See you at Wind Eggs

Dear viewers. This blog has not been active for years, but for some reason WordPress directs you to it as my default blog even though it is not.

If you really want to follow me, you can follow me at Wind Eggs.

Thanks for the follow, and I apologize for the inconvenience.


This Christmas has balls

Spoiler alert! If you want to send custom images to family and friends for Christmas eCards, you can do no better than Infinite Dreams' Christmas. Like Let's Create: Pottery, you can build ornaments from scratch, decorate them and photograph them with colored lighting. Four Stars.

You may have to search through several apps named Christmas to find Christmas. For some reason, verbal ingenuity dies when it comes to the holidays. Or perhaps developers don't want to accidentally offend the many right wing advocates who turn every well-intentioned attempt at holiday cheer into a war on the most holy of holidays. “Christmas” may offend some secular partisans, but no one in the media pays attention to them anyway.

Infinite Dreams' Christmas is a lite implementation of Let's Create: Pottery. Like Pottery, you create and decorate ornaments before sending them as eCards to friends. Unlike pottery, you can't mold the ornaments to any shape you choose, and you can't earn credits to buy more brushes and colors. The selection is far more limited, but still fun.

You begin with one of nine basic ornament shapes with surfaces that range from shiny smooth to sparkly or ridged. Six of those ornaments are really attractive, three not so much. But that's still plenty to work with. Once you finish your shell, you can then hand paint the ornament and add a number of pre-cut patterns to emboss and gloss the surface.

Christmas offers several basic shapes and colors which you can enhance with any of dozens of custom brushes that stamp patterns onto the surface. You can even choose the color of lights to view the ornament.

The patterns, or brushes, range in style from elegant to kitsch. Children will love decorating with cartoon patterns such as smiling trees and reindeer.

The app runs well on the iPad 3 and up, and very slowly on the original iPad. In fact, this was the main reason I didn't review it last year when it was introduced. I still had the iPad delivered to my door the first day Apple made them available and I couldn't speak to performance the way I would have liked.

Once you finish your ornament, you can add it to your permanent collection or pitch it and start over. You can depict the ornament against several different back drops, but you have a far greater variety for the backgrounds to your eCards.

This year Infinite Dreams released an upgrade that they claimed would introduced new brushes and materials daily, which sounded pretty cool. Unfortunately, that meant they reset the game to a single shape, material and background, and then slowly added in the materials I lost. It wasn't until yesterday that I finally felt like I was getting the full complement of brushes, shapes and paints.

When you finish your ornament, you can send it as an eCard to your friends. The cards offer a wide variety of backgrounds and typefaces.

As a fan of Pottery, however, I haven't warmed up to Christmas quite as much. I miss the ability to post ornaments to the web, and I would love to be able to create my own shapes. And I would love to be able to earn different brush sets. I also miss having challenge designs issued in the form of orders from clients.

On the other hand, the graphics are stunning. Perhaps even more eye-catching than those in Pottery. The rendering under different colored lights is amazing to see; the detail almost breathtaking. And the interface is identical—extremely easy to figure out and use. If you want an app to get you into the holiday spirit, Christmas is the one to try.

Jenny Manytoes rates Christmas

Jenny Manytoes would purr next to Christmas.

The graphics are spectacular, and you can create dozens of ornaments to send to friends in a matter of minutes.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.
Posted in 4 Stars - Purr, Entertainment, Seasonal | Tagged | 1 Comment

Bad Piggies fly high

Spoiler alert!Bad Piggies offers a new twist on the physics/maze puzzle games. It combines the maze challenges of games like Where's My Water with the Rube Goldberg ingenuity of Casey's Contraptions (now offered as Rovio's Amazing Alex) to create an Angry Birds spin off that will stump the best minds. Best Buy.

Until Angry Birds Star Wars, Bad Piggies was, hands down, the best game of the year. Birds creator Rovio clearly outdid themselves for all of two months. Taking second place to the best installment of a thoroughbred series is still pretty damn good, and for once the piggies have a chance to win.

The concept is simple but elegant. The pigs have to navigate a maze with a vehicle they design. Each level presents a new challenge that needs a new design. Finishing isn't enough, however. The pigs have to collect stars and bonus skulls, finish time trials, avoid destruction and even safely ferry passengers.

