Feb 07

I’m on a tear right now and one thing I’m targeting is recurring expenses. I have too many of them and I feel like these companies are taking advantage of me and are too expensive.

My first target is Spotify which I reluctantly cancelled today after being a subscriber since the closed beta.

Why I'm dumping my Spotify subscription

Spotify changed the value proposition in December 2013 when it changed its middle ($5/month) pricing tier from the ability to choose individual artists and tracks to a “radio” format – like Pandora uses. In other words, instead of being able to listen to specific artists, albums and tracks you now can only pick an artist and genre and listen to random track that some algorithm picks.

No thanks.

To make matters worse, Spotify doesn’t even technically offer the middle/$5 tier, unless you threaten to cancel your account. The company’s pricing page only lists Free (a.k.a. Ad, Ad, Ad) and Premium ($10/month).

Where's the middle tier Spotify?

Spotify’s December bait-and-switch move had the effect of forcing subscribers in it’s $5/month tier to its twice-as-expensive $10/month club (plus tax!).

I canceled my jive today because:

  1. I already pay for SiriusXM in my car and I have the bundle that includes Internet access (hence all the “genre” listening I want), and
  2. I already pay for Apple’s iTunes Match service, which at only $25/year works out to a little more than $2/month (are you listening Spotify?)

Companies that change the game, spin it as a positive (free listening on your mobile!) deserve what’s coming to them and I have no pity for the bloodsuckers at Spotify.

Good luck with that.

Feb 01

I wrote an article for CBS Interactive/ZDNet (where I’ve been writing for nine years) and it’s a doozy.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it was the number one article on ZDNet in 2013 (which is saying a lot!). Anyhoo, the gist is that when you update from iOS 6 to iOS 7, your privacy settings get switched back to their defaults – which share a lot of data with Apple and its partners unnecessarily. I’m not exactly a tinfoil hat type, but why give Apple data about your life if it’s not absolutely necessary?

For example:

A whole number iOS upgrade is a big deal and it resets a bunch of your settings and adds privacy and security settings that you should be aware of.

Apple hides its System Services settings all the way down at the bottom of the Privacy > Location Services panel. If you’ve owned your iPhone for more than a few months you’ll have dozens (possibly over one hundred) apps listed on this screen, making it a very long scroll. If you actually make it to the bottom of the list (most people don’t) you’ll see the fabled System Services setting and the explanation of what that little purple arrow icons means.

Again, the path is Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services:

Privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately - Jason O'Grady

With that I give you… Four privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately | ZDNet

Read it and share it with your iPhone-toting friends, m-kay?

Sep 14

An article in the July 14, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone about rising sea levels and the fate of Miami (“Goodbye, Miami: Why the City is Doomed to Drown“) was extremely alarming and an eye-opener. Highly recommended reading for everyone, regardless of where you stand on the climate change issue.

South Florida has two big problems. The first is its remarkably flat topography. Half the area that surrounds Miami is less than five feet above sea level. Its highest natural elevation, a limestone ridge that runs from Palm Beach to just south of the city, averages a scant 12 feet. With just three feet of sea-level rise, more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone; if the seas rise 12 feet, South Florida will be little more than an isolated archipelago surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling overpasses. And the waters won’t just come in from the east – because the region is so flat, rising seas will come in nearly as fast from the west too, through the Everglades.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-the-city-of-miami-is-doomed-to-drown-20130620page=2#ixzz2evELylO8

May 24
Rush's 1980 epic - Permanent Waves

Rush’s 1980 epic – Permanent Waves

The song “The Spirit of Radio” was written by Neil Peart in 1979, recorded by Rush and released on their 1980 album “Permanent Waves.” A little-know fact about the epic track is that it was inspired by Toronto radio station CFNY (102.1) FM.

The Spirit of Radio” is a song released in 1980 by Canadian rock band Rush from their album Permanent Waves. The song’s name was inspired by Toronto radio station CFNY’s slogan. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_Of_Radio)

Canadian band Rush was unable to obtain airplay on radio stations other than CFNY early in their career, and in 1979 wrote the song “The Spirit of Radio” about the station. Unable to mention CFNY directly for fear of alienating airplay on other stations, the band instead ensured the catalog number for their album Permanent Waves was 1021 – a nod to the station’s 102.1 FM frequency. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CFNY-FM)

As for The Spirit of Radio – it was written about CFNY and all that we stood for – I was told that by the band and management before the album was released. At that time Rush and their manager discussed with me that there would be no reference officially to CFNY as it could stop other radio stations from playing the track. As a fan and supporter of Rush I agreed that would be the best plan. If you still have a vinyl disc you will find that in the centre grooves you will find the album master number is 1021. – David Marsden, August 2001

What about that Simon and Garfunkel reference?

The final lines of the song (“For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall…/Concert hall/And echoes with the sounds of salesmen”) are an allusion to the famous final lyrics from the Simon and Garfunkel classic “The Sound of Silence”: “…the words of the prophets/Are written on the subway walls/And tenement halls/And whispered in the sounds of silence.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_Of_Radio)


Begin the day
With a friendly voice,
A companion unobtrusive
Plays the song that’s so elusive
And the magic music makes your morning mood.

Off on your way
Hit the open road,
There’s magic at your fingers
For the Spirit ever lingers,
Undemanding contact
In your happy solitude.

Invisible airwaves crackle with life
Bright antenna bristle with the energy
Emotional feedback
On a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price
Almost free

All this machinery making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted,
It’s really just a question
Of your honesty

One likes to believe
in the freedom of music,
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity.

For the words of the profits
Are written on the studio wall,
Concert hall –
Echoes with the sounds…
Of salesmen.

Jan 16

Boardwalk Empire is an Emmy nominated HBO show about the life and times of Nucky Thompson, a fictional Atlantic City gangster. Watching the show, you don’t realize just how much of it is computer generated special effects. The people at Brainstorm Digital have a reel of before and after footage from the show that will blow your mind when you see how much of 1920s Atlantic City is all in the computer.

Boardwalk Empire VFX Breakdowns of Season 2 from Brainstorm Digital on Vimeo.

Tip: The Loop

Dec 08

[If the headline above sounds like gibberish to you, you have my permission to skip this post.]

I received today one of the first Simple Shields (left) that are prewired for Cool Neon‘s wickedly-cool Total Control Lighting — which is my new favorite thing. At right is Seeeduino (a super charged Arduino).

More on my stealth holiday project soon…

Big ups to everyone that’s been helping me: Josh and Karen at Cool Neon, Tully, and of course Chris DeVries!

Aug 20

The following items were stolen from my car today:

 Panasonic Lumix LX5 digital camera – SN: FL0HA001868
 Garmin nüvi 3790T automotive GPS – SN: 1W6024141
 Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset – SN: 1220109CAF

If you find a hit, please report it to me and the Philadelphia 9th District Police Department: (215) 686-3091, refer to report# 1109-0396-35

Please CHECK SERIAL NUMBERS before you things on Craigslist and eBay.
Anyone know of any lost/stolen serial number databases out there?