DRM is the real difference between iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library →

July 01, 2015 |

Kirk McElhearn:

Both match your iTunes library and store your purchases. Both allow you to access these files, and listen to them, on multiple devices. But with iTunes Match, when you download a matched or uploaded file, you get either the iTunes Store matched copy, or the copy that iTunes uploaded of your original file.

When you match and download files from iCloud Music Library, however, you get files with DRM; the same kind of files you get when you download files from Apple Music for offline listening.

Via Dave Mark at The Loop, who adds:

The critical issue here is backing up your un-DRMed music files. Unlike iTunes Match, if you download matched un-DRMed files from iCloud Music Library, you’ll end up with a DRMed version of those files. To repeat this another way, if iCloud Music Library takes in a song file with no DRM and it has a DRM version of that same song, you’ll have no way to get back your original song file without DRM.

Being an iTunes Match subscriber myself, this seems absolutely unacceptable to me. The way I see it, for as long as I’m an iTunes Match subscriber, if the iTunes Store has a DRM-free version of my music, I should always get that version, regardless of whether I’m using Apple Music or not.

That’s not only what Apple promised with iTunes Match, it’s the whole point of the service to exist in the first place: you pay $25 a year and get access to your own music from any device. The DRM-protected files in Apple Music may sound like my songs but they are not, in fact, my songs. That’s an important distinction that Apple seems happy to just sweep under the rug.

Actually, it’s very surprising to me that Apple doesn’t even mention DRM anywhere in their entire Apple Music website. That’s a little rich coming from the company that made such a big deal out of removing it in the first place.

There aren’t many ways to fix this: either Apple refunds all iTunes Match subscribers for the time they have left in their subscriptions — a pretty poor solution as far as solutions go — or they honor their original commitment and start serving DRM-free files to those users.

So instead of juggling iTunes Match users vs Apple Music users and treating them differently, why not aim for something more Apple-like and eliminate DRM completely across the board? That’s the kind of thing I expect from Apple. They’re not a company that enters a new space only to maintain the previous status quo.

The reasons for DRM to exist today in Apple Music are no better than the reasons for it to exist in the iTunes Music Store back in 2006. In fact, they’re actually the exact same reasons. Sure, devices have changed and streaming services have their own particular usage patters, but the fact remains: whoever wants to pirate music will do it, DRM or not, and this stance only hurts Apple’s own paying customers. Because let’s not forget, neither Apple Music nor iTunes Match are free services.

Dear Apple: If music truly is in your DNA, act accordingly, and let your actions speak louder than your words.

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New official trailer released for Danny Boyle’s upcoming ‘Steve Jobs’ movie →

July 01, 2015 |

Now we’re talking:

At least this one looks like it’s got some meat in it, though admittedly it won’t take much to erase 2013’s terrible Jobs movie from our memories.

Physical similarity is an important factor when casting actors in biopics, but even though Ashton Kutcher looked a lot like a young Steve Jobs, I’ll take Fassbender over him any day of the week.

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Joseph Stiglitz: how I would vote in the Greek referendum →

June 30, 2015 |

Joseph Stiglitz, one of the 2001 Nobel prize winners in economics, writing for The Guardian:

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend.

He goes on to argue that a yes vote would probably result in many years — possibly even decades — of sustained economic depression and financial ruin for Greece. As for the possibility of a no vote:

By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.

I know how I would vote.

In any case, today Greece issued a last-minute proposal asking for a new 2-year bailout and some debt-relief. Should this proposal be accepted, Sunday’s referendum could potentially be rendered moot, possibly even canceled. The Eurogroup will hold an extraordinary session today at 19:00 Brussels time to discuss the offer. The deadline expires at midnight.

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Can the United States prevent a Grexit? →

June 30, 2015 |

The Greece situation is growing more dire by the minute. If Greece misses a loan payment of 1.6 billion euros to the I.M.F. that expires today — and it seems likely — the country will be in default and, slowly but surely, things will start spiraling out of control in the entire euro zone. The referendum Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced for Sunday may stem the tide if Greeks vote yes, but if it’s a no — as Tsipras himself has called for — Greece’s exit from the eurozone appears to be the only possible outcome.

