airport · apple · ios · mac os x · security · tvos · watchos

With a Pair of AirPort Updates, Apple Completes Wi-Fi Vulnerability Patching

On December 12, Apple released a pair of AirPort firmware updates to close the WPA2 key reinstallation attack vulnerability. The vulnerability was first publicly announced in October, after alerting vendors of the vulnerability much earlier in the year.

Apple AirPort Extreme/AirPort Time Capsule base station firmware version 7.7.9 and AirPort Express firmware 7.6.9 both include the patch that protects against the WPA2 key reinstallation attack. The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) numbers that these patches address are CVE-2017-9417, CVE-2017-13077, CVE-2017-13078, and CVE-2017-13080.

The AirPort firmware updates can be applied using the iOS AirPort Utility, available for free from the Apple iOS App Store. If you have an Apple AirPort running in your home or office, you need to update it right away to close this serious vulnerability.

About this time last year, I wrote about my doubling-down on Apple AirPort hardware in the face of media reports (aka: rumors) that Apple had abandoned the AirPort product line. I still hold that there are much better Wi-Fi solutions available today, even for die hard Apple fans like us. The Wirecutter (https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-wi-fi-mesh-networking-kits/) has a very good review of mesh network Wi-Fi devices from vendors such as Eero and Netgear. You really should be running them over Apple’s AirPort at this point. Still, despite Apple reportedly walking away from AirPort, as a customer, I am glad that Apple tool on the task of releasing a pair of security updates for the aging devices. It seems only fair to customers, since Apple is still selling the AirPort hardware online and in retail stores.

What About My Other Apple Gear?

Apple updated iOS 11, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS back in October. If you are running iOS 11.1, watchOS 4.1, tvOS 11.1, or the latest versions of macOS High Sierra 10.13, Sierra 10.12, or El Capitan 10.11 you have already installed the WAP2 patch.  Use the Software Update feature of these operating systems to verify that you are up-to-date or install the latest software releases if need be.

If you are still running macOS/OS X Mavericks 10.10, you should consider upgrading to High Sierra to gain the WPA2 patch. Mavericks and earlier versions of macOS will not be patched.

What About Everything Else?

The WPA2 key reinstallation vulnerability is not a flaw or vulnerability that is specific to Apple hardware and software. It is a flaw in the WAP2 system itself. Thankfully, the flaw can be fixed with software. What that means, though, is that to improve your chances of being protected against attacks using the WAP2 vulnerability, you must patch all of your Wi-Fi equipment, including routers/modems, smart devices (i.e.: light bulbs, switches, and cameras), TVs, Blu-ray player, and gaming consoles, for example.

Learning More About the WAP2 Vulnerability

To learn more about the KRACK WPA2 key reinstallation vulnerability, and to see just how catastrophic the vulnerability can be, see Mathy Vanhoef’s summary website and Krebs’ What You Should Know About the ‘KRACK’ WiFi Security Weakness blog post.

 

apple · apple tv · apple watch · ios · ipad · ipad mini · iphone · iphone se · tvos · watchos

Notes and Impressions from Apple’s "In the Loop" Spring Event

Opening Remarks by Tim Cook

Apple turns 40 on April 1, 2016.  I hope they continue to “Stay hungry.  Stay foolish.” for the next 40 years.  Many new Apple products were introduced in the Apple Town Hall auditorium, including the iPod and the iPhone 4S.  This will be the last time an event will be held in Apple Town Hall before moving into the new Campus 2 headquarters.

Tim Cook’s executive team

There are now more than 1B Apple devices in use around the world.

Tim used this opportunity to make the case for strong encryption and personal privacy.  It was clear to me, that Tim Cook is very much displeased about this case and how the FBI/U.S. Government is handling it.  Apple will not “shy away” from protecting our data and our privacy.

Environmental and Sustainability

Lisa Jackson, Vice President, Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, has come up to talk about Apple’s environmental program.  Apple has been working hard towards their aggressive environmental innovation and renewable energy initiatives.  Apple is working toward a 100% renewable energy footprint.  Currently, 93% of Apple facilities worldwide and 100% in the US and China are using renewable energy with a 0% carbon emissions over-all rating.

