Archive for August, 2009

The Launch of MMM

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

It’s been an exciting time here at the San Francisco App Studio over the past week as we’ve watched the sales reports for MMM and seen users from around the world sharing music recommendations with their friends.

Thanks for your support and feedback, and please keep telling your friends about Mobile Music Messenger!

Part of the inspiration for MMM was the realization that what people listen to these days is less influenced by what is transmitted on the radio (be it FM, AM, or Satellite).    We all have our favorite music collections easily at our disposal and our music is more mobile than ever.  Instead of Billboard and other charts telling us what the top hits are, based on what the radio stations around the world are playing, we the music listeners should be telling the music industry what are the most popular songs are based on what people are actually listening to on their iPods.  I thought one way to compile such a chart was to compile a list of the songs that people are recommending to their friends from their iPods.

I am pleased to announce that we will soon be rolling out a map on this blog of what songs are being shared by location around the world.   We hope to add this feature to a future version of the app as well.

This is explicit in our privacy policy but I want to be very clear here in the blog as well:  We do not collect any personally identifable information when you use MMM.  We do log the name of the song shared, the artist’s name, the location where it was shared, and the method of sharing: Email, Facebook, or Twitter.   We do this in order to improve our app and to be able to provide a chart of the top songs shared by MMM.  

All of your email login information as well as your Facebook and Twitter (and in the future other social network) usernames and passwords are stored only on your iPhone or iPod Touch and are never transmitted to our servers. Your data exchanges with Facebook and Twitter are governed by their respective privacy policies.

MMM is Available in the iTunes Store

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

MMM just went live in the iTunes store.  You can buy it at http://bit.ly/mefQp

Thanks for your support and have a great weekend.  The MMM web site will be up next week.

MMM large icon v01

Mobile Music Messenger (The iPhone App)

Friday, August 14th, 2009

I’ve always enjoyed sharing music recommendations with friends.  I’ve discovered some of my favorite music from a friend’s suggestion.   We used to have the experience of going to each other’s houses, dorm rooms, or apartments and looking through CD or album collections and discussing the music we liked.  Today our music is self-contained on iPods and iPhones and there doesn’t seem to be the same interest in handing over our iPhones and iPods and scrolling through a list of artists and songs.  Maybe it’s because it’s too personal and there’s too much else on our iPhones or more likely it’s just not as fun to scroll through an onscreen list as it is to flip through physical products like CDs.

I also see less of my friends than I once did.  We’re busier and we’ve scattered around the country and around the world.  There’s less time to get together and just listen to music for music’s sake.  I find the majority of the time I have to enjoy music is when I’m out and about, listening to my iPod in my car or on the Muni train.  Music has a way of transporting me to different places and times in my life and I frequently found myself thinking about wanting to share the songs I was listening to with my friends; “I bet my friend Dave would really like this song or this song reminds me of the trip I took with friend John after we graduated college.”  I was sitting with an Internet connected music player in my pocket and yet there was no easy way to generate a quick message to a friend or all my Facebook friends and tell them about what I was listening to on my iPhone’s iPod.  I looked through the available iPhone apps, after all there had to be “an app for that”, but I couldn’t find one and after bouncing the idea off of some people, I decided to go about putting together a team to create Mobile Music Messenger (MMM).

Ah, the iPhone

Thursday, August 6th, 2009
1st Geneartion iPhone

1st Geneartion iPhone

About a year ago the keyboard on my second Treo 650 was failing from heavy usage and I was beginning to shop around for a new phone.  Fortunately my boss at the time  had just upgraded to the 3G iPhone and offered me his first generation iPhone to try out.  I inserted my simcard, thinking I was only taking it for a test drive and was quickly hooked.  The benefits were obvious, ease of use, the beautiful large screen, the cool “feel” of the touch screen, not to mention the integrated iPod.

Migrating from a Treo 650, I saw some big drawbacks too.  There was no cut and paste and no multimedia messaging (MMMS), which I’d even used on my Treo to send my mom the first picture she ever saw of my daughter when she was born in 2007.  I also missed the feature of being able to instantly send any of my contacts via email.  Other than that, I was blown away by the iPhone and still use that phone to this day.  Yes, of course I would like to upgrade to a 32 GB 3GS, but I’m holding off for now.  More on that in a future post.

As someone who’s worked on high tech consumer product releases for the last 12 years what I think is so impressive about Apple is how they not only launch great version one products, but they’ve figured out how to gather customer feedback and quickly incorporate that feedback into their development cycle, addressing all major customer concerns in the next release.

