Give yourself a refresher course with this simple Spanish language course
Language is one of those things that needs to be maintained and routinely brushed up on, and is especially true of a second language. How many of us took Spanish or French in high school, but haven't spoke a lick of it since then? If you're looking for a great way to refresh your memory, we suggest checking out something like Learn Spanish with MosaLingua.
Easy-to-use biology and nutrition app makes learning about food fun
Educational apps for kids over the age of five are often entirely centered around reading comprehension or mathematics, and often tend to gloss over the sciences. We think that is a real shame, because kids are naturally curious about the world around them and how it works. Urbn Pockets, however, saw this opportunity and decided they'd step in, with a biology- and nutrition-themed app called This is My Food.
Three pay-what-you-want development course bundles from MacNN Deals
Every day, alongside our regular Daily Deals post, we are showcasing some of the highlights within our own MacNN Deals store. Today's items are all Pay-What-You-Want bundles that can help you become a top-notch programmer, including web development, app creation, and producing your own games for others to play, while also raising funds for Creative Commons.
Cute puzzle game helps kids understand color theory and spacial logic
There's something to be said for apps that cater to the preschool and elementary crowd. Years go, most developers avoided creating apps for younger kids, because most mainstream consoles and computers had far too many buttons for little fingers. Thanks to touchscreen devices, more developers are making the leap to engage a younger audience. We checked out Busy Shapes, a cute puzzler for the under-10 set.
Traditional promotion has been MIA so far this year, revamp may be in cards
Traditionally, Apple launches a Back To School promotion in the first week of July (or first week in January for Australia and New Zealand) that offers extra incentives, such as iTunes Gift Cards, on top of the usual educational discounts on hardware ranging from Macs to iPods. The program has not appeared this year, with no reply from Apple to inquiries about the state of the promotion -- but a weekly video to Apple Store staff from retail chief Dame Angela Ahrendts hints that a rethink on the Back To School idea is coming.
The book is here
This is one of the moments when it feels good to be a book writer. There's no question but your first newspaper article, your first magazine piece, your first radio show, they are all fantastic -- but somehow a book is special. Maybe because of the pain it takes to get there. Last week the entire Summer Project fell over: every single thing I'd recommended so loudly, so cockily, it was all wrong because the book I'm writing simply wasn't any good. One hairy week on, it is. The Blank Screen: Blogging is a far better book than it would've been if I'd not stopped it to rewrite.
The book isn't good enough, and new doors are opening
The e-book of The Blank Screen: Blogging is ready, I could send it to you, and I was about to upload it to iBooks and Amazon Kindle. This week, I was going to be showing you how you get the paperback ready, and that that is a surprisingly intricate little tale that involves new online software that we haven't talked about before. We're not going to talk about it this week either, because the book is not good enough.
Educational computer being handed out by BBC to 1M children this year
The BBC has revealed the final form of the micro:bit, a compact computer it is using to teach children how to program and use electronics. Taking a slightly more conventional form compared to its prototype, the Raspberry Pi-style computer is going to be provided to every 11 or 12-year-old child in the United Kingdom completely free, equating to approximately 1 million devices being supplied before the end of this year.
Apple CEO was Fuqua business school scholar, awarded MBA in 1982
Though Apple CEO Tim Cook often identifies as an Auburn alumnus and strong supporter of the football program there, he is also a graduate of Duke University in North Carolina, having graduated with an MBA from Duke's Fuqua business school. On Tuesday, Duke University named Cook as one of several new members of the Board of Trustees for the school. Along with other board members, Cook will help direct the school's fiscal and educational policies.
Up to $100,000, two HoloLens units offered to five research projects
Microsoft is attempting to prove the usefulness of its HoloLens augmented reality headset, by offering free units and cash to researchers. The Microsoft HoloLens Academic Research project will grant five academic institutions two development kits for the device as well as up to $100,000 in grants each, if researchers make a suitable proposal that aims to "better understand the role and possible applications for holographic computing in society."
Discover a more efficent way to make sense of Wikipedia articles
Ah, Wikipedia, our torrid little knowledge love affair. Sure, it's not always the most accurate, but it's certainly the most convenient. We're not going to pretend like we're not the type to spend an evening hopping from article to article, reading as much as we can -- but what if there was an easier option, something that made sense of the complex information presented to you by Wikipedia? Now, there is, with Learn Discovery.
