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We want our iPad Jean Michel Jarre synth app, not excuses!


Our last 'not excuses!' post caused quite a stir, we are not making any promises, but there is a small chance that some form of old school arcade emulation may find its way onto the iPad soon. We'll be sure to update you with more details as the project nears completion.

In the meantime we turn our attention toward the area of music synthesisers. There is already quite an array of synth apps available for the iPad — hardly surprising as the iPad is just about perfect for music creation — however, all but a handful appear to be upgraded iPhone apps.

We think there is a place for music creation applications that are narrowly focused on replicating the distinctive sound of just one artist, perhaps even just one specific album from that artist. We'll use the seminal 1976 Jean Michel Jarre classic, 'Oxygene' as an example of how and why this should be done.

"I listened to all of Jean Michel Jarre’s albums obsessively, to the point of knowing every note by heart. His music accompanied me as I wrote « 2010 : Odyssey Two. His concerts are always a celebration of wonderment…" Sir Arthur C. Clarke

A truly defining album, not just of the 70s but also of Jarre's career. Oxygene proved that electronic music can be emotive, sweeping and even soulful. Oxygene Synth, a synthesiser app based on nothing but the musical equipment and production procedures that Jarre used to create Oxygene would be a sure fire hit and could possibly lead to a renewed interest in the music of France's most enigmatic musician.

Here's how we think it should work...

Authenticity comes first

Oxygene Synth should contain the full variety of analog synthesisers and other electronic instruments and effects that Jarre used when creating the original recording. This is vital to the whole endeavour, without the full range of authentic instruments and sounds the app simply wouldn't appeal to its target audience and would likely be seen as a cheap money grabbing exercise. We are no synthesiser experts but we do know that getting that authentic sound will require broad software emulation of the EMS VCS 3 analogue synthesiser, a 'portable' synthesiser use by Jarre, but also Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Portishead. 

The full emulation of early synthesisers is a worthy endeavour, old beauties like the EMS VCS 3 and Yamaha CS-80 — a synth also used by Jarre, Vangelis, David Bowie, Keane and Coldplay — need to be preserved for future generations. Unlike many other classic instruments these synths are no longer in production. Interestingly, the Yamaha CS-80 has already been reproduced in software by Arturia using their TAE (True Analog Emulation) technology, a technique which allows for the accurate modelling of the behavior of analog circuits on a personal computer. We've contacted Arturia about the Oxygene Synth, we'll post their reply here.

Next comes music

Oxygene Synth should include the complete album as MIDI files. This will allow the user to examine the timing and nuance of each note and effect. A Smule Magic Piano songbook style interface would make for a wonderful way for the music keyboard novice to make quick progress, though ultimately a full musical keyboard and portrayal of the original physical controls should be presented.

The icing on the cake

So far we have the full array of sounds, the musical note-by-note breakdown of the entire album and a way for the inexperienced to recreate Oxygene. Adding video interviews with Jean Michel Jarre, tutorials, sleeve notes, poster artwork, album reviews, a 'making of' documentary and social networking hooks would really make the Oxygene Synth app shine.

We think there's a big future in this kind of app. The iPad is so much more than any other personal computer, it's more flexible, more personal, and in many ways more powerful. By the end of 2011 the installed user base could be approaching 30 million. Given the right price point and advertising — surely Apple would feature the Oxygene Synth app at a Steve Jobs keynote! — we are convinced that the Oxygene Synth would be a success.

We are currently attempting to get in contact with the man himself. Stay tuned! You can show your support for the Oxygene Synth iPad app by mentioning this article on your own blog or by tweeting about it on Twitter. Let's see if we can make this happen.

Further reading:

We want our iPad Arcade, not excuses!

iPad Case Roundup - Skins and Shields

For general every day use of the iPad you could just 'go naked' as Apple intended out of the box. If you want a bit more protection however for your expensive piece of kit from bumps and scrapes without going the full on leather Portfolio route we covered yesterday, an iPad Skin or Shield might be what you need.

We have included in this category protective covers that you put on and leave on your iPad.

There are so many of these out there that it is actually very difficult to recommend just three, but below are the ones that caught our eye and that you may want to check out for yourself:

Case-Mate Gelli Checkmate and Kaleidoscope Cases

These two covers from Case-Mate provide good protection for the back and sides of your iPad, whilst offering some tactile grip similar to silicone cases. Case-Mate use a thermoplastic, flexible material to protect your iPad and we liked these cases because they are very close fitting possibly close enough to use a slipcase as well (which we will talk about tomorrow), but we also liked the unique approach to the design of these two types of cases with the checkered effect in the Checkmate cases and the circles on circles design of the Kaleidoscope cases.

The different coloured cases may not all be to your liking, but the Checkmate comes in Gray, Blue or Green, whilst the Kaleidoscope is available in Pink, Tomato (um, Red) and Aurora (Yellow). Thankfully you can visit Case-Mate's site and select each of the colours to see what they will look from several different angles.

Here are the features listed on Case-Mate's site:

  • High performing, flexible, plastic-like material protects your iPad from minor impact and scratches

  • Unique patterns and colors

  • Lighter, softer and more resilient than silicone and rubber cases

  • Access to all ports and controls

 

Macally Metrolpad

If you like the way your iPad looks and want to keep it that way, but do not want pretty colours or designs spoiling its look, then you could consider the clear protective case from Macally they call Metrolpad. Sounding a bit like a 1920's classic, this case looks nice, and has a few interesting features.

