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The Year in Music: Three Boundary-Pushing Classics at Tsai Center BU Symphony Orchestra performs

David Hoose conducts a BU Symphony Orchestra rehearsal at the Tsai Performance Center. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Divas. Conductors. Composers. Virtuosos. The school of music in theCollege of Fine Arts showcased the talents of its students, faculty,and a few special guests on stages around campus and throughout Bostonthis year. This week, BU Today looks back at the year in music at Boston University.

On February 12 the Boston University Symphony Orchestra performed pieces from three different eras, each of which, says conductor David Hoose, “pushes the barriers.”

“All three of the compositions are, in different ways, outlandish,” says Hoose, a College of Fine Arts professor and the director of orchestral activities at the school of music. The orchestra tackled Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz, Lacrimosa by Donald Sur, and Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin by Béla Bartók.

“I cannot imagine a concert of fresher, more vital and unconventional music,” Hoose says. “Sur, Bartók, and Berlioz — Korean, Hungarian, and French brothers in wild, fiery, whacky, often outlandish worlds, every moment infused with unstoppable passion.”

Berlioz composed Symphonie Fantastique in 1830 as a profession of love for an Irish actress he had seen on stage playing Ophelia in Hamlet. He produced the symphony and sent the actress, whom he had not met, an invitation. She ignored it, but two years later they met and were married. The autobiographical plot centers on a young musician who falls desperately and obsessively in love with a woman. Its imaginative sound was unique, but the story itself controversial. “Berlioz’s most famed piece is no less crazy today than it was when its premiere shocked and delighted its audience,” says Hoose. “This is because of an original and unusual use of the orchestra and because of the music’s utter emotional unpredictability.”

Sur composed Lacrimosa in 1991 after being commissioned by the Foundation of Broadcast Culture to write a piece for the Seoul Philharmonic to commemorate the 1919 Korean uprising, a series of demonstrations for Korean national independence from Japan. A composer who has been called eclectic by the New York Times, Sur is also known for The Unicorn and the Lady, a work inspired by the famous tapestries in The Cloisters, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Slavery Documents, his largest work, based upon antebellum and Biblical texts. “Sur’s music creates its own path,” Hoose says, “repeatedly letting us believe we know where it’s heading, only to surprise us with the fluidity and freshness of his musical mind.” Sur died in 1999.

The ballet from which Béla Bartók’s Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin is taken premiered in Cologne in 1926. It caused a scandal when first performed and was subsequently banned in Bartók’s native Hungary because the plot, about hooligans who force a young woman into prostitution, was considered lewd. A mysterious Mandarin man seeks the prostitute’s services, but instead the hooligans attempt to rob and murder him. To their confusion, they are unable to harm him. The prostitute, revolted by the violence, embraces the man, who then finally bleeds and dies. “It was the tawdry and vicious story, as well as some of the most forward-looking music — both erotic and violent — that led to the censoring of Béla Bartók’s ballet The Miraculous Mandarin before it even came to performance,” according to Hoose. “It, too, is a pulse-raising, harrowing, edge-of-your-seat ride whose ultimate destination cannot be seen.”

Bartók was especially influenced by Central European folk music and is known for inserting colorful effects in his compositions, such as the unorthodox combination of violins and xylophones.

The BU Symphony Orchestra performed Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz, Lacrimosa by Donald Sur, and Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin by Béla Bartók on Tuesday, February 12, at 8 p.m. in the Tsai Performance Center, 685 Commonwealth Ave. The concert was free and open to the public.

Amy Laskowski can be reached at [email protected].

This story originally ran February 12, 2008.

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Saurik’s New Jailbreak Tweak Lets You Queue Up Music In The Stock Music App

It’s fairly rare when the mastermind behind Cydia decides to create his own jailbreak tweak, but when he does, the masses take note. That’s exactly what happened when Cyueue was dropped in Cydia recently. Cyueue is a new jailbreak tweak from Saurik, which adds a new queueing option in the stock Music app.

If you’re throwing a house party, then Cyueue is the perfect answer for you. It allows you to keep the current song playing, while still queueing up the records you’d like to hear next. Take a look inside to see how it works.

As you can see, with Cyueue installed, you get new options to Play Now, Play Next, or Play Last. Play Now works just like the Music app does without Cyueue installed, in that it will immediately stop playing the current song, and go to the song you want to play. Play Next, will queue your song up to play right after the current song is finished. Play Last will place the song you select at the end of your Queue. Once you get used to the way Cyueue works, you can use double tap gestures to quickly enable the Play Now, Play Next, or Play List items.

