App of the Week: UHF Horror Movie Collection

Developer:
3DCGFX COMICS COMPANY

Compatible with:
Android Devices

Requires:
Android 1.6 or up

Price:
$0.99

Available here

So I’m jumping the gun with this one, but with October approaching rapidly, I can’t help but get excited for Halloween a little early.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the horror genre, no matter what the medium, even though I’m not entirely sure why. There’s something about a good (or even not that good) scary story that appeals to me more than just about any other kind. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a genre that has been graced with some diabolically creative minds over the years, whose visions of scares and atrocities that most would rather never hope to have cross their minds, manifest themselves into tales of terror that all celebrate, and contribute to,  the undeniable human quality that we just like to be scared.

If you have an Android device, you can help re-live some of film’s greatest horror stories with the UHF Horror Film app. A collection of public domain works, this app yields no less than a 130 movies of macabe that are available to watch in their full feature release versions. That does mean you can find a lot of these titles for free, but its very nice to find them all in one convenient location that’s always available. Also, while some of the titles available are understandably less than classic, even a lot of the bad ones are bad in the enjoyable way (which is a unique trait that horror movies, and maybe comedies, enjoy).

What really shocked me when reviewing the list of movies available on this app, though, is how many of these titles are worth full retail price. Movies like “Night of the Living Dead,” “Nosferatu,” “Carnival of Souls,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Haxan” and “Dementia 13” are included in the bundle, and are all essential horror viewing for one reason or another. But still, the real joy comes in taking a shot on random movies like “I Eat Your Skin,” “Driller Killer,” or “Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory” and seeing if you can’t accidentally unearth a new cult classic (Hint: In the cases of those movies mentioned, it’s not likely).

With additions like plot summaries, cast and crew information, reviews, and 65 episodes of the TV series “One Step Beyond” and “Tales of Tomorrow” thrown in for good measure, there’s an absurd amount of content available. You may never get around to seeing everything on this app, but since we’re talking about a cost per movie of $0.0076 , then there’s little reason to not give it a go, even if it is just to quell your Halloween jonesing on the go.

While Apple Maps may be the scariest app currently available, it doesn’t come close to having the sheer entertainment value of the UHF horror film collection, my app of the week.

  

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App of the Week: Wrestling Revolution

Compatible With: Android 2.2 and up

Price: Free

Available here

When I was a kid, there was nothing cooler than pro wrestling. Turning on the TV to find larger than life individuals with cartoon personas wailing on each other to the delight of packed arenas was a sensory overload experience that few programs could match. Over time, though, the program aged, and so did I. Like the rest of the country at the time, I was captivated by the obscene brutality of the “Attitude Era”, and the new stars it created like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and The Rock, but after that pro wrestling just lost its appeal.

Still though, I’ve got enough nostalgic love for pro wrestling, that occasionally the right spark can rekindle that old passion for it. This usually happens when I play the “Smackdown v.s. Raw” games, as the series genuinely good multiplayer mode is easy enough for anyone to get into, whatever the source material may be. However, those games have become watered down over the years, as the lack of competition have forced them into such a complacency that the series has lost that light hearted, casual fun aspect that makes pro wrestling, in any format, so entertaining in the first place.

That’s why we need a revolution. “Wrestling Revolution” is an android app that offers a simplified touch control system that allows for all of the basic strikes, grapples, and special moves the sport is known for. It also has the standard match types like 1 on 1, tag team, and battle royals, along with the regular arsenal of usable weapons such as chairs, tables, and title belts. On so many levels, it is your basic wrestling game, just with touch controls that perform well enough to not get in your way too often.

So why is it my app of the week? Because it’s loaded with that pure fun I was talking about earlier. The roster is so good it’s criminal (seriously, you may have to edit some of the names, but the available likenesses make sure you don’t have to stretch your imagination too much) and their vibrant sprites perform a surprisingly good range of animations for the various maneuvers available. This game harkens back to the arcade style of the classic “WWF Wrestlefest”, and is all the better for it. The one feature that’s not a throwback at all, and is actually quite innovative, is the games “episodic” format. While this mode is still a work in progress, it actually boasts  updated weekly storylines that promise to make the game different every time you play it. The feature isn’t quite there yet, but parts of it are still leagues ahead of the same ole, same ole single player mode of its major league counterpart in terms of ambition.

There’s more to the game of course, such as create a character modes and the like, but in the end you want this app because it’s so much pure fun. While I can’t promise that it will make a believer out of non-wrestling fans, for a free app ($.99 for the PPV add-on), if you’ve ever had an ounce of love for the sport, and own an android, you owe it to yourself to give this one a shot. It’s may not be as technically sound as Mr. Perfect, as flashy as a Ric Flair entrance from the 80’s, or a complete revolutionist like CM Punk. It does, however, remind me of Andre the Giant. Obvious, blunt, but consistently entertaining enough to make it an easy app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Loopcam

I’m beginning a new mission to try and find the best apps available for smartphones and tablets everywhere. While this mission may one week develop into a noble pursuit of finding useful, game-changing applications, or even just innovative time-killers, for this first edition, I can’t help but share my unhealthy fascination with an app that celebrates one of the greatest and most stupid innovations of the internet age.

I speak, of course, about the animated GIF file.

Short for Graphical Interchange Format, the GIF file is another bitmap image format that is easy to use and fairly versatile. But its real potential wasn’t realized until the 90s when people started to animate their GIF files, allowing for them to display a few precious seconds of motion in a repetitive loop. Then suddenly, after one dancing baby became an overnight sensation, the animated GIF established itself as a staple of internet humor.

