My Top 25 Most Played Songs in iTunes/iPod

iTunes and the iPod have a built-in playlist named “Top 25 Most Played”. I thought it would be fun to post it and you can see the full list below.

There are a few things on the list that were a surprise. While I love the album “The Medicine” by John Mark McMillan, the fact the entire album is on the list is a surprise. I’m not surprised the song “Out of the Ground” made the list, though. “A Salty Dog” being on the list was also a surprise. I like it and it’s an interesting song as it has Mike Portnoy singing lead vocals.

There are a few tracks that I’m surprised aren’t in the list. The first is “As I Am” by Dream Theater. That song gets my blood flowing and tend to play it when I need a little energy or want to get “in the zone” for some development. The song “12” from the Neal Morse “?” album is one of my favorite tracks and it surprised me other tracks from the album were one the list but that one wasn’t. The song starts slow and just builds into this awesome jam until it quiets down and leads into the next song, “Entrance”.

The song “Darkside of Aquarius” is obviously one of my favorites, but I really didn’t care for the “Accident of Birth” album.

Lastly, this is probably not entirely correct, as I sometimes use my Windows Phone HTC 8X for listening to music and that obviously won’t affect to the play counts.

Here’s the complete list. I’d be curious to know what others have on their Top 25 Most Played lists.

Play Count
Darkside Of AquariusBruce DickinsonAccident Of Birth49
Sweet ElationNeal Morse?23
Seeds Of GoldNeal MorseTestimony 232
It's For YouNeal MorseTestimony 225
The Truth Will Set You FreeNeal MorseTestimony 222
Drawing The LinePorcupine TreeThe Incident28
A Salty DogTransatlanticThe Whirlwind20
Carolina TideJohn Mark McMillanThe Medicine22
Out of the GroundJohn Mark McMillanThe Medicine22
PhiladelphiaJohn Mark McMillanThe Medicine20
Belly of the LionJohn Mark McMillanThe Medicine20
Dress Us UpJohn Mark McMillanThe Medicine21
Carbon RibsJohn Mark McMillanThe Medicine28
Skeleton BonesJohn Mark McMillanThe Medicine26
The MedicineJohn Mark McMillanThe Medicine29
Reckoning DayJohn Mark McMillanThe Medicine29
Between the CracksJohn Mark McMillanThe Medicine19
In The FireNeal Morse?22
Crossing Over/Mercy Street RepriseNeal MorseTestimony 220
02 Panic RoomRiversideRapid Eye Movement21
Beyond the EyelidsRiversideRapid Eye Movement21
Rainbow BoxRiversideRapid Eye Movement20
The Temple Of The Living GodNeal Morse?19
Another WorldNeal Morse?19
The OutsiderNeal Morse?19
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Amazon’s Instant Video Catalog Search Needs Work

Ever since we ditched cable TV a few years ago, the amount of purchases using Amazon’s Instant Video service has gone up. We’re willing to buy the few shows that we really want to watch as well as movie rentals. I recently noticed, though, the Amazon instant catalog search feature is a bad user experience and probably costs Amazon sales.

On March 9th, we were trying to find a movie to watch. We ultimately settled on “Argo” after it popped into my head. I searched by title using the search box and it was the first result. However, I noticed “Argo” (released on DVD on February 19th) never appeared in the Instant Video section that I had narrowed down to “Movies & TV>Amazon Instant Video>Last 30 Days>Movies” by using the filters provided by Amazon on the left hand side of the screen.

As I wrote this post (March 16th), I decided to see if it showed up at all. After going through 10 pages of results, “Argo” isn’t even listed. Doesn’t matter whether I sort by Release Date, Most Popular, Price, etc. It simply doesn’t show up at all. This is a horrible user experience and it may cost Amazon sales. What if I didn’t think of “Argo”? I would have never searched and found it, but if it had been in a list of suggestions it may have resulted in a sale. How many movies rentals is Amazon missing out on because users never see a title they might find interesting?

Another problem is that titles are often listed twice. For example, with the sort to Release Date, the movie “Curandero” (which I’ve never even heard of) appears at #13 and #22. I suppose it’s possible that it’s because there are two formats: one in HD and one SD. Wouldn’t it make more sense to list it once and then allow me to see the formats in which it is available?


