Mario and iPhone 7…Pokemon and Apple Watch

Apple had its September press event to announce Apple Watch, Series 2, iOS 10 and iPhone 7.  But, perhaps the biggest thing announced at the event was a game.

Early on in the event, Tim Cook said that there were over 500,000 games in the app store, but that one had been missing. Rather, one character had been missing…MARIO. And, with that, he introduced Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario.

Mr. Miyamoto explained the new game while a demo was being played on the big screen.  This Mario game looks and sounds like a Wii U game, but is controlled via touch on the iPhone or iPad.  You use a single finger to control Mario’s jumps…the longer you hold your finger down, the higher he jumps. 

While the game looked great, the game play is like a neutered Super Mario Brothers 2D side scroller. Neutered in that it appeared that Mario only goes in one direction in single hand play.  The goal is to collect as many coins as you can and raise the end of level flag, before the time runs out. 

More importantly, the game will NOT be a ‘freemium’ game in the traditional sense. You only pay one time, there are no in game purchases.  There’s no having to wait two hours for your lives to replenish.  It is a nice change from the current game mobile game model.

Now, for the other announcements, and I’m not going into detail as it has already been covered else where.

Apple Watch 2 will be out in September and will be faster and more responsive.  Oh, and Pokemon GO! is coming to the Apple Watch.  With some health monitoring additions, this looks pretty decent.

iPhone 7, though, is what I am more excited to talk about. 

Now, before I go on, let me say that I am still not an Apple fan and I LOVE my Windows Mobile 10 phone(s). 

So, what has me excited about the iPhone 7?  Well, even though it isn’t a huge, earth shattering advance in mobile technology, the camera, faster processor and MICROSOFT have me excited for the new iPhone. 

The iPhone 7 will feature a new image sub system, new API’s and better optics. In addition, iPhone 7Plus, the phablet edition, will feature TWO 12 mp cameras in addition to the front camera.  The new image processor enables the phone to record in 4K video as well.

Here are some of the nice new photo related features, from Apple:

  • New Apple-designed Image Signal Processor, which processes over 100 billion operations on a single photo in as little as 25 milliseconds, resulting in incredible photos and videos;
  • New 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera with wide color capture, advanced pixel technology and auto image stabilization for even better selfies; and
  • New Quad-LED True Tone flash that is 50 percent brighter than iPhone 6s including an innovative sensor that detects the flickering in lights and compensates for it in videos and photos.

Iapple-iphone7plus-zoomn addition to the photo features, Microsoft’s entire suite of apps that are on the iPhone mean that I can continue using my Microsoft services and apps with my Windows 10 desktop just as seamlessly as I can, now, with my Windows Mobile phone.

There are other things, like the subtle changes to iOS and to the phone chassis itself.

There are things I don’t like, such as the removal of the headphone jack, inability to upgrade storage via SD card, no way to project the phone to another screen (at least, I haven’t seen this) and the lack of home screen tiles…a feature I’ve really grown to love on my Windows Mobile phone.  In fact, the lack of live tiles is almost a deal breaker for me. Almost.

For now, I am on the verge of mothballing my Windows Mobile phone and going Apple again.  I’m going to have play with one for a bit.   But, today’s announcements look encouraging.  Of course, if I wait a year, I may like iPhone 8 more…

OneNote like: ArcNotes

OneNote is, perhaps, one of the most useful applications EVER. I use it everyday on my Windows and iOS devices.  Even though I love the application, I still look for that ‘perfect’ note taking and data organizing application. So far, I’ve not found anything better than OneNote, but there are a few apps that are close. Here’s one that’s really close and it’s a Windows 8 style application too.

ArcNotes, from ArcSoft, is pretty darn close to OneNote in features and ease of use. Screenshot (24)Like OneNote, you can categorize your notes, create collections, tag your notes, include photos, drawings, video and audio files. For images, it has a nice feature that will correct distortions in the image. 

Screenshot (27)

Creating a note is simple, click or tap the new tile and a blank page pops up. Write or type your note, add whatever files you want and…that’s it. You can tap the information icon and up pops an info page where you can name your note, tag it and add a location.Screenshot (29)

Other features include PDF Preview and Share as PDF.  This is a really cool feature. It will let you share a set of notes with someone who does not have the application or just preserve your notes in a universal format.


Currently, the application is free and available in the Windows 8 store.

A Qool OneNote competitor or a Qool OneNote companion

qoolWhile I am a huge OneNote fan, I use it everyday, I am always on the lookout for a decent or even a superior competitor. Evernote comes close, even in its sub-par form today.  Windows 8 has ushered in a new set of applications, including a slate of OneNote like applications.

The latest I have seen is called Qool.  Qool is really more of an organizational tool than a note taker like OneNote-it does not have a complete set of editing tools like OneNote-but it has many basic features that make it more than usable AND…it qoolmainhas a tremendous sync tool.

