Monday, February 28, 2011


STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery Launch Photos
February 2011 Final Discovery Mission to ISS @ KSC Visitors Center



Click the image above to see my photos taken during the launch. Wow!

Friday, February 25, 2011



STS-133 Shuttle Discovery Launch



Biggest surprises of the shuttle launch, besides the hours getting back to the hotel, was the brightness of the flames (nearly as intense as a welders torch in person) and the speed. Jumped off the pad and was gone in seconds. The tracking TV cameras with filters make it look pokey on TV. Now we can relax!



Apollo 11 launch in slow motion from NASA...

Thursday, February 24, 2011







Space buffs can blast off with these must-have NASA space exploration/launch apps

With NASA’s long-running space shuttle program winding down in the coming months, interest has peaked in attending one of the last few remaining launches at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

Shuttle Discovery’s final mission (STS-133, its 39th) is scheduled to roar off the launch pad this week (February 24). With a trio of KSC on-site viewing tickets and an ultra-rare parking pass in tow, my family and I will be there to see the historic launch.

These tickets have been burning a hole in our pockets since Discovery’s first launch attempt was scrubbed back in November. But that week of waiting, keeping close tabs on the shuttle and its astronauts, was made easier, and much more fun and informative, with the help of a few iPad/iPhone and Android apps for our mobile devices.

This set of cross-platform titles are a must-have for all serious space buffs, no matter where you’ll be watching these final launches from! (Don't miss high-res scans of the shuttle astronaut photos I collected in the 1980's. Good times.)

The irony isn't lost on me -- Discovery's 39th and final mission, in my 40th year. Been a NASA fan and avid shuttle follower since I was 10. Time flies. GO DISCOVERY!

NASA MOBILE APPS REVIEWED

NASA App HD (iOS)
All current NASA activity updates from their official website and social media channels are just a finger-touch away in this must-have app.

Buzz Aldrin Portal to Science and Space Exploration (iOS)
Look back to the golden years of the space agency, through the eyes, ears, and voice of Astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

GeoSkyWatch Planetarium – The Astronomy Star Guide (iOS)
Simply load this app app, tilt it towards the heavens, and you’re instantly presented with a real-time map of what’s above you. It’s a mobile planetarium, with information spread across your generous iPad screen!

Google Sky Map (Android)
At absolutely no cost, this is every night sky watcher’s dream app. Never be stumped about what’s above you again!

NASA News (Android)
One of several free, vital sources of NASA information while you’re on the go.

Twitter (Both)
Don’t laugh – as a launch viewer (or everyday fan of space exploration) you’ll want to stay glued to one source of information via your cell phone – @NASA’s official Twitter feed. The official Twitter app handles this chore with great aplomb.

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

MOBILE REVIEWS



NASA App HD (FREE)

In the days, weeks, and months leading up to a launch, this app will keep you and your family connected to NASA’s primary communication channels. I used this app to watch regular NASA TV updates on the shuttle launch and its myriad of technical issues. (Hotel and McDonald’s free wifi, be praised!) All current NASA activity updates from their official website and social media channels are just a finger-touch away, along with thousands of images, countdown clocks, International Space Station (ISS) visible pass data and satellite tracking, plus maps and links to every major NASA center are clearly displayed. An all-in-one app that’s a must-have for every space buff.

Buzz Aldrin Portal to Science and Space Exploration ($1.99)

Old school NASA fans (think Mercury and Apollo) will be instantly “wowed” by this app. It’s all about looking back to the golden years of the space agency, through the eyes, ears, and voice of Astronaut Buzz Aldrin. There’s video, photos, personal stories, and full details of every major NASA initiative and program from the early days through 2011 and Obama’s robotic plans for our future in space. Also linked is NASA TV, JPL, and many other important news sources. Don’t miss the collection of must-check Twitter feeds from many space-centric sources. “It is… young people who are the generation that will take mankind’s next steps in exploring the frontiers of space,” said Aldrin in a recent interview. “This app is an amazing tool to both educate and entertain.”

GeoSkyWatch Planetarium – The Astronomy Star Guide ($3.99)

I’m always impressed when I come across an astronomy buff who can head outside at night and instantly point out the planets, constellations, and major stars hovering overhead. With GeoSkyWatch, your iPhone or iPad steps in to fill your knowledge gaps, and turns your phone into a mobile planetarium. Simply load the app, tilt it towards the heavens, and you’re instantly presented with a real-time map of what’s above you. The constellations are clearly drawn in handy stick-figure style, with a faint gray overlay of an artist’s impression. Major stars are labeled, along with dozens of other notable objects. Curious about a specific faint light in the sky? Just center it in the yellow circle. Text will pop up with all the relevant data. Want to go deeper? Tap the “i” button and even more information appears, along with a cross-link to Wikipedia. The icing on the cake? Search for any item in the sky, and the app will return you to the field view and show you how to find it in the sky.

Google Sky Map (Free)

Think of Google Sky Map as the free, stripped down version of GeoSkyWatch Planetarium. As a guide to the current night sky, it’s perfectly suited to small mobile phone screens. And at absolutely no cost, this is every night sky watcher’s dream app. Be sure to turn on the night view to display everything in red on a black background (your eyes will thank you!) Center objects in the red circle and Google will grab the latest data of what’s above for you, or conduct a search then follow the on-screen arrows to find any object, planet, or other bright object currently above you. I find Google’s app to be easier on the arms and eyes than GeoSkyWatch Planetarium, especially for quick viewing on the beach while waiting for NASA to get the shuttle off the pad.

NASA News (Free)

One of several free, vital sources of NASA information while you’re on the go. This free Android app captures the latest updates and news from several sources (including NASA itself), and displays it for easy reading on your DROID’s screen. There’s no bells and whistles here, but if you’re going to a launch with just a phone, this is a must-install app to stay in-the-know as the countdown approaches.

Twitter (Free)

Don’t laugh – you’ll want to stay glued to one source of information via your cell phone: @NASA’s official Twitter feed, which is also available in any browser at http://twitter.com/nasa. The social media crew at the space agency are gaga about Twitter, and you’ll want to tap into their latest updates during the weeks, months, days, and hours before any launch is set to occur. In fact, reading NASA’s tweets inside the official Twitter app on my Android phone was the way my family and I learned of the final November setback (the full scrub of STS-133) as we were heading down the highway from our hotel to Kennedy Space Center. It’s also the way we’ve been keeping tabs on the many meetings, fixes, and rescheduling conferences leading up to this week’s launch. Go, Discovery!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011



Make Your Clock Widget Beta is a must-install for all Droid modders

Platform: Android

RATING
5 out of 5

PRICE
FREE

TASTY
The techies of the techies love to modify their home screens. Finally, a widget that makes it easy to slap a fully personalized clock back where it belongs. Like on stock Droids, out of the box.

