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Smartphones for audiophiles: is the iPhone 5 more musical than its rivals?

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Smartphones for audiophiles the iPhone 5 vs rival flagships

The love of audio. It’s a dangerous condition, because every minute spent obsessing over headphones or specs or conflicting opinions is a minute not spent enjoying your favorite tracks or discovering new ones. That’s why a review like this, which compares the iPhone 5 with rival phones based largely on acoustic qualities, runs a high risk of time-wastage — no one really needs a cacophony of flowery words with no concrete conclusions.

How to steer clear of the technological equivalent of a wine-tasting? By trying our damnedest to focus only on the more practical pros and cons of these top handsets, specifically from the POV of someone who listens to a lot of music on their phone. We’re talking about someone who likely prefers high-bitrate recordings and who is ready to spend money on something better than the earbuds (or EarPods) that come in the box.

In addition to testing Apple’s new flagship we’ll also look at the iPhone 4S, which is now a ton cheaperthan it was a few weeks ago, as well as the Galaxy S III (both the global and the Sprint US version) plus the HTC One X (global and AT&T), and run them all through an audiophile obstacle course that goes right from purely subjective observations through to slightly more scientific tests as well as storage, OS and battery comparisons. There’ll also be some consideration of the iPhone 4, Nokia Lumia 800 andPureView 808, although it’ll be more condensed.

And yes, we’ll end up with an overall winner, but the research here is about more than that. Different phones may suit different people, depending on their priorities. Moreover, new handsets are just around the corner — the Lumia 920, the Note II, the LG Optimus G and whatever other goodies the future undoubtedly holds — and so it makes sense to have a bed of knowledge against which new entrants can be judged. Interested? Then let’s get started.

The tests

Smartphones for audiophiles the iPhone 5 vs rival flagships

You’ll find a total of four tests here, each with a different approach and each with its own winners and losers:

1. First impressions. These are totally subjective and simply involve me listening to a range of tracks on each device, using a pair of in-ear headphones, and then jotting down some notes. The point was to force me to pin my colors to a mast: if I made random judgments during this phase, then I stood to be contradicted and / or humiliated by subsequent tests, which would then put this whole review in its place (a place called Meaninglessville).

2. Scientific tests, conducted by AMS Acoustics in London, UK. These guys test audio equipment for a living, in everything from concert halls to train stations, and we’re grateful for their time and expertise.

3. Guided listening tests, which were still subjective but at least had some discipline to them, and which were again conducted under the auspices of AMS Acoustics. These tests also brought in the opinions of a totally independent witness: Chris Nicolaides, an AMS audio engineer, who is normal enough to regard both the iPhone 5 and the GS III as “just more phones.”

4. A brief round-up comparison of battery life, storage, pricing and software from an audiophile perspective.

(Note: the iPhone 5 in this review was running on the Vodafone UK network. It’s possible that slightly different audio hardware is used in other variants.)

1. First impressions

Smartphones for audiophiles the iPhone 5 vs rival flagships

As mentioned, the idea here was to make some rapid and purely subjective judgments about the way these smartphones sound. I did that using a pair of top-end Sennheiser IE-80 in-ears, which are characterized by low impedance (16 ohms) and high sensitivity — in other words, it’s easy to make them go loud even if you have a low-power audio source like a smartphone.

Given that these Senns are so easy to drive, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that all the smartphones tested came off pretty well. In fact, it’s not going too far to say that if you use in-ears with similar properties to these, and if you’re only ever likely to use these types of headphones, then you may as well pick your handset based on other factors, because audio quality isn’t a big enough deal to accept or reject any of them.

“If you’re only ever likely to use these types of headphones, then you may as well pick your handset based on other factors.”

That said, three phones did stand out just a little: the iPhone 4, 4S and global HTC One X. The two older iPhones caught my attention on quiet classical tracks because I noticed that they could both go really loud without adding much extra hiss (i.e., hiss that wasn’t clearly on the original music recording.) The HTC One X stood out in more rhythmic types of music like hip-hop and dance because it had great stereo imaging — you could really hear different degrees of left and right — and somehow it also accentuated little details that weren’t always apparent on the other handsets. The only downside of the One X was that it added quite a lot of hiss.

What about the iPhone 5? Well, it was fine on the whole, but I did notice something holding it back: you had to push the volume a good few notches higher just to get the same output level as the 4 or 4S. Doing this caused the iPhone 5’s on-screen volume display to turn a stress-inducing red color, which is arguably not what you need when you’re trying to chill out to some chill-out. More importantly, the volume hit its max limit sooner, making the 5 a quieter phone all-round.

Smartphones for audiophiles the iPhone 5 vs rivals

Honestly, this is no big deal with lightweight in-ears, but many audiophiles prefer cans with open-backs or higher impedances, which respond best to an abundance of energy from the source device. To explore this, I switched to using Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro over-ears with a high impedance of 250 ohms and found that the difference was obvious: the iPhone 4 and 4S were the only devices to provide sufficient volume in quiet recordings using these headphones. Admittedly the Beyerdynamics may be a niche choice for mobile listening, but still — the 4 and 4S deserve points for being so flexible.

Just to add another perspective, our Mobile Editor Myriam Joire also checked out the devices using DT 990 Pros and found that — at least with her preferred types of music, such as house and drum & bass — the global HTC One X really won her over, although it didn’t go as loud as her iPhone 4S or indeed as loud as she would have liked. Myriam was attracted to it for much the same reasons as I was, scoring it high for stereo imaging and a slightly noisy “analog feel.”

Our findings so far: The iPhone 4/4S and global HTC One X both win this round. The iPhones win because they go loud enough to allow virtually any choice of audiophile headgear and any genre of music, while the HTC One X wins for subjectively sounding better in louder genres, with better stereo imaging and detail albeit at the expense of more noise.