Their search results also include things that certainly aren’t released within the last 30 days. The title “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was most definitely NOT released within the last 30 days. Now, it is possible that it is showing up because it’s new to instant video, and I understand that. But what I want, and I suspect most people are looking for, are movies that were recently released on DVD for the first time. Perhaps Amazon should add a category “Fresh From Theaters” or something to indicate that this isn’t a 20-year-old title new to instant video.

I find the whole experience of searching for instant video using Amazon’s search features cumbersome and useless. It surprises me that a company the size of Amazon can’t make this experience more enjoyable.

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Fixing an Issue With Zune Software Slow Searches

I’ve been using the Zune software (which I have come to love)  to manage my music since I started using Windows Phone 7.5.

Recently, I’ve had an issue searching the marketplace. After I hit enter for my search term, it just shows me the progress bar but never returns any results. I’ve searched for an answer before with no luck. Tried again today, and found this article which recommends changing your DNS entries to use OpenDNS instead of the default DNS from your ISP. It appears to have solved my problem. FYI, the OpenDNS IP addresses are here.

I suspect you could use Google’s DNS as well and see the issue resolved but I haven’t verified that.

It’s also important to be aware that there are some reasons against using public DNS servers. Weigh that vs solving your problem with Zune.

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College Football & Missing Dad

Days like today are what make college football season fun. It’s one of those days you wish every Saturday was like, but only a few are. There are some great matchups today:  Auburn @ Clemson,  Tennessee @ Florida,  Ohio State @ Miami and, of course, Oklahoma @ Florida State

I don’t have cable TV anymore so anything I watch I will have to watch online, which is OK, because for the one that really matters to me I’ll be watching with the Phoenix Seminole Club.

There is one thing about days like today that makes it a little less fun: the fact that I can’t just pick up the phone and call my Dad and shout “Did you see that play?” or “Do you think XXXX will be able to pull it out?” Some game days we probably talked four or five times. I’m sure my friends at the Seminole Club wondered where I disappeared to at halftime. Well, wonder no more: I was outside, talking to my Dad, discussing the first half.

My dad was a huge Miami fan, but he always rooted for FSU unless the two were playing each other. And when they did play each other? Man, oh man, it was then the ribbing & needling came out in earnest.We traded barbs about how bad the other team was. We engaged in trash talk before the game. There was more than one time when I’d call him on game day and all he’d hear for the first ten seconds of the phone call was the war chant. We’d both have a good laugh and I’d be informed that I’d better watch out, there was a Hurricane warning.

We’d watch the first half separately – I was in one city and he in another. At halftime, the trash talking was gone. It was replaced with gracious talk about how well the other team was doing or the fan of the winning team giving the losing team a reason to hope if there was a beat down in progress. Comments like “I really hope you guys can pull it together in the second half” or “Right now, today doesn’t seem like our day” or “Well, if you can just run the ball a little more, you might have a chance” were the norm. We both wanted our team to win, but neither of us relished in the other’s disappointment or arrogantly jeered the other because of a big victory. Sure, we’d tease about past victories over our foe, even the ones that hurt at the time, but never, ever, while it was a fresh wound. I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s a testament to my Dad’s character and who he was as a man.

The Miami vs. FSU game in 2009 was the season opener, on Labor Day. Dad had only been gone for a few months and it was a double whammy with it being the opening of the college football season and Miami playing FSU. Miami won that one and I was more than happy to let Dad have that “W”. Now, a few years later, I still miss those days and those phone calls. Dad, I’ll be cheering for Miami today and I know you’d be cheering for the ‘Noles.

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September Zune Pass Songs

A bit all over the map – again. Seems to be a recurring theme. That said, I love the fact I get 10 free songs with my monthly Zune Pass. Still wanting to get a Windows Phone 7, too so I can sync & stream music with it. My friend Derek got one for his wife who had an Android phone and hated it; she could never quite get used to it. She loves the Windows Phone 7 – especially the live tiles. Now if Verizon would get something besides the HTC Trophy.

  1. Rolling in the Deep – Adele
  2. Tokyo Road – Bon Jovi
  3. Only Lonely – Bon Jovi
  4. The Price of Love – Bon Jovi
  5. Lunatic Fringe – Red Rider
  6. People Are Crazy – Billy Currington
  7. Walk in the Shadows – Queensryche
  8. Blurry – Puddle of Mudd
  9. Hemorrhage (In My Hands) – Fuel
  10. Numb – Linkin Park


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The NCAA, Lawsuits and Punishment

I was reading this “story” I couldn’t help but think I agree that it really isn’t right to punish the current players for former players misdeeds, but  at the same time, that’s how the NCAA works. Each generation of players is responsible to those coming after them.

Should there be a change in the rules? If so, what do you do? What do you change? Do you tell the NFL they need to step up and punish players that broke the rules years ago when they were in college? You can’t force the NFL to do that and the NCAA has no leverage. I sure as hell don’t want a federal law – that would be a huge waste of time and taxpayers money. (Don’t even get me started on Congress investigating the BCS.)

Do college coaches need to drive home the point that you owe it to the future players at your school to not get embroiled in situations like at the Ohio State and the University of Miami? Do you pay the players a small stipend? But even if you do that, if you have a booster like Shapiro who can flash that much money at a kid, can you stop it?

This is a tough issue with lots of questions. Ultimately I think it comes down to personal responsibility. The responsibility of parents to parent, coaches to teach and coach, and the players to make smart decisions. Even if you do that, you still need sanctions because someone will always break the rules, but what good do they do if they players have already moved on?

Is the system irreparably broken? Lots of tough questions that I don’t have the answers to…

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August’s Zune Pass Songs

I apparently am musically schizophrenic if you look at what I used my 10 free Zune Pass downloads for. All good stuff, though. (Duh, because I wouldn’t have gotten them if I didn’t think they were good.)

  • You Wear It Well – Rod Stewart
  • Maggie May – Rod Stewart
  • Baba O’Riley – The Who
  • Big City Nights – The Scorpions
  • Dragula – Rob Zombie
  • Falling to Pieces – Faith No More
  • Midlife Crisis – Faith No More
  • Fell On Black Days – Soundgarden
  • Head Like A Hole – Nine Inch Nails
  • How You Like Me Now – The Heavy

Anyone have any recommendations on what I should get next month?

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Weird Dreams…

Last night I had the strangest dream – I sailed away to China…uh, wait, that was a song from the 80s, but I did have a dream about China.

I was being forced (why, I’m not sure) by the People’s Liberation Army to find and kill a witness to a criminal act (no idea what)  committed by a member of the People’s Liberation Army. There were high rise buildings with futuristic elevators and the document with the info on who I was to kill was a clear piece of plastic or glass with a description and a picture.

Of course, having morals that prohibit killing people, I decided to make a run for it and was driving through the lovely city of Tallahassee with reckless abandon with Venita Ballard as my passenger  as members of the PLA chased us. I made a bad decision and turned into a parking lot that was a dead end. I was cornered and about to charge them full speed in my car when I woke up.

Good times, my dreams. I think the fact China owns so much of our debt *may* be getting to me. The upside is maybe I have the beginnings of my first novel!

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July’s Zune Pass Songs

This month’s Zune Pass songs are another bit of mix-n-match. Some 70’s country/folk, some 70’s rock, some modern rock, and a reggae track.

  1. Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver
  2. Thank God I’m A Country Boy – John Denver
  3. Rocky Mountain High – John Denver
  4. Grandma’s Feather Bed – John Denver
  5. Sundown – Gordon Lightfoot
  6. Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot
  7. Running on Empty – Jackson Brown
  8. Road Trippin’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  9. Clocks – Coldplay – From the Rhythms Del Mundo compilation album
  10. Iron Lion Zion – Bob Marley & The Wailers


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Life After Getting Rid of Cable TV

So in late February or early March (I don’t remember which) we got rid of cable TV completely. I wanted to share the services we use in lieu of cable TV, the quality of service, the  technology behind what we replaced cable with and our experience with life after cable TV.

The Services Instead of Cable TV

Instead of cable we opted to go with a Roku XD|S. I liked the Roku because it offered Netflix, Amazon Instant Video (pay-per-view as well as purchase) and Hulu Plus, although we only recently subscribed to Hulu Plus. We also use Pandora, which is also included on the Roku. It does have a number of other services, too. Some of these other services are free, such as Crackle which shows movies (they’re uncut/unedited, but they do have commercials) and others require payment. The one thing they don’t have that I would LOVE to see is the ability to subscribe to ESPN’s GamePlan during college football season. Fortunately, since I still have Cox high speed internet I can access ESPN 360. So, as far as services offered with the Roku, we’re happy.

The Overall Experience

As far as the overall experience goes, it’s been pretty good. We’ve found that during peak hours, programs that are offered in HD will usually stream in HD, but not always. This is true whether it’s Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or Hulu Plus. Off hours it’s much more consistent. Occasionally we’ve had something stop in mid-program and  re-buffer, and the quality that sometimes drops to standard definition. The picture is still watchable although occasionally it seems that things not in the focus of the camera appear slightly pixelated, but not bad enough to make us turn it off. It did start  re-buffering  once right in the middle of “Unstoppable” with Denzel Washington and it did take away from the momentum of the scene. I have to admit it was slightly annoying that it cut right in the middle of an action scene, but that is most definitely a first-world problem that I can let go of pretty easily – or at least should be able to. :)

There are a few negatives: the first is that not all the shows we like to watch are available online – specifically “Burn Notice”  and “V”, although “V” was cancelled. Fortunately, earlier this year CBS started showing full episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” online so we can watch that. And, as I mentioned, there will be a lot less college football playing on TV this year. Maybe that’s a good thing – I’ll only watch the really important games since I’ll be relegated to using streaming from ESPN 360.

The Technology

As far as technology goes, while we don’t have Cox cable TV, we still have Cox for our high speed internet access. We have the premier tier which is speeds of up to 27 Mbps. I surprisingly got a straight answer from a Cox rep (I would have expected a vague, nebulous answer) that we should consistently get as much  bandwidth during peak hours as  one tier lower than what we’ve subscribed to and closer to the 27 Mbps during non-peak hours. We had a bit of trouble at one point over a period of several weeks, but I called in to complain and they scheduled a tech to come out the next day. The next day I got a call from Cox and they’d  miraculously found an issue in our neighborhood and they asked if I wanted to cancel the tech visit. I said yes, and things have done well since. My thinking is that they just opened the throttle a bit although maybe I’m just a little conspiracy theoryish on that. But as far as our ISP goes, things have been good.

We added one other piece of hardware in addition to the Roku: a new D-Link DIR 815 dual-band, wireless N router. The only thing connected to the 5GHz router is the Roku. All our other devices (two iPads, one iPod touch, two laptops, our home desktop and cell phones) use the 2.4GHz conection. I’ve also disabled the N on the 2.4GHz band, giving the 5GHz exclusive use of the N protocol. It’s served us pretty well – it’s required a few reboots but it’s pretty solid. My old router was the Linksys WRT54G which was rock solid for years except for the period of time where I had upgraded the firmware which was a complete disaster. This seems almost as solid, but we haven’t had it as long either.

Life Without Cable

So how is life without cable? I think it’s fantastic. Since we got rid of the cable, I’ve been working more on a side software development project (the game of Craps) that I’ve toyed around with for years. I’ve also been blogging more lately. I’ve been reading books more, too, although I’ve always read plenty. I know I definitely am watching less TV than I did before. I think my wife and step-daughter are watching less, too, but I am guessing they watch more than I do.

I think the best thing about it is the fact that we are more intentional about what we watch. It’s hard to sit down and get pulled into whatever marathon is on TNT, USA Network, etc. so you feel like you’re not just vegging and wasting your day in front of the TV, or if you are, it’s by choice. It really is insidious how they start the next episode with the credits still rolling from the previous episode; it pulls you in into another hour of just sitting there.

In short, if you’re thinking about ditching cable, I think it’s a great move. You need to consider what you watch and ask yourself “Can I find it in an alternative venue or can I live without seeing it?” It takes some being honest with yourself, but I bet you’d be surprised at how much of the TV you watch you can do just fine without. Who knows, you might rediscover your spouse, your children, a hobby (or a new one), and a whole new life outside of TV!


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