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Sorry for the late post, readers. I’ve been attacked by some sort of virus- no, not a computer virus, a real person one. I’m finally out of the fever delirium enough to write a cohesive post (hopefully that English essay I wrote last night is good enough..)

Ok, so as college students, a majority of us tend to go to parties on occasion (I believe that’s how I caught my illness in fact- walking back in the hurricane Brockport experienced this past weekend). We all love to have a good time, blasting music and hanging out with friends. Whether you drink alcohol or not, there’s still that ever-present worry that someone is going to knock his drink onto your laptop, ending the tunes, and more importantly, deleting that final paper you’ve been working on for weeeeeks (ok, days.)

This is where technology comes in. You use Wi-Fi to surf the net while sitting on your couch, why not let it help you keep the music going too? Logitech is the clear answer here. The Logitech Squeezebox Radio does what other streaming radios can’t- it delivers music without the need of a stereo system.

According to the Logitech website, “The Logitech Squeezebox Radio works with your Wi-Fi network to stream a world of crystal-clear music to any room in your house. You can play songs from your personal digital music collection, tune in to thousands of Internet radio stations from around the globe, and connect to online services like Pandora® , Slacker® or Rhapsody® . Your listening options are as limitless as the Internet.”

In English? That free Wi-Fi your school provides can make your music accessible ANYWHERE. And if you’re looking for the perfect song, but know you don’t have it on your computer, you can connect to music services that let you look it up and play it for FREE.

Best of all, this thing is tiny. Like, clock radio tiny. (Or if you don’t know what that it, like average size of a girl’s wallet tiny). Plus, the full-color screen makes it fun. You can view album art, track and station information, visualizers and screen savers, just like on iPods (which you can plug in, if for some reason your computer’s library won’t connect). You can even use your own photos from Flickr and Facebook as a screen saver. The Logitech Squeezebox is $200, which may seem like a lot, but if you have an expensive laptop, no insurance and like to party, it may be worth the investment.

Trust me, in this case, the price is definitely worth it! Add in the fact the battery is rechargeable, and you’ll be saving dough in no time. So check it, get unconnected (in this Wi-Fi case) and throw an awesome party with no worries on how your final paper will fare.

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Over 1 billion cell phones are now sold world wide annually, with well over 200 million in use in the United States alone. With almost everyone seeming to have one these days – from Grandma Pat to 10 year old Cousin Kimmie – there is a strong market for anything “mobile.”

One thing that everyone with phones can attest to is that the carrier company will charge you for anything and everything they can. As the capabilities of our phones grows exponentially – one of the basic upgrades you can do for your phone is to get a custom ringtone. Ringtones are a great way to show you aren’t technology handicapped by sporting the carriers’ theme ringer that is all too familiar to anyone not living in a box. Custom ID ringtones ring only when the person it is set for calls – so you can know who is calling before you even get out the phone – for example when “Mama Said” by The Shirelles goes off you know it’s your Mom calling you without looking at the phone, as opposed to if “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train goes off – you know that is the ID ringtone of your girlfriend, and so on and so forth.

The downside however is that ringtones from your carrier can cost anywhere from $2.99 to $5.99 for a 15 second sound clip that usually isn’t from the best part of the song, or isn’t very good quality. So what’s my tech solution? Mobile17

Mobile17.com is a free website that only requires that you sign up for a free user name account so it can store your phone brand and carrier info so you don’t have to go though the set-up process every time you go to their site.

Cell phone selection menu

On this page you are asked to select the type of cell phone you use based on your service provider, cell phone brand, and cell phone model

After initially signing up the free account and selecting your carrier brand (Verison, AT&T, etc.) and your phone brand (Moterolla, Samsung, Apple, HTC, etc.) your phone model (Chocolate Touch, Rogue, iPone, Droid, etc.) and entering in your phone number you’re set to go. All you have to do is click “Create a new ringtone” and browse to upload the song you would like to use from your computer.

Also keep in mind that you can use websites to rip songs for free – as mentioned in my previous post “YouTube Audio Ripping – The Newest Secret in Internet Piracy.”

