Official Facebook iPad App Is Finally Here

Finally do we no longer have to keep asking Mark Zuckerberg when his iPad app will be hitting the public spectrum. After months of speculation, delays, sneak peeks, and even a dead giveaway, us iPad users finally have our Facebook.

Unsurprisingly, it looks almost identical to the hidden iPad app that was included in the iPhone app update back in July. It has a nice, two-pane view and strongly resembles the iPhone version, which includes a left-hand navigation bar for accessing the News Feed, photos, messages, Groups and settings. However, it doesn’t include any of the newer features such as Timeline, but that will probably come when Facebook’s web interface updates to Timeline. Some of the nicer features of the iPad app include chat, full-screen games, News Feed notifications, and HD video with AirPlay support, which will allow you to stream pretty much any video posted on Facebook to your AppleTV or other AirPlay-compatible device.

One prominent feature that Facebook wanted to emphasize was how photos and videos are a big part of the iPad app. You’ll be able to view them at full-screen, pinch-to-zoom on photos, and take photos and videos on your iPad and upload them directly to Facebook.

Facebook games are also a big feature in the iPad app, with full-screen support thanks to Facebook Platform for mobile devices and iOS. Some popular games will even support additional features such as Facebook Credits.

So, what took Facebook so long to come out with a much-needed iPad app? Well, Zuckerberg for one said that the iPad doesn’t deserve a dedicated Facebook app since it’s not really a mobile device to him. Eventually Facebook gave in and decided to create an experience that was better than the website on an iPad.

Facebook’s official iPad app is available now, along with updates to the iPhone and iPod Touch, in the iTunes app store.

Midweek Fun! Test Your Puzzle Mettle In ‘The Heist’ For iOS

What could possibly be better than buying a single high quality puzzle game for just $0.99? If you answered, “two high quality puzzle games for just $0.99,” you are in luck. However, there is a small catch.

The good folks over at MacHeist have partnered with iOS developer tap tap tap to bring us The Heist. At first glance it appears to be your average puzzle game (which, let’s be honest, are a dime a dozen in the App Store), but lurking just under the surface is something more. If you manage to slog your way through enough puzzles, you can unlock a code to download another game, available for free on PC and Mac.

Thankfully, The Heist itself is a decent enough puzzle game that unlocking enough puzzles to get the free game isn’t a chore. In the game you’ll be playing through variations of four standard puzzle types.

First up is your standard block slider puzzle. Here the goal is to move the wooden blocks in such a way that the contraption in the middle is able to exit through the little hatch on the right side of the screen.

Next up is an interesting take on Sudoku. Instead of numbers you’re given hieroglyph-like pictures to put on the playing board. Only one of each hieroglyph may be in a single row or column, and each hieroglyph must be grouped with others of the same color.

Third you’ll find my personal favorite of the bunch, a sokoban-style sliding block puzzle. The goal here is to move a series of blocks onto an equal number of ‘final’ squares. The catch is that you’re only able to move the blocks by pushing them from behind. Pulling from the front isn’t allowed.

Up last is another sliding block puzzle you’ll probably recognize from your youth. You’re presented with a square grid with one of the interior squares missing. By manipulating the interior squares you need to connect the circles on the edge using wires of the same color as the circles.

As you continue to beat puzzles, more puzzles of increasing difficulty get unlocked. The puzzles near the end can get fiendishly difficult, but thankfully you don’t have to beat them all to unlock the second game (which is a very good thing, because I’m absolutely awful at the last type of sliding block puzzle).

So what is the unlockable game? I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that it’s worth more than the $0.99 you’ll pay for The Heist, and it’s available on Steam (which means you’ll need a Steam account to redeem it).

The Heist can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store.

