SCIENCE AND TECH
Ability to listen to music is one of the most basic functionalities of a modern smartphone. As far as Android platform is concerned, there is a huge number of apps designed to play your favourite tunes. While some of them look great, but are extremely simple, others are feature-packed audio powerhouses lacking visual polish. Nonetheless, given their variety and availability, everyone should easily find a music player that will suit their needs. We’ve highlighted a few that – in our opinion – are the most interesting and offer the perfect balance of usability and design.
Note: Apps are in no particular order
Google Play Music is the default music player on all new Android smartphones and tablets. It has replaced the old-and-ugly Music app and everyone is thankful for that. The app’s most important feature, apart from ability to play music stored locally, is integration with Google’s own music shop and streaming service. With Google Play Music, you can browse millions of songs and save them in the device’s memory as well as create custom radio stations and enjoy it without skip limits. While the app itself is free, but for the Google All Access streaming service you’ll have to pay £9.99 per month.
As far as the design and features go, Google Play Music is a simple, yet beautiful app. It blends smoothly with other Google apps and has an intuitive interface in orange-white colour scheme. The player is equipped with handy lockscreen music controls and allows you to create playlists with your favourite songs in addition to browsing music by artist and album.
This player stands out from the crowd due to its incredibly polished user interface and smoothness. It is elegant and easy to use. Features offered by the free version are rather limited, but doubleTwist Player Pro (available as an in-app purchase) offers a great value for the money. In addition to basic functionality you’d expect from a music player, it is equipped with equilizer, high-quality album art downloader, podcast management and wireless music sync with iTunes. Moreover, the app can stream your tunes to numerous compatible devices, such as the Xbox, PlayStation, Sonos audio system oraz Apple TV.
musiXmatch is one of the few music players that can display lyrics. Actually, it was designed with this purpose with mind and other features are just neat additions. The app integrates with your default or third-party player and downloads lyrics for songs in the library. It has, however, interface of its own and allows you to browse songs by artist and album as well as create playlists. Furthermore, musiXmatch supports scrobbling to Last.fm and with a Shazam-like built-in functionality, it can quickly identify that song you’ve once stumbled upon, but can’t recall the title.
This is one of the most powerful music players available in the Google Play Store. It is packed with so many features, that it is easy to lose track of them. Poweramp plays all popular media files and offers support for playlists in a variety of formats. There is also a graphical equalizer with custom presets, separate sliders for Bass and Treble adjustment, dynamic queue, tag editor and built-in Last.fm scrobbler. As far as playback goes, user can apply crossfade effect and set up replay gain. The player can display lyrics thanks to aforementioned integration with musicXmatch.
By default, Poweramp doesn’t look particularly appealing. However, it can be heavily customized with first- and third-party themes that can be applied not only to colour schemes, but also buttons and backgrounds. For instance, with just a few taps you can give it a modern, Holo-ish look or make it mimic the iOS 7 music player. Depending on developer, themes can be both free and paid. Now playing screen background that adopts the colour dominating in the cover art is a nice little touch, too.
Poweramp offers a free 15-day trial. After that period, you’ll have to pay to continue using it. The full version of the app is quite pricey, but after half a month with it, you probably won’t mind it.
PlayerPro is Poweramp’s greatest competitor. Just like it, PlayerPro is equipped with tons of customization options. It allows the user to apply custom themes, change library display layout, download missing album art (either automatically or manually) and lyrics, play both music and video files and filter songs by title, album, artist, album artist, track, year, genre and comment. Furthermore, PlayerPro has support for the most basic playback effects and offers graphic equalizer with customizable presets. Music can be controlled by gestures or with headset buttons, which is a very handy feature. PlayerPro can scrobble to Last.fm and share the currently played song on Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Picassa and other social networks.
There are two lockscreen and five different homescreen widgets to choose from. If that’s not enough, you can skip and play/pause playback directly from the notification bar.
You can download and use PlayerPro for free for 10 days. After that, the app will ask you to pay for the full version.
