Files Connect to Access my Servers


Although I have a great App (Desktop Connect) to remote control my computers from anywhere on the internet, what I didn't have was a simple way to connect to my home file server to grab a file. Yes, this could be accomplished with Desktop Connect and even some of my other Apps, but it would require more steps. There are times where I'm out and about and I want to pull down a file from my Mac OS X Server at home and either work with the file on my iDevice or send the file to someone that needs it. This is what led me to search for a more direct way to access AFP, FTP and SMB servers/NAS boxes remotely. 


Files Connect does what I need it to do

As you might expect there are a few different apps that do this. Some ranging in price of $20 and others costing less. Files Connect proves that you don't need the most expensive App on the App store to get the job done. I grabbed it and within about 2 minutes I was securely connected to my OS X Server and able to see all my files and folders. Not only could I download files from the server to my iPad or iPhone, but I could easily print them or share them with others. Perfect! Since I have the necessary ports open on my router to be able to access my server from the internet, I now have access to terabytes and terabytes of my files from anywhere I happen to be in the world all in the palm of my hand. 


An Added Benefit

Files Connect works in the other direction too. You can turn your iDevice into a file server for others to access your content. I really don't have a need for this, but it's nice to know that it's possible if I need to do it. Files Connect also supports Bonjour, this makes it easy for the App to discover available network resources on your LAN without having to know the specific IP addresses. The App is also rather speedy. It seems as fast if not faster than accessing the same folders using my Mac. I really like the Bookmarks folder to drag commonly accessed nested folders to to speed up access.

It sees your printers too. Not only does it support iOS native printing, but it sees your CUPS printers too.


A cool test that worked

As a photographer I store my RAW files in Adobe DNG format. This format isn't natively supported on the iPad therefore there's really no way to preview them natively. However, there are apps that will open and work with DNG files like Photogene. I used Files Connect to download one of my DNGs from my Server and used the Open In command to open it in Photogene for iPad. It worked! Very cool! Files Connect will of course preview the files that are supported natively such as JPG, MOV, PDF, etc. It even has a movie player built-in.


The Bottom Line

If you have a file server running SMB, AFP, FTP, SFTP, or webDAV protocols and you want to access those files from your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, then this App is for you. The only thing stopping me from giving this app a 5 star rating is that it did quit a couple of times upon launching. Otherwise it works very well.


You can get Files Connect for $7.99 here from the iTunes


Contract Killer

While I don't play a lot of games I've always been a fan of sniper games. Even when playing Call of Duty on Xbox I get really excited when a sniper mission comes up. There's just something about taking your time and getting the shot at just the right moment that pleases me more than running around shooting at anything that moves. Contract Killer as the name implies puts you right in the middle of a situation where you're a hired killer to take out the bad guys. Each mission has an objective and primary target. There are civilians walking around so you have to be patient and wait for the target to appear. In most cases the target is not standing still and nor will the target be on screen for a very long time. You have to take the shot and make it count. If you miss you'll most likely end up in a gun fight with multiple bad guys shooting at you and you've only got so much ammo.


Good game play on iPhone and iPad

I started playing this on my iPhone 4, but then tried it as a universal App on my iPad too. I like playing it on both devices. Once you identify the target you can zoom in (raise the scope), aim and take the shot. Headshots get you more points, but a kill is a kill. While there is always a primary target, you can also get more points by quickly taking out the other bad guys on the scene before your time runs out. The game is free and you rack up money by completing the contracts. Like most of the games in this category you can use that money to buy more ammo, better weapons, etc. If you don't want to wait, you can use real money and In App purchases to buy what you need.


You can get Contract Killer for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch for free here from the iTunes


QuikCam is Faster!

If only I had a nickel for every camera App I've downloaded and installed on my iPhone. You might ask "why do you need a 3rd party camera App on the iPhone if there is one built-in?" Well technically you don't unless of course you want more features. The built-in iPhone 4 camera app lets you take still pictures and video. It can zoom, use the flash/video light and even do a little HDR. After you take the shot you can tap to review it. That's about it. You don't really get much control over anything else and while the above bult-in features are probably enough for the average user, I tend to want more. Therefore I have lots of camera Apps that are great (yes I know Camera+ is awesome as well as (insert your cool favorite camera app choice here) ____________. The one thing that led me to check out QuikCam was a simple feature. SPEED! The native camera App seems to take more than a few seconds to launch and open the view finder before it can capture a shot. Sometimes I've missed shots in the time it has taken the native Camera app to open and get ready to shoot. Therefore I moved the Camera app off my first homescreen page and put QuikCam in its place. Not only does QuikCam launch faster, but it offers a few more features for taking better pictures. If you've followed my blog posts in the past you know that I've complained about the iPhone 4's white balance being way to yellow! While I did finally get a working replacement iPhone 4 that was night and day better than my 1st two, I do notice sometimes that depends on where I aim the camera indoors it will still lean towards the yellow side. Simply changing my angle sometimes will cause it to lock on to proper white balance. QuikCam has a setting that you can not only Tap to Focus, but you can also Tap to LOCK in White Balance. This means I can get great white balance, tap to lock it in and then recompose the shot. That's worth the price of admission to me alone. You can also set tap to lock in Exposure. 