Apple is working on an automated process that will deconstruct an iPhone so that all of it’s parts can be recycled and reused.  Liam is Apple’s new prototype robot that can deconstruct and iPhone that all of an iPhone’s parts can be recycled and reused.  This is pretty amazing stuff!  You can watch the short video clip that introduces Liam if you haven’t seen it yet.  For more information, see apple.com/recycle.

Was Apple trolling their fans and the tech press?  In the opening few seconds of the Liam video, an iPhone is riding down a conveyor belt.  The iPhone does not have a model identifier on it’s back and it can be clearly seen that the camera lens is completely flush with the back casing just like the iPhone 5s. Below is a screen grab from the video.

Is this the new iPhone 7?

ResearchKit and CareKit

Jeff Williams, Chief Operating Officer, has come up to talk about Apple Health initiatives, particularly around ResearchKit.  ResearchKit has become very popular for hospitals an health research organizations as a tool to help conduct medial research.  Tools for research are becoming new tools for providing health care.  The new CareKit framework is all about building apps to help empower people to improve their health.  Apple sees these tools as a way for customers to help manage their health care.  All data is opt-in and kept confidentially.  Customers choose who has access to their health data.

Apple Watch

Tim Cook has declared that Apple Watch has become the #1 selling smartwatch in the industry.  One-third of Apple Watch owners change bands frequently.  (I have five bands, of which, the Midnight Blue Leather Loop band is my favorite.)  Apple has introduced their line of Woven Nylon Bands, new colors in the Sport Band family, and a new Space Black Milanese Loop band.  (Oooh, that one looks really nice.  I may have to break down and get it.)  Finally, Cook announced that Apple Watch Sport Edition will now start at $299, a $50 price reduction. 

Apple TV

The new Apple TV (aka Forth Generation) now has 5,000 apps available for it on the App Store.  Siri integration continues to grow for voice searches of video content.  tvOS new features include: Dictation, Siri for App Store, iCloud Photo Library, Live Photos, support for Bluetooth Apple Wireless Keyboards and Folders.  Dictation for speaking user names and passwords is a big win for anyone who has ever entered an email address or strong password on Apple TV.  I’m really happy about that feature being included.  The tvOS update is free and available now.

iPhone SE

Greg Joswiak, Vice President, iOS, iPad and iPhone Product Marketing, comes up to talk about iPhone.  In 2015, Apple sold 30M 4-inch iPhones.  (That would be the iPhones 5S and 5C.)  Apple has decided that they will continue to sell a 4-inch iPhone, and that will be the new iPhone SE.  (Insert obligatory Mac SE and/or Mac SE/30 joke here.)

Did I mention that the iPhone SE comes in the same colors as the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus?  The iPhone SE looks very similar to the iPhone 5S that came before it.  As Apple pushes for very thinner iPhone designs, I actually prefer the squared off sides of the iPhone 5/5S/SE models.  Just not enough to give up my iPhone 6s Plus.  Why can’t we have a 4.7-inch or 5.5-inch iPhone with squared off edges?

The new iPhone SE includes the same A9 CPU and M9 co-processor as the iPhone 6s.  The best way to think of the iPhone SE is to think of it as an iPhone 6s stuffed inside the iPhone 5s case.  Just without 3D Touch.

iPhone SE pricing: 16GB at $399 (free with two-year contract or $17/mo on an installment plan), 64GB at $499.  iPhone SE pre-orders start on Thursday, March 24.  iPhone SE goes on sale starting Thursday, March 31.