Wiizm is a newcomer to the game of music players. With its quite unique approach to design, it brings the much needed freshness. What jumps out when we look at Wiizm, is the clean and clear layout with fancy blurred background. Various music categories and favourites can be accessed through a sliding menu and support for OpenGL guarantees fluid experience. The app is equipped with various sound effects, graphic equalizer and shuffle/repeat function. Playback can be controlled with either one of three available widgets or directly from the notofication bar and lockscreen. Support for headset button and sleep/wake up timer aren’t missing, too.
Wiizm music player is currently at the beta stage. 15-day trial version enchanced with new features and functionality is expected to be available soon. Until then, you can enjoy it for free, but reckon with possible bugs here and there.
Religion and astronomy may not overlap often, but a new NASA X-ray image captures a celestial object that resembles the “Hand of God.”
The cosmic “hand of God” photo was produced when a star exploded and ejected an enormous cloud of material, which NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, glimpsed in high-energy X-rays, shown in blue in the photo. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory had imaged the green and red parts previously, using lower-energy X-rays.
“NuSTAR’s unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light,” NuSTAR telescope principal investigator Fiona Harrison, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement.
The hand might look like an X-ray from the doctor’s office, but it is actually a cloud of material ejected from a star that exploded. NASA’s NuSTAR spacecraft has imaged the structure in high-energy X-rays for the first time, shown in blue. Lower-energy X-ray light previously detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is shown in green and red.
The new image depicts a pulsar wind nebula, produced by the dense remnant of a star that exploded in a supernova. What’s left behind is a pulsar, called PSR B1509-58 (B1509 for short), which spins around 7 times per second blowing a wind of particles into material ejected during the star’s death throes.
As these particles interact with nearby magnetic fields, they produce an X-ray glow in the shape of a hand. (The pulsar is located near the bright white spot in the image but cannot be seen itself, NASA officials said.)
“We don’t know if the hand shape is an optical illusion,” Hongjun An, of McGill University in Montreal, said in a statement. “With NuSTAR, the hand looks more like a fist, which is giving us some clues.”
The red cloud appearing at the fingertips is a separate structure called RCW 89. The pulsar’s wind may be heating the cloud to produce the low-energy X-ray glow, astronomers believe.
The X-ray energies seen by NuSTAR range from 7 to 25 kiloelectron volts, or keV, whereas the energies seen by Chandra range from 0.5 to 2 keV.
The Hand of God is an example of pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon of perceiving familiar shapes in random or vague images. Other common forms of pareidolia include seeing animals or faces in clouds, or the man in the moon. Despite its supernatural appearance, the Hand of God was produced by natural astrophysical phenomena.
Samsung has shown off the Bendable TV – an 85in (216cm) prototype that allows the curvature of its screen to be adjusted by remote control.
The LED (light-emitting diode) set was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
LG has also announced a smaller 77in (196cm) flexible TV of its own that is based on OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology.
The firms suggest that a curved screen can enhance the viewing experience.
The tech would allow the sets’ owners to determine how bent the screens should be taking into account how many people were watching them and how far away they were sitting. The screens would have the added benefit of being able to be left flat against the wall when not in use.
LG’s model will go on view when its show floor booth opens to attendees on Tuesday.
However, industry watchers are unconvinced there is a market for such innovation.
“The challenge for the firms is to demonstrate that the world really needs this,” said Martin Garner, a TV tech consultant from CCS Insight who is attending CES.
“They are, however, a nice attempt at differentiation.”
Will Findlater, global online editor for Stuff Magazine, added: “The jury is still very much out on whether curved displays make much difference to image quality and the experience you have when watching a TV. At this stage it does feel like a bit of a gimmick.”
Lost for words
Neither of the two South Korean manufacturers have given a projected price or release date for the user-bendable TVs.
They both, however, offer versions with a fixed curvature.
The two companies are showing off new giant-sized 105in (267cm) concave-screened versions in the extra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio.
Samsung said such a design delivered the “most immersive viewing experience” possible.
However, a demonstration of the equipment went awry when it invited Michael Bay, director of the Transformers movies, on stage at its press conference.
