Rovio unveils new Angry Birds levels

angry birds

Duck Mr. Piggy, there is a bird heading your way! Rovio pushes the envelope a bit further with its massive gaming franchise, rolling out new levels to its record-breaking original Angry Birds game.

The Red Bird gets his very own episode featuring new “Egg Defender” gameplay, combining Angry Birds and Bad Piggies in a frenzy of bird flinging and crazy pig contraptions. The update features 15 new levels of play in which Red defends the eggs against wave after wave of Bad Piggies advancing in their 72 crazy contraptions. In other words, this time you are fighting pigs that are moving.

To pull this off, Rovio has given the bird new powers to aid in your fight. According to the announcement, the “new powers from the Mighty Eagle himself, so he can attack with speed and pinpoint accuracy! Watch the trailer to see what’s happening to the eggs and how you can defend yourself against the pesky pigs”.

Rovio announces that “to celebrate Red Bird’s own episode, we’re also giving a 15% discount on Red Bird products in the Angry Birds Online Shop! Offer is valid until July 10, 2013″. The update is for both Android and iOS.

Voxer Walkie-Talkie App

For several years, I’ve made heavy use of the Heytell walkie-talkie app on both iOS and Android devices. Heytell is functional, but it has its problems from time to time. I have continued to my eye out for worthy walkie-talkie app alternatives.

I originally tried out the Voxer app upwards of two years ago. At that time, I found that Voxer just wasn’t a worthy replacement for Heytell. For one thing, I found the Voxer audio quality to be fairly poor compared to Heytell’s audio quality. I left Voxer installed on my devices, but contined to make use of Heytell.

Recently my youngest brother contacted me via Voxer and I started noticing the app once again. I noticed that not only had the audio quality improved, but other useful features had been added and the overall performance of the app is now quite robust.

One of the key features that makes Voxer extremely useful to me is that I can easily pass through poor and changing mobile data performance areas, and Voxer is able to robustly adapt to the changing data connectivity conditions. Even in marginal connectivity areas all outgoing Voxer messages are eventually transmitted to the recipient as connectivity permits. All incoming Voxer messages likewise come in as connectivity permits.

Another really nice feature of Voxer is that it allows unlimited message length. It’s possible to talk and not arbitrarily get cut off after 20 seconds. Also, unlike Heytell there are never any “full” inboxes to contend with. It’s possible to leave plenty of messages for your recipient and they will be waiting for them on their device when they get time to listen to them. This is really a great feature if you are trying to give someone how-to instructions.

Voxer also has the ability to text chat as well as transmit photos back and forth. Additonally, Voxer puts a GPS stamp on each transmitted message, so it is possible to see a map of exactly where either you or your recipient was when a particular message was transmitted.

Walkie-talkie apps on mobile devices can be extremely useful. When you don’t have the time or the inclination to make a phone call, yet have need to communicate with someone, a walkie-talkie app is extremely useful. With both Android and iOS versions, Voxer is the best free walkie-talkie currently app available.

Rovio pushes out a brand new game

Just days after announcing its new cartoon series and touting 1.7 billion downloads of its Angry Birds games, the Finnish game maker has pushed out a brand new game called “The Croods”.

According to Rovio, “Meet the world’s first modern family: The Croods! These cavemen are breaking out of the Stone Age with the use of a new revolutionary tool: the IDEA! The Croods will hunt & gather their way through spectacular new landscapes as they tame amazing new creatures”.

The game is more like Bad Piggies and Amazing Alex than the Angry Birds series, because of the puzzle element to the play. It also has a different look to it.

Features:

  • Trap & tame 10 crazy Croodaceous creatures! You’ve never seen anything like the Girelephant or Molarbear! Think you can catch them all?
  • Create wacky inventions with Crood patriarch Grug to open and explore new areas!
  • Decorate your pre-historic world with the latest in caveman fashion accessories!
  • Get to know the whole family from the upcoming film from DreamWorks Animation!

The Croods is available for both iOS and Android. You can check out the trailer video below.