The downward spiral of the music business, a 5K iMac giveaway, and more
Episode 21 of The MacNN Podcast is now available! Join us for a very speedy hour as we talk about a great new contest where you can win a 5K Retina 27-inch iMac, the licensing kerfuffle with Apple Music that features a happy ending, more troubles for MacKeeper, the plaudits and perils of e-publishing, the trauma of having to send in a Mac for repair, and our picks for App(s) of the Week! Show notes after the jump.
An interactive book with a somewhat more modern take on a classic fairy tale
Green Riding Hood by Bobaka is an interactive story book that takes inspiration from the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, and gives is a more modern sensibility. The Wolf is still pretty horrible, and would very much like to eat the other characters, but (spoiler) nobody gets eaten, or has their belly filled with hot rocks. Plus, there are delicious recipes.
Second year of recognition brings spotlight on LGBT-themed media
A day after New York City's Stonewall Inn received official landmark status, Apple debuted a curated collection of apps and media in its iOS App Store celebrating the advances the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community has made in recent years, as well as commemorating the 1969 riots at Stonewall that kicked off the modern pride movement. The company has a long history of publicly recognizing gay employees, stretching back to 1986.
Great resource adds collaboration and marking
You know that MacNN likes to go the extra mile and stress-test, even pummel every application that gets a Hands On review. It's not enough to tell us a list of features, we want to see that those features do what they say they will. It's partly diligence, partly that we've been fooled by Windows software before. Apple today updated its iTunes U educational service and iOS to version 3.0, and made some notable changes -- and this obviously requires that we join a university that uses the software so that we can fully partake of the semester-long new features.
Apple now labelling ground-truth vans, promoting Apple Maps
Having initially triggered a way of often-silly speculation about driverless, solar-powered cars when its vans first appeared, Apple is now clearly labelling its ground-truth GPS data collection vans as being for use with Apple Maps, and promoting the service with a sign seen on vans now patrolling Seattle. The company recently confirmed that the vans were collecting real-world location data that will be "used to improve Apple Maps."
Photography resources, software at deeply-discounted price for charity
Last week, Foto Promos announced its largest-ever bundle of resources, software, training, printing, memberships and other pro-photographer education in a special offer available through MacNN and Electronista called The Big Deal that includes over $4,200 worth of downloadable products for just $99. The bundle, which runs through Thursday, has raised over $45,000 for charity, and features contributions from Lindsay Adler, Jared Platt, Dave Cross, KelbyOne, Lee Varis, Gavin Gough, Tony Sweet, Rick Sammon, Phlearn, Photoshop Cafe, Mylio, Eyefi, Viewbug, AthenTech, and B&H Photo and Video, among others.
Nickelodeon brings kid's shows to iOS with kid-friendly app
More and more people are giving up TV these days in favor of online streaming, but a lot of these services often leave kids out of the equation. Sure, Netflix and Amazon Prime have a decent selection of kids shows, but shouldn't there be a better option out there? Well, the folks over at Nickelodeon came to that conclusion, too, and offered up Noggin, an app designed especially for preschoolers.
Announces new Chinese educational programs to be offered in schools
In a new interview given to the Chinese-language version of Businessweek, Apple CEO Tim Cook admits that the company takes Chinese consumer tastes into account in its product designs, along with other factors. Cook specifically pointed to the gold color option -- first introduced with 2013's iPhone 5s and now expanded to the iPad and new 12-inch Retina MacBook line -- as reflecting in part "the popularity of that color among Chinese users."
Over $4,200 in downloadable plug-ins, tutorials, and more for $99
Earlier this week, Foto Promos announced its largest-ever bundle of resources, software, training, printing, memberships and other pro-photographer education in a special offer available through MacNN and Electronista called The Big Deal that includes over $4,200 worth of downloadable products for just $99. The bundle, which runs through Thursday, has raised over $31,000 for charity, and features contributions from Lindsay Adler, Jared Platt, Dave Cross, KelbyOne, Lee Varis, Gavin Gough, Tony Sweet, Rick Sammon, Phlearn, Photoshop Cafe, Mylio, Eyefi, Viewbug, AthenTech, and B&H Photo and Video, among others.
