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18


How Do You Use Your Phone’s Camera?

“The best camera you have is the one that’s with you”. It’s a cliché that’s often used in defence of phone cameras that, although improving with every generation, are still a long way behind point-and-shoots.
I’m not a photographer. I don’t study the craft, I’ve never woken up early to take pictures of the sunrise, and the most post-production I’ve ever done is to use the red-eye removal tool in Photoshop.
I do enjoy having a camera on my phone, though: it is great
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to be able to snap a picture of something to remember it later (I have an Evernote notebook with photos of important items around the house so I can remember where they are) or share it with friends (“haha, look at this hilarious scene, you guys”).
So while I’m happy to hear the rumours that Instagram will soon be coming to Android, I’m not bothered about the filters. Perhaps this is because I have a few too many Facebook friends who feel that slapping a sepia tone on anything makes it artistic.
Anyway! Enough grumbling. I’ve told you how I use my phone’s camera; let me know how you use yours.


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While we still wait for the official release of the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich ROM for Samsung Galaxy SII, there are some pre-release versions of the firmware floating around the net. In the past we reported and presented a guide for one such leaked version of the Android 4.0.3 for the SGSII. In the past weeks there have been a number of such releases. And now the latest leak is a beta version of the Android 4.0.3 ICS ROM for Galaxy SII with the build no. I9100XXLPB. Based on the reports many of the bugs that were apparent in the earlier leaks have been fixed in this latest beta and
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is more or less ready for the daily usage.

Here are some user notes:
Interface: Kind of 3D effect when scrolling. Battery: Lots better than early ones. Faster: Feels the same as LP6 Touch: Same as LP6. Overall: Better score in our eyes than LP6 . Facelock: Same as LP6 working fine. Task: Same as version LP6.

However, keep in mind that this is still a beta software and NOT comes through the official Samsung channels so use it with caution!

Note: Rooting, Jailbreaking or customizing your device can be risky, and you may end-up bricking your device! Follow the instructions posted here at your own responsibility as Inspired Geek will not be responsible for any damage to your device.

So after the usual word of caution lets get started on how to install this latest leaked firmware on Samsung Galaxy S2 device.
Required Downloads
- Download the ODIN file and then extract the .zip file.
- Download Android 4.0.3 ICS Beta Build I9100XXLPB and extract the contents/files of Android 4.0.3 ICS to the desktop.
– Correct KIES USB drivers must be installed, so that programs can communicate with the device. Reboot computer after driver installation if required.
- If KIES is running in the background then turn it off as it may interfere with the ODIN.
Procedure – Flash Android 4.0.3 On Samsung Galaxy SII
Step 1: Make sure that your device is in USB debugging mode: Settings -> Applications -> Development -> USB debugging. Step 2:  Reboot your device into download mode. To do so: Turn the device off, then power it on again by pressing and holding Volume Down + Home + Power simultaneously.
Step 3: Start ODIN.
Step 4: Connect the device to your computer via USB. Step 5: Wait a few seconds, the ODIN screen will show that a device is now connected - Make sure that in ODIN nothing is checked, except the "Auto reboot" and "F. Reset Time" checkboxes. - Press the "PDA" button, and select the the extracted tar file I9100_CODE_I9100XXLPB_CL99600_REV02_user_low_ship.tar (from extracted Download above that you placed on desktop) to flash the firmware.
- Press the "Phone" button, and select the the extracted tar file MODEM_I9100XXLPB_REV_02_CL1101286.tar (from extracted Download above that you placed on desktop) to flash the modem.
- Press the "CSC" button, and select the the extracted tar file GT-I9100-MULTI-CSC-OXXLP5_RST.tar (from Required Downloads above) to flash the CSC.
- Press "Start".
- ODIN will now flash the above components.
- Device should reboot after flashing the Android 4.0.3 firmware components on your Samsung Galaxy SII device.
Step 6: After the device reboots you will have Ice Cream Sandwich based on Android 4.0.3 leaked beta version on your Samsung Galaxy S2 (SII)!
You might also be interested to have a look at the Samsung Galaxy S II section on our website where we have covered a large collection of tweaks, tips&tricks and rooting and custom ROM installation guides for the Samsung Galaxy S2 (SII).
[source]
Download and Install Stock Android 4.0.3 ICS ROM On Samsung Galaxy S2 (SII) [Beta Build I9100XXLPB]

