Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fessing up! A tally of RocketMan's 2008 Predictions...

OK, it takes a big man to admit when he's wrong -- and an even bigger man to gloat about being right... or....something like that.

On this, the eve of the last day of a fairly weird year, let's take a quick trip back and see how I did for tech predictions for 2008...

  • The end of the RIAA Reign of Terror
    WIN. Rolling score +1

    Ironically, it wasn't all of us fighting against the RIAA that made them stop stalking single mothers, it was the economic downturn. Apparently, record labels have better things to do with their money then give it to thugs who sue hospitalized teens?. Who knew? Now they are going to turn to ISPs to "help stop piracy." Good luck with that, guys.

  • Massive adoption of non-DRM'ed digital music from the recording industry.
    WIN. Rolling score +2

    And, done. Turns out that people LIKE having the ability to move their digital music from machine to machine without restrictions... and that by removing digital rights management from digital music, people actually...and this is amazing... buy more music then they steal! Who knew? Oh, that's right... everyone else in the world except the record labels.

    BTW, personal Rocket-Fav? Amazon MP3 store. Just...wonderful.

  • The age of digital books begins in ernest.
    EH..call it a WIN. Rolling score: +3

    I can't really tell, but I'm taking the credit anyway.

    Sale figures for Amazon's Kindle are still hidden by Amazon, but there's indication that the sales have been at 400,000 through this Christmas season. Sales figures for Sony's eBook reader are estimated at 300,000 for the same time period. Now there are indications that eBook sales on the iPhone have added to the mix. So, those numbers total out at about +1M eBook capable devices in the field just between those three companies. (For comparison, iPod sales hit 1.3M within its first 2 years of operation.) In addition, audio book companies, like Audible, seem to be gaining traction.

    Despite Steve Jobs famous, and idiotic, comment that people don't read anymore, it seems that they do - they are just changing how they read. Newspapers are dying, but the content is moving to the web. Physical book sales are dropping, but people are getting their read on in other ways.

    For the record, I would never expect that eBook sales will keep pace with other forms of digital media, it's a different audience and consumption model, but I would expect the same ratio of readable media to audio/video media that has always existed...it will just move from the physical realm to the digital realm.

    RocketMan's personal fave? It's still the Sony eReader. Granted, I'm a Sony fanboy, but the design of the 505 eReader is just too sexy... plus it's smaller and ergonomically better - you don't accidently flip pages. The eReader store is getting larger by the day, and there's indications that Amazon will open up it's book content to other eBook manufactures...which makes sense - it just enlarges their content sales channel.


  • Fold-up, roll-up displays.
    LOSS. Rolling score: +3

    This one really bums me out - I was expecting to see more out of this technology, and it looked promising at the end of 2007. But, nadda. I'm assuming manufacturing costs coupled with the "are people turning to ebooks" angst has kept the funding low for for foldable displays.

    I think we need to put this one back in the oven for 1 more year.

  • GPS enabled, well, everything really
    WIN. Rolling score: +4

    Do you really need me to document this one? Hell, my fracking toothbrush has GPS now.

  • The mainstream emergence of "new media."
    EH...Jury is still out. Rolling score: +4


    Ok, something is happening - but I'm not sure you can call it a "mainstream emergence," yet. Jobs says idiotic things here too, in order to make himself feel better about the poor sales of the Apple iTV. (Which, honestly, is owing in part to the trademarked captive environment of the Apple ecosystem.) However, TV viewership is down, digital video downloads from all sources are up, Netflix and Blockbuster got into the set-top box game, movie theater ticket sales have remained crazy-constant over the past decade... so, who knows?

    Does granny have a set-top box streaming movies from Amazon yet? No. Are people moving to a completely digital realm? Yes.

    So, no - it's not "mainstream" yet -- but as long as "mainstream" means "people who have just figured out that a computer is more than just a porn machine," that answer will remain "no." However, that demographic is going to, in a very short time, wonder why there's nothing good on the telly anymore...its because the content channels have moved out from under them.

  • Verizon will pick up the 700Mhz spectrum.
    WIN. Running score: +5


    Yup, they got it. Now the real war starts: LTE, WiMax, 4G, or...something else?

  • Porn and Wal-Mart don't matter! (The HD-DVD/BluRay war)
    WIN. Running score: +6


    Jeez, this was over literally as I was writing the words last January. (Thank you Warner...or, rather, thank you Sony for paying off Warner.)

    Now the question is: will physical media remain relevant, and what will happen to Blu-Ray versus downloadable media? If the Blu-Ray OEMs don't take a loss leader with their hardware and start selling those boxes for sub-$100, then Blu-Ray's "win" will be a hollow victory
Ok, 6 out of 8. 75%. Not bad.

Nah, crap! I can do better. Let's see what I come up with for 2009 this weekend...



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anyone up for a game of Scrobble?

Unable to sleep tonight (what else is new), I started listening to some of my favorite tunes - and fiddling with Last.FM. I quickly hit the annoyance I always had - it's easy to scrobble from iTunes and the iPod, but those aren't my only music players. In fact, they aren't even my primary music players (the iPod relegated to my car only, and iTunes...well, I never listen to anything in iTunes)... so, how do I get music playing anywhere in my little world up and into Last.FM?

Note: for the purpose of this posting, I am leaving out all Last.FM specific applications which just stream Last.FM stations and reside on devices like the Nokia, the iPhone and laptops - and instead I am focusing just on plugins to existing native media playback applications. 'Cuz, I mean, who the hell actually listens through those little Last.FM streamers?

