Computer Show

Are you a fan of technology?

Do you like art?

Would you like to find others with similar interests?

Using the latest technology and today’s most important minds, Sandwich Video in partnership with The McGarblin Group and Ludlow Ventures bring you these answers and more on Computer Show. Be sure to stay tuned for more episodes soon[0].

[0] - As long as the investment in Intellivision pays off.

Move to Apple Music

Move to Apple Music Logo

When Apple Music launched nearly three months ago there was only one option to move libraries and playlists from Spotify or rdio and it was cumbersome and time constrained at best. Now that we're nearing the end of the three month trial I've needed to embark on migrating my wife's music from Spotify over to Apple Music so we can cancel Spotify. Her Spotify music library is pretty small at about 1,000 songs spread across 5 playlists but manually migrating them was not what I was looking to spend my weekend doing. Last night I checked to see if there were any new solutions to automate this and was pleasantly surprised to find an app simply called Move to Apple Music.

Migrating Songs

Right off the bat I need to note that Move to Apple Music is only available for Mac. You'll also need to ensure you're running iTunes 12.2 or newer. If you meet the system requirements you're all set. You can test the application out with one playlist and up to 15 songs to see how everything works. After that you'll need to purchase a license for $5 that covers a maximum of two computer installs. The application walks you through the process of authenticating Spotify or rdio, hijacking iTunes and then presenting a list of the playlists from your Spotify or rdio account to select what you want to move. That bit about hijacking iTunes is the secret sauce of the application. You're prompted to love a song that's already in your iTunes library and MTAM (using a local proxy that it has running at this point) uses that traffic as the trigger to tap into Apple Music's API and pull songs from the Spotify or rdio playlists you've marked to migrate, matches them with Apple Music's database and adds those songs to your iCloud music library. I find the whole process very clever and surprisingly effective. The main downside is the speed of the process as there is a 30 second delay per song to avoid overloading Apple's API and getting blacklisted. This equated to seven and a half hours for my wife's initial 800 song migration and will likely take a few days for my 5,000 songs across playlists in Spotify. That still beats the weeks of work it would've taken to do this manually.

Playlist Migration and Unmatched Tracks

The playlist migration is the second (and much faster) part of Move to Apple Music. Once the music has migrated you're given the option to export an XML file that can be imported to iTunes to create those playlists containing the songs that were matched. You're also given an option to export a text document with the songs that weren't matched in the process. In my case this included 25 of 800 songs for Courtney's transfer and I was able to find about 10 these songs manually and add them to the Apple Music library.


Move to Apple Music is the simplest set-it-and-forget-it method to migrate Spotify or rdio libraries to Apple Music. While I focused on the technical details of how the application works I'm thoroughly impressed with its ease of use and reliability on first run. In less than 5 minutes you'll be migrating your music with complete ease. At $5, it's a steal and will save almost any switcher more than that in their time.

Buy it here

By the Numbers: Jet vs Amazon Subscribe & Save

Jet vs Amazon Subscribe & Save

08/02/2015 Update: Re-framed this post to reflect monthly items without a one off purchase and provide more context as to the potential Jet has to add savings based on how much you buy at once. Thanks to Reddit user pasttense for the feedback that lead to this re-framing.

Last weekend I discovered a new service for shopping online called Jet through this conversation on Twitter. I was intrigued to see if this new service could compete with Amazon on pricing, specifically for Subscribe & Save items. We’ve used Amazon Subscribe & Save for about two years now to have our staple household items delivered to us on a schedule and (primarily) to save between 5% and 20% off of those items in doing so. The biggest downside for us with Amazon Subscribe & Save as of late is that a lot of the offerings that qualify for the program are bulk size quantities and we’ve moved into an apartment that’s a third the size of our previous home[1]. We just don’t have room for all items to come in bulk orders like we used to and I’m sure we’re not alone in that. After perusing Jet’s site I decided to build our monthly cart and see what our cost differences would be. I’m going to share those differences below in the simplest form, by count.

