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Possible Solution for Problems Syncing iOS Devices with iTunes

As I’ve reported here, lots of people have problems syncing iOS devices with iTunes. I’ve researched this issue, talking with many people, and finding a solution is difficult. Nevertheless, I have a theory, and I need a few people to test it. I can’t test it, because all of my devices are syncing correctly.

Testing this will involve a fair amount of time to restore a device, and sync several times. So, rather than post my theory here, I’m making a call for a few beta testers. If you have sync problems with an iOS device running iOS 8, and are using iTunes 12, get in touch with me via my contact form. I’ll write back explaining what you’ll need to do.

I may be totally wrong, but the only way to find out is to have several people test my theory. When I’ve gotten enough testers, I’ll change this post to say so. Thanks in advance.

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How Will Apple Deal with Supply and Demand for the Apple Watch?

With the Apple Watch, Apple is entering a new retail channel. As MacRumors points out, Apple is opening Apple Watch shops in several department stores, such as Galleries Lafayette in Paris, Selfridges in London, and Isetan in Tokyo.

But in this type of retail channel, watches that are displayed are in stock. You don’t go to a store like that to see an item and find that you can’t buy it, and, if you order it, you must wait a month or more for delivery.

Apple, however, is used to this type of supply constraint. When a new iPhone goes on sale, early birds get day-and-date delivery, while those who order a few hours later may need to wait from a week to a month, or even more, to get their phones. We’re used to this with new tech gadgets; we wouldn’t buy blue jeans if we had to pre-order them.

Leaving aside the luxury watch market – the $10 – $17K Apple Watch models – if I go into a store to buy a watch, I’d expect to be able to walk out with my purchase. This is the case for anything I’d buy in a department store. This will most likely not be the case with the Apple Watch. Apple will be displaying all the models, and will only be able to sell those in stock, or take orders.

Apple is entering new territory in this type of retail channel. I wonder how consumers will react. I don’t think they’ll be happy about any lack of stock, which will undoubtedly occur when the Apple Watch is released.

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Theater Review: Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, by the Royal Shakespeare Company

It’s quite telling that the current performance of Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre, is a rousing comedy. Originally entitled The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta, this play was a scathing attack on Jews, with the lead character, Barabas, showing every trait that anti-Semites use to attack Jews.

But presenting this play more than 500 years after it was first performed, there’s no way to take it seriously. What was once an earnest tragedy, presenting the everyday racism of the 16th century, and showing how Christians overcame a Jew, has to be turned into a comedy to function on stage. And the RSC have done a remarkable job with it.

The play itself isn’t very good, and is more of interest for its possible influence on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (which the RSC is performing this summer). The language isn’t great, and the story is complex, involving religious quarrels, money, marriage, deaths and vengeance, leading to the death of Barabas as he tries to become the governor of Malta.

The Christian governor of the island imposes a tax on Jews, taking half their assets, in order to pay off the Turks who are trying to invade the island. Barabas, the “rich Jew of Malta,” protests, and the governor takes all of his money. He tries to get revenge, first inciting a duel between the governor’s son Lodowick and his friend Mathias, who are both enamored of Barabas’ daughter Abigail. After they both die, Abigial learns that her father was behind their death, and goes off to join a nunnery.

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Barabas buys a slave, Ithamore, and convinces him that he will make the former slave his heir. Together, they poison the nuns, then kill one of the friars and have the other hanged for his death. They then poison a prostitute and her friend who are attempting to get money from Barabas.

Barabas then feigns death, only to help the Turkish army find a way into Malta to take over the island. But this is thwarted as the Maltese discover his plot, and kill the Turks, and then Barabas.

From this synopsis, you can see that this is quite the tragedy, with a body count nearly as high as that of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. But as anti-Semitism is once again increasing in Europe, the only way to work with a text like this is to present it as a farce, and director Justin Audibert, in his RSC debut, does just that.

Jasper Britton as Barabas is massive. His presence is what drives the play, especially because he is on stage for about one-third of the time. He plays this part in a slightly hammy manner, staying just shy of over-exaggerating. His acting is superb, leading one to wonder if he wouldn’t have also been a great Shylock in the RSC’s forthcoming Merchant of Venice. He is at times funny, pathetic, and sad. Yet he never wavers in his conviction that he has been wronged, and that he has to get even.

