Tag Archives: Mac

Tagalicious

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Having recently acquired a copy Tagalicious, it seemed time to look at the MP3 tag file programs again. I’m astonished at how many hits these postings have gotten.

If you’re coming to the blog for the first time, here are links to the previous posts:

CoverScout, Pollux, TuneUp

Genre Tagging: Pollux vs. TuneUp

Pollux vs. TuneUp — Update

As mentioned in previous posts, CoverScout is out of the running. It only does cover art, it creates a large database, and it’s too expensive for the limited functionality. Through the course of the past year, Pollux also dropped out of the running. In the year that I had it, I believe there was one update. I’m not going to pay an annual fee ($10/year) for a product that appears to have ceased development a year ago. It might be different if the program were outstandingly effective and bug free. No such luck.

So, TuneUp has remained my go-to program for MP3 tagging. They update it regularly and seem to have an actual interest in their customers. Things have changed a bit, in the last year; they have broadened the offering a bit since I first purchased TuneUp. They have now added DeDuper, which claims to eliminate duplicate songs, based on the acoustic fingerprint of the songs. A lifetime license to the entire bundle is now $49.95. As a loyal TuneUp Gold customer, I am allowed to purchase DeDuper as an add-on for $19.95 (annual) or $29.95 (lifetime). My reward is to pay more for the bundle than a new customer will pay. I just don’t see that happening. So, I have 25 DeDupes and then I’m done. I’ll probably get to it eventually but duplicate songs aren’t that big a deal to me (certainly not a big enough deal to spend $30).

Now comes Tagalicious from The Little App Factory. I have iRip and RipIt from The Little App Factory and have found both programs to be very useful and very stable, so it made sense to give Tagalicious try. At $19.95 for a license that is not an annuity (for the developer), it is priced well. Also, it is available for Mac AND PC (as is TuneUp).

What do you get with Tagalicious?

– MP3 tagging
– Cover art
– Lyrics

Like Pollux, Tagalicious sweetens the deal by providing access to lyrics.

Preferences

You couldn’t get much simpler than the preference settings in Tagalicious. It’s nice that there is a setting to leave purchased songs alone; I don’t recall that being an option in the other apps. The other setting lets you determine whether it’s the new or old tag that is selected for updating by default. By that, I mean that you’re deciding which values will be used for the update.

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How Does it Work?

When you run Pollux, it inserts itself in the menu bar. You select songs in iTunes and then use the menu bar to initiate the search. TuneUp launches with iTunes. You select the songs you want to tag and drag them to the TuneUp window. Tagalicious launches as an app. It looks at your iTunes database and presents your playlists. It also presents a number of its own Smart Playlists, based on your library:

– Music — every song in iTunes
– Updated Music — anything that Tagalicious has modified
– Tagged Music — songs that already have tags
– Untagged Music — nekkid songs

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Select any of the lists and you’re ready to get started. It took me a few minutes to realize that Tagalicious activates when you select a song (or collection of songs). This is different than the way TuneUp and Pollux work but I liked it.

When you pick a list or library view, there are two viewing options: a cover art view and a list view. Cover art view shows the album cover and the song, which is attractive, but not terribly useful.

For list view, here are the view option settings that allow you to pick the sort order, sort by tag, and viewable tags. Another nice feature is that you can toggle back and forth between the original settings and the Tagalicious settings while in list view. This is the most transparent interface I’ve seen, allowing you to easily see how Tagalicious is performing against your current tags/tagging solution.

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If you select a single song, you get a view of the current tag information presented next to the values that Tagalicious has found:

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This is a feature that I really like about Tagalicious. It shows you the existing tag info, as well as the suggested tag info (as determined by Tagalicious). Compared to Pollux or TuneUp, this is a superior method. With Pollux and TuneUp, you must turn off the tags that you do not want updated. With Tagalicious, you click on the tag information you want to update (it’s probably more clear if you note the highlighted fields in the screenshot above). When you click “Send to iTunes” it updates the highlighted fields. This allows you to mix and match between existing tags and the new tags. This is a much more flexible option, since you don’t have to turn off a particular tag for all songs. How sweet is that?

As you can see in the above pic, you can select which values you prefer for each song in your library. This isn’t your only option. Under the Tracks menu, you can also toggle between the original and new values by tag:

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Another useful piece of information provided in list view is an icon that shows the status of each song:

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The green check means that the song has been updated. The red exclamation indicates that nothing was found for that song. The blue lock shows that the song is a DRM song and cannot be updated. The orange icon means that tag information has been found for that song. No icon shows that the song hasn’t been touched yet. It’s quite handy that the list view can be sorted by this value, allowing you to deal with all songs with the same status at once if you want.

