Update Regarding How Apple Matches Music Files

Kirk McElhearn, in an update to his recent piece on iCloud Music Library metadata matching:

I’ve been unable to reproduce this issue, and my guess is that there was a glitch with Apple’s servers that has since been corrected. If you only subscribe to Apple Music, or are using it on a free trial, then your songs are matched using metadata only. If you subscribe to both iTunes Match and Apple Music, then iTunes matches your songs using digital fingerprinting.

My guess: Apple’s been rapidly fixing bugs in the backend of Apple Music. I suspect the test that Kirk performed could have been easily reproduced a few days ago, but Apple quickly fixed it once his piece started gaining steam.

Pocket Adds Recommendations in Beta Channel

A recommendation engine built-in to my read later service sounds great. But I worry that having yet another “inbox” to check alongside the services I already use — RSS, Twitter, and email — is simply going to be adding to the noise and not cutting through it.

What we need more of is features like Fever’s Hot section which displays the most frequently linked to web pages from the sites you’ve chosen to subscribe to over a specific time period. If I had a mechanism in all of my inboxes that surfaced the most interesting and important things for me, that didn’t require me to weed through the dregs, that would be something I’m interested in. For example, imagine if Instapaper could reorder your queue based on what you’re most likely to be interested in reading — it didn’t offer you new articles, just suggested a good place to start reading your existing ones.

Three Months with Apple Watch

M.G. Siegler:

I’m almost exactly three months into wearing the device. Yes, I’ve worn it every day in that span, which is clearly a good sign. I also still get asked about it on almost a daily basis — also a good sign, as people still seem to be interested in it. But I definitely wouldn’t say I love the thing. I like it, but after all this time, it’s still not vital to me day-to-day. It’s a nice-to-have.

I still want an Apple Watch. Even though, like Siegler, I don’t expect anything truly revolutionary to be created with the platform.

(Via Analog Senses.)

Amazon Signs Top Gear’s Clarkson, Hammond, and May for New Show

James Vincent, writing for The Verge:

Former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May have signed up for a new motoring show on Amazon Prime, set to air in 2016. The news ends months of speculation about the trio’s future on TV after the BBC refused to renew Clarkson’s contract following a “fracas” during filming this year. The deal is a major coup for Amazon’s streaming service, which lags behind rival Netflix, and although there are no details of how much the firm paid for the trio, a company insider told the London Evening Standard: “We have made a significant investment.”

I haven’t watched more than five minutes of Top Gear in my entire life, but the show’s fans talk about it like it’s absolutely legendary. This incarnation might not make its way into my regular rotation of shows, but I’ll certainly be watching when it’s eventually released.

Windows 10 Solitaire Requires a Subscription to Remove Ads

It’s hard to believe this is actually real.

iTunes is a Toxic Hellstew

G. Keenan Schneider, in response to Marco Arment’s Don’t Order the Fish:

When I worked at Apple, my co-workers and I frequently lamented the state of iTunes. We prophesized a streamlined, rebuilt from-the-ground-up application with each impending major version release. Instead, we got new features wedged into the same old foundation. […]

Looking back, it’s still shocking that our dreams of a new iTunes were never realized. Apple, a company that shows little to no remorse when it kills its babies, has somehow kept this thing on life support. They should’ve immolated it long ago and allowed something new, agile, and slim to emerge from the ashes.

Honestly, I seldomly use iTunes. Sure, it’s always running on my Mac, but only so that we can stream media from our iTunes library to the Apple TV on a whim. When I do use it though, it’s completely miserable. I always have to relearn how to find certain sections of my library and often have to perform web searches to remember how to use a feature that’s no longer where I expect it to be.

We know iTunes peaked four or five years ago and it’s time Apple did something about it.

‘Apple Will Debut New Apple TV in September’

John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

Sources familiar with Apple’s plans tell BuzzFeed News that the company intends to announce its next-generation Apple TV in September, at the same event at which it typically unveils its new iPhones. […] Expect a refreshed and slimmer chassis and new innards; Apple’s A8 system on chip; a new remote that sources say has been “drastically improved” by a touch-pad input; an increase in on-board storage; and an improved operating system that will support Siri voice control. Crucially, the new Apple TV will debut alongside a long-awaited App Store and the software development kit developers need to populate it.