First, what's my music ecosystem these days? Well, as it should be, its a variety of devices and internet services:

That's quite a collection, but they all have different purposes in my life - the Zune for traveling and listening to my music collection, the Android for internet streaming, WMP and Banshee for when I am on my laptops, etc. Until recently, it was difficult to find applications to allow scrobbling on these devices.

In the last few months, however, a boatload of scrobblers has shown up out of nowhere. It's either a full moon, or I'm not the only one who was having these issues.

So, after a few hours tonight, I was able to pull together enough of these scrobblers to cover each and every media player in my ecosystem. (Again: skipping the iTunes/iPod and Windows Media player solutions, since these are easily provided via Last.FM itself.)

Zune / Zune Marketplace = Zenses
(Last.Fm Group: http://www.last.fm/group/Zenses)

This one was the trickiest to find, actually. The Zune and Zune Marketplace don't have a published API for plugins (jeez, of COURSE they don't), so Zune owners have been frustrated for years. Then along came Zenses, the open source brainchild of Last.FM junky Adam Livesley. Not a conventional scrobbling tool - in that it isn't a plugin - Zenses was originally written for the Creative Zen, which has the same issue as the Zune. As it turns out, the same trick it Zenses uses to work with the Creative Zen works with Zune Marketplace.

Zenses runs in the background of your Vista machine. When Zune Marketplace fires up and the Zune syncs its information with Marketplace, it changes the "last access" date field in the media files that were played - this change in state is detected by Zenses and registered as a hit suitable for scobbling, and reports it to Last.FM.

If you think about if for a minute, its the same trick that backup utilities use for determining that a file has changed and is ready for backup. If you think about it for 2 minutes, you also realize that in order for Zenses to work, it needs a "baseline" of file states to compare against. So the very first time you install and run Zenses, go and get lunch as it creates that baseline for your all your files. The good news is that it only needs to do this once, then it's scobble-as-usual from then on.

Sonos Music System - Sonos Upgrade 2.7
(Last.FM Group: http://www.last.fm/group/Sonos+Multi-Room+Music+System)

If you have a house, or even a multiroom condo or apartment, and you don't want to spend $100K on a whole house audio system that will be obsolete in a year, then you want a Sonos system. For about $500/room, Sonos will shuttle all of your digital music around (regardless of whether or not its on a hard drive, your Rhapsody account, Sirius satellite, local radio stations, Pandora, Napster, etc) , and even sync the room playbacks together.

This is how I listen to all of my music at home - so the fact that there was never a scrobbler for Sonos was incredibly frustrating to me. That changed with the release of Sonos 2.7 software late last month. Sonos 2.7 includes a Last.FM integration that is seamless: it not only scrobbles all your playbacks, but allows you access to your Last.FM account from the Sonos Controllers. Problem solved.

RadioParadise.com - The Radio Paradise Scrobbler
(Last.FM Group: none)

Based off of Markus Palme's scrobbler for a local radio station, Last.FMer RichPr built the Radio Paradise Scrobbler.

The use of the application is fairly simple: after installing it, you access radio paradise through the RP Scrobbler - which does the task of passing the stream off to Windows Media Player for playback of the stream, and recording the RP track changes and passing the information off to Last.FM as you go.

Easy-Peasy.

Banshee Media Player - Banshee Media Player
(Last.FM Group: http://www.last.fm/group/Banshee)

The Banshee Media Player is an all-inclusive media player for several flavors of Linux, including Ubuntu. Banshee takes the place of RhythmBox on Ubuntu, and indeed replaces all of that players features - and adds a few such as podcast catching and, of course, scrobbling. It's clean, easy and works like a champ.

Android G1 - ScrobbleDroid
(Last.FM Group: http://www.lastfm.com.br/forum/21716/_/474481/1#f7946498)

Lightweight and sporting a cutsey icon, ScrobbleDroid is available from the Android Market. It operates silently in the background listening to anything being played through the Android's default "Music" application and scrobbles it out to Last.FM. It works pretty flawlessly - to the point that you forget it is there at all.

The only complaint I have about it so far is that it does stick to parasiting itself on the Android music app... so, when I listen to RadioParadise through "AntPlayer" on the Android, nothing gets scrobbled. Well, the damn phone has only been out for a month and a half, I can cut it some slack, right?

Update: January 26th: At the end of last week, Last.FM released it's Android Last.FM application to the Android Market. It's a full-featured Last.FM client, complete with your profile information, stations, friends, neighbors and other Last.FM goodies. (The only thing missing, I think, is editing your profile.) Playing off of the Android Last.FM app automatically scrobbles your plays. A very sweet application. Nicely done.

Vista Media Center - MceFM (Last.FM Group: http://build.last.fm/item/335)

The MceFM plugin for Vista Media Center is both a Last.FM client streamer, and a scrobbler for the Vista Music Playback center. Providing an additional interface to the Music playback that allows for the Last.FM streaming, and if you just listen to your music normally, it scrobbles what you are listening to up to the mother ship.

Bonus extra-credit points: the freakin' thing works with the XBox360 in Media Extender Mode.


OK - that's not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it covers a lot of my personal ground...and, well, it's all about me, isn't it?

BTW, if you'd like, feel free to follow my listening exploits on Last.FM, since I scrobble now: http://www.last.fm/user/UberRocket