Items Amazon Jet
Pampers Size 5 Diapers $0.29/diaper $0.23/diaper
Pampers Sensitive Wipes $0.02/wipe $0.02/wipe
Charmin Basic Toilet Paper $0.56/roll $0.29/roll
Puffins cereal $3.95/box $2.51/box
Peter Rabbit Organics Pumpkin, Carrot And Apple Packets $1.75/packet $0.73/packet
Barbara's Morning Oat Crunch Cereal $4.30/box $3.91/box
Tide HE Original Scent, 100-Ounce Bottle $11.05/bottle $8.69/bottle
Peter Rabbit Organics Sweet Potato, Corn & Apple Packets $1.92/packet $1.33/packet
Seventh Generation Natural Fabric Softener $4.98/bottle $4.44/bottle
CoffeeSock Chemex Filter $6.16/filter $5.35/filter
Opti-Free Puremoist Multi-Purpose Disinfecting Solution $8.02/bottle $6.67/bottle
Total (when buying one of each item) $42.99 $34.18
Total savings on monthly items alone $8.82 20.5%

While everything above provides a fair representation of a regular month’s order, there is one last item that I ordered which shows where the real power of Jet kicks in. With Jet, the more you buy the more you (can) save. In this case I ordered a hand mixer as I’ve been making chocolate chip cookies more frequently and our literal hand mixer recently broke which has left me using wooden spoons like an animal. With all of the above items in my cart I received a substantial discount on the hand mixer as you can see below. Adding this to the total calculations adds another 12% to the savings Jet may provide compared to Amazon when purchasing items together.

Hamilton Beach SoftScrape 6-Speed Hand Mixer $38.49 $20.72
Total savings on monthly items with the hand mixer $26.59 32.63%

You can find the calculations behind everything above here. I highly recommend you check it out as there are links to each product along with the breakdown. It was compiled in Soulver.

Comparing Code

I wish that the amount of time I spent compiling the breakdown in cost above was able to stand as a solid argument as to which service was cheaper but the truth is that we live in the age of dynamic pricing . The main difference between buying these products from Amazon or Jet is the algorithm used to give me these prices at the time I went to purchase them. Amazon has long been the master of dynamic pricing with the largest product base at their disposal to continue honing the ability to supply us with giant boxes of Nerds at cut throat prices. Jet admits that dyanamic pricing is their competitive advantage while (wisely) bludgeoning the explanation of their algorithm with Kumail Nanjiani as the jester in their video explaining how the service works.

Overall my experience with Jet has at least gotten me interested enough to continue using it during my free 6 month trial[2] to replace my monthly subscribe and save purchases if it comes out ahead in cost. It’s going to take a lot to untangle my Amazon usage but competition is always a good thing.

  1. Thanks cost of living differences! Chicago costs all of the money to live in while Memphis only costs part of the money.  ↩

  2. Use the promo code lessmayo when signing up to get 6 months instead of the standard 3 month free trial.  ↩

Remove VPN Software Before Upgrading to Windows 10

Being that I spend the majority of my days in front of a PC I'm genuinely excited to start using Windows 10. I jumped on board installing the upgrade yesterday. Unfortunately tomorrow will be my first day of using it due to a mis-step on my part.

If you use any VPN clients (I had 4 installed to cover the variations in networks I work with at my day job) you are best off uninstalling them before making the jump to Windows 10. Most VPN clients adjust network settings or create their own network interface when you install them on Windows. Unfortunately you may get stuck in the same situation that I did if you upgrade to Windows 10 before removing (or ((eventually)) updating) the VPN software where you can't remove it once you're on Windows 10. For me the issue was that my network interfaces weren't present in the network settings of Control Panel even though they were registered with proper drivers in Device Manager. After screwing with the registry (and remembering why I prefer OS X) a colleague pointed out that the VPN software was the most likely culprit. If you're already in the same boat I was, read on for the next steps to get things fixed up and get your Windows 10 fix.

Microsoft has implemented a really handy function in Windows 10 that allows you to roll back to the previous version of Windows you had installed. The main caveats of this function are that you have to use it within 30 days of performing your upgrade and that you'll lose any system changes you've made in Windows 10 since upgrading. To roll back, just follow the steps below.

Downgrade from Windows 10 - Step 1 Open the Start menu and click settings

Downgrade Windows 10 - Step 2 Next, click Update & Security.

Downgrade Windows 10 - Step 3 Click Get Started under the Go back to Windows 8.1/Windows 7 option.

Downgrade Windows 10 - Step 4 Provide feedback to Microsoft for why your rolling back and click Next.

Downgrade Windows - Step 5 Be sure to read over the caveats for the roll back. Any system changes you've made in Windows 10 will roll back to the way the system was before you upgraded.

