Category Archives: Apple

Apple’s newly redesigned Music app is a band aid on a much larger problem

My first article on Medium:

Apple announced yesterday at WWDC that they are redesigning the Apple Music app, “from the ground up.” While it is much needed it isn’t enough.

Apple’s Music app was a mess and was in need of a redesign. It looks like they had too many Cooks in the kitchen, pun intended. It feels to me like the creatives were handcuffed by what their executives wanted. They need to make a music app for the music lover and I think this will be a step closer but still many steps away.


Apple Music, this is the savior?

Today Apple released their new Apple Music application and streaming music service, which includes a redesigned Music app for iOS and iTunes for desktops. It also includes a new live radio called Beats 1.

Apple is supposed to be the epitome of design. Simultaneously making something simple and intuitive yet engaging at the same time. After playing with the new Apple Music app, I’m left doubting that I’ll make the switch to Apple Music from Spotify. Spotify isn’t all that special either but Apple hasn’t capitalized on their strengths to surpass Spotify’s weaknesses.

Continue reading Apple Music, this is the savior?


iPhone 6 camera lens flare

The iPhone 5 had issues with lens flare. Many photos that had a bright sun in it managed to almost always blow the sun out into a purple mess. Apple’s response? Move the camera.

Now that the iPhone 6 is out I was curious how it handled similar shooting situations. Tonight I went for a run at Crissy Field towards the Golden Gate Bridge and took some photos when I reached the Warming Hut pier.

Lens flare is better but it’s still there and prominent enough that you may have to alter your shooting angle or do some post processing to remove it. There was always a small green dot in the frame that moved around depending on where the sun was. (See the videos below)

I took a photo with 3 different photo apps to confirm that it was something inherent with the camera and not something that the software was doing.

I used Apple’s default camera app ‘Camera’, Camera+, and Manual (Custom exposure camera). Here are the results:

Apple ‘Camera’ app:
iPhone 6 - Camera app

Apple ‘Camera’ app (HDR):
iPhone 6 - Camera app HDR

Manual (Custom exposure camera) app:
iPhone 6 - Manual app

Camera+ app:
iPhone 6 - Camera+ app

I also shot a short video and you can follow the green dot as the sun moves across the frame.

I’m not surprised that the phone does this and I think it mostly handles bright light well for such a small camera but it’s something to keep in mind.


Display “Now Playing” info on your Desktop with GeekTool or Ubersicht

I listen to Seattle’s KEXP streaming radio fairly regularly and even when I’m not I like to know what they’re playing. I use GeekTool to display KEXP’s “Now Playing” song on my Mac Desktop.

Note that this doesn’t work anymore. If you have a way that works then please let me know.

curl -silent '' | perl -l -0777 -ne 'print $1 if /<title.*?>\s*(.*?)\s*<\/title/si' | perl -MHTML::Entities -le 'while(<>) {print decode_entities($_);}'

For Spotify, I have this script:

DATA=$(osascript -e 'tell application "System Events"
set myList to (name of every process)
end tell
if myList contains "Spotify" then
tell application "Spotify"
if player state is stopped then
set output to ""
set trackname to name of current track
set artistname to artist of current track
set albumname to album of current track
if player state is playing then
set output to trackname & " | " & artistname & " | " & albumname
else if player state is paused then
set output to ""
end if
end if
end tell
set output to ""
end if')
echo $DATA | awk -F new_line '{print $1}'
echo $DATA | awk -F new_line '{print $2}'

There are a few places within the code where you can customize what appears if Spotify is paused or stopped. I have those set to be empty. (“”)

Edit – 2019:

I am now using a different application called Ubersicht. For Spotify I use this code:

command: """
read -r running <<<"$(ps -ef | grep \"MacOS/Spotify\" | grep -v \"grep\" | wc -l)" &&
test $running != 0 &&
IFS='|' read -r theArtist theName <<<"$(osascript <<<'tell application "Spotify"
        set theTrack to current track
        set theArtist to artist of theTrack
        set theName to name of theTrack
        return theArtist & "|" & theName
    end tell')" &&
if [ -z "$theArtist" ]
    echo ""
    echo "$theArtist - $theName" || echo "Not Connected To Spotify"

refreshFrequency: 2000

style: """
  top: 1395px
  left: 2300px
  color: #fff

    font-family: Helvetica Neue
    font-size: 15px
    font-weight: 100
    text-shadow: 0 1px 5px #111;

render: (output) -> """
	<div class="output">#{output}</div>

I haven’t found a way, or taken the time to script it up myself, but if you have a way to use Ubersicht for KEXP then please let me know.


