Archive for the Tech tag


Slacker or Pandora or Songza or ? – Streaming Radio

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Trying to get the most of out my Sonos setup with a decent streaming radio option. I’m been using Spotify for quite a while now, and only really listening to the music in my playlist there. I’m completely out of the loop on any new popular music. I’m looking for suggestions. You can share your opinion right away in the comments, or read on if you want to know my thinking so far.

Some basics of what I’m looking for:

  • Pre-defined stations
  • Cheap or free with few ads – I already pay for Spotify, but their radio doesn’t work with Sonos
  • Works with Sonos

Slacker – Slacker starts out ahead because I used it for a whole summer a few years ago. It checks the pre-defined station mark. I’ve only used it a little this week but so far I sill like it. There aren’t many ads on the free version, and the paid version is only $4/month.

Pandora – I’ve never been a Pandora person. I know people love it, but I never got hooked. It looks like it has pre-defined stations, but they don’t show up in Sonos. Bonus Points: Each time I’ve gone to the site this week, it auto-plays my Mitch Hedberg station.

Songza – This was new to me, but seemed to have solid reviews. I tried it out and loved it instantly. They have tons of different stations with typical and completely random themes. You can navigate by genre, decade, mood, or activity. They will even suggest categories based on the time of day and ask what you are doing. They have an Angsty mood, which is exactly my favorite kind of music, so that got me hooked quickly. I haven’t heard a single ad and can’t find anything about a paid service. It looks like they had one but then were bought by Google, I can only assume they stopped offering the paid version. The biggest con so far is that on some of the stations I’ve tried this week, the songs repeat way too often. It might win just because it is free and there are so many stations to jump between.

Let me know of other options. iTunes Radio isn’t on Sonos. I’ve heard good things about Beats radio options, but they are more of a Spotify replacement and even though I want out of Spotify, Beats doesn’t offer the features I want. I used to have Sirius and loved it but I don’t drive as much any more and its very expensive. Their newer streaming stuff where you can customize your station looks perfect, but only the basic non-custom stations are supported by Sonos.


iPhone Home Screen – October 2014

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I thought this was something I did more often, but it turns out, I’ve only shared my iPhone Home Screen once, and it was 3.5 years ago. Look how shiny all the icons used to be. I missed sharing the extra row with the iPhone 5, so now with the iPhone 6, I have 2 more rows than that last post.

Photo Oct 12, 7 26 28 PM

Most of these are pretty common. Some of the new additions to this screen thanks to the new row on the iPhone 6: Dropbox, Afterlight, Audible, and I’m not sure what the 4th choice was.

A rundown of the not completely common. (I think you are familiar with Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, etc.)

Screens – VNC to my Macs. Handy if I need to do something on a computer via the phone (it’s a bit easier on the iPad).

Afterlight – I just recently got this, seems like a great, easy to use photo editor that has a few more options than the Photos app. It comes in handy for photos that need a border to fit into Instagram.

Reeder – For RSS feeds. Looks like I was using Reader in the last post. Back then it had a different icon and it was still using Google Reader. The Reader app still exists, but now you have a choice of services. I pick Feedbin for my main service.

Tweetbot – I held onto Echofon as long as I could. It did such a solid job of syncing my last read tweet. However, they gave up on the Mac version, which made the phone version useless to me (they wound up releasing an update when the API changed, but it just wasn’t very good). I searched and searched for a new option but nothing worked all that well. Tweetbot was appealing, but the Mac version was $20. I finally decided all my searching was more painful than spending that much, so I went with Tweetbot across the board and it has been solid ever since. If only they would update the iPad app.

Hangouts – iMessage is so easy to use that it comes first. I used Hangouts for something nice I could use with my friends on Android, although many of those friends are moving to iPhone as it comes time for their 2nd smartphone.

Instacast – I always had a terrible time syncing podcasts between my computer and phone. Instacast was one of the first options that would let me do that outside of iTunes. It still seems flaky at times where I’ll listen on one device and it will still appear on another. Every time it seems to work well, an update is released with some new features that breaks the basic syncing. Overall it gets the job done. I’ve tried to see if the Apple Podcasts app has improved, but that app has just gotten confusing. I think this version of Instacast is free now with the next version coming out soon.

Folders – At some point there were too many things I wanted access to and I had no other choice than to add some folders. Apps includes common stuff that I need a lot (Contacts, Calendar, App Store, Settings, Clock, 1Password, Delivery Status, and some others). Sports should be obvious (league apps, SportsCenter, Yahoo! Fantasy). Videos are common as well (Netflix, Videos, HBO Go, YouTube).