BUMMER
Doesn’t let me tweak how fast or slow time passes. I mean, really, shouldn’t that be a standard feature?

COOL
The pre-built templates will give every time fan a big head start in designing the perfect clock for their phone.

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

There are legions of Android owners who take great pride in modifying their Google-powered phones in every conceivable way. I mean, who doesn’t want to root their device to install custom ROMs, over clock their CPU, and save/restore backup images?

Once that new ROM is running your phone, there’s a solid chance your home screen will be missing a key feature: a clock. That’s where Make Your Clock Widget Beta comes in. This small, feature-rich app gives you all the tools you need to create a clock and date display that’s as unique as your modified phone.

Use the controls along the bottom to set the time display parameters, starting with the clock type. You know, Hour (24 Hour Clock): Minute, Hour (12 Hour Clock): Minute, Year, Month, and so on. Once that’s selected, the result can be made larger or smaller, the font changed, its location tweaked, and much more.

But that’s only the beginning. Changing its color, adding drop shadows, tweaking the number type (yes you can display Latin numbers), and fixing its location on the screen is a matter of selecting a few simple controls. You can also mix and match dates and time in the available space, making each element different, and stacking them near or far away from each other.

Thankfully, for those of us with better things to do than tweaking our favorite clock/date display, a big set of predefined templates make it easy to walk through the myriad of options. Just choose the one that’s closest to your ideal display, tweak it, then save it.

If you’re in need of a custom clock app, this fresh beta will be just what the doctor ordered!


Act of War delivers tower defense goodness with an urban warfare twist

This week’s top new game is a tower defense game. Before you say “been there, done that” keep in mind that Act of War is set in an urban defense environment, and its artificial intelligence (AI) for sending the enemies from one side of the map to the other is truly unique and spot-on. Atari, you’ve outdone yourself.

Add a zany zombie-themed traffic control game, plus a lightning-fast rat brawler with a horde of cheese at stake, and there’s many hours of fun to be had. Finally, Bowmaster HD brings a truly immersive archery experience to your iPad. Do you have what it takes to join Robin Hood and the Merry Five?

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

IPAD APPS REVIEWED

Act of War: Urban Defense HD
Finally, a fresh tower defense game with an urban defense theme and an AI that will keep you guessing. Thanks, Atari!

iZombie Traffic
Wannabe traffic stoplight engineers, and fans of interstellar zombies, will find hours of enjoyment in this newcomer.

Fat Rat
Forget about who moved your cheese. In Fat Rat you’ll need to roll your rat to collect the most cheese. Let the multiplayer mayhem begin!

Bowmaster HD
Grab a virtual bow and arrow, don your felt hat, and take on the role of a bowman who’s trying to join the Merry Five in this instant virtual archery classic.

IPAD GAME REVIEWS

Act of War: Urban Defense HD ($2.99)


Tower defense fans, rejoice. Our friends at Atari have just released their newest game, and it’s a solid tower defense game set in the sprawl of the eastern United States. There are legions of enemy tanks, fast-attack Jeeps, helicopters, and stealth baddies doing their best to cross from one side of your cityscape to the other.

As usual, it’s your job to place machine gun bunkers, missile launchers, stealth detection radar sites, and more, all of which will scan for and directly engage the enemy. Unlike other similar titles (Fieldrunners, I’m looking at you) placing turrets won’t always predictably alter the paths of the oncoming units. Sometimes a new turret will cause the baddies to completely avoid the new tower, rendering it useless. Other times, a pair of turrets plopped down in exactly the right spots will get the job done with great prejudice. A visually appealing, top-quality game that every tower defense fan will want to pick up, pronto.

iZombie Traffic ($.99)

Unlike Flight Control or Harbor Master, iZombie Traffic instead puts you in control of an intersection. And instead of crazy drivers trying to beat the yellow lights to get through your four-way stop, you’re in control of letting zombie aliens cross an intergalactic crossroads. Tap the controls to let the backed-up alien craft sail through, or let them back up behind each other to wait their turn. Some ships move faster than others, while some craft outright refuse to obey your commands.

You’ll need to be quick, smart, and focused to make it through each round. Be patient and try a few different approaches before giving up on this gem; it may have shipped without a tutorial, but it isn’t without a serious amount of fun, especially for the younger iPad owners among us.

Fat Rat (FREE)

Who’s up for some family-friendly single, tabletop, or wi-fi multiplayer fun? Fat Rat’s theme is simple. You’re a, well, skinny rat who’s trying his or her best to get rotund. In the single player mode, you do this by tilting your iPad to roll your little self around the top of a barrel, upon which yummy bits of cheese are dropped. The better your balance and rolling skills, the more cheese your eat, and the larger you’ll become.

With four single modes to nosh through (appetizer through to dessert), there’s lots of full-screen action to be had. Next up is the tabletop mode, where up to four players can use an onscreen D-pad to control their players and compete to eat the most cheese in the shortest amount of time. Finally, there’s the local wi-fi multiplayer mode, where you can create a room and battle it out against an opponent using the accelerometer. A fun, kid-friendly game that’s free for a limited time. Go get it!

Bowmaster HD (FREE)

If you’ve played Dead Space for iPad, you know what a truly unique control scheme feels like. And Bowmaster ups the ante in this department. On the surface, it’s a superb archery game, challenging you to hit the distant targets with your arrows using the touchscreen to aim your arrows, control their speed, and finally guide them to their proper destinations.

On a deeper level, the developers at Chrome Gekko have added an additional layer of fun by taking full advantage of the iPad’s multiple control schemes. You tilt your tablet in ever direction to find a target, use your left hand to aim your bow, then choose your arrow type then draw your bow with your right hand. Add a blinking “on target” indicator when you’ve lined up your shot correctly, and a basic AI that will take down targets with one shot if you hit the head area, and you’ve got yourself a free, fun game that pushes the boundaries of fun on the iPad.

Do you have what it takes to join the Merry Five. Have it it, Robin of the Hood!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

P90X Plyometrics | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 199 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)


Find and reserve your next restaurant meal with OpenTable

Platform: Android

RATING
4 out of 5

PRICE
FREE

TASTY
Hungry? OpenTable lets you make confirmed reservations at 15,000 restaurants in the U.S., U.K., Mexico, and Canada, all through the power of your mobile phone.

BUMMER
Despite the current menu of restaurants, there are many times more who are not part of the OpenTable family. Dining points can take some time to make their way into your account.

