April 22, 2014

Auto-Tune EFX 3’s new variable Retune Speed and Humanize controls provide an entirely new level of natural, realistic pitch correction. And with our unique Auto-Motion Vocal Pattern Generation, stunning new vocal effects are only a mouse click away.

I’ll be interested to see how the Humanize function helps.

Apple celebrates Earth Day around the world

Some great shots. Much respect, Apple.

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Apple releases iOS 7.1.1

Apple says there are improvements to Touch ID, a bug fix for keyboard responsiveness and a fix for using Bluetooth keyboards with VoiceOver. The update can be downloaded on your iPhone by going to Settings > General > Software Update.

This is so great.

Just as impressive is the amount of time the experts have spent on the case. Rinard said he had spent just over 800 hours on the case, for a total bill of $765,000, while Chris Vellturo, a damages expert who testified for Apple, revealed he’d been paid a stunning $2.3 million by Apple over the past few years for all his work on the case. That’s a lot of iPhones.

The jurors aren’t making quite as much money. The court provides them $40 per day with a raise to $50 per day after the 10th day of the trial.

Where do I sign up?

I must admit, the more I look at these, the more I like them.

The call is tomorrow at 2p PST. You can dial in or watch the live webcast.

Apple will provide live audio streaming of its FY 14 Second Quarter Results Conference Call using Apple’s industry-leading QuickTime® multimedia software. The live webcast will begin at 2:00 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at www.apple.com/quicktime/qtv/earningsq214 and will also be available for replay for approximately two weeks thereafter. The webcast is available on any iPhone®, iPad® or iPod touch® running iOS 4.2 or above, any Mac® running OS X 10.5 or above or any PC running QuickTime 7 or later.

Last time Netflix tried to raise their monthly rate, the company took it on the chin, hemorrhaging customers and taking a stock nose dive. This time they are being a little more cautious.

The company plans to raise streaming prices for the first time in nearly four years, with new members paying $1 or $2 more a month for the service, or as much as $10.

Netflix’s current plan includes all-you-can-eat movies and television shows for $7.99 a month. Existing customers will continue to pay the current prices for “a generous time period,” the company said.

The US has had a long, now-dwindling tax holiday for online sales. To me, the tax avoidance is unfair to the brick and mortar stores that have to collect the tax while Amazon did not. Not blaming Amazon. They play by the rules, collect when they are told to. But unfair is unfair. Interesting to see this impact on sales.

In states that have the tax, households reduced their spending on Amazon by about 10 percent compared to those in states that don’t have the levy. For online purchases of more than $300, sales fell by 24 percent, according to the report titled “The Amazon Tax.”

Huge impact.

Tim Cook narrates Apple’s “Better” environmental impact video

Tim Cook does a terrific job narrating this heartfelt video. You can feel the passion in his voice.

At Apple, we strive to reduce our impact on climate change, find ways to use greener materials and conserve resources for future generations. This video was shot on location at Apple Facilities. Now more than ever, we will work to leave the world better than we found it.

You’ll find the video on Apple’s environment page.

Amen, Tim.

If you’ve ever been to WWDC, give this a read. I feel your pain, James.

April 21, 2014

First person view of Blue Angels practice

I’ve always wanted to have a ride in an F/A-18 Hornet but not this close to other F/A-18 Hornets. That’s an 18-inch wing tip to canopy separation.

It’s a “freemium” pay model, or a “reverse paywall,” that adds features for subscribers rather than substracting them for nonsubscribers. But it still creates classes of haves and have-nots: those who have to click the “single page” button to see a story on a single page and those who don’t.

This is based on Slate’s new membership system.

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of Environmental Initiatives, wrote a letter updating the public on the company’s progress.

The company has been meeting with potential applicants for two new positions at Apple focused exclusively on building a business around the hundreds of millions of credit cards it already has on file. Apple is seeking to fill head of product and head of business development positions, one of these people said.

The biggest thing that Apple has is trust—they have my credit card and have for years. I trust them with that information, so I would use its payment system.

Gazelle saw iPhone trade-in volumes drop 35% compared to where they were last year on the day the Galaxy S4 launched in the U.S. Interestingly, the Galaxy S4 didn’t even go on sale at all U.S. carriers on the same day last year, so the Galaxy S5 saw fewer trade-ins from a much larger group of potential customers.

So, current Samsung owners are trading up to the new phone, but they aren’t attracting iPhone customers to trade down.

I really suck at choosing colors, but I know what I like when I see it—I also know what I don’t like. Designers that can pull this off are especially talented.

Justin Williams recently moved his Web site to Azure. Microsoft has been getting a lot of play recently with Azure hosting apps and Web sites.

This is such a great app.

Both the companies are trying to lure game developers by offering premium placement to these games on their app stores’ home pages and features lists

Considering the reports of how few people spend money on Android apps, I’d be surprised if Apple didn’t win this battle.

