Tidal Longevity


Helienne writing for The Guardian on why she thinks Lily Allen is wrong about Tidal:

Over Easter, Lily Allen took to Twitter to critique Jay Z’s music streaming service Tidal. She’s not the the first person to oppose the opulence of its star-studded launch event last week, or to voice pessimism about its mantra of doing right by artists, but as a fellow songwriter – who, unlike Allen, is not a performer – I think she’s wrong in a number of ways.

First, Allen fears that not having an unlimited free tier “will send people back to pirate/torrent sites”. However, a major label executive recently told me that their statistics showed that if a user of the free version of Spotify hasn’t signed up for the paid-for tier within three months, they never will. The ad-funded version pays about the same as YouTube (ie next to nothing), so losing those users to YouTube isn’t much of a loss.

I’d rather have my music on a service that is majority-owned by music creators, rather than owned by venture capitalists looking for a quick turnaround on their investment, hoping to be able to cash out with a big IPO payday.

You only need to look at the major record labels, who now have to answer to shareholders wanting a quick return on their investments, to see what happens when it’s all about share value. It’s anathema to creativity and the kind of risk-taking that is required to invest in music people don’t yet know they want to listen to.

It’s no surprise that Jay Z is close to and has links to Beyonce, Kanye, Alicia Keys etc to be able to easily convince them to have exclusives of their work on Tidal before anywhere else, especially with the promise of higher cuts of the royalties back to them over services like Spotify, but at the end of the day subscribers will determine the long term popularity of switching their music platform of choice over from what they are used to – Even Rihanna had a difficult start yesterday. Jay Z and Tidal will have to compete with Spotify and Apple to ensure uptake in the service and that will be the key to all of this.

iOS 8.3 Released


Josh Centers Writing for TidBITS: iOS 8.3 Triggers an Avalanche of Improvements:

In addition to the new emoji, you might also notice a bit of a speed boost, particularly in these areas that Apple calls out:

  • App launching
  • App responsiveness
  • Messages
  • Wi-Fi
  • Control Center
  • Safari tabs
  • Third-party keyboards
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Simplified Chinese Keyboard

The release notes also boast of improved stability in Phone, Mail, Bluetooth, Photos, Settings, Weather, and Genius Playlists in Music.

I haven’t noticed significant changes on my iPhone 6, however switching between keyboards is now much faster, and scrolling through Safari tabs seems smoother.

iOS 8.3 includes a few Wi-Fi and Bluetooth fixes, addressing issues like being continuously prompted for login credentials, devices randomly disconnecting from Wi-Fi networks, hands-free calls spontaneously disconnecting, and an issue where audio playback could stop working with some Bluetooth speakers.

The update fixes a number of orientation quirks, including a fix for stuck orientations, a fix for upside-down orientations on the iPhone 6 Plus, and an issue that prevented apps from rotating. Apple also claims that orientation rotation performance has been improved (and we’ve noticed that Safari seems to maintain scroll position when changing rotation in Reader View, which wasn’t reliable before).

Messages sees some welcome improvements, such as a fix for group messages that sometimes split, an issue that prevented messages from being forwarded or deleted, and an issue that prevented photo previews from displaying.

There are also improvements with Family Sharing, with increased reliability for Ask to Buy notifications, a fix for a bug that prevented family members from downloading free apps, and a fix for a bug that would prevent apps from launching or updating.

iOS 8.3 includes many more tweaks than we can list here, including improvements to CarPlay, enterprise connectivity, accessibility, and various miscellaneous fixes. They aren’t available online yet, though you can see them before you update.

Check Software Update in Settings on your iPhone or iPad now to get it.

The Verge’s Review Of The Apple Watch

Nilay Patel writing for The Verge:

It’s well after lunch. I’ve had this thing on my wrist for something like six hours now, and the truth is that I’ve barely used it. That’s by design: again, you’re only supposed to interact with the Apple Watch for 10–15 seconds at a time and then get back to your life. On one level, that all makes perfect sense: my regular watch has had a dead battery for over a year. I don’t exactly use it for anything except looking cool. How much am I really supposed to use the Apple Watch to make it worth whatever price I’ve paid for it?

On another level, everything about the watch is designed to reinforce the idea that you have some sort of real life to return to once you’re done using technology — that you’re not just sitting at a desk in your office with your laptop and your phone, getting work done.

That’s the situation I’m in most afternoons — meetings have wrapped up, decisions have been made, and I’m catching up on email, editing, reading the site, and generally setting up the next set of things I have to do. I’m as plugged into the internet as I can possibly be, using my phone and my laptop for slightly different variations of the same task: communicating with people.

This is where the Watch’s lack of speed comes to the forefront — there’s virtually nothing I can’t do faster or better with access to a laptop or a phone except perhaps check the time. It’s not just the small screen or the quick in-and-out interaction design, it’s actual slowness, particularly when it comes to loading data off the phone.