Here's the description from their site:

  • Durable Lightweight Construction

  • Hardshell Back Panel With Silicon Edge For Protection And Grip

  • Open To All Connections And Controls

  • Form Fitting Silicon Edge For Quick And Easy Removal Of iPad

  • Clear Case To Display Your iPad In Its Original Appearance
We like the look and idea of this case, but just be careful if you plan to use your iPad with the dock or keyboard dock, it probably will not fit with the case still attached, so you should bear this in mind before you buy.If you want some basic scratch protection without adding any bulk to your iPad, you might want to check out the next recommendation.

 

Gelaskins / MusicSkins

We could not decide between these two purveyors of very nice and beautiful vinyls for the iPad, so we thought it best to tell you about both, and yes we know they are not the only two companies doing this, but we think the quality from these two is of a very high standard.

Both companies claim that the adhesives used for their vinyls will not leave a residue, and in our past experience on other devices that has been true mostly, except sometimes for some gunk trapped around the edges, but it was always easy to wipe off.

These skins allow you to make a really strong statement and express some individuality in amongst a rapidly growing throng of iPad owners.

gelaskins_JazzTrio_500-white.jpgGelaskins

Some of the designs at the Gelaskins site have really impressed us when we see the originality and richness of the colour renditions. We have bought a few of them for our iPhones in the past and we can back up Gelaskins reputation for good quality images and materials used in their vinyls.

If you haven't been there before, or if you haven't been there since they have started doing iPad versions, we would really recommend you have a browse around their site and see if anything takes your fancy.

Gelaskins also provide a vinyl for the front of your iPad if you want to use it, and you can download a matching wallpaper from their site too that matches up with the front decal, very nice if you want that kind of effect.

There are some very talented and original artists creating designs for them, and you can even become one of these artists yourself if your talent leans that way. You can always design your own if you cannot find something you like.

JL-NYC-DP-iPAD.jpg

MusicSkins

If you like the idea of using a fancy vinyl design but really love your music and want to show this off on your iPad, then you may be more tempted by the latest releases from MusicSkins.

Like Gelaskins, the MusicSkins site says it uses a special adhesive from 3M to leave no residue, also using high quality materials to create some scratch proofing for your device.

The FAQs even state that air bubbles will not be a problem on installation because "it has patented 3M air release technology which allows you to simply push the air bubbles out".

We are very tempted to spend quite a bit on the MusicSkins site, so browse at your peril, but really, it is worth a look and they say that iPad designs are available for any of the artists featured on the site.

We hope we have given you a few ideas for how you can provide fairly minimal, leave on protection for your iPad, and if you have any suggestions for Skins or Shields of your own then please, leave them in the comments.

Don't miss the other posts in this iPad Case Roundup series:

iPad Portfolio Style Cases

iPad Slip Cases and Pouches

iPad Bags

iPad Wooden case, Book style case and a DIY book option

iPad Case Roundup - Portfolio Style

For Photographers, Designers and other visual artists, one of the most exciting things about the iPad must surely be the potential to use it as a digital portfolio.  Some have tried this on the iPhone with varying degrees of success, but the small screen size is not really up to the task of replacing a proper printed portfolio in the hands of potential clients and/or employers, and there are some who say that the iPad cannot replace a physical, printed portfolio either.

Having seen how beautiful original artwork and photography can look in the iPad, we think it does have the potential to replace a printed portfolio for the more receptive client / employer, with the screen size being a close proximate to the form factor when held in the hand(s). These cases may also appeal to those wanting a more business-like way of transporting their iPad.

So here are our top 3 Portfolio style cases at the moment:

Marware Eco Vue.jpg

Marware Eco-Vue

A quality case made from Eco-leather (involving a tanning process that impacts less on the environment), the Eco-Vue holds the iPad fairly securely inside a lovely suede (non-scratchy) interior pocket which fits all around three sides of the iPad with an open top side where you slip the iPad in.

The case is kept closed by an elastic strap, evoking memories of those portfolio cases many have carried around, or the desirable moleskin notebooks.

This is one of the most portfolio-like cases we have seen so far and the Eco-Vue looks like a class product, you can get a detailed look in several video reviews on YouTube.

As you can see here, the Eco-Vue cover also folds back so that the iPad can be stood up horizontally and used for viewing your media, held with a built-in hand strap, or even used with a little kick stand that flips out so that you can type on the iPad in 'table-top computer' mode.

 

Tuff-Luv multi-view

Available in several materials and colours, this case admittedly looks a little bit odd with all of the studded poppers on the front, but these poppers are part of the case's unique design which enables your iPad to be set at one of five viewing angles, between 20 and 70 degrees.

By detaching the strap around the front, folding back the cover and snapping one of the poppers back in you select the angle you require.  It is a nice implementation of the multi-view model.

The black Napa leather version is £39.99 at i-nique (with Free delivery!), but we quite fancy the Saddleback version pictured here, which is being sold for £54.99.

 

The Wallet

Whilst not actually available yet, The Wallet by Happy Owl Studio is aimed towards those iPad owners who need to carry a few more bits and bobs along with them. A bit more 'business-like' in its stylings, The Wallet will be available around late June and yes, they are accepting International orders, although their site FAQ does say that they are talking to International distributors for their cases.