John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker:

(…) If there is to be a last-minute compromise, the Europeans will have to offer Tsipras something that will justify a u-turn. One option, which the U.S. government appears to be pursuing, is a promise of at least some debt relief. But that seems to be a distant possibility. At a press conference in Berlin on Monday, Merkel appeared alongside her Vice-Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, who reiterated that Greece had to follow the same rules as everyone else in the euro zone. Debt relief would be considered only in a follow-up agreement, he indicated, and even then it would be limited to extending maturities and lowering interest rates—it would not entail outright cancellation. The Greek Prime Minister wanted a very different euro zone, which was a dangerous idea, Gabriel added.

Greece wants to pay, but not at any cost to its citizens. I’m well aware that in order for the financial system to function every country needs to meet its obligations, but I don’t accept as fact that creditors can never lose. Purchasing debt is an investment and as such, implies certain risks. The fact that Greece’s creditors are unwilling to assume their fair share of the burden seems profoundly unjust to me — even if, like I said, Greece should do everything in its power to uphold its own end of the bargain.

Ironically enough, back in 1953, when it was the Germans who were up to their neck in mud, Europe granted them a generous debt relief treaty. Now they’re the ones claiming Greece doesn’t deserve the same treatment. I understand the specifics of each country’s predicaments are vastly different, but come on.

I guess that’s just another reason why I’m not cut out to be a politician.

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The Phoblographer updates Fuji X-T1 review for firmware 4.0 →

June 30, 2015 |

Chris Gampat:

The new firmware brings with it a large number of autofocus upgrades like new tracking, zone focus, and improved speed to single AF focusing.

Indeed, the camera is significantly faster to focus, and we almost want to say that it’s about on par with the fastest of Sony’s APS-C mirrorless cameras and Samsung’s NX series. However, it still isn’t at Micro Four Thirds speed.

One of the best things about Fuji cameras is the continued support they get for years after their initial release. Fuji’s firmware updates are usually excellent not only in terms of bug-fixing, but also in terms of improving performance and adding actual new features that improve usability and keep their cameras competitive and relevant for longer. They actually remind me a lot of Apple and iOS in that regard.

Clearly, other manufacturers could learn a thing or two from Fuji here.

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The Sun never sets on Roger Federer →

June 29, 2015 |

Fantastic piece by Brian Phillips for Grantland:

Four years ago, I wrote that there was “an aura of weird sadness” around Federer’s arrested decline. Federer seemed invincible for so long — not just better than everyone else, invincible — that it was unnerving at first when he didn’t. He’d do all the same Federer things — blast that big, courtly cannon of a serve, skip-float to the net, catch the ball short with an acute one-handed backhand, wheel back to the center of the court for a blistering forehand putaway — the same things he’d always done, only now they didn’t always work. Now, against Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic or whomever, they would sometimes fail. Four or five years ago, this could put you in a strange place. He’d been so effortless once that then, when the ball missed by three inches, it felt like watching beauty succumb to death.

There’s a strong case to be made that Roger Federer’s dominance in his prime set a new benchmark for greatness not only in tennis, but across all sports. I really enjoyed Phillips’s take on Federer’s twilight years — which, as he points out, have already lasted longer than his prime.

Normally I would’ve saved this piece for the next issue of Morning Coffee, but I liked it so much I’m sharing it right now. Enjoy.1

  1. It would be a shame if Federer lost in the first week of Wimbledon and was already out of the tournament by the time you read this.

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June 27, 2015

Another week went by, and it was a big one. Millions of people all over the US are celebrating not one, but two major rulings by the Supreme Court, which upheld the rights to affordable healthcare and equality in marriage for everyone. These were two historic events with the potential to transform the entire nation, and the fact that they both occurred within mere days of each other is remarkable. Just after being hit by tragedy, the American people once again have reasons to dream of a better future.

It’s still early to fully appreciate the repercussions of these rulings, but the effect is already being felt with force all over the Internet, and it’s been fascinating to watch.

