My Google Music “wish list”

May 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

So far, I’m really enjoying Google Music. I love having access to my music anywhere that I have an Internet collection, and since I’m rarely out of range of a wifi or 3G connection, I almost always have access to my music.

I have run across a couple of things that I’d like to add to the Google Music “wish list” since it’s in beta, and hopefully Google is listening. And to be quite honest, these things are really minor in the grand scheme of things.

1) Find album art automatically for songs that don’t have it.

It seems like every music player handles album art differently. Windows Media player actually embeds the art within the mp3 file, whereas iTunes puts it in a separate folder. Now, granted, there should be a standard for this, but until there is, it would be nice if Google’s music player, with the resources of Google behind it, would add album art if it wasn’t properly included from the iTunes upload.

2) Suggest album info for songs that don’t have it, or where it’s incorrect.

With the Shazam smartphone app, there is a database of songs that the app can listen to and return all of the info about the song, including title, artist, album, and album art if it’s available. I’d love to see a Shazam type setting in Google Music that would listen to your music and suggest music info if it isn’t already included, or if it appears to be incorrect.

3) Keep all song info in sync

This is a feature I was really hoping that Google Music would have from the start. If I change song info in iTunes, I’d love if the Music Manager would read that there had been a change (ala Dropbox) and update the file in Google Music. It would be even co0ler if the sync worked both ways, so I could change song info online (especially using a “shazam suggests” as I’ve indicated above) and it would update the info on my computer.

As I continue to use the Google Music player, I’m sure I’ll come up with things that I wished it would do, but these are the three that struck me right off the bat. The people at Google are amazingly brilliant at incorporating smart technology into their products (see priority inbox) and I’m sure that features similar to this aren’t far off. I can’t wait to see what else is added as they go through this beta period.



Google music player follow up

May 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

My songs are still uploading to Google because one of my wifi routers took a dump overnight. It’s almost done, though, and soon enough I’ll have all of my music in the cloud. Twice (since I uploaded everything to Amazon earlier in the week).

This morning, I deleted all of the music off the SD card in my Nexus One

Getting rid of 7 gigs of music took a lot less time than I thought it would, and I’ll admit, I was a little nervous that I’d have to put it all back on at some point.

After that, I fired up the new Music app on my phone.

Now…which one was it?

Set it up with my account, and adjust any preferences. I left it set to stream over 3G just to see how quickly it would load songs

After my account was set up, voila! All of my music appeared!

And playing songs over 3G only takes a few seconds to buffer…

I apologize for the video quality…

I had mentioned in a tweet earlier this week that I couldn’t adjust the song info in Amazon cloud player, which was frustrating, as I’d uploaded a song that had incorrect album info. In order to correct it, I’d have to delete the file from Amazon Cloud, adjust the album info on my PC, then re-upload the file to Amazon.

(see, nowhere to adjust the song info)

In the Google Music Player online, you can edit the song info

You can even change the album art!

After using both of these products, I’ve decided that I probably won’t use Amazon’s cloud player that much, but I will take advantage of the free storage to back things up, especially any music that I’ve downloaded from them.

Besides the music manager not being exactly what I expected (and that’s a good thing), Google Music is everything I thought it would be. I have to say that I’m really impressed by it, and I’m going to get my wife signed up for it soon, too, so she can stop dragging her iPod and phone with her to the gym, and just use one device for everything.

My only question now is, how much will Google end up charging to use it?

Google Music Beta setup (w00t! Got my invite!)

May 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

For the second time this week, I’m uploading (almost) my entire music collection to the cloud.

Earlier in the week, I started using Amazon Cloud Player because I bought Lady Gaga’s new album for 99 cents and got the free 20 gig upgrade.

I used the player a little bit, but it was pretty much what I expected: my music, online. As I was listening to my own music I found myself wondering what would happen if I bought new music from iTunes the next day? It wouldn’t show up in my Amazon Cloud Drive, that’s for sure. I’d have to make sure I uploaded it there too, which to me, is just as bad as plugging in my iPod or Android phone to have to copy my new music.

Of course if I bought new music from Amazon, it would automatically be in the cloud player for me, so I resigned myself to just purchasing from Amazon.

But what if I found an old CD that I wanted to rip? I guess I’d be back in the same boat…having to rip it to iTunes, then go back into Amazon’s upload manager and re-upload to the cloud.

The entire point of Amazon’s cloud player is to get you to buy from Amazon and not get music from anywhere else. I get that. They’re trying to take business from iTunes, and offering free storage of anything you purchase from them is a great way to boost their sales.

But in reality, I get my music from a lot of different sources. I shop around. And as far as organizing music on my local machine, iTunes wins hands down. So much so that every other way of obtaining music (including Amazon) integrates into iTunes.

Until something better comes along, I’m going to keep using iTunes. It’s an interface I’m familiar with (since I’ve been using it for a decade) and you can’t beat their organization.

So while I was happy to be able to store my music in the cloud, I was itching for something more. Something dropbox like to keep all of my files in sync, so when I add music to iTunes, by whatever means, it would automatically by synced to the cloud.

