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Apple Music now live on Amazon Echo speakers using Alexa - 9to5Mac
Zac Hall, writing for 9to5Mac:

Apple Music support on Amazon Echo speakers is starting to roll out in the United States through the Alexa app on iOS and Android a few days ahead of schedule. You can now connect your Apple Music account with Echo speakers through the Alexa app and use Apple’s music streaming service with Alexa voice control.

Once you connect your Apple Music account to Alexa, you can set the music service as your default music library source and default music station source. This lets you request music from Apple Music without telling Alexa which service to use each time.

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yesterday by rufous
Algoriddim » Why We’re Moving to Subscriptions
Algoriddim:

After more than 8 years as a paid-for app, djay for iOS is changing. With the latest release, we are now offering a single universal app as a free download which offers everything you need to DJ, along with an affordable new monthly Pro subscription service with power user features, video mixing, music production tools, and most importantly, unlimited access to a large library of audio loops, samples, FX, and visuals.

It makes sense for Omni to add subscriptions as an option for OmniFocus, but it makes sense for Algoriddim to go all-in on subscriptions with this update to Djay. Until now they had like 6-7 SKUs for iOS, with different tiers and different apps for iPhone and iPad. Now they one universal app, with a free mode that is more functional than ever, and single paid subscription tier that unlocks everything. And they’re offering a substantial first-year discount to existing users of their paid apps. Simple, fair, and clear.

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4 days ago by rufous
Introducing Optional OmniFocus Subscriptions - The Omni Group
Ken Case, co-founder of The Omni Group:

We think our current licensing model meets a lot of needs, and we will continue to offer this model for licensing our apps: we prefer for customers to view our apps as an investment, not an expense.

But our current model doesn’t cover every situation. It’s designed for software that you run on your own devices, where you can buy something from us and run it for as long as you wish (so long as you keep a compatible system around to run it). With this model, we still have customers running software they purchased from us 20+ years ago. (That’s a good investment!)

But as I mentioned in January’s roadmap, OmniFocus for the Web is a different sort of product. It’s a version of OmniFocus that runs on our computers, not yours. Running it on our computers means we have to maintain those computers, their network connections, power, and so on, as a constantly available online service, for as long as customers use the product. Running that service costs us money every month, so if we want the service to be sustainable we need an income stream which brings in money every month to cover those costs. In other words, this service model requires subscriptions — an arrangement where customers pay us money each month to keep the service going. […]

The OmniFocus subscription will cost $9.99/month, giving you access to the web service as well as OmniFocus Pro on all your Mac and iOS devices. If you’ve already invested in OmniFocus 3 and just want to add the web service, the cost for that will be $4.99/month.

I think it makes complete sense (and the pricing is very fair) for Omni to add subscriptions as an option. I can imagine, a few years from now, an Omni suite subscription, similar to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, that covers all of their apps on all platforms. Subscriptions are the way of the future for commercial software.

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4 days ago by rufous
www.washingtonpost.com
Geoffrey Fowler and Andrew Van Dam, writing for The Washington Post:

Apple this year became a trillion-dollar company. But it also became the thousand-dollar company: Suddenly you need at least 10 Benjamins to get the best new iPhone or the big iPad Pro.

Apple has never made cheap stuff. But this fall many of its prices increased 20 percent or more. The MacBook Air went from $1,000 to $1,200. A Mac Mini leaped from $500 to $800. It felt as though the value proposition that has made Apple products no-brainers might unravel.

Here’s the nut:

Most technology products are commodities that go down in price over time. Apple has worked very hard not to become a commodity.

I don’t think most of the Post’s comparisons are fair. Apple’s prices are going up not because they’re raising prices for the sake of higher prices, but because they’re designing more expensive products. Stainless steel costs more than aluminum. OLED costs more than LCD. Two cameras are more expensive than one. The new Mac Mini is significantly more expensive than the old one, but it’s a very different product even though from the outside it looks very similar — the old Mac Minis were built using mobile components; the new ones are built with desktop ones. The Mac Mini has gone pro, and its prices reflect that.

Imagine if Apple Watch had started out with only the aluminum models, and the stainless steel versions hadn’t appeared until this year. Clearly that would be considered a new higher-priced product, not a higher price for the same product. Likewise, no one is arguing that Apple has significantly reduced Apple Watch prices because they’re no longer selling the Edition models.

