DoubleTwist on Android

The stock media player in Android is somewhat notorious and because of that the market is flooded with alternatives. Now another player steps in, DoubleTwist. After using it a couple of days I decided to make a little summary…

DT start up
Default view

Frist impression: This app looks good! Clean interface with smooth graphics which is a whole lot better than the stock one.

Double Twist play view
Neat play view

When it comes to features it’s not much to say, it will play your music, videos and podcast and has the standard sorting of Artists, Albums, Songs and Playlists. Note for all of you that has been dying to get an equalizer…keep on waiting. DoubleTwist doesn’t really bring anything new to the table and lacks some features that can be found in other players (last.fm, internet radio and so on). The two things that I miss the most though is a Widget (if I didn’t use widgets I could’ve gotten an iPhone) and decent edit/create playlist functionality. If I’m to summarize it in one sentence it would be that it does what I expect of a standard media player, but it does so looking good.

A quick update gave us the option to disable the headset controls which is good, if you’re using different audio apps for different purposes the lack of such option could make DoubleTwist start playing over your Google Listen podcast for example. Other than that the only option is “Enable automatic massstorage”. Not a lot of flexibility but on the other hand I can’t think of other options that I feel is a must have.

This is a early version of the player and that will sometimes show…many users have reported issues with it not reading the music on the device properly. Missing parts of tags, not finding all files in an album etcetera. I haven’t had any such problems, it even handles Swedish letters properly which the stock player doesn’t always do. Overall this is a neat start but future development is what will decide if this is a new Android favorite or just another player among many. I’m looking forward to see how it goes, especially when it competes with the updated stock player.

Part two, the Desktop version and the wish to give you an “Apple Experience” but with Android

DoubleTwist comes in a desktop version as well, for both Windows and Mac (Linux is not supported…so far). This player has great synchronizing abilities with loads of devices. The aim is obviously to free you from iTunes and WMP. You can sync music, pictures, movies, podcasts and even search the Android Market from inside of your media player. This is all good ideas! Unfortunately the player has a looong way to go before being an option to iTunes or even any other media player. A part from the sync abilities it’s not that good. Serious problems reading ID3 tags properly (almost half of my library was missing parts or all information and believe me, I keep those tags in pedantic order), no ability to view or edit file information, no ability to collect album art and an interface that is actually less appealing than it’s Android counterpart. Did I mention I had to install it as an admin in Win7, and run it as one each time? Otherwise it won’t sync with my Nexus1. No, my computer will continue running songbird. I can’t sync pictures, movies and podcasts (though I guess podcasts is coming up sooner rather than later). On the other hand synchronizing music is also hard when the library doesn’t perform good enough to even show all your songs.

Double Twist Desktop library
DoubleTwist library when I search for "abra"
Songbird library
Exactly the same search and library but in Songbird instead

Songbird almost ready to hatch

Kanyebird
Kanyebird

A year or two back I read a short review on yet another media player, Songbird. As a hardcore Winamp user (since I got my first computer back in 1998) I wondered why I should use anything else but it had some interesting features.  Open source being one, Free another but most of all: it had iPod support. I have never owned an iPod myself but my girlfriend did so…I gave it a spin. It turned out that the iPod support was somewhat experimental and I missed other functions as well. Like all players other than Winamp it lacked what in Winamp is called playlist. It could of course handle playlists but I’m used to having one that are always present, like a queue almost.

Since it didn’t really support iPods I was soon back to Winamp. It looked better, felt better/faster/more stable and it had my dear playlist so I didn’t really see a reason to change. Fast forward…

As I wrote earlier I recently got a Mac Mini. It’s great in so many ways but despite my more and more desperate attempts I still can’t find anything good with iTunes (not true, it looks quite nice). No playlist, no sync with my Android, surprisingly slow and only a “locked” watchfolders (yes it sounds totally ridiculous but it’s true, it will only watch a pre-defined folder). On top of that I couldn’t find a smooth way to duplicate/synchronize my library with my laptop, not even the new “Home share” feature can handle it properly. The alternative is to use Windows Offline files on my laptop. That actually synchronize the files, the library information (like covers) however stays…and back to the problem with no watchfolders. Now I had to manually add every new file twice! I even went so far as to let iTunes totally destroy my rigorously kept folder structure (sob) in my tries to get everything in place. Which of course didn’t help me at all except it created some duplicates and turned it into some kind of…chaos.

