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Rdio vs Spotify: My One Month Review Of Subscription Music

There has been a lot of talk about streaming music services since Spotify launched in the United States last month.  The two services I keep hearing about are Spotify and Rdio. Since the idea of unlimited streaming music appeals to me I decided to try an experiment; for one month I paid for Rdio and Spotify premium accounts ($10/month each) allowing me to listen to their entire catalogs on my desktop as well as on my mobile device, in my case an iPhone 4.

I spent two weeks in Los Angeles and two weeks in New York City using the desktop and mobile applications really working these two services as hard as I would work iTunes and my iPod (on iPhone).  I have stated that iTunes is the killer app that keeps me in the Apple ecosystem, but as streaming services gain more popularity and have larger collections that might not be true forever.

(You can click on most images for a larger view. This is particularly helpful when I am talking about the mobile applications. -C)

The Services

While both services provide all-you-can-eat streaming music the overall concepts of Rdio and Spotify are different. Spotify aims to blur the line between what you are storing locally on your computer and what is streaming over the internet. Spotify will bring all of your local music into its application and from there you can create playlists that include your music as well as anything available on their service. It’s almost like a music library enhancement.

Rdio scans your locally stored music and adds whatever it can to your streaming “collection”.  Once your scan is done you can hunt down more music to add to your collection, or remove things that you don’t want.  You can always listen to things outside of your collection, but the collection is kind of like your library, it is the stuff that is immediately at your fingertips, and probably the stuff you want to listen too.

You manage a lot of Rdio with the + button. Clicking it allows you to add something to your collection, share with friends, sync to mobile, listen later, add to a playlist… it does everything.  The + changes to a check when it moves into your collection and shows a phone icon if it’s synced to mobile. It’s easy to use and very useful.

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Should The Oscars Have A “Best Remake” Category?


Cory Allen poses a really interesting question. In more recent years we have seen an onslaught of remakes. The same way the Tony’s give an award for best Revival (read: remake) should the Academy give awards for a remade film?  They are already giving an wards for an adapted screenplay, why not a remade film? As someone who went to film school my gut reaction is to say, ‘absolutely not, this is a recent phenomenon and it shouldn’t be rewarded.’ Turns out, it’s not that recent of a phenomenon.

The art of the remake is a storied tradition that dates all the way back to 1904.  That’s right, the 11 minute 1903 film The Great Train Robbery was remade one year later with the same title.  Once the remake was born, there was really no stopping it.  You can see remakes all throughout film history (Billy the Kid -1930/1941, Forbidden Fruit - 1915/1921 [both by Cecil B DeMille],  King Kong - 1933/1977/2005, M 1931/1951).

The reason why films are remade today is the same today as it was in 1904. Brand recognition and progression in technology.  Peter Jackson wouldn’t have made a third version of King Kong if he didn’t think he could do it better than the claymation version before it. If technology can help tell a story better then why not remake it? And if we are going to remake stories shouldn’t we try and actually make them better?

Foreign films fall victim to the Hollywood remake all the time, turned out only a year or two after the original, with the thought that American audiences will not see a film if they have to read subtitles. Let The Right One In and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo spring to mind immediately but there are others.

There are tons of remakes that are terrible, and shouldn’t have been made because the original is perfect (Taking of Pelham One Two Three, 12 Angry Men, Psycho…), but there are also films that have really great core ideas, but were either executed poorly or were too far ahead of their time and needed technology to catch up. They Live has been my go to candidate for a remake since I first saw it in 2003. The film’s concept is amazing, but it was just poorly executed (sorry Mr. Carpenter…). There is word of a remake happening, and I’m super excited about it.

Remakes are not all bad. Without remakes we wouldn’t have The Money Pit, Heat, 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead, 2001 version of Ocean’s 11, or Jeff Goldblum as The Fly. Even, Tarkovsky’s Solaris is a remake, the original came out only 4 years earlier. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the similarities to the videogame industry.  This console generation has given birth to the “HD Remake.” We have seen remakes for classic games like Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, God of War 1 and 2, ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, Bionic Commando, Halo: Combat Evolved, Golden Eye, (and one could argue the 3DS version of) Ocarina of Time… and that’s just off the top of my head. These games look better and play smoother than their originals. They don’t have the history behind them, that gritty feel of yesteryear but is that a bad thing?

Back to the topic at hand though. I think the quality of remakes would actually go up if there was an award for them.  People might actually try harder if they knew they could receive an award. In a time where the Oscars are nominating 10 films for best picture just to get more viewers, why the hell not include something that will actually make a better movie. Remakes are going to happen, embrace it.


[EDIT: I misspelled Tarkovsky. It’s fixed now.]

