Tag Archives: Review

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.

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iWow 3D

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To be fair, I was skeptical of this device when I ordered it. It’s certainly something that I would like to work as promised but I haven’t found anything that really does the trick thus far. However, given how easy Amazon makes returns, I was willing to take the risk; it’s tough to find great new stuff without taking a few chances. So, I added it to my cart and hoped for the best.

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When I pulled it out of the box, I couldn’t help thinking it looked like a manta ray. The device plugs into the 30-pin connector on your iPod/Touch/iPad and claims to dramatically improve the sound you’re getting through your headphones. Here is what the manufacturer says:

“Hear What You’ve Been Missing
SRS iWOW 3D dynamically locates audio cues buried deep down in existing recorded or streamed multimedia content to restore sonic fidelity to audio files, ensuring the user experiences music, videos, and games with renewed clarity and detail–the way the artist originally intended.”

Plug it into your Apple music player of choice, plug your headphones/earbuds into it, and you’re ready to go. Although it is a hardware solution, a free app is available in the App Store that claims to offer further enhancements. Just search on SRS iWow.

Hardware

The tail that you plug your earbuds/headphones into seems rugged enough but the body of the manta seems more delicate. The plastic that encases the electronics feels thin and the seam between the halves looks and feels like it would be easy to pop apart. The massive cyclopean circle you see on the face of the body is an on/off switch that lights up when activated, which brings me to my next complaint.

Let’s take a hypothetical example. Say a guy had a few Amazon certificates that he had been saving and was intrigued enough to want to order the manta. He doesn’t talk to his wife about it, he just orders it and calls it good. Several days later, it arrives. He plugs everything together and waits for evening because he likes to listen to music in bed, while dozing off to sleep. Bed time arrives. The lights are off and he grabs his iPod Touch, pops his Monster Turbine earbuds in, and turns the Touch on. Immediately, a glow fills the room. The circle is a homing beacon of some sort. It makes E.T.’s finger look like match light in the darkness. It illuminates with a brightness that feels like it is tanning his panicked face. If you have a Kindle (see Kindle review below…seriously, you should get one) but haven’t purchased a lighted case yet, this baby will light up your reading surface just fine. It’s at the point where the hypothetical wife, who has no issue with the Kindle light, opens her eyes and says, “What in the hell is that? Why do you have a flashlight in bed?”

OK, there is some hyperbole here, but not as much as you might expect. That little bastard is bright.

As mentioned, that circle serves as an on/off button. This leads us to my next complaint. With iWow Premium iTunes plugin (or the Bongiovi DPS plugin), you have the ability to compare the enhanced sounds with the standard iTunes output by toggling the software on and off. Not so with this bad boy. When you turn it off, it actually dis-enhances the sound to such a degree that toggling the device on and off convinces that the enhancement sounds 1000% better. (Sorry for the made up word but unenhance suggests that it does nothing.) The fact is that the sound coming through while the gadget is off is so notably bad, and the volume so low, that you decide you have just found nirvana. You won’t believe how much better the music sounds with the manta activated. Before you get all excited, though, listen to music for a few seconds with the manta turned off. Then, disconnect the manta, plug your earbuds into the standard stereo out jack of your player, and listen again. You will, again, be surprised at how much better things sound. It would probably be over the top to suggest that the manufacturer knowingly uses the circuitry in an off state to completely butcher the music, but it is a brilliant way to make users believe they have stumbled onto a hella good gadget.

Next off, we have the fact that the manta takes over the 30-pin connector AND blocks the headphone jack. This means:

  • You can’t conveniently compare the outputs
  • You can’t charge your player while using the iWow 3D

While using the iWow, I did not notice a significant battery drain, which actually surprised me a bit. Given the retina-searing, hallogen-beating lamp on it, I expected the battery gauge to visibly drop while I watched it. (Slight hyperbole warning).

But, back to the sound. Does the iWow make the music sound better? Yes. Does it enhance the music in any way, providing more depth, clarity, and detail? I don’t think so. Maybe there would be a marked improvement with stock earbuds but with the earbuds I use (see reviews elsewhere on this site), the music just sounded louder. It might have kicked up the treble a little bit but I could not confidently say that the music had opened up in any way.

