Friday, March 30, 2012

When our machines talk to one another behind our back

What do toys do when children go to sleep? These days your childhood fears get a legitimate incarnation when your grown-up toys -- gadgets, apps, software programs -- start talking to one another behind your back. Case in point:

Facebook comment coming from out-of-office email autoreply

One woman went on vacation, leaving an email auto-responder reply to her emails. Somehow it found a way into Facebook, as a comment on a post. Clearly, the auto-responder replied to a notification from Facebook, but it's kind of headscratching what exactly it responded to. I don't see that this woman had previously commented on this post, so why did she get a notification about it? Well, maybe the author of the photo tagged her in this photo (as some clueless people do to make sure that their friends really, really look at their pictures). That would explain it. Oh, the fun our machines have when we're not around.

Monday, March 05, 2012

An internet radio by any other name sounds just as sweet

Many music streaming services have popped up over the years -- Pandora,, Spotify. I tried some of them, and didn't even bother with others, because I became convinced that the good ole' Youtube has everything I need.

Most streaming services don't have the artists I listen to, and not because the artists are super-obscure. Well, they are, but not the hipster-kind of obscure. They are unknown to most people because of the genres they perform in: medieval, folk, or world music. Pandora and (at least two years ago, when I tried them) had almost nothing in those categories. But even the most arcane taste is represented on Youtube, where some obliging souls have uploaded records from my favorite early music groups -- Ensemble Organum, the Huelgas Ensemble, Anonymous 4, you-name-it. And if you add your favorite tracks to a playlist, it will play continuously without stopping, with no interruptions, and without commercials (unlike Spotify). And it will play exactly the artists and songs you selected, not the artists that are "like" them, the way Pandora does. Pandora is no good if you want to try an artist you haven't heard before but your friends rave about. I want to hear the songs by this specific artist, not ones that are "like" him or her.

YouTube lets you create an internet radio station -- even if it doesn't call it that -- exactly according to your tastes. So unless it changes its business model (hopefully not), I won't be subscribing to new music streaming services.