Welcome to the first episode of Kirk’s Picks. I plan to publish two or three episodes of the podcast a week, and episodes will never be longer than five minutes. I’ll talk about books, music, film, tech gadgets, apps, and anything else that I’ve come across recently.
My pick this episode is Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about Jiro Ono, one of the world’s best sushi chefs, and head of the first sushi restaurant to get a Michelin three-star rating.
Theme music: Honest Labor, composed and performed by Timo Andres.
If you enjoyed the podcast, follow it on Apple Podcasts or in your favorite podcast app. For show notes and links to my pick, go to kirkville.com/picks. You can support this podcast by purchasing items via my affiliate links, or you can sign up for my Patreon and donate a few bucks a month.
It’s hard to work on a computer these days. With lots of windows, notifications from your email and social media apps, and other distractions, it’s hard to stay focused. When you’re writing in Scrivener, whether you’re working on a novel, a thesis, or a play, you want to give your full attention to your work, and not be distracted by a friend who just sent a link to another cute cat video… (Though, to be fair, watching cute cat videos is a good way to take a break, when it’s the right time.)
Scrivener has a few features that let you shut out the rest of what’s happening on your computer and write without distractions. Here’s how to use Composition Mode, and more.
I haven’t written much about Apple’s new foray into lossless, high-resolution, and Dolby Atmos music. I’ve written about high-resolution music plenty over the years, and it’s clear that, for the vast majority of listeners, it’s just marketing and won’t make a difference.
But Apple has added music formats that can’t even be played back on Macs, without changing a hidden setting. Here’s why.
I started playing this album, which is marked Hi-Res Lossless. High-resolution music has both bit depths and sample rates that are higher than the standard 16-bit, 44.1 kHz. So to play it back correctly, your Mac has be able to play the music at those settings. And it won’t, at least not out of the box.
Open the Audio-MIDI Setup app, which is in /Applications/Utilities. You’ll see the sample rate that your Mac is using.
The Music app doesn’t cause this to change automatically, so you’ll need to change it. And while you can probably leave it set to 96,000 Hz all the time, this could cause problems if you’re playing back music at other sample rates.
Audiophiles who have libraries of high resolution have been complaining about this for years, and because of this setting, alternative music player apps, which can adjust for sample rates, have become popular in that niche. I would have expected that Apple would have resolved this issue when they started offering high-resolution music.
Note that there’s no way to know the correct sample rate of the music, if you’re streaming it from Apple Music. Even if you’ve added an Apple Music track to your library, select a track, press Command-I, then check the File tab, it won’t dispaly the sample rate. In fact, it doesn’t even say that it’s high resolution.
These files don’t display their bit rate, so you can’t even calculate backwards from the file size to know what the actual resolution is. In this example, the file is 37.2 MB, which, according to this audio file size calculator, fits the size for a file at 1040 kbps. That’s quite low for a 24-bit, 96 kHz file, so it’s clear that it’s hard to figure this out.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand any of this; it’s not meant for you. Those who understand what I’m talking about will know what it means. As for the rest, just enjoy the music.
Update: As a correspondant pointed out, you can see the bit depth and sample rate if you don’t have Dolby Atmos on in the Playback preferences of the Music app. Click the Lossless icon in the LCD to see that information in a popup.
But if tracks have Dolby Atmos, you can’t see that information.
I got the following e-mail from a producer/engineer:
“I just want to try and alert you to the potential seismic scam happening with this Atmos roll out. Atmos catalog remixing is being done by the truckload in a handful of Nashville, LA, and NYC rooms right now and has been for a couple of years, and almost none of it is being overseen or approved by the artist or original producer or mixer. And these versions- according to Apple- will be the new standard versions, superseding the original versions, now designated by Apple to the dustbin of history.
I have heard some Atmos mixes which were indeed an improvement. However, most are not.
In the rush to make content for Apple, labels are jamming this crap out with little QC and -again- almost no input from artists. This format has real potential but if they continue to try and tell us that shit like this ‘new’ version of ‘What’s Going On’ is better than then original, then it will be seen as a counterfeit and a fraud, and will go the way of the Home Pod. I know how you feel about catalog being remixed and this has potential to be a worst case scenario.”
And then my inbox filled up with more, and iMessage started to ring from other professional engineers.
Bob Lefsetz discusses Apple’s spatial audio, wendering whether this really is the future of music.
I compared Spatial Audio tracks to their HD equivalents on Amazon Music and I found exactly what one writer said: the vocal gets lost. Instead of being up front and in your face, it’s buried more in the mix.
His opinion of the concept is quite clear:
Actually, the more I listen to these Spatial Audio cuts, the more offensive they become. Kind of like those Beatles remixes. These are not the original records, they’ve been messed with, they’re not even facsimiles, they’re bastardizations.
As many are saying, if a record is produced for spatial audio, then it could be a good creative tool. Just imagine Dark Side of the Moon in Dolby Atmos. But…
So, maybe there’s a future for Spatial Audio…if it’s mixed that way to begin with. But as demonstrated now, it’s a hell-bent drive in the wrong direction.
You can shoot the most amazing photos using the best gear you can afford, but it doesn’t mean anything if the pixels you capture aren’t saved to a storage card. In this episode, Kirk and Jeff talk about SD cards: what do the symbols on the card stand for? What speeds are good? How best to transfer images from the camera to the computer? What capacities should you buy? If your camera includes two card slots, do you write to them sequentially or for simultaneous backup? And how in the world did Jeff manage to shoot a Hawaiian sunset and end up with zero images?
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.
Apple introduced its new operating systems this week, and there are plenty of privacy features to help users better control their data. We discuss these new features, and especially a number of important features that Apple didn’t discuss at the keynote.
Follow the The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.
Thomas Carlyle once asked his friend John Stuart Mill to read the manuscript of his History of the French Revolution. Mill took it home, and later claimed that his maid had used it to start fires. It’s not clear if this is true, or if Mill kept the manuscript for himself, since he had plans to write about the same topic. But Carlyle didn’t have a backup, and he had to start all over and rewrite the book.
With computers, we don’t have to worry so much about our work being used as kindling, but we do need to ensure that we have backups in case of other problems, such as computer crashes, disk failure, or theft. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier today to back up computer files, and to back them up in multiple locations. Ideally, for important work, you should back up your work following the 3-2-1 rule.
Have 3 copies of your work – the original data, plus two backups
Store the files on 2 different types of media – computer, external drive, etc.
Keep 1 copy offsite – in a different physical location, or in the cloud
Just think of how much time you’d lose if your Scrivener projects got lost; you may never be able to rewrite them.
It’s a bumper year for new features in Apple’s operating systems, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. Monday’s preview at the Worldwide Developer Conference lasted nearly two hours, with a wide range of features from Safari to Mail, and from productivity to privacy. Apple’s operating systems are getting a big update this fall, with more features that work together across devices, and refinements to key apps and features that could make using Apple devices smoother. Here’s an overview of what’s new.
Apple made its first presentation yesterday of its 2021 vintage of operating systems: iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8. In addition to some new features to increase productivity, there are many new privacy features that give users more control over their data. And Apple has announced iCloud+, a privacy-focused service available to all users who pay for additional iCloud storage.