The machines can be incredibly complex, allowing you to flip, roll and loop thought tunnels. You may have to try several different designs to finish a level.

Players begin with simple goals and train for increasingly difficult challenges with a wider variety of tools. They begin by propelling themselves through the maze with TNT. They add box frames, a variety of wheels and even soda bottle propulsion. From there they progress to springs, umbrellas, balloons, motors, fans, propellors, wings and tail fins. Some levels require multiple passes with different vehicles to master.

The first level requires players to master ground transport. The second layer introduces balloon flight and by the third players will be building airplanes and helicopters with rocket propulsion. The more stars players earn, the more bonus challenges they unlock. Some of the puzzles are straightforward but others are mind-bendingly twisted, requiring players to flip, spin and even loop their vehicles backward.

Vehicles have to navigate hazardous tunnels, sometimes leaping over chasms and other times avoiding bobby traps and natural hazards.

Players who master the game levels also unlock sand boxes for experimental play. Each sandbox contains twenty stars to be collected. The more stages players complete, the more parts are added to their toolbox, allowing them to create incredibly complex machines (some of which will go nowhere or self-destruct quickly).

If players get stuck they can buy blueprints for each stage ($10 for 60 blue prints). A more cost-effective aid is the Piggy Guide walkthrough for $3, which provides written descriptions, illustrations and even complete video playback. The interface for the Piggy Guide isn't as slick as the interface for the Angry Birds All-in-One walk through, but the solutions are far more clearly described.

The art work isn't as spectacular as the Angry Birds entries, and the color palette is pretty muted. Designers focus almost exclusively on earth tones, so the color doesn't leap off the screen. But the overall design is entertaining and nothing in the graphics distracts from gameplay.

The more levels you master the more tools you will find in your sandboxes. The sandboxes have no specific objectives except to collect all the stars. You can make as many passes and as many different vehicles as you like.

As with Angry Birds, Rovio adds new levels every few months, so the game should challenge for a long time. If you're tired of shooting birds at defenseless piggies and want to do something constructive for a change, Bad Piggies is a great way to divert yourself for an hour or two, or even five minutes at a time.

Jenny Manytoes rates Bad Piggies

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over Bad Piggies. The game design is unique, play intriguing and puzzles range from simple to mind-melting. No one will blow through this in a couple of days. Best Buy, unless we're talking about Angry Birds Star Wars and then it's a second-best buy.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.
Posted in 5 Stars + Best Buy, Arcade Games, Entertainment, Games, Puzzle Games | Leave a comment

Angry Birds Star Wars Unleashes Power of Force

Spoiler alert! Not only is Angry Birds Star Wars maybe the best game this year, it may be one of the best games ever. Angry Birds Star Wars incorporates the character's abilities to add new wrinkles and challenges. This is a great digital stocking stuffer, even for those who never fell in love with Star Wars.

How can Angry Birds survive its many incarnations and iterations without getting old? Because Rovio constantly finds new ways to challenge players, and the challenge to players in Angry Birds Star Wars is to master the force.

Once you reach the Death Star you will have to fight Darth Vadar's awesome levitating abilities. As long as he survives, you're doomed.

The levels combine all of the challenges added with the sequels, including the wonderfully fun gravity defying puzzles of Angry Birds Space. The birds have a whole new arsenal, however. Luke Skywalker Bird wields a light saber that reflects laser beams back at laser canons. Obie Wan Crownobe can shift objects with the power of the force. Han Solo Bird shoots laser pistols.

They take on Imperial Walkers that are almost impossible to destroy, the Death Star and fighters, and any number of laser canons. Players begin on Tatoonie and proceed beyond the Death Star to Hoth and Dagoba. Solutions that work on one level fail completely on another. The challenge levels introduce R2D2 with his retro electric shock powers.

Can you take down Imperial walkers with bubbles? Princess Leia brings bubbles to the fight, taking machinery apart at the seams.

You can't win until you learn how to manipulate objects. You will need to push rocks, turn laser canons on their allies, dismantle machines at their joints and even counteract the levitating powers of Darth Vabird himself. Many of the puzzles make Rube Goldberg machines feel simplistic.

