Sunday, September 14, 2008

Music, listening to

I upgraded to iTunes 8 earlier in the week, and it has two main new features:

(1) A grid view to let you navigate albums and artists by the pretty cover art. If you happen to listen to your music whole albums at a time rather than via playlists, the new grid view will be perfect for you. For me, it just gets in the way.
(2) The "Genius" music suggester which can create an automatic playlist from your own library, based on a selected track, as well as give you options for music you might like to buy from the iTunes store. The accuracy I've seen so far isn't bad, but the last thing I really need is more options for parting with cash.

One other thing I had a look at was Songbird, an open source iTunes-alike. If you want more customisability, and don't have an established addiction to the iTunes/iPod combo, this could easily be the option for you. It's designed to allow easy music discovery (either free or for purchase), and you can replace the often-gappy album art of iTunes with access to Last.FM (and presumably other sources) instead. It grabs data from an existing iTunes library easily, and plays even iTunes-store-purchased music quite happily. It doesn't include podcasts or movies (by default anyway) but these may well be  available add-ons, which would mean it can do anything I already use iTunes for. It recognised my iPod, but I wasn't game to risk synching from it, since some of my content wasn't visible, and could easily have disappeared.
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New playthings?

It'd been a while since I last tried out a new flavour of social network, so I splurged on a handful of online aggregators today, looking for something which compared favourably with Facebook for pulling together my various activities across blogging, music, photo and bookmarking sites. Sadly, nothing really succeeded.

Out of the multitude of available options, I had an initial play with the following: FriendFeed, Mugshot, SecondBrain, Youmeo, and SocialURL.

Of these, FriendFeed was really the only one to come close to what I was looking for, delivering a seamless RSS feed from 7 of the sites I use. Normally that would only be useful for someone-not-me, since I'm the one putting the content there in the first place, so an update to the feed shouldn't really surprise me. However, FriendFeed allows you to define "imaginary" friends, by specifying their public pages (e.g. blogs, Flickr, LibraryThing) and it turns that all into one big combined feed. To be honest, that's not immediately useful, since I already subscribe to a host of individual feeds giving me the same info, but if my PC dies or I'm away from home it would make getting updates much easier.
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Friday, September 12, 2008


More Wii news:
  • I've had to adjust the Wii Fit exercises I was doing, as I've been suffering from a nasty aggravation of ankle tendonitis (something which was creeping upon me even pre-Wii). Easing off on some bits of yoga and hard stepping seems to be helping, and in the meantime my abs and back get the workout they sorely need.
  • I've successfully survived an entire week of self-imposed Zelda ban, after averaging more than 5 hours a day seemed a bit extreme. Will I return to my virtual adventuring soon? Time will tell.
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Getting rid of the bother

I recommend having your phone offline for a couple of weeks (replacing it with VOIP), as it seems (for now) that after years of multiple telemarketer calls every single day, I have had not one in 2 weeks. My phone number remains the same, the persistent "hello... hello... is anyone there..." no longer cluttering my answering machine is a welcome change.
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