Archives for : July2011

Was Dvorak worth it?

Well, after a bit of persistence, I’ve finally got to a realistic speed using the Dvorak keyboard layout. Maximum recorded was around 76wpm using the characters per minute divided by 5 rule (see this Wikipedia article.) I probably would have reached a faster speed sooner if I had cut out using QWERTY all together and forced myself upon Dvorak, but that just wasn’t possible when I had Uni and work requiring that stuff be typed sooner rather than later. That said, switching between QWERTY and Dvorak, but using Dvorak whenever possible, has got me to a reasonable speed in just under 2 months. I’m now using Dvorak where possible, and am still hoping to get my speed to the high 80’s, as that’s where my QWERTY speed was before I started Dvorak (interestingly, because I used a particular speed test website to measure my Dvorak speed so often, I actually can’t use QWERTY on it, I keep trying to type in Dvorak, but only on that website, so it’s really hard to compare the speeds.)

So, the question has to be asked, was it worth it? Well, I’m still hoping that it is, but because I was doing the whole exercise for fun and geekyness of it, it doesn’t bother me if it isn’t. I think I still need to use it for another month or two before the benefits will start to show, the biggest of which will hopefully a reduction of RSI in my wrists (it only comes about occasionally, so it’s too early to call if it has made a difference,) and maybe surpass my old QWERTY typing speed.

If you’re interested in learning it for fun or out of curiosity, the I would definitely recommend it. As for learning it to type faster, well, that’s yet to be seen. I’m at a reasonable speed, but I’m still not as fast as my QWERTY speed, though it seems as though I’m still getting faster, so there is a possibility that I will be faster. There are just as many websites that say it will improve your speed as there are ones that say there aren’t really any beneifts, so hopefully in a month or two I’ll be able to post from my own experience whether or not it has made me a faster typist overall (and whilst just me is a very, very small sample, I don’t really have the resources to get a bigger sample.)

So, I’ll re-post in another two months and see how I am there, but two months in and I could quite easily use Dvorak all the time if I needed to.

And yes, I did type this post in Dvorak. It’d be a bit ironic if I was saying how far I’ve come with learning it and that I can type at a good speed, and typed the post using QWERTY.

Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity Review

For those of you who don’t know what Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity (seriously, who thought of that as a name) is, it’s a subscription based music service by Sony, with quite complicated branding. It’s PSN, it’s Sony Entertainment, no, it’s Qriocity, all at the same time. I don’t even know how to pronounce that properly, so luckily that isn’t a requirement for a text based review.

The deal is, you pay $13 (AUD) a month, and get unlimited streaming of any song in their library. It sounds like a pretty good deal on the surface, but is it really? Let’s find out.

Music Range
Well, it’s Sony, so anything Sony related is in there. That said, all the major label seem to be represented, meaning that it will have 99% of the music most people want (since, by definition, what most people want is mainstream music.) It won’t be able to cover some unique indie bands, and I have found at least one that I would have liked to have, but most of the time, the music I want to listen to is there.

One thing I have found with their range is it’s sometimes too comprehensive. Do we really need 3 or 4 versions of the same album appearing? Or maybe a double or triple album that bands sometimes release to make it easier for new fans to buy the old CD’s.

Stanley Climbfall apears 4 times. Two contain identical bonus tracks, the other two do not. What’s the point in having the non bonus track ones?
Hawkology is actually the first three albums in one. The idea is new fans can get the old albums at a discount when buying old albums. The three albums that are in the Hawkology are available separately (not shown in screenshot)

I will give Sony a plus here though, because it would cost heaps of money to sift through everything and extract actual duplicates, as it could upset some people if there happens to be something in one version of the album that isn’t in the other (maybe an extended track or something,) and I’d rather have more content with a lot of overlaps than it missing one of my favorite songs.

Now, if there are one or two artists that you can’t find, you can upload your own music in a Google Music like style with a program, creatively named, Music Sync. The downside with it, the music can only ever be from one computer. Install it on another computer and all your uploaded songs from previous computers dissapear. It seems strange that they would do this, rather why not just give users some space to upload any songs that they want and be done with it?

Anyway, it seems as though the programs smart enough that it will identify songs that aren’t available from the Sony library, and only uploads them. It also uploads any iTunes playlist if you’re still that (is anyone?) If only they could make a good user interface to match.

There is no desktop software other than the Music Sync program, it’s all web based. Web and flash based. I personally don’t have anything against Flash, and I can’t say I’m eagerly awaiting the day that HTML5 is the dominant web standard, though on the same token, I don’t loath the day. I’m indifferent what technology is used, as long as it works. If Flash is used and it works well, then that’s great. If HTML5 is used and it works well, that too is great. Given that HTML5 is still upcoming, and it’s probably easier to find Flash developers, it’s not a surprise that the whole site is built around Flash.