As you might guess, Cyueue uses a playlist to manage its queue, and this playlist can be seen by venturing over to the Playlist section of the Music app. The difference with the Cyueue playlist when compared to other playlists, is that the Cyueue playlist is totally dynamic. It clears itself out each time you start a new Music listening section; that way, you don’t have old songs from your prior listening session in the same playlist.

Cyueue uses a dynamic playlist to manage your queue

If you’re ever having a party, or even a small social gathering, then Cyueue can help in a major way when it comes to keeping folks entertained. No longer will you have to suffer through the jarring experience of switching to a new song while in the middle of another song. Cyueue can make you a better MC.

Why did Saurik decide to take on this project? He answers via the tweak’s Cydia description:

In April of 2012, iOS 5.1 had been out over a month with no jailbreak in sight. It is at times like this when there is suddenly time to “build new things”.

Usually, I spend that time building new developer tools or working on new features of the Cydia payment backend system, but I got the itch to Substrate.

After doing some research into “what would users actually want to see”, I came across a pattern of users having issues with the iPod/Music application.

In fact, every few weeks, people had been asking for the same extension: a way to queue songs up without having to stop your currently playing song.

Of course, I didn’t actually know much about the iPod/Music app’s internals, so I needed to spend some time first improving my development tools ;P (dusting off my old “Aspective-C”).

Fate, however, was not kind to this project: just before I was able to get it all put together, my time was stolen by the release of Rocky Racoon, the iOS 5.1.1 untether exploit; pulled out of the moment, I never managed to return.

To this day, people ask for this very feature, and it has been burning on my mind (nay, my soul) that I had never released the project: I couldn’t stand it.

Meanwhile, the demand behind this concept has only increased: instead of once every few weeks, I see this idea come up a few times every week.

Of course, in the world of iOS hacks, code often rots; but I found my old designs and prototypes: amazingly, everything was still working on iOS 6.1.

Finishing this project and getting it out was thereby cathartic: extracting a dangling thread from my mind that was bothering me every day for a year.

Some interesting insight into what makes Saurik tick. Whatever your opinions about him are, you certainly can’t deny the guy’s passion for this stuff.

Three Cryptocurrencies Cutting The Brakes On Sky

Know how Logarithmic Finance and other cryptocurrencies are cutting the brakes on sky-high gas prices.

Gas prices are an inbuilt mechanism of cryptocurrency. In simple terms, it is the transaction fee an individual must pay when trading or buying cryptocurrency, with the price determined by the circumstances of the transaction and the blockchain currently processing it.

Many cryptocurrencies, like Solana (SOL), Logarithmic Finance (LOG), and Stellar (XLM), recognise that gas prices can be sky-high, due to the various factors that impact them. As such, these platforms have gone out of their way to innovate, as a way to keep fees low and create a positive experience for their users.

Logarithmic Finance (LOG) Decrypts the System

Built on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain, a chain known for its high gas prices, Logarithmic Finance (LOG) has chosen to take its gas prices into its own hands, expertly crafting a minimalist code architecture for its platform that allows for reduced gas fees on their platform.

This code is so well designed that Logarithmic Finance (LOG) estimates that their gas prices are 80% reduced compared to what they would be in a traditional Ethereum (ETH) blockchain transaction.

But how has this been achieved?

Quite simply, Logarithmic Finance (LOG) has designed code that only anchors essential information to the blockchain when undertaking transactions, to make the transaction more efficient and less information-heavy.

A smaller amount of information for the blockchain to compute means the transaction can be processed faster, thus bringing down the gas prices associated with the transaction.

It is a process that requires a lot of technical know-how from the Logarithmic Finance (LOG) team, however having this knowledge proves their legitimacy as a start-up, and the potential for success this project holds.

Want to learn more? Check out their presale. 

Solana (SOL) Makes Gas Prices Naturally Low

Another way to reduce gas prices in cryptocurrency transactions is by reducing the overall energy output of your transactions, reducing the gas price in the process by requiring less computing power.

One cryptocurrency at the forefront of this is Solana (SOL), with its groundbreaking low energy transaction technology made possible by the environmentally-conscious proof-of-stake verification process.

Considered one of the fastest blockchains on the market, Solana (SOL) is also one of the cheapest, all thanks to its energy-efficient approach to crypto.

As such, many crypto users are turning to Solana (SOL), going out of their way to incorporate them into their multi-chain platforming to allow users to benefit from these aspects.

So, if you’re looking for a quick way to transfer funds without the sky-high gas fees, give Solana (SOL) a try.

Stellar (XLM) Gives A Five Star Performance

Stellar (XLM) is an open-source system designed to give the financial systems of the world a place where they can work together.

