Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Delete All Downloaded Music from iCloud on your iPhone or iPod Touch

Apple's new iTunes match service allows you to provide a matching song in the cloud for every song in your itunes library. It costs $25 a year and gives you a complete backup for your entire music library. 

When you turn on iTunes match on your iphone, you can see every song in your iCloud library in your iphone, ipad, or ipod touch music app. You can then either stream or download the music onto your idevice. Its a great way to have instant access to your entire music library without having to constantly resync new music onto your iphone when you want it. 

I've noticed, however, that I end up downloading songs that I listen to frequently to avoid using extra data. Eventually, those downloaded songs begin to take up a lot of space on your iphone, and it can be difficult to find and delete downloaded songs because they are mixed up with icloud songs. 

Here's an easy way I found to show only songs that you have downloaded onto your iphone. In settings, choose music, then turn off "show all music." When you reopen your music app, you will only see songs that you have downloaded into your iphones memory. You can then select either songs, or albums, and swipe your finger left to right to delete those from your hard drive. This will clear up your iphone's memory to use for additional storage. 

You can then go back into settings and turn on "show all music" to see your entire iCloud library again. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

iTunes match released to the Public

iTunes match has been officially released, allowing you to store up to 25,000 iTunes tracks in the cloud and stream or download instantly to iTunes or your iOS devices. The service costs $25 a year and works as advertised. I have been testing it for weeks. The only glitch I sometimes see is that the music does not always match the song title and album art listed when I shuffle all songs.

Reports are out that the servers are busy and not everyone is able to sign up right now. My advice, wait a few more days and save yourself the hassle of dealing with overloaded servers.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Problem With the Kindle Fire

I have yet to use the Kindle Fire, (affiliate link) but it honestly looks like an interesting tablet computer. I have been using an iPad 2 since March, and it quickly became my primary internet device in the house....that is until my daughter claimed it as her personal movie watching device. The iPad has proven to be a great media and internet device for use around the house, and the iPad has even become a pretty good content creation device too for the creation of music, video, and photos. In fact, here is a clip of Moe doing a live song using nothing but the iPad. Pretty cool.

Now, the Kindle Fire will not launch with anywhere near the app selection of the iPad. They recently announced that they will launch with some big ones...Hulu Plus, ESPN Scorecenter, Pandora, Angry Birds...etc. But the iPad has a massive library of 100,000 plus apps to chose from and is considerable more mature than the Kindle "android" app store. I recently read that the Kindle fire is projected to sell 5 million units in the 4th quarter which is respectable, and certainly the most formidable competitor to the iPad so far. This will certainly draw in more developers to create apps over time, but how many is yet to be seen.

The Kindle Fire is a smaller device than the iPad and has a less "high-end" look and feel to it from reports that I have heard. Think of it as a budget tablet. The Kia of tablet computers. Nothing wrong with that, if thats what you are looking for.

The advantage that the Kindle has over other non-iPad tablets is access to Amazon's excellent content library. This is where other iPad competitors have failed. Amazon sells digital books, music, and video. The kindle book store is the best digital bookstore in the world. Plus, an Amazon Prime subscription for $79 annually gives you access to a Netflix like library of unlimited movie and tv show streaming. Its a good price and it also gives you access to free second day shipping and 1 kindle "loaner" book a month at no extra charge.

But here is the problem, the Amazon Kindle Fire locks you in to their content library just like Apple does with the itunes library. Amazon videos need to be played through an Amazon authorized video player. Kindle books can only be read on a kindle device or kindle app. Mp3's are DRM free, but so are Itunes music purchases as well these days.......Its the same strategy that Apple has used for the iPad.

Here is the question then, who would you rather be locked in to, Amazon, or Apple?  Its an interesting question. One could argue that Amazon is a bit more open than Apple. You can run a Kindle app on apple devices, but you can run ibooks on android devices. Video however, is stuck on a Amazon authorized app, just like itunes movies are stuck in the itunes universe. Same goes for app investments too. Once you start building up these libraries, its touch to switch.

I am fully immersed in the itunes universe because of the library of videos and apps that I have built up. Apple's itunes store is very mature and has an excellent selection of content. I also prefer the design and elegance of apple devices. The $199 price tag of the kindle fire is enticing, but take a while and think through all of the implications of that decision before you make a decision. If you are already highly invested in Apple, the $199 price may not be enough to lure you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Amazon Best Books of 2011

Amazon has released its list of the best books Amazon Best Books of 2011. (affiliate link)

Highlights include the new Steve Jobs bio from Walter Isaacson, which I am almost finished reading, and Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts.

