Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category:

Google Photos API and Flickr

April 11th, 2024

In 2017, I wrote about switching from Flickr to Google Photos. Surprise!! not much has changed.

In this blog I will summarize my experience of using Google Photos the last 8 years, how it compares to Flickr today, my experience with the Google Photos API, and the site I created to view all your google photos albums as well as the gphotos-albums code I wrote that uses Photos API to power the site.


Since 2017, I’ve loved Google Photos for several reasons, the most important of which is how seamless my photos can be synchronized between my phone and the cloud. I take a photo, and it will be on the cloud soon – your choice to wait to sync using wifi or use your phones data plan. After an event I can review on my desktop browser the photos I took on my phone, deleting ones that may be blurry, doing some basic editing, etc. Again, these changes sync with my phone. The second most important feature to me is the ability to quickly share a single or group of photos with friends, and I love that a shared album can allow others to add their photos to it as well. My third most important feature is the ability to search photos, something Google does far better than anyone else. You can search by people and pets, search by concept like mountain, car, sign, or search by date. You can also search for text inside of picture, or text that you add to the description of a photo. I thought this may be a way to implement something like Flickr tags, but it only sorta works. There’s other features, too, that others may care about, I’m sure you can find many comprehensive reviews elsewhere.

But google has never been great at creating a good browsing experience – they are a search company. As the number of photo albums grows, it becomes more challenging to keep photos and albums organized. Anyone who’s ever used Flickr’s organize tool knows how well one can organize albums. This tool still exists, and even though hasn’t changed in over 15 years, it is hands down way superior than anything Google has to offer. Not only does it help you organize, it helps you browse and provides lots of data on your albums that help you organize it. I still use flickr organize tool to find and browse my photos, albums, and collections from many years ago. I really wish I could have my recent photos on Google organized in the same way, so much so that I am considering porting my photos from Google back to Flickr so I can keep them organized.

Google Photos is not perfect, so I wanted to use the API to see if I can address some of the shortcomings. Google used to have a good web photos application called Picassa, which they bought in 2004. It officially ended in 2016, but the Picasa API worked till Jan 2019. So today the options are just the iPhone app, the android app, the Google Photos Web app (and code that use chrome to manipulate it), or use the Google Photos API. Google does a great job of documenting Google Photos APIs. But it’s not obvious what they cannot do, something I discovered more than once by experimenting or after reading the fine print. Basically the phone and web apps can do much more than the APIs, see list below.

The one thing I wanted the most was just a simple list of all my google photos albums. I found that I needed this almost every time I wanted to organize my photos and albums – and I have hundreds of albums. I especially like creating “Best of” albums, so I often wonder, did I already have a “Best of nature” album? or just “best of outdoors”? Or maybe I want to split big albums into smaller albums – what names should I use? what naming patterns have been used already? Currently the UI will list a few matching albums when you start typing, which is sufficient for beginners or people who don’t have many albums, but totally insufficient for users with many albums.

Therefore I created to list all my albums. On mobile or desktop browser just click on, sign in if you have not recently, and all your albums are listed including total number of photos in each album. Default sort appears to be most recently updated, but can also sort by name or number of items. I also enjoyed using this to experiment with Google Developers Project, where you can see your projects API usage and limits and quotas. I also enjoyed experimenting with Google OAuth2, the common way to use Google to authenticate, or sign users into an application, as well as authorization, which specifies what user can do. You can find more details on that on the gphotos-albums on

The rest of this blog is lists and tables summarizing my experience with Google Photos API, and an updated comparison of Flickr vs Google. Enjoy!

Google Photos API limitations or gotchas:

  • Videos are transcoded to lower quality
  • GPS info is removed from photos metadata
  • No way to know if album was shared using web or phone method of sharing
  • No easy way to list albums that a photo is in, can only list photos that are in albums.
  • No easy way to have date info on albums like “last modified” or “created”. You can get close by finding the dates of the oldest and newest photos in the album.
  • APIs does not allow retrieving Original Size photos – Raw or Original photos are converted to ‘High Quality’
  • API Workarounds – resort to scraping using Web Interface, says bradfitz (src)

