Audio recognition for everyone

With ShazamKit, anyone can build audio recognition features into their apps:

Apple recently announced the next step for Shazam, with ShazamKit giving developers the chance to build its song matching system into their own apps for the first time. It'll go further than that though, with developers able to use ShazamKit to match almost any audio they want it to. Developers will be able to create their own catalog of audio and make it recognizable, Apple says.

It’s great that Apple is making such complex technology accessible to even entry-level developers.

Can’t wait to see the swarm of new apps that come out with ShazamKit. 🥂

Accepting help when needed

Golden words:

Being helpful isn’t about everyone having equal skills or contributing equal amounts. On an adventure, it’s about people collaborating to do something they wouldn’t dare to do by themselves.

Work-Life Integration

A fun but truthful comic by Doist:

Work from home has blurred all the lines.

Google’s absolute disregard for user privacy

The Verge reports:

Unredacted documents in Arizona’s lawsuit against Google show that company executives and engineers were aware that the search giant had made it hard for smartphone users to keep location information private, Insider reported.

The documents suggest that Google collected location data even after users had turned off location sharing, and made privacy settings difficult for users to find. Insider also reports that the documents show Google pressured phone manufacturers into keeping privacy settings hidden, because the settings were popular with users.

It’s time Google starts respecting its user privacy.

Apple is rolling out randomised serial numbers

The purple iPhone 12 comes with a randomised 10-character serial number:

Apple's current serial number format has long allowed both customers and service providers to determine the date and location that a product was manufactured, with the first three characters representing the manufacturing location and the following two indicating the year and week of manufacture. The last four characters currently serve as a "configuration code," revealing a device's model, color, and storage capacity.

No more forging fake serial numbers, I suppose.

No more cropping photos in tweets

Twitter will now allow images in tweets to display in full-size rather than showing a cropped preview:

Now, when users tweet a photo taken with their iOS or Android device, it will appear in the timeline in its entirety. Plus, users can preview what an image will look like in the Tweet composer pre-post rather than having to pray to the cropping algorithm not to cut off Mr. Meow Meow's head. 

As per Twitter Support:

Images with 2:1 and 3:4 aspect ratios will show in full.

It’ll be fun posting photos on Twitter. 📸

Night Shift mode doesn’t improve your sleep quality

Apple devices have a feature called Night Shift which reduces blue light emission from an iPhone or a MacBook.

While cutting blue light has been linked with better sleep quality since ages, a recent study shows otherwise:

The group that got seven hours of sleep saw a slight difference in sleep quality based on phone usage, while those who didn't use a phone before bed experienced better sleep quality compared to both those with normal phone use and those using ‌Night Shift‌. Within the six-hour group, which had the least amount of sleep, there were no differences in sleep outcomes based on whether the participants used ‌Night Shift‌ or not.

The results suggest that blue light is only one factor that creates difficulty falling or staying asleep, and it's important not to discount the affect of physical interactions like texting, scrolling and posting on sleep outcomes.

To sleep better, eat healthy, have less stress and don’t use your phone in bed.

Would you buy a ticket to a Twitter Spaces event?

Twitter Spaces is ready to be rolled out to anyone having 600+ followers.

One of the interesting features Twitter Spaces will bring is ticketed access to live events:

Twitter plans to offer a way for users to monetize Spaces through ticketing. The company says hosts will be able to set ticket prices and the number of tickets sold, which could let people create exclusive events and earn some money for their efforts. (Twitter says it will take “a small amount” of revenue from ticket sales.) The feature will be available to “a limited group” in the coming months, according to the company.

Looking forward to using Twitter Spaces.

Clubhouse’s total disregard for user privacy

Some disturbing facts about the $4 billion audio app:

It is clear that Clubhouse was not designed with privacy in mind. The app, which initially launched without a privacy policy, leveraged “dark patterns” (manipulative product design) and algorithmic discoverability tactics to gain access to users’ phone contacts and even required users to grant this access before they could invite friends to the platform (those contacts, of course, had no opportunity to consent to that sharing or to even know it was happening). The app also broadcasts a new user’s presence on the platform, one of its many notifications and alerts, and provides no way to block harassers or abusers. Audio files are recorded but not encrypted, and the app also uses invasive tracking tools, including cookies and pixel tags.

Clubhouse is the new Facebook.

