Customize Android's icons with Nova Launcher

Most Android smartphones and tablets already use a custom interface; these are the icons, the layout, and the starter wallpapers that the phone-maker uses to create its own look and feel. However, fun things can happen when you take your Android's icons into your own hands.

Icon packs are a simple way to dress up your smartphone or tablet, requiring little more than a download. Below, I will walk you through the process of installing a new launcher and icon packs. You may be amazed at how such a simple thing can change the feel of your beloved device.… Read more

Review: Launch apps fast with Nova Launcher

Teslacoil's Nova Launcher replaces your Android device's home page with a highly customizable front end. Its Dock launches your most-used apps, while stuff you don't need as often goes in the Drawer (just like your real desktop). You can customize just about everything about Nova Launcher, from background colors to horizontal or vertical scrolling, 3D effects, and more. Nova Launcher is free and runs best in Android 4 or better. At 2.04MB, it's compact, especially considering its versatility. A premium upgrade adds app grouping as well as gestures and scroll effects.

We didn't notice … Read more

Ark Nova: Blow-up concert hall inflates in Japan

From the outside, it looks like a giant purple doughnut. And the world's first inflatable building is sweet indeed.

British sculptor Anish Kapoor and Japanese architect Arata Isozaki recently took the wraps off the project, called Ark Nova. It has been in the works since 2011, the year Japan's Northeastern coast was hit by a massive tsunami.

The Lucerne Festival, a summer music event in Switzerland, commissioned the project in hopes of helping the disaster-struck area heal from the calamity. … Read more

JBL's ultimate speaker: Everest DD66000

I cover a lot of great-sounding gear on this blog, ranging from the $22 Lepai LP 2020A stereo integrated amplifier, $129 Pioneer SP-BS22-LR speakers, and the $650 Tekton M-Lore towers. This time I'm going all the way with a true state-of-the-art contender: the JBL Everest DD66000. It's the speaker equivalent of a fire-breathing Ferrari. I got the chance to spend quality time with a pair of these outrageously awesome speakers at EarsNova in New York last week for about an hour. Viva Audio tube amplifiers were driving the speakers, and the digital converter was by dCS Digital.

I … Read more

N.O.V.A. 3 is the best shooter on iOS, but it's still not perfect

N.O.V.A. 3 Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance ($6.99 -- iOS universal) is the third installment of Gameloft's first-person shooter franchise that, many have argued, bears a strong resemblance to Microsoft's Halo. Whether that's true, the game is mostly a gun-shooting good time with all the perks you'd expect in an FPS, but it does have a couple of problems.

With that said, N.O.V.A. is arguably the best sci-fi shooter franchise on iOS, and with the third installment there's plenty more bad guys to blow away in new and interesting … Read more

Does N.O.V.A. 3 actually look better on the old iPad?

Conventional wisdom suggests that putting more pixels in a video game would make it look better, but some users are saying that's not the case for N.O.V.A. 3 on Apple's third-generation iPad.

According to forum-goers over at Neogaf, iPad 2 users ended up with a better-looking version of Gameloft's latest first-person shooter than those running the game on third-generation iPad hardware. They've even gone through the effort of taking some screenshots to prove it.… Read more

Sony Mobile exec: Quad-core smartphones in early 2013

BARCELONA, Spain--Stephen Sneeden, product marketing manager for Sony Mobile, told CNET Asia in an interview here at Mobile World Congress that he predicts the company will likely only release quad-core Sony smartphones in early 2013. He does, however, state that this is just his assumption--the company will make the official announcements when it's ready.

"We're going to join quad-core when we feel that the performance matches the battery efficiency," he said. "Because right now we don't feel that is there. What we are going to be doing in the second half of the year is moving to the Cortex A15 architecture, which we feel outperforms the current quad-core architecture.

"You'll see in 2013, as we're evaluating the quad-core performance where it makes sense, where you're not suffering in quality and the performance truly is there, and there really is something that demanding applications need," he contiuned." That's when we make the right move to quad-core." … Read more

The heavy-metal-speaker man

I interviewed Magico's Alon Wolf a few months ago when he visited his NYC dealer, EarsNova.

Like so many audio entrepreneurs I've talked with over the years, Wolf had started building speakers for himself years before he officially got into the business in 2005. Mastering engineer Paul Stubblebine was one of Wolf's first customers; he heard something in a Wolf speaker he couldn't get anywhere else.

Wolf was only interested in building the very best speakers he could without cost constraints, and that's his market niche. Thing is, it's also the most demanding market, … Read more

3D space trader game done right

Galaxy on Fire 2 is a fully 3D space trader game with sleek graphics, fun missions, and an engrossing storyline--as long as you can stomach the less-than-stellar voice acting. Cut scenes early in the game explain your situation: a malfunction in your hyperdrive has somehow managed to warp your ship across the galaxy and 30 years into the future. With only your basic ship and the help of friendly people at various space stations you visit, you'll slowly learn the ins and outs of equipping your ship, buying and selling commodities for cash, mining for minerals, and how to … Read more

Magico's heavy-metal speakers

I recently dropped by EarsNova's spacious new high-end audio store, which has the best-looking showrooms I've seen in a long while. The vibe was relaxed, and the demo rooms' sound was pretty special, but it was the little Magico Q1 speaker that bowled me over.

Were my eyes deceiving me? How could this big sound come from such a small speaker? The sheer physicality and beauty of the sound required some recalibration of my senses to take it all in. Most bona fide high-end speakers are big, imposing things that dominate a room. They're so huge that … Read more