Software, training, discounts, plug-ins, e-books, more offered for photographers
Foto Promos is currently running its largest-ever bundle of resources, software, training, printing, memberships and other pro-photographer education in a special offer available through MacNN and Electronista called The Big Deal that includes over $4,000 worth of downloadable products for just $99. Contributors to the bundle include Lindsay Adler, Jared Platt, Dave Cross, KelbyOne, Lee Varis, Gavin Gough, Tony Sweet, Rick Sammon, Phlearn, Photoshop Cafe, Mylio, Eyefi, Viewbug, AthenTech, and B&H Photo and Video among others.
Finally, some actual writing, and thoughts on software to use
Four weeks into the summer project, halfway through to having an actual paperback and e-book, only now do we get to do some writing. Maybe in the olden days, you could just get out your quill pen on day one and craft a masterpiece, but now that you're taking on the production of the book, you have a lot of other concerns.
A gaming system for iPads that melds virtual and physical environments.
We really enjoy it when a developer takes advantage of the fantastic technology we have today while still grounding an experience in our own physical space. Osmo does just that and does it nicely. The Osmo system uses an angled mirror clipped over the front-facing FaceTime camera alongside a stand, and coupled with free iPad apps to make the area directly in front of the iPad an active virtual and real-world play space. The combo is a very simple way of going about it, but the results can be magical.
Teach your little ones the joy of upcycling with this cute kids app
Everything old is new again. Reduce, reuse, recyle. Waste not, want not. These are all principles that we've had drilled into us since we were young. You can teach your own kids the importance of seeing the value in everything by letting them play Duckie Deck's Trash Toys, a game about creating new things from old parts.
An app to build a virtual toy and a virtual sandbox in which to play with it
The Robot Factory by Tinybop is an open-ended activity app where the user builds a robot, and then sets it loose upon a wooded garden. It's the first in TinyBop's new line of virtual toys, and much like their educational apps, such as Simple Machines, there's not much in the way of points or win conditions. Although there's certainly plenty to do.
A guided tour through programming concepts for kids
Cato's Hike: A Programming and Logic Odyssey by Hesham Wahba is an iOS app for helping kids, and adults if they're so inclined, to learn about programming. The app utilizes an object-oriented language of "cards" and customizable maps to demonstrate the various principles. The app is very cute, and we liked the idea of the cards format for the programs. We think Cato's Hike is a good tool for a parent or teacher to guide a would-be programmer to a better understanding of how it's done.
The exciting part – planning the book
Don't look at us like that. Planning is exciting -- or at least, it is essential. If you're a writer, then the thing you want to do is write; and if you're a publisher, then the thing you want is for that writer to have written, please, so that you can get on with your work. Our job in this Summer Project is to create a real book -- paperback and ebook -- and do so in front of you with only one massive cheat. As explained in last week's introduction, the cheat is that this isn't just playing around with the tools, and this book wasn't conjured up for the series.
Fun art app aims to make artists out of elementary kids
We've been covering a fair amount of artist-centric apps lately, most of which are designed for professional artists, hobbyists, or at the very least, adults. We're about to change that, however, by showcasing an app that is designed for elementary-age artists everywhere, called Drawing with Carl.
Educational math game helps keep kids interested in arithmetic
Getting kids to practice math skills isn't always easy. Flash cards are boring, worksheets are torture, and forget about trying to get your average nine-year-old to a tutor without at least four temper tantrums and a significant amount of bribery. So how do you get your kids to brush up on their math skills? We suggest Numbees and the World of Math, a well-rounded, fun app for helping improve your child's math skills.
Era of iPods, streaming music do not eliminate CDs entirely just yet
Today's Pointers column is inspired by a lamentation from a veteran Mac user of our acquaintance who expressed some regret over the upgrade to iTunes 12 (he had jumped several versions in finally doing the upgrade). Among the other changes the recent version had introduced, he was convinced that Apple had removed the ability to burn music CDs, which he still found useful. In case others are laboring under this misconception, this column will show you that yes, CD music burning is still doable in iTunes 12.1 in 2015.