The machine will run through a couple of preparation screens and reboot to a roll back screen. Expect this to take about an hour. When it reboots again you'll need to uninstall the VPN software you're using. The biggest culprit I've found online is the Cisco VPN Client. In my case it was the first VPN client I tried to remove and it failed out stating that it couldn't manage network settings and thus couldn't uninstall the program. I would recommend rolling back to remove any VPN software right now to ensure nothing gets borked with the registry. Once you've got the VPN client(s) uninstalled just re-run the upgrade for Windows 10 and you should be all set. If you run into any snags, let me know in the comments!

Apple Music Ain't Perfect

7-24-15 Update: Jim has mostly gotten the issue of the missing music sorted out. Unfortunately it required Apple intervening and explaining the process and even then it's a mess to understand. There's still a lot ahead to make Apple Music the mainstream product it should be.

Apologies for the post title. I'm feeling southern today I guess.

There have been plenty of complaints to go along with the praise for Apple Music over it's first few weeks but yesterday's Apple Music is a nightmare and I'm done with it post by Jim Dalrymple is by far the most damning account that I've read. Here's Jim writing about what I find to be the most offensive and concern worthy part of his whole experience:

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Apple Music gave me one more kick in the head. Over the weekend, I turned off Apple Music and it took large chunks of my purchased music with it. Sadly, many of the songs were added from CDs years ago that I no longer have access to. Looking at my old iTunes Match library, before Apple Music, I’m missing about 4,700 songs. At this point, I just don’t care anymore, I just want Apple Music off my devices.

I trusted my data to Apple and they failed. I also failed by not backing up my library before installing Apple Music. I will not make either of those mistakes again.

That part about backing up his library before installing Apple Music is likely to cause most nerds to shrug off Jim's frustration as a one-off issue that he should've planned ahead to avoid. This is where I point to Jason Snell's further elaboration on the issues Apple Music has had as of late:

Yesterday, Apple had a pretty severe cloud-services outage. And with it went my access to Apple Music. Most of my music listening takes place on a Mac without much of an iTunes library, so I’m largely playing music stored in the cloud. Yesterday, the music stopped. My Mac wouldn’t play anything. My iPhone wouldn’t play more than a few saved tracks. I ended up spending most of the day listening to music via Home Sharing from the Mac mini in my house that’s got a copy of my entire music library.

There was also another (shorter) outage last Friday, when I repeatedly received a message informing me that “Cloud Music Library was not responding (503)” and that I should check my firewall software. When your error messages conjure Windows 95-era Microsoft, you’re doing it wrong.

Between outages and data loss I'm thinking the beta label would've been proper for Apple Music thus far. It's not that it's unusable, I actually think it's pretty great, but it comes with a slew of power user pre-reqs to avoid potential catastrophe. I imagine being a Genius at the Apple Store and having to face someone who lost a large chunk of music because they tried Apple's new music service. There's no easy way to explain that it's brand new and these things happen. I doubt they'll be doling out iTunes gift cards to repair the relationship with those who've lost music they (hopefully) paid for. So with that said, please, please, please keep good backups and tread lightly with Apple Music for now.

Apple Music and Last FM on iOS

Kirk McElhearn, writing about the lack of syncing of the Recently Played playlist between the Mac and iOS on Apple Music:

This is a huge mistake. If I’ve listened to some music through a playlist on Apple Music, I may want to go back and check what I heard, to listen to certain songs again, add them to my music library, or check out more music by some of the artists I heard. Especially if I’m listening on a mobile device and didn’t have time to note what I heard.

This is frustrating but is a perfect problem for Last FM to solve[1]. I wrote about Last FM as a part of my switch to Apple Music last week:

Last FM is like a journal for music listening and is a required part of my music listening experience. I like having a running log of what I’ve listened to and knowing that I can look something I’ve listened to up with ease. I also like sharing what I listen to with the world because music is a communal experience. There is little in the world that feels as good as finding and sharing an artist that you fall in love with. I want to contribute to that ecosystem and Last FM automates that process. The method of capturing a track that you’re listening to and adding it to your listening history is known as scrobbling on Last FM. Where Spotify integrates scrobbling natively, iTunes and Music on iOS don’t. In order to scrobble your listening history to Last FM you’ll need a third party application on Windows, iOS and Mac OS X. Here are the applications I’m using.

