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Category: UltraMaroon

Jazz on Film…Noir

Jazz on Film…Noir

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Jazz on Film Noir

A Streetcar Named Desire
Man With The Golden Arm
Private Hell 36
The Sweet Smell of Success
Touch of Evil
Anatomy of a Murder
Odds Against Tomorrow

Great jazz music from these great films from the 50’s. It comes is a deluxe box set with a good book, need to get that one day soon. But until then you can get all of the music from Amazon MP3, 5 discs worth for $9, what a steal!

You can glean some info about the music at the label’s website at http://moochinabout.comsince the download does not have a pdf booklet. Really labels, you have got to get better about these things!

Jazz On Film…Noir at Amazon MP3
http://world.ultramaroon.net/amz-jazzfilmnoir

iTunes Link
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/jazz-on-film-noir-vols.-1-5/id472735016

Link to album at Rdio
http://rd.io/x/QXie7yJPOWk

Feedly – A Versatile Newsreader

Feedly – A Versatile Newsreader

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I am a fan of Flipboard on the iPad as a newsreader, and really do not use my old favorite Reeder much anymore. However, Feedly has made it onto my tablet, and Mac too. The functionality is similar to Flipbook, although you slide pages up/down or sideways to view the pages. The layout is in a nice digest format, and of course syncs up with Google Reader.  I have not tried to add any feeds, so not sure if that is possible, but starring and read status sync fine. Besides, I usually add feeds or organize them on my computer anyway.

What really has me sold is the set of plugins for Safari and Chrome. You get a pretty close duplication of the iPad layout, with the added benefit of a larger width display. I looks a tad bit busy at first, but you get used to it quick enough, and the added benefit of having the same presentation as on the iPad makes things nicer and more familiar.

I have always struggled with newsreaders on my Mac, I just found the GReader site a bit too much, and most of the apps I tried either were slow to sync or had crashing issues. While Feedly is not exactly an app but a browser plugin, I do my reading in a browser anyway, so not much of a distinction there. I did notice a small Thank You ad on the right side of the browser version, but totally unabtrusive and fine with me since it is a free service.

Well worth giving it a try. Even if you decide to stick with Flipboard for your mobile device, the desktop version of Feedly is a winner. The page links to Mac, iOS, Google Play and Kindle store apps too.

http://www.feedly.com

 

Obama and Christie: This is how government works

Obama and Christie: This is how government works

Obama and Christie

There have been a lot of reports on how Republican Governor Chris Christie has been very appreciative of President Obama during the Sandy aftermath, after Christie had previously slammed Obama about his lack of leadership. A Republican praising a Democrat running for re-election? Oh, the horror.

I just don’t get it. Are people so partisan that they would rather have an ineffectual head of the US during what is definitely the biggest disaster in recent years [cue President Bush and Katrina] versus a President that is actually trying to help the people he represents? And also have a governor that both asks and accepts help from same leader? Last time I checked, that was their job that they were elected to do. Sure, Congress is elected and manages to get nothing done for those they represent, but in what world is that the correct way things are supposed to be?

Now Christie can be as partisan as they come, but the man does speak his mind, and I am sure that he is damn well going to get some things done, and quick. While I do not agree with many of his politics, I do respect Governor Christie in his actual actions as of late. To paraphrase him, ‘I don’t give a damn about the election’, and Obama has more or less stated ‘the election will take care of itself ‘. Now is this a possible boon for the President and can he afford to be  magnanimous right now considering the political points he can make by portraying the responsible leader? Of course, but to be that cynical to think that is the reason for his actions is just a bit too much to accept. Besides, Christie may not get many brownie points from the Republican elite for his words this close to an election, but obviously he does not really care about that right now. Both men are more concerned with getting help and aid to people as soon as possible, period.

That is what are government leaders are supposed to do, lead. To make a big deal of the politics at this time is petty and down right inappropriate considering what our citizens are going through right now. I feel we have lost out way in this country, and are focused on the little unimportant things and ignoring the larger issues that really affect us at this time. Everyone needs to take a breath and step back a few feet to think about what is really important, and keep the political stances in perspective.

