iTunes

Predominant.ly Searching for Music.

I used to spend hours in record store sifting through stacks of new and used vinyl searching for something new and unique. Just like book stores, record stores were a place to discover old favorites and new gems. A place to find music that you could share with your friends and so much more. there was something about the experience that will never be captured by an online experience, no matter what your source is, be it iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, eMusic, etc.

Predominant.ly designed and built by Open Work wants to change that. They want to bring to the online world the spontaneity of stumbling across a new find or an old favorite while searching for music.  The concept is really pretty clever. Based on color choices Predominant.ly  serves up groups of albums where the covers match your color choices. The data is pulled from iTunes which makes the entire catalog available.  The experience definitely lends itself to the concept of exploration in the digital space.

Albums

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Case Study, the “Dumb Ways To Die” campaign.

Earlier this year I posted the “Dumb Ways to Die” video along with additional information on the integrated campaign that was created around it. It is no surprise that the campaign won so many awards at the Cannes Lions 2013 Festival of Creativity. This video was the third most popular viral video of all time. Below is the full case study on just how successful the overall campaign was, and how what started as a local campaign for train safety in Australia, went world wide over night.

Dumb Ways to Die. A Brilliant Safety Campaign from Australia.

I’ve always believed that to get people to change their bad behavior, you need to prompt them with something clever rather than beating them over the head with an in your PSA.

Melbourne Metro in Australia has launched a new campaign to promote safety around metro rail lines. It involves an amazing little animation, with a very catchy little song. The video is a memorable 3 and a half minute long animated music video, that uses black humor and a repeated phrase to sell the final point of “Be careful while waiting for your train”.

This is all part of the The Dumb Ways To Die campaign which is being executed across a number of social mendia channels. While the campaign centers on the YouTube music video (which has been viewed over 16 million times globally in just one week), the campaign is fully integrated across all media channels.

The YouTube video links to the other Dumb Ways To Die campaign aspects: The Tangerine Kitty – “Dumb Ways To Die” song is available for download from iTunes or you can listen to it on Soundcloud here. Dumb Ways To Die has a Tumblr site which features related animated gifs available for download and features the headline “Don’t do any of these OK? Especially the train ones”.  All of these are tied to or point back to The Dumb Ways to Die website which ties together the entire campaign

The integrated campaign centers around shareable content, and leverages platforms like Tumblr, Soundcloudand iTunes to help spread awareness about safety. These 3 platforms in turn support the YouTube campaign which banks on viral distribution to help spread the word.

This is a great campaign from Melbourne Metro with the potential to save lives across the world since the problem is universal world wide.

Face it, iTunes Sucks.

When I got my first iPhone a few years back my only computer was what is now a dying MacBook Pro. At the time I happily set my iPhone up using the laptop, and had the device sync to iTunes authorizing that computer to transfer files from the phone to the Mac. At the time life was good but not perfect. iTunes pretty much sucked then as it does now. And the whole syncing devices for your music and apps was, and is pure BS. That laptop is now on its last legs and I decided to go ahead and try to movie the iPhone to the iMac I bought about a year ago. The process has been a nightmare, and I can’t believe this software is owned and distributed by Apple.

Last night when I plugged my phone in, I got the standard message “This device is synced to another iTunes Library”, the rest of the message basically says if you proceed I’m going to wipe the device of all things not associated with this iTunes Library. I don’t get it, why the hell doesn’t iTunes look at your “Account” and not some computer specific library? If I log into iTunes, it should see that I am the authorized owner of the account, the iPhone, and the iMac and say OK lets back up the phone, and update the iPhone software. It shouldn’t erase anything.

After digging around I found that there is this new feature under the File menu that lets you “Transfer Purchases from you iPhone”. OK that seemed simple enough, but when I went to do that, I got repeated requests to enter my iTunes password for things being transferred. What sucked was it was asking me to authorize my iTunes accounts, for email addresses that haven’t been attached to my account for years. I was asked to provide a password for an email account that I used 8 years ago when I first used the iTunes store. It’s been so long, I couldn’t tell you that password if my life depended on it, so I was forced to use the password reset feature for the account. This happened two more times. I’m not sure what is going on here, but iTunes is obviously linking to some embedded meta data in a hidden file somewhere, and isn’t smart enough to look at the account I’m logged in under, cross check the data, and say “Hey, Same Name, Same Address, Same Billing Info, Same Credit Card Info, Same File and Song Names…” You would think that by the time Apple got to version 10 of this piece o junk software, they would have eliminated all the hardware BS and would be using the cloud to manage your account.

