Transit: The Best Public Transportation App for iOS

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jpegAs a 15-year-old, I don’t have a driver’s permit or any vehicle to drive. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have places to go.

As many others in the US do, I’ve turned to public transportation. Some people use it because taking a car simply doesn’t make sense (New York, for example). Others because they simply don’t want a car.

But using public transportation can be quite a hassle. For me to go towards San Francisco, I take a bus to a lightrail to a train that will finally go north. Planning and scheduling these multiple vehicles to minimize waiting times and maximize trip efficiency is often a difficult task involving timetables and maps.

It’s a good thing that we have Transit, though.

Transit is soothingly simple. Put in your origin and destination as well as a time of departure or arrival and Transit will search the timetables of all local transit and determine multiple routes to get you where you need to go in the shortest amount of time.

Here’s an example search from Lake Vasona to the Transamerica Pyramid Building in San Francisco.

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Transit gives me various options to choose from so I can maximize the speed of the trip.

Once I choose which route to take, I get a beautiful and simple guide that gives me specific times for each leg of my trip.

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I also get a nice map giving me visual reference of where I need to go.

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Currently, Transit works in 37 major cities across the United States including San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.

The best part about this app? It’s completely free! No ads or bothersome begging here.

Enjoy!

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Axis: App Shortcuts on your Lockscreen!

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App Shortcuts from your Homescreen!

App Shortcuts from your Homescreen!

One of the cool features of the iPhone is the camera button on the lock screen. The camera is just a swipe away from the lockscreen, meaning you won’t miss anything while fumbling for your Camera app.

Well, here’s a jailbroken tweak that will allow you to add more shortcuts to your homescreen just like the Camera shortcut for any app you so desire.

The app is called Axis, and it is available from Cydia for $0.99. This means that you need a jailbroken device.

Once installed, open the Settings app and find the Axis settings pane. Change around which shortcuts you want to do what, and the next time you unlock your iPhone you’ll notice that… it looks the exact same. What?

thing3Now put your finger on the little Camera shortcut. You’ll see the “slide to unlock” slider is replaced by all of your shortcuts. Slide your finger over one of them and swipe up to open it.

And don’t worry about your passcode – Axis will request your passcode before you open up an app.

Personally, I like to have my Phone, Messages, Spotify, and Google Maps at my fingertips. You can play around with the Axis settings and customize the shortcuts to any app of your desire. Enjoy!

OmniCleanz: Screen Cleaning Never Sucked Less

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Computer screens will get dirty. That’s just how it is. Hyper-salivating friends, sloppy dogs, and fingers all contribute to the inevitable film that will build up on your beloved machine.

Nobody likes dirty screens. They just plain get in the way.

Usually, cleaning a screen is a whole to-do: Get some household cleaner and a cloth, turn off your computer, and start wiping. Gosh, I hope this stuff is okay for my screen. Crap, there’s streaks. Circular motion? Back and forth? Why didn’t it get that spot?  In the end, you’ll spend half an hour trying to get your screen clean, and in the end you probably won’t succeed.

Not anymore.

OmniCleanz is a screen cleaning solution that actually works. Using it is really, really simple: Spray it on, polish around until it’s all gone. No need to turn the computer off, no need to go in straight lines across. No more worrying about chemicals damaging your screen or residue being left behind. This stuff just plain works.

A 1oz bottle  will cost you a whopping $7, however you can get a 4oz for $10 and an 8oz for $15.

I recommend getting the 8oz bottle; it’s not much more expensive and will last you for years.

Trust me, you need a bottle of this stuff. If you spend a lot of time in front of your computer, having a clean screen will make your life dramatically better.

OmniCleanz by RadTech

Pastor: Free, Simple Password Management for Mac

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PastoriconIf you’ve been reading much about security recently, you know that everyone is saying to never reuse any passwords, and to use a password manager to keep track of all of them. 1Password is definitely the most recommended password manager of them all, as it supports categories, cross-platform syncing, and browser extensions.

But it’s $40.

Ladies and gentlemen, enter Pastor. I’m going to say now that Pastor doesn’t have any of the fancy features that 1Password has, but it has the essentials: password storage and encryption.

