I use Facebook to keep in touch with far-off friends and colleagues. I check it now and then, post things, and comment on friends’ posts. I’ve always seen the column of ads on the right of the page, but I manage to ignore the ads most of the time.
Today, however, my evolutionary wiring led my eyes to check out two ads I saw. You can see them below:
I’ve always known that sex sells, but these are risible. The use of large-breasted women to sell a “government solar scheme,” for saving money with solar panels, or to get me to click through to speed up my Mac is just funny. I wonder what women see for the same ads…
Posted: 6/4/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X | No Comments »
Apple has introduced a stripped-down version of the 5th generation iPod touch (that’s the latest model) for $229. This new iPod only has one storage option – 16 GB – and has no back-facing camera. With limited storage and limited photo/video options, who is this new iPod for?
It’s an odd hybrid: it runs apps, plays music and videos, but you can’t shoot photos or videos (not easily, unless you plan to film yourself). And the storage is fine for a limited music collection, but it’s not very useful for adding videos.
However, this might be the perfect iPod touch for a very large demographic: your children. The iPod touch is a great device for games, and there are thousands of games for kids. If you have an iOS device, you’ve probably found that your kids want to bogart your iPhone or iPod touch, but at the current price for the 5th generation iPod touch, you may have hesitated about buying one. Given that the 32 GB model is $299, the saving of $70 for this device is a nice chunk of change. You get the same processor and display, but you don’t get a choice of colors. But, above all, you get a cheaper version of the iPod touch that is fine for playing games.
If it’s music you want, then the 7th generation iPod nano is what you want. It’s smaller, lighter, and has the same amount of storage – 16 GB. But it doesn’t have any camera, and doesn’t run apps. But if all you want is music, there’s no need to spend more than the $149 this model costs.
I’ve been a fan of the iPod nano over the years, and I very much like the newest model. Not only is it small and light, but it has Bluetooth. I’ve become enamored of wireless headphones for listening to music when I’m out on my daily walks, and if I didn’t have an iPhone, I’d buy the nano for music on the go. It’s got enough storage for me to add music I like to listen to when I walk, and is small and unobtrusive.
Posted: 6/4/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: Apple, iPod | No Comments »
One of the things that irked many users when iTunes 11 was released was the inability to open more than one window. Some users kept an iTunes Store window open all the time; others liked to open playlists in their own windows, to make it easier to drag tracks to them and edit their contents.
AppleScript maestro Doug Adams has released the $5 Playlist Assist, a new tool which replicates some of the old iTunes playlist window features. Playlist Assist gives you a floating window that you can use to create and edit playlists. But you can also get track info, change tags, play tracks using Quick Look, and export playlists.
I’ve been using this for a while in beta, and I’m quite impressed by its flexibility. If you want a great tool for creating and editing playlists, you need Playlist Assist.
Posted: 6/4/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: iTunes | No Comments »
The recent hullabaloo over Apple not paying income tax is almost surreal. The company has so much money overseas – currently some $100 billion in cash – that it has issued bonds to proceed with a share buy-back plan. The interest on the bonds is much less than the amount of tax the company would pay if they repatriated some of their income.
In addition, it turns out that Apple negotiated a “secret deal” with the Irish government back in the 1980s, so they only pay 2% income tax on the money they park in that country, though they actually only paid about 0.5%.
My question here is not whether it is moral for Apple to do this (the law allows them to do so), but why Apple or any other major corporation is not treated like other US citizens?
Expatriate US citizens – whether they are permanent residents of other countries or not – are taxed by the US on their foreign income. There is an earned income exclusion, which increases from time to time, and which does not take into account exchange rates. A US citizen could be well under the threshold for paying taxes one year, but if on the date that the exchange rate is calculated, the rate is unfavorable, they could owe taxes the following year on the same amount of income. (The current earned income exclusion is $95,100 for an individual, and $190,200 for a couple.) This exclusion also does not take into account the relative cost of living of a country. If the cost of living is higher, salaries will be higher. I experienced this 25 years ago when I lived in Norway for a year; everything cost nearly twice as much as France (where I was living before that), but salaries were higher to compensate.
In addition, the paperwork for Americans overseas filing taxes is substantial, complicated, and in many cases requires the use of a tax attorney or accountant. (See this Boston Globe article for more about this issue.)
What’s even more unfair is that Americans abroad are taxed twice. Once in the country they live in, and another time, if they earn more than the earned income exclusion, by the US. It’s interesting to note that the only other country in the entire world that does this is Eritrea.
