Technology

Third Time's a Charm for Songbird

musicI used to swear by Winamp for playing my MP3s. For years and years I thought people were crazy for not using Winamp, then something happened with Winamp's development that had me looking for an alternative player. I flirted with the Quintessential Player for a while, and eventually ended up with iTunes.

Songbird is an open-source media player built on the same platform as my beloved Firefox. I've actually tried it twice before, when it was a proof of concept and Songbird 0.2. Now that they've released Songbird 1.0.0, I had to give it a third try.

It's so much better now. It's fast, stable and far more fun than iTunes. Like Firefox, there are add-ons that enhance the experience. For example, there is an add-on called mashTape that gives me band info, a discography, videos and more for each artists I play. I also use the side panel for song lyrics, and another add-on that tells me when an artist in my collection is coming to Toronto.

This is the open source iTunes killer I've been waiting for. It's finally ready for prime time.

songbird


Are Zunes Committing Suicide?

calendarMy personal MP3 player of choice is the iPod Touch. iPods don't commit suicide, at least they don't en masse.

There's word at this hour that 30GB Zunes are killing themselves in droves.

The internet is awash with reports that the 30GB Zune is committing suicide across the planet. Not just one of them, either. It seems that some weird bug is simultaneously killing the music players, like lemmings leaping from a cliff.

Speculation is of course centered around the timing. It is New Year's Eve, after all, and the conspiracy nuts are calling this Z2K (with or without a +9 at the end). Our own NYC Bureau Chief John C Abell prefers the idea that it is "Brilliant Microsoft DRM Technology", which would be the most hilarious explanation.

Let me get this straight. Apple owns this marketplace, but it's a big marketplace, and competition is good for everyone. I myself own an iRiver which still works great while getting FM stations and recording voice to MP3. Microsoft, however, would have to give me a Zune to get me to use one, and even a free Zune that freezes up for no good reason without explanation isn't worth the frustration.

Does anyone out there actually own a Zune?


Beta Forever?

emailI experienced a frustrating issue with Google Chat in Gmail today. It wouldn't log me in, telling me my system administrator had blocked me. I knew that wasn't true, so I started trouble shooting on my own.

It turns out I had enabled a feature in Google Labs, where Google tests things out before unleashing the enhancement upon the masses. I was enjoying Google Calendar in Gmail, but this apparently broke Google Chat today. Disabling the feature in Labs fixed things.

That's when I realized, Gmail is still beta. It's been 4.5 years since Gmail launched and it's still in beta.

Will Gmail be in beta forever and why exactly is that?


I Live In A Digital Ghetto

digitalJesse Brown has an interesting entry on his Search Engine blog for CBC Radio. He laments about the growing list of backwards policies in Canada that he believes is creating a sense of digital isolation.

1. Last week the CRTC sided with Bell against a group of small Internet Service Providers who want to offer their customers unthrottled connections where what they download is their own business and not subject to interference.

2. In last week’s throne speech the Conservative government renewed their intention to “modernize” Canadian copyright law. Their effort to do so last session was Bill C-61, a woefully unbalanced and retrograde piece of legislation that led to the greatest citizen backlash to any proposed bill in recent memory. Yet there has been no indication from new Industry Minister Tony Clement that a much-needed public consultation will take place. The best he has offered is the possibility of a “slightly different” version of the bill.

3. Twitter has just announced that they are killing outbound SMS messaging in Canada due to exorbitant and constant rate hikes from Canadian cell providers (former Industry Minister Jim Prentice vowed to get tough on SMS price gouging, then backpeddled). Cell phone rates in Canada are among the highest in the world, and the result is that mobile penetration is pathetically low and that emerging new cultural platforms like Twitter are being hobbled.

The Internet's where I live and how I earn my income. My home is turning into a ghetto.


The Floppy Disk Save Icon Deserves to Stay

MouseWhen was the last time you saved a file to a floppy disk? It's been a while for me. In fact, I doubt I've saved to a floppy disk any time this century. Since the floppy we've advanced to CD, DVD and USB.

Now that saving to floppy disk has gone the way of the rotary phone, isn't it strange that the floppy disk remains the unofficial "save" icon? Whether saving to a hard drive or a web app, we click a little picture of a floppy disk. Heck, my son clicks a floppy disk to save his documents yet he's never actually laid eyes on a floppy disk let alone used one.

