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SoundHound vs. Shazam: Which music identification service should you use?

Which is better: SoundHound or Shazam?

When you're out at a bar or in the car and a song comes on, but you don't know who sings it, where do you turn? This is especially prudent if you happen to love the song and want to have it to listen to all the time.

Shazam gets top billing for music identification services because its developers marketed the hell out of it, and it took off. Have your heard of SoundHound? It's another music identification service that has about half the downloads of Shazam, but it's a diamond in the rough and worth your consideration.

But which one's better? It all depends on what you want it for.

As a pure music identification service

First and foremost, Shazam and SoundHound are there to identify whatever song is playing in your immediate environment. SoundHound is much better at discerning songs, and it does so with the most satisfying flourishes.

When I first downloaded SoundHound years ago, I had a song stuck in my head for days, but I didn't know any words nor did I know the artist. I had heard about Shazam, and, at my wit's end, decided to download it. I "sang" into it with gibberish words to see if it could come up with the song. Every single time it came back with "We didn't get that; try again."

It was driving me nuts, so I researched other services and found SoundHound. I figured I'd give these apps another go, so away I went singing gibberish to SoundHound. Before I could tap done, it came back with a list of three results. Two were same song — a studio version and a live version. I checked them out. YUP. FOUND.

SoundHound is vastly superior to Shazam when it comes to song identification. It's better able to pick songs out in a noisy environment (even in a bowling alley!), and it'll even give you the specific version of a certain song. I was listening to a live track once and SoundHound even came up with the specific concert. Shazam still doesn't handle live versions of songs very well, and it has trouble in noisier environments.

If you're looking for pure music identification prowess, then go with SoundHound. Hands-down.

The social aspect

As with all apps, Shazam has developed a social side, and with its recent Snapchat-like update, it's now more of a social platform than song identifier (and rightly so, because it's barely the latter).

When Shazam identifies a song, it then connects you to multiple related platforms, so you can watch YouTube videos, get lyrics, preview songs in Apple Music, add them to Rdio and Spotify playlists, find Pandora radio stations based on the artist, and more. You can even see what certain celebrities are Shazaming.

Shazam also has other interesting gimmicks, where you can take photos of the Shazam logo in various places to hear certain exclusive songs by artists.

All that being said, SoundHound easily connects to your Spotify account, and it has Apple Music integration to let you find and play songs quickly and easily. It als features an embedded YouTube players so you can watch music videos and listen to songs for free. So really all SoundHound lacks is the gimmicky stuff Shazam has, like the celebrity connections and the Snapchatty interface. And some people love that stuff, so if that's your angle, check out Shazam.

But if you just want to be able to play the tunes your discover in your Spotify or Apple Music playlists, then SoundHound is still winning. Shazam's kind of just the "sellout" version.

Which should you use? SoundHound

From a pure "it just works" perspective, SoundHound is the winner. The app simply does exactly what it's supposed to do, and where Shazam fails, SoundHound strongly prevails. You can hum to SoundHound; you can sing gibberish; you can be in a louder environment, and you'll still get results. Don't get me wrong; it doesn't work every time, but it does work much better than Shazam.

If you like the social side of things: discovering music by photographing the Shazam logo at certain businesses, seeing what celebrities are listening to, and receiving your own curated "mix" (based on artists you choose), then Shazam wins.

As far as Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube integration are concerned, these apps are relative equals, though SoundHound's hands-free "Ok Hound", which lets you control the app and add songs to Spotify and Apple Music hands-free notches it forward a bit.

All in all, SoundHound does its job better than Shazam, and if an app's going to take up space on your phone, it might as well be a good one.

Which do you use?

Let us know in the comments below.

Get Amazon Prime free for 6 months, then 50% off forever if your .edu email still works

How To Get Free Amazon Prime

Are you a student? Have you graduated in the past few years, but recently enough that your .edu email address still works? Well, get ready for the deal of a lifetime. Right now, Amazon has a special promotion going that gives students 6 months of Amazon Prime service for free. Then, after the trial is over, you can cancel and pay nothing or keep your Prime subscription for 50% off Amazon's normal price for Prime. That's a crazy deal, especially when you consider how many benefits Prime subscribers get now. Beyond free shipping, they get unlimited movie and song streaming from Amazon's libraries, unlimited photo storage, and tons more.

Here's a quick blurb from Amazon:

This is a great deal for your readers. Students with an active college email address (ending in .edu) can sign up to try a Student Prime Membership FREE for 6 months and get two-day free shipping for any of their last minute needs. Perfect timing for graduation period as well as summer break.

