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iTunes replacements for Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS

Ecoute offers a simple, attractive alternative for Macs and iPhones to Apple's 800-pound-gorilla media player, while MediaMonkey lets you manage your iTunes tracks and other media files in Windows via an Explorer-like interface.




Recently the subject of people's least-favorite software came up. Instead of the usual suspects -- Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Norton Antivirus -- I was surprised by the unanimous response of a mixed group of Mac and Windows users: "iTunes stinks" (or words to that effect).
Apple's media software doesn't earn a spot on my personal list of adventures in bad coding (which is dominated by products from Microsoft and Adobe), but I rely on the program primarily because of ancillary products: the iPhone, iPad, iCloud, and iTunes Match.

As stated in CNET's iTunes 11 review from last October, the program's interface is much improved from previous releases, but it's still too complex and too much of a resource hog. Using iTune…

How to boot directly to the desktop in Windows 8.1

The Windows 8 Start screen is a good starting point for Windows 8 devices with touch screens, but on PCs with standard screens, you might prefer to boot directly to the desktop. Previously, you could bypass the Windows 8 Start screen with Start8, but Windows 8.1 now lets you do it natively. Here's how:
Step 1: Right-click on the Windows 8.1 taskbar, then choose Properties.
Step 2: Click on the Navigation tab, then under the Start screen section, check the box next to "Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in."



The next time you boot Windows 8.1, you'll go straight to the desktop without ever seeing the Start screen.

Put Feedbin in your Mac's menu bar with FeedbinNotifier

Unless you've been living in a cave with no access to the Internet, you likely know Google Reader is now dead. If this comes as a surprise to you, you still have time to export your Reader data through Google's Takeout service. Be sure to do this before July 15th, when Google will remove Reader from its Takeout offerings.
One of the many Google Reader replacement services that has popped up since Google announced Reader's execution date is Feedbin.
Feedbin is a subscription service, costing $3 a month or $30 a year, with an API for developers to integrate into apps, and a functional Web site to browse through your newsfeed.
Currently Reeder (free) for iPhone has Feedbin support, with plans to add it to the iPad and Mac version in a future update. Press for Android ($2.99) also has Feedbin support. You can see a full list of apps with Feedbin support at Feedbin.me.
As Feedbin and its competitors try to gain traction with new Reader refugees, the app selection might not appeal t…

Quickly fix Dropbox permissions errors in OS X

Dropbox is one of the more popular cloud-based syncing and storage tools, and offers Mac users a convenient way to transfer files from one system to another, or share files with colleagues. Dropbox can sometimes give you errors, saying that it cannot transfer something because it does not have permission to access some of the files being copied. If this happens, then it could be because of an improper permissions setup with the Dropbox configuration files in your account, or with the files currently being copied. If a permissions error such as this occurs, then the first thing that might come to mind is to use Disk Utility's Permissions Fix routine. But this only affects access permissions on system files and installed applications, and will not touch files in your user account. Holding the Option key in the Account section of the preferences will show the "Fix Permissions" option, instead of the standard option to unlink the current computer.) Instead, for Dropbox-spec…

How to open multiple Finder windows at the same location

When using the Finder in OS X, sometimes you may want to have multiple views of the same folder open at once. Usually it's quick to create a new Finder window and navigate to the folder; however, this may be inconvenient if the folder is buried deep in the filesystem, such as may be the case when troubleshooting a problem or two with the system, retrieving a backed-up file, or organizing an extensive tree of work files. If you need a faster approach, there are several, some of which use the Finder and its capabilities, and others that involve secondary programs
Firstly, in Finder, you can quickly create a duplicate folder view by pressing Command-up arrow to reveal the folder highlighted in its parent directory, and then pressing Control-Command-O to open the folder in a new window. You can then switch to the prior window and double-click or press Command-O to open the folder directly. This is convenient for a single duplicate instance, but if you would like more than one duplicat…

Get two free months of Next Issue unlimited digital magazines

Slowly but surely, Next Issue is getting better.
The service slings unlimited digital magazines to your tablet (or Windows 8-powered PC) for a flat monthly rate, and its catalog is closing in on 100 titles (quite a jump from the 40 or so it offered when it first launched about a year ago).
Haven't tried it yet? Now's your chance to double the usual test-drive deal: StackSocial is offering a two-month Next Issue Premium subscription for free. Normally that would run you $30.
Let me get one big caveat out of the way right now: This offer is for new customers only.
Next Issue is available in app form for Android, iPad, and Windows 8. (Alas, it's still not available for Kindle Fire or Nook HD.) I've tried it on all three platforms, though most of my real-world usage happens on my iPad 3. Android users will be glad to know there's now parity with the iOS version, meaning you should be able to get the full catalog of available magazines. As for Windows 8, I must admit I…

Get a Sphero robot ball for $84.99 shipped

Most of the time I focus on practical products, but can't we have a little fun once in a while? Yes, yes we can; today's deal is all about fun.

