The Apple PR force is out in full swing for the launch of Apple Music, but I’ve found most of the initial impressions lacking. Kory Grow’s interview with Trent Reznor for Rolling Stone, on the other hand, is far more interesting:
That aspect of treating music like art is important. And we’ve tried to do that everywhere that you come across music in Apple Music. When you listen to a radio station here, every song has been chosen by somebody. When your recommendations pop up “For You,” that wasn’t based on some tag that came into the system; it was based on editors sitting and saying, “We like this subgenre of hip-hop which branches off into these artists which branch off into these artists,” and paying attention to the actual behavior in the app. And we believe that the result ends up being something that feels better. It makes music feel more personal and it raises it up a notch into something what it deserves, rather than a big-box-retailer feel, like, “Here’s the stuff, pick what you want.” And some people will say that none of that matters, but it does to us and we are proud of the love and care that we are treating music with.
Genius — like most recommendation engines — is entirely based on a programmatic approach to finding similar music, and the effects of that have been plain to see. Artists are suggested based on the number of common downloads, similar band members, and similar genres. That’s really limiting, and a human curator can patch that gap. This is based on the Beats Music model, but it’s vastly more integrated in its Apple Music guise to create a kind of blended library between your local files and streaming songs. I’m looking forward to trying this out as soon as I can.
With no content blocked, there are 38 3rd party scripts (scripts not hosted on the host domain) running when the homepage is opened, which takes a total of 11 seconds. Some of these scripts are hosted by companies I know, Google, Amazon, Twitter and lots from companies I don’t know. Most of which I assume are used to display adverts or track my activity, as the network activity was still active after a minute of leaving the page dormant. I decided to turn them all off all 3rd party scripts and see what would happen.
After turning off all 3rd party scripts, the homepage took 2 seconds to load, down from 11 seconds. Also, the network activity stopped as soon as the page loaded so it should be less strain on the battery.
That’s a big difference, which means only one thing: iMore is another one of those shit-ass websites. John Gruber in 2011:
So how are we doing now, four years later? That same article is now 11.0 MB requiring 236 HTTP requests. (I turned off all of my desktop Safari extensions before running these tests.)
To answer the obvious questions, yes. Everyone here and at our network, Mobile Nations, saw it. Everyone here and at our network were also well aware of it, and have been working for months already to improve it. That we haven’t made it further, faster is an indication of how hard it is when you’re talking about websites visited by tens of millions of people, and companies that employ more than a dozen writers. Of course, everyone here is going to continue working to find better, smarter ways of solving the problem, because that’s our jobs. I’m sure other large websites are doing likewise.
His “response” article — which, I should point out, is entirely text-based, unlike a media-heavy review — weighs in at a whopping 14 MB with 330 requests. That’s one shit-ass website, largely because it’s bogged down by unnecessary tools.
By contrast, a glance through the changelog of my blacklist clearly shows certain ad networks and utilities that are disrespectful to performance and, consequently, readers. With increasing amounts of web browsing being done on mobile devices — and with iOS devices occupying a significant chunk of the mobile web market share — the pressure is going to be on for the makers of inefficient scripts and utilities. With any luck, the web will be better for it.
And, unlike most web tools, it doesn’t track you site-to-site, or even within this site. There’s a referral code on the end of the link so Carbon knows if someone clicks it, but that’s it. There’s no targeting, and no other funny business. ↩︎
The most recent EEO filing available shows Facebook hired an additional seven black people out of an overall headcount increase of 1,231 in 2013. At that time Facebook employed just 45 black staff out of a total US workforce of 4,263. Facebook’s black female headcount increased by just one person over 2013 to 11, and the number of black men increased by six to 34. There were no black people in any executive or senior management positions.
The United States is 12% black; California is 5% so.
Over the same period the company’s white employee headcount increased by 695. There were 125 white people holding executive and senior management positions at the firm.
I left Dropbox because as a black woman working on bettering myself, the tech industry doesn’t give a shit. Even with the skills to do more, if I had stayed at Dropbox, I would have always had the submissive role of serving others and never calling the shots. Why? Because a white manager didn’t want to see me do more.