Uploading a song file

Here is the window used to upload a music file to be used as your ringtones. Enter file information as well as the in and out points for where the ringtone should start and end.

From there you enter in at what time in the song you want the ringtone to start at, and what time you want it to end at (keeping in mind most phones will cut clips off at anything past 25-30 seconds). A cool new feature to the site in the last few months is recognition of the song title when you enter it – and presenting time suggestions that were most popular with other users who uploaded the same song.

Wait time message for ringtone

Once the upload is complete, as message appers confirming the upload, and stating the wait time before the file can send. You can also opt to skip the line by donating to the website.

The only downside to the free service is the wait time. Sometimes it can take as little as 20 minutes for your ringtone to send, but others I have had to wait as long as 4 or 5 hours for it to go through. It all depends on how much traffic and demand there is on their site, as well as how much traffic is on your cell phone providers network. The alternative is to pay a small donation to Mobile17 and they’ll send the ringtone right away – but the point of this article is to tell you free ways to get stuff, and that is the route I recommend as long as you aren’t in a desperate need to get that latest tune as your ringtone.

Occasionally Mobile17 drops the ball and your free ringtone never comes. Nothing lost – you simply have to go back onto the site and upload and send the song again. Mobile17 also lets you custom create wallpaper images for your phone as well, but my experiences with that show it’s not as reliable as their ringtone services. The images are often not formatted right with parts being cropped or edged with a white border because of sizing and formatting mistakes.

Mobile17 is another great free tech tool out there for anyone looking to keep their technology fresh and changing. Custom ringtones are a fun way to keep your phone new, and a great trick to knowing who’s calling you before you even pull your phone out. The ease of their service at Mobile17 is great, and as long as you don’t mind a bit of a wait for the free tone to get to your phone – you are guaranteed to love this program.

Avoding iPod disaster

Imagine this: Your computer just broke. You go out and buy a new laptop and go to download iTunes.  Suddenly you realize you can’t plug in your iPod without it erasing the music off it. What are you to do, besides rip your hair out in frustration?

This recently happened to me and I luckily found a great program to help me out (after scouring the Internet for about two hours). TouchCopy is a conversion program to help people get their music where it needs to be. After downloading and installing the program, plug in your iPod and open the program. You’ll then see something like this screen:

As you can see on mine, the bar at the top says “0 Demo Copies left”. The program allows you to copy 100 songs for free before requiring you to upgrade to a full version for $24.99. I had some of my music on an external hard drive, so I used this program to get the majority of the rest of the songs I wanted.

As you see at the top, the program lets your sort by genre, artist and album, making it easy to find your favorite song. After seeing that main screen, go through the list of songs at the bottom and click one that you want. After it’s highlighted, click “Copy to iTunes” (or to PC if you don’t use iTunes/want to manually add the songs to iTunes).

The song will the automatically be downloaded (showing a progress bar as you go) and ready for you to use! After you download a song, click “Items Copied” on the far left to see what songs you already did, as shown below:

Click on “Items to be Copied” to see what songs haven’t been transferred to your computer yet or click “Not in iTunes” to see what songs haven’t be added to your library.

Besides music, the program can also copy photos, your calendar and contacts for you. This is especially beneficial to people with the iPhone who want to back up their important information.

TouchCopy works not only as a transfer program, but as a music player as well.  As you’re copying your music, you can play your songs too! This comes in handy if you can’t remember the exact name of that song you love, but know you downloaded it.  Find a song you think may be in and just push play.

So if you’re in need of a lifesaving music transfer program like I was, check out TouchCopy. It does wonders and saves you the hassle of manipulating the files within the iPod file directory, something you don’t want to risk messing up.

Finally, if you need a step-by-step video instruction guide, I’ve posted TouchCopy’s version below. If not for the instructions, at least check out the cool British voice the lady has!

This Article Was Written By Josh Dimino of The College at Brockport SUNY.
Contact Josh at JoshDimino@gmail.com

Few people know about a handful of new websites that are popping up on the web – YouTube to MP3 converters. These websites are designed to analyze and rip the audio off of YouTube videos simply by entering the videos URL link into their pages analyzer. In a few seconds the website automatically takes you to a second page where there is a link to download the audio file.

