As I did with the Sansa Connect review, I’m going to give you guys a mind-mapped version of the ideas I took note of for Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription service. I tried to keep it focused on the subscription service itself, but some elements of integration with the Sansa Connect cropped up. I’ll try to come back to this review and flesh it out in actual paragraphs and stuff, but for now, here’s the mind dump:
- Hard to just browse store catalog on PC
- Genre layout not intuitive
- Had to drill down too many levels in genres
- Example: alternative was a sub-genre under the “main” genre of rock
- Didn’t look as “professional” as other online services
- Yahoo Jukebox client is awful
- Crashed a lot
- Store front looked blah
- Slow syncing to device
- This is mainly due to Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) v. USB Mass Storage (UMS)
- Timed transferring a playlist of podcasts to the Sansa Connect and to the iPod, and the Connect took at least 2x as long, using Yahoo Jukebox, Windows Media Player, and Mediamonkey (all sw that handle MTP devices).
- Stream v. subscription tracks
- If auto-syncing tracks to device, software should have the sense to skip over tracks deemed “streaming only”!
- If software won’t handle it automatically, should offer configuration option to filter out streaming only tracks from being added to local music library so that they don’t “muck up” the library for your portable device.
- If there is an issue with licensing for certain tracks, software should take care of fixing the problem, transparent to the user.
- Had issue where a long list of tracks had licensing issue. Was told in an error dialog to right-click on each track to retry license (or whatever). Like I’m going to do that for a list of 20 tracks!
- Licensing errors made automatically syncing the whole “My Music” library to the Sansa Connect painful. The software kept choking on certain tracks, either due to perceived dupes, or perceived licensing issues. Eventually because of all of the app crashes, my PC didn’t even recognize the Connect when it was plugged into a USB port. Had to clear out all downloaded tracks on PC and device, and uninstall and reinstall Jukebox software. Then start over with no automatic syncing to portable to get things working again.
- No integrated podcatching functionality
- Probably not that important to most users, but since I listen to podcast more than I listen to music (at the moment), this is an important feature for me to have. So far no other mp3 player I’ve tried beats iPod + iTunes in this respect.
- Link to LAUNCHCast radio stations is good
- Zing Menu
- Great to be able to get “like this song” mixes when listening to radio stations or music locally on device
- Allows user to easily download the song or album currently playing
- Songs download in background and didn’t seem to affect streaming or playback much at all
- Can get recommendations from friends, or recommend songs to others
- Yahoo Messenger
- Nearby Sansa Connects
- Subscription allows user to download related tracks, if available
- Problems with dupes
- Example: U2 18 best singles album had same tracks as a different U2 album, and as a result it seems that the “overlapping” tracks were interpreted as dupes (WHY?).
- Had issue where error dialog popped up asking if I wanted to replace a certain track with the same version; software kept hanging because I chose no. When I finally chose yes, it was able to complete the library update. Error handling was pretty poor.
- Unknown genres for some tracks?
- I noticed that a bunch of the downloaded subscription tracks had unknown genres in the ID3 tags. VERY sloppy.
- Generally like the idea of music subscription
- Fickle music tastes means I get tired of listening to certain stuff pretty quickly
- Allows me to explore other artists without “risking” buying an album I don’t like
- Easy to download “one-hit wonders” or nostalgic tracks without worrying that may have already bought the album (but can’t easily find it around the house) and am wasting money
- Make “transient” mixes for parties or entertaining
- Listen to “guilty pleasure” songs/artists to get it out of my system.
- Not sure how filled out YMU library is compared to competing services
- Subscription limitations
- Song previews were inconsistent
- Some songs didn’t have any previews!
- This is totally ridiculous, especially when the same album(s) on different retailers like iTunes or Amazon had 30-sec previews. This just forces/encourages people to go elsewhere to preview the songs, which could lead to them buying the tracks/album wherever they could preview the music (example: soundtrack to Stranger than Fiction)
- Some songs only had 30-sec previews
- Some songs could be played fully
- Some songs/albums were marked as streaming only
- Some songs/albums weren’t available at all for streaming or subscription, only purchase
- Inconsistency makes the overall experience frustrating, especially when there isn’t an apparent reason for why certain albums are unavailable for subscription access. Subscription access should apply to ALL of the tracks available in YMU.