That depends on who you are. Any one of those things, or a combination thereof, might be worth the price of admission. But what’s killer to one person is boringly insignificant to another.
Further, what you consider to be killer probably existed previously on your laptop or camera. Which means that the killer part of iPhone really isn’t an app — it’s the concept of the phone itself. One device that does all that stuff, and fits neatly into your pocket.
I’ve long thought that how the product is going to be used — its context — is a vastly more important part of software development than it has been given credit for. As the timespan of the product’s use decreases and the number of situations in which the product will be used increases, the impact of minor poor decisions becomes amplified.
Or, to put that another way, desktop software can be a little rougher around the edges than tablet software because you’re spending more time with it in more limited circumstances: usually on a desk, or on your lap. Smartphone software needed to be designed with more awareness of the context in which it would be used because it would be used for minutes, not hours, in vastly more varied situations. The Apple Watch is a distillation of software and hardware. It is strapped to you, so it goes pretty much wherever you go. It’s also physically smaller and used for significantly less time, so apps built for it need to be laser focused.
Consequently, it’s harder to determine its killer app. It’s stripped-down, and apps on the Watch are typically less feature-rich than their iOS or OS X siblings. But don’t mistake a lack of features for a reduction in usability; they are usable in far more places because of a reduction in features.
Ever since I’ve been using an Apple Watch, I’ve had people stop me in the streets, at the grocery store, and in elevators asking about it. What I’ve realized is that it is a difficult product to demo, which is odd because I use it all the time. I should know what to demo, but I find myself at a loss every time because it’s a product that can only really be demonstrated in the context of life. I usually resort to demonstrating the wrist raising gesture, though, because it is — in the words of my mother — “kind of freaky”.
Every time I open the App Store, I see a sea of updates with the generic “bug fixes and performance improvements” note, or some variation thereof. David Chartier has noticed the same, but for him, it isn’t merely irritating:
Developers, I know you have an internal list of these changes for each release. Withholding them from customers is wrong, lazy, and misleading, and it erodes trust with your users.
Please give us an accurate list of what’s new in each update so we can make an informed decision about whether to update.
What Chartier says is logical, but I doubt that most people look at app release notes before updating. In fact, I doubt most people look at them at all, because automatic updates are on by default. That’s a great convenience for most people, but a really crappy way to avoid being stuck with an update you don’t want.
I’d like to think most developers would be considerate to users and any escalation of permissions or the use of that information would be better documented than, say, a patch for a small feature not behaving correctly. But I want to know exactly what’s being changed with every update; I want to know what bugs are being fixed, so I can test my bug reports against updates with more knowledge. Far too many apps have joined the Facebook school of vague change logs.
Thanks to Ben Zigterman for surfacing this link for me after I forgot who wrote it.
We did it in Canada about ten years ago, and it’s about time that the momentum of forty US states manifested itself in federal law. There is no straight or gay marriage in the United States — just marriage. There are a lot of new rights that come with this decision, but the right for two people to express their love in a binding way is beautiful. A true leap forward for humanity.
Apple has updated the terms of its AppleCare+ Protection Plan for iPhone, iPad, iPod and Apple Watch to cover batteries that retain less than 80% of their original capacity within the extended warranty period, whereas it previously covered batteries that retained less than 50% of their original capacity. The change applies to AppleCare+ purchased for iPhone, iPad, iPod and all Apple Watch models on April 10, 2015 or later.
If AppleCare+ wasn’t a good deal before, it is now. While a drop below 80% capacity shouldn’t happen before two years of standard use, it’s not a rare occurrence either, as far as I can figure out. It happened to my MacBook Air after a year of standard usage, and I’ve seen very poor capacity on friends’ iPhones, too. This coverage now matches the Mac AppleCare rules, aside from covering only two years instead of three.1 Good stuff.
