How I Music

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This post originally appeared on Medium.

I think a lot about process. I pay attention to all of the steps that make up the journey from Point A to Point B and I often stress about them. When it comes to getting things done on computing devices like laptops, tablets and mobile phones I have spent perhaps too much time reflecting on how I’m doing things, how many steps are required and how many apps it’s taking me to get to a desired result. I’ve started documenting these things more because what I find is doing so helps other people who are struggling with the same problem, but maybe don’t know how to optimize what they’re doing.

I recently got into a discussion with Sean and Tara about managing music. Honestly, I spend less and less time managing it. Over the course of a few years, I’ve gone from managing terabytes of digital music to streaming pretty much everything. The only exceptions have been live shows, needle drops and the occassional album pre-release which I still manage in a folder structure in the cloud. I’ve moved any music files I care about to the cloud, both for playing and as a backup. Since Sean and Tara asked me about how I do it, I figured maybe there are a few other people that would be interested in reading through my somewhat convoluted setup and workflow.

Tools

It’s been a long time since I’ve ripped a CD and frankly, even though I hate iTunes, it’s probably the easiest and fastest way to rip CDs if that’s what you’re looking to do. I haven’t connected a drive to my MacBook Pro for years at this point, but maybe you still have some CDs laying around. Storage costs are so low there’s little reason to not use a lossless codec and if you’re using iTunes, I recommend encoding using Apple Lossless (ALAC). It’s worth noting that while the codec was developed by Apple and was initially proprietary, the codec is open source, royalty-free and widely supported by devices I use every day. Depending on who you talk to FLAC might be more widely recognized as the go-to lossless audio format, but it is not as widely supported by devices and it’s for that reason that I convert FLAC files to ALAC.

I use XLC (don’t let the “retro” website throw you) for file conversion. There are some other tools out there, but I’ve been using XLC for so long, it’s just what I’m comfortable with. It can rip, convert and decode which means you probably won’t need anything more. If you like it, donate to the developer so he keeps developing it.

Organizing

Most of the digital music files I download are meticulously tagged already. If they aren’t, I probably just kind of live with it simply being organized into a simple artist / album folder structure. Before I got wise to lossless, like most people I was working with MP3s and used a utility called ID3 Editor. If I were going to endeavor on a quest to manually clean up the metadata on my digital music collection, I might use something like MusicBrainz Picard or Metadatics, which people seem to like and looks to be in active development. There’s also TuneUp, which people seem to have nice things to say about. I’ve never tried it so YMMV.

Playing

Everything gets played through Sonos speakers in the house. Full disclosure: I work for Sonos, but I’d still have their products in my house regardless. Aside from using various streaming services like Beats Music (RIP soon), Spotify, Tidal and Google Play, I interface with all those services via the Sonos app at home. This allows me to search and play my own digital music collection, which increasingly lives in Google Play, along side everything I stream, which isn’t easily achievable using any other method. When I say easy, I mean easy enough for my mom to use. When I’m in the car, on a plane or on the go I just use the apps on my iPhone.

Sometimes I just want to hunker down with my laptop and some headphones at my desk or on the sofa and plow through stuff. In that case, I’ll use a combination of the Spotify desktop app for streaming and Vox for my own collection in full lossless fidelity. Vox is beautifully simple and generally speaking all I want to do is play music. I have only ever used their desktop app, though they do have a mobile app and a cloud service. I can’t imagine uploading my digital music anywhere else except Google, Apple or Amazon. I’ll talk more about that in a minute though.

Aside from the complete lack of cultural sensitivity when it came to naming their app, Tomahawk is a pretty awesome piece of software. I might even go so far as to say it’s the single best music app out there. I just wish they would pick another name. The product lead of the open source project, J is a super-talented guy who I like a lot. Having spent a good part of my career in music tech, I can say there are few devs like him that have been thinking about solving the problems he’s trying to solve with Tomahawk. I like supporting friends and have given the app a try over the time it has been in development, but for my own purposes it was overkill. I do use it from time to time, but I find the simplicity of Vox satisfies my needs most of the time.

I’ve been uploading my entire digital music collection to Dropbox for archiving and to Google Play to stream everything. The only significant to me drawback (for me) is that my lossless files are converted to 320 MP3s. The only time I care a lot is when I want to listen to my needle drops at full fidelity, otherwise the convenience wins out. I would think for most people, this isn’t going to be much of an issue. I have looked around at other solutions, but for the money and piece of mind that the company isn’t likley to go anywhere anytime soon, it’s tough to beat Google.

A Little Bit of Automation

Getting my music to Dropbox and Google Play is all handled automatically. I use a handy and amazing utility on my Mac called Hazel, which does a lot more than just help me with uploading music to my Dropbox. Another article perhaps. Hazel monitors a folder on my harddrive for music files and when it sees them, it moves those files to a specific Dropbox folder. The Google Play app also monitors folders that I define and uploads the music in the background, which is then accessible via Google Play on my Sonos.

