Umano Reads the News to You


Umano got a bit of attention last night as an Android version was just released. I gave it a try today and have a bit of a mixed impression. Umano reads you the news. Unlike other apps or services, the voices are real and there’s actually a sense of intent in what’s being said. Other things I’ve seen tend to be robotic so this is a nice change. There’s a nice list of news stories to choose from and it looks like you will be able to discover interesting content you want to add into your queue.


Where Umano falls short however is that it’s just reading the site content. I guess that would be interesting at times when you need to be looking elsewhere, but its much slower than I can read the page myself. I’ve had some connectivity issues as well and my place was not saved adding to the time required for a particular piece. Seems like there is potential here … I’ll have to see if I can find a place in my routine. Boffin Boffin importing is my usual streaming source when I’m at work and even when I am at home where I have access to my pretty extensive digital music library. I use the desktop application for Mac and Windows which lets you access your library, friends and loved tracks directly for streaming. If you use and have not checked it out, I would highly recommend it … released a new beta application called Boffin today which looks at your local collection and then creates a tag cloud of what it finds. It took about 20 minutes to run against my library of about 30K tracks and when i was done I found this: Boffin

Some of the tags are inconsistent which I hope gets cleaned up in future releases, but I love that I can create a “stream” of my library with a couple of tags. Depending on how you arrange your music in iTunes, you might be able to do something similar with a smart playlist, but this was dead simple and is definitely re-presenting my own music to me in a new way. Speaking of iTunes, it would be ideal if you could just point to your iTunes library rather than a folder but perhaps that will come soon as well.

E71 Recommended Accessory – JAVOedge Stereo Adapter

One considerable annoyance of the E71 is the 2.5mm headset connection which makes using your high end headphones impossible… at least without an adapter.

I had an adapter from a few years ago when I ran into a similar situation with the Treo. That adapter unfortunately was only dual-mono which works fine for calls but definitely impacts the listening experience for music. A quick trip to google and then Amazon (via mobile during the commute) led me to the JAVOedge 2.5mm to 3.5mm stereo adapter. Don’t be put off by the fact that this is actually a Treo accessory… It works great on the E71!

Here are a few shots for perspective:

Amazon is selling a 2-pack for $4 plus shipping. I have one in my car and one in my bag and am definitely ready to rock.

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Who killed the music?

Last night I had an interesting conversation with my wife.  She asked if I had purchased a few albums we’d previously discussed recently.  I mentioned that I had downloaded a bunch of things to my Zune (love that subscription!), but realized while saying this that there was no way for me to share these albums with her since she’s on a Mac with iTunes and an iPhone.  She wanted to hear the stuff in the house and we use an AppleTV to stream … strike 2.  She suggested just buying them on iTunes, which I really prefer not to do even though the instant gratification is certainly nice. I prefer to rip my music at a higher rate and want to be sure things will also work on my Zune or on my Nokia phones … I could always break out my iPod or iPhone, but that’s yet another device to carry just for those songs.

When I suggested we just get the CDs my wife looked at me like that was a crazy idea.  Why would we do that she wondered?  A CD would of course allow me to rip the tracks into a nice DRM-free format to be shared on any device and effectivelly freeing the music to be heard however we desired. Regardless this seemed all too retro given the tech within reach.

This week I’ve been playing with the Nokia Music platform a bit.  This uses another DRM method which while also from Microsoft (like the Zune) will not work with the Zune.  I think it will work on a PC through windows media player but we are a Mac household. I’m hesitant to purchase anything that will only create yet another island to hear just those tracks.

This is ridiculous.  It’s no wonder illegal downloads occur in such high numbers and sales continue to drop.  The music industry has gone out its way to de-standardize the standard of actually listening. 

While MP3s do not typically carry DRM, they can be watermarked which is the method Amazon employs.  Amazon also charge a lower rate than the other guys and will likely only grow as more people become aware that the music they purchase will only work in a single place.

There’s absolutely no way to purchase digital music effectively and know that you can share (as in fair use) as you might have done previously through a mixed tape or even a burned CD. Now you are effectively choosing to buy a CD Player and the CDs from Apple, Microsoft, or Rhapsody.  If your friend or family does not also have the same player, they can’t enjoy the music.

