Thursday, January 27, 2011



I stupidly clicked a link sent to me by a trusted friend (who apparently also stupidly clicked a link, etc.)

So if you get an invite from something called "Tubely" - PLEASE IGNORE IT.

...and sorry for the inconvenience.

Chuck Rogers

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The One iPhone App You Must Own

Computer programs aren't perfect. When they launch and later quit, they sometimes leave little traces of themselves behind. These memory fragments eventually pile up and start slowing things down. Restarting forces everything to clear out of town and reinitializes the memory "from scratch," so to speak. While this works, it isn't always desirable, since everything you were working on will have to be re-loaded.

Computers have had software programs that tend to these matters for years, but what about the iPhone? Yes, your iPhone is a computer and if you have ever noticed it running sluggishly, or find apps quitting unexpectedly, you can bet memory is getting tight.

Fortunately, there is now an application from IntelligentMobiles that addresses the problem. "Memory and System Info" displays the Free Memory, Used Memory, and Disk Capacity (both free and total) of your iPhone and lets you free up any unused memory that is fragmented. It also lists all the processes currently running on your iPhone.

I think this app is indispensable for anyone who has a lot of information on their iPhone. If you have ever had to force-restart your iPhone, or even just shut it off and turn it on again because it was acting strange, this app will be a real time saver for you.

Memory and System Info shows up on the iPhone as "system Info" and is available from the iTunes App Store for 99 cents.
Advising a developer on how to effectively use Social Networking without alienating people.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review: SongGenie 1.0

By most people's standards, I have a massive iTunes library - 75,000 plus tracks and still growing. I have ripped all my CDs and am in the painfully slow process of ripping all my LPs. Along the way I have acquired many tracks through various means, including people who have given me a mix CD. As you can imagine, not all my tracks have the most complete information. So I took great interest in Equinux's new product, SongGenie.

What SongGenie does - or at least attempts to do - is correct misinformation and provide missing information for the songs in your iTunes library. I had already had a good experience with another Equinux product for iTunes libraries, CoverScout, so I was not in the least hesitant to try out their new product.

Here's how it works: when you first launch the program, it assumes your music library is in the standard location: the Music folder in your User folder on your Mac. In my case, however, all my music will not fit on the internal hard drive, so I have it on an external drive. This is no problem, as SongGenie's one and only Preference allows you to add other locations where your music is stored, as shown below:


You can add folders stored locally and on a network volume, as long as the network volume is mounted on your desktop. (Analyzing tracks on network volumes may take longer, depending on the speed of your network.)

I keep a subset of my main library - the tracks I like listening to most - on my MacBook Pro. The main library resides on my desktop computer. Fortunately, SongGenie has a Family Edition that allows the software to be activated on up to 5 computers. It took about 15 minutes to load the almost 2000 tracks on my MacBook's library. Loading the library from my desktop computer took considerably longer - over 24 hours - and the program unexpectedly quit once during the process (probably due to the large library). I noticed that as the number of songs loaded became larger, it took longer and longer to load more songs. Again, not unexpected, given the size of my library. The good news is that if you quit the program, it will take a lot less time to load your library whenever you run the program again.


Analyzing your library couldn't be easier. Once the library has been loaded, simply select the songs you want to analyze and then choose "Identify Songs" from SongGenie's Analysis menu. If you have a small library, you would probably want to select all your tracks before analyzing. If your library is larger (like mine), it is better to select smaller batches of tracks to analyze. Once you have a group of tracks to analyze you can use a couple of nifty filters to show only the tracks SongGenie thinks need editing, or you can enter a word or phrase to narrow the list down even further.

According to Equinux, SongGenie does its magic using an acoustic fingerprint for each track. Then, based on specific characteristics, SongGenie determines which track to work on and intuitively inserts the correct information in its user interface. A green circle with a check mark in it next to a field indicates SongGenie agrees the information in that field is correct. It is up to you to decide whether to accept or ignore SongGenie's recommended changes. If you agree with all of SongGenie's suggestions, clicking the "Apply" button applies the changes and moves you to the next identified song.

