Archive for the 'Android' Category

Nov 19 2011

Hello, Songbird

Here at SfSS, we love open source. I mean, we REALLY love it. And while we also for some reason love Apple (all of us do), we haven’t let that stop us from checking out open source alternatives to what Apple does well. If you’ll refer to my previous post, some of us still keep the faith with Mozilla. Consequently, I’ll be doing posts on Mozilla technologies from time to time. Today, it’s Songbird.

When Songbird came out, people branded it “the open source iTunes killer.” It hasn’t really done that. They also called it “the Firefox of music players” and it’s kind of that. It’s built on Mozilla’s XULRunner framework, making it particularly cross-platform (unless, of course, your platform is Linux, which they don’t support anymore). Consequently, Songbird is extensible – just like Firefox. And that default purple look? You can switch to another skin – er, feather (I am not making this up) – and be on your merry. Or, if you like a minimalist aesthetic, you can put it on “Mini View.”

Their stated mission is “to incubate Songbird, the first Web player, to catalyze and champion a diverse, open Media Web.” Remember that little discussion we had about an open web? Songbird is all over that. For more on what’s meant by an open web – and specifically who’s out there trying to circumvent it – I refer you to this post.

Full disclosure, here: it won’t work with your iPod. What it can do, and I know this is kind of disappointing, is, whenever you import music into Songbird, it can also automatically add it to your iTunes library. It will sync with your Android phone, and there’s a nice, informative post on how to do it here.

The Good:

  • Open source
  • Cross-platform
  • Easy migration/plays nicely with iTunes
  • Android sync
  • Integrated web browser
  • Uses lots of web services like Last.fm, mashTape and SHOUTcast
  • Extensible
  • Lots of feathers (read: skins)

The Bad:

  • No iPod support
  • Not available for Linux anymore

The Ugly:

  • Exiting doesn’t behave like iTunes – you click the X, you close the program (there are workarounds)
  • Memory pig – used 40 MB of RAM when not playing a song more than iTunes did when playing music
  • Albums not delineated like in iTunes

Check it out! Let us know what you think.

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Nov 15 2011

CyanogenMod: because Android vendors suck

Published by under Android

If you’ve got an iPhone, keep right on scrollin’. This will not apply to you at all. Windows Phone 7, too (or whatever they’re calling it). Or a BlackBerry (hahahahaha). Or a dumbphone – Okay, basically, this only applies to you if you have an Android phone. Looking around campus, many, many of you do, so this should apply to you.

Look at this handy little chart:

And, like with so much of what they release into the wild, Google doesn't care

Basically what this says is that, for many models representing the fragmented Android-phone ecosystem (kind of reminds of you the PC market, doesn’t it?), a lot of them are actually released a version or two behind what Google puts out there. That’s like a PC vendor still selling brand-new computers pre-installed with Windows XP. These things just aren’t done, am I right? Fine, maybe you got one of the newer ones, or something not on this list. Maybe you’re current. But look at this chart: HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG – these are all major vendors, and chances are if you’ve got an Android phone, you got one from them. I don’t know about you, but this chart tells me that these companies want you to buy a new phone more than they want you to be happy with your current phone.

“But Alan,” you say, as you would be right to do – “I don’t care which version I have. I can talk and text and play Angry Birds and look at Facebook all day with no problems.” And in a world where Android was safe, you wouldn’t have to care. But here’s the thing: no, wait. Just go ahead and Google “Android malware.” Versions of Android are released very definitely not-perfect. It’s okay – nothing’s perfect. But as time goes by, certain inherent flaws in the architecture of Android become apparent – an exploit here, a weakness there. They’re found and fixed – in the next version. The version HTC and T-Mobile won’t send out for your phone. So you’re screwed. If your phone gets hacked, you’re out of luck. Too bad, so sad, buy another phone from us!

So what’s a starving student to do? Buy an iPhone? Well, there’s nothing wrong with your phone’s hardware, right? And do you have the money to spend on buying an iPhone and changing your plan? I submit that, since you’re in college, you do not. Enter CyanogenMod.

From their website:

CyanogenMod is an aftermarket firmware for a number of cell phones based on the open-source Android operating system. It offers features not found in the official Android based firmwares of vendors of these cell phones.

What this means for you: If you have any device on this list, you’re good to go. Click on it, then click on the wiki link and your journey begins.

What if your phone is not on the list? They’re working on it. CyanogenMod is still supporting the very first Android phone, the HTC Dream (you might remember it as the T-Mobile G1), so that tells me that yours is coming.

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