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Tech Buyer’s Guide: Pocket MP3 Players

Sony E Series Walkman

The PopSci Pick: Sony E Series Walkman

Even more than Microsoft, Sony has been seen as the biggest loser in the MP3-player wars, its dominance in portable music devices since the original tape-based Walkman having been obliterated by the runaway success of the iPod. Late to the game, the electronics giant made players that were more concerned with forcing Sony’s proprietary formats on buyers than delivering a good user experience.

Apple iPod Nano

The Splurge: Apple iPod Nano

You’ll pay a premium for an iPod Nano, but at least the latest generation of Nano packs a couple major new features, along with a growth spurt for its display (from 2 to 2.2 inches), a boon for those willing to squint at video. It’s the first iPod to offer an FM tuner, long a standard feature of most competitors, and it comes with a built-in video camera. Although its 640×480-pixel video quality can’t compete with footage from a dedicated camcorder, the Nano’s video-recording capabilities will make you think twice before buying a pocket-sized video camera like the Flip.

The Bargain: SanDisk Sansa+ Clip

If you’re looking to spend as little as possible on an MP3 player without sacrificing a screen, as Apple’s Shuffle requires, the SanDisk Sansa+ is the low-cost choice. Like the Shuffle, it’s ultra-compact (0.9 ounce) and includes a belt clip, but it still manages to squeeze in a one-inch display, along with a slot for microSD memory cards to increase storage. It also packs an FM tuner, as well as the ability to record voice memos. It doesn’t play videos and view images (not that you’d want to on a screen that small), but the Sansa+ will play your music files for dirt-cheap.

SanDisk Sansa+ Clip

Buying Advice: Stats That Matter

• Storage: It wasn’t that long ago that MP3-player manufacturers were trying to put the 1.8-inch hard drive with the biggest capacity in their devices. (Remember when there was a 320-gigabyte iPod?) But those hard drives resulted in bulkier players that drew more power and were susceptible to skipping and damage from drops. At the same time, flash memory was increasing in storage size as well as becoming more affordable.

The result? Now most MP3 players are flash-memory devices, ranging from two gigabytes at the low end to 64 gigabytes for the priciest version of the iPod Touch. Obviously, you can take fewer songs along with you, but you’ll be taking a smaller device. If you still need to have thousands and thousands of songs on your person, Apple offers a “classic” iPod with a 160-gigabyte hard drive.

• Size: MP3 players come in three basic sizes: small, smaller and smallest. Those sizes happen to coincide with Apple’s iPod lineup (in descending order) of Touch, Nano and Shuffle. A player with a screen size of 3 inches or slightly larger, like an iPod Touch or Microsoft’s Zune HD, will still fit in your pocket while providing the biggest display on which to view video and digital images. If you’re looking for a slimmer fit, a Nano-size player will have a screen size of 2 to 2.2 inches—still big enough to watch clips, though with more squinting required—while shedding some ounces and inches. The tiniest players are generally the cheapest, with a minuscule display (except in the case of the Shuffle, which has no screen at all) to show basic track information. But they’re svelte enough to clip onto your belt.

Features to Look For

• Audio file formats differ among players once you get beyond the ubiquitous MP3 format. As you can imagine, only iPods can play AAC files purchased from the iTunes Store that are protected by digital-rights management (DRM). Unprotected AACs—the default format for ripping tracks from your CDs to iTunes—are supported by many players, even Microsoft’s Zune HD.

On the other hand, Apple’s iPods do not support Windows Media Audio (WMA) tracks, either with DRM or without, but many other players do. If you use lossless audio formats, which compress files less to preserve more audio data, look for a player that is compatible with AAC Lossless (available through the iTunes Music Store), FLAC or WMA Lossless formats.

• Video file formats are a similar bag. Most players can handle MPEG-4, the most popular standard for compressing video. Based on MPEG-4, the H.264 codec is used for iTunes videos, which are layered with DRM, making them playable only by iPods. Microsoft pushes its Windows Media Video (WMV) format through the Zune Marketplace, although it isn’t supported by iPods. If you have a lot of DivX files—an alternative format based on MPEG-4—on your computer, there are a few players that will play them. Note that even if your video files are high-definition, the screens on MP3 players are too small to display all the pixels that the files contain.

