Category: Top Fives
iPhone – Top Five Christmas Apps
Christmas songs are all over the radio, mince pies are stacked high in Tesco's and you've started whacking your thermals on before you get into bed for the night . Yep, the festive season is officially in full swing.
Go "Tank Paintballing" for under £100 thanks to IWOOT
What do you get the person who has everything? A day of tank-warfare perhaps?
Top five vintage tech gadgets that need reviving – Dansette, Psion Five, Squarial and more
This got the Tech Digest team thinking. What other great brands and products from the past are worth reviving? So here are five that we think ought to be given a second chance. We certainly aren't saying that you should ditch your Blu-ray for a Betamax, but given the right techy makeover these products could be very now.
This week's top five tech movers – IWOOT, LG and a tough call for #1
It's Friday, which means that we round up the top five winners in tech for this week, as well as the biggest loser. Once again we have some hot gadgets and cool new websites, but which is going to take top spot?
Easy image manipulation software: five of the best
1. Adobe Photoshop Elements [PC / Mac]
There’s no denying that the various flavours of Photoshop contain some very advanced features, but in fact it’s possible to do basic image and photo editing and manipulation plus a range of “fancy” things without a whole lot of training.
Photoshop Elements is a cut-down version of the full-blown package which means it doesn’t have as many features but it’s also cheaper. In fact, it often comes bundled with digital cameras.
Get to grips with the basics of Photoshop Elements and you may well find yourself wanting to delve deeper into its powerful tools.
Ease of use: 3/5
Price: Latest version around £60, may be bundled. PC / Mac
5 reasons to switch to Linux
Struggling along on your Windows-based PC and considering moving over to Linux?
Here are five reasons why you should make the switch.
1. Lots of free software available
If your PC doesn’t already have a Linux distro (the geek cool name for a particular distributed version of the operating system) installed on it, and you’re a tech-head then you can generally get the Linux operating system itself for free
If you want support and instructions on setting it up you can pay a software company for this.
However, once it’s set up and running, you’ll find a wide variety of useful software packages already available that will let you do pretty much anything you’re likely to want to do.
It’s true that there are more versions of Linux available than of Windows or Mac OS X, but you can find out more about the user-friendly Ubuntu flavour of Linux in Duncan’s How to get all the music and software you want for free and legally talk…
Top five April Fool's Day stories
Now that it’s gone midday, we’ll give up on the fake news and go back to the real deal. Before that, though, I wanted to salute a few of the better April Fool’s Day stories from around the web this morning.
5) Guardian now only available on Twitter
4) Moo.com’s super-eco-friendly business cards
3) Warner Bros. acquires the Pirate Bay
2) LoveFilm removes all french-made and french-language films
1) Bigfoot discovered in Windows 7
Have you got a favourite? Email it to us. We want to see it.
Top five dream digital music partnerships
This morning, Spotify and 7digital announced a ‘strategic partnership’ that’ll let Spotify users click straight through to buying MP3s on 7digital. Although I’ve awarded both of them an official Tech Digest badge of awesomeness in the past, the tie-up isn’t much more than the sum of its parts. Let’s have a look at five other dream partnerships that could really rock the world of digital music.
Pink Floyd and Guitar Hero
Once, not long ago, that would have read “The Beatles”, but the Fab Four’s estates have now given the thumbs up to Beatles Rock Band, so the net has to be cast a little wider. There are still a few digital standouts – most notably Pink Floyd but also Led Zeppelin – that haven’t worked very much with the Guitar Hero or Rock Band developers.
Other holdouts – Metallica, Tool and AC/DC have reneged on their digital hesitancy to get more heftily involved with the series. Tool provided artwork and several songs to Guitar Hero: World Tour, and Metallica are producing their own version of the game.
Top of my list, though, is Pink Floyd. As a massive fan of The Division Bell, I can’t think of anything more awesome than twiddling my way through “Coming Back to Life”. Blasting through ‘Money’ on bass in 7/4 time.
Major labels and Bittorrent
This might be a bit of a contentious one, and it’s probably the least likely of the lot, but it’s also the one that could prove the most fruitful. The major labels have the content cracked – the one thing people don’t say about them is that they have bad taste in bands – and Bittorrent is one of the most efficient distribution systems that there is.
If a major label set up a subscription-based Bittorrent tracker, where for £5 or a month or equivalent people were free to download and share playlists of as much as they like of that label’s content, then there’d be umpteen different benefits for the label.
Firstly, people in the community would emerge as tastemakers, who’d be great for the label working out which acts can sink or swim. Secondly, they’d not have to worry about distribution at all – the more popular an act, the faster everyone’s downloads would be. Lastly, they could easily track the relative popularity of different bands and allocate the revenues accordingly.
Audiosurf and Mobile Phones
Last year, I met with a senior staff member at Namco Mobile over my allegations that ‘mobile games are almost always awful’ – a view that I generally still hold. We had a good chat, and respectfully differed on a few things. But then I told him that he should convert Audiosurf to mobile.
He looked confused – ‘what’s Audiosurf?’. I explained that it’s a game where you load in whatever MP3s you like, and then it generates a track for you based on that song, where fast bits slope downhill, slow bits slope uphill and obstructions appear in time with the beat. You then race along the course, picking up blocks and lining them up in a grid.
It’s basically a bit like iTunes playing Tetris at WipEout. It’s absolutely perfect for mobile – short games, low graphics requirements, and global high scores uploaded via internet connections. Plus that compulsive ‘must beat the high score’ factor that’s seen me listen to far more Girls Aloud songs than anyone ever should.