Software

Unfortunately, I can’t provide screenshots from the app because you have to have the manta plugged in to reach most of the functionality and mine is packed up and ready for return to Amazon (spoiler alert). I can tell you that it offers music trivia, a link to the SRS blog, and a link to the SRS site.

With the device plugged in, you can:

  • Toggle the software on and off
  • Tailor the software for different environments
    • Headphones
    • Speakers
    • Car
  • Advanced settings
    • Wide Surround
    • Deep Bass
    • High Treble

None of the settings really seemed to alter the music that much. With eyes closed, I don’t believe you would quickly differentiate between the different software settings.

As I write this, the iWow 3D has six reviews on Amazon. All give it 5/5. It may be that I’m just a tone deaf dipshit, but I don’t think so. If those users compare the output by just toggling the iWow on and off via the hardware button, they will absolutely be impressed. The problem is that the resulting sound when the iWow is turned off is NOTHING like the sound you get through the headphone jack. A little more testing might change their mind. As always, your mileage may vary. If you have experience with the iWow (positive or negative), please feel free to post.


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.


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.


Kindle for Mac

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For the less technically inclined, this may come as a bit of a shock: the Kindle for Mac screen looks much bigger (on a 24” iMac) than it does on a Touch. I know, that’s what you pay me for, right? Proof again that you get what you pay for.

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The main screen gives you several options:

  • Look at the very sexy Home screen
  • Look at the books you’ve already downloaded (by clicking on Archived Items)
  • Synch up
  • Shop the Kindle store

OK, I lied on the last one. It says Shop in Kindle Store. What it really means is: launch your browser and point it to Amazon so you can shop the Kindle store. Ultimately it’s the same thing but I expected to be taken to the store within the app. Since jamming my iMac into a carry-on bag for flying has proven to be problematic, I haven’t really missed the WhisperNet connection that comes with the Kindle hardware. Also, since that’s already the process I use to get books onto my Touch, it was a comfortable non-transition.

When you switch to the Archived Items screen, you’ll see any books that you’ve already purchased/downloaded. Right-click on a book and you will get three options:

  • Go to Last Page Read
  • Go to Beginning
  • Add to Home

Aha! OK, so you don’t have to just stare at the naked home page. You get the chance to touch it up a bit. Doing so moves the book from Archived Items to Home. As a point of interest, opening a book from the Archived Items screen also moves it to Home. When a book is located in Home, you have additional options after right-clicking. Here is what you can do:

  • Go to Last Page Read
  • Go to Beginning
  • Go to Location…
  • Table of Contents (if the book has one)
  • Go to Cover
  • My Notes & Marks
  • Remove from Device

It has been proven, probably scientifically but I don’t have time to find the white paper, that having Kindle app on your iPhone or Touch allows you to take advantage of down time. I’ve probably read six or seven books on the Touch by doing just that. While sitting and waiting for an oil change, I read a huge chunk of a book. Of course, that’s because they had forgotten about my car and I sat there for a long-ass time but you get the point. The point that I’m finally getting to is that the one thing I really don’t like about reading on a small device (at least with Kindle app) is the concept of locations. It doesn’t translate to anything for me. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It doesn’t give me a sense for where I am in the book at all and it isn’t something I memorize. So, option three (Go to Location for those with the inability to look up a few lines) is worthless to me. However, since the app remembers where I left off, I guess I can just ignore that option.

Once you open the book, you see the expected screen:

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As you can see, you can go Home. You can go back. You can Bookmark a “page.” You can change the size of the font. You can click to the left or right edge of the page to turn it. You can also use your scroll wheel or the arrows on your keyboard to turn the page. I can confidently tell you that 10 minutes of putting fingerprints all over my screen convinced me that you cannot swipe to turn the page. I don’t know if the swipe gestures on a touchpad will turn the page or not. If you notice the upper right corner, there is an annotation option. Hitting the Show Notes & Marks button opens a column to the right that lets you view any annotations. You can look at everything, at highlighted items only, at notes only, or at bookmarks only. Hey, cool! So I can annotate books on my Mac! Slow down, pardner. No es posible. In fact, there are a host of things that you cannot do within the beta. Here is the dirt from the Amazon help site:

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Bummer.

