The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 56: Considering a Second Camera?

With the holidays and Black Friday sales upon us, this is the time that photographers can often get good deals on equipment. In this episode, Kirk and Jeff ponder the reasons you might consider buying a second camera. Perhaps you want a backup for your regular camera, or maybe you want a smaller go-anywhere camera that might encourage you to take photos more often.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive 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.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 110: Black Friday Safe Shopping Advice

It’s Black Friday again, either the day we release this episode if you’re in Europe, or next week, if you’re in the US. It’s the day when you can get some good deals on things you need, discounts on things you don’t need, and, if you’re not careful, you could get scammed. We discuss some best practices for buying new and used on Black Friday, and warn you about buying a used iPhone.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

Apple iOS 14: Features, Changes, Testing After iOS 13 Bugs – Bloomberg

“Apple Inc. is overhauling how it tests software after a swarm of bugs marred the latest iPhone and iPad operating systems, according to people familiar with the shift.

[…]

When the company’s iOS 13 was released alongside the iPhone 11 in September, iPhone owners and app developers were confronted with a litany of software glitches. Apps crashed or launched slowly. Cellular signal was inconsistent. There were user interface errors in apps like Messages, system-wide search issues and problems loading emails. Some new features, such as sharing file folders over iCloud and streaming music to multiple sets of AirPods, were either delayed or are still missing. This amounted to one of the most troubled and unpolished operating system updates in Apple’s history.”

Yep. I still have problems with Mail, on my iOS devices and my Macs, along with many other issues. And, with Apple’s support being so unreliable, I still can’t use CarPlay with my iPhone.

Source: Apple iOS 14: Features, Changes, Testing After iOS 13 Bugs – Bloomberg

The New Complete Beethoven Box Set Available to Stream on Apple Music

Just two days ago, I asked if it was the end of the big classical box set. Today, I learned that the new Complete Beethoven box set, which was released a few weeks ago, is available to stream on Apple Music. Universal music says:

Apple Music, in collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon, have launched a newly curated Beethoven Room to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary next year. The Beethoven Room offers full access to the composer’s music, listeners can find every note of the composer’s work as well as brand-new releases, and fresh audio and audiovisual content will be added weekly.

Apple Music’s Beethoven Room offers direct access to Deutsche Grammophon’s Beethoven – The New Complete Edition, the most comprehensive and authoritative collection ever produced, which was developed in collaboration with leading scholars at the Beethoven-Haus Bonn. The 16 digital albums from The New Complete Edition include historic landmarks recordings by some of the world’s greatest performers – from Abbado to Argerich, Bernstein to Brendel, Karajan to Kremer, Menuhin to Mutter and Perahia to Pollini – as well as world premieres of recently rediscovered works.

Complete beethoven

This changes things. While I don’t regret buying this set, had I known that it would all be streamable, I certainly would not have purchased it. The complete Bach and Mozart editions that Universal released in recent years are not available to stream, but large parts of them are.

You can access this music on Apple Music. I will point out that it’s not easy to find this page when searching Apple Music. If you search for “Beethoven 2020” you’ll be able to find the albums, but not the page that serves as a portal to this set and other Beethoven recordings and videos.

How our home delivery habit reshaped the world – The Guardian

How the pressures of home delivery reorder the world can be understood best through the “last mile” – which is not strictly a mile but the final leg that a parcel travels from, say, Magna Park 3 to a bedsit in Birmingham. The last mile obsesses the delivery industry. No one in the day-to-day hustle of e-commerce talks very seriously about the kind of trial-balloon gimmicks that claim to revolutionise the last mile: deliveries by drones and parachutes and autonomous vehicles, zeppelin warehouses, robots on sidewalks. Instead, the most pressing last-mile problems feel basic, low-concept, old-school. How best to pack a box. How to beat traffic. What to do when a delivery driver rings the doorbell and no one is home. What to do with the forests of used cardboard. In home delivery, the last mile has become the most expensive and difficult mile of all.

Interesting article about online shopping and delivery. There are a lot of issues, notably those that affect the environment. And these issues vary according to where people live.

For me, living about three miles from a town of about 30,000 people, which is very poorly served by roads in and out of the town, it would be a drive of at least thirty minutes – fifteen minutes each way – to buy anything. Even going to the supermarket is about ten minutes each way; we are fortunate to have a supermarket on the edge of the town, on the side where we live. (And we shop there several times a week, and almost never order groceries online. Though we do buy cat food from Amazon, because we can get it in bulk, much cheaper than from the supermarket.)

