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Liner Notes (January 18th, 2019)

I cut the tip of my finger while cooking dinner the night before I sit down and type the most I do all week. That was some brilliant work on my part. In this week’s roundup, I offer brief early thoughts on the new PUP record, pontificate about Blink-182 working with The Chainsmokers, re-listen to The Ataris and Zebrahead, and go through the rest of my musical diet from the past week. The entertainment roundup is mostly thoughts on more Batman comic books and needing a little break from overly dramatic movies after last week. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (January 11th, 2019)

In this week’s newsletter I write about my search for the best Mac Last.fm scrobbling app, Linea Sketch, two Shortcuts I really loved this week, being known as “that AbsolutePunk.net guy,” the new album from FIDLAR, Tarakany!, and listening to stuff from our staff “best of 2018” list. I also run through my usual media diet from the past week, including a lot of depressing (but good!) movies (like Minding the Gap), and give my thoughts on the final two trades in Scott Snyder’s Batman run. There’s also a playlist of ten songs I loved this week and my usual sarcasm.

The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Craig Manning’s Top Albums of 2018

I’m never sure what to write at the outset of this post. How do you sum up an entire year in a few paragraphs? It was a big year in my life, marked by a move back to my childhood hometown and a few big leaps forward in my professional life. I was busier, which left less time for discovering new music and less time for writing about it. Still, 22 of the 40 artists on the list below have never featured on a year-end list of mine in the past, and two of my top three albums are debuts. I always like knowing that there is new talent on the horizon, artists that might morph from big surprises this year to favorite artists a few years down the line. 2018 was a wonderful year for that kind of discovery.

In terms of my favorite music, I was all over the map in 2018. I leaned a little less on country than I have for the past few years, though there are still plenty of country and Americana artists on this list. Mostly, I was looking for songwriting that spoke to where I am at this current moment in my life. A lot of what resonated spoke of nostalgia and the past, a fitting theme given that I’ve been out of high school for almost 10 years now. I thought a lot about growing older in 2018, and about the shifting chapters of my life. The music, from Andrew McMahon’s “House in the Trees” to Lori McKenna’s “People Get Old” to Donovan Woods’ “Next Year,” told me that I wasn’t alone in feeling what I was feeling. As I get further from high school, I’m constantly wondering if I’ll get to a point where I’ll stop relating to music in the fiercely personal, autobiographical way that I always have. It’s a comfort to know that hearing the right song at the right time still feels as potent and poignant as it did when I was 17.

I’m rambling, as I always do at the start of these posts. So, I think I’ll stop now and let the 40 albums listed below speak for themselves.

Adam Grundy’s Top Albums of 2018

The Best of 2018

When I look back on the year of music that was 2018, I can’t help but marvel at the great mix of variety and strength of material that came out of it. From polished singer-songwriter material to stadium ready anthems, this year had it all. Here is my list of the 30 albums that had the biggest impact on me:

Liner Notes (January 4th, 2019)

Well, here we have the first newsletter of 2019.

In this week’s roundup, I rank Thursday albums, share website plans for the coming week, talk about a few fonts and automation tools I like, and do my usual weekly media diet rundown. There are also links to ten songs I loved this week, and the supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Jason Tate’s Top Albums of 2018

Another year is in the books, and I must say, this was one of my favorite years for music in a long while. I felt like I was discovering new music, or a new album to fall in love with, on a regular basis. And then the albums that ended up connecting with me, really hit me. It’s comforting to know that even when the rest of the world can feel like a mess, music still can find a way to cut through and make things feel a little better, if only for the duration of a great song.

After much deliberation, I’ve put together my favorite music, movies, tv shows, books, and apps from the past year. I’ve included playlists where appropriate, and I hope you’ll find something that will connect with you the way it has me.

Liner Notes (December 28th, 2018)

Damn, this is the final Liner Notes of 2018.

In this week’s roundup, I recap the holiday week and my favorite gifts, share some thoughts on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, go through my usual weekly media diet (heavy on movies, light on music this week), and share ten songs to ring in 2019. I hope everyone has a lovely rest of the year. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (December 21st, 2018)

This is the second to last Liner Notes before the end of 2018. This year has been impossibly long while flying by at a record pace. It makes absolutely no sense. I hope everyone is gearing up for a nice weekend and preparing to spend the holidays in whatever way makes you happiest. I plan to spend some time offline, reading, and enjoying the company of family. As a little holiday gift, I’m making this version of Liner Notes, which are usually exclusive to supporters, free for all.

