AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

Thoughts on Apple’s WWDC announcements

June 09, 2015

Every year, when June rolls around, the same story repeats itself. The geek community reaches peak enthusiasm in the days prior to Apple’s WWDC, in anticipation of the keynote address that kickstarts the conference. Apple has traditionally used the WWDC keynote to unveil new versions of their operating systems, along with a few surprises every now and then.

This year the story was no different, and the keynote went exactly as expected. We got new versions of OS X, iOS and for the first time ever, watchOS. On the surprises front, we got a new app and publishing service called News, and a new music streaming, radio and social service called, well, Music.1 And on the not-really-surprises area, we got the promised WatchKit for watchOS, which will allow 3rd-party developers to write native apps for the Apple Watch.

Of course, not every announcement was equally important, nor received with the same enthusiasm by the developer crowd that filled Moscone West, but that is how these things usually work. Let’s take a closer look at each of the main announcements and see what they promise to bring to the table.

OS X El Capitan

Let’s just say it upfront: El Capitan is a terrible name for an operating system. I’m sorry, but it just is. Alright, moving on.

At first glance, it looks like there aren’t any revolutionary features in this new version of OS X. Instead, El Capitan looks a lot more like an evolutionary update, much like Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion were evolutionary updates of Leopard and Lion, respectively. As such, most of the changes in El Capitan occur under the hood and focus on performance improvements and the like. But that’s not to say there aren’t any significant changes here.

In fact, one of these new features has the potential to substantially improve graphics performance across the board, and even extend the life of older, ailing Macs. El Capitan now has full native support for Metal, Apple’s graphics framework that debuted last year in iOS 8 and that provides improved graphics performance and efficiency over OpenGL. If some of the numbers Federighi bragged about during the keynote are reflected in real world usage — like the much-touted 10x improvement in draw call performance — there should be a noticeable improvement over Yosemite for practically every user.

The UX improvements were admittedly less impressive, but they also include some nice additions, like a special full-screen mode called Split View that allows you to have two apps side by side in a full screen space, for example. Or the now considerably smarter and more context-aware Search. Or Notes, which can now handle images with hand-drawn annotations alongside your text.2 And finally Maps, which now includes transit information for several large cities around the world.

These are all nice features that will make using a Mac every day easier and more pleasant but the truth is, other than Metal, none of them really strike me as life-changing, to be honest. The good news is, system requirements for El Capitan haven’t changed, so if your Mac supports Yosemite, you should be able to upgrade when the public version is released in the fall. And since it’s a free upgrade that actually helps older Macs run better, there’s literally no good reason not to upgrade this time around.

iOS 9

After nine major versions, iOS still feels remarkably new, but there’s no denying it has reached maturity. As such, the new features announced yesterday are not only focused on improving iOS itself. Instead, they were all part of a bigger vision, one that tries to tie iOS in with OS X, watchOS and, of course, iCloud.

This is also understandable. There’s really not much low-hanging fruit left in iOS, and focusing too much on fixing it would probably yield diminishing returns at this point. By focusing instead on leveraging iOS’s relationship with the rest of the Apple ecosystem, Apple can make substantial improvements to iOS that also result in a better experience when using OS X or the Apple Watch.

Besides some performance and security enhancements, iOS 9 also includes some new UX features and even new apps. But the real stars here were the new multitasking features for the iPad. These features include three new modes: Split View, Slide Over and Picture in Picture.

Split View is exactly what it sounds like: it is now possible to have two apps side by side and use them simultaneously, much like the new fullscreen mode in El Capitan. Alas, this feature is only available on the iPad Air 2, which is currently the only iPad with 2GB of RAM.

Slide Over is subtly different, in that it still shows two apps on screen at the same time, but instead of being side by side, one slides over the other. This means that only one of the apps — the one in the foreground — is active at any point. This mode was designed for quick interactions like replying to messages and the like.

Picture in Picture is one of the coolest new features in iOS 9. It allows you to shrink video to a mini window and keep playing it alongside any other apps you’re using. This could be very useful for video podcasts, for example, where you may not necessarily want the video to fill the entire screen.