New iPad

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Which iPad did I go with?

iPad Air 64gb T-Mobile, Silver/White

Each part of that product model was a decision, except for the Silver/White model, I’ve been going with the white model on all my iOS devices since they’ve been available.

This is mostly about how I use it. I’ve never found my regular sized iPad to be too large for my uses. That is usually on the couch or on my desk playing a video while I’m working on my iMac.

I have a Nexus 7 around the house, it is slightly smaller than the iPad Mini. I found it to be too small for what I want out of a tablet.

I can see why someone might want a Mini. It can much more easily fit in one hand, it’s lighter, and can be tossed in a bag more easily. It also has the same screen as the regular iPad, which must look really great.

When I got the iPad 1, I got the 32gb. I was always close to filing my 16gb iPhone whatever-version-i-had-at-the-time and I knew I’d want a few movies on the iPad. 32gb was just fine but recently as I’ve been buying movies on iTunes, the file sizes are in the 3-4gb range. Just a few were filling up the 32gb. Really, the question was if going 128gb was worth the extra $100. It actually probably would be worth it, $100 for another 64gb. However, when I realized that I only have 128gb in my MacBook Air and the price would be just below what I paid for the Air, it seemed like a bit much.

The argument against larger sizes that I’ve heard most is that everything is in the cloud. That’s true, but I tried that method a few weeks ago when traveling. When I went to load a movie from iCloud, the download time was about 10 hours, and it never survived for longer than 30 minutes, restarting each time. The cloud only works if you have a network that will let you grab a few gbs.

For the iPad 3, for some reason I decided to go with an AT&T version. It was the sort of thing that I’d rather have and not use than really wish I had later on. I never used it.

So obviously this time around I went with T-Mobile. Crazy, right? I was all set for the WiFi version and saving a few bucks. I have tethering on AT&T, so I’d just use that. Then T-Mobile offered 200mb free every month for life. I’m not sure how far 200mb will go on an iPad, I almost never go over 250mb on my phone. I’ll just use it occasionally, and for times that I know I’ll be on for a little while, I can turn tethering on for my phone.


  • I can see how T-Mobile’s network is around town and maybe switch next year when my contract is up and the next iPhone comes out.
  • If I start using it and want more data, instead of tethering, I can buy pre-paid passes from T-Mobile, or add it to my AT&T share for a month for $10. iPads are unlocked and there is only one model, so you can toss in whatever type of SIM you like.

There was all sorts of discussion Friday morning about T-Mobile charging $10/month for the free data. Their web site is pretty poor on the clarity front. It seems to be even worse for account management. Their account page has been telling me it is down since I set up my account on Friday.

I had no trouble setting up and getting my free data. The most difficult part was having to choose a password with a symbol.

A Weekend In
That’s how I decided, in my few days with the device, I’m a huge fan. If I really thought about it, my iPad 3 was surviving just fine. iOS 7 didn’t make it unusable and I don’t even know which features didn’t make it to the iPad 3, so they can’t be that important. Still, there are a few reasons I’m really happy I made the upgrade.

  • Size and weight. As soon as I took it out of the box, I compared it to the previous design to see the obvious inch or so reduction in width. As for the weight, it reminds me of when I pick up an iPhone 4/4S compared to my iPhone 5. The old iPhones feel like bricks. What did they shove in there? The 5 is so light. When comparing the two the only conclusion can be that half the space inside the 5 is just left open and that it’s only that size because anything smaller would disappear.
  • Speed. I said the iPad 3 was running iOS 7 fine, that just means it’s tolerably slow. The iPad Air flies. I don’t game harder than Angry Birds on the device, so the speed should be able to keep up until the next re-design that hides behind a golf pencil.
  • Lightning! The only reason I considered the iPad 4 for a minute was the Lightning cable. The switch from the 30-pin was a long time coming but it was a pain to have to have both types of cables after I got my iPhone 5.
  • Battery. I haven’t noticed this yet, but the last design took a long time to charge, this should be a much more tolerable recharge time.

Apple Store
I ordered online at 3am for in-store pickup. I went over during lunch and was about 5th in the pre-order line. There were 2 or 3 people in the didn’t pre-order line. There were plenty available for everyone, but I wasn’t taking any chances, especially since I wasn’t sure how many T-Mobile versions they’d be stocking. Once I was up, I was taken to the first table, gave my order number, waited a minute for someone to bring the iPad up, signed, and left. Super simple.