So if I needed some small item – such as something I bought recently to hang some pictures in my office – that’s a minimum of thirty minutes drive time, plus the time it would take to find the item. So let’s say one hour to buy anything.

On the flip side, there is the packaging that comes from Amazon or other merchants. It all goes into the recycling bin, and I assume that the local authorities do recycle it rather than burn it or dump it in landfills.

So it’s hard to say that getting deliveries is worse for the environment in my context than going to local stores. In addition, we don’t have that many local stores. For example, we only have one book store, with limited choice, and for the small computer hardware I regularly need for my work, there’s just one consumer-oriented store that doesn’t have many of the things I need (and when they do, they are substantially more expensive than from online dealers).

To sum up, there is certainly a lot to say about our new commercial infrastructure. In some cases it’s not good for the environment, and in others it actually is better than individual shopping trips.

Source: How our home delivery habit reshaped the world | Technology | The Guardian

The Next Track, Episode #163 – Lewis Shiner on His Novel Outside the Gates of Eden

Lewis Shiner’s latest novel Outside the Gates of Eden is a saga that begins at a Dylan concert in 1965, then follows a musician and his friends as they age, up to the present. This novel has a huge scope, with moving scenes about music, and about a generation growing up.

Find out more at The Next Track website, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

is This the End of the Big Classical Music Box Set?

In the past couple of decades, classical music listeners have become accustomed to seeing a number of Big Classical Box Sets (or BCBSs) released in the autumn. These sets feature many, most, or all recording- by [composer_name] or [conductor_name] or [artist_name] or [ensemble_name], and are generally sold at prices that make classical music collectors pull out their credit cards quickly.

It’s not easy to date the first BCBS, because, over time, there have been box sets whose size creeped up into Big territory. A complete Wagner Ring cycle was a big box set, or even a complete Beethoven piano sonatas, or Scarlatti’s harpsichord sonatas, and these were initial big in price. What changed, and led to BCBS status, was when these sets went beyond just collections of works by a single composer.

The first real BCBS didn’t come in a single box: it was the 180-CD Complete Mozart Edition from Philips. Released in 1990-91, in 45 volumes, it was more of a serial edition than a big box set, and the price for the entire set was around $1,000.

Around 2000, with the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death, more affordable BCBSs were released. These were much cheaper than the Philips set, and I recall the cost of the various editions from different labels being around $200 – $300. (The Dutch label Brilliant Classics’ Bach Edition sold in the UK for £225.) While the Philips Mozart set was very expensive, the new, cheaper Bach sets allowed collectors to buy 150 or more CDs at around a dollar/euro/pound each.

In 2005, however, everything changed. While Brilliant Classic’s Bach was five years old, it hadn’t sold anywhere near as much as their new Mozart set would. The Brilliant Classics Complete Mozart set, with 170 CDs, sold in France for €99. By the time it was released in the US in 2006, where it listed at $150, it had already sold 300,000 copies. (It would eventually be sold as low as €39, but was more often available for €69. An updated edition from 2014 currently sells for €114 on Amazon France.) Brilliant Classics made a specialty of these big box sets, often with competent yet workmanlike recordings, and single-handedly succeeded in reducing the price of classical CDs.

Once the perceived value of classical CDs had dropped, all the labels had to compete. Hence the plethora of offerings every year. (You can read some of my articles about these box sets here.) The labels have trawled their back catalog, reviving conductors and artists that were formerly known only to a select few, bringing back many recordings that had long been out of print. But also bringing back a lot of dreck. In any artist’s career, there are always duds, and the market kept them hidden, so in many of these sets, you’d have, say, half the discs being Really Good, a third being Okay, and the rest being Meh.

Some artists have been the subject of repeated box sets. Herbert von Karajan, for example, seems to be covered by a new, larger box set every couple of years. Leonard Bernstein has done well, also, in part because of the massive number of recordings he made for Columbia Records (later Sony), then another massive number of recordings for Deutsch Grammophon, often re-recording the same works. And you can’t swing a violin bow without hitting a new edition of Glenn Gould’s recordings, which have been re-re-re-mastered and repackaged so many times it’s hard to keep track.

Even indie labels got into the game, with Hyperion Records assembling two large sets from long series they had released: the first was their Complete Schubert Songs set, on 40 CDs, and the second was their 99-CD set of Liszt’s Complete Piano Music.

Anniversaries are good reasons for box sets, hence the three recent sets from Universal (which encompasses DG, Philips, Decca, and others). 2016 saw a 200-CD set of Mozart’s works; in 2018, they released a 222-CD set of Bach’s works; and this year, it was time for a mere 123 CDs of Beethoven’s complete oeuvre. And this, I believe, is the inflection point. This is peak BCBS.