The rest of the features are also nice, but perhaps less radical improvements. Things like the more intelligent Search, the new Notes features and better Maps with transit information are the same as in OS X, and the new QuickType keyboard seems cool. The proactive behavior is also pretty cool, and if you’re a creature of habit it will definitely make your life easier.

Finally, iOS 9 boasts improved power efficiency that will allow users to get up to one additional hour of battery life with typical use. But beyond that, Apple included a new Low Power mode in iOS 9 that promises to squeeze up to three additional hours of battery life on top of that additional hour when you turn it on. This is fine, I guess, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that for the past few years, Apple has been cutting it extremely close when it comes to battery life. Personally, we’ve reached a point where I’d much prefer to see slightly chubbier devices across the lineup with actual, all-day battery life instead of the current situation. My iPhone 5S, for example, barely lasts into the afternoon without a mid-day top-up charge anymore. This is simply unacceptable.

Eight years after the original iPhone’s introduction, iOS devices should get true all-day battery life with all their features enabled, instead of requiring users to cripple their devices in order to make their batteries last a little longer. If Apple hadn’t repeatedly made the very deliberate choice to sacrifice battery life in their relentless pursuit of thinness and lightness, this Low Power gimmick would be largely unnecessary today.

Having said all that, to me the most interesting iOS-related announcement by far was the addition of the News app.

Apple News

News is a new app built into iOS 9 that is very similar to Flipboard in nature, but it’s so much more than that. It’s also a publishing platform for creators of content and digital publications big and small alike. With beautiful typography, an attractive layout and gorgeous image galleries, Apple is promising publishers that they’ll be able to create much better experiences for their readers.

Apple is yet to release a News Format guide to creating content for the new app, so it’s clearly still early to know how well the new publishing service will work. There are many unanswered questions for readers and publishers, but it definitely looks promising. Personally, I’m really excited about it and I’ve already signed up to become a publisher. If everything goes smoothly, you’ll soon be able to follow Analog Senses in the News app if you so desire.

watchOS 2

Apple announced the second version of the Apple Watch operating system, with several new features like new Watch Faces, a Nightstand mode that makes the watch double as an alarm clock, support for native apps, transit information in Maps, third party complications and many more.

The Apple Watch is still so new that some of these features may be things that didn’t make it in time for the initial 1.0 release, like the addition of a second Contacts screen, for example. Still, it’s nice to see Apple already pushing the envelope of what the watch can do.

But the really interesting announcement related to the Apple Watch was, of course, the new version of WatchKit with support for native 3rd-party app development.

WatchKit and ClockKit for watchOS 2

This was clearly the most expected announcement of the day. Although many thought it was still early for it, Apple did announce the native SDK for the Apple Watch, and it had some interesting things to tease the eager developer audience with.

With ClockKit and the new Time Travel feature, developers can now create 3rd-party complications that update in real time, but that can also look ahead in time and display future information like the weather later today, for example. I don’t know how convenient this will be to use on an Apple Watch, considering everything is controlled via the Digital Crown, but I’m curious to see it in action.

Another cool feature of the SDK is that Apple Watch will be able to talk directly to known WiFi hotspots, so apps will be able to update their data even if the watch is outside the range of the user’s iPhone.

WatchKit for watchOS 2 also gives developers access to HealthKit data, including real-time heart rate streaming for fitness apps. This is going to be pretty cool once developers start creating more serious hear rate monitoring and fitness apps. One of the problems the Apple Watch currently has is its lack of accuracy in estimating caloric consumption. This problem is caused by the lack of calibration, and it’s entirely solvable via software. By allowing users to specify their VO2Max and their resting heart rate and using those parameters together with the hear rate data, apps could provide much more accurate estimations. I’m definitely eager to see what some of the more experienced fitness-oriented developers like Polar and Garmin will do with it.3

Other than that, the new WatchKit will allow developers to use Bluetooth to communicate with wireless headphones and stream both short and long-form audio, which will be perfect for apps like podcast clients. I can’t wait to see what Marco Arment does with this in the new version of Overcast for the Apple Watch, which he’s surely already building by now.

