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.  ↩

Reply All

I've been listening to podcasts for over a decade and agree with Marco Arment that they're awesome. I also think podcasts are continually becoming more mainstream and am hopeful for the future of the integration of technology all around us and it's ability to make podcasts as ubiquitous as radio. With the rate at which new podcasts are launching, it's easy to miss great shows so this is the first of an ongoing series of podcast recommendations. I want to take the mrecommendations a step further than why I like particular podcasts and provide some metrics to help provide context around how the show fits into my podcast rotation and may fit into yours. When I converse with people who don't listen to podcasts (or don't listen very frequently) I find that one of the reasons is that there's just too much to listen to and not enough time. Not every podcast is a must listen, especially interview shows. These metrics are bound to evolve and hopefully will be helpful in getting you interested in adding the show to your favorite podcast application. Let's get to the first recommendation.

Reply All: A show about the internet

Reply All's tag line is "A show about the internet." which is an apt description of the podcast. Each episode explores an event or topic where the internet played a role in one way or another. Some episodes are straightforward in their title while other episodes use the internet's involvement in the story as the crux that takes a turn you might not have expected. The show is hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman and is produced by Gimlet Media. PJ and Alex come across as longtime friends on the show which isn't a surprise as they previously created and co-hosted TL;DR in 2013 before moving to Gimlet in late 2014 to launch Reply All. The show is in my top 5 podcasts primarily because it's such a fun show with interesting topics and a great chemistry between the hosts with they're varying opinions on different aspects of the topic each week. I genuinely enjoy listening to Reply All due to the consistency of the show's quality across it's 31 episodes and the production quality that all of Gimlet's shows employ.

Picking my favorite episode is difficult since it's actually a two part story that was released in May of this year. Exit & Return Part I & Part II tells the story of Shulem Deen and how the internet broke down the walls of his communication boundaries and left him exiled from his community. It's the heaviest story that Reply All has told but is also such an interesting story of how religion and the internet can collide. I truly can't recommend these episodes enough and think everyone can find themselves somewhere in this story.

The Stats:

Typical episode length: 30 minutes
Explicit: They always lead the episode off with an explicit warning when the shows contains explicit content.
New Episode Frequency: Weekly
Skip-ability: I wouldn't (and don't) skip any episodes.

Find & Subscribe: Show Website | RSS | iTunes | Overcast

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.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  ↩

Mr. Independent

My buddy Stephen announced he was going independent today. Let me just take this internet armor off for a minute to say I’m so proud of Stephen. He’s poured himself into his writing and podcasting for years now as a side gig and he’s finally able to take it full time. I have immense respect for the amount of hard work and dedication I know Stephen put into getting himself prepared to sustain the independent career. It’s not easy to be steadfast in saying no to so many things so you can say yes to the the long term goal. Speaking as someone who has similar long term goals of going independent I’m proof that sticking with it is difficult [1]. Stephen joins Shawn Blanc, Myke Hurley, Marco Arment, Jason Snell and many others in proving that if you put in the effort and continually invest in your craft it is possible to live sustainably doing so.

512 Pixels 2015 T-Shirt

Ok, now that all of the feels are out it’s time to help support Stephen’s independent career in the best way possible; buying a t-shirt! I’ll leave it to Stephen to describe the thought behind the design.

The quote on the back of the shirt comes from the original Macintosh unveiling in January 1984. After an impressive multimedia demo, the computer spoke:

Hello. I am Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag.

Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I’d like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM mainframe: Never trust a computer you can’t lift!

Obviously, I can talk, but right now I’d like to sit back and listen. So, it is with considerable pride that I introduce a man who’s been like a father to me … Steve Jobs!

In so many ways, this single demonstration explains almost everything about Apple. Take good technology, infuse it with something special and you’ll end up with a great product that can change the lives of its users.

