My fascination with music began at the age of seven when I received a portable CD player and Michael Jackson’s HIStory album as a Christmas gift. Ever since, music has played an integral role in my daily routine. In the early 2000s, when Napster emerged, I started downloading pirated music to satiate my growing appetite for discovering new songs. I attribute pirated music to broadening my knowledge of music beyond the popular mainstream. It was through free music that I discovered artists such as The Guess Who, Doobie Brothers, and Hall & Oates. During my piracy days, I made countless mix CDs containing 12 to 18 songs to fit the 80-minute limit of a CD-R for myself and friends. Over time, I amassed over 200 mix CDs and the number only increased when I started driving, always ensuring I had a fresh mix CD for the car. The advent of MP3 CDs eventually slowed my mix CD creation, but there’s nothing quite like a well-curated 15-song mix CD to make driving around during your teenage years more enjoyable.
Fast forward to today, I’ve abandoned music piracy and switched to a streaming service. Though I can still make mix CDs, they seem outdated and my current vehicle lacks a CD player. Instead, I create playlists to suit my musical preferences. These could be categorized by genre, artist, or release date, but more often, I like to personalize a selection of songs that relate to a specific theme or concept. One of my favorite playlist creation techniques involves finding songs that sound like my current favorite tune. This approach typically leads me to explore genres that are new to me. Since I’m creating playlists rather than burning CDs, I can add or modify songs over time, continuously expanding the list as new music is released or discovered. Thanks to Apple Music, I can even generate Smart Playlists that automatically add songs from my library to a playlist based on criteria such as release date, genre, or artist.
I have experimented with several music recommendation services in the past, which suggest similar artists or songs. While this approach serves as a decent starting point, I have discovered that algorithms are unable to capture the nuances of music. I also attempted using AI, which provided better results compared to conventional music discovery methods; however, it lacked diversity. Some aspects of music discovery still demand a human touch.
I have compiled a lovely assortment of my personally curated playlists, along with custom artwork for each one. To accommodate those who do not use Apple Music, I have provided links to both Apple Music and Spotify. Please feel free to discover and enjoy these playlists on whichever streaming service you prefer. Click or tap on the logo that corresponds to your streaming service of choice to listen to the playlist.
The music industry created the term “Americana” as a sub-genre of country music, but many artists have rejected this classification. They prefer to be recognized as country musicians rather than being segregated into a category that doesn’t align with Nashville or Texas country music. I support their stance, but my Americana playlist is not meant to force them into a category they reject. Instead, it’s a selection of music with a distinct sound that evokes images of country roads, up-tempo rhythms, and profound lyrics. This playlist features artists such as Tyler Childers, Charley Crockett, Morgan Wallen, and more. It’s my current favorite playlist to play while driving with the windows down.
Beard Bangers is my constantly evolving playlist of the latest hit songs (or Bangers) that I’m loving right now. This is my go-to playlist for discovering new music, and I update it regularly with fresh tracks as they are released and remove older songs as they age out.
Hawaii and other Pacific islands have a very distinctive sub-genre of Reggae music. This mostly modern style of Reggae features the unique island sound, setting it apart from other contemporary Reggae music.
I throw a cookout or barbecue at my house a few times a year and always have music playing. This playlist is what I typically play at these gatherings – a dynamic mix of new and classic tracks that perfectly set the tone for the occasion.
Good Vibes is a playlist of Reggae (or similar) tracks that exude positivity and always put me in a good mood. It’s impossible to feel down when listening to these songs.
Reggae-Rock / Country
This playlist features artists who typically perform reggae-rock, but also sing country songs or covers, which I’m calling the Reggae-Rock-Country genre.
You may have seen something like this on technology blogs (like this one!), YouTube videos, or even your favorite Twitch streamer, but what actually is this Stream Deck thing everyone is talking about?
I’ve always thought a Stream Deck was a command station for streamers and YouTubers that can control their streamy stuff and play stupid sound effects. While I wasn’t wrong, the Stream Deck platform is open and friendly to those of us who are into automation and scripting.
Like a lot of people, I took advantage of holiday season sales to purchase a Stream Deck by Elgato. The device is a very simple piece of hardware. At it’s core, it’s a USB keyboard that stands upright on your desk. The version I have has a five by three grid of clear buttons that each have an LCD screen under them. I opted for the mk.2 version that was released in the summer of 2021. (What are the differences?) The ability to have anything on the screen under the buttons make the Stream Deck very fun to play with and to use!
I’m going to go into very technical detail of how my Stream Desk is set up and what I use it for. Hold on to your butts!
The first button is a simple date/time display with my custom background color applied. No action occurs when this button is pressed. Time plugin by Krabs.
Moving from left to right, the next button is a stock ticker display. Currently I have it set to show $AAPL. When you press this button it retrieves an update on the stock price, outside of its schedule update. Stocks plugin by exension
When I walk away from my computer, I want to just put up the screensaver until is goes to sleep. This button, when pressed, runs a custom AppleScript to start the screensaver. At the same time, the Stream Deck goes into screen saver mode. Custom icon featuring a green iMac, by me. RunAppleScript plugin by mushoo.
tell application "System Events"
start current screen saver
The next two buttons are the same, except the left one is for on, and the right is for off. They both run an AppleScript that runs a Shortcut. The macOS Shortcut turns on/off the lights in my office I use for video calls. This consists of a Nanoleaf essentials light strip in front of my face, Nanoleaf shapes on the wall behind me, and a Govee RGBIC light strip on my Kallax unit behind me. Custom lightbulb icons by me. RunAppleScript plugin by mushoo.
tell application "Shortcuts Events"
run shortcut "Office Lights On"
tell application "Shortcuts Events"
run shortcut "Office Lights Off"
The first icon in the second row is another AppleScript button that I call ‘Start Working’. This is usually the first thing I do when I start working from home. It opens all the URLs I like to look at (e.g. Amazon, BlipShift, Woot) and work related web pages. It also opens all the applications I use daily like Outlook, Slack, Teams, NewsExplorer, LastPass, and Music. Custom briefcase icon by me. RunAppleScript plugin by mushoo.
The next button is another display only button that really doesn’t do much when pressed. This is called Octodeck and is a plugin that talks to my 3D printer server, Octoprint. This displays the percentage complete of an active 3D print job. I added a couple lines to the original creator’s code to include the time left, one line under the percentage. Octodeck plugin by cpeuschel.
This center button is kind of a playground of what’s possible. I was testing Keyboard Maestro and its Stream Deck integration and came up with this. In Keyboard Maestro I have a timed macro that runs every 1 minute and grabs the song info from the Music app and pushes it to the Stream Deck button. Also, if you press the button, it will update the info outside of the one minute interval. Keyboard Maestro plugin by Stairways Software.
Another mostly info-only button, displays the album art of the currently playing song in Music. When not playing it shows a play button that can be used to start playing music. This is a simple one, but I like having the album art displayed on my Stream Deck. Apple Music plugin Elgato – available in the Stream Deck app.
The last button in this row, is a simple ‘next track’ button for Apple Music. When pressed this will skip to the next song when music is playing. I like having this button on Stream Deck as well as on my Apple keyboard. Custom icon made by me. Apple Music plugin Elgato – available in the Stream Deck app.
In the third row, we start with two folders. The first folder holding sound effects that can be triggered with the push of a button. I also have a button in this folder to switch to my Zoom profile as I’m usually triggering these sounds while on a Zoom call.
The second folder is for all my lighting controls. I can go into this folder and adjust my office lighting as needed outside of my normal on/off functions on the main screen. In this folder I can change the scene on my Nanoleaf shapes, adjust my Govee light strip, and set all lights to red (when I’m angry).
Another folder in the third row houses my quick access commands for Slack. All of these buttons use a hotkey command to make changes to text in Slack. The middle button with the slack logo, when pressed, opens Slack or brings the application into focus.
Phone – /call – starts a call in Slack channel
Giphy – /giphy – prefix for sending a random GIF
ThumbsUp – ???????? – types and send thumbs up emoji
Quotes – shift+⌘+9 – formats the selected text as a block quote
</> – shift+⌘+C – formats the selected text as code
</> block – option+shift+⌘+C – formats the selected text as code block
Strike – shift+⌘+X – formats the selected text with strikethrough Custom icons by me. System Hotkey plugin by Elgato – available in the Stream Deck app
Next to last, is a mute button. When pressed, this mutes all sounds on the computer connected to the Stream Deck. I usually use this when I receive a phone call or need to quickly hear something not in my office. Custom mute icon by me. System Multimedia plugin by Elgato – available in the Stream Deck app.
The last button is a microphone mute toggle. This is a system-wide button that when pressed either mutes or unmutes the computer microphone. Useful for when I’m using a video chat app that’s not Zoom or Teams. Custom mic icon by me. Mic Mute Toggle plugin by Fred Emmott.
Stream Deck Profiles
The Stream deck can support multiple profiles that will display specific pages based on the application you’re using. I’m using three profiles in addition to the default profile, outlined above.
When I’m using Photoshop I like to have quick actions in front of me instead of trying to remember the keyboard shortcuts. As I use this profile more with Photoshop, I’m sure I’ll add more commands. The icons used in this profile were provided by SideShowFX.
While on a Zoom call, I like to have a button to press to mute my microphone, as everyone should. (and remember to unmute it) I found a Zoom plugin that gives you more than just mute, but also camera control and some other useful buttons. The center button with the Zoom logo does nothing other than let me know which profile I’m in at a glance. The button in the very bottom-right corner switches me back to my default profile where I can access light controls and sounds. If I click out the Zoom app and then go back to Zoom, the Zoom Stream Deck profile reactivates. Zoom plugin and icons by LostDomain.
Lastly, I have a Teams profile which is similar to the Zoom profile, but there is no plugin I’ve found as of writing this. I’m using hotkey buttons to trigger actions in Teams, like mute/unmute and show/hide camera. The Teams logo in the middle acts as a profile switch to go back to the default profile.
Should you buy a Stream Deck?
Overall I think the Stream Deck is a fun toy and can be helpful with repetitive tasks. Would I be lost without one? No, but I’ve already gotten comfortable with the buttons/display I have setup that I would buy a replacement if mine was stolen.
Should you buy one? That’s a difficult question because everyone’s needs/wants are different. If you’re into tinkering, scripting, and/or automation I think you should give Stream Deck a try. If you’re not, you may struggle with what to do with your new Stream Deck. It can always be used to add a wow factor to your desk setup.
Things to Note
The Stream Deck currently only works on a Windows or Mac computer. The Stream Deck community has it running in Linux, but is not officially supported.
The Stream Deck device must always be plugged into the computer to work, there’s no wireless option.
In order to get the auto-switching profiles for specific applications, the Stream Deck software has to be running, but not currently have any windows open. If you have any Stream Deck application windows open, in the background or not, the automatic switching will not work. This is somewhat annoying and hard to determine on macOS as the application does not show up in the application switcher or dock.
The Stream Deck software has to be running for the device to work. If you quit the app, the Stream Deck goes into screensaver mode and does not function.
If you have more than one computer, you have to transfer/re-install your plugins, icons, etc. on each computer. Currently there’s no cloud syncing between devices. Same goes if you have multiple Stream Decks.
Fun Tips & Tricks
You can set the icon of any button to an animated GIF
Any button can have a custom icon – you can make your own or download them
You can take a single image and chop it up into a grid and set that as your button icons
The mk.1 and mk.2 Stream Deck are vey similar with the exception of the mk.2 having USB-C (at the Stream Deck end only), longer cable, solid stand, and interchangeable faceplate (not included)
There are currently three sizes of Stream Deck, mini 3×2, regular 5×3, and XL 8×4
Elgato’s software is free and you don’t need a device to play with Stream Deck configurations
Let me know on Twitter if you also have a Stream Deck and the different things you do with it.
This is not sponsored content. Elgato is not affiliated nor has influenced this post.
I like Eminem’s music, but I’m not a super-fan. When he first burst onto the hip-hop scene, I enjoyed his funny stuff, but mostly liked it because it was the popular thing to do. As him and I grew older, I listened to him less and less.
I decided to make a personal top 10 list since he has put out a lot of different songs over a vast period of time.
When I’m Gone – Curtain Call
Rap God – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Love the Way You Lie – Recovery
Forgot About Dre – (Dr. Dre) 2001
My Band – (D12) D12 World
Not Afraid – Recovery
Guilty Conscience – The Slim Shady LP
The Way I Am – The Marshal Mathers LP
Fast Lane – (Bad Meets Evil) Hell: The Sequel
Greatest – Kamikaze
Honorable Mention – Square Dance – The Eminem Show
The latest product from tech giant Apple is their own take on the very popular “lady in a cylinder”. The HomePod aims to fill the gap where the competition lacks in areas such as sound quality, ease of use, and aesthetics. I’ve spent the last month with the HomePod, testing everything I could.
It Packs a Punch
The Apple HomePod is a small cylindrical device that is about the size of a two liter soda bottle, with the top cut off. It’s covered in a thick mesh that feels soft but also sturdy at the same time. Inside, the HomePod packs a large upward facing subwoofer and seven tweeters around the bottom circumference. In between those there is a six microphone array for hearing your voice as well as to fine tune the sound based on the surroundings. The speakers and microphones are controlled by a stripped-down version of the fourth generation Apple TV. The processing power allows you to shout anything at it and it responds very quickly.
I don’t consider myself an audiophile, but I enjoy high quality music when I can get it. When I listen to music over bluetooth in my car I can hear the lower quality compared to playing over USB. That’s about the extent of my sound quality identifying experience. The HomePod does a great job of producing great sound in a small package. It sits next to my forty-eight inch, nine speaker sound bar, and the HomePod has noticeably better sound. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The music stopped and I thought “there’s no way she heard that.”[/perfectpullquote]The sound output fills my living room with high fidelity music so well that you would think I have a 7.1 surround sound system setup.
The HomePod only knows one music service and that’s Apple’s own Apple Music. That means the HomePod cannot play music from Spotify, Tidal, Google, or any other music service out there. You can play songs from Apple’s giant library, your own iTunes library, or songs you’ve previously purchased from iTunes, so there is a lot of variety. If that is not enough for you, you can still stream whatever you like from an iOS device to the speaker, just like you AirPlay to an Apple TV. The benefit of using Apple Music on the HomePod is you don’t need your iPhone or iPad to play it. In fact, if you turned off all your devices, it will still be able to play music from Apple’s streaming service. If you’re thinking of getting a HomePod, switching to or signing up for Apple Music is definitely worth it.
Beyond playing great music, the HomePod packs the same helpful assistant as iPhones and iPads. Her name is Siri and she is very willing to help you any way she can. The HomePod doesn’t have a screen or a way for you to interact with anything, so Siri is limited. Speaking “Hey Siri…” into the air turns her attention towards you as she hangs on your next words. I’ve had moderate success with asking Siri random questions. I’ve been using Siri for a long time so I know how to ask her things and what she can and can’t do. Here are some things I asked my HomePod that resulted in the correct answer on the first try: What is 60g in oz?; What is the scientific name for a sloth?; How many tablespoons are in 20oz?; Who is Michael B. Jordan?; Who sings purple rain?
Contrary to your iPhone, Siri on the HomePod doesn’t know who you are. Whomever sets up the HomePod initially can choose to allow some details to be passed through the Apple account, but it’s still very limited. The nice thing about this is anyone that can yell “Hey Siri!” can control the HomePod. This can also cause some disagreements between people who want to hear two different songs.[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]One of my favorite HomePod activities is when I wake up with a random song in my head, I can shout out loud and have it played[/perfectpullquote]
One place where the HomePod excels over the competition is how well it can hear you. Even at whisper with music playing the HomePod picks up the “Hey Siri” command. I was in my kitchen cooking with the exhaust fan on, the HomePod was about twenty feet away with a wall between us. The HomePod was playing something from Apple Music when I said “Hey Siri skip” at a volume that a person next to me would struggle to hear. The music stopped and I thought “there’s no way she heard that.” The next song began to play and I was taken aback by how well it could hear my over all the noise.
The Kit of Home
Another way Siri on the HomePod is helpful is by controlling HomeKit devices. These are smart home devices that are compatible with Apple’s home ecosystem. I have structured the smart devices in my home around this ecosystem allowing me to take full advantage of Siri for automation and control. By shouting at the HomePod I can close my garage doors, turn up the heat, turn on/off lights, and trigger scenes I have setup. The HomePod also acts as a HomeKit bridge that allows you to (if you don’t already have an Apple TV) access your HomeKit devices from outside your home network.
Who should buy one?
If you’re deeply invested in Apple’s ecosystem (which is easy to do) with a subscription to Apple Music, HomeKit compatible devices (Philips Hue bulbs fit this bill), like listening to music in your home, and use an iOS device; the HomePod is definitely for you.
It’s going to be hard to find a lot of people that meet those criteria, which is Apple’s fault, but at the same time it helps get more people into their ecosystem.
One of my favorite HomePod activities is when I wake up with a random song in my head (which happens almost every morning) I can shout out loud and have it played, and it sounds great!
Measuring the Competition
Apple is late to the “lady in a can” game, which seems to be their modus operandi as of late. There is plenty of competition in this space and surprisingly the first mover here was Amazon with their Echo line. Amazon has released nine products with their Alexa assistant before the HomePod shipped. Google now has three different types of devices that use the Google Assistant for your home. Amazon, Google and Apple’s devices all have the same functions; play music, control smart devices, and try to answer your dimwitted questions.
Which one is the best? That’s a hard question to answer for everyone, and each person you ask might have a different answer. The best one for you is which system you’re invested in. Do you have Apple products throughout your home or are you more in the Google ecosystem? Amazon has the advantage of being the cheaper solution and throwing their products at consumers every way possible. It’s more likely you know someone with an Amazon product in their house than the other two.
Apple’s HomePod is another great first generation product. A lot of people are comparing it to the the original Apple Watch, which is fair. Both of those devices are late entries to a new market for Apple and so far, both have been received very well. My time with the HomePod has been great and I don’t regret the purchase at all. I’m looking forward to the near future where Apple makes smaller/cheaper versions of the HomePod that I can stick in various places in my house.
In summary, John Gruber put it best when he wrote, “What AirPods are for your own ears, HomePod is for your home.”.
A co-worker and I were having a music discussion around how satisfying it was to have physical media when we were younger. This co-worker and I often have analytical conversations around movies, music, and technology. Most of the time we fall on the same side of the arguments. The latest confab got me thinking…. What if something in the world destroyed the ability to access music so effortlessly like we do today. Since I was about nine years old, music has been something I enjoy listening to everyday. Whether I’m sad, happy, or indifferent, music is always there to appease me.
There Are Some Rules
Music streaming is gone, iTunes has shutdown, Sam Goody is gone for real, and all you have left is one jukebox. This magical jukebox can play any ten albums for as long as you live, as many times as you like. Before all the music is destroyed you have to quickly pick ten albums to fill the jukebox. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Today we have 50 million songs at our fingertips which is great and potentially life changing…”[/perfectpullquote]
These ten albums should be the ten albums you could listen to for the rest of your life. They shouldn’t be the best ten albums ever made, that’s always subjective. Your favorite ten albums could also be a mistake since you might be missing out on music that makes you feel all sorts of emotions. Ten albums are all you get, forever.
Because this is a artistic exercise, our eternal jukebox cannot play “greatest hits” or other types of compilations.
Eternal Jukebox Library
Here’s my list, these ten albums will forever be in my mystical eternal jukebox.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – E. 1999 Eternal
Dirty Heads – SWIM TEAM
Ed Sheeran – X
Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked Rear View
John Mayer – Continuum
Ma$e – Harlem World
Michael Jackson – HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I
Nelly – Country Grammar
Sam Cooke – Ain’t That Good News
Sublime – Sublime
Honorable mention: Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
My musical taste has always been under scrutiny by anyone who rides in the car with me. On any given day, my music library could play the likes of Nelly, followed by 2Pac, Michael Jackson, then John Mayer, and sprinkle in some country too. I call it eclectic, but others just call me confused. All that considered, I enjoy music very much and consider it vital to my existence, especially in the car. I used to be the guy who would be browsing through hundreds of CDs at the stoplight trying to find the right album. My history of music follows all the major trends as I was never afraid to adopt the latest craze. In high school it was all CDs and Napster.
It wasn’t until college that I got my first iPod, but I didn’t really jump in completely at first. I had an older car with an aftermarket stereo, so I was limited to options at the time. My favorite thing was the MP3 CD where you could load up a regular CD with 100-200 songs opposed to the traditional 15 or so songs.