Comparison of the features I care about


Google Photos
Future secure?Good, via Smugmug Good.
Phone – upload easily to cloudAuto upload only in Flickr ProYES
Phone – syncing with cloud (edit and auto sync)so-soYES – best if use Google Photos as photo app on phone
PC – uploadingso-soYes
Organize – create albumsYesYes
Organize – create collectionsYESNo – no concept of grouping of albums
Organize – advance finding of photosYesGREAT – Can search and create album based on results
Organize – managing  large amount of photos and albumsYES organizeNO – TERRIBLE compared to Flickr.
Share – Easily share albums for viewingYesYes,
Share – Easily share albums for collaboratingso-so – cannot share albums, but can use tags to group photosYes
Share – Others Upload to your shared albumNoso-so – possible, but could be made much easier for iphone users.
Share – auto-create albums, videos, etcNoYes – cool AI
Dynamic share – easy to group photos not in albumYesNo
Update Dynamic share – easy to tag “Best of 2015”YesNo
Find – easily find picturesso-so – can find if labeled, but no AIYes – search is fast and covers words in Description as well as image
Find – easily find albums / collectionsso-so – easily via organizeso-so – gets bad after large amounts of photos (thousands) or albums (hundreds)
share pics on chromecast (TV)so-soYes

2024 notes

Flickr history – Feb 2004 launches, March 2005 Yahoo bought, 2017 Verizon bought Yahoo and Flickr, 2018 smugmug bought, 2022 launches Flickr Foundation to secure photos for 100 years. More at or

Reasons I love Flickr, in order

  1. Organize – Flickr has an advanced web interface to create and organize photos into albums and collections. This alone is a reason to use flickr.
  2. Search – all my photos tagged with “Best of”
  3. Browse – Anyone can browse my collections of albums.

Reasons I still do not love Flickr, in order

  1. Hard to upload photos quickly into album to share
  2. User Interface – Too much focus on individual “photos”.  That is, too hard to find meta info like album, collection

Reasons I use Google Photos

  1. Adding – Easy and fast to get photos from phone to an album I can share with people.
    1. Both phone and Desktop make it easy to select photos and add to album
    2. Albums by default are private, but just like google docs, you can share with anyone via a generated share link
  2. Finding / Search
    1. Just like google web search, any word I explicitly add to photo allows me to search and find that photo later.  Basically tags.
    2. google auto-organizes photos so you can browse for things
  3. Archive – You can download entire albums from

Reasons I do not love Google Photos, and why I may switch back to Flickr

  1. Hard to manage albums, no way to have collections of albums – something I LOVE in flickr.
  2. Adding Description when I take photo in Android.
    This one is a bit tricky – Right now, the Google Photos Android app will only show the Description field after the photo has been uploaded to the cloud.  This is only an issue when you do not have internet or have very slow internet.  With fast internet, you can solve this by force syncing, waiting for it to finish, then clicking Info icon and entering your personal meta details in Description field.

Google Photos vs Flickr

September 29th, 2017

I’ve been using flickr since it started in 2004. It’s been my number one place to store photos – i have over 50,000 at this point.  However, I need something else to be my main photo storage.   Why?  Mainly since now that mobile is taking over, the way I take and manage pictures is different.  For me, my phone is my primary camera and has wifi, so should be able to easily upload and manage photos from it.  However, I still need to do some advanced functions that are hard to do on a phone, so desktop UI should allow this.  Second reason is because yahoo got bought by Verizon, leading me to wonder about flickr’s future.

Enter Google Photos, which I’ve been using now with Android phone for almost 2 years.  I tried Google Picassa a while back, didn’t like it for some reasons (desktop focused), loved it for others (good for power users).  Picassa has been slowly been replaced by google photos, and most of key features have been ported over.

Comparison of the features I care about


Google Photos
Future uncertain Better and better, AI
Phone – upload easily to cloud so-so YES
Phone – syncing with cloud (edit and auto sync) so-so YES – best if use Google Photos as photo app on phone
PC – uploading so-so Yes
Organize – create albums Yes Yes
Organize – create collections Yes No (no grouping of albums)
Organize – advance finding of photos, managing  large amount of photos and albums Yes organize so-so
Share – Easily share albums for viewing Yes
Share – Easily share albums for collaborating so-so Yes
Share – auto-create albums, videos, etc No Yes – cool AI
Dynamic share – easy to group of photos not in album Yes
Update Dynamic share – easy to tag “Best of 2015” Yes No
Collaborate – others can add to albums, etc Yes so-so
Find – easily find pictures so-so – can find if labeled, but no AI
Yes – search is fast and covers words in Description as well as image
Find – easily find albums / collections so-so – easily via organize so-so – gets bad after large amounts of photos (thousands) or albums (hundreds)
share pics on chromecast (TV) so-so Yes

Reasons I love Flickr, in order

  1. Organize – Flickr has an advanced web interface to create and organize photos into albums and collections.
  2. Search – all my photos tagged with “Best of”
  3. Browse – Anyone can browse my collections of albums.  This used to be super easy, but UI changed recently and its not as easy.

