San Francisco Radio: Turning up the Suck

brownamp As you may have surmised from my previous post, I’m in California for a few days this week on business, and more specifically, in the San Jose / Mountain View area.  I drove in to San Francisco last night to grab dinner and drinks with an old classmate of mine (Hi, Lauren!).

It’s a surprisingly long drive, considering I think of Mountain View as a suburb of San Francisco…  Took me about 50 minutes to get up to there.

While driving on the stretch of 280, I decided I’d need some music.  I turned on the radio, and scanned through the whole series of stations twice.  Nothing but "teh suck".  Not just "teh suck", but "teh suck" turned up to 11.  Tejano music or crappy stuff.

San Francisco: you’re supposed to be a great city.  There’s music written about you.  Why don’t you have a decent radio station?

Shame on you, MTV

image About two years ago, I opened up an URGE subscription account.  $15 per month for an all-you-can-eat music service was too good to pass up.  About a year ago, when I bought my Zune, I closed my URGE subscription account and that was that.

Today, I got an e-mail from URGE.  "Odd," I thought to myself, since URGE is basically ceasing to exist because they’re "teaming up" with Rhapsody.  I opened the mail, and it was basically giving me the run-down of the merger with Rhapsody.

The email indicates that I’m a current URGE By The Track member, which I’m really not.  I never outright bought a song, I only used the URGE Subscription service.  It also says that on October 25 (yep, that’s today, thanks for the heads up), my account will be converted into a Rhapsody 25 account.  Blah blah blah, boilerplate, marketing drivel, oh, and, by the way, we’ve transferred your credit card information over to Rhapsody.

What?!  You’ve given my credit card information to Rhapsody without me opting in to do so?

To be fair, I read their Privacy Policy and they classify credit cards as Sensitive Personal Information, and they reserve the right to disclose Sensitive Personal Information to 3rd parties in the event of a merger, bankruptcy, etc.

So, by the letter of their policy, they’re in the clear; but, this just seems wrong, dirty, and shameful.  I was never a URGE By The Track member and I haven’t been a subscriber to URGE in over a year.  Another irritating thing is that they don’t tell you what to do in the event that you don’t want to be a Rhapsody 25 account holder.  Now I have to dig through Rhapsody’s site to figure that mess out.

So I jump over to Rhapsody’s site, click on "My Account", which prompts me for a username and password.  I don’t have one of those, so I click on the "Forgot your password" link.  Punch in the email address, and I’m greeted with:

image

Great.  Now Rhapsody has my credit card number that’s not associated with any account, seemingly.  Wonderful, and brilliant.  Now I have to call Rhapsody.  Note to self: that number is 866-597-5465.

Click through for the full mail.

Continue reading “Shame on you, MTV”

Geeking Out at Home

Diann and I spent last night doing something we didn’t think we’d be doing yet: looking at houses online.

To this date, I’ve avoided the insane Seattle real-estate market, but we figure it’s time to bite the bullet and jump in.  It just doesn’t show any indication of slowing down in the next 3 years or so more than it has in the last two months.

This is where the geeking out comes into play.  You see, our realtor had sent us a list of listings (list of listings? that doesn’t sound right) that we were supposed to look over and pick out a few that we were interested in.  Having only laptops in the house doesn’t exactly lend itself towards sharing screens to look at things.

(Warning: lots of product identifiers coming up)

Luckily, my Samsung TV (HL-S5687) has a VGA input.  I connected up the laptop to the TV, and we suddenly had a 1920×1080 (1080p for you theater buffs) screen about 10 feet away from us.  This was brilliant, except for the lack of ability to control the computer.  Several years back, though, I had bought a Bluetooth mouse, and I paired it up successfully to my Lenovo T60p.

There we are, sitting on our couch, looking at home listings on our TV.  Diann had our older laptop looking at addresses and tracking which MLS numbers we liked. So, you’d think we’d be content there.  Then Diann started playing music, and the tinny speakers on the laptop drove me nuts.

I cranked up the Xbox 360, and enabled Windows Media Connect on the laptop.  Shuffled all the music in the 360’s media player, and then we had our background music.

To sum up: Laptop connected wirelessly to the ‘net and VGA to a TV, controlled by a wireless Bluetooth mouse.  Another laptop connected wirelessly to the ‘net, streaming music to the Xbox 360.

I wish I had taken pictures.

Notes from the morning

So, since I’ve been up since 4:30am cooking brisket, I wanted to jot down a few notes from the morning.

First, there seems to be a racoon living in our backyard. He was drinking from the pond while I was waiting on the BBQ to heat up.

Second, there’s nothing on TV at 4:30am on a Sunday. Oh, except MTV does play music videos, and not just on MTV2 — on MTV! All this time I thought they didn’t play music videos anymore; turns out, apparently the MTV folks think the music video demographic are early risers. TNT-HD has had a good movie run, though: [A Time to Kill](http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0117913/), [The Negotiator](http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0120768/), [Murder at 1600](http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0119731/). Seriously, that’s two [Samuel L. Jackson](http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0000168/) movies in a row!

Third: 11:45am, and I’ve started making the BBQ sauce. Oh, and I’ve finally opened a beer for myself.

Problem with the RIAA and Recording Industry

So I've been following all the Engadget and Gizmodo posts about the rumored Argo and Zune. One of the things that jumped out at me was this Engadget article that talked about the possibility that Microsoft would be allowing people to download whatever music they've purchased in iTunes for free — but that “Microsoft will still have to pay the rights-holders for the songs”. (Note that this was later refuted here on Gizmodo)

Whether or not it's true, I do think this points out a serious flaw with having multiple formats of proprietary DRM: you've paid for the song in one, but you can't get it in the others — even though you paid for the license to the song! I guess what you're paying for when you pay $0.99 in iTMS or any of the other content providers is a license to that song, using that service. Makes the “buy this song” links seem kind of like false advertising.

