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(Which) Music to My Ears

Spoiler: Apple Music wins

Rdio was my jam for a couple of years. A couple of months ago, Spotify offered a cheap deal and I gave it a shot. Now, Apple Music has bebopped into the mix. All three have deep catalogs to fuel a music marathon running in any direction.

Rdio is my favorite of the three, but probably won’t win back the top spot on my devices. The music service does social better than its competition. The app itself wins for its ability to control other versions of the app. By that I mean if a song is playing on my Mac, users can pause or change tracks from their iPhone and iPad or switch to play the track on their mobile device. Discovery is also pretty great. Search for your favorite artists and play a channel of that artist and others like them.

Spotify is more popular than Rdio, at least it seems to have more users. Maybe it’s because I cut my teeth on Rdio, but Spotify’s interface seems confusing to me. The playlists matched to activity is kind of neat, but it isn’t the first one to offer that feature. Songsta has done that for a while, and a new player in the field prominently shares the same sorts of playlists.

Apple Music also offers activity playlists and boasts human curation. It’s also the only service with anything like the DJ-curated Beats 1 Radio.[footnote]Don’t slip up and just call it Beats One. I hope the “online electronic and dance music radio station based in Calgary, Alberta” is taking advantage of any confusion.[/footnote] “Worldwide. Always on.” Curation by real people rather than algorithms is intriguing and helpful. Apple Connect is a huge improvement over the fruit company’s social flop by serving a different purpose than Ping—connecting artists to fans, not fans to fans. I’m still not sure how that will shake out, but so far so good in my opinion. I’ve found some good stuff in Apple Connect. The “For You” tab in Apple Music is another pro. Some of the playlists here have been perfect for me. Again, these are said to be arranged by real human beings who put thought into these lists like the cassette mixtapes of lore.

The problem with Apple Music, at least on the desktop, is that it is still a part of the monstrous digital hub that is iTunes, Apple’s answer to syncing, streaming, and managing apps, devices, podcasts, videos, movies, voice notes, TV shows, iTunes U, and more. There is a lot to deal with, both on OS X and iOS, so it’s confusing at first. I’m willing to learn.

Even with its warts and pain of the birthing process, the curation and deep roots in my digital ecosystem mean Apple Music is going to be my new jam.

Without a hiccup

Astounding anecdote via TiDbits, and definitely out of my budget.

I visited an Apple Store in San Francisco, and made pals with one of the sales guys. He gave me a demo of the Mac Pro. He opened the Applications folder and had me hold my hand over the vent. He then hit Command-A to select everything, then Command-O to open every app, including the pre-installed Adobe Creative Suite. Within 15 seconds, everything was open, without a hiccup, and all I felt was a waft of warm air. Pretty incredible.

Troubleshooting Apple Networks

My home network has been plagued with incredibly frustrating problems with dropped connections and other weirdness that are hard to diagnose. I still haven’t solved it, but found two articles in Apple’s Knowledge Base that are finally pointing me in a better direction.

There is a lot of information there that isn’t obvious at at a glance, so be sure to expand all of the disclosure triangles.

Sorting Out How I Work With Plain Text

My cup runneth over with superb apps for writing, manipulating, and writing text on any Apple device; so much so that it’s hard to pick the one I want to work in right now. A nice problem to have, but still a problem. A post by @macdrifter published on New Year’s Day, Quick Notes with Sublime Text, prodded me think about this.

As a nerd plunked firmly in the “fiddly” class, at least I know one thing. After years of agonizing over which font I want to use and how big the margins should be, I committed a long time ago to working in plain text using Fletcher Penney’s MultiMarkdown (based on John Gruber’s Markdown). All of my files are synced using iCloud or Dropbox for ubiquitous access from my Mac, iPhone, and iPad mini.

On my Mac, most ideas start in Sublime Text 3. It is always open and one of the best text editors on the market (along with BBEdit, of course).1 A bonus to both text editors is the hot exit; all open files are saved and reopened the next time you launch the app. This alleviates my File Naming Anxiety Disorder (FNAD), an affliction that submitted for inclusion in DSM-6.

So from my Mac I may start quickly in Sublime Text, but at some point I freeze and wonder, “Is this really where I want to be working on this?” These are my top three options, all of which recognize variants of Markdown while curating their own unique strengths:

  • MultiMarkdown Composer — This application for writing in MultiMarkdown is designed by Fletcher Penney, the man who designed the markup language. What could be better?
  • Ulysses III — In my memory, Ulysses kicked off the plain text editing revolution on the Mac. The developers completely overhauled the design and it is beautiful (and dovetails perfectly into their iOS app Daedalus Touch).
  • Byword — Another popular app with many writers on the web, Byword’s designers built in capabilities to publish directly to WordPress and Tumblr.

All three are terrific. Though it’s a Mac application, Ulysses III works the most like an iOS app; open a new file, start typing, and it’s just saved somewhere in the app without irritating my FNAD. Byword and MultiMarkdown Composer (MMC) work with standard files that are saved in iCloud or Dropbox, respectively. MMC handles MultiMarkdown metadata better than the other two (as it should coming from the man who wrote the spec).

Another Can of Worms

This has so far focused on the Mac while ignoring two other platforms, the iPhone and iPad. I’m getting bored with this topic for now, so I’m just going to rip out a few points here.

  • Byword is available on all three platforms
  • Ulysses III, coupled with Daedulus Touch, is sort of available on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
  • MultiMarkdown Composer is Mac-only, but being plain text is available for easy editing on any device when synced with Dropbox.

Findings?

The whole purpose for writing this article is to sort through my options and determine a system that works best for me. I don’t think I am quite there yet. If you’re still reading and curious, I chose to write this article in MultiMarkdown Composer. When I nail down something that works for me, I’ll let you know.


  1. BBEdit is still my go to app for cleaning up and reformatting documents using Text Factories. My most common use case is copying the text of meeting agendas sent to me in MS Word, pasting into BBEdit, running a Text Factory that strips weird spaces and characters, converts to Markdown, which is exported into HTML to publish online.