SXSW 2014 Cover Art is Posted

I have just posted this year’s album art for SXSW, the Music festival in Austin in eleven days.

But all is not well. SXSW has offered one track from each artist as a download (as a .torrent) since at least 2005. According to the Unofficial SXSW Torrents site, while there are a small number of tracks available so far, SXSW has decided to put the files up on Soundcloud, instead. Soundcloud works hard to prevent capture of the music they play, which makes downloading the tracks… difficult.

Go to the cover art page to get this year’s art, and find out how to let SXSW know that you don’t like this.

SXSW Showcasing Artist Cover Art

I’m unfriending you, Internet

My darling wife alerted me to a post on Facebook, by a Friend of a Friend (so I can’t comment there, since I’m not Friends with the Friend… ugh), a post that began with, “This just in: ADHD also diagnosed as ‘childhood'” and linked to a blog post at the Psychology Today website about how the French (of all people) don’t have any ADHD cases, because they (are enlightened?) diagnose the root causes: malnutrition, poor parenting, dumbness, etc.

The comments on this post (to which I cannot comment) cover the range, but are mostly following the lead of the original poster, funny quips presented as insight, opinion masquerading as fact, and assumptions presented as research.

I have a child with ADHD (inattentive, not hyperactive). He is bright, funny, creative and distracted. He is on medication, and it has done wonders for him. At one point before he was diagnosed, my brilliant little boy came to us, after watching a commercial on TV, and told us that he thought he needed to go to the Sylvan Learning Center. The look on his face, that defeated, but pathetically hopeful look, stomped on my heart.

If you know us, you know we do nothing without research. Our child was tested, diagnosed, seen by doctors, second opinioned, and finally medicated. He has gone from being a remedial concern to excelling in every aspect of his life, because he can pay attention to the things that are important to him.

But the ADHD diagnosis issue is just the trigger that got me going this morning. I now know a lot about ADHD, about the process of diagnosing, about how it affects my kid, about the ins and outs of medicating my child, about the “cocktail” needed to help him concentrate then help him sleep. I see how he feels when he lets himself down because his brain doesn’t work, and how he feels when he tops a test or a contest or finishes a project or a book. I know what ADHD looks like, to me. This Friend of a Friend does not know what it looks like to me, but that did not prevent him from lumping everyone in together, damn the shades of grey, in the service of his clever commentary.

Here’s what I wanted to add to this guy’s Facebook post, but couldn’t:

“Hi. This post is so insensitive, thoughtless, and knee-jerk that I am inclined to answer in kind. Without knowing you, your children, how you parent, or what you are like, I’d like to take this opportunity to be an asshole to a perfect stranger, because online, there are no repercussions. Ready? Here goes. ‘I bet, since you’re so into responsible parenting, you beat the fuck out of your children if they misbehave. You cretin.’ What’s that? I’m sorry, did I overstep? Did I say something without knowing shit about what I was saying? Why, yes, I did. You’re welcome.”

There’s been some discussion online about comments on articles, how they rarely add to a discussion, being either trolled or facetious or downright harmful. I agree, and would like to add to that the suggestion that all of Facebook (et al.) is one big comment thread full of meaningless pandering and hateful, irresponsible, selfish commentary.

This is what is wrong with Internet commenting.

There is no space for compassion, for empathy, for understanding.

I know I am also guilty here of oversimplifying the issue. The Internet is a tool, after all. There are places set aside for thoughtful discussion and grateful healing. There are nice people online, even on Facebook, and I like being connected to them in a way I never could in Real Life. I appreciate and love them.

But the rest of the Internet can seriously fuck off. I don’t have time for you anymore.

Enjoying the hell out of iTunes Radio

iTunes Radio is a revelation to me. Not that I didn’t know what it was going to be like, I mean, intellectually. I’ve used Pandora, after all. But Pandora was annoying, browser-based, finicky, and I never used it very long. When I first tried iTunes Radio yesterday, while trying to write, I picked some of their pre-programmed “stations” and was all, meh. Their “iTunes Top 100: Alternative” has too much Killers in it. Which is to say, any Killers is too much. My taste is definitely Alt, but I like my alt more eclectic than that. And that Fallout Boy song (Alone Together) sounds like Rihanna in drag.

But today I made my own “station” based on a song in heavy rotation in our house, Little Brass Bear by Rachel Goodrich.

And it turns out, basically, that iTunes Radio is like Genius, but with the entire iTunes catalog as your library. Which is freaking awesome.

Of course, it also turns out that iTunes Radio is just like Pandora, Rdio, etc., but without the hassle of using something added on to my ecosystem. I am, as stated elsewhere, fully entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, and in here I am as happy as a bug that is snug in a rug.

My playlist so far:

Jaymay (one of my favorite songs, Gray or Blue!)
Woody Guthrie
Matthew and the Atlas
Kimya Dawson
Langhorne Slim
Laura Veirs
Lindsey Ray
The Colorful Quiet
Malvina Reynolds
Lucy Wainwricht Roche (dang there are a lot of Wainwrights, no?)
Cast Spells
Rachel Goodrich

I’ve heard of… six of those artists. I own one of the songs I have heard so far. New music! Which is what makes this so awesome.

