iOS 12 album artwork missing

iOS 12 Album Art Broken in iTunes Match & Apple Music Fix*

Since updating to iOS 12 on my iPhone 6 I’ve had a major headache. Album art hasn’t been working for my iTunes match (iCloud) music library, and I’ve only been seeing the standard iTunes missing artwork icon for my songs & albums.

I even re-subscribed to Apple Music to see if the problem was iTunes match only, but it also affected most of the music I streamed from Apple Music too.

I’ve managed to find a really simple fix for the album artwork problem.

Head over into settings and click on the music tab. Once there, you need to disable iCloud music & Apple Music by clicking the toggles. Immediately after disabling iTunes Match (iCloud Music) and Apple music, you need to restart your iOS device. Do this as soon as you disable the toggles, that way you will stop iOS pruning off corrupted artwork files. Read More....

Soundpeats Q12 Headphones and Apple Music

SoundPEATS Q12 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Review

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying out the new SoundPEATS Q12 bluetooth headphones. I already own a pair of the Q30 headphones which I use a lot with my Laptop and iphone. I wanted a more compact pair to grab on the go & use with my Apple Watch.

I’ve got a Nike+ Apple Watch Series 3 with Cellular and I tend to use my watch a lot to listen to music on the go. It means I can keep my iPhone in my pocket or backpack & not worry about being disturbed. It’s also amazing to use the apple watch to work out. I already use the fitness trackers on the apple watch, but now combined with the SoundPEATS Q12 headphones I can listen to music and track my workout. Read More....

Psychology Social Networks

Social networks and their impacts on personal psychology & society

I’ve been using social networks for many years. My original masters thesis revolved around the then emerging technologies of social networks. I coupled the ideas of early day twitter & Facebook & combined them with a virtual learning environment for universities.  Back then, I thought that social media, the semantic web & Web 2.0 as we called it, was the future.

Through the years I’ve adopted more of these platforms and integrated them into my life. I’ve continued to study them from both a personal & a societal point of view, and in the last few years my view has shifted radically. Read More....

Cory Doctrow Webstock 15

Cory Doctrow sets out the future of the internet & ‘smart’ devices – recommended watch from Webstock 15

I’ve been a huge fan of Cory Doctrow for a while now. With regular appearences on 2600’s Off The Hook radio show, not to mention his work for the EFF, he is well known in internet circles.

This video is over an hour long, but goes a long way to explain the direction in which our technology (and the companies who run them) are going. If we leave it to the quasi-monopoly companies we have already, we are in for a rough ride. Recommended for any internet user, especially those with a penchant for smart home devices (he outlines some good real world hacks, including hacking a pacemaker). A great advocation for ignoring all of the apps & walled gardens & returning to the open internet. Read More....

Newspaper & Coffee

Ditch online news sites & step outside the outrage bubble

For the last few months I’ve gone through a bit of a regression. As a born & bred internet nerd, I’ve always thought that online content was king. I’d pour over articles, blogs, forums & personal websites absorbing information. For the most part I still do enjoy all of those outlets, but one website genre has been sapping too much of my attention, News sites!

During the run up to the 2016 EU referendum in the U.K and the presidential elections in the U.S my news consumption increased at an exponential rate. My drug of choice was The Guardian online. After all, I’m a liberal academic raised on the internet. I’m well versed in most sexualities, fetishes, niches & sub cultures. Growing up online not a lot slips under the radar. The guardian was a perfect fit for my political views, my environmental views and my social outlook. Growing up I was exposed to newspapers from across the political spectrum. From right-wing news like The Daily Mail & Telegraph, right through to The Guardian & The Observer. The general trend being, the younger adults in the family bought into the liberal press & the older members into the conservative press.

As someone who used to dial onto the internet with a 14.4kbps dial up modem, I first experienced bulletin boards & forums. News wasn’t something that interested me until I hit my 30’s. Now I feel an obligation to be informed and at least somewhat politically literate. Like most people, my news started coming more from social media sites. Shared twitter articles & Facebook stories shaped my world view. The filter bubble had me.

I realized early on that news consumed via social media was specifically targeted at me. If you follow people on social media who you relate to, chances are they will also hold the same views on politics and the environment. I would read stories about renewable energy & social issues. I would consume stories on tech & music culture. I was fed an endless supply of catered news stories, peacefully unaware of an alternate narrative running in parallel to my filter bubble.

In late 2015 I started switching off all retweets and stopped using Facebook. I unfollowed all news outlets & would unfollow or mute users who got political or what I would consider ranty! I trimmed my social media so it was somewhat social again. I decided, if I wanted to read the news, I would do it consciously & head to news websites. This worked well for a period & then we entered the run up to the 2016 EU referendum. All of a sudden I could see the other side of the filter bubble. The mirror opposite of my bubble. People who instead of being angry about fossil fuels or the bedroom tax, where angry at immigration and that bizarre term ‘the metropolitan elite’.

I knew early on that Leave would get a lot more votes than predicted in early polls & I could also see the click bait & outrage techniques they employed online. They used the same techniques as advertisers & influencers use to gain attention & cement a narrative. The remain campaign had no clue that the new battle would be fought (and won) online.

The whole debate descended into outrageous claims & counter claims. It was like the worst parts of our tabloid press here in the U.K. but pumped up on steroids. Leave won the day, but our culture of discourse in the U.K. has been changed forever.

This essay isn’t about that vote, it’s about the atmosphere created by that vote. News reporting changed. 24 hour news became a quagmire of live blogs, claim & counter-claim, ‘fake news’ and the most bizarre quotations. Since when did a tweet constitute a quote or news? It would seem that the need to break a story now trumps the need to investigate a story, fact check & produce a coherent article.

What followed was the U.S. elections & a news industry which is whipped into such a frenzy it’s basically a live chatroom. Reporters frantically typing live blogs full of typos, users frantically responding in the comments section, only for stories to develop or be completely debunked hours later. Users are then arguing with each other & with journalists in the comments. This is not news or reporting in the traditional sense & it’s an assault on the synapses.

Journalists are paid to investigate, digest information & present stories in a coherent manner. Fact checking should be done before publication. Retractions should be rare.

This new kind of news reporting has made us all junior reporters. We interpret in real-time, often out of context & without all the facts & we form half-baked narratives. We also apply our own bias and then pass on our own biased versions of developing stories, essentially producing streams of fake news. Our opinions then hit social media where they develop in our filter bubbles & polarization increases between tribes. We’ve all had the flame wars with people of opposite political persuasions.

I reached news burnout in mid 2017. I was feeling depressed & overwhelmed. I’d had countless arguments with family members & total strangers online. I was like an addict, constantly refreshing The Guardian front page waiting on an update. Something had to change.

I went extreme at first. I added all of the news sites I could think of into a hosts file on my network. I essentially blocked all news at home. I went cold turkey for about a month, and whilst I felt less informed, I felt a sense of calm I hadn’t felt in at least 18 months. This was obvious denial & delusion, I knew I couldn’t hide from the news forever, but I could control how I consumed said news.

After around 5 weeks I removed the blocks & all was well for a few days before I felt myself checking the sites again. I knew I had to change my habits so I decided to subscribe to two newspapers. I now read paper versions of The Guardian & The Times. I decided to balance my own arguments like any good academic by selecting more than one source. The guardian has an obvious liberal slant, while The Times is a conservative leading but very well written newspaper (in the UK it’s the only choice amongst the other right leaning news outlets, the rest are a bit crazy).

