Sunday, July 14, 2013

Download VLC for Android APK

The VideoLAN Project has pushed a beta version of VLC for Android to the Google Play Store. The beta brings most of the functionality of VLC for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X to Android in a native UI in the Android 4.0 Holo style. However, there are a few hitches.

The beta release published to the Google Play Store today is only compatible with ARM systems that use the ARMv7 architecture set and support the NEON instruction set. That means that there are several devices — mostly those released before the Samsung Galaxy S in late 2010 — that cannot run the current beta. The major exception here is the Nvidia Tegra platform. Nvidia’s Tegra 2 (which is a popular choice for many Android device makers) cannot run this beta because it lacks the NEON instruction set.

Many low end devices (as well as high end devices from 2009) use ARM chips that utilize ARM core designs that are referred to as the ARMv6 architecture family. The ARM11 family of chips utilized this architecture. When ARM Holdings created the new Cortex series of ARM cores, it developed a new ARM architecture called ARMv7. ARMv6 and ARMv7 are incompatible, as ARM made different design choices for the architectures.

The NEON instruction set is what ARM calls its SIMD instructions. SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) instructions are also referred to as vector math instructions, which provide hardware support for processing parallel data sets. These instructions are often used for vector manipulation, which is critical for dealing with multi-dimensional data such as 3D polygons for graphics. It is also used for fast encoding and decoding of audio and video data. It is equivalent to Intel’s SSE instructions.

Some of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S1 and all of its Snapdragon S2, S3, and S4 chips use ARMv7. All Cortex series cores, including Samsung Exynos and TI OMAP 3, 4, and 5 series use ARMv7. The NEON instruction set is supported in Samsung Exynos and TI OMAP 4 and 5 on all chips. It is also supported on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S2, S3, and S4 chips. Nvidia’s Tegra 2 is ARMv7, but there’s no NEON instruction support. The Tegra 3 adds NEON to the supported ARMv7 instruction set.

Within the next few days, a version of VLC that does not depend on NEON will become available on the Play Store, as well as a version for ARMv6 processors.

However, if you live in the United States or Canada, you will not be able to get the VLC beta from the Play Store. VLC is available globally through the Play Store except for North America. The VLC team explains that they do not have access to North America-specific Android devices to test the builds with. If you live in North America and wish to use VLC for Android, you can grab auto-built nightlies for your Android device from the VideoLAN nightly build server. If you live outside of North America, head to the Play Store to grab the beta. The VideoLAN nightly build server has builds for ARMv6, ARMv7 with NEON, and Tegra 2, so no one gets left out of the party.

Note that the beta is most definitely unfinished, and early testing has shown it is rather slow right now due to all the debugging options enabled. Not to mention that the UI is unfinished and will likely be drastically different in the final version. But if you are not worried about any of that, go ahead and try it out!

Download VLC for Android APK (free)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The runner-up - Samsung Galaxy S4

If ever there was a phone to beat, it was this one. Samsung took everything that was good in the Galaxy S3 and made it better in its successor, the Galaxy S4.

Well, maybe not quite everything. The plastic body remains a turn-off for many, and it's certainly not as chic as the aluminum HTC One. It's also lost a bit of the curve of the Galaxy S3. And while Samsung has managed to squeeze a 5-inch display into the same size as the slightly smaller Galaxy S3, the IPS or Super LCD displays on other phones perform better in sunlight and seems to better handle shifts in brightness. The TouchWiz user interface has been refined a bit, but it's still flat in places and doesn't match the sophistication of other UIs.

Samsung's camera, however, remains the best in the business, as far as everyday use is concerned. It's filled with features, and the camera app itself is a joy to use, having been adapted from the high-end Samsung Galaxy Camera. You might not use features like the animated gif creator every day, but they're fun to have, even if they're not all that innovative.

But what landed the Galaxy S4 as our No. 2 is the laggy user interface -- we've experienced delays and stutters on a number of versions of the phone -- as well as the anemic storage situation. Samsung's 16-gigabyte version of the GS4 only has about 9 gigabytes of storage available to the end user. And while Samsung likes to say you can add another 64 gigabytes with a microSD card, that's a different kind of storage. Good luck keeping your larger games and apps on there. The sin isn't so much that Samsung's using all that space for the hundreds of features on the phone -- and it's got some really good preloaded apps and settings. The sin is that in 2013, that sort of deceptive marking and, for many, a lack of larger storage options, is unacceptable.

Would we recommend someone buy the Galaxy S4, which is available on just about every carrier on Earth? Absolutely. It just might not be the first phone we suggest.