Songbird: Meh.

I checked out Songbird really briefly. Here are some thoughts:

  • It doesn't feel like an OS X app. I use a Mac both at work and at home now, so this is actually something that matters. I had to stop and look around for controls that belong *right there* on Mac apps.
  • I was really interested to see what song metadata got imported from my iTunes library:
    • Album art was hit or miss. I suspect some of my mp3s have art embedded in a standard-compliant manner and others have it done by some iTunes-specific way.
    • iTunes offers a "Grouping" meta tag that I find useful for making "smart" playlists. This isn't available in Songbird.
  • Speaking of "smart" playlists, Songbird has 'em too, but they are exactly the same as those in iTunes. I was kind of hoping for more. There was once a music player that let you do crazy SQL-like queries. I want that.
  • Plain play lists got imported from iTunes, "smart" ones did not.

At any rate, I was just taking a peek. I've downed the whole pitcher of iTunes Kool-Aid and I'm not going anywhere. iTunes manages my iPod and my iPhone, my iPhone can remote control iTunes from the other side of the house, and my TiVo can play iTunes playlists that I've shared from my iMac. Also, contrary to many people I know, iTunes actually works great for me.

I have no reason to be looking elsewhere, but I do like so see what's up with the new stuff. ;)

Momma's (gonna be) a Mac User

My dear mother has made the leap to Apple computing hardware, which I welcome wholeheartedly. Of course, she had to do it whole-hog by getting an iMac and a MacBook, but I can't begrudge her having her toys. Plus she got a discount through her employer, so she was able to get everything nicely upgraded. Now I just need to get down there this weekend and install the wireless router I got her for Xmas...

Then we can figure out that crazy screen sharing action in iChat. That'll be awesome for remote troubleshooting, should it ever be needed.

Goal Oriented

When I switched my home computing empire from my dying home-built, full tower PC to my new 24-inch slab o' sex iMac everything went pretty smoothly. I managed to transfer all the files I cared about over, and Google Browser Sync made setting up my new copy of Firefox so easy I was kind of left with a "that's it?!" feeling. I left the PC running, but I haven't had to jump on it yet, so I'm about to rip out the hard drives and toss it. The biggest part of the move from my perspective was my iTunes library. Firstly, let me say yes, I use iTunes. I know some ubergeeks who scoff at such an idea, but I don't know what they are trying to do with their digital music that I can't do in iTunes. Most importantly, I figured out some sweet-ass "smart" playlists that made it easy for me to play the sort of thing that suited my mood at any given moment.

Which brings us to the point.

When I copied my iTunes library to the iMac most of the meta-data came over fine. Things like star ratings, comments, and such all came over without a hitch. The only thing that I lost was last played date, play counts, skip counts, and things like that. I can sort of wrap my head around why this is the case -- It's a new player, so nothing has been played (or skipped) on it.

It bums me out, though. Now my fancy "Favorites" playlist which consisted of 5-star tracks that had been played more than X times and skipped fewer than Y times is completely empty. My "Been a Long Time" playlist featuring 4 & 5-star tracks that hadn't been played in past 3 months (but had been played at least once) is empty. My "Unheard" playlist now has 11,000 songs on it -- and that's only because I've listened to at least 1,500 since making the switch.

And that's the rub. I can't leave it be. I NEED to get this music listened to and back into its proper buckets. I am on a hardcore music binge right now. Even if I don't feel like listening to music, I'll put the iPod on shuffle and not put on the headphones. This strikes me as ... compulsive. I just can't abide the current situation, though.

How would you react? Is it my own fault for working out such convoluted playlists? Should I just be content with putting my iPod on shuffle most days? Should I consider this an opportunity to create some new wacky playlists (already there, honestly).


Track o' the Post: Rehab from what will probably turn out to be Amy Winehouse's last album, Back to Black, which is still totally worth having, even if girlfriend is a batshit crazy junkie.