Now with the free iPhone app Loopcam, you have the ability to create your own animated GIF files to one day slow down the load time of a webpage and lead to potential seizures. It’s an incredibly simple app that streamlines GIF creation into a few-step process. From there, Loopcam gives you the ability to share your creations with the world via e-mail, texts and all of the usual social media outlets. While there are other, similar apps out there, Loopcam’s user friendly nature and range of features make it the standout of the pack.

The GIF is one internet joke that looks to stay, and that’s largely due to the many, creative “shouldn’t be funny but somehow is” ways that people have used the format. Loopcam allows that same user creativity to thrive anywhere you may be, and for that reason stands triumphant as my first app of the week.

  

The Future of Watches, Brought to You by the Future In Free Market

In a prior article on the Instagram Camera, I said that the potential legions of fans that the prototype would draw should probably take to Kickstarter.com, in a mob like fashion, to make that invention a reality. I meant that somewhat jokingly. Well, in just a short time fund raising on that very site, tech developer Eric Migicovsky, along with his “dream team”, and their invention The Pebble Watch have pretty much guaranteed that no one will be making jokes about Kickstarter ever again.

The Pebble watch, which raised an almost unfathomable $2.5 million in just three days on Kickstarter, is a smart watch that works with iPhone and Android devices. It’s essentially an evolution of the inPulse smart watch, also designed by Eric Migicovsky and Co., which worked with Blackberry devices. The Pebble takes certain apps and functions of your smart phone, like controlling your music playlists or providing a heads up when you receive a text message or phone call, and transfers them to the face of the watch. It has an e-ink display, is waterproof, scratchproof, keeps its’ charge for seven days, and even functions with an app developer program.

I’ve got to confess. As nice as all of that sounded, I wasn’t  particularly impressed with the device at first. Or at least I didn’t understand how a “smart watch” could garner so much interest and cash in such a short time. But to truly appreciate the Pebble’s uses, you have to see the video that accompanies the product on Kickstarter.

 

No this isn’t a world changing device. That would be the smartphone. Instead this is a rare device that realizes that if you can’t beat the smartphone, you could do worse for yourself than to become its’ best friend. The Pebble is practically designed for joggers and bicyclists, as it allows you to do things like view your distance traveled, control your music, and manage incoming messages and calls without ever once having to break your motion. Even for pedestrians or drivers, the Pebble’s benefits of being able to access some of the most practical apps of your phone, without having to reach for it, actually brings your phone back  to being a convenience and not a burden. Not to mention this finally makes the modern watch more than just jewelry, and also brings us one step closer to the sci-fi staple all purpose “wrist computer” (think Fallout’s Pip Boy device).

But really, the Pebble itself isn’t the story here. That belongs to Kickstarter. The idea of a program that could essentially allow consumers to choose the products they really want, without designers having to wade through the machine of corporate funding or personal loans for a project, was merely a vague notion whose successes have been treated as exceptions and novelty stories. But the Pebble has managed to raise over $10 million so far through Kickstarter  (10,169% of  its original goal), which is such an absurd figure that the developers are now pleading with people to stop contributing money as they have too much of it and can no longer meet demand.

Whatever success the Pebble watch has from here on out will be tied directly to Kickstarter. As word of the sites potential spreads, only time will tell if its’ bazaar of ideas will change certain foundations of commerce. But considering many people will be telling that time on their new Pebble watches, my guess is it’s got a pretty good shot.

  

Is the Facebook Phone a Microsoft-grade error?

Facebook logo.

With all the buzz about Carrier IQ, most of the tech world’s attention has already turned away from “Buffy,” the rumored-and-all-but-confirmed Facebook phone. The shift is appropriate. Frankly, the Facebook phone is a mistake, and if Facebook really has been working on the project for two years, a colossal mistake. A Windows Phone grade mistake.

Don’t try to tell me Windows Phone was a success, either. Despite the recent upturn in market share, WP7 is still in dire straits. Some estimates put WP7 market share lower than Symbian. Yeah, that’s Nokia’s old OS. With the new deal between the two companies that will obviously shift, but Nokia hardware doesn’t have a shot in hell of saving Windows Phone. The operating system is already on some really nice hardware and it still won’t sell.

Here’s the rub, at least for Microsoft. Windows Phone 7 is a great OS. I mean that. It’s solid. It’s pretty. It’s fresh, certainly when compared to the increasingly homogeneous Android and iOS platforms. It still isn’t doing well. Microsoft may have spent as much as 500 million dollars marketing Windows Phone 7, to say nothing of the massive development overhead. It still isn’t doing well. Why is Facebook so ready to make the same mistake?

The easy answer: Apple and Google. Those two companies have a stranglehold on mobile computing. Facebook is on both platforms, but my guess is that Facebook is worried about one of those companies making a play that could push Facebook out. The Galaxy Nexus is shaping up to be a beautiful phone, a phone that Google is planning for serious Google+ integration. But Google+ is dead. A nursing home at best. Is Facebook really worried about that?

It also seems reasonable to wonder if Facebook branding will really sell a phone, and to whom? Unless Facebook can pull an Apple-style keynote that warrants the existence of the phone, I don’t see the appeal. Apple has sexy mobile locked down. Android has the nerd factor. Both of those brands carry weight across demographics. Where does Facebook play? The tween market? Yuck.

As long as Facebook remains easily accessible on every Android and iOS handset, a phone with deep Facebook integration won’t really have a market. Not anything significant, anyway. Not enough to offset the cash Facebook has dumped into big names and a severely protracted development cycle. Not by a long shot.

  

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