Today only, and while supplies last, Amazon has the Sphero app-controlled robot ball for $84.99 shipped. That's the lowest price I've ever seen for this way-cool gadget, which normally sells for $129.99.
Note: If Amazon does sell out, don't be surprised to suddenly see a higher price. What usually happens is that the product page flips over to a third-party seller, even though it's still under the Amazon banner.
Still, 85 bucks for a ball? I agree that's a little steep, but I defy you to show me another orb as entertaining as this one. The Sphero is a Bluetooth-connected gizmo controlled by your smartphone or tablet. Using tilt sensors (or onscreen controls), you can "drive" the ball around, which is cool enough by itself.
But Sphero can also play all kinds of games, including some new augmented-reality games …

Get a KWorld USB TV tuner for $19.99, shipped

Turn your Windows 7 PC into a powerful DVR with this antenna-powered HD tuner.

Cord-cutters of the world, unite! Hey, that sounds familiar. Oh, right, I'm plagiarizing myself: That's how I kicked off last month's post about the Mohu Leaf antenna, which helps you tune in locally broadcast TV stations. You can plug it directly into your TV or, better yet, a tuner connected to your PC. Today, let's talk about the latter. Until tomorrow, or it sells out, Newegg has the KWorld UB435-Q USB TV tuner for $19.99, shipped. That's after applying coupon code VDTV4JU at checkout. (As with most such Newegg deals, you must be a registered user/newsletter subscriber in order to use the code.) Update: In the event this sells out (as one user already reported it has), Meritline has theMygica A680B USB HDTV tuner for $25.99, shipped. Very similar product, but it includes a remote! Update No. 2: Yep, sold out. But sharp-eyed reader ncwebb found the same tuner at Amazon for the same price.

Songza goes premium with ad-free subscription option

If you've had enough ads and want more skips, Club Songza will cost you 99 cents per week. But the free service is still plenty good.

Music-streaming service Songza has added a premium option for listeners who want it.
Dubbed Club Songza, it offers ad-free listening and twice as many song-skips (12 instead of 6) for 99 cents per week.
Wait a second -- ads? What ads? I've never heard so much as a single commercial while listening to Songza on my iPhone or PC. However, I did notice that the app now forces you to "interact" with an onscreen ad (usually by typing in a word) before you can start listening, which is kind of a hassle.
On the other hand, with that done, you're good for a full 24 hours of uninterrupted play. That's still pretty generous, especially compared with the likes of Pandora and Slacker, which play a commercial after every handful of songs.
But if you don't like that ad requirement and do like to skip more often, Club Songza gives you the optio…

Warner Bros. iOS games on sale for 99 cents

If you're big into Superman, Batman, and Harry Potter, it's time to start searching the couch cushions for loose change.

Got plans for the Fourth of July weekend? If they involve long car rides, lines you can't escape, or just lots of couch/hammock/poolside time, consider stocking up on games for your iDevice. Warner Bros. will help keep you entertained on the cheap.
Ending soon, 11 Warner Bros. iOS games are on sale for 99 cents each. Here's the list, with links either to the download page or to related CNET coverage. (Be sure to note the system requirements before purchasing any game, as some of them won't work on older iOS devices.)
Bastion, top-rated indie action-RPG, regularly $4.99.
Batman Arkham City Lockdown, Infinity Blade-esque fighting game, regularly $5.99.
Harry Potter: Spells, multiplayer spell-casting game, regularly $2.99.
Lego Batman: DC Superheroes, the first non-Harry Potter Lego game for iOS, regularly $4.99.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4, an iOS port o…

Get a Lenovo 12.5-inch ThinkPad Twist for $599.99

This Windows 8-powered convertible had a list price of $899 when it debuted late last year. And it's new, not refurbished. Plus: a free audiobook!