Rule of 3rds and more

The latest version has a rule of 3rds display up on screen to help you better compose your shot. You can also now review your pictures after you take them right in the app. Another cool feature is Shooting Speed! Not only does the App launch faster, but it has a rapid fire feature that allows you to take shots about as quickly as you can tap the onscreen button. You can even take still pics while shooting video. If you really want to shoot from the hip there is even a QuickPic mode that will Auto shoot when you launch the app. This way you can take a picture as fast as possible. 


The Bottom Line

While there are many great Camera Apps on the App Store, QuikCam has found it's niche in allowing you to simply capture the moment before it slips away. The only thing that I find lacking from it over the native App is the HDR feature and that may be something that Apple doesn't allow 3rd Parties to include in their Apps. Otherwise, QuikCam is my default camera app for those times when I just want to take a picture!

You can get QuikCam for $0.99 here from the iTunes


Mr. Number Reverse Phone Number Lookup

Do you ever get a phone call from a number that isn’t in your phone book and wonder if it’s a telemarketer, or possibly a crazy ex friend from the past? For better or worse, my number is all over the internet which causes me to get lots of phone calls both from telemarketers, as well as people with Photoshop, tech, or Photography questions. If I don’t recognize the number, I don’t answer it. With that said, I still like to know who it was that called, especially if they don’t leave a voicemail. There are other services and Apps out there that offer reverse number lookup either as their primary function or as one of the services built into their phonebook App but Mr. Number is by far the best I have tried yet. It is a dedicated reverse lookup App with a great UI (user interface) and a large directory of numbers. Even though it is touted as a “one purpose” App, it still has a nice extra little feature that I use on a regular basis.

How it works

The functionality of Mr. Number is pretty strait forward. You input the number (including area code) that you want to look up and hit GO. The App will search its database of numbers and brings back your results. The developer claims 50% return rate on cell phone numbers, and 90% return rate for landlines. I have no way of verifying this claim, but I can tell you that there have been very few numbers that I have searched that weren’t in there. Once it finds the number, you will get an information screen showing you the person, or business’ name, how many times that particular number has been looked up, as well as how many times it has been reported as spam. It really works well.

From the main screen you have four options, first is to look up a number, second is your search history, both of which do exactly what you would expect. Next you will see a “ME” tab which is optional. From this tab you can add and manage your cell phone and personal information on the Mr. Number database. The last option at the bottom of the screen is the settings tab. This tab contains you’re my account, and the backup and restore option. The last of which is the little extra feature that I like and use often.

Backup and Restore

Just as it sounds, this section lets you backup and restore your entire contact list from the cloud. I backup my iPhone through iTunes but it’s always nice to have another option for added security.


Normally we just list the price right by the download button at the bottom of the review, but with this App there is a continual charge so I thought it should have its own section. The initial cost of the App is $.99. Your first 20 lookups are FREE! After that, each lookup is $.05. Not too expensive. If you have looked the number up in the past, there is no charge; If Mr. Number doesn’t have the number in their database, again no charge.


When it comes to doing reverse lookups, there are plenty of options in the iTunes store but none work as well as Mr. Number. It’s a must have App for anyone that receives calls from lots of strange, unknown numbers.

You can get Mr. Number for the iPhone for $0.99 here from the iTunes



Grocery Gadget – Shopping List

Once I find an App that I like it usually takes a lot to get me to look at and move to a different App. Very few Apps are perfect and there is always room for improvement or a feature here and there. If I find an App that I really like then chances are even if there is a similar App out there, I'd be giving up a feature to move to the other App to gain a different feature. I say this because, many of you know that my favorite Grocery List App has been Grocery iQ for quite some time. Grocery iQ has worked very well for me and I really didn't have any major complaints with it. However, there was one problem in using it and it was something I never considered until I saw Grocery Gadget. Once I saw this feature in Grocery Gadget it became painfully obvious that this was the one feature that would solve my problem and make me switch.

