About Thomas

My name is probably Thomas (yes, it is). I'll be able to help you figure out why Evernote isn't syncing, or recommend your favourite new RSS reader to you. That's partly because I am enamoured with the iOS ecosystem and hardware, but mostly because I'm Canadian.

Another Quick Take on Screens VNC for iPad


Our very own James Potter recently reviewed Screens for iPad and gave a great breakdown of how the iPad can be used to remotely control a Mac or PC. However, I wanted to quickly post on how Screens — and its companion desktop app, Screens Connect — has helped me.

A few months ago, I had invited a really techy friend of mine to help me set up port forwarding on my home router so that I could VNC into my Mac from my iPad. He walked me through how to forward port 5900 for VNC to my Mac, and we also set up port 22 for SSH. I’m still not crystal clear on the specifics, but it’s my understanding that establishing a remote desktop session over VNC is convenient, but doing VNC through an SSH tunnel is even more secure (so the latter was my real goal).

We then set up Remote Login and Screen Sharing within the System Preferences of my MacBook, at which point all was set to go for remotely controlling my MacBook from my iPad. Unlike James, I wasn’t really doing this for productivity’s sake. I just wanted to be able to wake up my Mac so that I could move songs into iTunes Match, or wake the Mac up in order to start streaming videos via AirVideo HD.

I then bought the cheapest and highest-rated VNC app I could find: Remoter VNC. My setup worked nicely when my iPad was on the home network, but I found it confusing when I tried to log in remotely over SSH. There were so many extra settings within the app and a number of in-app purchases that I didn’t totally understand, and so I was stumped for a few weeks. I would tinker with the VNC and SSH settings intermittently after work, but nothing seemed to work.

Then I remembered seeing Screens VNC on a MacStories post, so I reached out to Edovia to see if they could provide a cleaner solution. They got back to me a few days with a code for Screens on my iPad, and I then installed Edovia’s Screens Connect utility on my Mac. James mentioned that Screens makes remote desktop software easy for users without much networking experience, but I wanted to emphasize just how well it does that. All I had to do was make a Screens Connect login, tick a box saying that I wanted to login via an SSH tunnel, and that was it. I logged into Screens Connect on the iPad app, and everything just worked. I was able to login remotely over Wi-Fi from my parents’ house, and even from work while on LTE.

I was previously unsure of Screens and what it really offered for $20, but after seeing how confusing VNC and SSH tunnelling can be for me, I’d now very quickly recommend the Screens as a very big time and hassle saver. Screens is clean and easy to use, and Screens Connect takes all the difficulty out of setting your computers up for remote desktop connection.

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Revolution 60 Now Available for iPad

Revolution 60 for iPadRevolution 60, the first title from dev studio Giant Spacekat, is now out on the App Store. Rev 60 is a good example of mobile-first gaming experiences (which is increasingly common thanks to iOS), and also a great example of a video game with strong female protagonists (which is still quite rare). The mix of action and adventure gameplay in Rev 60 remind me a lot of Bioware’s Mass Effect series and Telltale’s point-and-click adventure games.

I spent a few minutes with the game earlier today, and although some of the animations and sound effects didn’t feel quite as spot-on compared to other triple-A mobile titles, I liked how much effort was put into a fully voice-acted and well-written storyline. I find that really refreshing after the relative silence of titles like Infinity Blade. The art style and colour palette also reminded me fondly of the ReBoot series I used to watch as a kid.

If you’d like to check Revolution 60 out, it’s free to download, and it costs only $6 to unlock the entire game (piecemeal in-app purchasing silliness need not apply).

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Quick Thoughts On Facebook Messenger For iPad

fb messenger ipad

I don’t use Facebook Messenger often, but I think it’s great that it was released for iPad. Facebook seems like one of the de facto messaging services for a lot of my friends at work and from university, and bringing the Messenger app to the iPad does show some forward thinking on Facebook’s part. Just as with Google and Hangouts, Facebook is treating the iPad as a primary platform, and allowing users to begin a chat on the desktop, and then continue it from basically any device they choose.

I’m also impressed with the app’s UI in general. It’s your standard two-panel affair, but it does have some fun along the bottom bar for messaging. There’s a clever photo picker, easy voice messaging, and large tappable stickers to play with. The UI sounds are also really on point. Just about the only thing I don’t like is the strange naming convention for updates. Facebook Messenger is supposedly at v8.0, but the latest update notes show a simple text display change, alongside general bug fixes and improvements. I’m guessing this is just a weird joke from the Facebook developers mocking the way that the industry does versioning on the whole, but as a user, it’s plain confusing.