From the website:

The Wallet has pockets for cash and change, credit cards, business cards, pens, a stylus, a passport and a mobile phone. Plus, you'll still have plenty of extra space in the larger pocket for your MiFi, keys and more! Style and function united.

Happy Owl Studio is taking deposits of $15 towards the introductory pricing of $64.99 for this case which can be used in the usual landscape stand orientation and there is a version aimed especially at Female users of the iPad called The Clutch, available in Red or Blue, for the same price.

Deposits made are being used to determine the initial run quantities, so this might be a bit of a risk, but Happy Owl Studio have been promising these cases for a while now and demand seems to be high, so there is a good chance that you will get your case, but you have been warned, they are not real just yet.

Have you used, or are you planning to order, one of these Portfolio cases?  Any thoughts about the cases we have chosen? Let us know in the comments.

Don't miss the other posts in this iPad Case Roundup series:

iPad Skins and Shields

iPad Slip Cases and Pouches

iPad Bags

iPad Wooden case, Book style case and a DIY book option

VelcroPad!

iPad + Velcro from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Jesse Rosten marvellous iPad + Velcro concept video has been doing the rounds this last week. We think he's certainly onto something here, it's got our creative cogs spinning... More soon.

iPad Case Roundup On Its Way (And Why You Need It)

With the UK launch of the iPad only 5 days away, we thought it would be a good time to start looking at the options out there for new iPad owners when it comes to protecting their £400+ investement.  The rest of the world has the added benefit of the user testing provided by our US friends on the iPad, its software, and accessories, over the last month. We get to see some real world experience with these things before we buy.

Why you need this roundup

Following the first flush of excitement after the iPad’s launch a few weeks ago, the realisation soon set in for many iPad owners that it is an expensive piece of kit, and that the more they use their iPads, the more valuable it becomes to them and naturally they want to protect their investment.

Added to that is the ‘book-like’ nature of holding the device and what to do with it when taking it on the train, bus, or when sat at a cafe trying not to show off (“Yes, it is an iPad.  Ok you can touch it, but only once!”).  Also there is the natural desire to use the iPad as a standalone viewer for various media, whether that is photos or artwork as a slideshow, for video or animation viewing (e.g. Netflix, ABC).

It is with these needs and necessary uses in mind that we decided to have a look at the state of play as far as iPad cases, bags and skins, especially as the iPad makes its way into consumers’ hands outside of the US this week.

One is never enough

There are actually a surprising number of bags, cases and other type of protection for the iPad already on the market, and it has very quickly become a daunting task trying to consolidate the list down to a reasonable size.  It is also clear that, for many people and iPad usage scenarios, one type of case is not enough. Different cases may be necessary for different situations.

So we have decided to put our case roundup into five categories, and we will be listing our top three products in each category.  Hopefully you will find something of use amongst these products we have discovered, and if you are really cash strapped after forking out on the iPad in the first place, we will even throw in a way to make your own iPad case.

Tune in tomorrow, and for the rest of the week, to see our iPad case roundup, beginning with Portfolio cases.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for something we really have to include, let us know in the comments.

Flickr and Facebook Photo Browsing Apps For Your iPad

One of the things that hits you hard when you see the iPad for the first time is the quality and clarity of the display.  When we saw that screen we couldn't help thinking "Photos!".

Two of the main online photo sharing sites at the moment are Facebook (apparently the world leader in online photo sharing) and our favourite Flickr.  You can check out our very own Flickr group for iPad artists here.

Recently, two apps have been released which aim to create a better photo browsing experience than the Facebook or Flickr websites offer to you in Safari on the iPad, so we thought we would let you know about them in case you are seeking creative inspiration, keeping up with your family, friends and contacts' images, or just want to spend some time browsing a few of the millions (maybe billions) of photos out there.

Flick Stackr

Flick Stackr has a very impressive list of features, most notably for us when wanting to share photos with others, is the ability to run in 'slideshow mode' and display it on an external monitor or TV via the iPad's VGA output.

The app also background caches photos in Sets on Flickr, hoping to deliver them speedily when you want them, rather than waiting for the photos to download when you select them, which can be a bit laborious in our experience with slow Internet connections.

For each photo you can see the comments, meta and GPS data associated with the image and also e-mail the photo (with e-mailing of multiple photos coming in the next update).

Another interesting feature is Stacks, which lets you mark photos and create what are really your own sets.  This Stack is then saved to your device, but it is not saved on your Flickr account; useful for reviewing images later without having to create albums or sets on the Flickr's site.

If, like us, you have more than one Flickr account in the household, but only one iPad, Flick Stackr has you covered, allowing multiple accounts to be active at the same time.  But you don't even need an account with Flickr to browse photos on the site, so this app can be used without being linked to an account as well.

