‘View as single page’

Yet another reason to love the New Yorker:


Clicking through multiple pages of a single article is one of my least favourite things on the web. I know I’m not alone in this. I don’t know why it is exactly; I think the mental hiccups that it causes impede the natural reading flow, or something along those lines.

It has always been possible to read articles in the New Yorker on a single page via their ‘Print’ version of each one. I suppose they must have realised that all of their longer articles (which can get up to, oh, eight or nine web-pages) were being read in this form because it’s clearly much more pleasant. Rather than restrict us this luxury because of lost ad impressions, they made the whole thing easier even for people who previously did not realise that you could access the single-page version.

The New Yorker is the only periodical I read. This is the kind of reason why.

Update five minutes later. It occurs to me that this is also good for the New Yorker, because people who were likely to read the single-page articles would probably also be inclined to link to them; the ‘Print’ pages lack the all important context links that keep people browsing the entirety of the website; it's therefore in their interest to provide linkable pages that do contain the rest of the auxiliary content (“Subscribe for just 85¢ an issue” possibly being the big one). The fact of their acting as capitalists bothers me not one whit; I'm even gratified by it. (I’d rather them be pragmatists that stay in business.) Because, after all, they could be like all of those other websites that don’t allow you to view their articles in a single page.


iPod timezones

With great fanfare I’d like to report one of the bugs fixed in the latest iPod firmware update. Since, you know, no-one seems to know what they are (fourth dot point).

Back in 2003 when I first started earning money, I saved for a few months and bought the brand-spanking new 12 inch PowerBook and 3G iPod. This was the first iPod, if you recall, that introduced the touch sensitive buttons and that was actually quite small. The iPod that really gathered the momentum on Apple’s success with the product since. Before then it was a cool gadget only used by a select few. By the time the 4G iPod came around, white earbuds were popping up all over the place.

I digress. Does anyone remember the popping bug that plagued the 3G iPod initially after its release? It was fairly surreptitious but annoying once you noticed it; a faint click whenever you skipped or moved between tracks. It was sorted in relatively short order (the buzz about this bug on the internet was, as always, ridiculously over the top), but clearly the iPod firmware guys had their hands full at that stage, because they unfortunately forgot little old Adelaide when building their list of timezones. Obviously iPod owners in South Australia are a fairly niche market, all things considered. But how hard is it to get GMT+9.5 in that little list? And how could you possibly omit it in the first place?

I dutifully filed my bug and long ago forgot about it. Let’s face it; the iPod wasn’t exactly man’s best organisational friend. I certainly wasn’t using it to check up on my calendar when my phone could do the same as well as add new events.

But Apple didn’t forget about me, and a couple of days ago I received the blissful line in an emailed reply:

We believe this issue has been addressed in the latest iPod update (version 1.3).

Five years might be a long time to wait for alarms that go off at the correct time and appointments that aren’t half an hour out, but it’s nice to know that sometimes they do listen.


Leopard bugs: Finder symlinks

Here’s a Finder window in Mac OS X showing an alias and a symlink, respectively, to a file:


See the problem? (The image might be being cut off on the right.) The symlink is being displayed as if it were a folder, with the triangle on the right of its name. Obviously it’s not a folder, so that triangle is a big fat bug. Bug #5789538, to be precise.

Digital music

News over the last little while included the staggering (to me) nugget that Apple is now the number two music retailer in America. It’s pretty inconceivable how much music this actually is, and it’s pretty damn impressive given that Apple’s only been in the music business for pretty much bang on five years.

Credit being given where it is due, I do believe that Apple has done extremely well at executing an idea that, before them, really wasn’t feasible given the restrictions of the music industry.

Michael Gartenberg’s reaction:

The question is can anyone overtake them? Or even come close?

DRM or lack thereof is not the issue that will change the game here. It’s either going to be another device that can drive consumers elsewhere (devices still drive consumers to the stores and services, not the other way around) or a totally game changing experience that re-defines how music is purchased and consumed.

Apple has clearly managed to reach a demographic with iTunes that is not particularly tech-savvy in that no-one really cares about the DRM that is being served up. For all of the noise against Apple for the low-quality and DRM-crippled files they sell, it’s worth remembering that they were the first to get unencumbered MP3s sold through a major label.

(The irony of Apple lock-in due to the labels’ demand of DRM is sweet, all the more so for it convinced the labels to drop the DRM in the first place. Online video will hopefully follow the same path, but if the future turns out to be in video rental I guess it’s not such an important point.)

Amongst those music purchasers who are both aware of DRM and leery of buying into it, the newly-constructed Amazon store seems to have gained a fair bit of mindshare. EMusic was always the crowd favourite (and online store #2 after iTunes) but against Amazon it’s hard to imagine how it can retain that lead. The big question is: after Apple finally re-negotiates with the labels to get DRM-free music across the board, will Amazon’s store retain its popularity?

Here’s where a critique of iTunes itself comes in. iTunes, as a browsing and discovering online store, is pretty woeful. If I know what I want, buying music is easy. Too easy, even. The emails I receive from Apple about new releases on the iTunes store being particularly effective of keeping my in the buying cycle.

But in terms of discovering new music in the first place, iTunes is really nothing more than a spreadsheet that plays music, in the insightful words of Ian Rogers. But do mainstream customers care? iTunes isn’t much worse than most media players around the place. Could it be better? God yes. But is it good enough? Unfortunately yes. Here’s to some vision inside Apple to improve it like they’ve improved that product that actually made them all this money: the iPod. No-one’s come close, because it’s improved at such a rate that the competitors are playing catch-up half the time.

So what about the question “Can anyone come close?” ? It’s hard to imagine in the near-to-medium future.

I originally thought that the “subscription music” model sounded pretty convincing on paper. Literally all music (that has been licensed online) unrestrictedly available to listen whenever you like? What’s not to like? Well, a monthly fee, I guess. If you buy less than one album a month that you’ll seriously be interested in an listen to, well, forever, then paying a monthly fee isn’t really worth your while. Especially when your music goes kaput when you stop paying your fees. Over a five year period you’re better off buying your music outright (for some definition of “buying” and “outright”). Broadly speaking.

I don’t really have a closing argument to all of this. I’m strongly in favour of buying digital things. Particularly ones that don’t lock me in so that five years later I’ve got gigabytes of encrypted junk that is no longer playable. Music is crossing into that sweet spot and Apple’s in a damn good position to sell yet more and more of it. Hopefully things just get better here on in.