Categories
Business Media News Technology

Marketing High Quality Digital Music, PONO

I have never managed to get into digital music for several reasons. I don’t like wearing headphones, I get paranoid as I hear people calling my name in the background, and I think that they distract people’s attention. This is really noticeable while I am riding my bike on the pavement with the kids. People who are walking while listening to headphones are less aware of their surroundings, they tend to zig zag while they are walking and they cannot hear you coming.

This report in Businessweek addressed the problem a few years ago, although it has many methodological issues, and this article on the Treehugger website offers similar data while raising some good questions about the intentions and interpretations.

In Kenya they seem to be taking the problem seriously and in fact it will soon be a traffic offense to cross roads in Mombasa while wearing headphones or on the phone if legislation proposed by the Mombasa County Assembly is approved.
So no headphones means I don’t have one of those miniature storage devices to listen to. But I have never really got into digital downloads either. The problem there is quality. I like vinyl, take a look at the photo below of my record player.

My Sharp Record Player
My Sharp Record Player

This is a beautiful machine, 1983, plays both sides of the record, sumptuous quality, style personified and even comes in a portable version (mine also runs on batteries but the speakers don’t attach as the portable versions do).

So I have never had a system to play digital music that is half as good as this, although recently I have got closer with the Studio Pro 4 speakers that I found by the side of the street here in Cambridge (see this post for details). But even taking that into account, the sound is just not the same.

I have a vinyl and CD copy of the Beach Boys 20 Golden Greats, and playing the two together the difference in enormous. The digital version is sharper and the sounds are purer, but that was not what the boys had in mind when they were recording it. On MP3 the differences are even more noticeable. But convenience rules nowadays, and streaming of low quality music reigns.

Now Niel Young is with me on this, as are Sting and various other musicians. Niel wants to offer high quality music reproduction to people like me, and is preparing to launch his new baby Pono.

The player looks a bit like a regular MP3 player, but the files are much bigger so not as easily stored or downloaded, but the quality is much higher (say those who are marketing it). You can find some statistics in the article above. The data would suggest a vast improvement in quality, but as ever the proof of the pudding as they say.

And there is a cost issue. The player will cost about $400, and an album maybe $25. This is obviously marketed at people who have some disposable income and are looking for quality, probably musicians in their 40’s just like me.

We might wonder how big the market is, but if we note that the project raised about $2.5 million on Kickstart in a few days, maybe there is enough money and enough people around to make it a success.

So the question is for the technology community, will you (or more importantly I)  buy it?

Categories
Apps Reviews

Coach Guitar App Review

Coach Guitar enables users to learn guitar without any music theory or tablature. The animated black fret-board represents a guitar and the fingers are marked with different colors to specify the positions efficiently for both hands use. The colored dots signify the different chords of an acoustic guitar to be strummed. These instructions are available in Help menu on the start screen.

When you open this app, the page shows options such as My Lessons, Library, Help and finally Settings. After going through the Help option, you need to start with My Lessons where there are few popular songs pre-loaded. Then, you have to choose one among them and proceed for the coaching sequences. Just like a true professional, this app provides a step by step teaching facility which helps the users to play each verse of the song with perfection.

Coach Guitar Navigation

This version also contains two amazing songs for free- Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin and secondly, Wake me up when September ends by Green Day. Another interesting aspect of this app is the availability of video lessons in HD. You can watch and learn in no time. In the Library, you can buy and store your favorite tracks available which you want to learn. The Library is updated quite frequently for the convenience of users. Also, the developers have provided the settings option to configure this app as per your wish.

The appearance of Library is quite similar to that of a normal playlist in your phone only with a single modification of the price tag on the extreme right of the songs. This can be considered one of the flaws of this virtual guitar teaching concept. You have to pay a certain amount for adding up your favorite tracks further. The customers have complained about this attribute and rightfully so.

Looking at all the pros and cons of this guitar teaching app, I am pretty much satisfied by its functioning. This app skillfully acknowledges its name and acquires relevant features to teach users how to play a guitar. Coach Guitar version 1.7.3 requires only 13.2 MB of phone memory. With the presence of a large display screen in iPhone and iPads, the working of Coach Guitar becomes easier.