You can certainly argue that Apple is making a strategic branding mistake by making more expensive products. But it simply wasn’t an option to sell the iPhone X/XS as it exists for iPhone 7 prices.

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4 days ago by rufous
Thoughts on (and pics of) the original Macintosh User Manual – peterme.com
An old link from 2007 I stumbled across this morning, while looking for a link to Steve Jobs’s open letter on the original iPhone price cut. Worth a re-link for sure.

Peter Merholz:

I recently purchased an original Macintosh User Manual (thanks eBay!). I had seen one at a garage sale, and was struck by how it had to explain a total paradigm shift in interacting with computers. I figured I could learn something about helping make innovation happen.

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5 days ago by rufous
Samsung angers hypebeasts by partnering with fake Supreme brand in China - The Verge
Stefan Etienne, writing for The Verge:

Samsung is getting criticized by hypebeasts everywhere after it claimed to be collaborating with Supreme; in reality, it partnered with a Supreme rip-off. Samsung is actually partnering with a fake legal brand, a rival company based in Barletta, Italy, that beat Supreme NYC in a court case this summer regarding who can use the brand name in Italy.

Partnering with a legal rip-off company is one of the Samsung-iest things Samsung has ever done.

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5 days ago by rufous
OUTLIER A Material Difference
My thanks to Outlier for sponsoring this week at DF. Outlier makes hardcore quality clothing, with obsessively sourced raw materials. Their clothes are designed for performance, durability, and movement. They are, simply, excellent.

Outlier has sponsored DF a few times before, and I have a few of their shirts, pants, shorts, and socks. Their quality is just amazingly good. And they’re built to last. I’m wearing their GD Cottonweight Merino Longsleeve as I type these words — looks great, feels great. Super simple but so nice.

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6 days ago by rufous
Why Apple's 40 Percent iPhone Price Cut Is a Terrible Strategy | Inc.com
Peter Cohan, founder of Peter S. Cohan and Associates, writing for Inc under the jacktastic headline “Apple Is Offering a 40 Percent Discount on iPhones. Here’s Why Steve Jobs Would Hate It”:

How so? On December 2, Apple added a new banner to the top of its website advertising the iPhone XR for $449, $300 less than its official sticker price. The deal, noted with an asterisk and described at the bottom of the page, requires customers to trade in an iPhone 7 Plus, a high-end handset from two years ago.

O how mighty Apple has fallen!

To put it in perspective, the plunge in the iPhone gross margin has been precipitous. As I mentioned, In 2012, the iPhone had a 71 percent gross margin. Before the 40 percent discount, the iPhone X had a much lower gross margin of 48 percent — its price was $749 and the cost of the parts was $390, according to IHS Markit.

By discounting the price to $449, the iPhone gross margin drops to 13 percent.

I’m not even sure where to start here. First, it is indeed interesting that Apple is promoting the iPhone XR based on the $450 price with a trade-in of an iPhone 7 Plus. Does this signal that XR sales are weak? Does it run counter to the iPhone’s premium brand? Reasonable questions.

But did the iPhone have 71 percent profit margins in 2012. No, it did not. That’s nonsense. But as I wrote about Cohan six years ago, when he was calling for Tim Cook to be fired, “He’s like a stage magician doing a card trick who asks the audience, ‘Hey, everyone close your eyes for a second.’”

If you’re trading in an iPhone 7 Plus to get an iPhone XR for $450, you’re not just giving Apple $450. You’re giving them $450 and an iPhone 7 Plus. Apple refurbishes and resells traded-in iPhones; they don’t just toss them in the trash. Refurbished iPhone 7 Plus models are not cheap, either: $480/$570/$650 for 32/128/256 GB.

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6 days ago by rufous
Microsoft Putting Edge on Chromium Will Fundamentally Change the Web - Motherboard
Owen Williams, writing for Motherboard:

One of the biggest problems today is that despite Chromium’s popularity, it’s really not very good on the resource front: it drains battery, hogs system resources and generally doesn’t play nice. This, largely, has been because Google and Chromium don’t own their own operating system (outside of ChromeOS), and don’t get exclusive access to low-level system APIs that Safari and Edge have enjoyed.

There’s a lot I disagree with in this piece, but this bit takes the cake. “Really not very good on the resource front” ought to be nominated for understatement of the year. Safari isn’t more efficient because it has “exclusive access” to system APIs. It’s more efficient because the WebKit/Safari team places a higher priority on efficiency than Chrome’s team does. It’s that simple.

