Category Archives: technology

Two Pubs: Wilkes Magazine & interviewed in Keystone Edge

Posted these two on my writing blog as separate posts, but figured I’d post them here as well:

I am super excited to share this publishing credit! I contributed an article to the Summer 2010 Wilkes magazine on the various ways social media is being used across the Wilkes University campus. From PR students using these newer mediums for their real-world clients to nature podcasts, students, professors and staff are going social. Read the store online here by downloading a PDF.

Wilkes Magazine Summer 2010 Going Social Donna Talarico

A few weeks ago at work I received a call from freelance writer Sara Hodon. She was working on a piece on technology companies for Keystone Edge, an online publication dedicated to the new economy of Pennsylvania. Sara’s piece was about Internet marketing. Her article is very comprehensive and includes quotes from me, as well as some other PA-based tech firms. Additionally, photographer Aimee Dilger took some fantastic photos around Solid Cactus.

This article, “Search No More: PA Companies Lead Online Marketing Revolution” is a true testament to the work we do at Solid Cactus as well as to the success of online marketing.

Solid Cactus Donna Talarico Keystone Edge Article

Screen shot of the Keystone Edge site, where we were the "cover" story.


A Barrom Brawl: Digital Jukeboxes vs. CD Jukeboxes

Touch Tunes Digital JukeboxGone are the days where you can say, “I love that bar. It’s got a great jukebox.” Now, most bars have the same freaking jukebox.

There’s an award or two hanging above the “jukebox” of my favorite bar. That’s right. Hops & Barleys won Best Jukebox in NEPA in the Weekender’s Readers Choice Awards a time or two. Or more. But, I originally put jukebox in quotes here because the jukebox that won those awards is no longer there. I miss the old, REAL, jukebox. It’s replacement is not very cool At all. Here are reasons why I don’t like digital jukeboxes as much as the old ones that played CDs. Hops joined the digital jukebox bandwagon and I still love the place, but I long for old one.

Ah, nostalgia.

I remember going to Hops for the first time, and loving the jukebox. In fact, when I turned 21 and started going out to bars, I almost enjoyed seeing the selection of songs as much as the beers on tap. A bar’s jukebox in a way defined the bar, created its typical atmosphere, drew a certain crowd. The jukebox at Hops had the token Bon Jovi. It even had a standards variety CD that had Happy Birthday and the Star Spangled Banner. I knew my jukebox picks by heart:

  • Tom Petty’s “Don’t Do Me Like That” (from Greatest Hits) was 2006.

  • CCR’s “Down on the Corner” (from Chronicle) was 2808.

For those reasons and more, I wish bars still kept their own jukeboxes where they selected the songs/albums from the vending company from which they rented the machine. Sure, digital jukeboxes save a little room and cost less to make/ship/store/maintain, but I think there are more negative aspects of digital jukeboxes.

cd jukebox

I miss these. Dearly.

Reasons why I don’t care too much for digital jukeboxes:

1. No full albums

You may at first say, “Wow! Digital jukeboxes are great. You can search for ANYTHING!” Yes, you can. Mostly. However, even on an album full of hits, like the White album, two or three songs will show up. If you want a deep cut, you pay more. No. This doesn’t work for me. First of all, album cuts never really got airplay. So, being able to experience them opens you up to new songs. If you don’t even KNOW what other songs are there other than the hits, you would NEVER know to search for them. So, in a real jukebox, you may flip to a CD and see the whole list. Maybe one time, you’ll stray from the norm and play something from the album you didn’t know, or forgot about. With the digital jukeboxes, you get to choose from a few songs when you touch CD cover on the screen. Not cool.

2. Play next? No. Wait your turn, jerk!

The reason I am writing this post today is because I almost cried last night. I felt like I was on a Fox News TV debate (only I was the only head talking) as I proclaimed my distaste for the Touch Tunes digital jukebox at Hops. It was my graduation and I was celebrating. I arrived at 8:00 p.m. and the bar was not packed at all. I put $5 in. I think that got me 18-20 songs. I started with Tom Petty’s “Don’t Do Me Like That” and ended with Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” In the middle, Joe and I picked songs from Violent Femmes, Bon Jovi, O.A.R, Gin Blossoms, John Mellencamp and others. But, the starting and ending with a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers song was my little trick so I knew when my songs began and ended. I’ve been doing that 10 years, no matter where I go. (Because coincidentally, nearly every single jukebox I have encountered always had Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits.)

