Finding bargains and splitting lanes: iPhone apps of the week

Posted by Harshad

Finding bargains and splitting lanes: iPhone apps of the week

Finding bargains and splitting lanes: iPhone apps of the week

Posted: 25 Mar 2011 04:53 PM PDT

iPhone (Credit: CNET)

Since the launch of iOS 4.3, several iPhone users have complained their batteries are draining much faster. I haven't personally noticed a difference, but for those of you who have, you'll happy to know that iOS 4.3.1 unexpectedly launched today. (It was rumored earlier this week that it might launch in two weeks).

Though there aren't many details about the release besides minor security and maintenance updates, it is likely that this early launch for the iOS means that Apple is trying to smooth out the bugs and hopefully take care of battery drain quickly.

Please let us know in the comments if you've experienced issues with iOS 4.3 and whether you noticed a difference in this latest update.

This week's apps include a well-designed barcode scanner and a game that challenges you to race through traffic on a motorcycle.

Shopping Savvy Premium Barcode Scanner

Browse through your scanning history and tap to find places to purchase products.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Shop Savvy Premium Barcode Scanner (99 cents) is certainly not the only barcode reader in the iTunes App Store, but it offers some unique features to make it a handy shopping companion when checking prices. Like other apps in the category, ShopSavvy lets you use your iPhone camera to "scan" a barcode then view the item and prices from various locations. The interface is set up to be as simple as possible, but it offers nice touches such as the ability to initiate a scan by swiping upward on the product display screen.

After a barcode scan, you're presented with an image of the item and given places to shop for it online, at nearby stores (Shop Savvy uses your location), online reviews of the product, and the ability to share your findings via e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook. Shop Savvy keeps your search history so you can go back and find things you wanted to buy, but you also have the ability to categorize your items in lists that are neatly arranged in folders you create.

Overall, Shop Savvy is a great barcode scanner with a slick interface that's easy to use. If you're out making a big purchase and want to check prices in other locations, this app is a great thing to have on your iPhone.

Lane Splitter

Even in the early part of the game you'll need to watch out for signaling drivers.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Lane Splitter (99 cents) is a fun distance game that challenges you to weave through traffic at high speed on a motorcycle. The graphics are crystal clear on the iPhone 4, with well detailed cars and interesting scenery as you blow by on your motorcycle. The idea is that you're late to your wedding, and you must speed through traffic wearing your tux in order to make it on time. The game uses the iPhone accelerometer for steering and touching the screen gives you a burst of speed that results in a wheelie and less control--perfect for getting out of the way when cars merge into your lane as long as you're careful.

Lane Splitter starts out fairly easy with only a few cars to avoid that mostly stay in their lanes. As you progress, the game gets faster and you'll see more cars signaling lane changes forcing you to act quickly to keep going. Later in the game, you'll encounter traffic jams and get bonus points for slipping between cars (lane-splitting). I was able to get quite far after only a few tries, but a look at the leaderboards (accessed within the game) told me I have a long way to go.

Overall, with smooth, good-looking graphics, excellent accelerometer controls, and changing traffic conditions as you race, Lane Splitter makes for a fun time-waster.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Do you have a better shopping companion app than Shop Savvy? What's your best distance on Lane Splitter? Let me know in the comments!

Everything you need to know about Firefox 4

Posted: 25 Mar 2011 04:33 PM PDT

To get you started with the Editor's Choice-winning Firefox 4, here's CNET's First Look at the browser. (Download Firefox 4 for Windows, Mac, and Linux):

One of the best features in the browser is Firefox Sync, which will not only synchronize Firefox across multiple computers, but it will also sync to your Android version of Firefox 4.

Firefox has a deep backbench of add-ons to provide features not found in the standard version of the browser, and you can also customize the interface in ways that you can't with other browsers. Here's how to make your Firefox 4 look like Firefox 3, in case you really miss the old design. It's also a good hands-on tutorial for add-on use, in case you're new to Firefox add-ons.


In the following How To video, we show you how to make Firefox load tabs a bit faster than it does out of the box. This is a great tweak for users who have 20 or 30 tabs open.


App Tabs are a new feature in Firefox to keep your most-used tabs in the same position every time you load the browser. Here's how they work.

Another useful new feature in Firefox 4 is Tab Groups, also known as Panorama. This allows you to keep your tabs accessible but out of sight until you want them. It's excellent for organizing tabs between different interests, and you can label the groups as well.

Benchmark battle: Chrome vs. IE vs. Firefox

Posted: 25 Mar 2011 03:35 PM PDT

There's no doubt the latest crop of stable browsers from Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla are the best the companies have ever produced. But how do they perform when tested under identical conditions?

CNET put the latest stable versions of Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer through a gauntlet of benchmarks that considered JavaScript and HTML5 performance, as well as boot times and memory usage. (Opera and Safari were not tested because they have not been updated recently, and neither has yet implemented hardware acceleration close to the level that the other three browsers have.) Note that these charts are at best a snapshot in time, and are dependent on the hardware being used and any extensions installed. The full charts are below, followed by analysis and an explanation of our methodology.

