Categories
Gadgets

The Search For The Perfect 7 Inch Phone

I decided a while back to try out a 7 inch tab as my main phone. My reasons were simple;

  1. My quest for a functional and productive mobile device informed my decison to a stick to a Windows OS powered tablet. However, the allure of an android tab remains.
  2. In a bid to save myself from gadget overload, it did make sense to me to converge my desire for an android tab with my existing smartphone into a single form factor that could pass for both.
  3. Of course, I will also be avoiding the cost of shelling out money for two devices when I could just pick up one.

So far, the easiest part of it all has been actually deciding to tow the 7 incher smartphone line. Deciding on a shortlist of phones to choose from has been nothing short of a nightmare.

Problem is, not a single tab made the cut.

The 4 key specs I desired in my ideal tab are;

  1. 7 inch screen size
  2. Dual SIM
  3. 16GB internal memory
  4. 2GB RAM

Funny thing is, while these specs seem common place with sub 7 inch smartphones, I am yet to find a 7 inch tab sporting 16GB internal memory and 2GB RAM with Dual SIM. Funny, isn’t it? The surprising thing is that the nameless or little known Chinese brands have these features packed into their 7 inch offerings almost by default. Why is that?

I admit that there is a lot I am yet to understand about the smartphone manufacturers, especially those that have affiliations with the Western world and their reasons for some of the decisions they make.

As it is, I just might take a second look at these Chinese brands to make my pick.

image

Categories
Hack

How To Capture Streaming Music From Your PC

I subscribed to the music service Deezer a few weeks back. With a monthly subscription of US$4.99 (NGN800), Deezer gives you unrestricted access to about 30 million+ music files for your listening pleasure. You are able to stream any music track or if you prefer, you can even save the tracks to your device (PC or mobile device) for you to listen to when are not connected to internet.

The snag with this arrangement is that;

  • the music files are not in your regular mp3 or wma format but some unidentifiable encrypted format.
  • access to your music files are cut off any month you fail to pay your subscription. You lose access to all your music files until you renew your subscription.
  • you are restricted to the music player app provided by the music service both on your PC (Chrome Browser app) or mobile device.

In a bid to avoid the restrictions listed above, I started looking around for a way to capture streaming audio from either my PC or mobile device. I met a brick wall with android, there was no app available for what i wanted to do. At least, i did not find any.

For the PC, however, the story was different.

I revisited this Windows application called Audacity. For those that know, this application has been around for quite a while – but not with the features in its latest iteration. From Audacity version 2.0.4 onwards, Audacity can record computer playback even on budget laptops with sound devices lacking that ability.

dj

On other operating systems (Linux and Apple OSX platform application), Audacity does not provide its own ability to record computer playback but can do so if the computer sound device offers this ability.

The process of capturing streaming audio using your Windows PC is realtime. You have to play all the tracks from start to finish in realtime to capture the songs. If the total playtime of the songs in your playlist is, say, 6 hours, it will take that many hours to capture your songs into mp3 format. Good thing is, you can lower the volume of your PC speakers to the minimum or even insert an ear phone piece into the earphone jack to listen to the songs while playing without interrupting the recording process.

Methodology

1. You will need a PC with at least 2GB RAM, 2Ghz Processor with OS Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. However, Audacity recommends a minimum of 4GB RAM to prevent any hiccup.

I will be using a Core i3 2.3Ghz processor, 8GB RAM, Windows 8.1 HP Pavilion G6 laptop for this test.

2. Visit Audacity download page and grab the latest version of the software http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/

3. Install and configure as follows;

  • Launch the software, select Edit –> Preferences

Screenshot (2)

  • Select the options as shown below. The Host entry must be Windows WASAPI. Under Recording, search for any entry with “(loopback)”

Screenshot (3)

  • Save your settings and you are ready to roll.