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The interface is beautifully simple: You can add an entry that contains a title, username, password, URL, and a note. The database is then saved as an encrypted .pastor file using a master password of your choice.

To see your passwords, open the file, type in your password, and you’re there. You can copy a password to the clipboard for use, or hover over the password to see it.

It also has a built-in password generator.

The app is donation-ware, so donations are encouraged. I don’t usually ask people to donate for donation-ware apps, but this app is so simple and useful that I think it’s definitely worth more than nothing. So if you use this app, please donate something!

Enjoy!

Pastor Homepage

Firefox Jumps on the Mobile OS Bandwagon at MWC 2013

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At Mobile World Congress, a bunch of people with ties huddled into a room in Barcelona, Spain to hear what Firefox had to say.

Firefox announced Firefox OS, a new mobile operating system that will inevitably compete against Apple, Android, and the other big names. I’m not going to go into super specific details, but here’s the important stuff:

Firefox OS has secured shipments on many different devices (many of them very cheap) from LG Electronics, Alcatel One Touch, and some other unheard of companies. It won’t be coming to any devices in the US until 2014.

The big headline of Firefox OS is that they’re ditching a typical app store and instead hoping to have an “open market” of HTML5 based apps. In essence, the OS is basically a web browser. “Apps” are actually just links to websites.

Essentially, I think this is a good idea that will succeed in foreign markets but not in the US.

I’ve covered the quality+userbase=userbase++ concept in my post about Google+. In case you didn’t read that, basically, any social networking site’s best feature is more users for people to socialize with. When you have users, other users want to join, and your user base will exponentially grow. This same system can be applied to app stores. For your phone to be successful, you need apps. For developers to make apps for your phone, there need to be users. For there to be users, there need to be apps. The more users you have, the more apps you have, the more users you have, the more apps you have, and so on.

Firefox OS has the edge here because the “apps” are all HTML based (websites). This means that anyone who has ever created a website has the knowledge to create an app for Firefox OS – so there are already 8 million developers for this OS. Removing the learning curve of a new language and new library for a mobile OS will make it much more compelling to developers and, in turn, more compelling to users.

Phones running Firefox OS are going to be released mainly in China and developing cell areas for a fairly cheap price. As a result, I think it will succeed in those markets where iPhones and Androids are often too expensive. I don’t think it’s going to succeed in America as the competition from Microsoft, RIM, Android, and iOS is very hot.

Overall, I think that Firefox OS is a controversial approach to the Mobile OS – websites as apps – and will thrive in less modernized countries, but fail in others.

 

Samsung’s CES 2013 Keynote: Powerful, Green Components, Bendy Displays, and Bill Clinton

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SAMSUNGINTRO

Well, once again, here I am at CES. Thanks to *you* (yes, YOU), I had enough traffic to this site to get a press pass – giving me easy access to the CES Keynotes.

This came in handy when I moseyed on past the crowds of “Industry Affiliates,” “Buyers,” and even “Exhibitors” through the security people and into the large door with “Press” above it to attend Samsung’s keynote. I was a little late to the party – I had no idea that press was allowed in an hour early. A fifth row seat isn’t too bad, though.

Samsung’s CEO Stephen Woo ran the show and talked about three main things: Processing, Memory, and Displays.

Processing

EXNOS5OCTA

The main focus of the processing portion was the new Exynos 5 OCTA
processor. This mobile processor has amazing power – enough to accomplish web searches, a restaurant finder, a GPS, and playing an HD video all simultaneously on a tablet. It also has twice as powerful 3D rendering – as demonstrated by Glenn Roland from EA and a scarily realistic Need for Speed game. The most impressive part of this processor, however, is that it uses 70% less energy than it’s predecessor. Thanks to Samsung’s partnership with ARM, the Exynos 5 OCTA features a technology called “Big Little” (how creative). Essentially, the processor has two sets of 4 cores: One set is of smaller Cortex A7s for simple, efficient browsing; The other of large, powerful Cortex A15s for complex 3D rendering and other processor-heavy tasks. This means that when you’re simply browsing the web, you’re not using a multitude of battery power, but when you open up Need for Speed you have a processing powerhouse at your fingertips.