I found by reading a newspaper, I was reading well written & well-edited stories. It also meant that I was selective over the stories I read & I was exposed to stories I would have otherwise missed. Reading real newspapers means that your data isn’t mined & your political leanings or preferences can’t be weaponized against you. There is something creepy about websites & third parties being able to keep track of all the stories you read & then using that data to target political messaging back at you. A major privacy benefit. Another added benefit is that when you reach the end, it goes in the recycling & you carry on with your day.

By removing all of my news apps from my smartphone & tablet, as well as resisting the temptation to read live news websites I’ve actively slowed down my news consumption. I now feel informed, but not overwhelmed. Also, by balancing the views of two outlets I get a more rounded view & can more easily pick out the political bias in stories.

24 hour news will always be frantic & a little haphazard. If a person only consumes this type of news, their anxiety levels will reflect the stream of information they are taking in. Most developing news is bad news or outrageous. We don’t get many good news stories on 24 hour outlets. Politicians can worry about the day-to-day running of the country & we can call them out as & when we can actually influence the debate. There is little value in getting irate on social media because a politician has tweeted something outrageous and we aren’t happy, all in real-time.

So my advice to anyone feeling news burnout is to take it back to basics. News websites are in the business of holding your attention. The longer you stay, the more advertising space they can sell for your consumption. Slow down your consumption and read a newspaper. You can even opt to read a weekend newspaper which will have the most important news of the week & a few nice supplements for balance. Even a news magazine like The Week here in the U.K or the Weekend edition of the ‘I’ will give you a good overview of the stories you really need to know, but in a concise way.

I wholeheartedly support journalists & real journalism. Unlike news blogs & websites, they still have a code of conduct to uphold & are unable to publish a story without scrutiny. Use blogs & personal websites for everything else, enjoy them, but for political news where there are real incentives to control the narrative or introduce bias, always at least have one trusted outlet. In the age of alleged foreign interference it’s a must.

If you can’t afford to buy a newspaper, head to a cafe or coffee shop and read theirs. Most coffee shops have multiple copies of newspapers for customers & most would be happy for you to take a copy at the end of the day. You can even read the newspapers in most public libraries.

Slow news, news that has already developed into a story saves you the personal processing time. You will feel less frazzled & more able to absorb stories, not to mention you will regain a lot of productive time & energy to be better utilized on your own projects.

The 24 hour news cycle really got to me & live news & social news is going a long way to polarize our societies & divide opinion. With so much fake news & opinion masquerading as news, it can be an exhausting process just sifting through it.

Buy a paper, grab a coffee & unplug from the outrage of online news & social media news sharing. Your brain will thank you for it.

 

**If you really want to keep reading news online, you can take a few steps to improve your experience. I would say to set a time to check the news each day & stick to it. I would aim for say 9am, so you get the best edited stories from the previous day, but without any of the developing stories. Stick to that time & once finished, don’t check again until the next day. Try to avoid all live updating content such as live blogs. Live news is overload and by it’s very nature doesn’t have a natural end, so stick to reading fully formed articles. Don’t use news apps on your phone, always use the browser versions. It’s too easy just to launch an app. A few changes in your habits will make a huge difference. Finally, use an ad blocker with your web browser such as ublock origin and sign up to the mute blocklist. Even if you don’t block anything else with the adblocker, mute will block most comment fields across the web. Comments have become pretty unhelpful and will only fuel your outrage. If mute doesn’t catch a comment field, specify a custom filter using the ublock origin picker tool included with the browser extension.**

 

Sonos lock screen controls broken on ios 11 with the 9.0 sonos update

Sonos Lock Screen Controls Broken on ios after version 9.0 update

As many readers will know, I opted to go down the Sonos route of home audio as opposed to the Apple Homepod route. While my devices are generally all within the Apple ecosystem, I don’t yet rate Siri & I do like the option to use third-party music streaming services such as Tidal if I see fit. I also like the Sonos app & the fact that I can control it from the app without having to use voice controls at all.

One of the biggest features of Sonos that I use are the lock screen controls. My device usage has changed dramatically over recent months as I’ve been researching smart phone addiction & the problems caused by too much exposure to social media. One thing to come out of this research is that I tend to leave my iPhone docked in a bamboo dock in my kitchen at all times. This means I don’t pick up the phone at random & my compulsion to check it has diminished.

This also means that I really rely on the lock screen controls for my sonos. The hardware volume buttons are perfect to quickly adjust volume without taking my phone out of the dock or even unlocking it. I use the lock screen skip buttons & I like to view the artwork on the lockscreen. Also, I use the lock screen controls via my apple watch, which makes perfect sense as the controls are always on hand. The apple watch is a great way to control sonos, it’s discrete and the digital crown acts as a volume knob.

Sonos lock screen controls on Apple Watch
Sonos lock screen controls on Apple Watch
Sonos controls on my Series 3 apple watch
Sonos controls on my Series 3 apple watch

The other benefit is that the lock screen controls also appear on my wife’s iPhone & our iPad’s, meaning we normally have a device close at hand to control our sonos system.

This week sonos rolled out Airplay 2 support. This support meant a sonos software update & an app update. To be clear, I have Sonos Play 1’s in my home. I don’t like having alexa in every room in the house & since unplugging the Fire Stick, I don’t have any smart device which is always listening for prompts. It just doesn’t fly with me from a privacy standpoint.

The Play 1’s don’t support Airplay 2, the update only applies to the more high-end Sonos speakers such as the newer Play 5’s and the all new Sonos one’s with alexa built-in. I really wish that Airplay 2 could have been supported, but I may add a Sonos one to my system at some point which will enable it across my sonos system.

Anyway, even though Airplay 2 isn’t supported on any of my devices, the new update broke my all important lock screen controls. After contacting Sonos I was told that basically the Lock Screen controls where never officially supported by Apple & that they had been a bit of a hack (playing a silent song on the iPhone to work).

Regardless, the lock screen controls are what originally sold me into the Sonos ecosystem. I don’t like talking to my devices & it is too hit & miss at present. Furthermore most of my music is in my personal collection & my library isn’t fully supported by Alexa in the newer Sonos speakers.

And the fix for Lock Screen Controls on iOS/Sonos

After a lot of head scratching I decided to experiment with getting the lock screen controls working again. The option was still ticked in my iOS app settings, so I started poking around. I concluded that if AirPlay devices are available on the network, the lock screen controls are disabled as AirPlay takes precedent. I figured this out by unplugging my Apple TV and my Libreelec Kodi media centre on the Raspberry Pi. These two devices are my only Airplay endpoints on the network. After rebooting my iPhone and firing up the Sonos app, I was suprised to see the Lock Screen controls return.

To make the change permanent, I disabled AirPlay on my Apple TV and I also disabled it on my Kodi media centre. For some reason, the iPhone running iOS 11 will now cache any AirPlay endpoints (possibly to allow them to sleep but still be available to iOS). So once you disable AirPlay, you need to restart all of your iOS devices. Also, unplug your AirPlay endpoints until you can confirm the fix works, and turn them back on one by one to isolate any which are still broadcasting as Airplay receivers.

To find out which devices on your network are airplay endpoints, open the music app on your iOS devices (not the sonos app, but the actually music app) and click the airplay button. If you see any devices there, you need to identify them and disable airplay on those devices.

My Lock Screen controls are now working as expected on all of my iOS devices & I hope Sonos can come up with a more elegant solution in future updates.

I would love to introduce an AirPlay supporting speaker to my sonos collection which doesn’t feature Alexa, perhaps something for Sonos to consider for all of us Privacy focused tech people.

