AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

Marco Arment's Thoughts on Music Formats →

September 19, 2014 |

Marco Arment, on the recent reports that Apple is collaborating with Bono to launch a new anti-piracy music format:

There’s nothing Apple or Bono can do to make people care enough about glorified liner notes. People care about music and convenience, period.

As for “music that can’t be pirated”, I ask again, what decade is this? That ship has not only sailed long ago, but has circled the world hundreds of times, sunk, been dragged up, turned into a tourist attraction, went out of business, and been gutted and retrofitted as a more profitable oil tanker. Piracy is not the music industry’s real problem and never has been, and we have yet to come up with any audio or video medium that truly can’t be pirated.

Excellent piece. I don’t know if the reports are reliable, though. The idea seems too misguided and out of touch with reality for Apple to actually be considering it.

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Amazon launches the new Kindle Voyage →

September 18, 2014 |

Amazon has launched the Kindle Voyage, the new flagship Kindle e-reader that replaces the Kindle Paperwhite. It sports a 300 ppi display that promises to be sharper, and it also has an ambient-light sensor that automatically adjusts brightness to match the environment.

It looks like battery life is slightly inferior, though, down to 6 weeks as opposed to 8 weeks for the previous generation. However, at those numbers it doesn’t really matter, both have battery life to spare.

Prices start at $199 for the WiFi-only model, and $269 for the WiFi + 3G model with Special Offers (which is Amazon speak for ads). Each model is also available without Special Offers for $20 more.

Also available are the previous generation Kindle Paperwhite ($119 WiFi-only, or $189 WiFi + 3G), and the regular Kindle (with no backlight) at $79.

All in all, The Kindle Voyage looks like a very interesting upgrade, and it will probably be an extremely popular gift this holiday season. If you make your purchase through one of these links, you will also be supporting my work and contributing to keeping this site running. Thanks!

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iOS 8: Tips, Tricks, and Details | MacStories →

September 18, 2014 |

Apart from the excellent, full review of iOS 8 by Federico Viticci, the team at MacStories have put together an awesome guide to help people out with the transition:

iOS 8 is, by any measure, a big update. A lot of it is refinement to last year’s drastic design overhaul, but there are also a lot of notable new features. Sitting amongst those refinements and big new features are little nuggets of delight in which Apple has designed or implemented something (whether it be a feature, design flourish or a shortcut) that you might not notice until one day you stumble upon it accidentally.

Great, great work, as usual.

Also, don’t miss the extended coverage they’re doing of some of the most interesting iOS 8-optimized apps we’re seeing so far. Some of them include:

And there’s more. You could easily spend your whole day at MacStories today, and it would be worth it.

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Panic launches Transmit for iOS 8 →

September 18, 2014 |

iOS 8 is here, and with it the first wave of iOS 8-optimized apps. In the case of Panic, it’s a brand-new app: Transmit iOS.

This iOS version of their popular file-transfer manager for OS X comes packed with features, such as easy and secure access to FTP, SFTP, Amazon S3 services and more. At only $10, it’s an instant buy.

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Sultans | Matt Gemmell →

September 18, 2014 |

Matt Gemmell, on Sultans of Swing:

Every so often, I hear it as if it’s new again. Maybe I’ll have gone a rare day or two without listening to it, or perhaps my attention will drift from whatever I’m doing just as the distinctive single- or triple-hit of percussion begins.

In those moments, I’m a boy again, and the music swallows me up.

So good. I dare you to read this piece and then not listen to the song the second you’re done.

I was lucky to go to a Mark Knopfler concert a few years back, on the night of my birthday. It was a present from my best friend, and it was amazing. I distinctly remember that our seats were pretty much in the back row, and obviously —there was never any doubt— we had to cheat our way to the lower levels so that we’d be closer to the stage. It took some charm and no small amount of courage to persuade the security guards —and by persuade I mean entirely avoid, of course—, but eventually we made it, just in time for Sultans of Swing. It was one of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve ever experienced.