Some thoughts on tech magazines

Some thoughts on tech magazines

For many years, I subscribed to various tech magazines like InfoWorld, eWeek, etc. One by one they have dropped the print editions and shifted to website only versions. While I understand the economics of such a move, most of these publishers have ruined what was once a valuable resource. Look at the websites of any major tech site and you will see headers, ads everywhere, and somewhere in that mess is an article. Now in the print editions, you would probably see a right or left column ad, and maybe a footer, plus some full-page adverts. Go to the websites and there are ads at the top, off to the side, inside the posts, and of course lengthy footers with everything but the kitchen sink. I dare say no more that 30-40% of the page contains actual content, if that. OK, more ads mean more money, and there need to be links to the other areas of the site, but really, do you have to have so much stuff?

On a computer, I have gotten used to the noise on the pages, but I dare say a lot of viewers use their tablets to read news. So take the page and shrink the size, and now it is next to impossible to read anything without zooming in, and we will not even talk about the flash ad issue. A little responsive design would not hurt here.

As an option, some publishers have been making pdfs of their ‘magazines’ which are basically formatted at standard magazine size. Hello, do they not realize that most viewers will be looking at these on a tablet? The print is uncomfortably small, and you have to zoom in to read anything. Why not throw out the standard 8.5 x 11 paper size, and format them for a smaller page? Seriously, do they think people are printing out these pdfs? Sure, a few may, but the majority I am sure are viewing on a computer device. Open up an app like Flipbook and look, there are several articles excerpted, and the print is definitely legible and easy to read.

Now some magazine sites have opted for a ‘touch’ version of their sites for tablets, but as an owner of an iPad 1, the memory requirements are too much many times [thank you Apple] and causes Safari to close constantly. And just try to bypass the ‘do you want the desktop or touch version’ or ‘download our app’ intro page, and have the damn site remember your choice. eWeek is the most egregious perpetrator of this, but I am sure other sites have the same issues.

All I want is to be able to see the content folks, so try not to block me over and over, or you may find I am not the only one who has moved on…….just a thought.

Amazon Match vs. iTunes Match Part 2

Amazon Match vs. iTunes Match Part 2

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A while back I compared the 3 major music upload services by Apple, Google and Amazon. Amazon has just upgraded their service with an upgrade/match component similar to Apple’s iTunes Match, where it will attempt to match your music with their online library, thus eliminating the process of actually uploading the music file to their servers. Instead, Amazon will simply add your matched music to your library using their online archive, preventing the long process of an upload.

First Impressions: There are some technical differences between the two services. While both are $25/year, iTunes Match limits you to 25,000 songs, while Amazon limits you to 250,ooo songs, a 10x difference, plus you get 50gb of storage on their Cloud Drive service. Also, while Apple only allows you to stream your music from an iOS device or thru iTunes, Amazon’s Cloud Player lets you listen to your entire library via web browser or iOS/Android apps. Apple’s service is more of a cloud locker and you do not have direct access to your files per se, they are ‘in the cloud’ somewhere, whereas you can view/edit/download Amazon Cloud Player files.

I tested a few albums, a it seems that the Amazon process is a lot quicker that iTunes, matching songs at a faster speed. Of course, there is not 100% accuracy in matching files, and Amazon did upload a few files from an album that it really should have matched, but it seems to be on par with Apple’s 75-85% accuracy rate on a libary with old and new music. Amazon will accept MP3, AAC, FLAC, WMA, OGG and Apple Lossless files [on a Mac] for the upload match process, and if it finds the music, all is well. However there is a major issue with unfound lossless music. While Apple will not do FLAC files, any Apple Lossless music it can not match will be converted to a 256 AAC file and uploaded. Amazon on the other hand gave me a nice error message saying it could not match the files or upload them:

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This is a BIG issue. I have a large collection of CDs and they are all ripped into Lossless format. If they cannot be matched, there is no upload, so basically you are out of luck unless your files are in MP3 or AAC format. It seems that the service will also scan WMA files on Windows, but I am usure if it will upload those or not if it cannot match them. I attempted to convert the offending files to MP3 in iTunes and scanned the same directory, but the upload app would not recognize the new songs, even after a restart. I ended up copying the converted files to another folder, and then Amazon was happy to find and upload them to the cloud. This is a huge advantage from Apple since they automatically handle such issues for you. This really needs to be addressed by Amazon.

