Grooveshark: A Pandora Alternative

Living outside of the United States has its challenges, one that I have been struggling with for the past few years has been finding a decent alternative to Pandora. While options like getting a VPN or proxies do exists I have been able to use this opportunity to explore many more different apps and websites for listening and discovering new music.  The one site that has had me hooked for the past two years has been Grooveshark.  Its a very powerful music discovery and sharing network in which any use can create custom playlists and collect music that they want to save for later with ease.

Basic Features:

The drag and drop functionality of this site is amazing. When I see a song on an artists page or in a search all you have to do is grab it and drag it to the player at the bottom of the screen. You can also use this functionality to rearrange the songs in a playlist with ease. At time I find this better than just clicking the "play last" button on the track.

The cutest feature by far has to be the checking to see if you're listening. When the music has been running for a while and you have not skipped, liked, or interacted with the site a dialogue box pops up asking if you are still there. If you are you hit the resume playback button and the music keeps going, if you don't the music stops after that song.

Creating playlists that are all user generated I have found I don't use so much, mostly what I do when I come into the site is just play my station over and over again adding music to the station and my favorites as they come up. The favorites and collection are the playlists that I use the most because they hold all the music that I have ever listened to on the service and thought it was good.

When broadcasts were first added last year I thought they were a very clever take on how radio should be. I have even done a few myself, it makes you feel like you're part of music loving community when you see that you are listening to the same song as 100+ other people. 

Biggest plus I have for this service over all other music services that I have tried (8tracks aside) there are no ads in between tracks. Grooveshark has banner ads on their site and offer a paid subscription plan so you never have to sacrifice music time for ads.


I find that a lot of tracks are uploaded to Grooveshark are either duplicates of the same track or just miss labeled. There are options to flag songs as miss labeled or incorrect but I have yet to see how Grooveshark responds to these flags.  A while back I had sent an email to the contact email on site suggesting that these duplicates should be looked at but never got an answer.

Artists have been pulling their music off the service. I have noticed more and more that when I search for artists they will have pages that are followed by a ton of people but will only have one or two tracks.

Maybe it is just because of the holidays but the big banner at the top of the screen has been bothering me. It throws me off when I open the site because I want to hit the play station button but then the banner loads and it takes me to my settings page instead. This is a temporary annoyance since I'm sure that this banner will not be around for ever.

As for the premium plan, it is a little pricey at $9/month I'm not entirely sure that you really get all that much bang for your buck. The main feature I want that's offered in the premium is the ability to add cross-fades between songs. I find probably once a week I hit that button but other than that I have not reached the limit for favorited songs, or really been effected too badly by the ads. 

Final Thoughts:

I have found that when I choose to listen to my station it plays music strictly according to what I have marked as my favorites. What I would like is to have a broader reach, there should be more music discovery based on what I like and what other people like me like. If I wanted to listen to the same few hundred tracks over and over I would put them all in to my iTunes and just play them that way.

Regardless this is a service that has me coming back for more again day after day. For a while I had the app on my phone, but it was a bit too buggy for me. It would be great for Grooveshark to make official apps for iPhone and android but I guess for now we'll have to live with jailbreaking and third party installs.

What is your favorite music listening site? If you are curious what I like to listen to you can find me on Grooveshark I'd love to hear what you're listening to!

Moovit 3.0 Real-Time Transit Info

Last week I received an invitation to beta test the next update for moovit. Since then I have been trying out all the features and using their app to get to and from work everyday.  I have to start by saying that this app has received a much needed make over. While not all the graphics are amazing they are a HUGE improvement over the current version on the app store.

First I have to welcome moovit to the world of flat design, the logo and basically everything inside the app has been revamped to match the trends in UI design that we've been seeing in IOS7 and what we will be seeing in Android's Kitkat. The first thing that I noticed upon launching the app was that they finally cleaned up the screen to make everything easier to see and more aesthetically pleasing to use. The map has been cleaned up, I always felt that the orange flags for the bus stops were always too big, I'm not really sure that blue was the right color to go for but the size of them makes it much easier to tell which stop is on which side of the street.

old version

I have to say that the new icon and "characters" are very cute and have a very modern feel. The old logo with the thick lines felt dated especially after the release of IOS7 and the movement of the rest of the design world to flat design.  Even just the simple change of the layout of the boxes in the trip planning screens is a huge improvement.