  1. 6 months between posts is bonkers. My Illiad length post that explores why it happened is currently being drafted.  ↩


As much as I enjoy Merlin Mann as a podcaster, this piece he published last night reminds me how I first fell in love with his writing.

And, even nine goddamned years after I’d left Ohio and improbably found myself in a pretty good college in Florida, I still craved the Reds cap that I thought was worthy of my childhood.

Then, one day—maybe 1988—I was at at sporting goods store in Tampa and I saw my Rosebud. A gorgeous and worthy and seemingly authentic Reds cap that brooked no mesh nor foam nor notch dingus. A classic 7⅛″ felt cap with authentic stitching and the humbly round shape that befits a journeyman megafan.

Just go read it and try to suppress that lump in your throat when you do. I hope this is a sign of more to come.

Pray for Peace

Part of the service at Soul City Church yesterday was devoted to grieving and praying in response to the attacks in Charleston, South Carolina, this week. I didn't expect it and it overwhelmed me.

I tend to tout my ignorance of current events and am often truly lost when conversations include it. I somewhat purposely avoid what's going on in the world as it's easier to bury my head in the sand than it is to face the horror that is the evening news. I'm not proud of this but I bring it up because I know I can't be alone in this. I'm part of a population that tends to avoid anything that encroaches being politically charged because it all feels like an amalgam of garbage that has a negative outcome no matter which side you stand on. I'm also outing myself because it's unacceptable behavior and yesterday's service made me realize how apathetic and weak it is that I'm not doing something about the racial divide that our country seems to be unable to move past. I've lived in the North and the South for a nearly even split of my life and I've seen it from Cleveland to Memphis to Chicago. In some parts of the country it's spoken in hushed tones; in other parts of the country it's put on display as a part of the fabric of the region as best articulated by John Stewart in his opening monologue for this past Thursday's Daily Show. The unavoidable fact is that, like sexism, there is a racism bias that effects all Americans and the only way we can fix it is to accept it and address it.

I'm aware of the blatantly negligent racist attacks and murders1 that have been occurring with increasing frequency in the United States over the past few years as anyone in the country is. It's been too loud of a noise for anyone not to be aware of it. I've watched the stream of tweets and video that follow as the protests break out across the country. I've been in downtown Chicago while death walks were underway. I've seen the wretched way that some have reacted by causing destruction and taking their anger out on cities and other people. This is war and it's occurring inside our country. We are tearing ourselves apart and the ripples of hate continue to grow. This is why I can't help but fall apart when reading the responses from the family members of the victims of the Charleston murders as they forgive Dylann Roof when given the opportunity to address him in court. Forgiveness is powerful and has the power to actually move the human race forward. The strength that it takes to forgive someone who murdered your family isn't something that comes without the greater strength of faith. Amongst all of the darkness is this light of forgiveness and I have faith that it's the start of a path to peace.

I'm asking that the rest of us pray for peace. Pray that we can forgive one another for the centuries of hatred that we allow to divide us. Pray that we can be conscious of our own biases and work to eradicate them. Pray that we can be the generation that isn't lethargic about racism as we raise our children. Pray for the peace that only God can bring in our broken world.

If you need to grieve and are in the Chicago area looking for a place to pray with others who are trying to figure out how we move forward as a human race; Soul City Church is opening it's doors to pray for peace as a community tonight at 7p.

1: Let's not sugar coat this. It's murder when you make a choice based on a bias and it leads to the death of another human.

YouTube Escape #1

If you've ever followed a link to YouTube and found yourself looking back on an hour that you wish you could get back then I hope to be of some assistance with the occasional YouTube escape. These will be spontaneous trips to YouTube for things that are worth your time.

Today's escape started with the official lyric video for Death Cab for Cutie's first single from their upcoming eighth studio album Kintsugi. The song is titled "Black Sun" and it makes me excited for what's to come on the new album.