Reasons I am leaving Flickr, in order

  1. Hard to upload photos quickly into album to share
  2. User Interface – Too much focus on individual “photos”.  That is, too hard to find meta info like album, collection

Reasons I use Google Photos

  1. Adding – Easy and fast to get photos from phone to an album I can share with people.
    1. Both phone and Desktop make it easy to select photos and add to album
    2. Albums by default are private, but just like google docs, you can share with anyone via a generated share link
  2. Finding / Search
    1. Just like google web search, any word I explicitly add to photo allows me to search and find that photo later.  Basically tags.
    2. google auto-organizes photos so you can browse for things
  3. Archive – You can download entire albums from
  4. Embed photo on blog
    1. Easy to get embed HTML with 3rd party tool like

Needs improvement on Google Photos

  1. Google – Organize albums into collections
  2. Adding Description when I take photo in Android.
    This one is a bit tricky – Right now, the Google Photos Android app will only show the Description field after the photo has been uploaded to the cloud.  This is only an issue when you do not have internet or have very slow internet.  With fast internet, you can solve this by force syncing, waiting for it to finish, then clicking Info icon and entering your personal meta details in Description field.


Google Photos

2021 Update

Google Photos got worse with Android 11 –

Apache virtual hosts, HTTPS, and JIRA Docker Containers

September 8th, 2017


The goal was to easily create and recreate docker instances protected via SSL and accessed by simple URL. Below I explain how to map and in apache (used as firewall, reverse proxy, content server) to a specified IP:port of Jira and Bitbucket (git) docker container.


Docker is awesome, can easily create a new web service in minimal time.  However, in my case, I want everything to be routed through one machine’s https (port 443).  Additionally I wanted to setup Jira and Bitbucket (and possibly more). Previously I had to use to view my private repositories from a web browser.  I show how to do this with apache 2.4 and docker on a single Ubuntu Linux machine.

  • Security – single apache instance serves as reverse proxy and can force all HTTP requests to use HTTPS.
  • HTTPS certificates – use certbot by Let’s Encrypt to easily install certificates for HTTPS to work for free.
  • DNS and Virtual hosts – Assuming multiple domains or subdomains all get routed to same apache instance.  Will configure apache conf files to map these requests to correct port and path on docker container.
  • Creating / Starting JIRA and Bitbucket (git) docker containers to listen on a specific port

Note that you should replace everywhere used in this doc with your domain name.




Goal is for several domains,,,,, and, to resolve to the machine where apache will run.  There are many ways to do this, I have one A record mapping to an IP, and  CNAME records mapping the subdomains to

Apache Setup

I use Apache as the reverse proxy because of its popularity and my experience with it.  If performance is an issue, nginx is probably better.  Below you’ll find the important bits from these apache conf files:

  • apache2.conf
  • sites-enabled/
  • sites-enabled/
  • sites-enabled/
  • sites-enabled/000-default.conf
  • conf-available/
  • conf-available/vhost.logging.conf
> grep sites-enabled apache2.conf
IncludeOptional sites-enabled/*.conf
> cat /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/
<IfModule mod_ssl.c>
<VirtualHost *:443>


 DocumentRoot /var/www/

 Include conf-available/vhost.logging.conf
 Include conf-available/ 
> cat /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/
<IfModule mod_ssl.c>
<VirtualHost *:443>


 <Proxy *>
   Order allow,deny
   Allow from all
 ProxyRequests Off
 ProxyPreserveHost On
 # below must map to docker ip:port setup
 ProxyPass /
 ProxyPassReverse /

 Include conf-available/vhost.logging.conf
 Include conf-available/
> cat /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/
<IfModule mod_ssl.c>
<VirtualHost *:443>


 <Proxy *>
   Order allow,deny
   Allow from all
 ProxyRequests Off
 ProxyPreserveHost On
 # below must map to docker ip:port setup
 ProxyPass /
 ProxyPassReverse /