And that leads me to the worst button known to mankind (next to that big, red detonation button on a nuclear bomb) – PLAY NEXT. In the four hours we were at Hops, we heard two of my songs. TWO.

People continually hit PLAY NEXT. I spent $5. I should be able to hear my songs. Why should someone else’s song get played before mine? I think that money-making tactic is a little unfair. If the beer line is long at a concert, I never shout, “Hey! I’ll pay you $1 extra – $11 total – for this Miller Lite if you serve me NEXT!”

We are taught since nursery school to wait in line for our turn. Old jukeboxes played songs in a row. None of this PLAY NEXT option nonsense. I left at midnight, still wanting to stay to hear my songs. It was not to get my $5 worth. It was because it was a special night and I wanted to create my own little soundtrack. All the impatient play nexters won.

3. No spontaneity & a need for ginko biloba. No more randomness.

Everyone has their few favorite songs and artists. But, when faced with making jukebox decisions with digital jukeboxes, you must know exactly what you are looking for. Sure, if I want to hear Tom Petty, I can hit the “P” button and scroll through the albums and songs. However, what if I am not sure what I want to hear? I have to make mental notes of all the people I like and search for them. It is very hard to just FIND something at random because to look through the entire jukebox would mean scrolling through an entire freaking alphabet. How time consuming!

In the old days, like me, I had my fave songs memorized, but I enjoyed flipping through the pages and seeing what the jukebox had to offer. So often, I would accidentally stumble upon an artist I liked but always forgot about. Case in point, I love “Fat Bottom Girls” from Queen, but I always forget about Queen, so I never hit “Q” on the digital jukebox. However, if I am casually flipping through a real jukebox, I may see it and say, “Oh wow! Queen! I forgot.”

There is no element of surprise. No hidden nuggets. No spontaneity. Digital jukeboxes have nothing on the oldies. People always say “browse” the web. It’s a term, yeah, but it’s not true. People really “search” the web. Unless you know exactly where you want to go and directly type in the address or use a bookmark, you search the web. This is the same thing for digital jukeboxes. You can’t just randomly run into a cool sale item on a clearance rack… nope. You need to look for something specifically. Ugh.

4. Super Search does not mean you can hear ANYTHING you want

I won’t name names, but there are a few NEPA bars that program their Touch Tunes digital jukeboxes to exclude certain genres. For example, one bar in a “bad” neighborhood blocked rap. Another classier bar blocked hair metal. So, even though at its heart it seems as if the Super Search function opens bar patrons to a world of music, it doesn’t always work that way. In fact, this does in a way make it similar to the real jukeboxes where the albums are what is there, and that’s that – the owner can control what CDs are in a real jukebox, just as a bar owner can choose to exclude a song or an entire genre in his own playlist on his digital jukebox. I do happen to like this feature, however I list this here as a negative because people have the misconception that you can find anything. Seriously. Do a search at some bars and you will find a very popular band may not show up at all. That could crush or frustrate users who are under the illusion they can choose any song.

These are four reasons I don’t like digital jukeboxes. I could seriously go on, but I think I’ve said enough. I get that they make more money for the bar because they are based on some great sales techniques. But, let’s not forget that places that have bars probably make most of their money from food and beverages — however, it’s the great atmosphere that keeps people also coming back. It truly makes me sad that four hours can go by and I don’t hear more than two of my songs. I don’t find the same joy in picking my songs because I have to search for songs and then always end up playing the same ones because under the pressure I can’t always remember all the bands that I have ever liked. I much prefer to scroll through and pick the best songs from a set selection in a real jukebox.

You know what NEPA bar still has a good jukebox? Dugan’s in Luzerne. I know a few wonderful people go there specifically for the jukebox. It is a reflection on the owner and on the crowd. It’s great little place with good food, good beer selection, and even though I said it, I’ll say it again – a good jukebox.

Other Hops and Barley jukebox memories to show you how much that old machine meant to me:

1999- I met a past long-term boyfriend at the jukebox. I mean, it ended up not working, but there were years of memories and that’s where we met.

2001- An old review I wrote of Jessica Andrews, Who I Am CD, where I worked in hanging out at Hops and the jukebox.

2003 – I reviewed Hops on a then-new local review site, Barmesier. My review mentioned the killer jukebox.

2007 – An interview with Doug Cosmo Clifford, CCR drummer, where I pay tribute to the old Hops jukebox.


