The Linux Challenge | TeknoCratik Episode 011

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A Linux filled episode! Can anybody use it?

Tim starts a tech support business and Dan does it for free. We share some stories.

Tim tries a couple of Linux distributions on his spare hardware and talks about his experiences.

We discuss privacy concerns about the direction that Canonical is taking the Ubuntu desktop.

We now have Amazon Affiliate Chrome and Firefox extensions!

 

Enjoy!

 

TeknoCratik Episode 10 – What next for mobile?

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In this episode we take a look at mobile. We discuss what we would like to see and what may be coming to rock the industry in the future. As well as reviewing what direction we think the big players will take we also take a look at:

 

The Ubuntu Phone Project

Firefox OS

The Tizen project and Samsung

Phone Bloks

 

Enjoy!

 

 

TeknoCratik Episode 08 – Making Music With Rick Moyer

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Tim and I are joined once again by good friend, musician, voice over artist, photographer, all round talented guy and fellow podcaster Rick Moyer. Rick tells us how he is getting on with his new Apple Mac studio equipment for his content creation business and even writes a song live on the show!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

TeknoCratik Episode 04 – PC Woes

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Tim nearly trashes his PC! He and Dan discuss his upgrade plans, the state of play of hardware and software in mobile and desktop gaming, and more discussion on digital entertainment ecosystems.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Podcasts on iOS – Beyond iTunes

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There was a time when you wanted to listen to or watch a podcast on your iPod or iPhone, iTunes was your only option.

Nobody can deny that Apple was instrumental in the popularity take off of podcasts since the early days in 2005 when the functionality was added to iTunes but Apple haven’t really done anything revolutionary with them since. In the days of the original iPod the current support of podcasts built into iTunes made total sense. The devices were not wireless and had no Internet connectivity. They needed to be physically connected or docked to a computer to allow iTunes to update their content.

This is no long the case. iPhones, the iPod Touch and the iPad are wireless Internet ready devices and yet Apple still required users to physically connect their device to update their podcast collection up until less than a year ago. Still, when it comes to podcasts the new “WiFi Sync” feature of iOS 5 is not ideal. Podcast management still needs to be controlled from the desktop in iTunes. You still need to go to your computer, fire up iTunes and let your podcasts update.

There are very strong indications that Apple have no interest in supporting podcasts in any more than they do already and this is understandable for a couple of reasons. Firstly the podcasting medium has come full circle in the fact that there are so many applications and websites that search, index and playback podcasts on both computers and portable devices that the reliance on iTunes has all but disappeared. Secondly there is no revenue for Apple when it comes to podcasts. The majority are free and iTunes has no facility (and the content producers have no desire) to give access to subscription based shows as far as I know.

I have absolutely no clue why Apple have not added podcast management features in the mobile versions of iTunes that you access from your iPhone or iPad. Only the most basic functionality is available. You can search for podcasts and you can even manually download them individually but no facility is available to automate the process.

To make matters worse not only did Apple not offer these features they prevented third party developers from offering them for a very long time. Apps that are commonly known today as “podcatchers” we’re banned from the App store until quite recently. They had a very strict policy that third party apps that replicated the functionality of native iOS apps we not allowed. Luckily this policy has gradually been relaxed and there is a good choice of apps available today.

So what is the advantage of using a podcatcher app? Let me describe two scenarios in getting new podcasts on to an iPhone.

Scenario number one: Using iTunes for podcast management, I would need to go over to my computer, fire up iTunes, give it time to go through all my podcast subscriptions and download them. Once that has finished I either have to plug my iPhone in or connect to wifi sync and update the content on my iPhone. This takes a little time, longer if I’m doing it wirelessly and iTunes may also do a backup of my device as well which will delay things further. Finally I can disconnect my iPhone and listen to my updated podcasts.

Scenario number two: I fire up my podcatcher app and it downloads the latest podcasts I’m subscribed to directly to my device. I start listening! :)

That’s the bare bones of it. Of course podcatcher apps do offer quite a few other features depending on which one you go for but even when comes to the basics it’s so much simpler. At the time of writing (as listed in Wikipedia) these are the podcatcher apps that are available in the App Store:

PodCruncher: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/podcast-player-manager-app/id421894356?mt=8
Podcaster: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/podcaster-4/id377195245?mt=8
Downcast: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/downcast/id393858566?mt=8
Podcatcher: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/podcatcher/id367314338?mt=8
Instacast: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/instacast/id420368235?mt=8
Pocket Casts: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pocket-casts/id414834813?mt=8
RSSRadio: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rssradio-podcast-downloader/id382552897?mt=8
iCatcher!: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/icatcher!-podcast-catcher/id414419105?mt=8

I have used a few of these and recently switched to iCatcher! so a review will most likely follow soon. In the mean time I wholeheartedly recommend you try one if you’re still using iTunes.