All in all, the native SDK for the Apple Watch will provide many interesting new opportunities for 3rd-party developers, and that is great news for everyone.

Apple Music

Apple Music is a new music service by Apple that effectively combines the iTunes Music Store and the Beats Music service into what they called “a complete thought around music”. If you’d been wondering how cool it would be if Apple were to add a Spotify-like streaming service to the iTunes Store, well, now you don’t have to wonder anymore.

This was billed as a “One more thing…” in the keynote, much to the delight of the crowd, but it actually turned out to be the worst part of the event for me.

The funny thing about that is, it wasn’t the product’s fault, but rather the unnecessarily long demo and the poorly scripted presentation in general that left more questions than answers, really. I don’t know who approved the script, but it was clearly one of the weakest Apple keynote segments in recent memory. It wasn’t Eddy Cue’s fault — well, at least not only his fault — Jimmy Iovine also did a pretty poor job of injecting enthusiasm and communicating the potential of this new service for improving the music industry as a whole.

The good news is, presentation problems aside, Apple Music looks like an extremely attractive new service. I’m currently a Spotify Premium subscriber and have been for years, and I’m also an iTunes Match user, but if the new Music service works as advertised I may switch to it entirely. Don’t get me wrong, I like Spotify a lot, but I’m not crazy about having my music split across two different services operated by two different companies.

I just hope the entire iTunes Store catalog is available to stream as part of the new Music service, because Apple has been conspicuously ambiguous about that.

Other miscellaneous thoughts

Besides the main announcements, there were plenty of interesting bits to comment on, as with any Apple keynote. Here are the other points that caught my interest from yesterday’s two hour and a half presentation:

  • Apple released Swift 2 with several new improvements, but the big Swift-related announcement of the day was that they’re making it Open Source. At this point in the keynote, pretty much the entire Moscone West exploded in applause and roaring cheers from the crowd actually made it impossible to hear what Federighi was saying. This is no doubt excellent news, I just hope they really make it Open Source this time, not like when Steve Jobs promised to make FaceTime and open standard.

  • Apple also unified the iOS, Mac and Safari Developer Programs into one unique program — called simply Apple Developer Program — adding support for the newly released watchOS to the mix as well. You’ll now need to pay a unique fee of $99/year for your membership and you’ll get access to the full range of tools, so it’ll be a substantial reduction in price for many developers: if you were enrolled in both the iOS and Mac programs, the price of your membership has been effectively cut in half.

  • Presenter-wise, this was a special keynote. For the first time we had women on stage at a WWDC keynote, with both Jennifer Bailey and Susan Prescott making an appearance to present changes in Apple Pay and the News app, respectively. It’s kind of sad that this is newsworthy and Apple still needs to do a lot more work on this front, but at least it was a start.

  • Speaking of presenters, Craig Federighi was once again the undisputed star of the show. He connects very easily with Apple’s developer community, and he knows it. What I particularly like about him — and I’m clearly not the only one — is that he’s not above taking small jabs at Apple’s own products occasionally. Yesterday he made several lighthearted puns about Apple’s use of transparency or an annoying dialog asking for Location Accuracy, for example, that provided some comedic relief and gave the impression that despite their success, Apple knows they still have their work cut out for them. Compare that with Steve Jobs’s keynotes, where he projected a flawless illusion of a perfect world that catered to users but not so much to developers, and it’s easy to understand why developers have grown to love Federighi so much in such a short period of time.

  • I didn’t much care for the presence of Jimmy Iovine or Drake on stage during the Music segment. Or Eddy Cue, for that matter. I think they failed to bring anything interesting to the table and I very much would have preferred to have seen Tim Cook, Phil Schiller or even Federighi himself take care of that part of the presentation as well.

  • Ditto for the music performance at the end of the keynote.

