Monthly Archives: November 2011

App of the Week: DoubleTwist

If you use an iPhone, you probably use iTunes.  If you use Android, you use…well, what?  A lot of people simply drag their media to the Android device like they would a flash drive.  Other phones use the manufacturer’s own app, much like Samsung.  But Android doesn’t have just one dedicated iTunes-like app to sync media between your computer and device. Rather, there are actually multiple apps that can do this, DoubleTwist being one of them.

When I first got my Android media player (the Archos 3.2) I started looking for something like iTunes to make syncing easier, and DoubleTwist was one of the highest rated apps.  The app looks a lot like iTunes, and even has similar settings for the look and feel of it.  The app will look through your Mac and find all your photos, videos, music, and podcasts and allow you to sync them all of selectively to your Android device.  You can also view all of the above that DoubleTwist can find on your computer’s hard drive, as well as on your phone or tablet’s drive.  You can also create and import playlists from iTunes.  These

DoubleTwist in the Android Marketplace

playlists can then even be moved over to iTunes if necessary (the same is true for Windows Media player on Windows). It has some trouble with DRM’d media, especially if you’re looking at movies and shows you purchased from iTunes.  But it has no trouble playing media that is not copy-protected.

But if this was all DoubleTwist did, it wouldn’t be much different from any other media playing/syncing app.  On the top of the sidebar, you’ll find that you can use DoubleTwist to download apps from the official Android Marketplace, music and videos from Amazon’s online service, and podcasts from a variety of sources.  The podcast list is not as extensive at iTunes may be, but the ability to have this is greatly appreciated.  The addition of the Android Marketplace and Amazon’s services more than make up for this discrepancy.  However, you can sync RSS feeds to download media, as well as a variety of media links through the main menu.

Of course, DoubleTwist has it’s own Android app that is simply beautiful.  It looks similar to the tiled interface of Windows Phone 7.  It plays any of the media that is synced from DoubleTwist (I’ll explain more about this in a minute).  The app also has the ability to stream internet radio, which I find very nice.  I did find on occasion that the app would freeze up, but it seems to have gotten better in recent updates.

Lastly, the apps sync with each other via your phone connection cord for free.  But for $4.99 you can get the AirSync app to go with it.  AirSync allows you to sync your media over wifi with your computer.  It also allows you to stream your media to your Apple TV through AirPlay, and to other ANdroid devices that support near field communication.

The system has some bugs though.  The desktop app can be a little slow to launch after repeated use, and I wish they could open up the podcast repository a bit more.  I also found that importing media via other methods (such as the drag-&-drop method) wouldn’t show up in DoubleTwist unless I manually searched for them through Android’s file browser.  And as I said before, the mobile app still can be a little unstable.

If you’re willing to have an iTunes like experience with your Android device, then give DoubleTwist a shot.  It supports just about every Android device running Android 2.1 (Eclair) and higher, though it also supports most iOS devices. It also support Windows Mobile, Blackberry, PSPm Sansa media players, and more. It runs on Mac OS 10.5 and higher (Leopard and higher), as well as Windows XP and higher.  And If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email me at easyosx@live.com  You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  You can also check out my Google Plus Page at https://plus.google.com/107817518299218190319.  Thanks!

App of the Week: Coconut Battery

Over the life of your MacBook, your battery is going to get gradually weaker. Eventually they will fail, either from age or just from being a bad battery. Mac has a built in battery monitor in the System Utility, that can say if the battery is healthy, how many cycles it’s been through, etc. But this doesn’t help if you want to see how weak or strong your battery is, nor if you want to know what might really be wrong with your battery. If you want some more info about your battery, try Coconut Battery.

I ran into Coconut Battery after my own battery seemed to be showing that something was amiss. Usually when this pops up, something is going wrong with the battery, and I was concerned. However, I had had this problem happen to me before, so I wanted to double check. Coconut Battery was able to tell me how much juice my battery left in it, and whether or not the Mac was being charged. In the box below it, it told me the carrying capacity of my battery compared to when the battery was brand new, which is a very nifty feature. It’s so much easier to read than judging it based off of the cycle count that Mac’s System Utility gives me. It also told me that battery is still in good condition. It also tells you your Mac model, based on the identification number, as well as the approximate age of the Mac. Lastly, you can save the stats of your battery for the current period, and compare that to later or earlier saved statistics. Outside of that, the app doesn’t provide much else in terms of functionality, but that’s ok. The app does what it says it will do, and it does it well. So if you want an easy way to check the health and the life of your battery, Coconut Battery is the way to go.

Coconut Battery is a free app for Mac OS 10.5 and higher (Leopard, Snow Leopard, and Lion). You can download it from http://www.coconut-flavour.com/. If you have any questions, comments, or anything else you would like to share, leave a comment below or email me at easyosx@live.com. Also be sure to check out Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube through the links at the top of the screen, as well as on Google+.. Thanks!

App of the Week: Sleipnir

In recent years, the number of web browsers available for Mac has grown in recent years.  Some have tried to stick to a Mac-like theme, or follow the path of Chrome and take a more minimalist design.  And then some take a wholly different path, like Sleipnir.  Sleipnir is a web browser that has been on Windows for a while and gained a devoted Japanese following in the process.  Named after an 8-legged horse from Norse mythology, it looks about as strange, but has plenty of speed.  Having used for a short while on Windows, and its release just last week from beta (or release candidate as the case may be), I decided to give it another go.

