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American Airlines pilot denies Rachel Barton Pine access to cabin with her violin – The Strad

Pine, who was the first passenger on board, quoted American Airlines policy, which states: ‘You can travel with small musical instruments as your carry-on item on a first come, first serve basis as long as it: fits in the overhead bin; or fits under the seat in front of you.’

But according to the violinist the captain replied, ‘It is not going on because I say so’.

A little dictator exercising his power. Sad.

This is especially problematic given the value of the instrument, and the fact that:

‘The Department of Transportation and the airlines have established important policies to protect musical instruments. However, those policies are meaningless if they are not enforced or if the airline staff and crews are not properly educated and trained,’ says Pine.

Or if they’re assholes…

Source: American Airlines pilot denies Rachel Barton Pine access to cabin with her violin – The Strad

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Use Emoji in iTunes Tags

In case you hadn’t realized, you can use emoji in iTunes tags. I think it’s easy to overuse emoji, but if you want to make certain tracks or playlists stand out, you can add emoji to their tags. Like this:

ITunes emoji

I know, there’s no skull in the To Be or Not to Be soliloquy, that’s later in the scene in the graveyard. But it’s here as an example…

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Review: Kindle Oasis, an Interesting Ebook Reader

My initial thoughts when the Kindle Oasis (, Amazon UK) was announced was that it was a WTF ebook reader. With an odd shape, a case with a built-in battery, and a stratospheric price, it simply didn’t make sense. Nevertheless, I ordered one in order to try it out and see if I was wrong. I think I was, in part.

The Kindle Oasis comes in two parts: the reader itself, and a leather case that contains a battery. The two link together using magnets, so when you slip the reader into the case, it automatically starts charging, if there’s any power in the case’s battery.

Oasis two parts

Oasis in case

The two items together weight 230g, a bit more than the Kindle Voyage, which is 179g. However, if I add the felt case I use with my Voyage, it comes to 219g, so there’s not much of a difference. The Oasis is a bit wider, but not as tall as the Voyage, yet the display on both devices is the same size.

Oaisis voyage

As with the iPad smart cover, the Kindle Oasis wakes up when you open the cover of its case. It’s very quick, so you can start reading immediately. You can read the device with the case on, folding back the cover, or you can remove the reader, which then weighs only 131g. The only downside I see to the case is that it doesn’t cover the entire back of the Oasis, because of the way the reader connects to the case.

Oaisis back

The case is interesting. When the Kindle Oasis is connected to the case, and you tap the Settings button, you can see the charge levels of the device and the case. But to charge the entire unit, you have to connect the Oasis itself, not the case, which means that you charge the two together. I would have preferred being able to charge the case on its own, then slip the reader in the case to charge it.

It’s interesting to see that the battery indicator at the top of the display – which you see when you tap in that area – shows the battery level of the case, if the reader is connected to the case, or of the reader, if not. You don’t get a sort of hybrid battery level indicator, which might be more useful. however, tap the Settings button to see the charge levels of each one, in percentages.

Oasis charge

Now to the reader itself. I thought the one-handedness of the device was a bit wacky when I first saw it, but once I held it in my hand I could see why Amazon designed it like this. I generally hold my Kindles with two hands, but you can still do that; you just grip the right side, and steady the device with your left hand. Or, if you prefer, turn it the other way; like an iPad, the display automatically flips.

There are two physical buttons on the wider side of the reader – gone are the press-and-pray buttons of the Voyage – and the are set up so the top button goes to the next page, the bottom button to the previous page. You can change this is the settings (as I did; it seems to make more sense to me that the bottom button is the next button).

The display is an improvement on the Kindle Voyage, with more LEDs to light the page. However, mine seems a bit cloudy on the right side of the display where the LEDs are. While the extra light makes the display a bit crisper – it’s the same resolution, 300 ppm – it’s not that different from the Voyage. However, comparing the two, the Voyage is noticeably bluer. Perhaps Amazon has made the display warmer because of the theory that bluish displays prevent you from sleeping.

Surprisingly, the Oasis doesn’t have an auto-brightness option like the Voyage. This means that you’ll need to manually change the brightness if you’re reading, say, in the evening as it gets darker. Also, battery life of the reader is poor; reading for about an hour, with the light fairly bright, I found the reader was down to 63% of its battery. This means that you have roughly three to six hours of reading time, if you use the backlight; considerably more if the backlight is turned off and you’re reading outside. But since there’s no auto-brightness, you’ll need to remember to lower the brightness to save battery. Of course, all you need to do is put it back in the case to charge it, but woe betide you if you ever lose or forget the case!

Page turns are faster than with the Voyage, but typing is just as slow. When you’re used to typing on a tablet or smartphone, you immediately realize that you have to pause after each letter when typing on any Kindle.