COOL
Once you’ve booked the perfect place to eat, send your family, friends, or co-workers email invitations, get directions, and even earn redeemable dining points good at any OpenTable restaurant. Yum!

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
TableOnline
Restaurant Finder
ZAGAT TO GO

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

If I wanted to design the perfect mobile app for making restaurant reservations on-the-go, it would allow me to punch in the day and time of my special meal, set the general size of my party, then see a list of nearby establishments fitting the bill on an interactive map.

I could then refine my search by the type of food we wanted to eat, price, reservation time, or by points awarded for eating there. Because, hey, my perfect app would award me redeemable points just for using it, right?

OpenTable, thankfully, has delivered on my dream app. OpenTable makes it super-easy to make confirmed reservations at 15,000 restaurants in the U.S., U.K., Mexico, and Canada, all through the power of your mobile phone. And I wasn’t joking about the points thing. When you book a meal and pay the tab, the restaurant will award you with a set number of points. (No surprise that the higher the cost of your meal, the more points you’ll earn.)

I find the entire app easy to use, and the time to place a reservation and get a confirmation well within acceptable limits (5-10 seconds) once I narrow down my search. The only real challenge I have is the lack of restaurant choices here in my hometown of Raleigh, NC. No doubt if you stick to the big cities you’ll be awash with choices who are plugged into the OpenTable network.

The real power comes in the ability to see current menus (nice!), read diner ratings placed by other OpenTable users, and jump into in-depth reviews. If you register your account, you’ll also be able to manage upcoming reservations, look at your usage history, send invitations to family, friends, and co-workers via email, and start earning those coveted dining rewards points which are good at any OpenTable establishment. Yum!

Monday, February 21, 2011

P90X Chest & Back + Ab Ripper | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 197 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)



Sunday, February 20, 2011



Karoshi is a Japanese salaryman who needs your help... to die?!

Platform: Android

RATING
5 out of 5

PRICE
$1.93

TASTY
A wholly original, brain-bending, over-the-top logic puzzle game with a sincerely dark sense of humor. Can you help Karoshi end it all?

BUMMER
Seriously addictive! Some levels may take some serious time to solve. But it’s all in the name of fun, right? Suck it up, salarymen. Time to die.

COOL
This wacky platformer is really a twisted logic puzzle game at its heart. So when you’re done laughing and enjoying the scenery, you’ll need to time your moves just right to end this depressed guy and his pal’s days.

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

Nondescript Karoshi spends his days behind a desk in a nondescript high-rise, deep in the heart of downtown Tokyo. When he’s not filling out never-ending TPS reports, or ogling the young female co-workers who refuse to give him the time of day, he’s thinking of ways to end his miserable life.

That’s where you come in. The sick, twisted developers at YoYo Games have finally brought this PC sensation to life on the Android platform, and not a moment too soon. If you like dark humor, platform gaming, solving logic puzzles, and assisting virtual avatars seeking to end it all for your amusement, you’ll dig Karoshi (and the satisfying wet popping noise he and his pals make when they begin their journey to the afterlife.)

With 50 increasingly tougher levels to beat, it will take every brain cell and perfectly timed move to get through to the end. Moving just the right elements at the perfect time will be essential to your success.
Best of all, Karoshi wants to take out his co-workers before he pulls the plug. So in many levels you’ll need to find your way to special controls to squish, burn, or electrocute your former overbearing associates, and then find the nearest death trap to touch, jump into, or unleash in your own self.

Tip: In some of the higher levels, you’ll want to burn your co-workers, then move quickly to get hit by the flaming debris. This will kill you after a few seconds, but not before your pal gets what was coming to him.

Of course, the game should be played with your tongue planted firmly in your cheek. Because let’s face it, Japanese (and American) salarymen are a happy, workaday bunch, right? Right.



Bioshock + social media, together at last. Like gum and nuts.


Bill Gates
11 rules your kids did not and will not learn in school...

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world doesn't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Saturday, February 19, 2011



Herman the Hermit jumps to the top of this week’s best iPad games

Our hero Herman has spent years finding inner-peace and learning the ways of Nature high atop the Himalaya Mountains. Now it’s time to put his Jedi-like reflexes to the test in this week’s top iPad game. It’s a platformer that’s custom-made for family fun!

Toss in a turn-the-tables zombie game, an iPad-exclusive Back to the Future romp, and a thoroughly satisfying single-stick bug shooter, and you’ve got yourself a solid set of new games to enjoy in these final days of February.

IPAD APPS REVIEWED

Herman the Hermit
A frenetic, family-friendly game that challenges players to keep Herman jumping from rocky platform to platform. Be one with gavity and secure your place on the leader boards.

Zombie Runaway
Turns the tables on the usual zombie story line, this time putting you in the role of the very last zombie escaping from a human horde. Must, run, faster!

Back to the Future Ep 1 HD
Set a few months after the third movie installment, you’ll take on the role of Marty who, once again, must travel back in time to save Doc Brown. Its your density to grab this app!

Bug Wars
Do you have what it takes to protect your friends from the alien bugs? This super-fun single-stick shooter is this week’s must-buy.

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

IPAD REVIEWS

Herman the Hermit ($.99)

It’s not easy to find truly family-friendly games in the App Store, unless you’re really into board games. Capcom, thankfully, came through this week with Herman the Hermit, a fresh game that challenges players of all ages to keep Herman jumping nimbly between quick-moving rocky, levitating platforms. Borrowing its controls from Angry Birds, you’ll need to set his jump angles and distances by pressing down in the middle of the screen and setting the direction by dragging your finger. The best part? Herman tends to miss a platform now and again. No worries – his walking stick doubles as a helicopter blade, bringing him out of the clouds and back into view. Be sure to grab the rocket and teleport power ups along the way to speed Herman to his goal – peace, becoming one with Nature, and climbing the high score leader boards.

Zombie Runaway ($.99)

Com2us take the tried-and-true zombie game formula and stands it on its head in this rush n’ run game. Taking on the role of the last surviving zombie, you’ll need to boogie on out of the cemetery as fast as your festering, fleet feet can ferry you. You’re locked on the only path out, and you’ll need to move between three lanes forward, jumping over tombstones and gathering speed and power-ups along the way. The more tombstones you crush when powered-up, the more time the game puts on the clock. How far can you get? Post your best score to Facebook, compare your romps with friends, and more. When the standard game gets tired (and it will), be sure to jump into Blitz mode to speed things up!