  • In fact, I question the need for the entire Music segment to be included in the keynote at all. It wasn’t anything related to developers, for one thing, so WWDC was already a weird place to announce it to begin with. In an ideal world, this would have been a perfect fit for Apple’s traditional Music event in September. Alas, since Apple is not so keen on updating iPods regularly anymore and they probably wanted to announce the new service as soon as possible, waiting until September was likely not an option.


  1. Not very original, but it does beat Ping, so there’s that.

  2. Between this and Brent Simmons’s recent leave from Q Branch, I wonder what this means for the future of Vesper.

  3. On the other hand, with these new capabilities the Apple Watch could very well suck the air out of the hear rate monitor market and leave these companies in the dust, so I’d understand if they’re not overly enthusiastic about developing apps for it. It’s not like they have much of a choice though, because if they’re not the ones to do it somebody else will. And they know it.

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Morning Coffee

June 06, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I’m a morning person. The first two hours of my morning routine are usually the most important ones for my productivity. If I manage to get in the zone and make the most of them, the resulting energy boost is usually enough to carry me throughout the rest of the day. On the other hand, if I squander those precious hours checking my RSS feeds and procrastinating my way until noon, my chances of getting any meaningful work done that day go down significantly.

For the past couple of years, those first two hours of the day have been dedicated to working out. I realize it may seem counterintuitive, to dedicate my most productive time of the day to doing something apparently unrelated to my creative work, but I have found the energy I get from working out helps me focus quite a bit better later on when I’m at my desk.

There’s an old saying that goes: if you work with your head, rest with your hands. That’s a pretty good approximation of how I feel about working out in the morning. When you’re sitting at a desk all day long trying to come up with cool things to write about, it’s easy to get a bit too much in your own head and after a while, things get weird and there’s a real chance of burning out. That’s where physical exercise comes in.

It used to be, I felt a bit guilty about spending those two hours each day at the gym. For a few months I kept thinking that time was too precious to spend away from the desk, and it’s taken me a fair bit of effort to accept it as what it is: an investment.

When the most valuable asset in your work is time, it is extremely important to invest it in a way that maximizes its value. For me, that turns out to be going to the gym in the morning. For you, well, only you can know that, but it’s important you at least ask yourself the question.

It’s a simple question after all, really: do I prefer to have two hours of exercise followed by six good hours of work, or just eight hours of half-work, half-goofing around on the Internet? In my case, the answer was pretty straightforward.

However, even though putting the first two hours of each day towards working out has definitely helped me be more productive, it clearly is no silver bullet. The truth is, there are no silver bullets. There are no shortcuts to doing great work. All I’m doing every morning is creating the opportunity and putting myself in the best position I can to do the best work I’m capable of. But at that point, the real struggle is only just beginning.

If setting aside the time to do your best work is important, choosing what to spend that time on is even more so.

Routine

The publishing rhythm in Analog Senses has been relatively stable throughout the past year or so, since I started working on the site full-time. On a good week, I typically publish around five link-type posts each day and one original article throughout the week. These articles take a fair bit of work and usually about a couple days each to finish, so this pace works pretty well most weeks. However, there’s a deeper problem.

Sometimes, there are particularly busy weeks like this one, when I don’t have the time to do it all and in those weeks, it’s usually the article that gets neglected in favor of the link posts. That seems like a sound decision, because rushing long articles is almost never a good way to go, and so I rationalize my choice by convincing myself that I’m doing it to preserve the quality of the writing.

The truth, however, is that link posts are a lot easier to publish, and require a lot less effort. They also keep the site updated every day which, as everybody will tell you, is great for traffic, SEO and whatnot.

But even though link posts are easier to do, they still take a huge amount of time to do right. I always make it a point to read every article I link to from start to finish before linking to it. Call me silly, but I think it’s a critical part of my promise to the reader: I personally vouch for each and every one of the pieces you’ll see here, and I genuinely think they’re worth my readers’ time and attention. I stake my reputation on that claim, and that’s the whole point of those posts.

The downside of doing link posts this way is that, unfortunately, the majority of my time and attention on any given week are devoted to them, instead of being put into my own original writing. And the longer I do it, the more I realize that’s not what I want my site to be. Link posts are fun to do but in the great scheme of things, they’re usually anecdotes that don’t add much, if any, long-term value and relevance to the site.

The worst part of it is, these link posts actually trick me into believing I’m doing good work. If I manage to publish six or seven interesting link posts one day, I’ll go to bed thinking I’m doing great but the truth is, I may not have written a single original word for the past ten days. Lately I haven’t been feeling particularly proud about that.

I aspire to be more than an amplifier or another member of the eco-chamber. I want my readers to come here for me, my own voice and my own work, not just because I’m good at finding cool stuff for them to read elsewhere.

Is it pride, or vanity? Maybe, but it doesn’t change a very simple fact: I am a writer, not an aggregator, and I just want to write more.

The problem is, in order to write more, I need to give myself the time to do so, and that means more than just wishing for it to happen organically. It means creating the opportunity by setting aside the time to do it every day.

Less linking, more writing

That, in a nutshell, is what I intend to do around here from now on. If the whole point of this change is to write more, I need to have a few uninterrupted hours every day to do so, away from the distractions of the online world. In all likelihood, that will result in fewer link posts being published throughout the week, and hopefully more — and more importantly, better — original writing.

So where does that leave link posts?

By focusing more on my own writing during the week, I don’t mean to say I don’t care about link posts anymore. Far from it, actually. I’m still a voracious reader and I’ll definitely keep coming across many interesting pieces of writing every week that I’ll want to share with my readers.

With that in mind, let this be an experiment.

Introducing “Morning Coffee”, a weekly roundup of interesting writing

The concept is simple and, quite frankly, not very original. Several of my favorite sites have been doing it for a while, like The Newsprint’s excellent Sunday Edition or Tools & Toys’ Quality Linkage column every Friday. The reason they do it is equally simple: it works.

The idea behind the name is also simple. I will be making my selections every Saturday morning as I sip my first coffee of the day, and hopefully the issue will be published by the time the U.S. East Coast wakes up, so American readers will be able to read it while they have theirs.

There’s a bit of irony in the fact that today’s issue — the very first one — is already late. You’ll have to forgive me for that, I’m afraid. I started writing this piece early in the morning but, as with most of my pieces, things just kind of got out of hand.

Anyway, that’s entirely too much blogging about blogging for one day, so without further ado, allow me leave you with this week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Issue #1: Emotional literacy, Apple Watch, photography and the defense of personal freedom

The Four Stages of Life | Mark Manson →

What an eye-opening article by Mark Manson. As someone who is slowly coming to terms with the transition from stage two to stage three, this was incredibly helpful to read.

A basic skill we should have learned as kids | David Cain →

David Cain’s writing is always top notch, and this week’s article is no exception. The ability to understand our own emotions and how they alter the shape of everything that happens in our lives is an essential tool we should all have in our toolbox. I also love the expression “emotional literacy”. It’s perfect.

Building an app from start to finish | “Underscore” David Smith →

This one is technically not a piece of writing, but I’m including it anyway. Mr. Underscore had an idea for an Apple Watch app and in this brief YouTube video, he shows you how he built it. Literally.

The Apple Watch | Ben Brooks →

I had been waiting for Ben to publish his thoughts on the Apple Watch, and I’m happy to say he didn’t disappoint. Ben is one of the very few writers I trust when it comes to product reviews for one simple reason: he gives a shit about being fair, and he takes his time to form a coherent opinion before reviewing anything. I’ve publicly stated before how I think it’s way too early to be making claims about the future of the Apple Watch, and Ben deftly stays clear of making any such claims. Great stuff.

Apple Watch Sport Band | Mike Bates →

Lovely piece by Mike Bates. I really like his photographic style and he makes some very interesting observations about Apple’s most affordable band option for the Apple Watch. If you want a white Sport band but are worried it might not age gracefully, this article is for you.