Categories
Gadgets

Exploring arguably essential home gadgets

We all love our gadgets, some people more than others of course – we’ve all got parents or grandparents who haven’t got a clue how to turn a computer on, let alone check their emails or catch up with their family on Facebook. But for the gadget lovers among us there’s nothing better than getting home with a new bit of kit, setting it up and turning it on for the first time. It’s like a birthday and Christmas all rolled into one!

Christmas and birthday in one
Christmas and birthday rolled into one!

But while we all have such affection towards the latest offerings, what would we actually call “essential’? After all, the very latest devices and gadgets don’t come cheap and disposable income isn’t exactly at its peak at the moment. We’re finding that we have to budget more, and even wait until the price drops after a few months before we can get our hands on some devices, an agonizing wait for many I’m sure. So if we had to prioritize our gadgets, what would they be?

Laptop

Of course, you have to have a laptop. Tablets and smartphones are great but sometimes you just need a computer to get certain jobs done as well as they possibly can be with a bigger screen and better all round packages. You’ve got numerous top quality manufacturers to choose between, all offering different packages, with Apple, Dell, HP and co all vying for the title of top laptop manufacturer.

Printer

Obviously, if you’re working on your laptop at home for an important project for work, school, college or University, it’s vital that you have a way to get it off the computer and into a tangible document. For that reason you need a printer capable of producing your work in high quality, something Dell printers for one are synonymous for, while other features can include scanners, photocopiers and fax machine capabilities.

Smartphone

Then when you leave the house it’s vital that you can stay connected to the rest of the world. Smartphones such as the iPhone, BlackBerry and Samsung Galaxy give you the ability to check your emails on the move, update you location to Facebook, look into what Lady Gaga has had to say on Twitter and even buy things, you can do it all while you’re out of the house. Oh, and you can text and make calls too of course!

Tablet

One of the must-have items of the moment, tablet computers such as the iPad are taking the world by storm. On the train, in the boardroom, at the park, they’re all using them as perfect hybrids between smartphones and computers.

Music Player

Finally, of course, you have to have an iPod or similar device to listen to your favourite music on. Whether you’re in the gym, on the train or just relaxing, it’s always good to have some music to keep you in the mood for whatever you’re doing.

These are what I believe are essential home gadgets, but what is your views? Do you consider all these gadgets essential, and if not, which are yours?

Categories
Apps

Ten Smartphone Apps That Improve Your Sleep

Studies and surveys consistently show that most of us are not getting enough sleep each night. And while modern technology such as smartphones are often implicated as one of the culprits keeping us up, the truth is that there are many apps out there that can actually improve your sleep.

This article details ten great apps that can help you get a better night’s sleep.

ShutEye (Android)

This app was initially created for research at the University of Washington. This app notifies you when you should take a nap, exercise, relax, eat, take caffeine, or go to sleep.

All of these activities have an impact on your sleep, so keeping track of when you do them can help improve your sleep. This app helps by increasing your awareness of your habits and how they affect your sleep.

Sleep Cycle (iPhone)

This app claims to track your sleep cycle based on your body movements. The app uses this information to wake you with an alarm at the best time during your sleep cycle.

Sleep Cycle iPhone App ScreenshotThe idea is that if you are awakened when you are in your lightest stage of sleep, you will be less disrupted by being awakened. The app uses the accelerometer to measure your body movement.

Sleep as Android (Android)

Similar to SleepCycle, this Android app aims to wake you at the optimal time.

The app also includes the ability to record the sounds you make while asleep and allows you to rate and comment on your sleep. It even includes music to help you get to sleep.

ResMed (iPhone)

This iPhone app is a test for sleep apnea of sorts. The app allows you to record audio of yourself sleeping, and then compare that audio to recordings of people who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. By comparing the two, you can determine if there is any similarity and whether you should seek further testing for sleep apnea.

Relax Melodies (iPhone)

This app helps you get to sleep by playing ambient sounds while you fall asleep. The app includes 70 different sounds that include crickets chirping, running water, birds singing, and rainfall.

The app has the ability to layer different sounds over each other to create custom relaxing melodies. This is a great app if you have trouble falling asleep in silence.

White Noise (iPhone, Android, Blackberry)

Like Relax Melodies, this app is an ambient noise generator. This app is multi platform, so you can use it no matter which smartphone you have.

Sleep Tracker (iPhone)

This is a sleep journalling app for the iPhone. It lets you record how long you slept and how you feel afterwards. Journalling is a great way for you to notice patterns in your sleep and mood. This app presents your info in an easy to reach chart, which helps you spot patterns.

SleepBot (Android)

This app is similar to Sleep Tracker for the iPhone. It is a sleep journalling tool that lets you record mood, notes, and sleep times. The sleep tracking function uses a simple clock-in and clock-out interface and includes a sleep questionnaire.

Count Sheep (iPhone)

This app digitizes the old standby of counting sheep to fall asleep. The app has sheep jumping over a fence while it plays soothing music from the app or your own tunes. The screen is dimmed to avoid keeping you awake longer and you can set the app to automatically turn off after a certain amount of time.

Spot (unreleased)

This upcoming app aims to test your alertness levels by testing your response time. Great for late night driving, this app can let you know when it is time to pull over and get some rest. The tests are based on the Psychomotor Vigilance Test.

So rather than using your smartphone to keep you up all night playing games and surfing the internet, download these app and turn your smartphone into a powerful sleep aiding tool.

To find the apps just search for their names, and you should be able to find them. Please be aware that some of the apps do cost.

Categories
How To Guides Internet

Shopping online – tips and advice

When shopping online, there are loads of things to look out for, and loads of ways to get a better deal. In this article I hope to share some of the experience I have got from shopping online, and some of my tech knowledge in order to help you get a better deal – what you want, at a reasonable price.

The first thing to say is that what you are shopping for, is crucial to how to go about buying it.

Virtual Goods

If you are buying an online or ‘virtual’ good/service, then the key thing to check is that you are buying from a reputable firm. Checking the firm is reputable and reliable is key for all online shopping, but especially so if you are buying something virtual – e.g. a website, anti-virus software, access to a game, music etc.

There are a few ways you can go about checking if online firms are reputable. The first is to see if the firm exists in reality, do they have shops in the real world, or are they totally online? Firms with physical property are less likely to be fraudulent, as they are easy to find and locate. Totally online firms can be just as reputable, look at the likes of Play.com and Amazon.

Play.com's LogoThe second way to get an idea of whether a firm is reputable or not is to check their stats. Does the site have a good Alexa rank – top 500,000? If not, people may not be visiting the site for a reason: it has just been set up, and after a few quick cons will be gone. You can check the history of the site using the Way Back Machine for more info on its past.

The third way is a much less reliable way, but can be useful to back up your decision. Try looking at the websites PageRank. If they have say a PageRank 3+ homepage, they are more likely to be legitimate than a site with all PageRank 0’s. People link to shop websites when they buy things and then review them, so shops should acquire PageRank. If they have no PageRank, they may still be legitimate, but check, as that may mean they have not been trading for long, therefore have just set up to scam, and will be shut down soon.

Finally are they a big name. Say you are buying anti-virus direct from the supplier. Most people have heard of the likes of Kaspersky, Sophos and Norton, but if the company is called something like ‘SpywareBeGoneSolutions’ then they are a lot less likely to sell you a good product, if any product at all.

Kaspersky's LogoFinally, when checking that the firm you are going to buy from is going to give you the product(s) you want, watch the news, or research them on news sites! Is the firm about to go bust or being run by administrators? If so, buying from them may lead to you loosing your money!

Services

If you are buying a service, such as a holiday, insurance or a meal at a restaurant, then there are loads of really useful sites that can help you, by giving you an incite into what others thought of that service.

Say for example you are buying a holiday, you can use websites like TripAdvisor.com to see if the place you are looking at staying at has positive reviews. If not, you can maybe choose somewhere else. Be careful though, as sometimes these sites can be misleading, as Jonny recently wrote about.

There are other websites too like MoneySavingExpert.com and Yelp, which can offer similar services for other things like insurance, banking, restaurants, shopping etc. MoneySavingExpert.com is especially worth a look, as aside from reviews, they can give really good advice, to help you save money when buying all sorts of things.

Products

The key to ensuring you get value for money and what you want when buying products online is to make sure you read what other people think about it. Reviews are really useful, and can help you determine which product is right for you.

Don’t be afraid to venture out of the companies website itself, and look for more reviews elsewhere online. Some firms will only publish the positive reviews they receive on their own site, in order to try to persuade more people to buy that product, from them.

A really important bit of advice is not to discount the high street, it can still be a very good place to buy things. Often things are cheaper online, however you can usually see and sometimes try products when in a shop, whereas online, all you have is pictures and possibly video.

Once you know the product is for you, make sure that you shop around. Find the best deal using price comparison sites like MoneySupermarket.com and PriceRunner.co.uk.

Once you have your product and the shop, don’t forget to go to coupon sites to see if you can get an even better deal. Sites like MyVoucherCodes usually have some great discount offers, you just need to look.

To conclude

In summary, when shopping online, make sure that you are buying from someone reputable. Make sure the product or service is what you want. Check out other peoples reviews. Look for the best deal, and then finally don’t forget to check if there are any vouchers that could further slash the cost.

Hopefully these tips have been useful, good luck shopping online!

Categories
Gadgets Reviews

The Pocket Boom – Review

A week or so ago, a company approached Technology Bloggers and asked if I would be willing to review some of their products. I thought that this could be some fun, so I emailed them back saying: why not! They then send me a Pocket Boom to test and then review – this article is that review.

Please note, the opinions in this article are mine, and are completely honest – I am not being paid to write a review for them.

What is the Pocket Boom?

The Pocket Boom is a device that can turn pretty much any surface into a speaker. You just plug in your music – be it from your iPod, computer, tablet, stereo or whatever (anything that has a 3.5mm headphone jack) and place the vibrating speaker onto a surface, and it will vibrate the surface to turn it into a speaker.

The Pocket Boom
The Pocket Boom with its vibrator head and headphone jack out

What Surfaces Does the Pocket Boom Work on?

The clever technology in the vibrating head on the device is able to vibrate any surface and turn it into a speaker. However, on some surfaces, it vibrates it so little that the vibrating head is louder than the surface. Surfaces that I have found to be bad speakers include:

  • Brick walls
  • Solid wood – some thin wood works well
  • Clothing – some clothing does work, but not very well
  • Other solid objects with little capacity to vibrate

Surfaces that I have found to work really well include:

  • Cardboard – and other paper products
  • Thin wood – notice boards, some tables and chairs all work well
  • Metal – due to its ability to vibrate, metal is one of the best materials I have tried, filing cabinets, kitchen hood extractor fans, hole punches, beds, and much more!
  • Thin plastic – tubs, especially DVD (and Blu-Ray, Wii, PS3, Xbox etc.) cases and even washing baskets!

Does it Actually Work?

You may be wondering if it actually works, it seems too good to be true. Can the Pocket Boom really: turn anything into a speaker, turn anything into an amplifier; and turn anything into an equaliser?

My answer is simple. Yes.

You can be sceptical, but I have one and it does. As I mentioned above, some surfaces it really surprises you by how well it actually transforms that object into a speaker, whilst with others you can be left somewhat disappoint with the sound level – but never the less it does turn it into a speaker.

The Pocket Boom with all leads stowed away
The Pocket Boom with all leads stowed away (Compact)

From my personal use of the speaker, I would say that I think it works amazingly well on around 15% of objects, well on 70% of objects, and rather disappointingly on the other 15% of objects. So around 85% of objects to hand should be able to be converted into a good speaker pretty easily!

Check out this video to see it in action 🙂

Is it Easy to Use?

Clearly a lot of work has gone into designing the Pocket Boom, it has some great ideas behind it. The ergonomics need some tweaking before the product is 100% perfect.

The 3.5mm headphone jack lead that comes out to plug into your device is way too short to be practically used with most devices. That is a major flaw, but this has been fixed, as included in the box is an extender lead, so you can get an extra 40cm (ish) of reach.

The Pocket Boom and accompanying items
The items that come with the Pocket Boom

Inserting the batteries is really easy, literally slide back a cover, put them in and slide the cover back on. Dead simple.

The enclosed instructions do tell you how to pull out the speaker wire, so that you can place the vibrating speaker head on a surface, however I found them very hard to follow. I found a video on YouTube about how to do it though, and that cleared things right up, just pull the wire out whilst rotating it round at the same time – effectively pulling and unwinding.

