How To Make Your Own Lion Boot Drive

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Date: Friday, August 19th, 2011, 14:54
Category: Apple, Hacks, How-To, Installation, Lion, Mac, Retail Store, Software, Tutorial

Apple has finally released its $69.99 Lion (OS X 10.7) flash drive, but is it really worth $40 on top of the cost of the Lion upgrade? Well, yes and no. If you need to perform a clean install, perhaps due to a faulty system, or if you are an IT professional, it is essential to be able to do a clean install of Lion from some kind of external disk. If you are not particularly tech savvy, the Apple flash drive provides you with a no-worry solution, but at a premium. However, if you are willing to follow a few simple steps, you can create your own Lion flash boot drive. To start, you will need two things, an empty 4 GB flash drive (8 GB is recommended if you want to add utilities) and the Lion update download package from the Mac App Store. It is important that you create your boot drive BEFORE you run the updater, or make a backup of it on another drive. Once you run it, the updater will delete itself from your hard drive. The process involves opening the installer package and digging into the guts to find the appropriate files to copy to the flash drive so you can boot from it. You can find complete instructions on the SubRosaSoft blog here. If possible, try to get a flash drive with a fast read time. Any flash drive should be faster than a DVD, but the faster the drive, the less time it takes to boot into the installer. Personally, I choose the Patriot Xporter XT Rage 8 GB high-speed flash drive, which is rated at 27 MB/s read time, but is reported to achieve higher practical speeds. It is currently on Amazon for $16.99, a savings of $23 compared to Apple’s.

A second, easier, option has been provided by Guillaume Gète, a programmer in Paris, who has created an app called Lion DiskMaker. Lion DiskMaker is a small application programmed with AppleScript that you can use with Mac OS X 10.6 or 10.7 to burn a DVD or build a bootable USB key from Mac OS X Lion’s Installation program. As soon as you launch the application, it checks the presence of Mac OS X Lion Installer in your Mac’s Applications folder, or tries to find one using Spotlight. Then, it offers options to build a DVD or create bootable install disk. USB and FireWire drives are supported, as well as SD-Cards. You can download the program from Guillaume’s web site here. The program is free, but if you find it useful, you can make a donation (which I recommend). I gave it a try and it works great!

I feel much better knowing I have a separate installer, especially since I have done upgrades on my current Mac from 10.4 to 10.5 and finally to 10.6. It is probably about time for me to do a clean install to shake out any possible software quirks. By the way, if you are nervous about whether your current software will play nice with Lion, check out the web site RoaringApps.com which has an ongoing list of software and its compatibility with Lion.

State Law Kills Amazon Associates Program

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Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 08:28
Category: Announcement, Legal, News, Services

As the result of a new bill passed by Governor Jerry Brown in California, Amazon will be terminating its service contracts for all Amazon Associates members residing in California. The new bill, which requires that taxes be collected on all sales by online retailers, extends its reach to “California-based marketing affiliates” which includes the referral status from residents participating in the Amazon Associates program. All current participants should have received an email covering the details from Amazon.com in the last few days, as the termination went into effect as of June 29, 2011. Here are some excerpts from the emails that were sent out:

Unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the bill that we emailed you about earlier today. As a result of this, contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective today, June 29, 2011. Those California residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned before today will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

We oppose this bill because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It is supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside California, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that we must take this action.

[...] we are continuing to work on alternative ways to help California residents monetize their websites and we will be sure to contact you when these become available.

The change does not affect any participants who reside outside of California, and those services will continue as normal. If a participant has or is planning to move to another state, they can contact Amazon to be reinstated into the program here.

Apple Changes Promo Code Terms In App Store

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Date: Friday, June 17th, 2011, 15:06
Category: App Store, Apple, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Review, Software

This isn’t exactly new information. It was reported as far back as May 3rd by Mac Rumors, but somehow I missed it until now. Apple has changed the functionality of the iOS App Store (unconfirmed whether this affects the Mac App Store) so that if you use a developer promo code to download an app, you will not be able to submit a review for the app; you will be “locked out”. Here is a blurb copied from an exchange with iTunes Store Customer Support:

Thanks for writing back and letting me know your concern. I understand that you are still not able to write a review. I know how disappointing it can be when things don’t work out the way they should. I am sorry to inform that it is no longer possible to rate or review an app if it was downloaded using a developer’s promotional code.

The crackdown is apparently in response to complaints that reviews were being skewed as a result of developers giving codes in exchange for favorable reviews. I’m not sure how widespread this issue is, and I’m sure the ones perpetrating the review stacking will find another way to do it, but for the most part it seems like a good idea. No worries about that here; regardless of how I get ahold of an app, if it’s crap I’ll tell you.

Wacom Releases iPad Notebook App

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Date: Thursday, June 16th, 2011, 18:59
Category: Announcement, Apps, iPad, Software

Today, graphics tablet maker Wacom announced their first product to be available in the Apple App Store. Bamboo Paper is an iPad-exclusive notepad and sketching app, taking a stab at a category already populated by a plethora of other notepad apps. Here is some copy from their release:

Dear Friends,

Today we have launched Bamboo Paper, our first iPad app!

