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Thursday, 29 November 2012

iTunes 11

Today Apple have released the latest version of their music software and it's called iTunes 11. iTunes 10 has been around for a while, since 2010, and although it's undergone some progressive changes it was still very similar in terms of general layout to iTunes 7. New features like iTunes in the cloud often felt like they were added on.

In iTunes 11 the user interface has been completely redesigned. The interface makes better use of your screen real estate. The main view is all your albums represented by their album art and the album name and album artist just below. This is a great view for browsing through your library. If you fancy creating a playlist the interface is far better. You get much more room to see and organise all your playlists as the sidebar which they used to sit in has been hidden. If you miss the sidebar in iTunes 11 just click View > Sidebar, but it's really not needed anymore. If you drag any song/album/artist you can drop it into a playlist. The list of your playlist pops up whenever you drag anything. It's easy to drop onto your iPod, iPhone or iPad in this way too.

The new store lets you listen to 90 second previews whilst browsing around at your next potential purchase. A handy "recently previewed" list is great to keep on top of what you might like to purchase. Having used iTunes 11 for an hour or so I have to say that I'm impressed. The slick new interface makes listening music fun again, especially the "Up Next" feature which allows you to cue tracks to a now playing playlist on the fly, a bit like iTunes DJ in the previous version, but a lot better.

Once you update to iTunes 11 your library gets updated but this was painless enough. Some of the new features require you to share the album details of your library with Apple, but this was an easy decision to make as an iTunes Match subscriber. The new features include showing you galleries of artist's and links to related music.

For the full list of the new features click read more below.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

App of the Day - Angry Birds Star Wars

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away there were birds whose eggs where stolen by Bad Piggies... or  am I confusing Angry Birds with Star Wars?!?! One of the best mobile games, Angry Birds, has taken a fresh, sling-shoting, head only carton approach to the Star Wars universe in: Angry Birds Star Wars!

The epic game see the Star Wars characters you know and love do battle in an Angry Birds sling-shot style. The game features the epic Star Wars sound track, light sabres and the classic scenes that you will enjoy playing out on your phone/tablet. Reasonably priced at just 69p for iOS devices and available on Windows, iOS and Android. For links to download it in each format click here.


Thursday, 8 November 2012

App of the Day - Xbox SmartGlass

Microsoft are keen to promote the Xbox 360 as a one stop shop device for all your media needs, as well as it's core use as a games console. Over the last year we have seen on demand TV services added, Netflix support and a refreshed Zune store for downloading films to your device. The Xbox 360 interface has recently had a slight refresh, bringing it inline with the Windows 8 Metro menu system. The previous incarnation of the Xbox UI was so similar, they where probably using it as a way of introducing the live tiles interface we see in Windows 8 and Windows Phone. For Microsoft's next trick: Xbox SmartGlass.

Microsoft's new phone/tablet app: Xbox SmartGlass is compatible with almost all devices (Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS & Android 4+) so what you have you can probably get connected. And theres no real set up to do, as everything is linked to your Microsoft (typically hotmail) account. This app replaces "My Xbox Live" on iOS.

The new apps as the remote control function of the My Xbox Live app, but much improved. No need to tap arrow keys anymore, just swipe left to go left, and tap anyway to press A. This makes using the remote much more intuitive. X, Y & B have all move to the extremities of the screen so you can actually use it whilst looking at the TV, and not your phone/tablet. This is an experience much more like using an Xbox controller, as you don't need to keeping looking down.

Once you have a game or film running on the Xbox the SmartGlass app displays additional information. A synopsis of the movie, or the map when you are playing Forza Horizon. Even an onscreen keyboard for browsing the internet with IE9 for Xbox 360, and especially handing when using your Xbox to update Facebook, send a tweet or chat using Windows Live Messenger.

For more information check out: xbox.com/smartglass

New Chrome Web Store Logo

The title says it all, Google have have updated the logo for the Chrome Web Store! It looks good in my opinion. It's always interesting to see how Google are confident about constantly reviewing and updating logos and brandings to keep up with (or ahead of) the competition.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Google Drops Custom Background Feature

For those of you who use Google's Custom Background feature it can be a great way to customise your web experience. You probably look at Google more often than your wallpaper anyway, since everything is so browser based these days.

Here's Google's notification:
Background images are going away on November 16, 2012
Thank you for using background images. As we build a more streamlined Google Search page for everyone, we’ll no longer be able to support customization with background images. So you will no longer be able to see your background pictures startingNovember 16, 2012.

Hopefully this means the Google will get a cool new UI in the coming weeks which just wouldn't work with custom backgrounds.

Microsoft Surface Performance

Chris Pirillo over at Lockergnome.com has filmed the key areas of performance on the new Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows RT. Windows RT is a version of Windows 8 which comes preloaded on devices which use ARM processors instead of the Intel-compatible processors found in laptops/desktops and even high end tablets. Windows RT is a slightly less capable OS to balance hardware power with what the software demands.

The Surface is a flagship product from Microsoft as they launch Windows 8. Many users will not read into the variants of Windows 8 vs RT so a laggy UI and any hanging will translate to slow sales for Windows 8 upgrades if Microsoft aren't careful.