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Ever like to listen in on a police pullover right near your house? The cops are parked in your neighbor’s driveway and your curiosity really starts setting in. Or you see an ambulance in the distance and you say to yourself, “I wonder what’s going on over there?” Admit it, you’ve done it as much as I have. If you’re like me, you don’t have one of those fancy, expensive scanners that picks up the world, but you’d sure like to have one. There are numerous fire/police/EMS scanner apps available through the iTunes stores, but 5-0 Radio Pro Scanner really fits the bill.
The opening screen nicely lays your options out for you. You can browse the scanner feeds, scroll through the top 100 feeds, along with several other options for regular radio feeds. The feeds you have access to are global, from the US to Canada, Australia to the UK, some 35,000 in all. Select your country, then select a state or region/province. Let’s say you’re living in Kentucky (just go with it) and you hear of something huge happening in New York. Or you hear about a car chase in California (Home of the High Speed Persuit). It’s a couple of easy screen taps to get to the police or fire department where all the action’s at. The screen itself for each feed mimics a scanner, with the name of the feed, amount of time you’ve been listening, the size of the stream, and the amount of listeners. There’s also a code guide that fills you in on what the various codes mean, that way you’ll know more beyond the standard “10-4.” You can even chat about what’s going on during a particular stream via twitter. The gold in the app is the ability to play the scanner stream in the background while you’re using other apps.
One thing to keep in mind is that many areas simply aren’t that active as others, leaving a ton of dead air. It won’t make too much sense to sneak a listen on a scanner where the most activity is the fire department getting a cat from a tree. On the flip side, there are some scanners that are extremely active. Depending on the day and time, some seem to go non stop, and that’s where the thing pays for itself. Listen in on the Essex County, New Jersey (Newark) police scanner on a Saturday evening, and it’s a constant stream of activity (one Saturday evening wound up being less than thirty seconds from one call to the next, with police dispatched to various residences). If you’re wondering where some of the better feeds are, tap the main screen for the top 100 feeds. They’re all active and at times, kind of like watching a good episode of COPS, highly entertaining. As eye rolling as it can be, it’s also enough to make you want to stay indoors for the rest of your life.
You also have a set of radio station and internet music streams. It’s the slight oddball part that deviates from the entire purpose of the app, however it’s still a welcome feature. That section is broken down by genre and there’s a lot here from decades to gdradio.net. There are genres of music I’ve never even heard before (Romantica and Romantico?). There are various ethnic-based radio stations, AM radio stations, a Beatles radio section (which is really cool). Even Howard Stern’s “Howard 101” Sirius station streams here too, how–I have no idea. If you’re a Stern fan without Sirius XM, so long as that part of the app exists, it is pure gold to you. Like the scanner feeds, the audio here is very reliable with hardly any breaks where it needs to reconnect. It won’t substitute for your satellite radio, or real radio for that matter, but if you’re out and about, it does the job perfectly.
Between the police, fire, EMS, air traffic control, railroad feeds, as well as the streaming radio apps, there’s plenty to listen to. New feeds are always being added, although I’d love to see NASCAR driver feeds incorporated into the app (no…I’m not holding my breath). I can’t come up with a single con to this app and the $1.99 asking price makes it out to be a pretty decent steal.
A quick note that the good folks at smartestapple.com would like to remind us of is the ability to record scanner feeds and email them to friends. You can look at the “Browse Web for More Feeds” section for instructions on how to do so. Another notch in an already very cool app.
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Most jamband fans have long been aware of http://www.archive.org/ , that one stop on the web for thousands upon thousands of live shows. For years it’s been the stop to stream or download concerts by bands such as moe., Phil Lesh and Friends, Rusted Root, Assembly of Dust, etc.. It’s all perfectly legal, with each band having given written permission to allow soundboards or audience recordings on the site. At over 70,000 shows by close to 3,000 bands, there’s never a shortage of something to listen to. Ahhh, but if you could only take all of that with you? What if you could have access to everything streaming that site has to offer, and just slip it into your pocket? Sounds impossible, right? A dream come true if only someone was able to sync that site to an iPhone application. Thanks to Josh Bergen and Hippyotamus Software (I see what you did there!), for $1.99 you can bring that entire site with you wherever you go.