Since writing about the methods I use to scrobble from Apple Music I’ve found that it’s not as cut and dry as everything getting scrobbled when it comes to the Music app on iOS. Florian Eckerstorfer explains:

First of all, scrobbling works for everything that is in My Music (that is, your library). It does not matter if the song is stored locally, streamed from iTunes Match, streamed from Apple Music, or a song from Apple Music that was made available offline. The same is true for playlists, scrobbling works for you local playlists, as well as Apple Music Playlists. But now things get complicated. Let’s take a look at the For You and New sections.

  • If you play a song, album, or playlist directly in the For You section it will not scrobble.
  • If you play from the detail view of a playlist that you previously added to My Music it scrobbles.
  • If you play a playlist directly from the For You section it will not scrobble.
  • If you play a song, or album that you previously added to My Music from the detail view it will not scrobble.
  • If you search for a song, album, or artist and play from the search results it will not scrobble.
  • Everything in Radio, including Beats 1 will not scrobble.

Basically, only music in My Music and Playlists will scrobble, with the one exception of saved playlists.

As I wrote previously, the difficulties of using Apple Music are real and extend beyond the multitude of features buried throughout. I’d love to see Apple collaborate with third parties like Last FM to extend Apple Music but the focus should first go to simplifying the existing UI. Luckily Last FM integration isn’t lost, it’s just cumbersome for the moment; much like Apple Music itself. That said, I’m still loving the service and listening to music more than I have since college. I’d call that a tie.

  1. And makes my need for a workflow seem a lot less crazy.  ↩

My Switch to Apple Music

I can distinctly remember the summer of 2003. I was only a year into working in IT and realizing that I could seriously pursue this as a career. I was working two jobs, imaging Macs and performing various summer related tasks for my school district’s IT department during the day and serving up corn dogs, pizza and fried cheese on a stick (yes, really) at local fairs in the evenings and on weekends. I had just purchased my first iPod, the iTunes Music Store had recently launched and I was pouring a steady stream of my earnings into it. I spent over $500 that summer building the foundation of my music library and discovering new artists. It was exhilarating to have the vast landscape of music available to download on my iBook G4 using my Treo 650’s Edge connection[1] with the tethering that I wasn’t supposed to be able to access. That summer opened me up to a world that my protected upbringing had previously been able to easily divert by driving past the record store and turning K-Love up on the radio. Over the next eight years I’d spend hundreds of hours building my iTunes library to the nearly/merely 13,000 songs that have made the trek with me through a slew of computers and migrations. Then it all changed.

When I first heard about Spotify in 2011 I thought “That makes total sense.” after my brain processed the idea of having millions of songs instantly accessible in my pocket at one monthly cost. I’d been running Subsonic to have always-on access to my music library on my iPhone but it was fiddly and required me to maintain it which, as any nerd knows, takes way more time than you think. The convenience was as important as the music library to me at that point. Fast forward to today and I’ve become a Spotify addict. It’s one of the few apps I use daily and it’s lead me to discover some really terrific artists just like the iTMS had done for me as a teenager. With that said, I’ve switched to Apple Music for a multitude of reasons and with some changes to my music workflow[2]. Here’s my impressions after a week with the service.

My non-native homescreen

Why I’m Switching

Back to Native

For the majority of my time using an iPhone I’ve had a home screen that primarily consists of apps Apple didn’t create. Until 3 weeks ago the only Apple apps on my home screen were Messages, Safari and Settings as seen above. I’ve been a Google Voice user since the service launched in 2009 and have gone through many iterations of how I use it on iOS including jailbreaking my phone to integrate it with the native Phone and Messages applications. Currently I use Hangouts to manage the handful of phone calls that I make and to text with my friends and family that don’t use iMessage. Since moving to Chicago and starting to work with a new team I’ve had more hurdles than ever before explaining how to get ahold of me between my carrier issued (or burner as it’s lovingly referred to by my coworkers) phone number and my Google Voice Number. Google hasn’t helped the situation as they continue to phase Google Voice out and roll these features into Hangouts which has a lackluster interface that’s shoved into GMail almost as an afterthought on the desktop. Google Voice continues to be cumbersome to use on mobile if you’re not on Android where it’s services are integrated into the OS and might not keep me around much longer.

While Spotify isn’t nearly as fragmented as Google Voice has become, the announcement of Apple Music prompted me to dust off iTunes on my iMac and I realized how much of my personal music library isn’t a part of Spotify’s catalog and how much of it I miss having in my music rotation. While Spotify’s desktop application allows you to intermingle your local music files with the the Spotify offering, the mobile applications don’t. This leads me to use the native Music application on my iOS device to access a range of music from The Paper Raincoat to Girl Talk[3] to Taylor Swift (yes, really) who famously pulled her music from Spotify last year. With Apple Music all of this music is intertwined with the streaming component of the service and provide a fully rounded music library. This is the dream come true for me.