Biggest Problem
The biggest problem is that the size bezel is so small that my iPad stand is a little too large.
iPad Air StandThe stand I use is the Twelve South BookArc, which I have two of because I like it so much.


Google Hangouts, Maybe now it will work?

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Update: Just after posting this, I opened the app and was greeted by the ‘Get started’ button once again. So the only difference in the latest version is that I haven’t gotten a pop-up telling me the app crashed or forcing me to re-install. Progress?

Google Hangouts for iOS was updated yesterday. This is the 3rd or 4th version of the app. It was first released in May during Google I/O. My fingers are crossed that this one will actually work.

I was really pleased when Google finally announced Hangouts (the expanded chat version, Hangouts was already an awesome launch feature of Google+). I’ve been waiting forever for a chat service that would work seamlessly between desktop and mobile, have group chat, and be something that my friends would actually use. Google had a bunch of different messaging platforms going at the same time and they didn’t work well between platforms and there was no first-party app for iOS.

The short overview is that everything is saved by Google. So wherever you load the service (web or app) you have access to all your conversations. So you can start on one platform and continue on another without having to do anything else. Group chats work exactly the same. You can also share pictures and join Hangouts from the app. It’s built in to Gmail and Google+, so a lot of people will have access to it without any effort.


The web version has worked well since it launched, but the iOS app, not so much. When actually using it, I didn’t have any major problems. The notification counter on the app icon was never correct, but that was tolerable. The problem was that every few days I would open the app and it would tell me it crashed. It must have crashed in the background because I never had it crash while using it. I’d have to login again after the crash, which was pretty annoying, especially with two-factor authentication. After a few rounds of that, the crash message would tell me that it couldn’t recover and I had to reinstall the app. I pretty much gave up on it a month ago. This one hasn’t given me that issue, although it’s only been a day. It does linger on the splash screen long enough for the ‘Get Started’ button to appear, but then it loads the recent conversations.

On the web I’ve found the best ways to be through Gmail or Google+. I liked the Google+ version a little better. It has a larger font and it’s much less likely that the chat window will interfere with something I want to see on Google+, because there is so little to see there. That’s also why I haven’t used it much, there isn’t enough on Google+ for me to always have it open in a tab.

In Gmail, it works just fine. I’d recommend the Right-Side Chat Lab in Gmail. It does what it says and puts a column to the right of your Gmail window with your recent chats. I like this a lot better than just having a few contacts listed in whatever space is available on the left side.

There is also a Chrome app that gives you a buddy list-like view that is detached from the main window. It might be an option if I used Chrome.

Google Hangouts


The buffering internet and streaming concerts from a laptop, links unrelated

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Ars: Why YouTube Buffers
I’d recommend this article to anyone who users the internet. So, everybody. It doesn’t get too technical and explains a bit about how the content you consume online (specifically YouTube and Netflix) make it from it’s source to your house. It’s not Verizon or Comcast connecting right to Google or Netflix.

There has been lots of talk online about Verizon and Netflix and how companies aren’t cooperating causing Netflix to be unusable at times. I have Verizon Fios at home and haven’t noticed any major issues. Sometimes it takes a long time to start playing, but I don’t run in to buffering issues. YouTube also has been fairly solid, although not perfect. However, having Comcast for the past few months, I can understand the YouTube frustrations. With Comcast, every few days YouTube would just stop playing videos for a few hours. Although for Comcast that’s a step up from when we first got their cable internet and every few days the whole internet would just not work for a few days.

Mike Herrera on Stage It
If you don’t recognize the name, he is the lead singer of MxPx. If you have known me at any point since 10th or 11th grade, then you’ll know that band. Just listening to the Tomorrow is Another Day track is a musical time machine back to high school. The track on the link is live and acoustic, he stops a few times along the way. Here is an album version to hear it with the full band.

The 8-track performance on Bandcamp was done on Stageit, which I wasn’t familiar with. Taking a look at the site, I’m a huge fan of the idea, so long as the quality is there. An artist or band can decide they are going to do a show from their webcam. Tickets are sold and then fans can watch and chat (even with the band) during the performance. Most of the shows I clicked on are Pay What You Can, but you can also Tip, and Top Tippers get rewards from the bands.

The site says that the shows aren’t recorded so they are once-in-a-lifetime, but the Mike Herrera one is on Bandcamp. I would think Stageit would also want to sell the live tracks for them and the musicians to make as much as possible. People would still pay more for the live experience, especially with the interactivity and rewards.

I didn’t recognize many of the bands currently on the site, but it looks like they’ve had some in the past. I’ll have to keep an eye on it.


