Thursday, June 30, 2011

Google Plus

Just got my invite to Google Plus. Don't really have time to mess around with it. If anyone wants an invite, shoot me an email.

So had a bit more time to play with this over lunch. I'm really liking it. There are some very cool features considering its still only in Beta.  For one, you can organize everyone in your contacts by circles, basically easy mass mailing lists that can be used for more than just email.  There is a hangout feature that lets multiple people check into a video chat, something that would be  pretty useful for holidays.  The mobile app will let you automatically upload any pictures you take so you can easily share them. There's also a weird chat app that doesn't really make sense since its mobile only.

One thing I did not like was the default privacy setting for circles. Seems that once you put someone in a circle everyone else can see them, kinda like Facebook.  If the whole point of Google Plus is to be a better, less intrusive version of Facebook get the privacy setting right from the beginning. There also doesn't seem to be an individual circles setting where you can see everyone in the circle your in, I'm not sure if its done by default or not. I really hope they don't screw this up.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Roasting Time

Well, I got a new batch of green coffee beans in this week so I'm excited to start roasting again.  I'm going to try and keep a log of each batch with some comments on taste and hopefully get at least one espresso off of each bag.  I don't drink much espresso at home since its usually too late when I get back to make some.

Anyway, above is a pic of some of the beans that came in including the batch I roasted tonight, Yemen Mokha Ismaili.  The Mokha part is no joke, even as green beans when you open the bag they have this intense chocolate aroma.  My attempt at espresso didn't fare so well, it wasn't terrible but I made a few mistakes including not warming the cup up in advance.

It takes a bit of practice and letting the roast sit a day or two helps.  Letting coffee sit for a while and outgas CO2 improves the overall flavor when its finally brewed, sometimes tremendously.  I'm not sure whether its flavor or aroma that's improved (the two are very tightly linked) but getting rid of what is essentially an inert gas makes a big difference somehow.  Anyway, I'd like to get a regular series of posts on each new batch I roast up. Hopefully the next one will be soon.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Father's Day Reflections

Another late blog post. Father's Day weekend was very busy for me and my family.  There was an added significance beyond it being a holiday because my wife and daughter left for several weeks vacation right after the weekend.

The weekend started with an email from the DOE about my daughter's kindergarten. We'd been waiting to hear where she'd be going next year and were surprised to find out she'd gotten into NEST+M on the Lower East Side. Its a great school, a bit of a hassle for the commute until we get the bus situation figured out, and pretty much total stroke of luck.  It also meant we had to register her on the same day she was leaving, so a little more hecticness in an already busy weekend.

On Saturday I took my daughter out east to my parents place.  On the train she read with me quite a bit. I read with my daughter a lot and the last week or so I'd noticed a change in how she read.  All of a sudden she went from reading a few words at a time to reading in sentences.  She was next to me reading Green Eggs and Ham, reading at the same pace as she normally speaks and I was just so glad that I was able to be there for it.

While my daughter has my love for reading, she also has my love for video games, which has worsened while she's been on vacation and away from her regular distractions.  On one hand I do see some benefit, she mostly plays puzzle games or art games.  However, the approach she takes to getting what she wants is lousy and the way she can keep playing for an extended period of time without a break if she isn't supervised is troublesome.  Games have their benefits but there needs to be some balance.

Back to the weekend. On Sunday, we had a piano recital for my daughter.  She's been taking lessons from my friend Jules for a while now.  He's done a fantastic job and it was really cool being able to have family and friends together for the recital.  It was a busy day, a long ride home and a late night.

The next day was even busier. Between work, making sure bags were packed, getting everyone to the airport on time and finally getting home well after midnight it was exhausting.  The apartment was empty, it wasn't home.  Its a week later and its still doesn't feel like home.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Google Music Beta: EQ Icon Rant

I was playing around with Google Music the other day and I noticed that the song I was waiting to start playing had the little EQ bars next to it bouncing up and down but no music playing. Sure enough, the song was stuck loading.  Kinda weird, but it made me realize that the EQ bars were just a randomized icon with no link to the actual music being played.  As icons go, fake EQ bars rank very low on my list of choices for what I'd like as indication that a song is playing.  For one, they don't tell me that the song is actually playing. Two, there is a cognitive dissonance going on, those bouncing bars don't bounce in step to the music and its jarring once it becomes apparent.  I hope that the final version switches to that's less of an eyesore.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cloud Hopping: Some Tricks For Taking Advantage of Cloud Music

Today was Apple's announcement of its cloud music system. It was a pretty major one and it offered one feature that neither Google or Amazon have, the ability to scan and match any song in a user's library. This was originally a feature that offered and was the reason they were sued out of existence.  Apple negotiated very carefully to get the rights and the payoff is big. Instead of storing the user's files they are just serving a copy from their own database.

The downside is that it seems to be device based so you can't really access it without an iOS device or computer with iTunes.  Its also limited to songs that are recognized by iTunes. For Apple users its pretty much a no-brainer but for everyone else there needs to be a good reason to justify using it. Here are two possible reasons.

1.) Fixing Old Rips
I'm probably not alone in having old CD rips of less than stellar bitrate.  I didn't really care at the time because PC sound wasn't all that great to begin with. Apple's matching service offers a very nice upgrade in sound quality for only $25 (although limited to 25K songs) and far less work than digging out a box of CDs and manually re-ripping.  It'll still be time consuming but much less so.

2.) Laundering Music/Getting Around the Rumored Google Cloud "Authenticity Check"
Since the Google Music Beta started there's been rumors illegitimately obtained music might get flagged and removed if uploaded.  One way to avoid that would be to obtain "clean" copies from Apple first, assuming there is no similar check being performed by Apple.  To be safe, it would be a good idea to remove any suspicious looking comments from files using program such a Media Monkey before any uploading takes place.  I'm not recommending that anyone do this, but with the way Apple has structured their offer it seems to be essentially an offer of amnesty from the four major labels and for the price quite an affordable one at that.

Apple's Match service won't launch until some time in Fall so the details may change and Amazon and Google may still catch up.