Alt. Mobile Gaming

Generally, the term “Mobile Gaming” refers to playing video games on a mobile device such as a smartphone. For the purpose of this post however, I am referring to mobile gaming as the ability to move a game and its state from one device to another, seamlessly. The game that sparked this post and my modified definition of mobile gaming is Oceanhorn. Oceanhorn is a universal app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. This game and the platforms in which you can play it are pretty amazing.

First, the fact that a game of this quality and polish only costs a mere $8.99 blows my mind! But, follow that with the ability to play this game in the living room on a TV in 1080p, to an iPad, to an iPhone, migrating all play states seamlessly through iCloud, and now you have a true definition of ‘mobile gaming’. With the launch of the 4th generation Apple TV, gaming was made out to be a big push for the device. It was easy to be weary of this, mostly due to the fact that it could easily just be about phone games on the living room TV, and that didn’t sound compelling. Oceanhorn was the game that made the idea of gaming on the Apple TV make sense. This game represents the type of gaming platform I have always wanted: something that is versatile and changes to fit my surroundings. At home, a bluetooth controller in hand in front of the TV. In a hotel room traveling for work, on my iPad Pro with that same controller. Waiting for car service, on my iPhone 6s. The game is capable of adapting to all of these scenarios without losing any of my progress.

The Apple TV comes with the new Siri Remote, and that can be used as a controller for games. For a game like Oceanhorn, however, a traditional gaming controller is really the way to go. At the time of this writing, the best controller out there is available from the Apple Store and is called the Nimbus, by SteelSeries. It is very comfortable to operate and has all the buttons you could want for games like this. Because it is Bluetooth, you can connect it to all your iOS and Apple TV devices. It pairs really nicely with the iPad Pro for on-the-go gaming.

Gaming is an always evolving area when it comes to technology, and I hope ideas like this help to push gaming more towards bringing games to where we are instead of pushing us to be where the given platform is. Of course, this setup is still technically all one platform, but it still does a much better job of bringing my game to me than any of the major console makers who have had living room consoles and handhelds for years and failed to implement this tight integration.

State of Mobile Apps. Please Trend This Way.

It is no secret that the state of mobile application software has been trending into a dark and terrible place in the last few years. This is, of course, hugely driven by consumers with warped perceptions of the value of quality software. A large population of app consumers feel that a developer’s time is worthless and everything on the internet, including apps, should be free, and this is the number one reason why the internet at large is a trashy ad filled gutter of filth. Because of this lack of perceived value, developers are now pulled into this terrible practice of lacing an application with ads, or being forced to give the app away by limiting the full experience and enjoyment of the app with in-app purchases. These practices do nothing but further degrade the value of software as a whole. These trends are starting to jump the gap over to desktop software as well, because to most people, software is software no matter the platform. To the uninformed consumer, a shoddy free mobile game is the same as a PC game which took 10 months to create. I do hope that this trend changes, and in a hurry! Every so often I come across a game or application that is doing it right and it is a glimmer of refreshing hope. Most recently the game Monument Valley landed on my iPad. This game is beautiful, intriguing, fun, and something that felt like truly a new idea. Best of all, they are charging $3.99 for it and it is quite popular! It is a one time purchase, no in-app purchase crap to unlock levels or “pay to play”, just a quality game at a very fair price. I hope this type of transaction becomes the rule rather than the exception as we move to a more mobile world.

MacBook Air to iPad Air

After upgrading from my older Mac Pro to a crazy powerful new 27" iMac, it was time to look at the rest of my computing workflow and see where I could streamline. After moving from the Mac Pro, I was still using a Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, and Phone. This was a lot of devices to manage and there were a lot of overlaps between them all. I decided to go the route of three devices total. One desktop computer, one tablet, and a phone. Having used and preferred laptops since I can remember there being good laptops, this was a pretty big step.