22





This fantastic, awesome, mind-boggling action short was created by Andrew McMurry. In the video, he finds an iPhone with no previous owner, but little does he know this iPhone is a 4S and, with Siri on board. it will happily destroy the world in order to avoid being sold.
This is just one of those videos you cannot stop watching – even though I did to share this. It is very well made and all I can say is share it!
Thank you Andrew for this masterpiece!

Follow us elsewhere - Facebook | Twitter.

Visit the site for more content!
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- UltraLinx

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Samsung had huge success last year delivering its Galaxy S line of Android phones to the global world, and for good reason: it launched as one of the thinnest smartphones in the world, the homegrown 1GHz Hummingbird processor was plenty fast for its day, and the 4-inch Super AMOLED display was a serious dazzler. Particularly [...]
6
For the past few months, we here at Android.AppStorm have been collating our best tips, tricks, features, and shortcuts. Some are useful, some are geeky, some are just for fun.
As with all such lists, you’re probably aware of some of these tips already – but I bet you don’t know all of them! Did you know that you can search your text messages, Kindle books, and tweets all at once? Or that CyanogenMod 7 lets you disable two-thirds of the LEDs in your display, to save battery? Or that you can force websites to show you the full version of their site, even though you’
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;re on a mobile browser? Read on to find out more…

