Spotify Star System™

For the last couple of years I’ve been using Spotify as a paid-up subscriber. It’s £10/month in the UK, which is a strong cost:value ratio for the time and various means by which I use it, such as:

  • At home, blasting out tracks on my Sonos S5
  • At work, where social features & discovery apps help me find new stuff
  • On my mobile, where offline playlists provide the backdrop to my travel

And since I no longer play physical CDs, nor use iTunes or other media player (barring web apps such as SoundCloud, Hype Machine, Mixcloud etc.) Spotify has become the main hub and jumping-off point for whatever type of music I’m after.

Spotify leaves it to its users to build, subscribe to and share playlists, their primary organisational schema, however they see fit. But with millions of tracks and carte blanche to curate a personal library of preferences comes a unique challenge: how should one filter, organise and archive their preferences with access to the worlds biggest music collection?

There is no self-populating iTunes-esque ‘smart playlist’ feature, no editorialised ‘recommended playlists’ feature, and until recently there was no way to search playlists without third-party involvement. Users have to come up with their own organisational approach, and I use my patented Star System™. Here’s how it works:

  1. Play whatever music you want
  2. Star the tracks you particularly love
  3. These self-populate a ‘Starred Tracks’ playlist
  4. Set this playlist to ‘Available Offline’ and they’ll download automatically
  5. Carry on jamming, removing stars from any tracks if they get boring
  6. After a period of time, move all starred tracks into playlist of their own
  7. Release this playlist to the public to critical acclaim!
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 with a blank slate

So without further ado, here are my Star Mix Playlists for your listening pleasure, along with some tasting notes.

And finally, my current star mix. Subscribe to this one if you only want my new stuff in your earholes. Happy listening!

The Ultimate Android Homescreen

I recently upgraded to a brand new phone, the Samsung Galaxy S2, and let me tell you, her beauty is a thing to behold.

This is my second Android device, my first being an HTC Hero, whom I loved like a little brother. But I love my Galaxy like she’s a sexy robot from the future, trained to be awesome.

Given I’ll be spending the next couple of years with her, it’s important that I maximise all that awesomeness. For me, that boils down to the following areas:

  • She needs to look attractive
  • She needs to let me do my thing
  • She needs to last ’til at least midnight
  • She needs to be constantly surprising
  • She needs to feel like she’s all mine

It’s quite possible to achieve these things from your Android device: it just requires a bit of time to work out your priorities, and sometimes the advice of a few well respected sources. Ultimately, it’s experience that leads to a happy relationship. By the way, yes, I’m still talking about mobile phones.

With all of this in mind, I think I’ve found my ultimate Android setup, the perfect relationship, if you will. So without further ado, I present to you my Ultimate Android Homescreen, a perfectly-tuned combination of sexiness, usefulness, battery life and entertainment.

At just three screens, she’s the most efficient I could conceive of – the product of several hours hard thinking!

  1. The ‘Immediacy’ Screen – stuff you need right now
  2. The ‘Entertainment’ Screen – stuff to feed your head
  3. The ‘Productivity’ Screen – stuff to get shit done

A couple of things glue this all together: Tasker, and LauncherPro. I also advise JuiceDefender, but like all of the apps listed below, it’s not an essential. After all, this is more a ‘what worked for me could work for you’ article (like this one).

(click the graphic to view in fullscreen)

Whether you follow this exact recipe, or you choose to develop your own ultimate Android homescreen, I hope you’ll be very happy together, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Web Discoveries for January 4th

These are my del.icio.us links for January 4th

Blog Badges For Everyone!

Following this blog’s recent rise in popularity (thanks Howard Rheingold!) I’ve got a taste for the big time, and I’m turning to you, dear readers, to help me knock it up a notch. Don’t worry, it’s all completely consensual.

You’ve seen those ads on other people’s sites. The little squares with the ‘Best Hosting Ever!’ and the ‘I can haz LOLcats t-shirt?’ messages in them? Well I promise to never ever run those on here…

However, I do recognise that they are a valid form of advertising, linkbacks and branding. Hell, they are an important part of Web Culture! Which is why I kindly ask that if you’ve enjoyed any of my posts lately, you’ve used my WordPress plugin, or you’ve got an empty ad slot you’d like filling, please help yourself to one of these tasty Blog Badges and spread the love:

The Plain Ol’ Badge:

Digital CortexHelp spread the word with this moody ‘statement’ badge. Just black and white, baby. Emo-friendly.