My verdict on the overall interface? Well, it works. It’s not absolutely amazing, but it also doesn’t involve lengthy processes and debugging to try and get it working. There are plenty of small annoyances (biggest one so far? leave a song paused for more than a few minutes, and when you come back to playing it, it will start from the beginning), but given the service that it offers, I’m willing to overlook these small things for now. I imagine that Google would do a much better overall if they integrated a subscription service into Google Music (which I can’t imagine happening soon, the major labels won’t even let Google sell music like iTunes, though that could be partly Google’s fault with not wanting to compromise.) So whilst it’s the only service like this (others aren’t available in Australia,) it’s going to get all the money from people that want to use it. The problem they will have is when others do start poping up: due to it’s design, it’s much easier to swap services than it is to swap email addresses (having to let everyone know, forward emails, auto-reply, etc.) or cloud syncing services like Dropbox (having to move over all your files, and working out the deal with shared folders.) You don’t own anything on there, so you move services and you’ve got everything you already had.

So, yes, not an amazing interface, and it has it’s downfalls, but it works. I just can’t get out of my head that Sony is mainly a hardware company, and their software has always been sub-par compared to companies where software comes first (look at what they did to Android! The interface on the X10 is heaps slow and buggy, where as stock Android on the X10 is really good.)

Mobile App

One of the best features is they have released a mobile app for Android, and given what I just said about Sony and making software, it’s surprisingly good. Considering most people would at some stage want to listen  to music on a portable device, and lots of people are starting to use their phones as that portable device. There isn’t really anything much to say about the mobile app. It’s heavily based on the website (though with fewer annoyances, such as the pause issue,) and it works. I still like doubleTwist better, but I was genuinely surprised at how well the Android app worked.

What it’s missing

That definitely is not the right album art.

  • With the Android app, the ability to cache a couple of albums would be awesome. Firstly, it’s going to chew through data, and most phones in Australia are on sub gigabyte data caps (Sony do realise this with a data warning when you start the app, and an option in the settings to stream only when connected to WiFi). It’d be awesome if, when I got up in the morning, connected to WiFi and gave it two albums to cache so I could listen to them on the train. An alternative to this reason would be to make deals with Telcos to make data for Qriocity unlimited, but I doubt that’s going to happen. Second reason, dropouts and congestion. Even if someone has a data plan big enough, mobile data in Australia is much to be desired. I know on a train trip I regularly take there’s about 5 to 10 minutes of no reception, so caching would really help there.
  • Improve the web app. As I said, it’s OK, but not great. It’s really relying on the fact that it’s got millions of songs readily accessible for people to use it. It’d be awesome if they not only had an awesome library, but an awesome media player.
  • Less important, try and cut down on duplicates without removing any content. If the same album appears four times, and they are all identical except one has a couple of bonus tracks, remove all of them except the one with the bonus tracks. No songs are lost, and it’s cleaner overall. That said, I’d much rather have a lot of duplicates than Sony accidentally removing a couple of songs.
  • Also, try and get the right album art for all the albums. There is at least one album I’ve come across with album art that had nothing to do with the artist. It’s not a biggie, but it makes the whole experience seem a little less polished.

Would I recommend it?
Well, I’m not entirely sure. It really depends on who you are. If you love to discover new music (it does have suggestion features built in to find similar artists, but I haven’t tried it) and want to listen to whole albums before you buy it, then it may be for you. If you, like me, listen to most music on a portable device without enough data for regular streaming and have a smaller range of artists, though buy most of the albums from each artist, then you may be better off buying an album a month. That way you own it for ever (well, if you buy it on CD and don’t lose it,) and you don’t need to rely on a data service to be able to listen to music.

Whilst I’ve found it quite good whilst using it on my computer and phone when I’ve had WiFi reception, without the ability to listen to it on the train or in the car without getting “bill shock” when my mobile phone bill comes through, I’m probably not going to renew my accidental subscription when it expires. If they implemented caching on the Android app though, where I could select albums to cache without playing them, then I will reconsider the service.

IntelliJ, Eclipse and Dropbox

For Java development, I use the best* Java IDE available, IntelliJ. My friend who I did some java programming with the other week uses Eclipse. Working together on the same project^, we thought we’d try using Dropbox to sync our work, since it was only a three day project with 2 people, so setting up a fully featured source repository wasn’t needed, and may have actually been harder to use than Dropbox for the same project.