My Pitch: Creed should be a prequel

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A Rocky spin-off featuring the grandson of Apollo Creed being trained by Rocky. Are tickets on sale yet? Michael B. Jordan will play the lead. He’s popping up everywhere. And while I’m sure Fruitvale Station is an amazing movie, I don’t think I’d be able to watch it.

Saw this on the Philly blog. Sounds like this is usually an event where you pitch your ideas but is now trying a web site. It reminded me of ThePult, just before the idea, where ThePult is for after launching. So far there is just one pitch. I like the idea so I’m going to keep an eye on it, hoping to see lots of interesting ideas.

Freakanomics Radio: The Upside of Quitting
I’m finally reading Freakanomics (I think it was really cheap on Amazon), but I’ve seen the documentary and subscribed to the podcast. This is only the second episode that sounded interesting enough to listen. I’m not sure you need the whole hour to get the point that quitting isn’t so bad.

I completely agree, no surprise, since I decided to listen. I don’t think I’ve quit nearly as much as I should have in my life. I quit baseball during high school, that came more from a series of bad coaches than not wanting to play anymore. I quit my job to go back to school. A possibly crazy decision that I’ve never once regretted. Most everything else I muddle through until I get to the finish line.

These days when I think about quitting, it’s a variety of things, from simple to large. Should I delete a TiVo Season Pass for a show that I don’t really like anymore that has become more chore than enjoyment? The most recent examples are Mad Men and The Newsroom. Should I unsubscribe from a podcast or give up on a book or video game that is just average? There is so much good content that I have to raise the bar a bit to great to free up time to write more than one blog post a month.

The more complicated decisions come to projects I work on. Some of them I’ve worked on over a few years, others are some that I just spent a lot of time on recently. Most of them don’t require much time currently, but none of them have been successful, so why bother to continue? One problem is a lack of feedback. No one ever provides feedback, positive or negative. So I never know if my idea or execution is lacking or just poor marketing. At some point I think I’ll have collected enough domains that one of them will come up for renewal and the $10 will push me over the edge. I like cheap domains, but if they were a little more expensive, I’d do a little more contemplating when it comes time to renew.


Buddy Lists are Back

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AIM Buddy Lists

Yesterday the AIM blog posted that they brought back Buddy Lists. Now with the lack of buddies that I actually have online, the Buddy List is pretty useless. On the other hand, how they could launch the new version of AIM without the iconic Buddy List boggles the mind.

I still say AIM is the best IM client available for use across platforms. It’s certainly not perfect but for my devices (Mac, iPhone, iPad) it lets me freely move across devices. My friends have been behind the curve on smartphones, but they are getting with the times. I don’t know why they are choosing Android phones, but AIM has an Android client, so I should still be able to chat.

I’m hoping Mountain Lion will smooth out some of the bugs with the Mac version of iMessage, but still, I only have a few friends with iPhones.

Note on my Buddy List Groups: 1) They are out of order and it doesn’t appear they can be re-ordered at this point. 2) They were designed so I could see the people I cared about (Buddies2 was usually collapsed or off screen). 3) AIM Secondary was to deal with the fact that we didn’t have laptops in college. Everyone had a second account for computer labs so that they weren’t signed off of their desktop which was left signed on at their dorm/apartment all day/night. 4) A Me Group because of different clients I used over the years that support multiple services. I also had multiple of each to test out how they worked.


My Menu Bar

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While I was looking for a weather app for my Menu Bar, I came across a site where people post their Menu Bars. As someone who likes to post my iPhone home screen (but always forget to do it), I was a huge fan of this site. And I wanted to share mine.


I’ll just go left to right.

Skitch – Not always open, only when I need to take a screen shot, like now. It’s great for taking a quick screen shot, editing it, drawing on it, and taking full page shots out of Safari. It’s free on the Mac App Store. Evernote bought them and made it free.

Dropbox – Shouldn’t need to explain Dropbox. Not sure it really needs an icon, it only lets me know if it’s updating. I didn’t see a setting to hide it.

Meteorologist – This is what I found to replace WeatherBug. It has tons of settings, so try everything out. The drop down can be setup to show the forecast for the next few days and quickly switch between cities. You can even have it rotate between cities (and display the city name).

Divvy – Saw this deal for $1.99 on the Mac App Store last week. It’s a quick way of sizing windows to a grid. Of course you can just resize your windows, but I’ve found this handy so far. Mac OS doesn’t handle switching between laptop and monitor modes and my windows wind up all over the place when I switch.