From there I found the intro to a YouTube playlist of music videos and performances that Ben Gibbard and Nick Harmer had created in anticipation of their 2011 album Codes and Keys. In it, Harmer mentions The Decemberists at the same time that I noticed an NPR Tiny Desk concert with The Decemberists in the watch next sidebar and jumped over to it.

This little acoustic set featured three songs from their then-new album The King is Dead which is my favorite Decemberists album to date. The three piece ensemble's pure talent is showcased in three songs.

"Down by the Water"
"Rox in the Box"
"June Hymn"

From this Tiny Desk concert I jumped into Iron & Wine's appearance on the concert series and was amazed at how quickly 17 minutes can go by. Sam Beam is an amazing and engaging singer and songwriter with a humility that comes through in his awkward but honest talk between songs.

Iron & Wine played 4 songs in the set:
"Half Moon"
"Big Burned Hand"
"Tree By The River"
"Naked As We Came"

All three of the videos are worth your time even if you've never heard of these bands. I would encourage you to take 35 minutes to catch some great music from truly talented artists.

Write for Yourself, Edit for Your Reader

To pull the curtain back just a little, oftentimes the thing which most keeps me from writing is a fear of putting my own narcissism out on display for all to see. So often my first draft is little more than my own self-centered view of the world — a world where I sit at the center. This is not the world I am trying to build up, but when writing, how can any of us write about anything else but what we know and what we have heard? We write about what we know and what we feel. We write from our own soul and our own heart and we share what we’ve seen through our own eyes and what we’ve heard through our own ears. We write from the inside out.

Such great perspective from Shawn Blanc. One of my goals this year is to write more and fear is easily one of the biggest reasons things don't make their way onto the page.

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.

A Last Gift From The Genius Mind of Taylor Legron

I look at my alternative everyman predicament this way. By letting go of what you thought was going to happen in your life, you can enjoy what is actually happening.

That is what I do.

I'm That Guy.

You likely won't know him by name but as soon as you see the first image in the piece you'll know exactly who he was and your heart will drop. This is a sad loss with the silver lining of Taylor's beautiful writing on what it's like to be fame-ish. It's a must read.

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.

Play It Forward 2015

Play it forward 2015

At the beginning of December Spotify released its Year in Music 2014 feature which sums up the top music and trends on Spotify for 2014. The feature also allows users to view this information based on their own Spotify usage. This is the second year I've used this feature and while others find it provides a surprising retrospective of their taste in music, it's something I find compelling about using Spotify. Personally this kind of data is why I love Spotify and have adopted it as my primary music application/service. My 2014 Year in Music doesn't conform to all aspects of what I would've expected for myself but it is an accurate representation of how I've used the service this year. The weeks and months following Riley's birth were full of late night sessions of Rockabye Baby's many lullaby covers of popular artists that was a much needed break from traditional lullaby songs which is why the winter months were dominated by the group. The spring brought about a renaissance of my interest in The City Harmonic when my grandmother surprised us in coming to town to meet Riley. Summer months allow me to open the windows in my car which requires the bass and lyrical thrust of Lecrae's fantastic new album Anomaly. Over the last few months of the year with the Fall came a lot of changes for my family and a newfound inspiration to participate and enjoy life and not live to work but rather to take a step back and realize that I want to work to live. I couldn't think of another artist that sums this up for me other than the polarizing Owl City. I'm embarrassed to say that I've debated sharing my Year in Music for fear of what it opinions may be formed about my own taste in music but over the last few weeks I've come to find that I'm confident in my taste in music and find it to be one of my favorite things to discover and write about.

After going through the stats for 2014, Spotify offers to create a playlist titled Play It Forward in your library that takes what it knows about your taste in music and provides 30 songs to get you going for the new year. I was nervous that having so much lullaby music at the beginning of the year might really skew this playlist but I can't find any traces of children's music in the selections Spotify made for me. To be honest I'm rather surprised at the accuracy of what's been created for me and have found some great new music from this playlist. It's to the point that I want more than 30 songs as I'm already beginning to wear some of these new tracks out. If you're a Spotify user and are looking to find something new that's custom tailored to your listening habits I would highly recommend using the Year in Music feature to create your Play It Forward playlist and to take a listen to mine.

