Friday Night Solitude Music Selection: Dream Theater’s Awake

So it’s Friday. My wife has abandoned me. Well, okay … only temporarily. She went out with some of her girlfriends for a much-deserved night out. Meanwhile, I get to supervise our girls’ 24-hour job marathon that they’ve earned for their continued and sustained disobedience … which then begs the question, “What makes you think they’re going to do jobs to be un-grounded if they’re not listening at all?” *SUCH* a valid question! And sorry … no answers. Oddly, one will come to her senses and work on her job list until she gets everything done so she can be un-grounded. The other one, by stark contrast, adamantly fights us tooth and nail. She will actually work harder to *not* do her jobs than she will on actually doing them. When we point out that she could have been done “X” hours ago, she just furrows her brow, tries to work out the math in her head, gives up, shrugs her shoulders, and somersaults away from us down the hall. Yes, somersaults. There is no walking for her–only acrobatic methods of moving from points A to B.


Except that now that they’re both in bed, presumably asleep, I have some time to myself. What do I choose to do with all of this free time? Re-tag my mp3s in iTunes, of course! Can’t have a CD without a release date, can I?!


Seriously. That bothers me. A lot. When I’m going through my music on my phone, I want it organized by release date. Der.


Honestly, it’s not *that* big of a deal, but it’s just one of those nit-noidy things that I can hammer out while I have some free time, so why not?


Background music of choice for the evening: Dream Theater’s Awake CD. I found an old friend who got me into them way back in 1994 (Hi, KH!!!). I haven’t seen this girl in probably 17-18 years or so. We found each other on Facebook, caught up for an hour or so, and it got me thinking back to when we first met. It was rather amazing to find a girl who liked prog metal … much less neo-prog metal like DT. We went out a couple of times, hung out together in college, and then we went our separate ways. I got married, she got married, she was living on the east coast, and now she lives down the highway from us.


After we chatted, I thought it’d be fun to pull out some of their older stuff, like Awake, Images and Words, A Change of Seasons, Falling into Infinity … and thus has been my week. Drives to and from work, drives to interviews (a long story for another day) … any time I’ve been in the car, I’d get reacquainted with those CDs. And they have a *lot* more. It’ll be good to catch up with their more recent offerings.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Anyone who can change up their time and key signatures with a certain degree of proficiency is going to merit at least a few listens from me. I like my music complex and semi-chaotic. Not like Aphex Twin chaotic, but well-organized chaos is always a good thing. I guess “chaos” is probably the wrong term to use. Let me put it this way: if your whole CD consists of simply 2/4, 3/4, or 4/4 time sigs and no key changes within a song, odds are, I won’t enjoy you much. There are notable excpetions, obviously. A lot of what Suzanne Vega writes is pretty much  the same key beginning to end of song … but then again she is an amazing lyricist. Her music is another layer of icing on an incredibly rich cake.


Guess I should get back to dating these files. 35000+, and they aren’t gonna tag themselves.

Google Music vs. Apple iCloud

So, you were asking about what the benefit is to using Apple’s match vs. Google Music. I think I have a pretty good list of pros and cons. Being the pseudo-Apple-Fanboi that  I’ve been accused of being in the past, I’ll list the pros and cons of Apple first.


  • Cost. At $25 a year for unlimited cloud storage, I’ll take that.
  • Match. Doesn’t matter what low bit-rate your file is in: if Apple finds a match, your song is automatically converted to 44Khz/256kbps. Now … if your file is 320Kbps/48000Khz, I don’t know what they do. I imagine your song would be down-converted on their server, but then again, it’s just a match—it’s not like your file on your computer is going to be downgraded, just whatever Apple can match.
  • Unlimited storage. Seriously. I guess they can do that because they’re really just maintaining a database of what songs you “own.” One song can be proliferated to thousands of users since it’s just matching the actual song file to what’s loaded in your database.