2. Objective tests

Smartphones for audiophiles the iPhone 5 vs rival flagships

To make things slightly more scientific and reliable, AMS Acoustics took two key measurements for each phone: frequency response (FR) and total harmonic distortion (THD). FR tests the device’s ability to treat all bass and treble frequencies equally, which in turn allows you to hear what was recorded in the studio or to make your own EQ adjustments from a neutral starting point. Meanwhile, THD measures the degree to which the phones introduce harmonic tones that are not present in the original media — for example as a result of clipping or other types of distortion.

Despite being objective, FR and THD should be regarded as very blunt tests. They measure neutrality, which isn’t necessarily what the human ear would perceive as being pleasant or unpleasant. There are also impurities these metrics can’t catch — such as noise and intermodulation distortion — and even when they do highlight a difference, they won’t tell us what caused it. A lack of neutrality could just as easily be a product of the software as of the phone’s audio circuitry, and it could potentially be fixed by using a different app or different EQ settings — we only tested stock music apps with default settings (including with the Beats setting turned off on the HTC phones).

The strength of these tests, however, is that they’re reliable enough for AMS to be able to vouch for them. What’s more, they’re able measure things which are perceivable and which we know are important — namely, the ability of a phone to reach a high level of volume without distorting the output, such that it may be suitable for a wider range of headphones. We deliberately ran each phone at its maximum volume setting in order to find this out, and as a result our FR chart is also useful for ranking the phones in terms of loudness.

Frequency Response

Smartphones for audiophiles the iPhone 5 vs rival flagships

Let’s start with the FR chart above, and in particular with the topmost line. It’s the odd one out because it doesn’t correspond to a smartphone, but rather to the FIIO E17 DAC and headphone amp. We used this as a benchmark for comparison because it’s a $130 device that’s totally dedicated to producing audio. In other words, it represents what a manufacturer can do with a smartphone-sized block of electronics when they don’t also have to worry about it receiving calls or playing tower defense games.

We can see right away that the FIIO goes much louder than any of the smartphones under test, and that’s before you even extend its default volume range using its settings menu (something our little test rig begged us not to try). It’s also reasonably flat — not the flattest, certainly at the treble end where it rolls off too quickly — but flat enough.

“The iPhone 5, meanwhile, fails to distinguish itself.”

In fact, all the smartphones tested here are good and flat, with the only obvious exception being the Lumia 800 with its apparent bass boost. Aside from that, the major difference this chart reveals is how loud each phone can go while remaining flat, and that prize undoubtedly goes to the iPhone 4 and 4S, which both contain Cirrus Logic audio chips and which seemed to behave almost identically here. The quietest phone was the GS III, but it deserves some marks for being so flat all the way from bass to treble — thatWolfson audio chip clearly is no slouch. The iPhone 5, meanwhile, fails to distinguish itself by tracing a path somewhere in the middle, amongst the Qualcomm-powered American GS III and One X.

Total Harmonic Distortion

Smartphones for audiophiles the iPhone 5 vs rival flagships

Now, this next graph works totally differently. It shows the amount of the audio signal that was due to harmonic distortion, so a higher curve is theoretically “bad” or at least non-neutral — we want a line that is a low as possible throughout as much range as possible.

Interestingly, the FIIO is far from perfect here — it’s higher than any of the smartphones on trial, although we have to go a little easy on it because we know that its test signal was so much louder, and remaining loud and neutral is what devices find most difficult.

All the smartphones are tightly bunched together, without large differences between them, but once again the iPhone 4 and 4S come off extremely well. The 4S wins hands-down on this chart, while the 4 is ahead of the bunch everywhere except at the bass frequencies. Again, the iPhone 5 is somewhere in the middle, alongside the Qualcomm-powered phones.

“Once again, the iPhone 4 and 4S come off extremely well.”

Before we conclude this section there’s one other thing that the THD graph shows: the global HTC One X has slightly higher distortion than the other phones. It could be coincidence, but it’s interesting that the two stand-out devices from the first test also sit at the extremes on this one. The global One X is thought to contain a bespoke audio — likely from Texas Instruments — and it’s just possible that its higher harmonic distortion is correlated in some way with the noisy, analog vibes that made it notable before. Indeed, THD isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s one of many types of distortion that can be deliberately used in a recording studio to add color to certain types of music.

Findings: These tests can hardly be considered the final word on audio quality, but they do make the iPhone 4S (and 4) stand out for being the phone which goes the loudest with the least distortion.

3. Guided listening (and a wildcard)

Smartphones for audiophiles the iPhone 5 vs rival flagships

So, you’ve made it this far? Then hopefully we can start bringing this whole thing toward a conclusion, and to do that we’re going to try a new kind of test: guided listening, in which myself and Chris Nicolaides from AMS sat down with each phone and tried to score it out of 10 against different criteria. This time we opted for headphones with middle-of-the-road impedance and sensitivity, in the form of Sennheiser HD 595 over-ears rated at 50 ohms.

We listened to the phones at full volume and tried to detect differences in loudness, hiss, distortion (such as clipping), dynamic range (the ability to make loud and soft stand out from each other) and overall “quality.” For a loud track with little dynamic range we chose something from Roni Size, while Ellie Goulding represented a busy and complex electronic sound and Chopin represented classical. Two people, five metrics, three test tracks and 10 points give a maximum score of 300.

“None of the phones scored below 70 percent.”

