Spotify Answers our Prayers: the Spotify iPad app!

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Look at the beautiful artwork!

It’s about time.

I have been craving this exact item on the menu for the longest time, and finally Spotify has granted our wishes.

Previously, it was necessary to use the iPhone application on the iPad, which was disappointing as spotify could have done so much more with the large screen real estate.

The new iPad Spotify app is really the new Android Spotify app‘s older brother. It features a similar interface with  all of your standard Search, New, Inbox, and other menu functions in a left menu. It is also similar to the Facebook and Twitter iPad apps thanks to it’s clean, sliding panels.

Spotify integrates a lot of album artwork, with their signature two-by-two paneling of playlist album art.

If you want Spotify on your iPad, it is a free update for those who had the iPhone app installed previously, or you can go to this iTunes store link.

Thank you Spotify!

Spotify for Android gets Overhauled

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Pretty new artist page

Spotify is by far the best music service I have ever come across. For $10 a month, I get all of the new songs streamed to my computer and phone. For the price of one album a month, I can have as many songs and listen to all of them as many times as I want without any ads or issues. It’s magical!

The only problem is the the android app. It really lacks – the interface is a little bit hard to use, it doesn’t offer as much functionality as the desktop app, and the graphics are quite low resolution.

Well, not anymore. Spotify has released a preview of their new app, which features facebook- and twitter-like slide-out menus, cleaner, easier graphics, and a nicer, more refined playing menu. The interface is also a lot faster in general.

A nice new player interface

The application isn’t available on Google Play quite yet, as they’re working on adding a few more features like Last.fm scrobbling, folders, and more. However, if you’d like to update now, you can still download the preview of the new app.

First, you’ll need to open Settings > Applications and check the box that allows you to install applications from unknown sources. Next, open this post on your phone and tap here. The apk file should download. Next, pull down the notifications and tap the downloaded file. Follow the steps and in a few taps you’ll be enjoying the new spotify interface!

I’m excited that spotify is finally cleaning up their Android app – it was getting a bit, well, old.

Using AirPort express for AirPlay alongside a Time Capsule

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You may remember that a long time ago I reviewed the Time Capsule. It’s a wonderful wireless AP, and all of my data is totally safe.

But the Time Capsule doesn’t have AirPlay. On AirPort extremes and expresses, there is a headphone jack, and when connected, you can wirelessly stream your music to your speakers from your iDevice.

I’ve had an airport express for a long time, but I stopped using it when I got my time capsule. After hearing about the AirPlay improvements, I decided to break the thing out.

The AirPort Express creates its own WiFi network, and if I’m connected to that then I won’t be able to backup to my time capsule. Luckily, it is now possible to plug the AirPort Express directly into the Time Capsule, and have them both work as the same wireless network. This means that I can stream music AND backup at the same time!

With this all settled, you will now see the AirPlay icon appear on all of your devices. From this point on, it’s all extremely easy. Just tap the icon and up pops a menu of all AirPlay devices on the network. Tap the speaker system you wish to stream to Voila, we have wireless music!

If you’re on a computer, however, you can only stream your music from iTunes. That is, of course, unless you have an app called AirFoil.

This allows any application on your computer to output sound to your AirPlay speakers.

However, there’s a small issue.

There is a two second delay between when you cause the sound to happen and when it actually comes out of your speakers. On the iDevices, the movies are in sync because they are decoupled 2 seconds back. When you change the volume on your computer, you will see the small notification popup, yet you won’t hear anything for two seconds. Quite annoying.

For videos, AirFoil has included the “AirFoil Video Player.” I don’t know if it’s very good, as I can’t even get it to work without freezing and crashing.

In general, this system is simple and functional. But if you’re trying to stream content from your computer, you will notice an extremely distinct delay. It’s not like that audio quality isn’t good, so all audio (including pandora and other streaming services) work fine.

