Parallels Access Turns Your Windows / Mac Programs Into iPad Apps

parellels-ipad-app

Being able to get at your computer from your tablet is nothing new — apps like TeamViewer and LogMeIn already to a great job, and a free for non-commercial use — but Parallels Access offers something a little different. It optimises the programs running on your computer so that they mimic iPad apps, supporting the standard full-screen mode, tapping and scrolling that you’d find in anything you downloaded from the App Store. Your Windows taskbar or Mac OS dock is turned into an iOS-style home screen, making it much easier to launch and switch between apps as required.

It’s an impressive feat, and it comes at a price: you’ll need to shell out £54.99 a year for every computer you want to access, though there is a free trial available if you want to test the software out before parting with your cash. The final link in the chain is the Parallels Access desktop client, available for Windows (in beta) and Mac OS, which controls access from your iPad and makes the necessary adjustments on your computer (which you won’t be able to use if you’re also linked to it on your iPad).

We spent some time playing around with Parallels Access on an iPad mini and a Windows 8 PC, and while there were one or two minor bugs in the beta desktop client, overall the setup offered a great iPad-optimised experience. Installation was simple and straightforward, and our desktop software programs really did feel like native iPad apps, from the integrated pop-up keyboard to the simple app switching interface. Using Word was intuitive and straightforward, providing the fully featured software in a way that makes sense for a smaller screen.

Some of the more advanced operations (like clicking and dragging) take a little time to get used to — pay attention to the tutorial video that appears during the setup process, which explains how to duplicate mouse clicks and keyboard presses on your touchscreen iPad. Not every application works perfectly right now, but you can make use of the free trial period to see how Parallels Access handles your favourite programs.

Parallels has high hopes for the app. “We are now in an always-on age where people are increasingly demanding access to their applications and data regardless of physical location,” said CEO Birger Steen. “With Parallels Access, you can tap, swipe and pinch your way around Mac and Windows applications to ultimately be more productive at work, and lead a more connected life.”

You can download Parallels Access for iOS here and find the desktop clients at the Parallels website . The company also develops an extensive range of other virtualisation and cloud computing products.

Belkin launches Orla Kiely cases for iPhone and iPad

orla-kiely-collection

iPhone and iPad owners are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing cases for their Apple devices — from Lego to leather, there are a wealth of options to choose from, with new ones appearing with each passing week. The latest to arrive are several Belkin cases put together in collaboration with fashion designer Orla Kiely. The snugly fitting cases are marked with a selection of Kiely’s signature designs and covered in either a high-gloss or soft-touch finish.

The distinctive, strong stylings of Irish-born Orla Kiely have appeared on hats, handbags, kitchenware and clothing before coming to Belkin’s new range. “This collection of fashion-inspired cases from internationally renowned designer Orla Kiely is a testament that function can be paired with an artful vision,” commented Belkin Product Manager Albert Farag. “Each case is designed first and foremost to keep your devices safe and secure, and is incredibly minimalist, giving you maximum protection without adding bulk.”

As you would expect, the cases are closely molded to fit your iDevice of choice, and the iPad editions can double up as stands with multiple viewing angles. Two different designs are available, Multi Stem and Optic Stem, with pricing ranging from £24.99 for the lightweight iPhone casing to £54.99 for the full-sized iPad. The iPad mini cases retail for £44.99, while the more durable pocketbook-style iPhone covers cost £29.99.

The iPad cases are compatible with the iPad 2 and newer models (including the iPad mini). The wallet cases, which include inner pockets and a secure snap closure tab, are for the iPhone 5 only, though the more lightweight back cases fit the iPhone 4, 4S and 5. The full range can be viewed and purchased from the Belkin website. According to Belkin, Orla herself uses an Optic Stem case for her own iPhone.

Traktor DJ iPad App Review: Near Perfect Digital DJing

NI-Traktor-iPad

DJ iPad apps have been around for years, and on whole they’ve always been a bit hit and miss, generally falling into two categories: a midi controller or a virtual deck setup – neither of which particularly works well on a small tablet touchscreen.

Well, those days are behind us as the company behind Traktor, Native Instruments, has released its first attempt at a DJ app. Their vision for Traktor DJ is all about using the iPad’s best feature: touch. They’ve come up with a system that uses pinches, swipes and taps to manipulate the music – a system that is a lot of fun to begin with, but has the necessary depth to keep you coming back for months to truly master it.

“We’ve taken our time to come to market,” says product designer Scott Hobbs. “We wanted to stop and think about this: how could we break down the digital DJing interface? We didn’t want to emulate the vinyl interface. There’s been too much skeuomorphism to date, so we really broke the interface apart and rebuilt everything from the ground up.”

