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iTunes vs Amazon MP3

December 18th, 2008 3 comments

itunesI know this topic is nothing new but it’s actually new to me. See, I’ve been a die-hard iTunes Store user ever since it’s debut in April of 2003. The first Apple product I ever bought was a second generation 10GB iPod that was purchased back in 2002. At that time, the only option for getting digital music was to either rip the CD you bought or to download MP3′s illegally off the internet from places like Limewire and Napster. Well those days changed when Apple opened it’s iTunes Music Store.

Back in the early 80′s I was a wanna be rock star. I used to play guitar and play in a cool local band. In those days you either bought the complete album, cassette tape or CD (mid-late 80′s) and you used to listen to the whole album, not just one or two songs. Fast forward to the present and now a lot of the music being produced is not worth buying the complete album. I know, I know, it goes against all I was back in the 80′s but it’s true.

So this is where iTunes shines, at least for me. I can launch iTunes, go to the iTunes Store and either search for the artist/group or view by genres and find some interesting music to download. No more buying the full CD for only a few (at most ) songs that are really worth the purchase. And for only $.99 per song, how can you go wrong?

amazon_mp3Last month I made a purchase from Amazon that qualified me for a five dollar credit to the Amazon MP3 Store. That was cool I thought but I’ve never shopped for music on Amazon. I knew they had a download manager that plugs right into iTunes, or at least sticks the downloaded file into your iTunes library for you. But again, I’ve never used it. So now I had no excuse, I’ve got a five dollar Amazon MP3 credit. It’s off to the store.

Obviously, the interface is a lot different than what I’m used to in iTunes. There are similarities like the list of genres and the ability to do a search for a particular song or artist. Spending a few minutes on the site will have you finding music in no time.

itunestopsongsFor me, one of the most used features of iTunes is the top 100 songs per genre. Amazon has a similar feature but you don’t get the easy to use interface of iTunes where you can preview each song in the list without having to leave the list. That is a big negative for me.

Another feature I use all the time in iTunes is the ability to place music into the shopping cart before the purchase. By doing this I can go back through my cart to make sure I want everything in there. Also, the cart will add up all the tunes and allow me to purchase all with one click unlike Amazon where it seems you can only purchase only one song at a time. At least that’s what I’ve experienced so far.

amazon-mp3-downloaderSo although there are some major differences in the two interfaces, the Amazon MP3 Store and downloader are easy to use. The Amazon MP3 downloader integrates well with the Safari browser and automatically places the purchased music into your iTunes Library.

Another feature of the Amazon store is that the actual files are in either variable bit rate or non-variable bit rate mp3′s encoded at 256Kbps and are DRM free; which is nice compared to the protected AAC files from iTunes.

Not only are the Amazon files higher quality and DRM free, they cost less than iTunes. The Amazon MP3 downloads cost from $.79 – $.99 where as iTunes are set at a $.99 flat rate.

Personally, I like that there is an option when it comes to legal downloading of music from the internet. However, for me, I will most likely stick with iTunes since I typically purchase more than ten songs at a time and the one click purchase make that easy. But for the occasional one or two downloads, I may consider using Amazon since the price is right and the files are DRM free.

So if you haven’t given Amazon MP3 a try, you should do so. With it’s downloader, lower price and DRM free music it’s hard to beat. If Amazon is not your thing and iTunes is, your not missing much.

Categories: iPod, iTunes Tags: , , , ,

View Gmail Label Size in Mac OSX Mail.app

September 10th, 2008 22 comments

As you may know, Google Gmail gives it’s users ample space to store mail messages with disk space hovering around 7GB these days. And even though the Gmail web interface shows the total amount of space used you may still wonder how much space is being used by mail archived to Labels.

To view this information you will also need to setup the OSX Mail.app to retrieve Gmail via IMAP. I have my Gmail account setup in Mail.app so that I can use the account within OSX and so that I can use the Mail.app on the iPhone to receive, view and send emails with Gmail.

Once you have your Gmail account setup in Mail, all you need to do is either Control-click or Right-click the Gmail mailbox in Mail and choose “Get Account Info“.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the Account Info window is open you will see your Gmail account Quota Limits which will show the message count and size of each of the Labels as well as the total space allocated and how much is being used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, I have a bunch of Labels setup in Gmail but within this window you can also sort the information by Label name (Mailbox), Message count or Size. The color bar graph is also a nice visual indication of how much of Googles disk space you’re currently using. As you can see, I’m not using very much even though my total message count is over 7000 and Currently used is 330MB.

Now, go give it a try!

