The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: Apple

iOS 11 is True Level

 

“Wow, it’s so…oh my God!”
“Yeah, True Level, bitch.”
“Everything’s crooked! Reality is poison! I wanna go back!”

–Morty and Rick, Rick and Morty

While it’s not the Mid-Autumn Festival, iOS 11 released earlier today, bringing with it a host of powerful new features to Apple’s mobile operating system platform. This year, I’ve been running with iOS 11 on my iPhone since late August as a result of requiring the operating system for compatibility testing at work, and back in June, I tested iOS 11 with my iPad. While an impressive operating system, iOS 11 also rendered my iPad incapable of publishing WordPress posts, so I reverted to iOS 10 to ensure that I could quickly publish my Kimi no na wa talk on short order if needed. However, in the time that’s passed, Apple has refined and polished iOS 11 significantly – it’s as responsive as iOS 10, and all of my apps are operational this time around. The differences between iOS 10 and iOS 11 on an iPhone are largely under-the-hood: there’s a new Control Centre that offers customisation, and a new file system app, but beyond this, iOS 11 remains quite similar to iOS 10. Having spent a half-hour exploring iOS 11 on an iPad, the differences become much more pronounced. Multi-tasking is much more powerful, and after mastering the new gestures to being up the Control Centre, I am given an immediate overview of all open apps. The beta did not allow apps to be closed with a swipe, but the release version returns this feature. It’s easier to place apps side-by-side, and there’s a powerful new drag-and-drop feature that allows me to pull image and text from one app and place them into another. The new dock makes the iPad feel more like Mac OS X than ever before, giving my iPad Air 2 a rejuvenated feel to it.

  • The most noticeable change on the iPad’s home screen between iOS 10 and iOS 11 is the presence of a Mac OS X-like dock. Fresh after installation, I have no previously used apps here, and while simple, the inclusion of an option to immediately return to my three most recent apps was one of my favourite features of iOS 11 when I tested it in the beta, allowing me to access very quickly recent apps without needing to open a folder.

  • I admit that opening Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will take some getting used to now that it’s been moved to the right from the bottom, but the new Control Centre has a distinctly iOS feel to it now, compared to the more Android-like multi-tasking interface seen in earlier incarnations of iOS. One feature noticeably absent from iOS 11 is the fact that I cannot hold down on the Wi-Fi icon and select a network to connect to (or do the same for BlueTooth).

  • The dock can be accessed from any app, making it possible to now jump to one’s favourite apps or more recently used app much more quickly than previously possible. The changes to Safari, the default browser in iOS, are subtle: corners of the URL bar are now rounded, in keeping with Apple’s latest themes, which are inspired by magazines. I’ve never been too big of a fan of this format, but the theme feel a lot more unified now in iOS 11, since the App Store also makes use of the layout, and the larger text size does make things pop a little more.

  • Once I mastered the gestures for multi-tasking, I was able to read about and watch GochiUsa simultaneously without any difficulties. Familiar and novel at the same time, iOS 11’s improvements are most noticeable on an iPad: only the iPad Air and later will be able to upgrade to iOS 11. With iOS 11, however, Apple drops support for 32-bit apps. While they’ve been phasing this out and have encouraged developers to submit 64-bit builds since iOS 9, iOS 11 marks a point where there’s a hard cutoff. Users with 32-bit apps will find that they no longer open.

  • This is Apple’s file system on iOS 11: it’s modelled after Mac OS X’s Finder, and while it does not provide access to an iOS device’s local file system, it is quite functional, working with iCloud. I foresee storing some of my documents here in the future to make use of the system, even if I’ve previously been not so big with iCloud. It typifies Apple’s tendency to only provide features once they’re fully fledged, and once added, iOS users find the features immensely useful. This prompts the choice of the page quote, which comes from Rick and Morty‘s third season: once one experiences something of a high standard, it’s hard to go back.

