July 28, 2015

Ever wonder why there’s no way to listen to a replay of Elton John’s Rocket Hour from Beats 1 in its original broadcast form, with Sir Elton’s full repartee?

Serenity Caldwell does a phenomenal job explaining the licensing rights associated with the various elements that make up Apple Music and how that impacts the ability to replay Beats 1 shows. Great writing, great research.

The New York Times:

The nation’s largest restaurant chains have made a big deal in recent years about introducing smaller portion sizes. McDonald’s eliminated the Supersize menu, while T.G.I. Fridays and others have introduced small-plate items. Yet the restaurants have also been doing something else, with less fanfare: continuing to add dishes so rich that a single meal often contains a full day’s worth of calories.

Here, we show you what roughly 2,000 calories looks like at some large chains.

I’ve been using the MyFitnessPal app to track my daily meals and trying to stay under 2,000 calories. Terrifying to realize so many of these meals I ate when I was younger have that many calories in a single meal.

Ever wonder why most restaurants sing some odd birthday, rather than the traditional version we’ve all grown up with? It’s all about a long brewing copyright battle.

Thanks to filmmaker Jennifer Nelson, that may be about to change. A fascinating story.

Fantastic post by Vicki Boykis (“Born Jewish in Russia. Raised guilty in America.”) on the deterioration of the internet:

Tumblr, which used to be a visual playground of interesting and sometimes bizarre ideas, is being reorganized and censored to make room for ads, including deleting accounts without any warning. Chrome, once the fastest browser, is now monitoring user voice input. Reddit is no longer reddit. News sites like The Verge and New York Times are so jacked up on ads that loading them is degrading the experience of surfing the web. Google is only now starting to undo the endless problems that G+ has caused, and it’s not clear whether it will be for the better. For example, I tried to decouple the photos on my phone from the Google + Photos app, with limited success, in the same fit of frustration that this author experienced (NSFW language). Sites like Buzzfeed are being built explicitly to profit off clickbait, meaning our news content is no longer written to provide information but to get us to…click.

There’s a pivot in the middle to focus on the big change coming to SoundCloud.

SoundCloud is so good that I’m willing to pay $10 a month (much more than I’m willing to pay for Spotify, which has a good popular catalog but not the same depth of original music as SoundCloud) so I don’t have to hear ads. So, I optimistically thought they might go to a subscription model and preserve the good momentum they already had going.

As is par for the course in corporate maneuvering, nothing happened for months and months and I continued listening to SoundCloud at home, in the office, and in my car, without any interruptions. And, I continued to find joy in this random, obscure stuff that people were creating because they were on a platform where they were free to experiment with formats without record labels and ad agencies listening in.

Then, the ads started. I’ve heard an anti-smoking ad about 10 times now. Given that I’m currently not paying anything for SoundCloud, I’m ok with ads. I’m the product. But after a few weeks, they became repetitive, extremely annoying, and disruptive, and again, I wondered why SoundCloud, whose audience is made up mostly of music connoisseurs who would gladly pay for service, didn’t take into account how annoying these ads would be.

Great read. Be sure to click on the sample songs in the post.

From HITS Daily Double:

Apple doesn’t make its streaming numbers public but is showing reports to those rights holders, who have been surprised by how big those figures already are. Some streaming numbers (notably on a couple of cutting-edge hip-hop titles) are actually competitive with Spotify’s. Some rights holders feel Apple should publicize these figures; the decision to do so or not falls to Eddy Cue. But releasing the numbers would likely go a long way toward turning those who don’t yet get it into believers.

10 million subscribers in a month is an impressive number but they are likely mostly unpaid subscribers. Spotify hit 20 million paid subscribers about a month ago. It took Spotify five and a half years to get their first 10 million paid subscribers.

Take all of this with a few grains of salt. First off, it’s a rumor, no matter how believable. Second, we don’t know how many of those subscribers are purely taking a taste of the 3 month free subscription. That number may hold up over time, or it may drop once the paid conversions come due. And, of course, this is a maturing market. Part of the reason Spotify took five and a half years to get their first 10 million paid subscribers is that they were eating that early growth curve, while Apple stepped into an already relatively mature market.

Nonetheless, if true, that is a good sign for Apple Music, despite the early rough going.

UPDATE: Clarified the post with paid vs unpaid subscribers.

[Via 9to5mac]

Three tiny Apple Watch ads, with an odd app focus

Apple released three new 15 second Apple Watch ads, dedicated to Music Apps, Fitness Apps, and Travel Apps. All three are shown below.

