Friday, September 28, 2007

WiFiTunes & DRM (Correction)

So, I updated by iPhone with the latest firmware so I could get "WiFiTunes" support on it (you also get a newly skinned calculator for some unknown reason). The store looks pretty sweet at first glance, but what I didn't notice was anywhere I can buy the DRMless "iTunes Plus" tracks. Are they not offered?! And if not, I can only imagine that this was purely a business decision and not a technical one?


Sorry, false alarm. I did indeed fine "plus" (DRMfree) content... it appears your preferences are synced over from your iTunes client.

Also, other new features of this update include (bold added by me for emphasis):

Listed new features in this 152.3MB update include:

* iTunes Wi-Fi music store
* Louder speakerphone and receiver volume
* Home button double-click shortcut to phone favorites or music controls
* Space bar double-tap shortcut to intelligently insert period and space
* Mail attachments are viewable in portrait and landscape
* Stocks and cities in Stocks and Weather can be re-ordered
* Apple Bluetooth Headset battery status in the Status Bar
* Support for TV Out
* Preference to turn off EDGE/GPRS when roaming internationally
* New passcode lock time intervals
* Adjustable alert volume

Undocumented features There are also few new features that Apple didn’t mention:

* There is now the ability to change your voicemail password directly from the iPhone. Tap “Settings,” then “Phone,” then “Change Voicemail Password.”
* You can now change the sound that is played when a new text message is received. Tap “Settings,” then “Sounds,” then “New Text Message.”
* There is now a “Debug console” for Safari, which shows HTML errors when rendering Web pages. Tap “Settings,” then “Safari,” then “Developer”
* There are new options for Video playback. You can start playing videos where they left off or from the beginning, and you can use closed captioning. Tap “Settings,” then “iPod.”

Review: iTunes Wifi Store - Rocketsurgeon's Music 2.0 Blog -

The WiFiTunes firmware update is now available for your iPhone (click "check for update" in your iTunes sync menu. I'm installing it now - hopefully it won't delete all the 3rd party apps that I put on there using AppTapp - but check out Jadam's (aka RocketSurgeon) review below...

Review: iTunes Wifi Store - Rocketsurgeon's Music 2.0 Blog -


After a nerve-wracking several minute update (that appeared to have crashed at times) - I have found that if have used AppTapp to install 3rd party apps to your iPhone, this update will wipe those all out. Not sure if I can reinstall it yet or not...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Song of the Day: "Drugs" by The Cons

Just found this on imeem and was digging it....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What's Up with Amazon's Music Recommendations?!

So I'm just diving into Amazon's new MP3 offering and I came across something strange. When I am at their regular CD store I get different music recommendations than I get at their new Amazon MP3 beta. Supposedly, they are both based on "items I own" (or more specifically, have purchased from Amazon). But, if that were the case shouldn't they be recommending the same things?

Amazon Music Recommendations:
* Lots of Fiona Apple and Peter Gabriel - not really representative of what I like

Amazon MP3 Recommendations:
* Arcade Fire, Ryan Adams, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Hold Steady - these are on the money (although I already own all of the things they are recommending)

These are apparently being calculated off of different data? Why the huge discrepancy?

Someone suggested that this may be due to the fact that the MP3 library is a subset of their CD inventory and therefore so are the MP3 Recommendations. That was my only real theory as well. I'm not sure what labels Peter Gabriel and Fiona are on, but I can look.

But, what I'm actually more surprised by are the good MP3 recommendations. I haven't bought a CD from Amazon in ages yet they seemed to have some insight into my current listening behavior - it's almost like they are scraping data from some of my social networks, taste APIs (like MyStrands or, pulling library info off of my machine, or some how getting more current data of my behavior. Amazon shouldn't know that much about my listening habits, and I highly doubt they could gather such information based on my last purchases of computer accessories and baby toys.

Another suggestion was that the MP3 recommendations were being based on my page viewing history on Amazon. The pages I've viewed at Amazon are only for TVs, ink jet cartridges and toys - I don't browse music there. But, I wonder if any of the album artwork fetchers I use (that pull from Amazon) end up inadvertently sharing my library data back with them (does it appear like I have "viewed" those pages?). If that was true and it didn't have any MP3 purchase behavior to base my MP3 recommendations (and only page views), that could explain it....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Listening Party... Take 1

A long time ago I told you guys about the great story I read about "Listening Parties". Well, it took me and my buddies a long time to finally get off our asses and have our first one.

Last night, at Casa de Herskowitz, I put the family to bed and squirrelled away in the basement with 3 other music loving friends. We threw in a variety beers (some homebrewed, some new experimental purchases, some old favorites), some barleywine, some vodka (I do love me some Grey Goose), and even some scotch for those that partake (I am *not* a fan). Throw in a half eaten bag of pretzels and we were good to go.