The number one thing that made me hate the old moovit were the menus. They were bulky, ugly and some times hard to read. Now that the menus are built in the Google standard, sliding in from the side and solid they are easy to see, read and use.  There is one icon that I felt was weird the moment I started up the app, it is the plan trip icon on the main screen. To me it looks like it was a mistake, I would suggest working on a better icon the other two are cute but that was one is very weird looking.

One complaint that I have had in the past was that moovit would send me alerts about bus lines that were changed or when the Tel Aviv marathon was warning me that bus lines would be changed for the day, but they were never relevant to me. I feel like an app that I use everyday to take the same buses to and from
work should know what routes I take and only alert me of changes in the routes that I take on a regular basis. I do like that in the new version you can choose the lines that you get alerts about, but I feel like it should be an intelligent system that learns my routine.

I have not had the chance to try out the navigation, but when I do I will update this post. Also does anyone know what the points are for? I have been using this app for two years and have yet to understand what they mean.

There is one feature that I feel is missing, under favorites I think that there should be the option to favorite a bus stop and not just a line. I find that I take buses from the same stop all the time, and have lines that are my favorites but they're not always the line that is going to be coming the soonest. The problem I then run into is that I can see when my favorite line is coming to the stop that I have marked, but there is no way to just from the stop on the favorite line to the list of buses that are coming that stop. This feature may be more complicated than I'm thinking it is, but for people like me who go to the same stops with multiple lines that do similar routes this would be very helpful.

I was invited to try out the new payment system that the creators of moovit are working on. I am very interested to see this project progress further, they could revolutionize how we use public transportation.

Have you been use Moovit or another public transportation app? We'd love to hear about them in the comments bellow!

Netbus: an app for commuters

There has been a lot of hype lately about the new social bus tracking app called Moovit but what most people probably haven't heard about yet, unless you follow the tech news is a new app called Netbus.

What this app does is it tracks where buses are at all times. So when I'm leaving for work in the morning I just dial in the bus number that I'm planning to take and the app will list the stops in order of how close they are to you.  Picking the stop that you want to catch the bus at and the direction that you want to take the bus in will show you the map of the bus stop's location and at the top of the screen is a count down until the bus will arrive.

You may be wondering how this works and what makes this app so much more accurate than Moovit or any other transit apps that you could be using. According to an article on Ynet Netbus has an agreement with the transpiration ministry in Israel that every bus has to have a GPS on it and that GPS has to check into the app every 15 seconds. This means no more relying on users to check in on a bus on Moovit (which lets be honest no one did) and that the drivers don't have to check in when they pass a stop (which they didn't really on moovit) which leaves you with no guess work as to when and where your bus is.

A feature that I have not had the chance to test out yet, but I will update when I do is that you can tell the app to alert you before the bus comes. Lets say that it takes you 5 minutes to get to the bus stop so you can tell Netbus to alert you 10 minutes before the bus comes so you have enough time to get there before it does!

You can see the bus schedules for lines, stops favorite a line that you take often so that you can get to it quickly. If you went somewhere yesterday and can't remember exactly how you got there Netbus has a history to show you what bus lines and stops you looked at.  The only really helpful feature that seems to be missing is the ability to plan a trip that would take you on multiple lines, but I'm sure that is in the works.

There are a few down sides to this app that I'm sure with time will be worked out. First main thing that I found was that this app does not have an English option, while there are no menus or really complicated things going on I would like to see an English version in the near future to give all those who don't read Hebrew the ability to use the app. Like Moovit it doesn't have a very nice GUI, the buttons look like a developer put it together. The font is a standard Ariel and when you are looking at the stop list is a little too small making it hard to read. The dark colors also make using this app a challenge in the bright sun light.

They even took the guess work out of where the bus stop is, in Moovit you have to try every little orange flag until you find the one with the bus line that you want, but here its working the other way around. When you know which bus you want to take and where you want to take it to, all you have to do is look up the line number and the app will tell you roughly how far from you the bus stop is! Plus the map only shows the desired bus line so if you aren't sure where you're bus stops you can select one of the little buses it tells you the bus stop name and direction that the bus is going in.

On the topic of bus stop icons, a very key feature that is driving me away from this app is that there is no way for me to see which buses stop at a given bus stop and when each one of the buses are going to arrive. I run into this problem on my way home from work, on the way in I search for a single bus because I want to get there as quickly as possible but on the way home I want to be on the first bus that comes. It doesn't matter which of the 3 bus lines I take I just want to start moving towards home. With Netbus the only way for me to see which bus is coming sooner is to search for each bus individually which can be very tedious.