I’ve said this before, but I’d really like to see more of the popular messaging apps make the leap from iPhone-only to becoming real cross-device services. After all, with the announcement of iOS 8 and mainline features like Continuity, even Apple is pushing for a consistent experience across devices. Facebook made the switch, and I’m hoping other services like LINE Messenger are paying attention.

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Still Waiting Patiently For 2Do III for iPad

2Do App Icon

I’ve been waiting for the release of 2Do III ever since the release of iOS 7 last Fall, and I’m trying to keep from calling the third version of the app “3Do” (I blame 2Fast2Furious and its ilk for that). 2Do was one of my all-time favourite task management apps on iOS, and even though I don’t use the current version of the app, I can’t help but check the developer blog every now and then to check on the app’s status.

As it turns out, 2Do III is still in active development — no surprise there — but there was a very tasty teaser that I had missed in early June. The post teases the iPhone rewrite, but because the app is a universal one, I’m sure the iPad changes can’t be very far behind.

Info Zooming means extra details can stay hidden until you need them, and 2Do seems to have far fewer “save” and “cancel” buttons than before. It looks like changes to task fields — such as the tags, categories, and due dates — are saved instantly, so you can quickly jump from one field to the next without extra taps. That’s a little detail that saves a lot of time in the long run.

What’s a little shocking is that the 3.0 update — if released before the apocalypse — is coming out for free to all current owners of the app. I joke about the long development time, but if it took the devs this long to really come up with this many great features, I’d be more than happy to pay them another $10 to check their 3.0 app out.

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Quick Tip: Use iTunes to Transfer Files to Compatible Apps On Your iPad

File Sharing tab iTunes

Here’s a tip we published almost four years ago, but seeing as I used it quite recently at work, I thought I’d give it a refresh. Now that iPads are infiltrating the office space and boardrooms, I see more and more co-workers wanting to take videos and other files into meetings with them. This isn’t a problem on a PC or Mac because they can just use USB drives, but iOS 7 devices like the iPad aren’t as easy to transfer files to (iOS 8 will change this a bit with iCloud Drive, but it’s not here yet).

Fortunately, as long as you have a computer running a recent version of iTunes, it’s fairly easy to transfer files to an iPad using the USB cable (30-pin or Lightning, depending on your device):

  1. Load up iTunes on the computer
  2. Plug the iPad into the computer
  3. Select the iPad from the left-hand side of the iTunes sidebar
    • if the sidebar is hidden, use the View menu at the top to access it again.
  4. If iTunes ever offers to sync with the computer, cancel it.
  5. Head to the Apps tab of the iPad within iTunes, then scroll all the way down to the File Sharing list.
  6. Click on the app you’d like to send your files to, and then drag your files into the right hand side of the window (labelled Documents)

If you’re looking for good candidate apps to transfer files to, VLC can play most any kind of video you throw at it, and Good Reader 4 can display most any other kind of file you’d want to manage on an iPad.

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Giving iTunes Match Another Try

iTunes Wi-Fi Sync only seems to work about half the time I try to use it, so a few weeks ago I decided to take another chance on iTunes Match. If you’re unfamiliar with iTunes Match, it’s a $28 annual subscription service that scans your Mac or PC’s iTunes library. Any songs that are matched […]

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Review: TwelveSouth’s SurfacePad for iPad Air

TwelveSouth’s SurfacePad for iPad Air is like a much more elegant execution of Apple’s own Smart Cases, except this accessory is really a very clever two-sided cover. Installing it is as simple as sticking it to the rear of the iPad. The cover provides adequate scratch protection for transit, but no extra shock protection for […]

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Surface Pressure Is Coming To Paper App for iPad This Fall

FiftyThree is making great strides to make the Paper and Pencil experience feel more like the real thing with technology they call “Surface Pressure“. By leveraging new APIs in iOS 8, the devs at FiftyThree have figured out a way to make the iPad aware of how much of the Pencil stylus is making contact with the screen, […]

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Track Your Favorite Shows On Your iPad With TeeVee 3

I recently took pains to re-establish my IMDB account to track all the movies and shows I actually want to see. This has been working well for movies, but it’s inelegant for tracking TV episodes because there’s no easy way to mark an episode as “watched”. I track movies by adding them to a watchlist […]

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