Dropbox – online storage

dropbox logo

Dropbox is a brilliant and extremely useful online storage service. Online storage services aren’t anything new and what makes Dropbox special is it’s ease of use, speed and how it seamlessly integrates with your host operating system.

Basic account registration is free and you get an instant 2GB storage. Invite your friends and every friend that joins earns you (and your friend) an extra 250MB up to a maximum of 3GB in addition to your initial 2GB.

Pro 50 account provides 50GB storage and costs $9.99 per month or $99 annually. Pro 100 account provides 100GB storage at a cost of $19.99 monthly or $199 annually.

The service can be used as a simple online storage tool via a web browser, to upload files from one computer and then access those files via a browser from another computer. But Dropbox is much more than that – it can be used to share files/folders with other people, keep your data synchronised between multiple computers and easily create online photo albums.

The best way to use it is to install it on your computer, where it seamlessly integrates with Finder/Explorer. Once installed, it can be used just like a regular folder and you can add sub-folders and files to it. When a file is added, it instantly starts to synchronise with the online service, freeing the user to carry on working on other tasks. This is a brilliant tool for users with multiple computers, who want to keep certain data files synched. Store such files in your Dropbox folder and you don’t have to concern yourself with uploading files from one computer and then downloading to another. It all happens automatically without any user intervention.

Files added to the special Public sub-folder can be shared with others – just right-click on the file, copy the public URL and send the link to whoever you want to share the file with.

If you’re working on a project, create a shared folder for storing documents and invite collaborators to share this folder. Uploaded changes are instantly visible to other project members. As soon as one collaborator modifies the contents of the shared folder, the changes are automatically pushed to other collaborators’ Dropbox folders instantly, brilliant! Accidentally deleted files can be easily recovered.

Another really nice feature is that any images added to the special Photos folder are automatically created in to simple photo albums, with public URLs available for sending to friends and families.

Have a look at the tour for full details and explanation of the service. There is also a screencast available which clearly shows all the major features.

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!

iPhone 3GS Review

It’s more than a week since the iPhone 3GS launch so it’s high time to post up a review. Most readers are well aware of the iPhone 3G so I’ll focus on the differences between the two and also on some niggles that I still have with the iPhone.

The S in 3GS stands for speed and it doesn’t take long to feel the benefits of the upgraded processor and ram in the 3GS. Best way to highlight the difference is via video. First up is a test of Safari speed. Comparing 3G vs 3GS both using OS3.0 there is a considerable difference on 3G networks and also wi-fi.

In practice I’ve found the same sort of difference on most sites and it makes a big difference in day to day browsing. More telling though is application launching. On the 3GS application load times are greatly improved especially with games and the larger applications. The following video highlights a massive difference when loading Tiger Woods.

So speed is great on the 3GS but then it should be. The next biggest change is the camera. Now 3 megapixel but it’s the video support that will capture most attention. The video is easy to use and with YouTube support it’s makes it trivial to capture and upload content.

When uploading to YouTube the video is compressed to make it quicker to upload but the quality of the source video is actually pretty good.

The camera controls are a marked difference over the 3G. Click to focus makes it easy to take photo’s and the auto-everything approach Apple has taken to the camera settings again make taking good photo’s trivial. The images below show how the click to focus make quite a difference to your image.

3GS Focus on V Key3GS Focus on BottleiPhone 3GS GardeniPhone 3GS Close UpThe quality increase over the 3G is marked and the ability to take close up photo’s should lead to a range of barcoding and price comparison app’s. I also expect a range of photo app’s that will offer finer quality control over the camera settings – HDR app’s on the iPhone 3GS? Probably.

The voice control is hardly a new phone feature but it is to the iPhone. it does work but I can’t say it’s been reliable. A 2-3 second button press will bring up the voice control app. You can then call one of your contacts, play a track, artist or playlist or ask for more by this artist via the genius feature. When it works it’s good but some words no matter how I prenounce them will register accurately on the 3GS. One trick is to make a playlist that sounds like no other so if you do want to get to some music quickly you can add it to that list and know by using voice control it will launch.