This difference in priorities is why Google forked Chrome’s rendering engine from WebKit in 2013. Which, in turn, makes me wonder what the endgame will look like with Microsoft adopting Chrome. Is Microsoft really going to stick with Chrome, under Google’s ultimate control, or will they fork it, the way Google forked WebKit?

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6 days ago by rufous
Mueller Briefs: Bad News for Trump, Manafort, and Cohen - The Atlantic
Ken White, writing for The Atlantic:

Federal prosecutors filed three briefs late on Friday portending grave danger for three men: the former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, the former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, and President Donald Trump. In an age when Americans usually get mere squibs of breaking news from Twitter, Facebook, and red-faced cable shouters, many started their weekend poring over complex legal filings and peering suspiciously at blacked-out paragraphs. The documents were stunning, even for 2018.

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8 days ago by rufous
Facebook Well Aware That Tracking Contacts Is Creepy: Emails
Kashmir Hill, writing for Gizmodo:

Then a man named Yul Kwon came to the rescue saying that the growth team had come up with a solution! Thanks to poor Android permission design at the time, there was a way to update the Facebook app to get “Read Call Log” permission without actually asking for it. “Based on their initial testing, it seems that this would allow us to upgrade users without subjecting them to an Android permissions dialog at all,” Kwon is quoted. “It would still be a breaking change, so users would have to click to upgrade, but no permissions dialog screen. They’re trying to finish testing by tomorrow to see if the behavior holds true across different versions of Android.”

Oh yay! Facebook could suck more data from users without scaring them by telling them it was doing it! This is a little surprising coming from Yul Kwon because he is Facebook’s chief ‘privacy sherpa,’ who is supposed to make sure that new products coming out of Facebook are privacy-compliant. I know because I profiled him, in a piece that happened to come out the same day as this email was sent. A member of his team told me their job was to make sure that the things they’re working on “not show up on the front page of the New York Times” because of a privacy blow-up. And I guess that was technically true, though it would be more reassuring if they tried to make sure Facebook didn’t do the creepy things that led to privacy blow-ups rather than keeping users from knowing about the creepy things.

The Facebook executives who approved this ought to be going to jail. Facebook is to privacy what Enron was to accounting.

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9 days ago by rufous
Microsoft Edge: Making the web better through more open source collaboration - Windows Experience BlogWindows Experience Blog
Joe Belfiore, VP of Windows at Microsoft:

We will move to a Chromium-compatible web platform for Microsoft Edge on the desktop. Our intent is to align the Microsoft Edge web platform simultaneously (a) with web standards and (b) with other Chromium-based browsers. This will deliver improved compatibility for everyone and create a simpler test-matrix for web developers.

This is really rather stunning news, especially when you think back to the browser war in the 1990s. And I don’t think it’s a good thing for the web.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Sad to see Microsoft throw in the towel on their own browser rendering engine. The web doesn’t benefit when developers are encouraged to “just test in Chrome” through consolidation. We need a strong, diverse set of browsers. HANG IN THERE FIREFOX!

After Microsoft makes this switch, the only remaining major browser engines will be Chromium, Mozilla/Gecko, and Safari/WebKit.

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9 days ago by rufous
Daring Fireball: The World’s Shortest Review of Apple’s $40 iPhone XR Clear Case
So I got the Apple clear case for the iPhone XR this morning, and I still have my review unit, so I tried it out. In a nut: it’s great.

Feel-wise it’s sort of half plastic-y, half rubbery. Plastic-y enough that it doesn’t stretch from the edges of the phone. Rubbery enough that it feels nice and grippy without being too grippy — it slides in and out of a jeans pocket easier than an Apple silicone case. Unlike any of Apple’s other iPhone cases, there is a very slight lip around the camera cutout on this case. I don’t know why, but it means the phone doesn’t quite sit flush back-down on a flat surface. My best guess is that the case is so thin it needs the lip lest the camera bump jut out.

It is very clear. I’m not a case guy but everyone who is says clear cases yellow over time. I have no idea whether this case will yellow over time, because it just showed up this morning, but I will say it is perfectly clear right now.

I bought a $20 well-rated third-party clear case for the XR a few weeks ago, made by Totallee, and I’d say that case is OK. It’s way more rubbery, which means it has more (undesirable) give at the sides, and it isn’t quite as clear — even brand-new it’s already slightly more yellow-y.

Also, Apple’s clear case has no aroma. I’ve been trying a bunch of third-party iPhone cases recently and a lot of them literally stink.