Most or all of this music is available on demand on all the major streaming services (if you can find it). While I have purchased the Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven sets, these are likely to be the last that I buy. I like the approach in these Universal sets, with lots of different performers, including different performers among a group of works (such as different pianists for the sonatas, different ensembles for the string quartets, etc.), and even different styles of performance (some original performance practice, others in a more standard twentieth-century style). The only two sets that I would consider in the future would be a complete Schubert, if it contained multiple recordings of all his lieder, and a BCBS of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings, even if it only covered his recordings on DG and EMI. (There are lots of others.)

I used to buy a few box sets a year, in part to get recordings by composers or artists I like, but also because of the low price, generally around one dollar/euro/pound per disc. When the only music you could listen to was what was on your shelves, these sets meant that I always had a lot to choose from. But I have recently been selling a lot of them off used, because the music is mostly available to stream, and because they take up a lot of space. I have ripped some of them, but not all, so in many cases I can listen to them without pulling out the CDs. But I do enjoy that nostalgic experience of taking a CD out of its sleeve, admiring its artwork, deftly inserting it into my CD player – yes, I still have one of those – and listening to the pristine sound of vintage digital plastic.

After mining the depths of their catalogs, the record labels have probably overloaded so many classical collections that even the most avid listeners who are not obsessed with having Every Single Recording Ever By [artist_name] will soon have no more room.

It seems as though these past few years have seen the swan song of the classical recording industry, as they dump as much as they can to the last remaining collectors who still want CDs. I’m exaggerating a bit, but there comes a point where it just makes no more sense to buy CDs that you can really never listen to when you have millions of options available to stream, even in lossless format, if you want to pay for it. Classical recordings won’t die, but I think the BCBS has reached the end of the line. In years to come, these BCBSs will be relics of a time when an industry attempted to grasp the past for one last hurrah, but the times have changed.

For more on BCBSs, check out this episode of The Next Track podcast, where we discuss CD packaging, and discuss the concept of the BCBS.

Apple Devices that Aren’t Available in “Pro” Versions

Remember when every Apple device had an “i” in front of its name? Many still exist: the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, for example.

Now, Pro is the new i.

Pro

There are:

  • iPhone Pro
  • iPad Pro
  • MacBook Pro
  • iMac Pro
  • Mac Pro
  • AirPods Pro

I would argue that in a couple of those areas, there really is a difference: the iMac Pro and the Mac Pro. But the MacBook Pro isn’t really that “pro,” and the AirPods, well, that’s just weird marketing.

So why don’t we have an Apple TV Pro? Or a Mac mini Pro? How about an Apple Watch Pro? (I know, they have the Apple Watch Edition, which, instead of meaning “better” means “expensive.” I don’t know much about the vocabulary of the fashion world, but I find the use of the word “edition” to be a bit odd.)

I doubt we’ll ever see an iPod touch Pro, but I did speculate about an iPod Pro some years ago.

The problem is that Apple has diluted the meaning of the word “pro” to simply mean a device with higher specs. And they’ve proed themselves into a corner: after the pro modifier gets tired, where can they go next?

“Legacy Software” in macOS Catalina

If you’ve been using a Mac for a while, and upgraded to macOS Catalina, you’ve probably seen some mention of 32-bit software. Catalina is a 64-bit operating system, and cannot run 32-bit apps. If you want to know more, here is an article I wrote about this.

In the article I link to above, I explained how to find 32-bit apps on macOS Mojave, using the System Information app. Since there is no 32-bit app support in Catalina, System Information no longer shows the bitness of apps. However, it does have a “legacy software” section.

Legacy software

But I have deleted or upgraded all the software listed here. I’m guessing that this list was made when I upgraded to Catalina, and hasn’t been updated. But what’s the point of having such a list? Even if I hadn’t acted on all this software, the list doesn’t make it that easy to find where it is located. One item has a path of:

/Volumes/Steinberg Download Assistant/Steinberg Download Assistant Setup.app/Contents/MacOS/Steinberg Download Assistant

This suggests that the software is, perhaps, in a disk image that was mounted on my Mac at some point, which is likely, as I did install some Steinberg software a while back. But how can that path be listed? When was this snapshot of software made?

This list is quite unhelpful.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 109: Vice President of Integrity

We discuss Apple’s new 16″ MacBook Pro with a redesigned keyboard; two new entrants in the video streaming market, Apple TV+ and Disney+; a bug in Facebook’s app; Google’s Pixel 4’s face unlock; and more.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.