Taylor Swift has confirmed that all of her albums, including “1989”, will be available for streaming on Apple Music in a kind of implicit exclusive — other streaming services still offer the same library to free and paid subscribers. I have a hunch that Spotify and Rdio are working on a way to split their libraries between their tiers.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in an internal email to employees:
Mission. Every great company has an enduring mission. Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. I’m proud to share that this is our new official mission statement. This mission is ambitious and at the core of what our customers deeply care about. We have unique capability in harmonizing the needs of both individuals and organizations. This is in our DNA. We also deeply care about taking things global and making a difference in lives and organizations in all corners of the planet.
Read that mission statement again:
Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
“Every person”? “Every organization”? Sounds like the Microsoft of yore. “Achieve more”? Isn’t that kind of obvious for pretty much any company that makes tools or utilities? I can’t think of a company that would openly and unironically brag about making people achieve less. This statement means nothing. That’s par for the course for Microsoft, but it’s disappointing because Nadella is a very different CEO from his predecessor.
Compare to Jobs’ for Apple in 1980: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
I still think it’s pretty hollow, as any corporate mission statement seems to be, but there is a subtle difference. Jobs’ statement clearly specifies how Apple plans to make a contribution: “by making tools for the mind”. That qualifies the statement, and it becomes meaningful as a result. It’s not much, but it’s something.
On my home forum Sysnative, a user (wavly) was being assisted with a WU [Windows Update] issue, which was going well, aside from the fact that wavly’s WU kept getting disabled randomly. It was figured out eventually after using auditpol.exe and registry security auditing that the program that was responsible for disabling WU was Disable_Windowsupdate.exe, which is part of Samsung’s SW Update software.
SW Update is your typical OEM updating software that will update your Samsung drivers, the bloatware that came on your Samsung machine, etc. The only difference between other OEM updating software is, Samsung’s disables WU.
Your computers, [hacker collective LOpht] told the panel of senators in May 1998, are not safe — not the software, not the hardware, not the networks that link them together. The companies that build these things don’t care, the hackers continued, and they have no reason to care because failure costs them nothing. And the federal government has neither the skill nor the will to do anything about it.
The result was a culture within the tech industry often derided as “patch and pray.” In other words, keep building, keep selling and send out fixes as necessary. If a system failed — causing lost data, stolen credit card numbers or time-consuming computer crashes — the burden fell not on giant, rich tech companies but on their customers.
For years, I’ve eschewed using the default iOS apps in favor of third-party offerings, because maaaan, I always knew better. Apple’s apps are for regular people, and I’m a PowerUser™, maaaan. I’d configure all kinds of workarounds and extra steps because I wanted to wring every last bit of functionality out of my devices, and the basic starter apps just weren’t ever enough.
Something’s changed though–well, two things–in the past few years. I’ve lost my taste for fiddling a little bit, and the default apps Apple ships with its devices have gotten, well, better. Better than other things I could use? Not in all cases. But better… enough.
Certainly I have specific pieces of my workflows that must remain more complex; OmniFocus is a great example. The complexity-to-ability balance is tilted way in favor of the amazing productivity gains it offers when life throws a lot of stuff at me. But that new Notes app looks hot. Dark Sky is cool, but I just end up opening Weather way more often. I’m rediscovering that using Reminders for very simple nudges can be highly effective outside of OmniFocus. Most shockingly for some nerds, I’m just using the built-in Podcasts app. Why? Because my use case is having a podcast show up, and me listening to it.
It’s interesting that Clifford called his decision to switch to mostly default apps “brave”. He’s kind of right — using the default anything amongst a tech-savvy audience is practically begging for an onslaught of confused @ replies and backlash.
Every so often, as with most nerds, I think about my workflow and reconsider my assumptions of The Way Things Ought To Be. Am I using the best Twitter client for me? Am I using the best calendar replacement, or is there a better one out there for my specific use case? And then I realize that I haven’t really changed much in my workflow in about five years because I’m largely doing similar stuff as I was then, albeit in different proportions. And that realization raises all sorts of other questions, but that’s an internal crisis for another time — first, I have different email clients to try.