I love lists like this because it gives me a nice new reading list of books to choose from.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ebook Readers - Time to Trade-In your Paper Books

If you haven't yet made the jump to ebooks, I'd like to take a few minutes to explain why you should. Ebooks, or electronic books, are digital copies of books that can be read on a variety of devices. You can purchase ebooks through companies like Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Google, and there are also many free ebooks that you can download as well.

Ebooks give you the ability to literally carry thousands of books with you on one device. You can also instantly purchase and download from a library of over 800,000 books. The combination of instant access and a digital library that can be carried anywhere gives ebooks a distinct advantage over traditional paper books. And e-ink ebook readers provide a technology that imitates the look of paper on an electronic device. Its very simple to purchase a new book right from the device. No computer needed.

Another advantage of ebooks is that you can access your library from multiple devices. You could start reading on your kindle e-ink reader, read a few pages later on your iphone, read a few more pages on your laptop, and then pick back up on your ereader later in the day. Kindle keeps all of the devices synced up so that your device always starts on the last page where you left off.

I personally prefer the kindle system because they have a huge selection of books and you can access your library on many different devices. For pure reading, the kindle e-ink reader is the best experience because its the closest to reading on paper. There is no backlit lcd so it seems to be easier on the eyes for extended reading sessions. The only disadvantage to this device is that you do need a booklight for reading in the dark.

However,  because I am so busy and always on the go, I find myself reading more and more on my kindle iphone app. I always have my phone with me, and the iphone has a very high quality retina display that produces extremely clear text. It was a little small at first, but text size is adjustable. I've gotten so used to it that I frequently read entire books on my iphone.

If you want a multi-purpose e-reader, you will want to look at either the iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire (affiliate link), or a barnes and noble Nook Tablet. These devices are great for reading, but they also are full-fledged multi-media devices that allow you to watch movies, listen to music, play games, and surf the web.

The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, are low-prices at $199 and $250 respectively. They are a great bargain. However, they are smaller than the ipad at 7" and they do not have the massive app store that the ipad has for additional functionality. The ipad has a 9.7" display, and has its own ibooks bookstore as well as specific apps that give you access to the kindle and barnes and noble bookstore.

The cheapest entry point is the new $79 kindle with special offers (affiliate link). Its an e-ink reader that gives you access to the kindle bookstore for a great price. The special offers reduce the price by adding advertising to the kindle screensaver when you are not reading, so it shouldn't be intrusive. Plus, you can pay additional money and remove the ads at any time.

Anyway you go, these are all very good devices and should get you up and reading in no time. After a while, you may wonder if you'll ever buy a paper book again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Cloud: Where does your Music Belong?

Backing up your music collection in 2011 is easier than ever. Whether you backup your music in the cloud or on a hard drive, a music archive is easy and inexpensive and its an absolute must if you have a large music collection.

Here is my roundup of the current options: 

1. External Hard Drive - This one is pretty straightforward. Buy a cheap backup harddrive (amazon affiliate link) and copy your music files. If you are a mac user, I recommend setting-up time machine, which will automatically back up your music files as well as the entire contents of your computer hard drive. 

For windows users, there are a number of backup software options available, including the built-in windows backup program. You can also just copy and paste your music folder directly into your external hard drive. 

One recommendation - you may not want to leave your external hard drive plugged in at all times. If you have a massive power surge at your home, you could end up with a fried computer and a damaged external hard drive - and lose your entire collection. 

2. Google Music - Music by Google is still in its beta, but for now you can back up your entire music collection at no upfront cost. If you get an invite, you can use the Google music manager to upload your entire music library. 

The downside is that, depending on the size of your music collection, the process can take days or even weeks. My library took me 7 days to upload. Once uploaded, google offers a very nice web interface to stream your library. They also have a pretty good mobile app to stream your library on the go. Android users have the advantage of a Google music app to access their collection. 

The other questionable feature is the inability to download music that you have uploaded to your library. The only current option to access your music is through streaming via google. 

3. Amazon Cloud Player - Amazon offers a similar program as Google for backing up your music in the cloud. You can use Amazon's mp3 uploader to upload your entire collection. Again, this process can take a week or more to complete, depending on the size of your library. 

