Archive for April, 2008

Google Analytics on your Dashboard

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

I use Google Analytics a fair bit to track my sites. It’s a fantastic tool, but it’s a bit of a pain to have to login via a Web browser each time you want to see your stats.

Not a problem if you’re a Mac user though! Dashalytics is a really handy Dashboard widget that lets you view your stats right on your Mac. The widget asks you for your Analytics login details, then logs in behind the scenes and displays your Analytics data in all its glory.

Dashalytics widget screenshot

You can view the number of visitors per day, week, month and so on, and view other key metrics such as pageviews, time on site, and bounce rate. The graphs look lovely, and you can hover over the Visitors Overview graph to see the actual data – a nice touch.

Because it’s a Dashboard widget, it stays logged in and updates the graphs periodically. You can also add multiple instances of the widget to track more than one site. If, like me, you run several sites and want to see how they’re all doing, then this widget is a wonderful time-saver!

Lack of choice at the iTunes Store

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

iTunes Store iconAccording to the Apple PR machine, the iTunes Store recently became the #1 music retailer in the US. I’m not sure what their ranking is based on, but it’s certainly not on the size of their catalogue.

A Kink in the system?

For example, I fancied buying some Kinks music this morning. I took a look at, where I found a couple of well known “best of”s: The Ultimate Collection (4.5 stars, sales rank: 2,334), and You Really Got Me: the Best of the Kinks (5 stars, sales rank: 643). Both contain all their well-known singles and then some, making them essential purchases. Amazon also has The Village Green Preservation Society (5 stars, sales rank: 2,490) in stock – arguably one of Ray & co’s finest albums.

None of these albums is available on the Australian iTunes Store. Instead, a search for The Kinks reveals such well known (not!) albums as Everybody’s in Show-Biz (3 stars, sales rank: 201,108), Low Budget (not rated, sales rank: a mighty 540,642), and A Soap Opera (not rated, sales rank: 512,616), which Rolling Stone reviewed by saying, “Musically, there isn’t one really striking melody on the album”. In all, Amazon features 530 products by The Kinks (admittedly many are duplicates, but that’s still a lot). iTunes features (drum roll…) 30.

Really incredible (to quote Steve Jobs). Guess I’ll be buying my Kinks music from Amazon then.


That experience really got me going (sorry), so I tried another act: The Divine Comedy. Unquestionably, Neil Hannon’s finest output includes Casanova (5 stars, sales rank: 36,912) and Promenade (5 stars, sales rank: 103,104). Amazon also stocks the very respectable “best of” album, A Secret History (4.5 stars, sales rank: 1,159). Guess which of these masterpieces is available on iTunes? That’s right – none of them. Instead we get treated to just 2 of The Divine Comedy’s 10 albums, as well as 6 identical copies of Diva Lady, a single.

Well, whaddaya know? Amazon wins again. It lists 167 products by The Divine Comedy. iTunes lists 20 (and most of those are duplicates).

I could go on:

  • Aphex Twin ( at least 9 albums; iTunes: 2 albums)
  • Frank Zappa ( practically all of Zappa’s 80-odd albums; iTunes: 1 album)
  • Decoder Ring (Despite being an Aussie band, carries more of their albums than the Aussie iTunes Store)
  • Engineers (great band, simply not available on the Aussie iTunes Store at all)

…but I’d be here all week.

Now admittedly, most huge artists (with notable exceptions like The Kinks above) are well represented on iTunes. But venture even slightly into the realm of alternative music, and you discover that iTunes is a musical desert. What makes this all the more incredible is that Amazon is selling physical goods, whereas iTunes’ catalogue should be limited only by Apple’s hard drive space.

Maybe I have eclectic tastes – who knows? – but in the last year I’ve only once thought, “I fancy buying that album!”, gone to the iTunes Store, and actually found it.

Down Under doldrums

This dearth of decent music is partly because I’m in Australia, so I have to buy from the sparsely-stocked Australian iTunes Store. (Australians always seem to get a raw deal when it comes to choice.) However, the US and UK stores have the same measly 1 Zappa album, and the US store has the same miserable Kinks collection (anything to do with them being banned from the US in the sixties?!), though the UK store is better on the Kinks front. Anyway, why shouldn’t I be able to buy music from the US or the UK store? The Internet is supposed to be global, right? I can buy from, so why not from the UK iTunes Store? For that matter I can buy all this music on CD in an Australian record store, so why not on the Australian iTunes Store?

If this is the future of music retailing, please bring back the past!

The reign of the mighty Steve

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Steve Jobs in Apple logoWired recently ran an interesting article discussing how Apple’s (i.e. Steve’s) corporate ethos is just plain wrong on paper – and yet, somehow, Apple manages to do everything right these days.

According to the article, Steve-o runs Apple like an old-school tyrant. He redefines “hands-on management”, inspecting every minute product detail, and frequently reduces employees to tears. And whereas many modern companies – inspired by Japanese kaizen principles, no doubt – have embraced the idea of innovation coming from employees, at Apple innovation very much follows the old top-down model. With Steve Jobs at the top.

Secret squirrel

In a world where other IT companies are baring their souls to the world, publishing product roadmaps, and open-sourcing their code left, right and centre, Apple still keeps all its new goodies close to its chest – mainly for competitive reasons no doubt, but partly, I guess, to help create that aura and mystique that die-hard Apple fans love so much.

While Linux and Windows let you mix and match your hardware and software stacks, with Apple you’re very much locked into their hardware/software combo. I quite like this vertical integration in a way, as it reminds me of the “good old days” of home computing: the world of the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari ST, and Amiga. And there’s no doubt that it’s a major cause of the Mac’s general stability and slickness. Nevertheless, it’s slightly unsettling, as a user, to know that I can’t switch to another brand of hardware and carry on using my current OS and apps.

Wrong = right

And yet, despite the archaic corporate regime, “Fort Knox” style product development, and hardware/software lock-in, Apple has a huge market cap, the iPod still dominates the music player market, and iTunes is now the second biggest music retailer in the US. Mac OS has doubled its market share in the last five years, and Apple recently increased shipments faster than all other PC manufacturers. What’s more, Apple employees love working at the company.

So all is rosy at Apple, despite – or likely because of – the company doing everything “wrong”. And many – including the Wired article – argue that this apparent contradiction is all down to one man: the mighty Jobs. Apple’s direction, its personality, its entire ethos is built around him. Which raises the obvious question: What will happen to Apple when His Steveness retires?

Someone – I forget who – once quipped that a viable business is one that can still be run without its creator; its strategy and direction are not dictated by one single person. It’s arguable whether Apple, in its current form, would be able to carry on sans Steve. He made Apple what it is today. He practically is Apple now.

But then again – would Microsoft be the success it is today without Bill?

[I just realised I posted this on Apple’s birthday. Complete coincidence, honest!]