Thoughts: Firefox 4, Netflix, and Amazon’s Appstore
Firefox 4 was released today. It’s pulling a lot of interface elements and cues from Chrome … but then so does IE9. Chrome may very well represent the new standard for application interface and usability. There certainly is elegance in simplicity. App speed is really the new goal, so the less buttons and toolbars and other stuff that your computer is rendering, the lighter the app is on resources, and the snappier it responds (with new tabs, setting bookmarks, etc.). Download here. I’ll let you know in a few days whether it handles Flash in an intelligent manner. That has been the Achilles’ heel of Firefox since version 2.
Netflix optioned the rights to first broadcast (and probably syndication) for a BRAND NEW tv series with Kevin Spacey. Looks badass. And like all things that Netflix does, it seems soooo sensible and timely. Of course their stock jumped up the next day. I’m not a knowledgeable investor, but a 24% increase in value in one day seems outstanding. The Blockbuster down the street closed … good riddance. Next in the Internet Conquests of the Real World, I want Amazon to take out Best Buy. Evolution is decisive.
Speaking of the big bookbeast, I see they have added an app store for Android. You have to tweak a technical switch in your Android settings. Will this be a monster barrier to entry? Amazon’s enticement (and a nice twist on an app store) is that they offer a free paid app every day. Still not enough? Well, if you install, you get a sequel to the hugely addictive Angry Birds for free. That got me to make the leap. I’m sure most others will too. I like Amazon’s mp3 Store a lot. It is really easy to use and not as mind-numbingly possessive as iTunes. Apple’s iTunes is like a horribly possessive hipster friend. Fun at first, and sleek enough to get your geeky butt a ton of attention, but then you realize you are locked into a huge a time commitment … and whenever you try to move on (to another app or mp3 player or friend), iTunes/hipster says, nope, I own your music and videos (and social connections). Messy analogy, but you get the point. Amazon’s mp3 Store is better than iTunes, so I assume that Amazon’s Appstore will blow the Android Marketplace away with superior usability. It already has one or two less clicks for all actions.
I may have figured out how Lala works their licensing mystery. When synching your music collection, the service somehow matches mp3 tags like artist, album, and song title. I think song length may also have something to do with it. If it finds an “approximate” match AND the song is licensed for Lala’s use, the song gets dropped into your online music collection. I bet this is somewhere in the FAQ on their web site, but I never read that nonsense … do you?
Why did I only find this out 6 months after I started using Lala? Very good question … glad I asked it. It takes forever to upload songs, so I only uploaded the first 20 gigs of my music collection. I never processed the whole collection because I have 500+ gigs of music. Because of how I originally converted all my CDs, my music collection is organized in an odd manner. It’s very complex, but let’s just say I uploaded the most mainstream music first. All my music matched and so I blissfully used Lala for 6 months. Now that I am so enamored of Lala, I’ve decided to upload the rest. Much of this current music that I am uploading is eclectic and indie. So it’s not really matching. See, I may be uploading a live or demo or rare version, and Lala mismatches it with the production studio version of the tune! If it doesn’t match, Lala omits it from the album entirely. This isn’t so bad, except you don’t know until you go to play an album and the last track isn’t there or track 5 is not what you’d expect or way too loud compared to the rest of the album. I’m obsessive about music and my spidey sense tingles when something is out of whack. However, I breathe deeply. count to 10, and then move on. Oh … the other issue is that on CDs with unnamed hidden tracks, I’ve edited out the silence and re-saved the track under a new name. Green Day’s “Dookie” has that with the “All By Myself” song. Lala doesn’t recognize this sort of thing. Bummer.
So consequently, my Lala collection is incomplete and mismatched. Probably 10% of my Lala collection is askew. I have an enormous quantity of weird music, however. So although my OCD has been tweaked a bit, I am willing to overlook the slight problems in favor of the enormous convenience. For the great majority of the population for whom Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell 2″ (you know “I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that!” … you have it on your iPod and you LOVE it) is the weirdest thing in their iTunes, this won’t matter. All the Kanye West, Christina Aguilera, and Black Eyed Peas that you need is covered with Lala’s library. Enjoy it!
There’s a great music website called Lala which I have been using for about 6 months now. It allows you to upload your music collection and listen to it anywhere that you have a computer (or iPhone) and an internet connection. You can set up playlists and share them. And, of course, you can sort your music collection any way you want. [ Example: Show me just the Heavy Metal albums ... yay!] The web application is absolutely phenomenal. It’s drag & drop and very, very visual — a model of “complex simplicity”. It’s more or less a web-based iTunes before iTunes tried to do everything. I’ve stopped liking iTunes because it’s doing too much — Genius, video, and now Facebook integration … why oh why? Call me a curmudgeon, but I kinda tolerated it about 2 or 3 years ago when all it did was organize and play music. It did that well. Lala reminds me of the happy, friendly iTunes of 2006.
I’m not going to sit here and describe every aspect of Lala because honestly you should be using it right now. I have not a single complaint after 6 months of daily use. Normally I am very critical, but this just kicks ass. Seriously, stop reading this crappy blog post and just sign up at http://www.lala.com. Download the tiny desktop application. Pick three or four albums to upload. Although the upload process is automated, it takes a long time to upload all your albums (I have 180 gigs of music!!). So at first, limit yourself to those few albums. It took about a day to upload 9 gigs / 1800 songs, but it did all that nonsense in the background. Anyway, if you like it, then endure the lengthy upload for the rest of your music.
One of the coolest features that I cannot get over is that I can be listening to some ridiculously long playlist here at work. Then I turn off my computer at work, go home, boot up the home system (workaholics, unite!), and pick up the playlist right where I left off. It’s awesome. I giggle to myself every time I get to do that.
The big mystery that lingers over this whole utopian system is how Lala gets around licensing. Will the RIAA axe fall as heavily as it did with Pandora? — By the way, Pandora, awesome bounce-back. Y’all have a godlike CEO over there. – Apparently, Lala gets around licensing issues by comparing your music files with albums that they already have legally in their library. Then Lala uploads only the music that they don’t have. Yeah, I know, if you do the math, it doesn’t really add up. Shhhhh!