Sleipnir looks completely different from any other browser I’ve yet to see.  It has a really clean interface up top and can integrate well with Lion’s full screen mode.  The tabs are integrated into the top of the browser, hidden inside the title bar with the back and forward button.  Don’t see a URL bar to type you web address?  On the right side the site’s name, HTTPS status, reload button, and a download icon/manager, much like Safari 5.1.  Click on the URL, and the URL bar opens up and lets you get to the site you need.  WHen you’re done, it retracts back to a smaller size, returning a title bar.  I have to say that as strange as it is, it actually feels like a design choice that Apple could have made themselves.  Interestingly there are a couple seeming design flaws in it.  While I had the option to show a bookmarks bar, I never could get it to show up.  Sleipnir also has no Home button, even though you can set a homepage, which is a rather strange setting for a browser.

The browser runs off of the Webkit engine, just like Safari and Chrome, making it quite fast.  In fact, I found that it loaded various pages almost instantly, faster than most Chrome or Chrome based browsers I tried.  This is true for very media intensive pages, which it excelled at.  The Peacekeeper browser test showed it faster than Firefox, but slower than Chrome, though my experience felt different.  But this browser is more than speed or looks.  It has some very Mac like features as well.  It

Sleipnir's look and its Peacekeeper score against other major browsers (longer bars are better, Sleipnir listed as Safari 5.1)

has gesture support for those using Trackpads: a two-fingered swipe left or right takes you back or forward in that tab’s history respectively.  A two-fingered pinch in also shows you an overview of your tabs.  You also can organize bookmarks into several pre-made categories, such as shopping, research, and more.  It also has a read it later feature, which I like but I think should be more prominent.  You can also sync bookmarks using the Fenrir Pass to other copies of Sleipnir, including those on other platforms, like iOS.

The iOS version also has some neat features, like Hold to Go, gestures, and touch paging.  Hold to Go lets you press and hold on a link or bookmark to open it in the background.  Gestures include drawing a circle to reload the page, and S to start searching, and more.  Lastly, the TouchPaging feature allows you to scroll through your tabs by flick left or right.

Back to the Mac version for a minute though, there a several flaws that just put me off.  For example, there is no security settings in the Preferences, which would be nice to have.  And while the Windows version has a few extensions, none of them work for Mac.  Full screen in Flash also still shows the menubar, which I have mixed feelings about.  I also would still like that Home button.

Overall, Sleipnir is a really quick and interesting browser that could shake up the game if it gained traction, but it feels like it is incomplete.  But for quick web browsing and a new browser experience, Sleipnir makes for one heck of a ride.  It is available for  Mac OS 10.6 and higher (Snow Leopard and Lion) & iOS (iPad and iPhone).  It also works for Android as well as Windows 98, XP, Vista and 7 (that’s not a typo, it really can support Windows 98).  You can find the version you want at http://www.fenrir-inc.com/ or check out the Mac specific version at http://www.fenrir-inc.com/global/mac/sleipnir.html.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email me at easyosx@live.com  You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  You can also check out my Google Plus Page at https://plus.google.com/107817518299218190319  Thanks!

To the Google Plus!

In case you haven’t heard the news, Google Plus, Google’s social network, has recently opened up Pages. Google Plus Pages are basically the same thing like Facebook Pages; social pages for brands, companies, etc. And guess what, now I have one too. If you’re on Google Plus, follow the page and check out the link here:

https://plus.google.com/107817518299218190319

Thanks!

App of the Week: HandBrake

Every veteran Mac user knows about HandBrake.  This powerful French app is made to quickly and efficiently rip DVD’s (sort of) and convert video files.  HandBrake’s user interface is a little confusing at first, but after the initial shock, you realize that it’s a lot simple than it actually looks.

On top of the screen are the main commands of selecting the video source, starting and pausing the conversion, the conversion queue setting, an activity monitor, along with more settings, and a preview function.  Once you select the video source, you have a variety of options to choose from.  You can edit features in the video type, audio types, the quality settings, the file size, and so much more.  That’s just the basic commands.  If you’re really advanced, you can edit things like the bit- rate, frame rate,

Main window of HandBrake

distortion, and more.  The list goes on and on.  It has the power for video and audiophiles, but the simplicity for people who just want that DVD on their iPod.  Still concerned that it’s not simple enough for your needs?  What if you just want it for a specific device?  In the spirit of Apple, HandBrake has presets for Apple devices, ranging from Apple TV’s, to various iPods, iPhones, even sorting them by various generations.  Of course they have general computer settings, and even Web video optimization.  It can’t be much simpler than that.

Apps can be as simple or as complicated as we like, but if they don’t do the job than what are they worth?  Well, HandBrake doesn’t have that problem.  I’ve converted video files on my computer with minimal, almost unnoticeable quality loss in video.  And audio suffered even less degradation, almost identical to the original video file.  Ripping DVD’s still has some of the best quality of any DVD ripper that I’ve tried so far.  Sometimes it’s close, but I’d say HandBrake edges them out.

This brings up an interesting point about ripping DVD’s.  It is the opinion of many technologists that if you legally bought and own a DVD, then you can rip it for your own personal viewing pleasure.  However, due to pressure, HandBrake cannot directly rip copyrighted DVD’s to your Mac (personal DVD’s, say ones of your last vacation, are not a problem).  However, there is an easy fix: by downloading the free VLC media player, HandBrake will be able to read and rip copyrighted DVD’s.  I do not in any way, shape, form, or fashion advocate ripping of commercial DVD’s for illegal distribution or piracy.

HandBrake is available for OS 10.5, 10.6, and 10.7.  It also works on Linux and Windows (XP or higher).  It is available for free at http://handbrake.fr/.  You can also download VLC at http://www.videolan.org/vlc/.  If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email me at easyosx@live.com  You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  Thanks!

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