Archive for May, 2011

It’s summer: Time for outdoor festivals, picnics and anachronistic celebrations of our fading youth (see: crochet matches, clambakes and ironic sock hops). And what better way to capture those memories than video?

While winter’s chill might impel us to put away the camera — lest chapped cheeks and running noses be immortalized forever in digital celluloid — summer is undoubtedly a time for rosy-hued posterity. Which is why we’ve compiled a list of video-sharing and -creating apps to help you document this, the best summer of your life (or at least it will look that way with a filter or two).


Super 8


 

 

 

 

Yes, it may be a promotional app — launched to hype J.J. Abrams’s upcoming blockbuster, Super 8 — but this iOS offering is a wonderful throwback to ’60s-’70s home movies of old.

The app [iTunes link] boasts a gorgeous UI complete with a camera “case,” which contains an instructional manual as well as your camera. When you pull up the camera — by tapping it — you can rotate it, swiping to the front to add an array of lenses (black and white, sepia, chromatic, color, x-ray, negative and infrared). You can then swipe to the viewfinder, where you can add more scratches to the film (to get that vintage look) as well as increase the shakiness and add a camera light.

After filming your movie, you can click a button on the side of the camera graphic to “eject” the film, which will allow you to add credits and a title, as well as edit. You can then develop the film to add it to your library. Sadly, you can only share via email; Facebook would have been a nice option.

The coolest part of the app, however, is the projector, which you pull down with a swipe to watch a film — a la home movies in the den.


iMotion HD


 

 

 

 

If you spend a lot of summer afternoons lying in the tall grass, watching the clouds amble by, then iMotion HD[iTunes link] is the app for the cinematographer beating at the walls of your soul.

This iOS app basically lets you take time-lapse, stop-motion films with your iPhone quickly and easily. Just choose the interval you want the app to snap photos, whether you want to do so manually, and record — all in HD. You can then share the video via YouTube or email (those options will cost you $0.99), or save it to iTunes or the iMotion gallery.

Use it to create a film depicting just how quickly those summer days flip by.


Viddy


 

 

 

 

Imagine the most epic of stage dives: careening off the lip of an outdoor platform, twisting in the air, and landing in a glistening sea of concert-going revelers — an air ballet that takes place in a mere handful of seconds.

Now, imagine that someone has caught that collection of seconds on video and made it all the more epic by adding color treatment, music and transitions to create a mini-production to share with all your friends. Well, that’s Viddy [iTunes link].

If you can use Instagram, Viddy should be a snap to navigate. Simply create an account, connect with friends via Twitter, Facebook and your phone’s address book, and start shooting. Click the “Share” button in the middle of the navigation panel to pull up a video from your gallery or to shoot a new one. Trim the clip as you see fit using a film strip timeline at the top of the screen (as in iMovie).

After you finish trimming, you can apply effects using what the Viddy team calls “production packages.” These are like Instagram’s color treatment filters, except with music and transitions. You can choose how much the film is treated by using a slide bar.

After choosing your package, you can add a title, location and tags, and share the video on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Foursquare and Tumblr functionality are coming soon.

As in Instagram, users also have a feed of other users’ activities, the ability to comment on and “like” posts, and an option to see what videos are trending or popular.

Download and document your summer-inspired flashes of brilliance (or idiocy) for all your faraway friends to see.


BlipSnips


 

 

 

 

Ever had a party during which a veritable carnival of grotesques (a.k.a. your friends) execute all manner of amusing capers? Don’t you wish you could capture those events on film, and tag each and every one of your pals the moment they appear on the reel? Enter BlipSnips [iTunes link].

This iOS app boasts the unique ability to tag friends using their Facebook and Twitter accounts at specific points in a video, as well as to add comments to particular time stamps (much like in SoundCloud’s mobile app). Users can then post those videos to Facebook and Twitter. One can also tag a video using geolocation — you know, so everyone know’s where the party’s at.

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Motorola has released the Droid X2, Verizon’s first dual-core smartphone. Although it looks similar to itsMotorola Droid predecessor, it’s been improved with a higher-resolution 4.3-inch screen and a 1GHz NVIDIATegra 2 processor. Let’s put it to the test.