 Include conf-available/vhost.logging.conf
 Include conf-available/ 
> cat /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf
<VirtualHost *:80>

 DocumentRoot /var/www/html
 Include conf-available/vhost.logging.conf

 # Redirect http (port 80) to https (port 443)
 RewriteEngine on
 RewriteCond "%{SERVER_NAME}" ".*\$" [OR]
 RewriteCond %{SERVER_NAME}
 RewriteRule ^ https://%{SERVER_NAME}%{REQUEST_URI} [END,QSA,R=permanent]

> cat /etc/apache2/conf-available/
# added by certbot-auto
SSLCertificateFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/
Include /etc/letsencrypt/options-ssl-apache.conf
> cat /etc/apache2/conf-available/vhost.logging.conf
LogFormat "%{Host}i:%p %h %l %u [%{%d/%b/%Y %T}t.%{msec_frac}t %{%z}t] %{us}T \"%r\" %>s %b \"%{Referer}i\" \"%{User-Agent}i\"" vhost_combined2
CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.vhosts.log vhost_combined2
ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log


HTTPS Certificates

With, you can get free certificates from a Certificate Authority (CA). I used the cmd-line certbot to install them and update them. Initial setup can take up to 30 minutes, but every 3 months when you renew it should only take a few minutes. I do this on Ubuntu linux, but they have instructions for all the popular flavors of linux.  When done, you can verify your installed certificate using

One thing to note here is that its easiest to have a single certificate to cover domain and subdomains. In January 2018 wildcard certs will be supported, but till then you’ll need to start with something like this:

cd ssl-certs && ./certbot-auto --apache \
-d \
-d -d 

Docker Setup

Docker is the new cool kid on the block, and as such, it is constantly improving.  So what I write here may not be exactly what you need to do.  In any case, what I did is setup 3 docker containers – one for Jira, one for Bitbucket, and one for Postgres database.  If you don’t have experience setting up Jira or Bitbucket, it can be tricky, but Atlassian has pretty good documentation.

I have created a sample docker-compose.yml that covers whats needed on the docker side.  As previously mentioned, you will need to replace with your domain name.

Fluent 2013

September 14th, 2013

The Fluent conference this year was just as good as Fluent 2012 last year, and bigger and better in some ways. I still loved how at then end you walkaway realizing how popular, important, diverse, and interesting javascript still is. I want to echo what I said in last year’s post, that I love seeing javascript used to solve real business problems, but the conference was much more than that.

Here are some of my highlights from the few talks I attended out of the 80-ish talks across 8 Topics: Doing Business on the Web Platform, The Server Side, Front End Frameworks and Libraries, HTML5 and Browser Technologies, Mobile, Pure Code and JavaScript, The Leading Edge, Tools, Platforms, and APIs

Noteworthy Speakers

  • Paul Irish – Google Chrome Advocate / Wiz [Wed 9:45a]
    • Insanely fast with chrome and sublime.
    • Talked about workflow, similar to 2012 (editor, browser, etc)
    • Chrome workspaces (in canary) – maps local files to what chrome gets over network
  • Sylvain Zimmer (french guy, scraping sites) [Wed 4:15p]
  • Eric Elliot – Adobe – [Wed 5:05p]
    • Classical Inheritance is Obsolete: How to Think in Prototypal OO
    • npm install stampit (stampit on github)
    • Classes deal with the idea of an object, Prototypes deal with the object itself.
  • Ariya Hidayat – Sencha – [Thu 11:50a]
    • Code quality tools are very important for good software dev
    • Feedback is important: tools <–> engineer
    • CI server, build tools, editors, code testing, code coverage (istanbul)
  • Sarah Mei – Pivotal – [ Thu 2:35p]
    • Emphasized importance of team communication ==> good code
    • One study said biggest predictor of good code was (in order)
      1. team communication, more so than
      2. tech qualifications
      3. experience with code base
    • Great book (for js, too): “Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby: An Agile Primer” by Sandi Metz
    • Loves pair programming.  good speaker
  • Brian Rinaldi (Adobe Systems)
    • NodeJS is more than just server js – offers lots of command line tools: UglifyJS, Grunt, GruntIcon, JSHint and HTTPster
  • Nick Zakas
    • Say Thank You.   author of 4 books.  Good speaker.