As you watch the ads, note the particular apps highlighted in each category. For example, the Music Apps ad highlights the StubHub app. The Fitness Apps ad highlights the MLB.com app.

Odd choices. Choices that seem almost shoehorned into place.

Here are the ads. Enjoy.

July 27, 2015

Much respect to Apple and the developers of these apps for helping make people’s lives better.

We are happy to announce that estimates in Billings Pro have come to the iPhone and iPad. Now you can create, edit, and send estimates from anywhere.

This is a great feature for Billings Pro mobile apps.

Tour de France 2015 – Best of Stages 1-7

Nice.

[Via Coudal]

Much respect to all the companies taking part in this initiative.

Pope Francis on Sunday became the first person registered for next year’s World Youth Day festivities, using an iPad to sign up while addressing thousands of pilgrims and tourists in Saint Peter’s Square.

“Thanks to this electronic device, I signed up as a simple pilgrim,” Francis said, declaring himself the first person registered for the next edition of the Youth Day celebration while flanked by two Polish youths.

Nice.

I love compressors… when they’re used properly.

TIME:

The usual gestation period for a rabbit is a month. But Bugs Bunny, the iconic cartoon character who turns 75 on Monday, took a lot longer to come to life.

Here’s how the world’s favorite cartoon rabbit came to be. Animator Chuck Jones gave credit to Tex Avery for the character, but Warner Bros. had made several rabbit cartoons in the studio’s earlier years. There were cutesy rabbits and wacky rabbits, but those rabbits aren’t Bugs.

The video in the story is the first official appearance of the iconic rabbit. It’s remarkable how it still stands up today. As a kid, Bugs was my favorite of all of the Warner Bros. cartoons.

Police in Beijing have busted a factory that produced more than 41,000 fake iPhones worth as much as 120 million yuan ($19 million), including some that reached the United States, and have arrested nine suspects in the counterfeiting operation.

THEY SHUT DOWN SAMSUNG!

When is a social network not a social network? When “using” a social network is a requirement to access services you really wanted to use. Like email. Or videos.

I know Google wants Google+ to work, but forcing people to use it isn’t the way to make it popular. Thankfully, they’ve learned that. At least for now.

My thanks to Hullo for sponsoring The Loop this week. You already know the ergonomics of your desktop workstation are important; have you considered your sleep ergonomics? You spend around one-third of your life sleeping—a lot of time for your head and neck to be in one position. Whether you are a side sleeper, a back sleeper, or a stomach sleeper, proper positioning and support of your head are important for quality sleep. Have you ever used more than one pillow, or folded your pillow in an attempt to find a comfortable position? Somewhat like a bean bag, Hullo can be shaped to hold your head in a comfortable position, and keep it there throughout the night. One simple pillow can make a difference you’ll appreciate, every night. Guaranteed. Check out Hullo.

hullo

The Wall Street Journal:

Six firms— Amazon.com Inc., Google Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Netflix Inc. and Gilead Sciences Inc.—now account for more than half of the $664 billion in value added this year to the Nasdaq Composite Index, according to data compiled by brokerage firm JonesTrading.

The concentrated gains are spurring concerns that soft trading in much of the market could presage a pullback in the indexes. Many investors see echoes of prior market tops—including the 2007 peak and the late 1990s frenzy—when fewer and fewer stocks lifted the broader market. The S&P 500 is up 1% this year while the Nasdaq has gained 7.4%.

Other indicators are also flashing yellow. In the Nasdaq, falling stocks have outnumbered rising stocks this year, sending the “advance-decline line” into negative territory, a phenomenon that has come before market downturns in the past, investors and analysts said.

That kind of concentration is always worrying and certainly may be cause for the skittishness of Apple’s stock recently. As always, if the link doesn’t work, do a Google search on the headline. The WSJ lets Google post stories outside of its paywall.

Sir Ian McKellen:

“Live from Chateau Marmont in Hollywood,” I scramble up the best eggs in the world for my Facebook followers, to celebrate the success of my new film “Mr. Holmes”.

It’s good to see that Sir Ian cooks like mom(s) did – with no idea of how much of any ingredient to put in. Just go by feel and experience and it comes out perfectly. I’ll definitely be trying this method next time I make scrambled eggs.

NPR:

“I noticed this one little girl with these incredible eyes and I instantly knew that this was really the only picture I wanted to take,” he says.

