Archive | March 2013

HTC 603e Android Smartphone Leaked

HTC will be introducing a number of new Android smartphones at their press event on the 19th of February, we know about the new HTC M7, and we saw some leaked photos of the HTC M4 earlier today.

Now we have some photos of another Android smartphone that HTC will launch, the HTC 603e, which will feature a 4.3 inch WVGA display with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels.

HTC 603e

Arctic Unveils Cheaper MC001-XMBC HTPC

Computer accessory maker Arctic has announced a new lower price for its MC001-XBMC HTPC set top box. The box used to be available for $459 and now sells for $229 making it roughly half the price. For your $230, you get a set top box with a dual core Intel Atom D525 processor running at 1.8 GHz.

mc001

PadGadget’s Sound Stage: Composer’s Piano Turns Your iPad Into A Multitrack Recorder

Composers Piano 1

With so many different music-related apps in the App Store, it is difficult to filter out the bad ones and find the gems. Here at PadGadget, we love music, whether we are listening to it or creating it. That’s why, every week we spotlight an app or accessory that we think musicians and audiophiles of all genres will enjoy.

Last week, we told you about Chromatik, the sheet music app that lets teachers and students communicate with each other in the cloud. This week, we have an app for all of you songwriters out there.

Composer’s Piano – Think in music! is a keyboard synthesizer and multitrack recorder in one. Users can scribble down their ideas, record a melody, and add full chord tracks with just a few simple steps.

The app allows users to record a song with one track, and then modify the tempo, instrument, and volume, while at the same time, creating a second track. You can record a lead melody on one track and the corresponding chords on the second.

Composers Piano 2

There are 15 different instrument sounds, including piano, trumpet, flute, violin, and more. Each instrument can be fine tuned with a variety of functions. You can record one instrument and change it during playback. You can adjust sustain and tempo on the fly and in real-time during playback. You can even add a second instrument on top of the existing one by layering the tones.

The keyboard displays 24 keys at a time, but users can change the octave of visible keys by adjusting the left and right Octet buttons.

Composers Piano 3

The best feature of this app is the multitrack recording and playback audio adjusting. Not only can you record your lead and backing melody tracks, but you can speed them up, change the key, use a completely different instrument, and increase or decrease the volume of each track. You can even play a third part of the song at the same time as the first two prerecorded tracks.

You won’t be sending your new creations to the pressing plant. The quality of the synthesizer sound is not particularly good. However, this app is perfect for the songwriter on the go who tends go get inspired at the most inopportune times. You can just pull out your iPad and start composing. No more humming into your voice memo app and trying to recreate it when you get home.

Composers Piano 4

The price is cheap for the features you get with this app. Composer’s Piano is available in the App Store today for only $1.99.

Thanks for checking out our music column. If you have any ideas or suggestions for apps and accessories you’d like to know more about, leave a comment below, or send us a message. We’d love to hear from you.

PadGadget Giveaway: Enter to Win an iPic Stylus from Woodees

iPic

Regardless of whether you are new to the world of iPad or have been around since day one, great accessories are always something users are interested in getting their hands on. Today we’ve partnered with Woodees to offer our readers a chance to win an iPic stylus in one of four colors – black, white, bright pink and green.

We first got our hands on the iPic back in November of 2011 and Lory felt it was “… as if the iPad fairy came down and granted my wish. Now, I can shred on my virtual guitars like a real rock star.” Then last summer, the iPic was included in our list of Must Have iPad Accessories for Musicians. Our iPic recommendation stated:

The iPic stylus from Woodees is designed to look and feel like a traditional guitar pick while using it with your iPad. While it’s great for day to day tasks, it’s meant to be used with musical apps, like the Miso Music: Plectrum app. So not only does it look cool, it’s functional too, allowing you to play all of your favorite stringed instruments right on the iPad. As a bonus, you can also turn it to the side and use it as a real guitar pick for your guitar if you find yourself in a pinch.

Interested in a fun stylus for your iPad? The iPic is currently available online and in stores for $10 – $20 (depending on where you shop). Purchase one today or enter our contest for a chance to win. Follow the directions below and maybe you’ll be a winner. Good luck!

Enter via Twitter in two easy steps

  1. Follow us on Twitter. You must follow us on Twitter so that we can send you a Direct Message if you win. If you aren’t following us, we have no way of contacting you directly.
  2. Click on the tweet button below and have our contest message automatically added to your Twitter status box. Then simply click to tweet!

Please make sure you are following PadGadget before you Click to Tweet below! Readers who are not following PadGadget will not be selected.