The other day I mentioned my change of heart regarding touch-screens on laptops, noting that it's a nice feature to have for scrolling Web pages and documents, zooming photos, and so on.
Also nice to have: a laptop that converts into a tablet. Like this one: While supplies last, DealFisher has the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist S230u Ultrabook for $599.99 shipped. It's new, not refurbished, and it sold for $899 when it first hit the scene back in December. (However, Lenovo was selling these refurbished for under $500 in May.)
In case the name didn't give it away, the Twist can go from laptop to tablet with a twist (and subsequent fold) of its center-hinged IPS touch screen. That screen tops out at 1,366x768 pixels, which CNET dinged for being on the low side, but I find that sufficient for a 12.5-inch display.
This Windows 8-powered syst…

Get an O!Snap Headphone Holder for $7.49

This Windows 8-powered convertible had a list price of $899 when it debuted late last year. And it's new, not refurbished. Plus: a free audiobook!

The other day I mentioned my change of heart regarding touch-screens on laptops, noting that it's a nice feature to have for scrolling Web pages and documents, zooming photos, and so on.
Also nice to have: a laptop that converts into a tablet. Like this one: While supplies last, DealFisher has the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist S230u Ultrabook for $599.99 shipped. It's new, not refurbished, and it sold for $899 when it first hit the scene back in December. (However, Lenovo was selling these refurbished for under $500 in May.)
In case the name didn't give it away, the Twist can go from laptop to tablet with a twist (and subsequent fold) of its center-hinged IPS touch screen. That screen tops out at 1,366x768 pixels, which CNET dinged for being on the low side, but I find that sufficient for a 12.5-inch display.
This Windows 8-powered syst…

Canon videos show off 70D's dual-pixel autofocus technology

It remains to be seen how well it works in the real world, but the new dual-pixel autofocus technology shows promise in Canon's promotional video about its latest SLR.


Canon wants to show off what its new EOS 70D camera can do when it comes to one persistent shortcoming in the digital photography revolution: autofocus. It's posted two videos -- a demonstration video called Handmade and a behind-the-scenes explanatory video about it -- designed to show what the new digital SLR can accomplish with its new Dual Pixel CMOS AF (DPA) technology. Check below to watch the videos. No doubt the autofocus technology won't work as smoothly in the real world as it does in these promotional videos with bright lighting, carefully arranged sets, and plenty of chances to shoot another take if things don't go right at first. But they're worth watching to at least get a flavor of what's possible and to see a reasonably broad selection of the 103 Canon lenses the company says DPA …

HTC One fails to solve HTC cash woes

The 4.7-inch smart phone hasn't turned things around, as the Taiwanese tech giant made roughly $41.6m after tax, a significant drop compared to last year.



HTC's financial woes aren't getting any easier, with the Taiwanese tech giant revealing an 83 per cent decline in net profit for the April-June period compared with last year.
The phone-maker said it's unaudited net profit for the three months up to 30 June was NT1.25bn, which equates to roughly $41.6m, the Wall Street Journal reports.
While the latest numbers make for grim reading, the results aren't as bad as they were in the first quarter of the year, when HTC made just $2.8m in profit.
HTC continues to struggle in the face of stiff competition from Samsung and Apple, despite the arrival of the HTC One flagship -- which has been well-received by critics and phone-fans alike.
What does HTC need to do to turn things around? Let me know your thoughts in the comments


Windows 8.1 fixes problems, adds new features, but touch screen is still the focus (hands-on)

Today, during the keynote for the Microsoft Build conference in San Francisco, the company announced the preview version for Windows 8.1 (download the preview here). As a point upgrade to Windows 8, there are few sweeping changes to the operating system, but Microsoft has thankfully made some tweaks to the interface, along with upgraded apps and other enhancements that users will appreciate. But it's important to note that if you were hoping for a return to a Windows 7 layout, you're going to be disappointed; Microsoft is sticking to its guns on the Modern UI (the tiled Start screen interface), and you'll still be using it as your main launching point. With that said, Microsoft has added a few features that make it a bit more palatable to keyboard-and-mouse Windows desktop users. New apps and features in Windows 8.1 (pictures)1-2 of 10 Scroll LeftScroll Right