Sonos lock screen controls Fixed on ios
Sonos lock screen controls Fixed on ios 11

Put the laptop away & read a newspaper

I’ve cancelled my Netflix account – and that’s just the beginning of the cull

This has been a long time coming but I’ve finally cancelled my Netflix account. I’ve had a Netflix account off and on for years, almost since they started rolling out online streaming and on the whole, it has been mediocre at best. I did enjoy having access to older TV shows such as Bottom and Red Dwarf, which I grew up watching & always enjoy putting on for nostalgia, but I finally decided to end my subscription.

Netflix on the whole is a good service. It is relatively cheap & does have some good content. The problem stems from the one reason for Netflix existence, and that again is content.

In recent years, the tug of war between the tech giants for our attention has intensified. What was once a relatively straight forward transaction between customer & service has become a war to keep us engaged for as long as possible.

Content has become the latest battleground & if I’m honest, my attention span has finally snapped. Like many people, I favour watching content online now as opposed to the more traditional mediums such as TV & radio. My music is stored in the cloud thanks to iTunes match, so I no longer need to worry about syncing music to my devices. Similarly, between Netflix & Amazon Prime I have access to a great deal of premium content. I have my favourite YouTube subscriptions which keep me entertained, and my favourite podcasts in iTunes. I have a newspaper subscription to both The Guardian & The Times in the UK because I support good journalism, but I also read The Verge, The Register, Minimalism Life, Mac Rumours, Macworld, Ars technica and Revolver on a daily basis online. I read Mini Magazine each month & Mini World. I have countless kindle books on the go & I’m working through my paper book collection thanks to my quest to be a minimalist. Then we have the DVR, and my Xbox Games Pass. The list is endless.

That last paragraph is a small example of the problem I’m talking about, and the composition of the paragraph just goes to show what’s going on with our attention. It’s a mess.

When I was completing my bachelors degree around 2006, I had a paper subscription to Mini magazine & Mini World, along with a paper subscription to Custom PC magazine. I had a few TV shows recorded on the DVR which I’d watch at my leisure, and I’d have one book at a time, normally from the university library. I had a fairly large DVD collection but this was limited by both my income & my desire to actually go out and buy the DVD. Same with Xbox games.

The inherent problem with modern media delivery is the lack of in-built stopping cues. From my two examples above, you can see that in 2006 I had in-built stopping cues. A stopping cue is anything that brings a natural conclusion to a task.

If I finished a DVD box set for example, I’d have to physically go and buy the next series. That was a stopping cue. Something to nudge me into thinking ‘that’s probably enough TV, now go and write that essay’. Similarly with books, I’d have a library book limit of 5 books, so I’d take out a few texts at a time & struggle home with them in my backpack. I’d read the books & return them. I listened to a few podcasts back in 2006, but I’d listen to these on my iPod, which was offline at all times, meaning I’d single task the listening of podcasts while walking somewhere.

Contrast that with 2018. If I finish an episode on Netflix, the helpful UI auto plays the next episode or the next series. If I finish all episodes in a series, it will algorithmically recommend new content based on my viewing habits. Without a stopping cue, I’m encouraged to waste all of my time wanting to watch everything which looks interesting on Netflix. Similarly, for such a low monthly fee, the further stopping cue of cost is removed, meaning another barrier to me binge watching has been removed.

Netflix isn’t the only guilty party here. Amazon do exactly the same thing on Prime Video. It used to be that a friend or colleague would personally recommend something to read or watch, or perhaps an album to listen to. These where valuable recommendations given to me by trusted third parties with a good understanding of my tastes and placed within context. The algorithms of today are just a brute force tool to keep you engaged on their platform.

YouTube is another prime example. I personally run an ad blocker, so I don’t see Google Ads on YouTube (say what you will, but I control my browser & choose not to allow advertising at a network level), but YouTube & parent Google are in the ad business, meaning the more engaged you are the more ads they can show you. This means they throw psychologists, neuroscientists, UX gurus and everything but the kitchen sink at their platform to maximize eye-ball time & engagement. The longer you are hooked, the more ad revenue they can yield.

There is an old school of thought in computer science which suggests that with any free service, you are not the customer but the product. These platforms don’t’ exist to serve you, they exist to sell your attention to advertisers. Tim Wu highlights this brilliantly in his book The Attention Merchants.

I read & research a lot about ethical computing and ethics online, and even I was sideswiped by the realisation that I’d fallen into the attention merchants trap. I’d gone from a productive computer scientists, reading journal articles, learning, formulating new ideas & examining web technologies to just another consumer of content.

As a self-employed academic & business owner I am solely responsible for my time management. From scheduling time to write, to completing work for clients, it’s down to me when & where I work. This also means that if my attention is disrupted, I become less productive & less able to do my job. If you work in a regular workplace, you will have targets & rules, perhaps you aren’t allowed your phone, or perhaps your internet usage is monitored. I have none of that & I need to rely on my own self discipline.

I’ve got to admit that my discipline has been tested & destroyed thanks to the modern content platforms such as YouTube and Netflix. It got to the point where I had Netflix shows running on my laptop sat next to my desktop, so I could try & catch up with shows while working.

I watch YouTube videos while I’m supposed to be concentrating & my attention is fragmented. This has had an effect on my workload, the speed at which I can get things done & also my general motivation.

This attention sapping extends across all popular ‘content providers’ as we should now refer to them. Instagram takes up too much of my time & attention, as does Twitter. I’ve actively wiped my Facebook account & stopped using it, but still use Whatsapp to keep in touch with friends on Android.

The news websites have been tweaked to always rotate headlines. Headlines are modified throughout the day based on metrics until the most engaging ones are found. News is delivered in Real Time and is never-ending & always inconclusive. This sort of news delivery, via websites, social media or the TV news channels is frenetic, chaotic and by far the most distracting & anxiety inducing part of my day. The age of outrage is truly upon us & its present in most aspects of our internet usage.

Twitter is alive with the sound of trolling & political discourse, often descending into pointless fighting. Polarization and outrage are favored by the platforms as the psychologists at Twitter and Facebook know this is good to keep you jacked in and checking for updates. Trump is golden for Twitter engagement & Twitter stock prices.

Netflix & Amazon prime don’t rely on advertising dollars, but they keep you hooked with auto play and recommendations to keep you as a customer, paying monthly fees & to amass more data which they can sell to content producers. The bigger their numbers, the better the content they can get from the studios.

Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music. They use algorithms to recommend more music. You have so much music to listen to that you need to dedicate more of your time to listening. The art of single album listening is dead. The data they collect can then be used to profile customers & probably sell to third-party advertisers.

Podcasts have taken off big time, but now they are full of advertisements and the content normally reflects the distracted nature of society, generally a bit lackluster, repetitive and shallow. Research is a thing of the past. There are now so many podcasts that I can’t keep up with the ones I’ve listened to for years, never mind find new ones.

So this argument isn’t just about Netflix, it’s about tech companies in general in 2018. The obsession with content creation for the sole purpose of engagement has led us down a dangerous path. If we are all so distracted by trying to keep up with all of the content, who is doing the deep work? Who is thinking of solutions to the major problems we face?

The work I do now in a week I could have completed in a day in 2006. Back then, when my magazine was done I’d have to wait until the next month for a fresh copy. Cost constraints and availability where my natural stopping cues. Now, with an almost infinite amount of content being generated, reaching the end of anything has become a thing of the past.

I honestly think this is leading to a spike in anxiety in our societies & is also the reason for higher levels of depression and lower self-esteem. With all of this content, all of these amazing lives in front of our eyes day & night, how can we ever feel content?

I know I still have the ability for deep work, I just need to reclaim my attention. Back in the mid noughties I finished my Degree, worked in the city as a web developer for a few years & then went back to do a masters Degree. Funnily enough, in 2008, as the social media platforms started to appear & Web 2.0 was the buzzword, I did a Masters thesis on combining an E Learning environment with aspects of a social media platform. I even built the prototype. Shortly after, social media became the big thing & more pervasive in everyday life.

