Amazon Music doesn’t have everyone’s attention, but it has mine

Friday, June 20th, 2014

I was one of those people who was also going to join in and say that Amazon Music wasn’t anything to praise, but the more that I use it, the more I feel like it caters to someone like myself. I tend not to buy music when it’s on the radio because I’m going to hear it everyday so there’s no point. It’s also the way I figure out whether I really like a song or not. Of course, there’s always exceptions I make, depending on whether I already own a few albums by the artist, or Amazon is offering the current album for $1.99-3.99 – When a digital song is more than a $1 a pop, you’re better off risking a $4 album buy if you like even three songs these days. My $15 gift cards from surveys go a long way because of those deals.

I think a lot of the criticism so far comes from people’s lack of understanding of who Amazon’s audience is. They obviously don’t want a bunch of 20 something’s getting onboard just for the music, because if you’re not spending money on Amazon.com in general, you’re useless to them. They aren’t giving you a student discounted membership just to watch videos and listen to music, they want you to buy textbooks, they want you to buy games, and they want you to use them as your one stop on getting whatever you need.

Amazon Music isn’t about meeting the demands of the younger crowd using their services, and for the reason being that they aren’t their main customers.

I enjoy services like Songza and iTunes Radio because they’re curated. I can open up the app and listen to something then and there. Spotify and Rdio want you, the user, to make the choice of what exactly you want to listen to. And 99% of the time when I open them, I have no idea what I want to listen to. So I end up playing the same playlists I made (in this case Spotify) years and years ago. If I’m going to do that, might as well stick to maintaining an iTunes library.

And so I do, but I don’t own most of my favorites still.

When you open up Amazon Music, it’s all familiar. None of this “Check out this new album by so and so,” junk that the other places present you. There are places where new music works well, and a streaming service isn’t it. Look at the top 100 songs on Spotify and you’ll see the majority of it not there. In the US, people want to stream the now, and not the going to be stars of tomorrow. There’s very few of us that appreciate the unknown, and there are outlets like Pitchfork and Hype Machine that are much better for it.

And it’s refreshing. There’s a little bit of the stuff from last year, and a little bit from many years back. It’s a welcome change from seeing new albums from a band I haven’t cared about in the last five years trying to make a comeback. Because honestly, they haven’t made a comeback unless they’re being played heavily on the radio first.

In the end, I’m mostly happy that I now have a way to save songs that I can listen to now, and easily buy later.

It’s definitely a lot better than their lame “Fire Phone” anyway. I’ve never seen people so excited about something, and then get so disappointed afterwards.

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Yes, ANOTHER Apple keynote related post

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

The tech industry is still pretty much focused on what happened Monday at the annual Apple WWDC keynote – Well, what happened, and what was introduced. It was so entertaining this time around that most of us are watching it for the second and third time now. Like I saw posted somewhere else (And I agree), it was popcorn worthy, and much better than that movie I paid seven bucks to see over the weekend. The stuff they introduced was so WOW worthy!

And yes, I am looking through that Swift documentation they made available. Do I care that it makes it harder to develop cross-platform? Not really.

iOS 8 looks great. As a photographer, I’m excited for the more open camera options, and as a blogger/writer, I’m thrilled that I’m going to be able to use SwiftKey pretty soon. But, I’m most excited about being able to answer my calls and texts on my Mac, that and being able to work at my desk and then pick up the iPad and finish whatever on there.

Oh, and OS X Yosemite is gorgeous, with a few quirks. It is a little hard on the eyes for one thing, the Helvetica Neue needs to be bolder. The transparency also nauseated me, but a quick wallpaper change really helped with it. I’m really glad that it wasn’t as flat like a lot of mockups were making it, and I’m sure that the people who don’t currently like it will quickly settle in once the golden master comes out and applications are updated for it.

Looking forward to the new hardware to go alongside it all in the next announcement.

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One snap to anywhere – When pictures aren’t just for photo albums

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Often times when we take a picture with our smartphones, we share them instantly. Sometimes we want to post on Facebook, sometimes we want to post on Instagram, other times we need to send something to our notes for later reference.