I Love One Life Left

People often ask me ‘what podcasts do you listen to’. My first answer is always One Life Left. One Life Left is a videogame radio show in London hosted by Ste Curran, Simon Biron and Ann Scantlebury. They broadcast live for one hour every Monday at 7pm GMT on the radio as well as the internet. If you cannot listen live you can grab their podcast (iTunes and RSS). What I absolutely love about the show is that they are a radio show. They have weekly features, guests, and play chiptune music, all in 60 minutes. There is no other podcast like it, as far as I know.

Last week was One Life Left’s 150th episode. Congratulations team!

I started listening sometime in 2006 and they have never ceased to impress me. The team has done amazing things to keep their listeners involved and engaged. They have a christmas party every year and invite all the listeners, they attend festivals like Nottingham Game City, they have contests on the show, and are open to listener submissions for segments. For the past two weeks they have been broadcasting their show while doing a Google+ hang out, which is probably the best use of Google+ I can think of.

They’re the best. If you aren’t already a listener I hope everyone will give them a shot. 7/10.


[EDIT: Tumblr problems like whoa on this one… had to restore links, image and formatting…]

iCloud Announced

iTunes in the cloud.

For most people that is the biggest thing they will take away from iCloud. That’s a huge announcement. And Apple is really working to make everything you’ve purchased in and out of iTunes work with this service. 

The quick version of the rest is that it’s better Mobile Me.  It’s free and it syncs more applications than just contacts and calendars.  Mobile Me has always been great in theory but it never quite worked the way it should, it seems like they fixed that.

I will be able to talk about this at length soon.  This is something I have to take in before I can really write about it at length.  More coming soon.


iOS 5.0 - A Rundown

Apple announced iOS 5.0 today and it’s coming this fall. Here is a quick rundown of some of the features.

PC Free - Apple is cutting the cord on iOS. Finally.  I’ve said before that the biggest problem with the iPad is that the first thing you have to do is plug it into a computer. With the release of iOS 5 you don’t have to do that. The hardware will work right out of the box and even update over the air.  In my opinion this is a huge announcement for the future of iPad.


Notifications - We finally get new notifications on iOS with Notification Center.  A single place to manager your notifications. You’ll also get an alert on the top of your screen, where clock is, so it won’t interrupt the app you are currently in. Thank you.  To go a step beyond you can jump into an app right from the lock screen.  So if you get a text message you can unlock your phone directly into that message. A huge leap in the right direction.

Twitter - It’s hard wired into every app now just like email, and MMS.  You can tweet from Safari, YouTube and Maps.  Really interesting. Apple is betting hard on Twitter.

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Laziness Could Cause Big Problems For 3D And The Theater

By now, you’ve probably heard about Lensgate, but if not, here’s a quick rundown: 

It’s come to light (ha!) that many, if not all, theaters are incorrectly projecting 2D movies with the 3D lens still attached to the projector, meaning the film is projected up to 85% darker than intended. Not only that, but both 3D and 2D movies are being projected with 3000W bulbs set at 2000W in a misguided attempt to save money.

Both these practices, while thrifty and convenient in the short term are representative of disturbing trends that have emerged in recent years. Firstly, the average audience doesn’t know that these things are going on. Though a dimly lit movie may be noticeable, it certainly won’t occur to many that this is not only the theater’s fault but is something that is on purpose and can be actively rectified. Secondly, the theaters take advantage of this ignorance all too often. 

If you’re watching a movie in a theater and it’s projected wrong for even a minute, you can ask for your money back. It’s a dickish move, yes, but it can be done. A better option might be to wait it out for a few minutes then politely bring it to the management’s attention, at which point they should correct the issue or even restart the movie. If they don’t, make it clear you’re not giving them your business for as long as they neglect their primary function as a cinema. 

It’s a shame that it’s come to this. Projection is not a dying job but a dying art. Much can be said for digital cameras and digital projectors, but it’s important that audiences and distributor’s don’t lose sight of the inescapable fact that 3D is still a gimmick, and that digital production is necessary to facilitate this gimmick. Even as modern greats like Jackson, Speilberg, Scorsese and Bay (just kidding) embrace the medium, they more often than not acknowledge a curiosity that led them to the method in the first place. Curiosities are fleeting. 3D is still in its earliest and most fragile days, but theaters are subscribing to an as yet untested and temporary digital trend like it’s going to replace film entirely in a few years. 

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The End Of Myspace

The end of Myspace could come at any day now.  This wasn’t a surprise.  A year ago I wrote about Myspace (when the correct spelling was MySpace) and presented a plan on how it could be saved.  At the time the big wigs at News Corp said that the site had “months, not quarters” to turn things around.

And while the company did rebrand itself they didn’t do so to the scale I think they needed, as drastically as I had hoped.  There have been multiple reports saying that a sale is around the corner.  It’s really sad to see how a giant in the internet space has fallen so quickly.  In February just after Myspace cut their staff by 47% COO Chase Carey told analysts:

With a new structure in place, now is the right time to consider strategic options for this business, … The new MySpace has been very well received by the market and we have some very encouraging metrics. But the plan to allow MySpace to reach it’s full potential may be best achieved under a new owner

Earlier this month the LA Times reported:

The business unit that includes MySpace reported an operating loss of $165 million because lower advertising and search revenues were only partly offset by lower expenses, the company said. News Corp. has retained Allen & Co. to sell the once-hot social network and has attracted multiple bidders, people familiar with the situation have said.

