Photo Credit: Anna Pedersen | Comics Artist

There are better ways to procrastinate than mindlessly swiping fruit with your finger. A variety of iPhone and Android apps provide a portal into fascinating scientific research. Even the laziest emoji-users can contribute to important advances in research in the time it would take to play one round of Angry Birds.

For those looking to explore the heavens, the basic Star Chart app on the App Store is an easy shortcut. It provides a free view and explanation of the constellations in the sky on a given night. Users can pay extra to view meteor showers, comets and satellites.

Those who want to test their astronomy knowledge should check out the app Pocket Universe. Users can deploy Pocket Universe to identify stars and planets in the area or take advantage of the app’s quizzes on planets, stars and constellations. The free NASA app keeps viewers up to date on the latest news in space exploration and
provides stunning images from NASA missions. 

The Milky Way is interesting, but there are other projects closer to home. With the iNaturalist app, users record pictures and locations of wildlife, which scientists can use to track changes in the habitats of different species. The app Project Noah centers around the same idea, but users follow or design specific projects. For example, the “Keep Austin Wild” project aims to document and share pictures of animals, plants and fungi in the Austin area.

Students don’t have to go outdoors to contribute to science. Many games are available for those who prefer to sit under the bright fluorescent lights of their favorite UT buildings. Reverse the Odds is a game that helps humanity in a way Candy Crush never will. Users play puzzle games that incorporate magnified samples of real tumor tissues and answer questions that help scientists learn more about cancer treatments. 

There are also many entertaining games that bolster a player’s basic scientific intuition but don’t necessarily contribute to research. Check out the addicting game Little Alchemy. Players combine four starter fundamentals — fire, air, earth and water — into more and more complicated concepts, such as diamonds, bacteria and chickens. In the game Spore Origins, players design and grow an organism into a civilization. These games help users learn without realizing they’re learning.  

The stereotype of the old scientist sitting in a lab doing research by himself is dead. The field is open to anyone who is interested, curious and ready to explore the unknown from the comfort of their own screens.

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Instead of binging on Netflix or playing video games this summer, radio-television-film sophomore Oliver Reznik taught himself how to code. 

“I was just kind of bored most of the time, so I decided I’d learn some kind of valuable skill,” Reznik said. “I learned how to code and make iPhone games.”

Reznik created the app Circle Storm in his dorm room last month. Circle Storm is his second game to be accepted onto the iTunes App Store and a sequel to his first game, Circle Assault. He said each of his apps had to go under a 10-day review to be accepted into the store. ITunes did not accept his first ever submission, a utility that changed the color of the phone screen.

“If it’s your first app and you didn’t really put too much effort in making it look nice or work nice, and it crashes all of the time — they won’t put it on the store,” he said. “If it functions fine and it actually has a function, they’ll put it on.” 

Between Circle Storm and Circle Assault, there have been more than 2,000 downloads of Reznik’s games. In Circle Storm, the object of the game is to avoid hitting the red circles by tapping the screen and reversing the direction of the main black circle. In a way, the game is the opposite of ping pong — instead of hitting the circles with the object, the objective is to avoid hitting the circles. Adam Peptinger, mechanical engineering sophomore and Reznik’s roommate, said he likes the game because of its fast pace. 

“You have to think quickly,” Peptinger said. “It’s simple in concept, but it’s unique every time you play it.” 

Before releasing either of the games to the public, Reznik enlisted the help of Peptinger. Peptinger would play the games and give Reznik suggestions.

“I was kind of like a guinea pig,” Peptinger said.”Some of the suggestions I gave made it into the game, but some of them I’m still pestering [Reznik] about.” 

Reznik said his skills as a filmmaker have helped him in learning how to code mobile games. 

“When you’re making a film, you have to be concerned about how the audience is feeling, and that’s basically the same thing with games,” Reznik said. “In that regard, that’s kind of a translation of skill between the two disciplines.” 

Sarah Abraham, computer science graduate student and creator of Akula Games, said making iPhone apps was, at first, just to teach herself iOS development. She said having these apps has helped her contract for other companies and make contacts. 