Back to the Future Ep 1 HD ($6.99)

It’s time to dust off that Delorean and join Marty and Doc Brown on an all-new, iPad-exclusive adventure. Spanning five full episodes, and with a story set a few short months after the third movie, you’ll take on the role of Marty who, once again, must travel back in time to save Doc Brown. With Steven Spielberg executive producing the series, Christopher Lloyd reprising his role as the voice of Doc, and a unique, cartoonish-take on the central storyline, there’s a lot to like about Telltale’s newest offering. The app is true to the spirit of the movie franchise, with just the right amount of humor, crazy escapes, and 80’s era tech to please long-time fans. You’ll encounter a range of puzzles along the way, each downright easy to solve. (If you have kids trying to play along, you’ll be glad they’re not super-hard!) That said, the tale tends to roll out slowly, and without much peril (timeline-changing wise with your one-of-a-kind car) should you fail. Still, every serious BTF fan won’t want to miss this fresh addition to the cannon, with four more episodes to look forward throughout the year.

Bug Wars ($1.99)

Do you have what it takes to protect your human friends from a never-ending horde of alien bugs? This super-fun single-stick shooter is short on story, but long on fun. (And it’s my pick for this week’s must-have game.) While your human target aimlessly walks around an open field, aliens converge on them from all sides. Use the on-screen joystick to train your weapon on the baddies, then blast away! Land a solid shot and you’re rewarded with some serious splash damage. Use your finger to pick up the cash your wayward client drops to say “thanks” after each wave, and do your best to ignore their gyrating hips and silly dance at the end of each full level. (Shudder!)



Fallout 3, how much do we like thee?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Looking for citable, credible information to power serious research?



Online databases (from ProQuest) are available at a library near you. Here's a Michigan student who "gets it..."


P90X Legs & Back | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 200 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Wall squats. I love 'em -- perfect start to a very, very busy Friday at ProQuest.


PES 2011 delivers hours of footy fun on-the-go for high-end Droid owners

Platform: Android

RATING
3 out of 5

PRICE
$6.78

TASTY
The only realistic, truly “deep” soccer experience to be had on your Android device. In a class all by itself!

BUMMER
Be sure to check the tech requirements before attempting to install this beast. PES 2011 only runs on the very latest, most powerful Android devices. If you own an original Droid dating back even 4-6 months, you’ll be out of luck. Can only be purchased through a PC Web browser; unable to find the app using phone-based marketplace apps at time of review.

COOL
Includes access to UEFA Club competitions, featuring the very best European club teams, and an unrivaled True Flow control system to make it easy to get into the action with a very small learning curve for new players.

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
Football FreeKick (soccer)
Soccer Superstars
Soccer
Button Football (Soccer)

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

As an early adopter of the Android platform, it’s hard not to be disappointed when a stellar title like PES 2011 Pro Evolution Soccer comes along, only to discover that it’s only playable by owners of the very latest hardware.

After some serious begging, I was able to get a friend to loan me his Evo long enough to play and review the app, but was disappointed knowing that this will preclude hundreds of thousands of our readers from getting to experience the app.

Those serious concerns aside, PES 2011 is without a doubt one of the very best games available in the Android Marketplace today. The character models are spot-on, the soccer fields are immaculately rendered, and the action is intense from start to finish. Anyone with a serious soccer addiction, right on down to a mom or dad with a child in a youth soccer league, will find the app to be immediately playable, and instantly addictive.

It’s clear that the developers at Konami spent a serious amount of time programming and perfecting the built-in True Flow control system. It takes full advantage of your device’s accelerometer and AI-assisted touch controls.

It’s easier than ever to jump from player to player, make your way up and down the field, kick the ball towards another player or the goal, all without a lengthy learning curve.

And once you’re ready to go beyond these “easy” controls, you can easily swap in an on-screen D-pad and other play buttons. No matter which control scheme you choose, the mini-map of the field at the bottom center of the screen will help you see where your players are at any given time, and a quick glance may mean the difference between passing for an easy goal or soloing a failed goal attempt.

For serious fans, PES 2011 also includes access to UEFA Club competitions, featuring the very best European club teams. Throw in dyamic crowd sound effects, spot-on opponent AI, and a screen-filling experience, and you’ve got yourself a must-have game for every high-end Android owner.

Thursday, February 17, 2011



TweetCaster adds speech bubbles, multiple accounts, and more to your professional Twitter experience

Platform: Android

RATING
4 out of 5

PRICE
FREE

TASTY
Takes your mobile Twitter experience from boring to brilliant, introducing many graphical tweaks and a heap of must-have features critical to power users of social media channels worldwide.

BUMMER
Ad-supported in its free version; $4.99 to get the Pro version to drop the ads and make things easier to read and manage. Some added features (balloons) make tweets harder to read, and the app overall seems nimble but takes a serious amount of system resources to keep itself running.

COOL
Any Twitter app can display your feed, let you update your status, and follow your friends. TweetCaster (finally!) lets you manage multiple accounts, embeds a URL-shortening service, makes it easy to attach a photo, and much more.

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
Twitter
TWIDROYD for Twitter
TweetDeck
HootSuite
Seesmic
Touiteur

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

Truth be told, I’ve long used the official Twitter app to read, manage, and post to my @tmclain Twitter account when I’m out and about. The interface is super-clean, the functionality is equally vanilla, and the app just plain works. The tweets themselves take center stage, with the full width of my screen taken up with each 140-charcter-or-less missive.

For many power users with multiple accounts and bigger content-generation needs, however, TweetCaster is a very necessary upgrade. Whether in its free, ad-supported iteration, or its $4.99 ad-free “Pro” version, TweetCaster stands alone in the feature-rich category of Twitter clients.

First up is multiple account support. If you’re a social media professional, you no doubt have several Twitter feeds in need of monitoring, posting, and following. TweetCaster makes it easy to set up the accounts in a single place. There are also a number of themes available to skin the app to your liking, and when posting tweets a host of integrated tools are just a finger-press away: geotagging, URL shortening, attach a picture, and simultaneous posting to Twitter and Facebook.

The most unique feature of the app comes into play when viewing tweets. Each is displayed as a color-coded speech bubble. Your tweets appear in green, while any mentions of your account show up in pink. This makes sorting through your masses of tweets a bit easier, but the bubbles themselves take up just enough screen real estate to make each entry that much less likely to fit in the allotted space.

Also available is the ability to set up and review Twitter trends, custom lists, and saved searches. If you’re like me, and you commonly search for one or two keywords day in and out, saving these common terms is a godsend.

The icing on the cake? You can click a button to see all nearby Twitter traffic in real-time based on your exact location (or an entered Zip Code). This is particularly useful on a trade show floor, at an outdoor event, or even during times of crisis. (Egypt and Algeria, I’m looking your way.)
P90X Yoga X | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 197 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Sore back? Yoga it is... Ahhhh. I mean, Oooommm...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011



ProQuest Social Media

Working away on our new Facebook and Twitter outreach efforts, major content planning underway, lots to come in March.