The only misfire is Princess Leia. They left her character out in the first release. Really, the only strong female character in the entire series? (Sorry, I-III—really IV-VI—fans, but Amidala's character was as bland as the actress who played her.) They added her to the Hoth Planet episode in their first major upgrade, and what power do they give her? She blows bubbles.

Really? What was Rovio thinking? Or are women as scarce in their development force as they are in the game? It reminds me of the time my sister Beth got female action figures for her daughters' Christmas presents and they said, “Girls can't be heroes.” Sorry, guys, but Leia was the only character with any balls in the entire series.

Three Imperial cruisers? Can you take them down with five birds? You'll have to if you want to escape the ice planet and join Yoda on Dagobah.

The graphics are spectacular, the puzzles tougher than ever, and the game has a sense of humor that pervades every level. This much fun doesn't get much cheaper.

Jenny Manytoes rates Angry Birds Star Wars

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over Angry Birds Star Wars. It's the only game where she's ever wanted to climb into and be launched across towers to take down pigs. Best Buy.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.
Posted in 5 Stars + Best Buy, Arcade Games, Entertainment, Games, Puzzle Games | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Jot Touch brings pressure to your stylus

Spoiler alert! Even though the Adonit Jot Touch is a high maintenance tool, it seems to deliver the best response of any of the pens on the market. Art and design professionals who work with an iPad need this tool in their box.

Pressure sensitive styluses have a long history of almost hitting the mark. The original styluses beat the hell out of using a mouse, but drawing to the side of the artwork felt like working with dyslexia. It never felt comfortable. Wacom developed a pressure sensitive device that simulated touch and pressure but it was still a disconnect. 1

They did develop touch screen styluses that worked directly on a monitor, but they were expensive and Apple never tried to incorporate the technology. You were stuck buying a tablet laptop that ran Windows, and that was even more expensive. Nor did the Windows OS ever run the best art apps as well as Macs did.

The iPad seemed to be the perfect solution. The only problem was, the touch screen wasn't pressure sensitive. Only recently have pressure sensitive styluses been released to fill that void. At last we can draw directly on the screen, just like paper, for less than $100 (even if it is a penny less).

The Jot Touch seems to be the best of the lot, but I'm still waiting for more. Until then, if you need a pressure sensitive stylus for professional quality art and design work, this is the tool to buy.

The Jot Touch has a narrower barrel due to its lithium battery and a narrow stylus with plastic capacitive touch device. The plastic tip is relatively easy to lose, so you might want to keep the lid on when the pen isn't in your hand.

Before we sing it's praises, let's face up to the down side. Unlike the Pogo Connect, the Jot Touch is high maintenance. The lithium battery only carries a 12 hour charge and it takes several hours to recharge. The charge also dissipates after a couple of weeks in the drawer.

This means it could be out of service when you need it at 2 am for a rush job or when the muse strikes. You could buy a second, but recharging isn't as easy as it should be. Instead of using a plug-in recharger, the charging device is a USB connector that requires the pen to sit upright and connected to your desktop or laptop. The charging device is magnetic, but, trust me, it's awkward to type with a stylus standing precariously at your elbow.

As a cat rescuer, I find the recharger even more precarious. It hasn't happened yet, but I know the day will come when a cat slides across my keyboard and knocks my stylus onto the floor and rolls it into some obscure crevice thinking it's a wonderful toy.

The capacitive tip is a thin metal point with a small plastic circle attached (this is true of the Hex3 Jaja). The plastic tip is so easy to lose I lost one before I had a chance to use the pen. Being clear plastic, and very small, it's also difficult to find. In fact, I never found it. Replacements are easy to buy (in fact, you should plan on it since the usable life is only a few months), but I have learned to be extremely careful and keep the cap attached whenever the pen isn't in my hand.

When I used the Connect stylus with one of Procreate's ink tools, the Touch (right) provided a much greater sensitivity to pressure, allowing for a variety of strokes that I couldn't get with the Connect.

So why do I think the Jot Touch is the best? Well, first of all, I could only afford to buy two styluses for review and other reviews tended to rate the Jaja at the bottom of the pack. So I narrowed my focus on the Touch and Pogo Connect. Ergonomically, the Touch feels better. In part this is due to the narrower barrel. The Connect had to make room for the more convenient AA battery, and the barrel width was the sacrifice.