“I personally found that having a completed app published on the App Store gave me a lot of credibility to companies and clients,” Abraham said.  

Reznik agrees that learning how to code has created opportunities for his true goal — becoming a writer and director of feature films. Although he plans to pursue film, he wants to expand his skills in the coding arena and create more types of programs. 

“Ultimately, that’s where my passion lies, but I do really enjoy making game projects and other sorts of software projects,” Reznik said. “I’m looking into that as a sort of way to make ends meet as I set my goals as a filmmaker.”

After working more hours than they could count outside of class, four student groups presented finished iPhone apps they had developed over the course of one semester. 

The project is part of a cross-disciplinary course led by journalism lecturer Robert Quigley and mobile developer Jeff Linwood.

“We have mixed teams of journalism and computer science students,” Quigley said. “They come from different worlds, and they were thrown into these teams on the very first day of class. They had to learn how to work together; they had to learn how to deal with differences in opinions, how to deal with differences in how they approach things, and it’s been a great experience.”

Journalism senior Adam Beard was one of the creators of Game Plan, an app that lets the user know about tailgate, party, and restaurant events on UT game days. Beard said though the process was difficult, they eventually came up with a product they were happy with, and their efforts were rewarded when they found out in early April that Game Plan would be put in the App Store.

“We had just three months to put together the idea and everything, none of us had ever heard of X-Code, Objective C, Parse, at least I hadn’t heard of any of that,” Beard said. “All of our computer science students, this was their first year taking classes in the computer science school, so we were all very young, very fresh, so we did have a lot of problems in terms of putting everything together, but we did do it.” 

Computer science senior Jung Yoon’s team created Weathervain, an app that tells the user what clothing to wear based on the weather that day. Weathervain received the “Best Overall App” award at the end of the event. According to Yoon, Linwood and Quigley gave the students a lot of freedom in working on their apps.

“It’s very much an independent study kind of class. [Linwood] is the coding aficionado, and if you have questions he’ll answer them, but you’re mostly supposed to learn by yourself,” Yoon said. 

Yoon said the journalism students in her group performed an important task through research and social outreach, in order to make their app unique and user friendly.

Computer science junior Elena Carrasco was one of the developers of Sono, an audio recording app that allows the user to mark and annotate certain points of the recordings. Carrasco said while the app was originally designed with journalists in mind, it can be used for any situation. 

“As a student, I would be able to use this in a lecture,” Carrasco said. “I can go to a review for an exam, I can mark every answer a professor provides, I can share my file with Jenny, Jenny can pull it up later and go to the exact mark that I put so she can easily find what I found important in the recording.”

Apple uncovered not one, but two new iPhone models Tuesday in Cupertino, Calif. On top of the new iPhone lineup, Apple also unveiled a 64-bit A7 processor, and a fingerprint-detecting home button.

Apple’s latest appeal for consumer attention comes amidst a power vacuum in the mobile device market. With competitors like Samsung and Microsoft fervently vying for a bigger piece of the market-share pie, Apple is in dire need of a splash to sustain its historical success. Aside from improved battery life and Android-bashing jokes, Apple CEO Tim Cook highlighted some promising new features.

To capture a wider range of customers, Apple simultaneously introduced the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C models. While the matte iPhone 5S will be marketed as a higher end device with a starting price of $199, the “unapologetically” plastic iPhone 5C will target consumers with a tighter budget. Rather than continue to sell older iPhone 5 models at a discount price, Apple will now market the iPhone 5C as its cheapest smartphone product with a price tag of $99. Both devices will go on sale starting Sept. 20. 

Color is another notable aspect of the new iPhone sub-generation. The plastic iPhone 5C will sport four vibrantly colored backsides and support an equally bright set of Apple-designed cases. The iPhone 5S will be available in silver, gold and “space gray.”  It should bring a more glitzy charm to an older product design.  

iOS7, the new native operating system for the iPhone, will now support a 64-bit processor. This is a fairly big talking point for Apple, since no other smartphone can boast this kind of processing “oomph.” But in the context of mobile devices, the 64-bit A7 processor might be overkill. For consumers not playing graphics-intensive games or switching furiously between apps, the increased RAM capacity a 64-bit chipset affords is not that big of a deal.