  • User experience. This, in my mind, is THE BIGGEST drawback. You don’t stream your tunes to any device. In order to use them, you have to have them physically on your device. In my mind, that’s not actual cloud service. Cloud storage, sure, but not actual use. If I’m in the middle of Yellowstone, and I have a real jones-on to listen to Cranes’ Loved  CD and I don’t have it on my phone already, I have to open iTunes and download it. Free to do so, sure, but it’s still not playing FROM the cloud.
  • Device storage size still does matter. If your collection is 500GB (which isn’t surprising by any stretch), and your phone/device holds a maximum of 64-160GB, HOW can you have access to your entire collection at any one time? Simple answer: you can’t. You get to pick and choose what you want to listen to. Even then, if you grow bored with what’s on your phone, you have to delete what you currently have to make way for the new material you want to download. Currently, in iOS iTunes, you CANNOT delete songs from your device without connecting to desktop iTunes. Lame. Very, very lame. This will change when iOS 5 is released, though as of whatever iOS 5 beta release was current as of June 2011, you could only delete one track at a time. Boo. I would hope that the option to delete an album at a time will be integrated in future betas or the final release.

Okay, those are my major hypes/gripes about Apple’s cloud system for now. To date, I haven’t really had a chance to test drive Google’s music system much, but at a cap of 20,000 songs, I really don’t see where I *need* to test drive it much beyond that. Like I said, I have close to 40,000 songs. At a 20,000 song  cap, I’d need multiple accounts just to store all my music. That’s retarded. However, to Google’s credit and Apple’s discredit, Google’s service is actual streaming. Fair enough.

Anyway, I’m sold on the Apple option, if for no other reason than I have ALL my music in one cloud-based storage. And yah—truthfully, I’m not going to be interetsed in listening to all 500GB at once, so … whatever. ‘sides, I have a feeling that Apple will be offering a stremaing service soon enough.

App Review: TuneIn Radio

I grew up in western New York. Buffalo area, to be specific. The radio station I listened to for sports out there was WGR 550. When I moved out here in the mid-90s, I lost the ability to keep home-spun tabs on the Bills and Sabres. Of course, that was about 15 years ago–right around the time the Internet was breaking wide open world-wide.

Streaming media came along, and all of the sudden, I was able to tune in to my favorite sports radio station from anywhere. However, the requirement was a desktop or a laptop; I couldn’t just plug in using my little Sanyo PM8200.

And along came smartphones. As phones got more and more smarter (see the grammatical humor there?) with more and more capability, apps like Pandora and Home Radio hit the app store. WGR thought they could jump into the fray and make their own app. And they did, right? What a great idea! It’s one of the most robust radio station apps I’ve seen. All kinds of awesome interaction–emailing the studio, texting, calling (hi … it’s a phone, after all), audio vault for past programs … great app! If only it would run well on something other than wi-fi.

What it touts as being its best feature in the ability to stream audio live (or at least as live as it can get with a pretty large buffer) becomes its greatest weakness; unless you’re at full bars or on wi-fi, forget it. The app will freeze up, and the only way to get it to function is to close it out and restart it. LAME.

I brought this up on the Sabres message board a few days ago. A bunch of people chimed in and said that they too were having issues, and they really hate the app cuz it’s so worthless. Fair statement. Then someone posted a comment about TuneIn Radio. This person kept raving about how it’s so great, the buffer is strong, and it’s never died on him. With free agency looming, I *had* to find some way to stay connected. I downloaded the app, and … wow. Just wow.

So here are some key excellent points.

First off, the app is an extension of the website, Great name. Easy to remember, very simple. Like it a lot. On the website, the first page you see is a list of local radio stations that you can stream. It lists 8, but you can click the “browse all local radio” link and get a full list. A few of the stations might be greyed out due to a lack of streaming address, so don’t freak out if you run across that. For example, the local radio station at Weber State is KWCR. While it’s listed on TuneIn’s website, it’s not available to stream. Boo. Hiss. I’m going to make some phone calls on Tuesday and find out if they have a streaming address cuz they need one. However, KRCL out of Salt Lake streams. Excellent!

So that’s the website. The app is about the same as the website … but *mobile*! Which, you know … should be, since it’s an app. The beauty of this thing is the sheer number of stations you can pull in with this thing. Fact: you can stream folk music from the Antarctic. Trust me–I know this because I’ve done this. So when I tell you that you can stream stations from ALL over the world, I really do mean ALL OVER THE WORLD. I’ve found stations from Portugal, Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan … that’s right–Uzbekistan. UZR1. No idea what they’re saying, but I’m digging the music.

