Tag: Apple

If it’s not an RSS feed, it’s not a podcast

Recently a podcast I like “moved to Spotify,” which is the only place it can now be heard. A couple weeks ago I was recommended a podcast that sounded interesting, but it turned out to be exclusive to the Luminary “podcast network.”

These are not podcasts. It’s not a matter of being behind a paywall (though Spotify’s aren’t, as far as I know); subscription fees aren’t antithetical to podcasting (though they may be technically challenging).

A podcast is a text file, an XML or JSON outline, that points a podcast player to a list of episodes. The podcast is indifferent to the thing downloading it, and the player is indifferent to the thing hosting it. Anything else isn’t a podcast — it’s just an audio show.

The term “podcast” has long outgrown its etymology as “something you play on your iPod,” but it’s nevertheless notable that these new “podcasts” cannot even be played on an iPod, other than an iPod Touch with a WiFi connection.

If I can’t listen to it on my iPod Nano, it’s not a podcast.

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The Problem with Apple as Creator and Curator

I haven’t watched much at all of Apple TV+’s content, so this isn’t about whether their shows are good or not. Hell, they’re winning Emmys after all.

One thing I used to love about the Roku is that it had no incentive to make you watch one thing over another. There was no “Roku store,” so its makers weren’t motivated to put paid content front-and-center in the UI.

I gave that up once I switched to Apple TV, but I knew that, although Apple was incentivized to encourage me to watch things that I could buy or rent through them, at least it wasn’t directing me toward specific things for that reason; Apple doesn’t care whether I rent Barton Fink or Transformers, as long as I rent it from Apple (and their library is extensive).

I love the TV app for its “Up Next” section, reminding me what I want to watch and where I left off. I even like the remaining rows, highlighting content that is either being talked about (recent award winners, for instance, or big shows that are ending soon), or that is positively reviewed, or that is similar to things I’ve expressed interest in in the past. With so much to watch these days, it’s nice to have different ways for content to be surfaced.

On the other hand are Amazon’s and Netflix’s UIs, which lately seem to almost exclusively show you content produced by them, to encourage you to stay in their ecosystems. The “home page” of the Netflix app has got to be one of the most valuable advertising spaces on earth, and they take advantage of that. (See: Birdbox.)

But unfortunately what has tainted the Amazon and Netflix UIs is now a problem on Apple TV, for two reasons: Apple TV Channels and Apple TV+.

Because Apple TV Channels is limited to a small handful of networks — CBS, AMC, HBO, etc. — Apple is strongly incentivized to promote shows from those networks to encourage me to subscribe to them through Apple. And with original content being produced for Apple TV+, they’re also incentivized to recommend their own shows to me, sometimes with an entire row of content in the UI.

This destroys what trust I once had in the content curation. It would be naive to think the recommendations weren’t at all previously motivated by sales, but now when I see an Apple TV+ or CBS show highlighted, I know it’s effectively no different from an ad. They would recommend “The Morning Show” to me whether or not it was good.

I almost wish they had an “editorial department” who curated the contents of the TV app and were not beholden to the other teams at Apple whatsoever.

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Apple Arcade: Games That Won’t Piss You Off

This holiday I’ve been traveling to spend the week visiting some of my family, including four of my nieces and nephews. My youngest niece is 10 and I thought she’d like sitting on the couch solving some kind of puzzle-y iPad game with me. I went to Apple Arcade and downloaded Tint, which I’d never played before.

The experience of playing Tint really made apparent the difference in playing an Apple Arcade game versus virtually any other game on the App Store. Playing it was almost uncanny — the genre it represents as a geometry-based puzzle game is the kind of thing that absolutely floods the App Store and shows you unskippable 30-second ads for tower defense games between levels. Even games within this genre that do cost a buck or two up front will likely have some forms of in-app purchases, for rubies, gems, in-game hints, extra levels, etc. I kept expecting the gameplay to be interrupted by something ugly, loud, or obnoxious, but it never happened.