Other features added with iOS 11 include an improved file system, which has allowed me to free up upwards of 4 GB of space on my 16 GB iPhone 6 (this is something I was most pleased with), a new image compression format that allows images taken from the camera to take up a little less space, and upgraded Siri, which feels more powerful than it has previously. The keybaord on the iPad has been improved so one no longer has to hit another button to access some numbers and symbols, which could be useful for conversations and writing passages that are rich with symbols and numbers. On the developer side, I’ve also got access to Xcode 9, which adds the long awaited Swift refactoring capability and an upgraded error system that makes it easier to find and correct errors in code. AR Kit and Core ML are exciting new additions, as well, and while I don’t foresee a use for these APIs in the near future, there is no doubt that these powerful new libraries could allow developers to make apps of a much greater utility and immersion than before. This year, the upgrade paths for both Xcode 9 and iOS 11 proved remarkably smooth: I still vividly recall the year where a botched update forced me to restore my iPad. On the other hand, things this time around were as simple as hitting the “Update” button and entering a password. I’m curious to see how I’ll make use of the new features in iOS 11, especially for the iPad, in the days upcoming. One thing is certain, though: iOS 11 is a very welcome update, and explaining the title of this post, “True Level” is sourced from the latest episode of Rick and Morty. In this context, something that is “True Level” is sublime, and of an incredible quality, rather than referring to a hypothetical surface where every possible point is perpendicular to the plumb line.

iOS 10- Initial Impressions on a Mid-Autumn Festival

“The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” —Che Guevara

Released just two days ago, on September 13, iOS 10 is the latest iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system. With my years of experience in updating to the newest versions of iOS, I can easily say that this year’s update was by far the smoothest: I plugged in my devices, ran the installers and followed the on-screen prompts to load iOS 10. When completed, I was immediately welcomed with iOS 10’s latest feature: a redesigned lock screen that allows access to a plethora of widgets and the camera. The notifications system has also been given updates, making it easier than ever to respond to new events as they occur. Similarly, the control center has been given an overhaul, giving users separate panes to control their devices. Together with the new widgets menu, iOS 10 makes it easier than ever to quickly glance at one’s email inbox or the weather. The music app has also been given some updates and changes in organisation. I was rather fond of the system implemented in iOS 9, and the new music app feels a little unintuitive by comparison, although I imagine that with time, I’ll get used to things. I’ve only been playing around with iOS 10 for half an hour, so there are plenty of new features, including an improved iMessage client, multi-lingual keyboard and changes to the built-in email client, but so far, the experience has been relatively smooth.

  • My home screen hasn’t actually changed all that much since iOS 9 (or iOS 8, for that matter). I still organise my apps the same way I did back in 2013, although my collection of games and utilities have grown since then. One of my favourite apps is PDF Expert, an incredibly powerful and useful apps that allows for PDF organisation and annotation. I’ve utilised it to keep track of schedules during conferences and revisions to my thesis, although now that I’m done my graduate program, I’m not too certain as to whether or not I’ll use PDF expert frequently.

  • Instead of zooming in fully to a folder, the new visualisation system in iOS 10 expands a folder over the home screen as an overlay. It’s a very subtle change from iOS 9, although I’ve grown rather fond of this functionality. Pages and Keynote for iOS are visible here, now with powerful new features. I made extensive use of both apps during my thesis: I had backed up my defense presentation to iCloud as a countermeasure for if my MacBook Pro should fail, and also was quite prepared to defend using my iPhone, but fortunately, the defense proceeded without a hitch. I later would bring my iPad to Cancún for the ALIFE XV Conference and gave a pair of presentations there.

  • The new control center is much more expansive and spacious compared to previous incarnations, and I’ve immediately taken a liking to it: all of the features are out in the open now, making it very easy to make small adjustments to the iPad or iPhone even on the fly. The usefulness of the control center is such that I now can’t imagine operating an iOS device without it: it makes turning on the WiFi or Bluetooth significantly easier. The new widgets center is also a pleasant improvement, as is the new notifications center, but because tonight’s been a quiet evening, I haven’t seen it in operation yet.

  • The new music app feels a lot more rudimentary than its iOS 9 counterpart, with its increased use of white space and larger font sizes. I can still find and play songs with ease as I did with the previous music app, and while I’m not too fond of the new, larger UI elements, I can adapt. However, iOS 10’s music app has one critical omission: lyrics are gone now for all songs loaded onto the device. It’s a move reminiscent of what happened in iOS 5, and while I’ve not used the lyrics mechanism in iOS for quite some time, its absence is rather noticeable.

  • The iPad Air 2 can still handle multi-tasking flawlessly with iOS 10: I’m browsing through a webpage, reading a Wikipedia article and watching the first episode of Sora no Woto here at the same time, and each app handles smoothly. I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting an anime-related post in quite some time (the past four posts have dealt with games to some capacity, and the Planetarian review was written nearly a month ago). With that being said, New Game! is reaching its conclusion, and surprisingly, I’m reasonably caught up, so a post will be coming out within a week of the finale’s release near the month’s end.