If you hear something you really like, you can record it to your phone and play it back later. It store a list of your recordings in the Recordings section on the buttons tool bar.

Editor’s note: it should be pointed out that the Uzbek station sounds like it’s broadcasting under water at about 11000 khz. Any semblance to even a decent mono feed is purely coincidental. So while I’m not totally overwhelmed with the broadcast quality, I am more than just whelmed that I can actually pick up Uzbek radio at all.

There are lists according to local radio stations, recently visited, recommended, music, talk, sports stations … you can browse by location or language. Have a hankering for some exquisite Mandarin Chinese? Look it up! Want to eavesdrop on those retarded chowderhead beantown Bruins fans sports radio talk? Look it up! THERE IS A STREAMING STATION FROM BARROW ALASKA. Name of the station? “Top of the World Radio.” HA! That’s freakin’ awesome.

Because I want to come back later and check out what’s going on up there, I’ve added it to my presets by pressing the little heart icon in the top right corner of the Now Playing screen. You can do that with any station or feed. That way you don’t have to come back to it later.

There are two versions in the app store: free and paid. Pony up for the paid one. The free one “only” streams 45000 stations and broadcasts. 🙂 Because let’s face it: 45000 radio stations just isn’t enough, is it?

Now … I know there are other apps that do this kind of thing, with the streaming radio stations. I’ve used them. I’ve even liked some of them. This app, though … man. I just love it. The interface is clean, simple and intuitive. The number of available stations and locations is sick.

Give it a shot. It’s worth it.

Stayin’ Alive

My wife and I had back-to-back meetings. Mine was at 7, hers at 7:30. I went out and swapped vehicles with her and took our girls home. She always has her car radio on … something I tend to avoid at all cost unless it’s the local college station. On the way home, The Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” came on. For whatever reason, I automatically started swerving the wheel to the beat. Mind you, this wasn’t some super busy road at 75 MPH … we were going down some little residential road at 25. Very easy to control the car. The girls absolutely loved it.

As we approached our street, I realized that I was *right* in front of the police station. Anyone looking out their window would have seen us be-boppin’ down the road as we turned down our road. Oops. Thankfully, no one noticed. Ha ha!!

So of course the girls demanded to listen to it again. “Sorry girls. Radio!” That was met with a chorus of “AWWWWW”s and “WAAAAAAH”s.

Guess what I just bought on iTunes. 🙂

And with the goodness of Audiogalaxy, I can play it pretty much any time I want for them. Or … me. Come on … who amongst us doesn’t have that occasional guilty pleasure?

Bee Gees FTGP!

iTunes and iCloud First Thoughts

It is here. iCloud is now a reality. What does that mean for those of us with an iTunes account?

Truthfully, I’m not sure.

Here’s my thing. I have Audiogalaxy installed on my phone. It’s free. From anywhere I can get a semi-decent signal–wi-fi or 3G–I can listen to my entire music collection … not just 25000 songs worth. APparently, that’s the cap on how many songs you can have iTunes match. Why there’s a cap at all is beyond me, but whatever. There is. At an average of approximately 10 songs per CD, that’s 2500 CDs. I’m fairly certain the average listener doesn’t have that much.

I do. And them some. So what am I supposed to do? I can’t create 2 accounts because my phone can only be recognized by one account at a time. If I try downloading songs from another account, I’m sure I’ll get lambasted for trying to. So that’s not really an option.

Now I’m back to the fact that Audiogalaxay has EVERYTHING I own available through its app. Granted, I can’t download a particular song … but I do not have to because IT’S ON MY FRIGGIN’ HARD DRIVE AT HOME.

To be fair, I do see one application where iTunes in the Cloud could be useful. It makes for a handy back-up system. I’d create multiple accounts to host 25000 songs each. Ha ha! Then if a hard drive dies or goes kaput, I can re-download them. But then again, where their songs are only encoded at 256kbps, mine are all encoded at 320kbps. Gain some hard drive space; lose some sound quality. And yes–I’m one of “those” audiophiles.

