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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Happy Wednesday!

It’s hump day, and we all need a laugh 😜  Here’s a bit from John Oliver that we found funny where he shows us how vulnerable Apple is to hackers. Get a cup of coffee, or a shot of tequila, then settle in for some funny:

Keep Your Phone (and ALL of your info) Safe!

The one item we all seem to have in common? Our phones. How to keep them safe is another issue in the day and age of hacking!

This article from the Next Web is all about how you can keep your data safe on your phone in 2016. Make time to read this, we HIGHLY recommend it:

A Brief History of Digital Music or: How Google & Apple Lost My Confidence To Manage My Music Library

2015 was the year Google & Apple totally lost my confidence in managing my music collection. But first let’s go back to the beginning of “digital” music.

I was already deep into my love of home gaming consoles (Atari, Coleco, Commodore 64, Apple IIc/IIe, Sega, NES) and technology (taking apart and putting back together computers from the late 80s) by the time I truly fell in love with music, around age 13 with my mom and dad’s old records (Beatles, Stones, Floyd, Zep, CCR, Steve Martin, etc), and then my grandparents jazz and blues collection. By 15 I was playing in punk and hardcore bands, and music had assisted in what I could call the dawning of my social consciousness with a sudden focus on the lyrics. My freshman year of college was 1996 – shortly after American U upgraded their Internet connection to a high-speed T1, first provided all students with an email address, and didn’t even publish their application online yet – the school’s website was still an infant. Naturally, the timing of all this allowed me to be a fairly early adapter of online technologies.

In 1996, it was commonplace in the punk / hardcore music scene to trade records and tapes. Sometimes a band’s best songs were released on a small-pressing of 45 or compilation LPs – so loaning and trading were commonplace. Once the technology became “affordable” enough to burn a CD on a PC (around ’97 – if you were tech-savvy enough to install one yourself) you could then make your own CDs from your vinyl collection for the first time.

Let me spend a little time on how revolutionary this was. Digital optical disc authoring technology was first introduced in 1988, when Philips and Sony first published the the specification for CD-R compatible technologies [Source]. According to an old newsletter from Roxio (an early manufacturer of CD authoring software), “By 1992, the cost of typical recorders was down to $10–12,000, and in September 1995, Hewlett-Packard introduced its model 4020i manufactured by Philips, which, at $995, was the first recorder to cost less than $1000 [Source]. Even blank CD-Rs were more than $5 each in 1996-97. Suddenly all the music you HAD to have a turntable around to play could now be played anywhere – as CDs were the ubiquitous media at the time. Additionally, this was before vinyl “got big” again so even getting an inexpensive turntable hooked up in the late 90s wasn’t all that easy – and tapes were fast disappearing. You had to work for it, which made it all the better.

Despite all this, everyone was digitizing our LPs and 45s and authoring them to CD-Rs (aka “burning discs” – a loathsome term). You had to play the entire side of the album, record it as one massive WAV file (at a time when disk storage was of high-cost as well). Then you had to open that WAV file in a sound editor and cut it up into “tracks” and then use different software to sequence and burn the CD – all on a very slow PC compared to today’s models.

Suddenly, everyone had a digital personal music library – only no one thought of it as “digital” because there was still a physical medium: all those tangible CDs we were trading and copying, just as we did previously with tapes. Enter Napster, the natural outgrowth of having these files available digitally, and on a high-speed Internet connection. Now there was a reason to digitize (or “rip” – another repulsive term in this author’s opinion) all those CDs we had burned, but this time we’d just leave the files in a folder on a T1-connected PC. Then we’d search Napster for all the songs we’d always wanted but had no way to find or couldn’t afford the rare pressings. All the while music-lovers elsewhere could pull songs out of the shared folder while they were doing their searches. It was a given that the bands and labels didn’t care because they weren’t releasing this stuff on CD or pressing more vinyl.

Then comes Apple’s iTunes. Now we have a container in which to keep all those digital music files. This was it at first. There was no iTunes Store to buy songs. You just used iTunes to organize all the songs you digitized yourself off of CDs and tapes and LPs/45s. But somewhere along the way – and this is crucial – Apple decided they could charge 99¢ a song for someone else’s creations and everyone just accepted it blindly. They were the first to piss in the well. Up until then, it was a free and fair open game. Those who knew how to find what they really wanted were able to do it. Once Apple crept in with its “a buck a song” model, everyone who’d ever recorded, written, or distributed their own or someone else’s music suddenly had a stake in the game.

And guess what’s suffered over the years? iTunes software design and engineering. Ask anyone these days- no one knows how to work iTunes anymore. It changes more often than a website. Features come and go and come back and get buried in submenus that you access by clicking on hieroglyphics that have seemingly no association to their original function. Managing a digital music library in iTunes is miserable now, whether you’re creating Playlists, smart mixes of music from an artist or song based on other music that’s in your library – the focus is now on subscription-model streaming (Apple Music), not all the music you already own / have in your library and have metrics on (like play counts, last played on, etc). The UI is terrible, and after many years I had to thinking about bailing.

So a few years ago I got tired of Apple further decimating iTunes, and after a lot of research spent two months of my life migrating and uploading my music library to Google Play Music (née Google Play, née Google Music). Then another substantial bit of time for housekeeping – adding missing artwork, correcting song info / album titles / artist names that got butchered during the import, and it worked great for about two years. And even with all of the aggravations with Google’s Play Music – Apple iOS App (since the two companies don’t like to play nice together anymore) it still worked for the most part. Then it happened again.

In 2015, Google decided to get into the business of charging people a subscription fee of $10/mo to listen to music created by musicians-not-employed-by-Google, and called it Google Radio. Effectively when this happened it destroyed my confidence in Google to manage my music. Now I get advertisements when I listen to music from my OWN library, despite Google Support reps telling me that’s only supposed to happen for streaming Radio stations when you don’t pay their $10/mo subscription. I told them I don’t use the Radio features, but instead often choose to play “Instant Mixes” (a great feature which effectively allows you to create a radio station from a song in your library on the fly, with music from your library) or entire albums from my collection. They could not explain the ads, yet (in a rub-your-face-in-it move) offered me a one-month subscription credit (of $10) for Google Radio.

Furthermore, Google Music now cripples searches of your own music library, instead showing you less relevant search results from music on their “radio stations” – and displaying these above songs you own and/or have uploaded to their service. Often times I will run a search for a song title that I know is in my library- the song will not show up at all, but instead Google only displays radio stations for the same. However if I browse to that artist and album, I can see the song displayed plainly with the title exactly as I had originally typed it into the search request. Despite hours of personal time troubleshooting digital-music-related concerns with both Apple and Google, and documenting dozens of case numbers, notes, and conversations with their support teams, at this point I don’t know what to do.

I suppose I need to start the hunt for a better music management software yet again. I don’t want radio, subscription, best-guess recommendations. I’ve been doing fine hearing about new music from real human radio DJs and music lovers and fellow musicians. Just give me a simple place to store and an easy way to organize all of my digital music files, regardless of the format (which I don’t care about anyway). I just want mixes from and access to my own music (and this is old technology now) – I have a library with more than 25,000 songs in it, I don’t need a computer-radio. If I can find this, I would be in digital-music-heaven.

Adam Fischer is the President and Founder of computersWTF, a company that provides in-home I.T. solutions, Managed I.T. consulting for businesses, and WiFi and Smart Home installations to customers in Los Angeles, CA. He is also the bassist for Bonsai Boulevard, an LA-based alt-rock band embarking on their first tour of China this April.

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