Bamboo Paper is a digital notebook for your iPad, letting you share ideas visually with handwritten notes, sketches and doodles. In combination with our Bamboo Stylus, it turns your iPad into a visual communication tool. You can download the app for free from any iTunes store around the world. But be quick while it is for free, because starting July 1, the app will cost €1.59 ($1.99).

You can help us by rating & commenting this app in the App store and telling your friends and family about it.

Here is the direct link to the App store:
For US: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bamboo-paper-wacom-notes-for/id443131313?mt=8&uo=4

Important to note is that the app is FREE until the end of June, as well as the mention of the Bamboo Stylus which is sold separately by Wacom. Although it isn’t required, Wacom intends the Paper app to be used in conjunction with the Stylus to get the most out of it. I was lucky enough to get a stylus for review, but I’ve been waiting for the release of the app to complete my review. I found that the app definitely benefits from using a pen-type device such as the aforementioned Bamboo Stylus or a Pogo Stylus. Watch for my complete review coming soon.

Sketchbook Pro Updated to 2.0

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Date: Thursday, May 5th, 2011, 17:11
Category: iPad, News, Software

I’m reporting from my iPhone at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco where I am surrounded by incredible examples of design and technology from a number of different categories. My favorite being the 3D television that doesn’t require 3D glasses.

Tonight’s event is to introduce the impending release of Sketchbook Pro 2.0 which adds a slew of new features, and for the cost conscious, also marks a price decrease from $7.99 to $4.99 (iPad version). So, hold out a few more hours and save $3! And this app is definitely worth it…even at the original price.

Present at the announcement is Jay Shuster, Art Director at Pixar Animation, who used Sketchbook Pro for his development work on Cars 2. I’ll cover a little more after I get a chance to play with the app some more and review the promo materials on this awesome thumb drive.

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Game Review: Pro Zombie Soccer

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Date: Tuesday, July 27th, 2010, 09:03
Category: App Store, Game, iPad, iPhone, News, Software

Pro Zombie Soccer is a game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (still a Pixel-doubled version, not native) distributed by Chillingo and developed by Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team. I’ve never been caught up in the Zombie craze, although I did enjoy Zombieland and Shawn of the Dead, so I was not really excited about this game at first, but a friend assured me that it was a lot of fun and he was right.

Some of the things that made this such a fun game was the artwork and the storyline. While not complicated, the story added enough depth to propel you from scene to scene. The artwork has a punk attitude, similar to what is associated with Gorillaz, and is pretty lively and colorful.

In the game, you are playing the role of Jax, a young, talented soccer player who freezes up while trying out for the big team. While moping about town, the zombie outbreak occurs and Jax is bitten by a zombie who happens to be the star player of the soccer team. Jax soon finds out that his zombie infection has given him super-soccer powers which he decides to use to take down the zombie apocalypse….while he still can.

The controls are simple. You thumb aims the direction that Jax kicks the soccer ball and lifting your thumb fires it off. You have a regular kick, and a super-charged kick at your disposal, but eventually you acquire other “zombie powers” which you can choose from during certain parts of the game. Doing a “head-shot” to a zombie (beheading them) is worth extra points as is several head-shots in a row. Some zombies can only be killed with the super-charged kick, which takes more time to “charge up”. Eventually you run into zombies that can only be killed in a certain way, like ricocheting off a wall, as well as avoiding obstacles like fleeing scientists which, when hit, will end the game. If you finish the game too quickly in Normal mode, you can play through again in Hardcore mode which won’t be so easy. The game’s music is pretty good and in the Extras you’ll find the Music Player which allows you to play back the game’s soundtrack, a total of 16 tracks.

The sound effects and gameplay are great, and everything looks awesome on the iPhone 4’s screen. As of this writing, the game was iOS 4 compatible, but did not take advantage of background app switching. Leaving the game means starting again from the main menu, although it should remember your progress. I didn’t try it on the iPad, but it is compatible with iOS 3.0 and up. I look forward to an HD version, but I hope it’s an Universal app.

The game uses the Crystal gaming network, which I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of, but not because it is a bad system.

I highly recommend this game. It’s fun and relatively easy to play, and the stages make it easy to play a few minutes at a time, or kill 20 minutes or so. Pro Zombie Soccer is a pretty good deal at $2.99.

Game Review: Predators™

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Date: Monday, July 19th, 2010, 11:41
Category: Fun, Game, News, Review, Software

The Predators game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is a direct tie-in with the recently released Predators movie by Robert Rodriquez (directed by Nimrod Antal) distributed by Chillingo for Fox Mobile. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’ve been told it’s good fun and the game seems to do it’s job of getting me a little more jazzed to see it. Unlike a lot of game-movie tie-ins, this game actually has some solid play value.

One of the things appreciated about this game is that is it a Universal app, meaning the same app plays on all three “i” devices. An issue that bugs me a little is games that require you to buy a completely new app in order to play it in full resolution on the iPad. I understand that developers have to make money, and that they do have to do some extra work, but it just feels wrong to have to pay a second, higher price for a game I already paid for. I wish they would just work out a system to upgrade to a Universal app for the difference of the two. On a side note, I had a problem with the game on my iPad crashing on launch, but rebooting the iPad seems to have fixed it so far.