Birdie with guitar
Birdie with guitar

Eventually I gave up, back to winamp on my laptop but…no Mac support? Huh!? Lost again. Then out of no particular reason I stumbled on Songbird again. First thing to notice: Cross-platform! (Unfortunately they have just dropped further Linux support). Download-Install. Nice new look, faster, cover download and skinable (called feathers of course) sweet features indeed. Do I have to mention that the bird graphics are some of the cutest ever seen in a desktop software? Songbird can also use addons and it turns out that I’m not the only one loving the Winamp playlist. The “Now Playing” addon is very, very close to being the same thing. Works for me! There are of course many great addons, both for mediaviews and functional like finding duplicates in your library. Now I just have to download it on the Mac Mini and see what can be done about the iTunes destroyed library. The device support has also improved since my last tryout and syncing with my Android devices works like a charm, haven’t really tried out the iPod support though.

My only negative remark is that it sometimes feel a bit slow but it’s definitely bearable. Bugs are taken care of but they do exist. I truly recommend you give it a try yourself! www.getsongbird.com

The songbird splash
"Splashbird"

The future of mobile electronics

Every blog and paper already published their summaries and lists of both the previous year and decade. I say let’s forget the past, and focus on the future. At least for a little while. I will tell you what you can (might) expect from the future of mobile electronics, maybe not in a year but in 1-5 this is the development I predict.

Since I got my first smartphone I’ve been convinced that it was only a matter of time before the rest of my friends and family followed me into the modern age (i.e. got themselves one of their own). iPhone started exactly that movement. Suddenly there where a phone easy enough, funny enough and produced by a company with enough market share (I’m convinced that an identical phone from HTC for example never would have had the same impact). So slowly my friends and family is jumping on the wagon. What the iPhone started now has turned into friends with HTC Hero, Windows Phone (old Windows Mobile), iPhones and devices from any and all brands. Of course that means that I’m now starting to plan my own jump off from the same wagon. Here’s what I want, and other will figure out in a couple of years:

  • Standard phone features e.g. calling, SMS (starting to feel very outdated but, for a few more years) and such
  • All my internet needs in a mobile device, including mail (and wave/other collaboration tools), streaming videos, streaming music, reading blogs and news sites
  • eBook reader (no use fighting it, sorry librarians and other “paperback-huggers” time to adapt)
  • Some games and other miscellaneous stuff.

To read books, extensive articles online and browse the web somewhat comfortable I need a bigger screen than my Samsung Galaxy got (3.2”). The problem is that already a phone of this size sometimes feel a bit clumsy to carry around. When I don’t have a jacket/bag, at a party or on the town, going to the beach etcetera. There’s also an economical aspect in this. My phone suddenly cost the same as an average laptop and that’s before the bigger screen and additional features mentioned above. Phones are easily lost, stolen or broken. Nothing strange there, it’s the same with all things we carry with us everywhere. I remember an interview with a scientist researching crime among youths in Sweden a couple of years back. He/she said that one of the reasons for the increase of robbery against individuals is that we carry much higher values on our persona. We stopped having cash in our wallets but instead we got expensive mobile phones, mp3 players and so on.

Solution? As everything gets combined into the same device (do they still sell mp3 players or cameras without a mobile phone included? :) ) I predict an excelling need for different products for different occasions. I will most likely in the coming two (ehm, one if I know myself) years change my smartphone for a “stupid phone”. That phone should be small, cheap and manage just the basic functions like placing calls, simple e-mail and maybe music. A revival of my old Sony Ericsson K750i maybe? :) At the same time I will buy a tablet that is more of a hybrid of today’s:

  • tablets (Archos 5-like);
  • ebook reader (nook-like);
  • smart phone (Nexus One-like);
  • netbook;
  • mediaplayer (iPod touch-like).
Devices
Combined in one?

This baby will follow me to work and longer journeys, but not on short trips to the town and such. Then once again I will be telling my friends and family: This is the future of mobile electronics!

This post was inspired by numerous blogs and news sites over the year and the pictures are standard ones that’s flooding the web. Any objections to me posting this pictures can be sent to me and I will sort it out. Special thanks to the Swedish site http://www.swedroid.se that always keep me in the loop on Android news.

Mac Mini, incoming!

I’ve just ordered my first Apple device, it’s a big day! The device in question is not an iPhone (bah! I would never).


Mac Mini - Wikimedia Commons
My new baby

It is however a beautiful Mac Mini that hopefully will bring my never ending media playback issues to an end. I’ll give you the background today and the update on how it went when I get setup and tried it out a bit.

