The mistery of the disappearing song in My Music

Hey, happy Apple Music subscriber here. I noticed an interesting thing today. Here is a list of “My Music” sorted by date added. (I find this a very convenient way to re-listen songs which I’d found interesting.) Anyway, here is a portion of My Music on the Mac:

Turns out I wanted to listen to Two weeks by FKA twigs on my phone. Here is what I saw:

The song was missing. Everything was there but this. I checked if I was logged in the same iTunes Stores etc, but the solution was much simple: the Two weeks song was classified as “Explicit” by the Store and the default behaviour on the iPhone is to not show explicit content.

To change this go to: System Settings – General – Restrictions, enter a 4 digit PIN, write down the PIN, then enter “Music, Podcasts & News” section and turn it on. The second I did this, the song appeared.

update: I was told Explicit might not be on by default.

Why exactly had Marco Arment pulled Peace from the App Store?

I was listening to Accidental Tech Podcast #136 – War and Peace, because Marco revealed that he’s going to shed some light on why he’d pulled his content blocker “Peace” app from the App Store.

If you’re not interested in the various angles of the ad market, how it works, implications, technical background and general courtesy and diplomacy from co-hosts Casey and John, listening to it seems like a waste of time. A couple of things though:

1. The general audience will never know what exactly went down between Marco and different opposing parties. All that was revealed is he didn’t want to be in the position he’s found himself in, being the face of ad blocking. But why that was such a terrible place to be in, and what happened during these two days, we will never know.

2. He did say that he’s gotten several requests on how to change his app to conform with the biz etc. This doesn’t seem too serious or threatening. Definitely not something from which you’d pull your very successful app in just two days.

3. An interesting aside: he also revealed that he asked John Gruber about whether he should pull the app and he was adamant that Marco shouldn’t. Marco pulled it regardless and this could also be a possible explanation on why Gruber didn’t even link to Marco during this, once.

Marco has been in the media biz for some time now, he’s used to comments and critiques. What he revealed on the show mustn’t have been an issue for him. From what I can deduct though, is that he’s received serious threats on a scale that was unbearable to the point where he promptly reversed his actions.

Dropbox is a damn perfect feature

Casey Newton at the Verge is arguing that Dropbox is overvalued:

[a]fter years of investment and exploration, syncing files is still the only thing Dropbox does well. Steve Jobs knew this: he famously told Houston (while trying to acquire it) that his company was “a feature and not a product.”

I see the first sentence here as its main strength. I was evaluating for my personal use both Google Drive and iCloud Drive and none of them matched the ease of use and reliability of Dropbox.

The most creative I got over the weekend

Did some math:

1. If I’d bought an iPhone 6 64 GB last year, I now could sell it around €600. The new iPhone 6S will be around €800 gross (these are Hungarian retail prices, I could source it from SF which yields around €630). Roughly I’d be spending €200 on upgrades yearly, but I couldn’t keep my old device.

2. If I bought an iPhone 6S for €800 and I kept it for 3 years, that would get me a yearly a 800/3 = €266 spend, but I could keep the old one either as a backup/test device or circulate within the family. 800/2 = €400 per annum, but 800/4 = €200.

3. I also could buy a used and cheap 5S for €300 and use it for 4 years, until it breaks. But where is the fun in that?

Shovel Knight (3DS)

I’ve been eyeing this game for a long time, this Friday I finally purchased it since the DLC came out like a week ago. This game is very good. The pixelart is true NES-style (pixelart by Nick Wozniak), gameplay is fabulous. So glad they made this happen. If you’re into indie games, buy it, it’s on every platform now.

Daring Fireball on the new iPhones

John Gruber sheds light on some fine details of the new iPhones. First the Trackpad Mode:

Press on the keyboard and it turns into a trackpad. iPads running iOS 9 can trigger this trackpad mode, too, with a two-finger swipe on the keyboard. Doing it with a single finger on the iPhone, though, is a tremendous boon to text editing. This might be the single best new feature for text editing on the iPhone since the addition of selection and copy-paste in iOS 3 in 2009. In addition to moving the insertion point around, you can press again and switch to selection mode — like double-clicking the mouse pointer on a Mac. Trackpad mode is a once-you’ve-used-it-you-can’t-go-back addition to iOS.

