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PlayStation Suite announced for Android

At a press event where the NGP was announced, Sony also took the opportunity to unveil their plans for the PlayStation Suite. This will allow Android users to download ‘PlayStation’ quality games, and it’s also rumoured that classic PS1 titles will also be available to download.

Whilst this is clearly going to tie in with the PlayStation Phone (or Xperia Play as it now seems to be named), I’m unsure as to how this will work with Android phones. I’ve tried playing SNES emulators on my phone, but the majority of games aren’t playable with the emulated D-pad and buttons on the touchscreen. So I can’t think how for example Metal Gear Solid might translate to touchscreen controls.

It’s an interesting development nonetheless, Sony is clearly trying to expand into new markets (perhaps they’re hedging their bets rather than fully backing the NGP). I look forward to seeing how this pans out.

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Cover Art Grabber

I recently reorganised the music on my phone, making sure that everything was tagged correctly and had the correct cover art. However, upon transferring it to the phone I found that there were still a few albums that weren’t displaying the cover art correctly. This is where Cover Art Grabber comes in handy.

Cover Art Grabber menu
Cover Art Grabber menu

At the menu you have the choice to choose an album to retrieve the cover art for, or try to retrieve the cover art for all albums that don’t have it. I found that doing it all at once wasn’t ideal as it retrieved the wrong cover art for one album, so I went through them again one by one.

Simply select ‘Album’ from the menu, which will give you a list of the albums on your phone. When you come across one that doesn’t have cover art, select it and the app will try to find the picture for you.

Cover Art Grabber - choose an album
Choose an album from the list that doesn't have cover art

The app will then display the picture it thinks is the most likely match. If it is correct, select ‘Save’, or if not try ‘Search’ which will give you a few pictures to choose from.

Cover Art Grabber - cover art retrieved!
The cover art is then retrieved and added to the music file

This is much simpler than having to do it all again on my PC and transfer the files over once more!

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Chess.com app for Android phones

I have been a member on chess.com for over 6 months now, and enjoy playing against my friends and random people around the world (with varying degrees of success!) I play on my PC via a web browser for the majority of the time, but sometimes when I can’t get to my PC it’s useful to be able to play on my phone. On my previous phone, a Nokia 5800, I could use the chess.com Java app to play, but this was limited to 3 moves per day for free members, and the interface was very clunky even using a touchscreen phone.

The difference then between the Java app and the Android app is amazing. The interface is easy to use, you can play live chess and use the tactics trainer, and best of all there are no limits to how many moves you can make each day! The app does have a few problems – I get the occasional force close, and sometimes when rotating the screen half of the pieces disappear or change colour, but going back to the menu and re-entering the game fixes this. Overall I highly recommend this app if you like playing chess.

Screenshot of the chess.com Android app
Screenshot of the chess.com Android app
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Screen Off and Lock

I have a case on my Samsung Galaxy S which while fitting nicely and protecting my phone has the minor drawback of covering the volume and power buttons. I don’t often use the volume buttons but they work through the skin without any real problems. However, I use the power button to lock the screen, and have found that sometimes it’s difficult to press the button through the case.

I have found a solution – the Screen Off and Lock app. I simply add a shortcut to my screen for this app, then when I want to lock the phone I just have to tap the screen rather than trying to find the button through the case.

Screen Off and Lock shortcut on my phone
Screen Off and Lock shortcut on my phone

This is an extremely useful app. One wonders why something like it isn’t included as part of Android by default? But then I guess that is the beauty of Android where you can customise everything.

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Samsung Galaxy S2 details appearing online

Details about the successor to Samsung’s successful smartphone the Galaxy S are starting to appear on various blogs online. It is rumoured that the next phone will be called the Galaxy S2 and will be revealed at the Mobile World Congress next month. It will be running the latest version of Android, 2.3 (nicknamed Gingerbread) and have a 4.3″ touch screen (slightly larger than the Galaxy S). The screen resolution will be 1280 x 720, and it will most likely feature a dual-core processor.

Mock up of the Galaxy S2
Mock up of the Galaxy S2 (taken from techngear.com).
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gStrings – tune any musical instrument

One of the most useful apps on my Android phone is gStrings Free – a chromatic tuner application measuring sound pitch and intensity. Put more simply, it allows you to tune any number of musical instruments. I use it to tune my guitars. The application is intuitive and simple to use – you can use it to sound a certain note, tune a certain note or automatically detect a note and then tune it.

gStrings Free for Android
gStrings Free in action

The free version is ad supported, as can be seen in the screenshot above. A paid-for version is also available (for $1.37) which removes the ads, but so far the free version is good enough for all of my instrument tuning needs.

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AndroBlogger

One of my new year’s resolutions was to make daily updates to my general blog, The Ramblings of Keane Ingram, which is hosted on BlogSpot. However, for the first few days of the new year I was away from home, so decided to investigate ways of being able to blog from my phone. The best free app I have found so far is AndroBlogger.

AndroBlogger home screen
The AndroBlogger home screen

This app lets you post and read your blog (although some comments on the AppBrain page suggest that the app is limited to only one blog – this isn’t a problem for me though).

Adding a blog entry in AndroBlogger
Adding a blog entry in AndroBlogger

Adding a blog entry is as simple as using the screen above – enter the blog title and content, submit and it is done! Now this app isn’t perfect if you want to add pictures and other media to your blog entries, but for text only it is simple, fast and free! I do have a problem on the Galaxy S of not being able to scroll through previous blog entries, but this isn’t too big a deal for me as I only use the app to create entries. Hopefully this can be fixed in the future.

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SoundHound for Android

It’s amazing how fast technology is progressing. The idea of being able to use your phone to identify a song that is playing would have seemed incredible five years ago, but Shazam has shown that it is possible, and has probably ruined many a pub quiz!

I’ve been using Shazam, but had never upgraded to the full application, instead making do with the 5 free IDs per month. But last week I discovered SoundHound. SoundHound is similar to Shazam, but is funded by adverts so you can make as many IDs a month as you’d like (an ad-free version is also available for $4.99). I’ve found that it works perfectly, and actually provides a lot more information than Shazam does once the song has been identified.

When you load the app, you get the following screen. Press the big yellow block with ‘Tap Here’ inside to start identifying a song:

SoundHound home page
The SoundHound home page

You’ll then get the following screen whilst the application listens to the music and starts analysing it:

SoundHound analysing a song
SoundHound analysing a song

When the analysis has finished, you’ll get a screen showing the song, with links to play the song, lyrics, a button to search for the song on YouTube, and also links to purchase the song.

SoundHound - song found
SoundHound showing details about the song

You can see that this final page has an advert at the top, but it’s unobtrusive and for the service you receive it’s an extremely minor inconvenience. I can’t recommend SoundHound highly enough!