iTunes Match and SongKick Awesomeness

Discovered something wicked awesome about the iPhone SongKick app the other day. After I updated iTunes to the newest version and got iTunes Match up and running, I checked out SongKick to see if one of my favorite artists would be stopping by any time soon. Sadly, no–she is not, but that’s okay. A new CD is in the works, and that’s even better news!

However, I started playing around with some of SongKick’s options. As you’ll recall, along the bottom, there are 4 options:

  • Concerts
  • Locations
  • Artists
  • Settings

I tapped Artists, thinking that it would only pull up a list of the artists that actually had a digital presence on my iPhone. Not so! The list is comprised OF EVERY ARTIST I HAVE IN THE CLOUD. 25000+ mp3s, probably at least 2500 artists … and I can find out if/when any of them are coming at any given time from the SongKick app. THAT is wicked awesome.

Just from scrolling through the list, I can see that Abigail Washburn, Alela Diane, Ani DiFranco, Apocalyptica, ATB, and Azam Ali are all on tour, and that’s just a sampling of the As! Very, very, VERY cool!

iCloud Goes Live 12 October

THIS is the news I’ve been waiting for! I can’t wait to implement this little ditty. Even at $25 a year for iTunes to match my library and upload the list to its cloud server … that’s just awesome.

Photos, videos, music … everything can be pushed to all your iOS devices. If I take a picture on my camera, it can be cloud-pushed to my wife’s phone, or our iPod Touch, or any other iOS device we use under the same username. That’s awesome. If my wife downloads the new They Might Be Giants CD, it will automatically be cloud-pushed to my phone and iPod Touch.

I can’t wait for this service to go live. WHOO!

They Day of Reckoning is Upon Us

For months, we’ve heard the rumors. “2 phones?”  “World phone?” “Upgrades?” In about 4+ hours, we’ll have answers. At 10 am Pacific time, Apple is holding a media event to discuss their future products. Supposedly up on the docket:

  • Announcement of at least 1 new phone, or as many as 3: 4S, 5, and possible low-cost iPhone.
  • Demonstration of iOS 5
  • The way ahead for ipods and other hardware
  • Possibly more iCloud discussion

That is in no particular order, but those are the major discussion points for today, unless I’m mis-reading about 5 different sites.

I’ve already made up my mind that I will not buy the iPhone 4S. I’m waiting for the 5. If they announce that today, fantastic. I’ll be excited to get my hands all over it. If they only announce the 4S, I will happily bide my time with my 4 until such time that the 5 is released.

Problem: One of the latest rumors I’ve seen circulating is that the 5 is going to be exclusive to Sprint. Currently, I’m with AT&T. This is not an issue because, quite frankly, I’m not at all an AT&T fan and will gladly jump ship when the 5 sets sail.

If you’ve been living under a rock and are not familiar with the reasons to upgrade to even the 4S, allow me to list them here for you. These are culled from sites like tuaw.com, cultofmac.com, and 9to5mac.com.

  • A5 dual processor (by comparison, the 4 uses the A4 processor, and the 3GS uses a 600 MHZ processor).
  • 8 MP camera with larger lens and sensor (should greatly improve low-light images so they don’t look so grainy and crappy)
  • POSSIBLE larger screen. Could be as large as 4.44″. Considering the 4 sports a 3.5″ screen, that is a HUGE upgrade!
  • iOS 5. The list for the upgrades on this is long and ridiculous, but they are AWESOME. My favorite is the iOS wireless updating. No longer do I have to tether my device to my desktop take my device to an Apple or AT&T store to be upgraded! It will all be done over the air. THAT is fantastic news.
  • 16GB, 32GB AND *dum da da DUUUUM!* 64GB models!!

That’s the short of it. I can’t wait to see what Apple has up their sleeve today. I couldn’t sleep from anticipation.

Happy Apple Day everyone.

Google Music vs. Apple iCloud

So, you were asking about what the benefit is to using Apple’s match vs. Google Music. I think I have a pretty good list of pros and cons. Being the pseudo-Apple-Fanboi that  I’ve been accused of being in the past, I’ll list the pros and cons of Apple first.

