• Newsletter Issue #817

    July 27th, 2015


    So we had Apple’s financials, and the curious reaction by Wall Street, plus a delayed back-to-school sale. Customers also had another chance to download and install beta versions of OS X El Capitan and iOS 9. Some even take it realistically, while others merely post criticisms to the public at large, not realizing that beta software is going to have bugs, sometimes serious ones. One tech blogger even wrote a piece about the decline in the quality of Apple software, and was foolish enough to mention the state of prerelease software as an example.

    Talk about being dumb!

    In a sensible move, Apple killed the ability to post comments on the App Store about how software works with the beta OS, since that’s just not fair. You expect some apps to be incompatible, usually because Apple added new features, or changed older features, and updates are needed. I’ve been in touch with several publishers about issues I’ve found, and I’ll mention them in passing in the days to come for those who want to know if they should take the public beta plunge. But that’s not a review. It’s merely a piece of information. Developers are busy making their stuff work with the new operating systems from Apple.

    One key example is Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack, a key tool for recording my radio shows. It’s partly compatible with El Capitan right now, and I do know they are working hard to deliver a fully compatible update. By the time the next versions of OS X and iOS are officially released, you’ll see a slew of similar updates. That’s how things work, and there’s no need to criticize a normal part of the ongoing development process.

    Now on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented tech author Josh Centers, Managing Editor for TidBITS, and author of “Take Control of Apple TV” and other titles, who focused his conversation on the disconnect between Apple’s quarterly financials and Wall Street’s reaction, where the stock price lost a few points. He also discussed the surprising decision by Jim Dalrymple, of The Loop, to “fire” Apple Music because of various and sundry problems that included the loss of 4700 songs. The discussion also focused on the possible antitrust investigation into Apple Music, presumed Apple Watch Sales, and how Josh replaced the display on his wife’s iPhone 5c using an installation kit.

    You also heard from Jeff Gamet, Managing Editor for The Mac Observer, who also discussed the questionable reaction by Wall Street to Apple’s record-setting financials. What about Apple Watch and iPad sales? Should Apple relent and reveal actual figures for their smartwatch? Jeff also talked about the ongoing problems reported with Apple Music and iTunes, and Jim Dalrymple’s decision to give up on Apple’s subscription music service.

    Since the show was done, Jim wrote a report on his visit to Apple and the possible solutions to his various problems. I’ll have more to say about this matter in the next article.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present a special shop talk/listener roundtable episode featuring Don Ecker, of the “Dark Matters” radio show, and forum regulars Curt Collins and Goggs Mackay. The bill of fare is wide-ranging, including the state of the UFO field, disclosure, and a major emphasis on lunar mysteries. Why did we stop landing people on the moon? The discussion will also include focus on other solar system mysteries, and the discovery of “Earth 2.0,” Kepler-452b, a larger “Goldilocks” planet that’s approximately 1,400 light years away from Earth.

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We’ve got swag! We’re taking orders direct from our Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.


    As you know, it’s quite normal for someone to switch products if you’re not satisfied. If your current car isn’t exciting you, or perhaps you’re sick and tired of all those trips to the repair shop, you’ll pick a different brand next time. Perhaps you just want to try something new, or if you received a bonus from your employer, and you’ve discovered a great lease offer on a luxury car, you may be tempted to take the plunge.

    Most of you probably upgrade your smartphones every couple of years. So it’s not uncommon to switch to a different brand. Or even a different platform. So there are people who switch to an iPhone and others who switch from the iPhone to an Android phone, such as one from Samsung. Of course, nobody has to justify their decision. It’s a matter of personal preference, budget, or the availability of a gadget that strikes your fancy.

    But some tech bloggers have decided that articles threatening to quit a product or platform, or actually quitting, constitute something significant. It the decision was somehow forced upon them by a buggy product or service, it is granted more significance than just a casual decision.

    When an “I Quit!” article is posted, the writer will quote chapter and verse about what forced this “momentous” decision. It’s seldom a matter of one’s changing preferences. Instead, the company who makes the product is routinely blamed for quality control slippages or some boneheaded decision to release a product, or change a product, in a way that’s deemed unacceptable.

    One prominent example is the article from someone who has opted to give up on the Mac, an iPhone or an iPad because of some presumed slight on the part of Apple, or chronic problems. Certainly if your computerized thingie continues to misbehave with constant crashes, or possibly lost data, it does make sense to look on the other side of the tracks.

    And it doesn’t hurt that using Apple in the title is almost certain hit bait.

    On the other hand, when Apple was really in the doldrums in the mid-1990s, millions of people gave up their Macs and went to Windows. With the release of Windows 95, it was perceived that Microsoft had delivered a satisfactory operating system that was good enough, so why pay more for a Mac? Some app developers took the hint and discontinued the Mac versions, or delivered stripped down versions that paled in comparison with the “real” Windows version.