• A radio tuner might seem old-school, but you may eventually tire of the music on your player or just want to dial in a little NPR. Some devices will even let you record the station to which you’re listening to the device’s storage for future playback. The Zune HD is the first player that comes with support for all-digital HD radio, which means it will only be a matter of time before other players come with this feature as well.

• Bluetooth helps you get rid of one of the most irritating side effects of the MP3-player revolution: tangled headphone cords. A player that provides Bluetooth stereo support (look for the A2DP profile) lets you listen with wireless headphones up to a range of approximately 30 feet. Better still, some players will also let you pair Bluetooth headphones to a cellphone so you can send and receive calls from your player without digging in your pocket for your phone.

What You Can Skip

• Ogg Vorbis is a niche format that’s mainly championed by those who appreciate its open-standard status. Most consumers will be ripping or buying MP3 files (or AAC files, if they’re using iTunes software) to transfer to their player, so don’t worry about file formats you’ve never heard of that pad out a spec sheet but won’t make a difference in how you use your device.

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Parker’s Players Now Shape The Game

Parker’s Players Now Shape the Game Legacy includes dozens of coaches at all levels of play

With the third most wins in NCAA hockey history, Jack Parker makes a tempting role model. It would be natural for an apprentice to want to mimic his every gesture and tic and keep a copy of his drills book in a locked vault. Yet the real secret to coaching greatness, says Parker, who announced his retirement on March 12 after 40 years at the helm, is not trying to be Jack Parker: it’s learning to be you.

That’s the insight Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97) passed to John Hynes, who played for him 20 years ago and now coaches the farm team of the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

“You have to coach to your personality,” says Hynes (SED’97). “At BU, you were going to be coached aggressively. You were going to have to be able to handle Coach Parker’s intensity. He recruited players who would respond to that type of personality.” Today, Hynes, who was among those who had been mentioned as a possible successor to Parker, does the same.

“There’s always a recipe that everyone can follow” as a coach in terms of practice routines and tactics, Hynes says. “But it comes down to certain ingredients and the personality of the coach.”

Parker’s final season ended last Saturday, when his team lost the Hockey East championship to the University of Massachusetts Lowell. His career wins total 897. But the Parker legacy is greater than the tally of his triumphs. It includes seeding the ranks of professional and college hockey with about 40 coaches, assistant coaches, and officials who once skated for him as Terriers.

David Quinn (CAS’89), one of the most highly regarded of Parker’s coaching progeny, takes over as BU’s head coach next season. Quinn has been a coach at BU, Northeastern, and the University of Nebraska Omaha, and has coached the U.S. National Under-17 team, the American Hockey League’s Lake Erie Monsters, and most recently, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.

Quinn, who was one of Parker’s assistant coaches during the 2008–2009 season that culminated in a national title for the team, says he realized during that apprenticeship how much his coaching philosophy relied on Parker’s, particularly his demand for accountability from his players.

Many who played for Parker echo that sentiment, saying he branded their lives and careers with lessons learned on the bench and on the ice. One of those lessons—surprising from a coach who wasn’t shy about combating referees he disagreed with—was, don’t be seduced by your own wins record.

Parker always thought he could learn from others, Hynes says. “I’ve had four or five conversations with Coach Parker a year” since entering coaching. “There are times when he’ll look to pick your brain. He’ll ask, ‘Did you see the last BU game?’ He’ll give you a call, ask, ‘What’s your team doing?’”

Kenny Rausch (SMG’95), manager of youth ice hockey for USA Hockey, the sport’s national governing body, borrowed two of Parker’s patented phrases when he coached boys’ hockey camps and U.S. teams at the Junior World Cup: “Those who play well will be rewarded with further play” and “This is a simple game complicated by many.” Such phrases were among the tools Parker used to gain “complete control of the bench when he coached, and I try to do the same,” says Rausch.

BU women’s hockey head coach Brian Durocher (SED’78), who played in goal for Parker and has indicated his interest in coaching a men’s team, has affectionately recalled his coach as “kind of the ayatollah—it was his way or the highway. Sometimes it’s a situation that’s 5 to 1—he still thinks we should be winning 6 to 1. I can’t maintain my intensity as long as him.” (Parker has likewise praised Durocher, saying he became a great coach because he “knew enough that he had to be himself.…Patience is a virtue that he has in spades and I don’t have a lot of.”)