Taking the Droid X2 out of the box, I was impressed with its slim and light form factor. Starting it up for the first time, I could see its saturated colors filled the 960×540 screen in a resolution otherwise known as quarter HD or qHD. But even though the screen’s resolution is 20% higher than its Droid predecessor, it’s still not quite as sharp and vibrant as some of the OLED screens we’ve seen.


The Good


The speediness of the dual-core Tegra 2 processor makes everything happen noticeably faster and smoother. Apps launch faster, games play smoother, multitasking works better — but the most pleasing improvement is the smoother-scrolling screens, a joy to behold.

Another benefit of that increased horsepower is quicker camera response than previous models. Now you can start up the camera and take a picture in three seconds, and it stores those pictures quickly, letting you take another picture in slightly less than three seconds.

Shooting pictures and video with the Droid X2′s 8-megapixel camera resulted in well-focused, correctly exposed and colorful stills. See the gallery below for an example.


The Bad


The Droid X2′s 720p video recording was not quite perfect in testing. When I subjected the video camera to wide variations in light levels, it dropped frames. This shouldn’t happen with a 1GHz dual core processor on board.

What else is missing? There’s no front-facing camera for videoconferencing. And there’s no sign of Verizon’s much-vaunted 4G LTE network, because this phone doesn’t handle that. Supposedly the LTE baseband radio chip is not compatible with the Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, so we’ll have to wait for a dual-core LTE phone on Verizon.

The Droid X2 is running Android 2.2 (and reportedly soon to be updated to 2.3). Android 2.2 is starting to feel old, especially after we’ve been testing Android tablets with Honeycomb 3.1.


The Ugly


The phone’s 5.4 oz weight makes it easy to handle, but it also makes this mostly plastic object feel dime-store cheap. The X2′s overall impression is that of a utilitarian handset that was slapped together without regard to design. It looks and feels like a disposable slab with four cheap buttons across the bottom, topped by an overly obtrusive Verizon logo.

Like many Android smartphones, the back ramps up to a sloping chin with the camera on top. And that side of the phone is festooned with no less than four logos, reminiscent of a NASCAR driver’s fire suit. If you’re looking for high style, you’re certainly not going to get it with this smartphone.


The Verdict


Those quibbles aside, the highlight of the Droid X2 is its snappy response. Even though its design is nothing groundbreaking, its performance is excellent. But that performance is out of sync with its old-style 3G connectivity and doesn’t make sense. If all you do is text, its 3G service will suffice, but if you want to do more than that, you might want to wait until a 4G version is available.

Amazon has unveiled the Mac Downloads Store, a direct competitor to Apple’s Mac App Store.

The new Mac Downloads Store is essentially a marketplace for buying and downloading Mac applications. Amazon has sold software downloads for years, but now it those software downloads have been organized into a one-stop shop.

The biggest difference between the two stores is that Amazon’s store isn’t available as a desktop application. That means you can’t receive easy updates from the Mac Download Store, and because it’s not always present on the desktop, users might forget about visiting Amazon’s store on a regular basis. Amazon’s store also has a much smaller selection of titles — around 250 or so. Approximately 50 of those titles are games, which are actually part of a subsection of the Mac Download Store.

Amazon’s store includes a few titles not on Apple’s roster, the most prominent one being Microsoft’s Office for Mac 2011, which retails for $202.96 for the business version and $115 for the home and student version. Microsoft is currently “looking at” the possibility of Office on the Mac App Store, though we doubt Microsoft is willing to pay Apple 30% of its Office for Mac revenue.

The Mac Download Store is Amazon’s third application store after the Kindle App Store and the Amazon Appstore for Android. The latter has given Amazon some legal headaches; Apple has sued Amazon over its use of the term “Appstore,” claiming that it infringes upon its “App Store” trademark.

hacker image

Online activism platform Change.org is hosting a hackathon called Hack for Change, designed to get engineers coding quickly for social good.

Change.org will pick 50 engineers from a list of applicants and throw them into a programming blitz at its San Francisco headquarters. The goal is to get coders, designers and other creative types to start applying their talents to the non-profit and social good sector. While other hackathons have tried to get its talent to think like programmers, Hack for Change is trying to convince programmers to work for social good.

