Category Archives: Uncategorized

Google Play Music All Access Review

As someone who spends most of each weekday at a desk, I can appreciate a good music collection to help keep the groove going throughout the workday.  I’ve bought in to the Android ecosystem (literally; I have a Nexus 4 and Nexus 7) and have been using Google Music’s storage and streaming service to manage my music collection ever since it was an invite-only preview.  Naturally I decided to jump on to Google’s latest offering of Google Play Music All Access.

Google Play All Access

Google Play All Access provides the entire collection of songs available on Google Play for instant streaming at $9.99 month.  I began reviewing it with a 30-day free trial which integrates with the existing Google Music app.

I’ve long been a user of Pandora radio, but I’ve tried other free services.  Last.fm was my streaming service of choice until they dropped their free mobile streaming several years ago.  Slacker radio was great but I grew tired of their app’s behavior of either crashing or streaming relentless commercials.  I also actually purchased the TuneIn premium app to listen to one of my favorite independent stations out of Vermont.  So it’s fair to say I’ve tried enough music streaming services to render an opinion.

Google Play All Access integrates so extremely well with the Google Music app, the line between my personal music collection and the All Access music was almost blurred.  That’s just about where the compliments stop.

Searching:
The premium feature you get with a paid service like Google Play All Access music is the ability to search and stream songs you want to listen to.  That being said, I wish the search results were sort-able.  Sure, your search results are grouped by artist, album, or song, but there was no sorting.  You may be saying: sorting?; for what?!  When you have a searchable service, you’ll get to a point where you want to discover music by artists you may like.  When doing that, it would be helpful to at least sort albums by release date and maybe even popularity.  If I want to check out The Killer’s latest album, how do I know what one that is?  There is a lot of content out there and Google didn’t help me figure out what I was looking at.

Radio:
Like seemingly all streaming radio services, Google’s allows you to create a radio station based on a song or artist.  It will then assemble a continuous playlist with music that is calculated to be likable and similar to the song or artist you chose.  The Google Music app’s screen has buttons to provide feedback indicating if you like or dislike the song and learn you music style over time.

I started with a station based on the artist The Killers.  The Killers is an alt-rock band and Google did a decent job of assembling a playlist of alt-rock songs.  And then it came…. Coldplay.  I can’t stand Coldplay and I tried to communicate that to Google by pressing the dislike button when a song of theirs played.  A little while later another Coldplay song made it in to the playlist and I also pressed the dislike button.  Then a third time, and a fourth time.  Mind you there is no button to ban an artist from your channel like some services offer, because if it was there I would’ve banned Coldplay.  It seemed like the like and dislike button did almost nothing at all because it kept serving up Coldplay songs.

Summary:
The thing Google Music All Access has going for it is it integrates nicely with Google Music.  All Access is in its infancy and it shows.  With no sorting of searches and a radio algorithm that can’t seem to learn what you don’t like, I had no problem canceling the service before the free trial was up.  They aren’t undercutting the competition on price and don’t have many features to offer; this will be an uphill battle for Google to move in to unless they make some big improvements quickly.

Filled Under: Uncategorized Posted on: July 31, 2013

Goodbye Jungle Disk; Hello SkyDrive!

Back in 2009 my photo, video, and document collection got to the point where I could no longer back it up on just a few DVD’s.  I was also rightfully concerned that storing backups on physical media at my house wasn’t enough.  A thief, disaster, or even just corrupted physical media could cause me to lose all those files.  Luckily at the same time there were waves of cloud providers offering online backup solutions.  The choices over the past several years were numerous but I had very specific requirements:

  • It had to be cheap.
  • Backing up data should be simple.
  • I should be able to use the provider’s backup client software on any device I own without incurring any additional cost.
  • The provider should be a reliable name and not some fly-by-night that will be out of business after they realized they can’t compete with the major providers.
Why don't all you clouds do the same thing for the same price?

Why don’t all you clouds do the same thing for the same price?!

The biggest names in personal online-based backup in recent years have included Mozy and Carbonite but they both charge extra if you want to backup more than one computer.  Amazon S3 is cheap but without an intuitive 3rd party backup client, it’s not a set-and-forget type of solution.  Then there was Jungle Disk.