Less-Than-Obvious Menus and Screens
These menus, screens, and settings aren’t exactly hidden, but they’re easy to miss.
1. Extra Wi-Fi Settings
In the Wi-Fi Settings menu, hit Menu > Advanced for extra settings, and to find your MAC and IP addresses. This is also the place where you can change the Wi-Fi sleep policy (the point where it switches back to 3G).
2. More Camera Options
The little kitchen timer icon in the Camera app hides a lot of options: metering mode, ISO, color effects… it’s not just for focus and exposure settings!
3. Bigger Battery Graph
For a detailed analysis of how your phone is losing battery, go to Settings > About Phone > Battery Use and tap the graph at the top of the screen. The screen that appears contains a visual timeline of the phone’s signal strength, Wi-Fi connection, sleep status and charging status since the last time the phone was 100% charged.
Bigger Battery Usage Graph
If you’re running low on battery faster than you expect to, take a look at our article How to Improve the Battery Life of Your Phone.
4. Change Default Apps
If you have an application set as the default for some action – for example, a particular browser is the default for opening web pages – you can change that. Find the app in Settings > Manage Applications, then tap Clear Defaults.
This also applies to launchers. If you want to try another one, then remove your current selection as the default; whenever you press Home it’ll let you choose between all the launchers you have installed, until you select a new default.
5. Get the Date With a Tap, Anywhere
You can quickly see the day of the week and month by tapping and holding the notifications bar, without having to pull it down.
6. Access Your Contacts on the Computer
Assuming you’ve linked your phone to a Google account, you can view all your phone contacts (with their numbers, email addresses, and any other info you have about them) at google.com/contacts.
(This came in very handy when I had my phone in for repairs for a few days! – Ed.)
7. Silence the Ringer
When someone calls you, you can mute the incoming call ringer without hanging up or accepting the call by pressing the volume rocker.
On HTC handsets, you can open Settings > Sound and Display and enable “Quiet ring on pickup” to make it fade to silent as soon as you pick it up.
Ice Cream Sandwich
Android 4.0 (as found on the Galaxy Nexus) is still pretty new, and I’m sure we’ll gather more tips over the next few months, but here’s what we have for now.
8. Tweak Your Home Screens
If you’ve rooted your handset, you can use Trebuchet Launcher to remove the persistent search bar and adjust the number of homescreens.
Alternatively, you can use Nova Launcher, which doesn’t require root. However, without rooting, you won’t be able to view widgets in the App Drawer.
9. Enable Near Field Communications
Enable NFC by opening Settings > Wireless & Networks > More, then checking NFC. And if you’re wondering why, read this explanation of the technology.
10. Monitor Your Data Usage
Check your data usage by going to Settings > Wireless & Networks > Data Usage. You’ll see a breakdown of all data transfers and you can tap any app to see how much data that specific app is using.
The Data Manager
You can also set a 3G limit here; after this point, 3G data will automatically be disabled – useful for anyone on a restricted plan.
11. Easily Create Folders
On any home screen, create a folder by dragging and dropping one app on top of another. To rename the folder, tap it, then tap the name.
12. Resize Your Widgets
For widgets that support resizing, you can long-press the widget on your home screen to make controls appear; drag these to change the width and height.
13. Use the Audio Equalizer
There’s an audio equalizer built in to the stock music player. Just hit Now Playing > Sound Effects to open it.
Browser
The browser may be the app you use the most, so here’s a handful of tips to help you use it better.
14. Change the User Agent
Some websites will automatically serve you a mobile-friendly version of their site, if they detect you’re using a phone. But these versions can sometimes be severely cut down versions of the main site, with far fewer features.
You can tell websites to serve you desktop versions by changing the browser’s User Agent setting to Linux Desktop or Mac Desktop. Alternatively, you can select iPhone, iPad, different versions of Android, or even IE6.
15. Alter the Default Zoom
By default, when you open a page, your zoom level will be set to Medium. You can change this to Far or Close by altering the “Default zoom” option in the settings.
The other setting that affects this is “Open pages in overview”, which makes new pages open zoomed all the way out when checked.
16. Quickly Access the Address Bar
Instead of scrolling all the way back up to the top of the page, you can just hit Menu to make the address bar appear.
On devices designed for Ice Cream Sandwich, which have no Menu button, you can do a “pull-down” gesture to achieve the same thing.
Keyboards
There are a lot of keyboards to choose from, each with their own tricks; here, we’ll just look at a few tips that apply to all keyboards in general.
17. Quickly Switch Keyboard
Instead of diving through the Settings menu to switch keyboard, you can do it from within any app: just long-press a text field and tap “Input method”, then choose your new keyboard from the list.
18. Alternative Symbols
Some keys can display more than one symbol: you can long-press the key and swipe over one of the symbols that pops up to insert it. For example, long-tap “c” and you can insert a “ç”. On the default keyboard (and some others), the letters that hide extra symbols have an ellipsis (“…”) in the corner.