Four lucky winners will be selected at random to win. You can enter as many times as you like and the contest ends Saturday, February 9th at 11:59 PM Central Time.

Winners have 48 hours from the time they are contacted to respond to our direct message. If we have not been contacted by the original winner within that time period, a new winner will be selected.

Note: PadGadget only ships to addresses in the United States and APO/FPO mailboxes.

Click below for a chance to win a black iPic.

Click below for a chance to win a white iPic.

Click below for a chance to win a bright pink iPic.

Click below for a chance to win a green iPic.

Should You Upgrade to Windows 8?

Q:

Would you recommend upgrading a desktop that currently operates on Vista to Windows 8?

A:

I don’t recommend upgrading a computer to Windows 8 that’s more than a year or two old, especially if you intend to keep your data files and programs. If this PC is still running Vista, which came out six years ago, it’s probably too old to assure a trouble-free, satisfying upgrade to Windows 8. You can check by downloading and running Microsoft’s free Upgrade Assistant, from tinyurl.com/atwewxe. I also recommend you search through the support section of your PC maker’s website to see if the company supports the upgrade.

Q:

My PC with XP just died. I just bought an iPad for portability so I don’t see why I need a laptop. I gave one away because I didn’t like the feel of it. But I still use Office — particularly Publisher. Should I buy a Windows 8 laptop with a touch monitor or a desktop?

A:

It sounds to me like you’re not a laptop fan, and don’t feel you need one for portability. So I suggest you consider one of the new Windows 8 all-in-one touchscreen desktop computers.

Q:

Is the capacity of the iPad infinite? I’ve had mine three years and regularly delete emails. Is there a capacity limit and if so, how should it be dealt with?

A:

The iPad has finite storage. For some of its functions, like email and the calendar, you can control how much data it stores by going into settings and specifying how many messages it should show from each account, or how far back in time its calendar should sync with the calendar service it uses.

Otherwise, if you begin to run up against the device’s capacity, you’ll have to delete some apps or media or other content. You can check how much capacity you have available by going to Settings, General and then clicking on About.

Email your technology questions to Walt at mossberg@wsj.com.

Jon Stewart Solves Vine’s Porn Problem

Remember Vine? Remember the Great Vine Porn Problem of Late January? Well, if it’s still bothering you, Jon Stewart has some advice. (Spoiler: It involves getting some perspective.)

What’s that? You have so much time that you’d like to watch the entire clip? No problem (unless you live outside the U.S. or are watching this on certain mobile devices):

Chinese intellectuals avoid key issues amid censorship fears, says author

Award-winning satirist Yan Lianke says Chinese intellectuals and writers must push leaders to embrace social reform

Chinese writers have shirked their responsibilities in the face of tougher censorship over the past 10 years, one of the country’s authors has said.

Yan Lianke, whose bleakly humorous novel Lenin’s Kisses is published in Britain on Thursday, had two books banned in the past decade. He said it had been easier to publish in the five years before that.

He also criticised the intelligentsia – including last year’s Nobel literature prize-winner Mo Yan – for failing to speak out on important issues. “Chinese intellectuals haven’t taken enough responsibility. They always have an excuse, saying they don’t have a reason to talk or don’t have the environment … If they could all stand up, they would have a loud voice,” he told the Guardian.

Reformers pushed hard for change in the runup to the decennial power transition last year, suggesting the country’s new leaders may be willing to embrace political as well as economic reform. So far, however, there is no indication of such a shift.

“Each time, during the transition of China’s political leaders, Chinese people always have great hopes and then are disappointed. This time, as before, people have hope for the new generation, but it will take time to see whether they will disappoint the Chinese people again,” said the novelist, who was shortlisted last month for the Man Booker International Prize.

He added: “One book being published doesn’t tell you the whole system is getting better; one book being banned doesn’t mean publishing is [more] strongly controlled.”

Yan spent 26 years as a writer in the army and has won China’s foremost literary honours. Yet he is one of the country’s fiercest satirists. In his novella Serve the People, a young soldier and his superior’s wife fuel their illicit passion by smashing and desecrating the words and images of Chairman Mao. Its ban cannot have been a great surprise.

More intriguing is that Lenin’s Kisses escaped the same fate. The book details the ordeal of villagers in the Maoist era, and their suffering as greed and consumerism replace political imperatives. Its redoubtable heroine realises her community is better off outside both official control and heartless modern capitalism.

Its absurd plot is oddly plausible to anyone familiar with the grand schemes and great scandals of Chinese officialdom. An ambitious, narcissistic cadre organises disabled villagers into a travelling freak show, raising money to buy Lenin’s embalmed corpse and turn his county into a tourist destination.

