Pandora, Spotify, and Grooveshark (oh my!) - Which Online Music Service is REALLY the Best for You?

Online music streaming is at a high point.  Including the recent emergence of "iTunes Radio", Apples' new addition to the online music streaming community, users now have over a dozen options to choose from when selecting their music streaming provider - and its definitely a challenge to compare them.  Which service offers the best comprehensive coverage?  Is it worth paying for premium services?

There are plenty of sources out there for different lifestyles and needs.  For users with extensive already-existing music libraries in iTunes or Google, iTunes Radio and Google Play are good options as they have "library integration" features - meaning they combine new music with your current library when creating your online listening station.  Spotify and Rdio are good for  those with less extensive libraries, and their premium features offer offline listening capabilities that their counterparts do not.

Tech blog GigaOM created this great table (left) to help you compare your options based on price, function, streaming, playlist capabilities, and purchase song options.

Jason Finn, Geek | Chicago's "Chief Geek", personally uses Spotify Premium.  While iTunes Radio has syncing capabilities with your iTunes music and is cheaper ($25/year vs. $10/month for Spotify Premium), it does not support offline listening - a big deterrent for those who listen mostly on-the-go.  With Spotify, there are playlist download capabilities so you can listen to music without internet or 3G data usage. 

If you're the type of person who doesn't know what you want to listen to and you don't want to spend any money, this Geek, Alex, yours truly, recommends Songza, which creates music playlists based on your mood or location rather than on a genre or artist (like Pandora).

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"Waze" now Powered by Google - The Best App to Get Around

Big news in the app world. One of our favorite big companies, Google, is teaming up with one of our favorite small companies, Waze, in what we hope will improve what is already the greatest navigation app on the market.

You may have heard of Waze: We consider it crowd-sourcing at its finest, proving free GPS navigation for your Smartphone that is aided by a wireless community of drivers that help to provide real-time traffic updates. With users simply driving around with the app open, Waze pulls the MPH data of collective users, uses that information to identify roads with heavier traffic or obstacles, and then optimizes your route automatically by changing your route to avoid those roads. Users can also add messages along with their current traffic situations, notifying others of, say, a fender bender, bridge lift, or speed trap.

It has some other cool features too, including a red light camera alert, social media integration, linking directly with Facebook and Twitter to let you know which friends are driving around you, and the ability to send others your route information via text, so they can track your drive progress.

Read more A Highly Useful Tool for Small Businesses

Small business owners, big company employees, and independent contractors are all subjected to the inevitable conference call.  Conference calls are relatively simple, in theory - everyone calls in at the right time with the right information and a successful communicative conference call ensues.  However, there is a lot that can get lost in the shuffle.  You have to first co-ordinate a time that everyone is available to conference, which entails planning far enough in advance (and then hope that everyone remembers), select a provider (a host service for the call), send out PIN numbers, passwords... there is a lot that can get lost, and too often the call starts late, if at all, while everyone sorts our the details.

Enter  In place of a personal phone number, Speek provides the user with a simple link (like, or as the conference call source.  You can then e-mail the link, text it, or put it directly in a calendar invite (we prefer Google Calendar).  Then the attendees visit the link either from a computer or a smart phone, enter their own phone number or text Speek their name, and then Speek will conference everyone together.

During the call, Speek has some cool features that aren't possible with a normal conference call:

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Social Media for Financiers

A new business-themed social networking website is on the horizon.  The Times of London recently reported that the Wall Street Journal will be launching a new LinkedIn-style social networking website for "like-minded people" to have an online space to meet and discuss business ideas.  This is being launched by News Corp, the worlds second-largest media group as of 2011. Alongside the new social networking website, News Corp will also be introducing new Dow Jones services and personal messaging systems exclusively for the WSJ.

Is there such a thing as too much social networking, or is this a timeless idea?  Are there aspects of social media that could present new opportunities for your business?  Drop me a line and we can discuss.

Is This the End of Tax-Free Online Purchases?

This month, after a many-year process, the Senate has officially passed a bill which could mean the end of tax-free online purchases.  With the "Marketplace Act of 2013", states will now have the authority to collect taxes from online storefronts.  Technically speaking, online purchasers were supposed to be accounting for these taxes on their tax return already, but as this was rarely done, this bill will account for the previously uncollected tax revenue.

Amazon is a supporter of the bill, as they have embraced a sales model which uses local facilities, and this bill would be useful towards that process. 

