Episode 74 Updates

Quick post to update you on a couple of points. Firstly, the App Store did hit 10 Billion downloads before we got the podcast published – oops.

What was great about the winner of the competition though was that she was from the UK…and the app she downloaded was from a small UK developer – double woo-hoo. Gail Davis downloaded the app Paper Glider from Neon Play. Just a shame that she can’t use the $10,000 to buy Apple hardware. I also wonder what conversion rate Apple will use when awarding the prize. Using todays exchange rate, $10,000 works out at just under £6,250. However Apple’s exchange rate used when calculating the price of an Apple TV ($99 in America against £101 in the UK) would mean the prize works out to be £10,202. I think I know which route Apple will be taking. And before any fanboys drop by, yes, I need to educate myself.

One last podcast update – this was the view for the last 20 minutes of the podcast. Henry’s chair proved just as insightful as the good man himself but not as funny. Henry’s mid podcasts escapes are proving legendary 🙂

DigitalOutbox Episode 74

DigitalOutbox Episode 74
In this episode the team discuss Apple and Steve Jobs, Google and Eric Schmidt, UK Gaming news and Rim.Jobs

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
1:13 – Steve Jobs Takes Medical Leave
– Team,
At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.
I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for all of Apple’s day to day operations. I have great confidence that Tim and the rest of the executive management team will do a terrific job executing the exciting plans we have in place for 2011.
I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.
Steve
– Perfect timing – take leave on a holiday, earnings results on the Tuesday
– Apple in safe hands though as proven over last few years
– Shares drop 5% on Tuesday
3:30 – Apple Quarterly Results
– Apple: $26.74bn revenue, $6bn profit, 4.1m Macs (+23%), 16.2m iPhones (+86%), 7.3m iPads, 19.45m iPods (-7%).
– Best Mac quarter but analysts expected more due to Air
– Best quarter ever for iPhone
– Lots of Touches sold – more than half of all iPods, 27% growth
– iPad popular 🙂 Total iPads sold since April – 14.8m
– Mac revenues were 20% of Apple’s total. iOS were 75% (13% iPod, 5% other music, 39% iPhone, 17% iPad), with peripherals at 2% and sw/ 3%
5:47 – Google Quarterly Results
– Google has once again posted optimistic growth this quarter boasting $8.44 billion in revenue, and increase of 26% compared to fourth quarter of 2009 in which revenue was $6.67 billion.
– Google also announced that co-founder Larry Page will be replacing Eric Schmidt as CEO of the company. This transition will take place on April 4, Google says.
Schmidt will take the role of “Executive Chairman” and will focus on “deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership,” the company says. He will also continue to act as an advisor to Page and fellow co-founder Sergey Brin.
– Speaking of Brin, he’ll be working on “strategic projects, in particular working on new products,” the company says. His title will remain “co-founder”. So it sounds like no big change there.
– Perceived loss of edge at Google – lost out on a few deals recently, Facebook seen as the big new shiny – reason for change?
9:00 – Google Clarifies h.264 Stance
– It’s all about HTML5 – nobody will ever agree that H.264 will be baseline codec, hence their decision to drop H.264 and push on now with WebM – short term pain for long term pain
– What this means is that Flash (or Silverlight) is required to playback H.264
– Google will also supply plugins via WebM project team for Safari and IE9
– They will also be re-encoding all YouTube videos to WebM
– Who wins? Flash. Way to go.
– http://blogs.adobe.com/jd/2011/01/video-debate-cutting-to-the-chase.html
– Crazy post from John Dowdell
– Safari is non standard and is doesn’t allow extendability via plugins?
– But then a draft for HTML5 does say that browsers need to support plugins
11:59 – Instant Pop
– Sony & Universal to makes songs instantly available
– David Joseph, the chief executive of Universal Music, said: “Wait is not a word in the vocabulary of the current generation. It’s out of date to think that you can build up demand for a song by playing it for several weeks on radio in advance.”
– Songs used to receive up to six weeks radio airplay before they were released for sale – a practice known as “setting up” a record. But the success of selling the winner’s single immediately after the X Factor final has made record bosses think again.
– Google and YouTube searches were peaking 2 weeks after songs started airing
– Also demonstrating to government that they are willing to change in face of piracy
14:46 – Amazon buys LoveFilm
– Amazon today took full control of DVD rental and online video company Lovefilm, in a deal to buy the 58% of the business that it does not already own for an undisclosed sum.
– Lovefilm remains a leading player in DVD rentals since launching in the UK in 2004, and has 1.4 million subscribers across Europe. The company tripled its sales in 2009 to almost £100m, and in March last year launched its digital streaming service, enabling viewers to rent and watch movies over the internet.