Want to stream a recent Furthur show? Go right ahead! The Big Wu? They’re there! God Street Wine, Al and the Transamericans, String Cheese Incident? Stream ’em all!
Your startup screen is one wildly long list of bands that, like the Energizer bunny, keeps going, and going, and going, and going. The only saving grace from an endless finger slide down is the alphabet on the right. This allows you to skip to the first letter of the band you’re looking for with a single tap (when you’re talking almost 3,000 bands, this is a HUGE time saver). Once you find your band, you get your list of shows, sorted with the most recent being on top. Find your show, click the play icon on the bottom, and let it go. If you wanted to skip a few songs, down, a simple tap will play that particular song. It also saves a history of what you played, and allows you to keep a favorites list. VERY handy. The sound quality appears to be 64kpbs mp3 which, given the device, does the trick. You’ll get no complaints from me given the vast amount of music here.
To be fair, there are a few very small complaints. The list of letters on the right are very tiny, and more often than not I’ve found myself not quite at the letter I need to be at. Generally I’ve found myself off by one, so it’s not that big of a deal. The other issue is to not have the ability to fast forward to a specific part of a song. It’s not a huge issue if you’re listening to something by Tishamingo, it is if you’re listening to a 30 minute Dark Star.
The only real complaint I could possibly have is the listing of certain shows. Some bands, the Grateful Dead being a prime example, have multiple sources for many concerts, also including at least one soundboard for most. The source is never listed in the app, making it trial and error to find which one you’d like to listen to. Again, in the grand scheme of things, it’s as minor as could be.
The pros of this app heavily outweigh the cons. There’s another app that’s associated itself with archive.org called audiobop. It’s free, but with a horrific interface and selection, audiobop nothing compared to what’s on music archive. If you’re a music fan, especially a fan of improvisational music, the music archive app is the best one out there.
I’m guessing, like millions of us, you like to peek in. No, not like that (although…), I’m talking about peeking into parts of the country, even the world. Maybe you want to see what’s going on in your old hometown. Maybe you’d like to see what’s happening around a place you vacationed. For that matter, you might want to have a little something extra to look into a vacation spot! EarthCam, the folks behind earthcam.com, have a fantastic app for those particular needs.
This app starts you off in the EarthCam Network, listing a lengthy series of countries to choose your cameras from. United States, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Bulgaria…I’m sure something’s going on somewhere in Bulgaria….north to south, east to west, around the globe. It’s a pretty stunning list, even though numerous countries do have one or two cams to them. (the Ukraine had two cams, Turks and Caicos Islands had one cam aimed at the 18th hole of the Provo Golf Club). The major countries have the most cams available, or at least the ones EarthCam makes available at that moment.Once you select a country, the list turns to the cams you can view. The United States list is broken down into states, from there you select the cam to view. A peek at the New York City cam showed a long list of cams from Times Square to Lower Manhattan. There are a few cams aimed directly at Ground Zero, many aimed along Broadway, as well as various other parts of Manhattan. North Carolina had several, although most of them were, at least as of this writing, inoperable cams alone Interstate 77. Some were working, including a nifty view of the Charlotte skyline.
There are numerous DOT cams available, although I know there are better ones (there are much better traffic apps if you intend to use a cam app to gauge your morning and evening commutes). Better in terms of reliability, as well as the fluid motion of the image itself.
The streaming image on these cams range from poor to outstanding. Some cams have a lengthy refresh rate, a few have about a frame per second. Some cams have a time lapse option. I have no idea what the period of time is that’s used, but it’s a cool little feature. There’s a list of featured cams and a list of live video. The featured cams are a great place to start, the live feeds are where it’s at. I was able to watch a great stream from Niagra Falls, as well as outside of the TGIFridays in Manhattan. There’s a cam here for Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam (just figured I’d throw that out there in case it was a make or break cam for anyone). My favorite is aimed directly at the huge Coca Cola/Samsung sign in Times Square. There’s ambient audio as well, so if you want the sounds of the country or the city to go along with your peeping tom-ish ways, those cams are all set.