When I looked at some of the chat threads online, I noticed a consistent theme. De-authorize all your computers, Sync your iPhone or iPod, bite the bullet and re-download any apps that were blown away. then reauthorize one computer, and sync your device. Not exactly user-friendly. Not exactly Apple quality when it comes to the end-user experience.

I got lucky. There was only one app it wouldn’t let me transfer, and all my music, photos and contacts made the move when I transferred my files to the iMac from the phone. I ran the latest iOS upgrade and it seemed to work fine. The odd thing is, when I tried to sync my phone again, it told me “Hi this is iTunes and guess what there are items on your iPhone that haven’t been transferred to your computer, if you proceed you might lose these. Do you want to roll the dice and proceed? Are you in a gambling mood?” There is no list of the apps, music, photos, contacts or any other data, just an innocuous message asking you if you want to risk it and move forward. I bit the bullet and rolled the dice. The phone synced, I have no idea what was lost or if anything was lost at all.

Apple I am begging you to fix this. There are a bunch of other issues that I could go into about how iTunes sucks. Issues with it duplicating songs in your iTunes Library for no apparent reason, re-assigning album titles to song tracks even when you have “Manually Manage My Music” turned on in your iTunes preferences, how the whole iTunes application is less about file management these days and more about selling you stuff, but that is a whole post or three for the future.

This is why I try to never plug my iPhone into my Mac. I rarely sync, and when I do it usually happens when a new iPhone software release has come out, or I know I am going to buy a new iPhone or iPad. It really shouldn’t be this hard, and for a company that claims to make the most user-friendly computer experiences in the world, this is one that is far from it.

iPad Where is the Streaming Media Option?

I have a simple request for Apple. I want to stream the music I bought on my iPad to my remote speakers, via my Airport Express. This seems like a no-brainer to me. There are times when you either don’t want to, or can’t plug in to the headphone jack on your iPad or iPhone. Both devices have WiFi, both devices can receive streams from a computer, so why has Apple shut out the “streaming from” feature on iOS devices? I have scoured the internet looking for a software solution, and frankly I am coming up short. There are loads of discussions, but no real solutions unless I jailbreak both devices.

There are things like Airfoil, and Cerulean RX, but Airfoil won’t stream from the phone or the pad, and Cerulean’s solution is a bluetooth hardware dongle that plugs into the connector slot on both devices. It works but it costs 90 bucks, and it’s one more thing to have to have on hand. I mean how hard would it be to simply connect to the airport via your iPad or iPhone, and say I want to play music via the remote speakers on that network? If anyone knows how to do this with software, please let me know.

Come on Apple show us the money, it’s not like people are asking for Flash support or anything.

Apple’s iPad Leaves Me Kind of Flat

I just finished watching the much hyped Apple event for the new iPad, and I have to say I’m a bit underwhelmed with what I saw. I mean the device is slick in its own right and as usual it looks beautiful, but at the end of the day, it’s really just a big iPod touch. Sure it has more processing power, but that power is coming from the A4 chip which Apple developed. This means it won’t run any native applications that you use on your laptop, or desktop. That is just one of the deal breakers for me on this. I want to get behind this thing and be all filled with Apple love, but there are so many things missing for the price point I just can’t. If I get the full-blown model I am spending over 900 bucks when you figure in tax, and with the monthly data plan in the first year I’m out over a grand. At this point why not just buy a 13 inch Mac Book, or even better get a Dell or HP netbook and Hackintosh it. You’ll save money and you get the option to run applications like a full version of Photoshop. Here are the top reasons I won’t buy the first generation iPad.