The system allows for the creation and trade of digital representations of any given currency, be it Bitcoin (BTC), Dogecoin (DOGE), or even a fiat currency like Pound Sterling. This means that, when transferred, these representations hold their value, yet can be used in a variety of situations without the involvement of big banks.

Despite the potential complexity associated with this process, Stellar (XLM) can provide some of the lowest gas fees available on the crypto market, boasting the ability to settle and verify transactions on their blockchain in seconds.

This is due to Stellars (XLM)  use of a consensus protocol- a verification mechanism that, like proof-of-stake, allows for lightning-quick transactions that cut down on processing power to allow for low gas prices.

This is crucial for Stellar (XLM), which takes a unique position in the market by providing tools for easy trade between crypto and fiat currency. Quick transaction times guarantee satisfaction for all involved in the process, and low transaction fees make it more likely that users will continue their use of the service.

For a fast and efficient way to transfer funds, cryptocurrency or otherwise, be sure to check out Stellar (XLM)!

Find Out More on Logarithmic Finance at:

Microsoft 2010 Year In Review: Smartphones, The Cloud, Tablets

Over the past several years, Microsoft has conditioned its audience to expect the company to debut its latest big thing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas the first week of January.

For instance, during his keynote at CES 2010, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer showed off a Windows 7-based slate computer from HP that shipped to enterprise customers in late October.

Now rumors are circulating again that Ballmer will show a “slew” of Windows 7 slatesat CES 2011 in two weeks — granted that much of the delay has to do with a new line of power-saving chips, codenamed Oak Trail, coming from Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) early next year.

Microsoft did somewhat better in the smartphone arena. At Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona, Spain in February, Ballmer introduced Windows Phone 7, its challenger to the iPhone and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android.

Ballmer said then that Windows Phone 7 handsets would be available in time for the 2010 holiday sales season. The phones began shipping to U.S. customers on Nov. 8 and six weeks later on Dec. 21, Microsoft announced that 1.5 million handsetshad been “sold.” However, the company made clear that figure represents sales between phone manufacturers and wireless carriers, not actually sales to end users.

In fact, in June the company claimed to already have signed up 40 million paid users for its cloud-based subscription services. Many of those customers use Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), which provides Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications, and Live Meeting hosted in Microsoft’s giant datacenters or via third-party hosting firms.

In a related move, Microsoft shipped Office 2010, the latest iteration of its cash cow business productivity suite, in May, which includes the Office Web Apps, a Web-based competitor to Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Docs.

Then, in October, the same week that Ozzie announced his departure, Microsoft announced that next year it will combine the Office Web Apps and Office 2010 with the latest 2010-branded versions of the servers in BPOS to create a new subscription package it has named Office 365.

But no matter where Microsoft turns these days, it seems to run into Google.

In October, Google sued the U.S. Department of the Interiorfor not considering its Google Apps online e-mail, calendaring, and collaboration tools offering before awarding a contract to provide those services to as many as 88,000 government users via Microsoft’s BPOS.

The two have been increasingly colliding in those markets.

For example, Microsoft has won several important customers recently, but so has Google.

There is another area where Google has so far completely trounced Microsoft.

It’s the Google Android smartphone operating system, which has already been in the market for two years. Microsoft, in September, sued Motorola for patent violations in its Android-based phones. But the software giant’ emerging Windows Phone 7 devices have a tough haul to catch up in the burgeoning smartphone market.

Finally, in mid-December, Microsoft joined chúng tôi an organization opposed to letting Google purchase travel technology developer ITA Software— many travel sites, including Microsoft’s Bing Travel, use the acquisition target’s technologies.

One piece of good news: In October, after a year on sale, Microsoft announced it had sold 240 million Windows 7 licenses.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at chúng tôi the news service of chúng tôi the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

Razer Naga Trinity Review: Three Gaming Mice In One

It’s always been hard for me to recommend Razer’s Naga line, not because they’re bad mice but because they’re not the mice for me. They’re specialty hardware, not Swiss Army knives. The original Naga and its telephone-style numpad was designed for MMO players who need a lot of shortcut keys. The Naga Hex was a compromise of sorts, with half as many buttons in a much more intuitive, ring-shaped layout. But both always seemed overly complicated to me, especially for day-to-day use.

This review is part of our roundup of best gaming mice. Go there for details on competing products and how we tested them.

Third time’s the charm

Okay, here’s the downside: It’s still a Naga. I don’t mean to sound flip, but Razer’s MMO mouse has never been my favorite design. Short and wide, it doesn’t really feel comfortable in my hand whether I opt for a palm or a claw grip. It’s neither long enough for the former nor thin enough for the latter—at least in my experience.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

To each their own though, and if you like the Naga, nothing’s changed. The Naga Trinity is the exact same shape as the 2014 edition, with an overemphasized ring finger/pinky grip and the two DPI buttons behind the scroll wheel.