Project 365

I've always seen Project 365 as a daunting thing to try. There are a few people I follow online that have participated in years past and I've never been willing to challenge myself to give it a try. Stephen Hackett provides a good description of what I've always assumed as an observer:

Having completed three of these projects in the past, I can speak first-hand to the difficulty of them. Even in a world full of iPhones, it's hard at first to remember to take and post a photo every 24 hours. Subject matter has a tendency to grow stale, but I view it as a challenge to pay attention to every day's uniqueness.

This year I'm giving it a go and posting a photo a day. I'm living in a different city that I find new inspirations woven into on a daily basis. Many aspects of life are going to fluctuate this year with 2015 providing a bright outlook for Courtney, Riley and I. With what seems like a limitless amount of new experiences ahead of me here in Chicago I know that I won't have any shortage of opportunities for a photo per day. The question is whether I will be mindful enough to catch those moments with my camera.

Follow along with me on Flickr or on Twitter.

Christmas Music 2014

Casey Liss posted a few of his favorite Christmas albums last week. Two of them have been getting plenty of play this year on the Sonos at Carole's1 house the last few weeks and all three are in my Christmas playlist on Spotify. You won't find many of the typical artists in this playlist as I find that they get a ton of radio, film and public play when you're out and about for the holidays. If you're looking for a couple hundred new Christmas songs to enjoy this holiday season you should give my playlist a listen.

  1. Carole is Courtney's aunt in Chicago who I'm living with until our house sells. You should really consider buying our house

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. 

Joey Roth Rethinks the Moka Pot

Joey Roth and Blue Bottle Collaborate to create the mokapot

Joey Roth first came onto my radar in 2010 when I was really into tea. Kevin Rose sat down to talk with Joey about his beautifully minimal tea kettle, the Sorapot. While I really wanted one I didn't succumb to my desire primarily due to the $300 price tag. Since the Sorapot, Joey has designed and released letterpress prints, self-watering planters, lust worthy ceramic speakers, and version 2 of the Sorapot. I've followed Joey's career as he continually brings a fresh perspective on existing products and marries form and function at a level comparable to Jony Ive's design aptitude. Earlier this week Joey unveiled his newest creation and it's all about crafting the perfect cup of coffee directly on the stove. Joey has been working for nearly two years to refine the design and improve the functionality of the moka pot in a way that only he can. He's partnered with California based Blue Bottle Coffee as the exclusive distributor for the moka pot. I look forward to reviewing this new take on making a great cup of coffee when my moka pot arrives in the next week or two.

Bear's Den, 'Islands'

Bear's Den, 'Islands'

I first found Bear's Den through their Agape EP last year which was followed up by this year's Without/Within EP. I was smitten from the first track of Agape which is the title track of the EP and the first song of their debut album Islands. Every year there are a handful of artists that hit the scene with a truly solid debut album. This year, I would wager that Bear's Den falls into this elite group. While “Agape”, “Isaac” and “When You Break” were present on Agape, they've been re-recorded on Islands with a larger soundstage that incorporates the full band in a wider capacity and broadens the tone and pacing from what was present on the EP. Typically I like to see songs go the other way when it comes to stripping the production down to the metal and wood of an acoustic set but Islands isn't over produced. It carries the authenticity of the London based trio's talents into the mix of some amazing new songs to flush out what may be my favorite album of 2014.