With this new processor, Samsung showed how their Galaxy Camera would be able to support a 13 megapixel sensor. Woo then showed a video that essentially said that there is too much data on the internet, and it’s all a result of cats (and people making videos of them).

Memory

This section of the keynote was relatively boring. All of the data (that is the result of cats) is stored in data centers across the world, and if every single data center switched to Samsung’s solid state drives, enough energy would be saved to power New York City for 6 months.

Displays

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Brian Berkely Bends a Screen (Getty Images)

This is the area where Samsung got some real cheers from the crowd. Woo brought out Brian Berkely from Samsung’s San Jose Display Lab. Berkely started off talking about how displays have been undergoing a “pixel war”: All of the display manufacturers are battling to get the most pixels into the smallest amount of space. Samsung’s 10.1″ display has the best colors and highest pixel density of any tablet display ever made – 300 PPI. That’s the same resolution of a standard printer.

Berkely went on to talk about how OLED technology gives the brightest, most vivid displays. “They’re super thin and lightweight. Because OLEDS produce their own light, they don’t require thick, heavy, power consuming backlight. And now, thanks to Samsung technology, they can also be flexible.” He brought out a screen prototype and bent it around. Woo then showed a video of a phone that flips open to reveal a large tablet surface.

Then someone from microsoft came out and talked about how samsung is amazing blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah. He showed off Windows Phone on another bendy display. Then there was something with xbox. Here’s a link to an article written by someone who actually cares about it.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton?

Bill Clinton?

Mr. Woo went on talking about how this new technology should be available for all, and transitioned into the “Samsung Hope for Children” program – providing technology-rich education for third world countries. He then showed a video about the Bill Clinton foundation. And lo and behold, Bill Clinton walks out.

“When I became president, the average cell phone weighed five pounds… There were a grand total of fifty sites on the entire internet. Fifty. More than that have been added since I started talking.”

Then he went on talking about how technology has helped him, and he then somehow transitioned into talking about gun control.

My Thoughts

Samsung’s component announcements will mean very little to the consumer – until a product with one comes out.

Samsung’s display announcements will mean very little to the consumer – until a product with one comes out.

Samsung’s memory announcements mean very little to the consumer and only really appeals to manufacturers.

But in the end, showing off the components in the keynote gives consumers a look into the future of what might be possible using those components.

What we can really take away from this is that the technology exists to have extremely powerful devices with long battery life, energy efficient data centers, and crazy displays.

Oh, and I still don’t understand why Bill Clinton was there.

Gizoogle: A Gangsta Google Search

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Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 12.42.34 AMGoogle Search is a wonderful utility: type in what you want, and you’ll probably get it.

 

Well, Gizoogle is a parody on Google searches that really spruces up the search results. It has an alternate dictionary which it switches out various words in the search for. Examples include (but are not limited to) hair=afro; love=ludd; good=phat.

The best part is that the search is still completely accurate. If compared to a Google search for the same thing, the results will be identical (other than Gizoogle’s alternative dialect). This is because Gizoogle still uses the Google Search API, meaning you’ll get Google’s same accurate and reliable search results, just in a different dialect. For example, if you type “good morning geek” into Google Search, the first result will go something like this:

 Here’s how to turn it into an “I’m Feeling Lucky” box, so that if you type Good Morning Geek into the bar, it will take you straight to GMG!

Here’s the result for the same search on Gizoogle:

Here’s how tha fuck ta turn it tha fuck into a “I’m Feelin Lucky” box, so dat if you type Dope Mornin Geek tha fuck into tha bar, it will take you straight ta GMG, muthafucka!

 

When a link is clicked, you’ll get the Gizoogled translation of the page, but it will still be the correct page. One of my favorites for this is the Alpaca article on Wikipedia. Normally it will say:

Alpacas are kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of southern Peru, northern BoliviaEcuador, and northern Chile at an altitude of 3,500 m (11,500 ft) to 5,000 m (16,000 ft) above sea level, throughout the year.[1] Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, they were not bred to be beasts of burden, but were bred specifically for their fiber. Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items, similar to wool.