The software looks a bit intimidating but you do not need all the available features. The control buttons are top left (as shown in the image below). When you are through, click on File –> Export to save the music file in any format of your choice. Note that to save in MP3 format, you need to install the Lame Encoder on your PC

Screenshot (5)

Categories
Articles

Using The Right Charger For Your Mobile Device

usbAbout three years ago, 10 major mobile devices manufacturers, including Apple, Nokia and Samsung, committed to a voluntary agreement to work towards a universal charger based on a micro USB connector, in an effort to reduce unnecessary waste. But no such universal charger has been settled on, and Apple appears to have backtracked on the idea with the introduction of a new proprietary Lightning charger for its iPhone 5 that is likely to be the standard for several generations of future iPhones.

Not withstanding this seeming setback, many manufacturers have already adopted the micro USB connector for their chargers. Devices having this charging port are now very common place and is not unusual to see a single charger being used across numerous devices in homes and workplaces

However, just because the plug fits into your charging port does not mean you are using the right cell phone charger for your phone. Unfortunately, such mistakes can be costly!

But why is this?

Voltage

For a replacement charger, it is important to get one with the right voltage. While the device may work with chargers with voltages that are close, it is often at the expense of shortened lifespan of the batteries being recharged. Some devices, however, are quite tolerant of voltage variations and will work just fine. Others, not so much. Problem is, how do you know this detail about your device? There is no easy way to know which category your device falls into, so it is best to simply get the right voltage from the start.

Amperage

Also, the ampere rating of your charger is very important. This is usually represented by notations like “1.0A” on your chargers. Many people are confused by amperage ratings and what they mean when it comes to power supplies and replacements.

One easy way to look at it is this:

Voltage is provided by (or pushed) by the power supply.

Amperage is taken by (or pulled) by the device being powered.

In other words, while the voltage is a constant and should match, the amperage is something that varies based on the devices need. A device will “pull” more amps when it is working hard than when it is not. The voltage will remain the same regardless.

The amperage rating of a power supply is the maximum number of amps that it is able to provide if needed.

Thus, as long as you replace your power supply with one that is capable of providing as much or more amps than the previous supply, you’ll be fine.

If you replace the power supply for some reason with one that has a maximum amperage rating that is less than the previous and less than what your device actually requires, then you may end up with a burnt out or (at least) overheating power supply, and the device itself may not function, or may not do so well.

Rule of Thumb

Your choice of a replacement charger for your mobile device should be guided by the following:

  • Make sure that the voltage matches as closely as possible.
  • Make sure that it is rated to provide the same amperage or more.

Lastly…

For those who use their laptops to charge their mobile devices, they probably would have noticed that it takes a bit more time to get a full charge using this means.

Most laptop USB ports are of USB 1.0 and USB 2.0 specifications and do not deliver more than 500mA (0.5A). This is a far cry from the recommended requirements for a lot of devices. Apple’s iPad charger provides 2.1A at 5V. Amazon’s Kindle Fire charger outputs 1.8; My wife’s Nexus 7 needs 5V/2A and my fancy Samsung S3 needs 5V/1A.

Probably better are quality car chargers that can output a range of 1A to 2.1A.

If you use a standard USB charger, these devices will probably charge, but slower than the stock charger.

Categories
Gadgets

What Features Do You Look For In A Keyboard App?

On any computing device, we want the easiest and most efficient way of communicating. This communication encompasses both information that we feed into the device, and the one we get out.

The effectiveness of this interface between human and machine determines if we are “getting our pound of flesh” from our “investment”

I shall be focusing exclusively on Android, an Operating System (OS) whose modular design allows the stock Keyboard to be replaced by third party ones.

In the quest for the best possible keyboard application, I have tried out quite a number, with different experiences.

Notable, among the numerous I have tried my hands on, include:

swype_logo_featureSwype is my personal favourite.

Modern keyboard apps try to alleviate the problem of typing on small screens. With phablets and tablets now common place, the benefits derivable while designing those apps are easily extrapolated to the bigger screened cousins.

I daresay that the specific keyboard app you are using on your device would affect your productivity significantly. That is why it is advisable to pick the “best”, at any point in time, according to to our needs. For me, the search for “the best” is perpetual.

