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Why Twitter Needs “Domain Names”

Twitter has been having a rough time. It’s losing users, and its share price is dropping. I use Twitter a lot, but I understand why users find it confusing. It can be hard to get used to the way things flow in your timeline, and it can be hard to know who the people are behind their @handles. (Mine is @mcelhearn; you should follow me.)

@davemark over at The Loop posted an article today discussing Five Things Twitter Just Promised. Dave excerpted part of a Twitter shareholder letter, and highlighted promises such as:

First, Twitter is an iconic service and a globally recognized brand. We are going to fix the broken windows and confusing parts, like the .@name syntax and @reply rules, that we know inhibit usage and drive people away.

But the problems go beyond that. It can be hard to know who is tweeting something, or if they’re tweeting on their own or for a company or organization.

I’ve always wondered why Twitter doesn’t have domain names. I don’t mean twitter.com; they have that. But domains for Twitter users. For example, take a company like Apple. They have a number of Twitter accounts, such as @AppStore, @AppleMusicHelp, and some Apple executives have accounts, such as @tim_cook and @cue.

But Twitter could make it easier to know who works for a company, or at least who’s using a company account. They could create a domain name. It could be something like @Apple/TimCook, or @TimCook/Apple. They could find a special character to separate the domain name from the user, so a company could buy a domain, and then control all the accounts with that domain.

This would also help with news organizations, whose reporters generally have personal accounts yet tweet about their work. Instead of knowing who CNN’s leading tweeters are by their names, a @CNN/WolfBlitzer account would make it obvious who the person is affiliated with.

Twitter could both make some money (though they shouldn’t charge much for this) and simplify things for new users with domain names.

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Hear Me Discuss Creating a Lossless iTunes Library

Chuck Joiner, who produces the MacVoices podcast, invited me for an hour-long discussion about lossless audio and iTunes. Chuck had a number of questions about his own iTunes library and whether it was worth spending time to re-rip his CDs in lossless format. So I walked him through the pros and cons, discussing the difference between lossless and lossy compression, explained how iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library work with lossless files, and gave Chuck some tips on syncing.

If you’ve ever wondered about lossless audio and iTunes, you should listen to (and watch) this podcast. Maybe twice. And take notes. Because I cover a lot, and I cover a lot of persnickety details.



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Why Driverless Cars Will Screech to a Stop

Every driver makes hundreds of daily driving decisions that, strictly speaking, break driving laws (for example, crossing the yellow line to pull around a double-parked vehicle). What company is going to program its driverless cars to break the law?

Will insurance policies for driverless cars cover the car itself? Or will they cover the owner of the vehicle? Or perhaps the technology company that controls the car’s routes? Who will be responsible if there is an accident? The individual owner or the the vehicle manufacturer? Or the company that designed the navigation system?

This is probably the biggest issue that will prevent or slow down the use of driverless cars. Unless they can ride on rails, there will be accidents, and there will be questions of liability.

(Via Why Driverless Cars Will Screech to a Stop | Observer.)

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The Committed Podcast Discusses Go and Artificial Intelligence

The Committed Podcast Icon 1400x1400 01In this week’s episode of The Committed podcast, Ian Schray, Rob Griffiths and I welcome Anders Kierulf to the show to talk about the fascinating world of Go, and, in particular, Google’s AlphaGo, which recently beat a European champion. We also talk about the new Kindle update, Apple’s Error 53 problem, and Ian’s towel problem.

Listen to The Committed, Episode 115: “Single-Use Towel”

If you like The Committed podcast, you can subscribe or leave a rating or review on iTunes, or with your favorite podcatcher.

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How Hi-Fi Magazines Write about Cables, Part 17: Hard Disks

It’s been nearly a year since my last article in this series (which I find surprising; the time has gone by quickly). A reader contacted me last week with a delightful story of a website called EnjoyTheMusic.com that ran an article saying that:

Listening tests reveal significant sound quality differences between various digital music storage technologies.

Oh, my, where does one even begin with this? The fact that 1s and 0s are 1s and 0s? Or the fact that that hard drives in the tests are connected to all sorts of other components, such as data busses, connectors, cables (yep), and more.