The A7 chipset will, however, assist in other more crucial functions of the iPhone 5S, particularly the “Touch ID.” This thumb-scanning software is built right into the home button Apple fans are familiar with, and will make security a more fluid experience for mobile users. Purchasing a new song or simply logging onto the iPhone device will now be validated with touch of a user’s fingerprint.

When it comes to innovation, smartphone design is quickly drying up. But Apple does bring some important improvements to its mobile products. Among them is the camera, which now possesses an expanded aperture, a slow-motion capture mode and an M7 motion processor for measuring acceleration and gestural data.

In terms of software, Keynote, Pages and Numbers are now all free apps on iOS7. These will make their debut on the iPad when iOS7 is released for free Sept. 18.

Is there really anything here to set the iPhone apart from its competition? Probably not. Sales of the new iPhone sub-generation will act as a litmus test for Cook and may suggest the future success of Apple in the mobile device market. 

Apple’s iOS 7 is a game-changer for the smart phone. While many doubted that it was possible, Tim Cook and his crew over in Cupertino breathed new life into
the iPhone.

In mid-June, Apple officially announced iOS 7, the refresh of the iPhone operating system. While previous iPhone operating system updates have only seen incremental changes to phone operation, the seventh iteration is the most radically different system update thus far.

What sets iOS 7 apart from previous releases is that it delivers more of a visually appealing display, while making it easier and more intuitive for the user. When you are on the home screen, swiping up from the bottom of the screen will bring up “Control Center,” which allows the user to toggle on or off a multitude of settings. Control Center also has brightness and volume sliders, as well as a dedicated camera button and a flashlight application. When you tilt the home screen, the background moves as a separate layer from your apps, giving a three-dimensional view.

Adding to the new visuals is a slimmer font and newly redesigned application icons. Jony Ive, the head of hardware and software design at Apple, worked with the Apple marketing team in redesigning the application icons, which seemed to be more congruent with the visual language of Apple’s advertising campaigns. Apple has also done away with the “skeuomorphism” that Steve Jobs loved, which is where applications mimic the appearance of real world objects such as a notepad or rolodex. 
Outside of the visual refresh, Apple has also added minor changes to the operating system, making the user experience less tedious. Among these changes is the ability to automatically update your applications in the background, which is a refreshing change. You no longer have to go into the Application Store and press “update all” every day. Another addition is the ability to have an unlimited amount of apps in a folder. While this seems like a no-brainer, Apple had previously capped the folders at 12 applications.

Apple also launched “iTunes Radio” with iOS 7, which is its version of Pandora Radio. With it, you are able to purchase any song through iTunes directly on your phone.

Can Apple take back some of the mobile phone market share with iOS 7? Only time will tell. The changes Apple decides to make with the inevitable iPhone 5S will determine whether or not they can truly compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the HTC One, which both run their own unique, skinned versions of the Android operating system.

Jessica Schwartz a memeber of winning team JMASTR presents the iPhone App - Glos Guide in the Demo Day for UT Apps Development Class on a Saturday afternoon. Five teams pitched mobile product ideas and built them for a journalsim class led by Professor Robert Quigley and entrepreneur Joshua McClure.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s Mobile News App Design class held a Demo Day Saturday afternoon in the Belo Center for New Media to showcase five iPhone apps the class has created over the course of the semester.

The class, taught and created by senior journalism lecturer Robert Quigley, divided a mix of journalism and computer science students into five groups and asked them to create a mobile news app. Quigley said the students’ excitement about the concept of the class fueled their creations.

“There was some cross-learning going on, which was one of the goals of having this class,” Quigley said. “I hope this class got the journalism students excited about the possibilities of technology and I hope the computer science students have a new understanding of communications.”