TuneUp vs. Tagalicious

As mentioned above, I did not renew my Pollux license. This means that the comparison you’ll see is between TuneUp and Tagalicious. To compare the apps, I created a playlist comprised of 101 songs. I tried to provide a wide variety of genres, as well as throwing in songs that I know are problematic. There were two runs. The first run, used the songs with their existing tags (mostly provided by Pollux or TuneUp). For the second run, I selected the songs in the playlist and cleared all the fields (except song name).

First Round

In the testing, it was clear that Tagalicious was much faster than TuneUp. However, I suspect that this is because TuneUp is checking so many more sites for cover art (based on the number of alerts I got from Little Snitch, TuneUp must check 2 or 3 times what Tagalicious checks…at least). In the first round, Tagalicious processed the songs in 50 seconds, as compared to 3 minutes, 40 seconds for TuneUp. After the first pass, Tagalicious had tagged 50 of 101 songs. After two additional passes through the songs, it had tagged 77. Although I’m not clear why, Tagalicious seemed to improve over time.

After 3:42, TuneUp had tagged 98 songs. What’s interesting is that two of those songs (two songs that I have NEVER had identified properly), were properly tagged by Tagalicious. For the record, those songs were “Rice Rice Baby” by Weird Al and “Choppin’ Broccoli” by Dana Carvey.

In terms of tagging completions, TuneUp took round 1 (although it was slower in one pass than three passes through Tagalicious).

Second Round

For round 2, I cleared all MP3 info from the 101 songs except the song name.

Tagalicious processed the 101 songs in 27 seconds. It tagged 79 songs.

TuneUp took 3.5 minutes and tagged 75 songs. This suggests (to me) that TuneUp uses more than just the audio fingerprint to tag songs. It seems that it did better in round 1 because it had more information to start with.

Both apps had issues with songs recorded through Snowtape. I suppose this makes sense, since it isn’t always easy to get a clean cut on the songs (sometimes you just can’t manage to avoid overlap between the new song and the previous song or commercial). However, Tagalicious seemed to fare a bit better with Snowtape recordings.

Bottom Line

Tagalicious is much faster than TuneUp. I’m sure this is affected by TuneUp’s additional functionality (finding YouTube videos, concerts nearby, and a dogged determination to find cover art) but Tagalicious is also getting song lyrics in that time (functionality not provided by TuneUp). I like the way the program presents itself and the way the fact that it is standalone. It doesn’t seem to fill up the hard drive like CoverScout and, so far, seems more stable than Pollux or TuneUp. It also, in my opinion, provides a better, more informative, more flexible UI than the other apps.

TuneUp is better at finding cover art. As mentioned before, it seems to have a wide array of sites it checks for covers. Also, if you want deep genre tagging, there is no question that TuneUp is the winner. I have TuneUp set at level 2, which is 250 genres. Tagalicious is much less granular. Below, is a sampling of the results from both apps, with TuneUp first (I tried to get them side by side but my theme just doesn’t have room for it).

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If you aren’t too concerned about genre tagging, Tagalicious is faster and provides lyrics at a much better price point.

If you want very detailed genre tagging, I have not found anything that can touch TuneUp. In the 101 song sample, Tagalicious produced 21 different genre tags while TuneUp provided 49. In terms of cover art, I would also have to give the edge to TuneUp. It’s clear they are checking a huge number of sites to find appropriate cover art and they were able to provide cover art that Tagalicous couldn’t find.

Tagalicious is currently at rev 1.1.3 and is already a good app, especially in terms of speed and interface. If The LIttle App Factory continues to work on cover art and genre tagging, they will have a very strong contender on their hands.

Both products provide a trial with a limited number of tags. You owe it to yourself to try both to see which app fits your needs.


I’m Radium-Active

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This won’t be terribly long. In previous posts, we’ve looked at Radio Gaga and Snowtape. Both are good apps for listening to online music, as well as to capture songs for your iTunes library.

Radium came to my attention when it was part of the MacBasket Mini-Bundle. I decided to try it out because there are some stations that I couldn’t seem to access with Radio Gaga or Snowtape. Specifically, I was looking for Windsor/Detroit’s 89X. I wasn’t able to get it with the previous programs but Radium brought it to me in all its glory.