Some songs have the potential to truly change us forever, and Sultans of Swing is one of those songs.

Now, go play it.

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John Gruber's thoughts on the Apple Watch →

September 17, 2014 |

John has taken a few days to think about the Apple Watch, and these are his conclusions. I like how he looks at the entry-model, the $349 Sport edition, as the modern incarnation of an iPod. That actually makes a lot of sense, and contrary to what I thought, it looks like the watch will support it:

It has internal storage and Bluetooth, so you’ll be able to use it for music playback without taking your iPhone with you. With just your Apple Watch and Bluetooth earbuds you’ll be able to listen to music (and make Apple Pay purchases). I’d probably pay $349 just for that, using the Sport edition as a modern day iPod. Even better, though, I strongly suspect that WatchKit will allow for something like a native version of Overcast — syncing while within Bluetooth range of your iPhone, but working entirely independently as a podcast player, using the watch’s internal storage, when you’re out of range. A version of Vesper where you can dictate new notes on the fly? Now you’ve got something I’d pay at least $349 for in a heartbeat.

If that usage pattern is possible, I could easily see myself buying one. The Overcast example is genius, I think. I just hope Marco is listening.

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The reviews of the iPhones 6 are out

September 17, 2014

With less than 48 hours to go until the new iPhones go on sale (in a few countries, at least), the first reviews are coming out. Here’s a roundup of the most interesting ones:

  • John Gruber has some nice things to say about both iPhones. Highlights include: the differences in size, the display on the iPhone 6 Plus, and the special operation mode for one-handed use. Good stuff, as ever. I particularly agree with John on the user profile each iPhone is optimized for. It just sucks that, like John, I fit right in the middle of both camps.

  • Jim Dalrymple thinks the iPhone 6 is a tremendous upgrade that is sure to satisfy everyone. And the iPhone 6 Plus is BIG. Other than that, no significant differences between both models in day-to-day use.

  • Jason Snell, in what is probably his last product review for Macworld, says that the iPhone 6 Plus could work well for people who don’t plan to buy an iPad and would use the iPhone as their only computing device. Be sure to also check his new blog for additional commentary.

  • The Verge has split the review in two articles: one for the iPhone 6 and another for the iPhone 6 Plus. Great photography in both articles, and they praise the iPhone 6 Plus’s camera as “the best smartphone camera I’ve ever used”. It is the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, though, that gets the better overall score in their points-based test.

  • Re/code has also split the review in two parts. Walt Mossberg reviews the 4.7-inch model, which he considers to be the natural successor to the iPhone 5S, and Lauren Goode reviews the iPhone 6 Plus.

Those are the usual suspects. This year is arguably harder than ever to choose between the new models, so if you’re still undecided about which one to get, be sure to read through, there’s good stuff in there.

For what it’s worth, though, the general consensus seems to be: when in doubt, go with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 Plus is apparently best suited for those people who already know they want it.

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Catharsis

September 15, 2014

It’s a word that gets thrown out there a lot, but what does it mean? From the New Oxford American Dictionary:

Catharsis

The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

In other words, healing. Moving on.

It sounds simple, but it’s probably the hardest thing a human being can ever experience. No one can teach you how to do it, and no one except yourself can convince you that it’s even possible.

If you’re at all like me, you’re used to having a say in the outcome of things. In your arrogance, you’ve spent your entire life teaching yourself that there’s no unsolvable problem. That it all comes down to finding the right way out.

Except sometimes, there’s no way out. Sometimes, things really are out of your control, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Sometimes, shit does indeed happen.

There may come a day, and I hope it doesn’t, but there may come a day when life smacks you in the head with absolute impunity, making you feel helpless, laughably small. Pitted against the universe with only your fragile ego to defend you. And in that moment a sudden realization will strike: deep down you’ll know —you’ll know— that you can try your best, you can give it all you’ve got, and you’ll still fail.

For the first time in your life, you’ll get to experience the absolute fear of knowing that your best shot will not be enough. And then nothing will ever be the same.