‘Stereo’, an iTunes music player replacement app for album art fans

Stereo is a new music player from Appothecary.

stereo-app-iconStereo is currently at version 0.3.1 and is offered at “an introductory price” of $1.99, down from $3.99.

It’s designed to be a simple iTunes music player replacement designed to put importance on album covers. The interface is barebones and puts the album covers front and center. There are two modes, “detailed album art”, which shows larger album covers but fewer artist, and a “more artist” mode, which displays the albums much smaller in order to fit more artists on the screen.

It’s a fullscreen app that you navigate by either scrolling or by typing the artist name.

Detailed Album Art mode with The National selected

Stereo iTunes Music Player - detailed album art

More Artists mode, with Autolux selected

Stereo iTunes Music Player - more artist

Stereo iTunes music player app

Above is the album detail window where it shows you track info about the selected album.

It’s not at version 1.0 yet and has its share of bugs and quirks. It doesn’t always draw the album art, which requires either changing the view mode or scrolling. You can simply type an artist name and it’ll jump to that artist alphabetically. This is sometimes enough to force it to update album art. If an artist has more than six albums, it can be hard to tell without trying to scroll within the artist popup window.

It’s an interesting and simplistic approach. While it’s not designed to be a full-time replacement, at times I miss seeing song ratings and having access to other info like year released or song lyrics. With the current issues and with it not being at version 1.0 it seems over priced at $1.99. I don’t see it being worth a $3.99 unless there are some fantastic surprises to come, and I can’t imagine what those would be. $.99 or $1.99 seems fair compared to other apps.

You can check out Stereo here…


Thoughts on Apple’s acquisition of Beats

Beats Music is really no different than Pandora, Spotify, Rdio. Sure they all have their own recommendation methods but in the end they are quite similar.

None of them has done anything groundbreaking.

Pandora has a rather limited library and has been living off of its Genome Project since its inception.

Spotify’s apps are interesting but make it cluttered and the UI is a bit of a mess. (Just how many ‘apps’ do we need for individual artists? Here’s a clue – ZERO) Its recommendation service and UI is rather disappointing. Maybe the EchoNest acquisition will help but they still need to implement it successfully into the already goofy UI, and that alone isn’t grand enough.

Beats Music seems to be hanging its hat on curated playlists. I see this as a smokescreen, or at least I hope it is. I hope that Apple and Beats Music aren’t putting that many eggs in the curated playlists basket. It doesn’t seem very innovative. Tonight during the Code Conference interview session Apple’s Eddie Cue and Beats’ Jimmy Iovine stated,

“We think that streaming services need curation. The album is going away. We all know that. The sequencing of an album used to be important. You need an hour’s worth of music. Some of the other services are just based on algorithms. That doesn’t work. Kids listen to programmed radio, and it doesn’t work. We wanted to fix that.”

Just how is Beats Music’s version of curated playlists really that much different than Spotify’s? Because they are created by ‘industry experts’? Spotify’s version is close enough, if not the same. There are celebrity and industry expert playlist on Spotify too. Here is an interview with Beats Music’s CEO Ian Rogers.

Check out some of these curated playlist on Spotify. There are thousands of them:
@indiesongaday – 1 song per artist
@indiesongaday – indie rock – best of 2013
@indiesongaday – indie rock for running

They all fail to create a whole package that is automatic, intuitive, AND complete. (I won’t go into what I think that encompasses here but would be happy to discuss further) Let me just say that they aren’t as successful with recommendations, education, notifications, and user effort/input as they should be at this juncture.

I don’t think Iovine and Dre understand that aspect of it either and I can’t believe Apple is making this deal for the headphone tech. I’d be shocked if Beats Music has a v3.0 waiting in the wings that will be substantially different than the current version which is rather lackluster.

Music technology has been treading water for almost a decade now, and that includes today’s release of Beats Music 2.1. All of these companies are leaving features on the table that I feel could really upset the industry.


Resolve the “login not recognized” iPhone Comcast app error

I downloaded the Comcast iPhone application excited to see what, if anything, it had to offer. I’ve become a bit jaded with Comcast over the years due to the lack of a real technology push.

