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Watson Medical Algorithm

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Due to a minor glitch, 'discharge patient' does not cause the algorithm to exit, but instead leads back to 'hunt down and capture patient'.
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2982 days ago
Cambridge, MA
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2984 days ago
Choose-your-own-adventure style version of this pls
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm

ZDNet’s Apple TV Review


David Gewirtz’s review of the new Apple TV is rather scathing:

To be blunt, the new remote is terrible. Swiping isn’t nearly as accurate at lean-back distances and as a game controller, it’s mediocre at best. I found it very frustrating attempting to select items. Rubbing a finger (usually a thumb) across the trackpad surface invariably selected the wrong item or overshot what I was aiming for.

I completely disagree with this.

It’s very difficult to tell top from bottom on the remote. It’s almost entirely symmetrical, and the only difference is the top is less shiny, the surface you’re supposed to use as a touch surface. In the dark, I expect people will be pushing the wrong buttons and talking into the wrong end.

I completely agree with this.

Where is Safari? We have a touch screen remote, why not a browser? After all, even the Wii had a browser.

The Wii has a terrible browser that no one uses. It’s possible that Safari for Apple TV will come in a software update, but I think complaining about this is like complaining about the lack of a floppy drive on the original iMac.

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3033 days ago
I also disagree with the first bit. I find swiping to be at least as accurate as the old AppleTV remote, and much faster. The new AppleTV is an improvement over the old model in almost every way, with the exception of text entry (accounts and passwords) which is terrible. Apple needs to update the iPhone remote app and/or add Bluetooth keyboard syncing to tvOS ASAP. And some of the third party app replacements (Netflix) are inferior to the old version, they need to be updated as well. But overall the new AppleTV is faster and more fun to use than the old one, and I think we're going to see some cool apps in the App Store.
Cambridge, MA
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3032 days ago
Pro tip: to move one item adjacent to the one selected, tap (not click) the touch screen in the direction you want to go. Also: tap and hold on the on screen keyboard to capitalize a character, especially for passwords.
Mountain View
3031 days ago
The lack of a keyboard option from my phone for complex passwords drove me batshit setting things up. Unless 1Password for tvOS comes out or something, this is extremely frustrating. It's a great TV device once you scream your way past that.

Lords of Waterdeep

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Lords of Waterdeep, though thoroughly Ameritrash in every aspect of its origin, owes much of its design to Euro-style worker placement games like Caylus, Le Havre, or Stone Age. Set in one of the most famous campaign settings of the Dungeons & Dragons universe, LoW has players recruiting adventurers to do their dirty work for them, hiding behind the anonymity of their office. Will you don the mask?

lords of waterdeep title 500x666 Lords of Waterdeep ipad screenshot


LoW features a large map of the city of Waterdeep, marked with several spaces and four face-up Quest cards. Each player is randomly assigned one of the masked Lords as a secret identity, and starts with a pool of Agents (2-4, depending on the number of players) and some initial Intrigue and Quest cards of their own. On their turn, a player will place one of their Agents in one of the available spaces on the board.

lords of waterdeep zoomed out board 500x666 Lords of Waterdeep ipad screenshot

Depending on which space is selected, a player will either gain resources (adventurers of the classic D&D archetypes: Cleric, Warrior, Rogue, and Wizard) or take some other action.

One action players can take is the Builder’s Hall, which allows them to construct additional buildings, thus increasing the options available for a turn; the owner of a newly-constructed building also gets some benefit if another player selects it for their action. Once an Agent is placed, a player may complete any Quest(s) for which they possess the required Adventurers.

lords of waterdeep intrigue card 500x666 Lords of Waterdeep ipad screenshot

The focal point of the map is Waterdeep Harbor, with enough spaces to accommodate up to 3 Agents. When an Agent is placed here, the player is able to play an Intrigue card, which can either grant them some boon, penalize an opponent, or appear as a Mandatory Quest. Solving Quests is the primary engine to earn Victory Points, and Mandatory Quests, assigned to an opponent, must be completed before that opponent can undergo a higher-valued Quest of their own. The other major space is the Cliffwatch Inn, where Agents can grab one of the four face-up Quest cards to add to your Active Quests pile. Completed Quests are hidden from other players unless they are Plot Quests, which provide you with some lingering passive bonus.

