Recent Posts in technology

November 16, 2015


We just wrote about Beats Music shutting down and now here's more streaming music news: Pandora has acquired "key assets" from Rdio, including technology and intellectual property. Rdio, as the Verge reports, has filed for bankruptcy. In a press release:

The purchase price is $75 million in cash, subject to certain purchase price adjustments.

"We are defining the next chapter of Pandora's growth story," continued McAndrews. "Adding live music experiences through Ticketfly was a transformative step. Adding Rdio's impressive technology and talented people will fast-track new dimensions and enhancements to our service. I couldn't be more optimistic about Pandora's future and the future of music."

"The Rdio team built an acclaimed product and technology platform that has consistently led innovation in the young streaming industry. I'm pleased that many members of the Rdio team will continue to shape the future of streaming music, applying our tradition of great design and innovative engineering on an even larger stage with Pandora," said Anthony Bay, chief executive officer of Rdio.

The transaction is contingent upon Rdio seeking protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. Upon approval of the proposed transaction by the bankruptcy court, Rdio will be winding down the Rdio-branded service in all markets. Pandora is not acquiring the operating business of Rdio, and is acquiring the technology and talent to accelerate its own business strategy. The transaction is subject to the approval of the Bankruptcy Court, which will supervise an auction for the assets of Rdio, as well as other customary closing conditions.

As referenced in the PR, Pandora also bought Ticketfly not too long ago.

September 16, 2015

I wonder what Zune tattoo guy thinks about this...

Zune tattoo

Did you realize Zune was still a thing?

Microsoft has announced it will retire the last of its Zune services on 15 November.

The company's Zune players and digital music service were launched in 2006 to rival Apple's iPod and iTunes.

But they never made a considerable impact and Zune hardware was discontinued in 2011.

The devices still have a small cult following who subscribe to the remaining Zune streaming music service.

On Wednesday, Microsoft said that service would be switched off on 15 November, with remaining users being migrated to its new Groove service.

Any remaining Zune players will still work as an MP3 player, but will no longer be able to stream online music. [BBC]

PREVIOSULY: Queens of the Stone Age played Zune launch party at The Box (pics)

September 9, 2015

Motorhead Vibrators

While Lemmy is convalescing and the band is off the road, this may be a good time to point out that Motörhead now have a line of vibrators. As Dangerous Minds notes, given they have a song titled "Vibrator" on their debut album, this seems long overdue. There are four models, including bullet and full sized versions branded with either their Ace of Spades or Overkill LPs. Lovehoney, the company that released them earlier this summer, have this to say:

We designed these classic vibes for both fans of Motörhead and rock lovers, as well as those who just want a cool looking toy to add to their collection. The range captures the rock and roll lifestyle of the band perfectly, and offers a unique counterpoint to the traditionally pink and purple toys that currently dominate the market
To quote "Vibrator's" lyrics, may this Motörhead Official Pleasure Collection "never ever break your heart."

September 2, 2015

new Technics turntable prototype

Panasonic eliminated the Technics brand in 2010, as part of the electronic manufacturer's campaign to unify brands, and with it their line of turntables. In particular, the Technics 1200 which remains the DJ standard to this day. Ever since, fans have been begging the company to bring back the deck, and they may get their wish. At Panasonic's press conference at Berlin's big tech show IFA, Wired reported, the company announced Technics is returning as is their turntable series.

The showed off a prototype model, made of very shiny alumninum and built with a new direct-drive motor. As you can see above, it doesn't appear to have any buttons...or a tonearm (shades of '80s Bang & Olufsen) and is, apparently, part of a new high-end line:

"Turntables are a very iconic product for the Technics brand," Michiko Ogawa, director of Technics and executive officer at Panasonic, tells WIRED. "It is important to show our sincere dedication [to that]. The turntable market is very small but it is a very important brand product."

Technics was once a genuinely important name in analogue audio systems, but years of decline saw it phased out entirely in the early 2000s. Panasonic relaunched the brand in 2014 at IFA with a pair of high-end audio systems, with the (admittedly somewhat vague) promise of helping its customers "re-experience music".

Hopefully there will be a new version of the 1200 as well. Until then, there's always Ebay.

July 2, 2015


One of life's little pleasures may soon be a thing of the past. Sealed Air Corp, the New Jersey company who invented Bubble Wrap and have been making it since 1960, just unveiled the new version of their product...that doesn't pop. As the Wall St. Journal reports, the product, called iBubble Wrap, comes flat and is inflated by the shipper with a custom-made pump. Somewhat like what Amazon currently uses, it inflates in columns, not poppable clusters.

Sealed Air Corp says they'll continue to make the old kind, but it currently not very pop-ular, only making up 03% of the company's sales.

If you've ever wondered how Bubble Wrap is made, you can watch a video (and a video of DZ's single of the same name), below...

Continue reading "Bubble Wrap makers releasing boring new upoppable product"

July 1, 2015

Will Socolov at Brooklyn Vinyl Works
Brooklyn Vinyl Works

Brooklyn Vinyl Works is a new record pressing plant that's run by Will Socolov, who founded Sleeping Bag Records with Arthur Russell and, more recently, ran pressing plant EKS Manufacturing. They've got a building but launched a Kickstarter to raise funds to refurbish record presses for the plant. Says Socolov:

When a part breaks on a record press, you can't run down to the Vinyl Machinery Superstore. Instead, you need the skill and knowledge to fabricate it yourself. The folks at Brooklyn Vinyl Works have years and years of expertise in the art of making records and are adept in the art of repairing and maintaining these old machines.