There’s a lot of rumbling in the industry about stores offering DRM free tracks en masse.  I can’t wait for this day to come!  It stands to revive the industry and free people to once again enjoy listening – the part that’s supposed to be both easy and enjoyable.


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Shure SE420 Earphones – The best I’ve used!

I’ve had a pair of Shure EC4 in-ear phones for a few years and I recently shorted out my second pair. I’m not sure what the deal is with my usage, but I tend to kill mobile headsets and earphones far too easily.

Tonight while waiting in Atlanta I decided to go for it and upgrade my listening experience. I was holding off on getting another high end pair of earphones but after a few days with some low end and cheap Denon’s from Target I couldn’t take it anymore. I have a full week of travel ahead and had some time to kill in the airport tonight…

The Shure SE420 Earphones are a bit larger than the previous model I used and a bit of an upgrade in their line as well. They still fit incredibly well and as you’d expect from an earphone like this offer a number of fit options so you can be comfortable and content with the sound experience.

They run about $350 so I hope my wife is not reading this while on vacation with the kids! The price defines the experience though … Having tested the full line of Ultimate Ears Including their $500+ pair of 10 Pro’s I’m very pleased with my decision. Shure has restyled their entire line of earphones so they work better over the ear (wrapped as you might see a professional musician wear) and are now modular in design as well. The modularity allows for various accessories to be attached including their phone attachment which I can definitely see adding now that I get how this all works. With my previous set, the phone piece would have made a substantially longer mess of cable, but the base line is quite short so adding a new piece for a phone mic and call button is both easy and logical to do. This will actually kill my quest for a pair of multipoint bluetooth earphones so I can use them across my small army of mobile gear… Perhaps another post is warranted for this topic.

I’ve been jamming to a variety of music – electonic, hip hop and jazz on a Zune 8GB and am very pleased with the results. The Nokia N810 was next as I do a lot of watching and listening and soon the N95 where I expect to be using the aforementioned phone adapter.

Shure’s earphones are in-ear and sound isolating – not noise canceling. I much prefer this method as the sound is focused the environment remains unaltered. I can’t hear anything going on around me on the plane as I type this … and I was unable to hear anything in the airport either. I’m saying this as a positive and an extra bonus is that you don’t have to jack the volume causing potenial damage to your ears.

You should be careful if you plan on walking around a high traffic area.

All in all – a solid purchase. I’m very pleased with this upgrade and looking forward to many hours of happy listening with my new Shure SE420 Earphones

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Nokia Internet Radio

Nokia released an official Internet Radio application (today?) which I’ve been checking it out tonight and definitely like what I see and hear! I had last used streaming internet radio on the N91, but that open source application lacked some polish as well as integration with my device as is found in today’s release. I’m hoping we’ll see deeper system integration with both podcasting and streaming radio in future devices as well as firmware releases.

Screenshot0077 Screenshot0080

As you can see from the above screenshot, there are preferences for setting the quality of the stream based on your connection type which is a very well thought out feature. This way you can simply choose a stream and not worry about which bandwidth option you need – unless of course that’s the way you have bookmarked things.

On first glance the included directory seems pretty similar to that of the Nokia Internet Tablet’s Media Player, which would make sense since that’s a managed Nokia resource. I was having problems getting the right URL for a stream and Zach suggested I try loading shoutcast on the mobile browser to find a link. The Nokia Internet Radio application registers itself as the default player for .pls so any link you click from now on will automatically be played. Very cool!

Streaming on the phone (rather than just via the phone to my Tablet) was the one missing media opportunity in my all Nokia media move. I’m glad to have it on the N95 and will continue to test various connections while enjoying my favorite internet radio stations on the go!

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Bandwagon is simple backup for your iTunes library!


Bandwagon which launches this week is going to enable simple point and click backup of your iTunes library to Amazon’s S3 storage cloud!! This is awesome! While I’ve got my library sitting on a local RAID, having an offsite location for over 200GB of data is a great feeling of security.