If you want to see what I’m on about, then the game costs just £6, and there’s a free demo available too. Go check it out, and then think of how cool that’d be to play on the bus.
Ninjam and Freesound
Thanks to @filiphnizdo for the tip on this one, because I wasn’t aware of the awesome-looking Ninjam until this afternoon. It’s crazy collaboration software that lets musicians jam with each other.
Think that’ll result in a latency mess? You’d be right, except that it delays the playback of your tracks to other musicians until the end of a bar. You’re playing along, therefore, with what the other musicians were playing during the last bar. As a result, it doesn’t work so well for pop music, but works brilliantly for more ‘jam’-y genres like jazz and post-rock.
Freesound, on the other hand, is a database of samples with creative commons licenses that anyone can use. A tie-up between the two, therefore, would be fantastic for the creation of sample-laden, gently evolving tracks – a bit like Lemon Jelly or Boards of Canada. It’s got to be moddable into the software, right?
Spotify and Last.fm
But I’ve saved my absolute favourite for last. A tie-up between Spotify and Last.fm, with the former supplying music and the latter supplying the social network and recommendations functionality, would be the best thing since sliced bread.
Spotify knows this, and founder Daniel Ek has publicly stated that he’d love to license Last.fm’s recommendations engine. Last.fm’s weakness is that it doesn’t do much in the way of full-track on-demand streaming. Spotify’s is that it doesn’t do radio very well. Surely, a match made in heaven.
Will we ever see it? Despite Spotify’s advances, Last.fm has been a little tight-lipped on the subject. Part of that is that it’s got its own problems to deal with at the moment. Part of that might also be that it thinks it can replicate Spotify’s functionality itself without their help. Whether that’s true or not, Spotify has the buzz right now – and Last.fm doesn’t. You can’t disregard that factor.
What would be your dream matchup? Drop us an email – [email protected] – and tell us, and we’ll showcase the best of your suggestions in a future post.
Top 5: Tips to make your mobile phone battery last longer
I always run out of phone battery at the most inopportune moments. Like just as my mum calls me, so she then thinks I’m avoiding her calls, or just as a lost friend is trying to track me down on a busy street.
Well, I’ve had enough, goddamnit. From now on, I’m going to make sure that my battery’s always in tip-top condition. Here’s how I’m going to do it:
One: Switch off features you don’t use
Seriously, how often do you use Bluetooth? Even if you use a headset on the go, you’re probably sat at a computer for a good proportion of your day, when having Bluetooth on is a waste of time. If you just turn it on when you need it, you can save a massive whack of battery life.
While we’re at it, there’s also 3G (do you need your email checked every minute? even overnight?), GPS, Wi-Fi and screen brightness. Turning them all down or off when you’re not using them could double your battery life in one fell swoop.
Two: Don’t let it run out totally before recharging
With Ni-MH batteries, it’s good to let them drain properly before charging them again, thanks to ‘battery memory’, but most cellphone batteries these days use Li-Ion batteries instead. These don’t suffer from the same problem, and can in fact be damaged by letting them go flat.
For best results, charge your phone when it gets to about 30% remaining. Think of the extra capacity as backup. Then, when you’re stuck in a situation where you can’t charge easily, like a festival, you’ll have maximum possible battery life.
Three: Don’t carry it around in your pocket
Turns out that carrying your phone around in your pocket is actually pretty bad for battery life, because you’ve got hot legs. By you, I mean “humans”, not specifically you, though your legs are rather hot. *cough*. Ahem.
Lifehacker suggests that it’s much better to keep batteries as cool as possible – meaning in your bag or jacket, or even on a belt clip. If you want to go overboard, keep your phone in the fridge at night, or just, y’know, turn it off.
Four: Turn it off when there’s no signal
While we’re talking about turning the phone off, turn it off when you go on the tube or metro, or if you’re going somewhere that you know has low signal issues. The lower the network availability, the harder the phone chip has to work to get a usable signal, so the more battery it uses.
For the same reason, if you know you have to call someone, do it somewhere with good signal, oh, and keep it short. No yapping about whether or not your friend saw Neighbors last night. Save that for the pub. It sounds harsh, but think of the hours of battery life you’ll get in return.
Five: Cycle your spares, and don’t store them with a full charge
Lastly, if you’re serious about batteries then you’ll almost certainly be carrying around a spare for emergencies. Don’t just use one and keep the other as a spare, or when it comes time to plug in the spare, it’ll be dead. Instead, rotate which battery you use every couple of months or so.
Don’t keep the spare fully charged up. A full charge puts too much strain on the terminals, and can damage it if it’s kept full for a long time. If you carry the spare around with you all the time, then keep it charged about 70-80%, but if not then keep it at 30% or so and in the fridge (not freezer). Then just charge it up when you think you’ll need it – if you’re going to a festival, for example.
So there you go. My tips for making your batteries able to make it through two months before needing a recharge. Have you got any tips, or things you’ve found useful in the quest for battery life? Share them in the comments.
Spotify is wonderful, but it has five problems
It’s no secret that I love, adore, and worship Spotify. It’s far and away my favourite piece of software that’s emerged over the last year. The reason I love it so much is its simplicity, and the way it does nearly everything exactly right. You can see exactly why I love it from my original writeup here.
Yesterday, Spotify removed its invitation-only status in the UK. It’s been possible to sign up without an invite, via a bit of URL trickery, for a little while, but now it’s open to anyone. Go get your sisters, brothers, parents and neighbors signed up – they’ll love it. However, Spotify, for all its awesomeness, isn’t quite perfect. Here’s five reasons why.