Like many apps, you have the ability to save a particular camera to your favorites, as well as rate them on a five star basis. You can search for a particular cam, or allow your iPhone’s GPS to find the nearest cam for you.
The app isn’t perfect. You are held to the ability of the cam itself to at least function, and many of them don’t. The refresh rates on some cameras are poor, a problem possibly stemming from the feed and not EarthCam’s doing. And in my instance, using the iPhone’s GPS, it couldn’t find a camera closest to me, even though the nearest is five minutes as the crow flies.
Limitations aside, it’s still an app worth the .99 cents that’s being charged in the iTunes store. The pay app has gotten slammed a bit, and the free version is a good trial to see if you’d like to ante up. I think the negatives are a bit unfair, as you get quite a bit crammed into a 99 cent mobile application. II think it’s well worth the dollar, a fantastic little window to the world, kept inside something that fits in your pocket.
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Plants and zombies. Botany versus the living dead, what’s a zombie lover with a green thumb to do? It’s an unlikely pairing for a tower defense game, but in PopCap Games’ highly rated “Plants vs. Zombies” computer to iPhone port, it’s the perfect match.
The goal is to ward off a zombie invasion by strategically placing plant life around your grid-like yard as a means of defense. Once they reach the house, it’s game over for you. The initial stages of the game are fairly easy, with one strip of lawn to defend against a simple zombie attack. Eventually you’re job is to protect the entire lawn, using an arsenal of plants ranging from sunflowers, tiny pea shooters to purple venus fly traps, potato bombs and more. Each plant serves a specific purpose, along with carrying a weakness. Sunflowers will add sunlight, allowing plants to grow faster, giving you more weaponry at your disposal. The more sunflowers planted, the more beneficial for arming yourself. Some pea shooters will shoot one pea, others will shoot multiple peas or peas that will stun the zombies. The purple venus fly traps will take out a zombie with one bite, but wind up incapacitated while it chews, leaving the rest of that strip of lawn open for an attack provided there isn’t any backup.
This brings us to the zombies themselves. Of course these brain craving zombies (think “Return of the Living Dead”) aren’t just your normal, slow walking, plant hungry creatures. This batch of undead will come at you using various methods. One will come at you with a pole vault, springing himself over what you’ve already set up. Another will wear a bucket over his head, rendering him impervious to numerous pea shooters. There’s even a Thriller Michael Jackson zombie who crawls from under the ground to disco-type music. I like the ornery old zombie who gets his rotted flesh in a bundle after you knock the newspaper out of his hands. The levels themselves will also begin to work against you, having to defend around a pool, fog, daytime and nighttime.
There’s enough strategy in this game, too. Do you plant a pea shooter or another sunflower to speed up the growth of other plants that do more damage, yet still take longer to grow? Do you want to lay out a cherry bomb, or save your arsenal for a heavier wave? Sometimes, in an act of desperation, throwing a walnut in the way will buy you just enough time to grow another plant or take out another zombie. It could all backfire, the zombies reach your house, and you become one of them. Plant wisely, young gardener.
Graphically, the game is a marvel on the iphone. There’s been more than enough attention paid to detail with numerous zombies having visual idiosyncrasies (wearing clothes they were buried in, carrying a window screen as a method of defense, etc.). Even on a screen as small as the iPhone, the layout works perfectly. Soundwise, the game is a real hoot, with eerie music and zombies groaning out “brains” every so often. Control wise it’s a breeze. No hand-eye coordination is necessary, only a quick tapping finger and quicker thinking. If there’s one complaint, it would be the slight slowdown once the screen is filled with shooting plants and dying dead people. It’s a minor quibble, spotted only if you’re really looking for it.
At 2.99 it’s one of the pricier game apps in the iTunes store, which adds a little weight as to whether or not an app is truly worth the purchase. Even at that price, with 50 levels, it still feels as though PopCaps could charge more and easily get away with it. If you’ve played the Mac and PC versions, you know what to expect. If you haven’t, it’s the same thing as the free demo minus the mini games which, hopefully, will be added in future updates. It’s one of the highest rated apps for purchase and three of the best dollars you’ll ever spend.
