Spotify for the iPhone – first look

Spotify sitting proudly on the first page of my iPhone
Spotify sitting proudly on the first page of my iPhone

Today saw the much heralded and debated arrival of mobile Spotify, with apps available for free download in both Apple’s iTunes App store and in Google’s Android Market.

I was a free subscriber of the desktop Spotify app on the Mac and wasted no time in downloading today’s free app. Like many thousands, or tens of thousands, I was keen to try out the service so have paid my £9.99 for a month’s access. (This is paid with either VISA or Mastercard – payment options are limited at the moment, they would do well to enable Maestro and Paypal options).  You can subscribe per month or for a year’s access. You can cancel the service at any time – but sadly they do not offer any financial incentive to pay for the full 12 months in advance.

After downloading and entering your existing username and password you will see your existing playlists appear on your phone.  If you add items to your playlist either via your desktop machine or via the phone, they will automatically sync back with each other.

Over Wi-Fi playback is instantaneous, over 3G there is a small 2 or 3 second delay – but you still can skip through the track by dragging the time slider at the bottom.

For items in your playlist you can also Sync to Offline List. This basically means you are copying the songs to your iPhone for playback when you are out of 3G range, such as on the underground or up a mountain or in an airplane etc.

The only limit to the amount you can store in these offline lists is the size of your spare memory in your phone.

In fact, unsurprisingly, the app works exactly like Spotify told us it would in their preview from a few weeks back.

Spotify iPhone demo

The only downside, if it is one, is that you the app needs to be open for you to listen to your music.  You can’t just skip in to your emails, send a text, or browse the internet whilst Spotify is still playing. But that’s a minor point in my opinion. (However this is likely to only affect the iPhone. Google Android based phones WILL play Spotify music in the background)

It will be interesting how this will affect Apple’s iTunes.  I doubted Spotify would ever get approval by the technology giant. Either they are receiving a serious financial pay-off from Spotify – or they realise that with the app being available on other handsets they simply couldn’t allow the rest to get themselves a killer mobile phone feature.

Spotify users and music lovers everywhere rejoice.

Update: 1pm Spotify have confirmed that they are working on the ability to take payments via Paypal. Should have been ready ages ago.

WordPress 2.8 Upgrade problem – blank screen

I upgraded a few of my websites this morning and suffered the WSOD (white screen of death).

As I used the automatic upgrade to WordPress 2.8 both the website and the admin panel went blank.

I looked in my error log files and saw this line:

PHP Fatal error: Call to undefined method WordPress_Module::_weak_escape() in /var/www/vhosts/ …..

It seems the ‘Redirection’ plugin is at fault so do the following to sort out your WordPress 2.8 upgrade.

1. Go in to the remote view of your files.

2. I renamed the Redirection folder to Redirection2

3. Voila. The Redirection plugin will be disabled and your blog should be working again.

4. You can then rename the folder back to its original version and update the Redirection plugin and then activate it again.

Hope this helps some people who are having the same problem on upgrading to WordPress 2.8

Safari 4 beta – The review

Bundled with the loveable Apple Mac range, and at home on the super-sexy iPhone – Apple’s Safari web browser has slowly been building market share. But with the PC market still dominated by the unwieldly Internet Explorer, which continues to require work-arounds by web designers, Safari is third behind Mozilla’s Firefox. Google’s excellent Chrome browser is still in beta, and still not available on the Mac so will Safari’s 4th incarnation become a real challenge to the dominance of IE and Firefox?

New features in Safari 4

Apple proudly boasts around 150 improvements in the new version but we’ll start with one of the first you will site.

1. Safari Top Sites.

iTunes and iPod Touch/iPhone users will instantly recognise the layout of their top sites function which automatically displays your most visited sites. A similar feature exists on other browsers we know – but Apple always do it that little bit cooler than anyone else.
Safari Top Sites Image

2 (and 3). Cover flow for History AND Bookmarks

Even more reminiscent for hardcore Apple phones.  (If you want it to) Safari will store thumbnails for all your bookmarks and visited sites.

You can then quickly browse through these to find that page you remembered looking at a while ago.