  1. No Camera. What the hell is Apple thinking. Really no camera? You have all those photo editing apps hat are available and you don’t include a camera on this device. I want to be able to use Skype, I want to video conference, I want to take a picture and edit it on this thing and I can’t
  2. No Flash support. Apple suck it up, and give in to Adobe on this. Failure to support Flash is almost enough to make me give up the iPhone, and it is definitely enough to make me not buy the first gen iPad.
  3. The A4 processor. Like I said above, the fact that Apple went with a non Intel based chip set makes it very unlikely that Adobe or Microsoft will port their apps to this device. Sorry I want to use Office, not iWork, and I use Adobe apps every day. I have no reason to buy this device if I can’t run those apps in som capacity here.
  4. No Bluetooth keyboard and mouse support. I don’t want to have to buy another keyboard for this thing. I want to use my wieless keyboard and mouse I already own.
  5. As far as I can tell you can’t access the file structure on this thing, just like the iPod Touch and iPhone. Sure you can get third-party apps that let you do this, but if you are using this for any kind of light productivity work (think iWork here) accessing the file structure would be rather handy.
  6. WiFi Streaming to my TV. Once again I know there are third-party apps that allow streaming, but why didn’t Apple include this on their device out of the box? At least for music. People have been asking for this since the iPhone 3G was introduced.
  7. No stylus support. I know your finger is a great tool for things, iPhone and iPod touch, but applications like “Brushes” could benefit from stylus input. I’m sorry my fat finger isn’t always the best for painting, and yes I uses brushes all the time on my iPhone. Stylus support would just make that app so much better at times.
  8. Price. I know that this is pretty cheap for an Apple device, but 829 bucks for the largest unit with WiFi and 3G puts it in that category that makes me say buy a netbook, or just pony up for the 13 inch Macbook. I know it’s not the same kind of device, but for a few hundred bucks more I can get a more powerful complete computing system.
  9. The data plan. At 30 bucks a month I’ll be spending an additional 360 dollars every year so I can access the internet and email when I’m not connected to Wifi. This isn’t really a deal breaker, but it does make me feel like I’m getting gouged by the carriers on this one. This isn’t really a gripe with Apple. I’m just tossing it in.
  10. For what this brings to the table, it doesn’t offer enough to replace my iPhone. I would still have to haul my iPhone around with this device, so it just becomes one more thing to carry. It’s to big to fit in a jacket pocket, so I’ll probably pass.

I was really hoping for something mind-blowing today, and while this is somewhat exciting it doesn’t live up to the hype for me. The book store is great, and if you use iWork I guess that is great too. But the fact they left off the camera, and they still don’t support Flash, come on Apple what were you thinking? Unlike the iPhone which I bought the day it came out, I think I’ll be waiting until the second generation iPad comes out before I pull the trigger on this.

Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking for the iPhone

Last Friday I downloaded and installed the new dictation software from Nuance Software for my iPhone. As a matter of fact, this entire post is a translation of my voice recording that Dragon Naturally Speaking Dictation converted to text for me, and in order to be fair I am not going to edit it in a word processor. This post is an example of the quality of the voice recognition and the applications ability to translate my spoken words into readable text.

The application was released on December 7th and is currently available for free at the iTunes App Store. The application is a voice-to-text translator that allows users to dictate texts, e-mails and notes. It also has copy and paste features built-in for easy transfer to other documents on your iPhone.

Nuance Communications, is primarily a provider of back-end services that power the kind of speech technology used in products like the Amazon Kindle and Microsoft’s voice command for the Ford SYNC. In the mobile sector, their voice-to-text technology is found in AT&T’s voicemail-to-text service, on devices such as the Samsung Rogue, and in Google’s iPhone search application.

Given the history of voice to text application, this software didn’t have to try very hard to impress me. So imagine my surprise when I spoke into the Nuance app it nailed a 3 paragraph-long e-mail. This application, which is currently available for free for a limited time, is simple to use. push the record button and say whatever it is you want to say. When you’re through, you can choose send a text message, e-mail message, or copy directly to the iPhone’s clipboard.

While I probably won’t use this app for quick e-mails or texts on the fly, the app works great for taking notes that I want to print later, or for replying to longer emails when you don’t want to use the virtual keyboard on your iPhone.

The only real complaint that most people will with the app is that it processes the text via the cloud. In other words, it takes what you’ve said, sends it via a connection, 3G or Wi-Fi, and then sends the results back to your iPhone. For longer messages, this can take a a bit more time depending on your connection. And if you don’t have a connection and you just want to dictate a note, you’re simply out of luck.

So here’s my final two cents on this. It’s free what do you have to lose? If you are looking for an easy to use precise speech to text application, then this is a great solution. The accuracy level is above 95 percent in quiet environments, and better than 80 percent in noisier ones based on the tests that I have done since last Friday. Not only that the app seems to improve with usage, so I’m excited to see just how accurate it can get over time.