Edit: How I “watched” the Apple announcement

Edit: So, I ended up watching via Engadget most of the time, and when they had hiccups, I went over to Ars Technica. Good job guys.

Hey folks, I am planning on “watching” the Apple announcement (iPhone 5S, 5C, iOS 7, maybe some iPads, ever so maybe a TV-related announcement that might just be new software) today at 10 am Pacific (noon, where I am). Here’s how.

Last time I had the greatest success with Engadget’s live feed. It has lots of features, appears to be homegrown (or at least unique) and worked well during this past WWDC Keynote. If you’re only going to do one feed, do this one:

Engadget’s Live Feed

If you are like me, and you want to swap between several feeds of almost the same coverage with slightly different snark, you might also try the following links:

The Verge
Ars Technica

What else is out there? Well, if you like pretentious hair and live video (of people talking about the reveal, not of the reveal itself) you can’t do better (or worse) than C|Net’s ad-driven pre-show page. Oy. Then, there are the luddites. AllThingsD seems to be doing a straight up refresh-and-read approach, and Jim Dalrymple’s The Loop is proudly proclaiming their refresh for new system to be “old school.” I’m on the fence about Slashgear’s approach (they are new to me in live blogging) and MacWorld’s cookie-cutter vendor-product-live-blogging-platform.

No dilemma, Apple is a hardware company

John Gruber of Daring Fireball points to this article at the WSJ: Apple Has an Identity Crisis: Is It a Hardware Company or a Software Firm? Gruber notes that this dichotomy has been true every one of Apple’s 37 years.

But I beg to differ. There is no dilemma. This has never been true. Back when I used to write about Apple, twenty years ago, and today, it is quite clear: Everything Apple does is about selling hardware. You can set your watch, your rumor mill, and your stock options by this.

If they don’t think it will further hardware sales, they won’t do it.

iTunes Match Airport Wall Wart

Delightful name, no?

I would like Apple to build a wall wart1 that connects to my iTunes Match account (nee, my iCloud account) to stream music.

It should be very much like an Airport Express, being wall-wartish, and having an audio out option, but it should be purpose built to connect to my music in my Apple ecosystem. I would set it up via my Apple i(OS)X device, connect to my WiFi, log in to iCloud, save my credentials, and it would be ready to go.

This magic wart would then let me listen to my music, via iTunes Match, without a computer or a copy of iTunes running. I wouldn’t have to plug my iPhone in anywhere, or use minutes/battery to stream music. I wouldn’t have to “Start iTunes, Honey, so we can listen to music.” I could still use Remote (or iTunes on OSX?) to skip, pick a playlist, etc.

How sweet would that be?

Really sweet.

Bonus, it would be ready for iRadio, or whatever Apple calls their eventual streaming music service.

Yes, I know this is very specific to the Apple ecosystem. And it would be fab if Apple would let you connect it to Pandora/Rdio/Spotify/whatnot, but Apple would never do that. On the other side, Apple would never allow a third party wall wart to connect to iTunes Match, so. I am, in my circumstances, stuck with Apple. I can live with that.

But I can’t live without this thing. Build it, Apple!

  1. wall wart (n): electronic nubbin with plug prongs on the back that you plug into the wall where it sits like a parasitic lump, doing “something.” 

In Defense of Apple’s Maps

We got iPhones 5 a few weeks ago now, and I have been very pleased with it. The extra screen space is nice (the keyboard doesn’t cover everything up now!) and the speed is especially welcome.

But my favorite feature, by far, is the new Maps app.

We’ve been living in Kansas City (KS) for a little less than a year at this point. I don’t know my way around terribly well. I had been using Navigon for GPS routing and it was… well, awful. Hard to start (slow, obnoxious address entry), hard to manage (volume was always set to “whisper”, seeing the entire route was painfully slow, and ending navigation was not easy to do), and the spoken directions were too frequent and annoying. I never used it because by the time I knew I wanted it, I was often already driving, and stopping for ten minutes by the side of the road to find the address and enter it was not going to be helpful. Although I did that once or twice.

In contrast, Apple’s new Maps app, in combination with Siri, does exactly what I hoped it would. Easy to find destinations, often just by voice request. Immediate startup of turn-by-turn directions. Clear maps, just enough voice direction, easy overview, resume, and end functions. Whatever problems Siri or Maps have, I don’t feel them here in KCK. I have used turn-by-turn directions more in the last few weeks than I did in the previous two years. Heck, sometimes I do it just for fun.

So, count me a fan.

Make it easier for me, Amazon!

Went to buy something at Amazon tonight, and decided they really need to let us add a nickname or notes to our payment methods. I’d like to call my payment methods “Golf card” and “Regular card” and “White card,” but instead all I get to distinguish my credit cards are the last four numbers, which mean virtually nothing to me, but it mean a whole lot to my banks, and to my likelihood of having enough funds to buy what I wanted to buy tonight. Instead, I have to laboriously haul out the wallet. Make it easier for me, Amazon!