After studying it for my masters I fell for social media Big Time. Since then, for one reason or another, I’ve delayed completing my doctorate. I now firmly believe that the distraction of social media, and the modern internet giants, coupled with their manipulative & psychologically perfected platforms have sapped a lot of my attention and ability to complete deep work. I also believe that my self-confidence, self-esteem and anxiety levels have all been affected by Social Media and the distraction technologies.

But no more. After committing to reading a long reading list of relevant books throughout 2018, I’ve realised how these platforms work & also the polarizing & damaging effects they are having on society. I’ve decided to take action and reset to a more manageable online life.

So far I’ve already cancelled all music streaming. I have an extensive MP3 library & any albums I do want, I’ll buy in second-hand shops or via the iTunes store. This means I’ll actually value those albums, instead of blindly consuming. It also means I’ll choose carefully which albums I introduce into my collection.

With regards newspapers, I now buy a physical copy of the Sunday papers and catch up on the week’s news curated into proper stories. I still checkout the headlines online, but I do this once a day in the morning & never follow the live news blogs.

I’ve uninstalled all news apps from my iPhone & I’ve also removed all music & video apps with the exceptions of the Music app which I use with my MP3 collection.

I’ve cancelled Netflix & I’ve unplugged my Amazon Fire Stick. If I want to watch a TV show, I’ll buy the DVD or pick it up on the iTunes store and watch it via the Apple TV. I’ve just done that with the BBC series Detectorists & enjoyed it much more watching on my own schedule and without the crazy algorithms trying to snatch my attention. Without Auto play, we watched 2 episodes each evening with a break in between. The simple task of having to click the next episode is enough for us to call it a night with the TV. And I’m going to do that old-fashioned thing & recommend Dectectorists to everyone.

I’ve subscribed to Mini Magazine & Mini World on my iPad. I await each months issues just like the old paper magazines.

I use the Forest App on my iPhone to plant trees and stop me from picking up the phone. I do the same in Firefox on the desktop & laptop to stop me checking news & social media sites for upto 2 hours at a time. It has really helped to rewire my brain.

Curating my own collections has slowed down content consumption for me. I still use YouTube but now only subscribe to a select few channels. I watch YouTube via the Kodi app, which pulls in only my subscriptions and no recommended content.

I’ve unfollowed a lot of people on Twitter, including all news agencies & most brands. I only use the Tweetbot app on iPhone and Mac now, which syncs my timeline position, removes all ads, keeps everything in chronological order & allows me to mute certain keywords forever. I’ve also disabled all retweets from all users. This has reduced my Twitter usage to around 10 minutes a day from what was around 3 hours a day.

I no longer use Facebook but keep an account just in case anyone needs to contact me. I’ve not logged in now for almost a year. I still have an Instagram account, but only check it a couple of times a day. I’ve accepted the fact that if I miss posts, I’ve missed them. Changing my attitude to content has really helped.

I’ve cancelled the Xbox games pass and buy used games from CEX. The act of going looking in the shop for a bargain has really helped me to buy games with intent. No more giving things a go just because it’s free. My time isn’t worth it for a freebie.

You can apply these techniques across most content platforms. Think about the content you are consuming & equate it to time well spent. Ask yourself if the time you will spend watching something or consuming something for the sake of it is worth it? even if the content is free.

Also, when producing content, either in blogs, social media or for any other purpose, create the stuff you want to create. Don’t just create what you think will be most popular or most engaging. This is having a negative effect on the internet as a whole, with each of us producing near identical content to try to engage. Forget your audience & produce stuff which you love. Even if you think nobody in the world will be interested in it, stay true to your ideals and your passions & forget the magic formulas.

So I say, dump the attention merchants & reclaim your head space. Next time you leave the house for a walk, leave the phone at home. It’s liberating. In the evening, forget the curated playlists of rubbish & instead pick an album with intent & purpose & enjoy the whole thing as an experience. Ditch the algorithms & trust your own taste & judgement. It’s such a nice feeling nowadays to listen to an album from start to finish as the artist intended, and then it ends & you get that natural stopping cue to do something else.

Introduce stopping cues wherever you can. If you want to write a blogpost, turn off your wifi & set a timer. Just see how much you can get done. The same goes for household chores, set a 20 minute timer to clean your house & you will get it all done against the clock. Without that timer, it could take an hour with distractions.

Consider buying movies & ditching the streaming. You might lose access to a plethora of content, but you will regain your attention & so much of your valuable time. You may spend a little more money, but a lot of the good TV & Movies aren’t available to stream anyway, so you will be choosing quality content over quantity of content. You will also change your viewing habits & reclaim your time.

Use an adblocker.  There is enough stuff that you already want without getting new ideas.

Ignore algorithmic recommendations, you already have enough to get done.

Buy a newspaper or magazine & enjoy some time offline.

Visit a record shop. They are still amazing & the people you meet may become great sources of inspiration.

Set times for tasks. For me social media is when I sit at my desk for 10 minutes in the morning, and again after lunch for 10 minutes. If you use it for business, create a buffer account & schedule your posts in a single sitting once a day.

Read news in a single sitting! There will be new news every time you check back, but any real news will still be on the website tomorrow.

Reclaim your time, your self-esteem & your smile. I guarantee you will feel less anxious & more content with life. You will also get more of your things done & feel like you have extra time, as opposed to too little time in your day.

It truly is liberating to reclaim your attention & I can’t recommend it enough!

Tidal Desktop Spinning Disc GUITidal Desktop Spinning Disc GUI

Apple 256kbps AAC Vs. Tidal HiFi Lossless

Before I get into this, let me just say that this is my own opinion, based on music that I like & using the kit that I currently own. I’m by no means an audiophile & I don’t pour thousands of pounds into my home hi-fi kit. I’ve been trying to find the best combination of streaming & local storage of AAC to suit my needs & these are my findings.

Over the last few months, I’ve been trying out Apple Music, Spotify Premium, Amazon Music Unlimited & Tidal. I also have my own music collection which is ripped to iTunes. My own collection is around 26,000 tracks, ripped from CD in Apples 256kbps AAC codec format using iTunes. I combine this with iTunes match both to backup my collection on apples’ servers in case of a disk failure & also to give me access to my music on my Apple & iOS devices. For years this has served me well & is a habit I will keep, but I was definitely interested in new music discovery so ventured into the world of streaming services.

I’m not going to write much about Spotify, Amazon or Apple Music. After trying all three I’ve got to say I found Spotify the best for music discovery but Apple Music the best for sound quality & overall experience. Bear in mind that I use iMacs, MacBooks, iPhones & iPads so I’m heavily into the Apple Ecosystem already.

I did find however that Apple Music offered no significant benefits over my locally stored AAC, so I cancelled that subscription & went back to sourcing & curating my own library.

On the whole, I’ve been very happy with 256kbps AAC. I mostly listen to music using my iMac and Creative Inspire 2.1 2400 speakers with bass sub (these powered speakers with sub are ancient & connect via a 3.5mm jack).

Creative Inspire 2400 2.1 Speakers
Creative Inspire 2400 2.1 Speakers

These speakers are pretty old now but they’ve always sounded great & as an average consumer I’ve never felt the need to upgrade them. I’m sure many people reading this will have fancy monitor speakers & separate DAC’s, but this is aimed more at the home user so you could probably skip the rest.