Working at a startup

This comic aptly illustrates what working at a startup feels like:

And you get to work on the weekends too. 😉

Facebook starts begging for data on iOS 14.5

Here’s what The Verge reported:

Facebook is continuing its campaign against Apple’s iOS 14 privacy updates, adding a notice within its iOS app telling users the information it collects from other apps and websites can “help keep Facebook free of charge.” A similar message was seen on Instagram’s iOS app (Facebook is Instagram’s parent company).

Wow!

Facebook is literally begging users to share their data now that it can’t automatically steal user data on iOS 14.5 and above.

The great Basecamp exodus

Basecamp lost about 1/3rd of its workforce in a matter of days:

On Friday, it appears a large number of Basecamp employees are taking Hansson up on his offer: according to The Verge contributing editor Casey Newton’s sources, roughly a third of the company’s 57 employees accepted buyouts today. As of Friday afternoon, 18 people had tweeted they were planning to leave.

From what I read, their entire iOS team has walked out of the doors.

The company is in for a terribly rough ride in the near future.

Although they’ll hire people again and things will be back to normal, it’ll take time.

As of this evening, I’ve cancelled my HEY subscription and moved to Google Workspace with a custom domain.

My reason for ditching HEY is not directly related to the policy changes, it’s more of an attitude problem of the founders.

Here’s what I wrote in the exit survey:

After a year of use, HEY was getting frustrating to use every day. The email composer is the worst I've seen in any email client.

The lack of basic formatting support by entering symbols like * for lists, > for quotes adds up in lost time.

Also:

The way HEY handled custom domains was not what I expected. You're asking me to ditch my year-long HEY account and open a new one just to use custom domains. Why?

And lastly, with so many people leaving Basecamp I'm not sure if HEY will have frequent updates and bug fixes for at least a few months.

I can't justify paying $99/year for this anymore.

HEY ➡️ BYE.

Observing Twitter bio changes as a service

Spoonbill lets you track changes in someone’s Twitter bio, like this:

Spoonbill’s creator, Justin M. Duke, describes the app, which has nearly 93 thousand users, as a “tracking tool for online metadata.” Over 45K of those users have signed up to receive daily emails that aggregate updates across all the Twitter profiles they follow. The open rate for these daily emails hovers around 55%, well above average for email campaigns.

Never knew so many people would be interested in a service like Spoonbill.

For marketers, it makes sense to observe what popular profiles are doing.

But for regular people, it seems like a new social media addiction.

Four-day work weeks are viable

Companies and managers arguing that 4-day work weeks result in less productivity need to read this:

The productivity improvements that we need in order to make a four-day week work already exist, it’s just that they are buried under this rubble of poor management and outmoded processes, and a culture that values time in the office over focus and attention. The average worker loses between two and four productive hours every day due to overly long meetings, technology-driven distractions, and interruptions by colleagues.

When you’re in the flow, you get stuff done faster. It’s as simple as that.

Deep work makes it possible to get into that state of flow.

Reduce unnecessary meetings and turn off Slack notifications. And voilà, a 4-day work doesn’t seem unreal anymore.

When progress becomes a race

Aptly said:

So the easy answer, California, is that you are not an unambitious weirdo for sticking around in a role that you like and that treats you well. When everything around all of us feels unstable, there’s not only no shame in holding onto a job like that, there’s a whole lot to aspire to.

And yet! Something in your brain or heart or soul is telling you that a pretty good job with interesting work and good pay and kind coworkers is not in fact enough, and that’s worth taking seriously. Perhaps it's the larger world’s fetishization of constant advancement, in which case please do your best to tune it out. But perhaps it’s something more, some stirring inside of you telling you that while on paper you have it made, you’re just not feeling it at the moment.

Progress, if meaningful, can be the best change in your life.

But progress to please the society will ruin you.

Apple vs. Epic Games

Epic Games is taking Apple to court on May 3rd over a long-standing dispute:

After months of preparation, Epic Games will finally take on Apple in court in a trial that could fundamentally change the makeup of the App Store. The fight dates back to August, when Epic added a direct payment mechanismto its hit battle royale game Fortnite in violation of Apple’s rules. The iPhone maker quickly removed the game from the App Store, and Epic responded shortly after with an antitrust lawsuit aiming to establish the App Store as a monopoly. The case will finally be brought to trial starting May 3rd.

I’m with Apple on this one.

If you use Apple’s marketplace to distribute and promote your app, you need to pay Apple a commission.

The $99/year model is not sustainable.

Now:

30% is a significant cut. I understand that. Reducing this huge commission would be insanely helpful to big publishers like Epic Games.

Anyway, Apple now takes a 15% cut for all payments through the App Store for apps with annual revenue less than $1 million.

That sounds fair to me.

Mighty claims to make Google Chrome faster

Google Chrome is one resource hungry piece of software. There’s no arguing that.

A startup called Mighty is coming up with an innovative technique to solve Chrome’s memory issues.

Instead of your own physical computer interacting with each website, you stream aremote web browser instead, one that lives on a powerful computer many miles away with its own 1,000Mbps connection to the internet. 

Suddenly, your decent internet connection would feel like one of the fastest internet connections in the world, with websites loading nigh-instantly and intensive web apps running smoothly without monopolizing your RAM, CPU, GPU and battery, no matter how many tabs you’ve got open — because the only thing your computer is doing is effectively streaming a video of that remote computer (much like Netflix, YouTube, Google Stadia, etc.) while sending your keyboard and mouse commands to the cloud.

While this sounds great in theory, I would like to see how it performs in real life over a flaky internet connection.

And yeah, it’ll cost you $30/month. A pretty steep price for a browser.

Teach Google Assistant how to pronounce your name

Google is rolling out an update to the Google Assistant:

If Assistant has been pronouncing your name wrong, the new way to try to fix that is pretty simple: you can just say your name out loud, and Google will try to learn the pronunciation. The old way, which is still available for those who wanted it, required you to spell out the way you wanted your name pronounced.

This feature will be pretty useful for Indian and some European names. 👏🏻

You'll figure it out along the way

There'll be a thousand excuses not to get started on something.

Lack of knowledge. Lack of experience. Or maybe because it's out of your comfort zone.

What you can do is just get started:

Once you get started you'll find all those imaginary excuses melt away to reveal a path of success.

Google’s new COVID related travel advisories are quite helpful

Google Search adds new COVID related travel info:

When you look for travel information like flights, hotels or things to do, Search will let you know if there are COVID-19 related travel advisories or restrictions for your destination. Now, we’re adding more travel restriction details, like whether you’ll need to quarantine upon arrival or provide proof of test results or immunization records. 

You can now also track travel advisories or restrictions for your destination and get email updates. If you are signed into your Google account, you can toggle “Receive an email if this guidance changes.” You'll be notified when restrictions are added, lifted or reduced. These updates are country-specific, with state-specific information available in the United States.

These heads up information will be massively useful when we’re able to travel again.

Free rides to the vaccination centre

Uber has been giving free rides to the underserved community in the US for vaccination appointments:

Since February, Uber has been offering free rides to Walgreens stores for people who book a vaccine appointment but do not have transportation and live in an underserved community. The company says it’s committed to offering 10 million free or discounted rides to people from those communities.

And now, it’s going to let users book vaccination appointments through the app.

Quite awesome.

Uber and Ola should start a similar “free rides” initiative in India for the underprivileged who can’t afford a cab to the vaccination centre. 🤞🏻

What really happened inside Basecamp

Casey Newton writes in his tech newsletter:

Around 2009, Basecamp customer service representatives began keeping a list of names that they found funny. More than a decade later, current employees were so mortified by the practice that none of them would give me a single example of a name on the list. One invoked the sorts of names Bart Simpson used to use when prank calling Moe the Bartender: Amanda Hugginkiss, Seymour Butz, Mike Rotch.

Many of the names were of American or European origin. But others were Asian, or African, and eventually the list — titled “Best Names Ever” — began to make people uncomfortable. What once had felt like an innocent way to blow off steam, amid the ongoing cultural reckoning over speech and corporate responsibility, increasingly looked inappropriate, and often racist.

People are furious about the recent policy changes in the company. But the actual problem had been brewing for over a decade.

Casey did a great job in detailing the story from both sides.

You don’t own any content purchased through App Store or iTunes

Apple is facing a lawsuit from a consumer who lost around $25,000 worth of apps and movies after Apple terminated his account.

Price’s $25,000 worth of purchases is perhaps an extreme example of what many consumers may encounter when they buy content on digital platforms, only to find it unavailable when their accounts are suspended or terminated. At issue is whether digital content available through various platforms is truly owned by individuals if the platform owner can prevent them from accessing it in the future. 

Apple is not the only platform which caught fire for terminating user accounts. Google is quite popular for deleting user accounts containing years worth of data.

The question is: what’s your backup strategy for such cases?

Understanding the Sunk Cost Fallacy

A fun comic strip from Doist on the Sunk Cost Fallacy:

I've faced this sunk cost fallacy situation numerous times. And every time, I've walked away from a failing project if working more on it didn't make sense. Never regretted my decision.