Then there’s the digital compass. It’s a bit of an odd addition really. Hardly one for the masses I actually think it’s a bit inaccurate. North is found but it’s rarely a repeatable North. Rotating also seems to highlight some inaccuracies. I have noticed that the 3GS seems to be greatly affected by magnetic sources around me, more so than the compass I was using to verify how accurate it was. Also odd is how it’s been added to maps – press the location button in maps and then press again to see the direction cone. Even odder – it’s not added to street view which I expected to be a given. Maybe in an update, or shudder, maybe that’s in next years model.

That’s the rub. It’s undoubtedly a great phone but if you’ve got a 3G it’s not an essential upgrade. I’ve no regrets in upgrading as I’m loving the extra room by going to 32GB and I use it so much that the speed increases actually make a big difference but this really isn’t for everyone. Battery life seems to be a touch better but not so great to justify upgrading wither. As we speculated in the podcast, Apple are fond of revolutionary products followed by incremental upgrades and the iphone is following that path. I expect to see some fundamental platform changes every 3-4 years with improvements in between. That might mean that next years model is the one to wait for.

However if you have an original iPhone or have yet to move to the iPhone platform, the iPhone 3GS is a great phone and one which you’ll get many hours of enjoyment from. Coupled with the range of app’s available for it and it’s hard to see anything better on the market today. It also makes calls too.

DigitalOutbox Episode 4

DigitalOutbox Episode 4
In this episode the team discuss the iPhone 3GS again, Michael Jackson, some other phone news and a little bit on games. A digital smorgasbord. Listen out for the Fighting Talk homage!

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
– iPhone Sales
– 1 million in 3 days – http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2009/06/22iphone.html
– Steve Jobs quoted in press release – he’s back
– YouTube mobile uploads increased by 400% one week after 3GS launch
– issues with icons since 3.0 upgrade?
– some apps displaying icons from other apps
– sometimes app icons not displayed, get a grey box placeholder instead
– 3GS uses more powerful PowerVR SGX 535 GPU. Pre uses 530, 3G uses 520
– for comparison:
520 = 7 mill polys
530 = 14 mill polys
535 = 28 mill polys!!!!!!!
– Sony designing mobile/PSP (again!) to give iPhone better competition?
– if they can provide a quality, user-friendly interface then with power of PSP it could work
– cos they already have a huge back catalogue of games
– BUT, iPhone is a success mainly due to apps, not just games
– where does XMB, Sony’ baby, fit in to this?
– designing a phone around a console doesn’t quite work. Apple got it right by giving us a phone with good enough hardware for supporting games, which came later once the hardware had already become established
– form factor – current PSP just not suitable, again Apple got it spot on, not too small not too big, durable(ish)

– New MacBook Air
– slower than previous model despite clock speed increase?

– Windows 7 prices
– http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8118749.stm
– Microsoft is in the middle of another epic battle during its long war with the European Commission over the alleged abuse of its monopoly position. This time the issue is the bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, the subject of complaints from rival browser makers. Earlier this month Microsoft came up with a ploy it thought might satisfy the Commission, promising that Windows 7 would be released in Europe without any browser.
Today we learned that this would mean that European users who wanted to upgrade would have to install the full version – if they’d been offered the simpler upgrade, that would have simply imported their existing browser, almost certainly Internet Explorer, into their new setup.
But Microsoft says it’s giving European users that full version for the same price that it would normally charge for an upgrade – £79.99 in the UK.
But here’s the problem. You upgrade from XP or Vista to Windows 7, and then find you’ve got no browser. No problem, I hear you say, you just go and download one – say Firefox, or Chrome, or Safari or maybe Internet Explorer 8. Using your browser. Ahh…right.
Microsoft told me “we will have some answers” to this issue, but admitted there were “challenges and complexities” involved. But the company pointed out to me that the vast majority of Windows 7 users were likely to be people buying new computers, and the manufacturers were likely to pre-install a browser on those machines.
– America – Those with Windows XP or Vista already installed can start pre-ordering Windows 7 upgrade discs, costing $50 for Home Premium and $100 for Professional. Those deals are for a “limited time,” with no specifics given, from Microsoft directly and most computer retailers, and Ultimate may or may not see an upgrade pre-order deal. Vista and XP users will need to pony up $119.99, $199.99, or $219.99 on October 22 to score their Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate upgrade, and those of you who want a full retail disc will need to roll up with $199.99, $299.99, or $319.99