“Chinese people probably would buy Lenin’s body, or even the dead body of a minister from England,” Yan said. “As long as it’s for development, everything is reasonable and could happen in China, such as forced demolitions of people’s homes [which happened to Yan] … Corruption also looks reasonable in Chinese eyes.”

Some hope Chinese literature may break through to a wider international readership after Mo’s Nobel prize last year, but Yan said its prospects depended on the quality of the work rather than a short-term boost.

He added: “I was very complimentary about Mo Yan’s work, but as an author and intellectual I don’t think he has done enough.”

Mo has been criticised for his closeness to authorities, sparking a debate about writers’ responsibilities. Yan added: “He was quite free to write before he won the Nobel. Afterwards he had pressure [from inside China]. The world expected him to say something that he didn’t say.”

Asked if he meant the belief that Mo should address political pressure, censorship or Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Nobel peace prize laureate, Yan replied: “All of those things.”

He said he had also fallen short, noting: “I understand the Chinese political and cultural environment well. I understand people who don’t use their voice. As an intellectual and author I should require myself to do it first. If I don’t do enough, I can’t require other authors to do so. There’s always a reason. There’s always one book or another; timing. But I think as an author I could have taken more responsibility and I didn’t.”

He still regrets self-censoring when he wrote Dream of Ding Village, which deals with the blood-selling scandal that led to mass HIV infections in Henan province. He wanted to ensure it was published, he said; but now his priority was reaching the highest literary standard.

A recent novel was turned down by 26 mainland publishers. His work in progress – “probably the most absurd but most real that I have written” – is unlikely to please the Chinese public anyway, Yan noted. In part, it explores their love-hate relationship with developed countries such as Japan and western nations.

Last autumn, amid anti-Japanese protests over the territorial dispute about the Senkaku, or Diaoyu islands, he praised Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s warnings against nationalism and said he felt ashamed of his slow response.

“Chinese people have become richer and China is stronger than before, but Chinese people think about the history of China being treated badly by other countries; by the US, the UK and Japan … China can’t beat the US or other countries; they can only wave a fist at Japan,” he said.

“This feeling has been suppressed, you could say, for 100 years. China is on the way towards pride, but also arrogance.”

CIA using Saudi base for drone assassinations in Yemen

Disclosure comes as architect of programme, John Brennan, prepares for Senate confirmation hearing to become CIA director

The CIA is secretly using an airbase in Saudi Arabia to conduct its controversial drone assassination campaign in neighbouring Yemen, according to reports in the US media.

Neither the Saudi government nor the country’s media have responded to the reports revealing that the drones that killed the US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his son in September 2011 and Said al-Shehri, a senior al-Qaida commander who died from his injuries last month, were launched from the unnamed base.

Iranian state media highlighted the story, which is also likely to be seized upon by jihadi groups. Saudi Arabia has previously publicly denied co-operating with the US to target al-Qaida in Yemen. Evidence of Saudi involvement risks complicating its relationship with the government in Sana’a and with Yemeni tribal leaders who control large parts of the country.

Disclosure of the Saudi co-operation comes the day before the architect of the drone programme, John Brennan, appears before the US Senate for a confirmation hearing to become the CIA director.

The drone issue is sensitive in Saudi Arabia because of the unpopularity of US military bases, which were thought to have been largely removed after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Saudi Arabia is home to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the continued presence of US troops after the 1991 Gulf war was one of the stated motivations behind al-Qaida’s 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Khobar Towers bombing five years earlier.

The date of the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania was eight years to the day after US troops were first sent to the kingdom. Osama bin Laden interpreted the prophet Muhammad as banning the “permanent presence of infidels in Arabia”.

The last significant US military presence was at the King Sultan airbase in Khobar in the eastern province. The forces there were relocated to Qatar.

The revelation is unlikely to make significant waves inside the kingdom. Saudi Arabia has no independent media but there is no sympathy for the jihadis of al-Qaida targeted in Yemen. Saudi Arabia conducted its own successful campaign against al-Qaida, in effect destroying it by 2004. Its remnants moved to Yemen and formed al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), perhaps the most active of the group’s “franchises”.

“These planes are unmanned so there will not be the same impact as when American planes were flying from the Prince Sultan base,” Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai told the Guardian. “No one will say that the Americans are occupying the country.

“I don’t think people care about this any more. Generally it is accepted in the region that the planes operated by the Americans are not doing a bad job taking out al-Qaida leaders. There is no sympathy with al-Qaida except a very small minority. Even in Yemen – apart from the collateral damage where civilians lose their life – there is no objection to this type of operation.