So, what are the features to look out for, in a keyboard app?

“Swipe” Ability

All keyboard apps allow you to tap on keys. But an elite few also allow you to “swipe’ on your touchscreen. These keyboard apps allow you to type words by sliding your finger across your touchscreen, connecting letters together to form words.

Some of the apps with this “swiping” ability are :

  • Swype
  • Ultra Keyboard
  • TouchPal

and, recently,

  • SwiftKey Flow

In the past, I have tried to make do with keyboard apps bereft of “swiping” ability (because of some other features) , but found that I can not live with such. I always gravitate back to the “swipy ones”

AutoComplete & Prediction

The second compelling feature is how accurate a keyboard app is.

I love “psychic” keyboard apps. When “swiping: or “tapping”, it should be adept at guessing what word you have in mind by suggesting reasonable words once you type a few letters.

Now, the operative word there is –  “reasonable”

A keyboard app should arrange the suggested words in terms of recently or frequently used words.

However, one of the annoying things about lots of keyboards is that they arrange the suggested words haphazardly. Some sort the words alphabetically.

But my favourite, Swype, almost always manages to suggest words, in the right order, with the suggested default being the correct one – most of the time. One of the ways these keyboards improve their smartness is to learn your writing style from your social media activities (like Twitter, facebook, gmail and Contacts).

Ability to define shortcuts

Some keyboard apps allow you to define “replacement text” for cryptic shortcuts.

You type something like:

“Brb”, and you get “be right back”

or..

“hagw”, and get “have a great weekend”

or..

“afaik”, and get “as far as I know”

This can save you tonnes of keystrokes, depending on how you use this wonderful ability.

This ability, sadly, is missing from “Swype” – my favourite. I am eagerly looking forward to when this feature will be incorporated into it.

Personal dictionary

Lots allow you define a dictionary consisting of words that are peculiar to you. You can put words like Naira, kobo, technical terms, etc.

I guess the idea behind the “separation of power” is to make the main internal dictionary as small in size as possible.

Cosmetic Tweakability

There are keyboard apps with tonnes of customizations, ranging from themes, coupled with the ability to change almost all the elements on the keyboard.

If “cosmetics” is your onion, you may want to check out apps like A.I.Type Keyboard, or, Ultra Keyboard.

They give you the ability to tweak to your heart’s desire. Adjustable keyboard size? no problemo!. Customizable toolbar? They have you covered!

Multiple Language Support

If you are multilingual, you would appreciate a keyboard app that speaks your tongue(s).

Usually, there are downloable “language packs” for the different supported languages. That way, you avoid bloat by downloading the packs that interest you only.

Those are some of the features that you may want to consider when choosing your keyboard.

To see the significance of a great predictive keyboard, type on a Tablet with a keyboard like Hackers’ Keyboard,  and see the difference.

The keyboard app is the most used third party app on any modern mobile device. For this reason, only the best is good enough.

What other features should we look out for?

Categories
Articles

Perception Is Reality

In financial circles, there is something called the “true interest rate”. This is the actual interest rate charged by your bank or financial institution  – as opposed to the interest rate you perceive you are being charged – which is, often, far removed from reality.

Mobile phones are getting bigger. It is rare for a high end mobile phone to have a screen size less that 3.5″ these days. The iPhone 5 comes to mind as one of the few high end phones with such a tiny screen size. Lots of these devices have crossed the 4-inch diagonal over into the 5-inch+ territory.

The idea of this “bigger is better mindset” smartphones is that they furnish us with a more satisfying user experience. Browsing, watching videos and reading documents are enjoyable in the same proportion as the size of the screen.

For a device meant to slip into the trouser pocket, or lift to the ears to make and receive calls, there is a conflict as regards how big that phone should be. Beyond a certain size, it may be difficult, inconvenient or ridiculous, to use.

What is the REAL screen size?

Of course, screen size is the length of the diagonal of the screen.

But, wait!

This is where our perception can be our reality.