I have tried multiple ways to playback my media. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, I just want to be able to play both my digital videos as well as the ones on disc. If possible I would like to be able to play my music as well, all of course through my Home Cinema system (not that fancy but now that I got it, it sure as hell shall be used). So far I’ve tried…

TvIX 6500 HD: A cute little box that was my last attempt at salvation. It should’ve been able to give me Full HD (1080p) both from the internal HD as well as over the network from my server. Well, it didn’t. Not very reliably at least. Xvid/Divx and DVD images worked just fine though. Managed to sell it without a major loss so, problem solved. Music interface was so bad that I only used it a few times, hence a separate solution for that, and no disc drive for DVDs and Music.

Home Cinema system with DVD player: Aside from not playing my digital videos it has so far spent most of the time since my investment back in the shop for repairs. Reason for that is that first the DVD playback wouldn’t work (or the remote), got it back with a new remote. Remote works fine, plays DVDs the first few tries and then both CD and DVD playback stopped working. Back to the shop. The biggest drawback however is that I need another device to play music or digital video.

XBOX360: I have a Microsoft Windows Home Server. One would think that MS figured out that their users might want to use their shining new XBOX as a Media Center (Hey, that’s what everyone did with the old XBOX). But no. XBOX360 is quite lousy as media center. Doesn’t play xvid/divx without some hacking (works but…strangely hard to accomplish), doesn’t play DVD images at all and the music interface is as slow as a turtle without legs. Microsoft, I did everything you wanted me to, got the server, Windows 7 and the XBOX360 and still I need workarounds or 3rd party software to free my files. Not good marketing strategy.

HTPC: Tried some different solutions (running the PC version of XBOX Media Center was one) under different OS version (XP, Vista and Windows 7). The media center capabilities are still crippled and I often found a need for a full keyboard to make things work. What I haven’t tried is to buy a full HTPC of the shelf. Since my experiences from running both stationary and laptop computers as HTPC isn’t exactly great I’m not that keen to pay the huge stack of money that a decent looking, decently quiet, remote controlled and working HTPC costs (in Sweden you’ll have to pay roughly 800-1000$). The reports on usability issues, regular playback problems and angry family members not being able to start a simple DVD didn’t encourage me either.

So what do I use today then? Feels ridiculous but I’m back to using my old XBOX. Yes, that’s correct, the one launched in 2000-2001 something like that. It’s huge, ugly, sounds like a tractor, can’t play any HD material and cheap me hasn’t got the cordless remote. I use the regular joypad instead. It does however presents all the capabilities I ask for in a media center, plays (almost all) DVDs and digital video files. Since it’s really quite outdated it’s not exactly foolproof but it works most of the times, it even plays videos in compressed archives. The music interface is not awesome but works, it’s just that the joypad isn’t that great as a remote.

I write to extensive for a blog, shame on me and poor readers. That was the background, the next time I might have become a Mac fanboy, who knows? :)

Stumbled on this review when I tried to decide if Apple really should get my hard earned money, sure pushed me over to the order button! http://www.mrobsession.com/osxmbc-review/

>Windows 7 – what to like

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After a short vacation I’m back.
Those of you that are returning visitors (and you actually are a couple, thanks for that) know that I’m looking damn hard right now to write about something that don’t come from the company in Seattle which I won’t mention by name this time (one post without it should be doable don’t you think?).

So I figured it’s time for the post about Windows 7, it’s really a must for every techie blogg.
I’ve been using Windows 7 on one of my computers since the Beta and have been running the Release Candidate since, well it’s release. So why haven’t I posted anything before?
Simple, it ain’t that much to write home about.

It’s fast, it’s sleek, it’s shiny and I absolutely love it.
With that said, little has changed on the outside. That’s not entirely true either, they changed the taskbar (love it) and they gave the start-menu a tweak (nice) but it’s all minor changes to a lot of things. Combined they give a new and very nice feel to it that in my opinion is quite hard to put your finger on.

One neat thing that I’m guessing that everyone using it haven’t noticed is the new way to work with windows. You can maximize a windows by dragging it to the top of the screen and vice versa but that’s not something I use everyday. What I do love is the ability to “pin” windows to the sides. By just dragging a window to the edge of your screen you can make it take up ½ the screen, do it on both sides and you just got yourself a split-desktop. This is something that I find very useful on large screens, try it! I read an article in The New York Times a while back stating that big screens increase efficiency. I was a bit sceptic then, the research was initiated by NEC for gods sake :) But with this small function it just got easier to actually use that big screen of yours so maybe on some tasks.