One thing I *really* like about this new cloud service is the availability of apps I’ve long since forgotten I had due to a reformat and loss of all apps. THAT is pretty cool. ANY app I’ve ever purchased is available to download. Slick. Hopefully, Apple doesn’t “fix” that little hiccup (cuz it kind of seems like it shouldn’t be that way for some reason, right?)

Anyway, I’ll reserve judgment for when I actually start using the service. Maybe I’ll find more to like. Maybe I won’t. For now though, I’m content to download my old apps!


Review: TuneUp Media for iTunes and Windows Media Player

It seems that everything I review lately comes from a recommendation from a tweet. Today is no different, but it’s definitely one worth mentioning.

In my iTunes library, I have a bunch of CDs that don’t have album art. Keep in mind that I have a lot of obscure stuff that iTunes doesn’t recognize anyway. I have to manually fat-finger in the album title, artist, and track titles. That gets seriously tedious. Also, it won’t find the album artwork, so even when I get done entering everything, I’m still without a pretty picture to associate with the CD.

Enter TuneUp Media. This is seriously like the Blarney stone of music. To be upfront and honest, it does cost: $30 for the unlimited use; $20 for one year of use, and free if you have a 100-song library. The free version is almost an insult. Who has a 100-song library …? Even my mother in law has more than that. That’s the equivalent of ~10 CDs.

I obtained the unlimited use version. Once it installs, you have to create an account and use the license key provided at the time of purchase to activate it. After that, you’re up and running, and the fun begins.

It’s not flawless, but it’s pretty close. I had almost 500 CDs that didn’t have cover art prior to installing TuneUp. After it ran the Cover Art clean and scrub, I was left with only 80 CDs without cover art. These are CDs like Nitin Sawhney: Spiritual Life Music, various concert recordings that don’t have an official title, Centipede E’est, Deathmole … those kinds of CDs. Everything else was covered!

You can also clean up your ID3 tags rapid-fire. The software will search high and low to find the CD information and fill in the gaps, like track number, track title, CD title, and artist. If I’m right, it kind of works like a private investigator works: you give it what little information you have, and it finds the rest. Say you have 3 or 4 track titles, but no artist or CD title. Based on those 3 or 4 tracks, it can scour whatever database it uses, find the right CD, and fill in the blanks. Pretty cool, eh?!

If you click on the Tuniverse tab, you’ll find a wealth of information about the artist currently playing. I clicked on a-ha’s “Take On Me,” and I got a brief wikipedia synopsis and eBay auctions for various merchandise. Other available datapoints include YouTube videos, album recommendations, news, concert notifications … this thing is slick.

My favorite tab is the Concerts tab. TuneUp scours your library and reports on what concerts are coming up in your area. So far, I have concerts listed for Elephant Revival, Eisley, St. Vincent, My Chemical romance and Neon Trees (joint bill), The Joy Formidable, Arcade Fire, Deftones, Yanni, Of Montreal, and U2. That’s just amazing. And we’re not talking shows at major venues; locally, we’re talking Kilby Court, In the Venue, and The Depot (one of my favorite venues of all time).

Under the Share tab, you can post your last 5 songs played, Songs Most played, Top Artists in Collection, and Favorite Artists to Facebook. Not seeing any Twitter connectivity … maybe that’s down the road. I don’t know.

Anyway, yah. This thing is wicked awesome. I highly recommend ponying up the $30 and making this a long-term companion to your media player of choice (read: of the two it currently supports).


All the music from my phone remained intact. THAT’s a relief.

So, the point of my concern was that a few months back, I had to re-install Windows (guess Bill didn’t like me using my “evaluation” Windows 7 OS anymore …). Unfortunately, my iTunes library wasn’t backed up entirely. All the purchased material was flushed with the hard drive re-format. Fortunately, that consisted of a total of two songs from my friend in Seattle, who sings with the band Paisley Rose out of Portland. Again, just two tracks, and I most certainly did not mind re-purchasing them … but what if i had lost my whole library? I’m not an iTunes guru by any stretch, but from the attempts I made at finding a way to re-download my already purchased tracks, I seemed to be up the proverbial creek without so much as a canoe, much less a paddle. 

Anyway, so it was a great relief to me to see that my phone did not purge the purchases when I connected it to my desktop for the first time.

And stand by for another post! A concert announcement that I didn’t know was even on the docket. SWEET.

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