Solid Line Products, LLC announced ArtCase™, a new line of iPad cases that features works of art by select artists. Starting with San Francisco mural art by Brian Barneclo, Solid Line will feature select works by a single artist for an entire month. The works are printed onto cases designed for the original iPad and the iPad 2. The patent-pending design enables the addition of a Bluetooth keyboard.
“We like to think of ArtCase as a new canvas for artists,” said Henry Lo, CEO of Solid Line Products. “While we’ll feature only one artist a month, this new ‘canvas’ is open to all artists, graphic designers, and photographers. The artists can create art cases that they can then market to their respective communities.”
Similar to a hardback book cover, ArtCase is made with recycled materials and is available for the original iPad and iPad 2. The artwork is printed onto the iPad cases using environmentally friendly inks. Customers have the option of adding Solid Line Products’ RightShift™ keyboard, named for the accurately placed right shift key that is often missing in comparable products but which is necessary for touch typing.
Brian Barneclo‘s art was selected to kick off the new line of iPad cases to coincide with the start of his work on the Systems Mural Project, a 24,000 square feet mural at 7th & Townsend in San Francisco. (Donations to the project are still being accepted.) Exploring the idea of interconnectivity, it will be Barneclo’s largest mural
The works selected for the iPad cases are images of murals he’s painted throughout San Francisco where he’s lived since 1996. Inspired by cityscapes, the works express ideas of simultaneity and multiplicity using letter shapes and architectural forms.
“Brian’s San Francisco cityscapes were perfect for kicking off our new line of iPad art cases because they’re as colorful and as inspiring as the city they depict,” said Lo, a native San Franciscan who has admired Barneclo’s work through the years.
A native of Indiana, Barneclo’s work was influenced artists like Oswaldo Guayasamin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, and Stuart Davis.
“I’m excited that Solid Line Products picked my work to feature on these art cases,” said Barneclo. “I hope they do inspire iPad users in the same way that the city itself inspires me.”
A number of apps are trying to get in on the social networking experience made popular by the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Sooshi – Social Sushi tries to supplement your other online identities by creating a real-time network with users you can interact with in real-time through your iPhone.
Much like Buddy, Sooshi gives you some ways to meet people online, though just like your average Craig’s List relationship quality pickings are slim and unlikely to lead to any long-term friendships.
One good feature found in Sooshi that many other social media apps lack is the ability to sign up for a profile directly inside the app — many force you on to the web to create an account.
Once you do this you can connect your existing social networking profiles and other links such as your web site or blog to your Sooshi account. This makes your profile a bit more complete and transparent to those who may check you out in the Sooshi community.
Using Sooshi consists of mainly trolling through the list of users and trying to strike up a conversation. You can send direct messages, update your status, or check in on the profiles of other users. One annoying feature was that Sooshi forces the users to have GPS enabled. Sure it makes for a convenient way to tag your location and find other users, but the battery drain is quite significant. That is of course if you plan to make use of Sooshi. What you are likely to find is many users who pass along “whatups” to each other or, surprisingly, complain about the app itself.
Apps like Buddy and Sooshi are trying to supplement what Twitter, Facebooks and others have launched with social networking. But the experience just isn’t that satisfying. It lacks the connection that some of the more well-established networks have.
Sandbox gaming has officially come to the iPhone. Payback, developed by Apex Designs, is a shameless clone of the experience found in the GTA (Grand Theft Auto) franchise. The GTA franchise is known for pushing the envelope with crazy dialog, violent missions and delving into all kinds of taboo subject matter.
Seeing how this type of game (and it’s complicated controls) translates to the iPhone was something I was definitely interested in checking out. With a pair of headphones and fully charged iPhone, I went to work!
The story is fairly basic in Payback. The main character finds himself in a busy city and is immediately briefed to answer phones to take on illegal jobs and earn money. At designated point levels, new environments and over a dozen cities open up for exploration in a variety of gameplay modes.
The types of jobs that are presented are fairly predictable in this GTA-inspired game. It’s common to see jobs like killing criminals, stealing cars, trailing enemies, stealing drugs and a variety of derivatives based on all of the above. No matter what the active job is, my experience has been good in being able to get through them fairly quickly which is perfect for a mobile gaming experience.