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The Brain Coral Badge:

Digital CortexYour chance to own a piece of natural beauty, with this tasty chunk of purple brain coral. It’s nature’s cranium!

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The Rotating Badge:

Digital CortexBore easily? Try this! It rotates through my fave colours every time you hit the refresh button.

Kopimi

An admission to you all – I’ve used Pirate Bay to download stuff for free.
A statement of facts – I also believe in protecting the rights of content creators.

How do I reconcile my piracy usage of great content with my belief in copyright? The jury is still out on that one, but with the Pirate Bay being forced into a subscription model, the decision to go straight is made slightly easier for me.

On the subject of licensing, I’ve registered Digital Cortex under one of these:

Creative Commons License It’s an ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike’ license, issued to me by the Creative Commons for the content here on this site.

It grants users of Digital Cortex the rights to:

  • Copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
  • Make derivative works

But only under the following conditions:

  • Attribution. You must give the original author credit.
  • Non-Commercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
  • Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a licence identical to this one.

All of which sounds really boring, I’m sure. But Creative Commons licencing is on the up, because more of us are turning to our keyboards and becoming content creators. The CC give out little blog badges and buttons for your site, the iconography of which we are now beginning to accustom to. The CC logo is most prevalent on Flickr, where choosing a license type is part of the sign-up process.

Kopimi, the opposite of copyright
Kopimi, the opposite of copyright
For those more liberal in their stance on free content sharing, there is one license I’d like to tell you about. It’s called Kopimi, and it is the exact opposite of copyright.

 

Using a Kopimi badge on your site means you specifically request that people copy and use your work for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, with or without attribution, to be hacked to pieces and repackaged however they damn-well please.

It was created by Piratbyrån, the team behind Pirate Bay as a way to challenge attitudes to intellectual property rights, whilst in the face of all those hundreds of class-action lawsuits that ended up forcing them into submission.

From my research I appear to have found an originator of the design, whose post over at LogoBlink gives a nice side-by-side of the look and feel of each opposing license:

A side-by-side comparison. Which do you prefer?
A side-by-side comparison. Which do you prefer?

I hope that once Pirate Bay is all over with, Kopimi manages to live on.
I identify with the general concept of free (or cheap!) content for all, but without a licensing approach that allows for the free distribution of content, piracy will remain an issue, and copyright will be broken time and time again.

Thank god for Spotify is all I can say.

Crowdsourced Protein Shakes

I read about Foldit in Wired US yesterday, a game that takes the foundations laid by SETI@home, which uses thousands of computers’ idle time to decode frequencies from Space, and crowdsources solutions to the protein folding problems that are currently baffling the smartest machines in the world.

The difference with Foldit is that it’s not PC idle time that is tapped into here, but players’ idle time. There is no algorithm that can yet match humans’ depth perception; natural ability to recognise patterns; and see causal links in their actions. These traits make us humans the ideal CPU to solve these ‘protein-puzzles’:

Foldit provides a series of tutorials in which the player manipulates simple protein-like structures, and a periodically updated set of puzzles based on real proteins. The application displays a graphical representation of the protein’s structure which the user is able to manipulate with the aid of a set of tools.

As the structure is modified, a “score” is calculated based on how well-folded the protein is, based on a set of rules. A list of high scores for each puzzle is maintained. Foldit users may create and join groups, and share puzzle solutions with each other; a separate list of group high scores is maintained.

Indeed, the creators report that groups working together have led to breakthroughs not matched by either individuals or heavy-duty computing power. It is the power of the engaged-masses that the Baker Lab, research team behind the game are hoping will bring forth potential cures for HIV/AIDS, Cancer and Alzheimer’s.

More info on the game and it’s background on their Science Portal.

Does this remind anyone of War Games?

Web Discoveries for June 16th

These are my del.icio.us links for June 16th

  • Layar
    Criminy. This is the future I predicted two years ago in my dissertation finally coming to life. The phrase ‘Game Changer’ comes to mind.
  • SPRXMobile Mobile Service Architects » Home
    Makers of the awesome sounding Android App – Layar; home of @Rhymo, a fave #AR Twitter Follower.
  • Social Media Biz Buzz
    A worthy resource for social media marketers. This site offers streamed or downloadable assets without the fluffy blurb.
  • Web Design WordPress function list
    This is a great resource for WordPress developers. Nice and slidy too.
  • Spymaster
    I don’t know what this is yet, I’m only just starting out, but by golly this looks cool. **EDIT** It is definitely NOT COOL.