Here is a full list of features from the website:

  • For Flickr users: you can look at your own photos, your sets, your favorites and your contacts and their photos.
  • Explore and browse Flickr groups
  • Full screen photo browser that lets you swipe through photos and zoom by pinching. (Landscape and Portrait).
  • Slideshow mode, including support for external displays (TV & VGA)
  • No need for paging while looking at large photosets. FlickStackr does it automatically in the background. Photos are cached locally for fast access.
  • Tags, exif and photo location viewing
  • A unique feature is the 'Stack'. The Stack lets you mark photos from you or any other people.
    This stack is saved on your iPad/iPhone, so that you can keep this list without having to publish it to flickr. 
    Useful when you want to review photos later.
  • Support for having multiple Flickr accounts active. This is ideal for households sharing an iPad or for people
    with multiple identities online.
  • Search photos in Flickr : using keyword + geographic location.
    Search public photos, or specifically owned by you or a person
  • A flickr account is NOT required. FlickStackr can be used by people who just want to explore flickr.
    Stacks and searches work without an account.
  • Supports all iPad screen orientations.
  • As a universal application, FlickStackr is also compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch 3.0+

It's not a bad looking app with some features that will make browsing around Flickr and working with images a lot easier than it would be on Flickr's own site and we think it has a nice set of features to recommend it over using the web interfacce, even for casual browsing.

At $0.99 (59p) from the app store it is definitely worth a try in our opinion.  If you do try it, let us know what you think in the comments.

 

Flickpad

For those of you who are sharing photos on Facebook, Shacked apps have recently released an updated version of their Facebook focussed app Flickpad.

We have featured Flickpad because the developer has been quite creative in their use of the multi-touch interface on the iPad, aiming to serve up a different way of browsing your friends' and contacts' photos.  As you will see from the video below, the interface starts off looking a bit like a pinboard with printed photos stuck all over it.  This shows the photos shared by your friends today.  From here the app gets interesting and offers some cool UI twists.

On the main screen you can drag and drop photos around.  If you don't want to look at a photo you can literally throw, or flick, it off the screen and it is replaced by the next one in the queue.  If you want to see a photo in more detail single touch on it and the view zooms in, from here you can see the comments, mark it as a favourite or share the photo.

Back on the main screen, touch a photo with two fingers to make it a favourite, including a cute little animation which folds the corner of the photo down, like bookmarking a page in a book to go back to.

Double-tap the photo (not the same as double-touch) to open the rest of the album that the photo comes from, and triple-tap the photo to see all the photos from that person.  Tap and hold on a photo from the main screen to bring up a menu from which you can e-mail the photo to anyone (even non-Facebook people), mark that particular Friend's photos as seen, along with other options.

If you want to look at the photos from a certain Friend on Facebook you can search for their name in the search bar at the top of the screen and see all their photos.

An interesting feature is the date orientated interface, as you will see from the video, you can skip back a day or two, or you can bring up a spin wheel interface which allows you to go weeks, months or further back through your Friends' photos.

Of course, Facebook needs you to login first with your account, so it is not like Flick Stackr above where you can browse the photos without an account; but as you probably know, this is not really how Facebook works.

The developers say that Flickr browsing is going to be added soon, but we are not sure how much of this will apply to the slightly different way that Flickr is organised, so it will be interesting to try the app when Flickr browsing is added in the future.  Flickpad is considerably more expensive than Flick Stackr at $4.99 (£2.99) and that is a 50% off Special.  Flickpad version 1.5 is available on the App Store now.

Be sure to watch the video below for an overview of the Flickpad app, and let us know in the comments what you think.

Flickpad - Facebook Photos for iPad from Shacked on Vimeo.

Declare Your Camera Love On Your iPad

Nikon_iPad_decal_sml.jpg

Photojojo are a great bunch who consistently come up with creative ideas for using and making photos.  Now they have sourced something that you can use on your iPad to declare your photo-geekery with these camera dial decals.

Photography is one of our passions, as you will know if you have been here before, so being able to declare our love of photography with our favourite Apple device is just bliss for us.

These camera dial decals come in two flavours, Canon and Nikon.  Admittedly, only a photo-geek is going to know, or care, which one is which (hint: Canon don't have a Scene mode) but we think they look great.

If you are a Leica user (we are very, very jealous) or want a Nikon D90, Canon 5D Mk II, or 40D specific decal, you can go straight to the source and buy one of these decals off of the Etsy seller suzieautomatic.

One problem though, the International shipping is as much as the decals themselves, so we will have to order one for our MacBook Pros as well to make it worthwhile.

Tapped-in look at Creative drawing apps for Kids

Along with some of the stellar drawing and painting apps for more serious artistic endeavours which we have covered here previously, there is a healthy stream of creative iPad apps specifically for children to engage with, and some of them look great.

If you are brave enough to let sticky little fingers touch your iPad, then Fox News' Tapped-in team have a nice little round-up of four drawing/colouring apps for kids in the video below.

There is a new episode of the Tapped-in podcast every few days, some iPad app and some are iPhone app focussed but the episodes are only ever a few minutes long so it worth a watch usually.  You can subscribe to the video podcast here or on YouTube here.

 

iELECTRIBE update adds much requested export options

We wrote about Korg's fantastic iELECTRIBE a few weeks ago and although we loved it, our only real criticism was the lack of export options, meaning that your beat creations were stuck on the device and couldn't be shared easily.

Well, just yesterday one of our favourite portable music creation blogs Palm Sounds gave us the heads-up on an update to iELECTRIBE which addresses the export issue. Korg has now added several export options including exporting a beat loop to your Mac or PC via the iPad file management interface in iTunes. This means it is ready for use in your desktop DAW, or you can solo a part from your track and export just that to your computer. You can also record a live performance and import via iTunes the same way.

