Ahh, TechCrunch50 time. For those outside of the Valley, otherwise known as "The Know," this is the time of year when legions of startups (47) descend onto a common stage under the TechCrunch banner, all eager to pitch their next, greatest idea to a field of hungry judges and enthusiastic audience members.
Every time this happens--or every time any show similar to the TechCrunch50 goes down--I always look forward to the new batch of oddly named Web applications that I'll probably never hear about again, let alone actually use. For this, I have but one source to blame: open data. Just because there's an API or the free-flow of information outward from a single popular source doesn't mean that one always has to make a spin-off project. But if you build it, they will indeed come. The developers, that is, and they're always looking to cash in on the next big variation to an already successful idea.
I'm not exactly sure why this is the case with Web applications and why it's not always mirrored in open-source or freeware software development. What is it about a Web platform that makes it such an intriguing breeding ground for rip-offery? Is it really that easy to create a Web mashup of two social networks instead of pouring the same amount of effort into, say, a new instant messaging application?
How jacked up is your keyboard? Do you have one of those super-fancy, 800+ button, LCD-screen, lit-up, wheeled contraptions that's less an input device, more a control panel at a nuclear power plant? If so, you're probably the kind of person who doesn't need the apps I'm about to list out in this week's freeware roundup. Unless, that is, you're also one of those people (including yours truly) who have a ton of buttons and options to play with, yet no resolve to actually go about mapping this to that.
And if you're just rocking a plain ol' keyboard, I hope you're sitting down because you're in for a world of difference. The applications I'm profiling today are all keyboard-focused, and they all seek to add some kind of additional, awesome functionality to (or based on) your default button layouts. Launch programs! Use your keyboard media buttons to control all of your media players! Look up every Adobe-related shortcut within the span of seconds!
Suffice it to say, I have the keyboard krazies today. Join me after the jump to get your hands on some of the cooler keyboard-related freeware and open-source apps on the Internet!
Once a week, I feel like I'm either finding or running a large batch of programs in an effort to keep my computer as crap-free as possible. It's a never-ending battle. I defrag, I delete, I shuffle, I organize, I optimize, I scan... and still, what I end up downloading and installing over the next six days almost always leads me back to the good ol' "Sunday Purge," as I've come to call it.
And you? I venture that your habits are pretty similar to mine, as you're a Maximum PC reader with a thirst--nay, need--for speed. But we both don't have to waste a ton of time poring over our hard drives and giving them digital equivalent of a good flossing. There are tools, wonderful tools, that will automate this process--and automate it for free!
You're probably aware of quite a few of these applications, in fact. That's why I've cast my net over a wide swath of sites to find two little tidbits that you probably haven't heard of before. Here's a sneak preview: These tools let you assign rules for clearing out a wide variety of files based on customized criteria you select. One of the apps works its wonders on your desktop and the other offers a similar service for any USB device you attach to your system.
Intrigued? Those are but two of the five awesome programs in this week's freeware roundup. The rest are waiting for your trigger-happy downloading fingers after the jump, as always.
How many times have you passed an exit on the freeway only to run into an unexpected traffic jam? If you live in southern California, this probably happens a lot. But it needn't happen again if a new Android app can live up to the hype.
Dubbed 'Augmented Traffic Views,' the app makes it possible to see what traffic looks like up ahead. It does this by adding a layer of augmented reality (AR) above the G1's (or other Android device) camera view with live traffic camera images and traffic data. The AR layer shows the user any available traffic camera points, which the user can then tap to see the most current available image taken by the street cam.
Sounds pretty groovy to us, and it also sounds like an accident waiting to happen. To address the latter, the app also supports a hands-free automated predictive tracking mode that displays images from traffic cams up ahead as you drive.
So far, the app only works in Toronto, but there are plenty of U.S. areas where this could be a boon to drivers, should the developers decide to expand. In the meantime, catch a YouTube video of what you can't have right here.
