November 28, 2016
I’ve been using this scheme for my iTunes playlist for about 10 years now. It’s a good system – when it worked. Unfortunately, when I went through the process of re-organizing my playlists, the dates got all messed up. I’ve went about two years with my smart playlists pulling songs in a dumb manner (half my songs were “added” in the last 2 years).
I finally spent some time and put together a new system. Instead of basing it on when I added the song, I just based it on the year of the song*. So now, I have the following component playlists:
- Songs from before 1990
- Songs from 1990 – 1994
- Songs from 1995 – 1999
- Songs from 2000 – 2004
- Songs from 2005 – 2009
- Songs from 2010 – 2014
- Songs from 2015 – 2019
- Songs that I’ve added in the last year
- Songs rated 1 or 2 stars (above playlists are only 3 stars or higher)
- Songs that are not rated (added recently)
I have general rules on all of them where it omits songs played within the last 8-12 weeks (12 weeks for the 00s, shorter for older and newer songs) and limits to 10. From that I build a single smart playlist which should be a mix of all time periods, songs that I enjoy listening to but haven’t listened to recently, and have a stronger weighting towards new songs.
Hopefully this system will provide enough variety for another decade, at which point I think everyone will be streaming.
*I know that this is not always accurate, because greatest hits or compilations will have a year of when that CD was released, rather than each individual song
June 5, 2016
I’ve been playing Star Trek Timelines for about 6 months now. That’s a long time for a game which I didn’t find that interesting! I’ve been playing every day for a couple of reasons though, mainly because the game pushes a lot of OCD buttons:
- It is a game about collecting and opening packs (harkens back to me kid days spending allowance on cards and siimlar to Hearthstone)
- There’s always stuff to level up; whether it is advancing a character, crafting equipment, or getting a a piece of loot to craft something. Meaning you get lots of mini rewards from your own progress (even now that I have a lot of high level characters, I get “rewards” every day).
- To play the game efficiently, you need to be organized (i.e., use a spreadsheet), have a plan and prioritize your goals. Once this is done, there is yet another reward where you validate your plan by carrying it out (which is relatively simple since the gamelay is not difficult nor skill-based).
- There are reasonable, built-in limits so the leveling seems attainable – namely, you can only level each character to level 100.
Lastly, I do like the Star Trek franchise; even if a game had all of the above points, I don’t think it would’ve kept my attention for this long (I think there are similar Star Wars and Marvel games)
March 9, 2015
One of my random Chinese purchases recently was a little device that measure how much current is being sent through a USB cable or being provided by a USB charger. What drove me to buy one of these? Curiosity!
I have a lot of USB chargers that I’ve accumulated from buying gadgets. I also bought many chargers independently because I wanted chargers with multiple ports, or chargers that provided higher current (random Chinese charger would provide 0.5A, but I wanted “tablet” level ones that provide 2A), or both! After a lot of experimentation to see which is better, I’ve settled on the Blackberry Blade chargers and have bought 6 of them. They don’t have a separate USB cord, but they consistently charge fast (rated at 1.8A). I don’t use any of my other wall chargers now.
So it might seem that this little dongle is useless to me, but I actually spent a few hours doing tests on my USB cables. Like chargers, I have many from buying gadgets, and a lot of different colored/designed ones from Deal Extreme. Surprisingly, I have no USB cables that can carry more than 1A of current! That means all the money I spent on 2A chargers is useless! In fact, the majority of the cables I have suck. Here’s what I found:
- Most Chinese cables (3ft) provide ~0.4A
- Long cables provide significantly worse current. I think they are 3M long (so 9-10ft) and they provide only ~0.2A
- Some Chinese cables basically provide NO current (0.02A?). Devices still seem to charge on them though
- Some cables for devices that I didn’t buy from China also provide less than 0.5A. You don’t always get what you pay for
- The better cables are from recent phones bought in North America. However, they still vary a lot from 0.8A – 1A
- Short cables (~10cm) from China do pretty well. They get 1A
- Apparently 28/24 gauge cables are better, but you can’t seem to buy them from China (or at least those specs aren’t advertised). I bought some from Monoprice and will have to run some tests when I get them to see whether they can carry 2A
February 6, 2015
Now that I’ve spent even MORE time moving around my MP3s, I realized a couple of more things:
- When your album name or your album artist changes (I think), iTunes decides to change the modified date on that song. This really messed up my smart playlists as now half the songs in my collection have been modified in the last month. Add to that that some recent upgrade of iTunes updated the library data so that all the added date got mangled (pushed everything into 2012), and I’ve basically lost track of when each song entered my library. So my playlists no longer works, thanks iTunes! Now the only thing keeping me in iTunes is the investment I’ve made into song ratings.
- Originally I had decided only to move albums for mainstream artists. But then I had a large dance music collection which I moved over. This added a lot of noise to my artists page, but eventually I decided that I would rather just backup my physical music collection entirely in the cloud.
- My music collection size has ballooned greatly. I think before this work, it was around 20GB. Now it’s around 43GB
- There used to be a hack to convert DRM-protected songs that I bought from iTunes to iTunes Plus (no DRM and better bit rate). But that no longer works. So I have a bunch of music that’s locked inside iTunes. Oh well, it won’t stop me from moving away from iTunes (eventually)
- I started out using albumart.org (proxy for Amazon) for cover art and allmusic.com for genre details. However, I found out that discogs.com is much better for both. Especially because I can find obscure Canadian CDs and singles on there. However, there are still a couple of albums I can’t find)
January 29, 2015
While I’ve been reorganizing my music for an eventual move to Google Play Music from iTunes. I was thinking that I might need to change how I rate individual songs. Currently it’s on a five star system like this:
- No stars – Still getting acquainted with the track
- ★ – Song really, really sucks. I don’t want to listen to it
- ★★ – Song sucks, but I guess I’ll listen to it for variety
- ★★★ – Good song
- ★★★★ – Great song
- ★★★★★ – This song is a classic. Probably candidate for a My Fave Songs blog if I ever get around to it
Now I’m thinking a better system might be this:
- No stars – Still getting acquainted with the track
- ★ – I never want to hear this song
- ★★ – I don’t want to hear this song unless I’m super bored with my library
- ★★★ – This is a good song, so should come up randomly on shuffle
- ★★★★ – This is a great song so should come up more often on shuffle
- ★★★★★ – This song is a classic but I don’t want to hear it too often just because it’s rated the highest
I’m not sure I can actually achieve this sort of control over my playlist, but at least I can mark songs in this way. It’s going to be a lot of work (and probably not worth it) to re-rate everything though.
January 10, 2015
The actual work to convert my MP3s from genres to artist/album hierarchy didn’t end up taking too long (maybe 3 hours total). However, I still have a lot of work to do. The problem comes down to, and it’s always this, the conflict between albums and singles.
In the past, I had some loose rules about when to rip an entire album or just the couple of hit singles. In the early days, I used to primarily rip singles, but as HD space became cheaper and cheaper, it was easy to rip an entire album – but I didn’t always do that, because then there would be a lot of filler tracks polluting my library.
So moving all the “full” albums was a good start, but now I have to dig up my CDs and re-rip many of them to fill out existing albums – that’s probably going to take a few weeks if not months. And I’m not sure whether I want to re-rip all my CDs. There definitely are many CDs that I bought just for a particular single, so I don’t want to spend time re-ripping those.
I also came to realize that I have a lot of albums that I don’t recall why I bought. They don’t have any great singles, maybe a couple of 3-star tracks, but nothing noteworthy. I bet most of them were bought while I was in Seattle, but I can’t explain it much further than that.
January 4, 2015
I started a project over the Christmas break because I was a bit frustrated about how I was storing my music on my hard drive. Over the last few months, I have been slowly re-organizing some of my music. Originally I stored my music sorted by genres, which is a bit unconventional. I think typically the folder structure is Artist/Album/ but I put multiple artists & albums into one genre folder (i.e., Electronic, Pop, Ethnic, etc). I decided to follow this method because I thought it was unnecessary to have a huge amount of folders, especially since I sometimes only rip a couple of songs from an album.
That worked for many years. But recently because I have been buying my music online instead of ripping CDs, I ended up with a couple of new folders based on where I got the music (Google, Amazon, Promo/SoundCloud/Free Downloads, etc). Those were sorted separately AND was not sorted by genre. So now my mp3 organization was a hydra, but it actually wasn’t a big deal because who really cares how the music is stored on the file system when you access it through a UI?
Now last year, I started uploading my music to the cloud. The interface seems suited to the more conventional Artist/Album format so I started duplicating my MP3s and converting some of the albums I liked and storing them as albums for upload purposes. Pretty soon I had a couple GB of duplicate MP3s, and I realized that I would just have more and more as music listening started moving “to the cloud”.
So I started a project of extracting all my albums from my genre folders. I thought about scripting the work, which you can do with VB on Windows, but I figured the work wouldn’t take long enough for it to be worth it – debugging and figuring out how to do things in VB would probably just take as long (and require more thinking).
Hopefully after this, I will be able to backup and duplicate my music collection on the cloud instead of having to do it on my web hosting.
May 29, 2014
Over the last few months I’ve been working on an mini project with my photos. Yes I know, I have lots of projects with my photos and usually they just amount to some thinking and no real action, but this one isn’t that tough and is actually kind of fun in a non-photographic sort of way.
This project starts due to some work I did over the last few years to digitize my family’s (physical) photo collection. I basically have all my family’s photo albums that I have access to scanned. That took awhile, but it’s all done; the problem is that they’re loosely organized in folders, such as family photos, school photos etc. Now what I’m trying to do is to organize them by year. And that’s a much harder challenge.
We have it great now, with digital cameras and EXIF data, because our photos are tagged with timestamp (and even geolocation). Some past photos put a date watermark in the bottom right corner, and that’s really useful; but the majority have no such data. So this ends up being a huge detective game where I’m trying to place photos in time based on my memory, what people look like, and the environment. Lucky for me, I’m in most of the photos and I basically look different every year.
Still it’s kind of tedious but also kind of fun. It’s not something I need to complete overnight, but it’ll probably entertain me for a few months.
May 7, 2014
As I played around with Google Play Music and uploaded some of my music, I got to wondering what the future of my music listening would be like. Currently I have a bunch of music loaded into iTunes which I listen to on my computer. I also put the same music on iPod because that keeps the same play counts as iTunes. I also have all my music rated and use custom playlists based on the rating, play count, and when I added the song to iTunes. That’s a lot of complexity which I don’t think any cloud service will be able to reproduce.
But the trend seems to be to stream music online (and perhaps charge subscription) to your device. If not that, at least your music is on the cloud and accessible anywhere. That seems like a good idea, but i have no idea how I will convert my music listening to that approach!
Even a hybrid approach is difficult. I organize my music by genre instead of the typical artist/album approach. It’s a big mess when I want to upload because I want to convert them to the “standard” organization first. I suppose I can just upload a lot of garbage and have Google help me sort the files, but I have a second problem – which is that I have a lot of singles and not that many albums. Then I end up with a lot of artist entries that only have a few songs (don’t get me started on various artist albums and having the correct album artist). It starts breaking the experience and I wonder, why I don’t stick with the status quo.
In fact I’m thinking, maybe I should draw a line where I started buying (cheap!) complete albums from Amazon and Google Play, and just start building my music collection starting from that!
October 5, 2013
For the first time since I started collecting in 2005, I made it to the Gold plateau in the Starwood Points program. I can attribute this goal to traveling for work AND the flight delays at EWR as they both were instrumental in helping me pass the milestone of 10 stays this year.
I’ve collected and used SPG points for awhile, because they are relatively easy to obtain without staying in hotels (thanks to first, the MBNA card, and now the AMEX version of the same). The points+cash redemption options are also superb value, and which I have used many times.
But this is my first time attaining Gold, and I’m happy about that. I guess the main perk is that I can get internet access comped whenever I stay at a SPG hotel.
Now that I’ve achieved this plateau, I’m fairly confident that I will not reach the platinum plateau (25 stays). I’m actually thinking which other hotel rewards program I should start staying at for the rest of the year (until I need to work towards renewing my Gold status). I have memberships with Priority Club (Holiday Inn & etc) and HHonors (Hilton) so maybe I should try building those up?
September 24, 2013
I am a huge fan of traveling as light as possible and one area where I am always optimizing is my toiletries bag. On this recent trip to Asia, I picked up some supplies at Daiso and Muji to further miniaturize my toiletries bag. Here is what my “version 4” toiletries bag now looks like:
I think it’s pretty small and I’m happy with the size now. I picked up the mesh vinyl bag from Daiso and bought the smallest possible bottles for body wash and 2-in-1 shampoo that I could from Muji (they are just for emergencies anyways, because hotels usually supply everything I need).
Also in this pack are:
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
- Electronic shaver with built-in world charger (no need for extension cord or transformer) and long hair trimmer. This only has a single coil due to the size, which is annoying because it’s slow, but that’s the sacrifice to be compact
- Extra business cards in small waterproof baggie
- Bandages, rubber bands, alcohol wipes, backup floss picks, Q-tips, and a foldable nail clipper
The best thing is that it isn’t super “packed”. Everything fits with ease so I could even put in a towel if I needed.
February 12, 2011
Here’s something I haven’t done in awhile – let’s take a look at my iTunes. Aside from the radio, I obsessively listen to music through iTunes and my iPod (to the extent that it probably curtails my discovery of new music). And I still use a custom shuffling script that I wrote several years ago to keep my music interesting & fresh (or at least not repeating too often), which means that
songs oldies I like I continue to listen to. All of this means that I have a record of what songs I’ve been listening to since around 2003 or so on iTunes (well through last.fm too, but that’s another story). I took a look in 2005 to see what songs I listened to the most, let’s see how that’s changed in 5 years.
Not much. Most of the songs that I was listening to frequently before are still on the chart, with their #s increased by 75%. A couple of new entries as well, which is expected. You know in the last 6 years I’ve spent over 12 hours of it listening to Coldplay’s Talk?
Some strangeness though, why have I spent 11 hours listening to Celine Dion’s It’s All Coming Back To Me Now or Aqua’s Turn Back Time? I don’t even remember the last time I heard them.
It might be interesting to see what new music I’ve been listening to since 2005. Surprisingly it’s a wide variety. I expected to see a lot of John Mayer, Shins, Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire etc but they are actually not that prominent in this list!
How about since in the last 3 years? I’d expect the Cardigans & Dido to show up a lot.
But it turns out I’ve been listening to a lot of CSS instead. In the past few years I haven’t added much new music (although I’ve added a lot of “oldies” to my library). It’s likely that most of the songs on this list is unrecognizable to you!
October 16, 2010
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time collecting. Collecting hockey cards, stickers, coins, stamps, CDs, etc etc. Now that I’m older, those things seem trivial (plus it is counterproductive to my 2008 resolution to get rid of stuff which is still ongoing…well better late then never).
But I still have this personality disorder to collect things, so the question is what do I collect now that I’m older. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of reasonable grown up things that I can collect. Cars? nope. Watches? maybe, but I won’t get very many. It’s quite difficult to find something to collect that is both fun to collect and meaningful to have in large quantities…
November 21, 2009
I have an irrational obsession with gas economy. Both the improve-gas-mileage and the save-money variety. For the latter, I’ve spent the last few years watching oil futures and other sources to attempt to predict when is the best time to fuel up.
Truth be told, even if the gas prices goes up by 1¢/L, you’re only paying 40¢-50¢ more per tank. As of November 16, I’ve pumped exactly 3888L of gas into our car in a little over two years. All this time tracking gas prices and I’ve only made $38.88 difference. I told you I was OCD about it.
In recent times, the best source for the next day’s price was MP Dan McTeague‘s webpage. He has taken it upon himself to be a watchdog on the gasoline industry, and through his knowledge is able to predict with 100% accuracy what the next day’s gas price will be. The only drawback is that this number is not updated until in the evening (i.e., after 5PM).
But this week, there was a second drawback introduced – their site redesign. The gas prices went from a single, bookmarkable page to an entire site which serves as a platform for gas industry issues and advertisement. I’m all for increasing awareness about the issue but they made the site unusable for me; I’m not able to directly find out the price of gas in Toronto, nor is the site easily accessible from my cellphone.
Instead of ranting about it on my blog, I made my own site for displaying gas prices in Toronto. It’s a simple, tells you the price of gas, and most importantly – convenient.
November 7, 2008
This past weekend was a free Xbox Live weekend, meaning that we could play multiplayer over Xbox Live without having to pay for Xbox Live Gold. I didn’t even know it was free, and happened on it while playing around with the options within a game. It wasn’t until I saw an ad on the Sunday that I found out it was free. That’s not good advertising.
I started going through my games and completing the easier achievements that require Live (i.e., play a match online etc). I started playing Aegis Wing again, and it’s actually really fun with 4 players! Once all 4 ships are combined, the specials are amazing, and can take out everything on the screen at once! Along the way, I unlocked a couple of achievements which led me to go OCD on completing the achievements. I had 3 left, complete the game on normal, insane and get 185k points. I played for a long time, with 4 people to complete the game, but ended up dying on the last level. There are a lot of people online who don’t play strategically, they grab all the specials and fire them off right away. In the end, Joe and I finished the game on normal locally.
My goal on Monday (the “weekend” was 10/31 – 11/3) was to finish the game on insane with the help of 3 other people online. It was tough, but finally Pauline and I found another pair that worked as a team. In Insane, you only have one life (although you can rescue your dead teammates), and unfortunately everyone died except Pauline while the final boss was doing its last ditch attacks. Luckily we pulled through!
The 185k points achievement was the hardest, and it took me a few tries to get (now that I was better at the game). I ended up playing “2 players”, but the second ship was attached only for improved health and specials. I completed the game on normal with a score of ~188k and this marked my very first completed game on the Xbox (although it’s only an arcade game).
February 13, 2008
I have this OCD desire to have and maintain a travel pack that is ready in the event that I decide to go backpacking across North America or some other ludicruous idea. It’s especially dumb because I don’t travel that much, and let’s say on the off chance that I do have to go traveling for work, I wouldn’t be able to bring my back pack (since I’d have to bring my laptop backpack). Anyways in order to quell my desire, here’s my hastily brainstormed list of stuff that I keep packed:
- Toiletries bag (including soap and shampoo)
- Pen + paper for notes
- Headphones for planes
- Slippers + PJs
- LED Flashlight
- USB key that doubles as SD card adapter (with an extra 2GB card)
- Hand sanitizer & Kleenex
- Loyalty program numbers (airlines, hotels)
- Documentation for expensive items (laptop, camera equipment)
I also have stuff sitting around that could be included in my pack:
- Laptop (need to buy a foam case at MEC)
- Camera equipment (+ bubblewrap for extra lenses)
- DS Lite, sock, and multi-voltage travel adapter
December 15, 2007
Top Singles of 2007
The weird thing about singles was that I can only think of a few good singles that I started listening to after summer. Most of this list was from the first 8 months of the year.
- Katharine Mcphee – Over It
- All-American Rejects – It Ends Tonight
- Justice – D.A.N.C.E.
- Maroon 5 – Makes Me Wonder
- Nelly Furtado – Do It
- CSS – Music Is My Hot Hot Sex (Yes I know this came out 2006, but got big this year thanks to iPod Touch commercials…)
- Justin Timberlake – Lovestoned
- Sara Bareilles – Love Song
- Michael Bublé – Everything
- The Killers – Read My Mind
- Suzie McNeil – Hung Up
- James Blunt – 1973
- The Last Goodnight – Pictures of You
- Timbaland ft One Republic – Apologize
- Faber Drive – Tongue-tied
- Billy Talent – Surrender
- Suzie McNeil – Broken & Beautiful
- The Shins – Phantom Limb
- Rihanna ft Jay-Z – Umbrella
- Sean Kingston – Beautiful Girls
- Major Maker – Rollercoaster
- P Diddy ft Keisha Chante – Last Night
- Gym Class Heroes – Cupid’s Chokehold
- Avril Lavigne – Girlfriend
- Beyonce – Irreplaceable
- Dragonettes – I Get Around
- Avril Lavigne – When You’re Gone
- Gwen Stefani – 4 in the Morning
- Carrie Underwood – Before He Cheats
- Finger 11 – Paralyzer
Top Albums of 2007
The top two in this list were pretty close. I like The Shins’ album a lot, but I’ve been listening to The Go! Team much more even after seeing them live.
- The Shins – Wincing The Night Away
- The Go! Team – Proof Of Youth
- Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
- Justice – †
- The Thrills – Teenager
- Maroon 5 – It Won’t Be Soon Before Long
Top (Free) Downloads From iTunes Store
I tried to limit myself this year in downloading from the iTunes store because I just had too much crap music that I downloaded “for free”. Maybe I missed some good tracks (I missed an Amy Winehouse single from the beginning of the year), but oh well.
- Justice – D.A.N.C.E. (found out about these guys on iTunes then bought their album)
- Sara Bareilles – Love Song (awesome song, album not so much)
- The Last Goodnight – Pictures of You (basic song, but catchy)
- CSS – Let’s Make Love And Listen From Death From Above (first time I heard of these guys)
- The Tender Box – Mister Sister
- Pacha Massive – Don’t Let Go (I think the only time I downloaded a Latino freebie)
- Metro Station – Shake It
- Bruce Springsteen – Radio Nowhere
This year, I only spent $173.54 on 17 CDs, buying only 6 used CDs. This is continuing the downward trend from 2006, although I spent more going to concerts this year (maybe I should keep track of those numbers for next year).