A hands-on demonstration of mechanical principles for kids
Simple Machines by Tinybop is less like a game, and more like a collection of scientific toys. The mechanical demonstrations are certainly like games, and some of them have goals the user can shoot for, certainly. There are no points, and very little in the way of "win" conditions, however. What Simple Machines does have is a lot of charm, whimsy, and science!
Law unclear on whether new device is Bluetooth accessory or hand-held device
A man in Quebec, Canada has been ticketed with a potential fine of $120 for using his Apple Watch to manually change songs remotely on his nearby iPhone, sparking a debate about whether the Watch can be as distracting as the smartphone it ostensibly replaces in such situations, and opening a discussion about the nature of "no handheld devices while driving" laws which are widespread throughout North America. Defendant Jeffrey Macesin, who admits the case will clarify the existing law, is contesting the citation.
The real business of writing and publishing books on Macs
Self-publishing -- once known as the "vanity press" -- has been around for decades. If you had a burning desire to be a published author, but mysteriously the conventional literary "mafia" couldn't see the value in your heartbreaking work of staggering genius, you could pay to have books created for you in the hopes that this would lead to your "discovery." It rarely worked out that way (until 50 Shades of Gray took that path). With the advent of desktop publishing in the late 1980s and the emergence of e-books into the mainstream more recently, authors can now take much more control over their literary fate. In this new Summer Project, MacNN is going to show you what we mean, by putting out a book ourselves over the next eight weeks. Read on to find out more.
Gain extra utility with lesser-known functionality in the Dock
The Dock is one of the many features of OS X that is taken for granted -- and often underutilized. Sure, a fair number of users eventually figure out that the can take things off the dock -- usually by accident, resulting in some considerable alarm -- but it has come to our attention that shockingly few users really leverage the Dock as Apple intended. In this installment of Pointers, we'll go over some of the "hidden" powers of the Dock that turn it into a real productivity tool.
Another papercraft toy creation tool from Pixle
Foldify Zoo -- Create, Print and Fold Paper Animals! and Foldify Dinosaurs are two more papercraft toy creation apps from Pixle, makers of Foldify and Storest, which we have looked at previously. Both Zoo and Dinosaurs include all the tools from Foldify, but have more limited papercraft patterns to choose from. What the user gets in exchange is an educational rundown of the creature in question, and where in the world it's from.
New Ricoh projectors aimed at business, educational customers
Ricoh has announced a collection of new projectors aimed at business and education markets, with some upgrading a number of existing project models. The group of seven projecting devices include Desk Edge, Short Throw and standard models, designed to be capable of displaying an image on a screen or surface at a variety of distances, and incorporate advanced functions including Wi-Fi and Miracast functionality.
Cook discusses meeting famous and influential men throughout his life
This past weekend, Apple CEO Tim Cook gave the commencement speech to The George Washington University graduating class of 2015. In it, he discussed his first trip to Washington, DC at the age of 16 in 1977, as well as the 1998 meeting with Steve Jobs that convinced him to join Apple, as part of Jobs' efforts to save the then-floundering company. Cook also expressed his thoughts on the importance of human rights, and the ability of individuals to affect positive change, even in the workplace.
Creative kids app encourages kids to explore designing clothes!
Toca Boca is a developer we feature regularly here, and it's not hard to see why. Their apps are bright, friendly, easy to use, and consistently ranked among the top apps for young kids. Today we checked out Toca Tailor, a sandbox-style game with a similar feel to games like Toca Hair Salon and Toca Mini.
Researchers work with Apple on DNA testing app for evaluating genetic traits
A leading research and academic technology review publication has revealed that Apple is working with researchers on building DNA-testing apps using ResearchKit, the company's API for medical research software. The apps would require volunteers to submit DNA samples, helping scientists at institutions such as UC San Francisco examine the causes of premature birth by studying genetic factors, while another study will look at disease-connected genes gathered through the study.
App used for disabled to communicate through the app with caretakers, others
Assistive technology software developer AssitiveWare today announced Proloquo2Go 4.0, a major new release of its symbol-supported Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app that provides a voice to over 125,000 children, teens and adults who cannot speak. Proloquo2Go 4.0 is designed to enhance language development and communication for AAC users. It also aims to better support parents, teachers and therapists to implement AAC best practices.
