70 Top Republican National Security Officials Denounce Trump As Unfit, Announce Support For Biden

From Defending Democracy Together:

We are former national security officials who served during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and/or Donald Trump, or as Republican Members of Congress. We are profoundly concerned about the course of our nation under the leadership of Donald Trump. Through his actions and his rhetoric, Trump has demonstrated that he lacks the character and competence to lead this nation and has engaged in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as President.For the following reasons, we have concluded that Donald Trump has failed our country and that Vice President Joe Biden should be elected the next President of the United States.

Look at that list. This isn’t a bunch of lightweight GOP members.

Obama’s 2020 DNC Speech

Take a few minutes and watch this speech. Obama breaks down the difference between American principles and the principles our current leadership seem to believe in.

Album-focused Music Apps

Call me old fashioned, but I love queueing up albums and listening to them all the way through. Nowadays, playlists are all the rage, but because listening to Albums in a CD-changer was the way I grew up listening to music I still enjoy hearing the entire album from start to finish. For me, it tends to invoke more memories than the random song showing up on a playlist. While one of the primary reasons I switched to Apple Music earlier this year was around better album support, the app (especially on iOS) still could use some work to make albums feel like first class citizens.

But there’s good news! As the Apple Music API has gotten more robust, more apps have been released to deliver niche music experiences on iOS. In the past month, 2 such apps have come out – Albums and Longplay. To my delight, both focus on allowing users to play their library in a way that’s “album first” – sorting albums based on certain criteria and playing them in their entirety. Both of these apps do a lot of similar things, but I thought it’d be worthwhile to highlight the pros and cons of both.

Albums 3.0

Albums is over a year old but the 3.0 release is a big one. Adam Linder, the developer of the app, has added a ton to the latest version. You have a few views at your disposal:

The main view in Albums 3

  • Albums – the traditional grid based layout that lets you perform basic filtering based on album play count, date added, etc. Tapping on any album starts playing it.
  • Library – a more granular breakdown that allows you to drill down by genre, decade, artist and more.
  • Insights – These are ‘smart playlists’ of albums that meet criteria like unplayed albums, old favorites, only listened once, and more.
  • Stats – Here are some dashboards that allow you to see which albums have been played the most.

The good:

  • Super active development gives me hope that the stability issues (see below) will be worked out eventually.
  • I love all of the ways you can sort and visualize albums.
  • Tons of settings you can adjust to your style.
  • You can view different sorts of stats for an album (play ranking for the year, compared to other albums by the same artist, etc).
  • The now playing view gives you a track listing, album metadata as well as stats about the album. The progress bar is also very interesting, as it shows you each songs progress as part of the album.
The now playing screen

The not so good:

  • It’s pretty glitchy. The app crashes a decent amount, things jump around at times (especially on an iPad where I use it in split view from time to time), and there’s a lot of room to improve the UX and the visual consistency is lacking.
  • It’s yet-another-subscription if you want all of the features. It’s only a buck a month but the mental overhead of subscribing for yet another app isn’t ideal for me. Still, I signed up for a 1-year subscription ($10) to see where things are going and to support development.
  • Due to some limitations around the way the Apple Music API works, a lot of the play recency stats seem to be tied to your device. Uou may have out-of-sync sorting between the iPhone and the iPad.

Longplay

Longplay is an app I just found out about in the past few days. This app is a lot simpler but approaches the job in a similar fashion. There are no stats or advanced sorting options so this is a bit more like Albums 2.0 was. Still, There’s a lot to like here.

This is the extent of the UI, but it gives you about everything that you need

The good:

  • It’s only $2.99. Sold.
  • Playlists are included along with albums!
  • You can long press and hide an album or playlist from the wall of art.
  • Visually, it’s very clean.

The not so good:

  • This app is really basic right now. The now playing screen is essentially a blown up version of the album art.
  • Appears to be iPad only right now. Apparently it’s on the phone, so scratch that from the list.

Anyway, I’d recommend either of these apps if you’re looking for a way to sort through, rediscover and shuffle your albums.