The floppy disk save icon survives in spite of progress, and I think it deserves to stay. It's sort of funny, this throw back medium persevering, like a cockroach post-apocalypse. Long live the floppy disk save icon!

flopy


New Google Search Doesn't Make Me Smile

googleThe joke at work is that I'm a Google bigot. I'm the only one who found a way to kick Outlook to the curb so I could live in Gmail. I prefer to Gtalk over MSNing. I won't tell you how much money I spend with Google Adwords, but it's a small fortune. Google gets it, from their maps to their docs and spreadsheets, I'm a fan.

Today I saw Google unveiled a new search for those of us logged in with a Google account. You can leave comments on results, promote results, remove results and whole bunch of stuff. As a test, I Googled toronto blog and promoted my own site, organically ranked #3 overall. This was my first mistake.

Here's the new result when I'm logged into Google, something that's true 100% of the time I'm surfing the web.

logged in google

And here's the results for the same search when I'm not logged into Google - I actually switched to Google's Chrome browser to take this screen cap.

organic google

I hate not seeing the organic results. I hate the new clutter in my search results. I miss the old Google, the one I used earlier this week.

The new Gmail themes made me smile. This new search doesn't. I just wish there was a button I could press to return to classic Google, the one we all know and love.


Twitter as an RSS Feed - A Social Experiment

twitterWhen Twitter first took off, I was sceptical. I didn't think it would make it, but I kept my good eye on it to see if it would fizzle out or reach the mainstream. I think it's now safe to say that Twitter has gone mainstream.

I don't have an interest in Twitter as a status tool, although I see the allure, I'm more interested in Twitter as an RSS feed alternative. Not in terms of reading RSS feeds, but in terms of publishing. Would people follow a Twitter feed as a means of following a blog like this one?

I found twitterfeed which promises to feed your blog to Twitter. You create an account, enter your Twitter account info and the RSS feed of your blog. The RSS feed for this blog is http://feeds2.feedburner.com/TorontoMike and my new Twitter account can be found at http://twitter.com/torontomike.

And so begins my little social experiment. Will people follow a blog with Twitter? If you'd like to be a guinea pig, start following http://twitter.com/torontomike and tell me how it goes...


The Rise and Fall of RealAudio

MusicIt's been 30 years since the Jonestown massacre. That got me interested in learning more about the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project formed by followers of the Reverend Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. That led me to NPR Online where you can listen to a great doc entitled "Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown."

You can stream the audio, but it's in RealAudio. That's right, it's in RealAudio. When I saw that, I had a very webby flashback.

In the mid 90s, lots of audio required the RealPlayer. Most of us downloaded the RealPlayer just so we could listen to .ra files. At a time when WinAmp was my music player of choice, RealPlayer quickly became a necessary evil.

Firstly, they made it near impossible to find the free version. That download page was a serious pain in the ass. Then, there was this terrible interface, even for the mid to late 90s. Then, there were those bloody pop-ups. At one point several years ago, I swore I would never install RealPlayer again.

I've kept that promise, and that means I won't be streaming this Jonestown doc on NPR Online. That's a shame, but at least I enjoyed this webby trip down memory lane.


XMp3 Player With XM Satellite Radio

XMA package arrived for me today with a letter. Here's how that letter started.

You are one of only 25 individuals in Canada who will receive this exclusive XMp3 Kit!

Your XMp3 Experience includes:

  • 1 XMp3 player
  • 1 XMp3 accessory kit (earbuds, remote control, home antenna, home dock, and more)
  • 1 year subscription to XM Satellite Radio
  • 1 bag of XM Swag (water bottle, hat, notebook, pen)

I've been playing with it for the past hour and having fun. I've heard some alt rock on Lithium, some live Neil Young on The Loft, Norm McDonald on Laugh Attack, some pop on Top 20 on 20, some indie on XMU and some cat named Mad Dog talkin' sports. I've tried recording a few tunes to MP3 and now I'm setting up the XM2go Music Manager to run this thing from my laptop.

After I spend more time with my new toy I'll write a review.

PB188332


The Flickr Lady at the Parade

yahooLast year I wrote about the Yahoo! float at the Santa Claus Parade. This year it was back, but there was something extra. A young woman was biking alongside the float taking pictures and sending them to Flickr in real-time.

Here's my pic of the Flickr Lady promoting Yahoo!'s coolest property on Sunday afternoon.

PB168266



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