Most keyboards also have a whole set of alternative keys, accessed by pressing a key marked “?123″ or “ALT” or similar. HTC Sense has two menus, but it’s easy to miss the second one: it’s opened by pressing a key marked “1/2″, which some people naturally assume means a “half” symbol!
19. Hide the Keyboard
You can almost always toggle the keyboard by long-pressing the Menu key. On Ice Cream Sandwich, this won’t work, but most keyboards let you dismiss them by swiping down within them. (One exception is Swype, for obvious reasons.)
Why would you want to do this? Well, sometimes text fields trigger the keyboard when you don’t want it covering half of the screen, and sometimes the keyboard doesn’t automatically appear when you do want it
– this often happens with web pages that require text input, but don’t have any text boxes.
20. Quick Contractions
The standard keyboard’s auto-correct is great, overall, but there are circumstances where it can’t guess what you’re saying. In particular, it can’t automatically change “ill” to “I’ll” or “well” to “we’ll”, which is frustrating but understandable. However, it will automatically change “il” to “I’ll” and “wel” to “we’ll” (unless you have “il” and “wel” saved in the dictionary), so remembering this could help you stay in flow when typing.
LED
A few phones don’t have notification LEDs (or trackballs), but they’re definitely in the minority. Assuming you have one, here are a couple of things you should know.
21. HTC Charging Light
On HTC handsets, when plugged in and charging, a green LED does not mean that the phone is fully charged; it means it’s at 90% charge or more. (You can see the current charge level in the Clock app, if you don’t have a widget for it.)
22. Get More Control Over the LED
The app Light Flow can offer you much more control over your LED: you can alter which types of notification trigger the light, automatically turn the LED off at night, and assign different colours to different types of notification.
These small changes make it easier to tell when you’ve got an important notification at a glance, without having to touch the phone.
Screenshots
We’ve covered how to take screenshots on Android before, both with and without root (and with and without having to plug it in to a computer). A few phones offer different ways of doing this, however.
23. Samsung Galaxy Phones
Samsung Galaxy phones offer a shortcut to let you take a screenshot immediately, without having to root. On most devices, that shortcut is Back + Menu; on the Galaxy S II, it’s Home + Power. In either case, the shot will be saved to a folder called “ScreenCapture” on the SD card.
24. Ice Cream Sandwich
One of the new features in Android 4.0 adds the same sort of feature to all phones: just hit Power + Vol Down to snap a shot of the screen.
Taking a Screenshot on ICS
Search
You will perhaps not be surprised that Google’s Search app does a little more than just search the web.
Note: a new version of the app was released on 11th Jan, with a cleaner interface.
25. Search Apps, Texts, and More
Besides Google, you can also search through your SMS history and music tracks, as well as any app that supports it (your Kindle books, your Evernote notes, your Twitter tweets, and so on).
From within the app, press Menu > Search Settings > Searchable items, and choose the apps and areas you want to search. The search results will show Google listings at the top, and other results at the bottom.
(In the previous version of Search, you can do the same thing by tapping the logo in the top-left and selecting the little dial button.)
26. Auto-Complete
When typing a query, a list of auto-completions will appear. Tap the words to go directly to a search for the selected query; tap the arrow on the right to just add the words to your query, so that you can type more.
Search history, auto-complete arrows, bookmark search, and contact search.
27. Remove Items From Your Search History
For results in your search history (the ones with a little clock on the left), long-press any to get an option to remove it from your history.
28. Assign an App to the Search Button
Certain apps let you assign a long-press of the search button as a shortcut to run them. Voice Search is the default, but you can also assign Screenshot Now to take a screenshot, or SoundHound to identify the song, for example.
Just remove the currently selected app as the default (explained in an earlier tip), then long-press Search to select a new one.
CyanogenMod 7
CyanogenMod 7 is the ROM of choice for most of the Android.AppStorm team – and if you’re not sure why, check out Rita El Khoury’s article, 10 Reasons You Should Try CyanogenMod 7. It’s no wonder that we’ve got a few CM-specific tips, then.
29. Use Lockscreen Gestures
You can enable lockscreen gestures that let you quickly jump to an app or perform a task directly from the lockscreen. These can be enabled and customized from Settings > CyanogenMod Settings > Lockscreen.
Lockscreen Gestures
30. Quickly Dismiss Any Single Notification
In the Notifications panel, swipe to the right on a notification to remove it. (This has since been introduced as a stock feature in Ice Cream Sandwich.)
31. Change Number of Recent Apps
You know in Android 2.x you can long-press the ‘Home’ button on your phone for a list of the recently used apps? In CM7, you can change the number of apps in this list: open Settings > CyanogenMod Settings > Input Settings > Long-press home settings, and change “Number of recent apps”.
32. Force-Kill Apps With the Back Button
