Review: Cut the Rope iPhone App

Cut the Rope is probably the second best iPhone game of all time (after Angry Birds, of course!). The object of the game is to get a piece of candy to a loveable green creature called Om Nom while avoiding obstacles and enemies, and collecting all three stars. Gameplay is easy enough for a three-year-old to learn, but the puzzles are difficult enough to be a challenge for all ages!

Price: $0.99

Pros:

  • Easy to learn
  • Smooth graphics and realistic physics
  • 250 levels and counting

Cons:

  • It doesn’t get much harder as you progress through the levels

We Reccomend: Try the free version. If you like the difficulty of the levels, get the paid version. For slightly more of a challenge, consider also buying Cut the Rope: Experiments.

Download Here

Links: Getting Started with Shorthand (En français aussi!)

UPDATE July 2015: Nous avons ajouté une section pour la sténographie française que vous trouverez en bas. 

Today, with the advent of computers and pocket recorders, shorthand has largely fallen out of popularity. But there are still some people, like me, who are just interested to find out what this lost art was like to use and have some fun along the way.

English:
If you’re interested in speed, you should probably try writing Pitman. The speed record for Pitman Shorthand is 322 words per minute, though it is probably the most difficult to learn on this list. It requires that some strokes be thicker and thinner, as it was meant to be used with a fountain pen, but the same can be achieved with a pencil and the correct technique. If you are interested here’s a website with all the basic principles, along with loads of links to other courses and websites: Long Live Pitman’s Shorthand!. Or you go straight to the full pdf manual.

Arguably the most popular of all shorthand systems is the Gregg system, at least in North America (the picture above is in Gregg). It does not require thick and thin strokes, nor does it distinguish between strokes on the line or above, so it can be written on blank sheets of paper. It’s also quite unique among shorthand systems by being very rounded and cursive-looking. It is only slightly slower than Pitman, with a record of 282 wpm. There are many versions of Gregg, the hardest and fastest being Pre-Anniversary (1916), and the slowest and easiest being Series 90 (1978). It is recommended that Simplified (1949) be for non-business use, and Anniversary (1929) for court reporters and such, though you can visit this website for in depth descriptions of all the system. Or you can go ahead and download a pdf manual for the 1929 Anniversary version.

Although there are many more systems, the last one I want to talk about here is Teeline. It is much slower than the other systems, but it is much easier to learn. It is very popular with people in the UK, and is used a lot by journalists there. Although it is rarely used above 140 wpm, most people find it adequate for everyday use. I myself have been learning it for about two weeks, and I can do about 30 wpm. Courses can be easily found in the UK, but it is difficult to find a course that teaches it for free online. However, there is an awesome pdf that covers pretty much all the basics.

Français:
J’ai experimenté un peu avec le système Duployé, créé en 1860 par Émile Duployé. Le manuel est ici. C’est un système assez simple à apprendre, mais moi je le trouve un peu laid. Il utilise beaucoup des cercles et des lignes droites, ce qui peut être difficile à garder lisible à haute vitesse. Par contre, c’est un système conçu spécialement pour le français, alors vous y trouverez beaucoup d’abréviations et trucs pour sauver du temps.

La sténographie Gregg était originalement créée pour la langue anglaise en 1888 par John Robert Gregg. C’est le système le plus célébré du monde, mais particulièrement dans les États-Unis (le système Pitman était plutôt utilisé dans le Royaume-Uni). Il y avait beaucoup des adaptations pour des autres langues et, bien que des systèmes originalement français, comme le Duployé, sont plus communs en France, la version française de Gregg avait de bon succès en Québec, où on avait besoin d’un système utile pour écrire en deux langues. La version que j’utilise est la version de R. J. Sénécal (manuel ici), publié en 1939. Cette version est très liée à la version Anniversary en anglais, qui était publié en 1929.

To practise speed with your shorthand, you’d probably have to try getting some dictation recordings, where people speak at a certain speed so you can write things down. Although there are not many available for download that are below 50 wpm, there is a YouTube channel that has a couple under 50, along with speeds up to 180 wpm. And there are many other systems as well! A great website I found that covers shorthand in general is www.shorthandshorthandshorthand.com. It focuses more on Gregg shorthand but provides links to lots of different alternative systems as well. And you can even find some dictation mp3 files too, so there you go!

Are you going to try learning shorthand. Or, if you already know shorthand, which method do you prefer? Tell us in the comments!

Review: Bejeweled iPhone App

One of my Christmas presents this year was a $15 App Store Card for iOS, so this will be just the tip of the iceberg for app reviews in the next month or so.

This app was my introduction to Bejeweled, and I’ve never played it on the computer. The gameplay is pretty smooth, and the retina display graphics are really rich. There are three modes: Classic, Zen, and Diamond Mine. Classic and Zen are basically the same game, but Zen has relaxing ambient sounds and stuff like that. Diamond Mine is a sort of digging game that’s really stressful, especially when the deep-voiced dude in the background says ’30 seconds’! My only complaint is that Blitz mode isn’t built in, so you’ll have to get that free app separately.

Price: $0.99

Pros:

  • Good graphics
  • Smooth gameplay
  • Diamond Mine mode is exciting, and Classic can keep you entertained for hours

Cons:

  • Basically only two modes of gameplay
  • Blitz mode not included

We Recommend: Buy this game to play the classic game of Bejeweled (which is pretty long depending on how good you are), or to try out Diamond Mine mode, but if you prefer shorter games, then just get the free Blitz version, which is perfectly adequate if you don’t mind one-minute games.

Review: Waterman Black Ink

Manufacturer: Waterman | List Price: $10.76 | Buy from Amazon

I originally wanted to do a fountain pen review, but that’s a little bit difficult as I only have one fountain pen so it’s hard to compare. Inks are a little easier, because you can see the differences in colour and tone on screen in an image:For those (mostly everyone but me) who can’t read my writing, the description says ‘A good ink for everyday use. It’s not very permanent, and it’s a little on the grey side. Other than that, a great ink for regular writing.’ The pen that I used was a Lamy Safari with a medium nib and the paper was just regular Staples copy paper. I couldn’t think of much to do with the ink, and if you want to see me torture the ink in any other way, I’d be happy to try it out. Just say so in the comments!

Score: 3.5/5

List Price: $10.76 | Buy from Amazon