Other Takeaways

  • Websites need fast page load
    • About 250ms is google’s max page load time
    • 1000ms is max time users wait before mental context switch
    • 2000ms delay on bing/google SRP made 4.3% drop in revenue/user (HUGE)
  • Improving page load
    • Tie performance improvement goals with biz goals
    • Test your site with google’s pagespeed
    • Render Above The Fold (ATF) ASAP – inline critical css, logos, so browser can render at least part of page fast.
  • SPDY
    • HTTP 2 today, avail in chrome, ff, opera (no IE), apache, node, nginx
    • Requires TLS (HTTPS)
    • Many big sites adopted in 2012: some google, facebook, twitter, wordpress, cloudfare
    • Really only need 2 domains to serve images (google says 10 images is enuf)
  • Refactoring JS – lots of tips
  • Games
    • asm.js is da shit (runs C code in js)
    • Brendan Eich (Mozilla) demo’d game “Unreal”, ported to js/html5
  • Google Glass
    • Android, like TV. camera, geolocation
    • Simulator on github, mirror API
    • Avail in 2014, $200-$600


Heroku, Node.js, Performance and profile_time

April 11th, 2013

I’ve been using Heroku for about 10 months now, mostly with node.js. Recently one of our apps was using more web dynos than we thought it needed, so I looked into analyzing performance. I ended up writing my first node packaged module (npm) to solve my problem.

We have one Heroku app that is our main http server, using node.js, express, jade, less, and connect-assets to serve primarily html pages. This talks to a second Heroku app that we call our API server. The API server is also a node.js http server, using mongo as its database, serving json in standard RESTful way. The API server is fast – when the html server is under such load to need 10 web dynos, the api server can easily keep up with only 1 or 2 web dynos. My gut was asking me, are 10 web dynos necessary? And even with 10 web dynos, there were times when requests would timeout or other errors would trigger. Maybe some error or timeout has a huge ripple effect, slowing down things.

So the problem is not to just figure out where time is spent on any one particular request, but where time is spent on average across all requests and all web dynos for the html server. How much time is spent while communicating with the api server? doing some internal processing? or something else in the heroku black box?

The first step was educating myself on existing tools that could help me. We already use New Relic, which is awesome and I highly recommend it to anyone who uses Heroku. At the time New Relic support for node.js was still in beta (still is as of this writing), and one the features supported in other languages (like ruby) is the ability to use a New Relic api to track custom metrics. I thought this would be a great way to track down how much time, on average, is spent in various sections of our code.  Too bad it doesn’t work with node.js.

I considered other tools (like these) but the only one worth mentioning was nodetime. For us, nodetime was somewhat useful in that it offered details at levels outside of the application, such as stats on cpu, memory, OS, and http routing. This did not appear to solve the problem (I admit i didn’t read all their docs), but did provide some insight and some validation that things are setup as they should be based on documentation from Heroku and Amazon (Heroku runs on Amazon EC2).

However, nothing gave me what i needed – a high level way to see where time is spent. So I built profile_time (code on github). Here’s a description from the docs:

A simple javascript profiler designed to work with node and express, especially helpful with cloud solutions like heroku.

In node + express environment, it simply tracks the start and end times of an express request, allowing additional triggers to be added in between. All triggers, start, and end times are logged when response is sent.

Where this shines is in the processing of these logs. By reading all logs generated over many hours or days (and from multiple sources), times can be summed up and total time spent between triggers can be known. This is useful when trying to ballpark where most of node app time is spent.

For example, if 2 triggers were added, one before and one after a chunk of code, the total time spent in that chunk of code can be known. And more importantly, that time as percent of the total time is known, so it is possible to know how much time is actually being spent by a chunk of code before it is optimized.

In conclusiion, jade rendering was the culprit. More specifically, compiling less to css in jade on each request was really time consuming (around 200ms per request, which is HUGE). To summarize the jade issue:

!= css('bureau')

link(rel='stylesheet', href='.../bureau.css', type='text/css' )

Overall I am impressed with Heroku and am quite pleased by how easy it is to creatie, deploy, and monitor apps. Most of my apps have been in node, but also have run php, ruby, and python on apps as well. Heroku is not perfect, I would not recommend for serious enterprise solutions (details on that in another post). It’s great for startups or small businesses where getting stuff up and running fast and cheap is key.

Mobile: Native or Web App?

November 6th, 2012

Before trying to build a mobile app, this should be the first question you should ask yourself.  And by native, I mean an app that runs on Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Mobile, or Blackberry. And by web app, i mean something that runs in a mobile browser.