During the Demo Day, each group was given an opportunity to come before a panel of judges including Wanda Cash, associate director of the UT School of Journalism; Debbie Hiott, editor of the Austin American Statesman; Rodney Gibbs of the Texas Tribune; Carmen Cano of Dallas Morning News; Gerald Bailey, co-founder of Snakehead Software and Christopher Visit, co-owner of Frank+Victor Design. Quigley selected the media judges and Josh McClure, an Austin iPhone developer who worked with the class in their app development throughout the semester, chose the tech judges. 

The app to win Best Overall App was “Glos Guide for Journalists,” a mobile style reference guide. The “Glos” team began its presentation by asking volunteers to look through a traditional hard copy of the AP Style guide and “Glos,” and find the rule concerning the capitalization of cardinal directions. 

“The activity showcased the timesaving efficiency of ‘Glos,’” said Ryan Niemann, computer science senior and Glos team member.

“‘Glos’ saves journalists time and money because they no longer have to go through the slow process of searching through a bulky paper catalog to find information about journalistic style,” Niemann said. “They no longer have to pay for an expensive hardcopy of a style guide–they can purchase ‘Glos’ for only ninety-nine cents.”

Pxljam,” a photo-sharing app intended to connect music lovers to their favorite artists and concert experiences, won both the award for “Best Design” and “Best Commercial Value.” “PicBook,” an app that allows its users to create digital scrapbooks, was deemed “Most Original.” “Prix-Party,” an event-guide for F1 racing in Austin, was awarded “Best Presentation.”  

Journalism and Portuguese senior Meleena Loseke worked to develop “nerv,” an app designed to make local news and hotspots easily accessible to travelers, and said the cohesion of the groups was important in the class’s creations. 

“No matter if we were creating code for the app or coming up with communication initiatives, Quigley stressed that we were each considered a ‘developer,’” Loseke said. “This experience has taught me that teams can accomplish some pretty incredible things if each member plays to his or her own strengths, which my team did.”

1.) The lines: Normally, when you find yourself spending more than 45 minutes standing next to complete strangers with strong opinions in a long, winding line, you are either waiting to buy an iPhone or attend a Lynyrd Skynrd concert. On Election Day, you’re about to participate in American democracy, which, unlike the previous two options, is free to all citizens.

2.) The free sticker: Put it on your shirt, your backpack, your phone; hell, stick it on your forehead and wear it for the remainder of the fiscal year.  Things haven’t changed much since kindergarten, and an authority figure giving you a free sticker still speaks volumes about your value as a human being. (Hint: It means you’re better than everyone else.)  

3.) You like feeling like you’re taking a midterm you haven’t studied for: Maybe you’re a genius who always marks the right answer on the test, and you long to experience, just once, that feeling of not knowing which box should be checked. As the election workers will tell you, we’ve got a long ballot this year, full of races you’ve heard of and ones you haven’t heard of. Unless you bring a cheat sheet, it will only take a few clicks for you to experience that precious “what-the-****-is-this-question-asking” feeling that you’ve been missing out on.

4.) You enjoy feeling like you’re back in kindergarten: On the other hand, every race is color-coded, so just pick the color you like best. (I think they might be affiliated with political parties? I just clicked on the color that complemented my outfit.)

5.) To cast a vote for Paul Sadler for U.S. Senate: It’s like the time you tried out for American Idol despite knowing that your singing voice sounds like the meow of a dying cat. It’s never going to happen, but isn’t it cute that you tried?

6.) To cast a vote for Proposition 1: All the cool kids are totes voting for Proposition 1, bro. Because medical schools are LEGIT. What, do you live under a rock?


7.) To try to find the effective difference between Proposition 3 and Proposition 4: Nope. Can’t. Still trying.

8.) To make friends with a retiree: As soon as you make it to the front of the line and meet the election volunteers, you’ll realize that the only people who still care deeply about the foundations of our democracy are people from your grandparents’ generation. I hope you washed the back of your ears and registered in the proper county.

9.) To have something to live-tweet: It’s difficult to find the right situation in which to bombard your unwitting Twitter followers with unwanted tweets. That’s why the election’s so valuable — for democracy and for your online ego. Tweet, baby, tweet — your followers need to hear it.