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Turn your IPad into a Cash Register

Square Stand, housing iPad with credit card reader at the base

These days, if an entrepreneur is is looking to get their new business off the ground, they have to consider the traditional items - product, location, cost of inventory.  As it relates to marketing, hey must consider a lot of the "modern" marketing questions as well - how do I build a website?  Do I need a Facebook page?  Twitter account?  But when it comes to taking cash at checkout, they tend to go with the old school cash register.  Paper in, coins out.  Credit card receipts and big bills go under the drawer...

That's all about to change.

Old School Cash RegisterYou've probably already heard of Square, a merchant sales company that is pioneering mobile payments via smartphone technology.  They have just announced their modern day answer to the cash register - the Square Stand.  Modernizing small businesses, this new piece of hardware features an all-in-one Point of Sale (POS) system to be integrated directly with an iPad. 

Features include a credit card reader (accepting cash, credit, and Square Wallet payments), a rotating base so customers can sign with their finger, and a customizable checkout flow where you can add names, photos, and order modifiers for a more personalized check-out experience. 

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Software Pirates Beware! Adobe CS Takes to the Sky with the "Creative Cloud"

Adobe has officially announced its most radical software update yet, where the Creative “Suite” (known most broadly for its Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, and Flash components) has now become the Creative “Cloud” – a new and updated version of the Suite, available exclusively online.  That’s right, there are no longer installation CDs or packaging of any kind. With the CC, Adobe has transitioned over entirely to a pay-per-month subscription-based process, including most of the old Creative Suite favorites (InDesign and Premiere Pro, along with the aforementioned Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Illustrator) alongside 20 gigabytes of cloud storage space.  Not only can you store your files in the cloud and access them everywhere, but you can also sync to multiple devices, publish your work on the Behance network (an online portfolio platform for creative professionals across multiple industries), and take advantage of the extensive sharing features built into the system.

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YouTube: The New TV?

Image courtesy of Flickr user USB:"We're the new TV", claims YouTube.  As of March of this year, Google cited YouTube as drawing one-billion unique viewers a month.  It is with this fanbase that YouTube is launching what The Verge calls a "full assault on traditional television."  Having already teamed up with Vice Media and Machinima, paid channels, and we can certainly anticipate the rise of more channels of this type on YouTube.

YouTube is campaigning heavily to advertisers, using stats such as the recent Nielsen finding that YouTube reaches more viewers within the 18- to 34-year-old range in the US than any single cable network.  They also submit that YouTube is an experience completely unique to the television, inherently more "authentic" in the sense that it provides a voice to "Generation C" (the connected generation).

Is YouTube the new TV? Does your business have a presence on the world's second largest search engine?  Do you need to advertise on YouTube too?

Help with Social Media Marketing is Imperative

A recent Business Insider article featured an image from a recent Buddy Media event, depicting just how out of hand the social media space has become.

Social Marketing Landscape

As a small business owner, how does one hope to stay on top of the current tools, let alone the daily changes of importance? 

One can't.

What about something as simple as "where should I put my online advertising dollars?" Did you know the average click-through rate for an internet ad is .1 percent?  Facebook's results - 1/2 that, .05%.  How about Google Ad Sense?  Quadruple the web average, .4% click-through.  Check out this infographic, the source of my statistics.  Google ads are 8 times more effective than Facebook!

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Backup Your Data Beat the Hard Drive Crash Blues

Losing your laptop/tablet/smartphone is only slightly worse than a crashed hard drive.  The former requires you purchasing new hardware (or going without), but both leave you feeling dark and empty inside.  Lost photos of your children/wedding/best vacation ever, missing address book information, and years of work down the drain... Its the worst. The worst, Jerry.

Usually it takes a corrupted, crashed, stolen, or lost hard drive to convince the average human of the importance of backing up.  If you're lucky enough to never have had this happen to you, please heed my warning.  The remedy is darned easy, you'll really hate yourself if you stop reading now.

We've previously extolled the virtues of backing up to the cloud, specifically using Dropbox (one of our Favorite Things). Well one of our favorite websites, Lifehacker did us a solid with a How To on backing up your data locally and remotely (a.k.a. "in the cloud").  


It's not a matter of whether your computer's disk will stop working; it's a matter of when. The question is how much it will disrupt your life—and it won't, if you have a backup copy.


Backing up your data is the dullest but most indispensable thing you do on your computer. Here's how to automate regular backups for your computer...

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).