PROS

  • Cost. At $25 a year for unlimited cloud storage, I’ll take that.
  • Match. Doesn’t matter what low bit-rate your file is in: if Apple finds a match, your song is automatically converted to 44Khz/256kbps. Now … if your file is 320Kbps/48000Khz, I don’t know what they do. I imagine your song would be down-converted on their server, but then again, it’s just a match—it’s not like your file on your computer is going to be downgraded, just whatever Apple can match.
  • Unlimited storage. Seriously. I guess they can do that because they’re really just maintaining a database of what songs you “own.” One song can be proliferated to thousands of users since it’s just matching the actual song file to what’s loaded in your database.

CONS

  • User experience. This, in my mind, is THE BIGGEST drawback. You don’t stream your tunes to any device. In order to use them, you have to have them physically on your device. In my mind, that’s not actual cloud service. Cloud storage, sure, but not actual use. If I’m in the middle of Yellowstone, and I have a real jones-on to listen to Cranes’ Loved  CD and I don’t have it on my phone already, I have to open iTunes and download it. Free to do so, sure, but it’s still not playing FROM the cloud.
  • Device storage size still does matter. If your collection is 500GB (which isn’t surprising by any stretch), and your phone/device holds a maximum of 64-160GB, HOW can you have access to your entire collection at any one time? Simple answer: you can’t. You get to pick and choose what you want to listen to. Even then, if you grow bored with what’s on your phone, you have to delete what you currently have to make way for the new material you want to download. Currently, in iOS iTunes, you CANNOT delete songs from your device without connecting to desktop iTunes. Lame. Very, very lame. This will change when iOS 5 is released, though as of whatever iOS 5 beta release was current as of June 2011, you could only delete one track at a time. Boo. I would hope that the option to delete an album at a time will be integrated in future betas or the final release.

Okay, those are my major hypes/gripes about Apple’s cloud system for now. To date, I haven’t really had a chance to test drive Google’s music system much, but at a cap of 20,000 songs, I really don’t see where I *need* to test drive it much beyond that. Like I said, I have close to 40,000 songs. At a 20,000 song  cap, I’d need multiple accounts just to store all my music. That’s retarded. However, to Google’s credit and Apple’s discredit, Google’s service is actual streaming. Fair enough.

Anyway, I’m sold on the Apple option, if for no other reason than I have ALL my music in one cloud-based storage. And yah—truthfully, I’m not going to be interetsed in listening to all 500GB at once, so … whatever. ‘sides, I have a feeling that Apple will be offering a stremaing service soon enough.

App Review: TuneIn Radio

I grew up in western New York. Buffalo area, to be specific. The radio station I listened to for sports out there was WGR 550. When I moved out here in the mid-90s, I lost the ability to keep home-spun tabs on the Bills and Sabres. Of course, that was about 15 years ago–right around the time the Internet was breaking wide open world-wide.

Streaming media came along, and all of the sudden, I was able to tune in to my favorite sports radio station from anywhere. However, the requirement was a desktop or a laptop; I couldn’t just plug in using my little Sanyo PM8200.

And along came smartphones. As phones got more and more smarter (see the grammatical humor there?) with more and more capability, apps like Pandora and Home Radio hit the app store. WGR thought they could jump into the fray and make their own app. And they did, right? What a great idea! It’s one of the most robust radio station apps I’ve seen. All kinds of awesome interaction–emailing the studio, texting, calling (hi … it’s a phone, after all), audio vault for past programs … great app! If only it would run well on something other than wi-fi.

What it touts as being its best feature in the ability to stream audio live (or at least as live as it can get with a pretty large buffer) becomes its greatest weakness; unless you’re at full bars or on wi-fi, forget it. The app will freeze up, and the only way to get it to function is to close it out and restart it. LAME.

I brought this up on the Sabres message board a few days ago. A bunch of people chimed in and said that they too were having issues, and they really hate the app cuz it’s so worthless. Fair statement. Then someone posted a comment about TuneIn Radio. This person kept raving about how it’s so great, the buffer is strong, and it’s never died on him. With free agency looming, I *had* to find some way to stay connected. I downloaded the app, and … wow. Just wow.