Today I listened to episode 5 of Analog(ue), the excellent podcast hosted by Casey Liss and Myke Hurley. In it they were joined by Stephen Hackett, co-founder of Relay FM and author of 512 Pixels. In this very special episode they talked about what it feels like to go through some extremely difficult, life-altering moments, and how choosing to share their story (or not) helped them find some much-needed catharsis.

Stephen talked about how soul-crushing it was for him to face the fact that his 6-month-old baby had brain cancer. Casey talked about how difficult it was for him and his wife Erin to get pregnant, and how painful it was to keep trying for years with no success and not even a guarantee that it would one day happen. Both Casey and Stephen had written about it on their sites before, and they explained how the act of putting it out there helped them deal with their overwhelming emotions. Myke talked about his reluctancy to share his intimate feelings with the outside world, and how he usually doesn’t find comfort in the act of sharing. And yet, he found the courage to talk about his grandfather passing away not two weeks ago, and having to attend his funeral.

It was a genuine, honest show full of powerful moments, and you should definitely listen to it. Analog(ue) is quickly becoming one of my favorite podcasts, and it’s in no small part for the authenticity that Casey and Myke bring to the table every single week.

It’s also helping me a great deal in overcoming my own personal struggles. Like Myke, I’m a fairly private person and I don’t usually share my feelings, except with but a handful of my closest friends and family members. The version of myself that’s talking to you now, through these written words, is more open and straightforward than I will ever be. In a way, you could get to know me better by reading this site than you would by being a real-world friend or acquaintance of mine.

I realize there’s something odd about that. I don’t want to say it’s wrong, but that’s exactly what part of me feels like when talking about this stuff. I don’t know why I’m like that. It’s certainly not on purpose, but there’s something inherently cathartic about writing, something that’s much harder for me to achieve by talking. I don’t feel comfortable at all sharing my inner thoughts with those around me, except under very controlled circumstances, and this is one of them.

I like to think I know myself better than most people do. I’m intimately aware of my own emotions, and I don’t hide from them. I usually have a clarity of thinking that helps me navigate my own life without doubt, or regret. I’m not one to dwell on the past, either.

It is in part because I’m convinced I already know the answers that I’m reluctant to ask the questions. I’m wrong, of course. Terribly wrong, I know that —see? I did it again—. However, I can’t help it. It’s just how my mind works.

Until it doesn’t.

Until I, too, find out that there are some things out there I can’t control, and some questions I don’t know the answers to.

Six months ago my life was a lot simpler than it is today. Back then I used to work as a researcher and software developer at the bioengineering and telemedicine research group in Technical University of Madrid. I was 30 years old, healthy, good at my job and everything seemed fine. It was in April, when the results of some routine blood tests came back, that I found out I have type-1 diabetes. That means my body can’t regulate my blood sugar levels on its own, and I’ll need to inject myself with insulin 4 times a day for the rest of my life to survive.

It could have been a devastating discovery —and it certainly wasn’t easy—, but luckily it didn’t come as a total surprise. It hardly could, considering that both my father and my older brother have been living with the same condition for years. There was always a chance that it could one day happen to me too, and I’ve been preparing for it for years.

The fact that I have diabetes is not a secret. I’ve never tried to hide it, and I’ve even mentioned it here before, albeit only in passing. But the truth is, I’ve never really talked about it with anyone. Today I’ve already shared more than ever before and like Myke, I’m not having a particularly fun time writing about it. I only do it because I know there are many people like me out there, and perhaps reading about my experience can help alleviate some of their own frustration.

To me, finding out I had diabetes was a particularly ironic thing to discover, because the majority of the work I had done at the time was related to the use of technology for the prevention and management of, you guessed it, diabetes. The universe does have a sense of humor sometimes.

At least I already knew most of what I needed to do, and I could look at my situation with some small measure of objectivity. There are far worse things to have, as far as chronic autoimmune diseases go. Diabetes is quite manageable, and with proper care and a healthy lifestyle I can expect to live a long, normal life without many issues.

But boy, does it suck.