    Microsoft infamously pulled that stunt with Word 6.0 for Mac. It was slow, bloated and buggy. I recall it taking over a minute to launch even on the most powerful Mac. At the time of its release, I had been working on a book for a major publisher that included a chapter or two about Microsoft’s Mac apps. So I was granted access to the beta version, and I kept submitting feedback about problems.

    Of course, they didn’t listen. Microsoft had come up with a cross-platform programming scheme called P-Code, a portable development platform that was designed to deliver both Mac and Windows versions of their apps. Only the apps tended to be very Windows-like, even in a Mac environment, and were thus not optimized for Apple’s platform.

    The official release gathered a litany of complaints, and it’s true that Microsoft made somewhat of an effort to fix the worst problems. So over time, Word 6 updates did launch much faster, although the interface remained dark and depressing, with only a passing recognition of Mac conventions.

    Indeed, it has taken until the new Word 2016 for the app to acquire most of the key features of the Windows version and consistent usability. In other words, users of the various Office 2016 for Mac apps shouldn’t feel they are somehow suffering seriously compared to the Windows version. That’s a selling point, but you wonder why it took two decades for Microsoft to get the memo.

    Well, perhaps the original reason to cripple the Mac version may have been to give you a taste of their products, hoping you would move to Windows to get more than a taste. That’s yet another reason why some quit the platform.

    Now it’s not just the Apple-quitters who detail their experiences in exquisite detail. Some of these people try Android, or Windows, and realize the grass wasn’t greener and announce their return to the Mac. Yes, it does happen!

    I will assume most of these people are being honest in expressing the reasons for the change. But there are some, and I won’t mention one prominent offender since he’s actually a nice guy and a friend, who regularly tout their platform and product changes. One year a product receives high praise, but it doesn’t survive the livability test, so they switch. And switch again.

    But you have to thing that a loyal Apple customer, particularly a prominent tech journalist, is going to be real reluctant to make a move of this sort without good reason.

    So when The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple, someone I’ve known for years, announced in his blog that he couldn’t take Apple Music anymore, you had to pay attention. Clearly he received a lot of coverage in the tech media about his decision, and those who don’t like Apple must have been happy with the result.

    In short, Jim cited serious interface shortcomings, and iTunes Music Library database glitches that, he said, lost him 4,700 tunes from his large music library that he couldn’t replace. That others have reported database problems after setting up Apple Music only made the issue more signifiant.

    Well, Jim was able to do something few journalists have a chance to do, which was to pay a visit to Apple headquarters and speak with their engineering team about his problems.

    Long and short of it is that Jim got most of his music back, as he writes in an update to the original blog. He reports that, “Apple said my music was never deleted and that it was in the cloud the entire time. Before Apple Music, iTunes Match would show me all of my songs—matched, uploaded, and purchased. However, if you turn off iCloud Music Library and Apple Music, iTunes Match will only show your purchased content now. There is no way to separate iTunes Match from the iCloud Music Library. Before, you would turn off iTunes Match—now you would turn off iCloud Music Library.”

    So it wasn’t the loss of songs, but an incorrect choice that was largely responsible for the problem, a choice easily changed. But Jim said he still couldn’t recover all the songs, particularly has extensive library of hard-rocker Ozzy Osbourne tunes. Apple suggested he may have deleted the tracks by mistake in his attempts to fix the problem, something Jim does not deny.

    This doesn’t mean Apple is blameless. The worst problems appear to happen for those who already have iTunes Match subscriptions when they sign up for Apple Music. Although the services are still separate, it does appear you no longer need to use the former when you switch to the latter. But Apple ought to explain that in clear language to customers when you sign up for Apple Music, and maybe offer to credit some of your unused balance towards the new service.

    I’m just saying.

    Apple also promises an update to fix other glitches, such as mistakenly adding an Apple Music (hence DRM) tag to songs you already own, or garbling music compilations, such as “Best of” albums, with the same songs you may already have in separate albums.

    Clearly Apple took Jim’s decision seriously, since they invited him to work through his problems at their headquarters. At this point, with most of his library back, it’s not at all clear if he plans to return to Apple Music, or will let this be a life’s lesson. I’m still concerned, though, why he failed to back up his music library before setting up Apple Music. But maybe Apple made it just too easy to subscribe without advising customers of the potential downsides.


    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis

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    One Response to “Newsletter Issue #817”

    1. Shashi Prabhakar says:

      If you can switch products easily (these days platforms & ecosystems) – that says you are not heavily invested in it as an interaction experience in the platform as a whole. If you are heavily invested in it – then you find yourself in the position of being subject to teething pains. So “I Quit” – does not work anymore for power users. And it best to wait for a updated version once the bugs hidden in todays feature heavy products are worked out.

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