Touch-ups in the following areas that annoys me with Vista:
· UAC (you know, all those pop-ups asking you if: you really meant to do what you just did, and then: are you sure? yes dammit I wouldn’t have clicked yes the first 5 times if I wasn’t sure!)
· Sleep, Sleepmode, Shutdown, Have a nap, Go fore a pizza. Who remembered the translation of all that Vista options? This is much clearer in W7. (This might have been a bigger issue on non-english Vista, I don’t have any English version installed anymore to check with)

All in all, go for it! I most definitely will, there are no down-sides with W7 compared to Vista. It even requires less from your hardware. If you’re an XP-fanboy well…if you can run it you should still try it, you won’t be disappointed! Microsoft just announced that they relaesed Windows 7 to manufacture, also known as: Windows 7 rtm. October is the month if I’m not out in the blue!

The picture at the top is an Icon in Windows 7, if the dear Microsoft don’t want it here in this very positive article…well you just let me know.
Can’t find the NYTimes article, just a reference: http://nwitimes.com/app/inbusiness/?p=489

>VideoLAN Codec version 1.0 released!

>
Big news!
The outstanding (in my humble opinion) media player VideoLAN Codec (or just “VLC) is released in it’s first “live” version as of yesterday.
The release called Goldeneye holds some new features and is according to people who tried it “stable as a rock”. Myself is on the slow side and just started downloading, but for once I feel certain I won’t be disappointed.

Things in VLC that makes it my first choice any day for Video:
+ No codecs!
+ Plays everything (close enough at least).
+ Shipped with on of the most sober skins still out there (No everything bubbly and shiny is not how I want my media player. Next person that makes a skin that looks like a remote with a display should be tied-up!)
+ Plays .img and .iso files without mounting
+ Network streaming.
+ etc.

The only thing I miss is being able to play my .img and .iso files even if they are compressed in multiple .rar files (it does support “normal” file formats compressed though).

Development has been ongoing for over 8 years, worth the wait
Get VLC 1.0 right away over at: http://www.videolan.org/

>Gammal teknik får nytt liv

>Jag har ju som bekant slarvat bort min telefon, utöver det man kan räkna ut är tråkigt har jag börjat lida mer och mer av att inte kunna lyssna på musik jämt och ständigt.

Därför blev jag lycklig när jag hittade min gamla mp3-spelare i en låda där den nog spenderat de senaste..2-3 åren.
Det är en Rio Carbon på 5GB som väl är rätt stor om man jämför med dagens knappnålsspelare men den är fortfarande relativt smidig. Eftersom jag redan när jag köpte den 2004 var lite nördig är det en fin apparat på många sätt, 20 timmar uppspelningstid uppskattar jag mycket. Hyfsad kontrast mot mobilerna man måste ladda varje natt…

Sagt och gjort, tog med mig den till jobbet för att ladda via datorn (mini-usb, mums med standard).
Kommer och tänka på att det kanske släppts en senare Firmware, ut och jaga. Hittar mycket riktigt en senare på Rios hemsida. Bara det är lite tufft eftersom Rio Audio inte finns längre.
Men det stannar inte där…efter en sökning på Google visar det sig att Rio hade fin fina resurser i form av sina anställda. En tidigare utvecklare verkar ha gillat sitt jobb, för 6 månader efter att Rio drog sig undan MP3 marknaden släpps en ny (inofficiell) Firmware kallad: The Developers Cut.

Den tidigare anställde har lagt lite av sin fritid på att ge en present till alla Carbon ägare (finns även för spelaren Forge). Genom lite efterforskningar landar filen på min dator. Trots dess inofficiella status är installationen komplett med Rio logga och allt. Väl på plats testar jag…och jublar. Det här är bra grejor!

I korthet har följande hänt med min nygamla leksak:

  • On-the-go playlist editing added – Som jag saknade det när min användes dagligen!
  • TXT visning added – Ingen aning om vad jag ska me det till :)
  • Sleep funktion – Klockrent!
  • Volym inställning via meny – Tydligen har många pajat sina volym rattar, dock inte jag.
  • Play song options added – väljer jag en låt kan jag nu välja att den ska spela bara den låten, fortsätta med resten av listan m.m.
  • + lite nya inställningar av olika slag
  • +snabbare menyer
  • +Mycket snabbare uppstart, från c:a 20 sekunder till under 10.

