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.

Logitech Bluetooth Mac Keyboard and Trackpad: Peripheral visionaries

I’m not sure what Logitech’s company slogan is but I’m pretty sure it should be “peripheral visionaries”. They’ve been churning out useful computing add-ons since 1981 and are still hard at it with the newly released Bluetooth Easy Switch Keyboard and Rechargeable Trackpad.

Logitech-Bluetooth-Easy-Switch-Keyboard-

The Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard reflects the changing face of modern computing in that it is designed for both OS X and iOS devices. The name reflects its ability to flip between typing on a Mac or an iPad at the touch of a button – handy if you’re at your laptop and then want to reply to a text on your phone (one that isn’t synced up to the iMessage cloud). allowing you to switch between typing on your Mac to your iPad or iPhone at the touch of a button. The keyboard is fitted with back lighting that automatically adjusts to the brightness of the room and the proximity of your hands.

The real-aluminium designed is very mac friendly, not only aesthetically but also with all the OSX keys you rely on including Command, Brightness and Mission Control.There’s also a USB recharge cable, so you can use your keyboard while building a full charge, which will give you 10 days of power.
RRP: £89.99

Logitech-Rechargeable-Trackpad

All computing OSes have great things about them, but one of my favourite things about recent additions to OSX is the commitment to multitouch gestures. Touchscreen phones and tablets brought lots of pinching, swiping and sweeping gestures into my computing life and OSX brings them to real computing. I have a Magic Mouse and a Magic Trackpad but the mouse rarely gets used as the trackpad is such a fun way to interact with software.

The Logitech Rechargeable Trackpad for Mac is a smooth glass-touch surface trackpad that allows you to click, scroll, swipe, zoom and more, even while it’s charging. The ability to recharge is a boon as I’m constantly replacing my Magic Trackpad’s batteries and this can last a month when fully charged.
RRP: £59.99

Logitech’s Wi-Fi Webcam for Mac: Unleash your Inner Director

Logitech have announced they are launching a new Wi-Fi webcam for Mac users, the Logitech® Broadcaster Wi-Fi® Webcam. Aimed at bloggers and video professionals, as well as the general public, this new cam is packed with features that expand your video-making horizons.

Logitech-Mac-Wifi-Webcam

It’s designed to increase the number of ways in which you can stream and record videos, and offers versatility and quality in one little package. As well as providing the standard webcam features you can expect to find in most models today, Logitech’s new device comes with a few handy extras, making it the perfect gift for anyone who uses video on a regular basis.

The webcam is wireless, so you can record and stream videos from any angle you want. Its features and capabilities include live streaming, video chat and integration with Ustream. Compatible with iDevices, you can use a Mac, iPhone or iPad to control and preview the video. The webcam also works with QuickTime, Photo Booth and iMovie.

Thanks to its compatibility with a variety of video editing software, you can use the webcam as a second camera to produce a multi-angle video. Once you’re done recording, simply upload the two videos to software like Final Cut Pro, and splice the two together.

Even when you’re not creating the next big online viral sensation, you can still use the webcam with applications like Skype, FaceTime and iChat.

“The Logitech Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam lets you stream and record like a pro,” said Mike Culver, vice president of brand development for consumer computer platforms at Logitech. “It helps you make the most out of your existing Mac OS and iOS video setup for more dynamic live streaming, recording and video chatting. It goes where a built-in webcam can’t, and with one press of a button, it’s easy to switch between your built-in webcam and the Logitech Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam, so your friends and audience can enjoy a standard view or move around the room with you.”

More and more people are getting in front of the camera to make YouTube videos, online tutorials and marketing videos. The new Logitech webcam makes it easier than ever to create high-quality film at a low cost.

The Logitech Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam costs £159.99 and is available now from www.logitech.com.

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.

Colour Splash Studio Mac review

If you’ve ever wanted to recreate “the little girl in the red jacket” effect from Schindler’s List then a new app has just hit the Mac App Store just for you, and rocketing in at number one you’re apparently not alone in your desire.

Colour-Splash

Whilst not the only app that lets you create colour splash photography, it is the most powerful – at least according to the team behind it – the MacPhun guys who you might remember from the FX Studio Pro app we looked at recently.

If you don’t know colour splash photography – it’s basically desaturating all but certain parts of the image – you’ve probably seen a black and white photo with bright red lipstick left in for example. It used to be a high-end effect for powerful computers. I can now do it on my phone. This makes me feel as old as the Schindler’s List reference I made at the top of this review. I digress.

So how is it to use? Simple to the point where it also beggars belief. You can drag and drop a photo into the workspace, swipe away with the brush and enjoy the results. Obviously the more complex the image, the more work you will have to put in to impress but common sense should apply with all your image choices. Colour Splash plays nice with full screen Lion and it’s great having all that space and a nice clean layout to work with.

What is more, there are enough adjustable parameters that you can work with very complex images, fiddling with brush diameter, opacity and softness to add nuance to your images. You can also tweak the bright, contrast and so on for the colour and greyscale layer and for added creativity you can play with the blur.

The flexibility doesn’t stop there – you can fiddle with a wide range of popular image formats – jpeg, bitmaps, tiffs and even RAW files. Sharing is also easy, and Colour Splash plays nicely with Aperture and iPhoto as well as popular social networks such as Flikr, Twitter and Facebook.

What’s not to like? Well to be honest not that much. If you don’t like Colour Splash images, or can’t imagine ever making more that two, then obviously this is not for you. For the rest of you – check it out.