When comparing features, it has most of the core set: embed audio, video and photos; note taking; embed other filetypes; organize your notes and present them in one of many ‘dashboards’. What’s lacking are all of the editing features. I’ve not found any way to bold text, change fonts, or any of the formatting features found in other similar applications.

qool5To create a note, simply double click or tap and a blank note appears. Type your text and then press ENTER.  Viola! Your note is saved.  Like OneNote, there is ‘SAVE’ button, changes are saved on the fly. Right click or swipe up and you reveal context sensitive menus.  The basic menu lets you qool4change the current notes backcolor; Pin to start; Organize; Remove; Clean; Upload a file; record audio or video or take a picture.

Organize gives you several preselected layouts for your notes and files. Clean removes selected items.  Remove removes the selected item. Pin to Start creates a tile on your Start Page that will take you directly to your note.

Other context menus allow you to select your Dashboard layout, change your note color and more.

qool7Dashboard is simply a nicer way to present your dataset. Whereas OneNote is more of a database with various notebooks, QOOL is more of a project management tool. When a note is no longer needed, you clean to remove it (or them, depending on how many you have.)  So, being ablqool8e to present your notes and items in an organized fashion is a huge plus. There are several pre-selected layouts, but you can create your own.

The big feature, though, is the sync. I have the trial version installed on three machines. I could make a change on one of them and the change would show up, almost instantly, on the others. Very nice, indeed.

While OneNote need not quiver in its boots, I see that QOOL not only has some use, but could be a great adjunct to OneNote or even Evernote. I will be using to product, which is currently free, and will be reporting back on how well it works, so stay tuned!

Qool is from 598 Studios and is available in the Windows App Store. Open the store, click the Search charm in the charms bar and search for Qool.


Another OneNote alternative: Work Notes Pro

Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I am a big OneNote fan.  While I am a huge fan of the software, that has not kept me from looking for alternatives. Now that I am a Windows 8 user, I have been looking for RT style OneNote-like applications. Yes, there is a RT version of OneNote-and it’s really good-but I am looking for something that is a tad simpler as well.

There is such a thing and it is called Work Notes Pro.

WNP takes the idea of OneNote and removes some of the flexibility but maintains the ease of use and follows the RT style pretty good.

Instead of using the notebook metaphor that OneNote uses, WNP uses the notions of notes and tabs in a card-file like metaphor. Perhaps this works because the thumbnails are of the tile nature (which makes sense, given that this is Windows 8.)

WorkNotesProPage4When you open WNP, you see your card list.  From this screen, you can slice and dice your data. You can show it in groupings, like projects, to-do’s, keywords, etc. You can then further limit what shows via a filter.  This method of slicing your data is pretty cool and very easy to use. Though, when entering your notes, you must keep this in mind by properly filling out the tiles on the left side of the note card.


The tiles along the left side of your note card allow you to specify a project to associate the note with; set your keywords; mark it as a to-do and then set the status; add a reminder and others. You can insert media like an audio recording, photo or video to the note card. Of course, right clicking brings up the command bar which reveals editing features like change the font, justification, etc. Note editing is fairly robust, but some things are missing like bullets and the ability to insert a tab.  These are easy to overcome, but should have been included.

You can also export your notes to text files or media files.

There is also some integration with Microsoft SkyDrive for syncing your notes.  Once you allow the app to use your Live ID, you will be logged in automatically and your data will be synced to SkyDrive.  Since the app is currently Windows 8/RT only, I’m not sure what this gets you other than backing up your data.

Currently, the app is available in the Windows Store and is free.

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A OneNote look alike for the Mac

I’ve been a OneNote fan for many years now. I use it at home, on the go and at work. The problem with OneNote, however, is that Microsoft has to release it for Mac OSX.  That’s quite a shame, really, since OneNote is, simply, the best note taking and organizing piece of software yet released. It is versatile and really easy to use. It is, without a doubt, THE best part of Office and the best piece of software the Microsoft has ever released.

Until recently, I thought the only thing that could come close to OneNote on the Mac was EverNote. They, however, jumped the shark with the rewrite of the platform a few years back. It lacks the versatility that it once had . 

Well, I am happy to report that I found a worthy replacement: Growly Notes.

Growly1Growly Notes resembles OneNote in many ways, especially in the Note taking feature-the most important part of the software.  It uses the same tabbed metaphor as OneNote, though the tabs are along the side of the page instead of the top.

Just about everything is there, save for the diagramming and line graphics in OneNote. I don’t use them all that much, so I would not miss them here. You can embed objects, import images from a scanner or camera and perform screen clips, just like OneNote.

One major difference I have found, however, may prevent many from using Growly Notes: lack of a sync feature.  There is no cloud service and I have found no way to sync notebooks across devices. As the software is Mac only, there is no conduit to sync to anything on a non-Mac device.

I am still in the midst of testing the software and, aside from the data sync, it is looking really nice and a worthy replacement for OneNote.