Where we couldn’t hear any differences between phones on a particular test, we simply gave all the phones a default score of 10/10 on that measure. This seemed fair at the time, but on reflection our approach seems to have exaggerated the differences between phones. Even if we only heard a minor disadvantage on a particular handset, just the fact that we didn’t award a full 10/10 score seems to make less-than-perfect phones stand out too much. So, just bear that in mind while you glance at the table — after all, none of the phones scored below 70 percent, so none of them were bad as such:

Device Loudness Dynamic Range Distortion Hiss “Quality” Total
FIIO E17 (reference) 60 60 58 60 60 298/300
iPhone 4S 54 57 60 60 58 289/300
iPhone 5 45 55 60 60 55 275/300
HTC One X (global) 35 50 59 50 45 239/300
HTC One X (AT&T) 34 44 58 55 36 227/300
GS III (Sprint) 36 40 58 46 35 215/300
GS III (global) 29 40 58 51 35 213/300

Findings: So, the iPhone 4S wins yet again, providing almost the same experience as a dedicated $130 headphone amp — which is pretty incredible when you think about it. Of all the devices tried, and on our 50-ohm headphones, only the iPhone 4s and the FIIO were too loud to be comfortable, and we’d have happily pushed all the phones up higher if they’d been able.

Our subjective rankings for loudness don’t tally exactly with the FR chart above, suggesting that smaller differences in maximum volume are hard to detect aren’t a big deal. Indeed, the iPhone 5 overcame its objective lack of volume to reach second place — showing that it still went loud enough in our test tracks to have emotional impact.

Interestingly, the global HTC One X stood out for the third test in a row — scoring higher than the other Androids thanks to a high score for dynamic range (the feeling of impact between soft and loud) and as well as its subjective overall “quality” rating.

“The iPhone 5 overcame its lack of volume to reach second place.”

Oh, and what about that wildcard? It was simply this: we also tested a rooted global Galaxy S III, running a nice little app called Voodoo Sound. The app was built by a good friend of Engadget, François Simond, and it has helped many people to overcome the quietness of Samsung smartphones. Once it has superuser privileges on the phone, Voodoo Sound is able to control the digital volume and analog amplifier separately, while also removing the limit Samsung imposes on the amp. The GS III version of the app isn’t out yet, and we only tested a very early build which had a few bugs so we didn’t want to score it — but suffice to say that it scored significantly higher than the stock GS III and it does solve the only real problem with this device’s audio.

4. Non-audio comparisons — OS, cost, storage and battery life

Smartphones for audiophiles a review

Comparing mobile operating systems can get academic, seeing as by now so many people are entrenched in their preferred ecosystem. That said, during our tests the Android devices did stand out in a number of ways. First, they didn’t try to force us to use particular pieces of software (hello, iTunes and Zune), and they had the decency to treat our test tracks as regular files that we could move around as we wished, particularly through USB mass storage mode. Second, the Androids handled Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) files out of the box, and allowed the playback of Apple Lossless files (ALAC) through third-party apps like PowerAmp, whereas iOS devices didn’t make it easy to play FLAC and the Windows Phone didn’t readily like either codec. Given that even the latest Android devices are readily rootable and flashable, allowing the use of custom ROMs and software utilities with an even deeper layer of control, Google’s OS feels the most welcoming to audiophiles.

“Google’s OS feels the most welcoming to audiophiles.”

Most of the Android handsets in this test also came off very well in terms of cost and storage. If we agree that an audiophile needs at least 32GB, then the GS III (all variants) and global HTC One X offer that for a decent price in their respective markets. The GS III wins outright for having expandable microSD storage, meaning you can add 16GB to a base model for just $10, and it also has On The Go compatibility with USB sticks — a feature which kills the battery, but can occasionally come in handy. Apple generally charges an obscene amount ($100) to add 16GB to an iPhone, but fortunately the iPhone 4S isn’t so extortionate these days and is actually quite a sensible purchase. The AT&T One X and Lumia lose out due to their 16GB storage cap — which is a real shame. Conversely, the PureView 808 deserves a mention here for the fact that it also has a microSD slot and OTG USB storage.

Finally, let’s take a quick look at battery life, based on our regular battery run-down tests, which are probably a better indicator of actual usage then just running the phone with music playing and the screen off:

Phone Battery Life
iPhone 5 11:15
Samsung Galaxy S III (Sprint) 9:20
Samsung Galaxy S III (global) 9:02
HTC One X (AT&T) 8:55
Nokia 808 PureView 8:40
iPhone 4S 8:00
HTC One X (global) 6:00
Nokia Lumia 800 N/A (different benchmark)

Findings: Which phone wins this fourth and final section? That’s largely up to you to decide, depending on which measure is most relevant to the way you listen to music. We’d have to pick the Galaxy S III though, because it offers the most flexible OS alongside the best and cheapest storage options, and it also very good battery life.

Wrap-up

Smartphones for audiophiles the iPhone 5 vs rival flagships

We’re now able to round this musical journey off with a cadence that — we hope — does justice to all the handsets we’ve tried. The main conclusion is quite straightforward: tests one, two and three all deliberately gave preferential treatment to the loudest phones with the least distortion, which resulted in a unanimous victory for the iPhone 4S. By extension, some of that glory also belongs to the iPhone 4, which as far as we can tell possesses virtually identical audio circuitry.

The iPhone 5, meanwhile, joins the ranks of smartphones which generally sound great but which aren’t especially well-suited to those audiophiles who want to stick with high-impedance headphones. In terms of pure audio quality, it was above average in the subjective tests and probably deserves to tie in second place with the global HTC One X, which has its own peculiar but attractive sound.

We need to ask Apple why it has now joined in with other manufacturers in limiting the volume on its newest handset. It’s possible that there are very good reasons, such as avoiding the risk of hearing damage. Or perhaps restricting the headphone amp is seen as a way of maximizing battery life. Either way, it’s curious that some manufacturers seem to be moving in the exact opposite direction: for example, we’re told the voltage has been bumped up on the headphone jack of the forthcoming HTC Windows Phone 8x specifically in order to cater for hefty headphones, which leaves us very keen to give that phone a listen.