His sources also say that the subscription television service isn’t likely to be announced alongside the Apple TV — probably a 2016 thing. I couldn’t be more excited about this. But I really hope the new hardware still includes an IR sensor. I’m quite attached to my Logitech Harmony One and don’t want another remote on my coffee table.

Stagefright Vulnerability

Aarti Shahani, reporting for NPR:

In this attack, the target would not need to goof up — open an attachment or download a file that’s corrupt. The malicious code would take over instantly, the moment you receive a text message.

“This happens even before the sound that you’ve received a message has even occurred,” says Joshua Drake, security researcher with Zimperium and co-author of Android Hacker’s Handbook. “That’s what makes it so dangerous. [It] could be absolutely silent. You may not even see anything.”

And we all thought the iOS text message vulnerability was bad. But this is a serious exploit, especially considering how long it takes for most Android devices to receive OS updates.

(Via John Moltz.)

Reeder 3 for Mac Public Beta

I’ve been experimenting with various RSS readers on my iPad because my favorite (Sunstroke) is no longer being developed and frequently crashes in iOS 9. I suppose this public beta is a good opportunity to try something different on the Mac side of things, as well.

Apple Music Matches Files with Metadata Only, not Acoustic Fingerprinting

Kirk McElhearn:

Apple Music, however, works differently. It does not use the more onerous (in time and processing power) acoustic fingerprinting technique, but simply uses the tags your files contains. And it can lead to errors. Here’s an example of how this can be a bit surprising. […]

Since Apple Music matches only using tags, it can’t tell the difference between, say, a studio recording and a live version of a song. Or an explicit version and a clean version. This explains why, for example, Macworld editor Susie Ochs found that a live Phish album was replaced by studio versions of the same tracks.

This explains a lot — like how Apple Music can’t seem to differentiate between acoustic and non-acoustic versions of songs on different albums if the tracks have the same name. But if Apple was able to use acoustic fingerprinting with iTunes Match, why not with Apple Music?

The Junk Drawer Method

Marco Arment:

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.

iTunes is in desperate need of a complete rewrite. Apple’s done it with nearly every other application they ship and I don’t understand why they haven’t done so with iTunes — likely the most important application Apple develops.

Arcuri on 4-Inch iPhone 6c

Timothy Arcuri claims that all signs of a 4-inch iPhone 6c in Apple’s supply chain have disappeared. This is unfortunate if it proves to be true, but Arcuri’s track record has been spotty at best. I did a quick search on MacRumors and of the four predictions I found, he only got half of one right. This certainly doesn’t disprove the prediction, but I’d take it with a grain of salt.

Dave Mark on Apple Music’s Home Field Advantage

Dave Mark, writing for The Loop:

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.

Apple Music may have an advantage in that you can easily jump between streaming music and purchased music within the same app. But there’s an entire generation of teenagers that have never bought a song in their life — everything they listen to is either pirated or streamed from YouTube, Pandora, or Spotify. For them, having all of their purchased music available alongside streaming tracks isn’t anything that’s worth switching over because they don’t have the same ecosystem investment as we do. They want a reasonably priced solution (preferably free) that gives them access to all of the songs they want on every device they own.

Trailer Released for ‘Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine’

Given how incredible this trailer felt to watch, a documentary-style film might be the best way to tell Steve Jobs’ story.

A Mac’s Longevity Is Its Biggest Unsung Selling Point

My first Mac was a 2006 MacBook that I used regularly as my mobile machine for five years before it was replaced by my current MacBook Air. I typically run my Macs into the ground before I replace them and can attest to the fact that Apple computers remain usable much longer than the PCs my friends and family spend their money on. This is a selling point I’ve used to convince two of my fiancée’s family members to purchase an iMac instead of some random junky PC from Best Buy. And it’s one of the best reasons to buy Apple hardware.

Considering Piwik

Nick Heer, on his decision to install Piwik on Pixel Envy:

I want you to know that I’m taking Piwik for a trial run. Piwik is analytics software that is self-hosted, so none of your information is going to a giant advertising company. I’ve long been an ardent supporter and user of Mint, but it hasn’t been updated for a while so it’s not super great at reporting recent versions of iOS and OS X, for example.