So why isn’t it easier to do that?

I’ve been playing with VoiceSnap tonight. For me it’s great because I have a hard time reaching the camera button without my hands shaking. Being able to just say, “Take a picture,” and it doing so is great. But it made me think about how much this kind of integration with an app can go further.

Google’s take on this is making you buy a $1,000 piece of hardware that you wear on your face. The problem is that it’s not only out of price range for most of us, but it’s also just another device we have to deal with. Why not just use our phone instead and use similar ideas?

  • “Add to Evernote notebook – Algebra II”
  • “Post to Instagram – Sunset at the lake”
  • “Add to Amazon wish list – Books”
  • “Send text to Steve – Wish you were here!”

It keeps it human, it’s accessible, and best of all – transparent. You’re doing this out in the open with the device, and people know where it’s going.

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Stache – Beautiful on paper, but pretty ugly in real world usage

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

By the end of the week, pretty much every Apple/iOS related website is going to be talking about this new visual bookmarking app called Stache. As someone who was about to fork out some money for Pinboard, it really tempted me because it had the archiving feature without the yearly fees. It made more sense than using Evernote and wasting a few minutes every time I wanted to save something for later.

But once I started using it, it became apparent that it’s a pretty ugly way to manage bookmarks. There’s no way to organize your bookmarks once they’re in there, and while it lets you add tags, it doesn’t try to autofill them like Evernote, Vesper, and other apps do once you’ve established them.

It also relies too much on websites actually being beautiful, and if you’re doing a lot of research, and run across an article from 1997, the page is most likely going to look like it’s from 1997 still. In my case, some of my saved pages don’t even have pictures.

It’s an eyesore because of that, especially with all the ads.

Stache

Another thing is that while the URL scheme support is well appreciated, it combines both tags and full content searching. A huge hindsight that is even visible in their Mac App Store screenshots (It shows coffee brewing tips, with an article about entrepreneurs in the mix). The way I’m personally working around the problem is by adding hashtags (#) to the beginning of every tag I add.

You can’t even manage your descriptions and tags within the iOS app at the moment.

Overall, it takes less time to add and manage the bookmarks compared to my current Evernote setup (that I will now abandon), but I can tell that if I didn’t come up with a quick plan to deal with the limitations, it would easily get out of control within a few days of using it.

And it’s again, really ugly. If you’re going to save samples of really nice designs you like, a series of photographs, and art in general, it’s going to work very well for that. But websites with white backgrounds, heavy text, and ads galore are going to clash with the site information underneath the screenshot. I hope the next few updates work on making this less of a problem if nothing else.

The current price the Mac version is going for is $6.99, and it’s supposed to be going up after the introductory price. I really think it feels more like a beta rather than a real 1.0, and would recommend staying away from it. Likewise, the iOS version isn’t any better, and I’d wait for it to be 99 cents. If you don’t have a Mac, don’t even bother with this one.

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“Computing isn’t about technology, in the same way that books are not about paper and ink.”

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Said someone on an Apple related message board thread. No one understood what was being said, so it got deleted. But I get it, and completely agree. He’s posted it again, yet people still aren’t getting it.

I’ve been using computers for 23 years now, and I was exposed to graphic programs, home modeling tools, and finance managers like Quicken. Of course I got to see the silly stuff like Microsoft Bob too. And because I saw those programs, I was able to appreciate the computer as a tool, and not just the front door to the internet. I spent a lot of time using Adobe’s PhotoDeluxe, then Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro, which ultimately lead me into the full-blown Adobe Creative Suite.

I also now manually manage my spending in a mobile app, and use Evernote pretty much everyday (In fact I was user number 183,587 and now they have over 100 million as of last week).

… And considering I render animation, it’s surprising how I haven’t had the need to upgrade to a quad core processor machine.

… No it isn’t, because spending an extra $2,000 to go that route isn’t beneficial to me at this point. I know the system requirements needed to do the stuff that I do use my machines for, and they are not that crazy. Modeling is not the part that pushes your GPU the most, it’s the compiling that does.