What is not immediately intuitive is what to do when you don't agree with all of SongGenie's suggestions. When this happens, you need to click the appropriate blue tag that points to the information you do want to change. After doing that, the "Apply" button changes to "Next" (since your changes have already been applied by clicking one or more of the blue tags.) If a tag isn't quite right, you can click directly on its text to edit it. This will make the blue tag appear again with SongGenie's suggestion, but clicking the "Next" button will still apply all your changes.

With the exception of the above, which felt a little clunky to me, SongGenie's interface is attractive and even compelling to use. It takes its design cues from CoverFlow in iTunes. The list of tracks can be sorted by clicking on a column title, and the Cover Flow-like space above the list will show the track which is currently up for editing.

SongGenie doesn't only list tracks whose information is missing. It also lists tracks that it thinks have incorrect information. This includes tracks with missing diacritical markings or that do not conform to SongGenie's style rules, as shown below:



"Style" rules are where your track says something like, "Bach is dead and gone" and it should be either "Bach is Dead and Gone" or "Bach Is Dead And Gone." If you are a stickler for this sort of thing (and I have to admit, I am) capitalization should be done consistently throughout your library, but the program should give you some options as to how the style should be applied. (For those of you who only want to normalize the style of your track info, Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes has the excellent "Proper English Capitalization" script.)

Making Changes
SongGenie addresses three pieces of information for the "problem" tracks it identifies: Artist, Song Title, and Album Title. If you are looking for an extensive tag editor, this ain't it (take a look at Lostify or TvTaggr if that's what you want). To accept the changes SongGenie proposes for the current track, click the "Apply" button. If you want to leave the track as it is, click the "Ignore" button.

It pays to look carefully at the changes SongGenie proposes, because not all of them will be changes you will approve. There could be subtle differences in the way you have a track tagged. For instance, in my library, I don't like having the disk number listed in the Album name for multi-disk sets (I use iTune's Disk fields for that instead). So if you blindly are clicking the Apply button, you may find tracks for some of your multi-disk albums have the disc number after the album name, while others in the same album may not. This will make iTunes think they are two different albums and might make it harder for you to find all the tracks to that album in the future.

Handling Errors

SongGenie had a problem opening the original file for some of the tracks on my hard drive (tags are written directly to the file on the drive, not sent through iTunes). When this happens, you will see the following error:


While it does tell you the file can't be opened, it suggests nothing that might remedy the problem. I could find no rhyme or reason for this behavior, either. At least on the surface, these files seem no different than any other track files - the play in iTunes just fine and can be copied in the Finder. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the support section on the Equinux website that addresses this matter either. In fact, as of this writing, there was nothing at all regarding SongGenie on the Equinux site, which suggests (to me, at least) this product may have been rushed to market in order to capitalize on the extra publicity from Macworld.

What It Needs

As a version 1.0 product, SongGenie performs acceptably well. In the future I would like to see an automatic mode that would allow it to go through one's library unattended. To facilitate that, the user needs to be able to tell SongGenie what to change and what to ignore. For instance, I think it would be great to have a mode where SongGenie could automatically find all the tracks where there is either missing information or the word "unknown" and automatically attempt to fix them, ignoring others. There should also be a preference for ignoring fully tagged songs, and an option to just automatically go through the library and correct style errors. Finally, there should be an option to automatically ignore all the files that can't be opened, and a list of those should be kept separate from any other errors generated in the program. These welcome additions would allow you to make several passes through your library automatically, which would eliminate having to go through each and every track manually.

If you have a lot of music whose track information is either missing, wrong, or inconsistent (and let's face it, isn't that pretty much all of us?), SongGenie is a worthwhile investment. I also predict what it lacks in version 1.0 will be addressed in future versions.