Rausch saw a hint of Parker’s influence on the sport in the fact that speculation about his replacement included 10 people who played for the man. In addition to Quinn, Hynes, Rausch, and Durocher, others mentioned as possible candidates were Colorado Avalanche head coach Joseph Sacco (CAS’91) and Mike Sullivan (SMG’90), New York Rangers assistant coach.

These men reveled in Parker’s gruff personality and came to love him, in the verb’s literal sense. “I really liked his intensity,” Sacco says. “BU was and still is a close-knit group as far as the alumni and such, and that’s because of Jack. You always feel welcomed back.”

“Other than my father, he is the man who has had the greatest influence on my life,” says Rausch. “He gave me a chance as a walk-on and also gave me my first coaching job. I would not be in the position I am today without him.”

While his current and past players and fans will miss Parker—who remains at BU as a special assistant to President Robert A. Brown—Rausch says there’s one community that won’t mourn the departure of a man who was not shy, or quiet, about disputing officials’ calls.

“That loud cheer you might have just heard was from every college hockey ref who no longer has to listen to him!”

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How To Import Your Instapaper Articles Into Pocket

Instapaper and Pocket (formerly known as Read It Later) are two of the greatest services that offer users the ability to save something for reading at a later time. If you are in hurry and want to save, say an article, to be read later, just drop its link to any of these sites and they will save it for you. If you are transitioning from Instapaper to Pocket, you may like to move all of your links from the former over to the latter one. The procedure to do so is extremely easy and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Things To Keep In Mind

Instapaper only allows 2,000 articles to be exported. Therefore, only the most recent 2,000 articles will be available to you at Pocket.

If you have tagged any articles as favorites in Instapaper, they won’t have the same tag over at Pocket. Instead, they will be shown as normal articles. This is due to Instapaper not providing the tag info in their exported HTML file.

Exporting the Articles

The first thing you should do is to log-in on both of these websites as it will save you from being distracted while importing the articles. Head over to the Instapaper and Pocket websites and get yourself logged-in.

Save the HTML file on your PC, preferably on your Desktop so you can find it easily while importing to the Pocket.

Importing Articles into Pocket

Pocket has a dedicated page for importing Instapaper articles. So, just head over to the Import Page where it will let you upload the file you exported from Instapaper.

As soon as it has completed the process, it will take you to the success page where it will show the details of your import. It has information like how many articles are imported, etc.

Your transition from Instapaper to Pocket is now complete and you should find all of your articles appearing in the Pocket website as well as its iPad and Android apps.


Often times, users find it difficult to move from one service over to another similar service as there are obstacles likes not having the same format of files and so on. But with the companies like Pocket understanding users’ pain, they have developed an entire section helping users solve their transition issues and making the move a breeze.

Mahesh Makvana

Mahesh Makvana is a freelance tech writer who’s written thousands of posts about various tech topics on various sites. He specializes in writing about Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android tech posts. He’s been into the field for last eight years and hasn’t spent a single day without tinkering around his devices.

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9 Portable Apps For Windows That You Need In Your Pocket

By now the number of flash drives and USB sticks that you’ve accrued in your life is probably creeping into double figures, as they lie listlessly in your drawer while you figure out whether you should turn them into dedicated movie drives or something equally creative.

So here’s an idea for you: you could fill one of your spare flash drives with portable apps which you can run directly from the disks and plug and play in whatever computer you like. Here are the best ones out there to get you started.

1. Search Everything

The Windows search tool never really quite cuts it when it comes to finding better-hidden files, and the files that it does find it tends to take its sweet time doing so. Voidtools’ Search Everything has for a long time been the go-to app for Windows users needing to dig deeper, offering super-fast indexing and searching within a simple minimal interface.

The portable version means that whatever PC you jump on, you’ll be able to find the files you need in a cinch.

2. Notepad++

Whether you’re looking to do some text editing or tweaking the config files in games and emulators, Notepad++ is the best tool for the job. The things you’d do in Notepad by default become much easier in Notepad++, thanks to proper tabbed editing and an interface that numbers each line of code or text for a clearer picture of what you’re doing.

It may not be much to look at but is highly customizable and essential for anyone who wants to quickly burrow into files and edit them under the hood.

3. Google Chrome

Portable web browsers let you surf the Web (anyone still refer to it as that?) without leaving any trace of your personal information like browsing history, cookies, login sessions, etc. on the computer. Obviously, as soon as you’re connected to the Web with the portable version of Google Chrome and use your Google accounts, your data will inevitably end up in the company’s vaults, but Chrome users are aware of that by now. The fact remains that it’s the best browser around (and certainly better than an outdated version of Internet Explorer if you’re in an Internet cafe).