For the desktop, since it would be the work horse, I went with a maxed out 27" late 2013 iMac. At the time of this decision I was using a first generation iPad mini. I knew I would need to upgrade this since it would ultimately be replacing my maxed out 11" MacBook Air and would be my mobile computer going forward. For this job I enlisted the iPad Air with WiFi and 32GB of storage. The only reason I didn’t go with the 4G version is because I already have a 4G hotspot that I like and can be shared with multiple devices so there was no need to duplicate functions. And finally, my phone remained the same 32GB iPhone 5S.

Hardware Additions to the iPad Air

Key Pieces of Software

  • Evernote. I keep everything in evernote and having it sync across all three devices is fantastic.
  • Dropbox. This is basically my “filesystem” since there isn’t a conventional one on iOS.
  • Penultimate. An advantage of using an iPad over a MacBook is the ability to input handwriting.
  • Writeroom. A great text editor. This is where I capture most of my text, including this blog post.
  • iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote). Great for interfacing with documents from my desktop.
  • Games. More than I can list. A lot more than you might have on OS X. This could be bad or good. 🙂
  • Video Chat (FaceTime, Skype). Great for video chatting with any other client.
  • Remotix. Really awesome Remote Desktop client. For those times when you absolutely need to do something on a Desktop, or you simply need to access something on your Desktop.
  • Screens. Another really good Remote Desktop client. This has the ability to traverse firewalls and lets you access from anywhere you have a network connection.
  • Prompt. Really really good ssh command line tool.
  • Codeanywhere. Could be a really good solution for coding on the go for quick fixes.

There are a ton of other great iOS apps that I use both on the iPhone and the iPad, but I tried to just focus on some of the ones that make the experience of using an iPad in place of a MacBook just as good, if not better.

This new setup I have has been going strong for about 6 weeks. Not once have I thought I made a mistake. The iPad Air has been the iPad I have always wanted. Great size and weight, and tons of power. I think anyone that may be in a similar position as me, wondering if this can work for them, should give it a shot! It will take some getting used to, and maybe a little research to figure out how you access certain thing. If I tried to do this even a year ago, I think this post would be ending differently, but I think you will find iOS has matured quite a lot over the last couple years and it is quite capable. Best of all, it will only continue to get better and more advanced!

iPhone TouchID

 I did indeed upgrade from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 5s. I think there is definitely enough awesomeness in the new hardware to make it a worthwhile upgrade. This is not an iPhone 5s review however so I will leave it at that. Not to mention, it will still be a little while before software catches up with the hardware leap. We won’t see the full potential of the iPhone 5s for at least 3-6 months.

What I do want to chat about quickly is a new hardware / software feature that I am really liking for several reasons, TouchID. TouchID being the fingerprint scanner hardware built into the iPhone’s home button that allows you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone rather than using a passcode. There are tons of reviews and comments regarding this feature and I am going to go through 3 topics.

1) “TouchID was Hacked”: Within the first week of release there were claims of TouchID having been hacked. This is the natural progression of technology. Something new comes out, the first steps are to find ways around it. I am fully on board with this, and I encourage this! The problem I have with this particular instance is calling it a hack. In a broad sense, yes it is a hack. But the headlines all read like the technology is broken and somehow has a hole in it. All of the techniques to bypass TouchID so far are spoofs more than hacks. They make an really good copy of the fingerprint and use that to access the phone. The process is not trivial and for the majority of users this is not a problem as I see it. With the amount of work it takes to make the copy, it would be easier to follow the person around and watch them enter their cheesy 4 digit passcode and then just use that.

2) “Passcodes are inconvenient”: Whether most people want to admit it or not, our phones have our lives on them. One way or another there are vectors into deep parts of your life through your phone, whether you realize it or not. The scary realization I have come to over the last 3+ years is a lot of people use lame passcodes (0000) or even worse don’t use one at all! How secure is that!? If something like TouchID can get these people to actually set a passcode but not be “bothered” with entering it, that is a huge win. If it takes all the hassle of recreating a fingerprint to get into someone’s phone over simple opening it because there is no passcode, that raises their security bar immensely!

