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 In some cases, albums have been replaced by updated versions, so I could find some of that music again.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.)

Apple’s Measure App and Accuracy

One of the more interesting apps in iOS 12, which Apple released this week, is Measure. It uses augmented reality (AR) to calculate the length, width, and area of items. This is a complex process, which involves having the iPhone or iPad calculate the distance between its camera and the object you are measuring in order to determine the object’s dimensions.

The problem is that it is not very accurate.

I tried measure a number of objects, and two things were apparent. The first is that Measure is not very accurate, and the second is that the same object measured twice can return different dimensions.

Here are some examples:

Measure1

The inside of the frame measures 78 cm x 101cm; the Measure app is off by about 20%.

Measure2

The stool above measures about 38cm x 53cm. The Measure app isn’t that far off, and this would be an acceptable measurement if I were, say, sizing up furniture for my living room, where tolerances don’t need to be precise.

But what is worrisome is the fact that when I’ve measured the same items multiple times, the results differ. Here are two measurements of one of my shakuhachis.

Measure3

Measure4

Ignore Rosalind the Cat; she wanted to see what was going on, but I had completed the measurement before she started checking it out. I took both of these measurements from the same position, with the iPhone at the same height. The shakuhachi is 55cm long; while one might allow for a bit of tolerance because the measure points are not exactly at the ends of the instrument, they do both end up at about the same position on the instrument.

I thought I’d give it another chance today; it’s sunny, and yesterday was a bit overcast. This time it says 57cm.

Measure5

And here’s one last example; I got as close as I could, and it even says on the cover that it’s 21cm x 29.7cm…

IMG 8118

In a Twitter conversation yesterday, some people said they found it very accurate, others not at all (one showed a 38″ MacBook Pro they had measured). I don’t know if this app is better suited for certain types of measurements, such as full rooms and the height of walls, but my tests show that its results are essentially estimates.

The Measure app is a good party toy, but little more, in its current state.

Note that these measures were taken with an iPhone 8+; I’m not sure if it uses the dual cameras, but if so, the parallax of the dual cameras should make it more accurate than a single camera.

iOS 12 Is Out: Learn How to Work with it in Take Control of iOS 12

Tc ios12Although iOS 12 focuses largely on performance and usability improvements, it also contains dozens of useful new features. In Take Control of iOS 12, TidBITS Managing Editor Josh Centers takes you through all the new stuff—including some powerful but obscure capabilities you may never notice on your own. You’ll learn about Screen Time (to help you monitor and address screen addiction); updated notifications; improvements to Siri, Camera, Messages, and Photos; new password management tools; and a long list of other changes—as well as the forthcoming Shortcuts app, which provides new and improved automation features to iOS. Anyone with a compatible iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch will benefit from Josh’s in-depth explanations.

But the book also goes far beyond the new features, providing an extensive guide to getting the most out of iOS 12. For example, you’ll learn how to:

  • Make sense of the Lock screen, Home screen, and Control Center—and customize them to meet your needs
  • Search with Spotlight
  • Switch between apps and use Handoff to transfer your work
  • Use Siri effectively, and even create your own custom Siri shortcuts
  • Become a whiz at using the various keyboards and editing controls built into iOS 12
  • Use Share Sheets (for more than just sharing)
  • Make the most of special iPad features like Instant Note, multitasking, and drag & drop
  • Navigate the App Store
  • Understand the ins and outs of Family Sharing
  • Manage your data—both locally on your device and in the cloud
  • Use Screen Time to make better choices about when and how you use your device
  • Take photos and videos, apply camera effects, and organize your media
  • Send and receive messages in any of numerous ways with the Messages app
  • Make calls and use FaceTime and Voicemail
  • Surf the web with Safari
  • Use Maps, Find My iPhone, and Find My Friends
  • Organize your Wallet and use Apple Pay
  • Install, delete, create, and use shortcuts in the Shortcuts app
  • Protect your privacy
  • Make the most of numerous iOS accessibility features
  • Improve your battery life

Version 1.0 of this book was written while iOS 12 was in beta testing, and the book will be updated soon to cover a few small changes between the beta versions and the public release and add extra details. Everyone who purchases version 1.0 of the book will get version 1.1 for free.

Get Take Control of iOS 12.

Is the Apple Watch the New iPhone?

In last week’s presentation of new products, Apple covered only two items, the Apple Watch and the iPhone. And they led with the Apple Watch, which meant they were prioritizing the iPhone; save the best for last.