Let us take a 3.7″ smartphone. By today’s standards, this is a medium sized phone. While lusting after that giant screened 4.5″ Lg Optimus L7 phone, we may already have in that 3.7″ phone, a phone that gives us close to the same experience as the 4.5″ incher!

How?

By making more use of the landscape mode – more.

Supposing our 3.7″ diagonal screen gives us 3.2″ (length)’ by 2.7″ (breadth). Using the phone is a landscape mode effectively gives us a reversal in dimension : a 3.2″ (width) by a 2.7″ (length).

When we use our phone in landscape mode, we are able to see more when:

Browsing – There is little or no need to pan left and right
Reading eBooks – Our eyes work far less because there are more words accommodated per line
Watching video – the modern practice now is to display video clips in the landscape format, even on television sets.

In effect, due to modern smartphones having screen rotational facility, we have a phone that is small when we need it to be (portrait – making / receiving a call), and BIG whenever occasion demands it (e-reading, browsing, videos).

Auto rotation is a nuisance!

There are some inconveniences associated with landscaping

1)    When a mobile device has its auto rotate mode set, it uses its accelerometer sensor, to detect the way the device is held, and adjusts the display contents accordingly. It thus consumes more power, depleting the battery faster than if auto rotate is disabled.

2)    While lying in a supine position on the bed, and occasionally tossing and turning about, that phone being held tends to flip flop between landscape and portrait orientation.

A rotation lock software to the rescue.

What we need is a means of locking the screen in a particular orientation (in this case – landscape)

An app that can do that will also be beneficial when using a tablet as well. While reading your bible, you do not want your display switching orientation while you aim a deadly swipe at that annoying mosquito that will not leave you in peace!

On the Android system, I use a third party Android app called Display Orientator to lock the phone orientation to landscape when I need to browse, read an eBook, or watch that occasional video clip.

The app can lock the display into either portrait or landscape. Hold in your preferred mode. Tap. Done. Sweet!

That way, I avoid the headaches highlighted in Points 1 and 2 above.

In conclusion, I have tried to highlight how I get to enjoy the benefits of a bigger screened smartphone, while sticking to a physically smaller dimensioned one.

It is all about our “orientation”, where our perception is often more important than the reality!

Before we rush out to buy that giant screened monster, let us examine our realities, and see if we need to change our perception – instead!

Categories
Articles

“Seek (Well), And You Shall Find …”

Getting information from the World Wide Web can be likened to the proverbial “searching for needles in a haystack”.

However, when you fail to find the information you need on the internet, it is usually one of two things:

  • either the search engine or search parameters used are defective.
  • the much unlikely instance that the information you seek is not known to mankind.

This why getting a good grip of how to use search engines like Clusty, Bing, Google, DevilFinder, e.t.c, used to be so important.

But, beyond learning to type in cryptic command to properly drill down and get to what you seek, there are services and applications designed specifically to make searching for information as easy as just typing the text of what you desire.

I am a mobile app Junkie. Reading eBooks is my onion. You can then easily guess that I would make use of search engines a lot.

How many times have you had to type arcane commands like these into Google?:

“File Expert” filetype:apk

This searches for all webpages containing the Android app (with extension “.apk”) named “file Expert”

..or..

“sidney sheldon” filetype:epub

which lists downloadable “epub” documents of the renowned writer, Sidney Sheldon

The problem with this approach is that there are many ebook formats (e.g .txt, .pdf, .epub, .djvu and so on). If you were looking for a specific ebook, there may be the need to repeatedly search for different file formats.

In the Android App example above, the particular app may not exist in the ‘apk’ format. Perhaps it has been compressed into a “.rar” or “.zip” format, in which case your search will not yield any results.

Getting to your information faster

A good method is to use any of the many apps or services that allow the specification of a search item, and then crawls the web, looking for different instances of your search parameter. These services or apps, however, differ markedly in terms of the comprehensiveness and variety of the hosted documents.

There is, of course, the popular Youtube which gives you access to numerous videos for direct viewing and downloading.