Why I Ditched My Netbook for an iPad

When the iPad 2 came out, I was extremely tempted to get a used or refurbished 1st-gen iPad which are currently selling for around $350 on eBay (dirt cheap for an iPad,) but in the end I forced myself to just stick with my netbook. The biggest problem was that the iPad wasn’t meant as a productivity tool (or at least people didn’t use it that way), but I kept thinking about the possibility and after some more thorough research, I ended up purchasing a used 1st-gen iPad and sold my netbook. Here’s why.

iPad Office Suites Do Exist

The iPad actually has quite a few options when it comes to office suites, which is really all I’m concerned about as far as productivity. iWork (Pages, Keynote and Numbers), Documents To Go and Quickoffice are just a few options that pop into my head. If it’s a free solution that you’re looking for, Google Docs is pretty much all you need. Personally, I ended up getting Quickoffice since it seamlessly supports Dropbox (which I use religiously).

I haven’t had the need for the keyboard dock yet, but I’m sure I’ll get one sooner or later when I end up having to crank out a large document on the road.

iPads Are Extremely Portable

I once thought netbooks were the closest to portability that anyone could get. Boy, was I wrong. Very wrong. The iPad is a device I can easily bust out of my bag and start playing with immediately. My netbook, on the other hand, took a little bit more work to get up and running, including waiting a few minutes for it to boot up and connect to Wi-Fi before I could really do anything.

I also don’t need to lug around that annoying AC adapter brick. There have been times when I would simply just let my netbook die because messing with the AC adapter would have just been a pain. Laziness on my part? Maybe, but with the iPad, all that’s needed is a convenient USB cable and the tiny wall adapter.

iPads Are Faster

Even though iPads have a slower-clocked processor (1GHz compared to the 1.8GHz dual-core my netbook had,) the lightweight OS of the iPad means that applications load way faster than they would on any netbook.

iPads Have Incredible Battery Life

The first-gen iPad’s battery life clocks in at around 10 hours according to Apple, but tech review site Tested did their own test and were able to get almost 16 hours of non-stop video playback. My netbook usually mustered up only a measly five hours of juice — six hours tops.

Weaknesses of iPads (and Overcoming Them)

Obviously (and unfortunately) the iPad isn’t awesome at everything. There are still some downsides of Apple’s tablet that don’t make it an adequate option for a handful of on-the-go users. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that the iPad doesn’t have any other ports besides the 30-pin connector and the headphone jack — in other words, the iPad lacks USB. To this I say, “the cloud is your friend.” Take advantage of Dropbox, Google Docs, iDisk or any other cloud-based service. You’ll end up quickly forgetting about flash drives and external storage (at least I did.)

In the end, the simple fact is that there are things that you’ll just have to sacrifice for portability in general. It’s not just with tablets, but with any netbook or laptop. You won’t be able to run specialized software or have a full-sized physical keyboard with a mouse. The browsing experience won’t be as solid as if you were on a desktop and you won’t have some of the advanced features of a desktop with you while you’re on the go. That’s simply the nature of the [portable] beast.

I’m interested to hear what thoughts you have for using an iPad/tablet over a netbook or laptop (or not). Shout ’em out in the comments!

Image Courtesy: Yagan Kiely



Let Your iPhone Organize Your Life with NoteTask and SimpleNote

Yep, this is called productivity

Staying organized can be tough. Between paper notes, calendars, and technology, it can get pretty complicated to keep daily tasks in the forefront of one’s priorities. Heck, sometimes a person even needs to organize their organization methods just to keep their wits in place.

Now how can Techerator aid you in this prioritizing predicament? First off, I recommend getting a SimpleNote account, a free cloud-based space where you can sync and update any note created on a device. From Windows to Mac to Android to iPhone/iPad/iPod, any note changed or created on these devices becomes automatically updated and stored.

Fortunately for us, there are plenty of applications to help us sync these SimpleNote notes and better our lives. So let us take a look at a nice iOS application (an alternative to the official SimpleNote application we previously covered): NoteTask.

NoteTask, available in the Apple App Store, is an interesting meld. Not only does it allow your SimpleNote notes be downloaded, uploaded, and updated, but it has a special feature that allows notes to be changed into task-like to do lists.

Note + Task = NoteTask

As you can see, every time a hyphen is used in a note, NoteTask automatically makes a nice box to check off. If a colon is used, an entirely different section is created in the note for more tasks to be added in. Pretty cool, eh? Futhermore, stickers can be used to tag and sort notes in the main application screen and an underscore before the first words can be used to hide notes.

NoteTask works on all Apple devices running iOS 4.0 or greater, and a free, lite version of the application is available for download. Otherwise, for $2.99, all these things and more can be yours.

Get those prioritizing shoes on, Apple users. NoteTask is here to help.

“Catch” the New Way to Organize Notes with Smartphones and Browsers

We’ve all done it; emailed yourself a note or reminder while at work or on the go, then weeding through your bursting inbox trying to find it. There is the option of a mailbox search with keywords, but it’s pretty much a bust if you can’t find something in 10 seconds.

Catch Notes

With the birth of the smartphone, this act of note-taking has become even worse, as using the inbox search option on your phone is more painful than admitting to liking a certain teen idol with a prepubescent voice and hippie hair.

Have no fear.  You can keep your idol obsession in the closet and manage to stay organized quickly, securely, and all in one place, no matter where you go.

Enter Catch Notes.

Catch Notes is the quintessential note keeper of the universe, and there are several ways to input a note (or an infinite number of ‘em). From basic browser to mobile input, and even an option to email notes to your Catch account for later, this application goes above and beyond the old fashion pen and paper method, syncing your notes and account to any device of your choosing and making it available 24/7.

Available for Android, iPhone and iPad, this free (yes, FREE!) application not only keeps notes, it gives you the option to share those notes (in text or link) through several different methods:  email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter or any application on Android that accepts shared content.

Catch Notes mobile app.

Don’t have a smartphone? Catch Notes also has browser extensions available for IE8, Firefox and Chrome, so now you can “bookmark” your favorite Techerator articles in Catch Notes and have them all in one place versus having to add them to your “Favorites” and sort it out from there.  And for added security, Catch Notes gives you the option to set a four-digit login PIN to keep your notes secret and safe in case anyone tries to light-finger your precious cargo.

There are other note taking applications out there, like Evernote and Springpad, but if you want something light, quick, and easy to use, Catch Notes is your best bet.  Of course, it’s all preference. As an aspiring novelist (but current spotty blogger) I use Catch Notes to “write down” my story ideas. Not only can I write it down, but I can also attach photos, just in case I find something that inspires a project or a piece. The downside is that it only allows one photo per note.

On the brighter side, though, if you have an existing Google or Facebook account you can simply use it to login to Catch Notes versus creating another account you may not use if you find Catch Notes isn’t for you.

Previous logo: 3banana

Lastly, I can’t help but be bummed out that Catch decided to change its name a few months ago (September to be exact). Formerly known as “3banana,” complete with a Chiquita label, the company decided on a name change to better fit its mission and embody the functions of the app. Its current icon?  A simple orange box with a white “C.” Simple and easy, just like Catch Notes.

For more information on Catch Notes, visit their website or their blog to see what progress this app is making. It’s a great way to stay in the loop on upgrades and new features.

Holiday Gift Guide: Something For The Whole Family Edition

For some, holiday shopping is a joyous and fun task, but for others it’s a difficult one. A lot of the difficulty stems from not knowing what to get someone. Being a person that loves shopping, let me give you a little guidance for buying gifts for the whole family.

Gift Ideas for Grandparents

My grandparents live down south, but they love to keep in touch with me and the rest of my family. If I had lots of money to spend this holiday season, I know exactly what I would purchase them – Cisco Umi.

Webcams/Video Conferencing

Cisco Umi is a consumer-focused telecommunications system that offers the ability to connect with people via videoconferencing on HDTVs. Cisco Umi comes with a high-definition camera embedded with a microphone, a set-top box, and a remote. In order to use it, however, you must possess internet service and an HDTV – if you are really feeling generous this holiday season you could buy them an HDTV as well, just in case they don’t have one.

In essence, Cisco Umi is a product that offers extremely high-quality videoconferencing.  It can bring your grandparents into your living room and vice versa. (Note: in order to use Cisco Umi, both parties must possess it.)