Short answer:  If you got deep pockets and lots of developers (like Facebook), and you want features HTML5 can not provide, go native.  But really it depends on what you’re trying to do and what resources you have.

The right answer only happens after goals have been identified, both short term and long term. This blog post will not cover all the details needed to answer the question, instead it will provide a few links that cover the details.  Note there is also a third option of building a hybrid apps (native apps that get the latest content from the web).


Trend towards HTML5 (aka web apps)

Still want native

Option 3: Hybrid

HTML5 Facebook Announcement, Sept 2012

For techies: The details

I hope the links above helped. Remember not to confuse whats best for your app with what other apps do or how they do it.  If you’re still not sure, one approach is to design a web app first, and if it doesn’t meet your needs (which should be fleshed out during the design phase), then go native.


Best Music and Audio Players on Android

July 21st, 2012

Last fall i switched from iPhone to Android and for the most part am happy I did.  Apple has great design, but you can only do things the apple way and i wanted more options.  One of the things I wanted was more audio playing/managing options.   I don’t just want any player, I am picky – I’ve listed my requirements below.


Sync audio (music and talk/news radio) with Android.  Specifically:

  • Make it easy to create/edit playlist on mac, and sync it with bionic, the way iTunes and iPhone work.  Includes adding and removing songs from a existing playlist, and those songs get sync’d .. easily.
  • Make it easy to do daily syncs of podcasts from iTunes (or skip itunes and sync android with internets)
  • Make it easy to delete songs/playlists from android.
  • Do it all for Free.


  • Mac with 5,000+ songs and podcasts in iTunes.
  • 400GB of mp3s on backup drive.
  • Fast wifi at home, but dsl (slow) between home and internet.
  • Android bionic phone, limited storage (8GB, can only sync a few playlists of songs from my collection).



Winamp is similar to the classic program from the 90’s. For android, its a complete and quality program, few bugs.  Similar to Doubletwist.


  • UI is functionally complete and then some.
    • Bottom always has a drawer that you can drag up to get info on what is currently playing.
    • Clicking on winamp lightening bolt logo in bottom right goes to main menu
    • Has a progress bar showing elapsed and total time of current track, and you can drag current position marker to move to end or beginning of track.
    • Pressing and holding next/prev arrow buttons goes fwd/back a few seconds in track.  Great for fine-positioning tracks over an hour (too hard to do with position marker on progress bar).
  • You can’t sort songs, but there are 3 useful built-in playlists: Recently Added, Recently Played ,Top Played
  • Pauses when headphones are pulled out
    • nice if you’re out and about listening on your headphones and someone asks you a question, you can immediately pull out cord, talk, and then spend time with android to start playing where you left off.


  • Updating playlists duplicates them, should replace. You can manually delete older ones by tap and hold, but if you want to auto-sync 5 playlists, you will have to manually delete 5 every time you sync.  Gets old real quick.


Doubletwist is complete music app, appealing to those who like iTunes


  • UI is functionally complete and then some.
  • Very easy to manage through iTunes, then ready to sync, launch doubeltwist, connect phone via usb, and done


  • Adding new songs to existing playlist in iTunes does not update playlist in Doubletwist on phone.  However, there is a fix – open Winamp and delete all but most recent version of a playlist, then come back to doubletwist to see most updated version of playlist (see Winamp Cons)


Google Music Beta, now Play Music, is Google’s version of iCloud.  You sync your music from your computer to the cloud, then either download to android or stream real-time.


  • Sync without wires, over the cloud
  • Stream is useful if you have fast connection and not enough space on device


  • Cloud syncing is WAY too slow.  Syncing one or two songs is fine, but to sync GB from mac to internet and back to android takes forever.
  • UI for app is pretty basic
  • Has bugs .. like syncing unknown albums


DoggCatcher (DC) Podcast App, is for the android only, does not run on a computer (a mac).  You  setup your podcast feeds directly on your phone.


  • Best way to manage podcasts – on phone directly
  • Intuitive interface
    • Feeds – lists all your podcast feeds, add by category or suggestions or search. Perfect.
    • Playing – summary and complete description about podcast (other players cut this info off)
    • Audio – lists all downloaded podcasts, tap and hold to reveal many options
    • player at bottom – always there, pause easily.
  • Free for trial period


  • Content is very limited compared to what is possible with iTunes
  • When the headphones pull out, it plays off speaker (winamp pauses automatically)


I want to use these a bit more before I review them



I have been using a combination of the above for months now. I love winamp the most for playing audio for all reasons listed above.  I use Dogcatcher to automatically get the latest news and talk radio podcasts, like NPR’s This American Life, AC360 from CNN, the Nerdist, and Comedy Bang-bang. And I like doubletwist to easily keep iTunes playlists on my mac in sync with my android.

Note: I will update these as i try new music apps.



Fluent Conference Wins

June 4th, 2012

I just completed one of the best tech conferences i’ve ever been to – Fluent javascript conference in SF. O’Reilly did a great job of providing many opportunities to learn more about various facets of the javascript world. These include business, mobile, gaming, tech stacks, detailed in the very useful fluent schedule. There was also tons of buzz around web apps (code shared on client and server), backbone.js, node.js, among other things. It was well organized, with usually about 5 parallel sessions, and enough breaks to consolidate notes, meet other attendees, explore the exhibit hall, or just catchup with email. There was also a few organic meetups at night, but I did not make it to any of those.

I was happy to see discussion around business side of javascript, mainly due to the rise of web apps and HTML5. Even though javascript has been around for 17 years, only in the last few years has there been an explosion of js frameworks and libraries. This is partially attributed to mobile explosion, apple not supporting flash, and a really great dev community (yay github). With all these new tools available, companies can focus more on the bits they care about, allowing them to get new apps, features, and fixes in front of their users faster than ever. Web apps were a very popular discussion area, from the business and develpment side. Specifically two sessions highlighted this. First was how business are “Investing in Javascript” (pdf presentation by Keith Fahlgren from Safari Books. The other was by Andrew Betts from, discussing the financial time’s web app which allows users to view content offline. Most people know that traditional newspapers are dying, but I liked how Andrew points out “newspaper companies make money selling *content*, not paper”. Also Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer from Walmart had a fun-to-watch Web vs Apps presentation (yes, its true, tech isn’t always DRY). The main takeway from them (which was echoed throughout the conference) was that web apps are better than native apps in most ways except one – native can sometimes provide a better user experience (but not always). Of course you may still want to build a native app using html5 and javascript, and there are 2 great ways that people do this, using Appcelerartor’s Titanium or phoneGap (now Cordova, apache open-source version). One of the coolest web apps I saw at the conference was from clipboard.comWatch Gary Flake’s presentation (better look out, pinterest).

For the uber techies out there, there were lots of insights on how companies successfully used various js libraries and frameworks (in other words, whats your technology stack). This is important to pay attention to, since not all the latest and greatest code is worthy to be used in production environments. You should think about stability, growth, documentation, and community involvement. Here’s a few bits I found interesting

  • Trello (which supports IE9+ only): Coffeescript, LESS, mustache templates, jquery/underscore/backbone
  • jquery, less, node.js
  • new soundcloud: infrastructure: node.js, uglify, requreJS, almondJS .. served using nginx. Runtime: backbone, Handlebars
  • twitter: less, jquery, node.js, more twitter tech stack
  • Riak, Redis, NGINX, jQuery, Node.js, node.js modules
  • pubnub: custom c process faster than memcached and redis
  • picplum tech stack: coffeescript, backbone.js, rails 3.2.3, unicorn + resque, heroku postgres, heroku (nginx), AWS couldfront & S3
  • stackmob: uses backbone, mongoDB, Joyent and EC2, Scala and Lift, Netty and Jetty

Finally, here are a few other cool tech-related tidbits from the conference. There was soo much good stuff, this is not a complete list, but just a few highlights from my notes

Switched from iPhone to Andriod Bionic

June 4th, 2012

After 3.5 years with the iPhone, last September I decided to give the Android a go. Apple was good to me in the beginning, offering a major life improvement when i switched from a standard cell phone. I loved having maps, my personal calendar, email, and music with me all the time. Huge improvement. But ever since my wife got the HTC Incredible (an android phone) in the summer of 2010 I was jealous. Her phone was faster in most ways compared to mine, which had poor reception at home and work, where i spent most of my time. The wife would consistantly leave me in the dust on roadtrips as well.  She also had Verizon, and I had AT&T, so I was eager to switch carriers. Last fall after losing my iPhone i looked into the android options and decided it was time.

At first the main reason I wanted Android was control. I love Apple, they design better than anyone, but at the end of the day I was tired of always doing things the apple way – I wanted more control on how to manage things that are as personal as your mobile device. In other words, I don’t care how awesome your hammer is, everything is not a nail. I prefer a swiss army knife.

