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BBC Documentary Blames Apple for Chinese Labor Conditions, Ignores All the Other Companies

I’ve worked at a lot of different jobs in my life, but there are a few I’d never like to try: picking crops on a farm, working in a chicken processing plant, and working in any kind of factory. The relentless assembly lines and the noise of the machines would be hard to deal with. Even those factories without deafening machines still seem like harsh places to work, if only because of the cadence they impose on employees.

Whatever device you’re reading this article on was built in a factory, most likely in China. In this country, not known for its pleasant working conditions, all the major computer manufacturers have their devices built and assembled. Including Apple.

Apple has been publishing Supplier Responsibility Progress Reports on its website since 2007, detailing the efforts the company has made to improve the conditions of workers. (You can read this year’s report right here.)

But has it made a difference? This is what journalist Richard Bilton set out to find. The BBC ran a documentary last night on its Panorama program (roughly the British equivalent of 60 Minutes, except each show is a full hour about a single topic). He wanted to know whether the conditions in Apple’s plants had improved since the company promised, following a series of suicides at a Foxconn plant in 2010, to improve them.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

The iTunes Guy Finds Your Lost Ringtones and More

itunesguy-thum-100004188-gallery.jpgAnother iOS update, another round of bugs. This time, a recent update to iOS 8 deleted ringtones and alert tones. I explain how to get them back. I also look at using multiple Apple IDs in the iTunes Store and App Store, discuss not being able to block iTunes Radio, and look at a question about moving an iTunes library to a new Mac while retaining metadata.

Read this week’s Ask the iTunes Guy at Macworld.

Apple’s Chinese Factories: Did the BBC Pass Off China Labor Watch’s Reporting as Their Own?

The BBC broadcast a scathing documentary about working conditions in Chinese factories last night, in a documentary on its Panorama program called Apple’s Broken Promises. In researching this story for an article that will be published on Macworld later today, I noted that China Labor Watch, an advocacy group fighting for better working conditions in China, published a report, Apple’s Unkept Promises: Investigation of Three Pegatron Group Factories Supplying to Apple.

This report discusses exactly what the BBC documentary did, and discuses the same problems that the BBC documentary highlighted. I’m curious as to whether the hidden-camera footage in the BBC documentary comes from that report, or if the BBC did, as the journalist claims, send three reporters into Megatron factories. The BBC gives no credit to this group (though it does interview one of its spokesmen), and the report dates from July 2013; if the footage the BBC showed last night is more than 18 months old, it would be useful to know if things have changed since then.

While you’re waiting to read my Macworld article, read this article on Macworld UK, by Karen Haslam, who discusses many of the same points I make.

The Loudness Wars and Classical Music

Cover600x600I got a new recording yesterday that I’m quite enjoying: Philip Glass’s latest release, The Complete Piano Etudes, on his own label Orange Mountain Music. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) I started listening to it last night, in bed, on headphones; I was surprised at how low I needed to turn the volume on my iPhone.

This morning, I decided to look at the tracks and see how loud they were. I was quite surprised. Here’s one of them:

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 10.26.30 AM.png

There is clipping from beginning to end of the track, and that final section is brutal. This is a recording of a single piano. Pianos can be loud, and if you record too close to a piano, it will result in clipping. But this is a world where, ever classical music has to be loud.

Perhaps that’s the point, though. In trying to make this music accessible to non-classical listeners – much of Philip Glass’s audience may be genre-agnostic – the producer of this recording felt it was necessary to increase the loudness, so, when a track comes up on shuffle after a Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift track, those with hearing damage can hear the music.

It’s great music; while there’s a lot of Philip Glass’s music I don’t like, this is the kind that does work for me. But this heinous loudness makes it sound horrible.

Setting Up a New Mac: Should You Migrate or Do a Clean Installation?

If you’ve just bought a new Mac, and you’re upgrading from an older computer, you want all of your files and data to be accessible on the new machine. But when setting up a new Mac, should you migrate or do a clean installation?

When you buy a new Mac, it might be a good idea to do a clean installation; starting from scratch, with a brand-new operating system, and adding the files that you need manually. Here’s how to migrate your files to your new Mac, or do a clean installation, and the pros and cons of both methods.

Read the rest of the article on the Intego Mac Security Blog.

What to Do When iTunes Doesn’t Find Track Names for CDs You’re Ripping

I ripped some CDs today, and was very surprised to see this in iTunes:

Ember

iTunes uses the Gracenote CDDB database for CD lookups, and, for 99.9% of the CDs I’ve ripped, it finds the correct albums. (One notable exception is CDs from the Brilliant Classics label.) It finds this metadata because almost every record label uploads it to Gracenote. (Yes, Brilliant Classics is very lazy.)

Cover600x600The CD I was ripping is Philip Glass’s latest release, The Complete Piano Etudes, on his own label Orange Mountain Music. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) I’ve ripped other Philip Glass CDs shortly after they were released – this disc is only a few weeks old – and always gotten track info. So this one is surprising.

If you don’t see track info, you can enter it yourself, and then upload it to Gracenote, so others who rip the CD will get your tags when they rip it.

To do this, select the first track on a CD in iTunes, and then press Command-I (or Shift-I on Windows). Fill in the fields that display in this window; at least the song name, artist and album fields; if it’s classical music, also enter the composer. If there are more than one discs, click the Add Field menu and add the disc number field.

Info window
When you’ve finished entering the data for one track, press Command-N, or click the next button at the bottom left of the window. Enter the data for other tracks, and then click OK.

Next, click the Options menu near the top-right of the iTunes window and choose Submit CD Track Names. This sends the information to Gracenote. iTunes will confirm that the data has been sent.

Gracenote uploaded full

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