I've said before I have no problem with the concept of DRM, so long as it's done right; the current ways, however, aren't. This is one aspect that I think a unified approach that would work on multiple platforms would be a boon to consumers. I'm having this problem currently with the music that I've bought from iTMS since I sold my iPod in favor of a Toshiba Gigabeat S60. So far, I'm leaning towards (and have been checking out) for two months MTV's URGE music store subscriptions – so I can just re-download what music I had previously encountered in iTMS.

Coldplay Concert

Just walked back in the door from a Coldplay show for their Twisted Logic tour (Wikipedia reference with setlists, etc.). A fantastic show they put on; Chris Martin definitely brings a lot of energy to the show.

Tons of good references to Seattle in the concert, a few mentions of the upcoming Superbowl (Go Seahawks!). My favorite Seattle reference was during God Put a Smile Upon Your Face — instead of singing that, he sang “God put a Starbucks on every fucking corner in this place”. Got an excellent reaction from the crowd 🙂

Fiona Apple opened for them, playing for around an hour. I like a lot of her old stuff and some of her new stuff, but I will say she's better on CD than in person, in my opinion.

So, end story – go see the concert if they're coming to your town.

Sharing iTunes Libaries with Multiple Users in Windows XP

Diann & I have both had our iPods for quite some time now, and I've always had it setup where the iTunes libary is stored within my home directory. Kind of irritating, especially when she needed to update her iPod, I'd have to log in as me.

I realized today that someone out there must have solved the problem, and some quick searching on the Internet led me to this site. I'm not a big fan of the font they used (yeah, it's a normal font, but with so much text I found it hard to read!), so I'll replicate/paraphrase what they've written up here (names changed to make it more akin to my situation, some file locations changed to more adequately reflect how my system is setup, if you want the original, well, the link is just above):

Which means now we have two users on a Windows XP computer, both of whom want to use the same music library and such. So for folks in a similar boat, here's how you do it.

Note that I'm assuming you have Administrator rights on the computer (so you can get into everyone else's My Documents folders) and you know how to work command prompts and stuff…

  1. Go to SysInternals and download a copy of junction if you don't already have it. Put it somewhere in your path; you're going to need to use it from the command prompt later.
  2. Your music library (the file iTunes 4 Music Library.itl) is stored in your My Music\iTunes folder. Your actual music might be too. Point is, if you look in the C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music folder, you'll see a folder iTunes that contains all of that stuff. We need to centralize that. Move that folder to the Shared Music folder: C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music
  3. You now have all of your iTunes stuff in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes right? Cool. Now you have to link to it.
  4. Open a command prompt in your My Music folder.
  5. At the prompt, execute: junction iTunes "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes"
  6. You now have a hard link to the iTunes shared folder instead of a physical folder in your My Music folder. (Junction makes a sort of “shortcut” to other folders, but Windows thinks it's the real thing. That's how we're going to fool iTunes into allowing everyone to use the same iTunes library.) Repeat that command prompt “junction” action in all the other users' My Music folders who are going to share your iTunes library.
  7. Everyone who's sharing now has a junction to the shared iTunes folder, right? Now, have each user log in, one user at a time (not “switch users,” but actually have only one user logged in at a time) and open iTunes. They will all have to set up their own preferences (like their iTunes account, their shopping preferences, etc.) but they will all have access to the same music library and the same playlists.

That's it! You're done!

There are a couple of interesting caveats to note when working in this scenario. Some good, some not so good.

Since you're all sharing the same library and ratings are stored in the library, if one person changes ratings, they get changed for everyone. If you're anal like me, that means you'll tell everyone else not to rate anything. Hopefully Diann won't make all our U2 music 5 stars anytime soon.

This setup does allow all of you to automatically sync your iPods with individual settings. So I can sync my iPod with playlists X, Y, Z and Diann can sync hers automatically with playlists A, B, C. No problems there.

You can't have multiple users simultaneously logged in and using iTunes. That includes the “fast user switching” thing Windows XP provides. If one person is using iTunes, no one else can be using iTunes on that computer.

Important Note: These instructions are for Windows XP. If you're on a different OS/version, you're going to have to adapt paths accordingly. Also, I've only ever run any of this with an account that has Administrator privileges. If you're trying to get this working with limited accounts, you're on your own. All instructions here are provided for your unsupported use and at your own risk. Because, well… “it works for me.”

Regarding that last note, it seems to work as a standard user account as well. That's because the Shared Music folder has Everyone/Everything permissions by default. Ahh happiness, now I can just plug in an iPod and get it to sync without worrying about who is logged in!

UPDATE: Updated to reflect that you do have to put quotes in the junction command.

Christmas Music

I really think that the department stores start playing Christmas Music earlier and earlier every year. (Yes, I realize I'm just posting this on 12/13. The Christmas Music has been driving me nuts for over two weeks now).

I don't think I'd have as huge of a problem with it if the music was to change up occasionally. We get new normal music every day — why not a new Christmas-related song every 500 years or so?

[ Incidentally, I know I've been a bit lax in updating the blog recently.. I keep having these wonderful thoughts that need posting that I keep telling myself I'll post when I get back at a computer. Then I forget. Doh. ]