If you do not have any lossless files in your library, this should no be an issues, and for the price, it looks like the Amazon service is a better deal that Apple’s unless you are strictly OSX and iOS and do not need to access your music from anything other than your own devices.

Amazon ‘Match”: I uploaded an album from ABC, ‘Beauty Stab’ that was 192k and had some scanned artwork. Amazon matched the entire album, then I did a download, and sure enough I was given 256k MP3 files in return. However Amazon did use their album art, but did keep my custom album naming and other tags. Not a huge deal, but be aware that on matched files you may not get back exactly what you uploaded. Apple saves your tags and album artwork from your file.

If there is a mistake on the matching, Amazon has an option to correct the upload/match. Some of my old Billie Holiday tracks from the Columbia years were matched, but what I got back were not the same remasters, but obviously the same recording from a different source. This is probably not an issue except for really old music. Amazon has a ‘Fix Incorrect Match’ option on the matched tracks in your library, allowing you to upload the originals instead of using their matched version. This is a really good option, and one that iTunes does not offer. Again, not a big deal, but a helpful choice for that odd track that gets matched incorrectly.

Amazon has added the ability to edit the tags on your music, something that Google Music has had for a while. I selected one track and was able to change some info, however it refused to save the changes until I filled in all of the fields. This could be a pain, since they ask for Year, Track and Disc along with other basic info, and if you do not know it you have to put some dummy info in the fields. This messed up my track order on one album, since the Disc Number tag was not set on any of the other tracks, and therefore the edited track appeared at the top of the album listing. I was able to select the entire album and set the Disc Number to blank, and Amazon accepted that with no problem. There is an inconsistency issue here, but hopefully this will get worked out since this is a new feature.

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The Amazon Match service looks promising, but there are a few things that should be addressed. Besides the Lossless File issue, Amazon does not really tell you what it had done concerning matched/uploaded files. While there is a new menu item for ‘Upgraded Tracks’ which are tracks less than 256k that have been upgraded, you cannot tell how the other tracks were handled, ie. uploaded/matched. You can click on the menu item for an individual song and if there is the ‘Fix Incorrect Match’ option you know it was a match, but there is no library-wide column or other indication of the status of tracks.  Yes this may be a little OCD, but I do like to see what is going on, and iTunes tells you whether a track has been matched, uploaded, a duplicate or ineligible for upload. I have a large library and it is enough work keeping track of what is in iTunes Match, Amazon Match and Google Music. Yes, I use all 3 services, and there are little problems with all of them, but nothing that is a deal-breaker other than Amazon’s Lossless issue.

Overall I am happy with Amazon’s new service, although their continued insistence on having a ‘Suggested Music to Buy’ panel on the right of the Web Player still annoys me to no end. Yes, they did change their free unlimited music option on Premium accounts to 250,000 tracks, but really that is more than enough, and they upped the Cloud Drive storage to 50gb, so I may actually use it now. FYI the ‘free’ service offers only 250 songs other than Amazon MP3 purchases and a 5gb Cloud Drive, so if you are looking for free, Google’s 20,000 Play service is the way to go. No matching there, but as a service it does have a edge over Amazon, so worth checking out.

Amazon Cloud Player

Google Play

iTunes Match

iTunes Match vs Amazon MP3 vs Google Music

iTunes Match vs Amazon MP3 vs Google Music

iTunes Match vs Amazon MP3 vs Google Music

 

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Lately there have been some substantial changes in the online music world. Apple, Google and Amazon have storage services for your music, along with the accompanying stores to purchase tunes. On the storage side, each service has their advantages [and disadvantages]. After living with each for a while, I thought I would do a run-through of what features each service offers.

iTunes Match:

The Match service from Apple is more of a storage locker solution than a ‘play anywhere’ product. iTunes will upload or match the music in your iTunes Library, and then it can be made accessible to any computer with iTunes or any IOS device, like an iPhone or iPad. One thing that is unique with Match is how it stores your music. iTunes will examine your music files, and if it finds a ‘match’, only the file info is uploaded, not the actual file, so any subsequent downloads will actually be like you purchased the song from the iTunes Store. The format will be a 256 AAC file, although iTunes does upload any custom tags or artwork for your file, which is a nice feature. This means if you have a lower quality file on your computer, if you re-download it you will replace the song with a higher quality version.