So here are some key excellent points.

First off, the app is an extension of the website, www.tunein.com. Great name. Easy to remember, very simple. Like it a lot. On the website, the first page you see is a list of local radio stations that you can stream. It lists 8, but you can click the “browse all local radio” link and get a full list. A few of the stations might be greyed out due to a lack of streaming address, so don’t freak out if you run across that. For example, the local radio station at Weber State is KWCR. While it’s listed on TuneIn’s website, it’s not available to stream. Boo. Hiss. I’m going to make some phone calls on Tuesday and find out if they have a streaming address cuz they need one. However, KRCL out of Salt Lake streams. Excellent!

So that’s the website. The app is about the same as the website … but *mobile*! Which, you know … should be, since it’s an app. The beauty of this thing is the sheer number of stations you can pull in with this thing. Fact: you can stream folk music from the Antarctic. Trust me–I know this because I’ve done this. So when I tell you that you can stream stations from ALL over the world, I really do mean ALL OVER THE WORLD. I’ve found stations from Portugal, Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan … that’s right–Uzbekistan. UZR1. No idea what they’re saying, but I’m digging the music.

If you hear something you really like, you can record it to your phone and play it back later. It store a list of your recordings in the Recordings section on the buttons tool bar.

Editor’s note: it should be pointed out that the Uzbek station sounds like it’s broadcasting under water at about 11000 khz. Any semblance to even a decent mono feed is purely coincidental. So while I’m not totally overwhelmed with the broadcast quality, I am more than just whelmed that I can actually pick up Uzbek radio at all.

There are lists according to local radio stations, recently visited, recommended, music, talk, sports stations … you can browse by location or language. Have a hankering for some exquisite Mandarin Chinese? Look it up! Want to eavesdrop on those retarded chowderhead beantown Bruins fans sports radio talk? Look it up! THERE IS A STREAMING STATION FROM BARROW ALASKA. Name of the station? “Top of the World Radio.” HA! That’s freakin’ awesome.

Because I want to come back later and check out what’s going on up there, I’ve added it to my presets by pressing the little heart icon in the top right corner of the Now Playing screen. You can do that with any station or feed. That way you don’t have to come back to it later.

There are two versions in the app store: free and paid. Pony up for the paid one. The free one “only” streams 45000 stations and broadcasts. 🙂 Because let’s face it: 45000 radio stations just isn’t enough, is it?

Now … I know there are other apps that do this kind of thing, with the streaming radio stations. I’ve used them. I’ve even liked some of them. This app, though … man. I just love it. The interface is clean, simple and intuitive. The number of available stations and locations is sick.

Give it a shot. It’s worth it.

App Review: SongKick Concerts

Guess what app I’m in love with right now. I’ll give you a hint:

I hadn’t really checked out any new apps on iTunes’ store lately, so I thought I’d glance through it and see what I could fiind. To my surprise, SongKick Concerts was featured on the main page. The app integrates with its web-based counterpart to sync your SK accout (if you have one; if you don’t, it’s easy enough to set up one). Best part is that it’s free.

This thing is incredible. By “incredible,” I don’t just mean, “Wow, hey … this thing is pretty nifty.” No–I mean this app makes Chuck Norris look like the E-Trade baby. That’s how enormously awesome this thing is. Here’s why.

1. It scans your iDevice and finds the musicians in its database, which is vastly superior to any other concert app database I’ve seen. This thing finds EVERYthing. I loaded one song from each artist from the first half of my library (A-M), excluding classical artists and new age/soundscape artists. It had representative graphics for almost everyone, including obscure artists like Hungry Lucy, Diane Birch, Howling Rain, First Aid Kit, Emily Wells … the list goes on.

For every artists that is on tour or a concert date is scheduled, it puts a little “On Tour” banner in the top left corner of the image so you KNOW that that artist/band is playing somewhere soon. Could be as little as a one-off gig at some bar in Rigby Idaho. Could be as extensive as playing Estadio de Luz

One thing that I would like this app to do, and it may  … I haven’t seen it do this yet, but it very well could–is to localize the list to my geographic area and provide that same banner for artists coming to the greater Salt Lake area. As it is, I sift through my artists and see if a particular artist is coming. If not, oh well–move on to the next one. If so, I check out date, ticket prices, venue, etc. But really … it’s not at all a large complaint.