I just hooked up a mini-jack to RCA cable to my stereo and we just round-robined songs with each of us just plugging in our respective MP3 players when it was our turn. The basics... don't say who the song is before you play it. Let people discuss, guess and make comparisons while it plays. With the four people at our inaugural listening party we each got threw about 7 or 8 songs. I had a hard time narrowing my playlist down to a manageable size - in fact, I got it down to 12 songs even though we didn't hear them all. The bonus? I burned a CD of that playlist for each of my buddies. Next time, we swore we would make that standard operating procedure.

All in all, I was much enjoyed by everyone and we all swore that we would make this a regular event.

Here's my playlist: Listening Party #1

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

VMware Fusion

I just switched from using Parallels to VMware's Fusion product for running Windows (and Windows applications) on my Mac. I love the "Unity" mode of Fusion that allows each Windows application to run in it's own native window on your Mac desktop. It's a bit of smoke and mirrors but it to the users it looks like each app is native.

Check out the new Winamp beta running on my Mac desktop.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Company Claims Patent on Playlists


Company patents playlists, sues everyone: "The patents describe what essentially comes down to a playlist. 'A plurality of works can be collected together in a list for purposes of establishing a play or a presentation sequence. The list can be visually displayed and edited,' reads the '725' patent. Both of them describe ways to graphically display an arrangement of songs from CDs or any manner of media that can then be played back sequentially or out-of-order."

In related news I have filed a patent for a 'plurality of letters that can be grouped together for the purpose of establishing a word'.

If you guys have violated my patent, I will gladly settle out of court with you. :-)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Apple Tightens Shackles Between iPods & iTunes

I can't say it's a surprise, but it is unfortunate nonetheless...

ipodminusitunes: Apple cuts us off: "So, it's finally happened. Unhappy with other media players being better than iTunes, Apple have apparently decided to stop them from working with the new range of iPods."

This is bad news for Winamp, Songbird, ephpod and/or Linux users in general. This was already basically made a moot point by the iPhone since it uses iTunes to sync your contacts and calendar - but now the entire new line of iPods is literally and physically locked to iTunes too.

Flixster & iLike in Bed Together?

I just noticed that Flixster and iLike are cross-promoting each other from each site's footer. Could they be exploring some sort of merger?

Happy 10th Winamp!

To celebrate Winamp's 10th birthday, the fellas have rolled out a new beta. This was well in the works while I was still there, and I have to say that I'm a big fan of the new features - most importantly the option to have a monolithic UI instead of one that breaks into pieces every time you do something and the "play the web" support similar to Songbird. There are some other goodies in there too...

Welcome to the Winamp 5.5 Beta Test

Winamp 5.5: 10th Anniversary Edition is packed with exciting stuff, including:

* A brand new unified user interface with album art support
* More Like This automatic playlist generator
* Media Monitor tool that automatically playlists playable songs from any web page
* Fully integrated browser with Smart Search functionality
* MP3 surround playback support
* Remote access to your music and videos on the web, compatible mobile devices, and TVs using Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360

**Coming Soon**
* A custom Winamp browser toolbar with integrated Winamp playback controls

There is much more to explore. Click the Download Winamp button to try out the new and improved Winamp features.

I strongly suggest you check it out. To date, Winamp is the *only* reason I can think of needing to run Windows on my Mac. Thanks guys, you just cost me a bunch of money. :-)

Shameless Plug: Download the MyStrands client for Winamp and join the fun. Just by listening to your favorite music in Winamp, you will also be dynamically programming a personalized music video channel at MyStrands.TV for you to watch and share with your friends.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Great Subscription Music Consolidation Continues

This one is not via acquisition, but attrition...

Heard on the Street - "Its Yahoo Music service, which has about 250 to 300 staff, is among those expected to be trimmed and its fee-based subscription music offering overhauled or shuttered. Overall, the company plans to move staff around and freeze some positions, though significant layoffs aren't expected, people familiar with the matter say."

Since the Rhapsody/Urge merger a whopping couple of weeks ago, even more has happened. Sony Connect has been shut down and it appears that Napster is backing off of their freeplay strategy. This is of course good news for "Rhapsody America" (ugh) as the Yahoo Music Unlimited subscribers will now need to look for a new home.

Also, as of last week Apple announced that they will be rolling out WiFiTunes (my name, not there's) where users can buy any track and download over the air to their iPhone/iPod Touch and sync it back to their computer. Unlike the wireless carriers who thought that you would happily pay 2-3x for this convenience has now had that business chopped at the knees.

Now for my latest conspiracy theories around Apple...

1) iPod Touch has WiFi and Safari - how long until they introduce a VoIP client (Skype anyone) and turn it into a WiFi phone? It seems interesting in conjunction with the rumor that Apple may bid on some of the 700mhz spectrum that Google has been ogling.

2) Other news surfaced this week that iTunes has hidden error messages suggesting that a movie rental service is right around the corner. Of course... if you can do movie rentals, there is no reason you can't do a music subscription service. The fact that some of the earlier iPods didn't have a secure clock that would enable these models has be negated by the fact that Apple is rolling out an entire new *line* of iPods that I'm guessing have the secure clock that enables temporary license management.

What do you guys think?