lords of waterdeep winner 500x666 Lords of Waterdeep ipad screenshot

Once all players have placed all their Agents, the round is over. At the start of round 5, all players received an extra Agent. At the conclusion of round 8, final victory points are tallied. In addition to the victory points gained by completing quests throughout the game, most of the Lords have specific classes of quest (such as Warfare or Piety) that will grant bonus victory points in the endgame. Additionally, you will receive points for any left over Adventures in your Tavern and any extra currency. Victory points are tracked via score markers that progress in a ring around the board.

lords of waterdeep empty board 500x666 Lords of Waterdeep ipad screenshot

The game has drawn the ire of some for the level of abstraction from its theme. The only dungeons to crawl here exist as descriptions on quest cards; indeed, adventures are represented by nothing more than the ubiquitous little wooden cubes found in almost all Eurogames, rendered here in perfect digital symmetry. While it is not difficult to see the point behind this argument, the games’ designers have gone out of their way to include references to the thematic material in every component of the game. Longtime D&D fans will find callbacks to nearly 40 years’ worth of lore, while those new to the franchise will find a tight Eurogame that doesn’t require knowledge of the D&D universe to enjoy.


lords of waterdeep nighttime 500x666 Lords of Waterdeep ipad screenshot

Playdek has a well-earned reputation for producing high-quality digital versions of analog games, and LoW is no exception. Before we get into the technical nitty gritty though, we’d like to mention something that is done terrifically well here – atmosphere. As the game progresses, the map of Waterdeep goes through a complete day/night cycle, complete with lights in the doors and windows of the buildings. Animals fly overhead, darting around slowly-drifting clouds, and boats sail into and out of the harbor, minding their own business as the Lords plot each others’ downfall. Importantly, none of these embellishments interfere in any way with gameplay – they do nothing but set the mood, and they do it well. The pure card-based nature of most Playdek products don’t leave a whole lot of room for these sorts of touches, and it’s nice to see them get to stretch their creative wings a bit.

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The game offers an extensive array of fully interactive tutorials. Each tutorial introduces a few of the key concepts of the game, and each builds on what came before to introduce new players to the games’ fundamentals, as well as a bit of basic strategy. Thoughtfully, Playdek also included a separate tutorial aimed specifically at people familiar with the board game who just need to learn how to work with the interface of the iPad version.

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LoW features a higher density of information than anything Playdek has tackled before, but it’s pulled off with the usual aplomb we’ve come to expect from their products. A ribbon at the bottom of the screen displays all the vital stats you need to know at any given moment, while collapsible drawers give you easy access to your Quest and Intrigue cards, as well as to any Quests you’ve already completed, should you need to peruse them. Each of the five player colors has a different portrait associated with it, and tapping this portrait pulls your Lord card up for reference. A ribbon at the top shows your opponents’ factions, and tapping any of them pulls up an expanded view with vitals about their Taverns and score. Tapping the jewel pulls up a detailed breakdown of standings, so you can quickly see who’s winning and why.

lords of waterdeep building after 500x666 Lords of Waterdeep ipad screenshot

The game’s map is laid out identically to the physical game board, and you can scroll around and zoom in and out as necessary. When another player takes an action, the game automatically jumps to the appropriate part of the interface. Many of the cards and buildings in the game allow you to select specific types of adventurers. When this happens, a graphic illustrating your choice pops up, followed by a ribbon indicating how many choices you have to make. Simply drag the appropriate cube to the ribbon, and tap the green triangle to confirm your selection – a clever approach that keeps the visual elements of the game entirely consistent.

lords of waterdeep online menu 500x666 Lords of Waterdeep ipad screenshot

Typical of Playdek games, multiplayer is possible in both online and offline modes. Online games are played asynchronously, with a wide variety of timers available. Offline games can be against any number of either AI or human opponents, and each AI player can be set to one of three levels of difficulty. Online play does require an account on Playdek’s servers, but you can use any account already created for one of their other games. There’s also a little blue button that pops up when you’re playing an offline game and it becomes your turn in an online match, a neat feature that we wish more games would implement.