Google Music Beta promised exactly that, so when I got my invite this evening, I was very excited to try it out.

In addition to keeping music synced to the cloud, the Google Music player on Android phones also pulls your music from the cloud, and keeps an updated list on your phone. It remains to be seen how much bandwidth that will cost me, but since I’m on an unlimited plan, and I spend a large part of my day in wifi zones, I’m not that worried about it.

So…on to the setup. Clicking the link in the my email took me to the Google Music Beta start up screen:

From Google Music setup

Blah, blah, blah….TOS:

From Google Music setup

This was interesting…I’m giving the rights to change my files?

From Google Music setup

Free music? Sign me up!

From Google Music setup

The interesting thing is that checking all of those categories netted me about 180 free songs. I already had quite a few of them, but free music is still cool. Incidentally, Apple actually did this when iTunes first came out. We purchased an iBook in the district I was working in when iTunes first came out (on OS9!) and there were about 150 songs already loaded on the computer.

Next came downloading the installer for Music Manager.

From Google Music setup

Like most installer packages now, this took about 3 seconds because the installer package actually goes and downloads the rest of the installation files.

Installing Music Manager:

From Google Music setup
From Google Music setup
From Google Music setup

You can change all of these settings once Music Manager is installed, too…

From Google Music setup

The scanning part took less than 5 minutes. The uploading….that take a little longer.

From Google Music setup

Now, I was actually expecting something iTune-ish to “manage” the music, and I was perfectly fine giving up iTunes and using the Google Tunes to manage all of my music. I was surprised to find that Music Manager actually just sits in your system tray and monitors whatever folder you told it to look at for music so it can keep things updated

From Google Music setup

Choosing the top line or “options” takes you into the options screen where Music Manager tells you what it’s doing, and where you can adjust your options (obviously).

From Google Music setup
From Google Music setup

The actual player just opens in a browser window, just like Amazon’s cloud player. The first thing I noticed was all of the music that was already in my list that I obviously hadn’t uploaded myself (free music…yay!)

From Google Music setup

It is laid out similarly to iTunes with your artists/albums/songs and playlist options along the left side.

The song list view is also similar to iTunes and with songs you upload from your iTunes library, it even imports the play counts!

From Google Music setup

At this point, it’s been running for about an hour and a little more than 10% of my music has been uploaded. I’ll update tomorrow with news about how long it finally took (it was over 12 hours for Amazon), and how everything integrates into my phone.

Google’s email support, not so supportive

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I was alerted to the Google glitch the other day, I immediately emailed support. I didn’t figure that this was an emergency since we had figured out a workaround, and this was before I knew that it was a system wide glitch (as was evident by the number of tweets I saw about it) (and my experiencing the same issue with my personal account in addition to the accounts for our domain).

I received an email from the support team the next day, which in my book is a pretty good response time. Of course by that point the problem had already been fixed, so I thanked them for responding, gave additional details on the problem (also pointing to my blog post) and then pondered why they’d sent me an email about changing the Docs settings in the control panel.

I hadn’t mentioned anything about changing docs settings, or control panels, and in fact, I’d mentioned that this was happening both within Docs for Edu and personal accounts. Here is the original email I sent:

Whenever a new document/spreadsheet is created, it is not showing in the user’s list of documents, even if the page is force refreshed. If you do a search for the title of the document, it will display, but when the list is refreshed, it does not always stay in the list. Can reproduce this inside our Apps for Edu domain and outside (with a regular google acct), on Firefox and with IE

This was the response I got from Google:

When you change the setting of your Docs in your Control Panel, you are actually changing the default setting. In other words, this setting will not retroactively change all docs in your Doc List to public, so only docs shared publicly with the domain will appear in the Docs List using the search feature.

In your Docs list itself, there are two search buttons: a regular search  and also a ‘Search within my domain’ button. You’ll use the ‘Search within  my domain’ to find documents which have been shared freely throughout your domain.

Regarding why all your users documents do not just automatically populate  in your Docs list: The reason it works this way is a matter of scale. While  5-10 user’s documents at once may not be too difficult to navigate, some of  our customers have many, many more users. Having all of these documents  share automatically would cause performance issues and as well as a lot of unnecessary noise.

We may be looking to add a way to make these options available depending on the customer’s company size in the future; however, this will be dependent on the number of feedback we receive from users. If you’d like to log a feature request, you can do it at the bottom of your Control Panel at{} replacing {} with your domain.

If your issue is not related to this, please provide detailed information on the following question, and I’ll investigate further the issue.

This was my reply back:

Thanks for getting back to me. Actually the issue is completely unrelated to sharing withing/outside of the domain. It appears that it was a system wide glitch with Google Docs, as I conferred with people all over the country who were experiencing the same problem yesterday. I described it in more detail here:

At this point, it appears that the problem has been fixed. New documents are showing in the docs liste immediately after they are created and/or shared.

Again, thanks for getting back to me.

I received a response to this which was, essentially, the exact same email they’d sent me in the first place.

It’s obviously a canned response, but I would think that the person on the other end might read my email that said the issue is completely unrelated to the info you sent me, and not send me that exact same info again.

Honestly, I expected more from Google, but overall I still really love their product…heck we’re rolling it out instead of Live@Edu, right?

Whaddya want for nuthin’?

I guess next time I’ll be making a phone call.

Follow up: I had several emails back and forth with Teresa Wu from Google and she checked into why I had gotten the duplicate email. She said that it looks like the support rep didn’t see my reply stating that the issue had been resolved and that it wasn’t related to what they had sent in the first place. I appreciate Teresa taking time out to follow up with me, especially since some of our correspondence took place late on a Friday afternoon.

Glitchiness with Google Docs

May 11, 2011 § 3 Comments

Update 4 PM Central: It appears that this problem has been corrected

One of our teachers at our pilot Google Docs campus emailed me this afternoon:

So sorry to bother…I just created a spreadsheet and shared it with xxxxx…it sent her an email, but it doesn’t seem to exist anywhere!  I logged out, logged back in…I’m pretty much clueless! =(

I connected remotely to her machine and sure enough, the document wasn’t showing in her list. I tried the easy things first, shift + refresh to override the cache, tried it in Firefox instead of IE, all to no avail.

Since I have admin access, I pulled up the email that the other teacher received from Google saying that she had a document shared with her and clicked on the link, just to see what kind of error I’d get. Of course, it said I didn’t have access to that document, which told me that the document was still available, but I just didn’t have access to it. On that error screen, there was a button to request access, so I clicked it.

Since I was connected to the teacher’s machine, I watched as she went to her email, clicked on the link (Google had sent her an email saying that I’d requested access to the document) and voila! Up came the doc.

I took control of her machine again, and shared the doc with myself. This was all good news because it meant that the document hadn’t mysteriously disappeared, she just couldn’t see it in her docs list. So I shared it with myself, and here’s where we figured out the issue – I went back to my list of docs, refreshed, and nothing happened.

Next step…I created a document myself, shared it with the teacher, closed the doc, went back to my docs list, refreshed, and again, nothing new.

I went through every possible combination of displays I could think of: shared with me, recently opened by my, last modified, and on and on. Nothing brought up that document. Until….

Until I did a search. Here’s the screen shots of what my docs list looks like…there are at least three different docs I created today or that were shared with me today that are missing:

And here’s what popped up when I started doing a search for one of those documents:

When you search, you get the little “working” message at the top, and after a few seconds, it pops up in the search list, and magically appears in the document list.

I’ve been able to reproduce this in Firefox, IE 8, and Chrome. However, using the Google Docs app for my Android, I see ALL of the documents I created today.

Evidently, IE 9 doesn’t have the problem either. One of my colleagues in the office has IE9 on his machine, and I shared a document with him and it showed up immediately.

Here’s the kicker: if I open the document from the list after searching for it, it appears that it will then stay in the list. I’ve been able to repeat that 3-4 times.

I’ve contacted Google support on this, but received a tweet earlier from Chris saying they’d seen a similar issue a couple of weeks ago and that Google said they were working on a fix. I’ve also received tweets from Brinda and Brian confirming the glitch (thanks to everyone for their help!)

Although there is a workaround, this could have some serious consequences, especially for those schools who may not have email turned on for students, and just rely on documents showing up in a student or teacher’s list when it’s shared with them.

This is the first major glitch I’ve seen like this in Google Docs, but if it doesn’t get worked out, it may force us to reconsider rolling Google Docs out to the whole district.

Please, Google, work quickly to resolve this!

Win, place, show: why Apple is losing in the cloud music game

May 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Apple has traditionally been an innovator. A leader in new technologies. They’ve also been very good at taking other people’s ideas and making them awesomely their own (remember our friend, the mouse?).

I haven’t been a big Apple fan lately. I had a falling out with them over iTunes and new iPods a couple of years ago. I saw the writing on the wall then – everything was moving online. Why in the world would I need to pay a premium for an Apple laptop that could connect me to the Internet in the same way as a PC laptop that was a third of the cost?

The race to the cloud has only grown over the past couple of years, and in March,  Amazon threw down the gauntlet as the first company to offer cloud storage for music purchased from their store. For free. You can also upload up to 5 gigs of music (or other data) before you have to start paying for storage.

I figured Apple wouldn’t be far behind in the online storage game. They’ve already been criticized a lot for still making iOS users plug in to sync apps, music, etc. and it would make sense for them to reconfigure how their devices work to be more cloud friendly. iTunes has essentially worked the same way for 10 years.

Today, though, Google became the second big player in the online music scene. They launched their Google Music service which allows you to upload all of your music online. For free. This service then keeps all of your playlists in sync, and when you add music, it’s instantly available on all of your devices.

Apple is still conspicuously absent.

They are expected to come out with their service in June, but if it doesn’t live up to the features already offered by Amazon and Google, offer some level of improvement over those services already available, and most of all, if it’s not free,  it could be a major point of failure for the fruit flavored “most valuable brand.”

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