Seriously looking forward to trying this… If you have a blog and post about this page, you can get the first year free. Pricing looks like it will be about $99/year which is very reasonable in my opinion for this type of service.

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SyncTunes – Smart Content for your Nokia N800

I had read about but was struggling to recall an app that could easily sync content from iTunes to a mass storage device (mounted memory card for example) and finally re-discovered SyncTunes today!

Through the magic of this application I can now VERY easily sync content to either memory card in the Nokia N800 which is very cool. You can certainly drag and drop things as you like, but through SmartPlaylists in iTunes, things are so much more interesting.


As you can see, the main interface of SyncTunes is pretty straightforward. You can choose a playlist (or smartplaylist), Podcasts and which volume and folder within you’d like to have things reside. I currently subscribe to far too many podcasts to be able to sync everything so instead I created a smartplaylist so the latest unread content could be waiting for me on the Tablet.

SyncTunes SmartPlaylist

With this configuration, I am selecting only podcasts from the last month that iTunes (and also my iPod) have not played. SyncTunes will automatically replace the material on my N800 with each sync and the smartplaylist in iTunes is set to update on the fly. The whole process took about 5 minutes to set-up. While I am using this with a Nokia N800 tablet it will certainly work with any device that can be mounted on your desktop either through USB or even a card reader.

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Music Service Roaming

Fred notes a problem and recommends a solution for sharing music regardless of how you choose to listen…

Some people use Napster. Some use Rhapsody. Some use Yahoo Music. I think these services should get together and let their users “roam” onto other networks. Let’s say my brother uses Napster and he wants to send me a link to a song by Gomez. He sends me a Napster link and I can’t listen. But I should be able to do that. Either translate that link to a Rhapsody link or let me log into Napster using my Rhapsody account. [A VC:]

I think it would be easiest to match this up with the Plays For Sure stores initially, but if I was Real, I’d want to get Rhapsody connected in this way as well. I thought one of the services actually offered a streaming option via the browser which would certainly work for emailed links… I have no experience here as none of the subscription music services support Mac or iPod in any way thanks to Windows only DRM.

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Sirius Internet Radio Launches

Orbitcast reports on the launchh of Sirius Internet Radio, which I really like in theory. What I don’t like is the Windows Media Player requirement which makes the interface on the Mac a total kludge.

You have to use Safari (no firefox) and you have to run the browser and an external media player… You also get ZERO track information about the currently playing station which is one of the nicer bits about Sirius.

I wonder what it would take for some sort of iTunes authentication. I know they are allegedly working with Yahoo on the Stilleto so I suppose Yahoo authentication is more likely which would be cool too actually if it just worked.

BMW Audio Books

BMW Audio Books

BMW has launched a site promoting 4 new audiobooks, which I’ve just downloaded.  This is a joint promotion from Random House, though BMW retains the branding on things… I’ve yet to listen, but am syncing to my iPod for the train home.  This seems like a nice brand extention idea – mobile content to enjoy while driving or just on the go.

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Audio Tools

I’ve added a few new tools of note to my gadget bag and thought I’d share…

First, Ashley was kind enough to get me a new 60GB 5G iPod and it’s a wonderful change from my previous 3G 40GB model. I love the color, size and resolution of the screen. The overall size is remarkable – expecially compared to my previous full size iPod. The only negative thing I can consider is that in video mode the battery life is MUCH shorter than I might like. It’s probably around 3 hours total if you do video, so plan accordingly. I was watching Battlestar Gallactica on my flight west last week and had to end before I was really ready when the battery gave out.

On my return I decided I finally deserved some real headphones and picked up a pair of Shure E4c E4c Sound Isolating Earphones. the sound improvement is simply remarkable compared to my older Sony Fontopia headphones which I liked and in fact had used through a second pair. The Shure headphones blow the doors off previous headphones I’ve tried. I used the foam ear pieces on my flight back but have since tried all the parts and find that the smallest rubber (black) fit my ears best. I love them and will be using these on my (1 hour) commute and through all my travels.

For iTunes, I added an audio plugin called Volume Logic which I would also recommend. It’s a significant sound enhancer and makes on computer listening that much better.

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