10.) To get laid: Nothing’s hotter than civic engagement, and there’s no better place to try out your political pick-up lines than while in line to participate in politics. Try the following gems:

“Obama’s policies may have left me broke, but I’ve still got the money to take you to dinner.”

“Hey, girl. Romney and Ryan aren’t the only ones who want to over-regulate your lady parts.”

“I’m a libertarian because no government entity can control me in the bedroom.”

- Wright is a Plan II and biology junior.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

It is risen.

Technocrats everywhere burst into digital chants of joy Wednesday afternoon as Apple finally announced the long-awaited iPhone 5 in a keynote at their Silicon Valley headquarters. The new iPhone, marketed as “the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone”, is slightly thinner and lighter than its previous iterations and features a vertically longer screen. It welcomes key improvements over the iPhone 4S such as 4G LTE technology, a new Apple A6 processing chip, and a brand-new charging system dubbed “Lightning”.

Different from the 30-pin charging setup currently used on iPads, iPhones, and iPods, Lightning is an all digital, simplified, and thinner charger– 80% smaller than previous ones. Meant to match the smaller size of the new iPhone, Lightning also promises an improved durability and reversibility which users of the current charger will surely appreciate. Apple is also offering a $30 Lightning adapter to current Apple users with 30-pin cables, so as to reduce clutter from several cords and increase adaptability.

Early adapters and later consumer waves can expect an improved web-browsing experience with the phone’s 4G LTE chip, which, combined with the phone’s CDMA chip, is a breakthrough simplification that would make Steve Jobs proud. Meaning “long term evolution”, LTE is a step up from already zippy 4G technology that the iPhones 4 and 4S featured. Apple boasts faster connection speeds with LTE than a home’s wifi connection. However, while LTE is certainly an improvement, data speeds will also depend on service providers and their network’s coverage.

Along with the iPhone, Apple unleashed a new processing chip, the A6. According to Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield, “[the chip] delivers performance up to two times faster than the previous processor,” to be noted especially when using apps with high frame rates and/or heavy graphics loaded with detail. Efficiency is also stressed, as the improved performance of the processor does not come at the expense of battery life. This appeases app aficionados, who would never want to compromise portability with decreased power supply.

The overall handle-ability of the phone remains relatively user-friendly. Although it is longer the iPhone’s width remains the same, making it easy to keep a grip and type with one hand whilst having an increased display space to keep sight on the phone’s operations. The design does not change much, keeping the aluminum unibody style with the glass screen front. The back of the phone has a lightly textured feel to it, catering to slippery hands and distracted grips. And iOS 6, the new software that the iPhone 5 will carry (available for download September 19) promises to integrate with the iPhone seamlessly, something Apple has a proven track record with and keeps pursuing. Another integration is Apple’s own Maps application, which shies away from working with Google Maps. That as well as the seeming lack of a Youtube app out-of-the-box is the latest move in Apple’s separation from Google; a separation whose result is yet to be seen.

Whatever it may be, the competition will undoubtedly yield some interesting products. For now, those enchanted by the iPhone 5 can pre-order the device on Apple’s website, to be shipped and released to the public on September 21. Three major carriers, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, will offer the phone with a base price of $199 for a 16GB model. New, yes. Innovative, kind of. With the iPhone 5, Apple pulls all the expected stops for a new device: the faster processor, lighter design, bigger screen, and even some whose benefit other than a change of style, is yet to be determined- Lightning. Nevertheless, the iPhone seems to fall short of Apple’s usual role in breaking ground around the world’s technoscape. Maybe shying away from the ridiculous vanity in “the biggest thing to happen to the iPhone since iPhone” and thinking outside their well-designed box would help the bitten fruit folks in California get back on track. In the end, the iPhone 5 is just another hand-sized slate that will be obsolete and forgotten in a couple of years.

