Paper Toss

PaperToss1Paper Toss is a simple yet highly addictive game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The concept revolves around the popular office past-time of chucking a crumpled up paper ball into a waste paper bucket.

There are 3 difficulty levels with the waste paper bucket placed further on each higher difficulty level. The paper ball will always travel as far as the bucket, so the only thing the player has to be concerned with is the horizontal angle of your .. erm .. toss! Swipe your finger from the bottom of the screen upwards at the desired angle. Sounds simple enough, but extra challenge is provided by a desk fan which varies in it’s fan speed and randomly switches between left and right at each turn.

The game is very easy at Easy level, but Medium and Hard levels are quite challenging. Your score can be submitted, along with your location, to an online scoreboard, which can be viewed locally, nationally or globally. For a game that is currently available for free, this is incredibly good and comes recommended. Grab it while it’s still free!

Real Racing

I’ve shied away from other racing games on the iPhone as I always felt the lack of physical controls plus the screen size and potential performance issues would mar the experience. However the video’s and reviews for Real Racing were good so I made the purchase and I’m glad I did – it’s an excellent game.

You have a number of control methods – use either touch or accelerometer to steer, auto acceleration or touch to accelerate and there’s braking assist too. Thankfully they are disabled. I prefer to use the accelerometer to steer with touch to accelerate and break. You can also change the sensitivity to suit which is a nice addition.

Graphically the game is very polished with up to six cars displayed on screen. Viewed from in car or out the game keeps up a good speed, although in car looks a lot better. There’s quite a bit of track detail too with speed penalties for going off track and trying to cut corners. There are a number of different game modes – a career mode with a total of 57 events, time trials with online scoreboards, local wi-fi multiplayer (hopefully an update with peer to peer multiplayer will drop soon) and online leagues. Very impressive for a game on the iPhone that costs £5.99.

What makes it special though are the controls. They are excellent and really make the game. It’s also pretty challenging although the AI is not the best and very much on rails the whole time which can lead to some off putting moments. It still feels quite arcadey to drive but your not going to get Forza-esque physics in an iPhone game…yet. With 12 tracks and many online challenges Real Racing offers great value for money too. One more thing….you can upload laps to YouTube.

VidZone

VidZone-LadyGaGa

VidZone is a free music video application that you can download from the PlayStation Store and install to your PlayStation3. Once installed, it will appear under your music menu. The application lets you stream, apparently, thousands of music videos, for free, over your internet.

Unlike Sony’s previous efforts of bringing new features to the PlayStation3, such as Home and Photo Gallery, I was actually pleasantly surprised to find their latest offering to be rather good. The application’s interface looks quite nice with a typical Sony feel and polish, and it all loads up pretty quick too. On the home screen you’re presented with a large menu at the top of the screen, listing popular categories to choose your music from, such as: latest chart hits, dance chart etc. The currently playing list of songs appears on the right and you can create unlimited number of playlists.
Once you select a song to play, it starts playing pretty quickly and the quality of picture and sound is extremely good for a streamed feed. The video is played in a window, with an option to go full-screen. This isn’t actually full-screen, just a bit bigger than standard view. The choice of music available was surprisingly large and I enjoyed watching a few old faves and some new finds.

VidZone-FBS

The only issues I found were to do with the interface implementation, the controls not being very intuitive and feeling kind of clunky. I hope Sony fix this with an update soon.
Overall I give VidZone a big thumbs-up and recommend that all PS3 owners to at least give it a go, you may be pleasantly surprised by it. Hopefully it’s the start of many a decent new features for the PS3, it certainly needs them.

OpenDNS

One site that I always recommend to friends and family is OpenDNS. With a few simple changes to your router or computer you can move from using your ISP’s DNS server to the service provided by OpenDNS which I’ve found to be fast and reliable, certainly more so than the ISP’s I’ve used recently. So what is DNS and what does OpenDNS do?

DNS requests are made every day from your home connection. E-mails, web surfing, online gaming etc all make use of DNS. DNS turns real addresses (http://www.apple.com) into an IP address for the physical computer you want to connect to. It makes it easier to surf and also means an address can stay fixed while the computer changes in the background (to a different IP address). Usually you make use of your own ISP’s DNS server which in general works OK but from time to time can have issues. Speed, lack of redundancy and update issues are ones I’ve seen over the years.

OpenDNS provides a free DNS service that promises to resolve addresses quickly and also a few unique services that I certainly don’t get from my current ISP. Firstly there are anti-phishing features in place so that you will be warned and the phishing site intercepted should you be lead to one. There’s also spelling correction where OpenDNS will look at the URL you’ve typed and if it detects a typo it will redirect you to the correct site. Finally if you look up a site that cannot be resolved OpenDNS will display a page with alternatives.

ghhoogleopendns

What’s great about OpenDNS is that it’s simple to set-up and has helpful configuration page’s for a wide range of routers and computers. These take you through each step of logging in to the router, making the changes required and then checking that OpenDNS is set-up for your internet connection. There’s also other features like shortcut’s which you can take advantage off. Enter a shortcut name and the page that should be looked up if typed. For example, type blog to visit your blog without typing in the address, news to visit BBC News – the possibilities are endless. The nice thing about shortcuts is they apply across all your network so aren’t set up on a per machine basis.

The OpenNDS website also provides some stats about the number of requests, top domains and gives you the ability to block domains if you want finer control of the content that can be accessed on your network.

Although better performance can’t be guaranteed and in some cases will be very small I’ve always made a point of checking every few months to make sure that OpenDNS is a better option than my current ISP. With both O2 and Virgin Media, swapping to OpenDNS made quite a difference and in the case of my neighbours just over a week ago the difference to their OneTel connection was remarkable. Give it a try – nothing to lose and possibly a nice speed bump with enhanced security to gain.

Wired UK Magazine

WiredWhen Wired announced it was launching a UK edition of it’s well regarded tech magazine we were a little sceptical at DigitalOutbox. The American edition was becoming precariously thin due to the credit crunch and the decline in print media – why launch a UK edition now, especially as it tried a UK launch around 10 years ago without much success (some articles from the mid 90’s UK magazine)?

We shouldn’t have been worried though as the first three issues of Wired UK have been excellent. Lot’s of up to date content with a definite UK and European bias. One worry though is that they are republishing some older US features. As long as they don’t go to far into the past or add in updates to the features then this shouldn’t be too big an issue. They are also still doing a really good subscription deal – just @2 an issue for 12 months. Bargain.

Macbites

Macbites is a UK podcast about all things Mac. What makes it so good isn’t the reviews, the recommendations or the topics they cover which are great in themselves – it’s the rapport between the presenters and the laid back style in which the show is presented that I love. This was a favourite podcast of mine but around last September, on only their 16th episode it all went quiet.

I never really dug in to why it disappeared but it’s absence was certainly something that was in the back of my head when I started to think about putting together DigitalOutbox with Shakeel. However to my delight, on Tuesday morning at work while looking through the new podcasts on the iPhone I got a really nice surprise – a new edition of Macbites. Turns out one of the presenters had been ill, hence no podcast. The new edition was back on form though and it was pretty ironic that I listened to it on the day we recorded our first edition of DigitalOutbox.

Highly recommended podcast and quite refreshing compared to the other casts out there.