Yet Apple isn’t even a resident of another country. Their subsidiaries are, but those subsidiaries only make money for the US company; Apple doesn’t have separate business entities for different countries or territories. (Though they manage to avoid paying VAT in all EU countries but one by “locating” their iTunes Store activities in Luxembourg, where VAT is only 3%, thereby denying VAT income to other countries where digital content is purchased.)
It’s obvious that expatriate Americans get little or nothing in exchange for their taxes. Other than the low-probability events requiring getting bailed out by the US Consulate, Americans abroad get no Social Security benefits, no unemployment, no health care, or anything else for their tax dollars. Apple, however, and other global corporations, get huge benefits from the US legal system, research infrastructure, publicly-subsidized education system, and the many international treaties and agreements governing such key factors to their success as intellectual property and trade regulations. So all of Apple’s sales overseas benefit from the broader fact that it is a US company.
So let’s treat Apple – and Google, Amazon, Yahoo! and all the others – like American citizens. Tax their overseas income, don’t let them set up a web of tax shelters, but make them pay their share.
Posted: 5/27/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, Miscellanea Tags: Apple, taxes | 15 Comments »
I recently posted about the iTunes update that fixed the MiniPlayer. This 11.0.3 update – a minor update – includes tweaks to the MiniPlayer, but also restores album art to Songs view.
Back in the not-so-far-off days of iTunes 10, you could view your music in Album Art view, which showed music in a list, together with album art at the left. This was touted in iTunes 9 as a great way to view music, but iTunes 11 nixed the album art, showing lists such as Songs view in a sterile, hard to navigate manner. But the latest iTunes update brings this back.
Album Art view has long been my preferred view, because, together with the Column Browser, which you see at the top of the window, I can navigate my large music library by genre, artist, composer and album, and always have a visual reminder of what music I’m looking at. Since I have album art for just about all my music, these graphics let me spot what I’m looking for much more quickly than by reading. (If you’re not familiar with the Column Browser, you can turn it on by choosing View > Column Browser > Show Column Browser.)
To display album art in Songs view, on in a playlist in List view, do the following. Click on Music in the iTunes sidebar to go to your Music library. Click on Songs in the navigation bar. Choose View > Show View Options, and you’ll see the following at the top of the window that displays:
Check Show Artwork to display album art, and check Always Show to display it no matter how many songs are in an “album.” If you don’t check this latter option, the artwork will only display when there’s enough vertical space for it. Depending on the size of the artwork, this is 3, 5 or 7 songs. You can choose from three artwork sizes by moving the Artwork Size slider.
Posted: 5/21/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X | No Comments »
Apple released a minor update to iTunes last week (11.0.3), with, uncommonly, tweaks to a couple of features that are very welcome. The first I want to point out is the MiniPlayer:
I like the new MiniPlayer, but was critical of the lack of a progress bar in my review of iTunes 11 for Macworld. As you can see above, there is now a slim progress bar at the bottom of the window. By default, it shows the time remaining in your current song; click on the time to toggle through the elapsed time and the total time of the song.
Another new feature in the MiniPlayer is the merging of what I like to call the “artwork player,” a window that would display when you clicked on the album art thumbnail of the currently playing track. If you hover over the artwork thumbnail, you’ll see arrows showing you that clicking will expand this thumbnail. Click on the thumbnail to see the following:
The new artwork player is very nice. You can keep it on your screen, and it will change artwork as your music changes; just hover your cursor to display the controls.
I’m liking the MiniPlayer a lot more now. I’ve been keeping it visible since iTunes 11, but these two new features now make it perfect.
Posted: 5/20/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: iTunes | 3 Comments »
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I recently moved from France to England. About a year ago, I wrote an article for TidBITS about how a company called Free had shaken up the cellphone industry in France. I had an iPhone contract with unlimited calls, texts and data (truly unlimited; no “fair use”), for only €16.
Well, my arrival in the UK changed things. One quickly learns that there’s little competition in the phone market, and prices are higher. While there are carriers that offer unlimited calls and texts, unlimited data is rarer. And one carrier, Three, that offers unlimited data, doesn’t offer unlimited calls and texts.
I started out using GiffGaff, a company run by O2 that sells pre-pay SIM cards. It was practical, and fairly inexpensive, but it doesn’t allow tethering, which I occasionally need. So I switched to EE, which offers good coverage (the company, Everything Everywhere, was born of a merger between Orange and T-Mobile), and decent prices, with an unlimited call and text plan. But since I didn’t use a lot of data, I settled for their basic 500 MB per month plan at £21 a month, or about 50% more than what I was paying in France (but, remember, my French contract had unlimited data).