Besides seeing my upgrading to iOS 10, today also happens to be the Mid-Autumn festival, celebrating the autumn full moon on the lunar calendar and the associated harvest celebrations. While this year’s schedule precluded a full banquet, there’s always time for Moon Cake. Further to this, the weather this year has been remarkably pleasant (after nearly a full month of rain in August), and the harvest moon looks marvelous, with its golden hue. It’s far cry from the events of two years ago, where a massive snowstorm rolled into my AO hours after sunset on the evening of the Mid-Autumn festival. Returning back to iOS 10, as with my assessment of iOS 9 from last year, the latest iOS turns out to be a pleasant upgrade from its predecessor; both my iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 handle the new system with ease. My devices lack a 3D-touch sensor and the M9 processor, so I won’t be able to capitalise on some of the more novel features that come with iOS 10 (speaking to the pace at which these incremental changes are made), but all of the minor updates, coupled with the fact that they don’t seem to detrimentally impact the performance or battery life of my older devices, means that iOS 10 will be a fine update for frequent use in the upcoming year.

Race the Sun: iOS Game Review and Reflection

“Who dares, wins” —David Stirling

Not to be confused with the 1996 movie, Race the Sun is a procedurally-generated endless-runner game where the player controls a solar-powered craft. The objective is simple enough: to maneuver around an eternal landscape of abstract obstacles and stay in the daylight for as long as possible as the sun is setting. As players make progress, unlocks that confer performance and cosmetic customisations become available, allowing players to fine-tune their craft to fit their play-style. To increase survivability and scoring, different power-ups can be collected as one is flying through a region: beyond the scoring multipliers, some give a speed boost, jumps and even a shield that saves a player from head-on collisions. The presence of power-ups, slightly more forgiving collision mechanics and the added challenge of having to outmaneuver the sun means that Race the Sun definitely has enough additions to make it stand out from the classic Flash game Cubefield, which similarly featured a craft being flown through an endless field of cubes. In comparison to the simplistic Cubefield, Race the Sun is remarkably entertaining and compels players to return, unlocking all twenty-five levels and vie for scoring supremacy in a world deadly, monochromatic obstacles.

  • I was inspired to pick up Race the Sun after watching a Rage Quit video of it, and the page quote is directly inspired by said video. In my first few hours, I was not used to the controls on iOS: touching the screen is what’s needed to turn the craft, and one must touch the bottom to utilise a jump power-up (on PC, the controls are arrow keys and spacebar, which are more intuitive), but I’m more comfortable with the game now.

  • After completing all of the objectives and reaching level 25, the name of the game is simply to last as long as possible using the vehicle configuration of one’s choice. While the “recommended” setup is magnet (for increased item pickup range), jumps (to store more jumps) and improved turning to decrease turn radius, the ship can be configured differently to simplify the completion of some objectives.

  • Having all three slots available for power-ups makes Race the Sun somewhat easier than it was as seen in Rage Quit. Contrasting games like Cubefield, where collisions immediately result in death, Race the Sun is a little more lenient: only direct collisions cause death, while glancing collisions merely detract from one’s multiplier.

  • The void is one of my favourite aspects of Race the Sun, being a space-like environment filled with multiplier-increasing pick-ups. It’s definitely more enjoyable than Cubefield owing to all of the different nuances.

  • I read one review that cleverly stated Race the Sun to act as a metaphor for life itself. Paraphrased, it suggests that the spacecraft represent people as they pursue their dreams, which are fleeting and must be chased. Like how the space craft slows down in the absence of light, shadows of out own doubt slow us down, and numerous obstacles in the environment, some being obvious and others coming out of nowhere can stop one’s pursuit. Said review goes on to encourage users to get back up and keep trying, just like in real life. It’s not often I read reviews that are insightful, but there are exceptions. With the pair of iOS game reviews now done as promised, I’ll see if I can do a talk on Alto’s Adventure in the near future.