I had never heard of Piwik until John Gruber started a discussion on Twitter over the weekend about whether or not Google Analytics was a privacy-invasive tracker. I saw several responses that suggested he take a look at Piwik, a freely available, open source analytics package that can be installed on your own server or hosted by their cloud service.

I replied to John pointing out his own policy regarding Google Analytics on his Markdown Dingus — preferring not to have analytics tracking to ensure its users that Google couldn’t read what they were inputting into the text field. I also noted that I observed in Ghostery that Google Analytics was loading a tracking script from Adometry on Daring Fireball.

Adometry, as far as I can tell, is a company owned by Google which helps Adsense properly attribute revenue to the sites which contribute to a successful advertisement conversion. I also observed DoubleClick trackers appear on sites like The Loop, which I can also only assume are being loaded because of their use of Google Analytics. I prefer not to be tracked at all, but I’d certainly consider Google Analytics to be a privacy-invasive tracker when it’s sending my data to ad-related services even when I visit webpages that don’t include Google-served ads.

I haven’t used Google Analytics in years because I was always concerned that they were using the collected traffic data for more than just the betterment of the sites who use it. But until this weekend, I never really had any proof of it. I have been using Shaun Inman’s Mint, which I still consider to be a great analytics system. But as Nick points out, Mint hasn’t been updated in quite sometime and I’m starting to wonder if I should switch to an analytics app that’s more actively developed.

There’s a lot to like about Piwik — there’s a native iOS app, it respects Do Not Track, and I’ve noticed others deciding to test it as well (Ben Brooks being one of them). But I’m not jumping in just yet, I’d like to see how Piwik works out for Nick and Ben first and I’m not sure if Piwik tracks RSS subscribers like Mint does with the Bird Feeder pepper. This means I might have to find an alternative solution if I want to switch to Piwik while continuing to keep tabs on the number of RSS subscribers to Initial Charge.

Piwik might not be the best option for every site — there’s plenty of other options if you look around. But those of us who run websites owe it to our readers to not give up their browsing information to third-parties so easily, particularly when it’s not happening transparently. At least you have some idea of what’s happening when you visit a page that displays Adsense ads, but that isn’t the case when you visit a site that simply uses Google Analytics.

I would especially like to see John Gruber move Daring Fireball away from Google Analytics. He sparked this whole conversation to begin with and is someone who cares deeply about treating his readers with respect. And I think the respectful thing to do would be to stop sending his reader’s browsing data to third-party, ad-related tracking services like Adometry.

Vizio IPO Shows How Its TVs Track Whatever You’re Watching

Richard Lawler, regarding Vizio’s Inscape software:

We’ve never heard of Inscape before, but as explained in the S-1 Vizio filed today, it’s based on ACR (automatic content recognition) software licensed from a third party, and viewers can opt-out of participating in it while maintaining other connected features. That’s actually fairly common in modern TVs, and others like LG and Samsung have already rolled out features based on the tech to do things like integrate with TV shows, or display ads based on what the TV is showing. ACR software recognizes the video being displayed, matches it up and phones home the data. According to Vizio, its Inscape platform can pull some 100 billion anonymized datapoints from 8 million of its connected TVs every day. That kind of data can be used for ratings, and is valuable to both advertisers and content providers.

I’m really glad I decided to buy a “dumb” TV. And I don’t expect I’ll be recommending any Vizio televisions anymore. This is the kind of privacy-invasive tracking software that we should be fighting against.

Apple Watch Going on Sale at Best Buy Starting August 7

An Apple spokesperson, in a statement to iMore:

Customers love Apple Watch, and we are thrilled to begin offering it at Best Buy locations across the U.S. starting August 7. More than 300 Best Buy stores will carry Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport models in time for the holiday shopping season.

Say what you will about Best Buy, but I’d rather travel the twenty minutes to my local Best Buy than nearly two and a half hours to the closest Apple Store.