Outside of the one library to rule them all, Apple Music fulfills two nuanced features that are hugely important to me. The first is true background sync. I have a two hour commute via The “L” most days of the week and am underground for about half of the trip. For commuters like me offline sync isn’t a nicety, it’s a requirement. While Spotify has background syncing, it isn’t able to truly run in the background. If the application isn’t actively playing music or open and left open then syncing stops. When you have playlists that are 1,000s of songs deep, the time involved in getting the whole playlist synced for offline playback requires you to babysit Spotify for hours every time you restore your device. Being that I do this about twice a year, it’s become more of a nuisance to get Spotify ready for daily use. I’ve been using the native Music app for the last three weeks and started using Apple Music when it launched last Tuesday with no offline sync issues after one request to do so for a few large playlists.

The second feature that I’m most interested in is the sound quality of Apple Music. While sheer numbers would indicate that Spotify still offers a higher quality file, I will refer you to Kirk McElhearn’s post regarding the quality of Apple Music’s tracks that pre-emptively refutes that claim. I believe he’s correct in the expectation that Apple Music provides higher quality files through the AAC/MP4 codec. So far in my usage of the service I’m glad to have found that iTunes is downloading M4P files to a new folder within the iTunes folder structure. These files are nested in a new Apple Music subfolder in the same way that the music I have accumulated over the years is nested within the Music subfolder of my iTunes directory on my Mac. I much prefer this method of offline music storage to Spotify’s obscuring of the file names and folder structure within a buried Library folder. It can be easily managed and the fact that I’m getting copies of the songs just as though I’d bought them from the iTMS (albeit with DRM wrapped tightly around the Apple Music files) instills a sense that I’m getting what I paid for in a way that Spotify’s offline syncing just doesn’t. The perceived value of Apple Music is definitely greater for a nerd like me.

Beats 1

Beats 1 is touted as perhaps the biggest differentiator between Apple Music and other music services. Initially I wasn’t sure that it would be something that would grab on with most users and that it might become a bolted on radio station in the same way that radio has always been bolted on in iTunes and Music on iOS. After my first few days with Apple Music I can say that while I’ve enjoyed tuning in and letting Zane Lowe, Julie Adenuga and Ebro program my listening experience I’ve been more enthralled to see the impact Beats 1 has had on the people around me. I’ve watched Beats 1 instill intrigue in those who weren’t really aware of Apple’s new music service. Beats 1 looks to be not only the biggest differentiator but also the biggest feature that will bring Apple Music to the forefront of the music service mind space. My coworkers have all upgraded iOS and iTunes to fully use Beats 1 and favorite tracks they discover when listening. Clients asked me about Beats 1 while I was on-site with them over the past week. Our work group chat has had more after hours conversation and it’s been about Beats 1. We’re all tuned in and discussing the good and bad about what’s being played and how well the DJs handle the transitions and mix of music. It’s brought about the nostalgia of listening to the radio where we’re all on the same page enjoying and discovering music together. I think Neil Cybart explains it best in his Beats 1 is the New iPod and Apple’s Latest Bet post:

Consider how during what was arguably the most important day in Apple’s music history, nearly the entire discussion was centered around Beats 1. The 30 million songs now available for streaming are nice, but we are already used to that with other streaming sites. Lots of curated music playlists are helpful, but something seems to be missing. Apple’s intention on launch day was clear. The buzz surrounded Beats 1. What was Zane Lowe saying? Who was he playing? What are other people thinking?

It’s been fascinating to watch people I know who are paid users of other services all start conversing about switching to Apple Music. Beats 1 has been a core driver in these possible conversions and proves that Apple’s investment in building great programming that’s driven by proven tastemakers and the artists themselves was a bet that will pay dividends.

Workflow Changes

I listen to music on multiple devices and am a longstanding user. Spotify has made the process of remotely controlling your library and scrobbling tracks to Last FM natively from their applications easier over the last few years. These processes are different (in both good and bad ways) with Apple Music so I wanted to provide some context on those thinking about switching.