Once they finish with the 6-months free trial, they will enjoy Prime Membership at 50% off the regular price ($49 instead of $99 per year). Prime Student membership offers many of the same perks as regular Prime, including free two-day shipping, unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos, and exclusive discounts available only to students. Amazon Student subscribers also have access to Amazon's streaming service, Prime Video, so if they feel like procrastinating during final exam study period, they can stream the thousands of movies and shows offered as part of their membership for free.

You can sign up for your free 6-month trial of Amazon Prime right here on the Amazon website.

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Amazon is dangerously close to being the new king of messaging

With Alexa gaining the ability to make voice calls and Echo Show bolstering the living room, Amazon moves a step closer to messaging ubiquity.

It was about three or four years ago when my wife and I decided to finally get rid of our landline. We weren't really using it anymore — it was mostly an emergency backup and a great way for solicitors to bug us. (That it occasionally made phantom 911 calls in the middle of the night was another impetus.)

This presented a problem, though. Our kids ride the bus home, and family members pick them up there. But what happens if for some reason nobody shows? The kids need a way to call their parents.

I had a brief flirtation with Google Hangouts for this. But it was clunky at best, and now is a nonstarter, since Hangouts is dying. And so this is how our eldest daughter got "her" first phone way earlier than I would have liked.

This is also why I'm ridiculously excited about Amazon's recent announcements. Let's start with the more important of the two.

Preorder Echo Show

But first ... a word on your contacts

When you first set up Alexa calling, you have to give the app access to your contacts. Don't do that without some hesitation. You're giving Amazon the ability to see every person in your contact list. Same goes for anyone who has you in their contact list.

That in and of itself isn't evil, but it's poor implementation. I have at least one person in my Alexa contacts now who I had to look up. They'd emailed me for an Android Central thing back in 2012. And now I have their phone number and the ability to call their Amazon devices wherever they may be? That's ridiculous.

Amazon must (and I'm sure will) add granular controls as to who is allowed to contact you through Alexa calling. And it needs to do it ASAP.

Alexa calling changes everything

If you have young kids or aging parents, Alexa calling and an Echo Dot is a no-brainer.

What I really needed was a way for my kids to be able to call their parents without needing a phone. The new calling (and messaging) feature in the Alexa app makes this a reality.

Setup was super simple. You'll need the Alexa app, (available for Android and iOS — and of course on Amazon's Fire tablets) and you'll need to give it access to your contacts. Once you do that it'll match the peeps in your phone with the peeps who own an Echo. (There's a pitfall here, but we'll get to that in a second.)

And that's it. Once that's done you can call anyone in your Alexa contacts. And when you do so, it'll ring their mobile devices and any Echo devices. If you don't want to have a live call, you can just leave a voice message or send a basic text message through the Alexa app.

Don't mistake these for regular phone calls and SMS messages — they're not. But that matters less and less these days. So long as the meaning gets through, who cares what the mechanism is?

And my kids aren't the only ones who are going to take advantage of this. My grandparents are 90 and still ridiculously awesome. (One's on an iPhone and the other on Android. Along the same lines as my wife and I, now that I think about it.) But smartphones at 90 aren't necessarily as easy as smartphones at 40. Simpler is better, especially if an emergency happens. And is there really anything more simple than a $50 Echo Dot that can call me in mere seconds?

For young kids and aging relatives, this is a game-changer.

Echo Show — we'll see ... and it will, too

The other major announcement from Amazon was Echo Show — an Echo with a touchscreen and a camera. That's a big deal, too, for a few reasons.

All this connected stuff at home is great. But we've yet to see a proper visual hub that could finally tie it all together. Sure, there are DIY smart mirrors, and Apple TV and Android TV have the potential to serve as display hubs. But none of that has really happened yet.

A home hub display and cross-platform video calls will be a BIG deal for a lot of people.

And none of them has the Skills that Alexa has. That is, Alexa is the endpoint for thousands and thousands of APIs for so many services. A visual hub makes so much sense here.

It's also a big deal for video calls. While Apple's FaceTime has always been excellent for this, it's limited to someone having an Apple device nearby. Same for any other video chat service. Mobile devices are, by definition, mobile. But video calls on a home hub mean it's always there and always available for everyone.