– Google Voice
– http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_voice_is_opening_up_today_here_is_what_you_can_expect.php

– Vodafone Access Gateway
– http://online.vodafone.co.uk/dispatch/Portal/appmanager/vodafone/wrp?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=templateCClamp&pageID=PPP_0061
– Gives you a great 3G signal through your house
– Need a broadband line and Vodafone gateway
– makes use of femtoecll technology
– Offloads calls onto broadband network
– Hits your broadband performance?
– Interference with other femto cells?
– 1st July Launch – £160 to buy outright, or for monthly fee as part of a plan

– Safari 4/Firefox 3.5
– Safari 4 is very fast, like Top Sites and Coverflow for history is nice but….
– Ian – crashy, Google Reader failures, can’t connect to local router
– Couldn’t customise toolbar, changes wouldn’t be saved, home/library/preferences and delete com.apple.Safari.plist file. Then it worked.
– Looks like a rushed release.
– Using SAFT to get more out of Safari – http://haoli.dnsalias.com/Saft/
– Firefox 3.5 RC3 out this week, proper release rumoured for this coming week
– Improved speed, support for HTML5, private browsing mode, Location Aware browsing, tear tabs off and move them from one firefox window to another, history – recently closed tabs and windows, downloadable fonts
– http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/video/firefox-3.5.html
– Just hope it’s more stable on Mac

– HTC Hero
– http://www.htc.com/www/product/hero/overview.html
– 3rd android phone
– Looks a bit fugly
– Too many buttons
– Uses own UI called Sense – won’t be available on other android platforms
– T-mobile and Orange in the UK next month, no prices yet
– Teflon coating on the back which is seemingly very good at keeping the phone clean
– Has flash support – love the adverts – take that Apple fanboys

– Michael Jackson/Iran Uprising
– Massive impact on social sites – twitter, facebook, google etc
– News as it happens – BBC relying on twitter and youtube for much of it’s Iran coverage
– How do we know it’s true? Volume doesn’t lead to accuracy
– Jeff Goldblum death for example – http://searchengineland.com/jeff-goldblum-is-not-dead-despite-what-google-says-21588
– MJ music dominates iTunes music downloads
– currently 8 albums in top 10
– Jackson’s death impact:

– Spotify
– planning on introducing 320kbps Ogg Vorbis streaming for subscribed user. Could this be the biggest challenge to the ‘purchase and download’ business model for music? £9.99 a month,

– Quickies
– Zune HD 16/32GB due September
– Tekken 6 wireless arcade joysticks from HORI $150
– http://www.gamecriticsawards.com/winners.html
– Uncharted 2 – best of show
– PlayStation
– Final Fantasy VII on PSN store
– Original Final Fantasy coming
– Zen pinball coming in May
– Firmware 2.8 soon, nothing special

Picks
– DropBox
– XLD – http://tmkk.hp.infoseek.co.jp/xld/index_e.html – Lossless audio decoder for Mac OS X
– (Ogg) FLAC (.flac/.ogg)
– Monkey’s Audio (.ape)
– Wavpack (.wv)
– TTA (.tta)
– Apple Lossless (.m4a) [10.4 and later]
– AIFF, WAV, etc

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.

DigitalOutbox Special Edition – iPhone 3GS

DigitalOutbox Episode 3
In this episode the team discuss the iPhone 3.0 release and also discuss the iPhone 3GS.

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
– iPhone OS 3.0
– Features?
– MMS
– Cut, Copy, Paste
– Spotlight
– Voice record
– Push Notifications
– peer to Peer for gaming
– Landscape keyboards
– Testing – forward, multiple recipients
– Tethering
– In app purchases
– Shake to shuffle
– Youtube – account support
– Note syncing
– Find my iphone
– Media scrubbing: 30 secs repeat
– Speed
– Safari much improved
– Speed
– Autofill (need to enable)

– Verdict?

– iPhone 3G S
– Early thoughts
– Performance
– Camera
– Video
– Compass and Maps
– Voice Control
– Mains adpater

– O2
– Better sales than 3G – more stock surely – http://dnc.o2.co.uk/home/2009/06/iphone-3g-s-o2-launch.html

Picks
– Paper Toss
– Real Racing