There are plenty of poor Apple Arcade games, but they’re poor in ways that other games in the App Store aren’t — in a shortcoming of gameplay design, artwork, or execution, rather than in a disrespect for the value of customers’ time and money. These games feel as though they were made by people, not by cheap puzzle-generating algorithms, copycats, or fly-by-night App Store flooding.

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No, your iPhone is not listening to you

There’s a lot of FUD going around about your phone listening to everything you say and selling that data to advertisers. This is wildly and irresponsibly misleading.

I can’t speak for Android phones because those things are the Wild West of APIs and outdated OSes and malware, so use Android phones at your own risk.

Here is the claim being made, in short:

Any third-party (non-Apple) app you have installed on your iPhone can record and remotely save conversations taking place within earshot of your iPhone, even when the app isn’t running (in the foreground or in the background), and even when the phone is sleeping.

This is patently false. Third-party iOS apps can only record audio when they are running in the foreground or running in the background, and only if you have given them permission to do so. And even if you have granted microphone access to the Facebook app, for instance, if you “kill” Facebook by swiping up on it in the app switcher, Facebook is quit and can no longer access the microphone in any way.

Further, when third-party apps are using the microphone, there is a big red bar with a microphone icon at the top of the screen of your phone in the status bar. There is as far as I know no way for developers to prevent this from appearing.

In other words, in order for any third-party app to “listen to you” through your iPhone:

  1. That app must be running, either in the foreground or the background.
  2. You must have explicitly granted that app permission to access your microphone.
  3. There will be a red microphone icon at the top of your screen.

If any of those three things haven’t happened or aren’t happening, then that app is not listening to you.


How do I explain, then, all the anecdotal evidence that ads for certain products show up after people start shouting about mattresses into their phones?

First, this is anecdotal and cannot be trusted. Nobody behind these articles has even tried to monitor what domains are being pinged by their router in an attempt to determine where all these recordings are secretly being sent.

Second, if you come up with a random product category, and especially if that category is mattresses (!!! The most advertised internet thing there is!), and you only start to notice ads for that product category after you’ve begun whispering the phrase, then this is likely a failing of your perception. We are all way, way more blind than we realize and filter out 99% of our surroundings. If you say “I swear I never saw an ad for t-shirts before this!,” that is a completely unreliable claim.

Third, advertisers already know tons and tons about you just from your browsing habits. They don’t need to listen through your phone’s microphone. Facebook and Google already know every site you visit as well as in what things the people in your demographic are interested and probably talking about with you and your friends.

All this anecdotal evidence is coincidental.

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That’s just not what “is the new” means

I know I’m the last and probably least significant person to weigh in on this, but this “Safari is the New IE” article that I didn’t read when it came out three months ago has been tucked away in the back of my mind since then, and I’ve finally put my finger on the simple reason it bothers me.

[M]y point was to compare Safari to IE in terms of 1) not keeping up with new standards, 2) maintaining a culture of relative secrecy, and 3) playing a monopolistic role, by not allowing other rendering engines on iOS. Those accusations are pretty undeniable.

[…]

Personally what I want out of this whole debate is for Apple to realize that the web is starting to move on without them, and that their weird isolationism and glacial release cycle are not going to win them any favors in this new, dynamic web community.

First of all, what does it mean to “be an Internet Explorer”? What did Internet Explorer represent? A monopoly, sure, to consumers and corporate attorneys from the 1990s. “A culture of relative secrecy”? Maybe, though that’s not what comes to my mind. It also had a blue icon and a six-syllable name, but these are accidents — they’re not what Internet Explorer was.

What Internet Explorer represented to web developers, the bulk of that article’s audience, is not a popular browser lagging behind modern standards, but a popular browser egregiously disobeying established standards. There is no Safari equivalent (that I know of, and almost certainly not as significant) as, say, IE’s double-margin bug. Every web developer who’s wrestled with IE has tearfully referenced Explorer Exposed! and QuirksMode for the sixth time in a week, their links in Google’s results seeming an even deeper purple than others. Every web developer has harbored a sense of looming dread as they gleefully develop in Chrome and Firefox, knowing that there will soon be the reckoning of having to fix whatever IE bugs they’re willfully ignoring, but for right now it feels so good not to have to write terrible, hacky code to support a ten-year-old browser, and maybe my boss will announce tomorrow that we officially don’t support IE 6 anymore?