Maybe the next update will have a setting inside of a shopping mall….
Like many, I’m one of those who looks for apps that provide a stress outlet. Pocket God, the wickedly sadistic app from Bolt Creative, provides more than enough of an outlet to set your inner tormentor free.
Choosing between four island locales and one underwater area, you can drop up to six pygmies on screen at the same time. These little guys have their own characteristics. One might let his hair down over his eyes, then roll it up with a bone. One will let his grass skirt drop, and, in a fit of embarrassment, smile, giggle, then raise it back up to his waist. Numerous occasions I’ve spotted (and heard) one passing gas, generally while standing in front of another. One seems to be designated the fisher, and will tend to catch fish for everyone but himself. Essentially they lead their own happy, quiet, peaceful existences. Such is life for these adorable island pygmies.
Until you come in. You’re their god. And the god you’re to be is not a peaceful one, either.
You’re goal is to create as much chaos for the pygmies as humanely possible. A shake of the screen will create an earthquake, a tip of the screen in either direction will result in sliding the pygmies off the island. A touch of the screen and you’ll be able to pick up a pygmie, twirl him around endlessly, and drop him back on the island. A flick up on the screen will send one sailing into the water. A touch and flick down will dunk them. Some of what you can do will depend heavily on which area you’re in. You can flick one into a volcano. Flick three and you’ll set it off, spraying lava balls onto the remaining pygmies, which sends them diving into the ocean, ultimately to their deaths. If you’re in the graveyard setting, you can stick a pygmie on a web and send a spider to spin a web around it. If you bury a pygmie alive, it’ll return from the grave to feast on the brains of the remaining pygmies (yeah, it’s as cool as it sounds). I’ve been able to possess a pygmie with the ghost of a dead one, have it’s head turn 360 a la Linda Blair, and spit up pea soup. The most cruel deaths at your fingertips seem to be underwater. Placing chum in the hands of a pygmie in order to lure a shark isn’t the nicest thing one can do, but it’s a lot of fun to watch. Every island has at least one huge idiosyncrasy that sets it apart from the other islands.
Each island also has certain aspects where you can keep score. For instance, on the tropical island you’ll be table to take a coconut, drop it on a pygmie’s head, and the game will keep tabs on how many times it’s bounced off of one or more heads. It will remember how many pygmies you’ve simultaneously speared underwater. If you’re dangling a pygmie over a shark, it will keep track of how many snaps the shark has taken before you’ve either dropped it back on the island, or allowed the little guy to become shark food. If you’ve set a dinosaur or ice monster free, you can toss spears to the pygmies in order to fend the beasts off. There’s more depth to this app than initially meets the eye.
The free updates to Pocket God come often, each a substantial upgrade to an already addictive app. With more islands and torture devices coming, this is one app that, for the demented and twisted, will never get old.
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They warn you in the iTunes store that Lima Sky’s “Doodle Jump” is, and I quote, “insanely addictive.” I’m sure every app would love to make that claim. It’s a bold statement, however, in this case it couldn’t be more true. It’s the ultimate “one more game” app available.
Doodle Jump couldn’t be any easier to learn. All one needs to do is tilt the iphone left or right to guide a bouncing doodle from one small ledge to another. If the ledge leaves the bottom of your screen, you can’t use it any longer. The higher you go, the higher your score. That’s it. If it were only that easy to master. It starts off simple enough, with ledges close to one another, making for easy jumps. To say it doesn’t stay that way for long is an understatement. The higher you go, the farther apart the ledges become. Then the ledges start playing tricks. They’ll move side to side, or up and down. They’ll burn and explode, leaving you a few seconds to make a decision as to which way to jump. Some ledges will have springs, a spring board, a hat propeller, or a rocket pack to quickly gain ground. Along the way you’ll see marks and names of how high various jumpers have reached. You’ll see yours there as well, underlined name in blue.
