Spotify Launches Web-Based Player for UK

Spotify-Web-Player

Spotify has made the online version of its music streaming software available to all UK users as it continues to extend the player’s public beta. The Web-based app has been online at https://play.spotify.com for several weeks, but has now been announced in an email sent out by the company, and is accessible for all Spotify users in the UK.

The online app brings with it many of the features and options available in the desktop client — you can manage your playlists, see new tracks, tune into Spotify radio and of course stream any of the millions of tracks on offer. Unlike the desktop client, there is currently no support for local files or third-party Spotify apps. Tracks cannot be cached for offline playback, as they can when using Spotify’s desktop and mobile tools.

The move is a bold step forward for Spotify in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Rival apps Rdio and Deezer work in Web browsers, as does Google Music, which is based around local files uploaded from your PC. Rumours persist that Google is about to add a streaming component to its Music service, with several analysts also claiming that Apple is about to join the streaming subscription service fray as well.

In the time we’ve spent testing Spotify’s new Web player, it seems to be a stable and responsive app with very few obvious bugs. As we’ve already mentioned, there are missing features — including Last.fm scrobbling support — but in today’s always-on computing world a Web player makes perfect sense. Spotify can now be used on Chromebooks, for example, and users can switch from one computer to another without having to install any additional software. Head round to your friend’s house for a party, and all you need is a Web browser to get at your disco-ready playlists.

Despite rumblings of discontent from artists receiving paltry royalty cheques from the streaming music services, it would seem they’re here to stay — their ease-of-use, huge catalogue selection and cross-platform compatibility make them a more flexible and streamlined option than, say, a 20GB iTunes library. It would be no surprise if Google and Apple soon dipped their toes into the water too.

Have a go! Spotify

3 Web Cube: Borg-friendly wireless broadband

I’m easily confused. At times when I pick up the small slab of metal and glass in my pocket and have access to the sum total of all human knowledge it feels like I am living in the future. And then I move house and have to wait seemingly forever for a basic internet connection, which even more bizarrely has to come through my landline telephone. What is this the 90s?

Web-Cube

Fortunately Three relise how deeply silly this all is and have brought out a shiny hew alternative to traditional fixed-line dependent broadband for folks who aren’t downloading monstrous amounts of data on a monthly basis.

The new Web Cube is packed in a swanky modern case and comes with a mobile broadband SIM card already inserted. Simply plug it in to your wall socket, turn it on, and your home will automagically have Wi-Fi internet from Three. And when you move house, just take it with you.

The Web Cube is HSPA+ enabled to the 21.1Mbps technical standard, though you’d be more likely to experience 2-5Mbps, which is enough for casual internet use. I wouldn’t venture into the brave new world of streaming services however as you may hit your download limits sooner than you expect and experience a little bit of lag if you tried to get something like an OnLive up and running.

Three is offering customers a choice of two Web Cube tariffs to provide flexibility and great value. Customers can opt for a one-month rolling contract with 10GB of data costing £15 a month plus an upfront charge of £59.99 for the device. Alternatively Three offers a 24-month contract with 15GB of data costing £15.99 a month and no upfront charge for the device.

For more info head here http://blog.three.co.uk/2012/02/01/introducing-broadband-in-a-box/

Sony Vaio S and C series

Sony laptops are usually well thought-out, well designed systems in which all the components are optimised to work together. Outside of MacBooks, VAIO’s are probably the finest consumer laptops available. So why then, has Sony decided to make their latest systems glow in the dark?

Vaios

VAIO C Series

14-inch VAIO C series comes in five colours, some of which glow-in-the-dark. Sony calls them ‘light emitting’ options; we call a spud a spud. Aside from the design, which we actually quite like, the systems are full of interesting Sony technology.

The 1366 x 768 display has LED backlighting for greater contrast and widescreen movies. The trackpad is multi-touch, and there’s an ambient light sensor that optimises screen brightness as well as the keyboard illumination. And the integrated HD WebCam is part of Sony’s ”Exmor” range, which means crisp, clear HD images.

There’s also a dedicated WEB button, to boot to the Internet in seconds. Instead of the long boot into Windows, Sony lets you load up a browser instead, slashing loading times. It’s a neat feature, which should also save battery life.

Inside the system, you’ll find an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, 320GB hard drive, and AMD Radeon HD 6470M graphics card and a DVD rewriter. It should retail for around £600.

VAIO S Series

One-inch smaller and infinitely more serious, one needs only to look at the S-series to see it as a direct MacBook rival: it’s thin, light and has a full-flat design. They probably fit the same cases.