Spending more time on these critical channels, and with our support teams empowered to step in (in near real-time) we're already seeing results as we move from our first phase into a solid effort in Q1.



Social Media Manager: Infographic
Hint: Always-on, active engagement with customers is what I live for!



Deep dungeon crawler Oubliette is a must-play for serious gamers

Platform: Android

RATING
4 out of 5

PRICE
FREE

TASTY
Real fans of dungeon crawlers with some serious time on their hands will find Oubliette to be an exquisite, team-based challenge.

BUMMER
Too much of a challenge for casual gamers who tend to give up after a few party wipes. Players who enjoy a real challenge, don’t give up easily, and relish a chance to put some real strategies to the test will be generously rewarded with a very long, deep, multiplayer experience. Need to purchase the $3.99 full version to get the most out of the app. (And .99 for 20 temporal gems will also make the game less frustrating.)

COOL
Special temporal gems let your party “save” a given time and place, so if the enemy hordes get the best of your group it’s a snap to turn back the clock and try again. (Thanks, GabySoft!)

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
Dungeon Quest
Star Traders RPG Elite
Dungeon Defenders: First Wave
Majesty: Fantasy Kingdom Sim

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

As a teenager, Dungeon’s & Dragons was definitely a fun time-sink for my friends and I. We’d spend hours planning, then running dungeon crawls, which tended to end in our untimely deaths more often than not. But with our heads held high, we roll new characters and figure out how to work our away around the monsters, traps, and other obstacles that stood in our way.

If you’re an Android owners with a serious sweet tooth for deep, multi-hour, multiplayer dungeon exploration that requires the same level of commitment to research, character creation, and multiple raids to tackle each location, then Oubliette is right up your alley.

A quick review of user comments and two hours of personal playtime out of the way, I can honestly say that this app will pose too much of a challenge for casual gamers who tend to give up after a few party wipes.

That said, players who enjoy a real challenge, don’t give up easily, and relish a chance to put some real strategies to the test will be generously rewarded with a very long, deep, multiplayer experience. Spending some time with the free version will help you see whether you’re up to this challenge, with a quick $3.99 purchase empowering you to get the most out of the app.

I also recommend picking up the wholly optional .99 download that drops 20 temporal gems into your inventory. These pink wonders let your raid party “save” at a given time and place, so if the enemy hordes get the best of your group while deep underground it’s a snap to turn back the clock and try again.

Gameplay is less first-person shooter, and more fantasy strategy in execution. You’ll need to team up with nine other players to form a full raid party to successfully explore many dungeons and get out alive. Your skills meld with the others to help you overcome the groups of vampires, trolls, orcs, and dragons that lie in wait. These baddies tend to hunt you in packs, so expect ambushes!

With eight player races available along with a small set of available occupations, your orc, elf, swarf, or kobold can become a ninja, paladin, ranger, sage, fighter, mage, or other class depending on how you allot your limited attributes. Plan well, and you’ll quickly amass better armor, spells, and skills, which will help you progress to tougher dungeons more quickly. Rush into battle and you’ll be wiped mercilessly.

Real fans of dungeon crawlers with some serious time on their hands will find Oubliette to be an exquisite, team-based challenge.
P90X Chest, Shoulders, Triceps | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 199 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Somehow managed to crack my left foot open, then dropped a push up stand on my big toe about 1/2 way through this monster. Ouch. Made it through, tacked on some ab work, feeling good!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011



Annexula brings addictive Zergling-rush gaming to the masses in our iPad Games of the Week

Starcraft holds a special place in gamer’s hearts. The Zerg are but one of several races battling it out in this classic, a race of purely organic, icky aliens who spread like a living carpet over any landscape.

Annexula perfectly captures this gaming vibe, applying the game mechanics of a tower defense app to a mysterious island populated with living “organisms” sporting icky, magical qualities. This week also delivers a spot-on Zelda clone from Gameloft, a Ninjump-inspired fantasy platform jumper, and a robot war-themed single-stick shooter.

IPAD APPS REVIEWED

Annexula
What do you get when you apply the game mechanics of a tower defense app to a mysterious island populated with live “organisms” sporting icky, magical qualities? Annexula, of course.

Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden HD
Fans of action adventure games (think Legend of Zelda) will dig Gameloft’s newest offering. Hop on a horse, slay some orcs, seek a grail, and save your kingdom!

Wharr: The Colossus Age
If you can get past the broken English in the menus, there’s a challenging platform jumper waiting to be enjoyed inside Wharr, with some seriously mean bosses to take down along the way.

BattleNoidz HD
This week’s dollar-menu arcade side scroller puts you in command of an army of robots tracking down the last remaining power sources in the galaxy. You’ll have to move quickly, or it’s game over.

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

NEW IPAD GAME REVIEWS

Annexula ($4.99)

Starcraft fans, take note. Annexula could easily be described as a Zerg-inspired tower defense game. You’re plopped down on a planet covered in sticky, organic “ground” that’s populated with living trees, beating-heart blobs, hungry ground-traps, and more. Your goal is to deploy, upgrade, and properly place a series of living towers to attack and destroy a train of spiders, ants, and other creatures traversing this living, breathing landscape. As the game progresses, you’ll need to take some serious time to plan your placements, upgrade them, and add hungry traps to snare the beasts. Thankfully, you’ll get a glimpse of the kinds of creatures that are about to make a run for it, and with a timer ticking down, so long as you survive for a set amount of time, it matters not if 10-20 enemies remain on the board when the counter reads zero. It all adds up to pricey, yet trippy, “icky” take on a popular genre that’s worth playing.

Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden HD (FREE)

Our friends at Gameloft have landed quite the bombshell in the App Store. Sacred Odyssey is both an in-your-face, Legend of Zelda-inspired action adventure game, and a “free” Trojan horse that’s designed to lead you through a tutorial then find your wallet, open it wide, and snag a quick $6.99. Still, this free introduction is enough to get a taste of the top-quality gaming experience that awaits just beyond your in-app purchase. You fill the role of our hero, young Ayden, hopping on the back of a magical steed to ride across the realm of Lasgalen, taking on quests, slaying orcs, crawling through dungeons, talking to magical trees, and seeking magical grails. While the voice acting is notably good, the overall story tends to swing widly from standard fantasy-speak to modern, tongue-in-cheek game references. That said, there are many hours of solid game play waiting for paying customers looking for a Zelda-like horse-riding, button-mashing experience on their tablets.