In Settings > Applications > Development, there’s an option called “Stop app via long-press”, which, when checked, allows you to force-kill the current foreground application by long-pressing the back button. Useful if you frequently use an app that’s a bit flaky, but watch out: some apps use a long-press of the back button as a shortcut for another feature (for example, it shows the History in the default browser).
33. Save Power by Going Monochrome
You can use RenderFX to set a single colour for the display to use – for example, pick red and you’ll eliminate the green and blue pixel usage, thereby saving power. The option is in CyanogenMod Settings > Interface > Render Effect.
34. End a Call With a Button Press
You can enable an option that let’s you end a call by pressing the Power button, instead of having to tap the screen. The setting can be enabled in Menu > Settings > Accessibility, and is called “Power Button ends call”.
35. Change Volume Without Unlocking
You can change your ringer volume quickly, while your phone is locked, by tapping Power to turn on the display, then holding Power to open the power menu, and then using the volume keys to adjust the volume.
(This also gives you a quick way to switch to Silent Mode or reboot the phone from the lock screen.)
36. Edit Notification Power Widget Buttons
Above the notifications, when you swipe down the bar, is a set of icons for toggling Wi-Fi, silent mode, and so on. You can choose what to show in here in Settings > Interface > Notification Power Widget > Widget Buttons.
Notification Bar Power Widget
I find it useful to have the Torch in this bar, for fast access.
Long-pressing on some of these icons will load additional options, or open the related app.
37. Show Battery Charge in Notification Area
You can replace the vague power icon with one that shows the percentage charge in Settings > Interface > Status Bar Tweaks > Battery Percentage.
Troublesome Ads?
Ever seen an ad appear in your notifications? This is thanks to a service called AirPush, which developers can use in their apps. Rather annoyingly, AirPush ads don’t indicate which app they come from.
An ad for AirPush, showing an AirPush ad.
38. Discover Which Apps Use AirPush
You can use AirPush Detector to find the app responsible for putting ads in your notifications.
I was surprised to find that 45% of readers were happy with the idea of using notifications for purposes other than… well, notification.
Google Maps
Google Maps is one of Android’s Killer Apps. It’s great on the surface, but even better if you know a bit more about it.
39. Transit Navigation
Transit Navigation adds support for public transit: buses, trains, and so on. It not only tells you which routes to take, it also alerts you when it’s time to get off at the next stop.
40. Share Your Location
Tap your location on the map (you can hit the button in the top right to pan the view to this), then hit the “My location” popup that appears. From here, you can send the location to other people, via SMS, email, Facebook, or any other method in the Share menu.
41. Enable Labs
Hit Menu > Settings > Labs to find extra features you can turn on.
The most useful one, in my opinion, is “Precache map area”, which lets you download any area of the map in advance.
Specific Apps
Or, “the stuff we couldn’t fit in any other section”.
42. Fix YouTube Problems
If you have problems with YouTube freezing during playback or not refreshing the video, go to Settings > Applications > Manage Applications > YouTube, and press Force Stop followed by Clear Cache and finally Clear Data. This will effectively reset YouTube.
Next time you open the app, just sign in again with your Google credentials and you’ll be good to go. This solves most of the issues with video playback.
43. ADW Dockbar With Infinite Apps
In ADW Launcher, as well as the 1-, 3-, or 5-icon dock, you can enable a “dockbar” that can store as many shortcuts as you like (swipe left and right to scroll through them). Just swipe up from the bottom of the home screen to make it visible and drag any shortcuts onto it. Swipe down to hide it and show the regular dock again.
44. Go Launcher Ex Tips
You can configure an app to be launched when you swipe down on your Home Screen (in Menu > Preferences > Operation Settings > Glide down action). You can configure the slide up action too.
You can also set swipe actions for dock icons. I’ve set the app drawer icon in my dock to open the settings on swipe.
If you don’t like the text labels for homescreen icons cluttering the space, you can disable them in Menu > Preferences > Screen Settings.
45. Chrome to Phone Tips
This can do more than just remotely open links in a browser: Google Map pages will open in the Maps app, and YouTube videos will open in the YouTube app. Also, if you copy text, it’ll be transferred to the clipboard; phone numbers will be automatically entered in the dialer, ready to call. Find out more in this article.
Also, you can open the actual app on your phone to get a list of all things sent to it in the past, sorted by date.
If you’re using Chrome for Android, use Chrome to Mobile instead of Chrome to Phone.
Just for Fun
Finally, a couple of tips that are useless, but fun.
46. View the Easter Egg
This works on most Android devices: open Settings > About, then tap “Android version” repeatedly. The result differs depending on the version of Android that you’re running.
47. Solve Sudoku With Your Camera
The Google Goggles app can solve Sudoku puzzles. Just snap a photo and give it a few seconds.
(And if you enjoy Sudoku, check out our collection of coffee time puzzle games. – Ed)
Looking for More?
If you enjoyed this, check out some of our other bumper roundups:

50+ Apps and Resources to Customize Your Android Homescreen
60 Beautiful Wallpapers for Your Android Phone
35 Android Apps to Monitor Usage Stats and Tweak System Utilities
Customize Every Aspect of Your Android Experience (Dialers, Keyboards, Lockscreens, and More)


46


Do You Use VoIP?

We’ve reviewed a few voice-over-IP (VoIP) apps on this site – Kryptos, Sipdroid, and most recently Viber – and we’ve also explained how to make calls with Google Voice and GrooVe IP in combination.
In case you’re not familiar with the idea behind VoIP apps, it’s simple: they let you talk to other people on your handset, but through the internet rather than via your carrier’s phone service. As long as you’ve got a decent data allowance, this is totally free – a huge money-saver, particularly if yo
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u make international calls.
The downside is, both you and the person you’re calling needs to have the VoIP app and an account with the VoIP service in order to place the call. Unless you and a friend or colleague plan to call each other a lot and arrange to sign up to the same service, you can’t assume that anyone you know will be using a specific app, so there’s little incentive to use any. At least, that’s been my experience.
Viber has a great approach: it sits on top of your existing dialer and it uses your phone number as your user ID. This means that, when you try to call someone, Viber checks to see whether they’re a member (according to their phone number), and puts you through via VoIP if so; if they aren’t, it just places the call as normal.
This is so simple and easy that it’s finally got me interested in using VoIP. Maybe I’m late to this trend, or maybe apps like this will help it really take off in the near future. Are you using VoIP?


32
Well that didn’t take long at all.  T-Mobile will be launching a white version of the Samsung Galaxy S II  just in time for the holidays.  No word on a release date and price but as always we’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading at AndroidRoots.com and be sure to Follow us on Twitter, Like [...]
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Internet radio usage has been on the rise with apps like Pandora and TuneIn Radio. The reason these apps have become so popular is because people like listening to music that relates to a specific song or genre.
The major downfall with most of the applications out there is that the playlists are generated by an algorithm, rather than actual human beings. This method unfortunately lacks personalization and doesn’t quite feel as intimate as music should be. Wouldn’t it be much more attractive to have your playlists created by real music listeners?
This is where 8tracks com
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es in. The entire program is centred around DJs who make playlists based on a specific genre. As the title implies, these playlists have to be at least 8 tracks long. This is quite a different concept and definitely provides a greater sense of flow from one track to the next. No longer will you have to be disappointed by Pandora’s or Genius’s choices of songs.

The User Interface
When you first launch 8tracks, you’re greeted by recent mixes that were made. These mixes come from a variety of different genres and DJs. While browsing through the recent mixes, you can see the genre of the playlist, the DJ who made it, and what others think about the mix. This lets you easily see what mixes you might want to listen to so you don’t play a mix that you won’t like. This is a great way to discover genres of music that you usually don’t listen to.
The 8tracks home screen
You can then click on ‘refine results’ to bring up a list of possible genres. This is a great tool because it allows you to listen to a mix to complement your current mood. It is also great if you are looking to expand your musical listening to foreign genres. This is a great way to browse mixes because it is a very simple way to keep in touch with the music you love while still allowing you to branch out if you would like.
Once you decide on a mix, clicking on it will take you to the main mix page. Here you will be able to see how many times this specific mix has been played. In addtion, you can also see how many times a listener has listed the mix as their favorite. These is helpful information because it allows you to gauge how popular or how new a specific mix is. You will also see a description of the mix and who the DJ is.