After 6 months Apple finally fixes App Store vulnerabilities

Last summer a Google security researcher announced he had found serious flaws in the Apple App Store. The company was serving up data over an unencrypted HTTP connection, leaving its customers open to attacks from anyone using the same public network. Six months later, the company finally flipped on the encryption.

Elie Bursztein announced yesterday that “I am really happy that my spare-time work pushed Apple to finally enable HTTPS to protect users”.

The lack of HTTPS left iOS customers open to password stealing, app swapping — the ability for an attacker to force a customer to install/buy the attacker’s app of choice instead of the one the user intended to install/buy, fake app upgrades and serious privacy leaks.

“When contacting the upgrade server, the device sends in the clear a PList that contains all the applications installed on the phone. This is a privacy leak as it allows an attacker to know which bank/doctor/services the user uses,” Bursztein said. “It can also allow an attacker to track users, as a list of installed applications is pretty unique to each user (it seems likely that it will generate more than the 31 bits of entropy needed to uniquely identify a user.)”

Bursztein made these attack scenarios public in an effort to force Apple, and other mobile companies, to fix the problems. He has been waiting since July 2012 for the Cupertino company to act on its flaws and now the wait is finally over.

Sphero Meets Sharky the Beaver

Sphero LogoGNC first saw Sphero at CES last year and it’s a really cool toy: a rugged waterproof ball controlled from a smartphone or tablet. So what has Sphero been up to in the past year…Todd and Don find out from Ian Bernstein, CTO Founder.

While the  hardware is unchanged from last year, Sphero has grown the number and type of companion apps from around 5 apps to over 20 with several produced by third parties. New on the scene is a mixed reality app which uses the tablet or smartphone’s camera to track Sphero and overlay Sharky the Beaver on the device’s screen. It’s particularly fun as the real-world interaction with Sphero creates a relationship with the cartoon character which makes it that bit more believable.

Sphero works with both iOS and Android devices, and retails for around $130. Lots of fun and there’s an SDK if you feel like rolling your own (sorry!)

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

Parrot AR.DroneRemote control vehicles are fun and remote control aircraft doubly so. Imagine then how much fun a remote control quadricopter is, especially when it’s controlled by wifi from your smartphone. Todd takes flying lessons from Parrot’s Julian.

The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is an update of the original AR.Drone, with the main difference being an HD camera on the drone which streams video footage of the flight back to the device so the operator can see what the Drone is seeing. The AR.Drone 2.0 is controlled via wifi from either an Apple or Android  tablet/smartphone.

There’s some pretty sophisticated technology in the AR.Drone. For example, it has a downward-facing camera that the Drone uses to track motion over the ground. On a windy day, the Drone can hold position over a spot by using this camera to detect wind-blown motion and then compensate for it. Very clever and cool.

The AR.Drone is pricey enough but not unaffordable at $299. Available now from good retailers worldwide.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Daniel Lewis of The Audacity Podcast for the TechPodcast Network.

Tablet Nirvana

I’ve been playing around with tablets for a while now along with several smartphones along the way, and I believe I’m getting very close to my idea of what the ideal tablet should be.

I started out with a Nook Color. The original Nook Color is a nice piece of hardware with a beautiful 7″ inch color screen, but the hardware behind it was somewhat lacking. The original Nook Color’s processor was a bit slow, and the performance lagged somewhat. I even experimented with other versions of Android on it. What I found was that I loved the 7″ inch 16 x 9 format color screen size, which is close to ideal, but the processor was too slow, it didn’t have an integrated GPS chip, nor did it have functioning Bluetooth capability. Overall, the hardware just wasn’t enough to push it beyond the locked-down version of Android that Barnes and Noble shipped on it. I ended up finding the Nook Color a good home and sold it.