Core gameplay and the controls in Payback are a mixed bag. There is a definite learning curve that is required to get the hang of things. The accelerometer is used to control the camera while every other function of the game requires touching on-screen buttons. On a good note, using the on-screen buttons felt intuitive and I had no problem entering cars or changing and firing weapons. On a bad note, controlling the camera is extremely touchy as it tends to wander easily. This isn’t as prevalent while driving vehicles, but it is annoying when the character is on foot. The options menu has sensitivity level which can improve the control. While I was able to stomach many of the issues I had with the controls, it’s a real possibility that others may not get past their initial frustrations.
Payback excels in its overall graphical and audio presentation layers. The opening trailer is easily on par with what you’d see on the Nintendo and Sony handheld platforms. The real-time graphics in Payback are impressive with real 3D environments, shadows, transparencies and a variety of other cool effects at a fairly consistent frame rate. The inclusion of a nicely done game soundtrack and real voice overs helps round out the presentation layer in Payback. If there was one notable negative I’d point out, it would be that the game is extremely dark in some spots making it virtually impossible to play outdoors at times.
Folks have been waiting for a game like Payback to make its way to the iPhone and iPod touch gaming platform. I highly recommend they give Payback a spin. It’s not quite Grand Theft Auto, but this title provides a very good glimpse of what the iPhone is capable of.
ComeSpaceX has the shell of what could be a great game. It excels where some other action games fall short. While in its current form it is not as strong as the excellent Sentry Alpha, it has some great features and promises to get better.
SpaceX begins with a spaceship taking on enemies in somewhat Galaga-style action. The ship is controlled with either your finger or by tilting the iPhone/iPod touch. The controls are quite responsive — the ship moves both from left to right and up and down on the screen so you can shoot enemies and snag upgrades that float across. But it is another aspect of the game play that weakens SpaceX. Most of the spaceships, even in the later rounds, speed toward you with guns blazing — so fast that it is impossible to get in front of them for a clear shot. This is less of a problem in deeper rounds when there are multiple lasers and missiles that will shoot from the side of your spaceship or track the enemy. In terms of controlling the ship it means a lot of back-and-forth movement to get a clear shot. A tweak to the enemy ship firing patterns would make the game play a bit more reasonable.
The strongest area of SpaceX is the upgradeable weapons. After each round you have the ability to purchase new weapons with game credits earned during the previous round. This part can get a bit tricky because you need to pay attention to where the weapons are mounted. Buy an upgrade that mounts in the same location as another weapon you already have and that one is gone. It is a bit of a pain, but with a better system for identifying what weapons are where this will be even stronger.
The developers indicated on the SpaceX iTunes description page they plan to update the game soon with bug fixes, touch controls, and better game balance. Hopefully they come through, because SpaceX is good enough to be worth making even better.
It’s easy to see the appeal of apps such as Spanish Tutor from 24/7 Tutor. Apps like this one help you learn or practice a language at home and when you’re waiting in a grocery line, getting your car repaired or similar situations where you need to kill a little time.
Spanish Tutor is a Lite version of the 24/7 Tutor’s Spanish 1 app, which sells for $4.99. The company attempts to make learning Spanish easy with a series of six modules (not counting the edition) that you can build on.
Spanish Tutor features a set of simple words and phrases, organized into topics such as town & country, food & dining and opposites, and simple phrases such as “Do you need anything?” and Can you write it down?”
If you want to practice words in a category, your quiz options are multiple choice, puzzle, write in and flash card. In the puzzle and write-in quizzes, you fill in the blanks by tapping letters from a grid. In flash card mode, you’re given a written phrase and asked to speak it.
At every juncture in these quizzes, you’ll find a megaphone icon in the lower left-corner that will give you verbal cues on how to say words and phrases in Spanish.
I don’t speak much Spanish and I can see how I could learn enough to get around in a foreign country using a more sophisticated app. I speak French, another Romance language with the same roots as Spanish, so I was able to get a good sense of how well Spanish Tutor works for a novice.
There’s a lot more to learning a language than words and phrases, obviously. You won’t learn enough to hold a conversation using only this app, but that’s not its purpose. It’s mainly intended to give you a taste of, and perhaps an incentive, to step up to the more capable modules.
Spanish Tutor‘s graphical user interface is somewhat crude. Some sentences begin in lowercase. Sometimes they are punctuated; other times, not. The background color is a dull beige-y, tan and the typeface is bland. I’m probably asking for too much in a app. On the other hand, it doesn’t give me much incentive to try 27/7 Tutor’s line up when there are dozens of others to compare it too.