Categories: Apple, How To, OSX Tags: , , , , , , ,

How To: Replace the iPhone 2G with the iPhone 3G

August 27th, 2008 11 comments

I’ve had the original iPhone 2G for going on nine months now. I really didn’t plan on getting the 3G model until the other day when I took a look on eBay to see how much people were selling the 2G models and the sale prices. Final selling prices were well over $300 and even $400 dollars which really surprised me. So I decided to get the upgrade and sell my 2G on eBay to recover the price of the new iPhone.

So the journey began yesterday when I listed my iPhone on eBay. I’m not a big eBay user but I’ve got almost forty sales and purchases under my belt. I’ve sold high dollar items like my old PowerBook G4 this past spring after getting a new MBP. So I’m not too worried about getting a good sale price for the iPhone. I’ve listed the auction for five days and as of right now I have no bids. No biggie, they’ll come in. The big question for me was which 3G to buy.

The first choice was deciding which size I wanted? The 8GB or the 16GB model? I really don’t use my phone much for the iPod features as much as I do the web, email and social networks like Twitter. So space was not an issue.

After thinking about for a day or so I decided to get the larger 16GB iPhone since I feel it will have a better resale value if I ever sell it. Which is very probable.

So after deciding on the 16GB model, the second choice was which color would I choose? As you may have seen in an earlier post, I’ve recently bought a Flip Mino. I got the black model of the Flip but after using it I’ve noticed how bad you can see all the finger prints and dust. I took my experience with the Flip and did some other research as to what the iPhone community thought about to two colors.

After reading many forum posts and blogs I almost had my mind made up. The last thing I wanted to do was to see the iPhone in person. So instead of going to the local Apple store as I did for the first iPhone purchase, I decided to go to the closer AT&T store. I think it was a good choice since when I arrived, there was only one other customer in the store. I spent a few minutes comparing both black and white and decided to go with white.

Prior to this point I had two concerns; the first was how do I get all my data and settings off the original iPhone and onto the new one. And second was; how do I prep my old iPhone to be sold on eBay?

After a little reading I found an article on iPhoneHacks.com that explains how you can use the same iTunes backup of the old device and restore it on the new iPhone. So this is what I did to tackle the first concern.

1. First I synced the old iPhone to iTunes which like we all know takes forever to complete a backup. I did this earlier in the morning before I left home because I had planned on stopping by the AT&T store later that day. For those of you that use SMS a lot and want the most recent conversations saved and transferred then you might want to do a backup closer to the time you purchase the new iPhone.

2. Next I went to the AT&T store (since it was closer to my home) and purchased the new iPhone. One thing I could have done was turn the old iPhone off prior to buying the new iPhone since an in store activation is required but if was no big deal. For the heavy SMS users this might prevent any missed messages.

One thing I did not like was that the box had to be opened in store to activate. That blew any “unboxing” shots that I may have wanted to take. They also plug the iPhone into their POS (Point of Sale) Windows PC for some reason. I don’t know if they do all that at the Apple store but it kind of bothered me.

Once I left the store my iPhone was activated and could be used.

3. After I got home I hooked up the new iPhone to the MBP and was prompted to either setup the iPhone as a new device or do a restore from backup. I choose the restore option but was prompted that the iPhone could not be restored since it had an earlier software update. My old iPhone was running version 2.0.2 and the new iPhone came with 2.0.1 software.

At that point I went into the iTunes prefs and disabled all devices to auto sync. Just in case it tried to sync before doing the software update and restore.

After the software was updated I was able to do a complete restore to the new iPhone from the old iPhone backup.

4. During the restore process I noticed my old phone still receiving emails. This was due to the phone being connected to my WiFi. So I turned off WiFi. Problem solved.

5. Once the restore was complete, which took some time, I verified all the iPhone sync settings in iTunes were correct (from screenshots I took earlier). After all were verified I performed a sync, which also took a long time to complete.

6. After the content sync was complete it was time to verify all the settings and data restored properly. Everything looked good with the exception of two items.

One was that visual voicemail was not setup and therefor did not restore my saved messages. This may have been my fault. Maybe if I would have gone through the setup prompts, the old messages would have been restored. If anyone knows please leave a comment. I’ll have to research that one later.

The only other thing that needed setup was the passcode required by policy for my employers Exchange server.

Once those two items was straightened out, the iPhone was back to the original state.

The second concern I had was how to erase all personal data from the old iPhone prior to selling it on eBay. After more research I found another article on iPhoneHacks.com that explains how Apple includes a secure reset and erase of all data in the 2.0 software.

