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Liner Notes (November 16th, 2018)

This week went by insanely fast.

In this week’s roundup, I rank New Found Glory albums, talk a little about my thinking behind rolling out the new ad system, discover some cool new iPad apps, and go through my usual media diet from the past week. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (October 26th, 2018)

It finally got cold enough to where I had to turn on the fireplace — only to find out that the pilot light wouldn’t ignite. Which, of course, meant I had to wait to have it fixed. After a few days of being sad, it has been fixed, and I’ve turned it on for the first time this season. It’s gloriously warm and the cats are cuddled up next to it like it’s the only thing in this world that matters. They may just be right.

This week’s roundup finds me ranking Anberlin albums and going through my usual media diet. There’s also a playlist of music I loved this week and some way-too-early talk about holiday decorations. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Creating a Simple App Launcher With a Custom Icon for iOS

In iOS 10 Apple introduced the ability for app makers to offer alternative app icons for their apps. A few of my favorite apps have taken advantage of this. Overcast has a cool dark icon for subscribers, Carrot Weather has a huge selection to choose from, and the MLB At Bat app lets you pick your favorite team’s logo as the icon. It’s a nice way to add a little bit of customization to your device. However, not every app has taken advantage of this new feature. For example, it’s a no brainer that the NBA should copy baseball and let you put a team logo as the app icon … but, they don’t. So when it came time to move from having the MLB app on my home screen, to the NBA, I started looking into all the different ways I could maybe change-up the icon. I have no desire to jailbreak my phone and this really isn’t an app I open up all that often anyway. I check it maybe a couple times a day, at most, to see what games are on, check scores, and watch one via League Pass if it’s coming down to the wire. Because of this, I thought about just using a Siri Shortcut to act as an app launcher and being done with it, but I didn’t love how the shortcut would launch, then switch to the Shortcut app, and then launch the NBA app. Sure, it worked, but it took longer than I wanted to even for an app I only open a few times a day.

However, I realized that if there was only one slight pause and a redirect to the NBA app, without first going through Shortcuts, that would probably work just fine for what I wanted this to do. So I took a look at how Shortcuts was creating these launchers and realized they’re basically just Web Clips that when opened redirect to a Shortcuts URL scheme. Looking a little closer I saw they created these Web Clips in a pretty clever way that kept everything local on the device. Usually a Web Clip will launch Safari and hit a web site, which is slow, however, if it’s a local HTML file it doesn’t need to do anything at all. So I copied their technique.

I created a basic HTML file that redirects to the NBA url scheme, created the icon I wanted for it, turned the background black, and then added a startup image that displays the logo on a black background. That way, when I tap the icon, instead of just getting a brief white background, I get a cool all black Trail Blazer screen before being sent to the NBA app. There’s still a slight delay, but it’s passable this time, since I’m sent right to the app and not to Shortcuts first.

And it means I can have the Blazer logo on my home screen:

If anyone is interested in how I did it. Here’s the basics: I started with a simple HTML document.

<html>
<head>
<title>NBA</title>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=UTF-8″>
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0, maximum-scale=1.0, user-scalable=no, viewport-fit=cover” />
<meta name=”apple-mobile-web-app-capable” content=”yes”>
<meta name=”apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style” content=”black”>
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0;URL=’nba://'” />
<link rel=”apple-touch-icon” href=””>
<link rel=”apple-touch-startup-image” href=””>
</head>
<body style=”background: #000;text-align: center;”>
<img src=”data:image/png;base64,” width=”175″ style=”position:fixed;top:47%;left:49.2%;transform: translate(-50%, -50%);”/>
</body>
</html>

The meta refresh tag I set to the NBA URL scheme. I told the Web Clip to be full-screen (apple-mobile-web-app-capable). Set the status bar to black to match the background (apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style). (Change “black” to “default” to make it white.) And set the icon (apple-touch-icon) and the start up image (apple-touch-startup-image) to their respective images (you can find the recommended sizes via Google depending on what device you use).