If you’re looking for a program chock full of functionality, this isn’t the one for you. It plays Internet radio. Period. But, hey, I like that. My array of hard drives suggests that I don’t need to keep building my iTunes library. I had been listening to several web-based radio stations but was frustrated that most seem to use Flash to stream the programs and my experience with Flash has been less than optimal. Radium appealed to me because it allowed me to continue listening in a way that seems much more OS X friendly. Radium has not caused any system instability that I’ve come to expect while listening to Flash players.

When launched, Radium installs itself in the menu bar. There is no app clogging up your dock. You select radio stations from the menu bar and access preferences from there. wpid-voila_capture338-2010-12-8-17-372.jpg

Once launched, you’re ready to find a station. There are many stations included. You can also drag stations from iTunes or use URLs to link to the station. In the case of 89X, I couldn’t make that work. I tried to do a search but got impatient after a minute or two. I sent an e-mail to their support address and got a response within the hour. It seems I just hadn’t waited long enough. So, if you’re looking for a complaint, this is the only one: their search mechanism is a bit slow. After they suggested I do the search again, I tried to be more patient. Within 4-5 minutes, I had my station. TIP: If you want to save that station you found via search, just click the little heart to the left and it’s saved.

If you want to add a station via the URL, you get this window:

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My results have been hit or miss with this option. I appreciate that it’s there and when it works, it’s great. My recommendation is that you first try the search option and be prepared to wait a few minutes. You can also request stations through support. Given how responsive they have been to me, that is a good option.

An unexpected bonus with Radium is that, like Snowtape, it can stream to Airport Express devices.

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If you’re looking for it, Radium also provides an equalizer with 23 different settings. You can also create custom settings and save them.

As a quick glimpse, here are the preference options:

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And…drum roll… If you have a subscription service, Radium may also be able to access that service:
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The subscription that is missing from the screenshot is DI.fm + SKY.fm.

In a very, very unscientific comparison, I used the Activity Monitor to have a look system load generated by Radium, Radio Gaga, and Snowtape. I ran each program for an hour or two, checking the CPU load every 10-15 minutes. The results surprised me; I didn’t expect Snowtape to be the biggest hog:

Program CPU Load
Radium 1.1 – 2.2 %
Snowtape (not recording) 3.5 – 5.0 %
Snowtape (recording) 8.0 – 10.0 %
Radio Gaga (not recording) 1.5 – 2.5 %
Radio Gaga (recording) 3.5 – 4.5 %

 

Overall, the sound quality is good. The impact on system resources seems quite low. If you’re looking for a way to access your subscription service, or just a resource friendly way to listen to Internet radio, Radium is an excellent alternative.

You can find Radium here:

http://www.macbasket.com/ (good until 9Dec2010)
http://www.macbundlebox.com/ (good until 22Dec2010)
http://www.catpigstudios.com/ (hopefully for years…)


Snowtape Rocks Version 2

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Vemedio has recently released a new version of Snowtape, taking it to version 2.0. This is a significant upgrade and, in my opinion, pushes Snowtape further ahead of Radio Gaga. In my original look at the two apps, I gave Snowtape the edge but it wasn’t a huge edge. By adding functionality that was in Radio Gaga and extending it, Snowtape now sits alone for me.

Contrary to the announcement e-mail, I found that the upgrade costs USD $16.50 (a mere 0.50 difference, but…). The installation was quick and did not destroy the previous version. So, what have they added?

  • Support for editing in whatever format you choose to record (no reencoding). The editor has been seriously enhanced to make it more full featured.
  • Scheduled recordings
  • Multiple recording streams
  • Last.fm support, including scrobbling
  • Smart channel lists and playlists
  • Streaming to Airport Express and Apple TV

Interface

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The interface has been cleaned up a little. I like that the details window along the right now shows the options available if the stations has multiple streams. It’s a bit cleaner and easy to quickly choose your preferred format/bit rate.

Setup

Preferences have changed quite a bit, to accommodate the new functionality.

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The recording preferences are greatly enhanced. The three new filters are just what I had been hoping for. The ability to filter commercials, partial recordings, and dupes?? I am totally in!

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Here you can select your preferred streaming format now, as well as putting a limit on your simultaneous recordings, if you would like.

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And if you’re a Last.fm fan, they’ve got you covered. It enables scrobbling and also provides access to a Snowtape scrobbler’s group.

Scheduling

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A new feature for Snowtape, is the ability to schedule recordings. Pick a station and then select the menu option “New Recording Schedule from Selection.” You can select a specific date, Everyday, or Weekdays. Set a time and a duration. You can do this for as many stations as you wish and they will record simultaneously in the background, bandwidth permitting.