The Gizoogled translation:

Alpacas is kept up in herdz dat graze on tha level heightz of tha Andes of southern Peru, northern BoliviaEcuador, n’ northern Chile at a altitude of 3,500 m (11,500 ft) ta 5,000 m (16,000 ft) above sea level, all up in tha year.[1] Alpacas is considerably smalla than llamas, n’ unlike llamas, they was not bred ta be beastz of burden yo, but was bred specifically fo’ they fiber. Alpaca fiber is used fo’ bustin knitted n’ woven items, similar ta wool.

Enjoy! http://gizoogle.net

 

Google Maps for iPhone is Here!

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With the release of iOS 6, the biggest complaint was the new maps app. And I don’t just mean people were whining a bit; I mean that it was such a big deal that many people refrained from updating to iOS 6 just for the bad maps. It was such a big problem that Apple even created a special section on the featured page of the App Store with alternative map apps. And it’s not just the Apple addicts noticing – a slew of memes have popped up mentioning iOS maps as well.

There’s been quite the uproar, but finally Google has fixed our problems. Introducing the official Google Maps for iPhone!

I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t that what we had before iOS6? Well, kind of. Before iOS 6, Apple had created their own maps app that used the Google Maps API. This new Google Maps app is completely built and maintained by Google, no Apple involvement.

The app is just how you’d expect it to be: A nice, clean google interface with sans-serif fonts and light colors. The zooming is very smooth and font sizes change like water. The “3D” effect is less than that of Apple’s maps, but it is still adequate for getting a general idea of the terrain.

The app also comes with Google’s voice navigation, which is a nice addition for many.

Overall, it’s what you’d expect – a good, solid, full-featured maps app that is a free alternative to the laughable iOS maps.

Click here to download it from iTunes. 


Fotoclips

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Ah, photography. The practice of capturing moments in a still representation of the world, then bringing them back to life with just a glance.

Photographs are awesome. We take cameras and photos for granted, as we can capture a moment of our lives at anytime and anywhere thanks to phone cameras. Really, photos are something that our lives wouldn’t be complete without. What if you never had that picture of your boss wearing a party had upside down (didn’t think that was possible, did ya!)? Or of your cat standing up?! Or of that lizard licking your friend’s nose?!

There are some things that we just can’t keep in our mind in full detail. We can’t remember moments exactly as they happened (unless, of course, you have photographic memory), so we have photos to help us. They’re captures of our world that can be stored and recalled to bring back memories that we may always treasure.

Once we take these magical photographs, we can do one of a few things with them.

One option is to leave them on our phone to be scrolled back to when showing something to someone.

Or you could upload them to facebook to share that magical moment with all 1,500 of your closest friends.

I like to do something else with my photos – something that is unfortunately hard to find these days, but it’s still a practice that we will never be able to replace:

PRINTING.

Yes, like with paper. And ink. (gasp)

Printing is this amazing practice where you get a physical copy of your photo which will exist without electricity and without the internet. It’s a magical thing that people really aren’t wont to doing anymore.

And there’s another benefit to printing your photos: You get to display them wherever you desire. With a printed photo (and maybe a little bit of tape), you can put that memory wherever you please and you’ll always be reminded.

This is often done with a picture frame. Honestly, I have nothing against the picture frame. You get your photo with a border of sorts behind a piece of glass standing up wherever you want it, or nailed to a wall. It’s a great idea, the picture frame, that will always be prominent (at least around people who actually print some of their photos). But I think that we could be a little more creative. We are the world’s artists, the world’s craftsmen – so we should build something for our photos that really makes the world – and our walls – a better place.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce fotoclips.

Yup. That’s it. That tiny little plastic clip.

But with simplicity comes possibility. With this clip, two photos can be joined together.

With two clips, you could conjoin three photos.

Imagine what you could do with 100 of them, hmm?

Fotoclips are the super simple way to make awesome things out o

f your photos. These turn your photos into building blocks, and the rest is up to your imagination.

One pack of Fotoclips comes with 100 of those 2D clips, and 10 orange clips. These magical clips transport your photos into a new dimension – THE THIRD ONE!

These orange clips let you make corners – meaning that your photos can turn into amazing things like boxes and rectangles!