When you fire up the app you’re greeted with a layout that is strikingly similar to their previous software, perfect for anyone who has used their DJ software before. Basically, you’ve got a 2-channel mixer and two virtual decks. Select one of the decks and you’re taken to your library of tracks, they are then arranged by song, album, tempo or key. Once you chosen a track you’re asked whether you want to load the mp3 into channel 1 or 2 – with either channel flashing if a track is already playing, a simple reminder so you don’t load the mp3 into the wrong channel and cut the music.

To mix two tracks of a similar tempo and key requires very little work, as the app relies on Native Instruments auto tempo detection whilst the iTunes integration turns your iPad into a virtual crate to dig through.

Traktor-DJ-FX

On top of the standard mixing functionality you’ve got full channel EQs, filters, and 8 effects to combine into your mixes. And this is where Traktor comes into its own, mixing two tracks together in the 21st century isn’t that hard or exciting, but where it become exciting is layering loops over tracks, adding your own effects and generally trying to combine as many of those at once. Obviously this doesn’t work out all the time, but give the app to some who is a dab hand at mixing and they’ll be able to do mixes that a DJ with CDJs and an expensive mixer wouldn’t be able replicate.

At the heart of the app is Traktor’s acclaimed sync engine that keeps tracks locked together so mixes hit hard and on time. Traktor DJ app also syncs up to Traktor Pro 2, allowing users to share track data, beat grids, BPM counts, and set cue points – making the app both a companion app for Pro users and all-in-one DJ solution for iPad owners who want to DJ at parties or at home.

Traktor-Freeze-Slice

One feature that’s exclusive to Traktor’s DJ App is a “freeze and slice” a feature that allows you manipulate waveforms with gestures like swipes and pinches, allowing you to slice a track into playable parts and remix it on the fly. If you grab the waveform with two fingers you can set a loop, widen your fingers and the loop with increase in size, and you can punch out with a quick two-finger tap.

Another clever addition is the notification centre, this allows you read up on the all functionality of the app, but it also suggests techniques and features you haven’t used yet – giving the app the ability to actually teach you.

Traktor-DJ-EQ

Elsewhere, you can add up to eight cue points to any track, allowing you jump to the breakdown or main drive from anywhere within the track without it ever stopping or going out time.

Another feature that we were really impressed with is the ability to record mixes from within the app that can then be downloaded and shared to friends or fans.

If you’re a bedroom DJ looking to have a bit fun on long journeys, or a professional DJ who want to prepare their sets before the getting to the club – Traktor DJ is a must. It strikes that perfect balance between a professional tool and a fun app that lets anyone have a go at DJing. This desire for mainstream and professional appeal is reflected in Traktor DJ’s price: £13.99 –matching Djay, which is probably the most high-profile iPad DJing app to date. But quite frankly DJay pales in comparison to Native Instruments’ first attempt at an all-in-one DJ app in both scope and functionality.

Belkin’s Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre: Take your iPad to the movies

Despite having splashed out a few years ago on a big telly (the prices of which are now comically low) I watch a lot of content on my iPad. Especially after I discovered that Netflix has all 5 seasons of Friday Night Lights and that my deadlines were “flexible”. But great though the iPad is – and it is pretty great it’s not quite the same as a trip to the movies, or a fancy home cinema set up. Belkin know this and want to beef up the iPad viewing experience with the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre.

Belkin-Thunderstorm
Belkin-Thunderstorm

Belkin teamed up with mobile sound leader Audifi so the the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre features high-efficiency, front-facing speakers that project cinematic-quality sound. Not your grandfather’s iPad dock, the Thunderstorm features ported speakers and integrated air channels in the design allow optimal airflow so bass frequencies come alive. It’s the sort of thing the Inception soundtrack was composed for.

There’s also a downloadable Thunderstorm App for extended control with customisable soundscapes for music, movies and games. There’s Musical which is balanced for music and web video; Cinematic which has a broader soundscape with simulated accentuated middle channel to lend clarity and presence to dialogue; and Action which spreads the soundscape out to its fullest extent and sharpens sound effects so games explode off the screen.

Designed to fit flush around the iPad, the Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre connects directly through the iPad dock connector for a seamless, unified experience. This direct connection eliminates the possibility of dropping the connection to the speaker and provides optimal calibration for the audio sound effects. It also features a multi-fold cover for a variety of comfortable viewing angles and screen protection.

Belkin tapped us to engineer the sound performance of the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre from the inside out and we’re happy to see end results that deliver an immersive mobile audio experience. Through the design of core circuits, sound processing, custom speakers and a surprisingly thin acoustic enclosure, Audifi engineered a level of sonic depth and precision that was, until now, impossible to achieve in mobile devices.