“The smartest people in the world are focused on problems that don’t really matter,” says Ben Rattray, founder of Change.org. “What we want to do is dedicate the time, effort and energy of those people to important issues.”

The event’s rules are simple, if a little vague: “You can create any feature or app that does good.” Participants can hack using any languages or available APIs and must post their code to GitHub. They can hack individually or in teams but teams still must apply — and be accepted — individually. That kind of openness will hopefully inspire off-the-wall ideas thanks to unexpected pairings (not to mention lack of sleep).

hack imageSpanning just one weekend, the programming starts June 18 at noon and ends 24 hours later. The finished products will then be presented to the attendees, invited media and judges.

There will be prizes, but that’s not really the point. Hack for Change is aimed at introducing a new community of talent to the non-profit world. Rattray and his team are trying to make the transition as easy as possible by giving social good greenhorns a slew of ideas to get their fingers moving. The conference will start with presentations by non-profits and conscientious companies offering their APIs. There is also a forum whereanyone can suggest issues that need fixing.

Change.org is offering $10,000 of its own cash as seed money — $5,000 of which will go to the top project, with the rest to be divvied up amongst the top picks. The hackathon isn’t intended as a one-off; Rattray hopes to make it a regular event. “We want to create a very clear path by which engineers and designers can find full time work in the social change sector,” he says.

What do you think about a hackathon for change? Are designers, programmers and hackers the next wave of talent to revolutionize social good? Let us know in the comments.


f you’re one to page through scrapbooks, taking in candy-colored memories of yore, we’ve got an app for you. This one will tell you what exactly you did one year ago today on Facebook.

Past Posts is a new app from Jonathan Wegener, Matt Raoul andBenny Wong (of FlickSquare fame) that allows users to get an email every morning telling them what happened one year ago on Facebook. This includes information about wall posts, photos, and soon, checkins. The guys also previously created a similar app for Foursquare checkins, 4 Square and 7 Years Ago.

“As we use modern web services, we’re constantly producing personal content,” Wegener says. “4squareAnd7Yearsago and PastPosts both help resurface that content in the form of an email each morning. This email is like a yardstick — and you can see how your day last year was before you live this year’s day.”

I just signed up for the service, so I have yet to see what pearls I dropped on the social network last year. However, check out what an email would look like below.

When Microsoft rolls out its Mango operating system for Windows Phone 7 this fall, the company will debut a new web-based version of its Windows Phone Marketplace at the same time, according to Microsoft’s Windows Phone Developer Blog.

The web-based Marketplace will let users select and buy any of the platform’s 17,000 apps on a web browser and then send them directly to their Windows phones over the air.

When clarifying the service to Engadget, Microsoft said it expects most customers to download apps to a Windows phone over the air, but that if the Marketplace service is not activated on a cellphone, it will use SMS to turn on the over-the-air app service before software is downloaded and installed.

Microsoft added that users will also have the capability of sending themselves an email with a link to the app, but the company expects most users will instead let the apps install in the background.

The Mango operating system aims to make cellphones “smarter and easier,” focusing on efficient multitasking, enhanced cloud integration and better platform tools for developers.


Overclock Your CPU, GPU, and RAM

Posted: May 24, 2011 in News

You want the best performance possible from your computer, but you can’t afford any hardware upgrades. No problem–we’ll show you how to safely overclock your existing desktop PC’s CPU, GPU, and RAM and give it an extra shot in the arm.

Safety first! Modifying components like these could void your warranty (though some PC parts are sold specifically for use by overclockers, and their warranties tend to be more lenient). Also, no one will replace equipment that has been physically damaged by overclocking, so make sure that you’re completely comfortable taking your PC’s life into your own hands before you change anything.

It’s important to have system-monitoring software to keep track of your tweaks. CPU-Z is good for tracking your various components’ speeds. In addition, clean your PC’s case thoroughly and keep your components as cool as possible. Overclocking entails pushing your PC past its specified peak performance, and the extra power creates more heat, so you may want to consider adding extra air-cooling equipment. Better yet, see our instructions on how to build your own liquid-cooling system.

