How I Music


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.


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.


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.


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.

My Photo Management Workflow, Early 2014 – MacStories

My Photo Management Workflow, Early 2014 – MacStories


What I use for phone photography.

I’ve dug pretty deep into iPhone photography the last couple months after being an Android photographer for quite awhile (and featured in Gizmodo). Here’s what I’m using these days to create, edit, and share photos on the iPhone.

Taking Pictures

Camera. I use the native camera app and focus on composition first, editing second. I have started testing Top Camera and Average Camera Pro for long shutter speed and multiple exposure, but for the moment, still use the native camera app for the vast majority of the pictures I take.

Average Camera Pro. Testing. Takes multiple images over a period of time (both variable can be set manually) to be used for multiple exposures, noise reduction, slow shutter effect, and more. Ben Lowy takes some of the best photos with Average Camera Pro (see more on Instagram under #avgcampro). (download Average Camera Pro)

Camera+. I don’t use it too much, but it’s a great combination camera + editing app deservedly loved by tons of people. (web / download Camera+)


VSCO. Simple and beautiful. Works as a camera and an editing app, although I use it strictly for editing. The filters are modeled after classic film types (“digital film emulation”), fitting with VSCO’s popular filters for Lightroom, Adobe Capture RAW and Aperture. Find VSCO pictures on Instagram under #vsco. (web / download VSCO CAM)

Afterglow. New, launched in Nov 2012. Simple to use, has a wide range of editing and filter options (including many “guest” filters from photographers popular on Instagram). I find the horizon adjustment to particularly slick and powerful, as I often take pictures with the horizon slightly off. Find Afterglow images on Instagram at #afterglow. My current editing fave. (web / download Afterglow Photo Editor)

Filterstorm. Closest thing to Photoshop on the iPhone (and better than the Photoshop Express App). Great for multi-layer editing, dodging and burning, cloning, etc. Essentially, use it to cut out unwanted parts of an image: a bird in the sky, a spot, etc. Also available for the iPad. (web / download Filterstorm )

Tilt Shift Generator. Adds Tilt Shift effects. The free version is fully featured, but will only save low-res images. (download TiltShift Generator – Fake Miniature)

Over. Text over photos. Easy, powerful, beautiful. (web / download Over)


Instagram. Obviously. Note that amidst the misplaced debate about Instagram, I think of it as a publishing platform first and foremost. (me / download Instagram)

Tumblr. My blogging engine of choice at the moment, it’s also an incredibly easy, beautiful, and clean way to share photos that taps into a great community. (me / download Tumblr)

Photoset. So easy to use. Made by Tumblr, although it doesn’t require you to use Tumblr. Allows you to easily create multi-photo photosets to share by web, email, or Tumblr. No account required, and a joy to use. (web / download Photoset)

Flickr. I could wax on for hours about how I wish Flickr had led the innovation in web and mobile photography. Alas, they haven’t. But I still use it to store high-res images, and it’s still powerful for me, even though the community has moved on. (me / download Flickr)

EyeEm. Testing. (me / download EyeEm – Photo Filter Camera)

Vimeo. Videos, of course. (me / download Vimeo)


Instatags. Easy, powerful way to add hashtags to photos. Helps you figure out which tags are popular and trending in your area, at that moment. (web / download Instatag – Hashtags for Instagram)

Cinemagram. The best shot at “Instagram for Video”. I use it very lightly, but like the idea and it’s a fun toy. (download Cinemagram)

Not pictured

Photojojo Fisheye, Telephoto, Wide-Angle lenses. Great for adding a new perspective to the standard iPhone lens, they attach easily to most cell phone cameras (they worked for my HTC Android and my iPhone), and help you take great pictures. (buy at Photojojo)

Snapseed. Loved by many, I can’t get the handle on the editing workflow. The first update post-acquisition by Google that integrates Google+ into Snapseed is an interesting feature… if you use Google+. (download Snapseed)

Great list from Taylor. I know a few people that swear by Snapseed as well and I just can’t get a handle on it. Gonna have to try a few of these that I didn’t know about. Always love seeing how people use their iPhone. 

Instapaper + Pinboard = Organizational Bliss (almost)

There are two apps that I use more than any other outside of Gmail and those are Instapaper and Pinboard. Chances are, you’re familiar with Instapaper. If not, get familiar ASAP. It will undoubtedly change the way you read articles that you come across online. And if you have a Kindle, you can set up Instapaper to send you digests every week, which rocks. Pinboard is my preferred bookmarking service. I used Delicious for several years, but I didn’t like the direction the product was headed and started noticing an increased amount of spam, so I jumped over to Pinboard. The service was founded by two nerds from Delicious (one of whom was a co-founder with Joshua) and describes itself as “a bookmarking website for introverted people in a hurry.” Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an extrovert with introvert tendencies. You can check out and subscribe to my Pinboard bookmarks if you’re interested. Enough about all that. Here’s the feature request I’d like to see:

From the Pinboard team
Throughout the day I am saving things in both Instapaper and Pinboard and I want them to be more tightly integrated. In Pinboard I have the option to suck in my Instapaper feed, but don’t have the option to send articles the other way. Instead of having to first bookmark an article on Pinboard and then click the Instapaper ‘Read Later’ bookmarklet, I’d like to do both at the same time and I have to imagine others would to. I picture this feature just being an additional checkbox for Instapaper in the Pinboard bookmarklet pop-up. They could probably even integrate it into the ‘read later’ checkbox on the back-end. 

*Bonus points if you can make it easy to install a Pinboard bookmarklet on the iPhone, similar to how Instapaper does it.

From Marco at Instapaper
This is probably a little more complicated than the feature I’d like to see from Pinboard. When I add something to Instapaper it’s because I haven’t read it yet or at the very least I haven’t read it completely and would like to later. Once I read it, and assuming I want to bookmark it in Pinboard, I would have to open the original article and then click on my Pinboard bookmarklet, tag it and save it. It would be awesome if while reading the article, I could simply ‘add to pinboard’, be able to tag quickly and save. In particular having this on the iOS apps would be incredibly useful.