Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Life with Apple: Podcasts move to streaming only

In a move that feels as inevitable as death and taxes, Apple has made podcasts effectively streaming only. The same thing is likely to happen to all media, Podcasts just went first.

Until recently macOS iTunes and iOS Podcasts.app supported both file based sync, including Playlists, and streaming based distribution with an unreliable sync of podcast metadata.

With iOS 11 iTunes playlists are no longer represented in Podcasts.app. You can still create Playlists in iTunes made up of local files and/or cloud references, but they stay in iTunes. The Playlists were the main way I organized listening to my large collection of file-based In Our Time podcasts and my medical education podcasts. No more. I’m now dependent on the very limited (ok, crap) organization abilities of Podcasts.app.

Apple has long had problems with video that moved to an iPhone from both iCloud and iTunes. iBooks synchronization is a mess too if you mix non-Apple store ePub with streamed iBook.

This is ugly and going to get worse. We’re moving fast into the DRMd hard data-lock rental-only future.

Update: Many good threads on this in Apple Communities. They reminded me to leave feedback. Stations are not a substitute for playlist sync, but even on their own they are missing a key filter — limit to on-device items.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Photos.app is as stupid about JPEG Export as iPhoto and Aperture.

Try this experiment.

1. Import a camera produced JPEG into Photos.app. Check the size. Let’s say it’s 6.8MB.

2. Don’t edit the image. Export it as maximum quality JPEG. Check the size. It will be something like 17.2MB.

Even though the image was native JPEG, and it wasn’t edited, Photos.app decompressed and then recompressed it. Adding 11MB of non-value.

Unchanged from iPhoto and, for that matter, Aperture.

There should be a better way. (No, unmodified original is not a better way — because if editing were done, or the original were not JPEG, then you would want the transformation.)

Annals of iOS inconsistency: Contacts vs Notes vs Reminders - backup and sharing

https://www.icloud.com/#settings currently shows an “Advanced” subsection for restoring Contacts. It provides options to restore an iCloud data set “archive” from iCloud (not to be confused with restoring an entire iOS device backup):

Screen Shot 2017 09 03 at 11 38 36 AM

Notes aren’t on the list though. They have their own note-specific backup restore option, but it’s at the level of an individual note and there’s no version restore, only the ability to undo a delete for 30 days by restoring a Note from “recently deleted”. (BTW, if you Share a Note only the Owner can “delete” — but anyone with Edit privileges can remove all content — and since there’s no version undo that means anyone who can edit a Note can delete it without a recovery option.)

Screen Shot 2017 09 03 at 11 43 45 AM

Sharing is another area of odd inconsistency. Notes must be shared one at time, but multiple Reminders can belong to a set of People.

I’d like to see Notes add Google-style Note-specific version save/restore and share by container (folder) as well as Note, but there’s no rumor of that in iOS 11. I’d pay for a third party solution for iCloud, similar to what CloudPull does for Google App docs, but I fear the demand is too small (for example). An Apple iCloud Drive folder view of Notes [1] would be a big help; I’d then be able to restore an individual Note from a Time Machine or Carbon Copy Cloner backup …

Anyone have an AppleScript to create a local daily snapshot of Notes? (There is this, but in Sierra Apple omitted AppleScript dictionary support for PDF creation).

The world moves in unexpected ways. We seem to be converging on a form of backup that’s a regression for people like me, but a big improvement for most. There’s probably some kind of futurist principle there — the good-enough mass solution will drive out the elite ideal …

- fn -

[1] The main reason I’m still on Simplenote is that nvAlt on my Mac maintains a synchronized file store that works just like this. Perfect data freedom — but almost nobody appreciates this …

[2] As of Sierra at least some parts of Notes are in /Users/[username]/Library/Group Containers/group.com.apple.notes. This location has changed a few times. Note content is distributed between media files (PDF, etc) and text in a sqlite database, so recreating an individual Note document as, say, an RTF file, is a non-trivial task. For example (sqlite browser):

Screen Shot 2017 09 03 at 12 20 57 PM

I suppose Time Machine backups of this folder might be a kind of ‘restore all notes’ option, but restoring a version of an individual Note would be tricky…. (There’s something deep here about the ways in which we assemble bits to create something our brains perceive and our tools manipulate, but it’s beyond my ken. Once upon a time a BYTE article would have traced the roots of the Notes sqlite store back to database file systems of the 1980s…)