Overclocking Your CPU

The advertised speed of your CPU is calculated by multiplying the base clock rate by a multiplier. To get more performance from your processor, you need to increase one of these two variables. If you don’t have an unlocked processor (Intel’s K-Series and Extreme Edition, or AMD’s Black Edition), you’ll have less flexibility, as unlocked processors offer more multipliers to adjust. But you’ll still be able to get some extra mileage out of your CPU.

Click for full-size image.You can tweak the multiplier in your BIOS.We tried overclocking a test machine running one of Intel’s unlocked K-Series chips, a Core i7-2600K CPU running at a base speed of 3.4GHz (that number is the product of the processor’s base clock rate, 99.8MHz, times the multiplier, 34). With K-Series chips, you can easily modify the multiplier from the ‘Performance’ settings in your BIOS. Just boot into the BIOS, increase the CPU multiplier number by one, save, and boot into Windows.

Click for full-size image.

Check the Core Speed and Multiplier tabs.If this boot doesn’t produce error messages or furious restarting by your machine, you’re on the right path. Check your system specs via CPU-Z to confirm that your settings held-they can be lost if something goes wrong during the tweaking process. On CPU-Z’s ‘CPU’ tab, look at the number under ‘Core Speed and Multiplier’. That number will fluctuate, depending on what your PC is doing from moment to moment.

Next, run a benchmark utility to stress-test your CPU’s new configuration. Use Prime95‘s Torture Test mode or Linx to push your PC to its limits, thereby giving you an idea of your system’s maximum clock speed. If your computer remains free of blue screens or sudden restarts after a few hours of number-crunching with one of these tools, you’re probably in the clear. Then you can stick with the current overclocking settings, or try again with a slightly faster speed.

Overclocking Your GPU

Overclocking a modern graphics board is easier than ever; most of the time, you can raise performance by turning up a few sliders in your GPU configuration utility.

First, make sure that you’ve downloaded the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s Website. You can find the latest Nvidia software here, and AMD’s latest drivers here. AMD includes basic overclocking controls in the ATI Overdrive tab of your included Catalyst Control Center software; for an Nvidia card, you’ll need to download the Nvidia System Tools utility to change your GPU clock speed settings.

Click for full-size image.

Tweaking in the AMD Catalyst Control Center.Open the utility for your card, and locate the clock speed controls for your GPU’s processor and memory. AMD’s Catalyst Control Center keeps them under the Overdrive tab; for Nvidia, the clock speed sliders are in the Performance menu. Now, just bump the sliders up in small increments–about 5MHz to 10MHz at a time. As with the CPU upgrade, tweak, save, reboot, and give the new settings a stress test by running free benchmarking software such as Heaven 2.0 or by playing a graphics-intensive game for 15 to 20 minutes to check for graphical corruption–that would be a warning sign that your GPU is starting to fail.

If you see solid blocks of flashing colors or strange flashing pixel formations, you’ve pushed your GPU too far; in that case, restart and roll back a few increments. Most contemporary PC components are sturdy enough to withstand this kind of tinkering. If you roll back to a stable overclock setting at the first sign of trouble, your components should be fairly safe.

Overclocking Your Memory

Yes, you can overclock your RAM, too. But make sure you have matching sticks of RAM (same speed, manufacturer, and so on) before you start messing with the memory. It’s much easier (and safer) to buy more memory than to overclock what you have. But if you’ve come this far, “easy” and “safe” probably don’t mean much to you.

First, open up CPU-Z and flip to the ‘SPD’ (Serial Process Detection) tab to look at your machine’s memory specs. Reboot into the BIOS menu and select the performance menu-most likely labeled ‘Performance’ or ‘Configuration’, depending on your motherboard manufacturer.

Enter the memory configuration menu (it was labeled ‘Memory Overrides’ on our test bed), and disable the default memory profile. Adjust your memory multiplier by selecting a preset overclock option or by typing in the RAM clock speed. Use increments, one or two at a time, that match consumer-grade products (DDR3 RAM is typically sold in increments of 800-1066-1333-1600-1867-2133); save the changes; and exit the BIOS. Stress-test as usual, and consider running memory-testing software such as MemTest.