I’ve always wanted set top box built-in picture-in-picture and the ability to set my DVR from the internet or my phone. My parents, who live 3500 miles away, have Comcast and built-in PIP but it’s borderline useless. The small picture is stuck in middle third of the screen in the same position if you had it in the corner of a standard definition TV. At least they have it.

I opened the Comcast app and it wouldn’t recognize my login, which is my yahoo email address. I verified that I was using the correct login and pass yet the iPhone app still wouldn’t accept it.

I called Comcast and was initially told, “we only support login problems online and internet connection problems”. I explained to the rep that this was a Comcast provided service and she didn’t seem to understand that I wasn’t asking for support with my cell phone itself. After speaking with a manager, they found a buried ‘support request’ page for “comcast mobile”. I filled out this form and went to bed.

Today I tackled the problem again realizing that the support request I filled out last night might’ve been a complete waste of time. I figured that the iPhone app is requiring a email which I had never configured or used. I called Comcast again and we reset my email password and I verified that I could access it online.

A few minutes later I tried to login to the iPhone app using my email and it finally worked.

Comcast, please fix this problem and train your support staff.


Steve Wozniak likes Nine Inch Nails… but he likes Tetris more… way more.

This weekend we went down to Mountain View to see Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction. We went into the venue through the VIP gate and went up to the bar to get our drinks. We noticed that sitting down near the bar with a few friends was Steve Wozniak, Apple cofounder. We got our drinks and went on our way.

We walked across the venue to the other VIP bar and went down the ramp backstage. It was nothing special. Just a bunch of unknown people standing around chatting. The lone exception was Kevin Rose, founder.

The tour manager told us that Trent Reznor was getting ready to go on stage so we’d have to come back after the show. We walked back up the ramp to find our seats.

Our seats were in one of the box seat sections in the middle of the two reserved sections. We noticed that Steve Wozniak was seated right in front of us. We also noticed that he and his buddies were playing Tetris on a Gameboy. Somehow I noticed that Kevin Rose was seated behind us. I feel like nerd for knowing this but whatever… I work in tech… and know someone who works at Digg.

steve wozniak nine inch nails

Nine Inch Nails came on within five to ten minutes. I kid you not, Wozniak and his friends played Tetris for the ENTIRE SET! It was hysterical. He didn’t look up once.

steve wozniak nine inch nails

steve wozniak nine inch nails

Kevin Rose is in the black sweatshirt. Click on the photo to enlarge.

steve wozniak nine inch nails

After the NIN set we left our seats for backstage. We waited around casually for quite a while. Jane’s Addiction had taken the stage and we could see their set from the backstage televisions.

Eventually we were told that Trent Reznor was available so we were led back to his trailer. I have to admit Shoreline doesn’t keep the nicest of rooms for their guest. Very ugly 1970s wood paneling everywhere. We talked with Trent for a few minutes, took some pictures, and made our way back to our seats to pay our tab so we could leave before Jane’s Addiction finished their set.

At Nine Inch Nails with Trent Reznor

Back at our box, I noticed “WOZ” in large letters indicating Wozniak’s box in front of us. We also noticed that Wozniak was STILL playing Tetris. Probably through the entire concert except to eat.

steve wozniak at nine inch nails

steve wozniak nine inch nails


iTunes On OS X Finally Has Competition

The following is from, Slashdot: Apple

iTunes On OS X Finally Has Competition mallumax writes “The truth is, iTunes is an average music player. Though the UI is simple and good like most Apple products, it has lagged in features compared to music players available on Linux and Windows. A feature as basic as monitoring a folder and adding the latest music files to the library is unavailable in iTunes. There are no plugins or themes. Despite the many faults, many of us continued to use iTunes because of the lack of options available. But today the wait is finally over. Not one, but two music players have become credible contenders. Songbird: An open source music player which has been in the works for more than 2 years has finally released its 1.0 Release Candidate builds. The team behind Songbird has members who previously developed for both Winamp and the Yahoo Music Engine. It has support for extensions and themes (‘feathers’ in Songbird parlance). Amarok: The undisputed champion among Linux music players is finally coming to OS X, thanks to KDE 4 being ported there. Amarok developer Leo Franchi has been able to run a Amarok on OS X natively. So we can expect a reasonably stable Amarok to hit OS X in a few months’ time. Hopefully these players will gain traction among OS X users, which will finally force Apple to either step up in terms of features or open up iTunes for extensions.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

This was from Slashdot: Apple.