Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Month: May 2010

Gaga, Cartman

Despite a few long posts about Android and the Desire, I feel like I’ve been neglecting the site a little of late. So while I have a bunch of tardy links to share, today I just want to mention a recent Times article on Lady Gaga. It is written by an unabashed fan which does not always lend itself to the best journalism, but perhaps in this case it was entirely appropriate. Because, despite its length, I felt compelled to read the entire piece on an icon about whom I know little and have limited interest.

Like anyone in a western country paying the remotest attention to modern music, I am very aware of her. However I read almost nothing about because I tend not to follow celebrities unless I also have a genuine interest in their art. I do understand the important musical contribution that Gaga has made — almost single-handedly she has reinvigorated a creatively dead pop industry. So her relevance is in a genre that, generally, holds little attraction for me. Eric Cartman’s cover of Poker Face excites me more than the original (I even have it on Rock Band), but the very fact such a thing exists is a testament to her influence. I fully accept that the notion of Cartman “bluffin’ with his muffin” is horrific. Probably.

Seeing her rise as a counter-culture feminist icon has been equally startling, not because I am in any way opposed to it, but because of the ill-conceived attacks against such an idea that it has sparked (a brief glance at the comments reveals how wrong the writer is). I am, as you are probably aware, so in favour of equality that it tends to infuriate many feminists (who find it difficult to argue with me) and girls who think they want equality until they realise it necessarily requires relinquishing certain social advantages they have long held in order to gain economic (and other) ones. I think the subversive fashion in which Gaga treats the media fascination with sexualising absolutely everything is a fantastic approach, rather than merely railing against it. As she mentions in the interview, while she may strut around scantily clad in her music videos, it is rarely in a way that is designed to be attractive to the typical man, though arguably it is sometimes calculated solely to be provocative. I am a strong believer that the best way to undermine anything is to take it to its logical extremes rather than to suppress it. And suddenly Eric Cartman and Lady Gaga make perfect sense as contemporaries and collaborators.

I’ll leave you with a song that you almost certainly won’t have heard before, a lesser known YouTube-posted Amanda Palmer song that she recently performed live at a ninja gig (last-minute, but not exactly secret when you mention it to your 400,000 Twitter followers) at the Underworld: Gaga, Palmer, Madonna. While technical complexity is impressive, honesty is a trait I’ve begun to find increasingly endearing in music. Perhaps because so little popular music is.

Appsolutely

A long post today that just covers the Android apps I currently use and recommend. If that doesn’t interest you, here’s my review of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans instead.

To keep an eye on the latest app releases check out Android Tapp and Revision3’s daily App Judgment show, which covers  both Android and iPhone. You’ll notice there aren’t direct links to the app marketplace below. That’s because unfortunately the Android marketplace doesn’t quite work like that at present although its redesign is soon to launch with Google’s I/O conference in progress right now.

So here’s what I use in approximate order of regularity/usefulness:

Dolphin Browser HD is currently the best Android web browser for high-end phones. A slick interface, tabbed browsing and very smooth pinch-to-zoom.

Astro File Manager is self-explanatory: the easiest way to browse files on your phone, especially if you download and install apps outside the Android marketplace.

Lookout is an all-in-one security package with cloud backup, anti-virus scanning (primarily to protect you PC when you attach your phone) and the ability remotely to locate (and, if stolen, wipe) your phone from any browser. Paid alternative WaveSecure is also very well reviewed.

Last.fm and Spotify are both great streaming music services. The former is free, while the latter requires that you are a premium subscriber to use the mobile app. Still, that entire library available anywhere isn’t bad for £10 a month.

Catch That Bus is the first and only app I’ve purchased to date and is a bargain at £1.79. It uses Google Maps and overlays UK bus stops. Select one and you’ll see a live board with expected arrival times. No more wondering whether it’s worth waiting at a bus stop.

JuiceDefender saves battery life by regulating your data connection and wifi, but it can interfere with streaming media services like Spotify.

Evernote brands itself as a “digital brain” for storing and searching notes, pictures and clips from websites. Not only can you now access it anywhere, but you can use your phone’s camera to snap photos, which Evernote will scan with OCR to make any text searchable.