The 13.3-inch screen (MacBook size) has a resolution of 1366 x 768, perfect for viewing widescreen movies. It’s also 24mm (3.4mm thinner than a MacBook) and 1.75kg (380g lighter than a MacBook).

It should give you seven hours battery life (uh-oh, three hours less than the MacBook), but incorporates the Smart Battery Concept. Essentially, this is an additional battery than can plug-in to keep the device going. It’s got the same footprint as the laptop, though, so it can comfortably sit underneath it without any issues.

Just like the C series, there’s a dedicated WEB button, an Intel Core i5 Processor, 4GB RAM Exmor Webcam, Radeon HD 6470M graphics card and a DVD rewriter. The hard disk space has jumped to 500GB.

Parago home contents insurance iPhone app

Hey let’s talk about home contents insurance! Did you just fall asleep? I know I did. Yet as a pulled myself back to consciousness, draped over my MacBook Air, I realised that protecting my svelte over-priced laptop from thieving hands was probably a good idea.

Parago-Home-Contents-Insurance

That’s where Parago come in. Whilst there are conventional means to insure your valuables, I’m unlikely to use them and mediating a dull task via an app is a sure-fire way to get geeks interested.

On average, every household is unwittingly under-insured by 30 per cent on their home contents policy, with the majority discovering the shortfall only when they make an insurance claim; at which point it is too late to rectify.  Furthermore, over 90 per cent could not make an accurate claim in the event of a major loss. Of course this is using data supplied by Parago, who clearly have a vested interest in you insuring your property – but to be fair there are lots of things in a house that you simply overlook – and insurance is always a tedious and complicated business.

ParagoHome.com is simple to use, and can be accessed via a PC and/or Apple iPhone/iPod touch. 90 per cent of the asset discovery and recording process can be done whilst on the move.  The application enables you create to a virtual image of your home and add contents to each room with the aid of asset icons. You can then take high resolution pictures of all your assets (including audio equipment, home furnishings, jewellery, children’s toys, artwork and clothing) and attach these to the asset icon.

You can also store photographs of receipts, invoices and certificates against each asset. Accessing your account via a PC will enable you to add more data to each asset should you not be able to locate any paperwork. ParagoHome.com helps you record every asset at its true value, ensuring you have all the information needed for a fast-track claim.

Parago also helps you to insure typically neglected items. When I thought about what needed insuring, my mind went to my computer, consoles, TVs and related media (like my film collection). It never occurred to me to insure my clothes (the average UK wardrobe is worth £10,000 and my Scud the Disposable Assassin T-Shirts are priceless), my kitchen goods (like my oven, washing machine or fridge) or even my carpet. Parago is especially good at focusing your mind on these items, and wandering your house snapping pics of everything you possess is a strange experience but one that probably needed doing.

The Parago app is £4.99 and the online tool costs £2 per month.

Keyboard Pro: Online typing tutor

As someone who writes for a living, typing is an essential tool of my trade. And until Acer Iconica style dual screen tablets become commonplace, most of that typing is done on QWERTY style hardware keyboards. I say most – a few things are bashed out on my iPad but even then I tend to attach a Bluetooth keyboard to speed things up a little. I never officially bothered to learn touch typing – I can bluff my way around the home-keys well enough to get work done – but I’ve always had a nagging feeling that I should knuckle down (no pun intended and as Paul F Thompkins would say “no pun taken”) and learn to touch type. I was going to make it my New Year’s Resolution, but it’s something I actually intend to do so I don’t think it counts.

Typing

In a wonderful case of synchronicity, a Danish software typing firm happened to email me and ask if I’d like to review Keyboard Pro – a web-based typing course. How did they know?

The course is called Keyboard Pro, and has been used (successfully) in Denmark for the past ten years apparently. Branching out, the course has been updated, translated and transformed into a web-based course for UK computer users who take their typing seriously.

Using Flash video, you simply need a login – and don’t have to purchase, install or download any software. Aside from Flash I guess. A series of introductory videos walk you through the system and the key points (which can be summed up as “Don’t look at the keyboard!”). After that a series of exercises will beat the home keys into you and gradually improve your speed. There are a range of keyboard layouts such as Standard, Ergonomic, Arc and Comfort Curve to choose from – including my Apple keyboard, which was a pleasant surprise.

The actual drills are quite helpful and make you aware of your bad habits (you probably have some) as well as building speed and accuracy. You can’t skip ahead, which was a little frustrating, but helped enforce some much-needed discipline to my typing.

Multi-user training packages for businesses are from £5 per person; a single-user course costs £29.97 + VAT (£34.95 inc VAT). Check it out at Keyboard Pro.