The dataspeed on the original iPhone was slow and there was no GPS.  Enter the iPhone 3G (I’m guessing Apple could’ve gotten out a 3G iPhone right out of the gate, but they had to give AT&T some time to build out their network in the U.S.)

iPhone OS 3.0 released in June of this year addressed all of my major concerns and it was a free upgrade for my existing phone.  OS 3.0 added support for  cut, copy, & paste, MMS, and even the send contact feature I’d been missing.    And the problems Apple couldn’t solve in software for their existing iPhones, they fixed in hardware with the 3GS, which offers a faster processor,  better battery life, video capture, and a 32 GB model to store more music, photos, and all the video you’ll be shooting with the camera.

I Still Buy CDs. Am I a dinosaur?

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

I admit it.  I still buy CDs.   I’ve been disheartened by the decline of the brick and mortar CD stores, first Tower Records and then Virgin Megastores.   Those places used to be an oasis for a music lover like me.  One of my favorite activities was browsing the isles, slipping on the headphones connected to the in-store displays of featured albums, and listening to a few tracks.  Time seemed to fly by when I was CD shopping and it was one of the best ways to kill time before an appointment.

Despite the fewer outlets where I can buy them, I still buy CDs.  Am I a dinosaur?  I like to think of myself not as a dinosaur, but as an audiophile and as I wrote in my previous entry I believe I can hear the difference between CDs and even 320 Kbps MP3s on my home stereo system.   Of course, I also buy tracks from iTunes, but typically only when I really want one song and want the immediate gratification of having it within a few minutes.  If I like a song, typically I’ll want to hear more by that artist, which means waiting and buying the whole physical CD containing the song that got me interested in the artist. 

I also like to read liner notes to correctly understand the lyrics to songs as well as discover all the many musicians, producers, and sound engineers involved in making a recording.  I liked hearing the news that Apple is working with four major record labels to add enhanced liner notes to digital downloads from the iTunes store

My current process for obtaining music and getting it into my mobile music collection is the following:

1) Buy CD

2) Rip CD at the highest quality settings to FLAC  (Free Lossless Audio Codec) using dBpoweramp http://www.dbpoweramp.com/.  I store these in my FLAC directory on my external hard drive which is organized by artist with album subdirectories.  FLAC provides a backup of my music collection should I ever lose a CD or should it become scratched.

3) Convert the FLAC files to 320 Kbps MP3 using the LAME encoder in dBpoweramp Batch Converter.  I store these in an MP3 directory on my external hard drive organized by artist with album subdirectories.

4) Import the MP3 files into iTunes using File—> Add Folder to Library and selecting the folder for the MP3s I created in Step 3.

5) Sync with my 160 GB iPod Classic and iPhone (when there’s room)

I wonder how long it will be before I can download a CD quality lossless audio file from the iTunes store?  Once that happens I’ll probably finally stop buying CDs and not have to go through steps 1-5

My Digital Music

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

When I decided to have Riptopia rip my entire CD collection, I had to decide which audio file format to use.  I talked this over with Kurt Beyer, the former CEO of Riptopia, who wrote this excellent article on 7 Facts Audiophiles Need to Know About Digital Music.  It’s a couple of years old, but still very useful for getting an overview of different audio formats. I had two distinct goals for my digital music:

1) A CD quality backup of my entire CD collection

2) A format I could use on an iPod or other portable music player

After much deliberation I decided to use FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) for my CD quality backup and 320 Kbps MP3 for my mobile music.  For the backup copy the other obvious choices were WMA Lossless (Windows Media Audio Lossless) or ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec).  I decided to go with FLAC since it was an open standard not tied to any particular company.  22 years after buying my first CD, I am still buying CDs and in many cases listening to my original CDs.  If I had chosen an audio format in the 80s that was only supported by one company I have sincere doubts that I would still be able to play my music as easily today as I am with my CDs.  I have little doubt that Apple and Microsoft will still be around 22 years from now and probably still promoting their own high quality audio formats.  Nonetheless, I decided to bet on FLAC as an open losssless standard that would still be around.  I’d welcome comments on this posting on what lossless formats you think will be around over the next couple of decades?

Since the iPod is capable of playing MP3s, I chose 320 Kbps MP3 as the standard for my mobile music collection.  Of course, I could have gone with AAC, which is the Apple standard preferred by iTunes, but once again I didn’t want my music collection tied to one company’s hardware.  320 kbps is the highest possible bitrate for MP3s.  It’s said to be difficult to tell the difference between a 320 kbps MP3 and a CD, even when played through a high end sound system.  On my stereo, playing the same song on CD and 320 Kbps MP3, I can immediately tell which is which and this is even when connecting my iPod through my Yamaha YDS-11 dock playing through the “Compressed Music Enhancer” setting on my Yamaha RX-V2700.

Simple Tech Pininfarina  Portable Hard Drive

Simple Tech Pininfarina Portable Hard Drive

I purchased the goregous cherry red Simpletech 320 GB, Pininfarina portable hard drive to store all my digital music.  I wasn’t previously familiar with Pininfarina, but it turns out they’ve done a lot of design for Ferrari over the years.