There is also the rumor that we could see a ‘spin off site’.  That sounds like Myspace Music will stick around even if the rest of the site crumbles under the weight of it’s own operating costs. Last year I said “MySpace Music is easily the best thing going for the service and it is here that they should build their foundation for the future." If there is going to be a spin off site it has to be Myspace Music.

How much people will pay for Myspace? What’s the highest bid News Corp. has seen for the site? If it’s operating at a loss of 165 million dollars wouldn’t it be enough to just take it off of News Corps. hands?

If there is going to be an auction for Myspace I want in.  I’ve got 20 dollars in my wallet right now and I am more than willing to spend all of it to own Myspace.  Heck, let me run the site for 6 months.  What have you got to lose?


AT&T Buys T-Mobile; What That Means For You

It was announced today that AT&T intends to buy T-Mobile for 39 billion dollars from parent company Deutsche Telekom. Obviously a merger this high profile that affects this many consumers will be scrutinized by government officials.  It will take some time but let’s pretend that this purchase happens, what does this mean for consumers.

For AT&T customers it means that 39 billion dollars that could have been spent on transitioning their network to 4G (LTE not their fake HSPA+ 4G network) or strengthening their 3G network is instead going to purchasing customers. AT&T is already behind Verizon’s curve in both network reliability department and LTE build out.

I don’t know if this purchase will slow down that build out, but it seems like it may.  On the surface this looks like it could be a reaction to AT&T losing iPhone exclusivity, the thing that really made their network stand out.

T-Mobile customers could be in a bit of trouble.  T-Mobile offers the lowest data rates and a ton of nationwide pay as you go plans. Their lowest data plan is 10 dollars a month where AT&T and Verizon’s plans start at 15 dollars.  It is likely that these plans will go away once AT&T is calling the shots.

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Nokia + Windows Phone 7

Nokia has seen it’s market share decline in the past few years. With major players like Apple, Microsoft and Google releasing their own smartphone operating systems the Finnish company just couldn’t compete on the high end.  And since virtually every company that makes a handset was cranking out Android devices across the pricing spectrum Nokia was losing ground on the low end as well.

Our competitors aren’t taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem.” Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO, said, in a long email on Tuesday. They aim to end that today.


Nokia is bringing Windows Phone 7 to their devices.  Expect to see all of the Microsoft services coming along as well.  Bing, Office and Xbox Live will all be there on Nokia phones running Windows Phone 7.

It certainly sounds like Nokia is going all in here.  They announced that they will kill Symbian, its longstanding smartphone OS, by the end of 2012 and will devoting much of their energy to Windows Phone.  Which is surprising.  I didn’t actually think they were going to kill Symbian. It has been so much of a part of Nokia for so many years.  But at the same time Nokia has almost no presence in North America because they don’t want to partner with carriers.  That works really well for them in Europe and Africa, but there is a hugh chunk of the globe that they are missing out on.  Partnering with Microsoft will get them into North America and give them a recognized brand and an existing operating system.

You’ve got my attention Nokia. Can you keep it?


[Telegraph | Engadget]

David E. Kelley's "Wonder Woman" is less Buffy, more Ally McBeal 

This is nothing but trouble. But I guess it’s to be expected since this guy has written nothing but mediocre courtroom dramas - Ally McBealThe PracticeBoston Legal, and Harry’s Law. So why the hell is this guy writing Wonder Woman?

The Daily Beast has obtained a copy of Kelley’s draft of the Wonder Woman pilot script, dated December 16, 2010—and it’s laughably bizarre. In Kelley’s vision, Wonder Woman is presented as a weepy career woman-slash-superheroine with three identities (Wonder Woman; Diana Themyscira, the chairman of Themyscira Industries; and mousy assistant Diana Price) to juggle.

Why does she need three identities? 

Diana and Myndi [her press secretary] have a “sleepover,” complete with ice cream (“It’s been a three-scoop day”) as they watch Katy Perry’s sexually suggestive Wonder Woman homage music video and “scream like schoolgirls.” Later, Diana glimpses her original costume in the closet (the Lynda Carter one!) and sadly stares at a picture of herself and Steve in happier times, before crying herself to sleep.

This is NOT ok. None of it. I’m a guy and I’m angry at this.  Why couldn’t we get something written by someone who knows how to write strong women.  Was Joss Whedon busy?  I know DC didn’t like his Wonder Woman movie, but I bet you could have worked it out.

I bet Daily DCU is going to have a field day with this…

[via @NCroal] -Creighton

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