Limitations push you to think differently, and not about just tech, but everything in general. Finding solutions and workarounds are better than just giving in and buying the “better” product. If you let yourself do that, you’re never going to be happy with anything.

And a lot of people who do buy into technical specs are never happy. They don’t get that a quad core processor doesn’t make better software. It won’t make Netflix buffer any faster. It doesn’t make any gameplay any better than it would on a previous generation device. Most people find that a lot of games aren’t even optimized for these devices to begin with.

They also find that a lot of these devices actually lag more.

Why did you want a quad core processor again?

Books are to be read more than they’re to be appreciated for the type of binding, paper, and ink used. As they always say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Likewise, don’t judge a device based on specifications alone, and actually take into account what you’re actually using your phone to begin with. Sometimes it’s better to keep what you already have.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Notebooks

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

I have lots and lots of notebooks, most of them I’ve used only a few pages, some of them I’ve never touched. And I’ve never felt guilty because I never spend a lot of money on them, but now they take up the majority of my desk drawers, and are piled up in my closet.

These last two years I’ve been pretty good about it though. I bought a set of two for a dollar, and have used pretty much every page back and front in the first one. I came this close to actually using the whole thing, which has never been the case in the last twenty plus years I’ve been at school.

And I continue to get better at it, and am now actively using two:

  • The first one is a Field Notes knockoff I bought in a pack of four for three bucks at Wal-Mart. I took the idea of the Bullet Journal and tweaked it slightly to work in the 3.5 x 5.2 notebook (which I know isn’t doable for some people, but it works in my case). I typed up a few inserts to stick in the back of both sides of the covers for extra notes and a symbol guide, and left it at that. I’ve actually managed to get through the majority of my first tasks since.
  • The second is my Evernote Moleskine I’ve just now got around to using. At this point I wish I’d have gotten the graph paper version because it makes for a better setup when you’re working with multiple mediums, but this’ll do until next time. On here, I’ve gone with dividing the book into sections – Table of Contents, Brainstorming, Storyboard (thumbnails) / Sketches, Scripts, and Extras. I’ll probably end up doing some more as I use it.

As for my actual writing. I’ve decided to keep it digital. I’m not very good with a pencil or pen when it comes to writing essays and general long form because I’m left handed and am subject to having lead and ink getting smeared all over my hands. For my blog here, I’ve actually learned of a cool Scrivener setup that I’ve now adopted. The writing experience is vastly better compared to just using the plain one in WordPress. Composition mode, which I’m using right now as I type this, is awesome.

It helps that my printer has a resizable feeder, and that I can just snap a picture of my pages with my phone. Seamless integration between analog and digital, yes please!

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Hello Again, Welcome to 3.0

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Well, my writing goals for my blog this year didn’t last that long. But there was a very good reason for that. My mind was preoccupied with the projects I then had to do for college. That’s over for now… Maybe? I’m not sure yet. I go to school just for something to do more than I do for the education. A very expensive hobby, but very much worth it considering It’s knowledge I can make use of.

So what’s coming up then? I did a few changes on here to start with. I know people won’t like the fact that I’m moving away from a technology centric blog, but I did it because I’m just not that enthusiastic about it at the moment. I’m in the position where I’m happy with my current gadgets – Especially now that I’ve gotten rid of my Androids and switched from Windows Phone back to iOS (I now have an iPhone 5S), and have no desire for whatever’s coming out in the next few years.

Could care less about wearables, screen sizes, or anything else tech elites are going crazy over.

The only thing I am looking forward to is the new Macs that come out in the next few months. My MacBook Pro is suffering both display and GPU issues and will probably not last another six months at this rate. I’m thinking about a Mac Mini, but might end up with a Mac Pro considering the Mini will have the same integrated graphics chip as the MacBooks.

But that is going to take awhile since I have to save up again.

I’m not promising that anything I post will be groundbreaking, but I’ll try and keep it interesting enough for discussion. Expect a few ads here and there, but as always it’ll always be me voicing my honest opinion on stuff.

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