Before moving to EE, I was using about 250 MB per month. The last two weeks with GiffGaff, from when I topped up my SIM card on April 15, to May 2, when I switched, I used about 120 MB of data. That made me think that the 500 MB with EE would be more than enough. But things got weird.
I went away for a few days, without Wi-Fi access, and discovered that my phone had eaten 260 MB in just the first five days of my contract. I was using the exact same apps and services as with GiffGaff, with the exception of an EE app to track my usage. I called EE customer service, and they were not very helpful. While the person did give me a credit for 250 MB of data, she suggested I download an app that would track data usage by app on my phone. This app no longer works on iOS 6, but I found another. This app showed much less data usage than what the iPhone – and EE – was reporting. While no such app can be precise, it only shows about half the data that the iPhone and EE report that I’m using.
I’ve tried all the usual troubleshooting routines. I’ve turned off all services – push notifications, automatic email checking, iCloud, location services, etc. – and data was still going in and out of my phone. I’ve restored the phone – an annoyingly time-consuming process – and data is still flowing like a broken tap. Here are two screen shots. The first is when I restored the iPhone; data is 0. The second is less than an hour later, while the phone was syncing.
In less than one hour, 19 MB was used, doing nothing. (There were some push services on, and perhaps one or two emails downloaded, but nothing else.) Imagine if I was using the phone? If usage continues at that rate, it could exceed 200 MB per day!
The only possibility is that EE’s carrier services have an issue which appears on some iPhones. I’ve seen hundreds of reports of different iPhone users having similar issues on all sorts of networks, and no solutions anywhere regarding how to track down what’s using up all the data.
So my only solution is to cancel the contract with EE: they clearly mis-sold me this contract; there’s a latent defect in their network service, which would clearly cost me much more were I to continue using them with my iPhone. (I’m paying £21 a month, and I would need to pay at least £31 a month to have enough of a data allowance.)
So, dear reader, have you confronted a similar problem of suddenly excessive data usage, with EE or any other carrier? Have you found a cause and a solution? I’m curious. From everything I’ve seen on the internet, there is no clear cause, and no solution, other than to turn off cellular data, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a smart phone.
Update: I’ve spent way too much time trying to solve this problem over the past two days. At the suggestion of a friend, I downloaded an app called ActMonitor, which shows system processes that are active, but also shows real-time incremental data transfers. So I could see exactly when data was coming into and going out of my phone, though not by process, which would have solved the problem immediately.
With this in hand, I tried turning on and off features, such as push, iCloud, etc. I rebooted the phone, and saw that there was about 2 K/sec going out and coming into the phone. When I turned off push, this stopped. But when I turned push back on, the data did not start sending again. This suggests that there’s a carrier problem with the way it handles push; it’s as though the first time, the carrier’s servers don’t register something correctly, but the second time they do.
For now I’ll leave push off – it’s useful to get emails more quickly in some situations, but not a deal-breaker – and see how much data I use over the next few days.
Posted: 5/8/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPhone, Miscellanea Tags: iPhone | 5 Comments »
Apple has released iTunes 11.0.2, an incremental update to the latest version of iTunes, and states that:
This update adds a new Composers view for music…
Interestingly, it took a while to find where this new view is. A “view” is a way of viewing your media files, and you select views by clicking in the navigation bar above the content section of your window. Seeing nothing about Composers there, I went in search of more information. Several web sites mentioned displaying the Composer column in Songs view, and sorting that way (and one Twitter follower told me that’s what it was), but that has been in iTunes for donkey’s years.
It turns out that while Apple added this new view, it’s turned off by default. To activate it, go to the General preferences, and check Show Composers in the View section.
It’s odd that Apple would announce something new, yet have it disabled by default, but if you’ve been scratching your head trying to find this feature, it’s just a few clicks away.
Composers view is quite stark compared to the other views in iTunes 11. There is no album art next to the composers’ names, and there is no All Composers entry at the top, as there is All Artists and All Albums, for example. Just a long list of names. As if Apple didn’t think that composers’ names were worth illustrating, in the way they illustrate other content lists in iTunes.
In any case, it’s good to see that Apple is making a small concession to classical music fans. Viewing music by composer is one way I choose which classical music I want to listen to.
Posted: 2/20/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: iTunes | 6 Comments »