From the Korg website:

iELECTRIBE Version 1.1.0 is now available! This update adds the ability to transfer audio from the iELECTRIBE app into a MAC or PC via iTunes, using CD quality wav files. This feature ultimately allows you to use iELECTRIBE patterns and performances in your DAW or video editing software. Current iELECTRIBE owners can update for free.

It is an impressive update and answers nicely the requests from users for an export option. The video below shows the export options in operation, they look great and very straightforward to use. We found the second part of the video particularly interesting where they record a track with live effects.

iELECTRIBE remains at the introductory price of just $9.99 (£5.99) until the end of June and, as we said in our original post, at that price it is a bargain, grab it now!

 

Longer wait for a UK iPad if you haven't pre-ordered yet

expect_delays_591.jpg

For those outside the US who have been patiently waiting for the iPad to launch Internationally, you are in for a bit more of a wait if you haven't already pre-ordered your new Creative device.  It is being widely reported that new orders at the online Apple store are being slated for delivery 'by June 7th', with Pocket Lint quoting an Apple spokesperson as saying, "Demand for iPad has been off the charts. We are working hard to get iPads into customers' hands as quickly as possible".

Although another delay is annoying, that's only just over a week after the official launch date of 28th May, so it is not a major delay really. It does show that demand is high for Apple's new device in the rest of the world too, and if it carries on this way, we may be in for more delays as demand increases.  So get your pre-orders in now before the wait gets any longer.

What a lot of people don't realise though is that this delay is for pre-orders, of course.  There is still a chance, though, that you can get an iPad on launch day by pitching up at an Apple store and joining the queue.  Nothing definite has been said about the stock levels that Apple's stores will have, as Pocket Lint says, and the estimates weren't entirely accurate for the US launch with many Apple stores left with stock afterwards, so there is hope for those desperate to get their very own iPad on launch day, two weeks tomorrow.

If you are planning to queue up outside an Apple Store on launch day we would like to hear from you in the comments.  And if you are going to queue up, let us know if you can help us out by sending photos, video or e-mail comments from the queue for our Launch Day coverage.

 

Have Guitar will travel - IK Multimedia announce iRig

000-irig-front.jpg

We are very excited about IK Multimedia's latest hardware / software announcement.  iRig for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, provides a way to plug your guitar directly into your iPad, and use the input for guitar amp modelling or recording.

The iRig bit is the hardware, a specially made cable, or instrument interface (pictured right) featuring a standard 1/4" instrument input, a standard audio out jack (for headphones, speakers, or even an amp/PA) and another jack which plugs into the headphone socket of your i-Device.

The software part is an iPhone OS version of IK Multimedia's excellent Amplitube, and features:

  • Real time guitar and bass mobile multiFX app
  • Full rig made of 3 recombinable simultaneous stompboxes + amp + cabinet + mic
  • 10 Stomps, 5 Amps, 5 Cabinets, 2 Mics available
  • Import and play with songs or backing tracks with real time effects
  • 36 presets can be saved/recalled on the fly
  • Includes tuner/metronome
  • Free, LE and Full versions available
  • Free and LE versions expandable with a-la-carte downloadable gear
  • Same low-latency as Mac/PC system

Why you need this?

For anyone who has tried to record a guitar on the iPhone or iPad before you will know that you quickly run into a problem. Apple's portable devices need a special three ring plug to enable recording of audio input, like the jack on the end of the iPhone headphones/mic cable.

Even if you can rig one of these up you cannot hear the output of the software at the same time, because the microphone input jack is also the audio output jack. That is why a special piece of hardware like the iRig is needed and why we started off this post by saying how excited this announcement has made us!

IK Multimedia are taking pre-orders at the moment, so until the iRig interface and Amplitube app are released we can't say how well it works or how it sounds in real life. As soon as we can get our hands on an iRig though we will give a thorough run through on using it for input to the iPad and amp modelling with Amplitube.

We will be posting a full review because it is something we really want to be using our iPads for.  We will be reporting on how it sounds in our real world tests, what the latency is like for live playing or jamming, and also if there are any of the impedance issues which have affected other iPhone/iPad input solutions such as the already-released PRS Guitarbud.

In the meantime, check out the video below which demonstrates the Amplitube app in action, and the website for more details.

iPad UK release date announced

(Post amended to point to the correct UK press release complete with pricing, the previous release we linked to was the International version without regional pricing included.)

28th May 2010 - that's the day that UK punters can officially get their expectant, shaky hands on the iPad.  As we know already, iPad pre-orders are opened up this coming Monday, 10th May, but now we know when we can actually expect to join our US friends in owning our very own device.

As well as the UK; Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and Switzerland will see the iPad released on 28th May, and the pre-order will be open on 10th for these Countries too.

How much will it cost?

Pricing & Availability
iPad is available in the UK for a suggested retail price of £429 (inc. VAT) for 16GB, £499 (inc. VAT) for 32GB, £599 (inc. VAT) for 64GB for Wi-Fi models and £529 (inc. VAT) for 16GB, £599 (inc. VAT) for 32GB and £699 (inc. VAT) for 64GB for Wi-Fi + 3G models.

Full details in Apple's press release here.

Making Music with the iPad - Groovemaker (Loopers, Synths and (Drum) Pads-Part 2)

We have been playing with Groovemaker on the iPhone for a while now, it has been great fun and we have really enjoyed it.  The interface on the iPhone is well thought out and responsive, but there are times when the smaller screen area of the iPhone makes it necessary to leave the main screen to access other functions of the app.  That's why were really excited to hear about the release of Groovemaker for the iPad.