While some people find the randomness in Lords of Waterdeep off-putting, the game remains a fantastic introduction to Euro-style worker placement games, easy to teach and fun to play. Playdek, already a company with an outstanding reputation for digital translations of card games, have truly outdone themselves with this title. Anyone with an iPad and an interest in this game is doing themselves a disservice by not picking it up immediately, if for no other reason than to see a shining example of a board game made digital.

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3742 days ago
I've played a dozen or so complete games already. I'm not a big Eurogame fan, but Lords of Waterdeep is a blast. Highly recommended.
Cambridge, MA
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Adobe Flash Player 11.9

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Flash Player 10Since I’ve complained about the various installers for Adobe Flash Player in the past, I feel honor-bound to compliment Adobe on this release:

Today Adobe released Flash Player 11.9.900.117, and this release includes a new package that does all the right things this time:

  1. It installs all needed components
  2. It installs silently from the command-line
  3. It installs properly at the loginwindow
  4. It installs on non-boot volumes

You can extract the package from the Install Adobe Flash Player application, or if you apply to redistribute Flash Player (which you should), you’ll find a link “for Systems Administrators”, which contains just the installation package.

The individual user installer can be obtained here.

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3787 days ago
Good news for Mac Admins, and long-overdue from Adobe. Now if they can do the same for the Adobe Air installer I'll really be happy.
Cambridge, MA
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The State of Comics on the iPad

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I, like many adults, used to collect comics. I owned dozens of long boxes, filled to the brim with various copies of X-Men, Spider-Man and Detective. But I eventually traded comic books for cars, and shortly thereafter my collection went away, sold to a man for pennies on the dollar.

Three years ago, I started collecting again. But I didn’t end up in a dusty comic book shop that smelled of vanilla and shame, but instead from the comfort of my living room using the many popular iPad apps built by Comixology. And recently, the game changed again with Marvel Unlimited. But the shape of the online comic book landscape still isn’t that bright. How so? Let’s find out.

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The Beginning

When I first saw the iPad, I thought, “This would be great for comic books and magazines!” and I was right. It took a bit, but soon magazines were flourishing on the iPad with their own apps, and eventually, on Newsstand. But comics? They came out of the gate shortly thereafter, led by Comixology. Now I don’t know the behind-the-scenes story of how they came to be, but what I do know is that they started making apps for DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and Image, which meant that they had the iPad comic book industry sewn up.

Now this system — which still stands today — isn’t without its flaws. Major titles can still command retail prices, which seems a little bit ridiculous for a title that you can only store locally — yes, there’s no way to back up your comics, other than trusting Comixology. Having the latest issue delivered to you in stunning Retina-quality graphics while you sit on the can is fantastic and all that, but the initial price and restrictions are a bit steep.

The Marvel Unlimited Play

Marvel already has a Comixology app, and it’s great. But they also have decades of content out there, and it would get pretty pricey to buy all that up, even at the discounted $0.99 rate that most older comics command. Even though Marvel did stand to make some money by continuing on with the status quo, they decided instead to switch things up and come up with their own app, Marvel Unlimited.

Yes, you can view things offline, but it just doesn't look or function very well.

Yes, you can view things offline, but it just doesn’t look or function very well.

The easiest way to describe MU is like this: It’s Netflix for Marvel comic books. You pay a monthly (or yearly) subscription fee, and you get access to the thousands of Marvel comics that they offer on the app. Now they don’t have new titles (they don’t want to kill their Comixology sales, after all), but most come out between six months to a year after their debut. For example, you can read the Age of Ultron series right now, and it came out in March of 2013. It’s amazing. It’s also quite frustrating.