Last week I decided to give Tidal a go on their free trial. I’ve always played with the idea of Tidal, but with only a one month trial & a £20 a month price tag I’d always dismissed the service. I don’t personally know anyone else who has a Tidal account so it’s just not been on my Radar. After visiting Bang & Olufsen in Truro and hearing the most amazing sound, only to notice the owner was running tidal off his own iMac for that sound, I just had to give it a go.

What can I say, I’m blown away by Tidal. I signed up for the Hi-Fi account which offers 320kbps AAC, but also all tracks are available as lossless quality FLAC files. The FLAC streams sound incredible, even on my modest setup. I can hear aspects of favourite songs I’ve never heard, such as plectrum scratches in Steven Wilson tracks & high-frequency percussion in Porcupine Tree tracks.

I can hear a lot more high-frequency sounds, and vocals sound much crisper and cleaner. When compared to my AAC the sound is a lot more clear & less muddy. In comparison to my 256kbps AAC, it’s like listening to normal audio and listening with a towel over the speaker.

I’ve got a few albums in FLAC, but storage of my entire collection has never appealed to me due to the time it would take to manage the files & the various backups I’d have to keep. I’m now keeping my music collection in AAC for personal use & use on the go, but predominantly listening to tracks on Tidal if they are available.

Then we come onto the Tidal Masters. I could probably get even more out of them with better monitor speakers & an external DAC plugged into the mac, but as an average consumer listener, I’d rather hear the best I can with the kit I’ve already got. Masters do sound wonderful even on my kit, and although the MQA streams will be software decoded & downsampled slightly for my sound card in the iMac, there is no doubt the audio quality is sublime.

I’ve had no issues with buffering of the streams & I even love the Tidal interface, especially the spinning disc effect on full-screen mode.

Tidal Desktop Spinning Disc GUITidal Desktop Spinning Disc GUI
Tidal Desktop Spinning Disc GUI

I’ve got no problems at all with my personal collection staying in 256kbps AAC. The Matched tracks on iTunes match are deleted from my machine & re-downloaded so I have Apple’s own iTunes store copies/rips of the tracks. I’m not prepared at this point in my life to spend thousands on pro audio gear or a listening room. I just like to get the best out of the stuff I have & mixing my own collection in 256kbps AAC with a Tidal subscription seems to be a great compromise.

At £20 a month it is quite expensive, but well worth it if you listen to more than a few hours of music every month. I’m really enjoying the Tidal experience & the extra boost in sound quality seems to be worth it. I can cancel at any time & fall back on my own vast collection, but I’ll play it by ear month on month.

Tidal Desktop User Interface on apple iMac
Tidal Desktop User Interface on Apple iMac

Tidal also sounds great played in hi-fi on my iOS devices, even when outputting to Bluetooth speakers, there is a definite improvement over my AAC tracks.

In the living room, we have a stereo pair of Sonos Play 1’s. We live in close proximity to neighbours & have a modestly sized living room as I expect most of my readers will, and the Play One’s in stereo are more than sufficient in terms of both sound quality & power output. I’ve added My local music library to the Sonos system & I’ve now added Tidal as a music service. Tidal works really well with Sonos & again it’s a definite sound upgrade from my AAC. Sonos will only support the Hi-Fi FLAC streams at the moment, but these are of CD quality on the whole so it’s a clean and crisp sound.

The Tidal App for iOS also supports Sonos as an output device so you can use the Tidal App and output your audio to your Sonos system. This is great for music discovery or to resume your listening when you come from outside listening on Headphones or in the car.

When using earbuds on my iPhone 6 with Tidal, the improvements are more subtle. Tidal tends to have a little less bass than Apple AAC files, but the sound on Tidal tends to be more rounded & a slightly nicer experience. When listening to my Sony headphones, there is definitely an improvement over AAC.

All of my kit is pretty standard and consumer level. It’s by no means audiophile quality, but most people I know are not that interested in investing thousands to listen to their music. I have a few Audiophile friends who have spent upwards of £20k on kit, and while it sounds wonderful, it’s a little bit of a diminishing return for the size of the improvement.

For now, I’ll enjoy all of my favourite tracks on Tidal and keep my own curated library in AAC to supplement and archive my music. It’s not a great deal to pay out each month & the quality improvement is of tangible value. 256kbps AAC to FLAC is a big jump in quality. Anything above that on consumer kit just seems like overkill for the size of the improvement you would see.

If you decide to give Tidal a go on a Mac, make sure to adjust your streaming settings to max out at Master, and also give Tidal exclusive use of the built-in audio device. This way Tidal will adjust your soundcards sample rates to take advantage of the improved audio streams. This really helped Masters to sound better on my machine (yes I know so downsampling will occur as my sound card can’t support that maximum sampling rate) But it does seem to max out my sound cards abilities & sound as good as it can on my current kit.

Tidal Masters MAC - Settings for best audio on an iMac
Tidal Masters MAC – Settings for best audio on an iMac
Tidal Masters Mac - Built In Output for best quality
Tidal Masters Mac – Built-In Output for the best quality

I know I’ll get a million audiophiles telling me I’m doing it wrong, but after reading all of the reviews & What Hi-Fi magazine I was still struggling to figure out what would sound good on my relatively primitive & low-end setup. I expect most people will want to maximize what they have rather than invest heavily in a lot of extra audio gear. If that is the case, I suggest you give Tidal a go on their free trial. It has definitely changed my music listening & I’m even seeking out awesome sounding albums like Led Zeppelin & Talk Talk.

Let me know your thoughts on this post & be nice.

Must Watch Ted Talks of 2018

Three Must Watch TED talks for 2018

I’m a huge fan of TED talks. I tend to watch them when I’m doing something mundane in the home office such as organising a drawer or waiting for a task to complete on my servers. As an academic & everlasting university student (I’m still planning on going back to finish my PhD) I find lecturers and talks on just about any topic both fascinating and interesting.

I use the curated playlists on TED a lot, but sometimes I just select an interesting video & see where it takes me. Below are the three videos I believe you must watch in 2018.

The first video, by Zeynep Tefecki, is titled ‘We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads’. It is an amazing talk about the power of advertising revenue and the large tech companies & how they are using the lure of huge revenues to addict & surveil users. It’s an eye-opening talk & a must watch for any online privacy advocates.

The second talk is by Adam Atler and is titled ‘Why our screens make us less happy’. This talk is about the persuasive nature of digital screens and content & how they are reshaping our lives & affecting our happiness. Again this talk is a real eye opener & will make you question your own use of technology. This is one of my main areas of research & I’m astonished by the impact social media & apps are having on our society. Screens have managed to invade every waking moment & I believe it is starting to have a fundamental & negative impact on our societies. Adam’s talk is a great way to spend a few minutes of your time to regain countless hours of your time in the future.

Finally a talk by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Personally, I’m not a religious person, but you don’t need to have faith in a god to have faith in humanity. This talk is a positive & upbeat talk about the important things in life & about how recent shocks, both politically & humanitarian, can be changed if we just change our outlook & the way we see the world. This is a really positive talk to start 2018 & I implore you to give it a watch. It’s not about religion, it’s about people & how we treat each other. We need to change the narrative from one of fear & pessimism to one of hope & optimism. The next generations will thank us for it.

Let me know if you like this kind of roundup post where I share videos & articles which I’ve found interesting. I’m using Social Media less than 10 minutes a day now, so I tend to share a lot less content over there, but I’m more than happy to update the blog more often if you find it interesting.

Social Media Addiction

Quitting Social Media – The Evidence Is Becoming Clear

This evening I was having a quick browse on the internet. I was looking for Social Media videos, more specifically scientific lectures regarding the effects of social media on our brains. Purely by chance I stumbled across this TEDx talk by Dr Cal Newport. Cal is a university professor & by chance, he didn’t ever sign up to Facebook when the rush to create accounts was in full force. His reasons at the time are quite trivial, he was a little miffed that Mark Zuckerberg’s business had taken off so well while so many others had failed in the dot-com bust.