I’m always looking for the next opportunity to sit on my laurels. That’s why, when a casual glance at the ol’ iPhone revealed that I had received an e-mail from the Delta Psi Chapter of the Phi Sigma Pi honors fraternity, I felt my heart go aflutter at the invitation to engage in a “fusion of scholarship, leadership, and fellowship.” I, like any student with “outstanding academic achievement[s],” know that the kind of people who use the word “fusion” in reference to something other than cuisine are the kind of people I want to hang out with. They, like me, purchased a $2.99 word-of-the-day app over a year ago, which they have not once opened.

Anxious to seize this exciting new opportunity to feel better about that time I played video games instead of doing my homework, I read on rapaciously. “Phi Sigma Pi is an active campus organization,” I read. Good. I don’t want any of those non-active, sluggish organizations dragging down my schedule of extracurricular activities. Phi Sigma Pi also, the e-mail informs me, supports the quality of “brotherhood.” Hmm … as a woman, I’ve never longed for “brotherhood,” but no matter, I have an awesome GPA, and as a student with an awesome GPA, I can only look to join organizations that praise my awesome GPA. The brothers of Phi Sigma Pi are also excited to meet my friends, the e-mail joyously informs me! I don’t like this part of the e-mail, actually, as the implication that my friends are also eligible to join Phi Sigma Pi opens up the possibility that I will not be able to lord my membership over them.

Wait. What’s this? My inbox is crowded with nine, no twenty — twenty more replies to Phi Sigma Pi’s electronic courtship! Messages, maybe, from fellow intelligent brethren looking for a special organization that they can pay special dues to? Or maybe missives from other students with e-mail signatures that exaggerate their job descriptions? Long-lost late-night procrastinators looking for friends to ‘study’ with in the PCL? Wait, these are remove me from your list requests? My jaw drops. I am flabbergasted. Are there students un-enticed by the siren call of Phi Sigma Pi?

An angry reply-all-er claims that over 50 percent of students are eligible for membership. But I, I was invited to apply to Phi Sigma Pi, honors fraternity. Wait — my future fraternity fights back! One zealous e-mailer and Phi Sigma Pi defender spits back that only 19,000 students were e-mailed. Phew. I heave a sigh of relief as my ego scabs over. I knew I was special.

Wright is a Biology and Plan II junior from San Antonio.

When students can’t find the words to express themselves in a Facebook status update or text message, an iPhone application created by a UT alumna could be the solution.

Founder and CEO of Blurtt Jeanette Cajide, a 1998 UT alumna, launched the iPhone application Blurtt in March. The Blurtt application combines text with an image that allows people to create their own meme or share their thoughts through a picture to share on social networks.

“You find an image that comes to your mind that says what you want to say and look for it on Blurtt, put a caption on the image and share it within Blurtt,” Cajide said.

Cajide said the popular “memes” that have spread across college campuses nationwide can be created with this application.

“If you’re into memes you can create something really quick in less than a minute on your phone and share it,” Cajide said. “It’d be interesting to get the pulse of sentiments of each campus.”

Blurtt allows students to more easily be as creative and expressive as possible, Cajide said.

“There are so many highs and lows all day long, and every day is eventful,” Cajide said. “I would love for students to use it to express what they’re going through and not hold back.”

Public relations junior Ashley Bingham said Blurtt is a natural continuation of the popularity of memes.

“People love memes because everyone can relate in some way,” Bingham said. “Creating an app to create these meme-like pictures allows for even more ‘bonding’ between people.”

Bingham said the idea of combining pictures and words is no longer just for talented artists, but for everyone.

Government sophomore Ben Sherman, publicity director for the University Entrepreneur’s Association, said he hopes Cajide’s success serves as inspiration for potential entrepreneurs.

“Entrepreneurship is an even more essential skill in a world where a phone application is a business,” Sherman said. “Cajide’s success shows that students can successfully start companies when they dedicate themselves to the task.”

Cajide’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs on campus is to start as soon as possible when they have fewer responsibilities.

“We’re living in a society where we have to follow rules and we have to break out of that mentality,” Cajide said. “If this is really in your heart, do whatever it takes to make it happen, and don’t listen to anyone that says you have to go down the practical road because innovation is not practical.”