Fotoclips take your memories and make them even more creative than they were in the first place.

Imagine the possibilities!

In the past, fotoclips have been used to make wall murals, hats, lamp shades, and even dresses. A photo dress – now that’s what I call creativity!

 

 

 

Fotoclips are also awesome because they involve no glue and don’t damage your beautiful snapshots at all. If you ever get bored of your creation, just take it all apart and build something new. It’s that simple.

One of the most popular things to do with fotoclips is to make wall murals.

That’s a mural that I made out of the first prints off of my Lomo LC-A+. Each fotoclip has a little hole drilled out in the middle where you can stick a nail, or a thumbtack, or anything else you desire – but due to the condition of the wall, I just put some painter’s tape on the back of each photo to hold it up.

Want to make your own photographical compositions? It’ll only cost you about ten buckaroos over at the Lomography shop. The possibilities are only your lunch money away!

Fotoclips at the Lomography Online Shop

Apple’s new iPods and iPhone: Simply screwed up

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Today Apple had an announcement about their much awaited iPhone 5 and a few new iPods.

The iPod touch was updated to be thinner with a newer camera, new dock connector, a new chip, a taller 4 inch screen, a new camera and some colored backs. They’ve also added a small magnet for a wrist-strap, implying that it’s targeted for kids. The screen is the same screen that they’ve put into the new iPhone 5, and you’ll read about why I don’t like that later.

The Nano was revised to be a bit bigger, with surprisingly unappealing icons and a stupid design that makes it look like a zune. Seriously, their designs are near-identical (but Microsoft won’t sue because Microsoft isn’t that malevolent). The new Nano introduces nothing interesting and nothing new except for a dock connector which requires a big expensive adaptor to be used with older 30-pin accessories. Worst of all, they called it the “Lightning” connector.

The most awaited product on their list was the iPhone 5, which really, I’m disappointed about. It features 4G LTE connectivity (about time), an “updated” dock connector, a tall, 4″ screen, no NFC, and an overall not-so-great design.

First of all, the screen. It’s the same width as the current iPhone, but they made it a bit taller. I don’t think that it’s the right way to go, as the proportions of it are simply weird. The ratio is very awkward in general.

 

 

Flip the thing around and you’ll think you’re staring at a prototype. On the top and bottom edges of the back of the iPhone, you’ll be greeted with glass. The rest of the back is a piece of aluminum. It looks unrefined and unfinished.

 

 

 

Then, there’s “EarPods.” Apple basically revamped their old headphones and renamed them with a name that I will never come to accept. EarPods? Seriously?

Overall, the announcement was not just underwhelming, it was disappointing. They revamped the insides a little bit, but I think that they went very, very wrong with their design.

 

How Secure is Your Password?

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I was doing internet-type things and stuff when I stumbled across this clean, simple, and useful website:

http://howsecureismypassword.net

It’s simple. You type in your password and it estimates how long it would take a standard desktop PC to guess your password based on the length, words, characters, and numbers that you’ve entered.

Even better, it tells you what you should fix. It will say if it’s too short, or if you need more characters, or if it shouldn’t be based off of a word. It tells you how secure your password is then tells you how to make it even more secure.

It also has a database of the most common passwords that it compares to. So if your password is under that category, you might want to seriously reconsider your online security situation.

These are all nice, but there’s one part that I absolutely love: The background. If you put in a super awesome, secure password, it will turn green. It does this by checking the password against the database, and if it’s good, it returns it to javascript which then changes the background color. The background color change is a nice, even fade thanks to CSS3 transitions, and they even bothered to add in entries for webkit, mozilla, and opera. Oh how I love CSS transitions.

And their font is nice.

http://howsecureismypassword.net

 

The Sphero

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When I arrived at my first CES, one of the first things that I saw and experienced in depth was the Sphero. They had a medium sized booth, with a little track and some ramps. There were all of these tiny little white balls rolling around on it, and I must say – it looked pretty cool. A chat and a demo later, I saw what it was. It was a little ball that rolled around and was controlled by your iPhone or iPad. That was about it. The people at the booth told me that they would be evolving it and making it into an API for any developer to use, and that the product would be sold eventually for under $100. The prototypes at the stand were functional, but barely. A small drop and they would fall apart. Upon pressing the “boost” button, they would go crazy and lose their bearings. Not to mention that those were all they had with them, so when one broke down beyond repair they were simply down one. It looked promising. The concept was cool, it seemed flexible, it could definitely be something cool. After all, it was just a ball – which left plenty of room for the imagination of customers and developers.