Unfortunately the rest of the world wasn’t so lucky during the week, as tragedy has once again struck in the form of terrorist attacks. This time the attacks were carried out in three different continents simultaneously and left behind over 60 dead. I keep trying to express my disgust at this nonsensical horror, but words fail me.

Now let’s turn to brighter topics. The good news is, there were plenty of interesting things going on throughout the week to keep us busy.

One such thing happening in the creative sphere was Shawn Blanc officially launching The Focus Course. This project has been over a year in the making, and Shawn has poured everything he has into it. The Focus Course is clearly his most ambitious project yet, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Of course, the week in Apple was marked by the controversy raised by Taylor Swift on account of Apple Music’s payouts — or lack thereof — to artists during the free 3-month trial every customer gets upon signing up for the service. Apple quickly ceded and said they would pay labels and artists during the free trial, which was enough to convince Swift to change her mind about releasing her latest album, 1989, on the service. Still, this whole affair has prompted many people to discuss the balance of power in today’s music industry, and whether the current situation is healthy. Those are very legitimate concerns, and I look forward to seeing how the industry evolves now that the switch to streaming-first services is all but complete.

Besides the Apple Music controversy, we also got some great reviews of the new MacBook. I had been looking forward to two of them in particular, and they didn’t disappoint. Both Matt Gemmell and Ben Brooks shared their thoughts on the latest Apple computer and, though they have markedly different approaches, both made some excellent points about the device and its intended audience.

Now, as usual, let’s dive into some of this week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Issue #4: On climbing El Capitan, setting expectations, the lead up to Wimbledon, fighting Uber, and comparing portrait lenses

This week I stray a bit from the usual topics on Analog Senses, but hopefully the content will remain just as compelling. Enjoy.

Climbing El Capitan’s Nose | Matt and Joanne Stamplis →

The Nose is perhaps the most iconic rock climbing route in the entire world. It’s 1,000 feet high and usually takes multiple days to ascend. Matt and Joanne Stamplis attempted the climb back in 2009, and they took some pretty incredible pictures along the way. I was getting goosebumps just by looking at the images, but the actual narration is just as great. It took them four days and seven gallons of water to climb The Nose, but climb it they did. What an awesome story.

Climb Yosemite’s El Capitan Like a Rock Star—From Your Computer | Andrew Bisharat →

Speaking of El Capitan, it is now possible to experience the adventure from the comfort and safety of your home. Google has digitally mapped the entire route using the same technology they use in Street View, and the result is incredibly cool. This is a great way to complement Matt and Joanne’s story.

The tragedy of small expectations (and the trap of false dreams) | Seth Godin →

Seth Godin makes an astute point, as usual:

Expectations that don’t match what’s possible are merely false dreams. And expectations that are too small are a waste. We need teachers and leaders and peers who will help us dig in deeper and discover what’s possible, so we can push to make it likely.

Transforming the possible into the likely is a pretty substantial leap. Successfully making that leap depends on the culture around us, which is why doing everything we can to dispel myths about what can’t be done is so important.

How Math’s most famous proof nearly broke | Peter Brown →

I love tales of scientific discovery, and this one’s as good as it gets. Via Tools & Toys.

Essentials | Matt Gemmell →

I really enjoyed Matt’s answer to the old question: “What would you take with you to a desert island?”. Or, to put it another way, what is really essential to you? There’s nothing like packing for an upcoming trip to ponder these questions. I have my list, and no doubt you have yours. In my own case, much like in Matt’s, I’ve found that as I go through life, the list not only keeps changing, it also keeps getting shorter.

How Arthur Ashe became the only black man to win the Wimbledon title | Aimee Lewis →

Wimbledon, the most prestigious tournament in the tennis world, in finally upon us and as usual, the BBC will be providing extensive coverage of the event. This piece is one in a series of in-depth looks at the history of the tournament that the BBC is publishing in the lead up to the tournament, which is due to begin on Monday.

