Review: XBMC Remote for iPhone


[rating: 3.5/5]

I love my modded Xbox with XBMC. I still believe it is the best and cheapest digital media system that you can get to this date. Until AppleTV can natively run movies in multi format of course.

When hear that XBMC Remote is available on Apple App Store I was so excited and tried to accept the $5 price tag that makes it a middle-priced for an iPhone/iPhone app. I bougth it anyway in the end and hoping it can really work like Apple’s Remote app to control iTunes/AppleTV.

Review Note
A little breakdown on my current system: I use the latest XBMC build by T3CH. I previously used a very old version of XBMC which could not work with this app. More on this below. My Xbox has just a little over 1,000 songs on its library. A IR-receiver is plugged on one of the controller jack and I regularly use my Logitech Harmony remote to control it.
Another thing, I understand this is a very early release so I am sure with a few more updates this app will be a lot better.

Like all iPhone app from App Store, installation was a breeze. Just click buy and the app will be downloaded and installed on your iPhone. You also need to turn on Web Server function on your XBMC, details provided here.

First Try
On my case after I set everything up, I was having a frustrating time because I could not make the remote work even though it could connect to my XBMC. The app FAQ page just did not give enough information of what to do to solve this. At the end I decided to upgrade my XBMC and it worked.

It is definitely inspired by Apple’s Remote app for iTunes. All the buttons are nicely done, album cover thumbnails are slow to load but this is something that will be updated on the next release.

I am going to be super honest here, the performance is not exactly the way that I had hoped for. Everything feels lagging, like when I choose a song it may take a few seconds before it starts playing. Worse, when I click on Songs tab and click Shuffle it will make the app and Xbox freeze and if I am lucky it will start playing a few minutes later. I understand this can be the limitations on my Xbox’s power as XBMC is not only limited for Xbox only but also available on Mac and Linux which may have better processor and memory. But then again this should be something that is mentioned on their product page, considering this is not a free nor a beta version.

Apart from the lack of information on their website, support is something that the developer’s put attention to. They provided forums for people to ask questions and give suggestion. They are also quite responsive when I emailed them regarding my problems.

For $5 I feel this app is a bit overpriced, considering similar app was already developed a year ago for jailbroken iPhone. Maybe I am being too subjective here, but $5 also feels hefty because everything else about XBMC are community-maintained and free.

If you have an Xbox with XBMC and use it a lot, it is nice to be able to browse through your libraries without needing to turn on your TV. If you have a huge music library and need to keep it organized and sync with your iTunes, maybe buying an AppleTV is a better option.

Review: Shopify

Shopify - a shop in minutes, a business for life


[rating: 4.5/5]

A shop in minutes, a business for life. JadedPixel, developer of Shopify, is certainly not exaggerating its tagline, you really can set up your online store in minutes.

It all started a year ago. I had zero experience on working with e-commerce system. I always thought it had to be customized by someone who had absolute knowledge of programming that supports the system, whether it was PHP, ASP, anything. Surprisingly, it only took a few days to fully understand how the themes work and I could create a customized theme in a few days. Note, you can start building your online shop using the provided default themes.

Just like stated above, it is super easy to learn and create a new theme. It uses its own Liquid templatling system for dynamic content, but believe me it is easy to understand. Of course you still definitely need to have at least an understanding of (x)HTML, CSS and basic programming algorithm.

You only need to modify 6 or 7 theme files and one CSS file, compared to dozens on most of other similar systems. Worth to note, it is also convenient to add a customized JavaScript modules without interfering with the rest of system most of the time

Backend Admin
This is also one of the biggest point why we love it so much. The look and feel is very clean. AJAX support makes it possible to drag and drop to sort your products.

Shopify's Admin interface screenshot

Shopify's Admin interface screenshot

The first place you need to go when you are experiencing any problem or bug is their forums which can be a good or a bad thing. The good thing is there are so many nice and skilled people on the community that will gladly share their knowledge and help you out. The bad thing, you just sometimes need a direct respond and explanations from the developers and it may take a while to get their attention.

Shopify is growing along with your business. There are countless updates and new features that have been added since the first time we use it, and they plan to keep on doing it. Although there are some features that we wish they should have added, but not yet. They listen to their customers, so I am sure one day they will be added.

Shopify offers a very unique pricing. You only pay a very reasonable monthly fee plus a small percentage of your transaction fee (ranging from 0.5% to 2%). This makes sense, if you want to start your first online business you possibly do not want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollar each month. You can check their detailed pricing plans here.

Final Words
I have worked partially with other systems since then, nothing is as simple as Shopify. It really stands with its concept, to make everything as easy as possible. For a small and medium business, Shopify is perfect! But if you need more detailed features like bulk shipping update, more flexible coupon code creation options or customer membership, you might have to wait until they include them to the system.