I have found the ability of iTunes to match songs that I know it has available at around 80-85%, meaning some songs it should find nonetheless are uploaded. However songs purchased from Amazon, eMusic, etc seem to have a much higher success rate, the issue being music from my ripped CDs. I believe the algorithm used not only takes a sound-print of the song, it also takes into account length among other things. If an album has 10 songs, all should match, but sometimes 1-2 songs have to be uploaded. Most of my CDs are older releases, and possibly newer versions of the albums have slightly different song durations, confusing Match Hopefully the method Apple uses to identify songs will get better over time.

iTunes Match will upload any songs it cannot identify or are not in its library, making a copy online. The only limitations are very low bit-rate files and AAC Lossless files. AAC LL files will be converted to a regular AAC file before upload, and any file that has a bit-rate below 96 will not be uploaded. Hint: If you right-click on the file in iTunes, select “Make an AAC/MP3 etc.. Version” and iTunes will duplicate the some at whatever format you have set up for importing, and as long as it is 128 or greater, iTunes should allow it to be uploaded.

Match, however, requires a computer or iDevice to access, there is no online streaming from a browser. You can set your mobile iDevice to use its internal library or Match, but not both. You are presented with a list of available Match albums, and you can download them to your iPad, etc. There is also a setting to hide this and just show music on your device, making browsing easier. It is not exactly fast but you can select an album, go to another album, select another song, and it will put it in the queue. You can also play a song directly and it will play as it downloads. On your computer you have the same options, although you have both your local library and the Match music that is in the cloud. This is probably more relevant if you have more than one computer, with the main computer the full catalog of all your music, and maybe a laptop that you download only some of the songs. You can also stream music without having to download it.

The iTunes Match service is not free, but at $25 a year, this is a cheap way to back up all of your music. There is a 25000 song limit for storage, but unless you are like me, that should not be a problem for most people. Overall a good service, without having to upload your entire collection. The ‘Match’ process is also automatic, so any new songs added are matched. The initial process can take some time, so it might be a good idea to let iTunes work on its own the first time you activate the Match service.

Amazon MP3:

Amazon’s Cloud Player uses the Amazon Cloud Drive service to store your music. This is a strictly upload service, although any new Amazon MP3 purchases will show up in your locker. Amazon gives you 5GB of space free, but for $20 you can get 20GB of storage for a year. But currently they are offering unlimited MP3/music storage for any paid accounts. And I got the 20 gig account for free when I purchased an MP3 album, so keep an eye out for any deals they may offer. Since the unlimited music is listed as a special, it is possible that Amazon may not offer that in the future, but I seriously doubt that they would downgrade current users, as long as you do not convert to the free account. [ 10/2012 Update: Amazon now has unlimited storage only with the $25 / year MP3 account]

Amazon uses the Amazon MP3 Uploader to manager your music. The program will search your iTunes Library, and automatically start uploading your music. You can also select other folders, and pause the service. If you just let it run, it will eventually upload all of your music. Almost as easy as iTunes Match, and fairly reliable and simple. The uploader has frozen on some occasions, but nothing too bad. Overall I have had good luck with it, and the uploads start quickly and are steady.

You have access to your library online at Amazon’s Cloud Player page, and it has your basic Artist, Song, Genre, etc options, with album art thumbnails. The layout is decent, although they have added an obnoxious ‘Recommended For You’ panel to the right side of the player in a too wide area. I find it useless and annoying. Interestingly, the panel seems to only show up when using Chrome, not Safari or Firefox. There is a bit of chatter about this on the Amazon message boards, but basically a ‘we know, whatever’ answer from them. I have CCed a copy of the comment I sent to the Development Team for the Cloud Player at the end of this post. To be fair, Google also has a ‘Recommended’ area, but only on the home landing page and below my album listings.

 

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Playback seems reliable, and you can create playlists. It is easy to download a song or album to your computer, simply select the checkboxes and click Download. The Mobile version on iPad is a different matter. Yes, it will play a song, however the ‘scrub bar’ to fast-forward thru a song does not work, and if you leave the page for another tab in Safari, it will not alway play the next song, and switching to another app will immediately stop the music, so background playing is not an option. There is not an iPhone optimized site, although they do show an Android App.