Zoom’s Immersive View makes you feel like you’re in the office

Zoom is rolling out a new feature called Immersive View:

Immersive View builds on the virtual background features Zoom already has, but focuses on actually placing meeting attendees in a realistic-looking location, rather than just switching out a flat background. Meeting hosts can enable Immersive View from the same menu where you can find Speaker View and Gallery View; from there, Zoom will automatically place attendees in a variety of built-in virtual scenes like a board room or auditorium, or the meeting host can manually place them themselves.

This nifty little feature is going to make video calls much more interesting.

iOS 14.5 doubles down on privacy

iOS 14.5, released today, brings a new feature called “App Tracking Transparency” which blocks apps from tracking you outside the scope of that app.

9to5Mac reports how app tracking can be harmful:

Apps with ability to track you across the web and other apps is very common and in many cases, can be harmless. However, there are examples where app tracking is abused. In a report from the Washington Post, 5,400 iPhone apps were found to be using trackers and, in some examples, were sending personal data like phone numbers and users’ locations to third-party research and marketing firms.

This is a right step towards protecting user privacy on iPhones. Glad that Apple came up with this little feature.

Telegram, but for old people

It’s always wonderful to see what people can do with a Raspberry Pi and a bit of programming.

Here’s one example:

Dallo, who’s a senior engineer for software firm Plastic SCM, goes into some detail about how the device was made in this Twitter thread. It’s powered by a Raspberry Pi 4, runs on Python, and uses several third-party software libraries to tie everything together. The microphone is a cheap USB one and the printer similar to those used in cashier tills. He notes that he chose to use Telegram rather than WhatsApp or another messaging service as it’s more open (and he doesn’t like Facebook).

And come to think of it, these lockdowns have forced us to think outside the box in multiple areas — tech, money, well-being and more.

The new iMac is beautiful and ugly at the same time

Apple's new iMac looks stunning from the side and the back, but utterly gross from the front:

The new iMac is amazingly thin and comes in beautiful colours. But the front side looks horrible.

A neat trick to remember names

I agree. Remembering names in a social gathering can be hard due to these factors:

According to Horsley, your problem is most likely plain and simple distraction. Think back to the last time that someone’s name went in one ear and out the other. Were you in an unfamiliar space, and was there also unfamiliar music, furnishings or people? Were you in a situation where you really wanted or needed to make a good impression? And were you worried about who you would talk to or what you would talk about? With so much external stimuli and internal stress, it’s not surprising that your attention became fragmented.

The visualisation technique mentioned in the article is quite interesting. 🔥

The $699 AirTag travel accessory

While AirTags cost only $29, the travel accessories to attach an AirTag to your luggage are ridiculously expensive:

Hermès, which offers a collection of premium leather AirTag accessories through Apple, is now also offering a $699 leather travel tag exclusively on its website. The travel tag, which is crafted from Fawn Barenia calfskin, is made in France.

The tag, which also includes a window to list your name, address, phone number, and email address, is available for preorder now with shipping set to start on April 29.

How often do we carry $699 worth of luggage in our trolley bags?

Twitter’s new tipping features can be game-changing

Twitter is reportedly working on new tipping features:

Here’s one iteration of what it could look like — check out the little blue cash button under the “@wongmjane” watermark in the left image. Clicking or tapping that button apparently shows options to let you tip via Bandcamp, Cash App (made by Square, which counts Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as its CEO, too), Patreon, PayPal, and Venmo.

I wonder whether this will be available outside of the US. 😅

Apple Music offers a better experience

Apple One membership is a gem in the subscriptions world:

Starting with Apple One, I think is more convenient to pay one subscription for a lot of services rather than paying only Spotify for one service. With the Apple One Family plan, I have 200GB of iCloud storage, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and Apple Music, and I can share all of these services with my family. For $19.95 a month, I have way more benefits instead of paying $9.99 per month for Spotify individual plan or $16.99 for a family subscription that only includes the music service.

Also, from what I’ve noticed, the music quality is significantly better in Apple Music.

Disappointed by HEY for Domains

After keeping us waiting for around a year, this is what HEY came up with for custom domains:

HEY and HEY for Domains are separate products with separate accounts that you manage individually. You can’t upgrade/downgrade one to the other, but you can have both (or many). And you can always link your accounts so you can see all your email in one place.

It's disappointing to know that we have to create yet another account instead of plugging in a domain name on our existing HEY for You account. 🤦🏻‍♂️