The basics

Let's get the basics out of the way first. Grocery Gadget lets you add items to a list (or multiple lists) either manually or by scanning the product's barcode (a must have for me). You can enter additional details about the item such as the price and what category/aisle it's in. You can even enter your own custom comments about the item. If you do take the time to enter the item's price then Grocery Gadget will total up everything on your list so that you know approximately how much your grocery bill is going to be before you even leave the house. Although I'm not big on coupons it has a coupon feature too.

The big thing for me in any of these Apps is that they have to allow for cloud based syncing. The beauty with cloud based syncing is that your significant other can add things to your list over the air at any time. Whenever you happen to go shopping you just pull out your iPhone/iPod touch and your list is ready to go. So far I haven't mentioned a single thing that the App I was already using didn't do. However, Grocery Gadget adds one thing that made my shopping experience so much faster…

A picture is worth a thousand words

While it's great that my wife can add something to my list over the air, the problem arrises when I don't know what that item looks like. I remember standing there staring at 15 different kinds of Oatmeal reading each one to try to find the one that was on my list. Had I had a picture of what the box looked like I would have been able to find it in 2 seconds. Grocery Gadget allows you to have a picture of the item you're adding to the list. As a matter of fact if the picture is already in the database it will be added the minute you scan the barcode. If it's not in the database you can take your own picture when you're adding the item using the camera on your iOS device. This is the one feature that got me to switch over to Grocery Gadget immediately. I also like the fact that with Grocery Gadget you can manage your list via their website too.


The Bottom Line

Grocery Gadget is a great grocery list App and having the ability to add pictures to the items makes it the "BEST" App that I've seen to date. While I do really like it, there are a couple of things I'd like to see streamlined and added. First of all there is no native iPad version. I don't really care since I'm not going to take my iPad to the store. However, the iPad would be great to use at home to manage the list. Also if iPad 2 has a camera like the rumors are saying then I'll want an iPad version even more! Next, I would like to see a more clear distinction between Lists and Stores. Clearly you could have an item that is available at more than one store and while Grocery Gadget does allow for this, it doesn't make it obvious on how to assign a list to a specific store. I figured it out along with how to add stores, but it was in an obscure place. It's not the end of the world, but Grocery iQ does this better.

With a few minor interface tweaks, I'd gladly give this app a 5th star. If you're looking for the BEST Grocery List App for iOS (and Android), this is probably it!

You can get Grocery Gadget for iPhone/iPod touch for $4.99 here from the iTunes



I love my iPhone. Not only is it the best smart phone that I have ever owned(and I’ve been through a lot of them), but it has a really good camera. Am I going to replace my SLR with it? Not likely, but as Chase Jarvis likes to say “the best camera is the one you have with you”. Since I don’t leave the house without my phone, I always have a good camera with me. Terry talked about the possibility of getting rid of his point and shoot camera all together recently over on his tech blog here in favor of his iPhone. Since I use my iPhone camera so much I have a slew of apps aimed at making my photos better, or tweaking them to my liking. One thing I have been on the lookout for is an app that has controlled vignettes. After some searching I found FocalLab for the iPhone. I was only looking for vignette control, but this app surprised me and does a whole lot more, and does it well!


Like I said I went looking for vignette control, so of course you know that this app does it well. The control is similar to Lightroom’s vignette control, well actually more like Lightroom2’s vignette control. There is a slider that adds a nice fading vignette starting in the corners and increasing toward the center until it looks like a perfect black circle. The transition or fade is gradual until you’re at the extreme end of the slider so it looks natural. The surprises that I found in this app were the blur effects. FocalLab offers four styles of blur, each having its own slider like the vignette. Dreamy Blur and soft focus are really the same type of blur, soft focus being a little more heavy handed or “stronger” if you will. Zoom blur is exactly as it sounds. It creates an area of sharp focus in the center of the image with blur radiating toward the edges. Motion blur is a really cool effect that gives your image the appearance that the object photographed is in motion. This is actually the best version I have seen in a mobile app. Generally to create a motion blur after the image is taken with the quality that this app provides, Photoshop is involved. FocalLab also provides the option for black and white conversion, as well as resizing. These features work ok, but to be honest I prefer to use other apps that have more control for these tasks.