– Within the past 12 months, Lovefilm has stepped up its movie streaming business, while leaving its physical DVD rental service to continue its growth. In 2009, Lovefilm declared that online was now its “primary” business – despite online rentals representing a 10th of DVD and Blu-ray rentals.
– Lovefilm customers can now also stream films over a number of internet-connected living room devices, including Sony and Samsung TV sets, and the PS3 games console.
17:00 – Cheap PC’s to reduce digital divide
– Race Online 2012, which aims to “make the UK the first nation in the world where everyone can use the web”, estimates that of the more than nine million adults in the UK who are currently not online, four million are socially and economically disadvantaged.
– The cheap computers will run open-source software, such as Linux, and will include a flat-screen monitor, keyboard, mouse, warranty, dedicated telephone helpline and delivery. Prices will start at £98 for a refurbished PC.
– The packages will be sold through 60 UK online centres which offer IT training and Remploy, an organisation that specialises in helping disabled and disadvantaged people find work and which runs the computer recycling scheme e-cycle.
– Race Online 2012 has also negotiated cheap internet packages using a mobile dongle, costing £9 a month or £18 for three months, to help people access the web.
– The 12-month trial is part of the Race Online 2012 scheme, which aims to reach out to the 9.2 million adults in the UK who are currently offline.
– Distributor Remploy hopes to sell 8,000 machines in the next 12 months.
19:09 – iPlayer Growth
– BBC’s iPlayer clocked in a record 145m programme requests in December 2010.
– That total is up 27 per cent on December 2009’s total, but only just under three per cent on November 2010’s total of 141m requests.
– Interestingly, requests TV programmes hit just 89.7m, showing that almost 40 per cent of requests – 83.1m – were for radio shows. The internet is perfect for radio, which is far less bandwidth-sensitive than the telly stuff.
– The BBC said Virgin Media viewers asked for 23.9m programmes to be played back. PlayStation 3 owners made a further 7m requests
21:56 – XBMC on iOS Devices
– Full XBMC for these iOS devices – not remotes – the full thing
– Need to jailbreak device but…
– Apple TV2
– Full XBMC install, this is not a remote or thin client streamer.
– No longer is your AppleTV2 chained to iTunes.
– Who wants transcoded video anyway?
– Share files on your network your way.
– Full hardware decode for 720p/1080p movies.
– Everything else you know and love about XBMC.
– iPad/iPhone
– You guessed it, this is full-blown XBMC. Not a remote.
– Launch XBMC like any other app.
– Drag and drop media from your computer, or share it on your home-network
– Also fully hardware accelerated for most formats.
– Works on iPhone4, though it’s currently frustrating to use.
– Challenge: Who will be the first to create a gesture-driven skin?
– Video demo -http://www.engadget.com/2011/01/20/xbmc-comes-to-the-new-apple-tv/
24:30 – 10 Billion Downloads
– App Store is about to hit 10 billion downloads
– If you download the 10 billionth you win a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card
– Handy for the Mac App Store 😉
25:57 – OneNote hits iOS
– Onenote
– Makes sense
– America only at the moment
– App is free but for limited time
– Text audio and picture notes
– Sync with Windows Live Skydrive
– Where’s the iPad version?
– Many get (including me) a login error – MS says it’s due to high demand – just keep trying or download Evernote.
27:52 – Games Sales Slip in 2010
– Games market in 2010 was worth £2.88bn – a significant drop from the £3.31bn recorded in 2009.
– Console consumption was on the up, though, with growth for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Sony and Microsoft combined shifted 2.3m units. The Xbox 360 outsold the PS3 in 2010, just, with sales of £232m to Sony’s £229m.
– In total, UK consumers bought 63m console and PC games – more than one for every man, woman and child in the country.
30:35 – Nintendo 3DS Release Date and Prices Announced
– March 18th or 25th
– RRP seems to be £249
– Games – £30
– Super Streetfighter iV and Pilotwings – look really good but not enough to buy
– Also does 3dtv – http://www.digitaltveurope.net/news_articles/jan_11/20_jan_11/eurosport_and_bskyb_to_provide_3d_tv_to_nintendo_3ds
– Nintendo has struck deals with a number of partners to deliver video content, including a two-year, pan-European deal with Eurosport, and a deal with Aardman Animations who will provide a series of original Shaun the Sheep short movies in 3D. It has also stuck a UK-only deal with Sky, who will deliver 3D content from its new Sky 3D channel, which is likely to include sports events.
32:26 – Minecraft Sells A Million Copies
– Game has just hit beta and already has this many sales
– It’s like lego without the restrictions…and with monsters
– YouTube is awash with Minecraft video’s
– It’s very addictive
– Single or multiplayer
34:39 – Most Inappropriate URL Ever
– RIM register rim.jobs domain as a quick URL to their career pages
– Someone somewhere is having a right old giggle within RIM