The uses for such content are as endless as the types of video content available on YouTube. The most popular use is a new way around copyright and anti-piracy laws. As the FCC continues to impose immense fines on average citizens for quote “stealing music” by downloading through 3rd party “peer-to-peer” software like Limewire and iMesh instead of purchasing the content through programs like iTunes, more people are looking for ways around the system – and this boys and girls, is it.

YouTube2mp3 Converter

Enter the URL of the video location into the space provided and the converter does the rest!

Now acquiring that new song you just heard on the radio for free is as simple as looking up it’s music video on YouTube, copying the URL from your browser navigation, and pasting it onto one of the easy converter websites, and let them do the rest. You can also get sound bites from your favorite movies, TV shows or commercials. If the video is on YouTube, the audio can be yours.

A simple Google search for “YouTube to MP3 converter” will lead you to several websites providing conversion of YouTube videos to links of their ripped audio. There are several that will drop the conversion half way through, be unable to locate the video, or that will convert it and make you buy something from a sponsoring website before you can download the ripped audio.

Firefox ad-on

This is what the YouTube2mp3 Firefox ad-on looks like when downloaded for free from YouTube2mp3.net

There are two main reliable pages that will convert for free and without the B.S. of needing to support their sponsors; Dirpy, and Video2mp3. Video2mp3 even has a free Firefox ad-on that when downloaded allows you to skip going to their website all together and convert right from the page with the YouTube video itself.

Whether you’re looking for a way to get free music to put on your iPod or content to make a ringtone with – ripping audio from YouTube videos for free is one new way around the system. The best part is that going through these sites you avoid the dangers of viruses and government tracking that peer-to-peer programs present.

So check out Dirpy and Video2mp3 for yourself and see what this best-kept net secret is all about. Thanks for reading – stay tuned for more High-Tech-Hype!

This Article Was Written By Josh Dimino of The College at Brockport SUNY.
Contact Josh at JoshDimino@gmail.com

This Article Was Written By Josh Dimino of The College at Brockport SUNY.
Contact Josh at JoshDimino@gmail.com

When doing research for a previous blog here on High-Tech-Hype called “‘Stumble Upon’ Endless Personalized Possibilities,” I came across the coolest web browser I have seen to date.

It seems that the Windows “Explorer” browser went to the wayside years ago when Mozilla’s “FireFox” was realized to be the much more sleek and reliable alternative to the Window’s default browser that comes standard on all PC’s. On Mac computers Safari is the default browser included on their machines, although Firefox and other companies have now released Mac friendly versions of their browsers. Most recently we have seen the Google franchise take their swing at the competitive free browser market with their product “Google Chrome,” and the most hyperactive and creative ad campaign for browsers yet to date with a cartoon cat telling us that we should be expecting more from our browsers and internet.

Now I will be completely honest and upfront in admitting that I have still not tried Google Chrome yet, but I am very familiar with Explorer, FireFox (for Mac and PC) Safari, and now Opera.

When researching StumbleUpon for that previous article, I discovered that one of the browsers that supports StumbleUpon was something called Opera – and since I had never heard of it before I did a quick search for it and was blown away!

Opera Speed-Dial

The Opera browser's Speed Dial feature can hold up to 25 of your favorite pages in a highly visual organization.

Opera has several features that no other web browser has, as well as some of the other popular features of its leading competitors. I think the coolest feature unique to Opera is the “Speed Dial.” It is a menu of up to 25 pages you choose, set up like the keypad on a phone. It’s a great way to visually organize the pages you use most, and comes up automatically when you click the plus sign to add a new tab (a common feature now on the latest versions of FireFox and Explorer).

Opera mouse geatures

A break down of some of the simply mouse gesture features of Opera 10.50

Another feature unique to Opera are the simple mouse gestures. To go back to the previous page, you hold down right mouse button, move mouse left, and release or hold the right button down and click the left button. To open a new tab, hold down right mouse button, move mouse down, and release. Easy commands that make web browsing that much easier.