2. The app links you out to ticket vendors. No need to go out to Ticketmaster or wherever. Links are provided to the venue, ticket purchasing, or wherever you need to go.

3. You can search for an artist and track when s/he/they are coming to your area. It’s a bit better than having to scan your whole iOS device library and look through at individual artists/bands, but at the same time, you have to manually search and select “Track” to get that localized effect. Again, oh well. 🙂

4. If 6you select the nearest large city to you, it will spit back who’s playing where, when and for how much. For example, tonight in the SLC area, we have:

  • Psychostick at Club Vegas
  • Soulcrate Music at Kilby Court
  • Taking Back Sunday at In the Venue
  • Pharoahe Monch at the Hotel Elevate
  • Craze at One Nightclub

I’m telling you … this is the ONLY concert app you need. Download it and check out what shows you didn’t know are coming to your area!

iTunes and iCloud First Thoughts

It is here. iCloud is now a reality. What does that mean for those of us with an iTunes account?

Truthfully, I’m not sure.

Here’s my thing. I have Audiogalaxy installed on my phone. It’s free. From anywhere I can get a semi-decent signal–wi-fi or 3G–I can listen to my entire music collection … not just 25000 songs worth. APparently, that’s the cap on how many songs you can have iTunes match. Why there’s a cap at all is beyond me, but whatever. There is. At an average of approximately 10 songs per CD, that’s 2500 CDs. I’m fairly certain the average listener doesn’t have that much.

I do. And them some. So what am I supposed to do? I can’t create 2 accounts because my phone can only be recognized by one account at a time. If I try downloading songs from another account, I’m sure I’ll get lambasted for trying to. So that’s not really an option.

Now I’m back to the fact that Audiogalaxay has EVERYTHING I own available through its app. Granted, I can’t download a particular song … but I do not have to because IT’S ON MY FRIGGIN’ HARD DRIVE AT HOME.

To be fair, I do see one application where iTunes in the Cloud could be useful. It makes for a handy back-up system. I’d create multiple accounts to host 25000 songs each. Ha ha! Then if a hard drive dies or goes kaput, I can re-download them. But then again, where their songs are only encoded at 256kbps, mine are all encoded at 320kbps. Gain some hard drive space; lose some sound quality. And yes–I’m one of “those” audiophiles.

One thing I *really* like about this new cloud service is the availability of apps I’ve long since forgotten I had due to a reformat and loss of all apps. THAT is pretty cool. ANY app I’ve ever purchased is available to download. Slick. Hopefully, Apple doesn’t “fix” that little hiccup (cuz it kind of seems like it shouldn’t be that way for some reason, right?)

Anyway, I’ll reserve judgment for when I actually start using the service. Maybe I’ll find more to like. Maybe I won’t. For now though, I’m content to download my old apps!

 

iDevice Stuff

So, hmm. Somehow, I’ve amassed an iPod 160GB, iPhone 4 32GB, and now I have an iPod Touch 2nd gen 16GB. Not sure how this happened. It’s nice to have another touch device, but … it’s only a 2nd gen, and I’m not sure how well it’s handling iOS 4.2.1.

On my iPod, I have some of my music–mostly new stuff, but there’s a healthy mix of older stuff too. My iPhone holds ALL new stuff–that’s it. iPod Touch … nothing, but that’s just because I just got it. I think eventually it will house just apps–games that my kids can play, games I can play … stuff like that. Things that don’t require an internet connection because the best I can do is run wi-fi, which is great if I’m at home or in a wi-fi area (which at work  I am not, so that can automatically rule out apps like Pandora, Audiogalaxy, etc).

Very disappointed with having little to no service at work. Supposedly, we’re moving locations in a few weeks, so hopefully that’ll provide an opportunity to get better signal reception, but I doubt it. I swear these walls are made of lead.