The UI

IK Multimedia have taken advantage of the extra screen space available on the iPad to open up the user experience and make more of the interface and app functionality available to the user on the same screen. The main controller view that forms the basis of the iPhone app is now top and centre of the iPad interface (the area inside the yellow rectangle on the picture below) and is called the 'central control zone'.  It is literally like having the iPhone placed on the iPad screen with the other screens unfolded out around it. It really is a lovely looking interace.

010-Groove.jpg

If you have used the iPhone app then much of the interface will be familiar to you already. The extended controls in the iPad version, give easier access to the Solo, Mute and Lock buttons for each of the 8 tracks, along with volume control sliders including integrated VU meters and Pan controls.  Another new control tweak is the up and down buttons for each track which scrolls through the available loops, but you can still access a list of all the loops via the Loops button in the central control zone as in the iPhone interface.

Sequence tempo is also easier to access now without needing to press and hold the Tempo button.  Although none of the interface interaction on the iPhone was overly annoying, in fact we think IK Multimedia did a fantastic job, as we have already mentioned, it is much nicer to see all the controls laid out on the iPad screen and access them quickly without having to remember where things are hiding.

Making Music

This is not a sampler program, you rely on the pre-loaded loops to build your sequences, but even the free version comes with 120 loops pre-installed and also a free song called Juice (a song is really a bunch of loops that can be used and remixed together, almost infinitely).  You can get another free song when you register the product too.

These songs are a great way to get started, and in seconds you will be creating sequences that can be saved or exported (more on that in a minute).  The instant creation of music is what impresses us about this app. There are four buttons to the right of the central control zone labelled A-D and these give you different random mixes of the current song using the built-in loops which can give a very different feel.  Button A gives you a 'Mild' version, B is 'Perc' for a Percussion only version (useful for taking things down to the basics for a sequence), C is 'Inst' or Instrumental, focussing the sound on the instrument samples, but the most fun one is D 'Random' which gives a completely random mix of your track, with great results sometimes that are useful starting points for creatively using the loops.

Even with no previous experience, you can dive straight in and start making 'grooves', which is really quite satisfying.  Just don't start doing this having promised to follow the other-half up to bed 'in a minute', because half an hour, or longer, can quickly disappear once you start experimenting with different loops and getting into mixing different sequences together, it can be addictive.

Mute, solo and grouping

Being able to group tracks together simply by sliding across them, using numbers 1-8 in the central control zone, is great for muting, soloing, or changing the volume of all of these tracks at once.  This lets you, for example, solo just the drum loop and bass for a bit, which you can record as a sequence by pressing the Groove Snap button, then bring the rest of the groove crashing back in by releasing the solo button if you are playing 'live'.  It really is great fun to play with.

Sequencer and Song Export

Up to 15 of these groove snaps can be saved, then you can move to the Sequence function to build your final mix with a simple drag and drop interface.  Grooves can be previewed before you add them, and used repeatedly so that a complete song with different sections can be built up, which becomes your final mix. This mix can then be exported, via Wi-fi, to your computer as a full quality 44khz 16bit WAV file.

Grrovemaker download track.png

The export works via a browser interface, the app tells you the IP address to enter into your browser address bar, e.g. 192.xxx.x.xx etc., and then you can listen to your mix and/or save the audio file by right-clicking on it.  It works quickly and very easily and the quality is really good.

In just a few seconds our mix was on our Mac and opened up right away in iTunes. From here we could convert the file to an AAC version.  Interestingly this reduced our 10.4MB 1 minute audio file down to 986KB file with no real noticeable loss in quality.

Conclusion

As we have already said, the Groovemaker app is great fun to use and pretty much anyone can get down to creating mixes and acting out DJ fantasies as soon as it is started.

The interface is very straightforward to use, even the creation of the sequence with drag and drop grooves makes production of the final mix a breeze.  All this relative simplicity however belies a very powerful tool for music creation.

If you need to create a soundtrack for one of your movies, chilled, manic, or somewhere in-between, Groovemaker can do this for you.  If you want to play DJ at a party, Groovemaker is there.  Or even if you just want to get the kids interested in putting loops together and making their own creations, Groovemaker will enable you to do it, and you can get started for Free, so you have nothing to lose, except the hours that may disappear as you get embroiled in groove making.

Groovemaker is supplied in several paid versions too.  With the Free version you get 1 song and 120 loops, but there are also House, Hip-Hop and D'n'B packs at £5.99 ($9.99) each. These paid-for packs include 4 songs (plus another track on registration) and 315 loops, flavoured appropriately for the category you have chosen.

We think you will like this app.  If you do, let us know in the comments.  Check out the videos below for actual footage of the Groovemaker app in action.  There are quite a few more on the Groovemaker channel at YouTube.

 

 

The Netbook owners' comfort blanket

Some people need a comfort blanket, a physical keepsake that reminds them of more familiar times. The ClamCase for iPad is a comfort blanket for those who find it hard to let go of the traditional physical keyboard.

The ClamCase iPad concept case provides keyboard die-hards with a physical keyboard that communicates with the iPad via Bluetooth. Details are sparse and it seems that the ClamCase site has taken a bit of a beating today and is running in a low bandwidth mode, but the idea seems sound. If it performs well, looks attractive and is priced appropriately, we see no reason why it wouldn't sell very well. We think it's safe to say that they are planning an iPhone version too.