All funds raised from our campaign will first go towards obtaining and upgrading a number of our factory's most vital components: a new boiler, a shrinkwrap machine, grinders and hydraulics equipment. After that infrastructure is complete, additional funds raised will go towards purchasing more presses. These presses are expensive and difficult to find, but with your support, we can obtain and restore them to their original glory.

Their Kickstarter is a little over a quarter of the way towards its $100,000 goal with 11 days to go. There are a wide variety of contributor rewards, including totes and t-shirts, special color runs of DIIV, Mac DeMarco and Widowspeak records, tours of the facility, and having things pressed on vinyl. With demand for vinyl at a 20-year high, there is certainly need for new pressing plants. We wish them the best of luck.

by Bill Pearis

Apple Music launch

Apple Music, the new streaming-radio-social-etc platform from the iTunes/iPod/iPad/Macbook folks, launched Tuesday (6/30) on IOS devices, and today (7/1) it was included with the brand new version of iTunes. It seems to want to take on Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Sirius/XM and everything else in one fell swoop. It features personalized "radio stations" based on an artist you like, or your music library, and they offer curated playlists from artists (like St. Vincent) and influencers (like Pitchfork) -- though finding them on Apple Music is not so easy, currently. You can listen to Thom Yorke's solo records on Apple Music (it's not on Spotify) and AC/DC who just agreed to put their music on various streaming platforms yesterday. Dr. Dre's The Chronic is exclusively streaming on Apple Music too. You can check out Apple Music with their three-month free trial.

More interesting, to me at least, is Beats 1 Radio, a live radio station (well, at least 12 hours a day currently) broadcasting from NYC, LA and London and featuring shows by Zane Lowe (who left BBC 1 for Apple), Hot 97 personality Ebro Darden and Rinse FM's Julie Adenuga. There are also shows hosted by St. Vincent and QOTSA's Josh Homme. It feels very freeform -- at one point today Zane Lowe followed a cut from noisy UK indie band Spring King with A$AP Rocky's "Everyday" -- but very pro radio sounding (sound effects, talking all over the songs) at the same time. The station is spearheaded by Trent Reznor (who worked for Beats before Apple acquired it) and he talked to Rolling Stone about his involvement:

I think having access to all the music in the world is great, but it then starts to place a burden on what the experience is like navigating through, now that you have access to everything," Reznor explains. "I think that naturally places the burden on having an experience be great. I want that feeling of walking into an independent record shop, if there are still any that exist, like Amoeba [Records], and being delighted by the choices and the way music is presented to you with love and care. It's exciting. And you leave with stuff you wouldn't have dreamed you wanted and you're excited to listen and share it and experience it.
Beats 1 can be listened to without subscribing to Apple Music, by the way, and you can make requests.

As for the social aspects of Apple Music, there is a "Connect" feature that allows musicians to upload songs, videos and photos that aren't already within Apple Music's system. For example, when I clicked on "connect," I was shown that Sonic Youth have offered up a live version of "Shaking Hell" (cool) and that Belle & Sebastian had uploaded a photo (shrug).

Is any of this enough for you to try it out or cancel your Spotify account? Apple Music doesn't work on Sonos systems yet but the wireless speaker manufacturers are promising compatibility by the end of the year.

June 22, 2015

Apple Music

Apple Music, the computer giant's new streaming service, is set to launch on June 30, beginning with a three-month free trail. That savings was originally being passed on to the artists/labels who would not get paid royalties for that 90-day period. This had folks up in arms -- from the Beggars Group to the Brian Jonestown Massacre's Anton Newcombe -- but when Taylor Swift announced over the weekend that she wouldn't be putting 1989 on Apple music, saying she found it to be "shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company" Apple finally changed their tune. Apple exec Eddy Cue tweeted late last night that "#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer's free trial period...We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple."

Some are arguing that Taylor Swift's letter and Apple Music's turnaround are all part of a well-timed PR campaign.

February 9, 2015


Joseph Grado, founder of Brooklyn's high fidelity Grado Labs, died on Saturday at age 90. Grado, who was a master watchmaker, started the company in 1953 in the space that once housed the family fruit store in Sunset Park. Grado Labs began by making phono cartridges, and when Joseph's nephew John took over the company in 1990 the focus shifted to their great headphones. (They still make cartridges, though.) The Grado family offered up these words on their website:

The Grado family holds Uncle Joe in the highest regard, and without him, not only would we still be working in a fruit store, but we would have never started making headphones.
Joseph Grado, you made music sound better. Rest in peace.

Watch a video tour of Grado's Brooklyn labs, plus a 2003 Girlmore Girls clip where Dave Rygalski (Adam Brody) talks Grados, below...

Continue reading "Brooklyn headphone-maker Joseph Grado (Grado Labs), RIP"

January 8, 2015

by Bill Pearis

leisure suit larry
Omar Sharif

The Internet Archive already had the potential for being a time suck black hole, saving copies of websites long gone, not to mention its giant library of books, magazines, movies, music and more. They've also got an Arcade which already includes thousands of old arcade, Atari 2600 and other home systems, PC games and loads more, all of which are playable either using an emulator or through your browser (which doesn't always work so well, be warned).

But for those who remember 5" floppy discs, the Archive Arcade's gravitational pull on your productivity has just gotten stronger as they've added a couple thousand MS-DOS computer games from the '80s and early '90s that were originally for Commodore 64, Apple II and other systems. That includes such favorites as the original Castle Wolfenstein, Leisure Suit Larry (which inspired Todd Terje), Oregon Trail, Lode Runner, Bruce Lee, Maniac Mansion, as well as many you probably didn't know existed, like Alf: The First Adventure and, um, 1991's Omar Sharif on Bridge where the Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago star teaches you the classic card game (and unfortunately not about the actor being on a bridge catching bungee jumpers) .

Have fun, and appologies to your boss.