As for the majority of smartphone users who prefer low-impedance or closed-back headphones that are designed for mobile devices, and that are better suited to an office environment or public transport, then the first three tests aren’t especially relevant. The only test that really matters is the fourth one, which broadened the scope of comparison.

If you demand a flexible OS, then Android shines in that area. If you need a sensible price for at least 32GB, then a Galaxy S III and iPhone 4S stand out as the smartest options in the US, alongside the global HTC One X and PureView 808 in other lands (or on import). If battery life is all-important, pick the iPhone 5, Galaxy S III or AT&T HTC One X. But if you want a phone that really shines on all of those criteria, then we’d have to recommend the Samsung Galaxy S III. Although it didn’t win us over to the same degree as the global One X in terms of subjective audio quality, it excels in every other respect: it’s a great smartphone with the advantage of LTE in the States (missing on the iPhone 4S, for example), it can be heavily tweaked with apps and third-party mods, and it’s every inch an audiophile device.

Smartphones for audiophiles: is the iPhone 5 more musical than its rivals?
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A New Google App Gives You Local Information — Before You Ask for It

By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER

Google has created a new mobile app that gives people facts about the places around them — unprompted, without the need to even ask for the information.

The app, Field Trip, offers historical trivia about a park, an architectural factoid about a building or reviews of a nearby restaurant. Google says it’s like having a local friend with you as you make your way through a city.

“The idea behind the app was to build something that would help people connect with the real, physical world around them,” said John Hanke, a vice president of product at Google who runs a small lab at the company building location-based and social mobile apps. “It’s always running in the background, so it knows where you are and is always looking to see if something interesting is in your immediate physical environment.”

While the app might seem small, it reveals a lot about the big directions Google wants to go.

Google, along with other companies and researchers, dreams of so-called ubiquitous computing or ambient intelligence — computers woven into the texture of life as opposed to being separate machines. Eventually, the theory goes, computers will be part of the environment, know where people are and anticipate what they want to know.

The Field Trip app is a small step in that direction, and an example of what Google is capable of doing. Another is Google Glass, the Internet-connected eyeglass frames with a small screen. With Field Trip, Google is trying to move beyond the first generation of mobile apps, which were not much more than desktop transplants, Mr. Hanke said.

Google wants to “move the device out of your way and put the information front and center,” he said, so people can “scan the environment and know what the Web knows about the places around you.”

Fans of “Iron Man,” “The Terminator” or William Gibson’s science fiction will recognize this idea of augmented reality, he said. “What we’re doing is essentially building the information framework and tools to enable that kind of experience in the future.”

More immediately, Field Trip is a big step toward helping Google get its services and ads in front of mobile users. While it has long been a dream of advertising companies to deliver ads to people on their phones when they are near a business, that is still relatively rare. But with Field Trip, Google is able to show restaurant reviews from its Zagat service or sell deals from Google Offers or city tours from Vayable, all based on a person’s location.

In addition to Google’s own services, most of the information in Field Trip comes from a few dozen publishing partners, some esoteric, including Arcadia Publishing, Atlas Obscura, Curbed, Eater and Cool Hunting.

Field Trip uses signals from nearby cellphone towers to determine a user’s location. Its users can choose from which publishers they receive alerts — so they could turn off alerts for Google Offers, for instance — and how frequently they want to receive them. They can also choose not to receive alerts, in which case they open the app to find information.

Users can also ask Field Trip to read them notifications if the phone is connected to a headset or Bluetooth or if they are driving — and the app will determine on its own that they are driving based on how fast they are moving.

Mr. Hanke, who co-founded Keyhole, a mapping start-up that Google bought to help it develop maps, was the head of Google Maps for several years. Last year, he decided he wanted to leave Google to found another start-up. But Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, persuaded him to stay, Mr. Hanke said, and start a small lab in San Francisco. He named it Niantic Labs, after a ship that traveled to San Francisco during the Gold Rush.

Field Trip is available for Android phones; Google is working on an iPhone version. To introduce the app, Google on Saturday is playing host at parties in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis for people to explore the cities. Attendance is free. Registration is at FieldTripDay.com.

A New Google App Gives You Local Information — Before You Ask for It

Tools For The Internet – This Blog Will Help You Explore Tools For The Internet

Watch What Happens When an iPhone 5 Is Glued to the Ground

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Gadget geeks scrambled to Apple stores around the world Friday to get their hands on the iPhone 5. If you didn’t dedicate yourself to standing in line at 2 a.m. (or do the smart thing and order online), you might still luck out and find one just laying in the street.

That’s what happened to people strolling through a busy square in Amsterdam, but it was a little too good to be true.

SEE ALSO: ‘Leaked’ iPhone 5 Video Reveals Radical New Design 

A couple of Dutch pranksters glued the prized smartphone to the ground and recorded what happened.

Bigger Screen

The most noticeable change in the new iPhone is its larger, 4-inch screen. The display actually isn’t any wider than the previous one, but instead extends length-wise to a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. Its resolution is 1,136 x 640 pixels — that’s not quite high-def, but it still has the same pixel density — what Apple calls a retina display. The taller screen allows for five rows of apps (plus the permanent row on the bottom), and Apple says its colors are better, too.

LTE

The iPhone 5 is the first iPhone with LTEconnectivity, and it’s going to work on the networks of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, as well as many others across the globe. To accommodate so many different LTE bands, Apple had to split the iPhone 5 into three different models, only one of which works on CDMA networks. That’s a departure from the “world phone” approach of the iPhone 4S, but at least Apple was able to integrate both the LTE and voice radios into the same chip, saving space in the device.

Lightning Connector

The 30-pin dock connector, which has been on Apple portable devices since 2003, is now obsolete, replaced with the much smaller Lightning connector, the name being a play on the Thunderbolt connector on Apple’s Macs. Apple says it’s 80% smaller than the old dock connector, and had the extra advantage of being reversible (no more “getting it wrong” the first time you try to insert it). Of course, the new jack means many old accessories won’t work with the iPhone 5 — unless you buy Apple’s $29 adapter, that is. Even if you do, the adapters don’t support exporting video, so you’re stuck with AirPlay for that.

Thinner Design

All this beautiful new technology means Apple was able to shave off a couple of millimeters of thickness. Thanks in part to the new connector, the combined-radio chip and integrating touch electrodes right into the pixels, the iPhone 5 is just 0.3 of an inch thick. It’s also lighter, weighing just under 4 ounces.

Enhanced Siri

Siri‘s learned a trick or two with iOS 6, and is now able to launch apps and understand things like sports scores. Siri can even post tweets and and Facebook updates for you. She’s also conquering new territory by coming to the new iPod touch.

Watch What Happens When an iPhone 5 Is Glued to the Ground

Tools For The Internet – This Blog Will Help You Explore Tools For The Internet

How To: Use a laptop as a Wi-Fi repeater

by Francis D’sa 

Learn how you can use any laptop as a Wi-Fi repeater.

How To: Use a laptop as a Wi-Fi repeater

Almost all homes and offices today have an Internet connection either via a cable operator, telephone line or USB dongle. Sharing a single Internet connection with all other wireless-enabled devices at home or office requires a wireless router and these are available for as little as Rs. 1,000. But wireless routers are usually stationed at home or office and cannot be carried around because of the power requirements. There are times when you go on a holiday or travel around and need an Internet connection. USB 3G Internet dongles serve the purpose of an Internet connection whilst you are outdoors, but this connection is only available on your laptop or a tablet that has USB internet dongle compatibility. But what if you want your mobile or iPad also connected to the Internet at the same time? The Internet connectivity needs to be shared and a router is the only possibility. In this case, you will share the network connection of your laptop with the other devices and Ad-Hoc connectivity is the only option. But this method again has a limitation and only one device can connect at a single given time. We will show you how to create a temporary router using any laptop or PC within a few minutes. This will save you the cost of a new portable router.

 

Take another scenario where you are at home. You have your broadband connection and a router installed and configured. Your router is beaming out the Internet connection for all the devices you have. You need to chill out in your building premises with friends or monitor your children in the play area, while still using your mobile or tablet on the Internet.  Now, you know that your home router will not be able to beam out the Internet to this distance and it will call for a relocation of the router to the balcony or the main door. But this is not practical and you will need to get yourself a wireless repeater, which will wirelessly relay the home internet to a further distance. This calls for an investment of a wireless repeater and they don’t come cheap. We will show you how to create a wireless repeater using any laptop or PC in less than Rs. 700.

Wireless USB adapters for cheap

Wireless USB adapters for cheap

In this How-To, we shall show you how simple it is to convert any regular laptop or PC into a wireless router or repeater using some freely available software. Before you begin, let’s take a look at the requirements.

  • A laptop or PC with Windows XP SP2 or higher operating system
  • A wireless USB adapter
  • Any of the following software: Connectify, MyPublicWiFi or MaryFi
  • An Internet connection (USB 3G dongle, broadband or DSL)

To convert any PC or laptop into a router, you will need the computer to have an Ethernet interface, a USB port and a wireless USB adapter or Wi-Fi network card. Laptops usually have all of the above, while desktop PCs will definitely sport the USB and Ethernet interfaces. Some newer desktop PCs have motherboards with wireless networking interfaces. If your PC does not have a wireless interface, then you will have to get a wireless USB adapter; these are available for as cheap as Rs. 700. Any brand will work fine as long as you install the drivers correctly.

To convert the PC or laptop into a wireless repeater, you will need two wireless network interfaces. In this mode, one wireless interface works as a client to receive the Internet from a wireless router while the other interface relays the same Internet connection to other devices. Laptops usually have a single wireless network interface and to make a repeater, you will need to install a wireless USB adapter. PCs will have to use two of the USB adapters.

Once you are ready with the hardware requirements, it is time to download the software.

Download any of the following software from the Internet. These software utilities have the capability of converting a regular PC with an Internet connection into a wireless hotspot as a router or repeater. The software takes the Internet connection from the PC and shares it via the wireless interface, allowing other devices to connect and use the Internet from it. The download links are given below.

The entire procedure is very simple and will take you just a few minutes to configure and deploy. All you need is to download any of the above software, install it, restart the PC once if required and start the utility. Here is how you can configure each of the three utilities. We shall explain using Connectify as an example; you can also apply the similar methods to the other two utilities.

Router mode:

Step 1: Click the settings tab
Step 2:  Enter the SSID name or Hotspot name for your network. (free version has limited access to using the entire SSID name, while paid version users can specify any name)
Step 3:  Enter a desired 8 – digit password for securing the wireless network
Step 4:  Select the Internet line you want to share from the list in the “Internet to Share” drop-down list. This will be your Ethernet network or USB dongle / DSL dial-up connection.
Step 5:  Expand the “Advanced Settings” tab. Here, choose the wireless interface in the “Share over” drop-down list and choose the security mode for the network in the “Sharing Mode” drop- down list. Paid version users can have the option to set up the firewall and allow or disallow Internet and local network access.
Step 6:  Once done, hit the “Start Hotspot” button and your PC/laptop is now a wireless router. Connect your devices to the PC router using the SSID and password you just specified.

Connectify Configuration

Connectify Configuration

Repeater mode:

 Step 1: Follow the same steps mentioned above, but just make a small change in the Step: 3where you will need to select the first wireless network interface in the “Internet to Share” drop-down list and the second network interface in the “Share over” drop-down list. Do make sure that your first wireless network interface is already configured to connect to the host router for an Internet connection.

MyPublicHotSpot and MaryFi configuration

MyPublicHotSpot and MaryFi configuration

Using the other two utilities is very similar and takes a few seconds to implement. There may be many more similar utilities that can do the same and if you stumble on any of them, do mention it in the comments below for the benefit of other readers. If you are using any of these or other utilities and find out any issues or tweaks to make it function better, please post your comments too.

How To: Use a laptop as a Wi-Fi repeater

Disclaimer

We’ve thought very carefully about the advice given above. And while we can state, categorically, that all effort has been made to ensure that it is reasonably sound advice, we cannot guarantee that your problem will be solved. Tech2 does not warrant or make any representations as to the accuracy, usefulness or completeness of the prices, data, recommendations, advice, and any other information.

Tech2 disclaims all responsibility and all liability for all expenses, losses, damages, loss of face, costs, or anything worse that you might incur as a result of the information on this page, or any linked website.

Do not attempt to troubleshoot, repair, or modify any device without understanding and following all of the relevant safety guidelines! Do also please keep in mind that repairing a product on your own while it is under warranty, will automatically nullify the warranty provided by the company.

Alibaba: Google just plain wrong about our OS

The Chinese search giant says Google is “just speculating” about its Aliyun operating system, and insists it’s different than Android.

Chinese search giant Alibaba is disputing Google’s claim that Alibaba’s new Aliyun operating system is a forked and incompatible version of Android and thus can’t be used by phone maker Acer.

In a blog post yesterday, Google’s Andy Rubin said “the Aliyun OS incorporates the Android runtime and was apparently derived from Android.”

CNET asked Alibaba’s John Spelich about Rubin’s/Google’s claims and about whether there are elements of Android in Aliyun, and here’s what we got in response: “They have no idea and are just speculating. Aliyun is different.”

Google took some heat earlier this week for seemingly using its clout to squash a burgeoning mobile OS. Alibaba, an e-commerce company, is known as the Google of China, and wanted to follow Google’s playbook and build its own OS. Acer was set to include the OS in a handset, but those plans were apparently scuttled by Google, which said that while Alibaba built its own OS, it lifted elements of Android.

But Spelich told CNET in an e-mail that Aliyun is “not a fork. Ours is built on open-source Linux.” And he added that Aliyun “has our own applications. [It’s] designed to run cloud apps designed in our own ecosystem. [It] can run some but not all Android apps.”

He also accused the Android ecosystem of being closed and restrictive:

Aliyun is an open-source based OS that is also an open ecosystem that allows others to host their mobile-enabled Web sites in our cloud and we make those Web sites available to users who use Aliyun OS phones. So we are an ecosystem that includes other Internet companies, whereas Android does not because it provides apps through downloads. It’s the crux of the whole cloud vs. app debate. Cloud is open, apps system is closed because it is controlled by the operator of the apps marketplace. So you see: Two competing ecosystems, one that’s open through the cloud, the other is closed and restricts users to only the apps that they want you to see.

Alibaba accused Google on Thursday of forcing Acer to drop its support of Aliyun. Acer had originally scheduled a press conference that day to show off the first Aliyun-powered smartphone but was told by Google that the Android maker would cease providing its support if Acer followed through. As a result, the conference was halted.

Alibaba cried foul. “Our partner was notified by Google that if the product runs Aliyun OS, Google will terminate its Android-related cooperation and other technology licensing with our partner,” Alibaba said in a statement e-mailed to CNET on Thursday.

The accusation prompted Rubin to call out Aliyun as a forked version of Android that’s modified to the extent that it’s incompatible with other Android devices. As a member of the Open Handset Alliance, Acer is forbidden from using such an operating system, he said.

“Compatibility is at the heart of the Android ecosystem and ensures a consistent experience for developers, manufacturers, and consumers,” Google said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “Noncompatible versions of Android, like Aliyun, weaken the ecosystem.”

Alibaba: Google just plain wrong about our OS   

 

Windows XP users to lose Google Apps support in Internet Explorer

Per its year-old policy on supporting browsers, Google will discontinue support for IE8 when version 10 ships in November.

by 

Millions of Internet Explorer users who work with Google Apps are about to need an upgraded browser — but if they’re using Windows XP or earlier, they may be out of luck.

Google said today that it would end Google Apps support for Internet Explorer 8, the most widely used version of the venerable browser. But Microsoft blocks Windows XP users from installing more recent versions of IE, owing to the way device drivers are handled inside Vista and Windows 7.

Users facing that dilemma have at least one easy way around that dilemma — install Chrome! — but plenty of IT managers frown on that sort of thing, particularly in government and education settings.

Google’s support for IE 8 will end November 15, shortly after the introduction of Internet Explorer 10 on October 26.

“Each time a new version of one of these browsers is released, we begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version,” the company explained in a blog post.

More Internet Explorer users are on IE 8 than any other version, according to NetMarketShare.

Windows XP users to lose Google Apps support in Internet Explorer

Bing Launches Bing News App For Facebook

By 

Bing Launches Bing News App For Facebook

Bing announced the launch of a new Facebook app called My Bing News. The app lets you browse top stories and subscribe to categories you’re interested in.

You can select from selected topics (Entertainment, Business, Health, Politics, Sports, etc.) or create your own. The app will pull what it deems the most important stories based on your interests from sources across the web to your personal page on Facebook.