Amazon does give you the ability to download your music files onto your hard drive and then load onto an mp3 player. They also have a nice web interface for streaming songs and an Android app. However, they currently do not offer a mobile web app for iphone users. 

Amazon is currently offerring unlimited space for music for $20 a year plus an additional 20GB of general cloud storage included. However, they advertise these costs as a limited offer. 

Another cool feature is that music purchased via the Amazon mp3 store is automatically and instantly available in the cloud. 

4. Itunes Match - Itunes match is Apple's answer to cloud music storage. Its a different take on music backup in that it scans your music collection and provides a matching itunes AAC 256kbps file for every song that is available in the itunes library. This drastically cuts down the time it takes to "upload" your music collection. If a song in your library does not contain a matching itunes file, then Apple will upload your own digital copy into the cloud. For me, this was about 200 songs to upload instead of 8,000 songs through Google and Amazon. Plus, any song that you purchased via itunes is already available for you in the cloud as a backup. 

Itunes match can sync with your IOS devices so that you have instant access to your entire library at all times from your iphone, ipod touch, ipad, and itunes software. Music can be either streamed or instantly downloaded to your ios device for playback. 

The service costs $25 a year and is scheduled to launch in the near future. 

Whatever service you choose, I would recommend a combination of an external hard drive and cloud storage. I have tried all of these services so I currently have 3 cloud backups plus an external hard drive backup of my music collection. At this point, it would take a pretty massive disaster for me to lose access to my collection. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How to Access your Desktop From Anywhere

Go To My PC Remote Desktop access is a really nice service that allows you to access your desktop from any computer with an internet connection. Its easy to install on your home computer and easy to access from a remote computer.

Once you have access, you will be viewing your home desktop as if you were siting right in front of it. This in and of itself is useful, but it also is a nice substitute for a VPN. I use it at the office to gain access to my work computer from home. I can then access all of the software and network resources that I need from anywhere.

Speed is pretty good, although I wouldn't try to use it for gaming or any processor intensive work.

There is also an iPad tablet out as well that allows you to view your desktop remotely via the iPad.

Very nice service and I highly recommend it.

Gmail App

The gmail app for apple's iphone had a very public failure yesterday. It was released on the app store very briefly, then pulled because of serious bugs in the software.

There was quite a bit of hype leading up to the release of the gmail app, but apparently the app is nothing more than the standard gmail web app, which is quite good, wrapped in an iphone app skin with notification capabilities.

Now, I love gmail, but the only time I really use the gmail app is for searching old emails. For day to day checking and sending of mobile emails, iphone's mail app works just fine. And honestly, if all you need is push notifications, its easy to set-up gmail via exchange activesync and get push capabilities.

So its back to the drawing board for google with no clear timeline for how long it will take to get the app back up on the app store. In the meantime, use the webapp at mail.gmail.com if the iphone mail app isn't sufficient for you.

Ask Siri

Siri is Apple's new "personal assistant" technology built into the new iPhone 4S. Its pretty impressive technology and very useful for a number of tasks. Here are are few of the things that I have found useful to say to Siri so far:

- "Text Jane and ask her if the dishwasher has already been run"
- "Schedule a dentist appoint for 10:30am on November 16th.
- "Is is going to rain today"
- "Read my new messages"
- "Play my toddler playlist"
- "Remind me to call my mom tonight"
- "Set a timer for 3 minutes"

I am loving the calendar function because it really is quicker. Texts are nice especially in the car. And the reminder function has saved me multiple times already.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to Access Gmail from Any Device

Gmail has certainly become the finest free web-based email program available, easily surpassing hotmail and yahoo with features and usability.

Today gmail released a significant update to its gmail web interface with an entirely new user interface. Its a cleaned up design with streamlined conversations, elastic density, smarter navigation, better search and new hd themes.

But you don't have to use the gmail web interface to use gmail. Gmail is accessible from a variety of devices including smartphones and tablets, as well as through traditional email clients on a pc using programs like microsoft outlook.

Here is a link for google for setting up gmail with a variety of email clients including: outlook, apple mail, windows mail and thunderbird.

Setting up gmail on the iphone is easy. Just go to settings, mail, and touch add account. Then select gmail and enter your username and password. You will now be able to send and receive gmail email's from your iphone mail app.

There is also a great gmail mobile app at mail.gmail.com using your mobile browser.