A single mix's page
One truly amazing feature of 8tracks is the ability to communicate with and follow DJs. If you are listening to a mix that you are particularly fond of, you can chose to follow the creator of the mix. You can do this by clicking on the DJ’s name on the main age of the mix. This will bring you to the profile of the DJ. Here you can see the DJ’s stats like number of mixes, number of followers, and how many DJ’s they themselves are following.


A specific DJ's profile
This is a unique feature and is actually very useful. If you like a particular mix, then the odds are you will like other mixes by the same DJ. On the DJ’s profile is also a list of other mixes they have created. You can very easily go from one mix to another because the mixes are connected by the specific DJ and the specific genre.
The Listening Experience
So now that you know how to get around the user interface, you’re probably wondering how the actual listening experience is. Since I have discovered this application, I have fallen more and more in love with it every day. I am constantly disappointed by the songs that Pandora chooses to play and I always find the Genius feature in iTunes to be very impersonal. I have to admit that DJs on 8tracks are very talented. They seem to recognize exactly what people look for in a playlist.
The only downside of the playlists themselves is that they are not infinitely long like in other internet radio apps. You can’t simply put it on and have it play all day without stopping. I would love the ability to link specific playlists in a non-stop play cycle. I do find it kind of annoying to have to pick a new playlist once the one I was listening to is over. However, I realized this is a small shortcoming because the playlists themselves are so good.
Another unfortunate aspect is that, although there is a decent number of genres to pick from, I find myself wanting more. I am a musician and am very interested in many different genres. They have everything you would expect – like rock, jazz, funk, and country – but are missing some of the more abstract genres like fusion and avant-garde. I suspect that this will change once more people begin using the application and more DJs begin to emerge.
A truly great aspect is that you can use different views while browsing playlists. There is the ‘All’ tab, which shows all recent mixes that have been created. The ‘Home’ tab is great for keeping up with your favorite DJs, acting as a news feed and showing all the recent mixes that the DJ’s have created since you started following them. The ‘Liked’ tab, as you can probably guess, shows all the playlists that you have personally liked. Finally, by pressing Menu, you can switch to the ‘Featured’ playlists. This will show you what’s particularly popular right now and what the developers recommend.
This is the Featured Mixes view
Social Features
A great feature that puts 8tracks ahead of other internet radio applications is the ability to share your musical tastes socially. Being able to follow your favorite DJ’s is something that truly makes the listening experience unique. It lets you connect with the DJ and bring a whole new level to social music. In the socail age that dominates the world today, it is very cool to be in contact with people who share your taste in music. It brings people together that wouldn’t normally know each other because they share the same musical taste.
When you are listening to a playlist, there is a Share button, which lets you share the playlist via bluetooth, Gmail, messaging, or Google+. The last option is a very cool feature especially since Google themselves is making a big push to incorporate Google+ into as many aspects of Android as possible. It’s rather fun when you get a couple of friends using 8tracks in conjunction with Google+; it lets you see what your friends are listening to and, consequently, which DJs they are following.
Example of Google+ post
Final Thoughts
In a music world ruled by computers and automated services, 8tracks is a breath of fresh air. I have listened to computer generated playlists so much, I really didn’t realize how bad they were until I began using 8tracks. This is an application created by music lovers for music lovers. It makes being a DJ somewhat of a status symbol.
Now that I have discovered such an amazing way to listen to music, I can’t see myself ever going back to applications such as Pandora. 8tracks has developed a listening experience that truly feels personal and creates a much more intimate atmosphere.


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A few days ago I reviewed Google Wallet and talked a little bit about Near Field Communication (NFC). As you may have read, Google Wallet allows people to use their credit cards, gift cards, and reward cards without having a physical card on them. They can use the app to scan the card using NFC. Google Wallet also offers NFC-only coupons through participating businesses. I truly believe that with the help of Google, NFC will revolutionize how we use our mobile devices – and not just with financial information.
My friend and I, both Software Engineers, have had fairly lengthy discuss
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ions recently about uses for NFC and what it means for the future of mobile. We’ve discussed its current capabilities, its potential capabilities, and the possible issues that will arise.