Lists

Snowtape now supports Channels and Playlists. Each supports standard (manual) and Smart versions. Of course, the manual versions mean that you will create the list and then drag contents to it. The smart channel will find stations based on filter criteria.

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The first selection criterion allows you to decide whether the other criteria are an ALL or ANY filter. The next options allow you to select based on:

  • Name
  • Genre
  • Best Bitrate
  • Country
  • Language

Depending on the option, you’ll have different comparison operators from which to choose. In the case of bitrate, you have several hardcoded comparisons.

  • 32
  • 64
  • 96
  • 128
  • 160
  • 256

The Smart Playlist is similar. Playlists operate on songs that have been recorded and are currently in your Snowtape database.

This gives you a flavor of the enhancements made to Snowtape. I like the new functionality. The app seems a bit faster, the interface is better, and the new stuff brings much of what you can get in Radio Gaga. The one thing that Radio Gaga provides that I haven’t found in Snowtape 2 is the ability to filter recordings (meaning, the ability to record only certain songs or artists). This is nice functionality but it’s a bit like hunting for a needle in a haystack; my results have been less than spectacular…

I haven’t looked at the “professional editing” now provided in Snowtape because I haven’t had a need for it. Please feel free to post your opinion for others!

If you’re in the market to enhance your music library, it’s my opinion that Snowtape 2 is an excellent tool.


I Needs Me Some Focus

The Internet is an ocean teaming with distraction after distraction, as is the computer you’re sitting near right now. You can easily lose sight of your daily goals when the siren songs of diversion begin. Today we look at two different apps aimed at keeping your inattentive mind on task. To be honest, it might not be fair to call this a showdown because they have different philosophies and approaches aimed at keeping you out of the swamp.

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The two products are Concentrate by Rocket and Vitamin-R by Frank Reiff.

Sameness

First, the similarities. Both apps encourage you to work in short bursts of time, similar to the Pomodoro Technique (which Vitamin-R adheres to more closely). You set a work interval and can attach sounds or voice to the interval (for example, an encouraging statement or a reminder to stay on task that repeats regularly throughout the time block). Both allow you to hide distractions, while you’re supposed to be focused. Both provide a countdown clock so you can see where you are in your time interval. Once you get past these similarities, the two apps begin to diverge.

Differentness



To cut to the chase, Concentrate is the nun with the ruler, hovering over you and keeping you honest. Vitamin-R is the motivational speaker, providing tools for you to set goals and helping you to break those goals into bite-sized chunks.

Concentrate

Concentrate is all about controlling your environment because you don’t have the willpower to to avoid the distractions yourself. When you start it, you’ll see the main activity screen.

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From here, you can begin a concentration session, edit an existing activity, or create a new activity. Basically, an activity is a set of applications and actions combined for a specific task or project.

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From this window, you begin to shape the environment in which you want to work. Along the left side are the different actions that you can link to this activity. For example, you can see that I have created an activity called “Blogging” which, when initiated, opens the three apps I use most while working on this site. Once those apps are launched, you tell Concentrate what to do with the other apps. You can:

  • Hide all other apps
  • Quite all other apps
  • Do nothing

For the purpose of testing, I took advantage of several other options. I told Concentrate to close the DVD Player, block any social networking or video sites, set my Adium status to “Away”, and give myself friendly little reminder:

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As you can see from the edit window, there are other actions that I could have taken advantage of but did not. You then set the size of the time interval along the bottom of the window.

In my testing, Concentrate worked as advertised. Applications were properly opened and closed, statuses were properly set, and distracting websites were successfully blocked. When the session ended, everything was set back to the pre-session conditions.

To simplify setup, there are two group types that you can define.

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You define domain groups to limit your access to the Internet. Since the blocking is based on IP address, you may or may not have success blocking sub-domains (depending on how those sub-domains are defined). You define application groups to link together those applications most commonly used for one or more activities.

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When a session is activated, Concentrate becomes your little gatekeeper, keeping you out of applications or websites that might otherwise keep you from your duties. Once the session is ended, it lets you out of the headlock and you are free to go about your business. If you struggle with staying focused and need a little tough love, Concentrate serves that purpose well.

Vitamin-R

Vitamin-R is a whole different animal. It trusts you to stay focused because it believes you are a goal-centered machine. It will hide apps from view but that’s about it. You can activate any program you want, hidden or not, and no website is off limits. Instead, it provides the tools you need to (in GTD fashion) clear your mind of all those tasks that can be distracting you, focus on one of those tasks, and, if necessary, break that task down further into actionable steps.