She would become the subject of McCurry’s iconic photograph “The Afghan Girl” — one of National Geographic’s most popular covers.

It is one of the most incredible portraits to ever appear in National Geographic and the back story is fascinating.

The Wall Street Journal:

One month after Apple Inc. started selling Apple Watch at its own stores, the company said it will bring the device to Best Buy stores in August.

Apple said its smartwatch will be available at more than 100 Best Buy stores in the U.S., expanding to over 300 outlets before the holiday shopping season. Best Buy will be the first major U.S. retailer beside Apple to sell the device.

This is a sign Apple wants to get the Watch in front of even more customers and that they have caught up on demand. It’s also in preparation for the upcoming holiday season when Apple expects the Watch to be a huge seller for Christmas.

Finally, a Steve Jobs movie that really gets it

From the Steve Jobs: The Man in The Machine trailer YouTube page:

Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief) pulls no punches in his portrait of Apple founder Steve Jobs and his legacy. This probing and unflinching look at the life and aftermath of the bold, brilliant and at times ruthless iconoclast explores what accounted for the grief of so many when he died. Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is evocative and nuanced in capturing the essence of the Apple legend and his values, which continue to shape the culture of Silicon Valley to this day.

Watch the trailer, embedded below. This clicks for me. Obviously it helps that this is real footage, versus actors playing roles, but this feels real. And Gibney knows how to tell a story.

[Via iHeartApple2]

The Verge:

This is about what it’s like to drive a supercar for the very first time, and to do it in the unforgiving streets and avenues of New York. Here’s what I learned.

Just blocks away from picking it up, I ran the 650S at full speed over a seemingly shallow divot in the atrocious pavement that I didn’t see — I’m not sure I could’ve seen it from my vantage point. The entire car shuddered with a smack that woke me more effectively than the La Colombe coffee I’d just finished. It echoed in my brain for the next several hours. I can still hear it. No one wants to hear that sound; it’s the sound of sadness.

It’s a funny story about getting to drive a vehicle 99.9% of us will never own. His description of the streets and paranoia of driving in New York City definitely ring true for me. While I’ve never ridden a supercar in The Big Apple, I have ridden a motorcycle many times and, with their relatively unforgiving suspension, bikes can be a real challenge in Manhattan.

A beautiful scrolling time line showing the history of icons. Best viewed in a bigger browser. Works on an iPhone, but much nicer looking in a desktop browser.

[Via iOS Dev Weekly]

So why don’t you just use Spotify?

With all the talk about Apple Music, iCloud Music Library, and iTunes interface issues, why not just switch to Spotify?

So I did.

Here’s what I found.

Spotify’s interface is complex and confusing, but no more so than Apple Music (and nothing could be as confusing as iTunes). There are some really nice elements to Spotify’s interface, some lessons Apple might consider. For example, in Spotify’s iOS app, if you press and hold on a playlist (don’t let go), a page of icons will appear, with one icon per song. Slide around and each song will start playing, allowing you to quickly get a sense of the music in that playlist.

Another thing I really like about the Spotify interface is how easy it is to push music to my phone for offline listening. Every playlist has a toggle marked Available Offline. Tap it, and the music starts downloading to your device. Easy peasy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that Apple Music does well, too, some things better than Spotify. I’d say, as far as pure capability, it’s a push.

Here are some other factors to consider.

The music libraries seem pretty comparable in size and quality (unless you are a rabid fan of Taylor Swift’s 1989). As far as I can tell, both services feature a library of about 30 million tracks.

Sharing is a push as well. If you are willing to share your Facebook credentials, you can social with other Facebook logged-in Spotify folks. I didn’t go down that path. But you can use the standard sharing mechanisms in both Spotify and Apple Music to share playlists.

Spotify allows you to follow curated, active playlists. Apple Music has a similar feature, described here.

But Apple Music benefits from being inside the walled garden. And those benefits start to stack up. Some of the more obvious benefits:

  • My music is available in Apple Music. I can mix and match, switch back and forth between Apple Music and my music effortlessly. I can build a playlist with both. With Apple Music, there’s no sense of inside and outside the garden. That said, there is the question of Jim’s lost music, an issue of trust, but one that can be safeguarded by a simple backup.

  • Only Apple Music is integrated with Siri. I can ask Siri to Play Prince Royce, Play Jazz, or Play Recent and I’m done. This is a big deal when I am very busy, don’t have my hands free, am driving, etc.