I'm less bullish on the "Drop-in" calls — wherein someone, after you've granted them access — can literally drop in on you with a video call, basically saving them the trouble of accepting the call themselves. (They'll still have the option to reject it, though.) But I'll just have to wait and see how well that actually works.

And Echo Show will do more traditional things like watch videos and play music and order things from Amazon. And surely that's just the beginning.

While having a camera in the living room isn't a novelty anymore, I get that folks will still be hesitant to let Amazon (or any other company traditionally outside of the security space) have a look at what's going on so easily. But I also think the ease of communication will trump that fear.

An imperfect, huge head start

Messaging through Amazon Alexa is a big deal. But it's far from perfect and definitely has room to improve. A few thoughts off the top of my head:

  • Again, the contacts thing is ridiculous. That never should have happened.
  • So technically my kids are calling me through my own account, but whatever. It just works.
  • But having more than one person in the home is a little clunky, even with the Amazon Household stuff. You have to tell Alexa to change accounts. Google has that beat with voice recognition for multiple accounts on Google Home.
  • (That also means anyone who has access to an Echo device can listen to your messages. So keep things SFW, folks. Or not.)
  • Know what else I want? Some sort of web or (even better) native computer support for when I'm sitting here working.
  • The Alexa app is still not great, if you're looking to actually use it as a messaging app. In fact, it's bad for that.
  • And Amazon needs to give more assurances that your messages are secure.

The simple fact of the matter, though, is this: While Apple beat everyone to the mobile assistant game with Siri, and Google Assistant is very good and growing all the time, neither has reached ubiquitous status, leaving Amazon to fill in the large gaps left by anything that's not traditionally mobile.

Google Home has helped with that, but there's no denying Echo has a huge lead. Microsoft is even farther behind with its Cortana speaker, and anything similar from Apple is still in the rumor status. Will Echo Show extend Amazon's head start? There's almost no way it can't at this point.

For now, it's still Amazon's game to lose. And with Alexa calling and soon with Echo Show, it's making nothing but winning moves.

See the entire Echo family at Amazon

SHAZAM! Shazam has launched a redesigned iOS app

Shazam keeps their newly redesigned app for iOS simple: here's everything you need to know!

Recently Shazam for iOS had a makeover, and things are a little bit different, easier to use, and updated to a more modern, clean feel.

What does Shazam do?

Tech Radar:

Shazam is an app that feels like magic.

Shazam is an app that allows you to identify music with the press of a button. Say you're in a store and you hear an awesome song playing but you have no idea what it is and you're way too shy to ask the staff – pull out your iPhone, start up Shazam, and the app will tell you what's playing.

What else can Shazam do besides identify music?

  • New discoveries from artists you've Shazamed appear automatically

  • Follow new artists with a tap of a button and see what those artists are Shazaming

  • Stay up-to-date about new singles, albums, and videos from the artists you follow

  • Enjoy music lyrics and YouTube videos

  • Preview songs with Apple Music and add them to Rdio and Spotify playlists

  • With Auto Shazam we'll keep finding tunes for you even when you leave the app

  • Shazam visual recognition gets you more - tap the camera icon on iPhone to Shazam posters, magazines or books; anywhere where you see the Shazam camera logo

  • Visual recognition also works as a QR code reader

  • Buy tickets to see your favorite artists in concert

... And so, so much more.

Why would I use it instead of Siri or alongside my other music services?

Shazam has a plethora of features that overlap with other popular music services, apps, and things like Siri, but it's the sheer volume, reach, and variety of features that make this app stand out so definitively from the rest.

Shazam has a little bit of everything for almost everyone: from the ability to connect to Rdio or Spotify, the feature to turn on Auto Shazam so that the app is always finding new music for you, the chance to see what your friends are Shazamming and sharing your epic music discovering to Facebook, Twitter, or almost any other social media, and pretty much any other feature an innovative, music-centred app would think of.

So how does it integrate with Apple Music and Spotify?

If you find a song that's exclusive on Spotify or Apple Music and you have an account, you can tap the track and that will take you to the app where you can listen to the song in full.

If you do not have the Apple Music or Spotify account, you can only listen to a portion of the song that you've Shazam'd.

You can also connect your Shazam account to your Apple Music account.

What's different? What's new?

Ryan Christoffel, Mac Stories:

Gone are the traditional navigation tabs at the bottom of the screen; they have been replaced by a paginated layout where a swipe left or right is used to switch screens.

When you launch the app, you'll instantly land on the homepage, which is essentially a giant Shazam button.

You can now use Auto Shazam, which lets the app keep listening to whatever music you're trying to identify even after you close it.

