Two tech geeks.

  • Stage Manager in macOS 13.0 Ventura

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    John Voorhees:

    When Stage Manager is set up and running the way I want, it’s fantastic. The trouble is the ‘set up’ part. The feature is simply too laborious to set up, and some of its interactions are an over-caffeinated mess.

    Stage Manager feels awesome and tidies up the clutter on the desktop. As someone who use a ton of app in windowed mode, my desktop has always been cluttered and the solution is to move to an empty desktop space when the need arise, such as when presenting, both online and offline.

    However, the limit of just 5 recent apps on the side. I find myself going back to CMD + TAB or just going into Mission Control to find the window I want.

    It also also doesn’t work when I try to compare two app windows side by side.

    I turned it off after a while because it’s just too jarring to the way I’m used to working.

  • End of Facebook Instant Articles

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    Nick Heer:

    Sara Fischer, of Axios, is reporting today that Meta’s proprietary Instant Articles format will go away in April. This should not be a surprise — Instant Articles does nothing for Meta’s virtual reality efforts, Meta is cutting costs, and Google has been phasing out its commitment to its similar AMP format.

    Another one bites the dust.

    This is yet another reminder to content creators of the pitfalls of putting your content on a platform like Facebook, Medium, etc where you build up an audience there, only to lose it when the platform decides the format no longers suits its purpose. Ultimately, you are just a cog in the wheel for them to generate income.

    Build your own platform and community. That is the only way I see to ensuring longevity and immunisation to the whims of corporations.

  • Global smartphone market fell 9% in Q3 2022

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    Canalys:

    In Q3 2022, the global smartphone market recorded its third consecutive decline this year, dropping 9% year-on-year, marking the worst Q3 since 2014. The gloomy economic outlook has led consumers to delay purchasing electronic hardware and prioritize other essential spending. This will likely continue to dampen the smartphone market for the next six to nine months. Samsung retained its leading position with a 22% market share driven by heavy promotions to reduce channel inventory. Apple was the only vendor in the top five to record positive growth, improving its market position further with an 18% share during the market downturn thanks to relatively resilient demand for iPhones. While Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo continued to take a cautious approach to overseas expansion given domestic market uncertainty, retaining 14%, 10% and 9% global market shares, respectively.

    Despite the economic situation, Apple is the only smartphone maker to have positive growth. I reckon it is due to the release of the iPhone 14 series as people switch, and we could potentially see further increase as we enter the sales season in Q4.

    What’s interesting is how Apple is slowly but surely catching up with Samsung in market share.

  • WeChat's dominance

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    John Gruber:

    It’s no coincidence at all that WeChat is the only “everything app” anyone can cite, and it comes from China, an authoritarian regime. In practice, the concept really only makes sense there. It doesn’t benefit users that WeChat dominates all aspects of digital life — it benefits the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party. (And investors in Tencent, WeChat’s Chinese-government-controlled parent company.)

    To attribute to the success of WeChat to an “authoritarian” government is lazy and shows a lack of understanding of the socioeconomic factors while looking at the situation with lenses coloured by bias.

    When I moved to Shenzhen, the WeChat and Alipay apps were only getting off the ground and I have witnessed the incredible growth over the past years.

    There are certain segments in the population that would have a hard time downloading and installing apps on their smartphones, especially when a large proportion of these segments are on Android phones. By having apps like WeChat and Alipay where they are able to do everything within one app, it removes friction that improves service adoption.

    This also makes sense to an app developer. Instead of having to educate potential users how to download an install an app, they can launch a mini-program in WeChat or Alipay and get access to many services. This would result in higher app and service adoption rates.

    The recent success of the Sheep a Sheep game shows how even games go viral by being a WeChat mini-program. The game was frustrating and people were encouraged to share their scores on social media or directly to a friend. It is as simple as tapping on a link to launch the app and get hooked to the game. I’m pretty sure the game wouldn’t have gone viral if people had to download a separate app to play it.