This, I think, is where the backlash comes from. “Developing for Safari” is barely a thing. “Developing for IE” was hell. To see the two compared in — yes — a clickbaity way is maddening.

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If Apple makes a watch

I don’t claim to be any kind of Apple pundit, but I have some hunches about what their watch will be like if and when they release one.

The two factors I see as being vital are price and simplicity.

Price

The Galaxy Gear starts at $299, which is a lot more, I think, than the average person (i.e., non-Android zealots) are willing to spend on a watch that they have to charge every night. A successful watch, one that gets into the hands of millions of people, will have to be closer to the “Apple impulse buy” price of the iPods Nano — at most $249, but I think they could do it for $199. (The Pebble E Ink watch is $150.) To reach that price point, an Apple watch will lack, for instance, a camera and a speaker, which are included in the Galaxy Gear.

Continue reading “If Apple makes a watch”

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Random Really Drunk Guy

From Gizmodo:

The person who eventually ended up with the lost iPhone was sitting next to Powell. He was drinking with a friend too. He noticed Powell on the stool next to him but didn’t think twice about him at the time. Not until Powell had already left the bar, and a random really drunk guy—who’d been sitting on the other side of Powell—returned from the bathroom to his own stool.

The Random Really Drunk Guy pointed at the iPhone sitting on the stool, the precious prototype left by the young Apple engineer.

Hey man, is that your iPhone?” asked Random Really Drunk Guy.

Hmmm, what?” replied the person who ended up with the iPhone. “No, no, it isn’t mine.”

Ooooh, I guess it’s your friend’s then,” referring to a friend who at the time was in the bathroom. “Here, take it,” said the Random Really Drunk Guy, handing it to him. “You don’t want to lose it.” After that, the Random Really Drunk Guy also left the bar.

I have a pretty strong suspicion that this “Really Random Drunk Guy” is a fabrication of the guy who found the iPhone — “I didn’t pick it up; it was handed to me.”

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Macbook Wheel Predictive Sentence Technology

The aardvark admitted its fault.
The aardvark admitted it was wrong.
The aardvark asked for an aardvark.
The aardvark asked for a dagger.
The aardvark asked for health.
The aardvark asked for a ride.
The absinthe arrived by airmail.
The abortion went well.
The actor asked for an aardvark.
The actor asked for abstinence.
The actor asked for redemption.
The advertisement was effective.
The agile aardvark arrived by airmail.
The agile aardvark bathed with beauties.
The agriculture was cultivated by the coral.
The aggravated driver beeped on his horn.
The aggravated rooster scratched the dirt.
The Althusserian scholar gave his copy of Lacan’s “Ecrits” to the
abortion doctor.
The amiable Althusserian scholar asked the aardvark for absinthe.
The amiable crocodile brushed his teeth with a toothbrush.
The amiable doctor performed the operation admirably.
The annex was covered with asbestos.
The annex was crawling with beetles.
The apple was airmailed by the doctor.
The apple was consumed by the amiable crocodile.
The apple was inquiring about the amiable crocodile’s friend.
The aquamarine lifevest was not used.
The aquamarine lifevest was unpopular.
The armchair was uncomfortable.
The armchair was favored by the amiable housecat.
The ass asked for a better absinthe.
The ass brayed at the moon.
The assumptive doctor did not accept our personal check.
The assumptive agricultural expert eyed our absinthe suspiciously.
The attractive peanut farmer graded the term paper.
The attractive rooster preened its feathers to attract absinthe.
The auxiliary generator has malfunctioned!
The awning covered the agile aardvark during the amiable rainstorm.
The awning was too tall to touch.
The babbling baby asked the aardvark for some absinthe.
The babbling baby baked brownies with the amiable crocodile.
The babbling baby basked in its mother’s affection.
The babbling baby bounced the ball at the babbling brook.

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