Anyway, I thought I’d report back on how it went. It went really well, considering I was expecting it to break in the first 10 minutes. If having 2 IDE’s wasn’t enough to potentially cause problems, conflicting files was sure to halt us after 20 minutes. As it turns out, we didn’t really have any conflicting files that caused problems, though as I mentioned, it was only a small 3 day project, and we were both in the same room. 2 IDE’s? Well, naturally, Eclipse doesn’t support IntelliJ, so it was up to IntelliJ to support Eclipse, which it did better than expected. It did crash once when the .classfile was changed by my friend and Dropbox automatically synced it, but considering it was doing all the inter-IDE support and Eclipse was just using it’s own stuff, and we were using Dropbox for automatic syncing, I’ll let that small issue slip.

A few things to be aware of if you are going to try something like this out:

  • It only really worked because it was a small project and we were in the same room. We were able to talk to each other to pretty much avoid any file conflicts. Becasue of this, I think it was better than using a source control system like SVN. That also said, start adding more people, or making it a bigger project, and all of a sudden source control is starting to look really good.
  • Eclipse will need some setting’s changed to automatically refresh files when it detects changes. I think Eclipse has some form of caching system, so if a file gets changed on another computer, it will have an “out of sync” message. I don’t know how to do this, I don’t use Eclipse, and IntelliJ doesn’t have a problem with it.

Happy coding.

* Subjective, I know.
^ Annoyingly IntelliJ and Eclipse use the word project to mean different things. We were working on the same task if that makes it better.

1000 downloads for Virgin Mobile Australia

Well, I’ve reached 1000 total downloads. Can’t say that I was expecting it to reach that, especially when there’s two on the market (as I’ve mentioned, I didn’t actually find the other one until I was half way through making my own version.)

Moving forward to 10000!

Two things missing that Google Plus needs are…

…Events and Fan Pages.

Events are the one thing that keeps my Facebook account inactive active. Most of the time, if I want to not be forgotten about when it comes to been invited to an event, I need to be on Facebook. If I’m not, a lot of the time I will be forgotten about because I wasn’t on their friends list*. Event management in Facebook is probably one of the few things that Facebook has really nailed, and is the reason many people made accounts in the first place. Google desperately needs an event system that is at least on par with that of Facebook, and has really tight Google Calendar integration (and with over half a million Android phones been activated every day, Google Calendar may start to be used by those who have never thought of using it before if it’s convenient.)

Fan pages. This is almost the one thing that keeps MySpace in existence, and Facebook loves. Businesses, bands, and common interest groups can have their own page, public or private, and everyone loves it. Bands love the exposure it brings, and people love free stuff (in the case of bands, a few songs streaming.) This is something I have heard that Google is going to implement soon (beats me why they don’t have it from the start,) but I can’t find any source to back that up.

* Granted, if they’re only inviting me because I’m on their friends list, it’s probably not something I’m likely to go to. The things that I’m likely to go to are ones where, if I wasn’t on Facebook, the organised would go out of his or her way to let me know via email, though it does make it difficult, so I don’t really want to do that to people.

Edit (11th July, 2011): I meant keeps my Facebook account active, not inactive. Whoops.

Will Google Plus take down Facebook? Probably not.

With the amount of hype surrounding Google Plus just a few days after it’s been launched, it is one of the most talked about things in the blogosphere. Every second comment seems to say Google Plus will do to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace. MySpace is a bit of a joke these days, barely anyone uses it. Will this be what Facebook will become because of Plus? I hope so, but I doubt it will happen.

Just about everyone who has commented on Plus would have to be a geek/nerd, at least a little bit (due to the fact that all the comments are on gadget and technology blogs,) and it’s true: nerds love Google. I think that most of them really want Plus to succeed, and overthrow Facebook as the social networking king (myself included,) but I think that wants are having too much of an impact when it comes to predicting what is going to happen to Plus.

Remember Buzz? It was pretty much a complete failure for the wider audience (though I still use it with a few friends*,) but it was marketed as the next big thing. It was going to displace Facebook and Twitter because it was that good. That said, Buzz didn’t offer anywhere near the feature set of Facebook (though it did Twitter,) so it would seem that Plus has more of a chance, but I doubt it’ll catch on.

It’s a shame though, because Google haven’t made any friends recently. It’s taking on Apple and Microsoft with both Android (which actually is successful,) and Chrome OS (still reserving judgement on that one,) and now a direct assault on Facebook with Plus. People are spending more time on Facebook than they do on Google, and that’s got to hurt. The dynamic of the way people use the Internet has changed, and for Google to continue to be king of the web, they need to be successful at social networking.

I hope Google does succeed, but I’m not going to let my hope colour the reality: Facebook has already cemented itself as social king, and Google is just too late to the game.

* The people I use Buzz with are probably the only people in my friend group who will end up using Plus, and when Google kills Buzz (which they need to do, it’s counter productive to have 2 social networks,) we’ll just use Plus in the same way we use Buzz. Nothing will change that much.