The Pocket Boom's Instructions
The instructions that come with the Pocket Boom

One thing that I am still a bit puzzled about is the suction pad system. The speaker head has an adhesive suction pad on it so that you can stick it to surfaces easily. It does get dirty, and I have found that covering it with sellotape and then slowly removing the tape cleans it up and it becomes sticky again. In the pack some extra adhesive are provided, however I can’t seem to find any instructions as to how to change the pad. Hopefully when I need to it will be pretty easy.

What is the Battery Life Like?

I have so far been very pleasantly surprised by the life of the battery. Considering this is a device that is designed to effectively replace most speakers, it uses very little power. Normal speakers can be power hungry, however the Pocket Boom takes just two AAA batteries.

I have had my Pocket Boom vibrating and turning objects into speakers for around three hours now, and despite it being powered by just two AAA batteries, it is still working just as well now as it was when I started using it. The Pocket Boom would appear to be a great saver of energy, considering that two speakers would be unlikely to last that long, producing the kind of sound levels that the Pocket Boom can.

 How Good is the Sound Quality?

Okay, so it is portable, can turn almost anything into a good speaker, uses less power, therefore its weakness must be in its sound quality right? Wrong.

Personally I am very impressed with the quality of the sound the Pocket Boom can produce. I have used it on many surfaces, and found that everyone produces a slightly different quality, pitch and intensity of sound. Some produce music with much deeper bass levels, whilst others just produce really loud music! Some substances I would like it to go louder, but the volume level is always reasonable.

Depending on the song you are playing, the sound produced will vary. Sometimes you need to turn the volume down slightly, as the speaker head vibrates too much and doesn’t sound that great, but turning down the volume easily fixes this.

The Environment…

One thing I have noticed about the Pocket Boom is that it works better in quieter environments. Also, the size of the room seems to affect how well it produces sound, as it can really affect the acoustics. I have personally found that it works far better in small rooms than it does in bigger ones. If there is also a lot of noise, it doesn’t work as well, but for most environments it works really well.

I currently have it plugged into my PC, using the machine (metal) as the speaker, and it works really well. The environment is relatively quiet, and the volume of my PC is only on 20%, yet the sound is much louder than if it were through headphones!

Is the Pocket Boom Value for Money?

When I reviewed the Kymera Magic Wand I bought, I concluded that it was a great novelty product, but not really value for money at £50.

I think the Pocket Boom also has some novelty element to it, which you get when you first use it. I ran around testing it on everything I could! That has slightly worn off now, but the product is very practical and does work. As I said, I am using it as a speaker for my PC, and it is working very well.

The Pocket Boom retails at £20 (£19.99) which I think is a very reasonable price. I think that the novelty factor of the boom is probably worth £5 to £10, but after that you have an extremely practical product, which you find uses for in your every day life.

If you prefer to listen to high quality music, amplifiers and professional loudspeakers are probably for you, the Pocket Boom is not the best of speakers, but it is a bit of fun.

If however you are someone who just likes to casually listen to music, and the occasional bit of fun (as you find a new surface to try out!) then the Pocket Boom is a must have gadget!

The Pocket Boom and its packaging
The Pocket Boom in its packaging

As I said at the beginning of the article, this product has been sent to us to review. This company is called GearZap. Our thanks to GapZear for providing us with the pocket boom 🙂

Categories
Computers Internet

Online data backup using cloud computing technology

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Bulldog Backup. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

In the past I have written about cloud computing and how cloud data storage is the future, and at the moment it is playing a key part in backup technologies, as it is now easier than ever before to backup your data online.

One firm that offer online backup services are the Glasgow based Bulldog Backup, they were founded in 2010 and offer backup solutions for both domestic and business users.

I read a statistic the other day that almost 50% of businesses reported a loss of important data in the last two years, probably why more and more firms are investing in online data backup systems!

The good thing is, online backup solutions are getting easier and easier to use, another reason why more and more people are using them. For example, with Bulldog Backup, all you need to is select the package you want to buy, you will then be emailed with your login credentials, then all you need do is login and download the relevant backup client – either Windows or Mac.

When you install your backup software you are asked what you want to backed up, you can choose your entire hard disk, or just a few files – say pictures and music for instance.

Now you may be thinking that online backup storage is a great idea for most people, but you are on a connection which has a limited monthly allowance – say 40 gigabytes, you can’t afford to run the backup system, in fear of going over your allowance.

There is a solution to this too. With most good backup systems nowadays, you can configure how much bandwidth is used for backups, therefore you never go over your limit. You can also choose which files the software should prioritise the backing up of – e.g. give pictures and documents high priority, whilst don’t worry so much about music.

Select how much bandwidth online backup can use
Select how much of your bandwidth Bulldog Backup can use

The best thing is, once you have backed up your files, you can easily access them from anywhere, using your own personal web portal. Bulldog Backup’s portal has a clean layout and is designed to make listening to audio files and viewing images as easy as possible, all as standard. Therefore you can access all your albums whilst out and about, how cool is that! You can also install mobile apps for both iOS and Android, making it even easier for you to access your files on the move.

If you want to go up a level Bulldog Backup offer a ‘Pro’ account which has all of the standard features, with the addition of a ‘SmartDrive’ allowing you to sync files across multiple computers. A SmartDrive is basically a drive that appears like any other hard disk on your computer, only anything you store in it is automatically uploaded to the cloud – a pretty cool bit of tech don’t you think?

A screenshot of a SmartDrive
A screenshot of what the Bulldog Backup SmartDrive looks like – just another hard disk

Okay, so you like the idea of online backup, you can see the potential and benefits, but, what about the costs? Well you may be pleasantly surprised, you can start backing up online with Bulldog Backup from only £2.95 a month ($4.63) with a 1 Terabyte Protect account.

Think that is a good price? I have managed to get a discount promo code which makes the same account cost just £1.25 ($1.96) a month, and that price is fixed for 5 years! Visit the site bulldogbackup.com and use the promo code ‘bullbonanza00’ at the checkout before the 29th of February (this year) to take get started at that rock bottom price 🙂

What do you think about online backup? Will you be investing in it in the near future?

Categories
Internet Technology

Understanding iCloud

The latest release in the cloud computing world, and the replacement for Apple’s old MobileMe service is Apple iCloud. The new software is designed to work seamlessly between various apple hardware such as iPods, Apple laptops and desktops, and the iPad. There are several applications available with the iCloud software, ranging from ‘Find my Device’, which allows an internet connected device such as the iPhone to be remotely tracked, to Photo Stream, which makes ‘streamed’ photos available on any connected device.

The first, Find My Device, was initially a MobileMe application, which has been migrated to the iCloud software package. Using the service, a user can view the rough location of their device over-layed on a scalable map of the area, as well as a circle indicating the margin of error on the tracking. Along with remote tracking, the program also allows the user to change the password, display a message on the device, or play a sound (even if it is set to silent). A final feature of the program makes use of the cloud storage technology and allows the user to temporarily delete the contents of the device, storing them to the cloud server until told to return to their original location.

Computing from the cloud
Not quite cloud computing!

Photo Stream directly utilizes the cloud storage technology to share pictures between devices. When a picture is taken from an iphone with Photo Stream enabled, the picture will automatically be uploaded to the cloud server, where it will be available to any of the user’s other Photo Stream enabled machines. According to Apple, the service will soon be integrated with their Apple TV box, which would allow users to view any pictures in icloud on TVs connected to Apple TV.

While only currently available in the US, iTunes Match is one of the most popular uses for the virtual computing abilities of the iCloud software. iTunes Match allows users to ‘scan’ their music in any compatible device (even if the music is not purchased from iTunes), and upload it to the iCloud virtual servers, ready to be downloaded to any of the user’s other Apple products in a DRM free format.

‘Back To My Mac’ and iOS Backup are two more erstwhile MobileMe program migrated to the iCloud package. The first is essentially a remote access program, allowing the user to remotely log into any device with the same Apple ID and the program active. The second is a backup program, which allows the user to back up the data and settings on their device to the virtual servers, and restore the device or access the data remotely as needed.

While the iCloud software is very slim as far as system resources, it requires a fairly current OS to run properly. Creating an account requires iOS 5 or later, or for desktops, OSX Lion. For PCs, Windows Vista or later is required to properly sync. iCloud can also sync to Outlook 7 or later for calendars and contact info.

The cost of the iCloud software varies with the amount of services the user chooses to sign up for. Data storage starts at 5 gigabytes free, and added storage can be purchased in increments of ten gigabytes, for $20 per ten gigabytes per year. At the moment, the maximum storage amount available is 50 gigabytes, however Apple has said it is possible for that to go up in the future. Apart from storage costs, the iTunes Match service is a yearly fee of $25.

With the iCloud software, Apple has taken full advantage of the evolving cloud storage technology to bring a wide variety of programs to Apple users, and an increased connectivity between Apple hardware.

Categories
Media

Is paying for music a thing of the past?

This is a sponsored post. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

With the availability of streaming music services like Pandora, Spotify, and Rdio all available for free and unlimited access, there are fewer people than ever actually paying for their music. According to a recent article on TechCrunch, Tom Conrad, the CTO of Pandora, said that about 50 percent of Americans don’t pay anything for music while another 40 percent only pay $15 a year for it.

If you were to walk into a big retail shop ten years ago, one of the biggest sections in the electronic media department would have been a massive collection of compact discs. Today with the likes of iPhone, and Android, CD’s have made technologies like compact discs seem old and obsolete technologies of the past.

The biggest culprit to the recording industry has been the proliferation of bit torrents and peer-to-peer piracy software. According to Torrent Freak, the Canadian Broadband Management Company says that forty percent of all internet traffic in North America comes from either Netflix or Bit Torrent. While the original intention of this sharing software was to make it easier for business to transfer important files, most of the traffic from it today comes from the illegal trade of music, television shows, and movies.

While services like Pandora, Spotify, and Rhapsody have a paid-premium option available, their free services are so convenient that there is no real reason to purchase them. Unless you want a completely advertising-free experience or simply want an unlimited data cap on what you can access per a week, the free versions of these programs work just as well and include almost all of the features. Ironically, the only companies that actually have to purchase these plans are the small retail stores that are selling you the music.

Spotify's LogoThe RIAA is having an abysmal time selling digital copies of singles and albums to consumers. Not only are the versions that are available online cheaper and make less money, they are also much easier to steal, copy, and distribute illegally over the internet. Google is partially to blame for this widespread availability of illegally traded music.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, if you type in your favourite artist into a Google search, several unauthorized and pirated versions of the song will show up available for stream or download. While Google is not implicitly to blame for this, they are turning a blind eye to the practice by ranking them higher in search results.

The person who is most responsible for the digitisation of music is the late Steve Jobs. When the iPod first appeared on the market, Steve spearheaded the movement to make iTunes the ultimate way to purchase music online. In an article in the Inquirer, David Hughes (head of technology at the RIAA) claimed that Steve was a hypocrite for claiming to be a spiritual leader but not putting enough piracy protection on digital downloads.

There is no turning back from the digital way of selling and listening to music. We have come too far in our technological advances and reverting to older methods such as CD’s and cassettes would seriously hamper our tech advances.

The music industry will need to find new ways to make income such as advertising, product placement, and incorporation in order to continue to make a profit… or it could just go away and make music an art form.

Categories
Blogging WordPress

Must have WordPress plugins

Many blogs like to publish a list of their favourite plugins. This often helps readers find new, exciting plugins that they too can use. Therefore I have decided that I should do the same on behalf of Technology Bloggers. Here is my (Christopher Roberts) list of ‘must have’ WordPress plugins 🙂

User Role Editor

In no particular order, my first must have WordPress plugin is User Role Editor. This is a very useful plugin if you run a blog with multiple users, as it allows you to change account type (e.g. contributor, author etc.) privileges, and even create whole new types of account.

A great example of when I have used this plugin is when Matt has been helping me with some ‘behind the scenes’ coding. I needed help to fix some bugs, so I created a new user account type called ‘Matt’. I then changed Matt’s account from ‘contributor’ status to ‘Matt’ status. Matt was then able to fiddle around with the plugins and blog code, whilst not being able to change any comments, posts or pages. When he was finished, I changed his privileges back to ‘contributor’.

You could also use this plugin to give users extra abilities, for example you could let them moderate comments, or upload media. All contributors by default WordPress settings can’t upload media, a real issue for a blog like ours. A quick user role edit later and everyone can now add pictures, video and music to their posts. 🙂


CommentLuv

CommentLuv is a really great plugin which enables you to give a little bit extra back to your commenters, by giving them a link back to one of their most recent posts at the end of each comment.The CommentLuv LogoI have written about CommentLuv before, so I don’t intend to go into any depth about it here. If you want to know more check out my post on why you should use CommentLuv.

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (GASP)

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (or as it is also know, GASP) is one of the very best plugins you can use to combat spam.

Here at Technology Bloggers we get hundreds of comments every month, but I am sure that we would get thousands more if we didn’t have such a good spam filter. Of the comments that we get I would estimate that around 10% are spam. If Technology Bloggers stopped using Akismet and and GASP, then I think we would see our comments double, but the extra ones would all be spam.

GASP places the tickbox (or checkbox for my American friends) that you see underneath the comment box. Logged in users need not worry about this, but users who are not logged in will need to make sure that they tick this box (and they will be prompted if they don’t) in order to make sure that their comment is approved.

Akismet then helps us out by throwing any user written/generated potentially spammy comments into the spam folder. We can review these and it is then much easier to sift through and fish out any good comments which may have got caught up.

Akismet is good, and very useful, but if you really want to stop spam, I would always make sure you have GASP.

ReplyMe

I have written an article about ReplyMe before, giving an explanation of what it does, who uses it and why it is useful. To briefly sum it up it is a plugin which sends commenters an email when someone replies to their comment, helping to improve the blog’s community. For more information please check out our ReplyMe article.

The ReplyMe (Plugin) LogoPrettier Trackbacks

Some themes present trackbacks just the way you want them to, other themes unfortunately don’t. The way I like trackbacks is the post title linked to the article that sits amongst the comments. Our current theme shows some text from the article too, which can look good, but often doesn’t.

Prettier Trackbacks displays trackbacks the way I like them, and with a bit of editing/tweaking, you can make it show them just about anyway you want!

Move WordPress Comments

The next plugin on my list is Move WordPress Comments. Have you ever had someone comment in reply to someone else, but they forgot to hit the reply button, or have you ever done it yourself? If the answer is yes, then this plugin is a very useful one indeed!

What the Move WordPress Comments plugin does is put a few extra details an options below comments in the dashboard and on the blog. These details are the comment’s number, the post number and the parent comment’s number.

If the commenter has published their comment on the wrong post, just simply change the post number and click ‘move’ and the comment will shoot off to the correct post.

If the commenter has published the comment in reply to someone, but hasn’t joined the comment to the parent comment, then all you need to do is scroll up to the parent comment and find out what number it is. You then take the parent comment’s number, put it in the reply/child comment’s ‘parent comment’ box and click move.

Confused? Check out the images below 🙂

A comment isn't threaded onto it's parent
The second comment is in reply to the first, however it is not threaded - to solve this just take the parent comment's number and then put it in the 'Parent Comment' box on the reply comment and click 'Move'
A threaded comment
Et voilà! The reply comment is now threaded under the parent comment!

Digg Digg

Digg Digg is a really great plugin if you like to make your blog ‘social media friendly’! At the top of every article Technology Bloggers displays Google +, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook buttons, so that you can easily share our content.

Technology Bloggers Digg Digg Social Media Share Buttons
Technology Bloggers social media share buttons, as provided by Digg Digg

This is all thanks to Digg Digg which gives you more social media buttons and options than you could shake a stick at! If you want to create a social media friendly blog, Digg Digg is one of the best plugins out there!

Top Commentators Widget

WordPress’s Top Commentators Widget is definitely one of the best plugins I have ever installed. It gives you the ability to thank your commenters by adding a widget to the sidebar (or in our case the footer navigation) of your blog, which displays your site’s top commenters, however you like!

Top Commenters Screenshot - as it appeared on the 17th October 2011It has loads of easy to customise options. You can choose how many commenters get shown, how long names can be before they are replaced with an ellipsis. You can also choose if names are hyperlinked, show the individuals Gravatar, how big that avatar is, whether an award icon is shown by commenters with more than a certain number of comments, how often the list refreshes, etc.

There are more!

Listed above are some of the very best plugins I have ever used. Despite this, there are many other great plugins that I haven’t included, for fear of making this article university paper length! Lets save them for another time.

So, what plugins do you use? Why do you like them? Are you going to try any of the plugins above? Do any of them look interesting/useful?

Talk to me below 🙂