Wharr: The Colossus Age ($.99)

My son is addicted to Ninjump, a simple mobile game that challenges you to keep a ninja jumping ever-higher by leaping from highrise to highrise, avoiding obstacles along the way. Wharr offers a very similar experience, this time turning our hero into a fantasy warrior, and using our iPad’s accelerometer to help our hero successfully jump from platform to platform by tilting our device left and right. The wrinkle? There’s a series of bosses waiting at the top of each level, and as we rise, he reaches out to try to grab us, blocking our view in the process. This graphical layering of the boss lurking in the background (roar!), our hero in the middle jumping nimbly higher and higher, with the boss’s grasping hand coming into view every so often adds up a truly unique, sometimes frustrating experience. But what would victory be without a serious challenge?

BattleNoidz HD ($.99)

Robots and war, they go together like chocolate and peanut butter. In this little $.99 app confection, your purpose is clear: Collect the last remaining power crystals fast enough to keep your army up and running before your enemy gets to them first. You’ll take command of a small fighting craft outfitted with a runner bot, which you can land on the surface to grab up to four energy triangles at a time. The sources stream up to your ship, and trail behind. Run them back to your mother ship, hit the glowing trap to unload, then head back to the surface. Along the way you’ll meet up with enemy robots, SAM sites, and more. Don’t dawdle – the faster you go, the less likely you’ll fail. The graphics are above average, and the action can get pretty intense at times. Keep moving!
P90X Plyometrics | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 199 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Monday, February 14, 2011

P90X Shoulders & Arms | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 197 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Biceps. Shoulders. Triceps. Yea, I got 'em. Thanks, Tony!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

P90X Chest & Back + Ab Ripper | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 197 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Back from ProQuest three-day visit. Lots of social media/marketing plans set into motion and in the planning stages, and was an enjoyable week off from the ol' workouts.

Back in it ripe and early today, did a 1/2 Chest/Back workout to ease myself back into the routine. Will do a light cardio tomorrow, then hit things hard on Monday.

Lots to do -- good to be home!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sharpen your visual acuity with Tap Crazy Free

Platform: Android

RATING
4 out of 5

PRICE
FREE

TASTY
Have a minute? This app will have you popping never-ending waves of balls cascading down your phone’s screen.

BUMMER
Only a demo version of the real game, which offers more levels and is available for a mere $.99 in the Marketplace.

COOL
Get a call? The game auto-pauses. Only have a minute to play? Your progress is auto-saved by each wave completed. These guys thought of everything!

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
Bubble Tap
BubbleTap
Beach Tap
Tap King

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

Playing games on any electronic device tends to help the player improve their hand-eye coordination. Studies prove it, and kids use it to justify their addictions daily. Tap Crazy Free, besides being a free introduction to the full-blown $.99 version of the game, delivers on the promise to boost your visual acuity. No joke.



The concept is simple. Hover your finger over the screen and prepare to press. Red balls will roll up your screen – quick, pop them like the zits of your teenage years! Green balls will roll down the game field – leave them be if you know what’s good for you and your high score.

Once you think you’ve got the hang of things, more balls come into view. Yellow balls are much faster than their red partners, and they take out your green friends as they ascend. Take them out!
Armored balls are just red baddies with a hard candy shell. You’ll need to pound away to peel off their protection, then pop their meaty innards. Purple balls multiply like frisky rabbits when pressed; get them fast or you’re in for trouble.

Finally, the pink balls are packing teleportation devices. When pressed, they swap places with your green friends. Keep pressing and avoid friendly fire as best you can.

The best part? The game auto-pauses when you get a call. Only have a minute to play? Your progress is auto-saved by each wave completed. These guys thought of everything! And once you finish this quick tutorial version, you’ll be hard pressed not to unlock the full version.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Majesty puts your mobile fantasy kingdom ruling skills to the ultimate test

Platform: Android

RATING
4 out of 5

PRICE
$3.20

TASTY
Successfully remakes the 2000 real time strategy (RTS) monster PC hit on the Android platform, garnering an instant cult following of Droid owners who’ve been waiting for a solid mobile RTS.

BUMMER
Many players power through the content in a few short days. (Here’s hoping new levels arrive in a near-future update at least.) The port is missing skirmish and open-build sandbox modes, randomized maps, and multiple difficulty settings.

COOL
Me, given control of a humble little fantasy kingdom? One I can fit in my pocket? Yes, please!

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
Kingdoms Live
Dungeon Defensers: First Wave
Haypi Kingdom



Back in the olden days, ‘round about 2000, a fresh fantasy kingdom sim made it way onto PC’s running Windows and Mac. The good developers at Cyberlore Studios successfully combined elements of the Civilization series with traditional role playing and real time strategy titles, putting the player in control of a fantasy kingdom in desperate need of a capable leader.

Majesty for the Android platform is a successful remake of this decade-old title, bringing a full set of 16 missions to our RTS-lacking devices. You start with a humble castle and some soldier’s who are itching to take out the local rat population.

The missions quickly escalate, pitting you and your vassals against a litany of monsters and dangerous enemies. You’ll also be tasked with investigating nearby locales, keep a close eye on your kingdom’s coffers, manage your scientists working hard to develop the next big thing, and solve a growing number of just plain odd issues. (At one point your gold holdings turn into… cookies!? God forbid if they have nuts in ‘em!)

You’ll need to offer your followers generous rewards before they’ll do their bidding. After all, your resident dwarves, elves, wizards, barbarians, and plain-old warriors have lives of their own. As each complete your missions, they’ll increase their effectiveness and skill levels, spend cash on new weapons and other load-outs, and even grab fresh spells to cast on their next outing.

Once the game really gets going it’s nearly time for it to end. Many players power through all 16 offered levels in a few short days. (Here’s hoping new levels arrive in a near-future update at least.)

The app is missing skirmish and open-build sandbox modes, randomized maps, and multiple difficulty settings, which shipped with the original game. Again, we’re hoping the dev’s are watching and will slowly bring these much-needed add-ons to this stellar title ASAP.

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.



Monday, February 07, 2011



Take the pain out of filing your taxes electronically with Intuit’s TurboTax SnapTax

Platform: Android

RATING
3 out of 5

PRICE
FREE (With a catch...)

TASTY
Free app that makes filing your taxes a snap, through the power of your phone’s camera and keyboard.

BUMMER
App is only useful to a very specific set of tax filers. If you have any deductions, children, or own a home, this app isn’t for you. Once you’ve entered your data, you’ll need to pay $14.99 for the TurboTax SnapTax Filing Key in order to transmit your file to your state and the federal government.

COOL
Entering information from your W-2 form can be accomplished by taking a picture of your document. The app does the rest!