To do this you go to Settings > General > Reset and choose Erase All Content and Settings from the list of options. This is supposed to do a secure write over all data and reset the iPhone to factory new setting, ready to be activated (or jailbroken) and synced. The process can take up to two hours to complete so you may want to plug it into the USB power adapter.

So here I am, new iPhone all restored and synced up, using the mobile WordPress app.

I have to say, I was concerned that the rounded plastic back of the 3G iPhone would bother me as I really liked the aluminum look and feel of the 2G. But after using it for a few hours it actually feels really nice in my hand. The iPhone 3G seems to be a tiny bit wider than the 2G as well but not noticeable.

I was also unsure about the color white but it doesn’t bother me and I’m getting used to the refreshing change from all those other black cell phones out there.

So in conclusion, I’m very pleased with the new 3G iPhone design and upgrade process. And with a little planning, you can reduce the pain factor to very low.

Now let’s see how well the new 3G speeds work out.

Categories: Apple, How To, iPhone, iTunes Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tropical Storm Fay: Fay, Fay Go Away!

August 21st, 2008 2 comments

I wanted to post a quick update on Tropical Storm Fay, which at the time of this writing is hitting us the hardest it has all day.

I took some video with the Flip Mino so I thought this would be a good opportunity to share a little of what the video looks like. Right now I’m uploading the video files to Viddler and then they have to encode before I can embed the video into this post.

So here they are…

 

 

This is a view of my back yard and the Fay wind.

This is a view of my front yard and Fay wind.

Categories: Apple Tags:

MobileMe Update: 60 Day Service Extension

August 18th, 2008 2 comments

Apple has again given every MobileMe user another service extension. This extension is for 60 days and is in addition to the 30 day extension Apple already gave its users back in July. Even though the MobileMe service has been a bit less then stellar since it’s update, Apple has done a great job at making good by extending the service contracts of it’s users, twice now.

What other company do you know that would do this across the board?

Categories: Apple Tags: ,

iPhone 2.0.2 Update, What Did it Fix?

August 18th, 2008 1 comment

I still have the 1st generation (EDGE) iPhone and for the most part it’s been working fine. Apple released firmware update 2.0.2 today via iTunes and as usual I promptly installed the update.

So far I can’t really tell if anything on the surface has been updated or fixed. I can tell you that prior to this update, going into Contacts seemed a bit slow, slow enough to make me think the app was hung. Scrolling within Contacts at times was also slow and jerky. Now, with the 2.0.2 update, Contacts seems to launch faster and the scrolling seems to have improved. 

The App Store still has discrepancies between available updates within the iTunes interface and the App Store app on the phone itself. Right now iTunes shows I have four apps that have updates but the iPhone says I have one. Which one do I believe?

Another annoyance has been a delay in typing that has been present since the original 2.0 update. The 2.0.2 update does not appear to fix the problem and it’s too early to tell if the update has at least helped. One really annoying typing delay (for me) is when entering my Passcode after the iPhone has been locked. This is a policy requirement for the company I work for to use Exchange support. The first few characters always delay in both typing response and tick sounds as I type. I’ve also noted some early typing delays when using both Mail and Twitter apps.

One thing I’ve done prior to installing firmware updates is to reboot the iPhone with the two finger reboot. This seems to clean up any running processes prior to applying the update. I’ve also disabled crash reporting to Apple (via LifeHacker) during iPhone sync which seems to have increased overall sync and firmware update speed. I know what some don’t agree with disabling this “feature” but until Apple makes the process faster, I’ll keep mine disabled.

Only time will tell if the update has improved the usability of the iPhone or corrected “bugs” as Apple says. Please keep in mind that I still have the EDGE iPhone and 3G iPhones may experience different results.

Categories: Apple, iPhone Tags: , ,

Unboxing: Flip Video Mino

August 13th, 2008 3 comments

So for the last few months I’ve been debating on which portable video camera to purchase and I finally decided on the Flip Video Mino in black. I wanted something small that used internal flash memory for capturing video. I also wanted something that was easy to use not only for myself but for my wife and daughter. The fact that I can capture video direct to the device, plug it in via USB to my MacBook Pro and upload to YouTube is exactly what I have been looking for.

I plan on using the Flip Mino for capturing my daughter as she grows up, family times, quick happenings I may encounter and for my upcoming speech class.

The Flip Mino arrived today from Amazon and I was curiously intrigued with how “Appleish” the packaging was. So I’ve taken some photos of the Flip Mino unboxing along side the Apple iPhone box. One of the small features I like about the Mino is that it has a tripod mount on the bottom which will come in handy for those speech videos. 