Nilay Patel: ‘The Mobile Web Sucks’

I’m not the first to point out the irony here, but this article is published on a website that routinely takes several seconds to load it’s multiple Megabyte webpages. As for the browser vendors, don’t blame them for Vox Media’s poor web development. I understand it can be hard to shrink page size and load time when you have five or more ads per wepage, but I never have problems loading websites that have a less hostile attitude towards their readers.

On Apple Watch Development Hesitation

Jason Snell, regarding Brian X. Chen and Vindu Goel’s piece on developer interest in Apple Watch:

This is a story about developers trying to figure out if they want to be on a new platform, and if they do, how best to accomplish that. Unfortunately, Chen and Goel’s story makes it seem like the development community is just holding its breath waiting to see if Apple’s selling watches, while users are similarly waiting to see if their favorite apps from their phones run on the watch before buying.

It’s still early days. There’s plenty of time for developers to build apps for the platform before we need to start worrying about it. And remember, apps developed with the native SDK won’t be available until this fall and many applications shouldn’t have Apple Watch counterparts because it’ll make for a crummy experience.

Amazon May Be Planning Drive-Up Grocery Stores with First Coming to Sunnyvale, CA

Nathan Donato-Weinstein, reporting for Silicon Valley Business Journal:

The e-commerce giant is developing a new drive-up store concept in Silicon Valley that will allow consumers to order grocery items online, then schedule a pickup at a dedicated facility, according to industry sources familiar with Amazon’s plans. If confirmed, the project could signal a new distribution strategy for Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, while adding an additional threat to a grocery industry already in the throes of change.

This seems like a fairly obvious progression of Amazon’s business. One of the biggest problems with online retail is that you can’t purchase items that you need today — grocery items being some of the more notable examples. But, purchasing items online and picking them up at a warehouse location sounds pretty compelling.

Although, I doubt this sort of system would convince me to switch from my beloved Wegmans — a store that I genuinely enjoy shopping at.

WSJ: Apple Hires Auto Industry Veteran

The Wall Street Journal:

Doug Betts, who led global quality at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV until last year, is now working for the Cupertino, Calif.-based electronics giant but declined to comment on the position when reached Monday. […]

Mr. Betts could be the first major automotive executive to join Apple with experience leveled more at the manufacturing side of the business.

For nearly two decades, he has worked in product quality and manufacturing at an auto company, first as a general manager at Toyota Motor Corp. and later as a vice president at Nissan Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, now FCA US LLC.

Apple doesn’t seem to be slowing down. This might actually happen.

Jet, Club Price Savings on Pretty Much Anything You Buy

A new online retail startup that claims to offer bulk pricing on smaller-sized packages and the ability to unlock bonus savings on other items as you add more to your cart. It’s a clever way to up-sell customers into larger average transactions. What’s most interesting to me is that the majority of Jet’s product listings display the Amazon price next to it, which has been higher or equal to Jet’s price on every product I’ve checked.

Jet might not be a viable alternative for Amazon Prime customers, though. Amazon Prime offers customers many perks that Jet just isn’t competing with currently — free 2-day shipping, a large streaming video library, and more. But Jet does sound like something to take a look at if you aren’t a Prime customer and want as much savings as possible.


The Internet Is Awful

A recently created Tumblr by John Degraft-Johnson that showcases how slow to load many popular websites are. He’s currently reviewing every website in the Alexa top 50 alongside some notable tech sites. It’s just incredible how many of these homepages weigh-in at over 10MB.

(Via Nick Heer.)

Apple Working to Fix Missing and Duplicate Song Issues in Apple Music

Jim Dalrymple, in a follow-up to his scathing piece on Apple Music:

I arrived at Apple this morning to talk to them about my issues with Apple Music and to hopefully fix my problems. The good news is that I have about 99 percent of my music back.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. The missing and duplicate song issues that we’ve all seen in Apple Music are being fixed shortly. They are certainly aware of what’s been going on, I can assure you.

It’s good to hear that Apple worked with Jim to help him recover his lost music and I’m glad they’re working on a fix that will prevent this from happening in the future. But I’m still amazed that Apple Music shipped with these sorts of problems — did they not test the cancellation process? It certainly seems like they would have found these bugs if they did.