Third-party apps are the main issue: Apple says it’s still working on making them faster ahead of the April 24th launch, but it’s clear that loading an app requires the watch to pull a tremendous amount of data from the phone, and there’s nothing fast about it. I sat through a number of interminable loading screens for apps like CNN, Twitter, The New York Times, and others. Apps that need to pull location data fare even worse: the Uber app takes so long to figure out where you are that you’re better off walking home before someone notices you staring at your $700 watch and makes a move.

Fantastic detailed review from Nilay from a day-in-the-life point of view. As expected from a 1.0 version release, there will be issues relating to bugs they haven’t had time to squash or that extra amount of polish to be applied to the software. I would expect the 1.xx version of the software to fix any lag and stuttering issues.

This however, will take some getting use to make sure an acceptable etiquette is handled – perhaps with the adjustment to the amount of notifications:

After the gym, I head to Betony for drinks with Eater managing editor Sonia Chopra so we can talk about a future of food series for later in the year. So far I’ve mostly used the watch either alone or in an office environment, but it’s really different to have a smartwatch in a bar: here, even small distractions make you seem like a jerk. Sonia’s trying to describe the project to me and find ways to work together, but I keep glancing at my wrist to see extremely unimportant emails fly by.

It turns out that checking your watch over and over again is a gesture that carries a lot of cultural weight. Eventually, Sonia asks me if I need to be somewhere else. We’re both embarrassed, and I’ve mostly just ignored everyone. This is a little too much future all at once.

Entire Star Wars saga headed to iTunes


Entire Star Wars saga headed to iTunes this Friday with tons of new bonus material, pre-orders now available | 9to5Mac

Disney announced today that the entire Star Wars saga will finally be available for digital HD download later this week, marking the first time ever that the films have been offered in this format.

As confirmed in the TV spot above and the iTunes tweet below, the entire collection will be available to purchase from the iTunes Store this Friday. Pre-orders are already up and running, with each movie coming in at $19.99 for both SD and HD versions.

They are the ‘Special Editions’ apparently but still great to see Disney bringing the Star Wars universe to iTunes – finally.

Video of John Gruber Meeting ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ Authors


‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ – Meet the Authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli at SoHo Apple Store | 9to5Mac

Apple is clearly a fan of the new Becoming Steve Jobs book (review) by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli ($12+Amazon, $13 iBooks, Free Audible). Apple execs including Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Eddy Cue and PR head Steve Dowling have all praised it and it is has headlined the iBookstore for over a week.  Its latest promo of the book is a 49-minute iTunes Podcast video of the authors getting interviewed at the SoHo New York Apple Store.

I watched the video and Gruber was engaging as always plus some fascinating insights – definitely worth a watcher listen. Both the 49-minute video and audio are available here.

Great New Upgrade To SmartThings Hub


From the SmartThings Blog:

As we’ve announced, the new SmartThings Hub will come equipped with “AppEngine” functionality. This means that much of the processing that has previously existed in the cloud (ie: SmartApps and device types) can now automatically occur locally in the Hub. Circumventing the cloud will result in a much faster response time with automations.

It will also mean that certain automations (SmartApps; Hello, Home actions, etc.) driven by ZigBee, Z-Wave, or LAN-connected devices will continue to work even if you lose your Internet connection. And because the new Hub contains battery backup capability, certain automations can continue to work for awhile even without power.

Sounds like a fantastic upgrade of the SmartThings hub – having the individual programs work locally via the hub rather than in the cloud will definitely improve the speed and reliability of lights and appliances.

Leander Kahney On Becoming Steve Jobs

Becoming Steve Jobs1 334x400

Leander Kahney writing for Cult of Mac:

In my opinion, that’s not necessarily true. Some of the best stories published about Apple come straight from the rank and file. Take Andy Hertzfeld’s Revolution in the Valley, taken from his online Folklore project. It digs into the Macintosh project, as told by the engineers that built that revolutionary computer. In my opinion, the “definitive” book about Jobs would be one that concentrated on his professional life, and blended the Steve-centric view with those of the many people who worked with him at Apple and elsewhere.

For instance, Jobs has a reputation for being decisive — fearsomely so — but in fact, in many cases he was not. A close colleague describes him like this in Becoming Steve Jobs: “People want to paint him as Michelangelo, you know,” former NeXT colleague Mike Slade says. “But he was a real nervous Nelly, like an old-fashioned, tiny, old, small businessman saying, ‘Shall I cut another nickel off it?’ Like a junk merchant.”