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I downloaded a trial version of MindManager and put together a simple mind map. Dang it, it's actually really nice! Besides having a polished look overall, the killer feature for me is the inking capability, of course. Although, I don't like the topic size limitation (is there a way around it?) when using ink, too limiting.
I actually started out using FreeMind for the sample mind map I was creating. FreeMind was simple and intuitive enough to create the nodes and move them around, but I didn't like the stark look of the map. I especially didn't like the lack of Tablet Input Panel support (not surprising, since it is an open-source app); I had to open the TIP in the docked mode at the bottom of the screen to be able to use it in slate mode. Since I was trying to create a mind map with a sort of checklist format, I also was annoyed that FreeMind didn't at least have a checkbox icon that I could tack on to some child nodes.
So I abandoned using FreeMind and switched to the MM trial. At first I wasn't aware that you could actually ink out topics and subtopics, so I was entereing text with the floating TIP and having the ink converted into text. But then at some point I realized I could handwrite everything, so I started doing so. I also rewrote the nodes I had initially "typed" out. Then I added little checkboxes to each item so I could either print out the mind map and physically check them off with a pen as I pack, or leave the map on my TPC and mark each item that way.
I can see how using these mind maps to organize all sorts of things can be really powerful. And I definitely prefer MindManager over FreeMind (granted, I only used each program for a pretty short while; the inking capability in MM is key, though). But I can't really justify buying MindManager at this time. Just too darn expensive for a program I'd use lightly. But hey, if I really get into mind mapping, I might just have to save up for MM Basic… In the meantime, MindJet, can you make a budget version of MindManager (MindManager Lite?) that has a few less features than MindManager Basic for occasional users like me?
When I drew up the mind map for my ideas about a Digital Moleskine, I thought it was an interesting way to organize my thoughts. Of course, I had learned about mind mapping as a tool for brainstorming in school, but I didn't really take to it outside of schoolwork. But after hearing a bunch of Tablet PC users evangelize the power of mind mapping and MindManager specifically (see On the Run with Tablet PCs, show #22 for a good discussion of using mind maps, as well as a lot of good talk about music), I decided to check out MindJet's site to see how much a license was. Wow, did I experience sticker shock! MindManager Basic is $229, and the pro version is $349! Yikes…
So I started searching for freeware versions of mind-mapping software. This led me to an open-source application called FreeMind. I have yet to actually install and use the software. I'm in the middle of reading a user review on a blog to see how this person liked it. FreeMind's site is in Wiki format, and there were lots of screenshots and some demo mind maps. Impressive, so far. I will try out the software soon (maybe this weekend) and report back with my initial impressions.
I imagine that this free application will not be "inkable" (I'll be super-impressed if it is), but seeing as how I am just getting reacquainted with the concept of mind-mapping and determining whether or not I want to incorporate it as a "permanent" tool in my arsenal, FreeMind will do just fine for now. Actually, I'll probably download the free trial version of MindManager just to try it out in parallel, but I'm afraid that if I like it so much, I'll be annoyed that I can't get a version of it that's more in keeping with my budget!
Well, we'll see. Have any of you MindManager fans tried out FreeMind, or other similar freeware applications? If so, what were the killer MindManager features that prevented you from ultimately using FreeMind or other alternatives? I'm guessing that besides being inkable, MindManager has pretty good integration with other Windows programs like Outlook and Word, which are key applications for many of the Tablet PC bloggers like the "On the Run with Tablet PCs" podcast guys.
I'll be interested to see any input from the MindManager enthusiasts. Unless I end up being a mind-mapping fiend, I'm guessing the FreeMind app will be fine for the few occasions I map out some ideas. Honestly, if I had an extra $230, I'd probably either put it towards something like a gadget purchase, or Apple's Aperture software (but then I'd need another Mac besides the Mac mini I am using as a DVR/media PC), or other less expensive applications I've been wanting to get licenses for.
But stay tuned for some initial impressions on FreeMind (and MindManager) from a mind-mapping neophyte.