DjVu, pronounced "deja vu," is an advanced image compression technology that simplifies the difficult process of scanning and digitizing paper documents in a format that captures enough detail to be useful but in files small enough to distribute online. Developed by AT&T Labs in 1996, it's since been advanced by an open-source forum of the same name. It's gaining in popularity since it promises to make available tons of books, magazines, and other important stuff that otherwise would come in files much too large to be hosted by anyone but the likes of NASA.… Read more
Amidio makes some heavy-duty musical apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch; I was particularly impressed with StarGuitar, which gives you a virtual guitar with a bunch of preset rhythms, letting songwriters create quick sketches of ideas when they're nowhere near a guitar.
On Tuesday, Apple approved a new Amidio app, called TouchDJ, for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and it's both very impressive from a technical standpoint and a heck of a lot of fun. The iPhone can only play one audio track at a time, but TouchDJ essentially fools it into placing two MP3s side by side for simultaneous, real-time manipulation and playback. It's like a two-track digital DJ setup right on your iPhone.
You get a crossfader to control the balance between the two tracks, plus individual controls for each track's volume, pitch/speed (which aren't independent from one another, unfortunately), equalization (three bands), and effects (the built-in real-time effect sounds like a kind of flanger, and there are several lame samples of a low-pitched robot voice, but you can upload your own). Each track is represented by simple waveform images that use a different color for the bass, which helps you match beats more effectively. A tempobend effect, which lets you quickly bend the speed up or down on either track, also helps you get in sync.
The looping functions were most impressive--you can create a cue and loop mark at any point in either track, then return to the cue with the rewind button, move to the loop mark with the fast forward button, or create an endless loop between the two points. All of this is in real time. If you've got an audio splitter, you can even create a separate cue track for your headphones--for example, to set up a loop in your second track while the first one is playing, without exposing your experimentation to your audience--although this requires some serious processing power, and is recommended only for an iPhone 3GS.
There are a couple caveats.… Read more
Native Instruments' Traktor DJ software is an industry standard for legions of digital DJs with laptop-based rigs. Unfortunately, as the company's software has grown increasingly sophisticated, the prospect of using your laptop's trackpad to control it becomes a bit ridiculous.
In an effort to make your laptop's trackpad obsolete, Native Instruments is launching a dedicated USB DJ controller named Traktor Kontrol X1. Due to hit shelves in February of 2010, the Kontrol X1 includes every knob, button, and slider a DJ could desire, and touts a retail price of $229.
A stripped-down version of Traktor DJ software (… Read more
As the music games genre overflows with add-on packs for Guitar Hero and Rock Band (and too many plastic guitar variations to count), consumers might be feeling a little gun-shy about adding a turntable to the mix. Smartly, however, Activision has countered the skepticism by adding what might be the best video game soundtrack of all time to DJ Hero.
Ninety-three tracks (double the amount on The Beatles: Rock Band) of unique mashups and remixes from some of the world's most renowned DJs are not only great listening, but each one takes two excellent source songs to make music with. That's actually 186 songs floating around somewhere in this game.
Scott: The turntable in DJ Hero almost feels like an afterthought compared with the track selection, but it's solid and thankfully compact, with a free-spinning platter that's extremely smooth. The plastic buttons, crossfader, and other knobs feel a little jiggly, but the rubber feet beneath will make sure the controller stays put on a table.
To make music in DJ Hero, a very similar-looking "notes approaching" interface is repurposed to resemble a spinning record. Three different note-tracks are controlled by pressing colored buttons on the plastic turntable, just like Guitar Hero or Rock Band. You can also scratch the notes by pressing and turning at the same time.
On the left side of the controller, the crossfader is activated during certain zig-zaggy cues in the track, and alternates the two tracks. Above that is a "euphoria" button that is DJ Hero's version of "star power." Beside that is also a knob that either controls pitch effects during some sections, or selects sound effects in another portion of gameplay. As you can imagine, it starts to get complicated. DJ Hero might have one knob too many, but it adds to the feel of deck manipulation, and keeps your hands pretty busy. The end result--awesome hip-hop--is worth the effort.
Months ago, we were skeptical about DJ Hero--we worried that it was shameless music game exploitation. We were wrong. The effort has been exceptional, and that level of incredible musical talent should earn DJ Hero serious consideration this fall, perhaps even over the latest Rock Band and Guitar Hero entries.
Jeff: The real star of DJ Hero is without a doubt the music. The game boasts 93 mashup tracks that are sure to appeal to music tastes of all kinds with some of the most renowned DJs in the business lending their talents to the game.
So how does it play? DJ Hero is an interesting beast as its wireless turntable controller must be played on flat surface. We found success laying it on an ottoman while sitting on a couch behind it. For the most part, the tapping, crossfading, and scratching works, but you may have a problem with the button closest to the center of the faux record. Since it's anchored so closely to the center, it's tougher to scratch than the outer buttons. Regardless of how you orientate the controller, that last button may give you a problem.
The crossfader is also tough to master as its center position is not as easy to detect as you might think. During songs you'll have to switch it left and right, but we wish the center was more noticeable just by feeling its position--a definitive notch here would have helped.