Here’s why Apple believes it’s an AI leader—and why it says critics have it all wrong

From Saumel Axon at Ars Technica:

If big tech companies and venture capital investments are to be believed, AI and machine learning will only become more ubiquitous in the coming years. However it shakes out, Giannandrea and Borchers made one thing clear: machine learning now plays a part in much of what Apple does with its products, and many of the features consumers use daily. And with the Neural Engine coming to Macs starting this fall, machine learning’s role at Apple will likely continue to grow.

John Giannandrea joined Apple a few years ago from Google to run the AI part of the business and the fruits of his expertise appear to be paying off according to this article. There’s a lot of direct quotes and anecdotes in this article, but near the end you get the feeling that there’s a cultural shift happening in Cupertino:

After a long track record of mostly working on AI features in the dark, Apple’s emphasis on machine learning has greatly expanded over the past few years.

The company is publishing regularly, it’s doing academic sponsorships, it has fellowships, it sponsors labs, it goes to AI/ML conferences. It recently relaunched a machine learning blog where it shares some of its research. It has also been on a hiring binge, picking up engineers and others in the machine learning space—including Giannandrea himself just two years ago.

Remember when Giannandrea said he was surprised that machine learning wasn’t used for handwriting with the Pencil? He went on to see the creation of the team that made it happen. And in tandem with other teams, they moved forward with machine learning-driven handwriting—a cornerstone in iPadOS 14.
It appears that behind the scenes there’s a decent amount of restructuring happening that should help Apple deliver more practical enhancements to experiences without just shouting “AI” from the rooftops the way that Google does. Users don’t actually care about those implementation details, they just want nifty products that work well and get out of the way.

Microsoft Analyzed Data on Its Newly Remote Workforce

From Harvard Business Review:

Is work today permanently different from what it was before Covid-19 and the work-from-home shift? We don’t know yet, but the data can give us ongoing, real-time information that we can use to influence what happens next. We believe that what we learn about these changes will be key to organizational resiliency in the months and years to come

Lots of great insights in this breakdown. I’ve definitely seen the demise of the lunch hour first-hand. People try their best to protect it from meetings but I find most people are using it to eat and catch up on things that don’t quite need a meeting but need some follow-up. It’s fascinating to see tons of workplace norms fall so quickly when everyone that can is working remotely and using the tools at our disposal.

 

 

Using Email Filters To Replicate Some Of HEY’s Approach

This isn’t a review of HEY, the new email service from Basecamp. I gave it a shot and while impressed, I opted to stick with my current setup (Fastmail). The main reasons I stuck with Fastmail was that I prefer having choice with which email client I use, and going with HEY requires you to go all-in on their mobile and desktop “apps” due to the unique nature of how they filter and display email. This means using any old IMAP client is off the table.

However, after giving the trail a shot for a few weeks, I took a fresh look at how much non-important mail I get every day. None of this is groundbreaking, but over time I let the signal to noise ratio of my inbox get way out of hand. I’ve used this opportunity to reclaim some sanity.

I already use the VIP mail feature on my phone and computer to allow notifications for a small subset of folks in my contact list. This keeps notification volume low, but HEY’s approach to screening out receipts, newsletters and other non-important email into their own areas of the app got me to thinking about how I could recreate this in Fastmail.

First up, I created a rule that sends newsletters to my Feedbin account so I can read them in my RSS reader when I’m already going through news. I simply add the sender address to a list and if it matches, it forwards to the special Feedbin email to add it to my reader and then deletes it from my email account. This had the great side effect of clearing up hundreds of old emails from my Archive.

Second, I filtered based on any email with the word Receipt in the title, as well as from some key senders. These get labeled as a receipt, marked as read, and put into a folder.

The one thing I’d like to be able to do is create a filter for first-time senders to allow me to quickly make a decision like you can with HEY. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to think of a way to do that without adding every sender to my address book, which I’d prefer not to do.

I’m hopeful that HEY’s approach causes email vendors to innovate more going forward. Ideally, Fastmail, Gmail and others could add similar functionality to screen emails from new senders and ask the user if they’d like to add the email to an existing filter, block them entirely, or create a new rule.