Two other well known services that I use are:

4shared

Millions of people share files (audios, videos, apps, ebooks, e.t.c) on 4Shared daily. You could download the 4shared app unto your mobile device (this exists for all the major Operating Systems – Android, iOS and BlackBerry), or visit the website itself.

I prefer to use the 4shared app rather than visit the the website because the app way is faster, and goes directly to the download task.

Download EveryThing

This is a free Android and iOS application. It searches, downloads and allows you listen to all the indexed 4Shared apps and documents, as well as those on MegaUpLoad. That is a big collection of information.

Focused Wandering

Of course, there are many situations when you have some free time and would rather do some leisurely browsing without any particular thing in mind. All of us have topics that interest us. Some of mine are Automobiles, Medicine, Philosophy and Personal Finance.

How about a service or app that allows you stumble upon websites, based on your specific interests?

Well, StumbleUpon.com affords you that service. There is also a mobile app equivalent for major mobile platforms. StumbleUpon also exists as a “plugin” for some Desktop Browsers like FireFox.

To use the StumbleUpon service, you have to sign up, specify the subjects that interest you (say, Religion,Jokes, e.t.c). Each time you click the “stumble” button, you are presented with webpages that match your specified interest in a randomized way.

These webpages are “crowd_sourced” from other StumbleUpon Users who rate and “recommend” webpages that they love. The higher the rating of a particular webpage, the more likely it is that it would be presented to viewers.

You are assured of “Stumbling Upon” interesting sites (and people!) that you would normally probably never come across.

Categories
Articles

How To Create Ebooks from Wikipedia Articles

Reading your favourite articles on Wikipedia, offline, is now very easy to do, thanks to the Book Creator feature that Wikipedia has added to its website.

What this does is very simple, it allows you to compile your favourite articles and export them to PDF, OpenOffice and my favourite, Epub.

To get started, open any page on Wikipedia, and on the right pane, click on Print/export | Create a book | Start book creator. On any page you visit that you would like to read offline, click Add this page to your book on the top of the page.

When you are through with your compilation, click on Show book at the top of the page, give your book a title, rearrange the pages and export into any eBook format of your choice.

Load the ebook into your mobile device, kick back your seat and enjoy a nice read.

Categories
Gadgets Hack Mobile

To Root, Or Not To Root, That Is The Question!

The arguments for or against  hacking your mobile device to gain elevated access have been raging on for a decade or so now. Things probably became more heated up with the advent of the Apple IOS and, especially, the Android platforms where most consider rooting your android device as unsafe and unnecessary. I think it is time we put a lid on things as it is beginning to get pretty boring (yawn).

The facts are very clear. The decision to root your decision or not boils down to one single thing – YOU!

Many are content with the stock ROM that came with their devices and absolutely see no reason to change anything. It’s all good. Also, chances are that there are even more people out there that do not even know what rooting/jailbreaking is all about.

However, for the few that feel the need to push their devices to the limit, demanding from their devices its God (or is it Man’s) given capability, with the need to circumvent the manufacturer’s commercially motivated restrictions, there is only one option – ROOT!

I consider myself a Power User and I have been that way for close to a decade now. Right from the early days of the Symbian platform in Nigeria, Windows Mobile and lately, Apple IOS, I have fully familiarized myself with the very simple process of gaining elevated access to these platforms and I fully understand the risks and the advantages it confers.

In simple terms, i do liken rooting of a mobile device to gaining administrator access to a PC, it has it’s risks and advantages. You may read more about that here.

Apart from my compulsive desire to fully own what I broke my piggy bank to pay for (Paid almost $500 for my Toshiba Thrive. I live in a Third World country, Nigeria. We live on less than a dollar a day!), the perpetual habit of manufacturers to stuff unnecessary and very irritating bundled apps with our device makes rooting a very attractive option because it is only via rooting that you can uninstall them, recovering your valuable internal storage.

Take for example the trial version of Kaspersky that is being bundled with the Toshiba Thrive. I do not wish to pay for it but, unfortunately, installing another antivirus to the tablet may cause a software conflict. So root, i did.