However, this gives Cal a unique perspective on Social Media. He has been able to observe his friends, peers & students adopting the technologies and how the platforms have fundamentally changed people’s behaviour.

The arguments are very compelling.

People argue that rejecting social media makes you some kind of Luddite as these technologies are fundamental to our daily lives in the 21st century. Cal argues that social media isn’t a fundamental technology, it’s an entertainment platform of little value & can be easily compared to the casino slot machine. The only difference is that we carry this slot machine in our pockets day & night & allow it to fragment & steal our attention.

Furthermore, social media isn’t required to be successful. In fact, he argues that the ability for deep concentration is ruined by the addictive entertainment nature of social media, making people less valuable in the workplace & less able to produce meaningful & valuable unique work. I totally agree with this point. I personally feel my concentration has been ruined by Social Media platforms & fragmentation of my attention. I’m already noticing huge changes in my brain function since quitting certain platforms and reducing my twitter use. I may just quit Twitter after watching this video.

Lastly, Cal’s final argument concerns those who say that they are light social media users, they use it to have fun and it causes no harm. Cal’s response to that is that it causes a range of harms, from fragmentation of attention to the inability to enter a state of deep concentration and achieve what psychologists refer to as flow.

Many of you will know that I’m super interested in social media and specifically how it is changing our relationships with each other & with the institutions & world around us. I have a lot more to write about this stuff & It will feature heavily in upcoming posts. Until then I’ll leave you with Cal’s video. Please do give it a watch, it might just plant a seed in your consciousness.

 

Twitter For Web - Full of noise

Slaves to the Algorithm – Social Media Algorithms

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about algorithms and their brute force introduction in to our everyday lives. I think there is a time & place for an algorithm but in many ways, they are failing us as users & failing us as a society.

There are times algorithms are of great use, such as those used by search engines to gather up millions of documents, sort them & hopefully present the one closest to your search term. I take issue with the algorithms developed by the likes of Google, but more with respect to how they censor results & control information flows. Their information retrieval techniques have always been astonishing & their ability to sort & serve data with algorithms is commendable, however, they are now straying into the murky territory of policing the information we see which is disconcerting. I very much recommned switching to https://www.startpage.com/Start Page for your search. Google results without google & their creepy data mining.

However, on the whole, the Google search algorithms aren’t the ones I’m concerned most about. That dubious award goes to the likes of social media algorithms. I was a major fan of the original Twitter for example. Back when Twitter started, we had a simple, chronological timeline. Tweets were shown in order of post time and it was impossible to miss a tweet. We didn’t have access to a retweet button, you had to do that manually with an RT and copy & paste. This meant twitter was much less spammy as it took the actual effort to retweet. We also didn’t have the like button. If you liked something, you either smiled to yourself, or you replied & started a conversation. It was social.

Fast forward to 2017 and Twitter is an algorithm infested quagmire. If you use the official app or a web browser, you are presented with a hideous mess of tweets you may like, based on tweets liked by people you follow. You also have a selection of tweets you may have missed and a whole bunch of other crap tweets you have no interest in. Combine that with sponsored tweets & Twitter have quietly achieved infinite scroll. You literally can’t catch up on all of your tweets as it will just keep presenting you with content which you never asked to see. They have also introduced the quick retweet buttons and threaded conversations, meaning your timeline is now chock full of noise and junk. The simple & easy to follow timeline of the past is now an algorithmically controlled advertising & data mining leviathan.

I personally try to limit the amount of noise I see online. I’ve read hundreds of books from the fields of tech & psychology which all suggest that we are suffering from information overload. The ‘attention merchants’ as many like to call the social media companies & content creators are finding more ways to aggregate data & content in order to keep your eyeballs on their platform. Numerous academics suggest that human beings simply haven’t evolved & developed the mental capacity to take in so much data. Our brains simply aren’t able to deal with so much data, leaving us lethargic & burnt out.

I personally felt like there was a rapidly diminishing return on the value of Social media. I gave up Facebook completely over 6 months ago due to their algorithms & the febrile political and social atmosphere developing on the platform & I also deleted all Facebook apps from my smartphone. Snapchat is gone. I now stick with Twitter & have closed down all of my other social accounts.

I found that the algorithmic changes implemented by tech companies worked too well. I was hooked on social media and constantly trying to absorb stream after stream of information & content. With no end in sight & the possibility of infinite information & an infinite scroll in apps, I decided to take control of my social media usage. Add into that trendint topics & hashtags & recommended users to follow & you are combarded with information you didn’t seek.

I initially considered stopping using all forms of social media but decided instead to focus on using only Twitter and tailor my experience away from their algorithms & back towards something I can use. This meant making some changes to the way I use the platform.

The first thing I decided to do was to unfollow all but my favourite friends on twitter. No more companies, no spammy content, no people I’d added through curiosity or after a single exchange. I wanted a concise list of people to maximize the value of twitter & minimise my exposure to information. I managed to get down from 1400+ people I was following to around 300. I’m constantly reviewing this list but find it manageable. I unfollowed all news outlets and breaking news accounts, I stick to reading that on news websites when I choose to.

The second step I took was to turn off retweets for everyone I follow. No exceptions. I was interested in original content & I’ve found that links people actually take the time to recommend with a tweet and a link are much more valuable to me than those which are simply retweeted, often blindly. It took a while to click-through to everyone to turn off their retweets, but this dramatically changed my twitter experience. Now, when I wake up in the morning I may have 40 tweets to catch up on which takes a matter of minutes. Before I literally couldn’t catch up so I would give up and potentially miss important tweets. The first major problem with algorithms, they decide what I’d like to see rather than letting me decide.

My next step was to ditch the official website & apps altogether. Twitter bundles its algorithm features and sponsored tweets directly into the apps. This means that even with a small following count & no retweets, it will still show you algorithmically gathered content & bombard you with noise. The key is to use the Twitter API. I’ve used the Tweetbot app on ios for years and ideally, it shows everything on your Twitter timeline in chronological order. No algorithm junk, no sponsored tweets. The great thing I discovered was that TapBots have a version of Tweetbot for Mac OS. This means I can get the same ios style twitter interface directly on my mac. Whats more, I can use iCloud or Tweetmarker to sync my apps across all devices so it remembers where I left off reading on the timeline. I decided to go for Tweet Marker as this is an open & cross-platform service and can be used on Linux and other platforms I use regularly.

With tweetbot, I can now effectively manage my twitter experience & also reduce data overload. I’ve found my social media usage is back to early day twitter. I can check in a few times a day when I have a moment & get caught up on everyone’s tweets. I can then step away and do other things & resume later in the day. It is the perfect workflow for me.

Tweet Bot for Chronological twitter
Tweet Bot for Chronological twitter

Other advantages of Tweetbot include the ability to mute hashtags or keywords. Any keywords you add will allow Tweetbot to filter out entire tweets from your timeline which contain those keywords. These ‘mute words’ sync across your tweetbot apps. I have a few setup now as in 2017 my twitter was becoming a shouting match for politics instead of a useful resource. By adding a few simple mute words I can rid my timeline of the politics, saving me getting into a rage with fellow Twitter users. If 2017 has taught me anything, it is that political discussion & social media do not work. Without face to face discussion debate isn’t possible. So I now filter out the politics & stick to reading news sites without the debate & I chat to real people in person about the state of the world. Much more productive.

