Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for March 24th, 2021

The Streaming Music Paradox

Ben Sisario of the New York Times, in conversation with Shira Ovide:

There’s a complicated and opaque formula that determines how the $10 monthly subscription for Spotify or Apple Music makes its way to artists. After those services take their cut, about $7 goes into a pot of money that gets split a bunch of ways — for the record labels, songwriters, music publishers, artists and others.

The more people listen to music, the less each song is worth because it cuts the pie into smaller and smaller slices. I’ve seen financial statements from some fairly popular independent musicians that suggest they’re making a pretty good living from streaming. But often, unless musicians have blockbuster numbers, they aren’t making a great deal.

This is one hell of a paradox. The more each of us are listening to music through streaming platforms, the less many artists are getting paid unless we’re only listening to the Billboard charts. Sisario links to a study that indicates switching to a payout model based on individual users’ listening habits would help, but only by “a few euros per year” for indie musicians.

If streaming music is the future, it must be advantageous for the artists, not just the labels. A more equitable payment model begins with contracts that do not exploit artists.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger’s New Strategy

I snarked the other day about the declining quality of the Intel marque, but I was persuaded that this is the right direction for the company after reading today’s daily update from Ben Thompson:

Yesterday’s keynote delivered on almost every meaningful strategy change I have asked from Intel, from building out a foundry business to re-organizing the company (it’s not a split, but close) to explicitly addressing geopolitics to embracing modularity to channeling Andy Grove.

Just as important, though, was the way in which Gelsinger delivered this news: he was transparent about how Intel had screwed up, demonstrated tremendous clarity of thought about Intel’s strategy, particularly in the Q&A, and was captivating and inspiring about why Intel’s best days were ahead of it. Of course a keynote is just a keynote — Intel has real work to do — but Gelsinger absolutely left the impression that if there is any chance of Intel delivering on his promises he will realize it.

There is a lot of nostalgic spin in this presentation but, if you peel away the saccharine layers, it seems like Gelsinger has the insider perspective to structure a better path forward, and an encouraging level of staff support.

Mac OS X Turns Twenty

Cupertino, California — March 21, 2001 — Apple today announced that beginning this Saturday, March 24, customers can buy Mac OS X in retail stores around the world.

So began the press release twenty years ago. By this point, Mac OS X Server was two years old and Apple had been showing off beta versions of the consumer product to developers for a year and a half. Even the radical Aqua user interface was old news by the time Cheetah dropped in 2001.

This first version was, by all accounts, pretty hard to live with day to day. John Siracusa, Ars Technica:

Mac OS X is slower than Mac OS 9 on the same hardware. The interface is less responsive overall. All classic applications take a minor speed hit. RAM usage is considerable due to the “double-OS” nature of the classic environment. Despite a superior VM system, OS X can and does get into trouble when the paging activity starts to build on systems with close to the minimum-required 128MB RAM.

Jason Snell, Macworld:

Apple bought [NeXT] in December of 1996. Mac OS X 10.0 shipped in March of 2001. As powerful and sophisticated as NextStep was, it took the new Apple software organization — led by NeXT’s Avie Tevanian — more than four years from acquisition to a “completed” version of Mac OS X. (And stopping the clock 20 years ago this week is probably unfair. I’d mark the end of the Mac OS X transition as April 2002, when Steve Jobs held a funeral for Mac OS 9 because OS X was finally good enough.)

Rocky as that first version apparently was — and I say “apparently” because the first Mac I used ran 10.2 Jaguar — it set into motion Apple’s renaissance and enabled its current suite of products. The iPhone, as Jobs famously said, “runs OS X” — albeit a forked, stripped-down, mobile optimized version ported to a different CPU architecture. But that decision made possible Apple’s current lineup: iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS,1 the HomePod’s operating system, and even the dedicated OS that runs the Touch Bar. All of these things were built on the work that began with the iPhone which, in turn, was built on Mac OS X.

“Mac OS X” is no longer. In 2012, Apple dropped the “Mac” from the name to much consternation; in 2016, the “Mac” came back and the X was dropped, to form “macOS”, which I capitalize differently because I think it looks goofy. That set the template for last year’s big shift — MacOS 10.something was no longer, and it is now at version 11. This comes at the same time as Apple is moving away from Intel’s x86 processors and onto its in-house ARM-based systems.

And none of this would have happened if not for Mac OS X’s origin at NeXT, Apple’s acquisition of which brought NextStep and brought back Steve Jobs.

Mac OS X is, in many ways, the reason Apple grew into the gigantic company that it is today. It took the right leader in Jobs, who died ten years ago this October, and the right software foundation in NextStep, along with hundreds of committed designers and developers to rebuild a has-been company. The story of Mac OS X is the story of rejuvenation of historic scale.

See Also: John Siracusa’s fifteen year history of reviewing Mac OS X.


  1. The first version of the Apple TV was based on a fork of Tiger↩︎

Most Links to Shortcuts Are Currently Broken

John Voorhees, MacStories:

iCloud links to shortcuts broke sometime in the past 24 hours. Instead of opening the Shortcuts app and allowing users to install a shared shortcut, tapping a shortcut link displays an alert with the message ‘Shortcut Not Found,’ explaining that the link may be invalid or the shortcut may have been deleted. Based on our internal testing, the issue appears to affect all shortcut links created before yesterday.

This has been all over my Twitter timeline for hours, but Apple’s iCloud status webpage is still all green — everything is apparently just fine with Shortcuts. The best case scenario is that this is a remote problem that Apple can correct; the worst case is that entire libraries of shared shortcuts are now invalidated and must be re-created. Let us all hope that is not the case.

Update: About a day after people started noticing this problem, Apple has issued a statement to Federico Viticci:

We are aware of an issue where previously shared shortcuts are currently unavailable. Newly shared shortcuts are available, and we are working to restore previously shared shortcuts as quickly as possible.

The iCloud system status page remains all green.