Archive for December, 2012


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NuTouch Touch Screen Gloves

Friday, December 21st, 2012

nutouchgloves1A problem I'm sure is common to most people who live in colder climates in this day and age is that it's quite frustrating when you're shovelling snow or waiting for a bus and you can't use your smartphone without taking your gloves off and risking losing feeling in your hands for the rest of the day.  While there are several touch screen glove solutions floating around out there to ensure our hands live for another day, most will either run you between $20-$30 for a single pair or be of such poor quality that they're essentially useless.  This is where Newer Technology comes in with their $9 NuTouch conductive touch screen gloves.  Do these gloves keep your hands toasty-warm while letting you use your touch devices, or do they leave you out in the cold?  We'll touch on our time with them after the jump.

Saskatchewan is a uniquely perfect place to test winter wear of all kinds.  As I'm writing this it's -26 Celsius outside (about -15 Fahrenheit for silly people still using Fahrenheit) with "light flurries", also known as sun-tanning weather.  Anyways, during the winter months we're no strangers to needing to put a parka on just to go get your mail out of the mailbox.  Being someone who uses their iPhone a lot in these kind of weather conditions, I've often found myself freezing my hands into claw-like nubs while trying to do something as simple as checking my email while waiting for a bus. 

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Before going into the particulars of my glove testing, I'll talk about these gloves' specs.  As pictured above, they come in a dark grey colour and the conductive fingertips are slightly darker, but not to the point of looking silly.  The darker colour of the gloves make them fairly versatile as far as fashion is concerned.  I was able to wear them just as easily with my formal evening wear as I was with my every day stuff.  They're made of 52% Cotton, 24% Rayon, 10% Spandex and the conductive material for the fingertips takes up the remaining 14%, Silver Nylon.  Unlike many of their competitors, the gloves are conductive on all ten fingers, so if you're doing any iPad-ing in a cold environment, you won't have to hen-peck on the touch screen keyboard.  The gloves come in S,M,L,XL sizes ranging from 7 1/4" to 9 5/8" hand lengths respectively, or from smallish to Andre the Giant size.  For most things including hats, shoes, shirts, gloves you usually can't put enough Xs in front of the L for me, but my dainty hands clocked in as a M on the NuTouch size scale.  The large glove sizes show that these are meant for adults more than children. 

For testing, I replaced my usual red Canadian Olympic 2012 mitts with the NuTouch gloves for a week.  They experienced a dressy event, shovelling my driveway, knocking a large buildup of snow off of our garage, many random errands, and a single regular wash (even though it's recommended that you hand-wash them -- make sure to hang them to dry, though) over the test period and I was generally quite impressed at every turn.  Aside from it being a little more slick and not leaving fingerprints, there's no mechanical difference between using the gloves or not.  I never had to worry or even think about what part of the gloves were touching the phone, they always worked perfectly with my iPhone without any missed taps. 

While the gloves are soft and comfortable, the only downside that I can think about them is that they're not terribly insulating.  Just like the regular cotton gloves that they would replace, they're more for temperatures around -15 Celcius or above.  You'll definitely feel the chill if you try to use them instead of something like Hot Paws when it's nearing -30.  NewerTech has thought of this, though, and right on the package it says, "Wear them by themselves, or as liners with heavier cold winter gloves."  That didn't originally make any sense to me (they won't magically imbue gloves put over them with touch screen interactivity), but when I gave it a swing while shovelling my driveway the cleverness of this mitt set-up dawned on me.  Firstly, it makes your larger gloves even warmer, which is great, or even allows you to wear slightly lighter gloves or mitts than you normally would because of the extra insulation.  When you want to do something on your phone, you just pop off a heavier glove like you normally would, but now instead of scrambling to do something on your phone before you need to start filing for a membership to the War Amps, you can take your time because the NuTouch gloves are there to protect your hands for longer than normal.

All-in-all, the NuTouch gloves work exactly as described and are a godsend for smartphone laden Canadians (and people in other cold places).  At a price that is anywhere from 50-75% lower than many of its competitors with top-notch build quality, NuTouch gloves would make a perfect (late) Christmas present for any techies on your list.

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  • Soft and comfortable
  • Work with most fashion attires for both sexes
  • Come in many large sizes
  • Work as well as bare hands with touchscreens (plus no fingerprints!)
  • A steal at $9, much cheaper than competitiors
  • Well-made
  • Could perhaps be a bit warmer

Rated 9.8

A review pair of gloves was provided to us by Newer Technology

This Is Not an App (iOS)

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

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Progress: More or less completed all 50 pages

An author and illustrator named Keri Smith has put out a successful series of books including Wreck This Journal and This Is Not a Book in which many of the pages are largely blank and the reader is encouraged to do different creative things on each page.  Attempting to harness the creative potential of iOS devices, Penguin Group has released app versions based on these books and we were given the opportunity to put This Is Not an App through its paces.  Does the app open up a creative wonderland on your iOS device or is it just one of the many apps out there of questionable merit?  Read on to find out if we think it really is an app in spite of its claims to the contrary.

While having a mostly blank journal to encourage people (particularly kids) to use their imaginations and draw fancy things is a fairly novel idea, I had no idea about what to expect from an app built around the same principles.  I'll start off by describing the app in general before I get to my opinions of it.

The app presents you with 50 "different" (I'll explain the quotation marks in a second) pages that ask you to do anything from drawing something, to cataloguing something, to taking pictures of certain things, to recording your voice... and that's it.  You are given several different tools, but no tutorial on how to use them, so I didn't even know you could scroll the tool bar at the bottom until I saw it in different positions in screenshots of the app.  The tools themselves are varied enough, including three different drawing tools, a text tool, a picture taking tool, a photo library tool, and copy/paste tools, but there are also ones that are mostly pointless that I didn't even use other than to find out what they did including a smudge tool, a "make a fake crack" tool, and paint drip tool.

