Koi Pond for the iPhone/iPod Touch

Koi Pond for the iPhone/iPod TouchSince I’ve had my iPod Touch for a few days I’ve been experimenting with a number of interesting apps. I’m going to be reviewing a few apps here on my ArsGeek blog from time to time so you’ll have a better idea about spending your $0.99 on them.

First up is Koi Pond developed by The Blimp Pilots. The premise behind this app is simple really, it’s a virtual koi pond that resides on your iPhonepod. From the App Store:

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Imagine gazing into a pond of crystal clear water. Picture bright, playful koi swimming through its shallow depths. So close. . . . Can you touch them?

You run your fingers across the cool surface of the pond. Water ripples away from your touch. The koi, disturbed, dart away. Only to quickly forget and swim close to you once more. . . .

Now imagine all this on your iPhone or iPod touch!

Koi Pond is really very lovely to look at. The water is done wonderfully, reacts well to touch and has nice splooshy sound effects. Even the plants react when brushed with your finger. The fish act naturally and will dart around your screen if disturbed, as advertised. As you can see from the screen shots, everything is proportional and really shines on your screen.

There are several settings you can control, such as the hue of the water, the number of fish and number of plants.

The upswing is, it’s really a relaxing app to gaze at. I’ve gotten in the habit of leaving it on and sitting next to me on my desk while I work for the relaxing visual. This app shows off what the iPhonepod is capable of graphically.

There are just a few suggestions I’d make for the next version. It would be nice if it wouldn’t allow the <p></p>iPhonepod to autolock while it’s running. To keep it going next to me, I have to turn autolocking off – not a huge deal but I’ve often forgotten to turn it back on again at the end of the day. Or better yet, a timer function.

A few more effects in a newer version would also be great! Rain, wind blowing gently over the water, the ability to feed the fish. None of these effects are necessary though to make this a worth while app.

Koi Pond was released July 30th, and has found itself #1 at the App Store in a relatively short amount of time and with good reason. It’s pleasing to the eye and I’ve already gotten a number of comments on it from other folks just wandering by. If you’re looking for a beautiful way to show off your device and a great way for a little relaxing visual, go spend your buck on this rather than a candy bar and enjoy.

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ArsGeek reviews the Neuros OSD

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The first two observations I made when I opened my Neuros OSD were that the unit was a lot smaller than I was expecting (about five and a half inches by five and a half inches in size) and that it looked nice. This was no flat looking boxy apparatus, nor was it a standard component. It was curved, it was sleek, black and more aerodynamic than any other DVR I’ve come across. When I saw it, I immediately decide to publish this review on Arsgeek blog.

I liked the size and the look immediately. Not only was this thing slick looking, but I could easily grab the RCA cables and the Neuros and bring it over to a friends house to watch whatever I’d recorded.

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There are a few things that are fundamentally different about this video recorder which may take a little getting used to. First, this product is open. Not open as in the wind blows through it, but open as in anyone can hack around with the firmware, making changes and if they are for the better, giving them to the community. The second change is that this recorder really doesn’t have any storage of it’s own to record to. You’ll need to provide storage in the form of one of the many popular memory cards (complete list below), a USB drive or your networked share.

Taking the Neuros out of the box another thing became apparent. This would be an easy device to set up. You plug two sets of RCA cables into it and plug them into your source (digital cable in my case) and your output (a TV set with me). I plugged the unit in, stuck a 4 GB USB flash drive into the side of it and using the handy remote I turned it on. I set the playback device as Television, the recording device to my USB drive, the quality to normal and started recording. A half hour later I had a full television show recorded on my USB drive. Every port, every slot and every plug is clearly labeled in nice, white lettering. That’s great as well.

I took the Neuros out of my living room and plugged it into the bedroom television along with my USB drive and tested the playback. The quality wasn’t amazing but it was certainly good enough. In fast panning shots I noticed a bit of degradation but on the whole it’s not noticeable if you’re watching a sitcom or just about anything other than sports. You can also select different quality levels – recording at a higher level produces larger files but better frame rate and clearer images.

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With the way storage is going right now, you can easily obtain a 4 GB SD card and pop it into the Neuros for easy recording. Need more storage and want to compete with other devices, not a problem if you have an external USB drive. You’ll need to plug another device in (the drive) but it’s certainly feasible to easily attach 300GB worth of storage.

Something interesting I was able to do was transfer an DivX file from my Archos 605 and pop it onto my USB drive. From there I could play it back via the Neuros without problem. This little device handles an incredible range of formats for video, audio and even image playback. I love that it plays .ogg files – this is my first device other than my Linux computers that supports Ogg Vorbis.