Bruce Lancaster, general manager and vice president at Audifi.

The Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre will be available for both 30-pin connectors and the new Lightning connector.

Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre – £179.99/€229.99

Auto Trader ignition iPad app

Working in tech I’m promised “the future” about once a week. I love my tablets and do think it’s crazy the amount of things I can do on slim slate of glass that pops easily in my bag. But I’ve always found the slow uptake of magazines disappointing. When the iPad was first unveiled I thought “well I guess I’m never handling another physical comic or magazine again”. Yet two years later (has it just been two years) publishers are still hesitant to fully commit to the platform.

ignition-

Auto Trader, who are no stranger to innovative apps, have decided enter the tablet market, unveiling a new monthly interactive tablet publication “ignition”. Auto Trader is the UK’s number one digital marketplace to buy and sell new and used cars so it’s an encouraging step for digital publishing in general that they are embracing tablet-living.

“Mobile is an extremely important and growing channel for Auto Trader. With over one million unique users per month accessing the Auto Trader website on an iPad (via an internet browser or Auto Trader iPad application), we wanted to create an interactive and innovative publication that the audience can engage with at their convenience.

Auto Trader’s Director of Mobile, Nick Gee

ignition is designed to make life easy for readers looking to buy a new or used car rather than just a pdf of the magazine with a few hyperlinks tossed in (no need to name and shame but those publications know who they are). There’s in-app search functionality to load dedicated search results from Auto Trader’s online market place. There’s also a live Twitter feed with information about the different vehicles for sale via Auto Trader and readers can even post straight to their own Twitter or Facebook profiles from within the app.

“ignition is a chance for Auto Trader to become more relevant across other parts of our audience’s motoring lives. Having a publication full of thought-provoking and entertaining content, plus a seamless link into the UK’s biggest marketplace for new and used cars, will offer something unique to the car-buying public.”

Editor-in-Chief at Auto Trader, Jon Quirk

ignition is available initially on iPad devices with a launch price of £1.49.

Piqued your interest? The first issue of ignition is available to download now from the Apple Newsstand.

iPad Mini review of reviews: Small is better

iPad-Mini-Hand

So small is beautiful these days is it? It used to be that 10 inches was considered to be the pocket rocket but frankly that is so last year. 7 inches was the new 10 it seemed for everyone except Apple, whose genius for finding a niche is stuff of legend.

Cue then the iPad mini, where an extra 0.9 of an inch makes all the difference apparently to Shane Richmond in The Telegraph who reckons it’s all in the screen size.

“Apple has been dismissive of 7-inch tablet computers and has therefore been keen to emphasise that the iPad mini isn’t one. The extra 0.9-inches of screen on the iPad mini are the crucial difference, Apple says, and having tried it for a week and compared it to some rivals, I’d have to agree.”

Not only that, it seems the design is something special too “The iPad mini is yet another wonderful piece of Apple design. Google’s Nexus 7 tablet is a perfectly fine piece of hardware but it’s plastic. And, somehow, it’s still heavier than the aluminium iPad mini.

iPad-Mini-3-up

T3 on the other hand is almost salivating at the prospect of the Mini’s display capability.

“The LED-backlit screen looks fantastic on the 7.9-inch display. Colours are vivid, text is pin sharp, web pages render quickly and, because there’s almost a 4:3 ratio going on, you get a lot of content on page. It feels squarer than the bigger iPad, but definitely works as, arguably, a better mobile experience than its bigger brother.”

The Independent sees the Mini winning through sheer app numbers:

“Where it really scores is in the dedicated tablet apps that gleam. Where Google has hundreds of dedicated tablet apps – the rest are resized phone apps – Apple has 275,000. The screen is as responsive and inviting as the full-sized iPad and the increased portability will make it appealing to a new range of customers.”

iPad-Mini-Cover

It seems the only question mark most reviewers have is on price. Andrew Hoyle for Cnet remarks “It’s too expensive however, and its display resolution doesn’t measure up to competing tablets, or other iOS devices.

Wrapping his review up, Charles Arthur of The Guardian says

“Apple is going to sell a lot of these – quite possibly more than the “large” iPad – in this quarter. The only way Apple could improve on this product would be to give it a retina screen and somehow make it lighter. That might happen at some point. You can wait if you like; other people, in the meantime, will be buying this one.”