Picks
Ian
Alfred
– Productivity App for OS X – similar to Launchbar but thats ¢25 but does a lot more
– Launch app’s with shortcuts, instant access to web searches, bookmarks
– Browse and play music
– Perorm actions like email, moving files
– Reduces mouse reliance
– Speeds up activity
– Free on App store

Myfitnesspal

My first pick of 2011 and it’s no surprise that it helps with one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions – dieting. Myfitnesspal is a web, iPhone and Android based weight/calorie tracking tool. It was first recommended by a friend last year and I immediately dismissed it as I hated the name and the web site design wasn’t the best. What a snob! Roll on a few months and at the start of 2011 I wanted to track more carefully my food intake. Partly to improve diet and partly to provide a food diary to help with migraine root cause analysis. After seeing myfitnesspal being recommended alongside RunKeeper I decided to look again at the service.

First good aspect of myfitnesspal is that it’s a totally free service. After downloading the iPhone app and creating an account the biggest plus of the experience so far was the capture of daily calorie intake. Myfitnesspal has a large database of foods that are easily searchable. It’s also stocked with lot’s of UK foods as well and it means a typical day’s food intake takes a couple of minutes tops to add in. The app also remembers foods you’ve previously eaten so if you are a Scot addicted to Frosties and Diet Irn-Bru (not at the same time I hasten to add) it takes seconds to add these in to the app. If a food doesn’t exist it’s fairly straightforward to add that to the database so it’s searchable from then on. Based on height, sex and weight myfitnesspal will display a daily target for calorie intake and guesstimate how your current intake will decrease, or increase, your overall weight. As I’ve only been using it for a couple of weeks it’s hard to say how accurate this side of the app is. However it really does hammer home how much you eat in a day to day basis. I’ve already switched a couple of foods to one’s with a far smaller calorie/fat/salt intake.

The app also allows you to track weight and exercise but these have to be manually inputted – no link up with other sites like Withings here. One interesting touch is that alongside weight tracking you can also track body measurements like neck size so you can see if you are staying static in weight but reducing fat/increasing muscle. The reports within Myfitnesspal are rudimentary and basic but allow you to see progress over time.

There’s also a social aspect in that you can have friends on the service but at the same time still keeping certain aspects of your profile private. I can see this being handy for people who are working together to encourage each other during weight loss but for me this is purely a solo adventure.

Overall I like the service myfitnesspal offers purely due to the functional rather than pretty front end making it easy to add data and the very complete food database. The fact it’s free is another plus point but I would be interested in hearing from anyone using a similar service that they would be happy to recommend.

Batman Arkham Asylum

Over the Christmas period there’s usually some spare time between the Turkey and drink to get some gaming in. This year, with the PS3 purchase just pre Christmas, there were some great games to pick up on classic/best seller and therefore some nice cheap deals.

I actually ended up buying a whole tonne of games – I went down the best games for PS3 and got the AAA titles. In fact I picked up too much and I just haven’t played them. They will wait. However, I did pick up a copy of Batman, Arkham Asylum for my Xbox 360 and I’ve completed it. Played it straight through.

I haven’t touched any multiplayer, I couldn’t even tell you if there is such a thing in the game! But it’s another example of a developer proving that there is still life in the single player market. It’s up there with the Bioshock for me.