Opera has several security features visible to the end user. One is the option to delete private data, such as HTTP cookies, the browsing history, and the cache, with the click of a button. This lets users erase personal data after browsing from a shared computer. When visiting a secure web site, Opera encrypts data using either SSL 3 or TLS, both of which are highly secure encryption protocols. It then adds information about the site’s security to the address bar. It will also check the web site that is being visited against blacklists for phishing and malware, and warn if it matches any of these lists. This behavior is enabled by default, but the user may opt to not make such checks automatically. If this check is disabled, the user can still check sites individually by opening a Page Info dialog.

One set of third-party speed tests concluded that Opera 9.5 was indeed faster than Internet Explorer 7 and prerelease versions of Firefox 3 and Safari 3. Opera was designed with a commitment to computer accessibility for users who have visual or motor impairments.

To see some of Opera’s features – check out the video tutorial below>. To download Opera free for your PC or mobile device, click here. Thanks for reading, stay tuned for more High-Tech-Hype!

This Article Was Written By Josh Dimino of The College at Brockport SUNY.
Contact Josh at JoshDimino@gmail.com

This Article Was Written By Josh Dimino of The College at Brockport SUNY.
Contact Josh at JoshDimino@gmail.com

I have known my friend Drew since we were in the 7th grade together almost 10 years ago now. He is one of the most tech savvy people I have ever met – and for years he has been a big promoter and active user of the internet community tool ‘StumbleUpon.’

An internet community, or virtual community, is a social network of individuals who interact through specific media, potentially crossing geographical and political boundaries in order to pursue mutual interests or goals. In this particular instance, StumbleUpon is an Internet community that allows its users to discover and rate Web pages, photos, and videos. It is a personalized recommendation engine which uses peer and social-networking principles.

The StumbleUpon tool for your browser

Highlights of the functions and buttons of the Firefox version of the StumbleUpon toolbar

Pages are presented to the user when they press the “stumble” button on their browser toolbar add-on. StumbleUpon chooses which Web page to display based on the user’s ratings of previous pages, ratings by his/her friends, and by the ratings of users with similar interests. The user then has the option to either “thumbs-up” the page, “thumbs-down” the page, or to not enter any preference. This information is logged by the StumbleUpon engine to be used in future stumbles by either knowing to include similar content if rated thumbs-up or to avoid content with similar characteristics if rated thumbs-down.

Stumble Upon Prefrence Options

When setting-up StumbleUpon you are given over 500 possible interests to choose from which begins to form a framework of content you would find interesting.

StumbleUpon also allows their users to indicate their interests from a list of nearly 500 topics to produce relevant content for the user aside from the “thumbs-up” “thumbs-down” rating of content as it appears. There is also one-click blogging built in as well. Toolbar versions of StumbleUpon exist for Firefox, Mozilla Application Suite, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, and a hand full of other 3rd party browsers.

StumbleUpon presents an easy way to “channel surf” the web and discover content you would in no other way be possibly exposed to. Today, StumbleUpon serves more than 9,854,813 members and it is still growing in popularity, especially for those in times of procrastination and in search of pointless, entertaining, random distraction.

Check out a web page version of StumbleUpon: Video by clicking that link to get a hands on feel for their approach and how it works. If you like it, head to the official StumbleUpon page and get the ad on for your browser!

This Article Was Written By Josh Dimino of The College at Brockport SUNY.
Contact Josh at JoshDimino@gmail.com

This Article Was Written By Josh Dimino of The College at Brockport SUNY.
Contact Josh at JoshDimino@gmail.com

One of the biggest dilemmas presented by the concept of the internet is the protection of personal content. The premise of the internet is the open sharing of content through an ever growing complex “web” of pages and links. But as the internet has exploded to new mediums, platforms, and concepts for usage and content – the unending battle of copyright infringements is just one of the shockwaves that has rippled across the ever widening pond called ‘the net’.

Now I am not at all about to get into the legality of piracy, etc., instead I was recently tipped on a new underground trend used to obtain massive files without paying for the content. Almost every semi-conscious American under the age of 30 has probably downloaded or obtained content of some kind illegally at some point.

