Digital Life: The Lion, the glitch and the AirDrop -- how computing just got simpler
Too damned complicated -- ask many people what they think of their computers and that's the unflattering view you get back. It partly explains the surging popularity of tablets such as the iPad with their simplified model of computing, where nothing gets lost and viruses don't exist.
Even Apple, long noted for the friendliness of its Macs, isn't immune to criticism, so it was a logical step for Steve Jobs to incorporate some of his iPad ideas into the company's laptops and desktops.
The result is OS X Lion, the latest update to the system software that powers Macs. Lion doesn't fundamentally change the familiar, yet often confusing, structure of files and folders. Instead it adds new and optional iPad-like ways to manage your documents, start up applications and find your stuff.
So there's much less cursing your memory as you wail: "Where did I put that photo?" and much more likelihood that you'll get to the things you want quickly.
Other welcome additions include auto-saving documents and versioning, where the Mac keeps tabs on all the changes you make to files and enables you to revert instantly to an earlier edition.
For power users, Lion includes a raft of such nice extras as AirDrop (share files easily over WiFi) but some will be dismayed that software any more than seven years old (eg, Office 2004) will no longer work. The price of progress, eh?
Lion is also unusual in that it's currently available only as a 3.5GB download from Apple. Your broadband connection gets a real workout.
On the upside, Lion costs just €24 and can be applied to several computers, but your Macs must already have the previous edition of OS X on board.
For four years since the launch of the BBC iPlayer, Irish users have resorted to, ahem, underhand methods to get their hands on the Beeb's treasure trove of TV riches.
Last month's global launch of the subscription-based iPlayer on iPad doesn't put on us on equal footing with the Brits, however. We don't get access to the last seven days of BBC broadcasts -- so-called catch-up TV -- instead we get to delve into the archives for oldies such as Fawlty Towers but also recent shows such as Doctor Who.
Over WiFi or 3G, the iPlayer app streams a good-quality version of each show but, even better, you can download a few hours' worth of programmes for viewing when you have no internet connection.
Subscriptions cost €7 a month or €50 a year. The line-up so far is strong but hopefully the BBC will add more recent shows to the roster line-up to keep us coming back.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon
It's a fair bet the games industry is unfamiliar with Irish summers. The launch schedule goes deathly quiet every July and August in the belief gamers are too busy outside in the sunshine to bother picking up a controller in a darkened room.
But not us. As the rain stutters down most days, we'll play anything, even EDF: Insect Armageddon. Released at any other time of the year, this B-movie shooter wouldn't stand a chance.
Riddled with clichés, technically ropey and with characters/storyline that make Sly Stallone's Expendables sound like Beckett, EDF is the definition of brainless.
Giant ants have invaded a sprawling city and only a handful of soldiers, including you, stand in their way, yada, yada.
Yet, what it lacks in polish, it compensates partly with the cheap thrills of a quick blast, fuelled by amusing co-op play, oodles of weapons and four well defined character classes.
Come the end of the month when the release schedule jerks back into life, though, EDF will be first in your pile of trade-ins.
If you're willing to engage your grey matter more than your trigger finger, Bastion delivers more emotive punch than EDF ever could. This Xbox Live download may have a short running time but lives long in the memory.
Layered atop a dreamy palette of painterly graphics, coupled to fairly standard RPG gameplay is an inspired narrator. Gravel-voiced and weary, the voiceover colours in the backstory while archly observing your flailing attempts to fight off enemy hordes.
It's one of the few games where sitting back and listening is its own reward.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
Kudos to the makers for starting with a compelling art style -- a shadowy side-scroller last seen in Outland -- but this deep foundation can't hide the shallow gameplay built on top.
Exploring a mazy network of caves with a flying saucer quickly loses its appeal, even as the art becomes more inventive and the tools at your disposal more diverse.
Dogged by fussy puzzles and repetition, ITSP is a brave but ultimately frustrating effort.
Bits and Bytes
> Some people are just so hard to shop for. Where can you find gifts that are just a little bit out of the ordinary and don't look like a weekend special at Lidl?
The Irish women behind People Love Presents were thinking the same thing and set up a website with handpicked pressies in dozens of categories (for him, your ex, mistress, the mother-in-law, etc).
Once you've chosen, the site then links you to the online retailer that stocks the item.
> The London riots were allegedly planned in part by thugs using BBM, the free texting service between BlackBerry phones. So Facebook's launch of a similar idea is a little bit unfortunate, timing-wise. The free app, which is available for iPhone and Android, enables Facebookers to text each other for free.
Facebook was motivated no doubt by Apple's plans for an identical service next month for iPhone/iPod Touch.
Available initially only in the US, Facebook Messenger is expected to migrate internationally very soon.