4. 7-Zip

Not long ago, we wrote that 7-Zip is the best file compression tool around, doing the job that much more quickly than its closest rivals. 7-Zip is a free and open-source application with a high compression ratio and powerful file manager and is worthy of keeping around in your USB portable apps collection for when you need to do some quick compressing.

5. GIMP 6. VLC Media Player

VLC has long since been the fastest, most robust video player out there, and being portable makes it even better. Using VLC media player as a portable, you can play a vast number of formats – such as MKV – alongside the standard MP4 that makes up most movies. It has just about all the video codecs you need built in, too, so there’s no need to download extra ones.

7. LastPass

LastPass is a great password manager which lets you securely store and manage all your passwords. It garbles and encrypts your passwords and stores them online. (Don’t worry, it’s very safe.) Handily, the portable version integrates with portable web browsers like Firefox and Chrome.

8. CCleaner

CCleaner is a free Windows cleanup utility, which lets you clean such junk as redundant registry keys, cookies, and excess temporary files. If you want to wipe your web browsing after you’ve been in an Internet cafe, for example, then you can just pop in a USB stick with the portable version of CCleaner on it, then use it to wipe all your browsing history. (And you can let it clean up the entire computer while you’re at it!)

9. LibreOffice

LibreOffice is my favorite alternative to Microsoft Office. The open-source suite contains equivalents to Word, PowerPoint and Excel and has much the same compatibility and functionality as Office. The portable version brings all the power of the entire suite to whatever PC you’re on, without having to go through the tedious process of installing it all before using it.


A good way to think of portable apps is that they’re your personal computing setup on a USB stick, ready to be used on any Windows PC you plug into. Obviously, each person has different needs, and there are hundreds of portable apps out there, so if you don’t find what you need in this list, don’t let that put you off searching for the portable apps you really need!

This article was first published in October 2014 and was updated in June 2023.

Robert Zak

Content Manager at Make Tech Easier. Enjoys Android, Windows, and tinkering with retro console emulation to breaking point.

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5 Best Pop Up Video Players For Android, Pros And Cons

What Android users would complain about is how multi-tasking comes to a halt when watching videos on your device; for example, editing docs, sending SMS, creating alarms, etc require you to first stop the video that you are playing, minimize the video player window and then proceed.


DicePlayer is one of the really useful video player having Pop-up play(background playback / floating feature playback) support. The application have HW Accelerated Video Player (up to x2.0) with Playback pace control and Network support. In this way, you can watch online and offline videos at floating window with no issue.


Popup Play

Network Support : Windows Share / FTP / HTTP / WebDAV

Multiple audio track

Multiple subtitle track : external sub also supported.


Video capability depends on your devices HW video decodes’ capability.

GPlayer (Super Video Floating)

GPlayer, prior known as Super Video Floating is another creative video playback app for Android OS. It can re-size, move window, multi-windows play-back with Group Media Sharing component. Better operation experience, bolster subtitle and popup feature system. In a layman’s words, you can watch your favorite videos and do something else on your Android gadget in the meantime.

You can enjoy upto 6 videos at same time. It is not a basic popup/sticky video player, it has a cordial and basically client interface with List style, Grid style and 3D Gallery Flow style.

You can customize the app theme as per your desire.


Group Media Sharing allows the devices within same network to share the media files.

User friendly & simple UI with List style, Grid style and 3D Gallery Flow style.


Limited features for free version.

FVPlayer – Floating Video Player

FVPlayer supports popup video playback feature. You can enjoy your favorite videos while searching the web, composing your email, or utilizing whatever other application on your tablet or smartphone.

Lets say you are stuck in a level of your most loved action game. Furthermore, you have a video walk through, with FVPlayer you can watch the video and at the same time cross the level. You can read your important work documents while watching videos simultaneously. The window being resizable additionally minimizable, makes this possible.


You can use the proximity sensor to play/pause anytime.

Ability to set the initial launch width and height of the video


Performance capability depends on device’s processor.

Only supports those formats which are playable with default android video player(.3gp,.mp4)


BSPlayer is the most effective video player for Android smartphones. The application accompanies top hardware acceleration function which expands speed of video playback while diminishing the battery usage. It supports multi-core HW interpreting to essentially enhance video playback speed.