It sucks because suddenly, at 31, I’m no longer healthy and I will never be healthy again. No more crazy trips with friends, no more being able to do whatever I want without planning ahead. No more freedom. This is the kind of realization I was talking about earlier, the kind that knocks you out when you least expect it.1

Strangely, it’s also been kind of a relief. After years of worrying about it, it finally happened. I could finally focus on putting it behind me, and try to move on. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but what choice did I really have?

As it turned out, not much of a choice at all, so I did the only thing that I could: I slowly learned to control my diet, regularly check my blood sugar levels, count carbs and adapt my exercise regime to make it compatible with my condition. It was mostly a trial-and-error procedure, but thankfully I didn’t have any major scares, and it took me very little time to get the hang of it. Pretty soon things were back to normal, or at least as normal as they could get. Very quickly, I started feeling much better, too. I was stronger, had more energy throughout the day and slept much better at night. It seems crazy now, but after months of progressive degeneration, my body had actually forgotten what being healthy feels like.

All of this happened between April and May, but this is only one half of the story. The other half began at the end of July when, in what I can only describe as impeccable timing, I was laid off.2 Yet another major area of my life was spiraling out of control.

That could have been a serious setback but, for some reason, it wasn’t. Not really. If there’s one good thing about being diagnosed with a chronic disease it’s that it puts everything else in perspective. Still, it was time to make some hard decisions.

I’ve never been interested in doing corporate work (which is the main reason I was working for a public university in the first place), and I always pictured myself in the future as a self-employed creative professional. And so, after some serious thinking and soul-searching, I’ve decided to invest in myself. I’d been considering it for quite some time, toying with the idea, but I never had the courage to actually go for it. Abandoning the security of a monthly paycheck is a pretty hard thing to do, and I always found an acceptable excuse to put it off until the time was right.

That time is now.

As of a couple of months ago, I’m no longer employed in the traditional sense of the term. I’m working harder than I ever have, only this time I’m doing it for me first. It’s an incredible feeling, and I’m loving every minute of it.

You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m not quite ready to share much more about my plans, at least for now. Suffice it to say that Analog Senses is an essential piece of the puzzle, and that a sizable chunk of my efforts will be geared towards growing it and building it into a profitable business. If you’ve been a reader of this site for some time, you may have noticed that the frequency —and hopefully, the quality— of my writing has increased in the past couple of months. It is my hope that things will continue to get better around here in the upcoming weeks and months. These are really exciting times in my life, and I’d love to have you along for the ride.

I’m aware that there are a million things out there I can’t control, and I’ve made my peace with that. These days I often remember this great quote by Stanley Kubrick:

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

I am deeply, absolutely terrified, but I’m also determined, and I know what I have to do. However long the odds, there’s still a chance it just may work. And that’s a chance worth fighting for.

As ever, thank you for reading.


  1. I’m exaggerating, of course. People with diabetes have climbed Mount Everest and gone to space, but that’s not the first thing that comes to mind when they tell you you have it.

  2. Along with many others, due to massive cuts in the university’s funding.

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Why travel makes you grow | Raptitude →

September 15, 2014 |

David Cain:

When you wake up staring at an unfamiliar ceiling, with unfamiliar sounds in the background, and no routines to lean on, the day has a lot more question marks, and they demand conscious thinking and decisionmaking.

(…)

Most of all, you become more conscious of who you are and how you live, because both are reflected back to you constantly when you’re temporarily unable to be who you’re used to being, and to do what you’re used to doing.

There is much truth in this essay. Traveling on your own to a foreign country is a fantastic way to get to know yourself better than you ever thought was possible. I’ve done it twice: back in 2005 when I moved to Finland for a year as an Erasmus exchange student, and then again in 2011, when I took a 3-week trip across Brazil. These were two of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I believe that the fact that I was on my own was an key part of it all: it forced me to figure things out by myself, be more open and put myself out there in a way that I normally don’t, and it was fantastic.

These experiences can provide clarity and perspective at a time when we need them the most, and that’s something we ought to always keep in mind.

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