SongGenie 1.0

Equinux USA, Inc. (

$29.95 for single user version; $44.95 for Family Edition (up to 5 computers)

Pros: Finds a lot of missing track information, and can fix entries that are incorrect or not consistently styled.

Cons: No way to individually edit SongGenie's suggestions (or if there is, I couldn't figure it out); requires user pay close attention to suggested edits; no automatic mode; files that won't open have to be individually dismissed, which wastes time.

Final Verdict: WORTHY

About My Ratings

Rating something with stars or mice only tells you how the reviewer felt about the program well enough, but it doesn't take into consideration the fact that different people demand different things from their software. For that reason, I rate things a bit differently. "WORTHY" means it is a worthwhile addition to one's arsenal of software tools, but not necessarily "Essential."

Enjoyed This Review?

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Steve Jobs Effect

A lot has been written about Steve Jobs, both rumor and fact. It is undeniable that the rise and fall of Apple stock is at least somewhat tied to his health. This is due to the "Steve Jobs Effect," and it is a dangerous thing. To have the fortunes of so many stockholders and employees dangling on every word written about this man's health is not a good thing, to say the least.

That's why I think having him not do this year's keynote is probably a good thing. The media and Apple's customers need to be weened from papa Jobs if the company is to thrive whenever his inevitable demise does happen. And don't get me wrong. I believe Steve Jobs is a visionary who rescued a dying company. But in doing so, it was more like saving his own child than turning around a failing enterprise. I am hoping, having been faced with his own mortality at least once, that he too, is learning to ween himself from Apple.

Recent Apple History - A Personal Perspective

I'd like to go down memory lane for a moment with you, if I may. I bought my first Mac in 1985 and haven't looked back since. From 1994 to 1997 I was privileged enough to work for Apple as their Small Business Evangelist. When I joined the company, it was in a regime change from Michael Spindler to Gil Amelio. Mr. Amelio was faced with a daunting challenge, and he got a lot of things right. I won't go into details here (as this is about Steve Jobs, not Gil Amelio), but if it weren't for the things he did, Steve Jobs could not have achieved so much success so quickly.

Shortly after Mr. Amelio brought Steve Jobs back to Apple - at first, as a consultant to the CEO - I was walking with some co-workers at Apple's Infinite Loop campus. I was asked what I thought about Amelio bringing Jobs back into the company. I replied "you wait and see, Steve Jobs will be running this company again before too long."

I don't know how many of my co-workers disagreed with me at the time, but one in particular thought I was nuts. "Why on earth would he want to take control of a dying company?" she asked. At the time, Apple was bleeding money not unlike the auto industry is today. Conventional wisdom (and strong rumor) was that Apple would be bought out and swallowed up by someone like Sun Systems.

"Here's the deal," I said, with everyone listening in. "Right now, Apple is like the New Orleans Saints. Losing seasons, coaches coming and going. But Ditka has coaching in his blood. If he takes a team like the Saints and turns them around, he becomes a hero. If he doesn't, he can always claim the team was too far gone when he got there." (Sometimes, in football, coaches are hired to rebuild a team, with little expectation that they will make the playoffs.)

"Steve Jobs is in exactly the same position," I continued. "If he succeeds in turning Apple around, he becomes more than a hero - he becomes a near god-like savior of a company with an immense cult following, unlike any other. If he fails, he can always claim the patient was already on life support and too far gone. But if he wins - if he wins, he saves his baby. What parent wouldn't take that shot?"

The Cancer Scare

In mid-2004 Apple announced that Steve Jobs had survived a brush with Pancreatic cancer. At the time, they said it was an extremely rare, less aggressive form of this normally fatal disease, known as an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor.