See, MU isn’t perfect. The app has a ton of flaws, including missing pages, improperly labelled covers, poor search results and more, which means that it’s really more of an advanced beta than anything. Admittedly, it’s gotten a ton better since its release a few months ago, but it does still have quite a few kinks.

The Band-Aid

All that said, MU does solve a pretty basic problem that online comic fans have had for quite a long time now: ownership. If you’re a Netflix user, you probably get it already, but here’s the gist. If you have access to any movie you want at any time you want, then there’s no reason to own a physical (or downloaded) copy of it, right? Now apply that principle to comics, and that’s MU. In theory, that means that you don’t have to worry about whether or not Comixology stays afloat, you just have to keep your MU subscription paid up. And that’s a very important distinction.

However, MU only covers Marvel comics, which leaves out millions of other titles. There’s no Batman, Superman, Green Lantern or Wonder Woman to read, and that’s just on the DC side. Throw in the great titles at Image, Dark Horse and other independent comic companies, and there’s a lot more that you’ll miss. The problem is that it seems unlikely that all of those publishers would do their own systems, and even if they did, the costs could get exorbitant for the average reader.

Stating the Obvious

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the other alternatives to purchasing your comics on your iPad: piracy. Look, what you do with your time online is up to you, so I’m not going to get all preachy here by any means. Obviously, piracy is illegal, and that’s not something that we condone here at AppStorm. Yes, we do understand that publishers of any media online should make said media available for purchase and posession, and if they don’t, piracy is one of the options for fans of the genre. We just can’t rubber stamp that as OK.

I'm pretty sure he's supposed to say something poignant here.

I’m pretty sure he’s supposed to say something poignant here.

But like music before it, comic books do need to have a better option for purchasing and locally backing up materials. When Comixology went dark in March of this past year, thousands of people (including myself) were left without any option for viewing the comics that they purchased themselves. Unless it happened to be on that specific device, they couldn’t read it. That’s a problem.

The Fix

What needs to happen with comics seems unlikely to ever take place. Ultimately, comic book publishers need to get out of their silos and become DRM free. Although Image went out on a limb and did that on their own, it’s not enough. That means that all of the Image comics that I’ve bought from Comixology don’t count, and I have to do it all over again through Image’s system. Although that’s cool for future purchases, that doesn’t help me with what I’ve already bought. It’s also just one publisher, and the rest need to go, too.

Until that happens, the next best option (for Marvel fans, anyway) is Marvel Unlimited. It’s flawed, somewhat broken and doesn’t work that great, but if you want thousands of comics at your disposal, it’s the only way to go.


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3790 days ago
I got back into comics through Comixology, and now I find myself buying mostly physical copies because of the digital ownership and pricing problem. I'd love to buy more digital (in addition to physical books) but I can't justify paying the same price. DC is doing it right though. After an issue is more than a month old, they drop the price by a buck. If the digital issue is a buck cheaper than the physical one, I can justify buying it.
Cambridge, MA
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Storm Sim

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I’d like to thank Storm Sim for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed on The Loop. Storm Sim is the audio experience of a thunderstorm in your pocket. The app is more than a pre-recorded loop; it dynamically generates storms in real-time so it’s always unique and it never repeats.

It supports nearly infinite customization. Add more lightning, dial back the rain, or include a splash of freight train; get that perfect night’s sleep or just relax after a busy day.

Includes sleep and wake timers, AirPlay, LED Clock, add-on packs, and more. It’s a Universal app for iPhone and iPad that supports iOS 5 or higher.

Jim’s note: I showed this app to my wife and not only did she like it, she said she wished she had when the kids were smaller.

∞ Read this on The Loop

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3840 days ago
This has potential as a white noise generator for sleeping.
Cambridge, MA
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