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Another notable talent is Lanre Malaolu, who first adopts animalistic movements, like a lion in a cage, when he is bought as a slave, and then unshackled. Through the play, he adopts a swagger that shows how much his character has changed, and filled the position as Barabas’ henchman. It’s not clear what his motivations are, other than to simply get even with those who had enslaved him.

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While the acting by the entire cast is excellent, what I think really won over the audience last night – which erupted in rapturous applause at the end of the play – was the overall atmosphere of the play. With fast pacing, attractive costumes, attractive light and music, the occasional dance routine and fight scene, all on a simple set (nothing more than a tiled floor with a stone terraced staircase at the back of the stage), the visuals of this play made it more than the sum of its parts. It avoided being long and turgid; Audibert cut some 45 minutes from the play, making it a taut 130 minutes long (plus intermission). It was quite simply entertaining.

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Taken like this – a comedy, with often slapstick moments – The Jew of Malta works well. It’s not faithful to its original intention, it’s not a tragedy, and the anti-Semitism is quashed by comedy. And that’s a good thing.

(Photos by Ellie Kurtz for the RSC.)

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Fantastical 2, a Full-Featured Calendar App for OS X

I’ve long used Fantastical on my iPhone, finding it to be much more practical than Apple’s Calendar app, but on OS X, I couldn’t use the corresponding app: it was just a mini window that displayed a calendar and a list of events. Flexibits has released Fantastical 2, a major update to their OS X calendar app, which, now, is a full windowed app, though the mini window is still available.

In the full-window version of the app, Fantastical repeats its design of its menubar tool – and its iOS app – with a monthly calendar and an event list in a sidebar. You view your events in two locations: the sequential list, and the daily, weekly or monthly calendar.

Month View

Mini WindowThe sidebar can display in either dark or light mode, as can the mini window. Click the Fantastical icon in the menubar and you can view and even tear off the window, using the smaller window as your calendar if you don’t need a full-sized calendar.

There’s also a Today widget for the OS X Notification Center, and Fantastical supports Handoff, so you can start creating an event on one device then switch to another. I’m not sure how useful that will be; it doesn’t take long to create a calendar event, and it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth to use Handoff.

On of the key features of Fantastical is its natural language parsing engine, which lets you enter events by typing, for example, “lunch with John Friday 12pm,” or “reminder 6pm.”

If you use multiple calendars – such as one or more for work, and others for private activities – you can easily switch between them by creating calendar sets.

I’d been using BusyCal for several years, but I find that Fantastical is a lot easier to use and manage. I do miss a couple of BusyCal features, though. There’s a setting in BusyCal to display monthly view starting with the current week, so you don’t see a lot of past events, as shown in the screenshot above. And you can save searches, which I found practical for looking at the calendar I share with my partner, to see the next dates I when we have theater tickets.

Fantastical’s display is a bit harder to read in Monthly view, which is what I use almost all the time. Instead of coloring scheduled event titles with the colors of their calendars, there’s only a small colored bullet next to them. (All-day events are highlighted with the calendar’s color, so they’re easy to read.) So it’s harder for me to tell which event is attached to which calendar. Daily and Weekly views are much easier to read, but I would hope that they can improve the readability of the Monthly view in a future update.

In spite of these small gripes, I quickly adopted Fantastical after using it a bit as a beta. I like the fact that the interface on my Macs and my iPhone is now similar – this isn’t a deal-breaker, but I find it a lot easier when apps are on both platforms.

Fantastical is available from the Mac App Store at a launch price of $40, which will increase to $50 at an unnamed date. You can download a demo version of Fantastical from the Flexibits website; kudos to them for making a demo available, so people don’t hesitate to try out this great app.

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ECM Records Launches iTunes Radio Station

Cover200x200ECM records, long a streaming naysayer, has launched an iTunes Radio station. ECM Records Radio plays a selection of music “from recently released and up and coming albums,” according to a tweet from ECM. (I can’t find any other official announcement, such as a press release.)

In initial listens, the music I’ve heard is neither recently released nor up and coming, but rather tracks from ECM’s excellent collection of jazz and world music. Many of the tracks played are quite long, more than ten minutes, and one of them, Selva Amazonica – Pau Roulo, by Egberto Gismonti, was more than 20 minutes long.

I’ve always appreciated the eclectic music on ECM, but never had the time to explore much of their content. This is a good way to discover what this great record label has in its catalogue.

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