I picked up Race the Sun for iOS and have spent around six hours in-game. There are no tilt controls: touching the left and right sections of the screen allow one to steer their craft, and tapping the bottom of the screen when a jump is picked up will activate the jump. The simple controls work well enough for their part, but in my first few hours of gameplay, I had minor difficulties in making sharp enough turns to dodge close-up obstacles. However, once the steering mechanics were mastered, it was quite fun to complete the objectives and level up (ranging from simple ones that involve collecting a certain number of points or using a power-up a fixed number of times, to insanely difficult ones that require players make only left turns through three regions in a single run, or perform twenty barrel-rolls in one life). Over time, I reached Race the Sun‘s level cap, and the game at level twenty five even more enjoyable than it was while completing the objectives. Frustrations encountered earlier, such as the magnet’s range, numbers of jumps stored or turn radius disappear, allowing players to focus solely on getting the high score. Different game modes are also unlocked, with the diabolical Apocalypse mode and top-view maze runner, providing a different style of play for those looking for something a little different. Its near-infinite replay value, coupled with a refreshing, minimalistic appearance and simple mechanics means that Race the Sun is an excellent iOS game, well worth the 5.79 CAD.

Leo’s Fortune: iOS Game Review and Reflection

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” —Charles Kuralt

Leo’s Fortune is one of the better-known games on the App Store for its beautifully crafted world, wonderful voice acting and relaxing soundtrack. Following Leo, a fluffy roly-poly, on his quest to reclaim his lost treasure in the form of gold coins, Leo’s Fortune is a stunning platformer that has a surprisingly heart-warming plot that is unveiled as Leo makes his way through a plethora of worlds. Speaking in a thick Eastern European accent, Leo himself is a highly sympathetic character whose inner thoughts are visible to the player. Entangled in the mystery of who the thief was, players are compelled to follow Leo’s Fortune to the end to figure out the culprit’s identity. From a mechanical perspective, Leo’s Fortune promotes clever gameplay, making use of the in-game physics to solve puzzles and advance to the next region. The star system also encourages players to go back and complete missions with a single life, obtain all the coins and finish levels under a time limit: these stars unlock bonus missions in a region, and together, Leo’s Fortune handles exceptionally smoothly, allowing players to immerse themselves in a fantastical world where not everything is what it seems.

  • Conceptually, Leo’s Fortune is a simple game, but its immersive factor comes from the polish in the level design, artwork and voice acting. The first region is set in a gentle, lush forest, but later regions feature a variety of more lethal-looking environments.

  • A unique feature in Leo’s Adventure is the movement system. While players can intuitively move Leo around using the left thumb, Leo doesn’t actually jump or crouch. Instead, moving the right thumb up causes Leo to inflate and gain buoyancy, making it possible for him to float over wide precipices, and moving the thumb down causes Leo to drop, which is great for dropping quickly. A combination of both will be required to beat the puzzles scattered in the game.

  • The soundtrack in Leo’s Fortune has a medieval, children’s feel to it, reminiscent of the music seen in fairy tales and fables. It’s well-suited for the game, as are the visuals. While the landscapes are highly detailed, they do not obscure gameplay in any way.

  • Players have unlimited lives with which to push through the different levels, although players must beat levels under a time limit, without losing a specified number of lives, while collecting all the coins, to unlock all of the bonus features available in the game.

  • I understand that this last screenshot and the page quote might spoil the plot, but there’s not enough context for that to occur. According to the site’s archives, it’s been quite some time since I’ve done an iOS game review for a title that did not have the phrase “Deer Hunter” in it (Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is the aforementioned review).

It was during the coldest depths of Winter 2015 when I picked up Leo’s Fortune during an iTunes sale, and I absolutely loved the experience. Beyond intriguing worlds to explore and solve puzzles in, each world (or set of levels) have their own surprises, such as wind storms, underwater segments and puzzles that demand precision from the player. Thus, when players reach the end and learn of the true culprit, it feels like a rewarding, well-deserved ending to the game. I myself was surprised at the turn of events, and the lessons learnt here are remarkably relevant in contemporary society, forcing players to question what it is they truly value in their lives. Things like fortunes and wealth can be amassed, but one must wonder if these things are the key to fulfilment. Consequently, it’s easy for me to recommend Leo’s Fortune for the experience, and for individuals lacking an iOS device, Leo’s Fortune (as of September 8, 2015) was also released for Mac and PC, being available on the Steam Store as an HD remake.