Colour Splash is out on the Mac App store for the low low price of £1.49 (it’s 60% off for a limited time)

Henge Docks for MacBooks review

Making a MacBook dock is a difficult task – how do you complement Apple’s design perfection without adding a premium price? Henge Docks thinks it has the answer with a new range of 13″, 15″ and 17″ MacBook compatible accessories.

Henge-Dock

If you have an Apple machine from late 2008 (when the MacBooks got a shade slimmer) onwards, you’ll be able to use a Henge Dock on either your 13, 15 or 17″ MacBook.

The dock itself comes in four incarnations. The entry-level is compatible with the old plastic models, while there are three more versions for the Macbook/Pro unibody at 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch models.

Unfortunately, none of the docks are compatible with each other, so you’ll need to buy a new one for each model should you choose to update.

The Henge Dock is basically a finely sculpted piece of plastic that snuggly holds your MacBook closed and upright, allowing air to flow around the machine and keep it cool for intense processes.

It comes with a series of holes which you can pin cables to – such as your Macbook charger, a mini DVI-out or any other post you’ll find on the left-hand side of the laptop.

With these cables plugged in (including USB extensions), you can then use your MacBook as desktop system and easily pull it out when you need to get moving – it’s pretty simple and works well.

Once connected, your laptop feels snug and secure – there’s no need to worry about it accidentally toppling over.

The problem we found, however, is that the white-plastic looks a bit tacky compared with the smooth aluminium finish of the Apple products.

Our other issue is the price – it’s not the cheapest – £59 – for the 13″ version, and if you’ve already forked out for 17″ MacBook Pro, you’ll be looking at £79. Ouch.

FX Photo Studio Mac app review

Remember when Photoshop first came out? All of a sudden filters were *everywhere* – especially the cut-out comic effect. While I worked at a student paper almost every other piece of art-work we saw come in had been processed in some god-awful way and it was a relief to see a “straight” photograph. And then either people stopped doing it as much, or I stopped looking but somehow up until about two years ago heavily processed photos didn’t seem as popular. And then Hipstamatic and Instagram hit and there was suddenly a whole new wave of doctored images, this time with a retro theme. I’m not a grumpy old man (not yet anyway, although it’s clearly heading that way) and some altered images look smashing – I love playing with Instagram as much as the next fool with a smartphone. But at least half the images I see remind me of Wes Bentley’s character in American Beauty who has tape after tape (yes tape …it’s an old film) containing footage of plastic bags floating in the wind. Not everything is worth recording, saving and then uploading to Facebook. Special effects are great when treated as a seasoning, rather than the meat of the movie – look at the weighty character study that made The Rise of the Planet of the Apes excellent compared with the fluff of Green Lantern.

FX-Studio-Pro

Ok mini-rant over. I only mention it as we were given the chance to trial FX Photo Studio 4.0 by MacPhun and it’s fantastic. The Mac OS X app is light, fast and simple and enables you to play with an incredible array of 194 photo effects and filters. There may well be an instruction manual somewhere but it’s almost completely unnecessary – it’s easy to figuratively dive right into the app and apply effects, crop photos and tweak parameters. As well as integration with iPhoto and Aperture, sharing is baked straight into the app (one of the reasons Instagram became such a runaway success) so you can email photos, post them to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or Instagram (as with any social sharing button I would like them to insert a final “does the world *really* need to see this” dialogue box for each submission.

The app comes in Pro and Standard flavours. Pro has a few more editing tools, like light levels, sharpening, noise reduction and supports raw files and up to 32 megapixels image resolution (standard version supports up to 16 megapixels) but unless you are a pro-photographer you should be fine with standard version, as the core features are the same, including the number of effects and filters. And like most apps, there are iPad and iPhone versions so you can take the fun with you on the road.

For more information head to fxphotostudioapp.com/

SongGenie 2 and CoverScout review

I used to work as a music reviewer way back when CDs meant something, so while half of my physical music collection comprises proper CDs with cases and covers, the other half is a mess of flimsy plastic or cardboard sleeves with track names printed on if you’re lucky or just sort of scrawled on in biro in others. So I’m aware of how annoying a messy music collection can be. Sadly this situation has replicated itself in my iTunes library, with metadata on my files from my early days on AudioGalaxy being all over the place. Even when I tried to digitise my physical collection the CDDB would sometimes fail me and there are plenty of “01 Track 01” entries when I browse my playlists.

CoverScout-SongGenie

equinux, one of the leading developers of Mac, iPad and iPhone solutions in Europe, has two popular apps, SongGenie 2 and CoverScout, which can make an iTunes library as organised and comprehensive as a normal person’s CD collection. Currently number nine and ten respectively in the Mac App Store’s ‘top grossing music apps’, combined SongGenie 2 and CoverScout give music libraries a much needed facelift. SongGenie 2 automatically identifies unknown songs, completes missing information and corrects spellings. Using an acoustic fingerprint for each song, SongGenie 2 recognises incorrect or mislabelled titles and artists, and searches for available song information. It can also insert lyrics straight into the music files, which can then be displayed on an iPad, iPhone or iPod for those who like to read the words or sing along with their tunes. If you have lots of rare Senegalese funk tracks from the mid-seventies then it might not be able to help you and mysterious 90s trance mixes are likely to stay that way. However when testing it did a pretty impressive job of cleaning vast swathes of my iTunes library and even identified some Frank Zappa live recordings that I’d had trouble with.

CoverScout then adds the finishing touches to a music library by helping to find any missing cover art for entire albums. It also gives you the option of being creative and editing covers, such as cropping out white boarders or drawing over an image. Or can also add their own artwork to tracks, giving their library a personal touch. I went through and redid Shaolin’s finest with covers from the Wu-Note project

Both SongGenie 2 and CoverScout are available to download on the Mac App Store or from Equinux.