Here is it in motion. On peek/pop:

[y]ou can drag a message up to get an activity sheet with additional actions, like Reply, Forward, Notify Me, and more. (…) Once you get used to it, peek/pop is as intuitive as the shutter button on a camera, where you can press halfway to engage autofocus and set the exposure, and press the rest of the way to take a picture.

On the new Touch ID:

[t]he new Touch ID sensor as “up to 2× faster”. They’re underselling it. It’s so fast now that every single time I press it, it unlocks the phone, no matter how brief the contact is between my finger and the sensor.

And finally:

It is stronger, more noticeable, and in my opinion more pleasing than any previous iPhone vibrator.

This sentence could’ve been so much better without the word “iPhone”.

53’s Paper app for the iPhone

John Paul Titlow, Fast Company:

Ian Curry, a visual designer at FiftyThree, blurted out: “Why don’t we visually format the text?” After some back and forth, the team settled on what they now call swipe-to-style, a way of formatting text using gestures instead of interface buttons. Over the next 48 hours, a developer coded up a prototype called Text Trial, an internal app that would allow them to test out different methods of formatting text with touch gestures.

I love this interaction model. The article is worth a proper read, too. They could’ve released the iPhone version three years ago, but didn’t because they want to get it right. The read is just a glimpse how much thought and craft went into making the port.

/via Benoît

Introducing You On My Mind

Together with a couple of friends we’ve been working on and off for a year on a new social app. It’s called You On My Mind. We’re not ready to release it just yet, but you can subscribe to our mailing list if you want to get a notification when we do in the near future.

I’ll be posting more as we’ll be nearing our store release date. When is it? I don’t know, but we’re getting closer. Working on it in our free time is hard. We might as well do a closed beta, so sign up and get to try it out as soon as possible. The app will be released for iOS and Android platforms.

The hardest thing to do

I once tried to build a meaningful Quake level, it didn’t work out. I wasn’t planning the level structure, I got lost in the details, it was a mess, I gave up. With Super Mario Maker, the challenge, although it’s just 2D instead of 3D, still stands. You tought sprite drawing is hard? Level designing is hard. Here is a portion of the World 1-3 from the original NES Mario:

They did this on paper in 1985. Every level has a consistent theme, fits to the gameplay progression, scale to the characters attributes, and more importantly, is fun to play. The goombas drop to the lower platform just about the time you reach that part, there are coins scattered around, but not too many, often there are multiple paths you can take. Sometimes the power-up is not hidden in the harder path, but is in plain sight. The level occasionally contains a simple bonus room to collect items.

Looking at it from the outside, everything feels natural. That’s what I find the hardest to do: designing something that feels natural to the user. Whenever it’s the use of keyboard shortcuts, onboarding a software or presenting options, taking away the frustration until it feels natural is incredibly hard.

The other day I watched a recorded video of Roger Federer practicing. You know, where he’s not hitting power shots but, just sparring. It seems effortless. It feels simple. He doesn’t seem to move his legs, a couple of steps here and there, he doesn’t seem to put much effort into the shots, but they do go to the baseline with a huge kick. It looks like this is the most trivial way to play tennis: you go out there and hit some balls, then they’ll end up at the other baseline with a fat topspin.

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iOS 9

I don’t have anything to add, really, to iOS 9, but I do like the way you can now quickly skim through your pictures in Photos. If you’re zoomed in on a picture the bottom bar acts like a quick scrubber (left on my illustration). It’s got a coverflow-like effect, you also can add motion to it, and the top will very quickly keep up with the pace. Also, when you want to insert a media item in Messages you’ll immediately get to pick the latest images (right in the middle).