This week’s roundup includes my ranking of All Time Low albums. After discovering these “do teens know 2000’s pop-punk” videos on YouTube (and immediately feeling old as hell), I got on a pop-punk kick and ended up listening to their catalog all week. I also share my thoughts after spending a week with Apple Music on the Amazon Echo, ten songs I loved this week, and, of course, my weekly media diet. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Liner Notes (December 14th, 2018)

I’m ready for the weekend.

In this week’s roundup I talk about the massive process of cleaning out my iTunes/Apple Music library, including finally splitting up a bunch of live sessions I had ripped into individual tracks, getting back into some comic books, and then go through my usual weekly media diet from the past week, plus share ten songs I loved. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (December 7th, 2018)

December marches on!

In this week’s roundup, I write a little about Smart Playlists in iTunes and how I use them for holiday music, talk about wanting to ramp up my comic book reading again, share thoughts on the music and entertainment I enjoyed this week, and post the weekly ten song playlist. It’s been a very Copeland, Japanese House, and The 1975 dominating week around my house. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (November 30th, 2018)

In this week’s roundup I do a way-too-early ranking of The 1975’s albums, talk about the next big forum feature I’m working on, go through my usual weekly media diet, and share ten songs I loved this week. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (November 23rd, 2018)

I finished this up early, so I figured I’d post it now. I hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend and getting filled up on good food (and booze) and then taking mid-day naps on the couch.

For the Thanksgiving edition of this roundup, I rank my favorite Thanksgiving foods, give some thoughts on new music, and give my regular media diet roundup from the past week. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Home Screen Icon Creator

MacStories:

I’ve always been intrigued by Workflow’s implementation of ‘Add to Home Screen’ – a feature that Apple kept in the transition to the Shortcuts app, and which allows users to create home screen icons to launch their favorite shortcuts. So earlier this month, I decided I wanted to learn how Shortcuts was handling the creation of home screen icons.

After a few weeks of experiments and refinements, I ended up reverse-engineering Shortcuts’ ‘Add to Home Screen’ implementation, which turns out to be an evolution of Workflow’s existing hack based on Safari and web clips.

Federico Viticci and I must have been playing around with this stuff at the same time. His implementation and solution is way better.

Liner Notes (November 16th, 2018)

This week went by insanely fast.

In this week’s roundup, I rank New Found Glory albums, talk a little about my thinking behind rolling out the new ad system, discover some cool new iPad apps, and go through my usual media diet from the past week. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (October 26th, 2018)

It finally got cold enough to where I had to turn on the fireplace — only to find out that the pilot light wouldn’t ignite. Which, of course, meant I had to wait to have it fixed. After a few days of being sad, it has been fixed, and I’ve turned it on for the first time this season. It’s gloriously warm and the cats are cuddled up next to it like it’s the only thing in this world that matters. They may just be right.

This week’s roundup finds me ranking Anberlin albums and going through my usual media diet. There’s also a playlist of music I loved this week and some way-too-early talk about holiday decorations. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Creating a Simple App Launcher With a Custom Icon for iOS

In iOS 10 Apple introduced the ability for app makers to offer alternative app icons for their apps. A few of my favorite apps have taken advantage of this. Overcast has a cool dark icon for subscribers, Carrot Weather has a huge selection to choose from, and the MLB At Bat app lets you pick your favorite team’s logo as the icon. It’s a nice way to add a little bit of customization to your device. However, not every app has taken advantage of this new feature. For example, it’s a no brainer that the NBA should copy baseball and let you put a team logo as the app icon … but, they don’t. So when it came time to move from having the MLB app on my home screen, to the NBA, I started looking into all the different ways I could maybe change-up the icon. I have no desire to jailbreak my phone and this really isn’t an app I open up all that often anyway. I check it maybe a couple times a day, at most, to see what games are on, check scores, and watch one via League Pass if it’s coming down to the wire. Because of this, I thought about just using a Siri Shortcut to act as an app launcher and being done with it, but I didn’t love how the shortcut would launch, then switch to the Shortcut app, and then launch the NBA app. Sure, it worked, but it took longer than I wanted to even for an app I only open a few times a day.

However, I realized that if there was only one slight pause and a redirect to the NBA app, without first going through Shortcuts, that would probably work just fine for what I wanted this to do. So I took a look at how Shortcuts was creating these launchers and realized they’re basically just Web Clips that when opened redirect to a Shortcuts URL scheme. Looking a little closer I saw they created these Web Clips in a pretty clever way that kept everything local on the device. Usually a Web Clip will launch Safari and hit a web site, which is slow, however, if it’s a local HTML file it doesn’t need to do anything at all. So I copied their technique.