Last FM integration

Last FM is like a journal for music listening and is a required part of my music listening experience. I like having a running log of what I’ve listened to and knowing that I can look something I’ve listened to up with ease. I also like sharing what I listen to with the world because music is a communal experience. There is little in the world that feels as good as finding and sharing an artist that you fall in love with. I want to contribute to that ecosystem and Last FM automates that process. The method of capturing a track that you’re listening to and adding it to your listening history is known as scrobbling on Last FM. Where Spotify integrates scrobbling natively, iTunes and Music on iOS don’t. In order to scrobble your listening history to Last FM you’ll need a third party application on Windows, iOS and Mac OS X. Here are the applications I’m using.

Mac OS X: Simplify
I first found out about Simplify from Brett Terpstra when he started creating jackets for Simplify and created the beautiful and simple Sidecar jacket which I use to this day. Amongst the many features that Simplify provides for music application management and information is scrobbling support for the foremost music application on your Mac. I primarily use Simplify for the information on the current track and scrobbling. Simplify is $4.99 and is available on the Mac App Store.
Alternatives: LastFM Scrobbler for Mac OS X or SimpleScrobbler

iOS: QuietScrob
One of the biggest limitations I expected on iOS with scrobbling is that the application needs to be running at the forefront for real time scrobbling of what’s playing in the Music app on iOS. This expectation stems from my time before Spotify when I would jailbreak in order to have the Music application or Subsonic scrobble in real time. While you no longer needs to jailbreak iOS to do this, it’s still not perfect.

If you’re like me, you don’t want the possibility of any tracks being missed during this process. Initially I was going to recommend the combination of QuietScrob and CloudScrob to ensure this wouldn’t happen. Unfortunately I had an issue with duplicate, triplicate and quadruplicate scrobbles being uploaded for the same play of a song and skewing the data when using both applications so I had to pick one application and I went with the former.

QuietScrob is beautifully designed and runs in the background using background app refresh to scrobble in as close to real time as you’re going to get on iOS right now. It’s the set it and forget it approach to scrobbling. I also think QuietScrob’s free to paid conversion method is clever and effective. The application is free to install but requires you to open the app and watch a video ad in order to unpause scrobbling after so many tracks have been scrobbled. You can remove the ads for a one-time $0.99 in-app purchase if you like the application. In the short time I’ve been using QuietScrob I’ve had a few instances where I’d listened to music and noticed that it hadn’t been scrobbled. This was typically after a device reboot but it still didn’t fit my expectation of 100% tracking of my listening history. QuietScrob doesn’t (at least for me) look at your listening history in order to fill in the gaps since the app was last running. If you’re looking to ensure nothing is missed and are willing to remember to open an application regularly then CloudScrob may be a good alternative for you (Just don’t use it in tandem with QuietScrob).

CloudScrob is an incredibly simple app that looks at the timestamps on songs in iOS, compares them to what’s already been scrobbled on your Last FM account and scrobbles the tracks that aren’t already listed in your listening history. I’ve found it to be 100% accurate and the most dependable way to ensure nothing is missed. Unfortunately I don’t want to have to remember to open the application regularly to ensure my profile is up to date so I’m sticking with QuietScrob as my primary method to scrobble from iOS. CloudScrob is $0.99 on the App Store.

Alternatives: Scrobbler for iOS or SmartPlayer

Remote Control

When I’m cooking and doing other chores at home I like to have music broadcasting from our iMac and to other speakers through airplay (that setup is another post in itself). I need to be able to control my music while I’m busy without needing to stop off at the iMac to do so. Spotify Connect has enabled this type of control from my iPhone for awhile now and I’ve grown accustomed to having this feature. Luckily Apple has long offered remote control of iTunes using their Remote application so I’m not at a loss in making the switch. Apple is actually able to take things a step further with the Apple Watch to provide these controls on your wrist and it’s become my new standard for remote control of my music.


I started writing this post before Apple Music launched and have continued writing it through my first week with the service. There are important features that come with Apple Music that I didn’t cover here as it wasn’t what I set out to write about but they’re clear advantages for the service. Siri integration is the most obvious and unexpectedely useful part of Apple Music, especially with the Apple Watch. It’s worked beautifully the handful of times I’ve used it and it never fails to delight me when it does. Unfortunately the additional features are a double edged sword that lead to a UI that’s working to include a decade of features on top of everything that’s new about the service. This leaves a hefty UI with what feels like a lot of application easter eggs that provide a steep learning curve for most iOS users. While Apple Music has plenty of hurdles in it’s UI and expanding feature bloat, it’s ability to finally provide a truly all-in-one music library is enough to make it my primary music service. The native integration with the OS, curated discovery and artist driven communal listening experience on Beats 1 are just the icing on the cake.