Cisco Umi retails for around $599.00 plus a $24.00 monthly fee.

If you aren’t interested in spending that much money on your grandparents, I have a few other suggestions:

  • Buy them a webcam and tell them about the magic of Skype.
  • Buy them a notebook, laptop, or computer with a built in webcam and then tell about the magic of Skype.
  • Or buy them a plane ticket to come visit.

Digital Picture Frames

A much cheaper gift idea that would bring you guys closer is a digital picture frame. Digital picture frames are picture frames that digitally display pictures – for this they generally use a memory card to store the pictures. They have been on the market for a few years now, but have dropped significantly in price so that they are more affordable.

When they digital picture frames first came out they cost a few hundred dollars, but now you can purchase one for around $50 dollars. I actually bought my grandparents and my mom one for Christmas this year (hope they aren’t reading this). I bought them on Black Friday for only $40.

They can be purchased in assorted sizes (from 6” to 26″), assorted colors, styles, and brands. There are even have digital photo frames available now that connect to the internet so you can post your favorite pictures to the web, or even print pictures off using a built in picture printer.

Gift Ideas for Parents

Electronic Book Readers

Being huge fans of reading and books in general, I think a perfect gift for any parent that likes to read would be an electronic reader. Electronic readers are a great gift idea because in the long run it will cost you less money since eBooks are much cheaper than print books, it saves on paper (yay! for the saving the environment) and it will clear up some clutter in your parents’ house (my dad has books everywhere).

Electronic readers (eReaders) read electronic books (eBooks). They also do much more than just allowing you to read. They allow you to take notes and look up definitions. Some allow you to access the internet, play music, and even watch movies.

eReaders have only been around for the past five years or so, but have really caught on. A lot of colleges and classrooms have adopted eReaders, opting out of traditional books. When looking for eReaders, you will come across brands including Sony, the Nook by Barnes and Noble, The Cruise Tablet by Borders, The Kindle by Amazon and the Apple iPad (more of a tablet computer, but does have the iBook app), among other brands. Each one has their advantages and disadvantages, but I will leave the brand choosing up to you. I will say that The Kindle remains the most purchased and highest rated eReader on the market.

eReaders retails for as little as $80 and go as high as $600. The average, however, is right around the $200 mark.

Gift Ideas for Teens

Smartphones

There are so many great gift ideas for teenagers, today more than ever, thanks to the tech-savvy world we live in.

Even though cell phones have become a staple in our society, I think they are still a great gift – especially now that so many great smartphones have hit the market. Connecting with each other has become such a large past time thanks to texting, emailing, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. With a smartphone, you can get all that in one device.

When shopping for a smartphone, I highly suggest looking into an Android smartphone. Some of Android’s biggest advantages over other smartphones (dare I say the Apple iPhone?) is the ability to multitask (yes this can be done on iPhone 4), upgrade to new versions of Android, choose carriers (iPhone is locked into AT&T), an open market (consumers drive the app store, not the producers – store also isn’t censored as heavily as the Apple Store), customizable home screens, integrated with Google, and there is a larger selection of phones (this comes in handy when shopping with a budget).

Android smartphones range in price and availability depending on the carrier.

Apple iPad

If your teen already has a smartphone, then why not splurge a little and get them an Apple iPad? I was against it at first, because I have a computer and an iPod Touch and an iPad is basically those two things combined. It is those two things combined, but it’s a really slick device. There is so much you can do with it – listen to music, surf the web, watch movies, play games, study, write papers, etc. It’s a great item for travel and great to use while lounging around the house.

I love sitting on the couch and playing with the iPad, whether it’s reading a good book, playing a game, or connecting with people on Facebook and Twitter. It’s really a universal item that makes a great gift because it does so much!

Gift Ideas for Preteens

Gaming Systems

What better gift to give a preteen than a gaming system?

I would recommend getting them any of the major gaming systems: Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3. Those are great gifts because they are fairly universal as well. By universal, I mean you can do such much more with them than just playing games. They act as DVD players (excluding Wii), a Blu-Ray player (if you get the PS3), connect to the internet, and so much more.

