New features

April 23rd, 2014

Twitter finally updated my profile to the new display format – several weeks after they upgraded my cat. Here’s an almost pointless blog post about what I like and dislike about the new profile design:

  • Overall appearance: Like
  • Massive font size for just certain tweets apparently selected at random: Dislike
  • Front-end build details, particularly the way the profile photo slides up out of the way as you scroll down, to be replaced by the compact in-nav-bar version: Like
  • Pinned tweets: Dislike (because it reduces the beautiful simplicity of Twitter… but I’ll probably use it to promote something)
  • Not showing replies by default: Like
  • Showing non-tweet-based activity in my timeline such as who I followed: Dislike (I think).

That’s it. You don’t care. Good.

On big smartphones

April 22nd, 2014

Apple are rumoured to be creating an iPhone 6 option with a 5.5-inch display.

Regardless of whether that’s true, it seems odd to me that such large devices (I won’t use the word ph****t) are proving so popular. I’ve recently been using an LG / Google Nexus 5 intermittently in place of my iPhone 5. While I like many (but certainly not all) things about it, its size is not one of them.

Its 5″ display makes it:

  • Uncomfortable to hold in one hand while operating the keyboard with your thumb
  • Slightly too big for a trouser pocket (OK, it goes in but can be uncomfortable when sitting down)
  • Make you look a bit Dom Joly when talking on the phone.

And I think one of the popular Samsung devices is even bigger!

What reasons are there for wanting such a large display on a mobile? Presumably it’s reading and watching video. Is that right? I do very little of either on my phone which might explain my failure to understand this trend.

For me the iPhone 5 is the perfect form-factor for a mobile phone. A tablet has a different set of functions. Trying to merge the two feels like folly, akin to Microsoft’s attempt to design an OS interface that works on both tablets and desktops.

New DJ Mix

April 1st, 2014

Been meaning to get round to this for ages. I bought a Traktor Z1 mixer a few months ago and have been very occasionally dipping into Traktor 2 Pro. I also went on an ambitious vinyl recording spree, digitising the best of my records most of which are from 1994 – 1998.

However it was only when trying to put together a mix of old and new techno that I realised quite how much the genre has moved on in the past ten years. The 90s tunes are great but don’t generally flow in with the new stuff (well, except for the timeless Basic Channel obviously).

I’ll do a separate retro mix at some point in the next few months, which I imagine will be very different.

Anyway, I think this turned out OK given how rusty I am. There’s a couple of clumsy transitions where the outgoing track ran out slightly too soon (haven’t quite got the hang of looping in Traktor yet) and like a fool I managed to record it with the recorder’s input gain at -12dB so I had to boost the finished recording by the same amount to compensate. Had it been recorded through an analogue mixer that would have killed it with noise.

Farewell Windows XP?

March 25th, 2014


Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP and will no longer be selling it. But according to this Independent article XP is still installed on a third of all PCs worldwide. Vista sits at just 4% and around 50% are running Windows 7.

I’m the kind of person who feels a low level sense of unease if I’ve not installed all of the available updates to whatever software I’m using – past the point of reason in all honesty. But I’m in the minority here, most normal people just aren’t interested. And they don’t like change.

I was “a PC guy” for many years, having built a few of my own PCs in the late 90s. I was running Windows as my primary OS until February 2005 when I bought a Mac Mini out of curiosity, and found myself directly in the crosshairs of Apple’s business plan (actually it started when they released iTunes for Windows, which I liked and which lead to me buying an iPod).

In the case of Apple they have an agenda to keep selling new hardware, so although their OS updates are improvements there is that accidental-on-purpose creep of hardware demand that means that a given device gets slower over time. And if you don’t upgrade then third party software eventually stops supporting your OS. This cycle is hard to avoid in a commercial world where, for example, a designer running an old version of the Adobe suite will eventually start being sent files they cannot open. So they upgrade their OS and soon feel they need to buy a new Mac. It’s no surprise that OS X Mavericks was free.

But in an isolated environment, such as within a corporation, a given computer will in theory run as well today as it did ten years ago except for failures in hard drives, which are replaceable. A friend told me that his dad is still using an iPhone 3GS running iOS 5 and it’s as fast as the day it was bought. He can’t run many 3rd party apps but he can use email, SMS and make and receive phone calls so why should he upgrade?

Are we early adopters fools for playing the upgrade game? I’d say no, because new software to us is interesting and useful which is justification enough. As for everyone else, getting the long tail to play catch up is likely to give Microsoft headaches for years to come.

Other than avoiding the Vista car crash, how could they have played it differently?

I still buy music

March 22nd, 2014

About once every month I’ll browse around on Boomkat or Bleep and spend some money on music; often tracks I’ve tagged through Shazam. If I can’t find something there, or direct from the label’s website I’ll fall back to Google Play and then eventually iTunes (though its catalogue is less likely to contain what I’m after).

I just spent £23-odd, for which I got 34 tracks totalling 5 hours and 3 minutes of playback. That’s the result of weeks and weeks of artists’ time and effort for under a quid a track. And I get DRM-free 320kbps MP3s or FLAC files to keep.

Does anyone else still pay for music? Presumably it’s not just me otherwise it wouldn’t be for sale. But I’m in a dwindling minority.

Spotify has its value, but it (famously) pays most independent artists a pittance for plays. If you enjoy listening to music I urge you to keep paying for it! And go direct where you can to cut out middlemen. Long gone are the days of paying £17.99 for an album at HMV.

I’d guess that at least a third of the artists I listen to have day jobs to support their music careers. The least I can do is buy them a beer.

Real Scenes: New York

December 23rd, 2013

April 2013: Interesting short documentary about the dance music scene in Brooklyn, and how gentrification threatens to stamp it out.

Via RA

“Kept chasing that night…”

December 18th, 2013

Erol Alkan – “A Hold on Love” (Official Music Video)

The video for Erol Alkan’s track ‘A Hold on Love’ is wonderful. Looks like it was all shot in and around Kendal in Cumbria.

via @iaintait