AirPort Express

AirFoil

Dolby Ok, go event

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I recently attended an event at dolby labs with Ok, go there. If you don’t know who Ok, go is, look at this video. I bet you’ve seen it somewhere sometime…. Now why is ok, go at dolby? Well, lets think. Ok, go=music. Dolby=sound. Music, sound, see the connection? The real reason the band was there is because dolby took their latest music video “this too shall pass” and converted it into 7.1 surround sound. They didn’t just expand the two tracks of stereo over all 8 speakers, but they actually got the individual microphone clips and used those to create a quality surround sound experience. The video was played back in full surround sound and quite high volume in the dolby labs theatre, which features some of the best in dolby surround sound technology. If you watch the video and say “I could totally imagine this on dolby surround sound!, ” then you’re wrong. You can’t imagine it. You have to hear it to believe it. It is scary how music can literally invade you if you have the right quality and the right system. If I had this theatre in my house and I played this at the same volume level, the neighbors would call the police who would come to my door for sound violations. The event was fun, as we crowded into the theatre and watched the video without the left and right channels (they had a server error, welcome to a PC dependent company). Then, Ok, go came on stage and did some Q&A with the audience. They emphasized how they are welcoming open source music and how they think that everybody should be able to take songs and remix them to their likings. They also talked about how they really aren’t too crazy about illegal downloads of their songs and it’s really the music labels that go crazy, as ok, go is more on the music side of things than the business (which will really come in handy for creating some great songs). What happened was we crowded into the theatre, they played the video without the left and right channels (server error) and then Ok, go did some Q&A. Every couple of questions they would play a song then get back to the Q&A. And when we were almost out of time they played the video this time with all channels included. Dolby said that they were interested in taking music and upping it into dolby surround sound as it gets publicity for everyone. Dolby gets publicity for converting artists’ music, and the artists get publicity because dolby wants to show off their amazing surround sound technology using their music. Now in addition to Ok, go there was something else extremely great there. Dolby Home theater four is not available to the public yet and who will be vending it is not known either. All of this information will be announced at CES2011. But I was lucky enough to get a preview of the software anyways. Dolby Home Theater v4 can do two exceptionally amazing things: it is able to take computer speakers and extreeeeeeeemely amplify them and it is also able to take standard stereo headphones and make them sound surround soundy. First of all would be computer speaker amplification. He played us a video without dolby on, then he turned it on.  It is amazing the difference. My mother is hard of hearing and without dolby on couldn’t hear the video at all. With it on she could. I think that this is great especially if you are on a train or on a bus. You can’t hear the video/music at all, but with dolby on you can. In addition to amplifying it can make it feel like the sound is coming from a wider range than tiny speakers inside of your computer. It can also boost dialoge in particular, so you can hear voices extremely clearly. The speakers have to be tuned to work best with the speakers which is why the software must be shipped with computers instead of a download. Each computer will have the software a tiny bit different to match the speakers. In addition to this amazing internal speaker improvement, they have added capability that you can use standard stereo headphones to make them like surround sound headphones. I was with my family and a family friend (Same one that did the ergonomics video of the magic mouse) and Kevin (a sound engineer) played for us a channel check. What it does is says “front left. front right. center. back left. back right.” through the corresponding channels. Without dolby turned on, you could barely hear a difference between each one. but with dolby turned on you wanted to look behind you to see who was saying that. The scary part about this is how it actually works. Here is a picture of vivienne’s reaction:

wait...What? Huh? How?!

As you can tell this is extremely perplexing. We have six channels going in through two speakers. I must make note that these aren’t special headphones at all. These headphones aren’t even made by dolby. These are just normal headphones. Now another thing in addition to this is that it can take the sound out of your ear and put the sound around your ear. Dolby makes it sound more like you are in a room, less like sound is being shoved into your ear. Usually using headphones if fatiguing, but dolby solved that problem. Having surround sound in your own personal speakers allows movies to have much more character and much more impact. It sounds more…. real. It’s amazing how people are cramming in 6 speakers into headphones, when really all you need is dolby. :) If you are at CES 2011, I highly suggest you head over to the dolby booth and try this stuff out. Dolby has some great stuff planned and they really know what their doing when it comes to their sound. Here’s a couple of pictures from the event.

Pandora

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This is probably one of the most well known web applications in the existence of existing. Pandora[.com] is a free (with a few ads) internet radio that quote “Plays only music you like”. First, put in your favorite song/artist (no registration required, but registration keeps track of all your stations for use on other devices). It will then find tracks like the artist or song you put in, and will make a “station”out of it called “[Artist/song here]“. Then, it will play a track with very close qualities to the artist/song you put in. You can them select thumbs down or thumbs up to modify the station. It will play constantly for about an hour and then say “Are you still listening?”. To avoid this, just click something over there. It only does that when it thinks you aren’t there and the app stays motionless for 1 hour. You can have LOTS of stations, I don’t know the maximum (if there is one). And with Fluid (clickable) you can turn it into a desktop application. What else could you ask for? No ads! To do this, you need to subscribe to pandora ($$). Ever hear music playing through my live feed? A lot of the time it’s pandora. Also, you can even create stations based on genre.

Links:

Cover Flow + Remote App + iTunes DJ= Awesome wireless listening experience

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Sometimes I like to do nothing but listen to music. My computer on my desk playing music, me sitting on the other side of the room on a pile of stuffed animals. But what do I look at when I listen to my music???? And how do I change the music, request a song in iTunes DJ (itunes 8.1 only), or change the volume??

Well, all of that is now solved.
I always use iTunes DJ for my needs now. It plays my higher rated ones more often, I can request songs, and I can remove songs from the DJ playlist. I have a great set of speakers, and I can turn them up to a very high volume. I must say, the iTunes DJ is very good at thinking what music you want to listen to. And the request feature makes it a very realistic “DJ”. Too bad it doesn’t have a voice… but Apple could definitely put that in there. I mean, they put it in that ipod.. Hey, where is it?, aka, the iPod shuffle.
Question 1: What do I look at when I’m listening to my music?
Answer 1: The awesome cover flow look. I can see what song just played, and what song is coming up. I can put it fullscreen, so that’s all I see- My album artwork of what song is playing, and a few before and after the song that is currently playing.
Question 2: How do I change the music, request a song in iTunes DJ, and control the volume from across the room?
Answer 2: Simple. I have an iPod touch as you may know, and I have a cool app that is made by apple and is called remote. You can hook it up to your iTunes library, and over wifi, you are able to control the music. It also puts your iTunes library as the Music app’s interface, but sadly you can’t rotate to view cover flow. but I can do all that: request a song in iTunes DJ, go to the next song, and even control the iTunes volume.
VIDEO!!!!!!!!!!!