Off my soap box, and onto the action.

In this game, you are playing the role of the Predator which is a nice switch up. This is probably because he has all the cool gadgets. The first several “missions” teach you the essentials of mauling and beheading humans for trophies. There are also in-play tutorials for learning to use the gadgets like the wrist knives, shoulder cannon, and the cloaking device. Later, you also get other abilities like thermal vision. I really liked how the tutorials played out so you can get used to using just one weapon or combo attack, rather than just being thrown into a melee and having to figure it out.

The game isn’t strictly a shoot ‘em up either. In some scenarios, you get more points for stalking your prey in cloaked mode, and killing humans undetected. There are also human “boss” characters which represent the main characters from the film such as Royce who is played by Adrian Brody in the film. These guys are harder to beat. I haven’t gotten too far in the game, but so far the terrain has just been your basic jungle with some different environmental factors like darkness or rain (with makes you more visible in cloaked mode). I’ve been through about seven levels and it hasn’t gotten boring yet, so I hope it just keep getting better.

The game stays very true to the Predator feel and mythos. Even the crosshair for the shoulder cannon works like it did in the movie and you can shoot people behind you. The graphics can be a bit gruesome if you are worried about younger audiences. There is lots of blood and your Predator very clearly rips people in half and pulls their head off with a nice, wet, ripping sound. Obviously the graphics are very good and optimized for the iPhone 4 and iPad, and the sounds are quite good as well; probably taken directly from the movies. You will also be happy to know that the game is compatible with iOS 4’s backgrounding, so you can leave in the middle of a mission and come back in the same spot and continue. There is also a pause menu too, until the iPad gets iOS 4.

I liked the iPad version the best, but mainly because the controls cover less screen than the iPhone version. Menus are slightly different for the iPad, but the gameplay is identical to the iPhone/iPod Touch version. I liked that none of the combos were too complicated. I find that annoying about some console games because you end up concentrating too much on how many buttons to push instead of the game. The controls are pretty good and straightforward. There is a “joystick” on the left and action buttons on the right. There are also toggles for things like night vision, weapons, and cloaking. It isn’t a problem for me, but I’d like to see more games give people the option of flipping the controls. The only problems I had were the ones inherent in a touch-based system; when the action gets fast, you tend to slide your fingers off the controls and can’t center again without looking away form the action. Perhaps I have more trouble with this than most people, but I can’t really fault the game for this.

Lastly, the game uses the Crystal gaming network. The frustration I have with all the game networking systems could be a whole post in itself. I’m waiting to see how Apple’s Game Center changes things. Developers naturally have investments in tying themselves to particular systems, but I wish you could choose which system to use for each game instead of being forced to use the one the developer picks.

I highly recommend this game. If you like action games, shooters, and anything to do with Predators, this game is a steal at $2.99.

Apple Releases Safari 4.0.1 Update

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Date: Thursday, June 18th, 2009, 18:03
Category: Software

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On Wednesday, amid the iPhone 3.0 release craziness, Apple released an update to the Safari 4 browser.

The Safari 4.0.1 Update (a 43.8 megabyte download) is reported by Apple to address incompatibilities between Safari 4.0 and certain features in iPhoto ’09, including Places and Facebook publishing.

It can be downloaded via the Software Update control panel on your Mac. At the time of this posting, there was no stand-alone updater at the Apple website.

Apple Releases Bluetooth Firmware Update

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Date: Thursday, June 18th, 2009, 18:31
Category: Software, Uncategorized

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Yet another update appearing in Software Update on Macs Wednesday was the Bluetooth Firmware Update 2.0 (a 1.6 megabyte download).

This update provides bug fixes and better compatibility with the Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse and Apple Wireless Keyboard. It installs on all Macintosh systems with Bluetooth based on the Broadcom chipset.

The update can be applied through Software Update or downloaded as a stand-alone installer from Apple’s web site here.

AT&T Cripples iPhone 3GS By Not Offering Features At Launch

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Date: Monday, June 8th, 2009, 21:09
Category: iPhone, News

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Today’s WWDC Keynote brought some surprises, and some disappointments. Perhaps the announcement generating the most vocal jeers was that AT&T would not be offering MMS and tethering services even though the iPhone’s 3.0 software was ready to support it.

The iPod Observer reported in a report that AT&T spokesperson, Mark Siegel, indicated that tethering would be coming to the iPhone, but that no timeframe was determined for its availability. Also reported was that MMS was unavailable because, “AT&T hasn’t decided yet how to handle MMS on the iPhone.”
These blatant omissions from AT&T coupled with other questions including AT&T allowing video streaming on other platforms besides the iPhone, brought to light by their insistence that SlingMedia cripple their iPhone app to only work over wifi, has many people scratching their heads and asking AT&T…WTF??!! Rumors of Apple striking a deal with Verizon has many iPhone owners already vocalizing their desire to hold off purchasing the new iPhone 3GS until they can also defect to another provider.

Is AT&T committing suicide with these moves, or is this how they give the finger to Apple for courting other vendors? Discuss it in the forums!