So Apple have been busy: Skinny iMacs, Retina MacBooks and the fun-sized iPad Mini

There was a great article in Ars Technica about the problem’s Apple have been having with their once legendary secrecy, with their every expanding supply chain creating holes in their airtight veil of mystery. I know the feeling. There was a genuine excitement to Apple launches of yesteryear, where new products would be a genuine surprise and the big reveal of “one more thing” could send bloggers into a flurry.

However the before and after from last night’s “a little more to show you event” is pretty much identical. I had the same complaint after last month’s iPhone 5 announcement. Nevertheless, whilst Apple might be slipping in terms of security, their engineering game is still pretty tight.

iMac
I’m writing this on what is now the old 27″ iMac and boy does it look chunky. Once (about 14 hours ago) it was a svelte dream-machine and the cornerstone of my home office, it has now been rudely superseded by the ridiculously thin new iMacs, which are 80% thinner than the flabby beast before me. The screen is also directly bonded to the underlying IPS panel, with less bezel and less glare, as well as less weight (I had to carry an old iMac through Stratford in the middle of the London Olympics so I can appreciate this the most). There’s also a cool new Fusion Drive that combines solid state and spinning hard drive technology, monitoring usage to make sure your resources are appropriately managed.

Mac Mini
I have a hard-working Mac Mini stowed under my TV, working it’s little socks off as a media server, with SickBeard, SABnzb and Plex all playing nicely together to deliver a futuristic viewing experience. Last night’s update crams the baby Mac with 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Ivy Bridge i5 with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, or a 2.3GHz quad-core Ivy Bridge i7 with 4GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. Faster ram, more CPU and more storage are all welcome additions and now Mac Minis are packing Ivy Bridge there is the welcome addition of USB3.0 and Thunderbolt. Pricing remains remarkably cheap for a Mac.

MacBook
The 15″ Retina MacBook Pro was an instant object of desire when it was unveiled in June and now those of us with slightly smaller backpacks can join the Retina party. The 13″ Retina MacBook Pro also gets some Ivy Bridge love and an all-around spec bump, with its connectivity options (USB3, thunderbolt etc), brought well and truly into the modern age.

iPad
Have a “new” iPad? Not anymore as the iPad 3 has been upgraded 6 months in with a faster A6X processor, annoying (yet ultimately useful) Lightening port, and an upgraded LTE chip that should be compatible with more networks.

iPad mini
Of course the star of the show was the iPad mini, Apple’s take on the mini tablet. Apple aren’t the first company to enter this space, but to be fair, they are never the first company to enter pretty much any arena, instead carefully biding their time, before swooping in. If only people had saved their “just a big iPhone” snipes for the iPad Mini it might have been more apropos. Using a 7.9 inch display the iPad Mini is cleverly sized so that existing iPad apps can run without stretching and so that the there is a little bit more room on the screen than it’s 7″ Android competitors. It’s obviously smaller and lighter than the regular iPad and should be able to be comfortably held with one hand. The internals feature slightly older tech – the chipset matches the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2 – and there’s an HD camera on the front for FaceTime and a 5 MP camera on the back for God knows what. Apple are promising the same 10 hour battery life found on full-sized iPads.

You’ll be hearing far more about all these devices over the coming months.

Cygnett Keypad Review: Typing on the go

When it comes to writing emails and documents on the iPad, the iPad virtual keyboard can be tricky especially if you use the symbols. Sometimes I miss having the symbols just a button press away. This is why portable keyboards have become very popular. You can get cases with keyboards built in or you can get Bluetooth keypads, both of which take messy wires out of the equation. Which is better? Well it all depends on what you want to get out of it. We thought we’d test the Cygnett Keypad.

Cygnett-Keyboard-Review

Cygnett is an Australian brand who provides accessories for the iPad and iPhone. For business travellers and anyone that types on the go, the Cygnett Keypad is extremely portable and light. It was only 200g, less than half a bag of sugar. You will have no issues packing this and it will add a minuscule weight to your bag. It is also very easy to setup. I was paired and typing away within minutes. It is easy to recharge as it uses a USB cables. This differs from the Apple Wireless Keyboard as that uses batteries which can be rechargeable. I do not want to be mid-typing only for a keypad to die on me so this is welcome feature. The battery on the Cygnett Keypad lasts for 120 hours on a full charge which is very commendable.

The only thing I found on the downside was it has very small keys. I found it quite hard to type accurately at a fast speed on the Keypad. It does have a full QWERTY keyboard and numerical keys, it’s just so small. It is something you need to get used to. As there is trade off with portability and keyboard, the suitability of the keypad for you depends on your use. If you travel a lot and do not type for long periods of time, this is perfect.

The Cygnett Keypad is compatible with all the iPads, iPhone 4 & 4S and iPhones 3G and 3GS. You can get it here here and various other online stores.