The interface on the Neuros is not the slickest I’ve seen but it’s also still under development. With each new firmware release the interface changes for the better. I enjoy the IR device that when placed over the IR receiver on my cable box can change the channel for me. It’s nice to be able to set up the Neuros to record several shows on different channels and then let the box do the channel changing for me. The Neuros is very easy to use, as simple as any device out there and is a fantastic example of Open Source in action.

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This product can really be as powerful as you want it to be. If you’re an average home user, you pop an SD card into it and record content for as long as your storage holds out. If you’re a little more advanced, you connect it to your network, update the firmware (or download the firmware to your local PC and put it on an external drive to connect to the Neuros), record video to play directly on your PSP and stream video over your network. If you’re an advanced user and hacker, well you can change the way the Neuros works and make the experience better for everyone.

Pros: This device will record from just about anywhere, play on just about anything and use just about every format out there. Really, you won’t find more flexibility than here. It’s also open which I like on a very basic level. The firmware is constantly changing and making this product better. You can make it as simple or as complex as you’d like it to be. Everything you need to start recording, from the Neuros to the cables to batteries for the remote is included in the box. It’s not horribly expensive and it looks like a sports car.

Cons: In terms of user interface, there is still a bit to be done. Several times my unit froze up on my and had to be power cycled to get it back. I’d love to see a nice program guide for a more TiVo like interface. Wireless would also be great. And even though it’s listed in the pros, one con is that the firmware is constantly being updated to improve the user experience. If you’re not one to have this unit connected to your network at all times (like say, my parents) then you’ll never get the newest updates unless I show up at your house and plug it in for you.

At $229.00, the Neuros OSD won’t break the bank and will give you a full feature, take anywhere, record anything on anything and play on just about everything device. You will have to spend more money on storage if you don’t have anything laying about. With the price of flash memory coming down and the capacity going up, it won’t be long until you’ll be able to pop 30GB of USB flash memory into this box for less than the price of the box itself. I’d love to see S-video out on this, as well as wireless connectivity. Another cable snaking across the floor is not something I’m anxious to have. I’m interested to know if the Eye-Fi wireless SD card would work well with this.

For me, I love fooling around with my Neuros. If you’re at all technologically inclined, you’ll love it too.

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Video Standard

* Compatible with NTSC, Pal and Secam (input only) standards

Video Recording

* ISO Standard MPEG-4 SP encoding (MP4, ASF)
* QVGA (320×240) @30fps with AAC-LC/MP3/G.726 audio for smartphones, PSP™, iPod™, iPhone™ and PDA’s.
* VGA setting (640×480) @30fps for PC, TV playback.

Video Player

* MPEG-4 SP with MP3 audio, 30fps up to D1 resolution (720×480)
* Quicktime 6
* MPEG-4 AAC-LC stereo
* MP4 format at up to D1 resolution
* H.263 with MP3 audio
* FLV (for Playback of YouTube videos)
* ASF
* AVI (including Divx and Xvid)
* MP4
* WMV (up to QVGA)
* MOV
* MPG
* MPEG

You can also see a more detailed table of supported video formats for playback.

YouTube browser

* Watch YouTube videos on your TV
* Search the entire Youtube library using keywords
* build a list with all your favorite videos

Photo Viewer

* JPEG decoder (baseline up to 32M pixel)
* BMP
* GIF (nonanimated)
* Thumbnail view
* Zoom in/out (2x, 4x)

Audio Player

* Stereo MP3/WMA @ 30-320kbps (CBR & VBR)
* Ogg Vorbis
* FLAC
* WAV
* Stereo MPEG-4 AAC-LC
* G.726

Features

* Schedule (timer) recording
* Customizable slide shows
* One-click record
* IR Blaster to control your set-top box
* Run 3rd party applications

USB Host

* Record to and playback content from any USB mass storage device

Ethernet

* Connect to your network
* Save recordings to network storage
* UPnP support
* Stream Audio/Video from Internet
* Download multimedia content from Internet
* Connect to Windows Networks (Samba client support)

Complete System Includes

* Standard A/V RCA Interface Cables (European units also contain SCART adapters)
* 110-240V AC/DC Power Supply
* Stand
* IR Blaster
* Remote Control
* Abbreviated Users Manual

Dimensions and Weight

* 14 x 14 x 3.2 cm (5.5 x 5.5 x 1.25 inches)
* Weight 230g (8oz)

Upgradeability

* System updates and 3rd party applications available at www.neurostechnology.com/support/
* Automatic built-in software update

Storage Card Compatibility

* Memory Stick: Duo and Pro Duo
* Compact Flash: Type I and Type II
* Microdrives with CF type II interface
* Secure Digital (SD)
* Multi Media Card (MMC)
* USB thumbdrives
* External Hard Drives

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