Thursday, July 17, 2008

RealPlayer 11 + Mac = No WiFi

RealPlayerImage via WikipediaI have been having major connectivity issues on my MacBook for the past week. Dropping the connection, pages not loading, streaming media stuttering. I spent days searching Google to find out what the issue could be and tried everything - deleting preference files, clearing my PRAM, rebooting, reconfiging my Airport, reboot, reboot, reboot.... all with no luck. There are tons of forums that have lots of theories as to what is causing it (and lots of people yelling at Apple to fix the problem).

In my case, it was something simple. RealPlayer 11 was the cause. Presumably something to do with the "stream catching" feature. Granted, it is a cool feature that will let you rip YouTube videos, songs from Pandora, and more... but the damn thing my computer virtually unusable for 3 days. I dragged the app to my trashcan and all my issues were resolved instantly (didn't even need to reboot).

I'm not sure if there was a setting or config in RealPlayer 11 that could have been switched to remedy the problem, but if you are having similar problems you may want to see if this is the culprit.
Zemanta Pixie

Monday, July 14, 2008

Apple's SDK Restrictions Limit Innovation in Social Media Applications

The lack of multitasking support is a bigger limiting factor than what appears on the surface for the iPhone (e.g. "it sucks that I can't view my calendar and listen to Pandora at the same time"). Particularly hamstrung are the social music and discovery applications, and the consumers that love them.

  • You can't run apps in the background therefore you can't build a "scrobbler" for things you listen to locally on your device - see the (shameless plug) Strands Social Player that runs on Symbian, Windows Mobile and other mobile OSes but can't be implemented on the iPhone due to their restrictions
  • The SDK doesn't allow you to touch any of the local music, only streaming content (or so I've been told), so you can't build an alternative local music application that has social features built-in (who else is listening, top fans, etc.)
  • No support for flash - so you can't port/expose existing flash players in the Browser

Therefore, if you are a social media company/developer that wants to do something with music you are really pretty limited to building streaming applications (much to the chagrin of AT&T I'm guessing). Unfortunately, that hinders many discovery companies and applications from doing really compelling stuff around helping people discover new content based on what they are currently listening to (locally).

As for the streaming apps, it is interesting to note the impact of their format decisions on performance (at least on EDGE).

  • is basically unlistenable on EDGE - each song buffers for an extended period of time (a minute +) so once the song starts playing back it is good but the in-between song silence is almost longer and more unlistenable than a commercial break. This is presumably a byproduct of their 128k MP3 streams (or so I think).
  • Pandora *almost* will sustain a stream in my car at high speeds - I believe they are streaming 64k AAC(plus?)
  • AOL *was* in a prime position to offer a great EDGE streaming use case, for many years they were supporting 16k AACplus streams for their dial-up users - I don't know if this infrastructure was abandoned or whether it was a business decision by CBS, but they disable all but terrestrial simulcasts when you are on EDGE.
Dear Apple, let the reins loose a little bit and let the ecosystem thrive. The first batch of music apps is a great start, but there is so much more that can be done if allowed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

iPhone Music Apps

The iTunes Apps store has started to surface this morning (installiTunes 7.7 update and then click here.

Here is a screenshot of them, with the ones I find most interesting circled. (Not pictured: TapTheBeat, Tuner and TyroTuner.)

I assume that both Pandora and AOL Radio are only streaming over WiFi but at 64kbps AAC/MP4 it is certainly possible that streaming over 3G is possible too. The "Remote" app lets you use your iPhone and/or iPod Touch to control your iTunes - think about your laptop (or AppleTV?) hooked up to your stereo while you site on the couch or sit in the backyard controlling the tunes.

The rest don't look all that interesting to me, but I'm sure there are thousands more in the works as we speak.

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