(Credit: Chart by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)
(Credit: Chart by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)
(Credit: Chart by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)
(Credit: Chart by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

*JSGamebench was conducted by Facebook developers. The test was included because it's a publicly available test of real-world gameplay, though we opted to use Facebook's published data for simplicity's sake. The hardware acceleration using WebGL results were not included because only Firefox 4 and Chrome 11 were included in the test group, and Chrome 11 was not tested by CNET this round because it's still in beta.

(Credit: Chart by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)
(Credit: Chart by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Chrome 10 Internet Explorer 9 Firefox 4
SunSpider 0.9.1 (ms) 336.20 250.60 292.37
Kraken (ms) 8,806.30 15,606.77 7265.13
V8 v6 (higher is better) 5,173.67 2,235.33 3540.33
JSGamebench 0.3* (higher is better) 322.00 1,156.00 1,482.00
Boot time (s) 26.22 21.86 17.80
Memory (kb) 390,532 205,616 148,020

Though the competition is extremely close in some cases--especially JavaScript rendering--Firefox 4 is strongly favored by HTML5 processing, boot time, and memory usage. Overall, I'd judge from these results that Firefox 4 is the winner this time around.

Chrome, however, is absolutely killing it on Google's V8 benchmark. Expect the next version of Chrome to perform much better on the JSGamebench test, once hardware acceleration has been fully enabled. You currently have to toggle a few switches in about:flags to get it all. Also expect Chrome's boot time and memory performance to improve--Google has said it plans to spend more time working on Chrome's memory hogginess in the coming versions.

Given the renewed resurgence in Internet Explorer, it's also hard to imagine that the IE development team isn't already working on making the browser better.

Also of interest is that the SunSpider results are extremely close. The gulf between 250 milliseconds and 290 milliseconds is just not going to be that detectable by the average person.

How we tested
Our test machine was a Lenovo T400, with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 chip running at 2.53GHz, with 3GB of RAM, using Windows 7 x86. We used four publicly available tests: WebKit SunSpider 0.9.1, Mozilla Kraken 1.0, Google V8 version 6, and JSGameBench 0.3. All tests except for JSGamebench were conducted using a "cold boot" of the browser, that is, both the computer and the browser being tested were restarted before each test. Each test was performed three times, and the results you see are the averages. Browsers had all extensions and add-ons deactivated for the tests.

We opened five Web sites for all tests, in addition to any test site. These were: talkingpointsmemo.com, aol.com, youtube.com, newyorktimes.com, giantbomb.com, cnettv.cnet.com.

The boot time benchmarks were conducted by manually starting a stopwatch when clicking on the browser's taskbar icon, and then hitting stop when the last tab's resolving indicator stopped rotating. One half-second was subtracted from Internet Explorer 9's pre-averaged times to account for the extra time it took to hit the Reload previous session link, since the browser doesn't support that feature the way Firefox 4 and Chrome 10 do.

The memory test was conducted by opening the aforementioned set of tabs and looking at Google Chrome's memory manager. You can access it by typing "about:memory" into the Chrome location bar. The figure we used is the Private Memory, which only totals memory used by the browser that's not shared by other processes. It's also useful because it tallies all of Chrome's open tab memory usage into one convenient number.

VideoLAN updates VLC, improved language translation

Posted: 25 Mar 2011 09:11 AM PDT

One of the best video players for Mac has to be VideoLAN's VLC Player, now updated to version 1.1.8. This update fixes a number of small bugs and adds more support for several features, including better language translation as well as updating security patches for known vulnerabilities.

Core Security Technologies recognized vulnerabilities in AMV and NSV files when handled by previous versions of VLC.

Two vulnerabilities have been found in VLC media player [1], when handling AMV and NSV file formats. These vulnerabilities can be exploited by a remote attacker to obtain arbitrary code execution with the privileges of the user running VLC.

Updating to version 1.1.8 solves those issues.

Other fixes included in the 1.1.8 update are:

  • Security update regarding video width concerning some demuxers
  • Support for a new Dirac encoder based on libschroedinger
  • Package of the new VP8/Webm encoder 'Bali'
  • Notable updates in MP4, OGG, and APE demuxers
  • Major updates in most language translations
  • Fixes in skins2 supports of Winamp2 skins
  • Upgrade on the look of VLC for Mac OS X
  • Auto-detection for TXT subtitles is fixed
  • Fixes on Windows integration, notably regarding volume keys
  • Codecs updates
  • Many miscellaneous fixes

If you find that some of your videos, especially AVI files, aren't playing properly in QuickTime Player, try downloading the free VLC Player. What is your video player of choice for the Mac? Let me know in the comments!

Be sure to follow MacFixIt on Twitter and contribute to the CNET Mac forums.

Originally posted at MacFixIt


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