Update: According to this blog post Apple are planning on removing podcast functionality from mobile iTunes in iOS 6 and giving them there own app. Still a rumour, but interesting.

Review: Radiant Defense

Radiant Defense, developed by Hexage is a colorful Tower Defense game set as a “sequel” to the popular Radiant, which is a arcade/action space shooter inspired by games such as Space Invaders. Yeah, a bit of a weird sequel idea.  Your in charge of stopping alien invasions by an alien commander that is incompetent.  So is Radiant Defense a worthy Tower-defense game or one to throw into the bin? Well, read on and you’ll find out…

Radiant Defense, if I had to label it anything at all, its unique.  It is a single player game with an online score board that you can submit your scores to and compare to other players.   The colorful, yet old-style inspired graphics are a trademark of Hexage and no less impressive in this game. It is a feast for the eyes and the various colors are fun to look at.  The audio is a good, solid OST that complements the game very well.  The presentation of the game is very well done and if you’ve ever played any of Hexage’s other games, its very familiar especially for Robotek players.  There is no real difference in UI or functionality between the iPhone and iPad besides the screen size difference.  Its a great presentation.  In typical Tower defense fashion, Radiant gives you a choice of towers and you have to fend off waves of enemies.  While you do get a preset level to play on, the game also gives you a certain number of modules to dictate where the enemies will path through.  Look at the screenshot below to see what I’m talking about.  The game also has a “research unit” that allow the construction of additional towers in the level.  The research unit is also required every game in order to allow the building of the tower packs that you can purchase for 99 cents each.  The aliens that attack are varied and colorful and there are apparently over 100 different aliens that you get to fight.

One of the waves

The game begins to fall apart when you start playing in the first few levels.  Most of the towers shoot at random times and there is an accuracy/physics to each tower’s shots.  So its entirely possible for you to have enemies slip through your defenses because all your towers missed.  In all the tower defense games I’ve played, this mechanic mystifies me because I have never seen it used and for good reason.  Its frustrating to have enemies get through because your towers just happened to miss.  Also, the AI for the towers is poorly done, as they will shoot at random enemies most of the time rather than at the most important ones, the ones closest to the end of the road.  I lost several games because the towers were not shooting the most important targets.  The difficulty level is also incredibly high considering I was only on level two and failing.  Which is mostly caused by the fact that the waves seem to be unbalanced.  One wave, you can have two towers at base level easily kill them and then the next wave those upgraded towers plus additional tower are no longer able to keep the wave down and you got mowed over.  Its a very unforgiving setup which is mystifying considering how flexible the game is with allowing you to dictact where the enemies get pathed and variety of towers.  Plus, the amount of money that aliens drop per kill is simply too low for how costly the towers/research units are and they are very expensive.  Its clear they had some interesting ideas about TD, but it plays off as too random and based on chance and as such, very frustrating to play in the TD-genre.

Settings are basic and straightforward

I also have to slam the lack of iCloud sync between iOS devices or any type of sync for that matter.  This game would easily be suited for it and its rather jarring to have a game app show up on the store without some sort of sync.  And really, considering how many devices this game supports, it makes me wonder why they didn’t try something.  The iOS version also requests an iTunes password when you load the game for no explicable reason and maybe its for the IAPs, but I’d rather it would wait until I actually requested to purchase the tower packs.  The freemium based model this game uses is also questionable for a tower defense game and I don’t think it works all that well.  I certainly don’t have any compulsion to buy the tower packs that are offered.

That said, Radiant Defense looks and sounds good.  If your looking for a challenging Tower Defense game, you may be interested.  The game is certainly very unique in the mobile crowd and I’m glad to see devs trying something new.  I personally won’t be playing it after the review as I didn’t find the humor to be funny and the game mechanics poorly implemented.  The game just isn’t all that fun.  However, it is free after all so it doesn’t hurt to try it out.

Trailer:

Radiant Defense is developed by Hexage for the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Windows 7 Phone, Android, and Mac. Requires iOS 3.2 or later. Requires Android 2.2 or later.  Requires Mac OSX 10.7 or later. It is a universal app on the iOS store and is free on all platforms with no advertisements. It does have in-app-purchases that are optional for 99 cents in order to increase the amount of towers you can have. This review only covers the iPhone & iPad versions, but the experience should be the same on all platforms.  There is no social media integration, except an optional scoreboard hosted by Hexage.

-KingIsaacLinksr

Important Links:

Radiant Defense Website

Hexage Website

iOS App Store

Mac App Store

Android Play

Windows 7 Phone Store

Radiant Defense for Mobile Devices

Review: Air Video for iOS

iPhones and iPads only get a maximum of 64 GBs of space to store all your stuff.  16-64 GBs can usually handle most of our stuff that we need on a daily basis, except for videos.  Apple does provide TV/Movies via iTunes in iCloud, but what if your library consists of videos that aren’t from iTunes?  And you have a really large library of movies/episodes that you don’t want to sync to your device?  Well, there is an app for that and this time we are going to review the app “Air Video” by InMethod s.r.o.

