Music, music everywhere, and a ton of programs with which to organize it. But how will you know which of the many iTunes-equivalents (if not iTunes itself) are going to be right for your needs?
If you're one of the many people using Windows' default music libraries to organize and store your files, stop. Just stop. There's so much more you can do beyond that-which-is-given by Windows Media Player's library features, it's not even funny. Conversely, if you're one of the people who clings to Apple's iTunes with a death grip by virtue of it being one of the first big music organizing tools to really "stick" amongst the general geek population... you might be in good hands. You also might be missing out on a ton of additional functionality, depending on what you're looking for and how you typically go about rocking out on your computer.
To keep the playing field fair, we'll look at three different applications in this ultimate guide to media organizing: iTunes, Songbird, and Zune. For those keeping score at home, that's one big solution from Apple, one big solution from Microsoft, and one big solution from the open-source community. There are certainly other options around--Foobar comes to mind as one such example. None are as comprehensive in their combination of features and/or customizability as these three, however. They're all easy to install and easy to set up, but which application has the features and usability that'll make it a hit?
Oh, you internet tricksters. Had I a nickel every time somebody erroneously sent me to a filthy, filthy Web site via a common tinyurl or bit.ly shortened url, I wouldn't have to write articles for Maximum PC just to pay my monthly Internet bills. But alas, I am quite gullible. Or at least, I was... until I ran across a lifesaving Chrome extension called Expand.
I often use this point in these mini-profiles to make some kind of joke along the lines of, "oh I bet you know what this does, don't you?" Try to envision that in the voice of Stan the salesman, if you can. Suffice, it is pretty easy to guess what the Expand extension does by name alone. In fact, there's only one configuration option that comes with this extension. The rest is all taken care of automatically and behind-the-scenes during your general browsing experience. Install this extension, sit back, and reap the benefits of its simple--yet powerful--functionality.
So, er, what exactly does it do? You'll find out after the jump!
NASA, whose head is always in the clouds (and beyond), is looking to create one in the form of a SaaS interface to help students and scientists trying to put together complex climate models.
"Right now the climate models that we have are very complex, the software is upwards of 500,000 to 1 million lines of code," says Michael Seablom, head of the software integration and visualization office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
The problem, says Seablom, is that if you're a graduate student, you could spend months at a time just trying to get the model running and verifying that it's working right. With that in mind, NASA wants to build a Web portal that users would log onto and be able to run climate models on remote systems provided by NASA.
To do that, NASA's climate modeling teams will take some processing cycles from NASA's Nebula cloud computing platform and might someday purchase computing cycles from public cloud platforms.
"I hate to use the term 'cloud computing' because I've heard the term so much and I'm sick of it," Seablom says. "But the fact of the matter is this is a very good cloud computing model and we're going to save a lot of money doing it. I'm very excited."
According to a new IDC report, the SaaS BI market is set to explode in 2010 and beyond with a compound annual growth rate of 22.4 percent through 2013. The reason? A combination of increased product sophistication, tight IT budgets, and other factors.
"The more applications (therefore BI data sources) are moved into the cloud, the fewer reasons there may be to build and operate BI applications in-house," said Boris Evelson, an analyst with Forrester Research.
Evelson went on to say that there are a lot of good reasons to adopt SaaS BI, such as making front-office workers more productive. But it can also be useful for some larger companies. To give an example, Forrester points to an unnamed retailer that does 90 percent of its business during the holidays. For most of the year, the company handles its own BI and reporting, but towards the end of the year, the company turns to a SaaS vendor to help handle the influx of numbers.
The service outage hit BlackBerry users in North and South America, starting about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening, and continuing until 2:45 a.m. Wednesday morning. The outage appears to have been an unintended consequence of a software upgrade--same as in the other recent instance, and one that occurred 18 months ago. According to RIM the software update “caused an unanticipated database issue within the BlackBerry infrastructure.”
The outage left some BlackBerry users miffed. But, according to The New York Times, wireless industry analysts say that users looking for a more reliable system are apt to be disappointed. Consumer Reports magazine says that BlackBerry is the leader in wireless data services, regardless of carrier. The only option for BlackBerry’s users, then, is something worse than what they’ve got.