For the Spring 2016 event, the corny jokes delivery role when to Jos, but it looks like Craig Federighi, who normally gets all the good “Dad jokes”, approves.

iOS 9.3

New in iOS 9.3 are the Night Shift feature, Notes can now be password protected with a PIN passcode, or a finger print using Touch ID.  You can now also get App Suggestions from inside the Health app.  The News app gains the Top Stories feature.  And, if you are lucky enough to have a new car with built in support for CarPlay,  there are some nice enhancements headed your way.  I really wish my 2015 Honda Accord EX had this feature.  Also new in iOS 9.3 is the Education app for iPad.  It is designed to be used by students, teachers, and school administrators.  Of all of the new features, this is the one I know the least about.  It is probably the one feature that I have gotten the most question about deploying at work, which, has nothing to do with education.

iOS 9.3 is available now and will run on any device that is capable of running iOS 9.0.

iPad Pro (9.7-inch)

Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Marketing, has come up to talk about what’s new with the iPad and introduce the new iPad Pro.  The second iPad Pro is based on the 9.7-inch display form factor and weighs less than 1.0lbs.  The big narrative here is “Why a smaller iPad Pro?”  According to Apple, there are two reasons.  The first is that 9.7-inches is the original display form factor.  You know, the one that Steve Jobs preferred over the mini form factor.  Secondly, it is designed to attract Windows PC users/switchers.  The iPad Pro 9.7-inch is intended to target the 200M 9.7-inch iPad and iPad Air owners with “The ultimate upgrade”.  Personally, I think the Windows PC switcher angle is bit of a long shot.  Owners of 9.7-inch iPads still using the iPad 2 or 3 will want to upgrade.  The iPad Air and iPad Air 2 are still very good iPads, and I think it’s a harder sell to get those people to upgrade to the new iPad Pro.  (I still use my iPad Air every day, more often, even, than my 12.9-inch iPad Pro.)

The new iPad Pro has an A9X CPU and M9 co-processor.  The 9.7-inch iPad Pro also has a custom display timing chip that drives the display and four speakers.  The 9.7-inch model only has 2GB of RAM compared with the 4GB that is used in the 12.9-inch model.  A new feature that is currently only available on this new iPad is called True Tone Display.  With True Tone Display, the iPad will adjust temperature of the display to match the ambient light in the room where it is being used.

iPad Pro Accessories include: a new, smaller Smart Keyboard, Apple Pencil, Lightning USB Camera Adapter and SD Card Reader, and the USB Camera Adapter.  Interestingly, Phil called out the fact that the Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter allows podcasters to connect a USB mic to the iPad Pro.

iPad Pro will be available in the same four colors as the iPhone: silver, space grey, gold, rose gold.  Pricing start at $599 for the 32GB model and $749 for the 128GB model.  For the first time, both iPad Pro models will be available in 256GB configurations, the 9.7-inch model starting at $899.  There was no mention of cellular options on stage, however, the Apple online store is showing that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will be available with cellular radios for the same $129 premium over the Wi-Fi only models just like all other iPad configurations. The iPad Air 2 will hang around at the $399 price point, while the iPad mini will hold the $269 introductory price point.

iPad Pro pre-orders start on March 24, and go on sale starting on March 31.

If you want to watch, or rewatch the Spring 2016 In the Loop keynote presentation, you can do so via the Apple.com website, the Apple YouTube channel, or from the Apple TV and iTunes Special Events app/postcast feed.

apple · apple watch · ios · iphone · watchos

The Apple Watch – Part Three: Day-to-Day Usage

I’ve been struggling for a long time now to write a meaningful review of the Apple Watch. So many other well-respected writers, who are much better at their craft than I, have already written many pages about Apple’s new device. Yet here we are.

Rather than trying to talk specifically about Watch and watchOS, I think I’d much rather just talk about how it has integrated into my life and how I use it day in and day out.

The two most frequently asked questions I get about my Apple Watch Sport are: “Do you like it?” followed immediately by, “What can you do with it?”  So let’s get the answers to those questions out of the way first.

The answer to those questions are: Yes, very much so. As an Apple fanboy, I woke up at 3:00am to place my order with the hopes of getting it on launch day, which I did. The second is a very personal answer and will vary from user to user. I use my Watch primarily for: getting important notifications for text messages and email. I have replaced my previous fitness trackers with Apple Watch (more on that later). And, lastly, quick view apps like Weather, Phone, Wunderlist and Twitterific.

Setup and Configuration

Configuring your Apple Watch is a journey.  As a technology enthusiast, it was a road of discovery that I was looking forward to traveling down.  It’s not every day, or even every year, that an Apple fan like myself gets to play with something completely new.