As a point of reference, I use my iPhone without any case at least 95 percent of the time. So, maybe you should just ignore me. But when I do use a case, I want it for grippy-ness. My favorite cases are Apple’s leather ones — they’re an ideal mix of overall niceness, grippy-ness, protection, and button-feel. I think Apple’s silicone cases are too grippy — there’s too much friction going in and out of a jeans pocket. To me, this XR clear case is much closer in niceness to Apple’s leather cases than their silicone cases. Even the button feel is better than the silicone cases.

You can say $40 is too much for an iPhone case, but I’d say Apple’s $40 clear case is easily worth twice as much as the $20 clear cases I’ve tried. If I bought an XR and wanted to use a case, this is the case I would buy. It’s so good it makes me wonder why Apple doesn’t make clear cases like this one for the iPhone XS and XS Max.
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10 days ago by rufous
Google Allo to shut down in March, putting focus on Messages and Duo - CNET
Almost unbelievable that Google still can’t get a messaging platform off the ground.

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10 days ago by rufous
iPhone XR Case - Clear - Apple
Finally. I’ve got one coming — will report on it once I have it.

Also available today: Apple’s 18W USB-C charger that’s included with iPad Pro, for $29.

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11 days ago by rufous
React Native Accessibility Is Pretty Bad - Taking Notes
Doug Russell:

So I’ve been recently saddled with some React Native problems. […]

So I do what I always do, I fire up VoiceOver. I had read the docs for React Native when it was new. I knew they were aware of accessibility, so maybe it wouldn’t be too bad.

(You’ll be very surprised to learn it was quite a bit too bad.)

Some of the issues were specific to the project. They didn’t understand VoiceOver or how accessibility works in React, so I spent a bit of time fixing those problems before I got into the weeds.

Where I realized there were some tricky problems, and maybe some intractable problems, was when I dug into React Navigation. This is the library recommended (but not maintained) by Facebook for navigation in new projects.

Wrong-headed developers want to use cross-platform frameworks like React Native because they think it’ll save them time and resources, but if they want to do it right — and good accessibility support is most certainly part of doing it right — they’re making things harder on themselves. What they should admit openly is that they don’t care about doing it right, and in many cases are trying to cover up for the fact that they don’t know how to do it right.

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11 days ago by rufous
‎Donut County on the App Store
Slogan: “Be a hole”, which caused me to read it twice. (Via the App Store’s Game of the Year story, which, I shit you not, you can’t read on a Mac.)

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11 days ago by rufous
Zip Into Shape With Linea • The Breakroom
Clever new update to The Iconfactory’s iOS drawing app:

Simply draw a rough circle, square, rectangle, oval, or polygon and hold at the end. After a configurable delay, ZipShape will activate and transform your rough version into a clean, precise shape. It works with all of Linea’s drawing tools — including the new fill tool.

You don’t have to be perfect — after the shape is generated, there are transform handles you can use to tweak its final position and appearance. No rulers or stencils required!

Linea 2.5 adds a bunch of cool new features, but this ZipShape one is a real standout.

I’ve been impressed by Linea since it debuted, but I’m actually using it a lot more now with Apple Pencil 2. There’s a well-known photography adage that the best camera is the one you have with you. That’s why Apple Pencil 2 is so much better — it’s with me so much more often.

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12 days ago by rufous
Samsung used my DSLR photo to fake their phone’s “portrait mode” - DIY Photography
Dunja Djudjic, writing at DIY Photography:

Earlier this year, Samsung was busted for using stock photos to show off capabilities of Galaxy A8’s camera. And now they did it again – they used a stock image taken with a DSLR to fake the camera’s portrait mode. How do I know this, you may wonder? Well, it’s because Samsung used MY photo to do it.

Not only this is outright fraud, they did a terrible job in Photoshop doctoring the image.

Djudjic:

Sadly, it’s nothing new that smartphone companies use DSLR photos to fake phone camera’s capabilities. Samsung did it before, so did Huawei. And I believe many more brands do it, we just haven’t found out about it yet. I’m pretty sure that Samsung at least bought my photo legally, even though I haven’t received the confirmation of it. But regardless, this is false advertising.

It’s undeniable that smartphone cameras are getting better (and there are more and more lenses with every new phone). But, we definitely shouldn’t trust the ads showing off their capabilities, or at least take them with a grain of salt.

I know one brand that does not do this.

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12 days ago by rufous

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