While Islands was only released a little more than a month ago, it was delivered to a growing and rabid fan base. It's hard to believe that a debut album could already have the traction that Islands does but it's not surprising when you hear the immense talent that Andrew Davie, Joey Haynes, and Kev Jones have to create gorgeous and personal stories through their lyrics. When paired with a musical sound reminiscent of Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers it's a cogent package that lands with immense force from the first listen. The entanglement of banjo1, guitar and drums drives the album with plenty of unique hooks and immense depth. Lyrically I find “Above the Clouds of Pompeii” and “Isaac” to tell the deepest stories of love and loss. “Think of England” is a progressive track with dark undertones nestled into the backdrop of it's lyrical slang. “Elysium” has a sweeping trumpet interlude that expands it's story into a masterpiece for the ears and tells the story of hope and perseverance even in the darkest times2. This might hint at the best metaphor to describe Islands; it's a collection of scenes that paint a beautiful visual through lyrical proficiency with an evocative and sweeping backdrop of musical transcendence that's not to be missed.

Find it on: iTunes | Amazon | Spotify | Rdio

  1. Yes, there's a theme here. The banjo, when used appropriately, can add a level of depth that buries the negative connotation many have of the instrument. 

  2. The official video for “Elysium” somewhat reinforces my interpretation of the song while adding newfound layers through documentation of a real life tragedy from earlier this year. 

The Wire in HD

The Wire Fanart

Earlier this year HBO announced that The Wire was being remastered in HD. I had just started watching the show and was about 4 episodes in. I decided that I'd already prolonged my viewing of the one constant that came up in almost every conversation I'd ever had when discussing my admiration for Breaking Bad and so I kept watching The Wire in it's gritty1 4:3 standard definition. I'd done the same thing with The Sopranos and thought that it probably didn't make that big of a difference. The thing is that The Wire gains something from the way it was filmed and the quality contributes to the aura of the show in a way that it doesn't with The Sopranos. Fans of the show are aware of this and the idea that HBO would be touching what is widely considered to be one of the best shows ever created brings pause to it's admirers. This makes David Simon's exquisite elaboration2 on his involvement in the remastering process calm many nerves and generate excitement from the scrupulous afficionados of the show.

So when HBO sent out some promo ads about a conversion of The Wire to HD and a 16:9 ratio a few months ago, I reacted not merely as David Simon, showrunner and ink-stained scribbler, but as David Simon, the medium for Robert Colesberry, professional filmmaker. WWBD. What would Bob do?

Well, for one thing, he would make sure to be included in the process.

I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief about the end result and that it won't tarnish our dear Baltimore. I'm glad to have an excuse to watch The Wire for a second time and be able to see every detail in the way that David Simon and Robert Colesberry originally intended later this month.

  1. Riiiiight… What a first world problem. 

  2. What a way David Simon has with words. I aspire to be able to think as deeply and convey detail in such a way. Sheesh. 

RP: 'Introducing The City Harmonic'

Introducing The City Haromonic

It's 75 degrees outside and pain runs through my body. This is emotional pain like I've never felt in my life. I'm driving up I-10 in Florida from what was my grandparent's house. I've been with my uncle for the last week on an unexpected trip to help my grandmother brace for the impact of divorce.

While my uncle and I drove down together, he's stayed behind as there is uncertainty around grandma's stability when we started packing to head back to Memphis. So I'm alone in a red Volvo on the 13 hour drive home when I begin to process the past week. The lawyer, the counselors, the endless scanning of documents, the friends, the family and the tears. Oh, the tears.

After 56 years of marriage and a family so woven into this patriarchy, it's all unbound in less than two years. I keep thinking this can't be happening. How could it? Not us. We can't be that family. Can we? We're stronger than this. Aren't we? It's all so selfish but it's what everyone in our family has always known to be good and true and now it's over. Dead. Gone.

I'm grasping more than ever for understanding and love that can fill a hole wider than I thought existed in me. I'm searching for God in all of it. Then this song comes on the radio in the background. The DJ of the most recent FM station I've been able to tune into talks the song up as one that's jumping up the charts.

"Here's "Manifesto" by The City Harmonic on 97.1, The Love of K" (or something to that effect).

