No one likes hearing about back to school before it actually arrives, but being well equipped can make a major difference in your experience. We made some suggestions for affordable Ultrabooks that would be great for students, and now we’ve got some software suggestions with which you can adorn your Ultrabook. Step inside to learn about two excellent free programs to enhance your school experience.
Minecraft Pocket Edition was released officially for Android a few weeks back, but Mojang, the company behind the popular indie game, had been ever silent about the iOS version. All we really knew was that they were working on it. Well it seems that Mojang was planning on launching the iOS version at the Minecon event that’s being held today and tomorrow, but they put Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS up on the App Store ahead of time to ensure that it would be readily available at the time of the announcement. They should have known that their ravenous Minecraft fans would spot it in an instant!
Minecon is an event being held in Las Vegas by Mojang this weekend to celebrate the launch of the desktop version of Minecraft. “Launch?”, I hear you say, “but I thought Minecraft already sold over 4 million copies?” And thus the popularity of Minecraft becomes clear. Mojang has indeed sold in excess of 4 million copies of Minecraft prior to the game’s official launch. The game has been in a beta state for many months, seeing slow and continues updates from Mojang, and now what they’re calling the ‘launch’ version of the game is being released at Minecon, today, in fact.
After numerous knockoffs, copy-cats, and fakes that have reached the App Store, the real Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS is now available for download. You can download it right here for $6.99 as a universal app that works on the iPad and iPhone. On Android, Minecraft Pocket Edition has a free demo, and I expect to see a similar demo come to iOS in due time.
Both versions of Minecraft Pocket Edition for Android and iOS are still in the beta stage, Â much like the desktop version once was. Mojang plans to regularly update these versions until they reach a level that they deem worthy of calling the launch version. At the moment, Minecraft Pocket edition doesn’t support the exact same gameplay, and is certainly harder to control through a touchscreen than with a mouse and keyboard, but the charm certainly remains.
If you haven’t played Minecraft before, I would recommend trying the desktop version of the game first. Minecraft Pocket Edition seems, to me, to be more of a ‘you can play it on the go if you can’t get enough of it’ sort of app, rather than an app that works flawlessly on a touchscreen. Not to say it doesn’t run well, but let’s face it, the game was designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard, and that’s how it plays best.
Limited multiplayer support exists in Minecraft Pocket Edition and is thankfully cross-compatible between iOS and Android, but unfortunately the Pocket Editions won’t work with the desktop version. In order to build and explore in the same world with friends, you must be on the same WiFi network.
Don’t know what Minecraft is? Well, it’s tough to explain because it’s a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For some, it’s like a virtual lego builder. For others, it’s an unlimited and randomly generated world for exploring. If any video could, this one seems to capture it well:
IÂ rememberÂ when I first started playing Minecraft. I was thankful that there was no iOS version, because I knew I’d get no work done if I could play Minecraft on my phone. Unfortunately, I’ve no longer got any place to hide.
If you are at all interested in astronomy, you’ve likely heard of a little site called APOD. Short for Astronomy Picture of the Day, NASA’s APOD posts an incredible astronomical photo each day, with a written description by a professional astronomer.
â€œBut Ben, how does this fit into mobile technology which is covered on this site?â€ you might ask. Well dear readers, it turns out that astrophotos make awesome background images.
One of my favorite Android apps is called Astronomy Picture of the Day (by Sam Oakley). In addition to downloading the latest picture and description from APOD for your perusal, it’ll automatically set the photo as your background. This is even cooler if you have multiple Android devices because it’ll keep them visually in sync.
Did I mention that it’s free? Definitely give it a try if you want a hassle free way to get a fresh background automatically every day.
One of the promises of the iPad [Portal page] is that its large capacitive touch surface would be great for having multiple people interact with content on the screen. It’s taken a little while, but I’ve finally found some games for the iPad that are, not only fun, but great for more than one player on a single iPad, and I’ve had a blast playing them with friends and family — some of which are gamers, casual gamers, or not even gamers at all — yet all of them have had fun! Check them out and consider giving them a try!
Harbor Master is a free game which tasks you with guiding ships into their proper ports to have their cargo unloaded. Once the ships are free of their cargo, you need to direct them off of the screen. The challenge is to not have any ships crash into each other. The premise is simple, but things start to get hectic and fun as more and more ships start to crowd the waters, and there is even multiple types of ships to make things more challenging.
While Harbor Master necessarily designed to be a multiplayer game, it works great as one, and if your hoping to place anywhere on the online leaderboards, you’ll likely need a few friends to help you out with your boat managing abilities. The game works great for multiple players as each player can claim a section of the map to take care of. It makes for some great teamwork too as you send your friends ships to manage while you ensure that your section of the map is copacetic. Check out this video of Harbor Master HD on the iPad in action:
MultiPong is an awesome little game that is clearly designed for multiple players. The game is $2.99 and supports 1-4 people on a single iPad. Think of your classic Pong, then visualize four paddles, powerups, and a dynamic play space.
The map is arranged in a square with pairs of players across from each other. There are several powerups (or sometimes powerdowns) that can be activated by hitting them with the ball:
Long paddle – increases paddle size
Energy paddle – zaps the ball when it hits your paddle, increasing it’s speed
Gravity – pulls the ball toward your goal for a number of seconds
Multi ball â€“ splits the ball into two (can happen over and over again until you have a bunch of balls on the map)
Short Paddle â€“ decreases paddle size
Big Ball â€“ increases the size of the ball (can happen several times, until the ball becomes quite massive!)
Reverse paddle â€“ likely the toughest of them all; reverses the direction that your paddle moves
On top of powerups, there is a dynamic play space. There are several types of bumpers, spinners, and various obstacles that will appear in the center then changed randomly. There is even an ominous storm cloud to obscure your view of the ball.
The app looks good, sounds good, and is a blast to play with friends and family! Check it out:
Have a look at the awesome Atomic web browser for the iPhone and iPad. The app costs 99 cents in the app store and it’s a universal app, meaning you pay for it once and you get the iPhone and the iPad version. While the browser has a lot of great features, such as easy user agent spoofing, the feature that I like the most is the way that it handles tabs. It’s much faster and much more intuitive than Safari. Atomic web has become my new browser on my iPhone and iPad. Very much worth the 99 cent asking price.
One of the biggest differences between the iPad and the iPhone is the level of apps that it can utilize. iPhone apps are relatively simple when compared to iPad apps. I’ve made two videos demonstrating two different applications on the iPad. The first is a game called Harbor Master, and the second is a Marvel comic reading application. Both do a good job of showing how the larger iPad screen can enhance the experience, and how this differentiates the iPad from the iPhone. Despite the fact that these are definitely improved experiences over more simple iPhone and iPod Touch applications, I don’t feel that we’ve yet seen the ‘killer app’ for the iPad. Many applications still need to evolve further than just being larger iPhone apps, and really come into their own as iPad apps.