I do like that the app is much lighter than Moovit and doesn't ask me to be sure I want to exit when I leave and especially like that it doesn't stay running in the background like Moovit draining my battery. I can see a lot of potential for this app and hope that they keep it moving forward because as a daily commuter these apps are the best tool you can carry.

Netbus has a lot of catching up to do since Moovit has been boasting that they just hit 2 million users, but with an app that works as well as this they shouldn't stay behind for too much longer.

The app is available for both iPhone and Android (even you Gingerbread users!)

Lift changes your habits for the better

Changing habits is damn near impossible when you go at it alone. I’ve tried apps to keep track of eating more healthy, for getting more sleep and even getting myself to get out there and go running. All of these habits tend to last a few days to a month at the at the most. A few weeks ago I came across a post on Kevin Rose’s blog about the 100 breath meditation on lift. Since seeing this post I downloaded the app to see what makes it special and if their thinking really works.

Lift is essentially a social network for creating good habits. These habits are anything from eating healthy vegetables to going days with out cigarettes. By having a community of people who are supportive of your accomplishments and an app that gives you motivation to keep going has helped me to develop a few good habits of my own. Other users are able to give you props for accomplishing something and are able to comment on your check ins to keep things social.


Every day when you sign in after setting up your account you have a check list of all the habits that you are trying to keep up, for me they are things like “inbox zero” or “drink more water” and when you check in to these habits you get a cute little note next to the habit with the number of times that you have checked in and if you’ve been doing it everyday for a week it’ll say “for the 7th day in a row!”

I look forward to checking in to lift every night because in the morning my notifications is full of props from other users and it feels like you have a support system and that you can do it! They become familiar the same people tend to like your check ins over and over, and you might find that they are the people you should follow back.


The design of the site is very close to that of Twitter, you have a profile with all of your activities, a board of the activities of your friends and a home page that has your list of habits that you want to check off with a motivational quote. This is an iPhone only app that I’m really hoping they will come out with an android version because using the iPhone app on my iPad hasn't been the best. The app has essentially the same design as the website which is a feature so many sites are missing, just having continuity between web and mobile make the experience so much more enjoyable! I have asked on lift’s twitter feed if they are planning to release an android app and have yet to receive an answer.


Under settings the default for notifications is to receive everything over mobile notifications and to receive a daily digest of how you are doing. The graphics in the daily digest are cute letting you know that you are on a hot streak and how close you are to a new milestone for a habit, but I find getting daily emails from an app tend to take up more inbox space (I practice inbox zero remember?) than I would really like to allot. But they are easy to cancel and you can even turn all notifications off if you prefer the quiet life.


Like in all social networks lift has groups, they’re made up of people who want to participate in a certain habit or groups of habits. I am in the wake up early group which is a group of people that strive to start their day early. Granted some people are waking up at 5:30 am and some people early is 9:00 am you don’t have to feel bad about the time that you wake up. No body is judging you, and when you wake up earlier than you have been and point it out you will get a lot of props for it!

All in all this has been a great app and it has been successful in keeping me on task with habits I want to grow. Like I have been saying for years that I want to drink more water. On the first day of joining lift I drank half a water bottle, the second day I drank most of my water bottle and by the third day I was refilling my 1 liter bottle at work. I feel like I’m moving forward and that drinking a lot more water isn't as big of a task as I thought it was.

This app is great and I highly recommend it. The only flaws I have found are the limitation of usage for non-iPhone users but as long as you have a computer with Internet you can still use the site to check in and participate in the groups. I recommend not taking on too much at one time, like don’t join the 4-hour-body group if you don’t think that you can accomplish all the habits. There are lists for easy habits (brushing your teeth), trending, and supportive and many more. There is something for every one its not just about health and wellness, you can set out to read more, blog more, listen more than you speak- you name it there is probably a habit out there for you to join.

Update: In gearing up for the new year lift has added some new features that are bound to make your habit stick even more. The first that they had been working to implement since earlier on this year were plans. You could select a plan for something that you wanted to work on, say you want to get better at pull ups, you would join the plan that has a number of stages. Everyday you complete one of the stages until you completed the plan and by that point you should be well on your way to creating a habit that will stick. More and more plans have been added so you can find a plan for almost anything that you want to accomplish.