Jag mår som en prins och det känns som om jag träffat en kompis jag trodde var förlorad för flera år sedan, sen när man väl ses har kompisen blivit 7 resor bättre!
Ska få upp lite bilder på klenoden när jag kommer hem.

Developers Cut 3.04 – Download – Source: Wikipedia
I’ll try to find some place to store this and make it available for the masses. Many of the links out there are already dead. The link from Wikipedia works at least for now June 2009.

>Testversion av Opera 10 släppt

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Webbläsaren Opera finns nu att ladda ner i Beta av version 10.

Efter att ha testat några dagar kan jag bara konstatera att den är en trevlig bekantskap, utan att blåsa mig av stolen på något sätt.

Bland trevliga funktioner vill jag gärna nämna “SpeedDial”, som mest av allt kan liknas vid en uppsättning bokmärken du får presenterat för dig i små Thumbnails (jag vägrar, vägrar, vägrar kalla det tumnaglar som låter så larvigt). Påminner lite om Chromes variant som visar de sidor du besökt mest, men här får du välja vad som ska visas. Funktionen är inte ny men har slipats lite, bland annat kan du nu välja bakgrund och hur många länkar som ska visas. Snyggt sa Bill, och smidigt sa Bull.

En annan snygg funktion, även om den praktiska funktionen kanske kan ifrågasättas, är att kunna vissa dina tabbar som miniatyrer istället för bara text. Snyggt på min stora skärm hemma, lite för platskrävande på laptopen. Håller man musen över någon av tabbarna visas just den fliken i miniatyr (oavsett text eller bildflikar).

Det jag gillar mest är gränssnittet, som väl alltid är något av en smakfråga visserligen. Det är stilrent, anpassningsbart, logiskt och lättanvänt. Kul att se en webbläsare som inte bara tittar på vad andra gör.

Något jag tycker borde kopieras av fler är Firefox “huvudlösenord”.
Jag är helt enkelt inte sugen på att spara alla mina lösenord, mail etcetera. i en webbläsare som inte på något sätt kontrollerar att det faktiskt är jag som sitter där. Hur säker firefox förvaring av sparade lösen faktiskt är överlåter jag åt andra att undersöka. Det viktiga för mig är att inte “kreti och pleti” kan få åtkomst till allt jag gör utan den ringaste kunskap utan bara genom fysisk tillgång till min dator.

Den funktionen Opera själva promotar hårdast är något de kallar “Turbo”.
Tanken är ganska enkel, sitter du på en långsam uppkoppling aktiverar du Turbo och då ska det..ja ni gissade rätt: Gå snabbare.

Det hela fungerar genom att all trafik då går via en proxy som komprimerar ihop det hela.
Eftersom min telefon som vi alla vet har tagit permanent semester har jag inte haft någon långsam uppkoppling att boosta så jag litar på “Datormagazin”.
Utdrag ur artikel:
“Vi testade Opera Turbo genom att använda en mobiltelefon som modem i en bärbar dator. Telefonen anslöts till datorn via Bluetooth.

Utan Turbo gick det oerhört långsamt, men när vi aktiverade funktionen förbättrades laddningstiderna markant. Vi tappar dock en del detaljkvalitet i bilder. Även om det går snabbare att surfa med Turbo, har vi svårt att hålla med Opera som uppger att Turboläget ger användaren bredbandliknande hastighet över en uppringd anslutning.”

Sammanfattningsvis är Opera helt klart trevlig! Jag saknar funktionen Huvudlösenord men utöver det så har vi ett snyggt och cleant gränssnitt, snabba laddningstider (uppstart, flikhoppande m.m.). Som vanligt finns det vissa hemsidor som absolut bara tänker fungera med IE men utöver det verkar den hålla sig till standard och renderar rätt. Swedbanks internettjänst ville inte riktigt vara med och leka och ett par andra sidor har gett konstigheter (oftast med menysystem).

Det enda som verkligen stört mig är att den bråkat med iGoogle (om du inte kör det redan så pröva: www.google.se/ig mycket trevligt). Trots idoga försök, eller åtminstone försök, får jag den inte att visa mer än 1 rubrik på flera av mina feeds. Sjukt irriterande och jag fattar inte varför, i både Explorer, FF och så klart Chrome funkar det fina fisken. Jag kanske gör fel :)

Värd att pröva om du tröttnat på Explorer! Kör du redan FireFox eller Chrome är fördelarna för få för att ett byte ska vara påkallat om du inte är som jag och vill prova runt lite.