itunes – Stay N Alive

Apple is Creating a "Social Network" the Right Way

Today Apple did one of the most powerful things they have done since the launch of the iPod.  Notice that I didn’t say “revolutionary”.  There’s nothing new about it.  Note that I didn’t say “innovative”.  There’s nothing unique about it.  Today Apple launched, quite simply, a “Social Network for Music”.  What’s so powerful is that they’re not really trying to create a social network at all.  Apple realizes the Social Graph is just a complement to something bigger.  Instead, Apple focused on one of the biggest strengths they have – their music, and made it social.  I think this is powerful, and here’s why:

I think Dave Winer got it right earlier today – this is only the beginning for Apple.  You see, the secret to a successful anything on the web (not just “social”) is to focus on what you do best, and revolve around that.  Google’s strength was search.  Microsoft’s strength was the consumer OS that could be installed on almost any affordable PC, and has since become Exchange and Outlook and Enterprise apps.  Oracle’s strength is the database.  Facebook’s is the Social Graph.  No one does these things better than these guys, and it has been their focus that has made them big.  The moment they lose that focus is the moment they start to fizzle.

That’s why I question when I hear people saying “we’re creating another Social Network.”  Or, “so and so is competing against Facebook” (even though I did say earlier today this is a threat to Facebook – I’ll explain that in a second).  The minute I hear that I immediately tune out.  The age of “Social Networks” is gone.  Social has become ubiquitous, or at least it should be with all the tools available to us now.  It’s time to focus on your core, and Apple has done that brilliantly with this new Ping launch.  They will sell boat-loads of music from this because now rather than trying to find new music through search, people are going to be finding new music through the things their friends are interested in, an even more powerful factor in the purchasing process.  That’s just the start.

As Dave Winer implied, this social experience will eventually expand across every service Apple operates.  Apple is only building the Social Graph right now.  You’ll build your list of friends to learn of their music, even import your Facebook friends in the process to help port that Social Graph over to Apple, and you’ll start to build conversations and spend time in iTunes in multiple environments.  It won’t be long before you see Apple bringing your friends into the entire iTunes experience, showing Apps as well as music, along with, right next to Albums you want to purchase, other friends that have liked or purchased those Albums.  Soon Apple will let you take those friends into Mobile Me to share photos with each other.  They’ll let you take those friends into your contact lists on your iPhone.  They’ll build it into the camera app on the iPhone and iPod devices.  You’ll be able to see what your friends are watching on your AppleTV and you’ll be able to pull that entire experience into the operating system – both OS X and iOS.  All of these elements will go into the Ping experience, and I bet that eventually branches out into the browser.  Keep in mind these aren’t just anonymous friends – these are real-life connections.  My Mom uses iTunes.  I bet many of your Grandparents use iTunes.  This is perhaps bigger than Facebook (According to Wired, iTunes in just 2005 had over 200 million users – anyone have a more recent number?).

Now, for the pinnacle event – the equivalent of Facebook’s F8: the Platform.  You can count on it.  Eventually Apple will integrate these connections into the SDK and you’ll now be able to bring over your Ping friends to the applications you use and the games you play.  I think it’s no accident the ability to play against friends in the SDK was mentioned in today’s announcement.  Now Ping’s Social Graph becomes a standard, something all apps will be fighting for, and they’ve all of the sudden hit the caliber of Facebook Platform.  They’ll be able to port those connections to the web, and now Apple has just as powerful a search and recommendation algorithm as both Facebook, and perhaps more than Google currently.

Today’s move was inevitable, but genius on the part of Apple.  I’m glad they didn’t try to build an entire Social Network out of the box.  Start small, and gradually bring your users along for the ride as you expand that experience.  I think perhaps that’s where Google went wrong – where’s my news feed in Picasa?  Where can I see what things my friends are searching for and have opted me to see?  How do I port my Facebook Social Graph over to those experiences?  Google’s focusing too broadly – I think they realize that.  I hope they don’t rush to a large social network, but rather start slowly and gradually bring it all together.

