Starbucks Gold Card

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Starbucks “Black” Gold Card

This summer I fell in love with Starbuck’s Vivanno, their high-protein, high-fiber smoothie beverage. My signature drink: a banana-chocolate Vivanno, one espresso shot, with non-fat milk. Because I was going there so often, and because the new Starbucks and AT&T partnership gave 2 hours free WiFi a day, I started buying things through a free Starbucks Card (essentially a prepaid, reloadable gift card).

Apparently, I went to Starbucks more than I thought. A few weeks ago, Starbucks invited me to be part of their Starbucks Gold program. The program provides a special card, which is quite pretty: the back is standard glossy card fare, but the front is a black matte with gold embossed logo.

Starbucks started this program earlier this summer, and they’ve been tweaking the benefits. The benefits my card comes with (as says the flyer that came with it):

  • 10% off most purchases
  • Coffeehouse rewards, including special discounts on family and friend days
  • Surprise indulgences, like treats on my birthday
  • Members-only website and insider promotions

Unfortunately, this comes at a price. It has a membership fee of $25/yr–only the hardcore Starbucks coffee drinkers (which isn’t me) need apply. Also, supposedly, the card does not provide any of the Starbucks Card Rewards, such as the free WiFi, or free milk and syrup options. So far, I’m going to pass on the program, and continue using my old Starbucks Card. But I will keep the pretty-looking card.

Correction: My beta invite entitles me to the Starbucks Gold membership for free. Funny this not indicated anywhere. Also, even though the fine print says Starbucks Card Rewards do not apply, the Starbucks Gold program portal implies that WiFi is an included reward, and it does appear to work…

Update: Now that the Starbucks Gold membership has officially launched for the general public, you can get a description of the benefits in-store. With the Starbucks Gold card, you do not get all the Starbucks Card Rewards–that is, no free syrups, milk or whipped cream, refills on drip coffee, or free tall drink with purchase of whole bean coffee. However, as I mentioned, you do get WiFi.

Amarok 2 uses MySQL embedded as a metadata store

There’s been a bit of turmoil in the Amarok and KDE communities the past week with Amarok’s decision to only support MySQL Embedded in Amarok 2. Jeff Mitchell has written about the Amarok design decisions made.

I’m a little bothered by this, as it forgeos all the “semantic desktop” work that has gone into KDE 4, namely what’s provided by the Strigi and Nepomuk libraries. One thing the whole semantic desktop concept entails is that other applications will be able use data another application stored, but without care to what that other application was or how it was stored. For example, I should be able to share the list of all tracks in my music library, how many times I’ve played tracks, what tracks I think are my favorite, etc across music players. This kind of abstraction is, obviously, good for users, but bad for developers of proprietary software. They don’t want you to easily switch between applications that they do not control. Amarok switching to it’s own database store is a stab at this kind of desktop interoperability. I’ve my own thoughts to add, though, that support what the developers are doing…

Amarok is an awesome application. Dare I say, it’s a killer application on Linux—on several occasions this past year I’ve recommended people install Linux just so that they could play with Amarok and see how much better it is compared to what they were using (yes, I’m looking at you, iTunes).

Before Amarok, I used Music Player Daemon (mpd). I stopped using it after a while: the playlist management wasn’t very good; it would eat those playlists that I spent a lot of effort to make; the GUIs available at the time were lacking; and it was very slow when working with tens of thousands of songs. Some of this may have changed but I’ve not been motivated to look back.

Enter Amarok: I switched because the playlist management was so much better. I setup a MySQL server on my workstation to store metadata, as SQLite was much too slow. Amarok backed with MySQL is very fast—I dare others to find a library-based music manager that is faster with the number of songs I’ve thrown at it.

Balancing desktop interoperability with performance is a delicate balancing act. Interoperability is the hot thing these days—look at how Apple’s line of integrated software and hardware continue to sip market share from the Microsoft-powered desktop. But when it comes down to it, performance and other more perceived benefits are going to win out over desktop interoperability. The Amarok developers’ decision to go with MySQL embedded is a good one that will hopefully keep people moving to Amarok over proprietary alternatives.

"Don't Buy a Mac Laptop" for a long while

Rob Pegoraro of the Washington post writes Don’t Buy a Mac Laptop. When you click through the article, you see the the subtext, “Before the 14th.” Rob is referring to an Apple’s announcement stating they’d be refreshing their laptop lineup next Tuesday, October 14th, 2008.

I’m going to avoid commenting too much on why I think this is bad journalism, and how I expect more from someone associated with the Washington Post (even if it is a blog). If the point was to be sensationalist and grab my attention, it did do that, though.

Instead, I’ll go into how it’s misleading… Supposedly, with the laptop refresh, Apple will be introducing a new manufacturing process where components are carved from aluminum. The new MacBook model is supposed to be called the “Brick.” That’s great and all, but I feel as if I need to remind people that first-generation Apple products are always littered with problems. I remember when the PowerBook G4 was released, I’d be able to press down on the palm wrest and scrape along a CD in the fancy new slot-loading drive, while it was spinning. I passed on the PowerBook and bought a Sony VAIO PCG-Z505 instead.

So… before jumping the gun as soon as the new MacBook is released, you may want to wait till it’s known that Apple has all the kinks of their manufacturing process worked out. It may be a while.

samat.org upgraded to Drupal 6.5

After over 2 years, I’ve finally upgraded this website from Drupal 4.7 to 6.5. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a long while. Hopefully, with the new Drupal version management scheme I’ve developed for Rhombic Networks (article coming soon), along with the advancements in update management within Drupal itself, it will be much easier to keep current with updates.

Like I discussed my last upgrade to Drupal 4.7, there are several new features I’m excited about:

  • OpenID support. Instead of having to leave comments anonymously, or waste time creating an account, use your OpenID. If you have your own domain, check out Simon Willison’s article how to turn your blog into an OpenID. I’ve noticed with an OpenID, I find myself commenting and participating on sites much more often. Hopefully I can expect the same of others with my website.
  • Drupal’s Mollom module. The old site was getting hit with hundreds of spam comments a day. I gave up trying to filter them all, which meant it took a long time for users’ comments to show up on the site. Hopefully, with Mollom, that will change, and I will be able to screen comments again instead of screening spam. I like Mollom more than I do Akismet.
  • Drupal’s Atom module. RSS sucks. You can now aggregate this blog via an Atom feed. Like most home pages on the Internet, most surfers find content on this site via search engines, or via their feed reader.

Hopefully, I can get my development mojo going and finish porting my Drupal Sands and Sands_CSS themes to Drupal 5.x and 6.x. I’m sorry I took so long!

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