Google’s Go computer ‘cannot be beaten’ so South Korean master Lee Se-Dol has quit playing the Chinese strategy game | South China Morning Post

“Google’s Go computer ‘cannot be beaten’ so South Korean master Lee Se-Dol has quit playing the Chinese strategy game”

This is ridiculous. Lee Se-Dol is one of the greats in this game, and if he really is giving up because he can’t beat a machine, he’s quite childish. He would still be playing other humans.

This said, he’s been playing for a long time, and went pro very young, and at the age of 36, it’s not easy to maintain the same level in competition. So he’s probably just burnt out, but he sounds egotistical here.

I’ve been playing go off and on for about 40 years, so this triumph of AI over go players really interests me. It’s quite surprising what the AlphaGo team did, and they have changed the game. In part because what were considered good moves or sequences in the past, because humans felt they led to good results, have turned out to be less optimal than other moves or sequences.

Source: Google’s Go computer ‘cannot be beaten’ so South Korean master Lee Se-Dol has quit playing the Chinese strategy game | South China Morning Post

Why Is Account Management on Newspaper and Magazine Websites So Bad?

I have long been a reader of newspapers and magazines. It might be my age, but as much as possible, I like to get my news in a slower format that rapid-fire articles on the web. As such, I have subscribed to a number of magazines and newspapers – both in print and digital – over the years. After an experience this morning, I scratch my head and wonder why, of all the categories of subscription content available on the internet, why are these websites so bad?

Today’s experience was with the Times Literary Supplement. I subscribed to a print and digital package last month, but hadn’t yet browsed the website beyond the number of free articles I’m allowed to see. I went to log in with the email and password that I had saved during the subscription process, and that failed. I clicked a Forgot My Password link, got a new password, and that failed.

So, I had to call the TLS’s customer support. After a first call dropped when I was being put through to the appropriate support person, I got through to someone who said that I must not have followed through with the entire process when I subscribed. in fact, he found no trace of my digital account at all, even though it should have been created when I subscribed.

I’ll fast forward to the part where, ten minutes later, after he gave me a very simple temporary password to log into the website, I went looking for a My Account link to change it to a secure password. It turns out that there is no such link. You have to go to a different website, for which the patient Will at customer service could send me a link.

(It must be easy to log into people’s accounts on the TLS website; the support person said that there are a lot of problems like this, and he clearly gives everyone the same temporary password, which I assume most people do not change.)

Think about that: you cannot access your account from a website to which you are subscribed. You have to know that there is a different website, and you have to have the link.

In any case, I changed the password, then promptly cancelled my subscription. I’m tired of these websites not working. When I give a company my money for a subscription, I don’t expect to have to waste time with customer service. And I’m particularly worried about the TLS’s cavalier approach to accounts, and how secure people’s data is.

Here are some examples of what I’ve experienced in the past with other publications.

  • When one subscribes to the New York Times, there is no way to make changes to your subscription, or to cancel a subscription, online. You must call customer service. For a company providing a high level of digital content, this is ridiculous. I can understand that, say, ten years ago, this was the case, but it hasn’t changed.
  • For several years, I subscribed to Harper’s. Then I was unable to log into my account. No password reset link worked, emails were not successful, and I was not pleased about having to make an international call to customer support. I got access again, but the next year, after re-subscribing, the same thing happened. I let that subscription lapse.
  • I subscribed for a while to Aperture, a magazine about photography. I didn’t want to continue the subscription after the first year, but there was no way to cancel the subscription online, and the company did not answer my emails. When they charged my credit card for a second year, I had to contest the change, and the company did not respond to my bank’s communications; I was eventually advised by my bank to cancel my credit card and have them issue a new one to ensure that they wouldn’t bill me again. That was in 2018. In August 2019, I received an email saying that they were having payment issues trying to renew my subscription again.
  • I had subscribed to the New Yorker off and on for many years. A few months ago, I re-subscribed, to a digital only package, and was not sent any information about how to log in. I emailed the company repeatedly, and, a few days after I subscribed, they said that it can take up to a week for foreign customers to get their login information. I immediately cancelled my subscription.

To be fair, there is one subscription that works as it should: The Washington Post. I’ve never had a problem subscribing, logging in, or renewing. The only complaint I have about the Washington Post is that they are very aggressive at logging people out, and it seems like I have to constantly log in again, whenever I want to read something.

I don’t know why this happens, but I have a feeling that in the US, since magazines and newspapers tend to outsource their subscription management and related customer service, that these companies are archaic in their operation, having existed managing print subscriptions for a long time, and just haven’t understood that the process online is different. In no other industry do I have this sort of problem with subscriptions: not for web services, digital content, or subscription-based apps.

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.