What I’ve realized is that you should limit your exploration outside of default apps if:
there’s an aspect of the app that you use all the time that is either not present, is woefully buggy, or is inadequate; and
the app or its function is something you use constantly.
If it’s an infrequently-used app or you can live with its features, keep using the default. It’s probably fine, plus you get all of the benefits of the app being integrated with the rest of the system in some way. But if it’s an app that you use all the time and it’s driving you crazy, you may want to look into something else.
Take Clifford’s example of using the default Reminders app over OmniFocus for simple reminders. I don’t use OmniFocus at all — I only need simple reminder capabilities — but Reminders is woefully inadequate even for me, because it is my only todo list. I create reminders for specific dates and times a lot, and doing it in the Reminders app is a huge pain in the ass for something that should be such a lightweight function. It requires:
tapping in the blank cell to create a new reminder,
typing the reminder title,
tapping the little info icon to bring up the details view,
switching the date reminder to “on”,
using iOS’ still-a-little-clumsy date picker to assign a date and time, and
tapping “Done” to save it.
That’s too complicated. In Fantastical, I just tap the “new” button, type “remind”, then the title and time details in natural language, then tap “Done”. As this is something I do a lot, it saves me enough time and stress that I find the $5 I dropped on Fantastical a no-brainer. But I wouldn’t try anything else now because my grievances with Fantastical aren’t worth it. That’s really the tradeoff. Find one app that does what you need it to well enough that you can live with it, and stick with it. And, for a lot of people, that’s going to be the default.
First, Instagram will highlight trending places in a box across the top of the screen. The software will show you both the most attention-getting events (Houston flood; Bonnaroo concert) and also things that are close to you (Central Park concert; new restaurant opening). Second, users can scroll sideways to see curated collections of photographs that members of Instagram’s community team cull from the most popular Instagrammers’ feeds. This is where you’ll stumble across your kid skateboarders, say, or remote islands you’ll dream of visiting. Last, Instagram will highlight trending hashtags in the center of the screen, promoting the most popular tags. The bottom third of the screen will look much like it has, surfacing compelling posts, but Instagram’s new design will allow users to move seamlessly from one photo to the next, rather than returning to the Explore page between photos.
This is a huge shift for Instagram’s strategy. What once was Twitter, but for photos, is now — uh, *checks Twitter* — never mind, it’s still Twitter, but for photos. As Twitter has added features for trying to make billions of tweets topical, Instagram has done the same for its photos. Only one catch:
While Explore will initially be available only to US users, Instagram will introduce a more powerful search engine globally.
Yet again, an interesting new feature or product is only available to Americans. Nothing wrong with Americans, mind you, but as a Canadian, this is infinitely frustrating.
But you can now, at long last, search by location, so that’s good.
At any moment in your day, Google Play Music has whatever you need music for—from working, to working out, to working it on the dance floor—and gives you curated radio stations to make whatever you’re doing better. Our team of music experts, including the folks who created Songza, crafts each station song by song so you don’t have to. If you’re looking for something specific, you can browse our curated stations by genre, mood, decade or activity, or you can search for your favorite artist, album or song to instantly create a station of similar music.
The new free, ad-supported version of Google Play Music is launching first in the U.S. It’s available on the web today, and is rolling out this week to Android and iOS.
I’m Canadian, so this doesn’t impact me in the least. It does, however, explain why I’m very excited for the launch of Apple Music. Unlike Google Play Music, Pandora, or iTunes Radio, Apple Music looks like it’s launching here, amongst something like 100 other countries. That’s unheard of in a contract-encumbered industry. It’s not the entire iTunes library available anywhere, but it’s going to be an impressive launch regardless.
Musicians may have won a victory against Apple’s onerous terms for their forthcoming Music service, but the floodgates of discontent have now opened. Kirk McElhearn clarifies who is (not) getting paid:
Apple, like most other people in this discussion, are a bit confused about their terminology; they don’t pay “artist[s],” they pay rightsholders. They make two payments: one for publishing, and one for performances. Clearinghouses for publishing rights then divvy up their share to songwriters, and record labels let some of their income trickle down to the actual artists. (Except, of course, with the smallest indie bands who actually contract directly with Apple, or any other streaming music service. Most indies go through aggregators, who distribute their music on streaming and download services, and who collect the income and pay it to individual labels.)
