Technology

Technology

Overcast Launches New Audio Engine

Marco Arment has released a version of his Overcast podcast player with “Voice Boost 2,” if you are interested in the nerdy audio side of this, he’s written up a blog post explaining it:

This is about to get nerdier, but bear with me. (Yes, nerdier than ITU broadcast-loudness standards.)

Given a loudness measurement for the incoming audio, quieter podcasts need to be amplified to reach the target. But perceived loudness isn’t the peak of the incoming audio stream — it’s more of an average. Quiet-sounding audio can still have brief moments of loud peaks.

When increasing the volume of digital audio, the biggest challenge is not “clipping” during the peaks — not having any part of the signal pass above the volume ceiling of 0 dB. (It’s a negative scale. This is also why the LUFS value above, which is closely related to the decibel scale used here, is negative.)

Federico Viticci’s Must-Have Apps of 2019

One of my favorite features every year is Federico Viticci’s “Must-Have Apps” over at MacStories. I always end up finding something I didn’t know about and put into my workflow. This year I’ll be looking into moving my bookmarks over into Raindrop.io because the current state of native apps for Pinboard is awful.

This entire story features a collection of the 50 apps I consider my must-haves on the iPhone and iPad, organized in seven categories; whenever possible, I included links to original reviews and past coverage on MacStories.

If you’re looking for great new apps, this is a must read.

The Best Reverse Image Search

Aric Toler, writing at Bellingcat:

The first and most important piece of advice on this topic cannot be stressed enough: Google reverse image search isn’t very good.

As of this guide’s publication date, the undisputed leader of reverse image search is the Russian site Yandex. After Yandex, the runners-up are Microsoft’s Bing and Google. A fourth service that could also be used in investigations is TinEye, but this site specializes in intellectual property violations and looks for exact duplicates of images.

8tracks Is Shutting Down

David Porter:

8tracks has had a long run and its day in the sun. We’re sad to announce, however, that the company and its streaming service will wind down with the end of the decade, on December 31st, 2019.

We have mixed feelings as we round out this decade and the life of 8tracks. We served many listeners and DJs well, at important times in their lives, for more than a decade, introducing adventurous listeners to new artists they may never have otherwise discovered, and for that we’re proud. On the other hand, we recognize we’ve disappointed many listeners and DJs, employees, investors and partners. We all wish we’d had the opportunity to continue to innovate in the music sector and serve our community and other stakeholders well, just as we had in our earlier years.

The iOS 13 Bible

Federico Viticci’s incredibly detailed review of iOS 13 was released today:

Amidst a deluge of new features and design updates, iOS 13, more than its predecessors, makes clear that Apple doesn’t consider iOS just an operating system anymore: it’s the platform upon which the company can build other experiences. In a way, the modern iOS is to Apple devices what Mac OS X was to the original iPhone: a stable technological foundation, ready to be taken in new directions.

No one is writing more in-depth and helpful reviews of iOS and iPadOS these days. And I don’t say that just because there’s some really good bookmarks and screen shots in the Safari section.

Amazon Music Launching Lossless Streaming Tier

Amazon Music is rolling out a new lossless streaming tier.

Amazon is launching a new tier of its music service today, dubbed Amazon Music HD. It offers lossless versions of audio files for streaming or downloading at a price that aggressively undercuts Tidal, the main competition for this kind of audio. Amazon will charge $14.99 a month for the HD tier, or $12.99 if you’re an Amazon Prime customer. Tidal’s Hi-Fi plan costs $19.99 monthly. The new plan was rumored a few months ago.

YouTube Music Cracks Down on Rampant Chart Manipulation

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch:

YouTube will no longer allow paid views and advertising to influence its YouTube Music Charts, the company announced this morning. Instead, it will calculate its rankings based only on view counts coming from organic plays. In addition, it’s changing its methodology for reporting on 24-hour record debuts to also only count views from organic sources, including direct links to the video, search results, Watch Next and Trending — but not video advertising.

Spotify Acquires SoundBetter

TechCrunch:

Spotify today took another step in its efforts to build out services for artists to help diversify itself away from a business model predicated on paying music streaming royalties to labels: it has acquired SoundBetter, a music production marketplace for artists, producers, and musicians to connect on specific projects; and for people who are looking to distribute music tracks to those who want to license them.

Why Music Isn’t a Top-Two Category on Patreon (Yet)

I found this conversation between Wyatt Jenkins, SVP of product at Patreon, and Cherie Hu of the Water & Music podcast absolutely fascinating:

So what Patreon is is a membership platform. And what that means as a patron, as someone who is a fan of a musician, is you are a part of that tribe. You have an inside view, you get the merch first, you get to understand what songs are coming out later, you can have creative input — those are all the kinds of things that happen in a membership that’s fundamentally different than a subscription. Back to what we’re trying to define here: we are defining membership on the web as a way to deliver really unique value to fans.

They do a deep dive into the music industry, where it’s going, and how musicians could better use platforms like Patreon to build meaningful connections with fans.

Disney Announces $12.99 Bundle for Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+

Julia Alexander, writing for The Verge:

Disney will offer a bundle package of its three streaming services — Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ — for $12.99 a month starting on November 12th, the company announced today. […]

The streaming services is likely to be available through “Amazon, Apple, and other distributors,” according to Iger. Disney has not finalized any deals with the aforementioned companies, but told investors “we feel it’s important for us to achieve scale quickly, and we think it’s going to be an important part of that. They’re all interested in distributing the product.”

