I'm a pretty avid college football fan, which has absolutely nothing to do with the world of open source or freeware. Or does it? I just made my yearly donation to Electronic Arts in the form of a cash gift, of which they happily accepted and used, in part, to bestow me with a copy of their latest carbon-copy of last year's sports title of choice.
I'm referring, of course, to NCAA Football 2011.
As it turns out, Electronic Arts--in an effort to thwart used game sales--has made it so that you actually have to enter a physical code to unlock portions of the game (many of the multiplayer options) that have previously been part and parcel for any of its sports titles under the sun, if not "video gaming" as a general concept. If you want to access these parts of the game, but find that your code has already been used by another, you have to pony up a small fee to, you know, play what you purchased.
Obviously, the closest we have to microtransactions in this environment is good ol' shareware--I don't often see many programs saying, for example, "for 500 uses the paint bucket tool, please pay $3 to..."
Google Voice. Situation: It's a pretty awesome competitor to good ol' Skype, especially when you use its crazy powers to forward calls from your magical number to physical locations all over the world. I, for one, use Google voice to get into my own apartment. Ringing me up on the ol' call box in front of my condo complex calls my Google Voice number (local calls only!), which in turn buzzes up my cell phone which, in turn, lets me go home.
That's just one interesting use of an otherwise awesome service. There are many more. Problem: There are not nearly as many apps--Web-based or downloadable--that allow you to interact with Google Voice in unique, cool ways. I've scrounged together five for your enjoyment but, honestly, we're scraping the barrel this week in terms of available software.
So, that said, go register a Google Voice number. And while you're doing that, start skimming this article for awesome new ways to use the service!
Google entered the smartphone market with a markedly more open approach to mobile software than Apple. It now wants the end-user to tap that openness directly, without relying on a third party for simple software needs. App Inventor for Android is intended as a visual application development tool for just about anyone.
According to its official page: “The App Inventor team has created blocks for just about everything you can do with an Android phone, as well as blocks for doing "programming-like" stuff-- blocks to store information, blocks for repeating actions, and blocks to perform actions under certain conditions. There are even blocks to talk to services like Twitter.”
It's quickly becoming apparent that there's no limit to what Google Labs will concoct to make everyday life a little easier. The latest experiment is called "Open Spot," which is a free app intended to help Android users find free parking spaces.
There aren't any fancy GPS tricks or spy cameras hidden around town, and instead Open Spot relies on you, Joe Citizen, to tap the "Mark a Spot" button on the app when you leave your parking space. Other Android users within about a 1 mile radius will then see the open spot as designed by a red (just vacated), orange (vacated 5 minutes ago), or yellow (vacated 10 minutes ago) dot. And as an incentive, the more open spots you mark, the more "karma points" you're awarded.
So what happens when some jackass gets the bright idea to mark a bunch of spots as open even when they're not?
"We're watching for behavior that looks like a griefer spoofing parking spots," Google said. "We have a couple of mechanisms available to make sure someone can't leave a bunch of fake parking spots. If we see this happening we will take steps to fix it."
It's a neat idea, but one with limited utility until there are more Android users for something like to truly be effective.
Are you ready to rock? I should hope so. I'm giving your hands a rest and your ears a workout this week, for none of the apps in the ol' "freeware roundup" this time around are actually downloadable. That's right. Zero. After you read this, you will spend the course of your week installing absolutely nothing.
So what, then, am I profiling in this roundup? Dust? Nope. Rock. Every single Web app in this collection is specifically geared toward an audio pursuit of some kind. I'll show you apps you can use--through the comfort of whatever browser you'd like--to both create music and find new music to jam to. If you want to go worldly, I'll show you how to find the latest music streams from all over the world.
That's not all, however, for not everything audio-related has to involve music. The other two cool Web apps in this week's roundup center on audio usability. One lets you edit files online as if you were rocking an offline audio editor, and the other lets you craft up a message to your friends that will be read by one of those lovely, synthetic computer voices we've all come to know and love.
So that's that. It's audio week in the Freeware Files--even though you won't have to download a single executable to reap the benefits of these awesome finds!
Who doesn't like venn diagrams? Ruffians and troglodytes, that's who. We happen to love them, and AppStoreHQ has put together a venn diagram showing the proportion of Apple and Android app developers, and those who code for both platforms.
It shouldn't come as a terrible shock that Apple's platform still draws the most attention. Out of the 51,972 app developers listed in AppStoreHQ's database, 43,185 only write for Apple's iOS. That breaks down to about 80 percent, compared to 17 percent who churn out code solely for Android (8,787). And those cross-platform developers? There are 1,412 of them, or 3 percent.
