Google Home no longer using Google keep starting April 10

Google looks like its making a change in how it handles lists with Google Home. We use Google Keep a ton. Shared grocery lists are really great… and having you tell Home to add and item to the shared list is perfect. Well, was perfect. Starting April 10th, Google Home will instead add the item to a list in their Express shopping app.

Google Express has a list feature, but it’s not shared between people. It’s really intended only for your self to help with ordering online. This means that when my wife adds to the shopping list on Google Home, she can no longer view it later on her phone. Google Home is attached to my account so its only available to my shopping list on Express. And unlike now, she won’t be able to add to it when she’s away from home using google keep or any other app.

We have basically have three sets of lists that we use. Groceries, CostCo and ‘misc’. (Of course, I’m ignoring the holiday specific lists…) Shared lists is fundamental for us. This all makes Google Home slightly less useful to us. I’m still waiting for Wink integration like I have with Alexa. It is very disappointing.

Starting April 10th, I’ll only be using Google Home like an audio chromecast with speakers… for music or random questions. Most of my music is in my Google account, and I have chromecasts setup around my house. But I’ll end up switching to our Alexa for our and lists in addition to our podcasts and smarthome integration. I’d love to see Alexa support Google Keep, but I doubt that would happen. Any.do may be better for us though.

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Small review of cloud music options

Some of you know that I’m kinda a music nut. I have a fairly eclectic music collection and love to hear it all the time. Years ago I converted my albums to FLAC and MP3, bought Cowon audiophile devices, and realized that MP3 is really all I need. My CDs, for the most part, are in boxes now, and I only listen to my music from these MP3s. Between buying from Amazon, CD-Baby or other online (legitimate) retailers, my collection has not stopped growing.  Now that cloud services have started to embrace music in a real and meaningful way, I’ve gone through the trouble of using them, trying to find what works best.

Some bias I have that will no doubt color my impression of the services include that it has to work on my Linux computers and android phones. If I have to use windows or mac, it won’t work for me.  The following list is done in order in which I discovered the services, starting from what is hardly considered ‘cloud service’ now-a-days, to the real thing.

mp3.com (original site, defunct) The old site was a great way to find music, download and listen to it. I was able to find new artists such as Sarah Fimm. The current version of the site is useless to me. I have to mention the old one because it was really the first way I was able to find music online. Its not a ‘cloud service’ in that I couldn’t upload my music to it. But I do miss them.

Last.fm (formally scrobbler) was my first real use of online music. It logged what I listened to, and made suggestions of other music from friends I were connected to, or ‘neighbors’. Neighbors were people with similar music style, and I could find other bands to listen to. It didn’t work that well for me at first, but did expose me to new music so I stuck with it. Its not a way to manage my own music files, but does provide an online catalog of what you actually do listen. To this day its probably the best way for me to find new music and I’m glad I stuck with them.

Pandora is another service to expose you to new music, and discover what friends listen to. Some success for me here in finding new music, such as Mankind Is Obsolete, and Emilie Autumn. But I found myself going back to Last.fm to learn more about the band, and hear more of their tracks. Unlike Last.fm, I couldn’t really see or manage what I listened to in the past without an additional step of bookmarking. But unlike last.fm, I really could create a radio station (for free) and listen to it at work, home, on my Tivo or phone. This killed ‘real’ radio for me. I’ve not found new artists from Pandora anymore, so I guess I’m in a statistical maximum. I actively use them now, still free version.

YouTube was easily discovered as a juke box by others long before me. Suffice it to say its fun and easy to create ‘playlists’ of music other people uploaded and play in the background. The only issue is that to use it this way tends to be a time-sink. I do still use it, but not as much.

Amazon CloudMusic made me fall in love with Amazon all over again. Stuff I buy from Amazon (from when it came out, not before, but I’m not bitter) are hosted free on amazon, and listenable to my browsers, android phone, etc. I can also re-download it again from amazon whenever I want. I can create playlists online and they exist everywhere.  I can also upload free up to 20G worth of music (or other files) and listen to that music later as well. (Its only 20G if you buy an album a year, otherwise its 5G. For me, that’s not a problem.) Streaming works well, the android player is good for local music as well as cloud music. Browser can only handle cloud music. Can use a native app to upload music or the browser.

Google Music is similar to Amazon, but they only deal with music files, you have to use their native app to upload music, which until recently didn’t run on Linux. It seems more ‘buggy’ then Amazon as a player, but does work. Also, Google does not let you re-download your music, which bugs me. Playlists work fine. Right now, Between both of these services, I need to merge in features from Amazon and Google to be happy. I want to download again, don’t bug me about storing stuff I bought at amazon, and 20k files upload is a good place to be, more then 20G of storage. I’m less likely to use Amazon for that simple reason (and because uploading via the browser basically sucks, no linux client for Amazon)

GrooveShark is a different approach that is wining me over right now. You can upload what you want, listen on a browser or via the phone app if you have a paid subscription. You can listen to whatever was already uploaded even without an account. Lots of music choices. I’ve not paid for the service so I don’t know how good the streaming option is, but from a browser perspective, its the easiest way to create playlists, removing most of my usage of YouTube.

Spotify I mention only because its kinda like Grooveshark, seems more polished, huge library but without their native linux client (for free users) I can’t try it at all. Hopefully that will change soon, but since its been that way for a year, I doubt they care enough to change it. (Side note, on Spotify you can use it free on a paid OS, but you have to pay for it on a free OS. Feels weird. And no, wine isn’t an option here.)

Where does all this lead me? I use my android phone instead of my Cowon even though the Cowon has better quality sound. Browser instead of Banshee, currently enjoying grooveshark as my browser player. In the car, I use google music to stream, setting it to shuffle. Listen to Pandora via TiVo at home. I buy new music from Amazon, finding new music from last.fm, pandora and sometimes from Amazon suggestions. What’s apparent is that no single service is ‘perfect’, and each does something somewhat different. Last.fm is the best social experience for me so far, in that I can integrate it with almost anything. What’s really great is each service I list above is improving itself (maybe not pandora) so I have no question that they will continue improve over time.

Its a good time to be a music nut.

Mario, Evo and the death of WebOS…

As of now Android is my only smartphone operating system. WebOS is dead to me. Why you ask? Because now you can get Mario running around as a live wallpaper for Android. Unless WebOS starts using Tempest controls I’m done. The is awesome.

I figured out today that Android doesn’t combine instance messaging and SMS messaging in the same app, which pissed me off. Luckily, this made it all better.

Long live Mario^h^h^h^h^hAndroid!

Android scenes and WebOS

I started getting into customizing my Evo tonight and I have to say the scenes/widgets concept is pretty good compared to the WebOS ‘cards’. In the palm when you launch an app you have apps divided into three ‘pages’ (cards) that you can launch. So customizing is pretty much pick which of the three cards to place your apps on. The ‘ribbon’ on the Pre is good, and it holds four apps you use a lot.

Android has scenes which is basically five cards (static size, unlike WebOS ‘cards’ that grow as much as it can). You can put app launches, shortcuts to web pages or widgets on it. (Widgets have no palm equivalent save the notification-only apps, which are kinda close.) Plus, you can create your own scenes. So I now have four scenes. Work, weekends, travel and games. We’ll see if I end up keeping all three. The wallpaper integration with the scenes is nice too. I still don’t like the method to switch between apps, but there is a real advantage with the ‘launch’ process Android has over WebOS.  Games wallpaper is… wait for it…. PacMan.

As far as Apps go, yes Android has 50,000+ apps and WebOS has ~2500. But I’d say almost half of the android apps are ebooks, different form of clocks or some thing else that is dumb and/or redundant, where less percentage of the WebOS ones are as crappy. So, Android really has only 10 times more ‘real’ apps then WebOS instead of 20 times. Of course, this still means Android  has more interesting apps then WebOS currently does, and enough where I’m not going to be able to review all their descriptions. (I did for the WebOS)

And, kudos again for the Evo hardware; though that battery cries out in pain. So far this phone has been really fun.

WebOS vs Android

I just got an Evo to upgrade from my Palm pre. I’m most surprised by the Evo in that it is not a pure killer of the WebOS Palm pre.  Here are initial findings.

Hardware: Here there is no comparison. The Evo is fast and good looking. The Palm pre started with hardware issues (Slider, screen effects). Memory wise, the Palm pre plus is actually better, but evo’s expansion fixes lots of issues, and android 2.2 will make use of the SDHC card easy for applications. I got used to the pre’s keyboard, but honestly I don’t have a real preference (yet) between the on-screen one for the Evo or the slider physical one for the pre. I hate that using it takes away my screen real-estate, but not enough feeling there to really care. Size-wise, the evo is really big, almost too big, whereas the palm pre was really small, almost too small. (Same resolution). I’d rather error on big here though.

WebOS vs Android: Now this is very preliminary, so I can’t talk about much here. However, WebOS is far better in the area of multi-tasking from a usability perspective. You can easily see what applications you have open where the concept of ‘open apps’ is basically hidden from you in the android. Though that may be technically irrelevant, switching between apps (especially while talking on the phone) is far easier on WebOS then android.

The second thing that weirded me out was email/contacts/calendar integration. WebOS integrations seamlessly between Gmail, yahoo, facebook and corporate google apps account. One application for mail, one for calendar, one for contacts. Android has a gmail integration, and a mail integration. Two separate apps.  Now, gmail on android functions like gmail on the web browser, which is nice, but it makes no sense to treat these so different. Also, as of yet I cannot get my work calendar in my Android without having to share it with my personal gmail account. No question that palm having years to deal with these types of issues have paid off. Though I continue to be surprised that both integrated facebook calendar and contacts perfectly. (Where are my yahoo contacts?)

Apps is a no brainer. Android has more then WebOS.  But the apps ‘feel’ very different on the two devices. I’m not sure one ‘feels’ better then the other, but its a stark contrast. WebOS launches them, and switching between two active apps is as fluid as if you were on a computer having multiple windows open. Android seems to leave you in place when you go after the next app. You cannot see them as windows or are separate functioning applications. So WebOS has more of a computer feel to it and Android feels more like a phone. Which is better? Not sure yet, but my gut instinct is that I’d prefer the WebOS feel on a tablet. Honestly, I’ll have to see if this is just the process of getting used to Android after using WebOS for a year.

I’ll have to play more with media on the device to see how that is. I was never overly impressed with the pre there, and was still using my Cowon S9 (or even D2) instead of the pre. Evo will be well worth it if it functions well here too, though I’m really picky about that.  I’ll give another review in a few weeks and see if I change my mind from these initial impressions. I really was surprised that the Evo is not a ‘slam dunk’ as far as better then Palm pre… I do know that my wife would really hate to give up her pre.