Ever since then, the media has taken every opportunity to fear-monger whenever he catches a cold. His keynote address at WWDC in the summer of 2008 gave rise to further speculation, as it was obvious he had lost a lot of weight, and even looked as though he had aged more than he should have. Apple's announcement that Steve Jobs would not give the Keynote address for the 2009 Macworld Expo was like gasoline to a smoldering fire. The flare up caused Apple stock to dip, and reports of his imminent demise starting surfacing again.

This latest scare, is nothing more than a hormone imbalance, if we are to believe the latest press release. And to be honest, it doesn't need to be believed by anyone. They either have found the problem or they haven't. He will either gain weight in the coming months or he won't. But one thing is inexorably true: he will eventually die, as we all will.

Who Cares?

Well, it looks like most of us Apple fan-boys do. And that's the problem.

People forget that before he returned to Apple, Steve Jobs ran two other companies: NeXT, which was acquired by Apple, and Pixar, which was acquired by Disney in 2006. I am sure most of us would find it silly to presume that box office returns for movies such as Toy Story or WALL-E might suffer due to Steve Jobs health rumors.

"But Chuck," you might say, "those are movies. Not companies. There were a lot of people involved in making those movies to whom the credit for success belongs." Very true, but by saying that, are you suggesting that Apple's success has little or nothing to do with anyone except Steve Jobs?

See, that's the problem - and Steve Jobs himself is partly to blame for allowing it to propagate for this long. Yes, he rescued Apple. But he didn't do it single-handedly. He already had a great team of people working for him at NeXT and those people were integrated into Apple. Steve Jobs didn't single-handedly engineer and design the iMac. As for engineering, Gil Amelio had as much to do with it as anyone. And it was Jonathan Ive who has designed so many of those wonderful tools Apple has produced in the past few years.

Here's another perspective: we know Steve Jobs is far and away the single largest shareholder in Disney, thanks to the Pixar acquisition. But the success or failure of Disney isn't tied to Steve Jobs' health. Why is that?

Because however relevant Pixar might be to Disney's future business, it will not be the hand of Steve Jobs that brings Disney from death's door. Not just because they aren't at death's door either - even if they were, most of us would not expect Steve Jobs to breath new life into the company simply by paying attention to it. (And if he did, we probably wouldn't give him the credit he deserved for doing so.)

Nope. The reason we tie Steve Jobs to Apple so tightly is because he is Apple, in much the same way Bill Gates used to be so tightly associated with Microsoft. Unlike Steve Jobs, however, Bill Gates has moved on, allowing others to take the limelight. To be fair, Microsoft already had an obvious second-in-command in the person of Steve Balmer.

Steve Jobs on Death

On June 12, 2005 Steve Jobs gave the commencement address for Stanford. During his speech he said the following about death:

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

You can get a glimpse of the man Steve Jobs has become from that paragraph. There can be no doubt he has had the courage to follow his heart and intuition. But if Apple is to be his legacy instead of just something he ran well while he was alive, he needs to take a step back and allow others in the spotlight, as he has done for Phil Schiller in the 2009 Macworld.

So What Happens Now?

Exactly what is happening, believe it or not.

Whether by choice or because of health issues, Steve Jobs has taken that all important first step towards insuring Apple will be a legacy that survives him well into the future. Just as Bill Gates has taken a step back, so must Steve Jobs.

It will be tough, no doubt. But to put a stop to the incessant clamoring about his health, it is an absolute necessity. To remain a healthy, vibrant force in technology, Apple must make it clear to the media and its customers that there is more to the company than Steve Jobs. Their effects on the company and its products must be known as we move forward.

I wish Steve Jobs a long and healthy life. Make no mistake, I want him to remain CEO for as long as he is able. But for the sake of Apple's future, maybe it is time we see more of his more-than-capable first tier of lieutenants, if only to give the media and the investors the assurance they need that Steve Jobs health need not concern them.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Trying to hang over a new leaf this New Year's Day. I mean "turn." Yeah, that's it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Definitely less shoppers out this Xmas, but still too many for me. Glad to be at Coop's for a libation.