As I showed in my last post about Watch, The Apple Watch – Part Two: Unboxing the Sport Edition, pairing and Apple Watch with an iPhone is a very simple process. It is the simplest process of pairing a device and a peripheral that I’ve ever had.  What came next can only be described as the excitement-fueled haze that came from eating too much candy at the summer fair as a boy.

Apple Watch runs watchOS, is believed to be a variant of iOS 8.2. Much like the original Apple TV runs a variant of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, watchOS and iOS are not exactly the same thing. Knowing how to use one does not mean you automatically know how to effectively use he other. And so, as a new Watch owner I was forced to do the one thing that any wife or girlfriend will tell you that men had to do: read the directions. (Stopping to ask for directions was the number one answer until we all started carrying iPhones with us everywhere; but I digress.)

The fold out instruction sheet gives you all of the basics about how to use the Watch, but I didn’t quite feel that I fully understood how to use it.  Only the basic of settings can be controlled on from Watch. For the heavy lifting to configure Apple Watch, you really need to use the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. From there, you can do the real configuration work for settings up Notifications, Glances, your synchronized Music playlists, synchronized Photos albums, Apple Pay and third-party applications. That can seem a bit overwhelming, event to a seasoned Apple fan. To really understand how all of these things work you need to spend time playing with Watch and it’ companion iOS app.

I chose to tackle Notifications first since it was one of the two main reasons why I chose to get Apple Watch. (The Workout and Activity apps are the second.). I found that the out of the box option of ”Mirror my iPhone” was too broad and that I was getting notifications on my wrist for things that I really didn’t find all that important. My time, as yours, is too important for just any app to interrupt you. So as I started using Apple Watch over the initial two-week period, I found myself constantly adjusting the notifications until I found a balanced that worked for me. What’s important to me and important to you are probably vastly different, so I won’t list out my configurations here.  What I will say is that key take away for me is what that only the most important information make it from the phone in my pocket to the watch on my wrist.

The Workout and Activity Apps

As I said earlier, the Workout and Activity apps, together, made up the second reason why I wanted and Apple Watch. You see, before getting Apple Watch, I was using a Nike+ FuelBand and the Jawbone UP. Both are good devices in their own ways.  Nike has undeniable consumer brand recognition just like other iconic brands like the Walt Disney Company and the Coca-Cola Company.  But they never quite pulled off the illusion of complete integration with my iPhone and iOS. With Apple Watch, everything is seamless and just works.

I would say that I’m not a fan of exercises nor do I enjoy going to the gym. I’m more like that guy on TV who goes around from greasy spoon to greasy spoon trying to stuff his face with the largest what-ever-it-is for this week. But I do want to try to be healthy and keep as much weight off as I can and so I do like to go out for walks when the weather permits.

When getting started with the Workout app, Apple advises you to bring your iPhone with you. That way, Watch can calibrate how you walk or run more accurately and track how far you’ve gone.  From my very unscientific comparison of the data collected by my Jawbone UP as compared with the data collected by the Workout app and reported in the Activity app, I can say things are ‘close enough.’  Some people have reported that stand-alone devices that have their own integrated GPS receivers do a better job of tracking activity and distance while exercising outside. That criticism may have been true. When Apple released watchOS 1.0.1 back on May 19, distance and pace of outdoor activities was one of the featured enhancements.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the Workout and Activity apps. I have added Activity “complication”, that the watch world’s fancy name for the computing world’s “widget”, to the bottom center slot of the Modular watch face that I use. It helps me “gamify” my daily activity to reach my goal of filling in all three activity rings daily.

Third-Party Apps

Apple Watch had a large selection of apps available on April 24 then it officially launched.  The trick, however, is finding good apps.

watchOS 1.0, now updated to watchOS 1.0.1, runs all of the third-party apps as “projections” from the iPhone it is paired with.  Apple Watch doesn’t have it’s own app store.  iPhone apps that support the Watch install small applications – like Mac OS X Dashboard widgets – on to the iPhone.  When you run an app on the Watch, it connects to the iPhone over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and displays the information from the iPhone on the Watch.  I won’t call it a “cheat” necessarily, but what you will see is the “I’m busy” spinner on the Watch while information is being retried from the iPhone.  This back and forth can be a bit laggy at times and frustrating.  Just the other day I got tired of waiting for the Weather app to launch on Apple Watch and I pulled out my iPhone and checked the forecast before the Watch was able to update.  While these kinds of problems can be annoying or inconvenient at times, many of us who are using the Watch today are early adopters.  Apple will surely work to improve performance over time.  Look for the first signs of improvement later this year for the release of watchOS 2.0.  In that update, Apple will be giving software developers more access to the hardware resources and the ability to run apps natively on Watch.