The game kicks off with the Joker being re-incarcerated into the Arkham Asylum. It doesn’t take long before you discover that this is very much part of Jokers plan and he’s masterminded an inside job to take over the Asylum by force.

There’s not a fantastic amount more to the story to be honest! You spend the game working towards taking back the Asylum. There are some distinct phases to the game and the early section drips in the game mechanics on a gradual learning curve. Nicely paced and well judged.

The game mechanics themselves are nice and varied. Well sorted and offer just the right amount of contextual buttons alongside skill combos. The gameplay itself is one of discovery, problem solving and action/beat’em up. I would judge that they come along in equal measure. The Asylum is split into 3 broad, large, outside areas and these are sub-divided with buildings, from the mansion to the medical building to the holding cells. All the areas and the graphics in general are realised with a dark edgy feel. Everything looks nice and together and its another case of there being a strong and coherent artistic style and it really pays off. The unreal engine is powerful and this game really maximises its strong points.

The game goes through distinct phases as well. It seems to get darker the more you play and as the story unfolds the environments also take radical twists and turns. Batman himself also changes through the game, with the effects of tussles and altercations leaving his suit torn and his cape ripped. Not every game takes the time to add these nice little touches but it really makes a difference when they are there.

If I was playing through the game again, I’d spend more time on the discovery aspects in parallel to the story. The Riddler has left a tonne of trophies to find all around the differing areas, in hidden, hard to reach spots. It’s very satisfying working out how to get them all and is a game long pursuit of it’s own. I finished the main story and then went back through all the areas once more time to get every last trophy and unlock. Had I done more of this through the main game, it would have felt more balanced.

The game also throws in some great set pieces and different gameplay styles. Whether it’s avoiding the glowing stare of the Scarecrow using shadows to hide in or areas of the map where you can’t use your ever faithful grappling hook and have to revert to the games free-running style mechanic. It’s varied and keeps interest all the way through. You have a nice selection of gadgets and gizmos that gradually unlock through the game. These new toys are sometimes needed in order to get to other areas of the maps. Areas you’ve noticed earlier in the game are sometimes unreachable until you have the correct tool to get to them.

If I was going to criticise anything, it would be that the unreal engine doesn’t do people as well as environments. Don’t get me wrong, the character models are stunning and extremely detailed, however, I always feel that they are a little too shiny. Occasionally, the third person perspective also means that Batman obscures what you trying to look at but again, this never really hampers and having the lead character on screen in a single player game is great and adds that movie edge to proceedings.

The fact that you can pick this game up on classics is excellent. It’s an AAA title with a relatively small price tag. I’ve seen it going for just a few pounds on PC via Steam but I thought that the XBox control implementation was perfect and am glad that I plumped for the console version.

If you’ve got some time to kill, like single player games and haven’t yet picked up this one, then you’ve missed out on of the best. It’s not long before Arkham City, which is now an essential purchase for me. If they can re-create half of the interest and enjoyment of this, then it will be another excellent game.

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 Review

At the tail end of 2010 I picked up a webcam for use in daily video conferencing via skype. It would most likely have been sensible to plump for a cheap and cheerful option but somehow, as with all my buying decisions, I get like a kid in a sweet shop and can’t resist the big shiny option.

So, after some digging around and reading I plumped for the newly released Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910. A mouthful I think you’ll agree – so I’ll just call it the C910 from now on.

So why this buying decision? Well, I liked the top notch specs of this little camera. It’s got Carl Zeiss® optics, offers up full HD video recording, 10MP camera stills and has the capability to conference in 720P as well (although it requires a hefty internet connection to use this feature in reality.)

The head unit is long and oblong – about 3.5″ x 1.5″ – and has a flexible monitor support attached. I had no problem using the support to attach the cam to my 24″ Dell Flatscreen or my MacBook Pro Laptop. Obviously, being a fairly sizeable camera and the nature of a portable laptop, you’ll be wanting to have the laptop on a desk to make sure that you don’t catch the cable or otherwise yank the thing off the screen.

In operation, the camera is very capable. The optics are clear and the refresh rate is very good. The C910 offers auto focus that is quick and precise. I didn’t really notice it in operation, which is a good sign.

When in use, the camera has two led strips that light up blue. It’s a nice touch and looks sleek.