An iMac Has Been Shipped to Donna T.

macThe very first computer I used was a Mac.  It was my grandmother’s.  And I LOVED it.  I would spend hours on the little rectangular machine typing stories and printing things on a Dot Matrix printer.  I wrote one of my first stories on that computer, called Noah Tall- about a fortune teller.  (Yes, I was that clever with play on words at age 8.)  It was all black and white.  My grandmother had a furry mouse cover that was an actually mouse.  My same-age aunt would get mad at me sometimes because the computer stole my attention away from her and she often wouldn’t let me use it sometimes, saying her mom (my grandmom) said, “No.”  When I did a search for old Mac pics, I think this is the model my grandmom had– my very first computer experience.  (128K model IIRC)

The one computer in all of Tobyhanna Elementary Center that students could use was an Apple II G or something like that.  I would always sign up to play Family Feud and Wheel of Fortune where square people  with very square hair in very light colors would guess letters and words.  Man, it was so fun.  This was in the 80s.

My very first real computer that owned was a present from my mom- a PC she bought from my uncle when he got a new one- that I got when I was a senior in high school, 1996.  (That gift meant the WORLD to me- I had been asking for a computer for nearly 10 years and finally got one!)  That computer lasted me through my first few years in college, and then I got an new HP in maybe 2001.  Then, in 2007 I got a new Gateway laptop as a birthday present from Dave (my ex-fiance for those who don’t know me.)  I’ve always worked or owned PCs.

In the late 90s and early 2000s during my time at Wilkes, I was reacquainted with a Mac.  All the cool artsy people that I’ve met through my adulthood have all had Macs. Wilkes actually turned into an all-mac campus, so when I am at Wilkes, that’s all I use.

mac2Now, since I am having serious computer issues.  Ever since I moved in September and reconnected to the Internet at the new apartment– maybe the new connection made me vulnerable- but I’ve been infected.  Nothing can help.  The computer takes over 30 minutes to boot up sometimes. It’s super frustrating.

I take this as an opportunity to go Mac.  I have every reason in the world to replace my computer.  So- I bought an iMac today- a 24-inch : 2.66GHz.  I am so excited.  I plan to keep my PC laptop just to have a PC around.  I do most of my writing at home and would like to have a nice desktop computer again.  I do a few residencies and writing retreats each year, so for now, I’ll bring along my current PC.  Until I get so hooked on Mac, that I need a MacBook pro, that is!


Free iPhone Apps I Already Dig

iphone-app-store2If you are looking to buy an iPhone anytime soon, be forewarned.  Your social life may suffer.  Your driving will become impaired.  Your productivity at work will plummet.  You will get less sleep.  And if you are already affected by those hindrances, getting acclimated to your iPhone will make them more severe.  At least for a day or so until you decide you CAN put the neat little Mac gadget down and do other things.  Until you pick your iPhone back up again, of course.

So, since I am a new iPhone user and many potential iPhone users have asked how I liked it, I decided I’d post about a few iPhone apps I really dig.  I started with the free iPhone apps, but the ones that charge or nominal, like 99-cents or $2.99 or something silly cheap like that.

Facebook for iPhone -I immediately added Facebook for the iPhone because when my one friend showed it to me, I was blown away.  I was forever jealous of his iPhone.  Until Saturday.  I am no longer jealous of his iPhone and only now jealous of his iMac.  Anyway, Facebook for iPhone looks more visually pleasing than Facebook itself.  The wall is so organized!  I love, love, love it.  When I really love something, I always say love thrice.

Twitterific for iPhone– I’m a tweeter.  Not as much as many other Tweeters I know, but I try to tweet on Twitter once or twice a day, and if I am out drinking, sometimes more.  There are many Twitter apps for the iPhone.  Most of the people I know use Twitterific, so that’s what I added, however I hear TwitFon (or something like that) is good, too.

Shake and Spell for iPhone– on the iPhone AppStore, I searched by category.  I clicked on game, and since I have a fondness for word games, I clicked on “word games.”  I stumbled upon Shake and Spell, which is a knock-off of my second favorite word game… ever… Boggle!  And get this!  You actually shake your iPhone to jumble the playing field.  Wait.  That sounds like date.  To jumble the playing board.  Fun times.  Came in handy at the doctor yesterday.