Nah, not even worth suggesting such things. Instead, let’s marvel at this comment:

QNAP1 was found to serve up music with a similar level of rhythmic drive and image soundstaging as a good CD transport playing directly into our system’s DAC. If anything, there was perceptibly more ‘drive’, in the sense of bass euphony and articulation, but this came with increased level which made the sound a tad bass heavy.

I mean, if you think about it, the hard drive should provide exactly the same sound as a “CD transport” playing the same music. But here, there was more “drive” and it was louder (which, you know, is physically impossible since 1s and 0s don’t have loudness).

Nevertheless:

Also, QNAP1 did not sound as clean as CD in the higher registers. Some edgy grain exaggerated the sampled horns that sets the scene in the opening of Primal Scream’s Loaded, adding to the color but nudging it off neutrality. Splash cymbals lived up to their name.

Yes, the 1s and 0s were a bit clipped in the high frequencies. Those would be the frequencies higher than 0, I assume.

But then the Keystone audio testers tried using different hard drives in the same NAS. This is an interesting test, because it could should that EVERY HARD DRIVE SOUNDS EXACTLY THE SAME, but, somehow, through the magic of audiophilia, they didn’t.

In our initial listening tests, I couldn’t discern any tangible difference in sound between the two hard drives. Harris thought the Hitachi sounded very ethereal, almost out of phase, and rated it lowest; the Seagate was sharper with a more thumpy bass, slightly brighter with a slight tendency to sibilance. Both lacked much drive in presenting the Madonna track, and were certainly ‘mushy’ compared with the best sound quality we’d heard from the QNAP stable.

Because some 1s and 0s have sharper and more thumpy bass. Now, one could suggest that the sharper and more thumpy bass comes from storing the music files on the outer edges of the disk’s platters, and our team of reviewers should have known that…

Then they moved to a couple of SSDs.

Drive three (a solid state type) gave a far from subtle shift in tone and soundstaging. I thought that here this Kingston SSD spread the stage wider, could really pull apart the multi-track layers, and certainly led in blackness too, sounding agreeably quieter than it had any right to. Yet there was also a dull flatness to its presentation, even a graying of timbre.

It could “pull apart the multi-track layers,” you know, the 1s and 0s. And it “led in blackness;” as you know, 0s are blacker than 1s. But it was dull, gray. Sigh.

What about the other SSD?

If the Kingston SSD stood apart from the disk drives for its mostly good yet quite alien character, drive four made itself known for entirely the wrong reasons. This Corsair drive (another SSD) conspicuously highlighted vocal sibilants, and had a hard, relentless quality that was impossible to miss. Strangely, it also robbed the music of pace; it was the least engaging on any emotional level thanks to an enveloping tunelessness that appeared to carve up a song like an MP3 rip.

Well, I won’t be buying any Corsair SSDs for my computers. It sounds like it’s rubbish!

To conclude:

This initial trial was not intended to be an exhaustive study into all the factors that can affect the sound quality of network and computer audio, only to confirm or deny the suspicion that digital bitstream coming from hard disks are not all equal. Which has to be somewhat surprising, to say the least.

Really now? The bits are different? Hmmm, and how might one prove that… I wonder if there are ways to, you know, copy files and compare them to PROVE THAT THEY ARE EXACTLY THE SAME.

By now we should know better, and acknowledge that digital audio is very far from immutable.

Now, by now we should know better than to trust anyone who actually comes to this type of conclusion.

Post scriptum:

Why do these people never understand that the difference is between their ears? They were seeking differences, and they used the good old confirmation bias to find it. Also, humans are not the same all the time. As the day goes on, our ears and our brain change in the way they interpret sound and other stimuli. Maybe they had a cup of coffee before they listened to the drive that sounded “alien,” or maybe they only tested the SSDS after lunch, or after a few beers. This sort of subjective test is simply dumb. These “hypotheses” can be easily tested to prove that data out equals data in, but as long as there are fools willing to be parted with their money, they will keep on testing for unicorns.

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Kirkville

Writings about Macs, music and more by Kirk McElhearn