Monday, 21 December 2009

My Albums of 2009

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OK, here goes.

Ask me again tomorrow and I'll probably pitch up a different list...

  1. The xx - xx [Spotify]

  2. Fever Ray - Fever Ray [Spotify]

  3. The Unthanks - Here's The Tender Coming [Spotify]

  4. Prefuse 73 - Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian [iTunes]

  5. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport [iTunes]

  6. Tortoise - Beacons Of Ancestorship [iTunes]

  7. Broadcast & The Focus Group - Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age [iTunes]

  8. John Mayer - Battle Studies [Spotify]

  9. Cluster - Qua [Spotify]

  10. nsi - Resident Advisor Podcast 162 [RA]

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Appetite... Part 7

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OK, after a brief intermission I'm back with the Appetite series where I take you through a whistlestop tour of the apps currently residing on my iPhone's homescreen.

Homescreen 7 kicks off with Sky News which serves up news headlines including sports, business, politics, world, etc. You can set it up for alerts, but these are delivered by SMS not as push notifications. Also, there's little in the way of integration with other services such as Twitter, Delicious, etc, but that's hardly surprising given Murdoch's stance on free content. The app includes the latest video snippets for Headlines, Showbiz and Weather, along with a Radio Bulletin. There's also an option for you to upload your own on-the-spot news report direct to the Sky News Room including photographs.

Next up, another Murdoch product. This time the Sky+ app. Interestingly, this wasn't the first Sky + Electronic Programme Guide to hit the app store and not even the first to enable you to log in remotely to record programmes on your box at home. That honour went to TV Plus... more of which later.

This app more accurately replicates the look and feel of the on-screen EPG (actually it looks like the look and feel Sky are currently retiring in favour of a more functionally rich version) but it takes forever to load each slug of programme data, preventing you from skipping quickly through the channels. I have it, but for performance alone I prefer TV Plus despite it's poorer look and feel.

The Skype application is pretty good for when you are out and about and for making calls from abroad when you've managed to find some free wifi. In 3G mode you cannot hold a voice conversation but your can text-chat easily, which is for many people, their preferred method of using Skype.

Spin is an iPhone-friendly version of US based music magazine Spin. It contains a pretty extensive database of reviews which you can search by date, rating or artist. It also carries up to the minute news and is worth dipping into.

Spore Origins is an iPhone friendly version of the game which created a big splash across multiple gaming platforms last year. You create a tiny creature and, as it grows, modify its appearance. As with all games, the more time you invest in it, the more you get out of it. I don't get much out if it ;)

Stanza is an eBook reader which has resided on my phone for ages. It hooks up directly to a wide range of online bookstores enabling you to download for free the usual raft of out-of-copyright tomes (you know, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Jack London's White Fang) as well as pay for newer book releases. I hadn't really bothered with it until I read a review for Cory Doctorow's latest novel 'Makers' and, given his stance on Creative Commons, I thought I'd check it out on Stanza. Apart from really enjoying the book (I'm 43.85% through, fact-fans), Stanza itself is a revelation.

In a world where your can't open a Sunday supplement without some blather about standalone ebook readers such as the Amazon Kindle, I didn't expect a huge amount from Stanza, but actually its a real pleasure to use. The page-turn mechanism is a breeze, you can even fold over the top corner of pages you'd like to refer back to. There is a wide choice of font and backgrounds, along with night time settings and a dimmable screen which is operated by a simple downward swipe on the screen. I'd recommend this app.

Tap Tap Revenge was an early entrant in the Games section of the iPhone app store. A knock-off Guitar Hero, this version has been superceded by a plethora of updated versions. I'm not over-bothered as this app fits into my entertaining-bored-kids category. It'll do.

The Sims 3 is too unwieldy for iPhone in my opinion, plus the early releases of this app were extremely buggy. If I had more time, I'd get more out of this. If I had more time, I wouldn't play it on the iPhone.

Tiltshift is a great app which enables you to monkey with images from your photo library to distort the depth of field and create some really odd effects. This is a full sized Routemaster bus parked outside the British Museum and given the Tiltshift treatment to make it look more like a toy:

Time Crisis is a game I do actually like and play. This version is the old PS2 version where you used a gun instead of a standard controller to aim at the screen and kill bad guys. Of course there's no gun, you jab your finger at the screen instead. It's still lots of fun though.

Goodness knows why I bought Timedock. All it does is plonk a series of sleek looking clock-faces on the screen of your phone instead of the standard homescreen display. Fine, but given that you have to keep the app open to benefit from this, it pretty much disables the rest of your phone whilst you are staring at the clock. If you stand your phone in a cradle by your bed at night you can disable the auto-screen-off function to use this as a kind of alarm clock, but even on its dimmest setting it's still pretty bright and given that you're asleep, it doesn't seem very green does it?

Travelodge lets you find the nearest Travelodge to your location and make a booking. Fine, but I tend to book ahead rather than in the instant I need somewhere to lay my head so the very fact that I can only use my current location rather than enter a city name or postcode renders this app useless. Sorry.

Trism is another multicoloured shape-sliding puzzle game to pass a few minutes on the Tube.

Leonardots is a simple but nicely executed memory game. It's slight, but if you have an empty corner on your homescreen, its worth a look.

Guardian is a weblink to the newspaper's excellent mobile site rather than an official app (although one is strongly rumoured). The site is well designed, but the content which we know and love is syndicated via RSS, Twitter and all the other places I tend to hang out, that I rarely have cause to delve in here. I don't feel too bad about this as it supports the Guardian's view that the best websites are the ones you don't need to visit due to their content being widely available everywhere else (as expounded by The Guardian technology head, Nik Silver, at this year's Agile Business Conference).

Speaking of RSS, the last app on this homescreen, is a back-up RSS reader, there in case my favourite reader (NewsStand) falls over... which it has a habit of doing. This app is not bad, but not the best. Like NewsStand it's integrated with Google Reader. On the whole, it's OK. If it didn't hang onto read items and dribble new and unread articles in between them, I might be tempted to ditch NewsStand for this app, as it performs much more quickly. Until, then though, NewsStand is still the best feedreader on the iPhone in my view.