And talking about alternatives to apps that require root, let us not kid ourselves, they can not just do the job as well.

For example, there are a myriad of apps for use in backing up your app installation files. In fact, it is even possible to do this with the aid of just a file explorer. But the thing is, all you get done is backing up just the installation file (.apk) because you need to root your device to be able to save your app data and settings.

Rooting is not for everyone and i fully understand the reason why most may not find this option attractive – the fear of bricking your device. Only God knows how many days you had to go without your dollar a day ration to save up to buy your device.

Let’s leave it to the real men to deal with.

I rest my case.

Categories
Articles

5 Signs That Your Blog Is Dying

As blog owners, there are times when we are too overwhelmed by our blog’s physical appearance, especially if our blog has an impressive design, a good amount of traffic and followers, and good search engine rankings. Yet having these positive traits does not mean your blog is in good condition. Sometimes, these traits can be deceiving, too.

So how will you know if your blog is in a terrible condition?

Your traffic is in danger

According to blog experts, a continuous diminishing rate in traffic is the first sign of a weakening blog. Traffic downfall is just a normal occurrence on blogs, but having an unremitting or a month-long fall in numbers is a different story. They say that low traffic rate can be considered alarming when it remains static in a very low point (e.g., 40-60% lower than your average traffic) for a long period of time (e.g. 2-3 weeks).

Automated visitors

Having a hundred hits and visitors a day does not mean your blog is soaring. As a blogger, your moderation should not be just limited to checking your daily comments and stats; delving where these stats are coming from is part of your responsibility as a blog owner. You have to know if these hits are from a single blog owner, a single search engine query, from a mobile device or from automated devices that help some furtive frauds to on the Web. Automated outbound traffic is useless in traffic, for it will never contribute in adding some points to improve your rankings. Technically speaking, these automated hits are nothing but useless spams.

Negative comments

Comments are healthy indication that someone is reading your blog. Be it positive or negative, blog experts consider all comments advantageous, for they both contribute to the expansion of your blog’s search engine familiarization (indexing and spidering) and network popularity. However, they said that negative and positive comments should be in symmetry: the former should not overpower the latter in number and stats.

Negative comments are healthy components of blog thread comment; they spice up the conversation, attract more commenters and readers, and solidify the network and blog relationship in the constraints of the blog. On the other hand, having handfuls of them can ruin your blog, too.

No comments at all

Let us face it. No one wants to blog alone. We all love to hear comments; we all die for other people’s attention. Therefore, if you have been blogging for a year and you haven’t yet experienced the joy of receiving comments, then you’re in a big trouble. Your blog may be lacking in promotion, in appeal, charisma, or worse, in substance.

Curing the malady

If you really want to save your dying blog, writing more contents and excellent post is still the best thing you can do. Follow the cliché “Content is King” and you will never go wrong. However, you should not just stop from writing contents. Have your blog redesigned by an SEO-knowledgeable designer, promote it on three leading social networking sites (Google+, Facebook, Twitter), and don’t stop connecting and building links with niche-related blogs and websites.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Categories
Linux

Ubuntu 11.04 Review

The latest and greatest version of Ubuntu Linux operating system has been released. For those that do not know, Ubuntu is the most popular Linux Distribution and arguably the largest number of users amongst the Linux community. This reputation was not achieved by accident, as Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, with support from the community of users and developers, have the reputation of quality releases devoid of bugs, where everything “just works”.

The Latest release of Ubuntu codenamed “Natty Narwhal” follows the normal 6 month cycle for Ubuntu releases. It features an array of Software for web browsing, email management, word processor, photo management, etc. All these are usually found in previous Ubuntu releases, although some of them have been updated with this release, that is not, where all the buzz is.

Look-wise, Ubuntu 11.04 bears little resemblance to its predecessor, released just 6 months ago. This new version features a brand new graphical user interface shell known as the “Unity shell”.

