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Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Brushes: The iPhone drawing app

Examples of art produced on the Canvas iPhone app

Here’s a fantastic must-have little app for any illustrator, artist or designer… providing they have an iPhone, of course!

Brushes allows you to use your iPhone handset as a virtual canvas, with your finger as the “brush”. When I was originally told about this I was pretty sceptical… how could you achieve any kind of detail with a big fat finger on a tiny screen? I was happily proved wrong. While it doesn’t have any kind of pressure sensitivity it does allow you select brush sizes, types and zoom in for those trickier parts.

If that’s not enough to get you to grab it already, what if I told you that artist Jorge Colombo has already had his Brushes art featured in (and of the cover of) the New Yorker Magazine? Thought so. Brushes is available for £2.99/$4.99 from the iTunes App store.

Images by Jorge Colombo on the iPhone Brushes app

Also check out these sketches produced by Disney Art Director, Stef Kardos. Anyone know of any other artists doing cool stuff with this thing? (thanks Steve)

Brushes £2.99/$4.99 (iTunes App Store link)

Feedly: Making Google Reader Fun Again

Feedly screenshot

I struggle to keep up with all of the feeds in my Google Reader account. All the sites I subscribe to are there because I enjoy them but when there’s 1000+ unread items it starts to feel a chore. So much so that I find myself firing up Reader less and less. So, what can you do?

The guys at Feedly think they have an answer. Feedly is a free Firefox browser plug-in that reformats the feeds from your Google Reader account into a nice, friendly, magazine-style format — and not in an “I’m a print magazine on screen” way either. It presents your unread items in a wonderfully digestible fashion, prioritising feeds you mark as favourite and laying the whole thing out into nice clean columns, topping it all off with images grabbed from the articles that it links to.

It also acts like a personal StumbleUpon. A little tab appears at the bottom of the screen urging you to click “next” taking you to pages that friends have recommended to you. If that isn’t enough it allows you to share and favourite stuff as you can through the Google interface, pulls in Twitter and checks FriendFeed to see if anyone else is talking about the article that you’re currently reading.

You can even use Ubiquity keyboard commands if you’re into that kind of thing.

Firefox 3 Beta 1 Rolls its little butt out

Mozilla have just released the first beta for the next Firefox. Obviously not for day-to-day use, but great for developers. Read the release notes for more details, too numerous to mention here!

Getting games to run properly under Windows Vista

Bioshock screenshot

Ever since I installed Windows Vista and discovered that it didn’t like to play nice with my video games, despite me running a fairly capable set-up (AMD Athlon 64 4000+, 2Gb RAM, 7800GTX graphics card), I’ve just slipped into my “comfortable old slippers” Windows XP partition and played them there.

This week, however, perhaps freshly fueled by my installation of Bioshock which ran (well, hobbled) like a spluttering, stuttering mutant — and annoyance with World of Warcraft playing at between 5-20fps — I decided to find an answer. And I did! At least in part.

After much trial and error I fixed World of Warcraft to run again between 35-50fps at 1900×1200 under Vista by doing the following:

Right clicking on the application icon and choose “Properties”, then clicking the “Compatibility” tab.

Enabling the check boxes next to: “Disable virtual themes”, “Disable desktop composition” and “Disable display scaling on high DPI settings” and Windows turns off Aero and all that other resource-hungry GUI crap while you’re running the game.

Running it in “Windows XP compatibility mode” didn’t seem to make any difference.

With that fixed, I decided to take a look at Bioshock, which really didn’t play nice in Vista at all with the audio stuttering and the high resolution texture maps not showings up — no matter what resolution I ran it at or whether I chose the lowest quality settings despite it running perfectly happily in XP on the same machine. I’d assumed that there was something buggy with the on-board Realtek ’97 audio drivers or the nVidia video drivers but, with my newly fixed World of Warcraft behind me, I thought I’d have a go at trying to get it to run properly as well.

Firstly, I changed the compatibility options as I did with WoW, above, but this didn’t seem to make much of a difference — if anything at all. Then I remembered reading something about disabling vsync when trying to fix WoW. I didn’t work for WoW, but I thought I’d try turning it off in Bioshock. I also forced it to load in DirectX 9 mode by using “-dx9″… and it all seemed to make a slight difference. Not enough to make it playable yet, but definitely an improvement.

Still… one out of two isn’t bad.

Update: I managed to improve game play in Bioshock further by using an X-Fi sound card instead of on-board sound upgrading my processor to an Opteron 180. I’d imagine that I’d be able to play it full-screen at 1920×1200 with maximum settings if I had an 8800 graphics card — or at least one with more than 256Mb of RAM. Half-Life 2 already runs much more happily.

Update 2: This Bioshock Tweak Guide might also help you gain a couple more FPS.

Facebook Friend Wheel

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It’s been over a week since I posted anything? Doesn’t time fly when you’re trying to do two full-time jobs at once?!

Anyway, I just stumbled upon this fantastic Facebook App. I’m a big fan of technicolor visual representations of stuff and this makes just that out of my friends — at least the ones that are on Facebook anyway. What was most interesting to me was to see how segregated my friends are — different groups of friends had never met or been involved with other groups.

If you’re signed into Facebook, go to the Friend Wheel app page to check it out for yourself. (via Aleks‘ Flickr stream)

Second Life while you “work”

AjaxLife: British student Katharine Berry has created an in-browser AJAX application that allows you to log into Second Life, sans graphics, to chat and teleport around. (via Wonderland)

Why Second Life will never go mainstream

Why Second Life will never go mainstream: For me, this biggest thing that put me off was the enormous learning curve. When I first played World of Warcraft I was up and playing like a noob that thought he was a pro in minutes. Second Life had me fumbling around for half an hour before I got fed up and uninstalled it.

Second Life Secondfest Roundup

Aleks has a round-up of Secondfest, the Second Life virtual festival that happened over the weekend.

LEGO Digital Designer 2.1

LEGO Digital Designer

LEGO have a rather cool bit of software available on their site (for Windows and Mac OS X) called the LEGO Digital Designer (currently version 2.1) which allows you to mess about with all the bricks and other weird pieces that they have in their catalogue and make your own vehicle, house, town or whatever crazy idea from your imagination.

When you’re happy with it, you can check the price and, if you haven’t fainted from the price, buy it online to make at home. Fantastic!

Slife 1.1: Track your computer activities

Slife screen shot

Ever wondered where the hell the day went? Now you can become your own “big brother” and track your every move. If you dare!

Slife observes your every interaction with applications such as Safari, Mail and iChat and keeps tracks of all web pages you visit, emails you read, documents you write and much more.

For Mac OS X. (via swissmiss)