My best advice to you is to try out the Apple Watch apps that are extensions of the apps you use on your iPhone.  My rule of thumb is to limit the number of apps that I have installed to a bare minimum.

For example, I like to read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times on my iPhone or my iPad.  But I don’t want notifications for breaking stories on my wrist, nor do I care to even try to read a news summary on a 42mm screen.  Those kinds of apps, for me, are just impractical.  Your needs will vary from mine.  For me, I’ve chosen to use just a handful of apps, including: Overcast, Twitterific, Wunderlist, and Starbucks.  That’s it.  Of the four, I use Overcast and Wunderlist the most.  Wunderlist, which has my list of things to buy at the grocery store, just works so well for me when I’m shopping.  The iPhone stays securely in my pocket and I have fast access to my shopping list simply by raising my wrist.  Nothing gets dropped, scratched or forgotten.

Siri, Dictation and Making Calls

The Apple Watch doesn’t have a keyboard.  When you need to reply to a text message, my primary use case, I do with Siri dictation.  Yes, you kinda look like the cartoon character Dick Tracy, but hey, that’s cool, right?  I’ve used Siri dictation all over the place.  For the most part, Siri gets the job done, but just like on the iPhone and iPad sometimes Siri just can’t pick up the works I’m dictating correctly.  On those occasions, I’ve had to pull out my iPhone…or I’ve used Siri to place a call from Watch.

Making calls from your Watch makes you look and feel like the aforementioned Dick Tracy.  I usually only use this feature in my office, from the car, or when I’m not in a crowded location.  Social etiquette aside, when in a noisy environment, I’ve found it hard to hear what the other person is saying and find myself holding the Watch closer to my ear, and well, that starts to sound a lot like a use case for the iPhone or better yet, to call the person back later.

Battery Life and Durability

I had two major concerns when making the decision about buying the Apple Watch without ever having played with one.  How long will the battery last and will I need multiple charge cables at home and at the office?  And, how long would it be before I scratched the hell out of the screen.

I’m happy to report that both concerns now look silly two months into my daily use of Apple Watch.  Yes, using the Workout app causes the battery to drain more quickly when the heart rate sensor is sampling data more frequently and the Watch is checking distance and speed by poling the iPhone’s GPS.

If I’m being really lazy, and I don’t do my 30 minutes of exercise, at the end of the day, my 42mm Sport has around 50-60% battery life left.  If I do get out and get my 30 minutes of exercising in, my battery will get down to about 20-30%.  Recently, while on vacation with the family, we went on a 14-mile bike ride along the Cape Code Rail Trail.  We were out on the ride for about an hour and forty minutes.  The whole time the Workout app was going full tilt tracking my heart rate, speed and distance.  In other words, the Watch was in constant contact with my iPhone for the whole time.  At the end of the ride, my battery was down to about 10%.  It was in the low 90’s when I started.  To save power until I got back to the house, I put the Watch into Power Reserve mode.

I’m also happy to report that my Watch is still 100% scratch, ding and knick free.  I’m not saying that the Watch can “Take a licking and keep on ticking” as the old ad slogan goes.  What I will say, is by all rights, my Apple Watch Sport should be in really bad shape.  I’ve smacked it into three large office file cabinets, metal storage and server racks, metal lawn chairs…the list goes on and on…and nadda.  No scratches.  No pits. Nothing.  Mileage will vary, but if you are careful of your surroundings, you should be fine.

Early on, I purchased a screen protector for the Ion-X display.  Don’t waist your time and money on them.  The fit was horrible and I only left it on for about 45 minutes.