Now, in the middle of the screen I wanted to show the Blazer logo. However, I didn’t want this image to be hosted on a server somewhere and slow down my little launcher. So, I recommend optimizing your image as much as possible and then converting it to Base 64. Grab that code and set it as the source for the image. I tweaked the size and positioning so that on load the start-up image and my little website thing would look the exact same.

After that I borrowed how Siri Shortcuts adds home screen apps. Convert the entire HTML page to Base 64. You’ll get a giant string representing your Web Clip. Mobile Safari won’t let you just copy and paste this into your browser, so you’ll need to link it from somewhere. I created a page that just had one link on it:

<a href=”data:text/html;base64,”>click me</a>

After the comma, I put the giant base 64 string. I tossed that on my server, opened it on my phone, and clicked it.

(I’m sure you can use something like this to do that too.)

It opened up the HTML page I created and asked if I wanted to be redirected to the NBA app. I clicked cancel, then just created the home screen app like usual (share sheet, add to home screen). I tapped the icon, it showed my startup screen, and then the NBA app opened up. Exactly like any of the Siri Shortcut apps and all without having to jailbreak my device or create a custom profile on the phone. Just a basic local HTML page turned into a web clip. I’d never do this for any app I open all the time, but this use case is just about perfect.

I share other things like this in the Apple thread from time to time.

Oh. And go Blazers.

Liner Notes (October 19th, 2018)

I blame Federico Viticci over at MacStories for going on a deep dive of playing around with Siri Shortcuts all week. Once I start down the path of automating things or organizing my phone, I always end up going overboard. Still, it was a fun way to spend a few nights.

In this week’s roundup, I look at a few new apps I’ve been using and explore the Siri Shortcut stuff I’ve been playing around with. I also share my first thoughts on the upcoming album from Saves the Day, go through my usual media diet from the past week, and share ten songs I loved this week. There’s been lots of Halloween and fall-themed entertainment in our household recently. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (October 12th, 2018)

Bring on the weekend! We’re moving into “pumpkin-spice-everything” territory, and I’m getting excited to start watching some of my favorite Halloween movies, breaking out the festive beers, and making all kinds of warm foods in the ‘ol Crock Pot.

This week I rank albums from Andrew McMahon, give the first impression on the new Laura Jane Grace album, share a playlist of ten songs I loved this week, share what I’ve been working on behind-the-scenes, and go through my weekly media diet. Some outstanding albums out this week you shouldn’t sleep on. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (October 5th, 2018)

Well, this week has been a real piece of work. All this stuff in the news is overwhelmingly depressing on a level that’s hard to find the words to describe. The impact the 2016 election will have on our country’s courts will be felt for a good portion of my life. Next time someone tries to tell you voting doesn’t matter, smack them upside the head. It’s been a trying week. I just feel overwhelmingly tired.

Along with this week’s media diet I include some thoughts on the “dynamic desktop” feature of macOS, baseball, and a playlist of ten songs that got me through the week. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (September 28th, 2018)

After having done these roundups for almost three months now, I’ve finally decided to make them a little more official. What started as me just putting together some bullet points each week about new music being released has turned into a much lengthier and more thought out endeavor. I use them to talk about things I found interesting throughout the week, music I listened to, movies and TV shows I watched, a playlist of songs I enjoyed, and other observations. They’ve become a fun way to recap the week and hit my personal goal of trying to write more this year.

With that, I’ve decided to give them their own name and tag. We did a brainstorming session in the supporter Q&A thread, and after a bunch of suggestions, I landed on “Liner Notes.” So, for now, that’s what I’m going with. I’ve updated the past entries with this tag as well.

Usually these roundups are exclusive to supporters; however, I’ve decided to make this week’s free for everyone to give an example of what these end up looking like. This week ranks Jimmy Eat World albums, looks at the new macOS’s “Dark Mode,” and has my usual media diet roundup for the past week. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Does the Seasonal Timing of an Album Release Have a Direct Impact on Its Eventual Success/Failure?

One of the things I have been pondering about over the past few weeks is why record labels would want and/or prefer to release a Summer-themed record in the Fall.  Maybe they would like for an album to be considered for year-end awards such as the Grammy’s, or for an artist to fulfill a contractual obligation during a calendar year? Taking a quick look at some of the noteworthy Fall releases this year, we can see several high-profile and established artists such as: Thrice, The 1975, Coheed & Cambria, Saves the Day, and Twenty One Pilots.

Judging by the singles released from these artists during the Summer, The 1975, Saves the Day and Twenty One Pilots’ albums may have been more thematically poised for immediate success if they were released in June or July. Other artists such as Thrice and Coheed seem to “fit” with the Fall themes, judging solely on what I have heard from the released music. I still expect the Twenty One Pilots and The 1975 albums to be hugely successful regardless of when they were released, however, these albums will genuinely marinate and sink into our consciousness throughout the rest of 2018 and bleed into the Winter of 2019. The question I am posing is, what makes an album with a clear thematic season attached to it get the album release date that eventually helps or hinders its eventual success?

For starters, let’s use the example of a well-received Fall-themed record in AFI’s, Sing the Sorrow. Any guesses on what date this album hit the streets? March 11, 2003. For a record so synonymous with autumn and the “Silver and Grey” that goes along with the changing of seasons, the timing of this release seemed a little odd. Yes, AFI became a major household name after the success of Sing the Sorrow, but if the record label had strongly considered the themes found throughout the album, many of us might have had an easier time digesting this classic LP.  The first single released from that album was “Girl’s Not Grey,” which sounded like a solid punk rock Summer jam, but again, why release that single back in the dead of Winter before the album’s eventual release in March?

It only gets stranger when you look at AFI’s subsequent release, Decemberunderground, that had a release date of June 6, 2006. Really? You have yet another chance to own the Winter and all the snowy packaging surrounding AFI’s second major-label effort, and you ship it off to the stores in the Spring. Sure, the first single of “Miss Murder” was hitting the airwaves towards the end of Winter in March or so, but this seemed like another missed opportunity to take full advantage of the themes surrounding the album.

On the other side of the coin, what happens when a bonafide Summer record drops in the Winter? Look no further than what happened to Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness on their sophomore release Zombies on Broadway. A February 10th release date, in my opinion, truly detracted away from the hype and buzz surrounding this Summer-themed album. Even my colleague, Craig Manning, made these points in his album review by explaining how so many of these songs are built for a long Summer drive, similar to the Everything in Transit album. I can’t exactly blast “Island Radio” with the windows down if I have to scrape the ice off of my car first.

Lastly, what happens when the label gets it right? Yellowcard’s Southern Air hit the record shelves on August 13, 2012, and it went on to be one of their most well-received records from both critics and fans alike. Whether or not the timing of the release had a lot to do with its success can continue to be debated for years to come. I’d like to think that labels such as Hopeless Records honestly get what their artists are trying to accomplish and can continue to market their bands in meaningful ways.

Most labels have been relying for far too long on their algorithms and other formulas of what makes an album a success or failure. If the labels would stop to consider the art they are helping release to the masses before they set a release date in stone, they may be surprised by the short-term (and long-term) reaction each LP gets. Or, maybe they would be better served to include the artists in their decision-making processes so that everything “clicks” at just the right time. For argument’s sake, let’s try and bring some of the creativity back to the art of the album release date and its associated packaging.

Friday Thoughts (September 21st, 2018)

Another week is in the books. The weather continues to get colder out here on the west coast, but it’s once again reminded me just how much I love this time of the year. Everything feels refreshing and beautiful.

This week’s roundup has my ranking of Blink-182’s discography, some first thoughts on the new EP from William Ryan Key, my usual weekly media diet of music, movies, and TV shows, and a playlist of ten songs I loved this week. The Q&A post can be found here for supporters.

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Friday Thoughts (September 14th, 2018)

I woke up this morning cold. It looks like summer is over. I’m ready for it. Give me some long sleeves, hot drinks, and all the Portland rain. I’m also looking forward to my musical habits moving away from the pop and toward the some more subdued tunes. Reflecting back on the past few months, however, it was a damn good summer of music. And this week brought with it quite a few albums I know I’ll be spinning for the next few months.

This week’s update contains: More thoughts on the new Thrice album (including, oh boy, my current album ranking), some thoughts on the new albums from Good Charlotte and The Living End, my weekly media diet roundup, and a playlist of ten songs I loved this week. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Friday Thoughts (September 7th, 2018)

I should probably figure out a better name for these weekly roundup posts now that I’ve been doing them consistently and they’re getting longer. What started as me just tossing out a few sentences about new releases each week has grown to be pretty hefty. If anyone has a better name than “Friday Thoughts” please let me know.

This week looks has my first thoughts on the new album from Direct Hit, some thoughts on Sum 41’s catalog, a few recommendations for organization and everyday carry, and the regular media diet rundown from my past week. The Q&A post can be found here for supporters.

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The Beautiful, Ugly, and Possessive Hearts of Star Wars

Film Crit Hulk:

I don’t care if you liked or didn’t like something. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion. But the opinion is not what matters. The point is that when you say something is “bad writing” or “bad direction,” I want to understand what you actually mean by that, and why you think that. And if you can only stammer out a few confusing words that add up to “that’s how I felt,” then I can’t understand you. And the simple truth is that applying the right words and backing them up with clarity, while showcasing an understanding of the nuance behind them, is literally what criticism is. Which is precisely why I take so much issue with critical culture trying assign a specific kind of value judgement, just because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do.

Amen.

Friday Thoughts (August 31st, 2018)

I thought the new format for these “Friday Thoughts” worked really well last week, so I’m going to use it again this week. They’ve slowly been becoming longer and more fleshed out. Not quite a weekly newsletter yet, but almost.

This week looks at new music from Alkaline Trio, Pale Waves, Young the Giant, The Night Game, and more.

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GoRuck to Raise Prices in September

GoRuck, who make the best backpack you can buy (the GR1), are increasing prices in September. If you are on the fence about picking one up, I wouldn’t wait:

So instead of surprising our community, and that means you, about a price increase on all pieces of GORUCK gear and apparel, we wanted to give you fair warning. So here it is: September 1 at midnight, prices across the board on GORUCK built Rucksacks and Apparel are going up, on average 20-30%. This will be GR1‘s first ever price increase.

Friday Thoughts (August 24th, 2018)

Another Friday is here. I hope everyone has a good week as we move toward the end of summer. I’m not ready for it to end. I’m ready for it to be less hot though. The temperature finally dropped here the past week. That coordinated nicely with the smoke coming in from all the fires. Been pretty gross air-quality-wise lately. I’ll take a few days in the 70s for a while. I’m looking forward to fall. Fall’s my favorite season. I love the weather, the crisp feeling in the air, and I like wearing fall clothes. I feel too hot all the time in summer. I like being able to put on long sleeves, and jeans, and wear shoes. Bring on the sweaters I say.

I’m going to try something a little different today and attempt to organize this round-up a little more.

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Friday Thoughts (August 10th, 2018)

I hope everyone had a good week. I spent most of my week working on this stupid posting bug where the posting box goes behind the keyboard, but everything I’ve done to fix it ends up causing a headache in a different and new way. It’s driving me fucking insane. So, I’ve decided to pause that until next Monday and do some other maintenance things today. Take a step back for a bit and see if that helps.

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Friday Thoughts (August 3rd, 2018)

This post is made weekly in the supporter only Q&A thread on our forums. I share thoughts about new music out and various other things going on in my life.

This week went by insanely fast. I feel like I was just getting into a groove, and now it’s already Friday. Damn. Bring on the weekend.

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Friday Thoughts (July 27th, 2018)

This post is made weekly in the supporter only Q&A thread on our forums. I share thoughts about new music out and various other things going on in my life.

Oh Friday! I am so glad you’re here. Been a long week, but a good week all-in-all.

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