The 1975 Wimbledon men’s final pitted two American players against each other: Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe. Ostensibly, these two characters didn’t get along at all, which is why on the day of the match, tension was running high. In the end, the match not only lived up to the expectations, but instantly became one of the all-time classics on the green lawns of the All England Club.

35 facts that prove Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player ever | Chris Chase →

Continuing with the Wimbledon theme, there’s no other player whose game is better attuned to the grass than Roger Federer. In fact, 7 of his record 17 Grand Slam titles came at Wimbledon, and 12 years after lifting his first Wimbledon trophy, he’s still trying to add to the list. Federer may well be the greatest male player of all time, although that question is likely to forever remain unanswered. After all, it’s very difficult to compare players across different eras, because the sport has changed so much since then.

Still, Federer has made a hell of a case for himself, and this piece by Chris Chase shows you why. Some of the numbers in Federer’s career are absolutely staggering, like the fact that he contested 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals, or 18 out 19 straight finals. These numbers are unreal, but perhaps the greatest thing about him is the fact that he’s not done yet.

The original hope | A Demon’s Voice →

My favorite Internet demon reviews one of the greatest films of all time, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. Warning: strong language is frequently used throughout this review.

The long history of the fight against Uber | Om Malik →

Fantastic piece by Om Malik for The New Yorker. Technology enables change to occur swiftly, and sometimes people and entire industries are left behind in the process. Such is the relentless wheel of progress. In a world where instant gratification reigns supreme, traditional businesses are left unable to compete.

Being a conscious consumer goes a long way towards finding a balance, because the truth is, protecting and supporting our local businesses is incredibly important, perhaps now more than ever. I may have a bit of a Luddite in me, but I can’t help but prefer buying my meat in the small shop around the corner, where Luis the butcher greets me by my first name every day. He also keeps a watchful eye on my bike, which is parked right by his shop’s door. Those little things are important to me, even if buying my meat at a supermarket would probably be a bit cheaper.

iOS 9 and Safari View Controller: The future of Web views | Federico Viticci →

Another great in-depth look at a new technology in iOS 9 by Federico Viticci. The new Safari View Controller technology has the potential to vastly improve the experience of using in-app browsers, which are some of the most annoying things left in iOS.

Panasonic Lumix 42.5mm f/1.7 review and comparison with Olympus 45mm f/1.8 vs Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 | Mathieu Gasquet →

Just two days after my review of the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens for Tools & Toys, Mathieu from MirrorLessons put its main competitor to the test. His results all but confirmed my initial impressions: that despite being four years newer, the Panasonic lens doesn’t provide any meaningful optical improvements over the Olympus. Still, it’s an excellent lens in its own right, and perhaps the better choice for owners of Panasonic bodies due to the built-in optical image stabilization, so go check it out.


This week has been pretty interesting to me, personally. Early in the week Tools & Toys published my review of the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens, which I believe is some of my best work yet. This one took quite a bit of effort to put together because I’d never done a lens review before, and there were lots of small details to get right. It was also incredibly fun to do, and I hope you find it interesting.

I also dedicated quite a bit of time to explore some of the incredible photography exhibits that are being shown in many galleries across Madrid this month. It’s the 2015 edition of the PHotoEspaña International Festival of photography and visual arts, and there are some really incredible galleries to visit. I’ve barely even scratched the surface of the festival and I’ve already discovered a few artists whose work I wasn’t familiar with, but who have blown my mind.

Take Martín Chambi, for example. This Peruvian photographer documented Peru and its society during the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, and his pictures are breathtaking. The gallery I visited held a few of his most famous images, but the best of all was that these were not scanned and then digitally printed copies, but actual optical prints made from the original glass plate negatives by none other than Juan Manuel Castro Prieto, one of the most renowned darkroom artists in Spain. The results are positively mesmerizing.

Or take the amazing exhibit “Las Reglas del Juego” (the rules of the game) by Chema Madoz, whose surreal images have a unique way of teasing viewers and forcing them to fill in the gaps by themselves. The following video is in Spanish, but provides a great look at some of Madoz’s iconic images:

These are just two examples, but there are many others all across town, and I can’t wait to check out as many of them as possible.