This could be a new way for Bing to capture some users who are already using Facebook, even if they don’t always go to Bing for their everyday search needs.

“Integration with Facebook makes it easy to check the news while you’re checking in on your friends, and easy to share what you find with others,” says Nathan Penner, Senior Program Manager on the Bing News team. “You’re in control over what and how you share. You can share and comment on an individual article, or, if you choose, enable sharing as you subscribe to topics and read stories. It’s up to you.”

Your friends can easily read what you share without having to install the app.

Bing Launches Bing News App For Facebook

Windows Phone devices may get Instagram app

by Aaron Almeida 

The most popular mobile social photo sharing app of recent times, Instagram may be making its way to handsets running on the Windows Phone operating system. According to a report by The Verge, sources familiar with Microsoft’s Windows Phone plans have informed it that the app may be made available for this platform.

Instagram was compatible with iOS devices since its inception. Due to the rapid growth of its popularity, its developers launched the service for Android devices as well. The author of the report by The Verge, Tom Warren states, “We’re hearing from sources familiar with Microsoft’s Windows Phone plans that an Instagram app will be made available for the platform, despite Facebook’s recent acquisition of the service for $1 billion.”

cover

May be featured on WP devices as well

The report goes on to add that when Nokia introduced its flagship Lumia 920 handset last week, there were mentions of apps that would be developed exclusively for these upcoming Lumia handsets. The author notes, “The company also posted a promotional video that includes an accidental look at Instagram for Windows Phone. In it, you see the app running as a live tile with comment and like information from Instagram. It’s not clear whether the app will support the new Lenses camera functionality in Windows Phone 8, but it appears to be a standalone app. The slip up, similar to the sneak peek at Skype on Windows Phone 8, shows that Nokia and Microsoft are committed to ensuring Windows Phone has the most popular applications from rival platforms.”

The author states that sources are informing them that Instagram will not be investing its resources in the development of an Instagram app for Windows Phone. However, he quickly points out that the possibility of this app not materialising altogether is not definite and that in the past, Microsoft has built apps for Twitter and Facebook, which it updates on a regular basis. The author ends the report by stating, “Of course, Microsoft would require Instagram’s permission to publish images to the service, since only unofficial Instagram viewers currently exist outside of the company’s own apps without an explicit partnership.”

While Windows Phone could potentially get Instagram, iOS and Android users are reaping the benefits of the new updates that are issued for it. An official blog post now confirms that Instagram 3.0 is up for download for Instagram users, both on iOS and Android platforms. Available on their respective app stores, the focus point for the new, updated version is the browsing experience, affirms the post. Interestingly, the new update brings to the table, as the app’s makers put it across in the post, “a new and unique way” to view their own photos and those of others on a map. Simply put, this means that after the update, users need not go through pages and pages of photos while browsing. The post further adds that on newer devices, users should experience improved browsing speed. Another addition to Instagram 3.0 is infinite scrolling in feeds; this way, users can view more photos, while browsing through the app and unlike earlier, they needn’t click on “load more”. Importantly, with Instagram 3.0, users can flag not only photos, but also comments for review.

Photo Maps clearly takes the spotlight on Instagram 3.0. Essentially a new way to browse through photos on Instagram, Photo Maps allows users to display their shots on a map. The Photo Map appears on a user’s profile, and users can also view Photo Maps of other users from their profile. Before a map goes public, users will be asked to review the photos they geotagged earlier. Users can also remove their photos from the Photo Map. This way, any associated geo-data will be removed, but the photo will remain as is in your profile.

Windows Phone devices may get Instagram app

Emma Watson ‘most dangerous’ celebrity to search for online

Emma Watson has been named as the favourite bait for cyber criminals attempting to lure internet users to malicious sites

Emma Watson is the most dangerous celebrity in cyberspace according to new research

Emma Watson is the most dangerous celebrity in cyberspace according to new research

The American internet security firm McAfee said that the Harry Potter actress is the ‘most dangerous’ celebrity to search for online.

Many sites use Watson to trick users into downloading malicious software or to steal personal information.

When searching for the 22 year-old Watson there is a one-in-eight chance of landing on a malicious site.

Cyber criminals often use the names of popular celebrities to lure users to sites that are actually laden with malicious software.

They follow the latest trends to lead users to sites which are designed to steal passwords and personal information.

According to McAfee this year, searching for a celebrity name with ‘free downloads’ and ‘nude pictures’ as part of the search term resulted in the highest result of risky sites.

The research reveals the riskiest Hollywood actors, athletes, musicians, politicians, designers, and comedians on the web.

This is the sixth time the Intel-owned security technology company has conducted the study, which was last year topped by Heidi Klum.

Female celebrities are far more likely to be utilised by cyber criminals. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel was the only male in the top 20.

Paula Greve, director of web security research at McAfee said: “In today’s celebrity culture, consumers expect to be able to go online to catch up with the latest photos, videos, tweets, and stories about their favourite celebrities.

Due to the richness of the data and the high interaction, often times consumers forget the risks that they are taking by clicking on the links.”

She added: “As the sophistication and expectations of consumers with respect to their online experience has increased, so has the level and ability to deliver malware either by malvertising, exploiting the user’s browser without their awareness, or masking malicious URLs behind shortened URLs.”

Others among the riskiest celebrities to search online are Jessica Biel, Eva Mendes, Selena Gomez and Halle Berry.

Emma Watson ‘most dangerous’ celebrity to search for online

IFA 2012: 10 best gadgets on display

by Naina Khedeka 

After six days of tech-imbued events, the Internationale Funkausstellung or IFA, a leading trade show held in Berlin for consumer electronics finally pulls the curtain.