It’s the book’s most surprising quote, completely at odds with Jobs’ public image. But Jobs was indecisive, sometimes cripplingly so. He was so unsure about the furniture in his house, it remained famously unfurnished. He even dithered about how to treat the cancer that tragically took his life. In fact, Jobs’ indecisiveness is rich territory to explore. But it’s counter to his image and reputation, so it is left alone in this biography.

I wouldn’t argue that Jobs is a much more complex character than he’s been portrayed in previous books, but his obvious talents and contributions aren’t spelled out in Becoming Steve Jobs. Despite the publisher’s claims, this isn’t the book that throws light on how Jobs operated. It just says it is.

While it’s not really fair to criticize authors for the book they didn’t write, Becoming Steve Jobs suffers from the same problem as Isaacson’s biography and many other accounts — it focuses on Jobs’ personal life, not his professional one.

Leander has written books about Steve Jobs and Jonny Ive which were widely praised so he is considered a good judge for review in this case. I’m currently reading Becoming Steve Jobs at the moment so will consider my own view soon.

Instapaper 6.2 Adds Instant Sync, Text Shots


Instapaper Blog:

Instant Sync

On iOS, you can enable Instant Sync in Settings to allow Instapaper to send you silent push notifications when you save a new article. The silent push notification allows the iOS app to download the new content from the server immediately, and the result is better syncing between your iOS devices and our servers.

Please note that Instant Sync is subject to Apple’s battery-saving algorithms, and as such is not 100% reliable. We’ve found that Instant Sync is completely reliable when the device is plugged in and on WiFi, fairly reliable when just on WiFi, and basically a coin toss over a cellular connection. But when it works, it’s amazing!

Screen Shot 2015 03 27 at 15 53 22


Bonus: Tweet Shots

For the Twitter users amongst you, you know that thing where people screenshot pieces of an article for sharing on Twitter? We wanted to make it really easy to do that from Instapaper, so you can now go directly from an Instapaper highlight or text selection to a beautiful Twitter image in just three taps:

This a fantastic update to Instapaper that I have been waiting for. For a while I have been using Pocket to collect the articles and sites I wish to read later or link to because of Pocket’s instant sync feature – which showed via the notification badge above the app icon, of your total saved articles. Instapaper always used the somewhat delayed background updating which wasn’t instant – now it is.

The Tweet Shot feature is another great addition to the app for selecting, quoting and sharing pieces of text really quickly. Instapaper has just become my new favourite read later service of choice.

Fradio’s Upcoming DJ App


Fradio’s New App Lets Anyone Be A DJ, Broadcast Live Radio To Friends And Fans | TechCrunch

A new application called Fradio is officially launching today, offering a service that allows anyone to become a DJ, broadcasting their favorite tracks to their friends or fans, and even talking over the tunes with a push of a button in order to engage their audience. The app, which is backed by Australian music service Guvera, is making its debut at the SXSW music festival in Austin where a number of artists, including Steve Aoki, A-Trak, and Crookerwill, be among its first testers.

Another great idea to make it easy for those interested in becoming their own live, streaming DJ’s

Swifty: A New Tutorial App For Learning Swift Programming

Screen shot 2015 03 19 at 11 14 16 am

Swifty Teaches Apple’s New Programming Language On Your iPhone | TechCrunch

For those just starting their journey into the world of coding, however, those resources are still intimidating to jump into. Enter Swifty, an app that provides an interactive set of tutorials that gradually guide you through the basics of Swift on your iPhone or iPad.

There are more than 200 tutorials in Swifty, starting with the very basics of variables and data types and progressing to the essentials of object-oriented programming. Obviously the iPhone keyboard isn’t the best tool for cranking out lines of code (especially if you’re just starting out), so creator Johannes Berger came up with an interesting interface that looks and feels like coding while actually acting more like an interactive quiz.

Each tutorial in Swifty starts with a one-to-three-sentence explanation of a new concept or an important aspect of a concept previously covered. Below, you’re shown a few lines of pre-written code, with a blank field where some vital name, type or value is missing. When you tap it, it lets you choose from several options. If you choose one of the correct options (sometimes it gives you several that work to demonstrate different output), it “runs” the code and shows the result.

Now, the output from the “console” at the bottom of the screen is pre-written — you’re not actually writing working code in the app. But the format quickly gets you comfortable with the look of Swift code and things like naming and accepted styles for creating blocks of code in functions or classes. While it might be a bit difficult for me to judge given my prior experience with the language and coding in general, I think most novices could jump into Xcode’s “Playgrounds” and muck around with simple text-based projects after an hour or two of using Swifty.

It’s clear that a lot of work went into making Swifty as accessible as possible, and that the app is worth the $2.99 to unlock every lesson if you spend some time on public transit that you’d like to use to become more familiar with Swift. If you’re not sure about the app (or even learning the language itself), you can make your way through the app’s first 13 tutorials for free.

A great insight and start into those who are looking at getting into Swift programming.