One of the tools that Vitamin-R provides is the Now & Later Board. The board can be activated via hot keys, with each of its four boards having its own specific keys. The intent of the board is to provide a space for getting everything recorded so that you can stop worrying about things you might forget and instead focus on small, precise, achievable tasks.

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Now — This is the repository for your current “working memory.” Put those thoughts here that are related to the active task.

Later — This is the place for all of those other things you keep thinking about; those things that need to get done but don’t need to get done right now.

Scratch — As you would expect, this is a place for you to type anything else crossing your mind; anything unrelated to the other categories.

Objective — Your current objective goes here. It serves as a reminder of where your focus should be.

When it’s time to activate a time slice (the Vitamin-R term for your work interval), Vitamin-R will lead you through the process of defining your objective, hiding distractions, and setting the time limit.

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Your objective is text but you can have Vitamin-R read it to you. When you are ready to eliminate distractions, pay attention to the buttons along the right side; they are what will determine what happens to the active applications. Hiding the apps does nothing more than that. You could ⌘-Tab and bring them right back. Finally, you establish the length of the time slice and start your session. Since Vitamin-R keeps a log of all your time slice events, you can also set your motivation and resistance levels before starting the session. When the session ends, you are asked to evaluate your time slice.

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This information also goes into the log. You can then look at the relationship between motivation, resistance, focus and success. When the session is over, you have the option to take a fixed time break or an open ended break. In the Vitamin-R philosophy, the breaks are just as important as the time slice sessions. Make sure you take a few minutes to refresh, clear your mind, and look off in the distance.

Finally, Vitamin-R provides two additional concepts: Breadcrumbs and priming. Breadcrumbs are little tidbits of information that you need to record as a session is ending. They are meant to act as seeds/reminders for the next session, so you don’t spend too much time trying to remember what you need to do next. Priming is a means for dealing with potential obstacles in future tasks. The idea is that you record information about these obstacles and then let your subconscious mind work on ways to overcome those obstacles.

Which to Use?

If you’re a left-brained, type-A personality, Vitamin-R is probably your tool. If, however, you are more right-brained and are easily distracted by shiny things (like me), Concentrate will help you stay focused. An app that combined the features of both of these programs would be ideal for me. Given the rate at which updates are pushed out for Vitamin-R, perhaps that is a possibility.


MarsEdit for WordPress

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MarsEdit 3.0.5

MarsEdit came to my attention after reading an interesting article by Daniel Jalkut, founder of Red Sweater Software. In the article, he defended the opinion that there is still value in developing for the Mac (as opposed to iOS). Made sense to me and made me aware of MarsEdit. This got me interested in giving it a try, as compared to MacJournal, which I have been using from the beginning for this blog (except for an initial foray using the WordPress editor, which I didn’t care for).

 

Setup

MarsEdit gets you up and running very quickly.  Start it up and you get this window:

 

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If you have a blog, give it a name and type in the URL. Very, very easy. If you don’t have one, hit the GO BACK button and then it will help you select a blog site. Assuming you already had a blog, one you enter the ID and password, MarsEdit will go out and download your posts for that account. By default, it will download 30 posts. You can change this by editing the settings for that blog.

 

Editing

At that point, you are ready to begin adding posts or pages (if you have a WordPress page).

For each post, you’ll see an entry in the main screen. There is a table view of posts and below that, a view of the selected entry:

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You can look, but you cannot touch. The page view does not permit editing. Double-click the post to open an edit window.

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It’s quite easy to add tags, categories, and to set the server options for the posting.You edit in the main window. The typical word processor formatting options are available. You can drag media into the editing area or you can insert it. The Media Manager allows you to find pictures and supports iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom. When you drag an image into the document, you’ll get a window like this:

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This gives you more absolute control over the image than MacJournal but MacJournal is easier because you’re concerned with relative image size change, rather than having to calculate pixels. When you select a style, you’re indicating where the image should go on the page. If you align right or left, you may get text beside the image. Center it and you typically will not (unless your image is small).

Although the tool is called a Media Manager, and the icon shows a film reel and a speaker, the utility seems focused on images. Attempts to add folders with video or audio files were fruitless. You can add an enclosure, which allows you to link to other content on the web, but I was unable to add audio or video from my computer. The Upload Utility DID let me select non-image files (an audio file was included below). We’ll see how it posts. Update: it didn’t post. It could not find the audio file, which suggests that maybe I should have uploaded the file prior to attempting to post the entry.