Mute function in Tweet Bot. -Perfect to hide politics and political tweets
Mute function in Tweet Bot. -Perfect to hide politics and political tweets

Over the Christmas period, I’ve decided to protect my tweets. This is for personal reasons, but mainly because I’d rather not have the whole world & people I no longer talk to gaining an insight into my time with friends & family.

The above workflow for Twitter is the ideal way to regain control of your social media from algorithms. It’s the main reason I stuck with Twitter. It’s not possible to apply a similar workflow to Facebook because of a lack of API access, so Twitter is the ideal platform still available to tailor in this way. By reducing the algorithmic noise you really will feel better about social media again.

I find Instagram is now unusable because of the algorithm, I miss so many people’s photos. A lot on Instagram is time sensitive, such as when someone posts and they are local to you, but you don’t see the post until days or weeks later so youuo can’t comment or meet up. I find that it is a much less social platform. It’s fun to browse pictures, but as a social platform, it fails miserably. I now also find that every other Instagram post is sponsored or an advert, so again information overload starts to creep in & the time sucking ability of social media begins to affect my productivity.

I’ve found modern social media to be anything but social & I’ve also discovered it becoming more addictive, with many of the negative side effects of addictive behaviour, from reduced attention span, to full-blown anxiety. It feels so nicely to wrangle it back into a usable technology.

Obviously, the issue of algorithms is a vast one. I’ve still not discussed those used by music streaming services or video streaming services, not to mention online shopping sites, but I’ll address these in future posts. I really just wanted to get some thoughts down on paper while I’m still reading around this subject & working out fixes.

I’d love to hear your hacks for getting around modern algorithms, especially in social media. I could take about this subject for days on end, but I’d much perfect to hear your thoughts.

Soundpeats Q30 bluetooth earphones box

Soundpeats Q30 Bluetooth Wireless earphones Review

I’ve been looking for a pair of Bluetooth earphones for a while now. I wanted a pair with a short wire attaching the two buds as I often take them out to stop and chat with people when walking around the city. With my wired apple earbuds, I normally run them up under my T-shirt and out at the collar so I can take them out and let them hang from my neck.

This single requirement has put me off Bluetooth and wireless headphones for a while until I came across the Soundpeats Q30 wireless earphones.

A few months ago I took a gamble on the Soundpeats P4 Bluetooth speaker. I’d been looking for one for ages and decided to give the really well priced Soundpeats P4 a go. I took the P4 on holiday and loved it, using it every day. I’ve used it every day since being home for the last few months so I can say the quality is outstanding.

I, therefore, decided to check out what Sound Peats had to offer in the Bluetooth headphone department. A few of their products are the individual earbuds, which as I mentioned aren’t suited to my lifestyle. But then I came across the Soundpeats Q30 Bluetooth headphones. The buds are joined by a wire which runs around the back of your neck. The wire also includes a mic and volume/playback controls as you would find on Apple Earbuds. The real party piece comes from the design of the Q30 though. A magnet has been included on the rear of each earbud, so when you hang them around your neck to chat with friends, they click together and form a necklace so you don’t lose them. I personally thought this was genius from Soundpeats.

They are very reasonably priced offering at £19.98 on Amazon and are currently half price so if you like the review you should be quick & grab a pair while they are on offer.

Now, to the headphones themselves. They are really well made and have a light alloy body on the ear buds. These things feel really tough. They are supplied with a range of in earbuds which are interchangeable and of varying sizes, so you can select the size which fits your ear most comfortably. I went for the biggest size so I get an almost vacuum seal fit. This, I find, blocks out most external noise and allows me to listen to music at a much lower volume and hear every note as you aren’t blocking out the environmental noises.

The fact that the earbuds are themselves joined by a wire means you don’t have any sync issues between left & right and you only need to worry about a single pairing, no chance of one ear losing signal like reports from much more expensive headphones.

In the box, you also get an assortment of ear grips, which grip onto the inner part of your ear to keep them extra secure & finally you get a charging cable, all in a neat little leather effect travel bag.

Due to the vacuum design of the earphones, the Soundpeats Q30 earphones offer a lot of clarity and bass, even at low volumes. You need to make sure the buds are positioned correctly in your ear for best results, but after a few times using them, this becomes second nature. The sound is rich and as good as a lot of much more expensive Bluetooth earphones I’ve tried out.

Having the controls on the joining wire is also brilliant. They fall pretty much in the same place as I’ve come to know from my apple earphones and the controls are exactly the same, even down to a small microphone for taking calls or talking to Siri. The volume controls and play/pause buttons are another must for me.

I haven’t had any issues with these headphones regarding pairing with Bluetooth with my iPhone 6 or my MacBook. My iPhone remembers them and instantly connects when I turn them on. I would advise you read the instructions regarding the multi-function buttons before you start. A long press of the play button is also the on/off button and as these are powered by a battery, which you charge with the supplied cable, you will want to turn them off when not using them.

I can only say good things about these Soundpeats Q30 headphones. They are comfortable, dependable and the battery life is very good. I’ve only charged them on a couple of occasions and the iPhone gives me an indication of battery life via Bluetooth in the status bar. They seem to last much longer than the 8 hours quoted on the box but I expect this will vary depending on how you use them.

Wearing them is a pleasure, they grip the ear very well and feel secure. I’ve used mine daily for all of my days around the city and they haven’t yet fallen out, even when running in the rain. The added benefit being if one falls out they are still connected around your neck & you can use the included line clamp to attach to your T-shirt collar if you need extra security.

If you are in the market for a pair of Bluetooth headphones I would fully recommend the Soundpeats Q30 earbuds. They are comfortable, sturdy, has great sound quality and features & at less than £20 they represent huge value for money.

The technical specs are very good for these Soundpeats Q30 headphones, you can check them out below:-

=&0=&

Bluetooth Version: V4.1

Charging Time: 2 hours

Play Time: 7 Hours

Talk Time: Up to 8 hours

Bluetooth Mode: HFP/HSP/A2DP/AVRCP

Weight:0.53OZ/15g

=&1=&

1 x Q30 Sports Magnetic Bluetooth Headset Wireless Earphone

1 x Line Clamp

1 x USB Charging Cable

5 x Pairs of Ear Tips (XS/S/M/L/XL)

3 x Pairs of Ear Fins(S/M/L/)

3 x Slide Line Buckle

1 x Leather Bag

1 x User manual

Soundpeats Q30 Earbuds
Soundpeats Q30 Earbuds
Soundpeats Q30 Manuals and carry pouch
Soundpeats Q30 Manuals and carry pouch
Soundpeats Q30 bluetooth headphones and box
Soundpeats Q30 bluetooth headphones and box
Soundpeats Q30 bluetooth earphones box
Soundpeats Q30 bluetooth earphones box
Soundpeats Q30 Bluetooth Earbuds
Soundpeats Q30 Bluetooth Earbuds
Soundpeats Q30 Bluetooth Earbuds
Soundpeats Q30 Bluetooth Earbuds
Soundpeats Q30 Bluetooth Earbuds
Soundpeats Q30 Bluetooth Earbuds
Soundpeats Q30 inline controls
Soundpeats Q30 inline controls
Soundpeats Q30 Accessory Pack
Soundpeats Q30 Accessory Pack
Soundpeats Q30 Wireless Earphones & Box
Soundpeats Q30 Wireless Earphones & Box
Soundpeats Q30 earbuds
Soundpeats Q30 earbuds
Soundpeats Q30 Bluetooth earphones and box
Soundpeats Q30 Bluetooth earphones and box

Apple Remote not working in High Sierra

Aluminium Apple remote not working on Mac OS High Sierra with Kodi

Since upgrading my main iMac to High Sierra I’ve noticed that the Aluminium Apple remote I use to control iTunes and Kodi is no longer working as expected. I tend to use the Candelair alternative driver for my remote as it’s better at making the remote play nicely with Kodi, but I’ve found even using the Candelair driver is causing issues. The remote works for left and right but the up & down function isn’t working. This seems to be connected with the core High Sierra driver which is now using the up and down functions for volume control even when using Candelair.

