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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.

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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A lot of time has passed since Google announced its next major iteration of the Android mobile OS in the form of Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) or Android 4.0 if you like to mention it in version numbering format. Afterwards since Google pushed the source code of the Android 4.0 out of the window developers from different Android handset vendors as well as members of the Android developer communities at the forums like XDA have been hard at work to port it to at least the most popular devices that are currently available. In Nov. last year we brought you a version of the Android 4.0 AOSP flavo
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r to install on your Samsung Galaxy S which is still one of the most popular Android devices around despite its age. And it’s the one that started all the craze and is the predecessor of the insanely popular Samsung Galaxy SII that we all used to know and love. At that time the version of the Android 4.0 that we reported was still not stable and more importantly some features were missing namely – Bluetooth, GPS, camera and video recorder functionality. I recently noticed that Onecosmic’s ICS Port Android 4.0.3 RC3.1 for Samsung Galaxy is out. Since it a release code version, so its is extremely stable and feature complete version of the ICS ready to be deployed on your Samsung Galaxy S device!
One of of the best features is that its purely AOSP experience as Google implemented in Android – no layering of other branded TouchWiz and GUI elements on top. Here is a list of key features that have been reported to work fine in this build:
Hardware Acceleration RIL(Radio Interface Link = Calls / Texts / Data) Audio Touch Wi-Fi Both SD Cards (Internal & External) Android Market access Contacts sync Calendar sync Camera(Video Recording & Pictures) Panorama mode Face Unlock GPS Bluetooth Wired tethering FM Radio(Download Spirit FM from Android Market) Wireless tethering

As you can notice this is an almost final build and supports the Hardware acceleration on Samsung Galaxy S and other features such as Bluetooth, GPS and Camera are also working! You can download Android 4.0.3 port for Samsung Galaxy S from here. Flashing this firmware on your Samsung Galaxy S is very simple. Just boot in Recovery Mode and flash the attached firmware file linked above and then remember to wipe data / factory reset and Wipe cache and reboot the device to get it booted in the Android 4.0.3 ICS on your Galaxy S! If you are novice user and not sure about the CWM, recovery mode and flashing procedure on Android devices then please take a look at this excellent tutorial and everything will become very clear to you!
All credit goes to the talented developers at the XDA forums that made it possible. For more details, updates and user feedback please have a look at the original thread at XDA forums.
Here is a video showing Android 4.0.3 in action on a Samsung Galaxy S:

Ice Cream Sandwich ports keep rolling in with one goal in mind, port to all older devices. Tonight the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) version of Android 4.0 ported to the Godfather of Android devices, the HTC G1. The ROM is available now but keep in mind it’s in an alpha state, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, [...]
Nuance Communications Inc. are a company specialising in voice recognition software. Many of you may be familiar with their Dragon line of computer software, superb pieces of kit that write your spoken words on-screen in real time.
Their new program for Android, Dragon Go, isn’t exactly the same sort of software. It’s a searching and browsing application that uses your voice to interpret your queries. So is this application as impressive as Nuance’s desktop product? Let’s find out.

When you load Dragon Go you’ll get a very simple win
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dow prompting you for a search string or instruction. Some examples scroll across, both above and below the entry field. If you want to speak a search string press the red record button; you can type the string if you prefer.
The interface is simple and slick: once you enter a search query or instruction Dragon Go attempts to process it, and then links you to the search pane it finds most appropriate. For example saying “Wikipedia Chocolate Cake” should take you to the Wikipedia pane and bring up the chocolate cake entry.
This is where your searches with Dragon Go begin, examples are provided above and below the entry field.
I really enjoy the technique for switching between panes with the same search term. Perhaps you said something ambiguous like ‘Gears of War 3′. Since you didn’t say a word like ‘Buy’ or ‘Images of’, Dragon Go defaults to just plain googling. To switch to Google Images, you grab the Google logo at the top of the screen and smoothly drag it over as far as you like to select one of the many other panes. You browse the content vertically, and change it horizontally. I like that a lot.
Dragon Go allows the following default operations with the words you provide:

Google – Use Dragon Go’s built-in browser to travel around the web. View webpages like you would in any other browser, and enter full-screen mode if you want to remove the search bar from view.
Google Images – Same as the above, but Google Images is the focus of the search.
Music – This is the first impressive feature. The application delves into your music collection and fishes out artists and songs with strings that match your search criteria. Selecting one opens it in your music player.

Dragon Go searches your SD Card for matching artists; tapping an album will begin playback.

Map – Your search string is Googled and the matches are placed around your current location. Very useful if you want to find a nearby restaurant or shop.
YouTube – The search string is popped into an embedded mobile web version of YouTube. Not too great, to be honest – I would have preferred them to forward the string to my YouTube application.
Twitter – Your string is put through Twitter’s ‘Real-time search’ system and any public tweets with the matching keyword are displayed for you. If you want to search a hashtag you would have to type it in, which makes Dragon Go no better than a real Twitter application.
Wikipedia – Probably the most useful of the lot, your key term is matched to Wikipedia articles. So if you ever want to find out about something on the move, you are covered.

An example of Bakewell Tart being put through the Wikipedia and Google Images tabs
Other services, such as Netflix and Pandora, can also be searched, as long as the app is installed. Pressing the Menu button and selecting ‘What’s Supported?’ shows you the current extent of Dragon Go’s functionality. For a list of all the things you could ever say, regardless of what is installed or not, press Menu and then ‘What can I say?’.
Lack of a Widget
This is a pretty big flaw for an application who’s primary function is convenience and speed. Without a Widget on your homescreen you have to tap the icon and wait for the application to load. Having a small ‘Tap To Speak’ icon would make Dragon Go so much more attractive to use. Hopefully Nuance will put one in with an update.
Talking to Your Phone..?
What I find a bit odd is that companies continue to produce voice recognition and dictation software, even though 95% of us only use it when we are alone. I don’t know about you but if I were to suddenly hold my phone to my face and say ‘Wikipedia Nicosia’ I would attract a few odd looks, so I refrain from it. A clearly visible Bluetooth headset calms people down when you are talking to yourself, but is that same effect carried over to enunciating a few words out of nowhere.
Furthermore speech recognition technology still makes lots of mistakes, especially in the smartphone world. Even if it works well in your living room I doubt it would work as well as you walk down the street or in a coffee shop.
Ironically, the time we spend loading speech applications and enunciating words to them could have been used to type what we wanted in the first place. We make far fewer mistakes through typing. Even if an application understands me correctly nine times out of ten, I still don’t hold the search button to activate Google Voice or Jeannie, and then tell my phone to call someone. It is always quicker to open my contacts and select the person I want to call by scrolling, typing, and tapping.
Her Majesty Wouldn’t Approve
When I first tried Dragon Go I was left shouting at it for a few minutes before I realised that it is designed for American accents. I have a very British-British accent, and so saying ‘Call Home’ kept resulting in Dragon Go googling ‘Cool Home’. Only by putting on an American accent could I actually call my house. Which reflects well on my acting skills, but badly on Dragon’s speech detection.
Altogether, I have mixed feelings about Dragon Go. Though it’s obviously a smart and attractive application, it doesn’t have much to offer besides its voice recognition. Everything else is just pretty layouts and embedded windows. The lack of a widget (meaning I have to run the application each time) doesn’t impress me either. I’m going to attach a 7/10 rating to Dragon Go. It works as advertised, but has great potential and a lot more should be done with it.