After about 9 months, I have mixed feelings on the switch, so I’d thought I’d list my pro’s and cons

Droid Bionic Pros:

  • Bionic
    • 4.3 inch screen is bigger than 3.5 of iPhone.  I prefer bigger screen when using the touchscreen or watching videos/pics.  It still slides easily into my pocket, too.
    • Supposedly faster with Dual Core.  Having a dual core means if some app messes up, even if its in the background, it won’t bring your phone to a grinding halt. In practice it doesn’t seem faster, and several times a week it is dramatically slower (unlocking can take several seconds, oh the horror).
  • Android Hardware
    • I love having a back button.  I hate that Apple doesn’t have that – only has the “home” button.
    • I also love the menu button.  Apps take advantage of that better providing a better and faster way to get what i need.
  • Android Software
    • Notifications bar.  New email, text, voicemail, app msg, whatever.  You’re always 2 secs away from getting what you need.
    • I have not rooted my phone yet, but plan to.  That opens up even more possibilities.  Not so much on Apple.
  • Pro – Google.
    • I am more like google than apple.  That is, I rather have more data and more features available to me then have that one button positioned just right.
    • Google Account integration.  If you’re a google user, with gmail, google docs, maps, etc, then this is for you.  Integration is so natural it blows me away.  Especially contacts – facebook and gmail merged is so sweet.
  • Syncing
    • I love that i can sync my mac with my bionic without using wires.  However, i’m still not excited about the delay it takes to go from my computer to google then to my phone.
  • Camera
    • Although both iPhone and Bionic suck when your photo needs a flash, The droid has 8 MP and a nice video camera – a step up from iPhone.
  • Storage
    • More storage. Bionic has internal card and removable SD card.

Droid Bionic Cons:

  • Bionic has Bugs
    • Sometimes I must reboot to get data connection to work over phone network (when not on wifi).  This is better than it used to be, but still buggy.
    • Google calendar interface is jumpy – When looking at agenda view, it will jump backwards a week or more.  Just annoying.
    • Freezes for a few secs sometimes, while i’m typing (which screws up your flow) or during a transition or animation (like unlocking phone).  This happened alot on iPhone, too.
  • No screen capture by default
    • On iPhone, you can take a photo of any screen by pushing power and home button.  Nothing like that for Android, making it hard to share cool stuff with friends or debug.
    • Note: The maxthon browser lets you capture the screen of a webpage with this addon.
  • Video Player not good
  • I miss Apple’s Music/iTunes sync
    • I got used to iTunes, and once i setup sync with my iPhone, I loved just plugging in my iPhone and having things just sync. I could easily organize music and podcasts (i get news and stuff daily) on my computer, then in a few mins my updated playlists are sync’d.
  • I miss Apple’s intuitive interface.
    • Basic things apple does really well, like size of buttons, how much info to display on a page,

Summer Festivals on a Map

April 10th, 2011

Leaving Wedding Ceremony

Summer is finally here in Chicago. I woke up this morning and it was already 71 degrees out, giving me (and everyone else) a thirst for summer.  And one of the best things about summer in Chicago is all the street festivals.  In the past I added my favorite ones to my calendar.  This year I decided to go a bit further and I created a Google calendar called “Chad’s Chicago: Summer Festivals and More”.

The calendar includes every major summer festival in the Chicago area.  And as I say on the calendar subtitle, this is “Events Chad would do if he had the time: Summer Festivals, Burningman art and music, beer, outdoors, gardening, etc.”  Currently there are about 100 events listed for this summer – and I’m adding more every day. Great for people who want to explore different neighborhoods on different weekends, or people who want to hit more than one event in the same neighborhood on the same day, etc.

If you just want to look at the events, use the Chad’s Chicago – web browsing link. If you use google calendar already, you can subscribe to the calendar using this Chad’s Chicago – iCalendar link .  If you’ve never done that or forgot how, read the google help on subscribing to calendars.

The main reason I made this calendar was to see all the Festivals on a map.  We all know Chicagoland is a big place, and sometimes you just want to know about events in your neighborhood.  Well, now you can.  My GCM project (Google Calendar Map) puts all events from a google calendar on a google map. Whoa.  Tricky, eh?  Check it out for yourself – GCM: Chad’s Chicago on a map.