Playback files directly from uncompressed RAR files.

Hardware accelerated video playback.


Hardware accelerated playback in portrait mode may be corrupted on some HTC models.

Zoom/stretch may not work on all video types.


FloatTube is probably one of the best app that lets you enjoy YouTube videos with screen off. Super user-friendly, only problem is that once you start the video in background it won’t let you go back to the video, you have to stop and reload it if you want to do anything with it.


Let’s you find YouTube videos category wise.

Background video playback capability.


Crashes more often.

Some users have reported issues with splash screen.


Floating & Popup Video Players are extraordinarily useful on the off chance that you need to watch videos while messaging to your friends, scanning web of doing whatever other task. However, it is a well known fact that Popup video players consume more memory resources and may affect the performance of your device but that’s a trade-off that you would be willing to make.

Flac Vs. Mp3 – Why You Should Consider Converting Your Music Collection To Flac

The FLAC vs. MP3 debate is in a much different place than it was many years ago. Audiophiles often swear by the benefits of FLAC, while the main draw to MP3 has always been its overall adoption rate and manageable file sizes.

Table of Contents

If you’re still one of the few that keeps your music collection locally, rather than simply streaming, right now is the best time to consider converting your music collection to FLAC. 

What Is FLAC?

FLAC, which stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec, is to music files what TIFF is to image files—a bit-perfect file format for lossless music quality at half the size of a true CD rip.

FLAC has compatibility with new-generation iPhones, as of iOS 11, and macOS, using QuickTime. These files can be played on Android and Windows by downloading one of the many third-party applications that support it (found further down this article).

In recent years, audiophiles and tech enthusiasts have pushed FLAC to the mainstream. Like MP3, FLAC lacks any form of DRM (Digital Rights Management), making it a favorite file format of pirates. Practically every record label releases its artists’ music in this lossless format.

If you have a favorite mainstream artist, and even if your favorite artist is indie, there’s a very good chance that you can legally purchase their music as FLACs for the same price as you would MP3s.

Back in the days of P2P file-sharing applications, such as Napster and LimeWire, FLAC was nowhere near as popular as MP3, due to its much larger file size. Today, when you can find 128 GB flash drives for less than $10, file sizes are hardly a worry. However, to truly experience and appreciate the quality of FLAC, you’ll need a great set of speakers or headphones. To the untrained ear, the difference may not be very noticeable.

FLAC vs. MP3: How Is FLAC Better Than MP3?

The main reason to convert your music collection to FLAC is for the upgrade in sound quality. Lossless file formats mean that you’re able to experience them in the purest form, the way they were created and intended to be played as. MP3 is a lossy file format, and FLAC comes with none of the compression that can cause some MP3 files to sound distorted.

FLAC is also not limited to 16-bit CD quality. These files can range all the way up to 24-bit/192kHz, or “better-than-CD quality.” Uncompressed CD formats, such as CDA and WAV, offer true CD quality similarly to FLAC, but neither are anywhere near as space-efficient. Although FLAC files are often around six times larger than MP3 files, they’re still half the size of a direct CD rip.

So, to summarize: Do you have high-quality audio gear? Is storage space not an issue for you? If you answered yes to both of those questions, FLAC can do nothing but improve your listening experience. There’s no reason to shortchange your ears with MP3s—the days of Napster are long behind us!

How To Play FLAC Files

If you’re on an iPhone running iOS 11 or above, your device has full native support for FLAC files. Any iOS versions prior to 11 will need to download a FLAC player from the app store, such as VLC for Mobile, Flacbox, or VOX.

If you’re running macOS, FLAC is natively supported through QuickTime Player.

Android does not currently support FLAC files as playable through any of its system apps, so a third-party application such as VLC for Android, AIMP, or Pi Music Player is required.

Windows users will also need to download a third-party application to play FLAC files. We recommend VLC media player, 5KPlayer, or the tried and true Winamp.

How To Convert FLAC Files

Standalone Windows applications are no longer a necessity with the recent boom in web applications. This has led to the development of multipurpose web converters like Zamzar—however, FLAC is one of the few common files not supported by this popular service.

To convert MP3, WAV, M4A, OGG, MP2, and AMR files to FLAC, and vice versa, we’ve found the best solution to be Online Audio Converter.

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