The software is relatively painless in use. Drivers are available for PC and Mac support was added recently. As far as I can tell, Mac is just drivers + the Logitech Vid HD software at the moment, whereas PC comes with some extras like options to install Skype, Vid HD as well as Magix photo and video editing software.

Also, it doesn’t appear at this stage that the Mac drivers come with the same filters and effects tools as the PC. Whether this is an additional download coming soon or whether this is a PC only feature, I don’t know at this stage.

I have to say that the facial recognition and tracking of the camera on the PC is impressive. A simple calibration tool sets things up and then you’re off. You can change yourself into an Avatar if you want and the facial tracking then transplants your mouth, eye and face movements onto another character. Just as impressive is the ability for the software to add 3D “features” to your face. Ever wanted to know what you’d look like with an arrow through your head? Well, now you can find out. As you move your head, the arrow moves in 3D space as well. Freaky voodoo fun!

In addition to these fun features, it’s possible to use the PC software as a motion tracker. Set things up and you can have your camera record snippets whenever it notices something moving in its sight line. You get to define the sensitivity of this feature and what it should do when it detects motion (record, alert you etc).

The basic system requirements are not onerous. 1GHz, XP and up or OSX 10.5, 512Mb Ram. However, things step up a notch when it comes to full HD conferencing. You’ll need a dual core processor, 2Gig Ram and at least a 1Meg upload connection. Most modern computers will meet the specs – but in the UK it’s really only the lucky few who have the luxury of 1Meg upload.

You’ll also need to download the latest version of Skype to make use of the HD capabilities of this camera fully (because who is really going to use Logitech’s own Vid HD in reality?). However, even if you’re not stretching this camera to its limits, the higher quality optics and hardware as compared to basic offerings mean that your video comes through bright, clear and updates quickly – well beyond other offerings I’ve seen in practice.

It copes well with light changes and differing light conditions and the stereo sound won’t win any awards but is plenty capable for Skype. It picks up the sound well and since moving to this as my main Skype Mic, I’ve had only positive response. If you let Skype auto change the gain, it can even pick up sounds downstairs when I go and make a cup of tea!

It’s biggest downfall is its price of course. Not because I think it’s over priced for what it is, just because it’s steep for a webcam. However, with it’s full HD recording ability, single click upload to facebook/youtube and 10MP still capability, it’s a whole lot more than just a webcam. I picked mine up for around £80. I’ve seen them since at around £70 and I’ve also seen a page on Amazon that looks as though it may get down to £60 in the next few months.

iOS 4.3 Preview

A quick post with some news on iOS 4.3, recently released to developers and coming soon for all iOS users which came out while we were recording our latest podcast. Usually the NDA’s surrounding these releases mean information is thin on the ground but more and more we are seeing the details posted within hours of the developer releases. Looking at this Ars Technica post, the main new features are:

  • Airplay API – devlopers can now utilise API instead of the few Apple app’s that feature AirPlay support
  • Personal Hotspot – Launching with the Verizon iphone but coming soon to an iPhone near you turn your iPhone into a wifi hotspot, supporting up to five devices for 30 minutes tops unless there’s a power supply near you as well. Big question – will your telco support it and if so how much?
  • Choice. Honest. You too will be able to specify what your iPad’s hardware button can do. Prior to 4.2 it was an much loved by many orientation lock. 4.2 swapped it to a mute button and hid the orientation lock in with the multi tasking/playback controls. Many hated this and 4.3 allows the user to choose which of these two options are controlled via the hardware button. I am amazed – just not like Apple.
  • New gestures which look very handy. *groan* Four and five finger gestures, specifically pinch to return to the home screen and swipe to move between app’s. This is the biggest change for me and I’m surprised we’re seeing this in an OS point update rather than with iOS 5 or new hardware. Many are saying that this is the end of the home button but I can’t see it myself. The home button is important for one handed operation and a few other system related features which I don’t think will be replaced by gestures. The few saying this is really Boy Genius Report. The same people that have predicted Blu-Ray on the Mac. Video embed below shows the gestures in action. Nice.

Of course, I say all iOS users will be enjoying these features but this release drops support for iPhone 3G users and iPod Touch 2nd Gen. Performance of the hardware just not up to the latest features or Apple applying chinese burns to users to encourage hardware upgrades? Despite that negative, this update has some welcome new features. I just hope they are still featured when the final release is made available.