Overall the service is good, reliable, and if web playback is important from any computer, a good choice. Unlimited music is a plus, even though you have to upload all of your files.

 

Google Music / Play:

Google had just renamed their online media services ‘Google Play’, combining Music, Video and Books, probably in an attempt to be more like iTunes and Amazon. There is a 20000 song limit, however the service is free. You upload music through the Google Music Manager App [more of a Preference Panel app]. I have had numerous issues with this. When first uploading music, it wants to analyze and think…….forever. I aimed the app to a folder with just a few songs, and still it sat there forever, or would hang up, never completing the upload. I am not sure if they ever got this fixed, but I found that if you initially aim it at an EMPTY folder, the GMM app would analyze, attempt an upload and then actually complete the process. After the initial sequence, adding a folder with music worked much better. I would suggest you not let GMM try and upload your iTunes Library first thing, do a trial on a small set of music, or use the empty folder trick to get things started.

The Google Play website is similar to the Amazon Cloud Player, and playback is quick. Along with Songs, Artist, etc, you can also create an ‘Instant Mix’ similar to iTunes Genius. They selection of music is interesting if not completely relevant to the song used to create the mix, but it did manage to avoid throwing classical music into a mix generated by a Simply Red song, so not too bad on that front.

 

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At first there was no way to download your uploaded music from Google Play. However, there is now a ‘Download’ option in the song’s drop-down menu, although you get an ominous ‘You can only download purchased songs twice’ message. When I clicked through on the ‘Learn More’ link, the info stated: ‘You can only download each purchased track from the web 2 times.‘ I downloaded one of my uploaded songs 3 times in a row, so I presume they only mean music purchased from Google. Bad wording, although I think the misunderstanding may be deliberate to discourage downloading of individual songs. There is also an option to download your ENTIRE library in the Google Music Manager, no real choice here, all or nothing. Not sure how it handles stopping in the middle, and there seems to be no option to keep track of downloaded songs. It may be there, but once again, GMM is not making things clear.

One bonus that the other services do not offer is the abilty to edit the tags of your music with the ‘Edit Song Info’ in the drop-down menu. This is not possible with the other services. Playback is good in a browser, quick start, and responsive. On the iPad, I was presented a mobile version of the site, stripped down but usable. Seems to be formatted for a phone, not an iPad. So I used the option to go to the Desktop Version, which has larger album art, etc. Works the same as on my computer, however you cannot play any music, it simply does not work, at all. So it is the mobile version or nothing. My main issue with the service is a lack of polish. The upload app is flakey, and why have a ‘Use Desktop Version’ link on the mobile version if it will not play anything, and some of the wording is unclear. Google has never been great on the UI front, but does anyone ever check this stuff out there?

 

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Overall, each service is good for what it does. If you want free, Google Music is a good deal. If you purchase music from Amazon MP3, their option is equally a good choice. If you want the easiest route, and do not care about online streaming, iTunes Match is definitely a good deal for the price. You can back up your music collection with almost no effort, and if you have ever had a hard drive die on you, the pain of losing your files is something you know is best to be avoided. I use Match and Amazon for the most part, but am now keeping some music on Google since they now allow you to download. That was a big issue for me, especially as a backup solution.

Amazon MP3 Google Play iTunes Match


Copy of comment sent to Amazon Cloud Player Development Team:

This is in reference to the ‘recommended for you’ panel that has invaded the Cloud Player. Just to be clear from the start, I do not like it. It really takes up too much room, and it is recommending a lot of music I already have, so it is pretty much useless to me. I wouldn’t mind so much if it wasn’t so darn big. Really, there is a lot of wasted space at the bottom of the player for the album and time indicator, which I also am not thrilled with, add those together and you get a LOT of wasted space. On a smaller screen it is almost too much. I know the deal, advertising, and if I had a free account that would be ok, but I am due to renew my subscription soon, and frankly, as bad as it is, Google Music is looking better. I do not want a bunch of ads on a paid service, and you need to realize that anyone paying for the increased storage are probably good customers, and this is just not a way to keep us happy. Since I suspect you will be keeping this thing anyway, how about moving it to the bottom, horizontally, and using some of the wasted player space? Or allow us to shrink it down to just the album art, something to save space.