ShopSavvy lets you scan product barcodes while shopping and will provide details and price comparison with both retail and online stores.

Dropbox is an service I already recommend for cloud-syncing files on desktops, and now you can access all of those files remotely from your phone too.

Photoshop.com Mobile is obviously nothing like the desktop version but offers a handful of really useful tools to improve images taken with a phone camera.

TaskPanel lets you kill off apps individually or en masse. Android’s multitasking implementation means that the OS will automatically prioritise and close unused apps when it runs out of memory, so this should be unnecessary. But in some cases you may prefer to keep things tidy yourself and it can improve battery life.

Twitter and Engadget both have official apps that, while not particularly special, do stand out for their slick interfaces.

Quickpedia let you browse wikipedia and is noteable mainly in that it includes suggestions for search. This on a pocketable phone is probably the next best thing to owning The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Shazam is a neat little app that will listen to a snippet of music and identify it, all for no charge.

Barcode Scanner may sound odd for a phone but the Android community often shares apps and links using QR codes (2D barcodes). Simply snap one, even directly off another screen, with your phone camera rather than fiddling around with the keyboard.

Yelp and Aloqa are both goods ways to find local restaurants and entertainment.

Layar is an augmented reality app which means it uses the phone’s camera to display the world around you with overlayed information. They’re a great glimpse into the future but I feel aren’t quite smooth enough for general use yet.

Flixster Movies brings current film info, showtimes and trailers to your phone.

c:geo is great for entering the world of geocaching.

Compass lets you – wait, do I really have to explain this one?

Whew, any I missed that you think should have been on here? As always, let me know.

HTC Desire is the ‘droid you’ve been looking for

Having finally caught up with the modern mobile world on buying the HTC Desire, I have been reluctant to discuss it. The main reason is that nothing but gushing praise would seem rather biased so I wanted to find some faults too. That took time.

As you probably guessed it’s a phenomenal device. I’m not going to repeat others’ “iPhone killer” rhetoric here because it’s irrelevant – with or without Apple’s product, this is a powerhouse of a smartphone and, for me, the best on the market to date. A large capacitive touchscreen with a high-res 800×480 AMOLED display, it looks stunningly crisp with vibrant colours and smooth transitions. Its 1GHz Snapdragon processor makes it fly, coupled with the Android operating system.

Android is a slightly geekier OS than the iPhone’s, but HTC’s Sense user interface sits on top, with attractive widgets that allow for easy customisation and show a lot of info at a glance (e.g. FriendStream which combines friends’ Facebook and Twitter updates). For me it fixes the Nexus One control flaws by inverting them: the touch-sensitive buttons are now physical, while the trackball is replaced with an optical trackpad that is great for fine cursor movement. It’s not secret that I like the tactile feedback of buttons and would still prefer a slide-out physical keyboard, but as soft keyboards go the Desire’s is one of the best I’ve tried.

Now a mature platform, the Android Marketplace has a wealth of apps. Numerically it is still far behind the Apple’s App Store (and isn’t as easy to browse), but most high-quality apps (other than games) are now cross-platform or have equivalents. Android’s open system makes it attractive and easier to develop for, without the need for official approval, so it certainly has the potential to grow rapidly.

The contacts list seamlessly merges my GMail address book with Facebook contacts, including importing profile pics to identify people. Multitasking is a breeze on the Desire, allowing you to stream music with the Spotify app while browsing the web, pausing  and resuming everything automatically to receive a call. Other neat tricks include Google’s turn-by-turn SatNav, recently rolled out in the UK, and Flash support, which is welcome but certainly leaves room for improvement.

Video looks gorgeous on the vibrant screen although AMOLED does wash out dramatically in direct sunlight. Codec support is rather limited at present, meaning you’ll need to convert most video files. Previously a nightmare, these days this it is simplified drastically by doubleTwist. Sound quality for voice calls is fine, but I found music playback is rather average: excellent clarity but a lack of depth with virtually non-existent bass. Of a course a phone will never compete with a dedicated PMP and I readily admit I’ve spoiled my ears with Cowon players, but this confirms I will still require a second device.

I’ll discuss specific apps I’m using in a future post.

"You shouldn't trust the storyteller; only trust the story."

(CC) BY-NC 2005-2017 Priyan Meewella

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