The Hollywood millionaire complained his autocue had malfunctioned and initially said “I will just wing this.”
But when asked what he thought about the new set he found himself speechless, apologised and walked off stage leaving a stunned audience.
Michael Bay initially said he would “wing it” after his autocue malfunctioned
Joe Stinziano, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics, told the crowd: “Welcome to Vegas, it’s a live show folks.”
Mr Bay later wrote a blog giving his take on the mishap.
“Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES,” he wrote.
“I got so excited to talk, that I skipped over the Exec VP’s intro line and then the teleprompter got lost.
“Then the prompter went up and down – then I walked off. I guess live shows aren’t my thing.”
Sony recently announced that it will be giving away some of 2013’s most popular PlayStation games to lucky PlayStation Plus subscribers, this January 2014. The repertoire of games includes titles for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and the handheld PS Vita. Sony also released a video via its PlayStation blog, showcasing itsupcoming library of free games to members during January.
PlayStation Plus is offering “Don’t Starve,” a wilderness survival game developed by Kiel Entertainment as part of the Instant Game Collection for the PS4 during January. It will also be offering Irrational Games’ 2013 first-person shooter “Bioshock Infinite,” 505 Games’ adventure game “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons”and Ninja Theory’s action-adventure hack and slash title “DmC: Devil May Cry” for the PlayStation 3.
The handheld PS Vita will also receive two titles, including Team 17’s “Worms: Battle Island” and Climax Studios’ educational title “Smart A–”
Free games are only available to PlayStation Plus subscribers, which costs $49.99 annually, or $9.99 per individual month. European subscribers will be able to play the PS4’s “Don’t Starve,” while also gaining access to 2K Games’ “Borderlands 2” and “DmC: Devil May Cry.” European Vita owners will also receive Japan Studio’s action adventure “Soul Sacrifice” and Aksys Games’ 2D fighter “BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend.”
Are you a PlayStation Plus subscriber? Do you think the $50 price tag is too high, or do the benefits outweigh the cost?
Africa’s billionaire philanthropist and the richest Black man in the world, Aliko Dangote joined Twitter Wednesday, January 1 using @AlikoDangote as his Twitter handle.
The business mogul’s Twitter account was verified before he even tweeted and in less than 24 hours after joining Twitter, he already had more than 16,000 followers.
The billionaire philanthropist used his inaugural tweet to express his sentiments on joining Twitter and to wish his followers a happy new year. He also used his first tweet to encourage his followers, using one of this favorite quotes.
“Glad to be on Twitter. Wishing you all a prosperous New Year. Stay positively committed to achieving your dreams, nothing is impossible”
Africa’s richest Black man has since followed the official Twitter account of his company, Dangote Group as well as fellow billionaire entrepreneurs, philanthropist and global thought leaders including Kofi Annan, The World Economic Forum, Jeff Immelt, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Gordon and Sarah Brown.
Other billionaire entrepreneurs, philanthropist and global thought leaders from Africa that are active on Twitter include Folorunsho Alakija, Strive Masiyiwa, Tsitsi Masiyiwa, Tony Elumelu, Winnie Madikizile Mandela, Ashish Thakkar, and Mohammed Dewji
More and more of Africa’s billionaire entrepreneurs and industry captains are joining social media platforms to give business and professional advice and share their wisdom, personal life experiences, news updates, opinions, funny anecdotes and pictures.
Netflix is testing a streaming video plan that lets subscribers save a buck every month in exchange for a couple sacrifices.
The $7 per month plan, discovered by AdWeek, lets users stream one video at a time in standard definition only. But right now, it’s only available to a small number of new subscribers. “Not all people will see this option and it may not be something we ever offer generally,” a Netflix spokeswoman told AdWeek.
Netflix’s regular $8 per month plan allows up to two streams at once on a single account, and supports high definition video as well. The company also offers a family plan for $12 per month, allowing up to four streams at once.
Aside from that family plan, which arrived in April, Netflix hasn’t touched its pricing since 2011, when the company split mail-order DVD rentals into a separate $8 per month service. (The…
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