A big difference between MacJournal and MarsEdit is that MarsEdit allows you to also create/edit/tweak your blog postings in HTML. MacJournal does not. You can convert your MarsEdit postings back and forth between rich text and HTML (although this could impact formatting). So, if you’re a control freak or you just love dipping down into the HTML, MarsEdit gives you this flexibility. Even further, you can tell it which text editor you want to use for doing the HTML work, if you don’t want to use the editor provided with the product. Here is a posting converted to HTML.

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Another potential reason to want HTML access (if you use WordPress) is that WordPress gets rid of extra spaces in posts. To avoid this, you need to add HTML. With MacJournal, I have to add the spacing HTML from the WordPress editor, after uploading the posting. With MarsEdit, you could add the space while creating the blog posting and know that what you’re seeing in the preview is really what you’re going to get.

 

MarsEdit vs. MacJournal

So, how do the products compare?

First, two screenshots. Although MacJournal allows editing in the main window, MarsEdit opens a separate window for editing (and a third preview window). The first screenshot shows the main windows. Since the MarsEdit main window doesn’t show the editing environment, the second screenshot shows the MacJournal main window again, beside the MarsEdit editing window. It should be noted that MacJournal allows you to view your entry in a browser as well. You select it from the Share menu.

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This is purely subjective but MarsEdit does seem leaner and “snappier” than MacJournal. Unfortunately, there is very little substance I can provide to back this assertion, other than the fact that MacJournal comes in at 71MB and MarsEdit is a svelte 14MB. Clearly, all of the additional functionality provided by MacJournal comes at a cost of disk space and speed.

Both provide similar editing tools but the editing tools in MacJournal are more convenient to get to, especially if you modify the toolbar to reflect your needs. Although MarsEdit provides the opportunity to modify your toolbar, there are far fewer options:

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Both apps do well with tags. They remember past tags and help to speed that along. I have never had luck with categories in MacJournal. As I’ve worked on this post, I learned that in MacJournal you must refresh the categories in WordPress. To do this, you edit the blog settings. Tab 3 has a slide out drawer that should display the existing categories. Mine was blank. Hitting the refresh button updated the drawer and the categories now display. As you can see from the second screenshot above, MarsEdit displays the existing categories, allows you to add more, and properly transfers them to the posting within WordPress.

If you want to do video or audio from within the app, MacJournal is your only choice. It will let you record audio or video directly into your posting. MarsEdit will require that you perform those duties separately and then upload the file. If you want a client on the iPad/iPhone/Touch that will synch with your Mac app, you’ll want MacJournal.

The important point to consider is that the apps serve different purposes. MacJournal is a journaling application (whether that be text, audio, or video journaling) that also provides blogging tools. MarsEdit is a blogging tool. If you want to journal and you want to password protect and encrypt your genius, you’ll want MacJournal. If you want focus primarily on text blogging and want a lean client that lets you create your posts whether online or off, MarsEdit is an excellent choice. If you want complete control over your postings and like to dabble in HTML, you’ll need MarsEdit over MacJournal.

Here is the obligatory table. I tried to make it as accurate as I could. I will certainly update any errors if notified:

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As I have played with MarsEdit, I like it very much. It would be nice to be able to tinker with the HTML and feel like I have more control over how my posts look. The Media Manager is nice for dealing with images, especially if you’re using iPhoto, Aperture, or Lightroom. Since I’m not really into journaling, nor do I care about podcasting or videocasting yet, it would probably be the better choice for me. However, both products come in at $39.95 and I already own MacJournal. At this point, I can’t see a compelling reason to drop another $40. If I did more with HTML (and maybe I’ll get there), I would definitely opt for MarsEdit.

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Updates

Various Updates


Ultimate Ears 5vi

The link to the previous post is here. After spending more time with the 5vi, I like them very much. Contrary to my original intentions, I really haven’t played much with the foam. Even after weeks of use, the silicone tips continue to feel like small acorns jammed into my ears; they don’t annoy me as much as they originally did but it still isn’t terribly pleasant.

Magic TrackPad

The link to the previous post is here. There is no question, the Magic TrackPad, combined with BetterTouchTool, has become a huge time-saver for me. Not once since my original posting have I missed my old faithful Logitech MX Revolution. Here are my favorites:

  • Four finger slide left or right to bring up the app switcher, then two fingers left or right to select the app, then four finger tap to activate. Standard drivers.
  • Three finger tap to send ⌘R, primarily for refreshing websites. BetterTouchTools.
  • TipSwipe Left Finger Left to send ⌘⇧[. With three fingers on the pad, slide the left-most finger to the left a bit. This moves me left one tab. BetterTouchTool.
  • TipSwipe Left Finger Right to send ⌘⇧]. With three fingers on the pad, slide the left-most finger to the right a bit. This moves me right one tab. BetterTouchTool.
  • Five Finger Tap to show the desktop. This is one command that I’ve missed from Windows and BetterTouchTools makes it easy to bring to the Mac.