It’s one year later. I’m back at CES. Upon walking into the convention center, I can see a giant rotating sphere that seems to be a giant model of the sphero. Upon arriving under said banner, I saw something big – much bigger than the year before. The booth was much larger, there were tons of spheros everywhere, and there were video presentations on TV monitors and banners and everything. Much, much, MUCH bigger than last year. It looked like they had really grown. Here they had these balls that were made out of a very solid plastic, had inductive chargers, sphero logos embedded on each one, and none of them were out of control. Heck, they were rolling them down concrete stairs! I checked over and they had really gotten somewhere.

The Concept

As I said before, this thing is a ball. It now has open APIs that any iOS or Android developer can use to integrate the sphero with their apps. The range of applications has grown, and there are apps available that can make the sphero a fake golf ball or even take advantage of the sphero’s accelerometer and gyroscope to use it as a game controller. The range of applications is constantly growing, so buying a sphero isn’t just buying a ball – it’s like buying a phone, who’s functionality will keep growing with more applications and updates.

The Ball

The Sphero itself doesn’t take up much space. It’s white, hard plastic that has no spaces or anywhere that the plastic snaps together or comes apart. In fact, it doesn’t have a charging port. If one were to look inside of a sphero (which would be very difficult considering that they would need to saw or melt open the outer shell), he would find an array of devices. There’s some motors as well as a main motherboard which contains a compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, bluetooth card, and a bunch of other robotic computing stuff. They would also find the multicolor LED that lights up the ball in any color you want. The sphero contains a standard lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which is charged through an inductive charger. For those of you who don’t know what an inductive charger is, it’s basically a charger that charges a battery through a material without having any physical contacts. These are sometimes found in electric toothbrush chargers, emergency flashlight chargers, and more recently on electronic devices such as the Palm Pre or the duracell powermat. To charge the sphero, just set it in its dock with the heavier part of the sphero on the bottom. Like magic, the sphero will start charging. Cool! To wake the ball up, just shake it. Yup. No switches here, just shake it as if it were a two week old container of orange juice and it will light up and be ready to play. Set it down on the ground, open up your iOS or android device, and start rolling. The sphero connects to your device through bluetooth. A user will notice a tail-like figure on the top of it. This shows the orientation of the sphero relative to the control mechanism in the application. If one picks up the sphero and spins it, she would notice that the mechanism inside would constantly adjust to maintain the set orientation. That’s part of the robotics at work. Overall, the sphero is one intelligent, intuitive ball.

The Interface

Sphero provides a few apps to demonstrate the basic functionalities of the sphero. The main app, Sphero Drive, simply allows the user to drive the sphero around. Here you won’t find any steering wheels or throttle nonsense – just a circle with a little sphero-shaped control in it. This eliminates the confusion that often comes when you’re driving a device towards you. With a steering wheel, it ends up becoming reversed, but with this interface, it’s not a problem. Put two fingers on the screen and rotate them, and you’ll see a blue dot on the sphero. Point it right towards yourself, then pushing the sphero in the app forward will cause the sphero to roll forward. Pushing it right will make it roll right. It’s as simple as that.

Apps

At the moment, Sphero has been releasing many different apps. One of them is the standard “Sphero Drive” application that I was mentioning up there. Others like Chromo use the sphero as a controller, and one app allows the user to play golf with it. At the moment, there are many different applications being developed and there’s always new ones available. Conclusion The Sphero is available from both Sphero’s website and now many brookstone stores for $130. I will say, that it is not a cheap toy – but think of it as a console, where there’s always new games out that you can buy. If you’re a developer, you can use Sphero’s open API to integrate it into your applications for free. Check out the sphero website for available apps, purchasing the Sphero, and using their free API. http://gosphero.com

P.S. Thank you Sphero for sending me the finished product!