Revenge of the Suburbs

From Ian Bogost at The Atlantic:

But after the anxious spring of 2020, these defects seem like new luxuries. There was always comfort to be found in a big house on a plot of land that’s your own. The relief is even more soothing with a pandemic bearing down on you. And as the novel coronavirus graduates from acute terror to long-term malaise, urbanites are trapped in small apartments with little or no outdoor space, reliant on mass transit that now seems less like a public service and more like a rolling petri dish.
The pandemic will improve suburban life, perhaps in lasting ways. Take the automobile commute: The exodus from the office has dramatically decreased traffic and pollution, a trend that will continue in some form if even a fraction of the people who abandoned their commutes continue to work from home. Dunham-Jones, who is also my colleague in Georgia Tech’s college of design, thinks that even a modest rise in telecommuting could also increase the appeal of local walking and bike trips. Families have two cars, but nowhere to go. They are rediscovering the pleasures of pedestrianism.
[…]
Multigenerational households represent a modest increase in density, and they can make quarantine more tolerable on top of it. The summer is upon us, but camps are largely closed and ordinary family activities have been substantially disrupted. The spring lockdowns also proved that working from home while facilitating children’s remote schoolwork is extremely challenging. Intergenerational households offer more hands and eyes to watch the kids or manage mealtimes made incompatible by overlapping schedules. Schools have always been a huge driver of residential real-estate sales, and even a modest increase in online learning could shock the market. Economic pressure may encourage consolidation of some families into bigger but more populous single-family homes, while decoupling home values from school districts even somewhat could make them more affordable.

Living in the suburbs is a mixed bag as it’s always been – you trade things like culture, collectivism, walkability and energy efficiency for a longer commute, more space (but more isolation) and (often) better schools. However, I’m hopeful that this pandemic has shown us there’s possibility to find a middle ground now that more folks are working from their homes and helping educate from the comfort of our house. If we’re lucky, residents in suburban areas will look to invest more in their local communities and build them into places that might make those longer commutes less necessary. If we can move to a world where remote work is accessible for more folks, suburban and exurban communities can be more sustainable.

I try to remind myself daily how lucky we are to have a setup like we do – we have an office that I can work remotely out of, (mostly) uninterrupted during the day. Our kids can complete their schoolwork in the basement. We have a fenced in back yard that the kids can play in as well. So generally speaking the quarantine has been “easier” for our family than the average apartment dweller.

To our YouTube TV members: an update to our content and price

From the Youtube TV blog:

As we continue to evaluate how to provide the best possible service and content for you, our membership price will be $64.99. This new price takes effect today, June 30, for new members. Existing subscribers will see these changes reflected in their subsequent billing cycle on or after July 30.

I get that the content business is a cutthroat, low margin world. But we’re slowly getting into cable prices – which defeats the entire purpose of services like YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV.

Welcome to the 21st Century

From Tim O’Reilly:

Our failure to make deep, systemic changes after the financial collapse of 2009, and our choice instead to spend the last decade cutting taxes and spending profusely to prop up financial markets while ignoring deep, underlying problems has only made responding to the current crisis that much more difficult. Our failure to build back creatively and productively from the global financial crisis is necessary context for the challenge to do so now.

I enjoyed this article so much. O’Reilly talks a lot about how the future won’t be be just like the past, and we should be thinking about what changes this new world we’ve living in will require of us so that we don’t just revert back to our old habits. What will be gone or changed forever? Travel, large-scale events, privacy, health care and work-from-home are all certain to be transformed. But how? And what new things will emerge?

My fear is that this article assumes we’ll handle the Covid crisis and learn from that experience. Instead, it’s looking more and more like a preview of how America and much of the western world might handle coming climate crises. We won’t – can’t? – work collectively on big problems as a nation any more and that’s a huge danger to both our political system and our planet. But it’s not all doom and gloom. I am hopeful that changes to attitudes and tools for working remotely will create a more equitable job market. That will in turn allow communities across the nation to be destinations for remote workers.

For us to emerge as strongly as possible from Covid and not be left behind by the rest of the world as they recover, we’ll need to see more planning and strategic thinking from our local and national leaders, however. Businesses are doing their part, but our nation is rudderless.