Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tech News: Pandora vs. iTunes Radio

I've been checking into the different and new aspects of iOS 7 since I downloaded it on my iPad 2 and my iPhone 5 a few days ago. I accidentally hit the music button and found iTunes Radio. I didn't really care to use it much because I already use Pandora. When I looked into it a little further, I found out that this is why Pandora stock took a 10% hit and Apple stock rose 5%. In a long list of companies Apple is hoping to take market share from, Pandora is finally in its cross hairs.

As the standings currently sit for streaming music, we have:
1. Pandora
2. Spotify
3. iHeartRadio
4. iTunes Radio
5. Slacker

A lot of people are speculating that with Apple's new music streaming service pulling in an impressive 11 million unique listeners in 5 days that it could dethrone Pandora within 30 days. Pandora receives around 65 million unique listeners a month and has more than 3x the number of unique listeners as 2nd place (Spotify.) Sorry, Apple, but I just don't see you winning here. The initial success of iTunes Radio is fairly impressive, but let's see if it can actually pull into 2nd place before everyone starts calling it the "Pandora slayer."

Look at it this way. When Google announced Google+, lots of people thought it was better than Facebook and that it may eventually overtake Facebook. That never happened. While Google had an impressive launch, I think it now counts anyone that signs up for a gmail account as a new Google+ member and they STILL can't get anywhere near the numbers on Facebook.

Apple also has some clear advantages that helped it get their streaming service out so quickly. Millions of people have Apple devices already in their house. The second they upgrade to iOS 7, they have iTunes Radio. A lot of those people were probably looking into all the aspects of the new iOS and pulled it up without actually using it. Am I one of the 11 million unique listeners? If I am, then I'm guessing there are others out there like me who pulled up the app and left without listening to any music on it.

iTunes Radio does have several pretty clear advantages in the international markets that Pandora currently doesn't have like the fact that you can play iTunes Radio from iTunes (which means its available on pretty much any desktop.) If you'd like to look into this topic a little more, check out this article I read earlier today from CNET: here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Journals of Jacob and Hyde featured on Freebooksy

The Journals of Jacob and Hyde was featured on Freebooksy this morning. I woke up and checked my downloads and my first thought was that iOS 7 had screwed up Safari on my iPad. I checked my computer... nope it's real. I've had over 300 downloads of The Journals of Jacob and Hyde since this morning. They sent me a sweet badge to feature on my website and I don't have anywhere to put it... which is why I'm writing this short blog post. (They screen all the books submitted to them so being featured on Freebooksy is a pretty big deal. I've been rejected by them several times with other books.) 
I'm a featured author at Freebooksy
I'm also still deciding what I think overall of iOS 7 on my iPhone 5 and my iPad 2. I may post about it within the next few days. In the mean time, feel free to go check out your favorite author (which I'm assuming is me :-P) on Freebooksy. Here's a screenshot:

Yes, they kind of screwed up my title for the link... but I guess people don't care. You can check it out here. I'm almost halfway down the page.
9/24/13 - This free promo on Freebooksy resulted in over 1,500 downloads. I made it to #205 in the Amazon free store which is the highest ranking I've had on a free title so far.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Evolution of the Cover: Geek of Legend: The Elvish Screwdriver

Well I finally decided that the cover I made for my first Geek of Legend book was too terrible to continue. To those few hundred of you who grabbed a free copy... at least it was free and the story is pretty good. I hired Doug Beckstead (who made the Jehovah and Hades cover and also did the cover for Minor Demons) to make me a budget cover. No graphics. No coloring. Just an inked drawing with the title. I really like how it turned out. You can check out Doug's other drawings / creations at his website: here.

I started by telling him I want a hooded elf ranger and I showed him a drawing I liked on deviantart. This was his first sketch.

From there he sent me a few different sketches. I wasn't a huge fan of the face on any of them so far so we decided to put that on hold and just work on the rest of the drawing. I also decided to hold off on the hood for a little while (but I eventually changed my mind and had him add one back on.)

The last drawing in this series is when I told him to add the hood back on. I just think elf rangers look cooler with hoods.

Doug switched to a cleaner, simpler look for the face and I had him add the hood.

I had him tweak the eyes a little.

I won't go into all the smaller details we modified towards the end, but I had him add a screwdriver attached to the strap that holds the elf's arrow quiver. Then I had him add the title and my pen name for the cover. I think the end result reminds me a little of a wanted poster. I didn't have any covers in only black and white before this one and I think this one fits the short story pretty well. Here's a link to the book if you want to check it out on Amazon: Geek of Legend: The Elvish Screwdriver.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Everyone Can Be Part-Geek

I was going to go take some pictures for a new Utah photo-based travel book that I've been working on for a while. It's raining and there's a flash flood warning that just hit my iPhone, so I decided to work on other things today. Specifically, I've been putting off my work in progress, Minor Demons, for too long while I cleared my head by writing short stories under my pen name. The next chapter is pretty dark, especially the next scene, so I wanted all of the ideas for other stuff gone from my brain before I wrote it. I think I'm just about ready to move forward, but I wanted to get the final thing that's getting in the way out of my brain before I get back to Minor Demons.