Content blockers have arrived

iMore:

We’ve done a deep dive into iOS 9 content blocker extensions but if all you’re really interested in is whether or not they’ll work on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, here’s the complete list!

iPhone 6
iPhone 6 Plus
iPhone 5s
iPad Air 2
iPad Air
iPad mini 2
iPad mini 3
iPod touch 6

Well, I guess I won’t be blocking content anytime soon. Too bad, I was just about to buy Marco Arment’s Peace. Here is a starter pack of contenct blockers already available on the app store.

Super Mario Maker – well

Michael Thomsen, Washington Post:

“Super Mario Maker” is a bad comedy. Released in coordination with the 30-year anniversary of “Super Mario Bros.,” it indulges players in the fantasy that they’d be good at making video game levels. This sort of self-deception has become common in the age of digital consumption, and while there’s something utopian in “Super Mario Maker’s” appeals to community participation and sharing, the game quickly collapses into a scratch sheet of horrible ideas and levels you’ll regret having played. It’s a tool for the mass production of cultural refuse, single-use distractions that fail to replicate the spirit of the original.

Based on my short endeavour with the game I tend to agree with this. Most high rated user levels just butcher the finesse of the originals and makes you wonder how much testing and craft’d gone into the originals in comparison. Even the top rated user made levels are ugly, lame and feels like out of place.

Other than that, the game, the onboarding, the help-experience with all the codes made me cry in awe. There are 4 digit codes in the booklet that you can enter in the help menu, and you’ll get to see different gameplay videos and elements sharing ideas and showing concepts. It is so well done. But Nintendo, just like Facebook with Paper, made the false assumption that user generated content is beatiful.

If you want to enjoy Nintendo “sample” levels, just try hitting the 10 Mario challenge and you’ll get to play through the levels in blocks of eight. The first set is always the same and then it gets random. There are 68 official levels in the game. They are all very good and fun to play giving a nice twist to the game concept.

Federer introduces SABR return

Sneak Attack By Roger in action:

He obviously does this to confuse the opponent, not for winners. Returns of this kind are hard to pull off and the shots won’t even be proper ones (then again, how do you return a fast 200+ km/h serve). After the return you’re left at the net doing high speed volley. Since you cannot build up proper shots by playing returns this way I see the whole SABR brouhaha as a fad, but only time will tell. Apparently, Djoko/Becker is not happy about Fedex using this return in the US Open final match. He’s lost, so everybody is happy, right?

Happenings in the tvOS space and some personal details

Both Plex and VLC have announced that they’re working on a media player app for the newly announced Apple TV. This is exciting news since I’ve always wanted to use my Apple TV to access my NAS and play media files. If Apple approves these apps (and why wouldn’t it), the cumbersome jailbreak days have finally come to an end.

On other news, now that I have a new NAS, I started experimenting with my home theater setup. Right now I’m using my 4 year old non-retina 2,2 Ghz Intel i7 MacBook Pro as a media server component for Plex. The server is running in a closed clamshell mode with the help of Caffeine. This accesses the media share on the NAS and serves up content to the various clients in the household.

I plugged the net into my LG TV, installed the Plex app on top of it, subscribed to the service (because for some reason that app requires subscription) and there you go! The TV interface is so much inferior to the outstanding quality of the Plex Home Theater app that I even tried running both the server and front end component on the same 4 year old machine. Well, it wasn’t a good decision framerate wise. 🙂

But since then I’ve come to actually like the app for the TV, it’s basic, but once you figure out how the spatial system works, it’s a nice little thing. On the positive side, Plex plays everything, every subtitle, looks awesome and it is the media center solution. I didn’t even bother trying to use the NAS built in whatever station and accessing it from the TV. I’ve seen the LG TV OS and it’s horrendeous, don’t want to use it for playback, ever.

Also tried running the Plex server on the NAS, but even the Intel Atom version failed to play a 1080p video, so it’s a no go. You need a dedicated media player box unfortunately. But with this comes additional benefits: setup is super easy, you log in with your Plex credentials, then whatever device is in front of you, you get to continue watching the media item. It remembers position, watched list, everything. So cool.

And it is coming to the Apple TV as well. I’m sure it will have a glorious interface, and I’m also sure it will require the Plex subscription.