  1. Remember Edge? Those were the days!  ↩

  2. Sigh, every good nerd has their workflow for how they consume anything. It’s a blessing and a curse.  ↩

  3. I’m not a dunce. Yes, Girl Talk is on Spotify, but not all of his music is.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  ↩

The Best Winter Touchscreen Gloves

Glider Gloves Winter Touchscreen Gloves

It's funny what you find yourself needing to buy when you move from warm to cold climates. One of the things you think you can get away with avoiding is gloves. That's a mistake. Whether you drive or commute via public transit you need a good pair of gloves. When I started searching for a pair I ended up purchasing the North Face Krestwood E-Tip gloves and have been really disappointed with how they work with touch screens. They have a seam that rounds your finger tips and unless they're a really tight fit you end up fighting to interact with a touchscreen even though they have "E-Tip Technology" built in. I've often found myself ripping them off in frustration to use my phone for 2 minutes and then put the gloves back on.

That's not what I wanted. Back to the drawing board.

This time when I went looking I found that The Wirecutter has already done the heavy lifting in the search for the best touchscreen winter gloves. I've purchased their number one pick, the Glider Gloves Winter Style touchscreen gloves and have really enjoyed them over the last few days. The one thing to pay attention to is the sizing guide for the gloves. I went with the medium size as the Krestwood gloves had been slightly large for my hands in the same size. The finger length on the Glider Gloves is really the main thing you'll notice. While I think I have pretty small hands, my fingers feel too long in the medium size so I'm swapping them for the large size. To find out more about the Glider Gloves and other touchscreen gloves check out The Wirecutter's write up.

On Apple's Loss of the Functional High Ground

With Marco Arment's piece on Apple losing the functional high ground gaining widespread visibility this week I find the timing of a recent fiasco with my iPad to be a perfect opportunity to throw in my two cents.

Over the last few months I've been transitioning from being a heavy OS X user to being an iOS only user while my iMac still lives in Memphis during our prolonged transition to Chicago. When I decided to participate in taking a photo-a-day as a part of Project365 I knew that I wanted to ensure that I'd be using our Canon Rebel T3i as my primary camera for these photos. I've long wanted to explore photography further as I find it to be a compelling creative outlet that I've never invested any intentional development of my own skills in and I saw this as a way to try new things with photography over the next year. This excitement prodded me to follow through on an idea I'd been kicking around over the last few weeks. I've enjoyed taking advantage of Sunday mornings as a way to explore downtown Chicago at it's least busiest time of the week. I get downtown by 8a with an area of the city in mind that I'd like to explore and I get to finding new art, food, culture and inspiration all before heading to church. After a few consistent weeks of exploration I had the idea to start documenting these little adventures through photography and posting them to Flickr as a way of sharing what I find. This past week was to include my first photographed Sunday morning adventure in the city. I'd decided to visit the newly opened Maggie Daley Park in the park district of Chicago. I photographed Millenium Park, Cloudgate, the Chicago Theater District and the Jay Pritzker Pavillion on my trek from Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee at Randolph and Dearborn to Maggie Daley Park at Randolph and Columbus. The first real snow of the season had started to fall earlier in the morning and was coming down pretty steadily by the time I'd arrived at the park. I was promptly informed by security that the park was closed due to the icy conditions and that I would accept liability if I continued on. I marched onward and took many photos that would never see the light of day along with a few that just might. After a half hour of walking the park and getting enough photos for one trip I started back to my car. On the way I realized that I still didn't have any way of getting these photos off of the SD card in my camera and onto Flickr. I grabbed a bus to the Michigan Avenue Apple Store to pick up a Lightning to SD card reader and headed back to the car. It was 10:30a and I had all intentions of catching the 11:30a service at Soul City Church. With an hour to kill and rather than leave my gear in my car with the 30° temperature I decided to head to my office at the other end of the block from Soul City and make some headway on importing and uploading the photos to Flickr. I opened the Lightning to SD card reader and plugged it into my iPad with the SD card already loaded. automatically opened on my iPad with the option to import the photos. I deleted the photos that wouldn't make the first round of selections and selected roughly 80% of what was left for import onto my iPad. Or so I thought.