Beyond Scotland: hot climate whiskies to know | Mark Bylok →

Mark sent me a link to this article earlier today, after I asked him about Nomad, a very particular whisky I tried recently that is aged in Scotland but then finished in Spain. As such, it cannot be labeled as Scotch whisky, which is why they promote it as “outland whisky”. Go figure. The good news is, it was delicious. The better news, however, is that there are plenty of fantastic whiskies being made outside of the Scottish borders, and Mark’s article is an excellent way to get acquainted with them.

The unacceptably high cost of labor - how a deeper dive into Patagonia’s supply chain led to a new Migrant Worker Standard →

It’s good to see that some companies care about more than just making money. Human exploitation is a very real problem, and we need many more companies like Patagonia taking a stand and doing what’s right. Kudos to them.

Patagonia’s Anti-growth strategy | The New Yorker →

Another great piece focused on Patagonia, this time by J. B. Mackinnon for The New Yorker. Apparently, the company’s commitment to being environmentally and socially responsible even at the cost of potential growth is having quite an unexpected effect on their sales figures. Once again, good for them.

How to capture iPhone photos of wiggly kids | Erin Brooks →

Erin Brooks has been on fire lately and her pictures are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Keep them coming, Erin!

The world says No to surveillance | Edward Snowden →

Edward Snowden’s take on the recent decision by the U.S. Congress to stop the N.S.A.’s massive collection of information gives us reason to hope this may be the first step on the road towards a better future. I, for one, certainly hope he’s right.

Afterword

That wasn’t so bad for a first issue, was it? There are some real gems in this week’s roundup, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did putting them together. Unfortunately my coffee is long gone by now and yours probably is, too. This first issue took quite a bit longer than I expected to finish, but I hope the result has been worth it in the end.

The good news is, great writing goes well with more than just coffee, so choose your favorite poison, pick a comfortable couch to lean back on and enjoy.

Have a lovely weekend and, as ever, thank you for reading.

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Tweetbot for Mac gets 2.0 update →

June 05, 2015 |

Pretty good — and free — update to Tweetbot for Mac. I’ve been a Tweetbot user since it was first released and, though I love it, this update was long overdue. Ever since OS X Yosemite was released the app had become incredibly unstable for me, to the point of being nearly unusable. Fortunately, I haven’t seen any of the same issues with the new version so far. That alone would be more than enough reason to update, but it just so happens that I also really like the updated Yosemite-style UI, so this one’s pretty easy to recommend.

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The Note →

June 05, 2015 |

Fantastic article by Shawn Blanc:

By giving myself no room for wiggling around or making excuses, I’ve found that having this set time to write means I actually write more than if I were to wait only for inspiration to strike. I write more words in general (usually 1,500 words every day) than days when I wait for inspiration. And my writing is of a higher quality — my crappy first drafts are much less crappy.

And, though my timer is set for 30 minutes, more often than not by the time the half-hour is up, I’m firing on all cylinders and I will continue to write for another hour or three.

As someone who writes for a living, I cannot think of anything more important for me to do each day than to actually write.

It’s an apparently simple lesson, but it so often goes unnoticed: if you care about doing something, set a time for it.

This lesson applies to everything that matters: exercise, writing, reading, you name it. Anything worth doing takes time, and that time is not going to magically schedule itself. If you want to exercise more regularly, don’t just wait and see when you have some free time in the day to do it. Instead, make it your first priority in the morning, even if it means waking up earlier than usual and going to bed earlier at night. You’ll be surprised at how soon it becomes part of your routine, and that’s when the real fun begins.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying it’s worth it.