"We were actually impressed at the numbers of cross-platform developers," said Chris DeVore, AppStoreHQ founder. "And particularly the number of recognizable brand names that had already made the leap to Android: Gaemloft, Facebook, AOL, Amazon, Warner Brothers, Intuit."
Word to the wise, make sure you know exactly what your mobile apps are doing and how they operate, lest you discover when it's too late, like after being hit with phone bill saying you owe $7,763.70. Such is the predicament Canadian resident and iPhone owner Jason Boutang finds himself in.
Our first thought was, 'How many 900 numbers did this guy call?,' but it wasn't a sexy voice on the other end of the line that drove up his phone bill, it was a translator application he used during his European trip. Not thinking anything of it, Boutang fired up the app to help him communicate with the French and streamed a Calgary rock radio station for five hours over three days. Sounds innocent enough, but because both required Internet signals, Boutang's Virgin Mobile bill quickly shot up.
"They pulled the plug on me after the third day," Boutang said, who initially thought it was related to roaming charges. "I opened my e-bill and fell over. I had to get three other people to look at the screen to make sure I read it right. I kind of figured it was from the trip 'cause my average bill is about $200 a month."
According to Boutang, he called up Virgin Mobile to see he could get the charges dropped or reduced, but so far hasn't had any luck.
"They said, 'pay up every penny ... you went outside your neighborhood, you pay the price,'" Boutang said.
According to Canada's CNews outlet, Virgin Mobile is looking into the situation to see if they can lessen the charges. In the meantime, Boutang is pleading ignorance, saying the customer service rep who sold him his iPhone never warned him about the costs of using the device abroad, nor was he informed of any roaming data plans.
Is Boutang a victim of the system, or simply guilty of not doing his homework? Hit the jump and sound off.
There is little I enjoy more than coming to Maximum PC each week to dish out a new dose of freeware and open-source software for all to enjoy. But, I confess, it's been tough times as of late-I feel as if I've covered every inch of the ol' PC ad nauseum and, as such, am running low on witty or interesting themes with which to structure these freeware roundups.
But before I would work myself into a tizzy over my failure to compartmentalize this week's apps, I remembered something: You, the readers, are awesome. So much so, that you've actually gone and done a great job of coming up with some awesome applications all by yourselves. From games, to apps to utilities, you've left few stones unturned in your various replies to my weekly freeware roundups.
And, thus, I am writing this week's freeware roundup in your honor. Not only am I profiling some of the awesome programs you've recommended, but I'm profiling the recommenders as well! And by that I mean that you, too, could be enshrined in the hallowed halls of the weekly freeware roundup-just keep leaving program tips in the comments!
Amazon's Kindle reader apps for Apple's iOS devices – the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch – now support books with audio/video elements. The ability to play embedded video/audio, however, does not extend to its flagship eReader. There are currently 13 e-books that leverage this new feature, including five travel guides, a cookbook promising “heavenly cakes”, and a knitting guide for beginners.
"In the new Kindle Edition with audio/video of 'Rick Steves' London,' the embedded walking tours allow customers to listen to Rick as they explore the sites of London," said Bill Newlin, publisher of Avalon Travel. "Rick's narration adds depth to the reader's experience, while listeners can follow the routes more easily with the text."
Apple is trying to present the iPad as an alternative to dedicated eReaders like Amazon's Kindle. Factor in the growing number of mobile devices capable of doubling up as eReaders and dedicated eReaders begin to appear vulnerable.
But Amazon harbors no intentions of going down with the ship it commands, if it does drown. The company is hedging its bet by porting the Kindle experience to disparate consumer devices. It currently provides free reading apps for the PC, Mac, iOS devices and Blackberry, and plans to support Android soon. Its software presence across a wide range of devices is like an insurance policy against the threat these very devices pose to its eReader.
It only makes sense to follow last week's "Best Mouse Ever" review on Maximum PC with a listing of some of the best freeware and open-source tools for making the most of your handheld input device--or, in layman's terms, the mouse.
If you think that's an easy task, than I have a golden, $500 mouse with your name on it. Simply put, there's just not that much love for the ol' mouse in today's software world. I suppose that makes sense, however. I have a flashy gaming mouse, yet, the only real software I used to extend its functionality is the very app, shipped by the manufacturer, that helps me customize said mouse's buttons. That's all you need, right?
I have indeed managed to find five apps that do their part to enhance your one-handed experience with your computer. At the end of the day, I'd still opt for a flashier mouse over a new piece of software when it comes to really making your input device rock. However, that's not to say that these programs aren't cool or useful in their own rights. Give ‘em a shot and let me know what you think in the comments!