iOS 9- Initial Impressions

Apple’s iOS 9 released back on September 16; since it was announced back at WWDC 2015 back during June, iOS 9 has been one of the more anticipated of Apple’s mobile operating systems. Numerous new features, including split-screen multi-tasking for iPad Air 2 (and other useful multitasking operations that allow me to watch my anime and chat with friends in Facebook chat or Skype simultaneously, or go back to the last opened application), an improved keyboard that makes it easier to type and under-the-hood optimisations that boost battery life by an additional hour and a powerful new Notes app that allows for rich-text notes, check-lists and even drawings. There’s also a content-blocker program in place now, making it possible to download apps that block apps, streamlining the web-browsing experience. Siri is also more powerful, and the notifications centre has been updated so all of the information is more visible. All of these new features come just in time as the iOS programming course I’m TA’ing is kicking into high gear: we’re just moving past the basics of programming in Swift 2.0 (which is quite differnt than Swift 1.2 and admittedly, any other language I’ve worked with so far) and I’m just about done grading the first batch of assignments, which deals with Playgrounds in Xcode. Xcode 7’s also out now, so the students will be able to develop in Swift 2.0 for iOS 9 (their first iOS app will be due this Wednesday). I’m quite happy that the updates came when they did: I still recall that they released iOS 5 in October 2011, which would’ve been a ways into term. Had this been the case, it would’ve been more difficult for the students, who would need to upgrade midway into term.

  • Outwardly, iOS 9 doesn’t look too different than iOS 8. However, there are subtle hints that this is an iPad rocking iOS 9: the spotlight icon makes a return from iOS 6, and on the iPad, folders now store apps in four by four, rather than three by three, increasing the capacity of each folder. Since my last talk in iOS 8 and the iPad Air 2, I’ve picked up several new games that merit their own discussions at some point in the near future.

  • The new notifications centre properly capitalises on the iPad’s space to display information in a more compact manner. I prefer it over the notification centre of iOS 8, and yesterday evening, it promptly notified me of Beakerhead’s Beakernight event yesterday evening. I met up with a friend and we partook in the signature “flaming skee-ball“, watched a band perform with novel instruments, and viewed some E. coli artwork being exhibited. I ran into several friends and colleagues later in the evening and picked up a hot cocoa as the air began to cool.

  • The new iOS keyboard changes to indicate whether or not a user will be typing in lower or upper case. Though a long-present feature on Windows Phone 8 and Android, it was absent from iOS for the longest time and made it difficult to tell whether one had the shift key engaged. Though a small change, this is much appreciated, especially since the keyboard is oft-used. Siri and Spotlight are much more powerful now, and there’s even a search option in the Settings, making it easier to find certain settings to configure. With a hardware keyboard plugged in, Apple-Tab actually allows for apps to be switched between like on a desktop, and Apple-Shift-H returns users to the home screen.

  • Only available to the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3 and upcoming iPad Pro, split-screen is a powerful addition that allows the iPad to do two things at once. Though it’s limited to a handful of apps at present, such a feature will be immensely useful for productivity (such as reading a PDF and writing a paper in Pages simultaneously, or running a Skype conversation while browsing the internet). Once developers capitalise on this feature, split-screen multi-tasking will become an indispensable feature on an iPad. Whilst we’re speaking of fish and chips, I returned to Billingsgate Seafood Market on Thursday for a fish-and-chips dinner prior to this season’s first Nerd Night: the light, crisp batter and tender, flakey fish was tasty, as were the freshly-cut fries, and the Nerd Night talks were as engaging as dinner was delicious.

  • Though I’m unlikely to actually watch Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and read Tom Clancy’s Theat Vector at the same time, I am thoroughly enjoying the picture-in-picture feature, which is quite useful for when I’m watching a video and chatting with friends in Facebook chat or Skype. Coming up next will be a talk on the final episodes to Non Non Biyori, followed by a review of Metro: 2033 Redux, which I beat yesterday.

iOS 9 is an incremental update to iOS 8; despite offering no major overhauls, the subtle changes made to the operating system here and there confer major benefits to the users that far exceed the differences between iOS 6 and iOS 7. All of these subtle changes make the iPad much easier to use for both productivity and recreation. There are a few bugs here and there (such as bookmarks disappearing from the favourites bar in Safari, or the wallpaper turning black for a half-second when exiting a folder), as well. On the whole, though, iOS 9 is quite stable while providing new features that make it easier than ever to get something done. All of these features are available for the iPad Air 2 and latest iPad Mini, as well as the upcoming iPad Pro, but surprisingly enough, the iPad 2 is capable of running iOS 9, albeit with limited features and probably with a much lower performance. I predicted that the iOS 8 would be the latest operating system the iPad 2 could run, but it is somewhat impressive that Apple is continuing to support updates for the iPad 2. For the present, though, the iPad Air 2 has replaced the iPad 2 as my workhorse tablet, and rocking iOS 9 means getting more done, more efficiently.