Digital Life: Finally, the iPad hits the button with a slim and sleek keyboard
Typing on an iPad invokes many unfavourable comparisons. For a few words here or there -- maybe a tweet, a text or a brief email -- it's no biggie. Your fingers slip and slide over the screen with no relative grounding, yet you can get by.
But stretch yourself to a few sentences and soon it's like wrestling a greased-up lizard or getting intimate while wearing a full diving suit. Typing on glass just doesn't scale up for serious work.
Of course, legions of add-on keyboards exist to ease the pain but they defeat the purpose of the iPad's portability by being bulky and ill-matched. All perhaps except the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.
Don't let the name fool you. It's not much of a cover -- it protects only the front, not the rear of the iPad and its slight weightiness means the magnetic clips holding it in place over the screen disengage far too easily.
But it neatly incorporates a full QWERTY keyboard that doubles as a stand and adds very little girth to the already thin iPad. Once you've clumsily detached the keyboard and installed the iPad in its clever grooved stand, the keyboard connects via Bluetooth and provides several useful shortcut buttons such as cut and paste, volume and cursor control.
But it can't offer mouse control and you must still rely on the touchscreen to move around within apps.
Purely for typing, though, it's highly efficient, with nicely clicky keys and leagues ahead of prodding at the iPad's glass. Battery life is rated at several months.
When not writing, the Logitech's inept performance as a cover begins to grate. But for anyone who generates lots of words with their iPad, it's worth the €100 price of admission.
In tech, as in Hollywood, quirky looks may get you an audition but you gotta have the chops to back it up. The Philips Fidelio SoundRing wireless speaker screams 'look at me!' but doesn't stand up to closer inspection.
Using Apple's AirPlay technology and WiFi, it can stream music from iPhone/iPad/ iTunes with nary a wire in sight and its distinctive ring shape bucks the usual trend for bland oblong speakers.
But the scrawny sound and vulnerability to frequent audio dropouts immediately mark the Philips down as an underachiever. The real killer is the price tag. At €320, and for what it offers, it simply can't compete with other wireless speakers whether they use AirPlay or Bluetooth.
The first loading screen tip suggests, "Use cover to avoid enemy fire". With that depressingly shallow insight, Inversion begins by selling itself short. But it quickly goes on to pull from such a big bag of clichés that switching off in the first 30 minutes is a real danger.
Steroid-soaked meathead characters? Check. Bog-standard weaponry? Check. Dim enemies that are no more than bullet sponges? Check. Turret section? Dear God, say it ain't so.
The initial impression in this near-future shooter is of a cheap knock-off of Gears of War, all cover-based firefights and gruff protagonists.
Inversion takes its sweet time to introduce its twist, the gravity gun -- purloined, obviously, from elsewhere, mainly Half-Life 2 with a smidge of the forgotten Psi-Ops.
Even then, the full range of powers -- sending enemies flying into the air, dislodging scenery, turning objects into missiles -- is slow to arrive. They do enough to lift Inversion from its familiar rut and up-end its predictability. But much of the time you'll feel the gameplay has been served up better elsewhere.
Multiplayer with the gravity gun can be chaotically enjoyable but it's doubtful big numbers will ever light up the servers.
A quick recap for those at the back: student project Narbacular Drop was adopted by Valve and turned into the magnificently twisted Portal. One of the puzzle game's creators was Kim Swift, and when she finished working with Valve on Portal, she moved on to a new company to help develop Quantum Conundrum.
The reason all of this is important is because if you've played Portal, you've played QC. It owes many debts to the first-person puzzler, possessed of a wacky back-story with a deranged narrator (Star Trek's Q -- actor John de Lancie) and involves manipulating objects with gravity.
For all that, QC is no mere clone, and Swift's team move it on enough from Portal to be its own game. You need to escape a madman's mansion, filled with lasers, bottomless pits and high walls, passing from room to room by switching between dimensions in which objects become lighter or heavier, or in which time slows.
On a simple level, that means a safe becomes light enough to carry to a pressure pad that opens a door. But it later becomes so fiendishly complex that the puzzles become more about testing your reactions than your brain cells.
That's when the frustration sets in and QC loses its some of lustre.
Ice Age 4, Continental Drift: Arctic Games
If the film avoids the sin of sequels' diminishing returns with a turn for the weird, the same can't be said of the game tie-in. Consisting of a short series of mini-games like a half-hearted Winter Olympics, at least the original cast (Denis Leary, and so on) supply the voices, even though the performances sound phoned in.
But the finicky Kinect controls undermine almost any fun to be drawn from the uninspired mix that includes skiing, catapulting, curling and trampolining.
Bits and Bytes
- You possibly knew already that Google's search site can perform simple calculations for you. Enter "62*5" in the search box and hit return, for example. Now Google has added even more complex functions by incorporating a full-blown scientific calculator.
Just type in your equation as usual and in the results Google now provides a calculator with such esoteric features as log, tan and sin.
Still on the Google empire, the search engine has announced it is retiring iGoogle, which customised how the search page looked, enabling you to incorporate little widgets such as weather and news.
Don't panic, however -- iGoogle won't be leaving the building until November 2013 and Google points out you can get similar features from modern browsers such as Chrome.
- Britain has passed a new law to legally enforce videogame ratings, making it an offence to sell below the age limit on the box.
The Europe-wide PEGI system rates content for sex, language, violence and drugs to help parents make informed decisions about what their children are playing. It also appears on games sold in Ireland. However, unlike the UK, Ireland does not legally enforce the system.
As someone's who's seen parents buy violent games for kids -- and game shops themselves selling to children -- let's hope the authorities move quickly to follow suit.