The Oasis offers some different fonts from the Voyage. There is Amazon Ember, a sans serif font, and there’s no Futura or OpenDyslexic. If you depend on the latter, you’ll want to stick with the Voyage.

(Update: My Kindle Oasis updated the day after I bought it, and both the missing fonts are now available.)

We have to discuss the price. At $290 or £270, the Kindle Oasis is expensive. That’s $90 or £100 more than the Kindle Voyage, and it makes this a luxury ebook reader. If you add the cost of a case – Amazon charges a fortune for their leather cases, $85 or £80 for the Kindle Voyage’s case – it comes out a lot closer than it looks. However, that’s a lot of money for a case. To be fair, this case has a battery, that claims to offer “months of combined battery life.”

Should you buy the Kindle Oasis? If you don’t have a Kindle Voyage, and you want to upgrade your device, I’d consider it, but only if you have money to burn. The Voyage is nearly as good, and even the Paperwhite is a fine ebook reader. If you don’t count your dollars or pounds, and use the Kindle a lot, I’d recommend the Oasis. You’ll probably like the overall lightness of the device (when not in the case), and the ease of charging. It’s a nifty idea, one that’s not perfect – especially because the case doesn’t protect the entire back of the reader – but one that makes sense if you read a lot.

So check out the Kindle Oasis (, Amazon UK) if you’re willing to spend this much to read ebooks. But there’s no hurry; it looks like it won’t be in stock until June 1, so you have plenty of time to make up your mind.

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How Did Apple Miss the 4″ iPhone Demand?

Tim Cook, during Apple’s earnings call yesterday, discussing the iPhone SE:

We’re thrilled with the response that we’ve seen on it. It is clear that there is a demand there even much beyond what we thought. That is really why we have the constraint that we have.

Sometimes, you can’t help but think that Apple has its own internal reality distortion field. That they don’t do any market research. That they really don’t know what people want.

My experience is limited, of course, but plenty of people I’ve communicated with – in person, by email, on Twitter, etc. – have expressed their preference for a 4″ phone. Lots of other people have written about this as well. It’s as though Apple thought they could wave a magic wand and make people want larger phones.

I’ve been a booster for the 4″ iPhone ever since I bought the iPhone 6s, which was simply too large for a pocket computer (for me). I know that lots of people prefer the larger 6 / 6s model, and the clown-shoe sized 6 Plus / 6s Plus. But there are lots of use who want smaller.

Tim Cook even said, during the previous earnings call, that 60% of iPhone users still had smaller phones.

Now that the iPhone SE has been released, Cook suggests that Apple simply didn’t see the demand. Apple’s delay of offering larger iPhones was probably a mistake, but not retaining the 4″ model in their line-up when the iPhone 6 was released was just as bad. When the iPhone SE was released, most people thought it would remain an outlier, but I think now that Apple will add a 4″ model to its main product line, rather than having it as a separate device. There really are a lot of people who don’t want a larger phone.

It’s also worth noting that the iPhone SE may be selling more because of its lower price. Now that Apple is selling fewer iPhones, they may have to start competing on price.

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Usage Czar Uses Google to Change the Way He Looks at the English Language

In his new book, “Garner’s Modern English Usage” (Oxford), Garner has made extensive use of big data to write more precisely than anyone ever before about English usage. Google gave him license to delve into its Google Books Ngram Viewer, which displays graphs showing how words have occurred in books over centuries.

In many ways, usage books have always been based on a good deal of guesswork. That’s why Garner calls the use of ngrams “absolutely revolutionary” in the field of usage lexicography.

Back in the day, I earned a Master’s degree in applied linguistics. One thing I looked at a bit in my studies was corpus linguistics, which is the use of a huge store of language data (a corpus) to see how language is used. The corpus we had access to was quite limited, and taken from a few hundred books, magazines, and newspaper articles.

But now, with Google, linguists have a huge corpus at their fingertips. This interview with Bryan Garner, author of books on English usage and other topics, explains how this is revolutionizing the way we look at language.

For a long time, some descriptive linguists have complained that usage books with a prescriptive bent are written by people who just sit back and say, “I like this better than I like that,” and I don’t think that’s ever been so, because the best usage books, even prescriptive ones, have been based on lifetimes of study — when you consider people like H.W. Fowler and Wilson Follet and Theodore Bernstein and others.

But still, they were having to guess. Even the editors of the “Oxford English Dictionary” were having to guess based on the few citation slips in front of them. But now we can apply big data to English usage and find out what was predominant until what year.

The big difference is that now linguists can see how language really is used, and, if they are descriptivists (those who see language as something that lives, and that changes as it is used) rather than prescriptivists (those who think everyone has to follow their rules), they will be able to better show how people really use words. Fascinating stuff.

The new edition of Garner’s Modern English Usage has just been published. (, Amazon UK)

Source: Bryan Garner interview: English usage, Google ngrams – Business Insider

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Writings about Macs, music and more by Kirk McElhearn