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Can the Swiss Watchmaker Survive the Digital Age? →

June 03, 2015 |

Great piece by Clive Thompson for The New York Times:

Last fall, however, Koeslag set off on a very different, decidedly 21st-century project: a smartwatch. In response to Apple’s plans to introduce a high-tech watch this year, the chief executive of Frédérique Constant, Peter Stas, decided the company would produce its own. It would not be a minicomputer with a screen, like Apple’s. Instead, it would combine the functions of a Fitbit, a device that tracks physical activity, with a traditional Swiss timepiece, a $1,200 entry-level Frédérique Constant watch. A Silicon Valley company would produce the tiny sensors that count steps and measure sleep cycles, and this information would be transmitted to a phone through a Bluetooth connection. The phone would also control the watch — resetting its hands in different time zones, for example. From the outside, the watch wouldn’t look “smart” at all, but it would be packed with electronics. Koeslag’s job was to bring to life this chimera of Swiss engineering and Silicon Valley wizardry.

Koeslag faced a significant problem, though: He had never worked with chips and sensors before. He didn’t even own a soldering iron. Swiss watchmakers don’t need them; their devices are put together with screws and screwdrivers.

I still don’t think entering the smartwatch market is the way forward for traditional Swiss makers, but what do I know?

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Behind the scenes at Cub and Co →

June 03, 2015 |

Stunning photo-essay by Jorge Quinteros for Tools & Toys:

Cub and Co primarily make leather camera straps. They started like most great ideas do: in someone’s basement. The company was founded by graphic designer and videographer Joel Chavez, who goes by the moniker “Street Cub”. Recently, I met up with Joel, his colleagues, and the amazing crew at Knickerbocker — an American manufacturing company based in New York who collaborate alongside with Joel — and I caught a glimpse of what things look like behind the scenes.

Man, those camera straps look positively gorgeous.

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Marco Arment on audio quality vs compression →

June 03, 2015 |

Marco Arment takes a blind test trying to identify music encoded at three different settings: 128k MP3, 384k MP3, and uncompressed WAV:

NPR’s “hint” to then listen again to the now-labeled uncompressed files, since “it takes time for your ears to adjust”, is, of course, bullshit. If they tell you one is better, you’ll subconsciously believe it’s better. This is why blind tests exist.

I stand by my prior assertion that speakers and headphones matter a lot; amps matter a little; and cables, DACs, higher-than-256k bitrates, and higher-than-44/16 sample rates matter so little that almost nobody can blindly detect differences between them. Allocate your budget accordingly.

Not that it’s surprising, but it looks like there’s plenty of snake oil to go around in the audiophile community.

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Relay FM launches two new shows starring CGP Grey, Merlin Mann and John Siracusa →

June 03, 2015 |

Exciting news from Myke Hurley and Stephen Hackett. Personally, I can’t wait to check out Reconcilable Differences:

First up we have Reconcilable Differences, featuring Merlin Mann and John Siracusa. We are thrilled to welcome these two podcasting powerhouses to Relay FM, and we are so happy with how this show is shaping up. On each episode of Reconcilable Differences, you’ll get to hear John and Merlin prod at each other’s backgrounds as fans of technology and pop culture, filling in holes, arguing minor differences, and generally teaching each other about the things they both love.

This is going to be so much fun.

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Do 20mph speed limits actually work? →

June 02, 2015 |

Interesting piece by Hayley Birch for The Guardian:

Implicit in all of this is the idea that 20mph speed limits actually work. To reduce casualties they have to reduce speed, but not everyone agrees that they do. Asked whether he thinks Islington’s 20mph speed limits have made any difference, Aidan Farrow, a member of Islington Cycling Club who cycles thousands of miles on the roads every year, says he doesn’t think so. “My experience is that they’re ignored by many drivers,” he says. “I don’t think they’re enforced and I don’t think that drivers realise they’re there a lot of the time.”

Long story short: 20mph zones would be great for improving safety but in reality, most drivers don’t actually respect the speed limit so they’re pretty much useless.

Madrid is a living example of this problem: over the past year many streets in the city have been fitted with 20mph lanes where cyclists have preference, but the reality is that they’ve done very little to improve the situation. Most drivers simply ignore the 20mph signs completely, using those new lanes as if they were regular lanes. Unless the city is willing to start handing out tickets for these infractions, there’s little hope for meaningful change to occur anytime soon.

Via Taras Grescoe.

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