Next, I got an iPad 2. I really like the iPad, and I still have it. The iPad 2 came close to the ideal tablet, but it lacked an integrated GPS chip. It is also a bit bulky to easily handle with one hand. The problem came with the upgrade to iOS 6. I drive a truck over-the-road, and I was constantly using the integrated Google Maps. Google’s satellite maps are very clear and detailed, and I often make use of Street View as I’m constantly having to travel to new places I’ve never been before. iOS 6 ripped out the quite superior Google Maps and substituted Apple’s inferior also-ran excuse for a replacement. I can see no good reason for them doing this, other than a lame back-stabbing attempt to punish Google for coming out with Android. I am still quite unhappy with the loss of mapping functionality. Of course I realize that I can simply go to the Google Maps website and use Google’s satellite maps along with Google Street View, but doing it through the browser is an inferior experience to what the original iPad Google Map once was before iOS 6 took it away. By the way, I’ve never found much use for the integrated cameras in the iPad 2. Mostly I’ve used the forward-facing camera for occasional video Skype or Facetime chats.

A few days ago, I purchased a 32 gigabyte Nexus 7 manufactured by Asus, priced at $249 for the 32 gigabyte version and $199 for the 16 gigabyte version. After using the Nexus 7 for a while, I think I might be in tablet heaven. I love the 7″ inch 16 x 9 widescreen size. It can easily be held in one hand. Also, it will easily fit in many inside coat pockets.

The Nexus 7, which of course comes with Google Maps and turn-by-turn street navigation, has an integrated GPS chip. It also has a powerful quad-core Tegra 3 processor, along with full Bluetooth functionality. It has a forward-facing camera for video chatting, along with great battery life, and a stellar high definition screen.

I’m finding that I’m tending to reach for the Nexus 7 rather than the iPad 2. The Nexus 7 is so light. The iPad 2 now feels a bit clunky and kludgy.

Am I ready to sell the iPad? Not just yet. I want to wait a while and see how it shakes out. It’s still handy to be able to have two separate devices to watch streaming videos on — when one runs down, I can switch to the other if I don’t have them plugged in.

The Nexus 7 is an incredible value. Now that the vast majority of apps also come in Android versions, why needlessly spend hundreds of dollars extra for a product where the manufacturer has a proven history of deleting popular functionality with so-called upgrades?

HeartMath Inner Balance for iOS

HeartMath LogoIt’s a brave man who attempts to find inner balance at CES, but Jamie gives it a go with HeartMath‘s forthcoming Inner Balance.

HeartMath’s Inner Balance combines an iPhone app with a heart rate sensor, providing a feedback loop that helps people control their heart rate, relax and relieve stress. The sensor gently attaches to the earlobe and measures heart rate variability. The app uses a breath pacer and graphical display of the heart rate to help the person concentrate and control their breathing and pulse rate.

The Inner Balance sensor will be available in February for $99 and the free app can be downloaded from the Apple AppStore for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

Interview by Jamie Davies of Health Tech Weekly.

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PhotoFast offers an easy solution for getting mobile pictures

These days everyone has a camera in their pocket at all times. Heck, it is not even just smartphones these days — as annoying as it sometimes seems, there are even people in front of you at events who are holding up iPads and snapping images. PhotoFast has a solution to the problem of saving those precious pictures, but it is only for iOS devices at this point.

In fact, PhotoFast has the only officially licensed Apple iOS flash drive on the market at this time. You can then plug the device right into your PC or Mac to grab the images or videos. It goes both ways too — you can also move images and videos from a computer to the iPad or iPhone. In addition, there is a dedicated app, AirPlay support, security and contact backup.

Sizes start at 8GB and range up from there, meaning prices also head up, with a starting point of $99 for the 8 GB model. It will be available through Amazon and a number of other retailers “shortly”.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network

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iHealth Blood Pressure Monitor at CES

iHealth LogoJamie chats to Adam about the iHealth blood pressure monitor, an FDA-approved device that uses Bluetooth to transfer health data to a smartphone or tablet.

The new version  of the iHealth blood pressure monitor builds takes the original docking device and adds wireless data transfer using Bluetooth. The first version integrated with iOS devices such as iPhones and iPads but the Bluetooth feature expands the potential of the monitor to other smartphones and tablets. A cloud service complements the free app providing tracking and monitoring features and integration with other healthcare systems.

Aimed squarely at the home health market, there are two different models priced at $79 and $99, which is very affordable. Check out iHealth’s online store.

Interview by Jamie Davies of Health Tech Weekly.

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