AT&T or Verizon for my new iPhone? (Updated answer: AT&T)

Updated! – discount on Vz, too!
Update #2 – no voice+data on Vz
Update #3 – done and done

Hi all. Back to the mundane. Apple announced (or rather, confirmed what we’ve all known for several months now) a new iPhone today. The iPhone 5 will be available for pre-order this Friday, to ship a week later. I will be getting one, as will my wife, as we lurve our current iPhones 4, we are out of contract, and we would like faster more capable phones.

There are three carriers available to us: AT&T (our current carrier), Verizon (with whom we carrier-ed for a decade before we got iPhones), and Sprint (actually a hometown company here in KC).

Sprint is out right away for poor coverage and confusing plans that don’t actually come out to anything better than the others. They do have unlimited data, mind you, but we actually use our phones for phones, and their “add a tablet” options are ridiculously expensive should we ever go that route.

Which leaves the other two.

Verizon. We loved Verizon when we were customers, we always had a signal and never had a call drop. Of course, this was in the stone age of cell phones, and the number of phones, the technology of the airwaves, etc. has changed a lot since then. But we hear from the hoi polloi that Verizon doesn’t drop calls. The plan would cost us $150 per month. Adding a tablet, if we should go there, is $10 per month, per tablet.

AT&T. We have AT&T now, and when we first started two years (more, now) ago, we dropped calls like crazy. Not like, cray cray more-often-than-not crazy, but frequently enough that we pined for good ol’ Verizon. But I regularly use voice and data at the same time (looking up my calendar while on a phone call, for example), which you can’t do on Verizon right now. The plan would cost us $150 per month. And adding a tablet is also $10 per month, per tablet.

Research! Root Metrics surveyed KC and compared voice and data reliability for major carriers. The results suggest that AT&T has improved their dropped calls frequency a lot (borne out by our anecdotal experience), but Verizon still has faster overall data speeds (and fewer dropped calls, technically). But mostly, it seems a wash between those two. Here is the link. Apologies to those of my friends in smaller markets. Also: ha ha!

There are two other factors that will weigh on this decision:

LTE. This is the new supa-fast mobile network the iPhone 5 uses, and both V and A support. From what I read, LTE only does data, and cannot be used for voice. Instead, both use the previous 3G networks for voice calls. (This will change sometime, maybe soon?) Therefore, when an AT&T LTE phone tries to do voice and data simultaneously, it actually drops to 3G for both. A lot slower than LTE, but you can do both. A Verizon phone with LTE, currently can do data and voice simultaneously. It continues using LTE for data, but fires up the second radio device for voice, and runs both at the same time. The jury is out on whether the iPhone 5 is equipped with two radios at once (I think Apple made beef about there being one magic-tasking radio in the iPhone 5 that did all things, but I don’t recall).

Research! Someone explained the reasons why simultaneous voice and data are not possible on all networ… zzzz, tl;dr. Basically, what I said up there. If you really need to read it, here is that link.

State of KS Discounts. AT&T offers a discount for service to employees of the State of Kansas, which we are. Our current AT&T plan has this discount applied. I would expect we could get the discount applied to a new plan with AT&T, which would make it cheaper than the equivalent Verizon plan (though I don’t know how much cheaper).

So, what do I need to do?

  1. Find out if the iPhone 5 can do simultaneous voice and data on both AT&T and Verizon.
  2. Find out if there is a discount for State of KS employees for AT&T still, if there is one for Verizon, and how much a discount might be.
  3. Before Friday.

Update. Okay, so Verizon also offers a discount to employees of the State of Kansas. So yay. Also, it appears from the Intarwebs that both carriers will be able to provide simultaneous voice and data when you are on their LTE networks. Also, when not on the LTE network, AT&T will still provide that ability. But we still have no verified verification of iPhone 5’s ability to do this on Verizon once you fall off LTE. Not sure it matters.

Update #2. So, in this article, it unequivocally states that no, the iPhone 5 on Verizon will not be able to do simultaneous voice and data. Apple would have needed to add a third antenna to the phone for that, and they chose not to. The short of it, technically: AT&T does data over LTE, and when you make a phone call, does data and voice over 3G. Verizon does data over LTE, and when you make a phone call, drops to CDMA, but with too few antennas in the phone, they can’t keep working the LTE for data, so presto, no data while talking.

Turns out it does matter to me, so we’re sticking with AT&T. Also, the Future will be awesome, and you can see how by Googling “VoLTE” (Voice-over-LTE), which is coming Real Soon Now. Honest.

Update #3. Ordered two new iPhones. Had to use the Apple site, because AT&T’s was borked, and had to order them one at a time, because the Store’s system can’t handle more than one carrier subsidized phone at a time, so, whatever. They ship in two weeks, and take five days to ship, and may require a signature. That’s… like, October 3rd or something. Arr.

No more twitter here

I’m done. At least, I’m done with trying to include all my Twitticisms on this blog. You’ll just have to go to Twitter to get them (see the footer for directions). It was too… not easy, to keep them all here, and there, and display them nicely. So, screw it.

But, here are all my Tweets. Someone warn me when I start reaching 3200?