Cover Flow Safari Browser

4. Improved Developer Tools

Got my ‘work-hat’ on now. From what I saw of Chrome some of the debugging features were excellent for designers such as myself. The occasional missing div and span being closed, load times and responsiveness of javascripts on loading.  Safari look to have improved the field even further on this.

5. The ‘Nitro Engine’

Apparently it makes Safari run fast. Very fast.  Claiming nearly 3 times faster than Firefox, which is some achievement.

Safari also takes advantage of the webkit standards which help designers develop even better looking websites than before. All in all it looks great, feels good, and as someone who ‘shock horror’ uses Firefox on a Mac – Safari have raised the bar.

In my humble opinion, this is the best internet browser available at the moment.

Download it yourself at the Apple website and let me know what you think.

Pirate Bay – up before court

Pirate Bay Webmasters
Pirate Bay Webmasters

It’s been a while coming but the founders of the Pirate Bay torrent-sharing website are up before a court in their native Sweden, on charges of copyright theft.

Sony and Warner Bros are among the big boys who are involved in prosecuting the web-owners for their crimes against humanity.

But surely this case should be thrown out.

At the end of the day, Pirate Bay – like other similar websites, is basically a search repository for people to search for torrents. Whether those files are illegally or legal to share is not their responsibility. I could go to Google and type in ‘slumdog millionaire torrent’ and it will point me in the right direction. Are Google not equally as culpable?

The defence lawyers have even stated that their service can be compared to ‘car makers who make cars that exceed the legal speed limits’.

An admirable defence.

The internet should always be free of censorship. We rightly mock the Chinese government for their ‘great firewall of China’ yet our own great firewall is attempting to be built by the owners of big corporations.

In terms of films maybe if Sony didn’t sell Blu-Rays for prices as ridiculous as £20 etc then maybe they may have a more viable business model. Some of the big film companies are in trouble – with advances in technology what we watch and enjoy is much more likely to be crafted by an unknown talent on his Macbook than a film starring overpaid actors and actresses.

Let’s hope the Swedish court deliver the right verdict. Pirate Bay is, really, only a search engine of a particular file type – just as Flickr is for images.

Time will tell.

Valentines Day – for a laugh

Did everyone survive Valentine’s Day then? Last minute rushes to the garage to get those flowers, or maybe you’re a forward planner and had everything sorted. Or even someone a bit flash and whisked your loved one away for a weekend.

But the dreaded Valentine’s Card purchase for a man is something else. Women, notoriously, will analyse everything to the nth degree.

So when I stumbled across this article it certainly made me laugh.

15 cracking card designs, but this was my favourite.

Love it. Not that there is anything in common with me, of course.
Love it. Not that there is anything in common with me, of course.

How to change default WordPress gravatar avatar

Comments on online blogs and websites are one of the main ways of helping build a community.  WordPress enables commenters’ email addresses to be matched against the database on the Gravatar website to see if the user has uploaded an avatar for their email address.

Generally this works well for tech or computing websites where the readers will be generally more familiar with Gravatar, but for those of you who blog to an audience on non-technology matters it is likely that a vast majority of your users will not be familiar with, or even want to sign up to, the Gravatar site.

So what happens?  WordPress uses the default gravatar icon next to their comments.

default-gravatar

Boring!

But you can easily change the default avatar/gravatar icon for your wordpress blog by following the simple steps below.

1. Using a graphics program create an image 96 x 96 wide – or whatever size square you intend to use on your site. Make sure you choose a background colour that will help it stand out on your comments page – for blogs on white backgrounds you can see the default gravatar uses a grey background.

(I’m no graphic wizard but I quickly knocked up this new logo for the purpose of this tutorial)

jd77logo

2. Locate your avatar code

Usually found in your comments.php file for whichever theme you are using on wordpress you will see a line similar to something like this:

<?php echo get_avatar( $comment, 80 ); ?>

or

<?php echo get_avatar( get_comment_author_email(), '80' )?>

The 80 here represents the default size and can be customised to whatever size you want. All you need to do is add an extra comma after this number and insert the url to your default icon.

eg.

<?php echo get_avatar( $comment, '80' , 'http://www.jd77.co.uk/files/jd77logo.jpg' ); ?>

Save and upload your file again and you have changed your default wordpress avatar.