IFA 2012: 10 best gadgets on display

After six days of tech-filled events, the Internationale Funkausstellung or IFA, a leading trade show held in Berlin for consumer electronics has finally come to an end. IFA 2012 was eventful, and leaves us with some cool innovations, hot trends, and a controversy too. Talking about tech trends, it did take a leaf from Computex as manufacturers continued to display hybrid and convertible Windows 8 devices. Windows 8 appeared not only in tablets and Ultrabooks, but also in a few All-In-Ones (AIOs). Near Field Communication (NFC) showed up in a number of devices. TVs with 4K resolution are becoming more popular. IFA 2012 showcased some really promising devices and technologies; we have selected the 10 devices that impressed us most.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2
The successor to Samsung’s best-selling ‘phablet’ has been making headlines for quite some time now. After rounds of rumours and speculation, the company finally took the wraps off the Galaxy Note 2 at IFA this year. It features Android v4.1 (Jelly Bean) out of the box, and is fuelled by a 1.6GHz quad-core processor. Samsung has thrown in Air View, a new feature that it hopes will change the way mobile phones are used nowadays. Air View enables users to hover over an email, S Planner, image gallery, or video with the S Pen to preview content without having to open it. The feature enables users to quickly search and see more information in one view without making screen transitions. Moreover, the S-Pen has also been given a facelift. It is now longer, thicker and has a better grip, allowing for a more precise, comfortable, and natural writing and drawing experience. The Samsung Galaxy Note II will be available in European, Asian, and Middle Eastern markets in October.

Note 2 unveiled

Note 2 gets new Air View feature

Here is a quick look at the features of the Samsung Galaxy Note II:

  • 5.5-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen with a 1280 x 720 pixel density
  • 4G LTE, EDGE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 and 5GHz), Wi-Fi HT40, NFC
  • GPS with GLONASS and A-GPS support
  • Bluetooth v4.0 with USB 2.0 Host
  • 8 megapixel AF/ Touchfocus camera with full HD video recording and playback, 1.9MP VT Camera, BSI front facing camera
  • 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions, all with expandable support up to 64GB
  • MHL for AV out

Samsung ATIV S Windows Phone 
This handset made heads turn, and not just because it runs the highly anticipated Windows Phone 8 OS. It appeared in Samsung’s kitty rather than that of Nokia. Samsung stole Nokia’s spotlight, if we may say so, to show off the first Windows Phone 8 smartphone dubbed ATIV S. The device is extremely thin with a narrow bezel. Apart from Windows Phone 8, which is the talk of the town, the handset is equipped with other features, which surely set the bar for upcoming Windows Phone devices.

First Windows 8 Phone from Samsung

First Windows 8 Phone from Samsung

Here is a look at the highlighted features of the Samsung ATIV S:

  • 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels
  • GSM, HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot, DLNA, NFC
  • GPS with A-GPS support and GLONASS
  • Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP, microUSB v2.0
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • 8 MP AF, LED flash with full HD video recording, 1.9MP front facing camera
  • 16GB, 32GB versions with expandable support up to 32GB via MicroSD card

HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook
HP showcased its new Ultrabook in the Spectre range, the Spectre XT TouchSmart. While Ultrabooks have begun showing off some nifty hybrid designs, this one from HP has given the design a miss, but brought some touch functionality to the display. This would definitely make the Windows 8 UI (formerly known as Metro) a breeze to use. This highest-end HP Ultrabook embeds a 15-inch IPS display with an edge-to-edge glass covering it, with a full 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution. The device is sleek at 17.9mm and tips the scale at a little over 2.1kg. It has an all-metal design, glass touchpad and speakers with Beats Audio technology. The Spectre XT is easily one of the slickest and most high-end PCs on display, and would be an enviable system even without the touch screen. It is also the first notebook from HP to feature Intel’s Thunderbolt interface which enables high-speed transfers of data to external hard drives. Moreover, it features the latest Intel Core processors, Intel’s identity protection, anti-theft, Smart Response and Smart Connect technology. On connectivity front, one will find Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0 and HDMI ports. It is expected to hit store shelves in December with a starting price of approximately Rs 78,199 ($1399).

Yet another Spectre

Yet another Spectre

Dell XPS Duo 12
Early this year, Intel had showcased some new technologies in an event held in Mumbai. The event showed some potential Ultrabook designs. One such design was this laptop-tablet combination. At the IFA, surprisingly, Dell put on display a trio of Windows 8-enabled devices namely, a 10-inch Windows RT tablet, XPS 27 All-in-One and XPS Duo 12. Dell wowed us with its XPS Duo 12 convertible/ hybrid device. It has a unique design with a sleek frame as the screen hinges at the centre of the left and right sides as seen in the image below. The screen swivels vertically and can be flipped by 180 degrees. This allows one to flip the screen backwards and fold it, turning the device into a tablet. It has a 12.5-inch touchscreen that serves as a tablet surface and also a conventional notebook screen, along with processor options up to Core i7.

Distinguishable design (Image Credit: Cnet)

Distinguishable design

Samsung dual-screen laptop prototype
Samsung had yet another prototype on display at IFA. The company put on display a dual screen laptop. Harnessing the dual nature of Windows 8, creative minds at Samsung showed a fully functional laptop on the inside while the outer side becomes a tablet with the tiled UI. Interestingly, the company also utilises the S Pen on the outer touchscreen. The device certainly looks trendy but the dual screen capability is likely to add some bulk. The laptop also shows a front-facing camera, and the touchpad has a brushed metal look along with black chiclet-type keys. Although just a prototype and in need of more work, we think it would be a cool device in case it makes its way into the market.

Best of both worlds (Image Credit: Engadget)

Best of both worlds

IFA 2012: 10 best gadgets on display

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