We’ve added a new widget to the homepage: Featured Collectors Recommend. Our first featured collector is David Maxon of, a terrific web site for anyone interested in audio/radio program that goes beyond just the news. David is constantly adding to his collection of recommended programs, but you should also go to There’s a lot more there than the programs he recommends on our site.

MP3 vs. Vinyl

Interesting article by Devin Coldewey on CrunchGear about John Meyer’s work comparing the “fidelity potential” of various audio recording formats from wax cylinders to MP3, reel-to-reel tape, wav/aiff, DVD, DTS, etc. Here’s the complete table. I agree with Devin, “His methods are scientific in a way, but also questionable.” Consider in particular that the audio mastering process (when properly done) targets a particular release format and environment, and that can make more difference than almost anything else. Regardless, it’s a fun comparison.

Google IMAP4 is Broken

At least it’s not just me. Google’s IMAP4 service for corporate mail accounts (and probably not regular Gmail) has been intermittent at best for about a week. I can use email with the web interface, but not via IMAP4 from my desktop client or my iPhone. POP3 service does not appear to be affected. Being discussed (without no resolution) on the Gmail Help Forum.

The Snow Leopard Chronicles

I’m hardly the first or only person to encounter problems with Snow Leopard, but maybe if I tell my story it will save one or two people some grief.

As far as I can tell, most people who upgrade should have no trouble with Snow Leopard. Allow an hour to make the change and enjoy. Personally, I’d wait a few weeks so that Apple has time to publish at least one round of patches/updates, particularly because I didn’t really see any advantage after the update. Maybe it boots and shuts down a bit more quickly, but that’s about it.

After the Snow Leopard upgrade there were all sorts of pop-up acknowledgment windows. You know the kind: you don’t really read them, you just click OK. But once I did, I couldn’t start any applications. No Firefox, no Mail, nada. I had to reboot. TIme after time. It turned out one of the popups should have given me a hint of a known problem with kcSync. I finally Googled it and found the fix. I depend on 1Password, a great utility for managing passwords and keeping them synchronized across multiple devices. I knew in advance I’d have to upgrade to a beta version, but it wasn’t that simple. The kcSync problem (a MobileMe issue) was the villain.

But my big problem was that I use my honkin’ Mac Pro (11GB RAM, 2.5TB disk + 3TB Drobo) as a serious development machine. After the install I found I couldn’t run Apache, MySQL or PHP. Ugh. Because the versions of Apache and PHP previously supplied by Apple weren’t particularly recent, I had installed and configured custom versions of all the standard LAMP utilities. Installing Snow Leopard caused them to stop working.

Ten hours later, I’ve finally got a reliable development machine again. I’m also glad of one thing: Because Apple now ships fairly new versions of Apache (2.2.11) and PHP (5.3.0) I’ve moved all my code and dev sites to run in that more-or-less standard environment. No longer do I have two or  three versions of Apache and PHP running on my system. I still forget where things are, but at least they’re only in one place. I also installed a sweet 64-bit version (5.1.38) of MySQL, which seems much faster than the previous 32-bit revs.

A special thanks to Super Sysadmin Tim and folks on Twitter (@walterchisenski, @mrblog, @jrnoded) for helping me find things along the way. May your own upgrade be smoother.

Mobile Apps Are the New Content

Last week I posted on Twitter, “Mobile apps are the new content,” and I was surprised at the number of responses, many of which strongly disagreed. Anne Thomas Manes commented, “I disagree: Still need a model to support content delivery to mobile devices. i.e., apps and content are different things. We have good models for delivering apps, but not content, e.g. delivering e-books.”

So let me explain my post without the limitation of 140 characters.

When mobile devices began including decent browsers, publishers repackaged their content as small-format web pages. But now that the iPhone, Android-based devices and others allow users to download and install apps, publishers are instead wrapping their content inside dedicated applications. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal were among the first to do so. Now even local newspapers, NPR and other print, television, radio and podcasting outlets are doing the same. Why bother? Why not just settle for browser-based views?

First it’s a matter of controlling the user experience. Particularly for streamed and downloaded audio and video, you can do a far better job using a device’s application framework than within a browser window. But even more important to publishers is the opportunity for persistence. When you retrieve content with a browser, you have the option of setting a bookmark for the publisher’s web site.  But if the publisher can convince you to download a dedicated app to your mobile device, it’s there (complete with icon) until you delete it. In the iTunes store many of these content-wrapping apps are “Free!” Well, so are those publisher’s web pages, but that just doesn’t sound as good as getting a free application, does it?

Back in the 1970s, we paid thousands of dollars for applications on minicomputers. In the ’80s, with the advent of PCs, most apps (word processors and spreadsheets, for example) cost a few hundred dollars. When the Internet arrived in the 1990’s, we bought applications for US$29.95. The trend is obvious: roughly an order of magnitude decrease per decade. Now in the 2000’s we’ve followed that trend down to the US$1.00 level. Of course this goes hand-in-hand with the increased volume of application purchases and the decreased costs of software development and distribution, so the economics continue to make sense. (One developer can write and publish a simple app on his own. That wasn’t the case in the days of complex programs delivered on floppies or CDs. Consider that will build an iPhone app for your band for only $195.)

My comment that “Mobile apps are the new content” also refers to the impulse-buy nature of mobile apps. What was the first impulse-buy content for mobile devices? Ring tones. Next, as Apple rewrote the rules of music distribution, came full-length songs for US$0.99. We’ve learned to purchase music online as whimsically as we buy magazines or chewing gum at the supermarket checkout counter. But think about applications. They used to be only for our desktop and laptop computers. And we certainly didn’t download and install apps as casually as we now buy music. But mobile apps are different. We now download them on a whim, particularly the free ones. And have you ever bought a 99-cent app just to check it out and maybe never used it again? That’s a buying pattern that used to be associated with content (print magazines, for example), but never with applications.

It’s the combination of publishers regularly wrapping media into applications and our acceptance of apps as impulse-buy items that makes me say that mobile apps are the new content.