So no one – not even Taylor Swift – is saying that Apple is breaking any laws. What Swift is saying, and what I agree with, is that it’s a bad deal for artists. Creators should be compensated for the use of their creations.
This debate is important to app developers because, whether we like it or not, digital music has been devalued – just as our digital creations have been. In just a few short years people have gone from paying tens of dollars for an album, to paying 99 cents for a single track, to paying pennies or even nothing to stream an entire library of music. This parallels in a rather frightening way the history of the App Store where, in an even shorter amount of time, mobile software that once sold for tens of dollars now is lucky to sell for 99 cents. Just as the music industry, now including Apple, has moved to an “all-you-can-eat” subscription model to bring down the per title cost of music below that 99 cent threshold, it now doesn’t seem unreasonable that a similar all-you-can-eat subscription model might be used to allow per title pricing of apps to fall below 99 cents as well.
Not only that, many developers feel obligated to provide free updates in perpetuity for that $0.99, or they risk the wrath of angering their users. Apple hasn’t made it easy for them: there’s no official way to offer upgrade pricing, nor is there a way to offer a free demo of iOS apps.
Esteemed photographer of many artists and bands Jason Sheldon points out that many of his contracts — including the one for shooting a Taylor Swift show — are just as anti-artist [sic]:
How are you any different to Apple? If you don’t like being exploited, that’s great.. make a huge statement about it, and you’ll have my support. But how about making sure you’re not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else?
Photographers need to earn a living as well. Like Apple, you can afford to pay for photographs so please stop forcing us to hand them over to you while you prevent us from publishing them more than once, ever.
It isn’t news that art gets shafted at its intersection with business, and I’m glad that we’re talking about it.1 As it has become easier for artists to make their work known, however, it seems as though we haven’t gained additional leverage over these contracts. It’s good that the Andy Warhol of music is able to influence change for the better, but it’s yet another reminder that a thousand indie artists won’t have the impact that Swift does. It is, quite simply, exploitative, and all parties involved know that.
If you’re in Calgary between June 24 and July 27, come see my work. Reception is June 27 from 8 PM until whenever UAS decides to kick everyone out. ↩︎
Luckily, unlike many people, I don’t have a data cap for my Time Warner Internet connection, so at least that wasn’t a problem for me, as it might be for you. Where I did run into trouble is with my iPhone, on which I’m using the Optimize iPhone Storage option to reduce the amount of data transferred and stored. Tonya, Tristan, and I now share 2 GB of data on our family plan, and before last month, we had never come close to using that much, since we’re still accustomed to having only 250 MB each. So you can imagine my surprise shortly after I enabled iCloud Photo Library when AT&T texted me to say that I was approaching my 2 GB limit. […]
There are no settings to prevent iCloud Photo Library from working over cellular, and while I disabled cellular data for the Photos app, that made no difference. I could turn off cellular data in general (and I did once or twice, but that’s a hard thing to remember every time you leave the house), but by the end of the billing period, AT&T had hit me with $30 of overage charges for two $15 blocks of 1 GB of additional data.
It doesn’t appear as though full photos are being uploaded — that should only happen over WiFi, or at least that’s what happens for me. But there should be more stringent limitations baked into iOS for how much cellular data any app may transfer. Even though LTE has the bandwidth to support broadband-level services, its users often don’t have broadband-level data caps.
I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music. I feel this deserves an explanation because Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music and creating ways for me to connect with my fans. I respect the company and the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries.
I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.
Swift is right — there’s no three month free trial where (almost) nobody gets paid in any other industry. During that trial, Apple should pay the artists. It’s as simple as that, and I don’t see how the company could view it any differently.
It is odd that Swift is only including “1989” in her boycott, though. I think it would be way more powerful if she and other artists were able to excise all of their works from Music until this is resolved. After all, the service is nothing without their work.
