Pandora + Replay Media Catcher

I’ve recently discovered, when Replay Media Catcher v3.01 downloads Pandora streams, they are saved as a m4a file format. This was rather new as previous versions saved the format as mp3. I’ve no issues with various formats, but there was a problem. I was hearing the quality of the media degrade severely when playing the media file from within iTunes or QuickTime Player. Indeed, iTunes reports the bit rate (quality) of the media as 64 kbps, which is garbage as it’s worse than FM quality.

A deaf guy could tell that Pandora plays the track at a much higher quality. The exploratory person that I am, I wanted to see if the problem lied within iTunes. Since Windows Media Player could not open the m4a file, to continue with my test I first had to convert the file to a more familiar mp3 format. A quick Google search turned up a free, easy to use, m4a-to-mp3 converter. After installing the software and converting the media, miraculously, the quality of the song returned to normal. Now you can once again enjoy decent 128 kbps quality!

I did a little browsing around, and stumbled into a Bitcartel Blog entry explaining in some detail about this recent Pandora change. The blog also suggests a possible solution.

PNSQC 2008

For the first time, I had the opportunity to attend the Pacific NW Software Quality Conference (PNSQC) and wanted to share a bit about my experience with anyone interested about the event. The non-profit two day conference took place at the convention center in Portland, OR and was filled by individuals involved in testing from IT to managers. The theme this years was collaboration and the agile methodology–though, the topics were variety as it’s not difficult to incubate collaboration into any subject. In regard to the agile methodology, I was rather disappointed by the attempts made to glorify the idea. Simply put, it has been around for a long time and is obviously not a magic bullet in fixing your development problems–anyway, the concept was beaten into my head over and over throughout the two days. Fine. At the end of the day it comes to writing high quality code and the methodology can only take you so far.

Of all the presentations I attended, there are only a few worth mentioning.

Collaborative Change by Debra Lavell (Intel)

I had the pleasure of hearing Debra discuss how she implements change in a large, mature organization. I strongly believe that change is something to strive for. There are always ways in which something can be improved upon and effort should be made to achieve improvement. Problem being, people tend to avoid going outside of their comfort zone and Debra’s job at Intel is to encourage teams to go outside of this zone, admit to the problems they are making, and take the necessary steps to implement the already known solution.

I was impressed with Debra’s presentation. Her charismatic speaking-style (which I can only assume is a necessity in her line of work in convincing people to adopt change) was a change compared to some other presentations.Though she presented quite a bit of information, what I walked away with were some concepts applied by Debra to achieve change. I took note of these concepts as a way to remember qualities required to facilitate change. And here they are,

  • Conduct retrospective three times throughout a project life cycle
  • Reuse existing solutions
  • Create an action plan
  • Include a neutral facilitator
  • Illustrate gaps and areas for improvement
  • Shape the environment for change
  • Reward change

She covered all the topics, something I will not due here but leave it as an exercise to the readers to gather further insight.

Selling Your Idea to Management – Steve Smith

Steve Smith quite possibly presented the best presentation of the entire event. This topic had little to do with testing, collaboration, or agility. Though, each and every individual attending this presentation walked away with great insight in how to better sell an idea to management (or anyone for that matter). Perhaps, you need to convince management that your test department is greatly under-staffed? Or, maybe you want to convince your team that language X or library Y should be used for the upcoming project? Though we won’t always have our way, Steve presented three simple, life-changing concepts which can greatly increase your success of others adopting your idea. The three concepts are,

  1. Change the perspective. The idea must be restated to change the perspective from how it benefits you to how it benefits the manager/organization.
  2. State the benefits of the idea. If we adopt X, the benefits are…
  3. Discuss the consequences if of doing nothing. Doing nothing is the default, state the downside of doing nothing.

Enjoy! I hope to see you there next year.