Notes

Textastic

This is the code cutters editor of choice in my view. It has code completion, syntax highlighting, symbol navigation, TextMate snippets and auto indentation. The extra keyboard row is ideal for coding. It even supports TextMate themes.

For the writer it also has a few tricks. It has MarkDown preview and export to HTML, the two basics for MarkDown and the symbol navigation system recognises MarkDown headers for navigation round large documents.

Textastic also has a pop up cursor pad rather than arrows for moving the cursor and selecting text. Given that it uses more of the valuable screen space I’m not sure if I prefer it over arrow keys but it can be dismissed with a tap and brought back with a double tap.

As well as Dropbox it also supports FTP, SFTP, SCP and WebDAV for those that want to edit files on, for example, a web server rather than just their Dropbox.

Finally it also has the best regular expression search and replace I’ve seen on iOS.

Textastic – Text, Code and Markup Editor with Syntax Highlighting – FTP, SFTP, Dropbox – for iPad

Review: Folding Text

FoldingText

An example Folding Text document

Hog Bay Software is known for creating great little applications. First was WriteRoom for distraction free writing then came TaskPaper for simple task handling in a text file. They also wrote the utility QuickCursor that allows you to edit text from any field in your favourite editor. All in all Jesse Grosjean has written some great apps.

Now he has done it again with Folding Text. The Folding Text website describes it as “Plain text productivity for geeks” and that’s a good starting point.

Like WriteRoom (or Byword) when you first run Folding Text you get a very plain window almost completely unadorned. The window doesn’t ever get more complex, indeed if you wish Folding Text even has a full screen mode.

You write using MarkDown syntax with one or two additions specific to Folding Text. The editor then allows you to fold sections of your document or focus on one particular part. It even uses the different heading levels to define a structure for your document, the number of hash characters defines the heading level.

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Foldify

Foldify

I enjoy papercraft. I find a great deal of satisfaction in printing out a template and cutting and folding it to create something. My major output has been a bunch of things for Christmas including some cubees, a couple of Christmas trees and a Christmas house.

So the concept of an iPad app that would allow me to customise a number of templates before the printing and assembling was exciting.

Foldify delivers and delivers well.

The idea of Foldify is that you take one of their templates and you customise it by colouring it in using a pen or paintbrush tool and adding “stamps” which can be resized and turned to fit where you wish on the template. You can zoom in to your artwork for fine detail or zoom back out for an overall view. At the left of the screen is a preview of your assembled papercraft that can be rotated.

Having done that you can then print the creation before folding it to make a small cardboard figure. If your printer does not have AirPrint so you can print it directly you can email your creation to yourself or anyone else. Foldify also allows you to share your creation on Facebook (as a picture) or in their online community. The online community allows you to download other people’s models and upload your own for others. There are already a fair number to be seen.

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TaskPaper – My Ultimate To Do Application

TaskPaper

The TaskPaper main window using the standard theme and custom colours

When it comes to finding a To Do application I get highly specific. Top of my criteria is that there should be a good native app for both OS X and iOS. Next is a I want simple and easy, if it’s complex I just won’t do it. Third is that I’d like a text based save file. Finally I’d like command line tools and in a perfect universe a TextMate bundle for the file format.

Sounds impossible doesn’t it? Think again, TaskPaper from Hog Bay Software fulfils every requirement, almost. I do have to say that I am still working on getting the command line fu working. AppleScript support is excellent though and I have hopes, I’ve already found an AppleScript that adds tasks using Alfred that works well for me after some hacking to personalise it and make it a little easier to use.

Opening up a new document in TaskPaper will give you a nice welcome text which runs you through some of the most useful features and points you in the direction of more help. Once you’ve seen this text enough you can turn it off in Preferences. If you want a better guide then there is a 20 page PDF accessible via the Help menu.

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