As we close up yet another month of freeware goodies, it's important to look back and reflect on some of the awesome programs that received a version bump in the past 30 days. It was tough to nail down five free applications that not only upgraded themselves to a new iteration, but ones that successfully packed new and interesting features into their latest builds. There's no overarching theme this week save for that. It's a grab-bag of awesome new software to install; if the lack of a unifying concept horrifies you, don't worry. I'll list out all of this month's freeware roundups in the article below, which you can use as a guide of-sorts to travel back to safer downloading waters.
Click the upgrade button (okay, the jump) and check out the best of this month's updated freeware!
The Palm Pre App Catalog currently features only thirty apps and excepting one all others are in beta mode. A lot of people are eagerly waiting for a deluge of Pre apps to overwhelm them. But apps will only dribble in for a few more months as the official SDK (software development kit) isn’t available as yet. Palm has announced it intends to have the SDK fully ready by the end of the summer.
"We've been working very hard on the SDK and are eager to open access on a wider scale, but the software and the developer services to support it just aren't ready yet,” Palm wrote rather apologetically on its developer blog. It is believed that since the Palm Pre doesn’t still have a huge installed base a la the iPhone, many app developers may stick to developing apps for more popular platforms like the iPhone. But who knows the number of Pres sold during the months leading up to the release of the SDK might allow Palm to woo some of the dithering developers.
Scandinavian developer SPRX mobile has developed Layar, an augmented reality browser for 3G phones, which it claims is unprecedented. Despite the company’s we-have-the-first-AR-browser rant, Layar is in fact the world’s second AR browser. The first being Wikitude AR, which provides users with location-based Wikipedia and Qype content using the phone’s GPS, camera and compass. But Wikitude AR is certainly short on features when compared with Layar.
If you're a budding developer hoping to get rich by submitting a killer application to the iPhone App Store, keep reading. Or better yet, don't keep reading - far be it for us to take a pin to your balloon with silly statistics and likely scenarios.
For those of you still following along (and planning to retire in month or two once everyone buys your app), don't say you weren't warned. The cold reality is you're not likely to make much bank by selling apps, and what little you might make will take a lot of work. How hard can it possibly be? Just ask Rick Strom, one of the many registered iPhone developers with nearly 20 apps under his belt, three of which are on the chart. These include Zen Jar (#34, paid), Spirit Board (#36, free), and Spirit Board Pro (#95, paid).
"With two apps on the paid charts, one would assume I’m rolling in dough. After all, this is a gold rush, right?," Rick Strom wrote in his blog. "The reality is much more startling. In order to place #34 on the social networking charts, you need 30-35 downloads a day. At the standard app store pricing of .99, and after Apple takes its cut, that means your app needs to bring in a little over $20 a day to chart at that position."
By Strom's math, you'll need to make just $4/day to break into the top 100, and the overwhelming majority of the other 36,000 apps are doing "absolutely nothing. They aren't selling at all."
Strom has plenty more to say on the topic right here.
And for good reason, too! Mr. Reznor has admittedly done a lot for the digital music landscape, and while he does support Apple, he’s got a rather large bone to pick with their app approval process (the very same process that approved the baby shaking game).
In a nutshell, Apple rejected an update to the official Nine Inch Nails iPhone app due to “objectionable content.” Oddly, said content isn’t actually a part of the app, instead it’s a song that the application can stream called “The Downward Spiral.” And, while the hypocrisy of this situation runs wild in my mind, it’s best described by Trent… after the break (there might be little eyes watching, so be warned of language).
Microsoft has released a free iPhone app called TagReader. It happens to be the software bellwether’s second iPhone app after SeaDragon Mobile. Using TagReader, iPhone users can photograph a tag (Microsoft’s vivid version of barcodes) to search for information related to that particular tag without having to type in anything.
If you snap a tag on a person’s visiting card using the TagReader iPhone app, then your search will, in all likelihood, yield results related to that person. The app sounds fun from the off, but its usefulness is contingent upon the success of Microsoft Tag, which is currently in beta. You can create your own tags here and eventually test the usefulness of TagReader by snapping them.