Music Year In Review (2013)

A lot of great music came out in 2013 in a variety of genres. I discovered a lot of new bands in the electronic space, Hip-Hop / R&B and alternative rock. More than any of the new stuff, I found myself going back to a lot of my old favorites including Nine Inch Nails, Crystal Castles, Frank Ocean, Aphex Twin, etc. One of the bands I just discovered this year, "Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin" has quickly risen up my top charts and made 7th on the 2013 list. I reached some fun milestones on Last.fm this year including blowing past the 150k mark for songs played and going well over the 10k mark for Nine Inch Nails tracks played.

So without further ado here are my top 15 artists for 2013 followed by my top 15 tracks for 2013.

2013 - Top Artists

2013 - Top Tracks

That's all for 2013, but I look forward to the musical experiences that 2014 will provide. Keep on listening!

iPhone 5 Review

iPhone 5 BoxOne year ago today, I posted a review of Apple's iOS 5.0 and now a year later I am back w/ a review of the iPhone 5 running iOS 6.0.

After spending a week with the iPhone 5 I have really grown to love it. I upgraded from an iPhone 4 (not 4S) so the number of things to be excited about are many. There are countless other reviews of this device around the web so rather than recapping all of the features and functionality I am going to talk about the things that I like and use the most.

Since I haven't owned a 4S I was really excited to give Siri a test drive. Ironically my parents just moved to a new part of the state so I have had plenty of opportunities to find new things and get directions. While there are some shortcomings and oddities I am generally impressed with Siri. The functionality and range of things that you can do with it (her?) are really impressive. I have composed text messages, made calls, found hamburgers, launched applications and even asked for movie reviews. I know I am late to the party on this one but Siri is pretty awesome.

I was equally excited for the camera in the iPhone 5 and I am not at all disappointed. It takes amazingly crisp photos and it does so incredibly fast. The iPhone 4 always had a bit of a delay between each shot but that is not the case what-so-ever with the iPhone 5. I am able to take photos at a very rapid pace which is incredibly nice for action shots. One other thing that is greatly improved with the camera is the low-light functionality. Situations in which my iPhone 4 camera would have been worthless, the iPhone 5 camera performs wonderfully. For someone like me who takes A LOT of photos, the iPhone 5 is the ultimate smart phone.

In addition to Siri and the camera, I was really looking forward to LTE functionality on AT&T's network. I know a lot of people say that it is overrated and that the speed differential is not that great but they are wrong. In places where I was pulling down 1Mbps I am now getting upwards of 30Mbps. Where my upstream was previously ~1Mbps, it is now 11Mbps. Sharing to Instagram and refreshing Twitter/Facebook is almost instantaneous. Websites load quicker, streaming services work better and all-in-all the phone is far more attractive as an internet device.

iPhone 5 Incipio Case Aside from the phone I also want to talk about cases. I tried a few of them before settling on the Incipio FREQUENCY impact resistant case (pictured above). While I wouldn't recommend throwing the phone across the room in this case, it still provides enough protection to give me peace of mind without being bulky and getting in the way. I highly recommend this product.

I'd love to hear what others think about the latest incarnation of the iPhone so please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!

iOS5 Review

After months and months of waiting, iOS5 is finally here and I am very happy with the new features and functionality. The update did come with its share of woes for some users who reported that the update process failed multiple times, bricked their device, etc but fortunately the two devices we updated the night of the release went very smoothly. In this article I highlight some of the new features and discuss some things that I found particularly interesting. I am going to kick things off with some information about the new notification system built into iOS5. In my opinion Apple took the strongest concepts from Android's notification system and applied them to the system in iOS5. Notifications no longer occupy the foreground when they come in (i.e. they wont interrupt your game of Angry Birds) but rather just pop up at the top of the screen for a couple of seconds then disappear. Below you will see a screenshot of what a lock screen notification looks like as well as a notification coming in when I was actively using the device.

iOS5 Twitter Notification   iOS5 Notification

Apple also added something called Notification Center to iOS5 which is a lot like the notification center on Android devices. It shows recent notifications, upcoming events, weather, stocks and more. It can be accessed in very much the same fashion as you would an Android device by swiping downward from the top of the screen.

iOS5 Notification Center

The camera has also undergone some big improvements and you can now edit photos directly on the device with no additional software. The native camera app also features a nice on-screen grid which helps to make sure things are level and you can also access the camera directly from the lock screen by hitting the Home Button twice. Another neat feature they added to the camera is the ability to snap photos by using the volume up button. This may sound strange but generally when you are holding the phone and trying to take a picture it is a lot easier to hit the volume up button than the on-screen one.

A very big part of this update was the addition of support for iCloud. iCloud enables you to back-up all of your data to the cloud and it will automatically sync that data (calendars, documents, photos, video, etc) across all of your devices running iOS5 or OS X Lion. I have quite a bit of data (particularly photos/video) on my phone so I went ahead and purchased some additional iCloud store so that I could fully sync my devices.

iOS5 iCloud Storage   iOS5 iCloud Backup

iCloud also supports a very neat feature called "Find My iPhone" which allows you to send a message to your device (via the web), remotely wipe the device or just simply track the device to its GPS location. All of this sounds rather creepy but the fact of the matter is we all share so much w/ our phones (including our geolocation) that I see this feature as doing more help than harm. All you have to do is login to iCloud from any computer then message, track or remote wipe your device. The screenshot below shows where my phone was located at the time I tracked it and the messaging window to remotely send a message to the device. After I hit "Send" the message showed up on my device in about 3 seconds.

iCloud Find My iPhone

Some other small tweaks to iOS5 worth mentioning are the following:

  • Customizable Notifications - Notification preferences have been really beefed up in the settings.
  • Newsstand - You can now subscribe to magazines and newspapers using a very similar interface to iBooks.
  • Reminders - There is now a native app for handling reminders and to-do lists.
  • Usage - The usage screen under settings has been greatly improved and now shows memory usage ranked from high->low by size.
  • Weather - The Apple weather app has been improved and now has hour-by-hour forecast information.

All-in-all I think Apple has done a really nice job w/ iOS5 and now that the initial rush is over I definitely recommend that everybody gets the update.