Current Capabilities
I touched on these in my Google Wallet review. Right now NFC is capable of, and being used for, sending simple data like apps, directions, contact information, and more, as well as payment processing. The former is powerful because it can be (and is being) leveraged by application developers. Developers are using it to send business cards, transfer various files, and even read those annoying anti-theft tags that are found on some items in stores. Paypal is working NFC into the latest version of their app so one user can send funds directly to another’s account just by touching phones.
There are tons of developers creating more and more such apps every day using the technology that is currently out there. With the current capabilities of NFC, sites like Groupon and Living Social can integrate NFC coupons right into their apps like Google Wallet did. Barcode scanners for certain items may be rendered useless for the more convenient NFC reader.
Obviously the latter is the big ticket item as far as NFC goes. You can add certain credit, gift, and reward cards to Google Wallet and can “clip coupons.” The carriers (Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile) have launched their own similar technology called ISIS. With more support from vendors, Google Wallet and similar apps have the ability to almost completely replace your wallet. The only thing you’d need to carry around is identification.
Speaking of which…
Future Capabilities
NFC could be used for so much more than just data transfer and payments. Imagine you’re planning a Disney Vacation (as it turns out, I am). You purchase your park tickets, reserve your hotel, buy your flight tickets, and you’re ready to go. Instead of printing everything off before you go to the airport, you get there and just wave your phone at the kiosk, where it asks you to enter a PIN that they issued to you. It then checks the tickets on your phone, as well as your identification, and you’re on your way. 
Once you touch down in Orlando and head to the hotel, you check in using your phone and they beam you your room key, all using NFC. Now you just wave your phone in front of your room’s lock and it unlocks. Finally, it’s time to go to the park. You go through the turnstile but instead of sliding your park ticket through a reader, you hold your phone up to it. You’re in, and your phone displays how many more times you can use your ticket.
Pretty cool, right? The truth is that all of this and more is possible with NFC. As long as vendors get a reader that supports NFC, capable phones can quickly and easily send information to those devices.  And I know what you’re thinking; everything I said might seem reasonable in theory, except for one step: the identification. It seems crazy and impossible that people would be able to identify using NFC. However, in the USA passports now have RFID chips embedded, something that was put in place back in 2005. Admittedly, there is the glaring problem of security and identity theft prevention.
Possible Issues
The biggest issue with NFC is also its biggest convenience: how easy it is to transfer data. There are probably apps being developed right now designed to try and intercept data via NFC. The comforting though is that NFC really is near field. You need to be about 7 inches or closer in order to get a read, with most apps now requiring an even smaller distance – Android Beam, built into Android 4.0, pretty much requires the devices to be touching. But there are other issues, especially with the future capabilities I described.
How would one ensure that they did not tamper with the data on, say, an NFC driver’s license or passport to change the owner’s age from 18 to 21? There would probably require photo verification, which would need human verification (at this point) or a facial recognition camera (in the nearish future). For tickets (for parks, planes, concerts, sporting events, etc.) there would need to be some sort of uncrackable vendor signature to ensure that the tickets are not counterfeit. There would also need to be a way to transfer ownership in case event tickets are sold on. These are just some of the issues that can arise from relying on devices for sensitive information.
Final Thoughts
What we have now as far as NFC is pretty cool; the ability to easily transfer information between devices is novel and the ability to pay with your phone is outright awesome. What we can have soon is mind blowing.
Having a single device able to grant you access to whatever you need is so futuristic that it’s both exciting and horrifying in equal measure. And while there are issues we need to look out for – specifically in the security arena – these are problems that have surfaced before and ones that can be solved by building off current solutions like encryption, vendor signatures, and more.
I’m really excited to see what NFC brings to mobile devices. If the story I painted for you comes to fruition, I’ll be a very happy man.


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