DJ Hero may have less of an appeal to the more mainstream Guitar Hero franchise fan; it's a different demographic that this game is trying to reach. That combined with the intimidation of finding room for yet another plastic accessory and its $120 price tag may turn off prospective buyers.
Dan: We've spoken before about the threat of guitar game fatigue, with semiannual installments of music games vying for consumer's increasingly stretched dollars. Successfully injecting a little new life into the genre, DJ Hero is the biggest sea change in music games since the addition of drum kits. … Read more
It appears all the bacon sandwiches and soda have finally caught up with our very own Justin Yu as he is once again not with us for the show. Instead, we are graced by two special guests.
For the first half of the show our buddy Sean Cullinane stops by to help us understand why there are a lot more Phillies hats being worn in New York City today than Yankees hats and to pick apart our Motorola Droid review sample. What this phone lacks in style points it makes up in weight--it's the heaviest cell phone we've ever held!
For the second half of our program Natali Del Conte joins in for some calls from the public and a discussion about Netflix streaming coming to the Wii. Also, we announce our winner of the Ratch & Clank Favorite Weapon contest!
All this and much more on today's 404.
EPISODE 456 Subscribe in iTunes audio | Suscribe to iTunes (video) | Subscribe in RSS Audio | Subscribe in RSS Video… Read more
What happens when one extremely popular tech TV show with an attractive female host blatantly takes the slogan of a much lesser known Internet radio show with three mildly humorous, if not a bit awkward, post-pubescent manboys? You're about to find out on today's episode of The 404, where Attack of the Show's GadgetPr0n stole our tagline, "High Tech, Low Brow." Now, I'm a little unwilling to compromise my relationship with Olivia Munn, the , but Jeff and Wilson are heated and propose an all-out battle for the right to the slogan!
The new simulated reality video game DJ Hero keeps on adding musicians to the growing list of special guests- this time, they just recently announced a collaboration with Daft Punk. The game will come out on October 30th, but we're pretty psyched to mash-up tracks from those French Robots. Well, Jeff and I are- Wilson is still confused about how the game works and why people listen to music in the first place.
Which brings us to a huge Calls From the Public- we got so many voicemails over our three-day weekend that we have to take the entire second half of the show just to play them all. Of course, we have to re-visit the dreadful washing machine/computer hypothetical that got drummed up on Thursday's show. In a world where humans are enslaved by free-thinking computers, the man atop the washing machine reigns supreme King. This fall, look out for Wilson G. Tang break-out role in...THE CLEANER.EPISODE 428 Subscribe in iTunes audio | Suscribe to iTunes (video) | Subscribe in RSS Audio | Subscribe in RSS Video… Read more
My favorite surprise on the device was a new feature called Quickplay. It solves one of the greatest problems with an MP3 player: as you add more music, it gets harder to find and immediately start playing the songs you're most excited about. Quickplay basically adds an alternate menu on the Zune home screen--it appears as collection of small album covers, offset slightly … Read more
Start with your own music collection on the phone. Sharetones compares your list to its growing database of user-cut ringtones and returns matches. After previewing and picking, Sharetones will extract metadata information about the sample ringtone and rip your own song to match it, including fade-ins and fade-outs. Bottom line: the only person's music you touch is your own.
The application's actual interface is a tad sparse. You can preview the ringtone, pausing or saving it. The menu button reveals options to sort by title or artist, to re-sync the library, and to view the ringtone, alarm, and … Read more
Like most people who've had a chance to play with it, I've been impressed with Microsoft's Surface, the multitouch tabletop computer that the company began demonstrating about two years ago.
It drew some mockery compared with the svelte iPhone, which emerged around the same time, but it's meant for a completely different experience: collaborative public spaces rather than solo communications. Unfortunately, I haven't had much opportunity to share my excitement--apart from a handful of deployments in hotels and AT&T stores; there aren't many of these tables out in the wild yet.
Which … Read more
From the creators of "Drawn Together" comes "DJ & The Fro," a new daily, animated show on MTV. The 404 speaks to the creators, Matt Silverstein and Dave Jeser, about the show and talk about how Michael Jackson's death almost ruined the shows' first few episodes.
The show creators call it a rip-off of "Beavis and Butthead" for the viral video generation. DJ and the Fro are two twenty-somethings, who spend most of their day watching viral videos and commenting on them. Sounds eerily similar to what The 404 guys do all day long. Anyway, the guys tell us about how the show came into being and let us know that a "Drawn Together" straight-to-DVD movie is coming out as well!
"DJ & The Fro" reminds us a bit of "Tosh.0" on Comedy Central, which premiered just a few weeks ago. The 404 guys think we should have jumped on to this bandwagon a long time. This is what we do already for the show every day!
Anyway, hope you all enjoy the abbreviated show along with our Michael Jackson commentary. He will be missed. Spend your weekend listening to your favorite MJ jam and reminisce about the fond memories you had while karaoking to "Billie Jean."EPISODE 371 Download today's podcast Subscribe in iTunes audio | Suscribe to iTunes (video) | Subscribe in RSS Audio | Subscribe in RSS Video… Read more