Other than that, yesterday was Apple Watch launch day in Spain. I’m not sure this deserves a finally, but it sure as hell feels like it. This was probably the most delayed Apple product to arrive to Spain since the original iPhone — which never actually arrived to Spain, by the way. I’ll be going to my local Apple Store in a couple days to check it out and try on a few different models, and then I’ll decide whether or not to buy one. Right now I’m definitely leaning towards yes, but I don’t want to make a final decision until I see it in person. I’ll keep you posted.

I believe that about does it for the week. It’s exactly 14:30 in the afternoon and I’m yet to have lunch, so my stomach is getting impatient. Writing these issues keeps taking longer than I initially anticipated, so perhaps I should try and change the name to something more appropriate, like “Mid-day Appetizer”. Or perhaps I should just have coffee for lunch.

As always, thanks very much for reading, and have a great weekend.

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Ben Brooks on technology and art →

June 26, 2015 |

Ben Brooks makes an interesting counterpoint to my piece on technology as a substitute for discipline:

(…) Knowledge of the tools is not, in any way, a prerequisite for art. Art, photography, or any other creative pursuit is in no way lessened or enhanced because of the tools used to make it.

If someone takes a gorgeous photo, it remains gorgeous no matter if the camera was set to manual or set on auto. Art is art. It’s the vision to create the art that matters, not the knowledge of it.

He makes a perfectly valid case, and though I was initially inclined to concede the point, ultimately I disagree. To me, the vision is a direct consequence of the knowledge. Perhaps art should be self-sufficient, it should stand on its own merit, but that is hardly ever the case.

I just want to clarify something, because I do feel it was poorly expressed in my original piece: I didn’t mean to refer to knowledge of the tools, but the discipline. You can absolutely create a work of art with a point-and-shoot camera, or with an iPhone, for that matter. It’s not about knowing how to operate a particular camera, but about knowing what makes for a great photograph, which is something entirely different.

The photographic discipline tells us how bodies should relate to each other in a scene, or what makes for a powerful composition. It tells us what to look for in an image, and what to avoid. These rules — this knowledge — are what artists leverage to form their vision. They’re not strict by any means, but they do offer guidance. Some people just intuitively get them — art can be incredibly visceral — which is why they can create amazing photos without being fully aware of how they’re doing it. But they’re doing it just the same.

My point on the long exposures was that they’re often considered special mostly because they’re difficult images to create, which makes them unusual and rare. If technology ends up making them as commonplace as selfies are today, will we still consider them special in the future? I may well be wrong about that, but I think it’s worth considering.

In any case, photography is a difficult medium to use as an example, because it’s fundamentally literal. It’s an objective medium that’s used as a form of visual storytelling. When we say a photo is great, we’re often referring to the scene that’s being captured rather than the photo itself. And in order to create a compelling scene, most of the work usually happens before the artist even touches the camera.

If we look at a more figurative form of art, it’s perhaps easier to see that knowledge and discipline do matter. Discipline is why the Blue Nudes cut-outs by Henri Matisse have been shown at the MoMa, whereas if I were to glue a few blue pieces of paper on a white canvas nobody in their right mind would give me a penny for it. Not all works are created equal. The tools don’t matter, but the knowledge does.

When we say those works have incredible artistic value, we’re mostly saying so because we know it was Matisse who created them. We say so because through his entire body of work, Matisse has proven his skill. We’re implicitly trusting his judgement and recognizing greatness in his work because we already know him to be great. His vision is a direct consequence of his knowledge and experience, as is the case for every artist.

In any case, this is only my opinion, and I’m no more right than Ben is. Perhaps what makes art so unique, and so great, is precisely the fact that there’s no formal definition of what it is, or should be. We all find value and greatness in different places, and that’s fine. To me, art is in the choices an artist makes, it is something deliberate. An accidentally great photo may be art — I suppose a product of chance can have artistic value in its own right — but in my opinion that doesn’t necessarily make its author an artist, if that makes sense. To me, art is all about the conscious and deliberate act of creating something that is uniquely yours and in that regard, discipline is essential.

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