Apple today has added three new channels to the Apple TV lineup: A&E, The History Channel, and Lifetime. Each channel does require a cable subscription to unlock full content. At the time of launch, each channel only supports DirecTV, Verizon FiOS, and Cablevision Optimum, but the network says it will add support for more providers soon.

I always get excited about the new channels, until I see that you need a cable subscription.

If it’s real, it’s the literary find of the century. New York antiquarian booksellers Daniel Wechsler and George Koppelman believe they have found William Shakespeare’s annotated dictionary.

An incredible find.

Steven Levy gets a rare inside look at Apple’s data center in Nevada.

Typo-Painter for Adobe Photoshop will quickly become your absolute favorite plugin in your artistic toolbox! This plugin lets you create a typographic painting from any image, using any text you’d like! What’s more, it can also save your file as a vector EPS for easy editing and resizing! Now, read our lips… for a limited time only, thanks to this Mighty Deal, you can get this fantastic app for a mere $5!

Yesterday, USA Today ran the linked article discussing Samsung slugging it out with Apple for customers. To me, it read almost like a love letter to Samsung, full of appreciation for a scrappy underdog. For example:

In this escalating slugfest, Samsung has become tech’s Joe Frazier to Apple’s Muhammad Ali, less flashy but tenacious in battering its opponent with a flurry of new products. Apple’s product arsenal remains select — by design.

I find this sort of assessment hard to digest. Did Samsung copy Apple’s design efforts? A federal jury certainly ruled that to be the case. And based on what I’ve read, this seems to be a fair finding.

So why the love for Samsung? Where’s the indignation? I just don’t get it. Samsung as Joe Frazier? Really? Yeesh.

This test will tell you if you are tone deaf. I’ve always wondered if tonality can be taught or if it’s purely an innate talent.

There is a lot to digest here. How Pandora works, what are the motivations of the various players, are songwriters being paid fairly?

At the center of this conflict is the consent decree:

Under a “consent decree” issued by the Justice Department in 1941, ASCAP and the other main publishing royalty organization, BMI, which together control about 90% of all commercially available recorded music, are obliged to grant blanket licenses to anyone (mainly radio stations) requesting them. When a fee can’t be agreed, a rate-setting court decides the percentage amount of royalties these license holders pay in exchange.

This arrangement makes it logistically possible for the radio business to exist—a station effectively only needs to deal with two companies, rather than millions of artists, composers, and publishers, to get access to a vast array of music. And songwriters don’t have to spend time worrying about negotiating or policing the licenses for their work.

Unlike old-fashioned radio companies, internet-based services like Pandora are also required to pay separate performance royalties, which go to record companies, and then performing artists. In fact, this is Pandora’s single biggest cost. It paid out 49% of its revenue last year in performance royalties, compared to 4% in publishing royalties, which go to publishing companies, and eventually songwriters.

Radio has been around for a long time. Pandora is a relative newcomer:

Pandora started its internet radio service in 2005. A five-year, experimental accord agreed with ASCAP that year was one of the factors that allowed it to do so. By 2011, when the company went public, it had amassed 80 million registered users, and was valued at about $2.5 billion.

Since then Pandora’s rise has been meteoric. At last count, the company had more than 200 million registered users (75 million of them were active, or logged in, last month) and accounted for 9% of all radio listening in the US.

The conflict touches on all aspects of the music business. For this all to work, every part of the massive machine needs to get paid including, most importantly, the songwriters who create the music in the first place. A terrific read.

April 20, 2014

I’m like a kid in a candy store here. Some fantastic vintage short subjects, including a boat load of old Beatles and Rolling Stones shorts. The films span the years from 1896 to 1976. Amazing.

Here’s a link to the Pathé YouTube channel. Happy browsing.

While there are probably some people who go out to shop for the best Android phone, I suspect that most people want to know which phone is best of all, whatever operating system it runs. In other words, how does the Galaxy S5 compare to the iPhone 5S, Apple’s six-month-old flagship device and the champion to beat?

The answer: Not very well. I’ve been using the new Samsung for about three weeks, and while I do think it is the best Android phone you can buy, it sure isn’t the best phone on the market. By just about every major measure you’ll care about, from speed to design to ease of use to the quality of its apps, Samsung’s phone ranks behind the iPhone, sometimes far behind. If you’re looking for the best phone on the market right now, I’d recommend going with the iPhone 5S.

No surprise there.

Indeed, for many people, there will only be a single obvious reason to buy the Galaxy S5 over the iPhone 5S: The Samsung phone has a much bigger screen. Size isn’t an objective advantage but rather a matter of preference — some people like big phones and some people like small ones. For the next few months, for big-phone lovers, Samsung’s massive size will make it the clear winner.

There’s clearly a presumption there that Apple will release a larger phone. Hard to say how I’d react to a larger iPhone screen. I really love my iPhone 5s, don’t find myself pining for more screen real estate. But if Apple made the choice to create a larger phone, I trust that enough thought would have been put into the design to make it a superior experience.

April 19, 2014

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