I waited while the progress bar marched onward stating that my photos were importing and the green check marks slowly graced each photo in the list to indicate that it had been imported. Once the import completed I noticed that the import tab of stated that there were no photos to import. My inner dialogue started to reel about how this could be.

"Where are the 20% of the photos I decided not to import?"
"I'm sure I have them somewhere from a previous import."
"At least I have the new photos I've taken recently."

I checked my photo library on my iPad and found that the photos I'd just imported weren't there. was still syncing with iCloud (I've been using iCloud Photo Library for the last few months). I doubted this was the problem but I went ahead and killed to see if the photos would appear on a fresh launch. I re-opened and found no changes with the library but iCloud still wanted to sync. I re-attached the Lightning to SD card adapter and re-inserted the SD card and found no changes with that either. This was the point that a bit of panic set in. I'd just spent the morning taking photos in anticipation of getting to use my iPad to manage this new project; now I was deflated and concerned that I'd lost my photos. To make matters worse my next steps required me inserting the SD card into my work PC and attempting to find out if the photos were truly lost. Finding that the card had 5GB of space used gave me some relief but as I dug through the card and found nothing listed my stomach dropped again. I did some searching and found a myriad of tools for recovering photos from an SD card. Unfortunately the most recommended application, CardRecovery, cost $40. I wasn't willing to risk a botched attempt to recover my photos with one of the many pieces of crapware that didn't have any reviews or well known sources to vouch for it so I downloaded the evaluation version to make sure it could even find photos on the card first. Once CardRecovery had found the photos I wanted I went ahead and purchased it in order to be able to actually recover the photos. This isn't the experience Apple intended.

Apple actively markets a connected lifestyle that "just works". Sadly, that mantra has been slipping at a faster and faster rate over the last few years due to the churn and burn of Apple's software development cycle. What had started as a simple task I'd like to accomplish in 20-30 minutes had snowballed into something that derailed my morning and cost me money to fix. As someone who supports technology for a living I can understand how some of you might be rolling your eyes thinking "Technology isn't perfect and sometimes it breaks." and to that I say (with all the love in the world) you're being ignorant. I recommend Apple products to my friends and family who want something that just works. The fact that two pieces of hardware, the OS and the native software that Apple made were at the core of my little debacle isn't something I can shrug off. In fact, avoiding the conversation will only contribute to the continuation of this type of experience and ultimately further the erosion of the products many of us depend on and support. Consider those you love who don't want to have to be technical in order to use their Apple products and think of how they would've felt if this had occurred for them. I know my mom wouldn't calmly assess the situation and get to recovering her photos. She would have been crushed and anticipating the worst for her photos. Her content also probably wouldn't have been nearly as miniscule in importance. My concern about the expanding base of issues with Apple's software isn't for the tech crowd. We'll be able to figure out a workaround or fix when something doesn't work as advertised. My concern is for the 90% of users that buy Apple products. Ultimately they have much more of a stake in Apple's future than we do as they're the majority and will vote with their pocketbook.

This isn't meant to be a doom and gloom post about Apple's future but I do have concerns about how the company will deal with these issues. This year will see the release of the Apple Watch which is yet another product that requires resources and will be scrutinized more than the products that are currently experiencing these bugs. I can't imagine that Apple will redirect resources to patch existing issues which may lead to that precious customer sat slipping. Who knows. I just want to be able to import my photos without fear again.

On App Review Mechanisms

Marco Arment on his approach to requesting app reviews from his customers in apps he's developed.

My strategy to get good App Store reviews is simple:

1. Make an app good enough for some people to love it. By nature, you’ll lose some people along the way, but that’s OK: an app that strives to satisfy as many people as possible will usually only get people to kinda like it, not love it.
2. Accumulate a huge surplus of goodwill from those customers with a combination of step 1, usefulness, delight, and adding more functionality over time.
3. Make it easy to rate the app with a button that’s never annoying or in the way, like the Settings screen.

This is one facet of why I love Marco's apps and will choose to use them over others. The passive aggressive “Do you like our app?” which leads to two different options for providing feedback is one of the things that grates on my nerves1 the most in an app. Oftentimes it causes me to leave the app altogether to avoid having to make the right decision to get back to what I was doing in the first place. That's a terrible experience for a customer to have and Marco's advice is solid wisdom to other developers.

  1. I'm looking at you Urbanspoon and MileIQ.