The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode #17 – Prime vs Zoom Lenses

Photoactive 400Photographers often focus on cameras, but it’s often the lens that has the most impact on your photos. In this episode, Jeff and Kirk talk glass: lenses. When do you want a prime lens, which has a fixed focal length, and when does a zoom work better? Why are prime lenses often better? And why not just use one zoom lens that hits both wide and telephoto ranges? We sort out an often confusing topic.

Listen to PhotoActive, Episode #17 – Prime vs Zoom Lenses.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

The Next Track, Episode #123 – John Cage’s Silent Piece 4’33”, with Kyle Gann

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxKyle Gann, author of No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’33”, discusses this seminal work.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #123 – John Cage’s Silent Piece 4’33”, with Kyle Gann.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Audible’s Apple Watch App Highlights One of the Device’s Biggest Flaws

Audible has updated their iOS app, and now includes an Apple Watch app, so you can sync audiobooks from your iPhone to the Apple Watch. This allows you to listen to audiobooks on the go, using Bluetooth headphones, even if you don’t have your iPhone handy.

In theory.

In practice, this highlights one of the biggest flaws of the Apple Watch. While Apple’s wrist computer has storage that can hold its operating system, apps, music, and more, it’s extremely difficult to get anything onto the device. You’ll have seen this when you wait for an update to get copied to the Apple Watch, or if you have ever tried to put music on the device. It is slow. Glacially slow. If you want, for example, to copy a couple of gigabytes to the Apple Watch – after all, it comes with either 8 or 16 GB storage – the cellular Apple Watch 3 offered 16 GB, the GPS-only had 8, and the Series 4 comes with 16 GB for all models – you were best off doing it overnight. Copies to the Apple Watch seem to only go over Bluetooth, even though the device uses wifi for connectivity.

The Audible Apple Watch app explains what you need to do:

Audible1     Audible2

So I went ahead and tried.

First, the Audible app says that it is “preparing your content.” It’s not clear what this is doing, but it might be downsampling the file so it takes up less space. I hope not; standard Audible files are 32 kbps, which is adequate for spoken word, but if shrinks them to 16 kbps, that’s not great.

Audible3

Then it begins syncing. After about 10 minutes, I checked, and this was its progress:

Audible4

17 minutes later – note the time on my iPhone in the screenshot – it had made more progress.

Audible5

And when I checked back about 50 minutes later, it said it had finished syncing.

Audible6

Alas, it hadn’t actually synced anything. When I checked on my Apple Watch, there was nothing. (You can’t get a screenshot of the playback screen showing that there is no content, because the bit on the bottom below, explaining how to transfer audiobooks, slides up as soon as you open it.)

Audible7

The app does note that the transfer will be quicker if you put your watch on the “Magnetic Charger;” that really makes no difference.

Audible8

However, when it’s not on the charger, nothing syncs, and the Audible app informs you of this.

Audible9

This (most likely) is not Audible’s fault. Syncing content to the Apple Watch, as I said above, is a very slow process.

Marco Arment, developer of the Overcast podcast player, added syncing to the Apple Watch in the latest version of his app has. He says:

Sending podcasts to the Watch is slow. Overcast shrinks them to reduce the transfer time, but when (and how quickly) podcasts transfer is tightly controlled by watchOS to preserve battery life. Transfers still sometimes wait forever or silently fail.

So it seems like this is an Apple problem. If the Apple Watch contains storage for audio files, then Apple needs to make this process work. What’s the point of shipping the new Apple Watch with 16 GB storage if you can’t put anything on it? There aren’t enough apps for the Apple Watch to fill up all that space.

What a Hellish Experience it Is to Restore an iPhone

IMG 8125I’m sure you’ve had to restore your iPhone at least once. Stuff happens, you try to reset some settings, but it still doesn’t work as it should. Since yesterday, I’ve been having trouble connecting to cellular networks on mine. If I put the SIM card in my iPhone SE, that works fine, so it seems to have something to do with iOS 12. I tried resetting network settings, and that worked for a few minutes, but then the same thing happened.

So, it was time to restore the iPhone. I have a 15 Mbps internet connection, so the 3+ GB download for iOS only took about an hour. But then there’s all the apps to re-download. Because iTunes no longer manages apps, you have to redownload potentially tens of gigabytes of stuff. If you have music and photos in the cloud, you have to download some of them, but the apps alone make this process painful.

In addition, you can’t pause the process; you can only put the phone into airplane mode. So if you do need to use the phone to make calls or use data, your connection is saturate, and you’re limited for the several hours it takes to get everything downloaded.

When I think about all those who have even slower internet access than I do, I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry about Apple, who assumes that everyone has fiber, and can restore an iPhone in five minutes. It’s really quite a bit of contempt for many of Apple’s users. It makes life really complicated.

Apple Does Remove Stuff from the iTunes Store

There’s recently been a story making the rounds about a guy who found some movies he had purchased had been deleted from his library. It turns out that it was user error; the guy moved to a different country, and it’s well known that not all content is available in all regions (and moving to a different country is actually quite complicated, as far as an iTune Store account is concerned.

But Apple does remove content from the iTunes Store from time to time. They don’t do it on their own; it’s the rights holders who pull it. I’ve found several albums I had purchased in the early days of the iTunes Store are no longer available for redownload.

Not available

And this is much more common with music on Apple Music. I have a playlist of music that iTunes shows as “No Longer Available,” which currently contains 674 items. In some cases, albums have been replaced by updated versions, so I could find some of that music again. But I’ve found this to be quite frequent, even with the eclectic music I listen to.

CoverI came across another such album today: the original cast recording of the musical The Girl from the North Country, based on songs by Bob Dylan. This was recorded last year when this musical was performed in London – to great acclaim – and a new production, with a new cast, is performing it in New York City. This album is therefore no longer available on the iTunes Store or Apple Music in the US. Presumably, if the show is popular enough, they will record a version with the new cast; or, they simply don’t want to confuse people who see the New York version.

To be fair, this is a bit of an edge case, but all the music removed from the iTunes Store and Apple Music is removed because it is edge cases. There are issues with rights that often require that record labels pull music from sale, at least on digital platforms. Interesting, this album, which was released on CD in the US about a year ago, shows a release date of October 5. So perhaps it was pulled and will be available again on the iTunes Store and Apple Music.

This stuff is complicated. The guy with the movies was an edge case; this album is an edge case; they all are. Apple doesn’t do this sort of thing just to mess with people.

(If you get a chance to see this, go. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen in the theater. I wish it had been filmed, as many plays are these days in the UK. Like Ian McKellan’s King Lear, one of the best events I’ve seen in the theater, which is being filmed in about ten days in its current London venue.)