“It has been rumoured for years that drones were taking off from the Arabian peninsula so this is not shocking news except for the Iranians and jihadis. Otherwise it is not going register in public opinion.”

US government requests to American media to refrain from disclosing the location of the CIA base were made in part because it could potentially damage counter-terrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

Shehri, deputy leader of AQAP, died last month of injuries sustained during a US drone strike in 2012.

WordBox Mixes Match-Three with Word Games – iPad App Review

If you are a fan of word games like Letterpress and Letris 2, and you love matching games like Bejeweled, then you’re in for a treat. WordBox combines both types of games for a fantastic word adventure.

Players find words on a grid that is filled with letter tiles. It looks a lot like a word search game. However, the letters aren’t stationary and they are not necessarily laid out in a particular order. Just because there is a “C,” “R,” and “Y” next to each other, doesn’t mean they were put there intentionally. It is just the way the chips fall, or tiles in this instance.

When you create a word, the tiles disappear and new ones drop down. The bigger the words that you create, the more points you earn and nearby tiles will also be removed.

In Quest mode, each level has three tasks. Players must find a certain number of words that are of a certain number of letters. For example, “Find three words that have five letters.” They must also reach a minimum score, like 800 points. The third task involves finding a specific word. This is the hardest task because words aren’t intentionally created in this game. If you are supposed to find the word, “Live,” you may have to manipulate the letters in order to get them near each other.

Wordbox 5

Wordbox 6

In Classic mode, players make as many words as possible within the given time. New words add seconds to the clock, so you could potentially play the game forever.

Go-Go mode is untimed and there are no tasks. Players take their time, finding big words and trying to clear the board without worrying about anything. In Rush mode, players must keep the board clear, even though new tiles drop onto the screen every 10 seconds. This part of the game is more like Tetris.

Wordbox 4

Wordbox 3

Players can reshuffle the tiles as many times as they like without paying a penalty. This is a good way to get letters next to each other that will spell out your special word. You can also request a hint. The hints are limited, but you can buy more with the crystals you collect during Quest mode.

If you prefer playing with others, you can join a game in Multiplayer mode. You can either be teamed up with a random player in Game Center, or invite your friends to play against you. You’ll be able to show off your word finding skills against the whole world.

Wordbox 2

Wordbox 1

What I Liked: The graphics are very nice. Everything looks sleek and attractive. The game is lots of fun. I like mixing word games with matching games.

What I Didn’t Like: I was never able to find a random player in Multiplayer mode. Maybe when the game gets more popular, a team-up will be faster, but for now it is a minimum two-minute wait. I am also not a fan of games that cost money to download and offer in-app purchases on top. The things for sale in the store are just extras, but it is the principle that matters.

To Buy or Not to Buy: If you like word games and matching games, this is a great combination of the two.

  • Name: WordBox – Word Puzzle Game!
  • Version Reviewed: 1.2
  • Category: Games
  • Developer: ALphaWeb Pluss
  • Price: $1.99
  • Score:

Wacky App Wednesday: Solve Pixellated Puzzles in eBoy FixPix

eBoy FixPix is an app that’s been in the App Store for quite some time, but it’s the type of game that never gets old. You see, it operates on a super simple premise – you’re presented with a picture puzzle that’s out of order and you must tilt your iPad to fit the pieces back together to form a cohesive image.

I know that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, but you have to take into account the pictures that you’re putting back together. Each image features awesome hand-crafted pixel art, and in many cases, the images even have 3-D effects.

These are not your grandmother’s puzzles either – every level presents a new challenge, and it’s often difficult to figure out the exact right angle you need to tilt your iPad in to solve the challenges. Most of the images don’t give many hints either, turning the game into a search for clues so you can figure out the solution to each puzzle.

fixpix1

Every image is a visual feast and the game is a pure delight to play, despite its simplistic gameplay. The puzzles are surprisingly tough, especially at later levels, and the game will keep you playing for hours on end.

Developer Delicious Toys has had two years to refine eBoy FixPix, which means there’s a whole slew of content available in the form of amazing levels. You’ll find over 100 stages in the game, and at $0.99, it’s well worth checking out.

fixpix2

One minor caveat – you will need iOS 6 in order to play the game. Reviews in the App Store have mentioned a crashing problem on older versions of iOS, but I haven’t had a problem on my iPad mini running iOS 6.1. If you have the right device, give this game a try! You can download it from the App Store.

Make sure to check back next Wednesday for an all new wacky app!

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