In the last week or so there was a change made to milestones. It used to be that you would check in and every few you would get a milestone, now every 21 check ins in a milestone. The number seems a little random to me but I'm sure that there is a method to the madness.  Also in recent news the Android app is said to be up and running fully functional. I was in touch with the lift team a few months ago about a huge bug they were having on the android app but it is now up and running. 

You can find me on lift  and twitter. Do you use lift? Have you found it to help you build new and constructive habits? Have a similar app you think I should try out? Comment bellow I’d love your feedback!

Wunderlist: To-Do Lists

I have been searching far and wide for a to-do list app that stands up to the challenge of my busy life. Most recently I have taken to trying out Wunderlist, a highly regarded app in the world of to-do lists. They have a beautiful and clean UI and the ability to customize the background of your to-do list (limited choice of backgrounds unless you upgrade to pro for 4.49). While the app and the web site have an extremely nice UI there are a few very big features that I found to be lacking.

Collaboration in free version

Most of the other free to-do apps give you at least the ability to collaborate with a severely limited number of people you can collaborate with like between 2 and 5. Wunderlist does not allow any collaboration between users on a free account. This was a big turn off because sharing to-do lists even with a small group is a big deal and without a free version there is no way to test the group features without paying for the app which I believe both users have to be upgraded for collaboration to work.

977 Music: A Pandora Alternative

About two years ago I discovered 977music while trying to figure out a way to get my country radio here in Israel. For the first year or so this was a really great solution, there are many options for channels and social features, but I came to really miss real radio. Sometimes listening to hours and hours of music on continuous playback got a little boring, I missed the banter of radio hosts. True there are occasional commercials on this network to break up the music but this station just started to get a little monotonous.

At first the real draw to listening was the point system, it seemed like a really great idea listen to lots of music and get really awesome prizes! Who could say no? But after reaching 53k points the company behind the website decided to run a series of updates. Over the past year the point system has been put on hold and I have stopped listening.  There is much speculation across the forums about if the points will ever be reinstated.
Our listener rewards points program is temporarily on hold while we fix the issues with our new flash player not tracking points correctly.  We apologize for the inconvenience but be assured we are working hard to fix the problem.

Thanks for listening.
This message has been on the site for over a year. Something tells me that they are not coming back online or they are really having a tough time getting the system back to running.

On a positive note, the music played on this site is really good, there are many channels to choose from, my favorites are the country, 90s and today's hits. The only really problem that I came across when listening for many hours during the day was that many songs would come on multiple times. For example on the country station the song "Red Solo Cup" by Toby Keith would come up every few tracks. The song is good and amusing the first few times but then it would just get annoying!

If you are looking for a station to listen to the top tracks 977music is a good place to start, but I have been increasingly been unsatisfied with the results that I have found here. Since running a few updates from when I originally began to use this service their user interface has become much better and more user friendly. But I feel that the pretty UI does not make up for the amount of users who are disappointed with the updates like me.

Have you been trying to find a decent alternative to Pandora? Please share in the comments bellow your favorite music listening site.

8tracks: Pandora Alternative

As someone who doesn't live in the United States I see all the time friends posting on Facebook that they are looking for a Pandora and Spotify alternatives, there are even times when people post ways around the restrictions. I have learned to cope with my Pandora withdrawal through testing a series of alternative online radio sites and apps.

For the past few months I have been an avid listener at 8tracks. This site is a brilliant idea, every playlist on this site must have at least 8 tracks and as part of their legal policies a user cannot upload multiple songs by the same artist thus making sure that all playlists that you listen to will be a variety. Every song has a link on it to a iTunes song, Soundcloud track or YouTube video so if you like what you are listening to you can get it to listen to whenever you want or add to your own playlists and bookmark them as favorites for later reference.

I also like that when you are listening to a playlist on the side of the screen there are suggestions for similar playlists. For example I have recently gotten into listening to mashups so now on the side of the screen and when I login the site has suggestions for mashups that other users on the site have been listening to.

Non-Stop Playing

A really great feature that a lot of sites have been utilizing with the new technologies of the internet, when you play a playlist a bar appears at the bottom of the screen. This bar provides a lot of very useful information especially if you are like me and are constantly jumping around the site looking for new content.  Here you will find the name of the track, artist, a link to the track, playlist, volume and basic controls.