So here's what I want to talk about today. I want to believe that everyone is part-geek. Let me explain specifically what I mean. I'm good with computers and networks and all sorts of other things for one main reason. I enjoy the challenge (most of the time.) I like the feeling of satisfaction when I get things working again. I recently moved from the Geek Squad to IT / PC Support at the University of Utah's Department of Pathology. It has been great for my commute and my overall quality of life. I also run into less asshole customers at my current job and I'm never expected to go into a Best Buy store to attempt to help fix their poor leadership (not all Best Buys have crappy, lazy leaders, but many do at this point.) Sorry for the tangent. I guess moving to my new job has just helped me realize that there are two types of people: people who will not let problems defeat them and people who hand their problems off to other people. Let's start with a few of the tickets I completed recently at work:

I had a ticket where the guy wrote his own batch file to open all the programs he needs when he gets in to work. It was pretty simplistic and I'm not a programmer by any means, but I thought it was pretty cool. When he upgraded to Windows 7, four of the programs no longer launched when he ran the batch file. He explained to me, in detail, exactly what he had done so far and I remotely accessed his computer to take a look at the batch file with him. With a few tweaks, I was able to get one of the four programs running again and I explained to him why that one wasn't working. At that point, he thanked me and said that he would get the other three running. He wanted to see if he could apply the same principles he had just learned from the one I fixed. I closed the ticket.

Several tickets I've received recently had NOTHING to do with hardware (which is the department I'm in.) Some of them barely had anything to do with the person's job. We received a ticket recently for an iPod that wouldn't charge in ONE of the front four USB ports. Here's the problem I have with a ticket like that:

- There are three other USB ports on the front of the computer that WILL charge it. Pick one, dumbass.
- An iPod that you brought in to work is NOT an ARUP asset. We are not required to troubleshoot anything about it.
- I fix computers for doctors and technicians that are performing tests to try to diagnose illnesses and save lives. Interrupting me with bullshit like your iPod is getting in the way of that.

My final issue with this ticket is that the person was put out when we told her that she was on her own. Seriously? Go figure it out yourself. I guess that's the difference between myself (and the person I described in the earlier story) and other people. As far as I'm concerned, a geek is anyone who will ask for advice but wants to learn and fix their own little life issues. People like the girl in the second story are assholes. That's the choice I see. Be part-geek or part-asshole.

I understand when there are times that someone needs to just hand an issue over to someone more competent than themselves. There are lots of reasons that this may be the case. If time is of essence, it's probably better to hand it off to someone who can fix it quickly. If the problem is way over your head, it's probably a good idea to have someone else fix it while you watch (and hopefully learn.) My problem is with people who run into a problem and their first thought, nearly every time, is, "who can I hand this problem off to?"

I try to be self-sufficient as much as I can. I'm not the greatest handyman, but I've fixed several small problems around my house when they've come up. I fixed my TV the last time it stopped working. I fixed my AC the last time it stopped working. When my showerhead stopped functioning like it should, I got a new one and installed it. I was able to eventually fix my dishwasher the last time it had an issue (though I still kind of wish I had called someone to fix that one.) When anything tech in my house goes down, I will resolve it myself. It doesn't matter if I've seen the problem before. There are times when I ask for advice or help. There are times when I need to call in someone who knows more than I do. Those times are RARE.

So what can you do to be part-geek? Take on life with a desire to learn and conquer your life's small challenges. If you think you can do it or fix it, even if it will strain you, take a shot. If you need to call someone in to help, learn from it. If it's a problem you don't want to deal with and you'd rather just let someone else take care of it... pay them in some way.

That last sentence deserves its own paragraph so I'm going to talk about that for a little bit. There are SO many people that I barely know that think, for one reason or another, that I owe them favors. I try to be a nice guy when I'm not annoyed or busy, but thinking that because you're in the same church as me or you vaguely know my parents that I OWE YOU ANYTHING is RIDICULOUS. I got a call that went to voice mail a while back from people that vaguely know my parents. They are assholes to my parents and to other people. They explained how they have a virus and figured I should go over and fix it for them. No offer of money, no gratitude for what they wanted me to do, not even an offer of chocolate chip cookies (which I have been known to work for in the past if people are nice enough about it. Chocolate chip cookies are almost always delicious.) They think I owe them. Let me go on record right now saying that I don't owe anyone shit right now unless I've said otherwise. I'm willing to help people I know and people I'm on good terms with, but please keep in mind that my weekends are pretty important to me.

That's about all I have to say on that subject. Join the rank of the geek and stop being a lazy asshole if you are one. One more thing I want to cover. I have considered making an e-mail list where I e-mail out one tech tip a week and possibly throw in a little history and stuff about promos on my books from time to time. It would mostly be for free weekly tech tips though. I don't really know if that would be useful or helpful to anyone, but please let me know (here, Facebook, my email, where ever) if you would value something like that. Have a great weekend.