Air Video is an app that lets you stream your entire library from your PC/Mac over your local area connection and Internet.  Air Video uses a Windows/Mac app from the main website The app does require some setup with your router and port forwarding.  Feature wise, the app comes with quite a few.  It includes airplay, subtitle reading, live conversion of videos, video zoom and settings for the resolution of the videos as well.  It also allows you to convert your video files into an iPhone/iPad friendly format which you can sync onto device, this is handy for those with exotic formats like MKV or AVI.  If you have a native format that iOS devices can play, the app can play them without any conversion needed.  However, the app cannot stream DRM videos such as the ones sold from iTunes.  Otherwise, this app is pretty simple in its idea but executes it very well.  The setup is fairly straightforward, the UI looks good and it comes with a good feature and setting set.

iPad look and features

iPhone look and features

Developer support has been solid for the app, and it has been kept up to date with iOS 5.  At this time, I don’t have any features that come to mind that this app could benefit from.  I have never interacted with their email support so I cannot say if it is good or bad.  For as long as I have had the app, it has never had any bugs/crashing or other performance issues.

As far as my experience with this app goes, its quite good.  I am glad that the app provides a lot of options as far as streaming goes because standard options would not have worked on my setup.  Once you get the apps all setup, the app works like a charm.  The app is well built and I like that they built their own UI into the app rather than leaning on the “norm”.  The cost of $2.99 is ridiculously cheap for the usability of this app, especially if your a big video buff.  However, if your going to run into any trouble with the app, its setting up the companion app and the iOS apps and getting them to communicate with each other.  I would recommend getting the free version of the app first and making sure that it works before buying the app.  With all the different router configurations out there, there is bound to be one that will prevent Air Video from working properly.  Besides that, the app achieves what it set out to do, providing streaming for ridiculously large video libraries on our PCs straight to our mobile devices.

Air Video is available on the iOS store for free (limited number of displayed items per folder) and $2.99.  It is a universal app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.  The app requires a companion app for Windows and Mac.  It has an average of 4.5 stars from user reviews.  There are no other in-app purchases in Air Video as of the writing of this review.

-KingIsaacLinksr

Other Necessary Links:

Air Video Website

Windows/Mac Companion App Download

Video footage is from Clear Skies

Air Video for iOS ($2.99)

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Enjoy Netflix (US) with a Netflix UK account

20120222-203356.jpgAs good as the content is on Netflix UK nobody can argue that American customers have a better selection of content. After all, the UK service has just launched and Netflix are still busily adding content and making new deals every day.

If you are feeling the green eye of envy towards are American cousins, fear not, as you too can be enjoying the exact same material they are in a matter of minutes. Not everybody is aware that Netflix changed the way they handled user accounts once they branched their streaming service out of the United States and went international. If you happen to be visiting a country that has Netflix then logging into your account on your laptop for example gives you access to their catalogue.

To make use of this feature without venturing out of your home you need to make Netflix believe you are actually in the country of your choosing. Typically a paid VPN service is the way to go. A service like this creates a secure network “tunnel” through your Internet connection giving you a new IP address and fooling other systems into believing you are in the USA for example. While these services are great and have the bonus of pretty much giving you anonymity whilst online they do literally make any network connection you make believe you are where you say you want to be so if you need some services to believe you are actually “home” a lot of fiddling can be involved in switching the VPN on and off. As well as this many of these VPN providers require you to make modifications to individual computers (although some routers can be altered to work with a VPN service) and you cannot use the same VPN account on more than one computer at the same time. Also if you have a PS3 or an Xbox 360 you cannot add VPN services to these for example.

I had used a VPN before and this was how I managed to test Netflix US and other American services such as Hulu and Pandora but I soon got tired of the switching back a forth until I found another solution called Unblock-US which works slightly differently. Instead of VPN that gives you a new network connection this service alters your DNS (Domain Name System) settings, another way computers can identify where other computers are geographically situated, and it tells them you’re in the US. The beauty of this is two-fold. Firstly you still use your own Internet connection and ISP totally so the connection should be much more stable. Secondly only very minor changes need to be performed to your Internet settings (they even have an app that does it for you) to get it to work and similar settings can be found in most modern routers. This means if you want your entire network to use it you can, including consoles, networked blu-ray players etc.

As an added bonus, a lot of the native streaming services to the UK such as BBC iPlayer and 4OD look at your IP address (which doesn’t change and is still UK) and not your DNS settings to see if you in the country and so continue to work even with the service switched on. The end result, for me at least is a pretty seamless streaming experience. I can fire up Netflix US or Hulu one minute then switch to BBC iPlayer the next.

The service is not free but it is a reasonable $4.99 per month and they do have a free trial so you have nothing to lose. If you are outside the US and are looking to expand your streaming choices then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Unblock-US.