The recent announcement of Skype turning quote-unquote open source has me twirling a finger with delicious glee. It's not that I dislike Skype. And it's not that I'm about to get into one of my 1,500-word debates on the differences between the definition of "free" and "open-source," I promise. This is nevertheless an important premise of Skype's entire move, as some Internet commenters are crying foul that Skype is only half-opening its popular application to the crowd. The GUI code will be yours to play with as you please. The underlying Skype protocol... nope!
To them I say: Duh.
I don't want to put words where they don't exist, but I'm willing to bet that Skype's sudden shift toward open-source waters has more to do with applying a giant, universal band-aid to staggered Linux development. It's not quite an altruistic gift to the community so much as it is a package and a bow with the phrase, "you fix it" written on the label. And that's fine. Let the community create the functional GUIs for Skype. It would be suicide for the company to release its heavily encrypted voice protocols for common use.
Google's support forum has filled with messages from Gmail users who say they've been receiving 502 error messages all weekend. Many complained that the 502 blues left them without email service for 30 hours or longer.
But what those affected found most frustratingly was Google's slow response to the problem. For most of the weekend, Google kept mum about the situation and didn't reference the hiccup on its 'Apps Status Dashboard,' nor did the company respond to support requests, according to the complaints.
"I've been reporting [the outage] since yesterday evening but all's been quiet from Google," one user wrote. "The worst part is, no one I know who has Gmail is experiencing the problem. This is ridiculous."
Google did finally acknowledge the problem on Sunday afternoon, and was apparently able to resolve the issue by late evening. The company hasn't yet disclosed what caused the glitch in the first place, but did say "less than 0.001 percent of Gmail users" had been affected.
MSN Direct is a service integrated into some GPS devices that uses FM signals to deliver traffic data, weather, stocks, movie times, and various other bits of info. The service was initially offered in 2004 when there may actually have been a need. Now, with the proliferation of cellular data connections and other digital networks, the MSN Direct service makes less sense.
The ample warning will give users just over 2 years of service to work out a substitute. Users with MSN Direct devices can still enroll in the service right up to the end date. Any subscribers wanting to cancel their accounts will be issued a prorated refund. Be honest, had you even heard of this service before now?
URL shortening service Cligs has announced that it will be closing up shop later this month. The service will stop accepting new URLs on Sunday, 25 Oct 2009 at 12:00:00 GMT. The owner of Cligs indicated that there would be a tool available at some point for users to export their data.
Cligs reported there were a number of reasons for the move. Of the chief reason the site says, “There comes a point when you need to actually hear the message the market is telling you, and not just listen and ignore it.” The owner of Cligs noted that since it was not winning the market, devoting additional time and money to it made less sense. This tends to remind one of the recent almost-closure of Tr.im a few weeks back. In a follow up post, the Cligs owner said he would be open to selling the service.
This is all partially your fault. You use Bit.ly, don’t you?
Driven in large part by Twitter and other microblogging sites, URL shortening services are growing in number and popularity. This begs the question, is there any advantage to using one over the other?
Royal.Pingdom.com set out to answer that question by rounding up the most popular (and some less popular) URL shortening services and analyzing how much overhead each one adds to accessing the target URL, and how reliable each one is as measured in uptime.
The results are pretty surprising. Of the services tested (Bit.ly, TinyURL, Ow.ly, Is.gd, Su.pr, Sinpurl, Cli.gs, Tr.im, and Twurl), Is.gd ranked fastest with the least amount of overhead at 163ms, with the slowest service, Sinpurl, trailing significantly behind at 847ms. Bit.ly, which dominates the Twitter scene, took the No. 2 spot with 261ms overhead, while TinyURL sat squarely in the middle at 412ms.
But it's the uptime that most people are more likely to be concerned with, especially after the near-meltdown of tr.im, who recently went offline before re-opening and vowing to keep the service alive. Based on Royal.Pingdom.com's 30-day test window, Ow.ly ranked highest with 100 percent uptime, while Bit.ly was not far behind at 99.98 percent uptime. Su.pr, TinyURL, and Is.gd all recorded a 99.9 percent or higher uptime.
Take a peek at the full results here, then hit the jump and tell us which URL shortening service you use most.