Ubuntu Unity

On booting up Ubuntu 11.04, one first notices the bar on the left hand side with several icons. This servers as the app launcher. There is also a panel at the top which has several functions, such as app indicators, menu bar for applications, specialized menus, etc., some of which will be highlighted below.

One of the more noticeable features of the new Unity Interface found on Ubuntu 11.04 is the new scrollbars. These scrollbars commonly known as “overlay scrollbars” mimic the behaviour of scrollbars found on mobile device operating systems. This makes the Os look more modern. The Unity shell is not just a chanfe for shange sake though. It integrates several features that either improve usability or has the potential to do so.

One of the said features is the “lenses” feature. This is implemented in the default installation in the “applications lens” and “places lens”. Both lenses give an overview of your applications or files, categorizing them by most recently used; all the while, doing this in a very visually appealing manner. This helps you find files easier and locate recently used applications without getting lost in menus.

Other notable improvements in this new version of Ubuntu can be found in the  Ubuntu Software Centre. This application, which helps users find and install useful applications easily on Ubuntu has improbed greatly in this version, acquiring new features such as reviews and ratings, paid apps, preview applications before installation, showing locations of installed applications, etc.

Multimedia management has always been a strong suit of Ubuntu, and with Ubuntu natty, it got even stronger, with the introduction of Banshee media player to replace the former default Rhythmbox media player. With the introduction of Banshee media player comes new features such as media sync support for almost every media plater in existence (including iOS devices), smart playlists, etc.

It has always been a tradidion of Ubuntu, and most other Linu distributions to ship an offline office suite by default. The Suite of choice has always been Openoffice.org from Oracle (formally Sun Microsystems), however, with the creation of LibreOffice, by the Document Foundation, Ubuntu has moved over its defualt office suite to LibreOffice. Right now, LibreOffice, which was derived from OpenOffice.org, looks almost identical to its parent application. However, it holds a lot of promise for the future.

Integration is a word which is often spoken in conjuction with Ubuntu; and that is not less true in this version. Applications relating to messagins such as the Email application, IM application, Social media application, etc. integrates into the Ubuntu Messaging menu found on the indicator area on the top right corner of the screen. The same goes for media applications which are integrated into the sound menu, along with the media playback control buttons.
This integration can also be found in he fact that all applications now have their menubar shown at the top panel, instead of the individual application wondows.

Hardware support in Ubuntu Natty Narwhal is still as excellent as usual, as all my hardware worked out of the box.
One of th features which is being touted in this release is the multi-touch functionality. This provides support for multi-touch devices such as netbooks and trackpads. I however, cannot attest to the quality of the support as I posses no such hardware to test it with.

Ubuntuone
Ubuntu One is a cloud service offered by Cannonical, Ubuntu’s parent company, to all Ubuntu users. It provides features such as files syncing to the cloud, syncing notes from the default notetaking application (tomboy notes), as well as a music store, and cloud syncing of music to mobile devices, among others. It provides a free 2GB storage to every user with an option of upgrading at several prices and sizes. In Ubuntu Natty, the Ubuntu one service gets better with a new Control panel application and better integration with the overall desktop. This service has been invaluable to me, saving me from losing some important notes I took during a conference last year, and It still has potential for improvement.

Useability and Regression Issues.
On booting a freshly installed version of Ubuntu 11.04, even an experienced computer user might be a little bit confused. The changes are very many and this could lead to the user feeling lost. However, after using it for some hours, auch a person will get used to it and might even find that it improves his/her workflow.
A lot of users have reported having issues with missing features, most notably, the absence of an application to configure the Unity shell. There are third party applications which can be installed to provide this functionality, however, they are not very userfriendly or visible to the casual user.

Overall, Ubuntu Natty is a solid release and has several new features to keep even the veteran users interested and excited. It can be argued that some of the features, especially the Unity shell are half baked and lack some basic functionality. However, it is still very usable and functional. For those who do not like change, or prefer to use what they know and trust, the old Interface (Ubuntu Classic) is available and can be selected from the login window.