What I’d like to see…

While this app does a really good job at blurring and creating vignettes, I would like to have the ability to place the center of the blur, and/or vignette where I want it. I don’t always want the center of my blur to be in the center of my image. The same goes for my vignettes. Sometimes I would like to see more vignetting from one side or another. Is this nit picking? Sure, but I can ask can’t I?

You can get FocalLab from the iTunes store for $.99 here from the FocalLab - Nexvio Inc.


View and Control your Mac or PC from your iPad with Desktop Connect

Macs and Windows PCs have the ability to control other Macs and PCs via VNC and Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocols. The Mac has this built-in using the Mac OS X Sharing features (VNC) and it's a quick and easy download to enable this on the PC as well. Desktop Connect allows you to use your iPad to control either a Mac or PC on your network or over the internet wirelessly. I use this functionality from time to time to check the status of a process running on a Mac in the other room or on another floor or even from across the world when I'm traveling. Perhaps it's a video render or a download/upload that requires further attention once it's done. 

With Desktop Connect I can not only see my Mac, but I can control it too

I've used other VNC compliant Apps on the iPad, but I must say that I'm very impressed with Desktop Connect's user interface. It quite frankly blows away everything else I've tried to date. The interface is full featured and easy on the eyes too. I also love the fact that you can setup and it remembers multiple computers to control. For example, I have the necessary ports open on my router and directed to my Mac mini Server to control it from anywhere I happen to be in the world. However, when I'm home I also from time to time control my MacBook Pro from afar. Just yesterday I was monitoring a clone backup from a distance directly on the iPad. I found the setup to be pretty straight forward and easy to get going. I haven't tried this to control a PC, but if the setup is anywhere near as easy as it was on the Mac you'll be up and running with an encrypted connection in no time. Another use case for this is to run technologies in your desktop's web browser that aren't available on the iPad like Adobe Flash or Java apps. Although I've got a screen shot above of Photoshop CS5 running on my MacBook Pro, let me level set expectations here. There is a small lag from the time you tap something until it refreshes your iPad display. This is normal for this type of connection. So don't run off after reading this thinking you'll be doing all your photo retouching, page layout and video editing from the beach on your iPad. Although I can run an App like Photoshop remotely, I would only use this to do some quick and basic things. I would NOT want to do this for any extended period of time. The lag would drive me insane and it's just not designed to turn your iPad into a "terminal".  Think of it more as you need to click a button, run a command, launch an App, look something up, drag and drop something from here to there. Perhaps you left a file at home that you need and you want to login and email it to yourself. Those are the kinds of quick things that this is well suited for. That being said, this is by far the best App I've seen in this category. I love the buttons at the top that give you quick access to an expanded keyboard with the keys you'd want such as CTRL, Command, Option/Alt, etc. as well as a mouse that you can tap to change from left click to right click, etc. 

You can get Desktop Connect here from the Desktop



iPhone 4 LED Flashlights Are Here

Of course it didn't take long for 3rd party App developers to figure out how to make a buck by allowing you to turn the iPhone 4's LED camera flash/video light into a Flashlight. It's even rumored that the first Apps to do this were not approved by Apple at first because of "misuse of hardware." Well I guess Apple conceded as long as the developer was willing to put up a warning that using their App for extended periods of time would drain the battery (duh!) Now I must also tell you that there is no magic here and technically you can already do this by firing up the Camera App and switching to Video mode and turning on the Video Light. There you go! You have a Flashlight on your iPhone 4. Why would you pay for another App that basically does the same thing? Ease of use, less taps and more features is why.

I've tested 3 of these Apps so far

My favorite of the bunch is Light-O-Matic. Light-O-Matic gives you a choice of a Strobe (not sure when I'd use that other than a party for 20 somethings), a Flashlight, this is very handy especially considering how much light the iPhone 4's LED puts out, and finally a Morse Code translator. Yep, you just key in the phrase you want to send and the App will translate it into Morse Code for you and flash the LED appropriately. As long as you have a Boy Scout from 60's in range of your signal, you're all set and help will be on the way. Or you could just dial 911, but that's just me. Oh I forgot! You fell in the well, there's no signal and Lassie isn't around 🙂 The novelty of the strobe and "Safety Mode" wore off pretty quickly. However, since it's the same price as the other Apps I've tried and you do get those two additional features, it's my pick. 

You can get Light-O-Matic here from the Light-O-Matic

If you're looking for a simple no frills App that just works as a Flashlight (and strobe) with a single ON/OFF button, the check out the FREE (iAd supported) LED Light for iPhone 4 here from the LED