The real selling point was responsiveness. I compared the Touch and Connect with a number of different tools in ProCreate and in every case it was more responsive. I did modify some of the tool settings to test the range of sensitivity and in almost every case the Touch had a vastly superior sense of medium density and stoke width.

The pencil strokes showed that the Touch was better at responding to density and color. The three strokes at the left, from the Connect, showed some color variation between strokes. The Touch, right, could actually vary color within strokes and produce a wider range of color.

When the Touch didn't prove to be superior the results were identical. So I have to give the nod to the Touch, with two exceptions. Occasionally, when letting up on the stylus pressure to create the finest stroke, the Touch would behave as though I lifted the stylus off the surface altogether and leave slight gaps in the stoke.

I also found the Connect was better at fine pencil strokes such as hatch marks. The Touch still had a better feel for pressure, but it was easier to create even and narrowly spaced strokes with the Connect.

Fortunately, professionals don't need to choose between tools. We're professionals and can write the cost of both pens off. And I feel secure knowing that if I've been focusing on writing for a few weeks and need to sketch something out quickly, the Connect will be ready. If it isn't, I only need to trade batteries. But when I need a pen that will give me the best response, the Jot Touch outperforms the Connect by a significant margin.

The Connect only showed advantages with pencil hatch marks. I had an easier time creating evenly stoked lines with the Connect (left), but you could still see the superior color variation with the Touch (right)

Jenny Manytoes rates Jot Touch

Jenny Manytoes would purr next to Jot Touch. If it wasn't for the awkward recharging set-up, it would deserve biscuits and, perhaps, a best buy. But you will probably want to keep a Connect around for travel and emergency situations when your Touch's battery is drained.

1“Styli” is also accepted as the plural form of stylus, but, let's face it, saying “styli” feels no different than having to order a “venti” or “trenti” at Starbucks. You may get used to it after a while, but it's downright unAmerican. “Extra-large” and “styluses” work just fine, and it the person you're addressing looks at you as though you're an illiterate rube, it's not your fault. They're pretentious.back

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.
Posted in 4 Stars - Purr, Art and design | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Pogo Connects the dots

Spoiler alert! Pogo Connect answers the stylus envy the Surface advertisements want iPad users to feel. “Our pads have a stylus.” You have always been able to use a soft-rubber stylus with the iPad, but the Pogo Connect is pressure sensitive. The Connect with the iPad is a far better tool for sketching and digital art than my Wacom tablet, which I will probably retire for good. Four Stars.

The Pogo Connect is the most recent addition to the iPad stylus options, competing with the Adonit Jot Touch and Hex3 Jaja. For serious art, it isn't the best option (I would have to recommend the Jot Touch, and I will tomorrow), but for general use and sheer convenience it rises to the top of the list.

Why would you want a pressure sensitive stylus? Truthfully, the main application is for art and design. A pressure sensitive stylus resembles the strokes of a real pencil, pen or paintbrush (within the limits of the software). If you want your sketches to look more natural, you (or the budding artist you want to gift for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa) can't do better.

The Pogo Connect is substantially different from competitors Jaja and Jot Touch. It uses a replaceable rubber tip instead of the metal stylus. It also uses AA batteries, which means you won't need to stop work to recharge.

The strokes will vary by color and density depending on the tool selected and on how much pressure you apply with the tip. With some tools, such as the pencil, you will get some variation in color and a little in stroke. With ink you will get a huge variation in stroke, but nothing in color. With brushes the results can be striking (see the stylus comparison tomorrow).

Connecting the device to your iPad is a snap if you use the Pogo Connect application. Once you launch the app your iPad will recognize the Connect as soon as you turn it on, without having to set it up in the control panel. The pen runs on a AA battery, and shuts down after disuse, so you can use it many times and leave it in your drawer for weeks without problem.

The tip is soft rubber, similar to most iPad capacitive stylus designs. This means that it will wear out eventually. The tip is connected magnetically and it sticks well, so it is tough to pull out when you need to replace it. This also means the tip is hard to lose accidentally.

The following sketches were created with a soft-lead pencil tool in Procreate. The sketch on the list was created with a standard stylus. The sketch on the right with the Pogo Connect. You won't see much variation in stroke size, since pencil lead isn't as malleable as other tools, but you can see a definite difference in density and color.