Here are some pictures that show off the packaging and some of the hardware features of the Mino.

 

Flip Mino and Apple iPhone Box

Flip Mino and Apple iPhone Box

 

Flip Mino and Apple iPhone box inside

Flip Mino and Apple iPhone box inside

 

Flip Mino Front View

Flip Mino Front View

 

Flip Mino Back View

Flip Mino Back View

 

As you can see the box and packaging has been inspired by Apple design. The front and back of the Mino is very clean and I can’t wait to test it out.

If you want to see some additional unboxing photos go to my Flickr page where I’ve posted the rest of the photos I’ve taken. Then be on the lookout for videos to follow!

Apple Vs. Dell

August 8th, 2008 1 comment

Ok, So The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW.com) posted an article this week about an article from Tom’s Hardware regarding the misconceptions on price between Apple and other PC manufacturers. I’m not here to argue their point in either direction although I do like and own Apple products. I also work as a Windows Server admin so I get my fair share of both Intel Servers, PC’s and Apple.

Both articles contain many comments from both sides arguing their agreement or disagreement with Tom’s Hardware and how they’ve compared Apple and PC manufacturer products. The one thing missing from this whole debacle is this… Let’s compare the Apple Mac Pro and the Dell XPS Tower in this way:

The Dell XPS:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the Apple Mac Pro:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need I say more?

Categories: Apple, Hardware, Rants Tags: , , , ,

How To: Strip DRM from Audio Files Using iMovie HD

July 24th, 2008 6 comments

In this How To I’ll show you a method of removing the DRM protection from purchased music from the iTunes music store. I have not tried this on any other DRM protected media but I don’t see why it would not work.

In order to remove the DRM protection from purchased music in iTunes you will need iMovie HD 6, which is a free download on the Apple web site. Once you have iMovie HD 6 installed on your system, follow these steps to remove the DRM:

1. Open iMovie HD and create a new project. The project name can be what ever you’d like since the project can be deleted once the process is complete.

2. Select the Media tab in iMovie and then click on your iTunes Library in the Audio browser window at the top of the interface. You can search for the song to make it easier to find.

3. Once you’ve found the song you want to convert, drag it to the audio time-line at the bottom.

4. iMovie will now import the file.

5. After the import is complete you need to add an image to the time-line or else the project will not export. To do this click the Photos tab above the media browser and select an image from either iPhoto or Aperture. The photo does not matter as it’s only used to allow the project to export. Disregard the Ken Burns Effect pallet as it will go away once the photo is rendered in the time-line.

6. Now the project is ready to be exported. To do this, click the Share menu and choose Quicktime. In the Compress movie for: drop down, select Expert Settings and then click the Share button. This will open the Save exported file as… window. From here you can choose where you’d like the exported file to be saved, I use the default Movies folder in my Home Folder. You’ll want to select the Export: drop down and choose Sound to AIFF as the export format. All other settings can be left at default. Then click Save and the project will save and compress the project.

7. At this point you can browse the Finder to the location you’ve saved the file and drag the .AIFF file into your iTunes Library.

8. Once the file is in your iTunes Library, you can change all the file info to match the Artist, song title, album and so forth. You can even drag the album art from the original file in iTunes out to your desktop and then drag the same file into the newly created DRM-Free file. You’ll also want to convert the new file to AAC by selecting the file and control-click or right click the file and choose Convert Selection to AAC in the context menu.

9. At this point the original song file has been stripped of it’s DRM and converted back to an audio AAC file that can used by GarageBand to create a ringtone for the iPhone.

Stay tuned for a How To on creating ringtones in GarageBand.

Disclaimer: The sole purpose of removing the DRM from purchased iTunes music in this How To is to allow the file to be used to create ringtones for the iPhone. These files are not being redistributed in any way.

First Look – WordPress App for iPhone

July 22nd, 2008 2 comments

The new iPhone app for WordPress was released today so I wanted to give the new app a try. This post was written using the WordPress app and I have to say the interface is really nice and easy to use.

Since this is a new blog for me, I don’t have all my categories in place. But no worries, you can add new categories right from the iPhone WordPress app.

Overall, typing out and submiting a blog post is pretty easy with this app. If you write for a blog and use the iPhone, this is one app you need to try for yourself.

Check out some of the iPhone screenshots taken and uploaded with WordPress app.

Main screen

photo

Write Post

photo

Posts

photo

For some reason a screenshot of the photo upload page would not capture. I guess you’ll have to check it out for yourself.

Categories: iPhone Tags: