Friday, November 18, 2016

A Better "I'm Feeling Lucky" for Google Play Music

There is a lot to like about Google Play Music. However, its multi-genre music discovery capability is not one of those things. Don't get me wrong, Google Play Music's discovery capabilities are quite good. However, those capabilities are rigidly tied to two things: one musical genre / time period (Rock or The 80's) or an activity ("Watching the Sunset").

I don't know about you, but that's not how I listen to music. My idea of a great playlist is a mix of Zac Brown Band, Prince, Van Halen, Kenny Chesney and a some Rumpshaker.  Sure, you can create a playlist that contains that music but with a playlist that I create I'm hearing the same songs over and over again. There's no discovery.

Sure, Google Play Music has the "Thumbs up" auto-playlist, but again, it's the same songs over and over again (plus any new ones I add). There's no discovery.

Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" feature should be the answer to this need. But, for some inexplicable reason, Google Play Music's "I'm Feeling Lucky" feature produces a genre-specific playlist. That playlist will likely be very nicely tailored to your preferences if you use the app a lot. However, you're locked into listening to one genre at a time. Every time you initiate "I'm Feeling Lucky" it changes to another genre. I don't know the rationale for that design decision but it makes no sense to me.

Luckily, the Google Play Music webpage has a way to overcome this significant limitation in Google Play Music.  If you've got a history of "thumbs upping" songs you like within Google Play Music then follow along. You'll like this.  Open Google Play Music on the web (not the smartphone app). Click here. Make sure your current listening queue is completely empty before you continue.

In the upper left corner, click the three bar menu icon, then select Music Library.

When the Music Library opens, select Playlists at the top of the screen.

Scroll down the page and find the section called Auto-Playlists. There, you'll find an Auto-Playlist called "Thumbs up" which represents every song you've ever thumbs upped in Google Play Music.

DO NOT click on this playlist. DO NOT open it. Instead, hover your mouse on the bottom right side of this playlist (below Peter Cetera in the above example). You'll see the familiar "3 dots" menu. Click the 3 dots menu and select the oddly named "Add Playlist to Playlist." When you select that command, you'll see a list of your current playlists and the option to Create New Playlist. Select that option. Name it whatever you'd like. I named mine "Jeff's Mix."

Now you have a new playlist called "Jeff's Mix" in your Playlists which, at the moment, is identical to your "Thumbs up" Auto-playlist.  If you have several hundred songs in your thumbs up playlist wait for a few minutes before you proceed to the next step. If you proceed and get an error, wait a little longer.

Once again, DO NOT click on this playlist. DO NOT open it. Instead, hover your mouse on the bottom right side of this playlist (below John Cougar in the above example) and click the 3 dots menu. You'll see the golden ticket! Click "Start Radio."

You've just created a custom radio station, not based on a single genre or a particular activity, but rather based on your unique collection of thumbs upped songs. You'll find it in the radio station section of Google Play Music. Mine is called Jeff's Mix Radio.

Hover your mouse over the bottom right corner of your new radio station and again, select the three dot menu. Select Add Station To Library to make this station a permanent part of your library. You can also download this radio station offline from your smartphone.

You've just created your own personal radio station based on the songs you like, with the added benefit of music discovery!  It won't take you very long in the listening experience of your new radio station to begin hearing discovered music that wasn't thumbs upped by you before. As you listen, you can thumbs up / down as you like to further tune your custom radio station. If you download offline on your smartphone, each iterative refresh will be tuned more and more to your liking.

It may seem silly to have both a Jeff's Mix playlist (static) and Jeff's Mix Radio (dynamic with discovery) but I'd recommend not deleting the static playlist. I've noticed that if I delete the static playlist that the radio station ends up disappearing as well.

It's a shame that Google can't just give us a straight forward way to enjoy multi-genre music discovery but until they do this is next best option. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

TomTom wins big global contract with Volvo

Volvo has selected TomTom as their global supplier of maps, navigation and traffic content for their new infotainment system.

Full details here.

Uber picks their dance partner

Uber has picked their partner for their future. Volvo and Uber have announced a partnership to develop self-driving, autonomous cars which will serve as the next generation of Uber's service - one without cranky, demanding drivers.

Read more here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Nissan & Infiniti using SiriusXM subsidies as a differentiator

Interesting news from Nissan & Infiniti. They appear to be using SiriusXM radio and data services as a differentiator by subsidizing the cost of the services for years.

More here.

Automatic's OBD-II telematics solution moves to the cloud

Aftermarket telematics company Automatic has released their latest product, the Automatic Pro. This aftermarket device plugs into your car's standard diagnostics port (OBD-II) to connect your car to the digital integration world. Uses include reading car diagnostic codes, analyzing driving behavior, providing emergency services and opening your car up to select 3rd party capabilities through the use of compatible apps.

The new Automatic Pro has an integral 3G data connection for direct communication to the cloud. The previous generation of the product required a bluetooth connection to a smartphone. Automatic has priced the Automatic Pro in a way that does not require service fees or a separate 3G data plan.

More information available here.