If you purchase an Xbox 360 make sure to also purchase Kinect, and if you purchase a PS3 make sure to purchase Playstation Move. They provide the game with a more interactive experience by using motion, and gets kids active. Long gone are the days where you just sit down and play video games, now people of all ages can be active while playing – even exercising. It’s really a great gift for the entire family because it’s something that can bring the family together. Game nights have never been so much fun!

Gift Ideas for Kids

Educational Gifts

In my opinion, one of the best gifts you can give a kid is the gift of education. Sounds boring right? Not necessarily. Last year I bought my niece a LeapFrog Tag Reader for Christmas. It’s a special pen, that when used with LeapFrog Tag Books, will read the story out loud to the child. With each touch of the pen, words are read out, pictures come alive, and overall the book becomes interactive. It redefines the reading and learning experience for kids.

My niece uses it constantly and it really improves a kid’s reading skills. LeapFrog has a library of over 40 books, including story books, game books, and map books that contain kids’ favorite characters (SpongeBob, Toy Story, Disney Princess, etc). The LeapFrog Tag Reader Pen retails for around $30, with the books costing anywhere from $10 to $20 (most of them are $13.99).

Art Gifts

Another great gift idea is the Color Wonder Magic Light Brush from Crayola. This is one of the gifts under my tree  for my niece already, and I’m excited for her to open it on Christmas because I really want to play with it. The product uses specially coated paper and a fiber-optic brush. It only works on the right type of paper – making it mess free. It retails for right around $20.

Another cool product from Crayola that’s worth checking out is the new Crayola Glow Station Day and Night. With the set, kids can create images in either light or the dark. In the light, the drawing turn out bright purple; in the dark, they magically appear to be bright green. This one retails a little higher at $25.

These are two products that are great gift ideas for kids because they are mess free (no more writing on the walls) and encourage kid’s imaginations and creativity.

Gift Ideas for the Whole Family

Google TV

I thought a good way to finish up this gift guide would be to suggest a gift that the whole family can use. Seeing that the TV is an item that generally brings the family together, I thought a great gift for the family would be the Google TV. Google TV combines television and internet into a seamless entertainment experience. It allows you to search your TV so that you can find exactly what you want to watch, and adds perhaps one of the best channels ever – the internet. You can also download hundreds of apps from the app store including some of the most popular apps: Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Weather, News, etc. Your Android smartphone, iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad can even be used as a universal remote to control the TV.

There are three products when it comes to the technology of Google TV. There is the Sony Internet TV (an HDTV with internet built in) which starts at $599. There is the Sony Internet TV Blu-Ray Player (which is a Blu-Ray player with internet built in that connects to your existing HDTV and retails for $399. Finally, there is the Logitech Revue (which is just a set-box, running Google TV, that connects to your existing HDTV and retails at $299).

With hundreds of dollar differences in the price tags, one wonders how the products differ. In essence, the main difference between them is that one is a TV, one is Blu-Ray player, and one is a set-box. If you already own an HDTV, then I recommend going for the Sony Internet TV Blu-Ray Player, because from reviews it seems run faster and have a cleaner interface than the Logitech Revue, and it’s a Blu-Ray player.

Conclusion

I hope by reading through this guide you got some ideas for Christmas presents. Happy Shopping!

How To Take Screenshots On An iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad

Writing guides like we do here at Techerator often involves screenshots of software, settings, or anything else pertinent to the article at hand.  We’ve previously covered taking screenshots of your Android device, but what about your iOS device?  Fear not, for that’s what I’m about to show you.

Taking a screenshot of your iOS device is quite easy and doesn’t involve the use of any extra software.  Once you are on the screen you wish to capture, press and hold the top Power button while simultaneously pressing the front Home screen button.

Your screen will flash and will make a shutter sound indicating the screenshot was saved. Screenshots are saved into the Saved Pictures folder in Photos.

That’s it!  Let us know if you have any questions by commenting below.