Monday, November 16, 2009

La La La...

Today's been a good day, but come late evening I'd made no progress on Wednesday's homework, and I had no desire to crack open a book. Normally what I do is spend the rest of the evening in a futile attempt to make myself get something done. Then, when it gets really late, I give up. I do what I want to do, and collapse into bed at some insane hour, only to get up and start again the next day. Of necessity, my days start fairly early...so as much as I'd like to claim that this lack-of-sleep leaves me unaffected, Friday has officially become my "sleep through the alarm" day, and Saturdays? Forgetabout it. I always get up way later than I intend to, and accomplish way less than I plan on.


So tonight I did what any sane person would do. Told myself if I put in 1 good Pomodoro I could wrap up some writing I've been meaning to get out (Mainly this blog post, another blog post, and polish up a letter to a missionary friend. No, not that missionary friend.) and go to bed. I'll probably work a bit on the Promotional video I'm currently editing as well...I got a shot today and I'm excited to see it on the big...uhh...bigger screen.


So I kicked back, setup a queue of music on LaLa.com, opened WriteRoom, and got right to work on this post.


What's LaLa.com? Well that's actually the subjece of this post...but since this is a Blog, I can break traditional writing rules, like start this post with that peak into my day.


LaLa.com is a musical service online. It's somewhat like Amazon's MP3 store, or the iTunes Music store. There are some important differences though, and I'm excited to tell you a little about them.


I read about LaLa.com awhile back in Wired. I think it was in an article on the new Freeconomy movement, where we as consumers are getting more and more things for free. The idea behind LaLa.com is go to beyond the wimpy 30 second previews you get on Amazon.com and iTunes, and let you preview full albums.


If you like Pandora or Last.FM, you'll love LaLa.com. It's sort of what you would get if iTunes and Pandora had a love child.


So how does it work? Well, it's simple and brilliant, actually.


LaLa, like Pandora and Last.FM, is built for Music exploration. There are many ways to explore new music. Sometimes the Pandora approach (Tell it something you like, and it will reccomend new stuff you might like) is perfect, but sometimes you hear a song on the radio and want to hear it again, or you hear a song in a store you like, you use your phone to find out the artist, and you want to hear more by the same artist. Sadly, if you know /exactly/ what you want to listen to...Pandora can fall short. This is where LaLa.com is brilliant.


Instead of supporting the site with ads and subscriptions, LaLa.com is built on the idea that "if we let them listen...they will buy."LaLa.com has a HUGE collection of music online. You can easily look up a genre, artist, or album and -- for any song in their library -- listen to a full version of the song. For free! If you've heard new things about a new album, and LaLa.com has it in their collection, you can listen to the album -- not 30 seconds of each song from the album -- the *WHOLE* album, for free...and it's totally legit and legal.


Going to a Philharmonic concert next week and you want to preview the songs? Downloaded a "Music discovery Tuesday" tune from iTunes, or snagged this weeks free Starbucks song, and you want to hear more from the same artist? LaLa.com will let you explore their discography and have a listen.


So what's the catch? There's always a catch right?


Well on iTunes you only get to listen to 30 seconds of Miley Cyrus, but you can listen to those 30 seconds all you want.LaLa.com will let you listen to the whole song. Once. After that you're limited to 30 second preview.


This, on it's own, is pretty impressive I think. If you suddenly find yourself on a Sting kick (What? It happens!), you can get on and listen through the whole discography of Sting once. If that cures your itch for Sting (Hmmm...) then you can be done. You can pick right up and move onto your next kick. Not a dime spent.


But, remember how I said LaLa.com is built on the premise that "If you let them listen, they will buy." If you find that you just have to listen to "Brand New Day" a second time (Because who doesn't love "A thousand years"?),LaLa.com will let you. For a price.


Wait wait wait...don't close your browser window or RSS reader yet. This is actually really cool.


LaLa actually has multiple buying options. The one that is most immediately compelling is the "Web Album" or "Web Song" option. For just $0.10 a song (and $0.09 per song when the whole album is purchased!) you can add the song to your "Web Collection" where you're able to listen to the song, as many times as you want, on LaLa.com.