Effective Playlist Management

Since a lot of you either got iPods last year during this time of year or may be getting one from Santa this year, I thought I'd share my system for song management using iTunes (the ubergeeks out there who think iTunes is teh sux0rs can ignore this, obviously). iTunes does have its deficiencies, but it actually is great at playlist management. Personally, I have the 20GB fourth generation (click wheel) iPod, but I have about 60GB of music in my iTunes library. Given that, my first step is based on a tip I found somewhere or other (I totally forget where...): I have a normal playlist (the kind you have to physically drag songs into) that I call "_General". This playlist serves as my iPod library. I fill that playlist up to about 18.5GB, which is the iPods actual capacity -- at least that's what I've seen with mine.

Here's where it gets fun...

The next step is to create some "smart" playlists based on the "_General" playlist. Be sure to set "Match *ALL* of the following rules" for all of them.


  • "_Unheard"
    • Playlist is _General
    • Play Count is 0
  • "_Recent & New"
    • Playlist is _General
    • Year is greater than 2004
    • Date Added is in the last 6 months
  • "_Favorites"
    • Playlist is _General
    • My Rating is greater than 3 stars

I also recently started using the Comments meta field (Select a song and do "Get Info" to edit the meta data.) to tag my music a la Flickr,, and all those other Web 2.0 cool kids. The "smart" playlists for those look like this:

  • "_Cool Kids"
    • Playlist is _General
    • Comment contains coolkids

And yes, that's a real example.

Another modification I'm thinking about trying is to use two "normal" playlists -- one for my stand-by stuff that I just have to have on my iPod at all times and another high flux playlist for stuff that might only be on there for a little while -- and then have "_General" be a smart playlist that combines the two.

Anyway, once you have the playlists set up, you go into the iPod settings and tell it to only update using your fancy new playlists (including "_General").

So, yeah, if you're looking for a better way to organize your music, you might try this method.

--- [Totally off topic, but if you have a blog, I highly recommend checking out Performancing for Firefox... This post was my test run, and it's the bomb. Although, it does make for some hairy markup, now that I look at it...]

Boo on new firmware!

Well, well, well... According to this I need a new wireless router because my cable modem's firmware got upgraded.


(Honestly, I'm just happy I found the information I needed. Comcast technical support was useless, of course. I'm not blaming the tech support people -- They are just trying to get through another day at their their jobs just like everyone else, and they can't help it I know just enough to get myself in trouble sometimes.

Still, though... If somebody figured out that the firmware upgrade causes bustication with routers equiped with slow speed WAN port, you'd think the broadband providers might want to disseminate that info.)

CaseMod Idea: iBoomBox

  1. Take an eighties-style boombox - a big ghetto blaster.
  2. Remove tape deck guts.
  3. Insert laptop guts.
  4. Use a big hard drive (like 120GB minimum).
  5. Shield the fuck out of those speakers.
  6. Replace tape deck front(s) with an LCD.
  7. Also put a laptop trackpad (or, cooler, an iPod click wheel) on the front.
  8. Do some outrageous software hacking.
  9. Optional/Add-ons:
    1. Replace FM antenna with WiFi.
    2. Add webcam to send shots of your mad breakdancing skillz back to a blog/Flickr. (Repeat #8)

Voila! iBoomBox!

Cringely on Apple + Intel

Going for Broke

This scenario works well for everyone except Microsoft. If Intel was able to own the Mac OS and make it available to all the OEMs, it could break the back of Microsoft. And if they tuned the OS to take advantage of unique features that only Intel had, they would put AMD back in the box, too. Apple could return Intel to its traditional role of being where all the value was in the PC world. And Apple/Intel could easily extend this to the consumer electronics world. How much would it cost Intel to buy Apple? Not much. And if they paid in stock it would cost nothing at all since investors would drive shares through the roof on a huge swell of user enthusiasm.

Man, I love it when he gets all kooky with the far out speculation! I kind of hope he's right, too.

Time to expand my horizons...

These are my URL ABCs: