Amazon vs Google – The quest for the MP3 market

Amazon just released “Cloud Drive” and “Cloud Player” for Android.  It lets you stream your music from the cloud.  5GB of cloud space is free, and you get upgraded to 20GB if you buy just one MP3 album from them in 2011 (from this date forward).  All future purchases of Amazon MP3 music are stored in their cloud space for free, so if this is the only place you get your music, like me, this could be great.

But unfortunately they’re not including everyone’s previous purchases, which is very sad.  I have purchased hundreds of albums from them over the past few years, so this would have been awesome, so unfortunately this is a deal breaker for me.  I have over 250GB of music, so they’re saying I would need to purchase a t least a block of 200GB of cloud space for $200 per year!  Or worse yet, their next plan up, which is 500GB for $500 a year! Yikes!  So it looks like I’m sticking to streaming my own music from home for now.

Google, however, is about to release “Google Music”, which promises to offer streaming of your own music from home, as well as from the cloud, and they’ll have their own MP3 store to purchase new music!  This sounds pretty promising, and if it works out, I might just have to switch to purchasing my music from Google instead of Amazon in the future!  We’ll see.

New Amazon Appstore for Android

The new Amazon Appstore opened up this week for Android users, and it’s great!  They’re giving away a paid app of their choice every day too.  This means that if you visit the Appstore once a day you can “purchase” their free app of the day and it’s yours just as if you purchased it for its full price!  Download it any time, uninstall it, or reinstall it whenever you like.  This sure is an awesome way to get everyone to use their new service.  I’ll certainly be stopping by once a day, no doubt.

Much like the Android Market, the Appstore shows you categories of apps, you can search for specific ones, or browse through their sections.  It also has a nice “save for later” option that remembers a list of apps for you so you can come back later and look at them some more.  The Android Market doesn’t have anything like this.  Google should consider something similar though, it’s a great feature.

Installing the Appstore itself was a bit tricky though.  It’s not an app you can just download in the Market.  I guess maybe because it’s a direct competitor to Market itself..?  It’s easy to find though, if you google it or search Amazon’s website for it on your Android.  You won’t be able to download it at first though, unless you’ve changed a setting on your phone to allow downloads from unknown sources.  This is located in Menu >> Settings >> Applications >> Unknown sources.  Check this option to allow installation of non-Market applications.  Then you can download the app (apk file) from Amazon.  I’m not sure if all Androids act the same at this point, but mine simply allowed me to download the apk file.  After that nothing happened, so I loaded up a file browser (I use Astro) and opened the apk file once I found it on my SD card.  It then prompted me for the install.  After that, everything was back to normal though, with a new app called Amazon Appstore on my phone, read for me to consume a new free app every single day!  Just remember though, Androids have limited memory.  You can install most apps to SD, which saves a ton of space, but they still eat a little main memory for each application (or game) installed, and they will eventually fill up your phone.  This is why it’s so nice to still have the free app available to re-download and reinstall, even after you uninstall it.  I constantly juggle apps I want to just try out, or just play once in awhile.  Since it’s a cell phone, a network connection is always there anyway, so it’s very convenient to do anywhere.

Book Quandary

I just got a new credit for an audiobook at Audible.com, and I’m stuck.  I currently have 17 books on my wishlist and I can’t decide which book to get next.  I always figure each month I’ll get one of them until my wishlist is empty, then I’ll have everything I want.  Nope, it doesn’t work that way.  Throughout the month I get regular e-mails about new releases, specials, etc., and it never fails that every month there’s at least one or two books that look really good that I want to read (listen to).  So here you go.  Below is my wishlist.  If you can suggest one, perhaps that you liked yourself, I’d really appreciate your input.  Or if you can suggest something that ISN’T on my wishlist, go for it.  I can always add it to the list if it sounds good to me (which would actually defeat the purpose of this post, but what the heck–I’d hate to miss a good book).  The top one–Physics of the Future–I just added recently.  It sounds fascinating, based on the preview listen.  But then again, so do many of the others.  Help!

Audible Wishlist 03-20-2011

 

More updates

Anybody here use Google Chrome?  I didn’t think so.  Turns out, users got a blank page when viewing my other theme in Chrome.  Nice.  I think that’s actually worse than being able to see the site and the latest post being a few months old!  So I’ve switched themes again.  Something simple this time, so it’s quicker to load.  And less stuff in the sidebar, again, so it’s quicker.  Got any complaints?  If so, I’ll reconsider.  For now though, I’ll keep it as-is.  It’s pretty much a one-sided “place for our stuff” thing anyway.  Comments, forums, and shoutboxes always end up getting spammed and being more trouble than they’re worth.   You can still add comments, I’ll get them directly, and I really appreciate your input.  They just won’t appear right up-front for everyone to see all the time.  I’ll change the big banner graphic occasionally too.  Something to match my mood, the season, the holiday… whatever.  I just enjoy playing around with it.

I’m primarily using Chrome now, after seeing what it is now capable of, and seeing what some of its addons can do, especially the “Checker Plus for Google Calendar”, which adds a ton of great features I like that integrate my calendar into the browser very nicely.  My calendar is now with me at all times, on my Android in my pocket, on my desktop at work, and at home, all synced together as one.

Update on George: He’s out of the hospital now, and at a nursing home for rehab.  Once he’s strong enough, hopefully he’ll be able to move back home with in-home care nurses and aides.

Update on dad

George WegmannMy dad, George Wegmann, went to the hospital on Tuesday morning, March 8th, 2011, after Rick found him on the floor in the bathroom.  He had fallen, which wasn’t the first time he had fallen in the past couple weeks.  His legs have been very weak lately, so we called his doctor and had him taken to the hospital.  Initially his white blood cell count was found to be very low, he was disoriented to the point where he could remember the names of family members, he was anemic, and his electrolytes were way off.  After several tests they also found he was having kidney failure.  A lot of this is due to the return of his prostate cancer, which had been in remission for 20 years, and his age.  He’s 90 years young.

He has been given three blood transfusions since being admitted to the hospital, and they say he isn’t a candidate for dialysis due to his age.  He will most likely have to go to a nursing home for rehabilitation after he gets out of the hospital for about 3 months and then we’ll have to decide at that point what to do next, based on his status at that point.

He has had three doctors working together on his care this week, and they initially decided that he needed a procedure to insert a stent in each of his kidneys to allow them to function properly.  They said that if he didn’t have this procedure done, he would most likely only have a month or two left.

Today we got some better news, however.  Dr. Novsam consulted with two other doctors and said that his catheter bag is doing the job of keeping the kidneys flowing, so he won’t need to have the stents installed at this time.  His blood levels are also returning to normal now, which is great.

This evening Dr. Bendealy came up to the hospital and said the PSA level for his protate is 126.  Normal is about 6.  He said this is why his kidneys aren’t functioning properly, so unfortunately the catheter will be a permanent thing to keep things flowing.  And with the prostate cancer and my dad’s age, further treatment wouldn’t provide any benefit, so they’re going to provide comfort measures only.

Dr. Chua, his regular doctor, also came to see him tonight and said Social Services will be contacting me on Monday to arrange for nursing home placement.  She is also ordering a colonoscopy to see why he is still anemic.  So we’ll see what happens with that.

My dad’s memory still isn’t back to normal, but he’s better.  He’s certainly looking much better than he did when he was admitted on Tuesday.  I took a photo of him today, take a look.

Sometimes things work out

Dual Monitors (sorta)This week one of our monitors died.  No big surprise—EVERYTHING has been dying or breaking lately… Over the past couple weeks, Sandy’s cell phone broke, our laptop died, the PS3 died, and our expensive Harmony Remote died.   It’s like Karma knows we got our tax refund checks and wants to just eat that money up as fast as possible.  The thing is, we need that money to fix up the house in the spring so the city doesn’t fine us!  Yes, the neighborhood inspectors nailed us last season, and we have a big list of things to fix on our house and property now.

Anyway, back to the dead monitor.  I can’t stand seriously working on a PC with just one monitor.  There’s just so much I do at once, I can’t fit it onto a single monitor, or, even if I could, it gets too confusing switching back and forth between open applications and windows.  With 2 screens (minimum) I can separate things enough to work smoothly and get things done efficiently.  Just ask Randy Pausch from Carnegy-Mellon University.   Once monitor on a PC just doesn’t cut it.

So anyway, it died.  The backlight constantly flickers and repeatedly goes black, rendering it useless.  Yes, it was very old, so it’s not worth fixing.  It was just a standard, cheap 17” LCD monitor that I had broken the base off of so it would fit into the little right nitch on my desk to use as my right monitor.   So I scrapped it.  Not sure what to do next, I took some measurements and checked many vendors for monitors that would fit in that spot.  It’s not an easy task to find the FULL dimensions of a monitor (including the stand) when you need it.  Some sites provide it, but most don’t.   What to do?  I found a few monitors that came with removable stands, which would be perfect, but their size without the stand attached was then questionable.  Arrggh.

Well, another completely unrelated task that Sandy had during this whole dilemma was with a client of hers.  She needed an inexpensive TV and wanted to know if it was possible to get a new flatscreen LCD TV for as little as $100.  So I looked around and found a couple at Best Buy—one for $89.99 and one for $99.99.  She ended up choosing the $99 one, which was on sale from $150, so Sandy had to pick it up for her.

Yesterday, while the TV was sitting at home waiting for Sandy to deliver it to her client, I got an idea.  I wondered how something like this would fit into our desk cubby.  So I carefully removed it from it’s box and did some measuring.  It looked pretty close!  So I attached the stand and set it in place.  It fit PERFECTLY!  All of Best Buy’s smallest monitors (18”-19”) were around the same price, but none of them would fit in this space on our desk.  This TV was on sale, $50 off, so it was normally $150.  It was a 15” screen, so it was a bit smaller, but it had all the right ports—a VGA port, HDMI, and all the others.  I even had an extra AT&T box I could use on it that I haven’t used since 3 PCs ago, because I didn’t have a TV antenna or HDMI input on any of our replacement PCs.  The only other issue I could foresee would be with its resolution.  I know TVs are not quite up to the specs of monitors, so I expected the resolution to be lacking.

I went ahead and unboxed the rest of the package and set everything up.  I connected the cable box to the HDMI, and the PC to the VGA input.  Everything worked perfectly, and it has quite a nice image!  Yes, the quality is a bit less than a monitor, but I was expecting as much.  Surprisingly, however, the specs say it has a maximum resolution of 1366×768, but when I set that resolution in Windows 7 it told me that it’s not optimum and recommends 1920×1080 as the optimum resolution, and when setting the TV’s resolution to 1366×768, the monitor went black and displayed a “Not Supported” message!  I tried other resolutions, but only 1920×1080 and 1600×900 would work, so I compared the two with a standard web page displayed.  1600×900 is what my main monitor is at as optimum, and it turned out that looks exactly the same on the TV, but leaves about a 1” border around the edge of the picture area, resulting in a LOT of wasted screen space and simply eliminates the extra pixels from the 1920×1080 resolution instead of “stretching” to use the full screen.  So 1920×1080 it was.  It’s kind of bizarre that this TV is actually smaller than my main monitor, yet I have to use a higher resolution on it.  It worked well enough though, fit perfectly in its spot, and I can now optionally watch cable (or our DVR recordings) on it by simply switching from the VGA port to the HDMI port on the remote.  That’s awesome, especially since a lot of the time I will drag a Netflix browser window over to my right screen to watch a movie while I work anyway.   And 15” isn’t as small as it sounds sitting next to my 20” main display.  In fact, there’s only about a 2” height difference in the actual screen displays.    So it really goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that I then had to return to Best Buy and pick up another of these TVs for Sandy’s client.  Sometimes things work out in strange ways.  But after having so many things die unexpectedly, this seems like little consolation.