*A fix has been issued for Kodi, if you download this experimental High Sierra remote fix version, install and reboot your mac you should regain apple remote functionality, at least within Kodi.

This issue is driving me mad with Kodi as the remote is now essentially useless. I’m working on a fix and pulling a few things apart in the OS to see if I can figure out what is going on. It doesn’t help that the official Kodi forums seem to be ruined after a ruined MyBB upgrade so I can’t hop onto the forum to discuss with other High Sierra or Kodi users. The fact that the apple remote isn;t working with high sierra is quite a big issue for my daily workflow as I control Kodi with the remote while working.

As a stopgap, I’m using the Kodi remote app on my iPhone to control Kodi. It works, but means I have to be looking down at my phone & then up at the Mac. I miss how simple & intuitive the apple remote is for controlling Kodi, but until a high sierra remote fix is complete I’ll have to make do with a software remote.

If you have found a fix, leave a comment below & I can try it out and update this post as necessary.

If you would like to try the Candelair driver, you can download the preference pane for free on their website.

A fairer Internet

Fighting for a fairer internet

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the internet and more importantly the business model of the internet. It is becoming more apparent that the current business model of the internet is broken. A handful of adverting companies now control all advertising revenues online & this has led to companies like Google & Facebook monopolizing both the revenue streams and the access to content.

Google & Facebook are now seen as the major sources of online traffic. Google monopolises search, while Facebook monopolises information aggregation and links. Google’s business model is one of algorithms and control of search, with a natural bias towards paid links through their AdWords advertising programme. Over at Facebook we have a similar issue with their latest algorithms and the promotion of paid content & burying of non-paid content.

Now, this is where it becomes a problem. These two companies aren’t in control of the internet as such, but they have become the defacto portals, the first port of call for anyone searching for information. They have become the default access points for information and produce a funneling effect. This means that information isn’t shared in a fair or democratic way, it all depends on how deep your pockets are & how much you are willing to spend on advertising.

Then we arrive at the situation we are in right now in 2017. Elections & referenda have been won & fingers are pointing at Facebook & online targeted advertising. The proliferation of fake news spread via Facebook, and the political parties both home & abroad who are paying to influence electorates and buy influence are also in the spotlight.

It’s the political which has brought this to the attention of the general public, but the same thing is happening on the broader internet. Small companies are unable to compete fairly online with large companies, uber is under the spotlight for undercutting on price and legal breaches, amazon is changing high streets the world over. A few massive companies are having a profound effect on our societies and most of us turn a blind eye for convenience or low prices.

I’ve owned a small business for 10 years selling online & every year it gets harder to sell & more expensive to advertise. Until 2012 we had no paid advertising and all of our traffic came from organic searches spread across Google, Yahoo, MSN and various other search providers. Today, we spend around 25% of our monthly turnover on advertising with Google and still barely make enough money to pay us a wage. AdWords keeps getting more expensive & conversion ratios keep getting worse. But we have no choice as Google essentially spams their search results with paid adverts before a user even finds the organic hits. Google have cannibalized their competitors and 97% of all search traffic comes from them to our site.

We are approaching a point in time where a few mega companies are controlling not the information online, but the access to it. You may have an amazing blog or website, but if people can’t find it, you can never establish your readership & expose readers to new content. Yet those who can afford it can buy clicks & in turn influence.

The problem is not limited to buying clicks. It’s getting harder to make any money from your own content. The injustice is that the content that google make money off with their AdSense programme, and the revenue Facebook makes, comes largely from user-generated content. We write the blog posts, we create the Instagram’s, the Facebook posts (well I no longer use the platform, but millions do) and so on. We spend time creating content and sharing it. Meanwhile Facebook inject adverts into streams of posts, or amongst legitimate Instagram’s & pay you nothing. AdSense allows publishers to show adverts, but often they aren’t relevant to the content of the website & they pay very little money.

The balance of power has shifted from the content to the platforms. Without our websites and blogs, our news sites and our photography, google wouldn’t have a search or advertising business. Without our photographs and writing, Facebook & instagram wouldn’t exist & certainly wouldn’t be profitable. Yet they make all of the money and claim it’s in return for giving you access to the platforms. The data they mine off you is valuable enough, but then they advertise to you relentlessly.

Google’s dominance of advertising online has led a lot of really good websites to haemorrhage money while still trying to produce content. Advertising revenues for content creators are hard to make a living from, yet we create all of the value with our words, our videos and our pictures.

The need to try to make the internet pay for writers & creators has led us down a dark path. News websites & creators now refer to their work as ‘content’. It has been cheapened to a quantity over quality model, and current world events highlight this perfectly.

Fake news makes its authors money, but lacks all credibility and is usually complete fabrication. These elaborate stories garner clicks & create profit. The more outrageous, the more likely it will be shared on social media and the more it makes. The injustice being this rubbish content is normally really popular & profitable while exceptionally well researched & written content remains hidden.

Visit YouTube and checkout the video titles. Click bait is king, the content is falling by the wayside. YouTube personalities will even publish videos saying they have nothing to make a video about, or asking for video ideas. Seriously?

Blog posts with catchy titles and no substance (cue the comments section on this post), Instagram’ers advertising the latest slimming tea or watches, the content is created for the sole purpose of making ad revenue clicks, not for the value in the content itself. An Instagram of a watch is no different from an advert of a watch, it’s just stealth advertising, not a valuable contribution to your body of work.

Hopefully, one day soon, we can return to an internet which isn’t governed by these advertising behemoths. I’m working on a way to help us get there & will share more about that soon. You are probably wondering what you can do to help?

From a search point of view, why not try a different search engine? There are loads to choose from and you might just enjoy being exposed to new content. If you must use google, try to avoid the paid advertising and aim for the organic hits. This should help promote the production of great content over spammy content.

If you must use Facebook, make sure you use the share button sparingly. Concentrate on the valuable content created by your friends & family, don’t contribute to it being a massive billboard & news farm.

With regards your favourite websites, why not support them by sharing their stories. Pass on your favourite blogs or websites to friends or family & help out your favourite creators. If you see a relevant advert on these websites, check them out. It might pay them enough to grab a coffee and to write their next awesome article. Some blogs & websites will even allow you to chip in a few quid to help pay their bills. If you value the work, do consider doing so.

Try to ignore the live news feeds and un-researched news articles which come out constantly. Look for well written articles, long reads and proper investigative journalism. A lot of the non-paywall news websites have become content farms, desperate for clicks. This can make them a little like Alice down the rabbit hole. They can steal hours if you aren’t careful (sidebar of shame springs to mind). I’ve even taken to paying for my news from The Guardian & The Times. Good content deserves funding, and sometimes exposure to adverts is costlier than ethically funding your favourite writers.

If you run a website, try to keep control of your content. Why post pictures to instagram when you can post them on your website, why write epic posts on Facebook when you could self publish them. Build something for yourself & stop funding the platforms. The internet needs more self hosted work & less ‘platform content’.

I could write for hours about these topics. The commodification of the internet and our content is a massive bugbear. We, the creators, the writers, the photographers and poets, we create the wealth on the internet. Without our words, our videos, our songs, our art the internet is a connection of computers, nothing more. We all need to realise that we are the value creators & the mega monopolies are the parasites. They sell our work and don’t pass along the profits.

Keep creating & keep fighting for a fairer internet.