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
Tax Central
TaxBook US 2010
Tax Receipt
Income Tax Approximation Lite



It’s true folks, there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. The good folks at Intuit have been tirelessly addressing at least one of these existential crises for years now, and Android owners can now use the power of their mobile devices to greatly speed up the state and national tax filing process.

TurboTax SnapTax is a free app that brings some much-needed speed and ease to doing your taxes.

Get out that W2, snap a photo of it with your phone, and the app goes to work filling in the appropriate fields in your returns. Next, the program asks you a few simple questions, allows you to fill in your personal information (full name, address, social security number, occupation, etc.), then lets you review the results prior to sending it in.

That said, SnapTax is useful to only a very specific set of tax filers. If you don’t have any children, deductions, mortgage interest to write off, and only derive your income from W-2’s, interest, or unemployment compensation, you’ll be all set.

And once you’ve entered your data, you’ll need to pay $14.99 for the TurboTax SnapTax Filing Key in order to transmit your file to your state and the federal government.

Still, this free app is up front and clear in what it can and can’t do for you. If you answer a question that means your return goes beyond the run of the mill, the app will tell you so. In the future, here’s hoping Intuit or its arch nemesis H&R Block (see their Tax Central app) will soon create updated tax filing apps that can address more complicated returns.

One last tip? Since you can’t move the app to your SD card, be sure to delete it once you’re done filing your returns to save space. That’s economizing!

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.


Wend your way across a hostile paper landscape in this week’s top iPad game

I’m a sucker for an artistically rendered gaming environment. Ever since first playing Yoshi’s Island on the SNES back in the day, to the recent Super Paper Mario for Wii, there’s something unique, engaging and downright fun when you get the chance to explore a well-drawn, bright gaming environment that’s rendered in a wholly artistic manner.

Cardboard Castle HD raises the bar in the art department on the iPad, while offering a truly unique level of interaction with the obstacles that are dropped in the path of your errant knight. So grab your scissors, use the power of a paper sun to dry up the landscape, and more in this pitch-perfect iPad exclusive.

This week also sees the debut of an over-the-top sniper app that won’t cost you a dime, plus a dual-stick arena shooter from the good folks at Chillingo. Tack on a free off-road driving experience and you’ve got yourself my list of this week’s iPad games of the week.

IPAD APPS REVIEWED

Cardboard Castle HD
Calling all heros! Medieval knights are needed to save damsels, rescue orphans, and take out dragons. Sure you’ll be made out of paper, but don’t fold: this is one iPad adventure worth exploring.

Arcade 3D Super Sniper 2 HD FREE
The city has been taken over by a band of terrorists. Quick, grab your sniper rifle and head for the nearest open window. A free gore fest for iPad shooter fans.

Etolis: Arena
A dual stick shooter that pits you against waves and waves of an alien queen’s deadly forces. Can you survive the onslaught?

Alpine Crawler Desert HD
Frustrated SUV owners who wish they could go off-road with their expensive toys will finally find an outlet for their frustrations in this week’s freebie driving game.

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

IPAD GAME REVIEWS



Cardboard Castle HD ($.99)

“Behold our noble hero traversing vast cut-out landscapes of paper and card in search of derring-do.” This begins an epic journey boasting art every bit as bright and whimsical as you may recall from Super Paper Mario or Yoshi’s Island. Your little knight is on a quest to build a storied reputation, and he needs your help to clear his way. That might involve grabbing some plain black scissors to cut down a tree, which can then be used to build a bridge for him to cross. You may also grab a cup of water to turn an enemy solider into paper mush, which you can also drop into a gorge to fill it. Tapping the sun turns the mess into a land bridge which you can cross. And so goes your journey. With three epic quests at launch, lots of enemies to wipe out, and even some interesting allies to win over, there’s lots to enjoy in this worthwhile iPad exclusive.

Arcade 3D Super Sniper 2 HD FREE (FREE)

“Boom, headshot!” If that’s your idea of the perfect first person shooter, then this ad-supported shooter is right up your alley. Despite the poorly-rendered 2D environment, and the in-your-face ads, there is a fun game buried under these minor drawbacks. The touch controls are responsive, while switching to tilt mode made things even snappier. You know the drill: Focus on the windows of the buildings near at hand, find the snipers, and take them out with extreme prejudice. Heads generally explode in a bloody mess, and the slower you are in acquiring targets the more citizens below are subject to gunfire. Throw in a generous helping of C4, attack gunships, suicide bombers, and a legion of hidden agents, and Jacksonville is just a heartbeat from total destruction. Get to it, solider!

Etolis: Arena ($1.99)

Leave it to Chillingo to cook up an action-packed, dual-stick shooter that’s instantly familiar and downright fun. You’ve been captured by an evil alien queen, and it will take guns (lots and lots of guns) along with a little luck to plow your way through her nearly limitless legions of enemy forces. There’s a mountain of weapons to unlock and upgrade, including explosive mines, plasma weapons, and rocket launchers galore. Add in three additional game modes (dronez, rockets, and hammers), and you’ll be blasting away for many weeks to come. Try playing with the dynamic camera on and off to see which works best for your play style. (In my case, ditching it was the best way to go.) Work your way up the Game Center and Crystal leader boards, collect every power up you encounter, and watch as each achievement comes and goes. Let’s hope for some graphical improvements in the next update, but overall, this is a worthy addition to any gamer’s collection.

Alpine Crawler Desert HD (FREE)

Frustrated SUV owners who wish they could go off-road with their expensive toys will finally find an outlet for their frustrations in this week’s freebie driving game. You’re in the desert with an enormous trash truck and a battle-hardened Hummer at your disposal. Hope in the driver’s seat and make your away across six challenging levels that get harder and harder over time. You’ll need to keep your eye on the upcoming terrain map to break and accelerate at the right moments. The physics engine is realistic enough to mimic off-road conditions, while nasty inclines and steep ravines will stop you cold or give you plenty of leeway to crush your cab. For nary a cent, this is one little app that will take the edge off any commute, plane ride, or layover as you flee the latest winter storm.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Christina Aguilera Apologizes For Super Bowl National Anthem Flub

Pack 218 Pinewood Derby
Great racing in the heart of Cary, NC!




Simulate life, hunting, flying and fishing in our collection of the top Android simulation apps



If you’re like me, you’ve got at least one high-tech flight stick gathering dust in a closet somewhere. (I think I have three.) Flight sims have been one of the longest-running genres of “games” around, starting back in the Commodore days of the 1970’s. Today’s professional pilots and hardcore gamers alike have access to numerous top-quality sims for PCs and consoles, pricey joystick not required.

X-Plane 9 from Lanier Research lets us take the best flight sim experience with us on the go. Did I mention real-life pilots can log flight hours for their FAA certification by playing this app on their phones? (Yes, it’s that good.)

