The Program-Suspension Edition Friday, August 2, 2019

Apple Suspends Siri Response Grading In Response To Privacy Concerns, by Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch

In response to concerns raised by a Guardian story last week over how recordings of Siri queries are used for quality control, Apple is suspending the program world wide. Apple says it will review the process that it uses, called grading, to determine whether Siri is hearing queries correctly, or being invoked by mistake.

In addition, it will be issuing a software update in the future that will let Siri users choose whether they participate in the grading process or not.

Apple And Google Suspend Customer Voice Monitoring, by Chris Baraniuk, BBC

Amazon - which also uses staff to transcribe some recordings - has not commented.

Musical Attitude

Apple Music Rebrands Alternative Playlist As 'ALT CTRL' With Haim, Billie Eilish & More 'Left-Of-Center Tunes', by Chris Eggertsen, Billboard

Apple Music has rebranded its The A-List: Alternative playlist as ALT CTRL, spotlighting new music across the broad spectrum of alternative music, Billboard can exclusively reveal. The playlist will be handpicked by the company’s staff curators.

“Alternative is more an attitude than a sound -- music that colors just a bit outside the lines,” reads the playlist’s official description. “ALT CTRL…is where you'll find the best of those new left-of-center tunes.”

Apple Announces New Music Lab Sessions Featuring Partnership With Billie Eilish, by Mitchel Broussard, MacRumors

After teaming up with Madonna for new Apple Music Lab classes at its retail stores, Apple today announced a set of Music Lab classes in partnership with Billie Eilish.


Apple Releases macOS 10.14.6 Supplemental Update To Fix Sleeping Macs, by Samuel Axon, Ars Technica

Released today, the update fixes a heretofore not-widely-known issue involving sleep mode on Macs.

A Review Of The Powerbeats Pro Totally Wireless Headphones, by Alex Tai, The Sweet Setup

The Powerbeats Pro have replaced my BeatsX and I think I will be sticking to these wireless earbuds for quite a while. It’s really impressive how Apple have improved the Beats line and shared the H1 technology chip to provide that magical connectivity that still feels futuristic when I use them and switch between devices. While the Powerbeats Pro will work with any Bluetooth device for listening to music and making calls, you only get the full functionality the new H1 chip has to offer while using them with an iOS or macOS device. If the AirPods don’t cut the mustard for your needs — maybe they don’t fit your ears snugly enough, or you want more noise isolation — the Powerbeats Pro headphones are an impressive and well-made piece of tech that will serve you well.

Don’t Use Cloud Backup Services To Make Copies Of Your Time Machine Volumes. Here’s Why, by Glenn Fleishman, Macworld

The primary issue is that Time Machine uses a special kind of alias, called a hard link, to create complete snapshots for each point in time that a backup operation happens. That omits making a fresh copy of any file that remains the same between those bakcups. These hard links can appear multiple times in a volume, but all refer to a single file.

It’s clever, but it only works within a single volume. If you back up files from that volume using file-based archiving software, hard links are copied each time they appear. (This also makes it difficult to copy a Time Machine backup from one volume to another without bloating the size.)

Apple Drops Barclays Card Rewards Deal Ahead Of Goldman Launch, by Mark Gurman, Bloomberg

Apple Inc. and Barclays Plc have dropped the rewards program from their longtime credit-card partnership in advance of the debut this month of a new Apple Card with Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The Apple-branded Barclays card is no longer offering $50 worth of Apple gift cards and providing three points per dollar spent on Apple products to new customers, according to changes on its website. Card users had been able to convert every 2,500 points into $25 of credit toward Apple merchandise.

Nanoleaf Transforms Canvas Smart Lights Into Touch-based HomeKit Buttons With Touch Actions, by Zac Hall, 9to5Mac

Nanoleaf has a new update launching today for its Canvas smart lights that transforms the color-shifting tiles into touch-based HomeKit buttons for activating scenes. Touch Actions let you assign HomeKit scenes to specific Canvas tiles for controlling groups of smart home accessories without an app or voice.


The FTC Is Looking Into The Amazon And Apple Deal That Crushed Small Resellers, by Nick Statt, The Verge

Last year, Amazon cut a deal with Apple to bring direct iPhone sales to its platform for the first time. Now, that deal is coming under scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, The Verge has learned.

The deal was first announced last fall, ostensibly as a way for Apple to sell on Amazon in an official capacity and cut down on counterfeit or misleadingly marketed products. However, it had the effect of kicking off hundreds of legitimate sellers that were offering low-cost and refurbished Apple products that were no longer for sale by the company itself.

Work Ruined Email, by Ian Bogost, The Atlantic

Email overload has become a backwards point of pride. “I get several hundred emails a day,” I heard someone say at a recent corporate event. “At least.” It’s a lamentation, but also a boast. Productivity signals personal value, and email offers an easy way to quantify it. Maintaining “inbox zero” is a display of willpower and efficiency, every new missive “triaged” as if the office were a military front or an emergency room. More recently, groupware programs such as Slack have tried to sublimate work email into chat rooms, but that works only inside an organization; there’s no stopping the email from outside customers, suppliers, or colleagues from arriving. As an old tech-industry aphorism puts it, email is the cockroach of the internet. It will outlast every technology fashion.

But what if all that received wisdom is wrong? Maybe the workplace has given email a bad rap. Office jobs made email a chore. But at home, email is something else: a heap of opportunities, mostly sent by businesses instead of friends and family. The problem isn’t getting through it, but figuring out which offers, notices, and invitations deserve attention and which can be ignored. Most popular email software, including Gmail and Outlook, is built for enterprise use first, which infects home email with the Sisyphean despair of the office. That’s finally changing, thanks in part to Yahoo and AOL, two old-school internet icons sold off for parts after newer tech darlings overtook them. Harnessing a legacy as consumer companies, they hope to wrest email from work’s oppressive grip by redesigning it for use at home.

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