I created a basic HTML file that redirects to the NBA url scheme, created the icon I wanted for it, turned the background black, and then added a startup image that displays the logo on a black background. That way, when I tap the icon, instead of just getting a brief white background, I get a cool all black Trail Blazer screen before being sent to the NBA app. There’s still a slight delay, but it’s passable this time, since I’m sent right to the app and not to Shortcuts first.

And it means I can have the Blazer logo on my home screen:

If anyone is interested in how I did it. Here’s the basics: I started with a simple HTML document.

<html>
<head>
<title>NBA</title>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=UTF-8″>
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0, maximum-scale=1.0, user-scalable=no, viewport-fit=cover” />
<meta name=”apple-mobile-web-app-capable” content=”yes”>
<meta name=”apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style” content=”black”>
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0;URL=’nba://'” />
<link rel=”apple-touch-icon” href=””>
<link rel=”apple-touch-startup-image” href=””>
</head>
<body style=”background: #000;text-align: center;”>
<img src=”data:image/png;base64,” width=”175″ style=”position:fixed;top:47%;left:49.2%;transform: translate(-50%, -50%);”/>
</body>
</html>

The meta refresh tag I set to the NBA URL scheme. I told the Web Clip to be full-screen (apple-mobile-web-app-capable). Set the status bar to black to match the background (apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style). (Change “black” to “default” to make it white.) And set the icon (apple-touch-icon) and the start up image (apple-touch-startup-image) to their respective images (you can find the recommended sizes via Google depending on what device you use).

Now, in the middle of the screen I wanted to show the Blazer logo. However, I didn’t want this image to be hosted on a server somewhere and slow down my little launcher. So, I recommend optimizing your image as much as possible and then converting it to Base 64. Grab that code and set it as the source for the image. I tweaked the size and positioning so that on load the start-up image and my little website thing would look the exact same.

After that I borrowed how Siri Shortcuts adds home screen apps. Convert the entire HTML page to Base 64. You’ll get a giant string representing your Web Clip. Mobile Safari won’t let you just copy and paste this into your browser, so you’ll need to link it from somewhere. I created a page that just had one link on it:

<a href=”data:text/html;base64,”>click me</a>

After the comma, I put the giant base 64 string. I tossed that on my server, opened it on my phone, and clicked it.

(I’m sure you can use something like this to do that too.)

It opened up the HTML page I created and asked if I wanted to be redirected to the NBA app. I clicked cancel, then just created the home screen app like usual (share sheet, add to home screen). I tapped the icon, it showed my startup screen, and then the NBA app opened up. Exactly like any of the Siri Shortcut apps and all without having to jailbreak my device or create a custom profile on the phone. Just a basic local HTML page turned into a web clip. I’d never do this for any app I open all the time, but this use case is just about perfect.

I share other things like this in the Apple thread from time to time.

Oh. And go Blazers.

Liner Notes (October 19th, 2018)

I blame Federico Viticci over at MacStories for going on a deep dive of playing around with Siri Shortcuts all week. Once I start down the path of automating things or organizing my phone, I always end up going overboard. Still, it was a fun way to spend a few nights.

In this week’s roundup, I look at a few new apps I’ve been using and explore the Siri Shortcut stuff I’ve been playing around with. I also share my first thoughts on the upcoming album from Saves the Day, go through my usual media diet from the past week, and share ten songs I loved this week. There’s been lots of Halloween and fall-themed entertainment in our household recently. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (October 12th, 2018)

Bring on the weekend! We’re moving into “pumpkin-spice-everything” territory, and I’m getting excited to start watching some of my favorite Halloween movies, breaking out the festive beers, and making all kinds of warm foods in the ‘ol Crock Pot.

This week I rank albums from Andrew McMahon, give the first impression on the new Laura Jane Grace album, share a playlist of ten songs I loved this week, share what I’ve been working on behind-the-scenes, and go through my weekly media diet. Some outstanding albums out this week you shouldn’t sleep on. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Liner Notes (October 5th, 2018)

Well, this week has been a real piece of work. All this stuff in the news is overwhelmingly depressing on a level that’s hard to find the words to describe. The impact the 2016 election will have on our country’s courts will be felt for a good portion of my life. Next time someone tries to tell you voting doesn’t matter, smack them upside the head. It’s been a trying week. I just feel overwhelmingly tired.

Along with this week’s media diet I include some thoughts on the “dynamic desktop” feature of macOS, baseball, and a playlist of ten songs that got me through the week. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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