Submitting to iTunes is first step in drumming up an audience
Over the past three weeks, plus an introductory piece about general voice recording on the Mac, we have used the Wednesday Pointers column to spotlight the process of creating a podcast, as it is an excellent medium for communication, education, or entertainment. The process can be fairly simple, or labor-intensive, depending on what you want the finished product to be like. This time out, we look at listing your creation to the biggest podcast directory, by far, on Earth: iTunes.
Short videos illustrate functionality and look in actual-size screen demos
After releasing the videos in drips, Apple now has completed its set of 10 "guided tour" videos covering the main functions of the Apple Watch. The last three, dealing with Apple Pay, the Activity tracker, and the Workout app were posted on Wednesday, joining videos covering the core user interface of the device and specific functions ranging from phone calls, to customizing the watch face, to sending "digital touch" messages.
Kids love playing store, and now they can create a real store with paper
Storest by Pixle has to be, hands down, one of the cutest apps we've seen so far this year. The app has two modes: the first is a virtual store where a kid can play at shopping, checking out, paying and getting change, on the tablet itself. The other mode provides materials to be printed and cut out, so a real store-themed play space can be set up in the physical realm, with the app used as the cash register. Storest isn't so much a game as an educational tool or prop to facilitate play, and we are utterly charmed by it.
Stores to offer workshop on Apple Watch starting April 24, despite shortages
Although the unexpected sellout of the Apple Watch will put a crimp of unavailability in the works, Apple is going ahead with new "Apple Watch Basics" workshops at some of its retail stores beginning April 24. The lucky relative few who will receive their pre-orders on or near launch day, along with those who are still waiting, are likely to be the chief participants in the workshops, which will run through May 8 in the US only. The classes will run approximately 60 minutes in order to cover all of the many key features of the new device.
Company expands video tutorials on Apple Watch features in run-up to launch day
Yesterday, Apple posted four new videos to its site and YouTube channel showcasing additional tent-pole features of the Apple Watch, including handling phone calls, interacting with Siri, music playback, and Maps usage. Last week the company had posted a general overview tutorial video, along with shorter ones focusing on Digital Touch, messaging, and customizing the watch face. The videos reveal minor details of the various operations previously not publicized.
Price district paid per iPad with educational materials still less than retail
In the wake of its collapsed iPad program, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is seeking millions of dollars in refunds from Apple. The district's board of education has authorized state and city attorneys to investigate litigation to claim money from Apple and Pearson after the district itself broke the contract. Also sent letters by the LAUSD are Lenovo and a computer distributor, both also including Pearson materials.
Introductory, Digital Touch, Messages, Faces videos up now, more coming soon
On Friday, Apple added to the Apple Watch section of its website with a Guided Tours page that features short videos showing off some of the features of the new device, which will start appearing stores and become available for pre-order on April 10, followed by a full retail debut on April 24. A general introductory video is followed by tutorials on Faces, Digital Touch, and Messages.
Apple spotlights World Autism Awareness Day with spotlight on helpful apps
Apple has showcased 16 apps specifically designed for autistic persons in the Education section of the iOS App Store. Two apps in particular, Proloquo2Go and Proloquo4Text, are being offered at an unusual sale price of $110 and $120 respectively, half off their normal cost due to the promotion. MacNN reviewed Proloquo2Go a little over a year ago, finding it be the best in class. Other apps spotlighted help users with math, clothing choices, environment comfort, and more.
Give your elementary-school engineer a fun project to work on!
It's in a child's nature to be interested about the world around them, and as parents and teachers, there's a certain obligation you have to encourage that. Starting from age two, kids just seem to become more and more inquisitive, and while the "why?" phase is never fun, watching a child develop a genuine interest in the way the world works is one of the best things a parent gets to witness. Finding games that can help foster those interests isn't always easy, but we think that Crazy Gears is a good place to start.
Learn about the history of the space race, or create your own history
Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager by Slitherine depicts the Cold War space race from the perspective of those on one of the front lines. While populated with soldiers and military, this time, we're talking about NASA and the Soviet Space Agency. This game isn't about artillery barrages or submarines lurking about, but one of managing departments, selecting and training personnel, and balancing budgets.