Down at the bottom of the screen, you’ll also see this bar:
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So, I lied again. This one does tell you how far along you are in the book. It uses a handy percentage as well as a darker grey indicator to show progress. It also tells you the “locations” (gag) currently displayed, as well as (I assume) the total number of locations in the book. Finally, you can resize the screen to any size you want. Guess what that does to “location?” Changes everything… For all you young whipper snappers who have never picked up a book other than to squash a nearby bug, this probably isn’t a big deal. As you might have noticed, this drives me crazy. I like pages. I like to know page numbers. I like to know which page a chapter starts on. But I digress…If you miss your iPhone, you can resize the screen to be exactly the same size as your iPhone screen. This allows you to avoid giving your iPhone “big screen envy,” which is something I sometimes get when I look at the 27” iMac. The problem is (or maybe not), once you resize the screen, it remembers it. There is no default size to reset to. Unless you’re anal retentive about books like I am, this is probably a non-issue.

OK, hold on! A very good friend has pointed out that I don’t know what I’m talking about and the Kindle for iPhone app DOES include a progress bar of sorts. He’s quite correct, of course. Look below to see what it looks like on the Touch.

Thanks Ray!!!

Thanks Ray!!!!!

You can change the size of the font but I did not find an option to change the font. You can also re-synch to the furthest page read. That could be handy.

The bottom line is that this app seems to function well enough. It gives you more real estate if you’re tired of squinting at your iPhone. It synchs up with your iPhone so that all hardware knows where you left off. The features that are still missing may mean more to you than me. I’ve probably highlighted a few times but it isn’t something meaningful to me. Graphics certainly look better here than on an iPhone or Touch but you’re still dealing with the same source material so I doubt you’re going to get a lot of sexy color shots. If you buy books from Amazon, this provides a nice alternative for reading those books. For books with a fair amount of graphics, this might be your preferred option. Personally, I don’t know how much I’ll use it because my DRM books were purchased specifically as reading material for those small (or large…thanks a lot, Toyota…) snippets of time where all I have handy are the BlackBerry and the Touch. YMMV.


MacJournal 5.2

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MacJournal, by Mariner Software was picked up through another bundle. Here is another example of software that I didn’t really feel an overwhelming amount of interest in. But, hey, I spent the money and figured I’d give it a shot for my WordPress blogs. My experience so far has been very good.

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Setup was dead easy. Tell it that this is a WordPress blog (other options are: LiveJournal, MetaWeblog, Atom, and Movable Type), enter the URL and user name, then tell it to Reload. The link was created without a hitch.

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Next, I picked the option to “Download Entries from Blog.” MacJournal then asked if I wanted to download all the entries or enter a number of entries to download. I downloaded all of them so that MacJournal reflected the full contents of the blog. This wasn’t actually necessary, since it would also just start adding to whatever was there but I was planning on splitting one blog into two. Once I had everything, I created the second blog (in MacJournal, the blog equates to a Journal and each posting equates to an Entry), moved the entries that belonged in the second blog, and then updated them (actually, to be safe, I also deleted everything in the original blog before re-uploading). If I didn’t like the order, I could drag and drop to change the sequence. If I needed to move an entry between blogs, the drag and drop worked just as well.

Dealing with graphics is much easier in MacJournal than with the WordPress editing environment. I didn’t really like messing with graphics directly in WordPress but MacJournal acts just like any other word processor, allowing me to drag graphics from Voila, change their size, and then center them.

Other features include the ability to edit the Toolbar:

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The ability to edit the Info Bar. Info bar options are items that are probably blog settings or attributes:

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Features that I have not tested fully include the ability to:

  • Enter Quick Notes — you can setup a key combination to trigger the quick note. This is useful for journaling. You can also use it to create a new entry or to append to an existing one. You can also apply tags to the entry.
  • Import podcasts, calendar entries, pdf files.
  • Add audio or video entries. Note: this did not work for me because I have not upgraded my account.
  • Create Import Droplets. They are small apps that sit in the finder. Anything you drag and drop onto the droplet will be directed to a specific journal. When you drop it, you also get the chance to assign tags.
  • Post photos to Picasa.
  • Embed YouTube videos. Note: this did not work for me because I have not upgraded my account.
  • Schedule entries to get posted at a future date/time, but you must leave MacJournal running.
  • Publish with iWeb.
  • Publish to MobilMe.