I [Peter Kafka] just got off the phone with Eddy Cue. I’m going to dump some notes in here, and then turn them into something more coherent in real time. Internet!
Cue says Apple will pay rights holders for the entire three months of the trial period. It can’t be at the same rate that Apple is paying them after free users become subscribers, since Apple is paying out a percentage of revenues once subscribers start paying. Instead, he says, Apple will pay rights holders on a per-stream basis, which he won’t disclose.
Jacob Appelbaum is one of the most prominent security researchers in the world, and one of the most outspoken defendants of a person’s right to privacy. So, naturally, he’s under some fairly extraordinary surveillance, with the government requesting access to everything, including his Google account, as collected by Bethany Horne in this Storify.
If you’re a regular reader,1 you know my stance on Google collecting all your information in a gigantic silo. But there’s one advantage to that: when they receive a wiretap or records request, their legal team scrutinizes it first. That probably goes for pretty much all companies; Apple’s legal department probably does the same thing. Having a multinational company’s legal team front-ending interactions with the justice department is pretty powerful.
Mike Ash got an email from Apple about them automatically including his site’s RSS feed — among probably many, many others — as part of their new News app. His site’s feed is publicly available, so that’s cool with him, but there are some terms attached:
You agree to let us use, display, store, and reproduce the content in your RSS feeds including placing advertising next to or near your content without compensation to you. Don’t worry, we will not put advertising inside your content without your permission.
Apple didn’t get to be such a wealthy company by leaving money on the table, but automatically appending RSS feeds with ads seems gross to me. Aside from the philosophical objections one may have, it cheapens the experience a little. It feels like a product where some middle manager needed to justify the “bloody ROI”.
You confirm that you have all necessary rights to publish your RSS content, and allow Apple to use it for News as we set forth here. You will be responsible for any payments that might be due to any contributors or other third parties for the creation and use of your RSS content.
If we receive a legal claim about your RSS content, we will tell you so that you can resolve the issue, including indemnifying Apple if Apple is included in the claim.
This is probably to protect Apple when a lawsuit is brought against third-party content, like if someone sued a writer on defamation grounds and named Apple because that story was available in News. And that makes sense; Apple should not be liable for stuff like that.
You can remove your RSS feed whenever you want by opting out or changing your settings in News Publisher.
And this is the brunt of it, because the email continues:
If you do not want Apple to include your RSS feeds in News, reply NO to this email and we will remove your RSS feeds.
As far as I can tell, these terms are broadly acceptable, with the exception of Apple selling ads against third-party content. But it also sounds like Ash is understandably upset that he’s being opted into these legally-binding terms unless he opts out. It probably wouldn’t hold up in court, but that question being raised should ring some alarm bells.
[U]pon re-reading it, it seems like the Terms they’re saying applies doesn’t actually really legally bind you to anything. It’s not like a normal EULA where you’re being granted a license. They’re saying that these are the terms under which they (Apple) will operate, and if you aren’t comfortable with them, you can opt-out.
I like to picture the offices of PR and marketing teams when there’s a giant corporate shakeup. There must be a fairly lengthy process of whittling the press release title down to the most anemic combination of words possible. Remember when Apple did that big executive reshuffle back in 2012? Here’s the title of that press release — one of the biggest executive and strategy decisions in the company’s history:
Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software & Services
It’s not wrong, but it’s also redefining the phrase “burying the lede”.
As if Microsoft were not strategic with their engineering teams before.
Anyway, here’s the seventh paragraph, after much preamble:
As a result of the organizational moves, Stephen Elop, Kirill Tatarinov and Eric Rudder will leave Microsoft after a designated transition period. Unrelated to the engineering restructuring changes, Chief Insights Officer Mark Penn has decided to pursue another venture outside Microsoft and will be leaving the company in September.
That’s a lot of high-ranking executives that are leaving. You may remember Stephen Elop from helming various companies and engineering their acquisitions, or his weird memo exactly eleven months ago following another intra-Microsoft reshuffling.