My Shazam hasn't changed much from before, but in an effort to consolidate the total number of pages in the app, Discover now includes the contents formerly found in Trending as well. A Chart Update card is included with your daily mix, plus you'll find a button at the top and bottom of your 10 daily updates that takes you straight to Trending.

How is navigation different?

There are now only three pages to navigate through:

  • If you swipe to the left, you go to My Shazam

  • If you swipe to the right, you go to the Discover page

  • The middle page is the homepage/Shazam button

Huh, so it's kinda like Snapchat now…

Yup. Precisely what we were thinking.

What do you think of Shazam's new layout?

Are you a big fan of the changes Shazam has implemented, or do you think it's too similar to other apps and that the old format was fine?

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

How to administer all of your Macs from a single device using macOS Server!

Managing your Macs is made easy with macOS Server!

If you're running a small home office or business and have multiple Macs on which one serves files, another manages email and a third runs a calendar service, you can manage them all from a single Mac using macOS Server. Here's how!

Install macOS Server on your Macs

Even if you're not planning to run a service on your Mac, you'll need to install macOS Server from the App Store on each Mac you want to manage. You can follow our detailed how-to on installing macOS Server but if you only need a refresher, this is how you do it.

  1. Launch the App Store application.
  2. Search for macOS Server in the search bar at the top right of the app.
  3. Click Buy macOS Server or if already purchased you'll be notified that you can download it for free.

  4. Click Install.
  5. Agree to the User Agreement.

  6. That's it!

Enable remote administration on the Server Mac.

Before we can connect from another Mac, we'll need to prep the Mac server we want to administer to allow for remote connections.

  1. Open Spotlight and type Server.
  2. Choose This Mac and click Continue.

  3. Enter your Administrator User Name and Password and click Connect.
  4. On the Overview tab make a note of your Mac Server's Host Name. You'll need this later.

  5. The Administrator Page will open and select the Settings tab.
  6. Under Remote Access, checkmark the ways you want to remotely access this Mac. If you want to simply allow for the macOS Server App to run on a client Mac, simply select Use Server App on a remote Mac. If you need more accessibility, you can get command line access via Secure Shell Connections (SSH) or full blown GUI access with Screen Sharing.

  7. You're done setting up the Server!

Setup your Client Mac to connect remotely.

Do you have a preferred Mac that you use daily? Then that's the Mac you'll need to install the same macOS Server App that you installed earlier on all of your Server Macs. Once installed, here's how you connect to your Mac Server.

  1. Open Spotlight and type Server.
  2. Click on Other Mac.

  3. Enter the Host Name or IP Address of your Mac Server that you made note of in Step 4 in the Mac Server setup.
  4. Enter the Administrator Name and Password of your Mac Server.

  5. You'll be prompted to verify the identity of the server and will be prompted to Verify Certificate. Click Continue.
  6. You're now connected to the remote Server's Administration App! Here, you can manage and setup services on the Server Mac as needed.

Connect to a Secure Shell Session (SSH) or Screen Sharing.

If you need more under the hood management, connecting to a command line session via SSH or to the full blown Desktop via Screen Sharing is a simple mouse click. Make certain you have enabled SSH and Screen Sharing in step 6 in the Mac Server setup and then follow these steps.

  1. Open Spotlight and type Server.
  2. Select the Mac server you wish to connect to or manually enter the Host Name or IP Address of your Mac Server that you made note of in Step 4 in the Mac Server setup.
  3. Enter the Administrator Name and Password of your Mac Server.
  4. To Verify Certificate, click Continue.

  5. When the Server App starts, select the Settings tab.
  6. To start a Secure Shell Session, click the small grey arrow to the right of Secure shell Connections (SSH). The Terminal App will launch automatically. Enter your Password to log into your shell.

  7. To connect to your Mac's server Desktop, click the small grey arrow to the right of Screen Sharing and Apple Remote Desktop app. The Screen Sharing App will launch automatically and you'll be presented with a familiar Mac Login screen. Enter your credentials and use it like a normal Mac desktop.

Still more left to do

This sets you up to administer your different Macs from a centralized location when you're on the same network or have remote access to your Mac network. We'll be building on this by installing our own VPN server in a future macOS Server tutorial so that you'll be virtually connected to your home or office network anywhere you have internet access.

Comments or questions?

Let us know how many Macs you manage using macOS Server and if you have any comments, tips or questions, let us know in the comment section below!

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