Hopefully, this gives you a sense for the potential for MacJournal in your work. There are certainly other uses. I have focused on the applicability to maintaining a blog. You’ll find MacJournal at http://www.marinersoftware.com/sitepage.php?page=85


Yep! You Betcha!

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A fun thing about the Mac community is the periodic release of software bundles. If you’re willing to take the plunge, you may find programs that you didn’t know you needed. One such bundle provided Yep. Yep wasn’t on my radar. It didn’t even look terribly interesting to me. I already had Paperless from a previous bundle and didn’t care for it much at all.

So, I installed Yep! and forgot about it for a while. A month went by and I decided to have a look at it. After opening, the thing churned for a while, looking for all the documents on my Mac. Still not impressive. It probably took 20-30 minutes before all the documents appeared with their thumbnails. This got me a little more interested. Then, I began playing with applying tags to my documents. There are currently 65 tags in my system and Yep lets me combine them in any way that I feel is suitable. I can then begin clicking tags to filter the results down. What follows is an attempt to show some of the power of this program. Hell, it’s entirely possible that I’m wrong about some functionality. It is not an exhaustive discussion of every feature. For that, RTFM…

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The top row of icons lets you control how documents are displayed, as well as what other info about the documents is displayed.

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This is the bookmark bar. Each entry is a bookmark that reflects a search criteria. Displayed above are the defaults. They can further be organized into folders. Dragging a file to a bookmark that is location based will put it in the desired location. In my case, I regularly use the Untagged option. Since I painstakingly went through the process of tagging all my documents, selecting Untagged will show me only the newest arrivals on my Mac. Every day or two, I look at the untagged documents and tag them. This is has helped me to maintain control of my documents and to easily find anything I’m looking for. I don’t care where the document went since all untagged docs will display. By default, the documents are stored in a Filed Documents folder and then further filed under Year/Month/Day, with each of those taking you a level deeper in the folder structure. As we will see later, if you don’t like this, it is easily and quickly remedied.

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Apparently, this bad boy is referred to as the “crumb trail.” This bar lets you tighten up your filtering by selecting a certain type, certain location, certain tags… The button to the right that says LIVE allows you to set whether the display is actively updated or fixed. The search field allows you to search among only those documents that are currently displayed, based on your filtering. You can select whether you are searching based on the file name or file contents. Searching based on content is impressively quick.

wpid-wpid-voila_capture31-f9ars769kgfv-t1vhwaqw5xpn.jpg The tag column along the left side allows you to click on the tag(s) you want to filter by. Clicking on a tag will add it to the filtering bar above. Hovering over a tag will tell you how many documents have been assigned that tag. At the bottom of the column there is another field that allows you to filter among the tags currently displayed.

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The right column displays detailed information about the current document. You can move the file to a different location, you can reveal the file in Finder, you can display the Finder info. The power of this (to me) is the ability to select a group of files and then move them where I want them. To be honest, I’m not that keen on the default filing scheme but I really don’t care. I can filter on “eBook” and then select all the files and move them to the eBook folder. Extremely easy and fast. Much easier than screwing with the Finder.

Finally, there is this feller:
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Travel is a standard part of my job. Travel means expense reports. If you’re smart, you always scan your receipts before sending them into corporate. Scanning and creating new documents is a breeze with Yep. Before finding Yep, I used the HP software to scan my receipts. It was problematic at best. When I decided to upgrade to Snow Leopard, I learned that those bastards at HP didn’t feel like updating the software for my All-In-One. No problema, thanks to Yep; I have a better interface and can immediately tag the receipt file and determine where it goes. Eat that HP!

This review was brief but my hope is that it gives a sense for the power and utility of this program. To my surprise, I cannot imagine functioning without it at this point. For work, I have to use an XP machine. Every day I find myself longing for Yep. Ironic Software also has a Finder alternative called Leap. It looks amazing. My hope is that it will become part of a bundle someday. That bundle will be an instant buy. Find them on the web at: http://www.ironicsoftware.com/ . I have no financial interest in the company and they don’t know I exist… For me, this software rates a 4 out of 4.

This review was created (as a test) with two other bundle apps: Voila and MacJournal. Perhaps I’ll review them at a later date.


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