Napster Screen Shot

A screen shot from March 8, 2000 when Napster was still in it's Beta stages

The site that started it all right around the year 2000 was Napster, followed there after by other top hit freeware software like iMesh and Limewire. The concept of peer-to-peer content sharing quickly turned into the black market for online content. Everything from music and videos to software and games became only a click away to anyone with something better than a dial-up connection.

Peer-to-peer networking, commonly referred to as P2P, is any distributed network structure composed of participants that make a portion of their resources (such as processing power, disk storage or network bandwidth) directly available to other network participants, without the need for central coordination instances (such as servers or stable hosts) Peers are both suppliers and consumers of resources, in contrast to the traditional client–server model where only servers supply, and clients consume.

Limewire Screen Shot

Limewire became the most popular Peer-To-Peer network and remaind so for several years through the mid 2000's

P2P engines like iMesh and Limewire have declined steadily in popularity and functionality over the past few years. Viruses and misnamed or foe-files spread more and more as they were downloaded by its users at the same time that legal battles began, and the FCC began targeting average Americans one-by-one for their use of file sharing software. As users backed away out of fear and frustration, the iMesh and Limewire platforms for sharing files began to unravel. Without users to host content, there is less and less legitimate content for other users to consume.

The decline of freeware software marked the beginning of iTunes run in the spotlight in combination with Apple’s explosively popular MP3 and other mobile devices. While some were happy with paying .99 cents per tune, others still looked elsewhere to obtain content without paying. What came next is our present day model of internet piracy, and for tech nerds like me it is one of the most complex and fascinating examples of just what the internet is truly capable of.

First implemented in early July 2002, BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol used for distributing large amounts of data. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and it has been estimated that it may account for as much as 43 % of all Internet traffic (depending on geographical location) as of February 2009.

Torrent Comp

An example of a torrent system in action. (Image from Wikipedia)

First, a user playing the role of file-provider makes a file available to the network. This first user’s file is called a seed and its availability on the network allows other users, called peers, to connect and begin to download the seed file. As new peers connect to the network and request the same file, their computer receives a different piece of the data from the seed. Once multiple peers have multiple pieces of the seed, BitTorrent allows each to become a source for that portion of the file. The effect of this is to take on a small part of the task and relieve the initial user, distributing the file download task among the seed and many peers. With BitTorrent, no one computer needs to supply data in quantities which could jeopardize the task by overwhelming all resources, yet the same final result—each peer eventually receiving the entire file—is still reached.

After the file is successfully and completely downloaded by a given peer, the peer is able to shift roles and become an additional seed, helping the remaining peers to receive the entire file. This eventual shift from peers to seeders determines the overall ‘health’ of the file (as determined by the number of times a file is available in its complete form).

While this new system of downloading isn’t useful for just getting that one song you heard on the radio, it is useful for sharing albums, collections, or even entire discographies – as well as full length high quality movies and large software files. It is however much harder for federal agents to track and determine who is downloading a given file because the seed the user is downloading is being pulled from multiple hosts through a variety of internet mirrors.

It is unclear how long of a run BitTorrenting will have before it meets its inevitable demise as all the other systems previously discussed did. One thing is for certain though – as long as there are users on the internet who desire a particular type of content, there will always be new ways of obtaining it. In a future article I will explore one of the new methods being used to obtain audio files, both popular and obscure – and its not from a P2P network. Stay tuned…

This Article Was Written By Josh Dimino of The College at Brockport SUNY.
Contact Josh at JoshDimino@gmail.com

Flip it!

At least we don't have to deal with these anymore! (photo from stock.xchng)

Remember the days of bulky, so-so quality video camcorders? You’d have to rewind the tapes (either regular size or mini), which could only hold few hours max, and the cameras were a pain to carry around.

Those days are gone with new Flip Camcorders.  This company has release five models of portable, HD camcorders that not only look cool, but can hold up to four hours of video (depending on the model).  While I personally haven’t tried these cameras out, I’ve heard a lot about them from teachers and friends and they seem really cool.

Out of the five styles of camcorders, three of them can be “designed” to have cool skins over them, with images from the company’s design gallery, a pattern generator or your own uploaded image. This feature is really cool I think, because skins are becoming really popular with cell phones and computers, as they allow users to show off their own personalities and flair.