All I hear is God. Drenched into every sound. It's poignant and loud. Beautiful and noisy. It's what I need. Like a cup of water in the middle of the desert. I realize that I don't know who this band is but I need more of what they're offering. The Volvo doesn't have an auxilary port so I pull over and dig out my headphones. I look The City Harmonic up on Spotify and find a single album. Introducing the City Harmonic. There are six songs. I immediately press play.

I Wonder
The song opens with an orchestra getting in pitch and the conductor tapping their baton on the podium to open the album.

Tears begin to fall almost immediately.

"I Wonder" questions the love of God. It's size and how we see it in our life. Everything hits home when gets to the second verse.

I see it in the pain of the widowed wife.
In death defeated where he found true life.
I see the love of God and I feel alive.
I wonder, I wonder.

These words are what I'm searching for. Finding God's love in the pain of life. I drink it up. Then comes track two.

This is the song that led me to seek this album out. It says so much about who Christ is and what I believe. Even in darkness there is light.

We believe in the one true God.
We believe in Father Spirit Son.
We believe that good has won.

It's hard not to sing the chorus at the top of your lungs and lose yourself in Him. The tears haven't stopped and I continue to belt out garbled lyrics with lots of AMEN.

My God

I lift my eyes up,
In these days of trouble.
Will my help come from You?
And if I stumble,
Will You pick me up?
What else could a father do?

The words are crafted as if they're for me in this struggle. Then the beat picks up and the second verse opens.

I lift my heart up,
Whether it’s whole or broken,
Good God I know You’re gonna work it out.

What more can I do in this moment? I can't handle the weight I'm carrying. I'm so lost in this music that been carrying me for the last 13 minutes and I've lost control of emotion. It just keeps pouring out of me. Everything I've bottled up over the last 7 days since I found out what's been going on and what the outcome will be is just spilling over.

Coming My Way
"Coming My Way" soothes and calms. It's a beautiful ballad to God and talks about the journey home to heaven and finding heaven here on Earth in Him. I calm ever so slightly.

I Am
A simple guitar riff, a drum beat and into the first verse.

I am a man who built his house on sand.
I am a thief upon a cross.
I’m just like Judas, that sorry fool.
Who can’t be glad for what he’s got.

In all of the pain, these words pierce my soul. I've been angry and bitter at the circumstances and choices that have led to what is unthinkable to me. And yet, I'm no better. I'm fallen and failing each and every day. The chorus repeats that God is good, God is great and God is love. And I am...

I am a man who has been bought by love.
I am a man who sold his soul.
I’m like the man, who when he found his pearl.
He gave up everything he owned.

Through His grace I'm redeemed and I am love. Love works.

This song sweeps me straight off of my feet and I listen to it again. And again. And again. It's such a beautiful portrait of forgiveness and the redemption that comes through His unending mercy. This is instantly my favorite track on the album. The tears continue to flow as I realize how broken I am in my own walk and how easily I've judged others throughout this ordeal.

What I Want

So go on sing, sing, all of heaven and earth.
But don’t just sing, be and be every word.

This is my favorite line from "What I Want". It asks us to step out on our faith and walk the talk. To be the change that God calls us to be on this Earth. This is my constant struggle. To fearlessly be who I'm called to be.

I contemplate the experience I've just had. Through these six songs being played a few times over I've given up my burden and opened myself up to God in a way that I've been missing since I was in college. This album is now permanently bound to this specific moment in my life. The ghost of my burden is forever reflected in this album for me. And yet I can't recommend Introducing The City Harmonic more highly.

It's been roughly two years since I jumped into that red Volvo and this album still brings tears to my eyes when it comes on. This past week was the second Thanksgiving without my grandfather present and it has left an impression on our family tradition. As we grandkids grow up and start having our own kids the weight of the thing still lingers. It's been 7 months since I originally shared this as a journal entry. I was too scared to put these words on Course Code directly in April so I buried it in a Day One entry but this is the force that music can have on a person's soul and the fear is overcome by it. I hope that someone might find a similar strength from these six songs.