3) “More secure?”: It is way too early to call TouchID either “more secure” or “less secure”. The fact is, if you need more secure, you will use nothing less than a 42 character alphanumeric passcode with the phone is set to autolock immediately. In reality, most people don’t need this and will never do that. That being said, TouchID does allow for somewhat of a middle ground perhaps. You can set a long alphanumeric passcode and then use your fingerprint as a type of shortcut. There are still some precautions that have been taken to help with attacks on TouchID. If the wrong fingerprint is tried 5 times, the phone will only be unlockable using that strong alphanumeric passcode. This is also true if the phone is restarted or not opened with a finger within a 2 day period.

Until TouchID is legitimately bypassed and proved to be faulty, I am definitely going to be on the side of proponents. It is a cool and useful feature that makes using the device a little more enjoyable. After all, shouldn’t the point of these devices be to better our lives by working with us rather than against us?

From Gmail to Google Apps. #push

I signed up for a gmail account quite some time ago, 2004 to be exact. I don’t really need to go into the background of Gmail, you all know the history. I have not used Gmail exclusively since that time, but I have used it exclusively for about the last 2-3 years. Everything was pretty peachy until the great “Push Apocalypse”! I am referring to the the announcement Google made regarding removing Push (Exchange) support for Gmail users.

I feel there are 2 main reasons why this happened.
 – Use push as a “bonus” feature of using Android over other platforms.
 – Google must have been paying a fortune in licensing fees to Microsoft for Exchange Activesync.

So. Push. No big deal right? Completely Wrong! Push email is just the way it has to be, at least it is for me. Push is a little service that just happens without anyone bothering to thank it, or wonder how it even works. That is, until it stops and you wonder why you only get your emails in batches every 15, 30, or 60 minutes.

Now; try going out and looking for services, paid or free, that offer push and are a solid email service. Best of luck finding them! Valerie and I looked high and low. The general consensus was, if you want Push Email, getting a hosted Exchange account with some company was the way to go. I am by no means a “fan” of Exchange, or Microsoft’s offerings in general, but their Activesync offering works, and it works really well.

I really didn’t have any other reason to want to look elsewhere from Gmail, but I had to get Push back. After the previously mentioned searching, the idea of Google’s Apps for Business came up. When Google made the announcement concerning the cutoff for Push to Gmail, they did specifically mention that Google Apps for Business, Government, and Education would continue to enjoy this feature. Looking back now, this makes a little more sense to offer services that are costing you money to paying customers. I get that. In fact, I would have been more than happy to pay Google a little extra to upgrade my Gmail account to Activesync, but that unfortunately (at least at this time) is not an option. You also cannot migrate your “@gmail” account to a Google Apps Account. So began the process.

Since we were starting over effectively, we did get the option to have a unique domain name to use with Google Apps. After picking the domain, the setup of Google Apps is amazingly simple. Using the domain registrar that I used, I didn’t even have to setup MX records, Google Apps did it all for me! That is really all there is to say about the process, it was super fast and easy to setup and all our devices have push again!

I migrated all my email, calendars, and contacts from “@gmail” to the new email and everything was ready to go. I haven’t 100% made the full switch over, as it takes some time to get everything set and swapped over. I forward all email from “@gmail” to new email and handle all email in the new inbox and will slowly be getting everything tied to the old address to the new one.

Now comes the part that most people on the internet will scoff at, you have to pay for Google Apps for Business! “OMG what!? Everything in the world is free, how can this be. I am entitled to get everything I want for free. Period"  -Many Internet Users. Well, things in life are not free, and Google Apps for Business is no different, but it is super reasonably priced and I am fine with paying for services I really want. 

I still don’t think moving email addresses is anywhere near as easy as it should be, but we will get there. 

Feel free to ask me any questions about the process or leave comments about it.