New Android Phone

New Android Phone

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Received my new Samsung Transform Ultra from Ting yesterday, and have been playing with applications that work well with my Mac. Some things are good, some are clunky and some are just unusable. Thought I would share some of my results as I go along. It would have been nice to get an iPhone, but Ting does not offer those at the moment.

BTW Ting is a Sprint reseller, you buy your phone outright, but they have pay-as-you go. You pay per MB, text message and minute with month to month service. That may seem like a bad deal, but on Verizon we were paying for 2 basic phones, sharing way too many minutes because the share plan would not let us get less. I had a 75mb data plan for my ‘featureless phone’,  could get email to work and that was about all. That was running us $114 / month. With Ting, it looks like our bill will be closer to $50 if not less, plus we get text messaging AND a data plan. Ended up paying around $175 for each of our phones, but at a $65 / month savings, that will pay for itself in 3-4 months. Acually would have had to pay $50-99 for our phones anyway with a 2year contract on Verizon, so even better deal. I had a $50 off offer on the phones, [got it from This Week In Google @ TWIT] ,  so that helped too. So far the Sprint service is fine, although there is no 4G service in the Charleston SC area. Went ahead and got the cheaper 3G phone, figured it would be a while if ever that 4G would come here, and it seems to be fast enough for email, web browsing, etc.

First impressions of the Samsung Transform Ultra:

I had a Samsung featureless phone with a slideout keyboard, was not too bad except for the awful browser/email, so ended up getting the Transform, liked the screen size and memory and price. The phone comes with about 1GB internal memory and a 2GB microSD card. I found a 32GB card on Amazon for about $20 so will be getting that soon. The Transform has a slideout keyboard, although at the moment I cannot type very well on it, actually do better on the onscreen keyboard. The phone came with the Swype KB, but switched to the Android stock KB and like that better, seem to get less errors on it. The phone has a nice feel, although with the slideout, it makes it a little clunky reaching the power switch on top, which you have to press to get the phone out of sleep mode. Been looking for a way to wake up the phone with the home keys on the bottom front but have not figured out if that is possible yet.  The phone is pretty fast, no lag when using it, and the screen is responsive to touch. I do miss the ability to navigate back and forth with a swipe like my iPad, end up using the ‘return’ button, and the left-hand ‘settings’ button is how you access a lot of the features. Just takes some getting used to… Running Android Gingerbread, will never get an update to any of the newer versions, but seems to be good overall, but not as easy to find settings as on an iOS device, takes some digging to find how to do certain things.

I wanted to sync music, photos, and some documents on my phone, so will have some more posts on each of those and the solutions I came up with. Since I use Gmail, it was nice that the phone automatically loaded all of the phone numbers and emails from Gmail to my phone. I did transfer some numbers from my old phone earlier in anticipation of that, and it is so easy to do it online in Gmail, knowing the phone will just find it.

I loaded the Google+ app, and the advantage here is that even if you do not use it, you have access to all of your Picasa Web Albums. I use Picasa to store backup copies of all of my images, so nice to just have access to them on the phone without having to actually download them. I do want to sync some images from my computer to the phone, still working that one out. Hmmmm, went looking for the URL, and lo and behold the Google Play store knows I downloaded it already. On my computer I looked up another app, clicked ‘Install’ and it just showed up on my phone, that is a nice feature, sometimes easier to browse on my computer for apps. Impressive, +1 for Google.

The phone comes with a USB charger cable, so easy to just plug it into your computer. The first time I did it, nothing happened, though that my Mac would be an issue. After leaving it plugged in for a minute or two, I diconnected, waited a few seconds, and plugged it back in, and my iMac mounted the SD card as ‘NO NAME’, so now I have access to get files on and off easily. I tried the Bluetooth settings too, and after initiating the login from my phone and not the computer, was able to connect and browse using the Bluetooth Explorer. The file transfer was not speedy, but definitely faster than my old phone. I find it is sometimes easier to use Bluetooth to transfer a few images, etc than plugging into the USB.

Overall not a bad experience, have not used the phone itself for calls yet, but the hardware is sturdy and does not feel cheap. The big thing will be finding the ins and outs of Android.