Other obstacles will get in your way. Various doodle monsters hovering above valuable ledges will need to shot at, jumped on, or avoided entirely. In some instances, you’ll be able to hop on a lower ledge, grab a shield, and knock the doodle monsters off.
Eventually, you’ll hit an area where you’ll be required to position the ledges yourself, only seeing one ledge at a time, all the while keeping your doodle bouncing on his own ledge. Position them very wisely, or you’ll find your game over prematurely. You’ll also reach a boss monster that needs to be shot at a certain amount of times before proceeding.
It seems like an app that would be easy enough to pass by in the iTunes store, yet I’ve come close to draining my battery on more than one occasion. It’s every bit as addictive as advertised, as well as reviewed, and certainly lives up to the warning. Highly recommended.
This week’s installment has more to do with apps designed to be perfect time wasters. Got time to kill waiting for a flight, your date, or just waiting to start your work day? Some of the apps below will be perfect for a few minutes; some will make you wonder where all of your time went.
Meteors: This is a brilliant little app, designed to match various elements against other elements. The purpose is to watch how each element might react against the other. Want to see how lava might react against ice? A laser beam against iron? Sand against water, with a dash of C4, a fuse and gunpowder? Maybe throw some rubber into the mix. This app gives you the ability to change the individual thickness of each element, causing a different reaction. Additionally, a tilt of the iPhone or iTouch will cause whatever moving elements you’ve laid out to shift, further changing the reaction. You can place all of your items and elements and set everything in motion, or place everything on the fly with the brush of your finger. There’s no goal or endgame–unless you strategically place a drain where it can suck in every moving element.
Flashback by Newsweek: If you ever wondered what was in the news, or in pop culture, the week you were born? Newsweek has compiled as many of its covers as possible, always updated to its most recent and backtracking to its earliest, February 17, 1933. You can peruse their covers randomly, or via decades. You’re allowed to scroll through the decades as a whole, or by clicking each individual one. Once you spot a cover you’re given the ability to enlarge it and save it as a favorite. This app is a fantastic time capsule, one part pop culture and one part history lesson. The cover when I was born? That issue came out one day earlier, with Uncle Sam on the cover and a tagline, “Vietnamization: Will Nixon’s Plan Work?”
Google Earth: If you’re familiar with the computer version, that’s essentially what’s here, not unexpectedly in a stripped down version. The functionality is essentially the same. You can type in a place or an address and watch google fly over to that location. You can zoom in for a closer look by touching two fingers to the screen and splitting them apart, or continuous tapping. You can move the image to travel yourself with brushes of your fingertips. Like the computer version you’re given the option to click on the smaller pins for restaurant reviews, phone numbers, etc. The app itself is fairly quick, taking me from Concord Mills Mall in Concord, North Carolina to higher resolution images of the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt in fifteen seconds. The only con is that, sometimes, the app will find itself stuck and not be able to get back to a location it previously found. Like so much having to do with a computer, a simple reboot of the app tends to take care of that problem.
Stanza: One of the best book apps available, Stanza gives you access to an incredible library of books. Some of the books you’ll have to pay for, but if you’re like me, you’ll go right to the array of freebies. From public domain books to classics to science fiction Harlequins to books that have been turned into movies (even RSS feeds are included), this app allows you very easy access to choose your book, download it, and save onto your iPhone or iTouch. The books themselves are very easy to read, and you’re given the option to bookmark your spot. It’s next to impossible to think that a reader couldn’t find something of interest with this app.
Meritum Paint: I’ve probably spent only a few minutes each time I’ve brought this app up. I can also tell you that I’ve brought this app up a lot. Meritum Paint is a fancy alternative to the doodle apps that are available. What sets this app apart is that nothing is in one color, nor a straight line. The end result of whatever you do will look like a deliberate mix of fancy dashes and swirls. While you are held at the mercy of the app as to what color you want, you can manipulate the type of swirls a bit. Two finger taps clears the screen, a good shake saves your work of art. Ultimately, the app is designed to make someone look as though they’ve created a masterpiece, even though it took no more than a few swipes of a finger. If only someone would come up with a Bob Ross app that would allow you to tap out a landscape with a happy little tree . . . that would be really cool.