There are a few downsides that I’ve noticed when looking at the specs for these cameras.  First off, while one of the cameras (the SlideHD) can record up to four hours of video, the other options are only two hours of video, minus the MinoHD 4GB model, which holds one hour worth of video.  Granted, this is still okay because users can just plug the camcorder into their computers and upload the film instantly, instead of using loads of tapes or mini-disks.

Another downside is the price.  While most electronics are expensive these days, and I’m sure it’s worth it, $279.99 for the top model seems a little much for me right now.  Considering iPod Nano’s now have a video feature, one that can hold up to 16 hours of footage, plus play music through MP3s or the FM tuner, all for only $179 (16GB).  Sure the quality on this isn’t as good, but I doubt the Flip Cam will be being used for professional footage anytime soon.

That being said, the Flip Cam does look very cool and I think it’d be very neat to have, especially for bloggers.  Video is being added to everything now, so having a portable, cool looking video camera would be really neat.  Maybe before I go to Australia I’ll pick one up…

Motion sensing taken to the next level

If this works the way it’s supposed to, it will revolutionize gaming even more than the Wii did. Nicknamed “Project Natal,” the device “uses cameras and a microphone mounted to a Wii-style sensor bar to detect the user,” according to a Fox News article. “It recognizes movements, talking, and can even tell the difference between me and my grandma.”

Even better than how cool this thing looks? Natal isn’t a brand new console- rather it’s an accessory add-on that will work with any Xbox 360!

While this seems absolutely amazing, you always have to wonder if it’ll work as well as the video makes it look.  Another point of concern that I thought about is what games will work best with it.  Obviously the video shows game shows, racing and other similar games on it, and that’s cool, but what about “hardcore” games, like Call of Duty or HALO? Will you have to fall flat to the floor and cover your head after “throwing” a grenade at the screen?

I can see this being really cool for families to get involved in gaming.  Kids will love getting to “really” control everything and parents and grandparents can get involved, even if they aren’t that video game-smart.

All this depends on the price though. The accessory is going to cost a pretty penny I’m sure, and that’s reasonable, but will all new games have to be bought? If I already have “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?” will I have to buy a Natal-ready version of that game? If Microsoft is able to get it so old games work with this new device, then it’ll easily be a big hit. But they won’t earn as much money that way, so I could see it only working with compatible games, which will be a shame if that happens.

Multitasking is finally here!

Yes! Yes! Yes!! Apple is finally fixing one of it’s biggest problems in the iTouch/iPhone!

Multitasking is coming to the iPod world! Multitasking refers to being able to switch between applications and use one while others keep doing other tasks in the background.  For example, multitasking would allow a user to listen to the radio using the Pandora application, and check their Facebook using the Facebook application at the same time.  While some apps have tried to incorporate their own version of this (Flycast Radio has an option to open a web browser page within the radio player), a consistent multitasking tool will be fantastic.

Just as I was getting excited about this though, bad news was delivered: the upgrade won’t work for older iTouchs/iPhones.  I have an original iTouch.  It’s fantastic and frankly, not that different from the newer iTouches.  I’m not planning on buying a new one any time soon because it still does it’s job.

Why would Steve Jobs not want to incorporate multitasking into the older iPods? I know I would be more than willing to pay for the upgrade to get the feature.  The only reasoning I’ve found was that it’s possible multitasking runs too slow on older iPods due to less RAM.

Ok, so it’s a little slow.  Let us decide for ourselves Mr. Jobs.  I personally would be okay with it moving slowly if I got to use multiple apps at once.

Of course, if you’re tech savvy, you can make your iPod multitasking friendly if you want to.  This requires changing a line of code in the N82AP.plist file, which implies you have root access to your iPod through jailbreak.  So basically, if you know what any of that means, you can do it.  Or, if you’re like, you’re stuck with a non-multitasking iTouch.

I suppose I’ll just wait until my iTouch dies and I have to buy a new one.  Multitasking would be fantastic, but isn’t stopping me from not using the iTouch right now.  It’d be cool to listen to the radio and play games/surf the web at the same time, but it’s not my biggest concern at the moment.  My biggest concern is who I have to bride to get me one of those iPads..