A dime! That means I can have like...10 songs for 99 cents. (Side note -- I always order it "I'll have two-tacos for ¢99" or, should I be treating somebody else for example -- because who would ever eat more than 2 of those heart-cloggers in one sitting. Or in one year, for that matter, I say "I'll have four-tacos for one dollar, 98¢." I think I'm hilarious, but the JitB people seem indifferent. Then again, last time I was at Jack in the Box I put the order in myself anyway, and the Kiosk seemed really indifferent to my humor. I digress)


"But wait, Ryan. What if I want to put it on my iPod/Zune/Sensa/CrackBerry/etc?" LaLa.com has that covered as well. They offer MP3 purchase and download. Most tracks are 89 cents (10¢ cheaper than Amazon) *and* if you have already purchased the song as a web song, they roll the 10¢ you already paid into the purchase price. Pay ¢10 to listen to it as many times as you want online, and another 79¢ to download and take it with you.


So how does it work? In a word, disturbingly well. I stumbled over there the other day because I really wanted to listen to the Grand Canyon Suite. I have a snippet on one of my albums, but I wanted to listen to the whole thing. I had my choice of *several* versions to listen to on LaLa. This is PERFECT for classical music lovers. Listen to multiple recordings and then purchase the one you like best.


Well I listened to the Grand Canyon Suite, then I got exploring and found that Oscar Peterson, only arguably one of the greatest Jazz pianists of all time, has a Christmas album. $1.26 later said album was added to my online collection, and I suspect by the end of December I'll make the leap and purchase the rest of the album. Before long I'd found that Dave Brubeck has a Christmas album too. And at less than $2, how could I resist adding that to my online collection? I found another great looking album as well and, after sampling it, decided that I liked 2 or 3 of the songs on it, but I could live without the full album.


I really love this concept. My only problem with it is that I think it's doing to destroy my music budget.


BUT WAIT -- THERE'S MORE!


I have not yet tried it yet, but LaLa.com also has a feature called the "Music Mover" that will allow you to move your local tunes online, for listening to at nearly any computer. It works by comparing your music to their collection. If you have a song and they have it too, they just authorize you to play it on the web. If you have something unique, then it uploads your rip to their server for access by you at any time. This is part of Lala's free offerings. Sweet.


In the 2 or 3 days I've been using it, I've come to really love LaLa.com. Go sign up today! You've got nothing to lose, and in fact, they give you 25 song credits (25 credits to use for ¢10 web albums) free!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When I was a kid...

The other night as I was ordering some highly processed, low nutrition fast food. I was looking at the LED order screen -- the one that helps ensure accuracy -- and remembering how McDonalds rolled these out probably 10 years ago, followed by every other major fast food restaurant. What was life like before we could see our fatty-sugary order pop up on a screen right before our eyes?

This quickly prompted a flood of other technologies that I have seen become commonplace, even in my lifetime.

When I was a kid...
1 - We could hardly hear our fast food order, let alone see it pop up on a screen.
2 - Most people didn't even have cell phones.
3 - Let alone phones with color screens.
4 - and cameras
5 - and downloadable polyphonic musical personalized musical ringtones
6- That could access the whole internet
7 - And tell us where we were


Note: (3-7 basically tells the story of the evolution of phones I've owned. Nowhere else is the progress of tech so evident, in my opinion)

8 - We were impressed that we could fit an hour of music on a 3" piece of plastic.
8.25 - Let alone a 2 hour movie. (DVD)
8.5 - In High Definition (BluRay)
8.75 - That we could rent from a vending machine (RedBox) at McDonalds.
9 - All flashlights sucked.
10 - As did all rechargeable batteries
11 - We had to use paper Maps
12 - Then GPS units -- that didn't talk
13 - To do email you had to dial into a bulletin board.
14 - And we were impressed with 56k modems -- speeds so fast the phone lines couldn't even handle it!
15 - You had to unlock (and start) your car with a key.
16 - Sometimes separate keys. (I had a key to unlock my mom's car, but not to start it).
17 - High security meant a GM PassLock 2 key. 11 different possible resistor combinations meant nobody could start your car but you! (To contrast, modern transponder keys have billions of code combinations, and the code changes each time you start the car)
18 - Minivans only had 1 sliding door
19 - Driver Airbag. Passenger Airbag. Side Airbag. Side Curtain Airbag. Need I say more?
20 - Compact Fluorescent light bulbs were a total novelty...and they stunk.
21 - All flashlights sucked too. White LEDs? What's that?


What else? Add technological revolutions you've seen in your lifetime to the list.