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I had a modicum of fun with some of the pages, like the one pictured above where I included pictures from the photo library on my phone of (from left to right) a donut, a cat, a book on Identifying Wood, a sleeping beagle, and myself wearing headphones to represent the senses of taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing respectively. Or this one where I purposely misinterpreted the word "movement":
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I found probably about 30% of the pages to just be so sappy or annoying that I didn't bother doing them, like the page below:

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The reason I put quotation marks around the word "different" when I was describing This Is Not an App's 50 pages is that many of the pages are very similar to one another bringing the count of totally original pages in the app down closer to 40 or less.  For example: there are three pages that ask you to get someone else to draw something nondescript on the page, two pages that more or less just instruct you to email them to someone, and a single page that instructs you to do nothing to it.

You could say that the reason I didn't enjoy the app is that I'm not creative enough (sure, I only design original websites, graphics, and write articles for a living), but I never felt terribly engaged by the app.  Where selling a mostly blank book with creative ideas on the pages is a pretty cool idea, the concept does not transfer well into the app world at all.  What you get, even if you do humour the inane requests on every single page, is a glorified drawing tool app that provides the same or less amount of enjoyment that a truly creative person could get from a free app like Paper or Sketchbook Express.  I can't recommend this app for anyone at it's current $4.99 price when there are an almost infinite number of cheaper or free apps that can do the same or better job of encouraging creativity.

TLDR

  • This Is Not an App is hard to navigate, as no directions are given on how to use its numerous tools
  • There are small moments of fun to be had, but you could probably come up with similar things to do on your own
  • For $4.99 you get less than 50 original, mostly blank pages that most people would quickly blow through
  • Many of This Is Not an App's features can be better enjoyed through apps that are cheaper or free.

Rated 4.9

(out of 10.0 — see our review system outline here)

A review copy of this app was provided to us by its publisher.

Official Word on Nuketown 2025 on Wii U

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The day the Wii U came out I attempted to contact Activision regarding the Nuketown 2025 map that was promised for Wii U, but then unceremoniously pulled and swept under the rug at the very last second.

This evening I finally received official word from Activision's tech support, and unfortunately it's not great news, but I'm sure it's what most of us expected:

Thank you for contacting Activision Customer Support. I can understand how annoying and confusing that must have been. We’re sorry but unfortunately we are not able to offer Nuketown 2025 on the Wii-U platform at this time. Sorry for the inconvenience and once anymore information about that comes out, it will be announced on our official channels ( like the support website or https://twitter.com/Treyarch ) so please check them out from time to time.

There you have it. It's basically tough crap for Wii U owners for the foreseeable future and makes you wonder just what Nintendo's doing behind the scenes that's forcing all of the third parties to delay or cancel their Wii U DLC.  Whatever it is, I hope they fix the situation soon, we'll keep you posted if anything changes.

Newer Technology Power2U

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

It seems like every electronic device that you get these days is supposed to be charged via USB.   Most of them come with USB/AC adapters, but these can take up a lot of wall outlet and power bar space.  This is where NewerTech comes in with their Power2U wall outlet that features 2 USB ports in addition to the usual pair of AC outlets.  We were able to put a black unit through its paces recently, so is the Power2U the revolutionary space-saver it sets out to be or should it be charged with inadequacy?  Read on to see what kind of electrifying experience we had with the Power2U.

While it's a bummer to start with, I have to lead with a warning that the Power2U has a lot of junk in its trunk, so you need to be absolutely certain that you have roomy 16 cubic inch electrical outlet boxes in your home/office/etc. before rushing out to order some.  Older homes, trailers, bungalows and the like may very well not have enough room for the extra back bits on the Power2U -- it took us a good long while before we were able to find a friend of Game Usagi with a house new enough to have these roomier electrical boxes.

With that said, the Power2U ended up being a fairly impressive product once we found a place for it.  With the choice of four colours, there should be one suitable for colour-coordinated placement in most homes.  We chose black so that it could be easily differentiated from the standard USB-free white outlets we had about the place and it looked super-slick once it was installed.

Installation, incidentally, is a breeze with the Power2U.  We had an electrically-inclined friend install it for us, but when we saw how easy it was to install we could have probably done it ourselves.  Instead of requiring the wires to be shoved into random places like the outlet it was replacing, the Power2U just has four screws on the side to tighten around the cables making it more or less idiot proof (as long as you remember to turn off the power breaker for the outlet before installing, derp).

The USB ports on the Power2U have spring-loaded shutters on them to apparently turn off the ports when they're not in use.  The fact that they automatically close means that you can't just blindly thrust your USB cable into the port as you would with a computer or AC adapter.  While it felt a little inconvenient at first, we found that if you use the USB plug itself to open the shutter while you're inserting it you're able to avoid any fingernail fumbling or having the port closing in the process.  It's also probably a lot more safe and environmentally friendly to have the ports shut off when they're not in use anyways.

The iPods, iPhones, iPads, Android phones, portable speakers, PS3/360 controllers, and bluetooth headsets that we tried charging with the built-in USB ports all charged at least as quickly as with their AC adapters and didn't interfere with plugging other things in to the proper AC outlets.  Even though we couldn't install one in our office, the Game Usagi friends who are still using the Power2U love it and say that it saves them from having to search for adapters or unplug their coffee machine when they want to charge their phones at night.

Overall, if you have the spare outlet box room for a Power2U it's hard not to recommend it for easily and unobtrusively charging your USB devices.  The Power2U retails for $24.99 US, but can be had for as little as $11.50 depending upon where you shop online. We give this product a:

Rated 9.6

Editor's Choice Award

A review unit was provided to us by OWC

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