  • The Beats 1 experience is unique to Apple Music. There is simply nothing like it. I’m listening to live music that I can like and add to my own playlists. Apple has done an exceptional job here, bringing the traditional terrestrial radio experience into the data driven streaming music universe. Tying the analog old-school feel of human curation with my existing music library experience.

  • Though this may change, there is currently no way to store Spotify music on my Apple Watch. I can see what Spotify tune is currently playing, but there are times when I need music stored on my Watch and won’t have my phone nearby (going for a run, for example).

  • Family plan pricing. Apple Music’s family plan is $14.99 for up to six people. Spotify’s family pricing is $14.99 for me plus 1, $19.99 for me plus 2, $24.99 for me plus 3, $29.99 for me plus 4. That is a huge difference.

Bottom line, Apple Music has a distinct home field advantage. If Apple can find a way to unify the iOS and Mac universes, sand off the rough edges from both interfaces, and get Jim back on board (last I spoke with him, he was walking around with Spotify in his earbuds), this is their ball game to lose.

Me? I’m going to continue listening to Spotify, get to know it a bit more. Time will tell if I throw my long term lot in with Apple Music.

Nitrozac and Snaggy capture the essence of the beard. So great! This one is going on the official Loop bulletin board.

Marco Arment on iTunes:

iTunes is designed by the Junk Drawer Method: when enough cruft has built up that somebody tells the team to redesign it, while also adding and heavily promoting these great new features in the UI that are really important to the company’s other interests and are absolutely non-negotiable, the only thing they can really do is hide all of the old complexity in new places.

With the introduction of Apple Music, Apple confusingly introduced a confusing service backed by the iTunes Store that’s confusingly integrated into iTunes and the iOS Music app (don’t even get me started on that) and partially, maybe, mostly replaces the also very confusing and historically unreliable iTunes Match.

So iTunes is a toxic hellstew of technical cruft and a toxic hellstew of UI design, in the middle of a transition between two partly redundant cloud services, both of which are confusing and vague to most people about which songs of theirs are in the cloud, which are safe to delete, and which ones they actually have.

Hard to argue with this take. Apple clearly has both an engineering problem and a PR problem. They’ve also got a showdown coming up with Spotify. They’ve got about two months to go in the first wave of 3 months of free service, when customers will be asked to plunk down actual cash for the privilege of continuing to use Apple Music.

More important than cash, though, is asking users to trust Apple with their existing libraries. And there’s an easy fix for that problem. As Jim learned in his Nightmare post, back up your library before you let Apple Music get its hands on it.

Backups aside, Apple and the iTunes team appear to have their work cut out for them.

July 26, 2015

Ben Wofford, writing for Rolling Stone, about the secretive community of frequent flyers whose goal in life is to outwit the airlines and fly around the world for free:

As he delved deeper, Schlappig learned about a third level, a closely guarded practice called Manufacture Spend, where Hobbyists harness the power of the multitudes of credit cards in their pockets. Airline-affiliated credit cards award points for every dollar spent, so over the decades, Hobbyists manipulated the system by putting purchases on credit cards without ultimately spending anything at all. At its simplest, this included purchasing dollar coins from the U.S. Mint with a credit card and immediately using them to pay off the charge. Schlappig read one detailed post after another that insisted Manufacture Spend was the only true way to fly for free — like sliding a coin into a slot machine and yanking it back with clear string.

Eventually, the best way he learned to visualize this bureaucratic gamesmanship was to see it as a series of table games on a sprawling casino floor — and if the airlines were the house, Schlappig realized, the Hobbyists were the card-counters.

The article was a riveting read. The whole process sounds intriguing to me, but realize that the airlines have the power to yank your frequent flyer miles if they detect misbehavior on your part.

A great Sunday read. [Via Lewis Smith]

When I think of the master pitch, I think of Steve Jobs. I’ve never seen anyone pitch like him. Jobs could sell anything, wrapped in that reality distortion field of his.

But normal people, like you and me, can do things to improve our convincing skills. The linked post dissects an Elon Musk pitch, laying out the elements that make it so effective.

Read the post. Pitch better.

If you have even a passing interest in iOS app design, this is a terrific, thoughtful read.

[Via iOS Dev Weekly]

July 25, 2015

The Dalrymple Report with “Special” Guest John Gruber

Jim talks to a blogger named John Gruber about remastered music, Apple’s earnings report, and respect from readers. We have no idea what happened to Merlin.

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