Let me know if you have questions and by all means share how you manage your music. Also, If you enjoyed reading this and found it at all useful, please click on the little heart to recommend it to others and/or share it with people on your social network of choice.

Chapters often have page after page of paragraphs. It just seems such an awful lot of words to concentrate on, on their own, without something else happening. And once you’ve finished one chapter, you have to get through the another one. And usually a whole bunch more, before you can say finished, and get to the next. The next book. The next thing. The next possibility. Next next next.

There is more than one kind of thought. There are thoughts you cannot complete within a month, or a fiscal quarter, just as there are thoughts that can occupy less than a vacation period, a weekend, or a smoke break. Like the spectrum of photonic behavior, thoughts come in a nearly infinite range of lengths and frequencies, and always move at the exact pace of human life, wherever they are in the universe. Some thoughts are long, they can take years to think, or a lifetime. Some thoughts take many lifetimes, and we hand them off to the next generation like the batons in a relay race. Some of these are the best of thoughts, even if they can be the least productive. Lifetimes along, they shift the whole world, like a secret lever built and placed by the loving imaginations of thousands of unproductive stargazers.

Don’t write email that people can respond to.

If you ask questions in an email, people will respond. If you don’t answer their questions, they’ll ask again. If you write charming email, they will want more. Don’t do those things. Write an email that is impossible to respond to. Answer every question. Tie up every loose end. Write a complete and completely un-respondable email.

My Photo Management Workflow, Early 2014 – MacStories

My Photo Management Workflow, Early 2014 – MacStories

How To Make Pinboard, Instapaper and Evernote Work For You

I try not to use free software if I can help it. Paying for software says, ‘I like what you’re doing. I would like to support you. Please keep making things’. There’s a small set of applications that I use daily and an even smaller set that I simply could not do without. One of those applications is Pinboard. Just go spend the $10.21 for an account. You’ll thank me later. Pinboard is made by Maciej Cegłowski. I like Maciej (pronounced Mahtch-ay) even more since I saw him speak at XOXO recently. He posted a text version of his talk, which is worth reading.

My good friend Greg emailed me over the weekend about my Pinboard workflow, particularly how I use it in combination with Instapaper and Evernote. It seemed like something a few other people might benefit from, so I figured I would write something up. This assumes you have an account and some familiarity with each app. The other app that you’ll need is IFTTT.

After years of using Pinboard, I got completely schooled by Shawn Blanc, who turned me on to Joel Carranza’s “Particular Pinboard, which I now use instead of the standard bookmarklet across all of my browsers. I bookmark a lot stuff, and it’s often stuff I don’t care about right this minute, but might care about later. Since I want to be able to find things, I tag absolutely everything. Pinboard has a setting allowing you to auto-imports articles added to Instapaper, which is fine if that’s all you want to do. The biggest drawback of this is that those articles won’t be tagged, which maybe you don’t care about, but you should.

I use Instapaper as I imagine most people do – reading things later, the vast majority of which are articles. I don’t really read or watch the news, though I do listen to it on NPR. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but news is bad for you. I use the bookmarklet Instapaper provides across all browsers. Instapaper has the ability to save favorited posts to Pinboard and Evernote, which I have turned on. You should auth Pinboard with Instapaper as well, which allows you to easily save articles from the Instapaper app (or web interface) to Pinboard with tags. It might seem redundant, but if I like something, it will already be saved in Pinboard, only without tags. If I manually share the liked articles to Pinboard via the iOS app, then I can add tags. Remember, tags allow you to easily find stuff later.

You’ve got Pinboard and Instapaper playing nice, which is easy and awesome, but why stop there? To make it awesomer, I add Evernote to the mix. Lots of people use Evernote for notes. I have tried, but I just hate it. I find its interface to be bloated and distracting and it doesn’t support Markdown, which is how I write when I take notes. I basically use Evernote as a corpus for digital stuff in my life. The biggest reason is search and OCR for PDFs. I happily pay for Evernote Premium. Every single thing I post online is saved in Evernote with the help of IFTTT. As a result, I have the piece of mind that no matter what happens to Tumblr, Foursqaure, Twitter, etc. everything is easily read by the NSA and backed up on my hard drive and on Evernote’s servers in the Internet heavens.

The final ingredient in my workflow is IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That and it’s easily one of my very favorite things on the Internet. I wish they would take my money so I didn’t have to lose sleep thinking about when they’re going to go away. If you’re not familiar with IFTTT, the basic premise is you can connect all kinds of unrelated and seemingly incompatible services and devices to do things for you, which they call recipes. The recipes that I use to have everything flow into Evernote are:

Instapaper Liked -> Evernote – I bookmark a lot of garbage and it’s not all stuff I care about finding later. This recipe simply saves only the articles I like in Instapaper.

Save Pinboard Links to Evernote – Does what it says and lets you have everything go to a notebook of your choosing.

I highly recommend poking around IFTTT recipes for other things that help make your life easier. What’s so wonderful about it is that you set it and forget it. As much as I love to tinker, I also like it when things just work and IFTTT is a highly functional secret weapon.

Any questions?