YouControl Tunes – Free
Skip Tunes – 99 cents
Yes, two of these. I’ll explain. I feel like I’ve had YouControl since I got my Mac. It let me control iTunes and rate tracks. I just recently removed the rating stars from the menu bar since I don’t listen to my music in iTunes anymore. I still use iTunes for podcasts (sadly), so I still wanted those controls (actually I only need Play/Pause, so I think I’ll remove ‘Next’).

I listen to all my music in Spotify. So I found Skip Tunes. It actually works with both Spotify and iTunes (and Rdio). However, it isn’t as easy to quickly flip between them, you have to go into the Preferences and it’s enough of a hassle that I’m keeping both of these until Skip Tunes gives me a way of quickly switching between apps.

Eye-Fi – You have an Eye-Fi, right? You should.

Time Machine – For some reason the ‘Back Up Now’ option is only available with this drop down. It also let’s me know if the disk is active. Otherwise, not much need for the icon.

The Rest – You have all of these. I keep the volume up there to easily see if the sound is muted. A very handy thing for when sitting in class. I also remember taking a lot of time to customize the time to the format I wanted.

That’s my Menu Bar. It doesn’t change very often but the WeatherBug issue had me thinking about it and led me to looking for something to control Spotify. Maybe I’ll do my Dock next.

WeatherBug Note: I had been using WeatherBug to show the temperature on my Menu Bar but found that a bug in the app was causing my Mac to take more than 30 seconds to go to sleep. As soon as I quit WeatherBug, sleeping took less than 3 seconds.


Coda 2 (and Coda on iPad)!

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NewImageIn news that will only interest me: Coda 2 and Diet Coda are coming out this week.

What is Coda? It’s the app I use to do all my web development. It does text editing and FTP all in one. It also does a bunch of other things that I should probably use more.

I’ve been using it for a while with no updates. There are all sorts of things I’d like to be able to do with it. File management is a pain. It doesn’t autocomplete my own functions. I hope these are a little better in the new version.

It looks like I’m going to like the enhanced CSS features and the code clips. I think code clips are already available, but I never used them and they look to be more easily accessible in the new version. I’m very interested to see if the MySQL editor works with my setup and if AirPreview (real-time edits show up on iPad) works as well.

I haven’t looked too hard for an iPad app that does similar things. I haven’t ever really needed it, but have considered that at some point I’d need to update something on the go. Of course, that means an iPhone version is what I really need. Still, I’m in for the iPad app.

My only concern now is how much this will all cost. Since it’s going on the Mac App Store, there isn’t a hope of an upgrade price. The first day both apps will be 50% off I think that means less than $40 for Mac and $10 for iPad.


My favorite iPad Accessory

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BookArc for iPad

I spent a lot of time looking for the right stand when I got my original iPad two years ago. I wanted something that I could use in landscape mode (Apple Dock, you’re out). There were a lot that were adjustable. There were a lot that were ridiculously expensive.

I eventually decided on a BookArc. It was a little pricey at $40 and was not adjustable. It wound up being exactly what I needed. It’s a solid piece, no worries that the iPad is going anywhere. I liked it so much that I wound up buying another some time later. A nice bonus: the price had dropped to $30.

The only problem I’ve had with the BookArc after two years was that one of the rubber feet came off. Not too surprising, I move them around a lot and even took one of them with me when I’d travel. Luckily I didn’t lose the foot and it glued back on just fine.

Like I said, I have two of them. I keep one next to my computer. It’s almost like a second monitor. It works a little better since Lion handles the second monitor in such an odd way. I usually use it to play videos while I’m on my computer. Here’s how it looks:

IMG 0458

The other is on my night stand. Again for videos, sometimes Netflix (not sure why, I have 8 different ways of watching Netflix on my TV), and recently the SlingPlayer app to watch my TiVo that is in my living room. I don’t have cable in my room, just XBox, a Blu-Ray player, and Google TV (which I’m not even sure is hooked up).

I now have an iPad 3 and the BookArcs sill work fine. I bought a Smart Cover with the iPad 3, but it is no where near as sturdy as the BookArc. I only use my Smart Cover when I need to put my iPad in a bag to take it somewhere.

I’d recommend getting as many BookArcs as you think you’ll need. They really should sell a 2-pack.

Get it on Amazon


Google Self-Driving Car – Blind Video

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There are so many amazing things about the self-driving car that I didn’t take the time to think past how it would improve things for current drivers.

With blind drivers, I imagine a lot of things would need to be changed a bit. In the video, I was curious how the drive-thru person would react. What about the gas station?

How far can it go? Can you send your kids to school in a self-driving car?

Found at 9to5 Google.