My iOS love affair

My love affair with iOS devices (in other words, the iPad 1 and 2, the iPhone, and the iPod Touch) continues apace. I keep finding new iOS-related products that are really useful and many that are both useful and cool.

MORE IOS LOVE: Mac tracking, Magic Mouse charging, and iThing accessories

In the latter category, for example, is Microsoft's free Photosynth, a system for creating photographic panoramas. But rather than displaying the captured scene as one superwide image, Photosynth panoramas are displayed in a more regularly sized window and using your mouse or cursor keys, you can pan around and zoom in and out of the image providing a more realistic rendering of a scene.

Microsoft's Photosynth for iOS

Click to see: Microsoft's Photosynth for iOS

While you can upload a series of overlapping images from any camera to the Photosynth site and then have them "stitched" into a panorama, the iOS versions detect the overlaps between adjacent images as you take them and stitch the panoramas together without having to use the online service. You can also upload the panoramas or a specific view from one directly to Facebook when your iOS device is connected to the 'Net.

While you might think of this app as more of a hobbyist tool it offers unique communications opportunities in disciplines such as architecture, realty and engineering. Photosynth for iOS gets a rating of 5 out of 5. Quite amazing.

While I'm on the subject of visual apps, I've been testing Splashtop Remote Desktop.

Splashtop for iOS

Click to see: Splashtop for iOS

A remote screen viewer for iOS, Splashtop can stream the desktop image from OS X and Windows hosts to the likes of iPads and iPhones (Android and HP webOS versions are also available) and the connections can transparently traverse firewalls.

The visual results are very good with options to scale the remote screen to the iOS screen or keep it full size and pan the remote image. The rendition of the remote desktop is excellent and glitch-free (I saw no "stuttering" as the remote screen updated which is something that some competing products suffer from).

Splashtop supports multitouch gestures for remote screen navigation and provides an extended onscreen keyboard (though if you're using a physical keyboard with your iOS device, Splashtop, disappointingly, ignores it).

One thing that didn't work at all was sound despite the Splashtop specs claiming that audio sent from the remote host will be reproduced on the iOS device. I couldn't get audio to work at all with either Windows Vista or OS X as the remote system.

The Splashtop app, priced at $1.99, gets a rating of 3.5 out of 5.

My final product is, I admit, a bit of a tease because it is a new, and, as yet, unreleased device: The Kingston Wi-Drive.

The Wi-Drive provides extra storage for iOS and other smartphone devices at a price that makes buying, say, a more expensive iPad to get more storage kind of silly.

Kingston's Wi-Drive

Click to see: Kingston's Wi-Drive

Due to ship at the end of July, the Wi-Drive will be priced at $130 for 16GB and $175 for 32GB. At 121.5mm x 61.8mm x 9.8mm the Wi-Drive is smaller than an iPhone and has a rechargeable battery that gives about four hours of use.

What's really neat is that the Wi-Drive not only provides secure 802.11n Wi-Fi access to its onboard storage for up to three devices but also acts as a Wi-Fi relay to provide access from the connected iOS devices to another Wi-Fi service.

So far I'm pretty impressed. Running prerelease firmware, the Wi-Drive's performance is very good and its companion iOS application is stable and straightforward to use. Once I have the final, shipping Wi-Drive firmware, I'll provide a more extensive review. For now, the Wi-Drive looks very promising.

Gibbs is well-padded in Ventura, Calif. Access him remotely at gearhead@gibbs.com.

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