And this is just the beginning?

Barely a month old and the iPad is already home to some powerful painting and illustration software. Of course, these apps didn't appear over night, many of them have been nurtured and grown to full maturity on the iPhone and iPod Touch platforms. The same can also be said of the artistic talent that is congregating around Apple 'latest creation'. Many of the artists that have contributed work to the iPad Creative, Art and Design Flickr group have been honing their skills on Apple's miniature multi-touch platform for a year or more.

It's true to say that the larger form factor of the iPad has enabled these artists to expand their horizons, to try things that would have been extremely tricky on the iPhone. You'll be amazed at how expressive iPad painting can be, with the broad range of tools already available, the only real limitation is your imagination and self belief.

If you need a little help with either of these two limitations be sure to regularly check the iPad Creative, Art and Design group for inspiration and confirmation of just what the iPad can really do.

Just look at the colour, texture and detail of Bejamin's 'See Saw' (seen above), it's quite special and the equal of anything we've seen painted using a Wacom tablet or even physical media. These are good times to be an artist, the tools are cheaper and more powerful than ever before. If this is just the beginning, it's hard to imagine what awaits us a few years from now.

Further Reading:

Here's to the crazy ones...

The iPad, a revolution in the creative arts

Magic Window, the most gorgeous app yet?

Magic Window for iPad Demo from josh michaels on Vimeo.

 

It's hard to spot a 'killer app'. They don't usually arrive with a fanfare and red carpet, more often than not they just sneak up from nowhere. Magic Window - Living Pictures by Jetson Creative LLC looks like it has the beginnings of a killer app.

Forget all the marketing spiel, Magic Window is essentially a series of beautiful scenes that 'move' through artful use of the time-lapse technique. The end result looks spectacular, and quite different from similar still or movie based photo display apps.

The price for such exquisite art is storage space. Once all the scenes are downloaded Magic Window can consume almost an entire gigabyte of storage space. At the time of writing the financial cost is just £1.79, a steal if you ask us!

We shall return to the theme of 'living pictures' very shortly -- we feel this could be a large and vibrant category -- plus we came across a technology recently that could bring something even more magical to these magic windows.

Further reading: Explorable painting. A whole new category or just gaming without the fun?

Making Music with the iPad - Loopers, Synths and (Drum)Pads - Part 1

Without being able to play an actual instrument, such as Piano or Keyboards, Guitar or Drums, there are still many ways to make music electronically, and the iPad as a platform for unleashing this creativity is no exception.  There are new music creation apps being added for the iPad nearly every day, as well as those already existing for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

In this mini-series of posts we will take a look at a few of the main non-Keyboard Synths, Loop and Drum Pad apps that have caught our attention and, importantly, have been written especially for the iPad or have their own re-worked version for the iPad.

First up, a very faithful simulation of an awesome piece of beatmaker hardware:

KORG iELECTRIBEGorgeous to look at and very detailed in its execution, Korg's digital recreation of its own classic hardware the ELECTRIBE•R also includes a few features from some of the more advanced Korg beatmakers the ELECTRIBE•SX and ELECTRIBE•MX, and even the inclusion of the Vacuum Tube animation in the window at the top, the Tubes  react as the real ones would, a really nice UI touch.

Korg calls this app a 'virtual analog beatbox' and they say that while it is fun to use it 'is no toy'.  Everything has been brought over from the ELECTRIBE•R, the 'entire sound engine and sequencer' and nearly all the functionality you would expect is present here, including features such as:

  • 16 step sequencer
  • Four part percussion synthesizer (enhanced by cross modulation)
  • Four part PCM synthesizer
  • Accent function
  • Virtual Valve Force Tube modelling (for that analogue warmth, controlled by a Tube Gain knob)
  • 64 pattern presets get started straight away with these presets covering those on the ELECTRIBE•R plus new ones created especially for iELECTRIBE
  • 8 master effect types some brought over from the SX/MX hardware including the super-grungy Decimator, nice!
  • Advanced Motion Sequencing: allows live 'tweaking' to be memorised and replayed in your sequence. This improves on the original hardware which was limited in the number of parts it could memorise and incorporate into the sequence, but the iPad app has no limitation, Korg claims it can memorise 'all the parameters for each and every part', allowing some pretty complex patterns to be created.

Sequences you create can be saved in the app, called up later and amended or enhanced, but unfortunately there is no export option at the moment for DAW sync, which means that your creations stay on the iPad and cannot be incorporated into your desktop based music software, at the moment.  This may be added, but there is no word on that happening just yet from Korg, although a lot of the iTunes reviews and Korg forum posts are asking for this functionality.

Overall though this app is amazing value for money when you think about what is included here.  We have no doubt that, with a certain amount of skill and practice, this app could be used for a live performance, and with the portability of the iPad this could take your performances places the more bulky real life hardware couldn't.  Plus you can check your e-mail, browse the web, and show off your photos on the same device, try doing that with your hardware beatmaker!

iECLECTRIBE will normally be $19.99, but until 30th June Korg are selling it for $9.99 (just £5.99) and we think this is a great price for what is 'virtually' an excellent recreation of a couple of hundred dollars worth of hardware.  Have a look at the videos below and check it out in the app store if it pushes your buttons.