Ringle - the worst idea since ripped bread?

"Ringles" (groan) is basically the new version of the old 45... a song you want (A side), a song you don't (B side) and a ringtone sold on physical media at retail. The are paying for physical media (the CD and packaging) that is basically trash as soon as you copy it to your computer for something that is better delivered digitally in the first place. The upside? You have the privilege of spending $7 for it....

Music industry betting on 'ringle' format | Tech&Sci | Technology | "Each ringle is expected to contain three songs -- one hit and maybe one remix and an older track -- and one ringtone, on a CD with a slip-sleeve cover. The idea is that if consumers in the digital age can download any tracks they want individually, why not let them buy singles in the store as well?"

I've got to be honest, I've never understood the success of the ringtone market. At least at the beginning we were talking about a separate MIDI composition (generally speaking) so I understand the incremental work required to enable the market and can see the argument for incremental fees since you were actually buying a different recording. For some reason consumers seemed happy to shell $2 for 30 seconds of a bad mono or polyphonic MIDI-version when they wouldn't pay $1 for the actual song. But now we are talking about using the actual master recordings being triggered by an event. How on earth does anyone (even Apple) rationalize that you have to spend extra if you want a song to play when your phone rings?

What's next? If my phone isn't on vibrate I'm going to be charged a public performance royalty?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It's a Pixies Kinda Day

I was in a Pixies kind of mood today... and thought I'd share.

Watch The Pixies Channel on MyStrands.TV

or just check out my channel:

Watch the muSick in the Head Channel at MyStrands.TV

You can have one too just by listening to you music you are passively programming a channel. It can't get any easier than that, eh?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Shameless Plug: Introducing MyStrands.TV

Remember when MTV used to actually play music videos? I had friends that were completely addicted to it... a TV replaced their radio and they would just leave MTV on all day to serve the roll as their personal soundtrack. Well, we all know that you couldn't find a music video on MTV anymore if your life depended on it. Sure, you can find lots of great music videos on the web, put it's a painful experience of fits and starts. Think of a song or artist, click play, watch. Think of another... rinse, lather, repeat. It's actually quite paralyzing... quick tell me the next 5 songs you want to listen to. I'm guessing most of you can't, because you don't actually *know* - you need a programmed experience to get you kick-started and then give the freedom to explore once you are one you way.

Well, I'm happy to announce the arrival of MyStrands.TV. It's simple... if you already have a MyStrands account then you just log into MyStrands.TV and start enjoying and endless playlist of music videos that are personalized specifically for you.... based on your music listening history and recommendations. Want to veer of course a little? Great, under the video player there is a selection that will help guide you... either select the next song in the playlist to be either: 1) From a Similar Artist, 2) From the Same Artist, or 3) From a Different (non-similar) Artist that we think you may also like. Away you go.

While you're listening, bookmark your favorite videos check out other people that have recently listened to the artist. Want to hear what that user's personalized channel sounds like? Just click on their avatar. Or, jump over to another featured artist for the current channel or and entirely new recommended channel. Hear or see something you just *have* to share? We've made it really easy to email a link to the video to anyone you want, or just as easily embed the video directly into your MyStrands Journal. It's up to you... use it as an interactive video channel or just let it run in the background like radio.

Don't have a MyStrands account? No worries, just sign-up (it's free), download the client software (available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Windows Mobile and Symbian operating systems) and start capturing your playback history from you favorite media player. We'll do the heavy lifting of publishing your history and favorites to all your friends as well as offering you up recommendations of other stuff you may like and other listeners that share the same tastes. There's a ton of other features to the client too that I think you'll enjoy... instant track recommendations, community tracker, automatic playlist builder, playlist publisher and more.

Want to just try it out before deciding whether to sign up? That's cool, just type in the name of an artist and we will build a custom music video channel from that. Feel free to explore.

Have any ideas on improvements or new features? We'd love to hear them. We've got some ourselves - including better integration with the rest of MyStrands. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Off Topic: AOL Already Preparing for their 4th Annual Holiday Layoff

Who says the (relatively) new management at AOL has no sense of tradition? Techcrunch is getting my former colleagues prepared for what could be another massive bloodletting just in time for the holidays.

Update On It’s Done, Possibly Moving To Big AOL Layoffs Coming.: "We also expect to hear about material layoffs at AOL in the next six weeks, possibly as much as 15% of the 16,000 strong workforce. Next week the senior execs are supposed to be notified of the exact size of the cuts and whether they are targeted to specific business groups or across the board cuts."

Most of the people I know (that AOL should go out of their way to keep), are probably licking their chops at the opportunity to get a severance package this time around. It's like a big game... play your cards right and try to get "on the list", start looking for a new job, and if you can time the new job to start right after the layoff you have basically got yourself a nice couple of months of double pay.

Those that aren't lucky enough to win at layoff roulette will then probably ride it out until March (bonus payout time), then jump ship. The good news is that I think the market forces are aligning such that Northern Virgina may have the opportunity to become a hot bed for new media start-ups. Let's hope.