Speaking of simulations, this collection of the top sim apps for Android wouldn’t be complete with a real-life replacement game (yes, it’s the Sims!), plus a pair of outdoorsy sims that will help cure your cabin fever by letting you hunt deer and catch fish all from the comfort from your couch or office chair.

ANDROID APPS REVIEWED

The Sims 3
Fans of the console series will feel right at home in this cartoonish real-life simulation.

Deer Hunter 3D
Too cold to hunt outdoors? Grab your phone! This hunting sim goes far beyond “point and shoot” mechanics, adding trophies, achievements, skill points, and more.

X-Plane 9
What do you get when you combine FAA-certified flight simulation with your Android device? Why mobile flight sim perfection, of course. (At a cost.)

Fishing 2 Go
Winter is the perfect time to go fishing, from the comfort of your couch or office chair of course. Ignore the snow out the window and reel in some huge trout or bass in this realistic fishing sim.

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

DROID APP REVIEWS

The Sims 3 ($4.99)

Bored with life? The Sims have long given frustrated gamers the chance to create an alternate, simulated life inside their consoles. Now EA brings this ever-popular franchise to the mobile market with The Sims 3. Right from the character creation screen, you know you’re in for some serious fun. Make your character a near-match for your real-life self (boring!) or go for that rocker, more attractive, or intensely outgoing guy or gal you always wish you could be. Once inside the game, you’ll need to keep your digital avatar alive and out of trouble, while following a “Story Progression” to give your sim a chance to land a perfect job, find a wife, learn to be a parent, and more. The built-in “wish” system replaces the old “wants and fears” module in previous games, giving you boosts to your lifetime happiness score over time. The higher your score, the more rewards you can buy. Although you’re limited to living in one neighborhood, Sims fans will feel right at home in this mobile version.


Deer Hunter 3D ($4.99, Free Demo Available)

Deer Hunter 3D does away with the real-world guns, ammo, camo gear, fuzzy orange hats, long underwear, and all the rest, and lets both real-world and virtual hunting enthusiasts take down game animals with a finger-press on your phone. Start by adding skill points to your character (accuracy, reflexes, endurance, tracking), select your weapon, and head out to an available hunting range. Headshots are preferred, and are rewarded with extra points. As you progress, additional types of animals and new locations are unlocked, and just like the Xbox 360 special achievements can be earned along the way. (Achievement Unlocked: Clean Kills. No injured animals for the whole day.) In addition, new firearms are made available as you go along. The shooting process is clean and clear. First, move your finger around the map until an animal is sighted. Once the view pops up your shooter will get into position, allowing you to target, then zoom into the animal. Take the shot, and see the results. Moms and Dads, take heart. There’s no blood visible here. And the animations of the animals falling to ground are just cartoony enough to keep things tasteful. If you’re on the hunt for a mobile game that simulates the thrill of the hunt, Deer Hunter 3G is a must-have game for your DROID.

X-Plane 9 ($9.99)

Flight sims have been around since the dawn of the personal computer age. X-Plane 9 shows us just how far this ever-popular “gaming” genre has come, giving Android users access to a fully-approved FAA flight simulation application that’s considered just as good as real-world flying for pilots looking to log flight time to keep up their licenses. The app gets you right into the action, swiping the left side of the screen to increase the throttle, and using your phone’s accelerometer to tilt your plane’s wings left and right to execute turns. Tilt your phone towards you to pull up on the stick, or away from you to angle downwards. The sound effects are spot-on, the scenery is light years ahead of the competition (Microsoft, I’m looking at you), and switching between camera views is a snap. Be sure to check the app stats to be sure your phone is compatible. At $10, this is a pricey app for sure, but all serious flight sim fans will find nothing but hours and hours of flying bliss in this top-quality offering from Lanier Research.

Fishin' 2 Go ($2.25)

Ice fishing not your thing? Dreaming of warm summer days, out in your boat on some crystal-clear water? Fishin’ 2 Go is here to cure your cabin fever, and not a moment too soon. After firing up this godsend, you’re confronted with photorealistic images of real-life lakes. Choose your lure and bait, and it’s time to get it wet. To cast your line, hold your finger down on the screen, tilt your phone back as if you’re getting ready to cast, then move your arm forward to send your line flying into the water. To reel in your line, drag your finger across the screen until you get a bite. Tire the fish and keep your line taughtness out of the red, and you’ll bring home quite the catch. With multiple waterways to choose from, realistic sounds and water effects, and tons of gear choices to make, now you don’t even have to leave your snowbound home (or office) to do a little fishing.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Leap Sheep! for Android is simple, fun, and anything but sleep-inducing



RATING
5 out of 5

PRICE
FREE

TASTY
Leap Sheep! reminds us that a game can be simple and incredibly fun at the same time. Can you get all of your fluffly little friends over the fence? Of course you can.

BUMMER
The longer you play, the harder it gets. Don’t let your sheep stack up, or it’s game over!

COOL
The background of the game changes based on the time of day you’re playing the game. So, yes, this app could certainly help you count sheep to go to sleep… Zzzzzz…

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.

Ever count sheep jumping lazily over a long fence to get to sleep at night? Leap Sheep! takes this idea, adds some flourishes, and delivers a simple, incredibly fun gaming experience to your Android phone.

As you’d expect, you’re presented with a long fence stretching across the middle of a meadow stretching off into the distance. Suddenly, a lone sheep breaks into your field of view from the left. As she approaches the fence, tap your screen to make her jump over. Ahhh… Nice!

But it gets better. When she’s in mid-air, tap her again to make her do a flip or another trick. Bonus points! A few seconds later, two more sheep appear. Then three, then four at the same time. Now it’s getting interesting. Which will you click first, and how many tricks can you stack in a row to get a massive multiplier?

Miss one, and the little guy will stop against your fence. Miss another, and you’ll have two stacked against each other like a fluffy traffic jam. To clear these mistakes, you’ll need to click the ram icons down the left side of the screen to send “wrecking balls with horns” to clear the way. (If you think it’s identical to the lawn mowers or pool cleaners in Plants vs. Zombies, you’d be right.)

Be sure to enable the OpenFeint leader boards so you can compete against your friends and the entire Leap Sheep community for the top score. On top of that, a full 44 special awards and achievements await you. With names like Most Tricks, Longest Game, Leap Streak, and High Score, you’ll want to earn them all.

My favorite feature? The background of the game changes based on the time of day you’re playing the game. It’s a pleasant meadow by day, and a moonlit field complete with crickets and owl sounds at night.

So, yes, this app could certainly help you count sheep to go to sleep at night… Zzzzzz…