Parting Thoughts

All-in-all, I really like my Apple Watch and it has integrated into my day-to-day Apple centric lifestyle and workflow.  The Watch is a more personal type of device than your iPhone, Mac or iPad is and so how it gets used will vary from person to person.  I don’t expect the Apple Watch to be replacing an iPhone any time soon.  There are still plenty of uses that demand a larger screen – the iPhone 6 Plus is proof of that.  But the Watch really does let me quickly check the incoming notification and make a decision to take action now or later.  The watchOS 2.0 update, due out later this year, will add a fresh batch of features and functionality.

While not every iPhone owner needs an Apple Watch, the Apple Watch will only work with an iPhone so take that into consideration before placing your order.

If you are considering buy and Apple Watch, I encourage you to go to the Apple Store.  Play with the demo units.  Try on the bands to see which one you like the best.  When you are ready, place your order via the online Apple Store.

For more information, visit the Apple Watch website.

calendar · fantastical · flexibits · ios · mac · mac os x · productivity · yosemite

Flexibits Launches Fantastical 2 for Mac

The calendar mavens over at Flexibits have released a major update to their popular calendaring app, Fantastical 2 for Mac!
A short video of Fantastical 2 for Mac in action is available on the Flexibits website.

Designed exclusively for OS X Yosemite, Fantastical 2 for Mac includes features such as a full calendar window (with day, week, month, and year views), an intuitive parsing engine, iCloud reminders support, light theme, time zone support, birthday reminders, and much more.

Fantastical 2 has a beautiful all-new design and includes many OS X Yosemite features, including a Today Widget, Action & Share Extensions, plus Handoff support to provide continuity between Fantastical 2 for Mac, Fantastical 2 for iPhone, and Fantastical 2 for iPad.

Fantastical 2 for Mac’s natural language parsing engine has been updated to be even more friendly and flexible. The parsing engine now understands expressive repeating events such as third Thursday of every month, every weekend, last weekday of the month, and more. Plus, users can now add alerts by ending their natural language input with phrases such as “remind me tomorrow at 3PM”, “alert 1 hour before”, or “alarm 3PM.”

“When Fantastical came out 4 years ago, our goal was to reinvent the calendar app to ease the frustrations of using calendars,” said Michael Simmons, CEO & President of Flexibits. “With Fantastical 2, we challenged ourselves to reinvent Fantastical itself.”

I think for me, the perfect integration with Mac OS X Yosemite with the ability to use OS X Dictation, Today view, and Handoff to/from my iPhone and iPad together with Flexibits natural language parsing engine are the killer features that make this upgrade well worth the purchase price.
In addition to the super functional Mac toolbar mini window, Flexibits has included a new very handsome looking Today widget.  But the big new visual enhancement for Fantastical for Mac is the new full calendar view.
Fantastical 2 is available now directly from the Mac App Store for $39.99.  As the name implies, this is a completely new version of Fantastical, which means if you have already purchased Fanastical 1 for Mac, you will need to purchase it again.  The enhancements found in Fantastical 2 for Mac are really well worth it.  Plus, you are helping out some great indie Mac developers in the process.
apple · browsers · google · ios · mac os x

FREAK SSL Vulnerability Identified

Yesterday, news broke of a new Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, vulnerability that both Google and Apple have begun working on patches for.

ZDNet described the security problem by saying:

“The FREAK bug disclosed yesterday is the latest in a series of vulnerabilities affecting the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols used to encrypt traffic between an HTTPS website and a browser.”

At the root of the problem, it is possible for a hacker to compromise a website that allows their computer to be inserted into what is suppose to be a private communication between your browser and a web server for things like online banking or shopping.  In end, you don’t get what you want and the hacker gets your personal information.

ZDNet goes on to say that the National Security Agency, the very same United States government agency spearheading the charge to weaken encryption security, is also vulnerable to this problem.

Here’s my favorite part:

“Thousands of sites are vulnerable, including that of the US National Security Agency – the same agency that pushed for weaker export grade encryption, according to Ed Felten, director of Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy.

“There is an important lesson here about the consequences of crypto policy decisions: the NSA’s actions in the ’90s to weaken exportable cryptography boomeranged on the agency, undermining the security of its own site twenty years later,” Felten wrote on his blog yesterday.”