Magic TrackPad for Windows

Go here for instructions on how to extract the Apple Magic TrackPad Windows drivers from the BootCamp installer that Apple provides here: 32-bit or 64-bit.

The instructions will tell you to find the Bootcamp3135* folders. You can ignore the #Bootcamp3135* folders. I have to say that this did not work with my POS Dell Latitude D620. It proves nothing, though, since the Dell was able to locate my Mac on Bluetooth but could not discover the Magic TrackPad OR my Plantronics Voyager Pro headset.

Magic TrackPad for Ubuntu

In VMware Fusion, the Magic TrackPad works just fine as a standard trackpad. Two fingers to scroll in FireFox also works. Here is information on pairing with Ubuntu. Since I’m using Fusion, I did not have to do any pairing. Here is another page that includes a link to patches (it’s in the main body of posting).

Airport Extreme

The link to the previous post is here. There have been no complaints from the family about web access since installing the Airport Extreme. It does provide more reliable iTunes streaming to our Airport Express, which is about as far from the router as you can get in our house. By more reliable, I mean that we don’t get the cut-outs and buffering lags that we would get in nearly every song using the DIR-825. Unfortunately, as anticipated, it has NOT resolved my problem with losing my Internet connection. It’s no longer a daily event (more like every 2-3 days), but it still happens. The issue is that my Internet connection will just disappear. Adium stays connected but web traffic completely disappears, as does the Mail connection to my ISP’s e-mail. If I have VMware Fusion running Ubuntu, it retains its connection. This has been happening since I upgraded to Snow Leopard. Based on feedback on the Apple forum I have tried:

  • Changing my DNS server to OpenDNS or Google
  • Flushing the DNS cache
  • Renewing DHCP

Only a reboot resolves the issue. This seems not to happen with the MBP’s in the house but they aren’t on all the time like the iMac, so I guess I’m not surprised.

Sharing USB Drive with Windows

As mentioned in the original posting, connecting a USB drive to the DIR-825 was pointless. The software that D-Link provides for OS X was worthless. Going back to the original developer version helped make the drive recognizable but it still couldn’t be used reliably. Files of any size bigger than a few hundred KB would time out. The good news is that sharing the USB drive with Windows from the Airport Extreme was extremely easy and seems to be quite reliable so far.

  1. Go into the Airport Utility and find the IP address for the Airport Extreme.
  2. Go to the Windows machine and run Windows Explorer.
  3. From Windows Explorer, go to Tools->Map Network Drive.
  4. Select an unused drive letter.
  5. In the “Folder” field enter \\IP_address\USB drive name. Example \\192.16.8.0.1\My_HD.
  6. Check Reconnect at logon if desired.

Snag-bagging Songs on the Sly

Having a large music selection is a great thing. If you’re looking to evoke a certain mood, nothing works as well as music. With apps like iTunes, that allow you to generate Smart Playlists, you have a very flexible means for matching almost any mood…assuming you have the collection to back it up. You can build up your collection with the iTunes store or Amazon, but even at $1/song or $5/album, the costs build up quickly. This brings us to two programs that seek to help you build your music collection using Internet radio.

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Radio Gaga and Snowtape are two apps that help you build your music library from a wide variety of internet based radio stations. Each has its strengths and each would serve the purpose for a different group of people.

Interface

When it comes to the interface, neither program screams sexy but both are clean and relatively intuitive.

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Radio Gaga has an interface that is a little more attractive. By using buttons or frames, you get a graphic representation of the genres available. Double click on a genre frame to see a listing of the stations. The lower left corner has a controller and there is also a mini-controller available.

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Snowtape is a bit more utilitarian. It also allows you to select based on genre, but without the pretty icons. It provides an additional link that allows you to buy a song that you are listening to in iTunes. This can be handy if you’re trying to support a specific artist or you have found a song that you want to get in pristine condition.

Radio Stations

Both apps provide a large collection of stations. They both will allow you to add stations via a URL or by dragging it from iTunes. Snowtape can go a bit further and can also load based on a playlist. Below is a listing of the genres available, as well as the number of stations/genre at the time that I was gathering the data.