Anyway, it’s nice having all these devices, but what I’d really like is one device where I can store ALL my music and ALL my apps (which are significant in number) on one device. The newest iPod Touch houses 64GB. My iPod Classic 160GB houses about half my music at best. And I’m only going to be collecting more, so … come on. I don’t need the thing to be “the thinnest” or “the slickest.” I *just* want something to keep all my music in onep place, other than my desktop hard drives.

Someday …

Death of the iPhone

Well, okay … not in the “Death of the iPod Classic” sense. Really, it’s just the death of my iPhone. Tragic, yes–but not on a corporate scale.

So I got in the car, threw my iPod on the docking cable, and listened to some Tool coming in to work this morning. I didn’t think anything of it cuz I knew I could come in to work and throw my phone on the USB cable and charge it. Well, ha ha … no love from the USB port. “Hmm … that’s odd.” So I tried a different USB port. No luck. Tried the iPod on the same cable. LOVE! YAY! So it’s not the cable. So, now we’re back to “Booooo.”

I ran out to the car to test the phone on the docking cable. Worked fine. Started charging, so I figured it must just be the USB cable. So I ran down the cube farm and found someone with an iPod cable. “Hey, can I borrow your cable?”

“Umm … sure.”

“Thanks. Oh, erm … yah. I’m Chris by the way. Relatively new writer.”

“Good to meet you …”

“Thanks. Okay … back in a sec.”

Again, no love. Not a single port on my desktop or any of my neighbor’s desktops provided joy, happiness or rapture. I tried both my and borrowed cable.

Verdict? Genius Bar appointment at the local Apple Store. I don’t know what they’ll say, but I do have the Apple Care package, so that better pull some weight. They’re pretty good about “turning and winking” as they read over the warranty and explain what is and isn’t covered. Though even without Apple Care, this seems pretty suspect. I mean … I had the thing sitting right on my nightstand all night, and it was charging fine yesterday. I have no idea what could possibly cause spontaneous internal problems, but something had to have happened. I don’t get it.

Well, okay … now this is just weird. Just now I unplugged it and repluggd it back in, and it turns on and shows 7%. Except now the battery is still draining. I don’t know what the deal is. Something’s defective …

Anyway, I have an appointment at 2:40. We’ll see what they say.

App Review: Classical Music Radio

I like classical music. Really … I’m willing to bet that most people do to some degree. I’m not fanatic about it, nor am as well versed in it as I would like to be. But I’m working on it! It just takes me a bit longer cuz I’m Middle-Aged Man. If any of you know the reference, I request that you comment. Who knows … maybe you’ll win a prize. Emphasis on the word “maybe.”

ANYhoo, so I came across this app in the App Store the other day, and being that it’s free right now, I thought I’d try it out. Here are my thoughts, such as they are.

First off, the interface is a tad gaudy. It’s not extremely clean; the background graphic is distracting, and the color scheme washes out the text. Thankfully, the one button you actually NEED to read, “Radio Station,” is perfectly clear. So that’s nice.

The selection of stations is pretty good. Seems to be world-wide, and I’m sure they’re working on adding more and more stations. Germany, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Austria, Peru, Columbia, Norway, and France are all represented, as are a LOT of stations from across the USA.

However, having said that, it also appears that some of the stations are only broadcast in mono, or in something like 64kbps. That’s kind of annoying, given classical music’s strong stereophonic allure. I’d rather see them broadcast in CD-quality. Pandora, for example.

If I’m sitting downstairs at my desk, and I turn off my wi-fi connection to my phone, there is an almost instantaneous drop. Not of quality–of sound. Using just 3G and with 3 bars, I’m pulling in nothing. Contrast this to other streaming apps, such as Pandora, AudioGalaxy, or WGR550 out of Buffalo New York. With 3 bars on my phone for any of those, I get uninterrupted streaming. Not so from this app. Not sure why the difference.

When it does play though … it’s great. And over wi-fi, it’s fantastic. So this might be an app you’re relegated to using at home or over a wi-fi hotspot if you’re oot and aboot (as say the eastern Canadians). Or if you’re a persistent bugger like I am, you can try to wave your phone around until you get a good signal and then just find a way to get it to stay there, but … well, good luck with that.

Hey, for right now, it’s free. Maybe they’ll update it and make it better. You can do no wrong in downloading this right now.

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