Etsy Is Acquiring Reverb

Dami Lee, writing at The Verge:

Etsy, the e-commerce platform for handmade goods, is acquiring music gear marketplace Reverb for $275 million in cash. The site, which sells new, used, and vintage musical instruments and accessories, will continue to operate as a standalone business.

My Frantic Life as a Cab-Dodging, Tip-Chasing Food App Deliveryman

Andy Newman, writing at The New York Times:

On my first DoorDash shift, a lunch run in Brooklyn, I learned about the company’s interesting tipping policy.

DoorDash offers a guaranteed minimum for each job. For my first order, the guarantee was $6.85 and the customer, a woman in Boerum Hill who answered the door in a colorful bathrobe, tipped $3 via the app. But I still received only $6.85.

Here’s how it works: If the woman in the bathrobe had tipped zero, DoorDash would have paid me the whole $6.85. Because she tipped $3, DoorDash kicked in only $3.85. She was saving DoorDash $3, not tipping me.

Pre-Saving Albums Can Allow Labels to Track Users on Spotify

Billboard:

Users who “pre-save” an upcoming release to their Spotify accounts may be sharing more personal data with the act’s label than they realize.

To pre-save music, which adds a release to a user’s library as soon as it comes out, Spotify users click through and approve permissions that give the label far more account access than the streaming giant normally grants them — enough to track what they listen to, change what artists they follow and potentially even control their music streaming remotely.

Jony Ive Leaving Apple

Jony Ive, the famous designer at Apple, is leaving the company after thirty years. I thought Gruber’s take on the whole thing was pretty good:

Third: This may be good news. Ive is, to state the obvious, preternaturally talented. But in the post-Jobs era, with all of Apple design, hardware and software, under his control, we’ve seen the software design decline and the hardware go wonky. I don’t know the inside story, but it certainly seems like a good bet that MacBook keyboard fiasco we’re still in the midst of is the direct result of Jony Ive’s obsession with device thinness and minimalism. Today’s MacBooks are worse computers but more beautiful devices than the ones they replaced. Is that directly attributable to Jony Ive? With these keyboards in particular, I believe the answer is yes.

Spotify Says They Overpaid Songwriters and Publishers in 2018

Tim Ingham, writing at Music Business Worldwide:

Because of this additional complexity, Spotify has now calculated that, retrospectively, according to the CRB decision, many music publishers actually owe it money for 2018, due to an overpayment based on the prior rates. And guess what? It wants that money back.

Spotify told the publishers the news this week and, as you can imagine, these companies – already up in arms over Spotify’s CRB appeal – are fuming about it.

One senior figure in the music publishing industry told MBW: “Spotify is clawing back millions of dollars from publishers in the US based on the new CRB rates that favor the DSPs, while appealing the [wider CRB decision]. This puts some music publishers in a negative position. It’s unbelievable.”

Lyrics Site Accuses Google of Lifting Its Content

The Wall Street Journal:

Genius Media Group Inc. depends on Google’s search engine to send music lovers to its website stocked with hard-to-decipher lyrics to hip-hop songs and other pop hits.

Now Genius says its traffic is dropping because, for the past several years, Google has been publishing lyrics on its own platform, with some of them lifted directly from the music site. […]

Starting around 2016, Genius said, the company made a subtle change to some of the songs on its website, alternating the lyrics’ apostrophes between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song.

When the two types of apostrophes were converted to the dots and dashes used in Morse code, they spelled out the words “Red Handed.”

Spotify’s Mood Related Data Lets Advertisers Target by Listeners Emotional State

Liz Pelly, writing for The Baffler:

[A] more careful look into Spotify’s history shows that the decision to define audiences by their moods was part of a strategic push to grow Spotify’s advertising business in the years leading up to its IPO—and today, Spotify’s enormous access to mood-based data is a pillar of its value to brands and advertisers, allowing them to target ads on Spotify by moods and emotions. Further, since 2016, Spotify has shared this mood data directly with the world’s biggest marketing and advertising firms.

This creeps me out.

More Information About New Music App on macOS 10.15

Some more information has been uncovered about the upcoming iTunes changes answering some of the questions people had.

Jason Snell:

The Music app is basically iTunes—but with a design update that puts Apple Music at the fore. You can still see your entire music library, of course, and even buy music on the iTunes Store if you want to. As someone who uses iTunes with Apple Music every day, I’m okay with this change. And if you click on the Songs view in the Library section of the sidebar, you will get your classic iTunes song list back, like it never left.

Juli Clover:

Apple told Ars Technica that on Windows, there will be no changes. Those who use iTunes on a PC to manage their devices, listen to music, and make iTunes purchases will be able to continue to do so.

Adam Engst:

What about the syncing features of iTunes? macOS Catalina builds them into the Finder. Attach an iOS device to a Mac and it appears in a Finder window’s sidebar. Select it and what looks like the standard iTunes sync settings screen appears in the window. You won’t get syncing or management of iOS apps, but you’ll be able to back up, update, and restore devices from the Mac.