An in-depth look at the app compared to the real hardware

Friday Fun: i can haz iPad

Say hello to LJ! The household cat and also regular iPad stand of Veronica Belmont, the First Lady of Tech. Not the cheapest iPad stand we've come across but certainly the most comforting. Puuurfect!

We want our iPad arcade, not excuses!

 

The second we saw Think Geek's inspired April Fool's joke we knew it was time for a mission! As Think Geek so beautifully demonstrated, the iPad is perfectly suited to bringing back many arcade classics. Call us nerds if you like, but the classic 70's and 80's arcade games are a heritage worth preserving, a record of the origins of today's games that needs to be preserved for future generations.

MAME (Multi Arcade Machine Emulator) has been the bastion arcade preservation for the last ten years, in short, MAME emulates the hardware of thousands of older arcade cabinets. MAME is a collection of code so important as to warrant a prominent place on any new computing format. So just where is iPhone OS MAME?

This is where we get angry like Angry Birds!

Apple don't allow machine emulation on the App Store. We can understand the reasoning behind this, but it would be nice to see some consistency. For example, Sega's Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 iPhone games are both Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis in the U.S.) emulators that run the original Sonic code. So if Apple won't allow MAME on the App Store why do they allow Sonic?

Sadly we don't ever envisage the day when we will be able to purchase MAME from the App Store and load up our own arcade ROM files, build our own virtual arcade just as Think Geek proposed.

Two possible solutions

We propose two solutions, both very different but both perfectly viable.

Solution 1. Involves Apple Game Center, a social gaming component that will arrive with iPhones OS 4 later in the year. Apple could provide a full license and optimised version of the MAME code as part of Game Center. Publishers who hold the rights to those gaming classics could then submit their code (basically the very same ROM images that already work with other version of MAME) for inclusion in Game Center. The obvious way for publishers to make money from these old classic is via Apple's brand new iAd service. This way everybody wins. Apple gets to keep control of its platform, publishers get to make even more money from games that have long since paid for themselves and we get to relive our misspent youth playing 4 player Gauntlet.

Solution 2. This is perhaps the most elegant solution as it requires no new technology and would almost certainly be allow into the App Store. We'll start with a simple explanation and then move on to more technical details.

We call this solution 'Cloud MAME'. Cloud MAME would require two components, Cloud MAME Server and Cloud MAME App. Cloud MAME Server would be a modified version of the existing MAME application running on Windows, Mac OS X or Lunix. Instead of displaying the game screen into a local monitor, Cloud MAME Server would stream the display across a local or wide area network. Cloud MAME App would be an iPad app that receives this display image and renders it in near realtime on the iPad display. It would also stream the player controls responses back up to the server. In essence, it would act like any VNC server/client solution, thereby avoiding all licensing issues.

The real key here -- the thing that makes this solution so workable -- is the display resolution of these classic arcade games. Seen below is the actual display image taken from an early 1980's arcade game. On the left is the full uncompressed image which weighs it at a good 576k per frame. On the right is a compressed version that totals just 3.5k per frame!

There is zero degradation in quality because the compression used is PNG-8 a popular web standard that allows for pin sharp images with very specific graphic attributes. In this case that specific attribute is the confined palate of just 32 colours, enough colours to perfectly simulate thousands of arcade games. 

Obviously we need a large number of these frames every second in order to get the authentic feel of the original arcade game. Most games require 60 frames per second. Using the PNG-8 standard it's possible to stream 60 frames per second for a total bandwidth 'cost' of just 210k. That's an easy target for most home networks or internet connections. Network response time will also factor in the overall perform, but if OnLive can stream HD high end PC games across the internet, surely Mario stands a good chance of making it through the pipes?

We'd love to see a developer attempt just such a solution. The tools are freely available and the concept isn't rocket science. So how about it creative iPad developers, surely it's worth a shot?

Further Reading:

Draw your own games!

Let the Wookie win!

Polygon pushing power.

Mass Effect 2 for the iPad?

Get Creative With Groovemaker On Your iPhone To Win An iPad

 If, like us, you have been playing around with IK Multimedia’s Groovemaker on the iPhone for a while, you will know how much fun it can be pretending to be a supersonic DJ doing all the cool funky stuff they do (we are not cool or funky so we won’t try and say the things they do). Now that the Groovemaker app is on the iPad, with an extended interface enabling you to access more features at once, we think it is even better, but we will be looking at that in another post in the near future.

If you haven’t got your iPad yet though, IK Multimedia are giving you the chance to show off your groove creation skills to the world, and possibly win an iPad in the process. Basically, you create a video of your amazing Groovemaker creation in action (including yourself in the video if you want to), upload it to YouTube with the required tags and other info, then promote it like crazy however you want to on the social networking sites that we all know and end up having to use every day.

It looks like you have to create your unique composition on an iPhone or iPod Touch, as (we are guessing) if you record it on the iPad you are just being greedy because you have one already, but you can use the free versions so it won’t cost you anything. You have until 30th June 2010 to get your video viewed as many times as possible to stand a chance of winning.

We think it is a great way to promote music creation amongst users, combined with a healthy dose of competition (and a good dollop of marketing on the side). If it is your thing anyway, why not give it a shot? If you do enter a song, let us know in the comments and we will drop by and check it out.