Jungle Disk is a backup solution that is now owned by Rackspace.  The premise is simple, you pay a low $3 monthly fee to use the backup software and your data is stored in the pennies-cheap Rackspace cloud (or Amazon S3 if you choose).  The software allows you to see your cloud storage as a networked drive in Windows as well as configure what files to back up and how often.  The software may not be as intuitive as the competition  but I was competent enough to set it up.  My bill from Jungle Disk never exceeded $5/month.

A while back Microsoft re-branded its cloud storage to SkyDrive and offered 25GB free storage promotion if you signed up.  I signed up but didn’t use it.  I was wary of a product that was once Live FolderShare, then Live Sync, then Live Mesh, then finally SkyDrive.  None of the previous incarnations of SkyDrive were particularly successful compared to competitors.  SkyDrive is different though.

SkyDrive has a great web UI.  It also has Android, iOS, and Windows 8 apps.  Syncing folders is dead simple and it overall seems more useful than trusty Jungle Disk.  The only thing that held me back was I didn’t want to tie up my bandwidth re-uploading all my files to a new data store.  So I kept paying the monthly fee to Jungle Disk.

I then remembered that my ISP doubled my upload speed since I first joined Jungle Disk, so I finally gave it a try.  Uploading files to SkyDrive didn’t bog down my internet speeds like I previously remember.  Now I have all the functionality I used with Jungle Disk, but for free!  If I ever do break that 25GB free limit that SkyDrive offeres me, another 20GB is only $10/year.  Microsoft has finally put out a great cloud storage solution for people wanting to backup their personal data and I’m $5/month richer for cancelling Jungle Disk.

Tags: Filled Under: Uncategorized Posted on: December 28, 2012

Back to blogging & why that’s important

This isn’t my first blog, if you do a Google search of my name you’ll quickly see that.  My first blog resides on the prestigious weblogs.asp.net domain and I maintained it from 2008-2009.  Looking back at my old posts is a bit comical and amazing at the same time because you can see how much web technology has evolved in the past few short years.

My most popular post was a tutorial on using the ASP.NET Ajax Control Toolkit’s reorder list control.  That post still gets comments and questions to this day.  However, today I’d rarely consider using the Ajax Control Toolkit because I’ve learned what it really is (or what it really isn’t).  Frankly, I’m a bit surprised the toolkit is still maintained.

Don’t get me wrong, it was very innovative when it came out and addressed the problems it aimed to solve.  However, with evolved scripting libraries such as jQuery and a much better understanding of HTTP by developers in general, there are better ways to accomplish what the toolkit did.  I see that as huge progress in the modern development space.

Until recent times, many .NET developers, including myself, could afford to place a shroud of abstraction over the web and never peek inside what was really happening during those page postbacks or ‘ajax’ toolkit actions.  Tooling has evolved rapidly, mobile platforms are in the forefront, and UX response time is paramount.

So I have a new domain name for my blog, justinsaraceno.com.  Even though I was still welcome to post to weblogs.asp.net, I didn’t want to in any way limit my audience.  Of course I still identify myself as a .NET developer.  My career has taken me through the evolution of .NET and there’s no doubt that it’s an exceptional technology stack.  But now I’m dabbling in to other technologies like PhoneGap, HTML5, WP7, Azure, and several others.  Many of those technologies relate to or are compatible with .NET, which in itself is a testament to how well the .NET experience has evolved.  However, having a platform-agnostic endpoint to showcase technology I’m interested in seems fitting for the the way the web is evolving.

You may be asking, why did you stop blogging and why is it important to start again?  Well, when Twitter became popular a few years back it was no coincidence that technical blogging seemed to slow down.  However, many of the great things people are doing these days need more than 140 characters to explain or showcase. We’re seeing a resurgance of blogging. Not only that, but the quality of technical blog posts is up in my opinion, perhaps fuled in part by having Twitter as an additional outlet.  The exciting technologies I’m using at work, my involvement in TRINUG, and even my first Android app (ala PhoneGap) are experiences I believe are worth sharing and discussing.

Welcome to my new blog!

Filled Under: Uncategorized Posted on: June 23, 2012