MoodPhone iPhone App- a mood ring for your phone.  Enough said.  Fun to play around with.  I don’t like when it says I am sad.

myLite– this handy thing turns your iphone into a freaking flashlight.  You can adjust the brightness.  Wow.  Now I can always find my keyhole when I get home late at night because I never leave my porch light on.

iphone-whitenoiseWhite Noise iPhone App– this is my favorite so far.  There’s a pay version too, but with the free one, you get eight different noises to listen to.  You can set a timer so you can fall asleep to the sounds of waves crashing on the beach, thunderstorm, chimes, white noise, clock, fan and my favorite, hard rain.  My alarm still went off, too so it doesn’t affect other apps, although one time when I wasn’t asleep yet, I checked facebook, so the white noise app closed and I had to restart it- but that’s not a negative- that’s just me having ADD.

Amazon.com for iPhone- I didn’t play around with this too much, but when I downloaded the app and then logged in, a big red 3 (the same format of all iPhone “new” notifications) popped up in my cart- so already I was in buying mode, reminded that I never proceeded with my last purchase, that there were three memoirs lingering in my check-out.  Cool.  Now I will spend way more money.  Nice job, Amazon.

Beer Brands– haven’t played with this one too much, but I go out a lot, and I go to a few places, like the Arena Bar & Grill which has an ungoldy amount of beers on tap and bottled.  So, this app gives you info on all the brews, like alcohol content, what it goes well with, etc.  You can also click, “random beer” and something will come up.  I like trying new beer, and I think this app will help me find beers that are similar to the ones I like.

AroundMe– This one was really, really cool.  It works with the GPS in the iPhone and tells you where the closest things are.  When I downloaded the app, I hit “pubs” –it displays results in order of distance by default, so can anybody guess what came up for me?  Hops and Barleys.  According to AroundMe on my iPhone, it’s 259 yards away.  Then, you can find your route by car, bus or foot.  Cool stuff!

That’s all the apps I’ve downloaded so far, and that’s quite conservative.  I know I am going to download the yellow pages for iphone next, and some other people have made recommendations.  Maybe I will post again about the new apps I discover.  Feel free to comment, too!


Saturday Purchase #2- Yay! I have an iPhone!

I’ve been envious for a few months now of a few people I know who have iPhones.  I’ve been in awe at the apps they’ve shown me, at how easy the phone is to use, and just how freakin’ cool it is.   So, I jumped on the bandwagon and bought one!  It was recommended that I get the 16mg over the 8mg, and that the extra $100 was worth it.  That’s what I got, and in white.  The plan is only a little over $100 per month, which isn’t bad for all it does.

I also never had an iPod, so the phone is also an iPod was a huge selling point for me.  I was getting ready to get one, but I killed two birds with one stone and ended up saving money, actually. If I already had an iPod and then got the iPhone, too it would have been a waste.  I am thrilled that I have both now!  I can download audio books for plane rides now.

I am still getting used to the touch screen keypad.  It’s a little challenging, but I am getting better at it.  I’ve downloaded a few apps, Facebook, obviously.  I also downloaded Twitterrific, a Mood Ring app, a flashlight app which turns your screen into a bright light so you can find keys, etc., and also a word game called Shake and Spell.  It’s kind of a rip-off of Boggle, but what is so cool is that you actually shake the phone to shake the letters up!!  How cool is that?! I am going to ask around fellow iPhone users as to what apps are really good.  There are tons of them- many free, some you pay for.

white-iphone-3gI just can’t put the iPhone down.  It’s fun to play with and explore.  The text messaging is cool because it keeps them as conversations back and forth, rather than individual messages.  Thought that was handy.  The camera takes real nice pictures for a phone.  It comes with YouTube already as a menu item, so last night I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I began watching YouTube videos.

I had to switch to AT&T of course, which I had no problem with.  However, Verizon said I was under contract.  I wasn’t and got it squared away, but I have this feeling when I get my final bill, it will have the $150 early termination fee on there still.  We’ll see.


I Felt Out of Touch With The World. I Was Scared.

Wired or wireless, I’ve always been connected. A little too connected. A little too dependent on being connected. So this morning when my cell died— my charger was in my car; my car was left at the bar– and my Internet connection failed, I felt anxious. I could not check my email. The world was ending. I could not see people’s statuses or mood updates on the various social media outlets. I was having trouble breathing. I couldn’t text. My heart was racing. It was an emergency. And then my friend J (who gave me a ride to my car) and Frontier tech support saved me from my dangerous lapse into another time when there was no e-anything. I’m better now. Ahhhhhhhh.