But the opinions of many tech journalists, and, apparently, consumers, suggest that the Apple Watch is the new, hot gadget. Many journalists have pointed out that there are no real innovations in this year’s iPhones. This is, of course, an “s” year, that Apple has gotten us used to; years when iPhone models add an “s” to their names, and feature only incremental updates. (However, some key technologies have been introduced in “s” years.) The iPhone XS and XS Max are extensions of last year’s iPhone X, and the iPhone XR is a “budget” version of the more expensive model.

But the Apple Watch caught the attention of many people. Apparently, pre-orders have been “above expectations,” while iPhone sales are tepid. One reason may be the new, large size of the Apple Watch, converting what has been a fairly small display to one that will be much more readable. And there’s the glitzy new Infograph watch face with multiple complications. And the stainless steel model now comes in gold.

Some are suggesting that the addition of an ECG feature may be swaying consumers, but I find that unlikely; while this is a useful medical tool, it’s hard to imagine that everyone wants to run ECGs on themselves (and I worry about what happens when people try to understand them). Fall detection is a very interesting feature, and, while it’s mostly for the elderly, there are other cases when it can be useful: epilepsy, perhaps car accidents, and more. It could be that consumers are seeing the potential of a wearable as a medical device, and that these limited features have convinced them to invest in one, in part because of existing technologies, but also because of the potential of the Apple Watch to change the way they look at their health with other technologies in the future.

This comes at a good time for Apple. The smartphone market has been mature for years, and is limping along on incremental upgrades. It’s good for manufacturers that many smartphones take a beating, so even if people keep them longer, they eventually need to upgrade. But it’s hard to imagine many interesting new features being added to this technology. Other than the new size, and the improved display and internals, there’s nothing in the new iPhone that sets it apart from last year’s model. (And that “groundbreaking” dual-camera system is neither new nor truly groundbreaking.)

Apple knows this, and will be pushing much of its innovation to the Apple Watch in the coming years. The company has already drastically increased the price of the device, in order to turn it into a cash cow, and there’s one big change they can make that could increase sales exponentially: make it a standalone device. The Apple Watch still requires an iPhone to set it up, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t exist on its own, so Android users can have Apple Watches too. While this wouldn’t offer full functionality, since there wouldn’t be the same tight integration with apps, notifications, etc. – an app on Android could manage the actual setup, and everything would function over cellular access, and all data could be stored in the cloud. The Apple Watch can already work without the iPhone after the initial setup, using cellular access, but it’s only a question of time before Apple makes it an independent device.

Of course, this is only a temporary solution; there are so many limits to the Apple Watch that it will never be able to do too much, but Apple’s focusing on health (they barely mentioned fitness in presenting this new model) shows how they want to make this device essential.

The iPhone will continue to sell by the tens of millions, but as sales become flat, Apple is poised to have another success on its hands with the Apple Watch. It will be interesting to see how far this device goes.

No, You Don’t Have to Take Pictures in Manual Mode

I saw something today in a photography group on Facebook that I found annoying. Someone posted a picture of a T-shirt that said, “Everyone is a photographer until,” then, below this phrase, was a picture of a dial on top of the camera set to M. In other words, if you don’t shoot in manual mode, you are not a “photographer.”

This is annoying, because it suggests that people who take advantage of the many wonderful features on their cameras are not photographers. It suggests that only those people who fiddle with dials and settings are photographers. It suggests that people who do things differently are not “real” photographers.

I started taking pictures on film of the 1970s, and I know how to use manual cameras and lenses. But, for the most part, I see no reason to do that today. I have fairly expensive cameras with lenses that include multiple advanced features such as autofocus, auto-ISO, exposure compensation, film simulations to create different looks from the photos I take, and much more. Why shouldn’t someone take advantage of these features? Do these people who shoot manual only shoot film? Because, if they are trying to be fundamentalist photographers, that is absolutely what they should do. This said, I do use manual focus at times; using my camera’s AF/MF mode, to ensure that certain things are focused exactly as I want.

This sort of attitude is not uncommon, as people who think they know everything want to shame people who don’t. I think the same people would say that if you use an iPhone you’re not a photographer, or even if you use a point-and-shoot camera you’re not a photographer. Only putting your camera in manual mode makes you a real photographer.

It’s not that big a deal, but when people who are new to photography see this it must be frustrating. And I imagine the camera companies don’t really agree with this; why else would they be constantly improving the features and technology that they put in their cameras? No, it is just another case of snob is him shared by people who like making fun of others.

I’d like to see these people in a darkroom with some negatives.

I think a better T-shirt would say this: Everyone is a photographer until Lr.