I’ve talked about building on your core – your core is key.  Apple, quite literally, showed its core today as it stayed focused on one of the things they do best right now – Music.  Everything else is just a complement, and that is totally evident in Ping.  I think Apple just confirmed what we all knew up to this point – “Social” is now just a commodity.

How to Downgrade From iOS 4.0 to iOS 3.1.3 Firmware on the iPhone

Recently, after the excitement of upgrading to iOS 4.0 this last week, I had need to downgrade again so I could sell it in preparation for my new iPhone 4.  There are many others who say iOS 4 is slow on their iPhones and also want a way to downgrade.  Previously, there were ways to downgrade if you had the iOS 4.0 beta installed, but since the final release, Apple seems to be verifying new restores, and doesn’t seem to want people to downgrade to the 3.1.3 firmware.  You can tell from the long list of support requests in the Apple Support Forums.

I finally found a way to make this work, thanks to combined help from GadgetsDNA and MacLife.  It seems that Apple is checking a server at, and if you previously saved your ECID SHSH certificate to Saurik’s authentication server you can trick iTunes into thinking his server is their own and go through with the install.  If you haven’t saved your certificate (you may have done this if you jailbroke your iPhone before), feel free to try this and let me know if it works, but I hear unfortunately there isn’t yet a way to make it work.  I hope to be proven wrong.

So here’s what you need to do:

  • First, you need to trick iTunes into thinking Saurik’s server is Apple’s.  To do so, you need to find your hosts file (On a Mac, this is on /etc/hosts.  On a PC, this is in c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\).  Once you’ve found it, edit it, and add the line, “” to the end.  This points to
  • Next, you need to put your phone in restore mode in preparation for the restore.  To do this, just disconnect your iPhone and turn it off (do this by holding down the power button until you see the “power off” slider).  Then hold your home button while you reconnect the phone to your computer.  Keep the home button pressed until iTunes opens and gives you a message saying you need to restore.
  • Now, you’re going to need a 3.1.3 firmware file.  Here is one for the 3GS.  Here is one for the 3G.  To load the file, hold down the alt button on a PC, or on a Mac, hold down the alt/option key and click “Restore” in iTunes.
  • Wait for the restore, and if it works when you’re done, it should reboot into 3.1.3 and you’re done!
  • For me, I got a 1015 error, so I then went and followed the instructions MacLife to complete the restore process.  To start, you need to download iRecovery (I only have the Mac version) and libusb.
  • With iRecovery downloaded, go to the directory you downloaded it to and type:

./iRecovery -s

setenv auto-boot true




  • Now, you just need to reboot the phone and you’ll be back to iOS 3.1.3!  To reboot the phone, just hold down the power and home buttons until you see the Apple logo.

Let me know how this works for you.  Oh, and do so at your own risk!  While I don’t anticipate these steps hurting your phone, I offer no guarantee and there is always a chance doing steps Apple didn’t intend will break your phone.

My Favorite Things: Spotify, the Social Music Streaming Service

I’ve been thinking about a new series for awhile.  The idea is I get to share my favorite applications, gadgets, and services that I use on a regular basis.  Each one I am either already paying for or I would have paid for in a minute if they had not already sent me a free copy (and some I even pay for anyway just because I want to support the company since I like it so much).  This is your peak into my life and the things I use on a day-to-day basis.  These are the things that were so good they got me to spend time out of my busy schedule to share with you.  Listen carefully to these, as these are truly the technologies I really, really enjoy and I think you will too.  The first of these, which I’ve been trying to write about for awhile now, is an iTunes competitor called Spotify.

As I write this, I’m sitting here, listening to Dave Morin, a Facebook friend’s playlist of 90s music and none of it is hosted on either of our computers.  I’m listening to Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning”, and the cool thing is I haven’t even downloaded the song yet!  Spotify is a 100% cloud-based subscription service based in the UK where you pay a monthly fee, and get to stream as much high quality as you like to your computer.

Spotify’s database is amazing!  While there are some rarer songs that are harder to find, Spotify has been able to satisfy just about every search query I’ve given it, providing me with music all over the world in just a few clicks.  New releases come out on the service almost as quick as they come out on iTunes, and some like Mika’s new album even get exclusive release on the service earlier than they release in stores (Mika’s had an overlay for the pre-release time asking you to purchase the album).

Every song on the service can be added to a playlist, which, as I’ll show in a minute, all your friends can then subscribe to and also listen.  You can easily access any of your playlists, and it also keeps track of your searches so you can go back and access those as well.

Each song can be added to a playlist, or you can view your friends’ playlists

Social Integration

Spotify has the most amazing social integration of any music service I’ve used so far.  I think of it as “Twitter lists, for music”.  If you link your Facebook account it will immediately show you the playlists of all your friends, and you can “subscribe” to the playlists you like and have them appear in your sidebar for listening later.

In addition to subscription to friends’ lists, sharing is quite simple as well.  Just right-click on any song, click “Send to”, and you’re given the option to immediately share that song to Twitter, Facebook, or even friends on the Spotify service.  Your friends can then listen to the song on Spotify and add it to their lists as well.  I’ve found myself listening more to my friends’ music than my own playlists, discovering all kinds of new music, and music that I have not heard in ages via this means.  Remember listening to music with your high school buddies?  Now you can do so again through Spotify’s social integration.

Clicking on the “What’s New” tab not only gives me a customized view based on my listening habits of new music tailored for me, but I also get a feed of my friends’ listening activities.  I can see, in real-time what all my friends are listening to and check out what they are interested in right then and there.

Clicking “What’s New” gives me a feed of what all my friends are listening to


With a near $20/month subscription, any user of Spotify can also download any of the music streamed on the service.  This way if you don’t have an internet connection later you can still listen to the music with no problem.  You can even take it further though – in any friend’s list, if you swipe a box next to “Available Offline”, all of that friend’s list will download to your computer for listening later.  This makes it easy to bring the entire musical experience with you no matter where you go.

Mobile App

I actually loved the service so much that I proxied the service so I could pay them the monthly fee (I had a free blogger copy) just so I could try out the iPhone app.  The iPhone app provides most of the same functionality as the desktop application, and also gives you full ability to download music for listening when you don’t have a connection in the car.  I’ve found the music quality on the iPhone is not quite as clear as the iPhone’s native iPod player, but it is still good, and worth using.  The service is also available on Android and Symbian devices.

Spotify’s iPhone version

US Release?

Spotify currently is only available outside the United States, and to select bloggers in a limited US trial.  I originally got access to the service for free, but I liked it so much I am now paying the monthly fee just to support the service.  Rumors abound about a US release, but it is still unclear on when this will happen.

So, if you’re in the UK or any of the areas Spotify is available, be sure to check it out and give it a try.  For those of us in the US, we’ll be stuck waiting until the US music industry gets its gear in order, contracts are signed, and we too will have the opportunity to try out the goodness that is Spotify.  Spotify is the most amazing music service I’ve ever used, and I quickly find it replacing my usage of iTunes and even social streaming services like and Pandora Radio.  Spotify has revolutionized the way I listen to music.  If you can, I highly recommend you check it out.

MuseBuzz Sends You Song Notifications Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Signed, Sealed And DeliveredI love new music. When I was younger I would spend my evenings and weekends surfing the used CD stores finding that rare track or remix no one had heard before.  I would spend hours at Blockbuster Music (remember them?) previewing every CD I could to find the perfect album or single.  Maybe it’s a bit of music ADD, but I get bored with old songs easily.  That’s why I try to use iTunes Alerts as often as I can to be notified when my favorite artist has a new Single or Album out.  Recently at a local Launchup event I came across a new service which seeks to simplify the iTunes notifications process. The service is called MuseBuzz, and it’s very simple, but incredibly useful!

With MuseBuzz you’re given one click, and PC or Mac, it automatically reads your iTunes library, retrieves the list of artists, and gives you a nice, simple interface to select (all are defaulted selected) or deselect the artists you do or don’t want to receive new music notifications for.  I left mine all checked, and look forward to receiving e-mail notifications for the artists I listen to in my library.

While it would be nice to have more filtering options and maybe a smarter recommendations filter to suggest my most frequently listened artists (maybe using or Pandora data?), this is definitely a step much further than Apple has been able to provide in their own iTunes interface.  I am unaware of any other service that does similar.  The site requires a simple registration to get your e-mail address and a login, but after that you’re immediately presented with your list of artists.

musebuzz artist list

MuseBuzz is founded by Chase Brammer, a new entrepreneur and local Utah Flex expert.  For such a simple business concept, I’m excited to see what new songs show up in my inbox next.  The service is completely free and you can run it at

You can see Chase’s presentation at Launchup on Ustream here.

Screen shot 2009-11-13 at 12.02.25 AM

Facebook Takes a Page Out of iTunes With "Credits Enabled" App Directory

FacebookWhat has been speculated for awhile now seems to be out in the open.  Facebook is rolling out what appears to be an iTunes-esque version of the Facebook Application directory, in which users can easily find and purchase from “credits-enabled” applications.  The feature was recently enabled on my Facebook profile, and after clicking an option titled, “spend credits”, appears to take you to a directory of “credits enabled” applications where you can use your Credits and purchase from applications supporting the method of payment. All users appear to be given a default of 5 Credits to start out with.

Clicking through to the applications, you are required to install them first, and then within the applications that are credits-enabled you can purchase things within the application with your credits.  For example, the Social Calendar application enables you to purchase virtual “gifts” to send to your friends for various events. Purchasing the item deducts credits from your account.


Credits cost 10 Credits for $1, and can be purchased either via links in the applications, or via the drop-down at in the header navigation menu of Facebook.  Becoming a “credits-enabled” application would appear to be a closed process at the moment, as Facebook has yet to make any announcements to developers yet, nor have they published any documentation on their wiki.  It will certainly be interesting to see how developers embrace this when they do make it open, and what types of business models people are able to create through the new model.

Facebook, it would appear, is soon to embrace a new business model on top of their already ad-based system. I’m really excited to see how this plays out, and if we’ll see some of the big e-commerce players begin to embrace it (imagine what Amazon could do with such an integration).  Here are some more screenshots:



Never Lose Your Remote Again With i.TV’s Remote Control Framework

click remote i.tvWhen the iPhone was first released, one of the strongest draws that convinced me towards purchasing an iPhone was a cool little app that enabled me to control iTunes, straight from my iPhone. The “Remote” app, provided by Apple, essentially took one more remote out of my hands and all my music, whether on the iPhone or off, was right there, in my hands wherever I went.  Today i.TV has taken that concept and with the help of the new iPhone 3.0 firmware, applied it towards their strength, TV and Movies.  Today they announced a new remote control framework, allowing TV and device manufacturers to allow individuals to control their home entertainment devices from the iPhone, straight over WiFi, bluetooth, or the iPhone’s own built-in connector.

Your Own Universal Remote in Your Pocket

As devices like GPS get ready to make their way onto the iPhone, the iPhone is quickly becoming a single, all-in-one device users can take anywhere, and simply plug in to the situation they are taking part in.  i.TV has realized this and applied it to the TV watching experience.  Today, they announced when the software is released in the app store, that it will launch immediately with a built-in TiVo remote control.  You simply register your TiVo, and for any show you want to control, you’ll no longer be searching for the remote.  Just pull out your iPhone and play, pause, fastforward, rewind, and even schedule recordings, straight from the comfort of the same device you take phone calls from.

i.TV has built an entire framework around this concept, and is hoping other device manufacturers will also embrace it.  I, for one am hoping for a Windows Media Center plugin I can simply control my home media center experience from.  Maybe an Xbox controller that I can control my TV watching remotely?

iTunes Integration and New Design and Layout

In addition to the Remote Control framework, i.TV has completely redesigned their application to a much smoother, and faster application flow.  The buttons are now easier to push, it is much easier to control your watching and viewing experience, schedule shows, add to your Netflix queue, or just see what’s on at your local Movie theater (and preview the movie before you see it!).  In addition to that, they have finally integrated iTunes into the experience, allowing you to purchase and download relevant iTunes movie and TV shows, and even soundtracks and music straight from the app itself.

With a single app, i.TV has provided you everything you ever needed to know about the movies and TV shows you are watching, also allowing you to control and react to the experience as you’re watching or preparing to watch a show.  I can just see the Movie theaters cringing at all the i.TV users checking their phones as they watch movies now.  No worries though, because you can purchase your tickets, straight from i.TV too!

Push Notifications

Alongside the rest, i.TV is finally releasing Push Notification alerts for upcoming shows.  Now, when your favorite show is about to play, even if you don’t have means to record it, you’ll never miss a show, as your remote, er, iPhone, will notify you when the show is about to happen.   Simply schedule the show, set the alert, and catch each show you never wanted to miss!  Previously this was only available via e-mail.


As a loyal i.TV user there are still a few annoyances that have not yet been embraced.  Knowing the team I am sure they are being worked on.  The number one missing feature I would love to see is despite the “i” in i.TV, i.TV still lacks social network integration.  I can currently send myself reminders via e-mail, or even share with friends via e-mail, but i.TV has seemed to have missed the easiest sharing tool of all, and that is social networks. Facebook has provided simple libraries to integrate Facebook Connect into any application (it takes just minutes to set up), and Twitter integration and sharing also is a fairly simple feature to implement (a matter of simply sending to a simple link in a browser window, no API needed).  I hope these are features we can expect to see soon – I’d like to share the TV shows I’m watching with my real friends, and not have to spam them via e-mail.  Or maybe I could post a review and have it appear on Twitter or Facebook.  These are very simple updates.

In addition, the registration process is still a little too complicated. Currently, to register, you have to type your e-mail address twice, and provide a username. I would suggest one or the other, or even better yet, just integrate Facebook Connect or Twitter OAuth as your registration means and get rid of the registration altogether.  Regardless, once you’re registered, there is little mess or pain beyond that, so perhaps it is only a personal annoyance.

i.TV Keeps Getting Better

Regardless of my own annoyances, i.TV is still the best TV Guide app for the iPhone, hands down.  Every release they continue to blow away the competition and keep getting better at it!  As devices like the TiVo begin to embrace the iPhone as a remote control device using universal frameworks like i.TV’s, I’m sure other manufacturers will want to get out of the stone age and incorporate their own products as well.  My hope is that we’ll see this very soon as i.TV seems far from losing any momentum in this race.  While I don’t have a TiVo (I’m a loyal Windows Media Center user), I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds, and will continue checking i.TV for reminders and updates to the TV shows I watch, hoping my own device manufacturers also hop on (ahem, Microsoft???).  i.TV continues to be one of the best apps in the app store, and when the 2.0 version is released, you should definitely give it a try – it’s free!

Now, where did I put my remote?


merlin remote


merlin itunes

Universal Media Group Just Doesn’t Get It

This is a guest-post by my brother, Luke Stay.  Follow him on Twitter / FriendFeed.


I do a semi-regular segment on called Favorite Video Friday in which I showcase 3 innovative or otherwise interesting music videos bound by a common theme. They’re my favorite posts to do and also my most well received. I’ve done 43 of them so far, all but a few of them containing 3 videos each, but every time I think I’ve run out of good videos, I stumble on a few more.

YouTube is my source of choice, mostly because of its popularity and massive database of artists both popular and obscure, but in my never-ending search for quality music videos I often come upon one with “embedding disabled by request.” Nine times out of ten, that video is claimed by Universal Media Group. This always puts me in a difficult position. Do I scrap the video that fits so perfectly with the weeks theme, or do I go elsewhere and find the video on a site not as regulated as YouTube?

Universal Media Group has completely missed the point of YouTube. YouTube is a social network. It is a place to discover interesting videos and discuss them. I’ve found that my meager number of regular readers are a lazy bunch. They don’t click on links to watch videos elsewhere. They want to watch the video then and there, embedded right within the site. If they like it, then they’ll seek out ways to share it with others, usually through YouTube. On the internet, you only have seconds to grab a reader’s attention, and external links do nothing to help you. I have to embed my videos.

I don’t know why they do it. They can’t claim they lose ad revenue when their videos are embedded externally. YouTube now allows embedded ads and most of Universal’s artists already have pop-ups to buy the track on Amazon or ITunes. Embedding does nothing to stop this. I’m not going to claim this practice hurts their business, Universal’s artists are mostly well known, but it certainly doesn’t help them. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten comments on a post I’ve done telling me that a person had never heard of a band or a song and they were going to go buy the track. After the recent suggestion of Marina Martin, I even added links to buy the featured tracks on ITunes (If anyone knows an easy way to add graphical buttons, I’m listening). Allowing videos to be embedded only increases the scope of your visibility. How can that possibly hurt your business? I don’t get it.

I wish I could boycott Universal Music Group altogether, but they just represent too many artists. If I want to keep up 3 videos a post, I need as many videos to choose from as I can get. Instead, I’ll just be forced to keep finding their videos elsewhere, often bringing them no ad revenue whatsoever. It’s a mild pain in my butt, but (I just said butt but, hehe) I’m sure Universal spends massive amounts of money searching for copyright infringements that could be avoided by simply enabling embedding on YouTube. Get with the program, Universal!

Follow more of Luke on and

Potential Applications of Facebook Connect in E-Commerce

n_1186439527_logo_facebook-rgb-7inch-1.pngI’m way too late on this, since it’s been mentioned several times already, but I thought I’d share a little presentation Jesse Pickard and the Razorfish guys did that I had the opportunity to help out on. Jesse asked me several questions about Facebook Connect a few months ago, and he turned it into this excellent presentation on potential uses of the platform for E-Commerce. In it, he uses iTunes, the iPhone (I still predict that’s coming – I always have, as has Facebook), and Amazon all as examples of potential integration points for Facebook Connect. These types of services have tremendous potential to see maximum success from integrating social networking into their own e-commerce platforms. They do risk some privacy, but that’s the advantage of Facebook – they are one of the few services out there which allow for privacy controls of their users, and they are only getting better at it.

I’d really like to see more e-commerce organizations embrace Facebook Connect. If I can be of help in doing so, please contact me! You can read more about it via the presentation Jesse Pickard made:

Portable Social Graphs – Imagining their Potential[swfobj style=”margin:0px” width=”425″ height=”355″ src=”” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true”]

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: retail marketing)

What’s On Removed From the iTunes App Store

whats-on.jpgZdnet is reporting that apparently, i.TV‘s competition, What’s On, has been removed from the Apple iTunes App store. Searching for the iPhone App returns a listing, but clicking on the listing returns an error saying the App couldn’t be found. There is no word from What’s On, and it’s unclear the reason for the dead links.

This news of What’s On, having recently pushed their 1.5 version to the iTunes App store, comes on the Heels of the number one Free App in the iTunes App store, i.TV. Both applications provide TV Listings and customizable TV lists for users, i.TV with much more content. i.TV also provides a movie listings and Theater search service which What’s On does not provide.

i.TV is a client of mine, so I have to admit I have a bias, but I’m very curious to know what’s “going” on here. I have no inside knowledge on this one unfortunately. I can only wonder if Apple discovered something that was in disagreement with their Terms of Use policies.