At one time product sketches showed tips with different points (fine points and thick points) but these have been removed from the site. As best I can tell, the pen currently only offers one tip shape and size. I would like to see the other sizes eventually released.

The list of apps available to Pogo Connect seems slightly longer than the apps for competitors. I think that gap will narrow with time, but for now you will probably have more opportunities to use the Connect. Check the website for the list of available apps.

The pen is far from perfect. The barrel is thicker than the Jot Touch, which makes it a little harder to work with, but this is due to the battery. The Pogo Connect also claims to have more levels of sensitivity than the Touch, but in my experience the Touch is far more sensitive.

That being said, the pen itself is more reliable and easier to maintain than the Touch, and it's $20 cheaper. The battery makes the pen more reliable when you need a stylus immediately. (The Touch needs to be charged frequently). For casual use, I think people will be happier with the Pogo Connect than the Touch. Professional artists will want the Touch, but I would still recommend having a Connect for a backup and travel.

Jenny Manytoes rates the Pogo Connect

Jenny Manytoes would purr next to the Pogo Connect, especially for general users. It's sturdy and durable, needs far less maintenance, and it does a reasonably good job. That being said, I'm still waiting to see a five star stylus.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.
Posted in 4 Stars - Purr, Art and design | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

PS Touch brings Photoshop to iPad

Spoiler alert! It's Photoshop. Even a stripped down tablet version will still be one of the slickest apps in the App Store. And at 10 percent of the original Photoshop price ($10), it's a steal. It can only get better. Best Buy of best buys.

The good news in this sorry election season is that Adobe finally released Photoshop Touch for iPad. That's right, the mother of all graphic applications finally made it to tablet format.

Did Apple promote it, or feature it in the App Store? Not that I recall. I only figured it out because the Android commercials kept showing it off. I wondered if Adobe would really only develop an Android version in spite of the huge iPad market, so I searched and there it was.

This isn't the full-featured Photoshop you know from your computer. But it's a far step from the Photoshop 1 I bought for a hundred dollars more than twenty years ago. And it's a hell of a lot better than those rinky dink apps Adobe has been holding us off with.

I love a number of the art apps on the iPad. Procreate and Sketchbook Pro have evolved into first rate apps, and Sketchbook is almost as rich as Painter on the Mac. But they remain art programs. Photoshop has always been about photo manipulation, with a few art tools thrown it.

The masking tools do a marvelous job a finding selection edges and you can refine to your heart's content. It is similar to Photoshop's extraction tool, so it should be familiar to long-term users.

Until now Photogene has led the way for photo manipulation, but every app has limitations and Photoshop finally broke through those limitations. It offers the ability to make selections and rotate and resize them without copying and pasting first. More importantly, it offers the first truly effective and usable masking features I've encountered on a tablet.

The Photoshop Touch interface only remotely resembles its older sibling, but it's easy to figure out, and a number of tutorials get you up to speed. You can find most of the standard adjustments and filters, with custom controls and settings. These can't be applied as layer styles, as they can in the adult version, but the app is still in its infancy.

PS Touch has some of the best selection manipulation features I've seen on the iPad, with and they are very easy to work with.

File management is a little non-standard for the iPad, but you can create folders and move files between them as with other apps that take advantage of iOS 6. You can't manage files with Apple's iCloud, however. You have to use Adobe's own cloud system, but if you have Photoshop CS5 or 6, the automatic updates work essentially the same as with Pages.

I expect PS Touch to improve substantially with time. In fact, I'm surprised Adobe didn't charge more (as have programs like Final Draft Pro) to fund even more development. Perhaps they have an even more robust Photoshop app for professionals on the drawing board. Or maybe they intend to charge for in-app modules.

For a product this good, I'd be willing to pay.

Jenny Manytoes 1 rates PS Touch

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over PS Touch. It's purr-fect.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.

1I am sorry to say that the real Jenny left us after I stopped regular posts to this blog. She had been struggling with kidney failure for a while and it finally caught up with her. She was on my chest when she decided to leave. But the digital Jenny will remain to prowl the internet at least as long as I'm around.back
Posted in 5 Stars + Best Buy, Art and design, Photo Utilities, Power Apps | Tagged , | Leave a comment