Apple is working on updates for Safari for both iOS and Mac OS X and are expected to be deployed as updates next week.

For more, see the full ZDNet.com article.

health · ios · kinsa

Kinsa Smart Thermometer

I was just perusing the online Apple Store ahead of a trip to the mall and ran across the Kinsa Smart Thermometer.

“The Kinsa Smart Thermometer neatly plugs into your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and takes rapid, 10-second temperature readings in conjunction with the Kinsa SmartHealth app. To make temperature taking as easy and enjoyable as possible, the app displays delightful screens that engage and calm your children.”

Kids around the world hoping to stay home from school by faking a fever are now saddened.  The thermometer to the light bulb trick will no longer work.

For more information, check out the Kinsa thermometer page at the online store.

games · ios · ipad · iphone · puzzle · ustwogames

Monument Valley: Forgotten Shores, Ida’s (RED) Dream Review

Monument Valley is a 3D puzzle game from UsTwoGames that takes you on a visual journey with geometry art based on the styling of M.C. Escher.  You travel fanatically designed monuments with the game’s lead character, a little girl by the name of Princess Ida.

Monument Valley ($3.99) was originally released for iOS devices on March 12.  The game was also subsequently released on Android devices and the Amazon Kindle.  With only 10 levels, the first edition of Monument Valley was visually impressive and challenged you to look at each beautifully rendered level on multiple levels to help Ida navigate her way around each monument.  I really enjoyed playing Monument Valley, but I felt just as I really got lost in the art, the characters and the story, the game was over.

This November, just eight months after releasing the original, UsTwo released two add-on packs; Forgotten Shores as a $1.99 in-app purchase (IAP) to the original game and Ida’s (RED) Dream, a $0.99 IAP. 

Totem is back to help the Princess in Forgotten Shores

Forgotten Shores, released on November 12, adds eight new delightful levels to Monument Valley in which you are reunited with Princess Ida and Totem.  The levels are still interactive 3D works of art.  The difficulty of the new levels is balanced and delivers a mentally stimulating puzzle that is not overwhelmingly difficult.  Oh, and you still must deal with the pesky Crow People.

Ida’s (RED) Dream, the second IAP released on November 23, is billed on the Monument Valley website as “One final chapter to fight AIDS.”  100% of the proceeds from this $0.99 IAP level goes to (RED) to help fight for an HIV/AIDS free world.  Ida’s (RED) Dream is available for a limited time (December 7, 2014), and I encourage you to buy it while you can.

Taken together, Forgotten Shores and Ida’s (RED) Dream offer players nine new levels to explore and enjoy.  As you play, you get drawn into Ida’s world and her mission to return the stolen geometry to the various monuments.  As with the first game, there was one point in Forgotten Shores where I actually drew in a sharp breath and was saddened by what happened.  Not many games on iOS today have that kind of connection between character and player.

My two favorite levels have to be Forgotten Shores Appendix i The Chasm and Ida’s (RED) Dream.  I like both of these levels for different reasons. In The Chasm, I empathize with the silent princess when all hope appears lost and she is given the opportunity to escape.  Without spoiling it for future players, there is a collective sigh of relief near the end of the first room of The Chasm.  In Ida’s (RED) Dream, I feel as if all of the elements that make a great game come together: the colors of each level, the details in the architecture, the difficulty of the levels and the reward of completing them, the sound effects and last, but definitely not the least, the soothing background music that sets the tone for the chapter.

Things can get twisted around…
…and turned upside down quickly!


I’m not usually in favor of IAPs because they have become synonymous with power-up, “coins” or other “resources” necessary to play and win levels in “freemium” games.  But these IAPs are different.  They add levels, which you own outright, and can play and enjoy over and over again.  They continue the story of the characters you get attached too. Forgotten Shore and Ida’s (RED) Dream clearly demonstrates the high production value craftsmanship that goes into a game that you will remember long after playing it.

Monument Valley is available now and requires an iPad 2 and iPhone 4 or later to play.  Versions are also available for Google Android and Amazon Kindle devices.