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In terms of station volume, Radio Gaga is the clear winner. However, bear in mind that many of the Radio Gaga stations that make up this huge selection are operating below 128 kbp. Those stations are great if you’re running with limited bandwidth. If you have a high-speed connection, the stations below 128 kbp sound like crap. If you’re using the app as a radio, it might be ok. If you’re trying to capture songs, forget it. The recordings will sound like an AM radio playing in a big metal cabinet.

As internet radios, the apps are pretty evenly matched to me. You may find a genre more readily in one app over the other (if you want Metal or Disco, you’ll have an easier time with Radio Gaga) but the both allow you to play and add stations.

It’s at this point, though, that the apps head down different evolutionary paths, which we’ll get to soon.

Setup

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Here you can see the setup options for Radio Gaga. Pretty straighforward stuff. It does let you limit recording based on available hard drive space, which makes a lot of sense for Radio Gaga, as we’ll see.

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Snowtape is more integrated with iTunes (allowing recommendations), has hot keys, permits you to set the format for recordings (AAC or MP3–various quality levels), limit bandwidth, and will let you use your Touch or iPhone as a remote (another point we’ll get to soon).

Recording

Both apps will let you record to your heart’s content and both will export the songs to iTunes with whatever tagging info is provided by the station. Radio Gaga does not provide the option to set the format (it saves to MP3) while Snowtape allows you to choose from four levels of AAC or three levels of MP3.

Radio Gaga

Radio Gaga provides more flexibility in recording. It allows you to set a schedule for recording (as long as the app is running). It allows you to filter for specific words in an artist name or song title. It also allows you to record multiple streams at once.
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This screen shows that Radio Gaga organizes recordings by day. You can play the songs from here and you can export to iTunes from here. As mentioned, it only exports MP3 to iTunes.

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Here you can see how the scheduling works. You select one or more stations and then pick a menu option to “Record On Schedule.” You control the date, the length of time for recording, and on which days it repeats. This can be very handy if you have a particular radio show you want to catch.

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The limitation here is to an artist name or song name. As a test, I selected several rock stations and filtered on the band “The Kinks.” I selected several comedy stations and filtered on “Hedberg” to see if I could get Mitch Hedberg recordings. In fourteen hours of recording, I got one Kinks song and no Mitch Hedberg. Your mileage may vary. To be honest, I’m ambivalent about this capability. If I had a song that I desperately wanted, and I felt like having the app running all the time, I might use this functionality. I’m typically not that patient and I’ll have to think about any songs I might want that could be hard to find. Since I don’t know of any compelling Internet radio shows, the scheduling doesn’t do much for me either. For the right person, this seems like an excellent set of options that Snowtape does not provide.

Snowtape

Snowtape provides no scheduling or filtering capabilities. It cannot record multiple streams. What it does differently is: it finds artwork for the song and it allows “overlap recording.” Why is this important? Both programs do a decent job of getting the songs. The problem is that they key off the tagging information provided by the station. If there is a lag between the beginning/end of the music and the sending of the tag info, you may lose part of a song or may get extra. With the overlap feature, Snowtape will add 5 seconds to the beginning and end of recordings. You should be less likely to lose part of a song if you enable this option.

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This screen shows a selection of songs that have been recorded, along with the artwork that was captured. Don’t like the artwork? Pick a song, then hit the “Change Album Artwork” button. You’ll get this window:

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From here, you can select something else that suits your fancy. Of course, if you’ve picked up Pollux or TuneUp (Song Scrubber Showdown, Song Scrubber Showdown Updated, Genre Tagging — Pollux vs. TuneUp, Pollux vs. TuneUp Update), this isn’t terribly useful or relevant.

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In recognition of the fact that this recording ability is not perfect, Snowtape provides an editor. When used in conjunction with the overlap function mentioned above, this provides your best bet of getting a full song by letting you record the extra and then delete if before exporting to iTunes.

Final Thoughts

I can’t really pick a winner on this one. Both apps provide an excellent means of beefing up your song library. Snowtape gets you the artwork and gives you a better shot of getting the whole song. Radio Gaga provides much better tools if you have radio shows you want to grab or if you want to go on hunting trips for specific artists or songs. Which product you choose will depend on your needs. Both will meet your needs but in different ways. If you want to stream to an Airport Express, Snowtape is your choice. And, if you do so, it will allow you to use your iPhone or Touch as the control, much like iTunes does. Here is a final matrix for your consideration.

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In researching this, I saw that Snowtape is on sale “this week” for 50% off. Since it says “this week” and doesn’t actually set an end date, I don’t know how long the offer will last. To me, Snowtape has a slight edge in this contest. At $14.95, it looks even more attractive.


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