It also has Razer’s RGB lighting in all the usual spots—which is to say on the scroll wheel, on Razer’s logo, and on the left-hand side.

Which brings us to the most important feature of the Naga Trinity: that left-hand side.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

It’s easy. I’ve used plenty of customizable mice in the past few years, but most stick to nonfunctional parts of the chassis—allowing you switch out the thumb rest, for instance, but not the buttons themselves. And the mouse that did let me change button layouts, the Roccat Nyth, required tediously replacing the buttons one at a time by hand.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

And let’s be real: Seven thumb buttons is more than enough for most people. I’m usually happy with two.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

Seven buttons is probably too many for day-to-day use though, and this is the Naga Trinity’s real appeal to someone like me: You can swap in a standard two-button panel instead.

And for the first time, I can say the same about the sensor too. Up to now, the Naga’s used Razer’s old laser sensors. The Naga Trinity is the first to use an optical sensor, presumably Razer’s PWM3389, a semi-proprietary take on the PWM3360. The main difference is it goes up to 16,000 DPI, but chances are you’ll never touch that high-end. All you really need to know is it’s a variant of a damn good sensor, and a major upgrade over the old laser-equipped Naga and Naga Hex.

Bottom line

The main sticking point is the price. Listing at $100, the Naga Trinity costs a fair bit more than most wired mice. On the other hand, it costs quite a lot less than three wired mice, which is sort-of what you’re getting in the Naga Trinity package. If you’re the type of person who only sometimes wants an MMO mouse, the Naga Trinity is an interesting alternative to buying and maintaining two separate devices.

Now I’d love to see Razer go the other way and make a DeathAdder Trinity or a Mamba Trinity—give MMO mouse fans the choice of a different shape, while keeping the Mamba or DeathAdder’s strengths. That would be quite a proposition.

Top Three Steve Jobs Speeches

As a CEO, Steve Jobs will be remembered for many things–not just as a purveyor of innovative, landscape-changing products. He’ll also be remembered as one of the most powerful and charismatic orators and marketers of our time. Here are my top three picks for Steve Jobs’ most compelling speeches.

Steve Jobs handled a lot of tough crowds (a recent example was Antennagate, which was easily quelled by handing out free iPhone 4 cases). But perhaps Jobs’ toughest situation came in 1997, after Bill Gates and Microsoft bailed Apple out of impending bankruptcy with a $150 million stock purchase — and a few added provisions.

Some of those provisions were positive: Microsoft Office arriving on Apple’s platform was greeted with cheers. But as soon as Jobs announced that Internet Explorer would become the Macintosh’s default Web browser (around minute 2:23), the auditorium fills with boos and groans.

Ever the master, Jobs laid on the charm and made the problem disappear with just one line, delivered with a smirk: “… since we believe in choice” (2:42), reminding his grumbling audience that Mac users can, of course, change their default browser settings. And change they did: Internet Explorer is no longer available for the Mac.

Jobs then switched to a slide of Apple’s logo and Microsoft’s logo together, and then got serious about Apple’s “Think Differently” marketing campaign, ruminating on how Apple products are for “people who aren’t just out to get a job, but for people who want to change the world.”

Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

Merging the themes of life, growth, and death, Jobs’ 2005 commencement address to Stanford University was stirring in a way that transcends many cut-and-paste graduation speeches.

In his address, Jobs told three stories set in three pivotal moments of his life, one of the most important being when he was fired from Apple (7:14):

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers … Keep looking. Don’t settle.”

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Jobs’ speech was so inspiring, in fact, that its even been ripped off by others around the world.

Jobs’ unexpected appearance at the iPad 2 event in March 2011 caused a lot of stir. He had just taken an indefinite medical leave of absence, and already people were wondering what Apple would look like post-Jobs.

His keynote didn’t contain the flourishes audiences had grown accustomed to. In fact, Jobs seemed in poor health and spoke in a quiet, gravelly voice. But during his discussion of the post-PC world Jobs linked his long-held philosophy about the marriage of technology and the liberal arts — an idea that Jobs espoused in a 1985 Playboy interview when discussing how work computers needn’t be dull: “If we can inject that liberal-arts spirit into the very serious realm of business, I think it will be a worthwhile contribution. We can’t even conceive of how far it will go.”

Simple, yet it cuts straight to the core of not only Apple’s philosophy when it comes to building products that change the tech landscape (as well as our everyday lives), but also the thinking of one of our century’s greatest inventors and public speakers.

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