    I use the China Mobile iOS app to check my mobile usage and phone bills. But I can do the same with the China Mobile WeChat mini-program as well without having to download and install the app. Using the mini-program also allows me to log in with my WeChat credentials and skip the login process that I would need to go through in the iOS app.

    The lack of friction makes me launch the China Mobile mini-program in Wechat instead of using the iOS app. And after a while, it just makes sense to delete the iOS app and use the mini-program to free up space on the phone.

    On the flip side, Tencent and Alibaba can leverage on having leverage of user base to attract financial, healthcare and many other services to become part of the app itself.

    To clamp down on scams, WeChat and Alipay requires identity verification to access the payments features. This increases accountability and makes users responsible for their actions with their accounts. And identity verification opens up more opportunities for Tencent and Alibaba to integrate with services.

    The growth of the apps and their ecosystems makes becoming an “everything app” the obvious path. It is not as though people were forced to use the apps, just as people are not forced to be on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. You are most likely on that platform because of your social circle and what the apps enables you to do.

  • An open letter to Tim Cook about Final Cut Pro

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    An open letter to Tim Cook about Final Cut Pro, signed by editors and post-production pros around the world by Scott Simmons – ProVideo Coalition:

    There is no doubt that Final Cut Pro has come a long way since it’s introduction many years ago. We’ve seen an architecture change with Libraries, multicam added, a new XML format, an interface redesign, machine learning features, in-app tracking, workflow extensions and even dropping the “X” for the name. Just looking over the release notes shows a long list of features, updates and bug fixes that goes back years. But the flip side of this is the argument that the Apple team working on Final Cut Pro is moving too slowly and not keeping up with competitors. It took over a decade to get the very basic feature of dupe detection. Rumor has it there is a Roles-based audio mixer somewhere in the FCP code but it hasn’t been turned on yet (who knows if that is even true or if it will be … rumor!).

    Video production is a big part of my business and we use DaVinci because of cross-platform support and easier colour grading workflow (debatable, I know). In the ideal world, my team and I would prefer to use Final Cut Pro for the ease of use. Of course, everyone uses a Mac in that world.

    However, preference is outweighed by the convenience we get by using DaVinci, and to a certain extent Premiere Pro in certain cases. Final Cut Pro ranks as the third choice out of these three. This is not just our preference but what we see in the industry in this part of the world.

    Via: Michael Tsai

  • Brave and DuckDuckGo removing AMP by default

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    Michael Tsai:

    Brave (via Tim Hardwick):

    Brave is rolling out a new feature called De-AMP, which allows Brave users to bypass Google-hosted AMP pages, and instead visit the content’s publisher directly. AMP harms users’ privacy, security and internet experience, and just as bad, AMP helps Google further monopolize and control the direction of the Web.

    DuckDuckGo (via Kim Lyons):

    NEW: our apps & extensions now protect against Google AMP tracking. When you load or share a Google AMP page anywhere from DuckDuckGo apps (iOS/Android/Mac) or extensions (Firefox/Chrome), the original publisher’s webpage will be used in place of the Google AMP version.

    I see marketers making the switch to AMP to rank better on Google, whereas those who care about user privacy end up being penalised. Even if there is no actual penalty, ranking AMP better in search is already penalising pages not served in AMP.

    Kim Lyons on the Verge

    Google spokesperson Lara Levin said in an email to The Verge that the allegations about AMP were “misleading and repeat a number of false claims.” AMP, she added, is an “open source framework that was collaboratively developed with publishers, tech companies, and Google as a way to help web content load faster” that lets publishers and websites “easily create great web experiences.”

    While Google Search does not rank a page better just because it is AMP, it lets Google know that the page is more reliable. AMP pages score better in Core Web Vitals metrics and this help them rank better in search results.

  • Alibaba explores direct sales model, no plans to replace Tmall

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    TechNode:

    Alibaba is not going to rebrand its B2C marketplace Tmall to Maoxiang, an anonymous executive at the company’s digital business unit told local media outlet Guancha on Feb. 19. The source partially confirmed a prior rumor that Alibaba is working on Maoxiang, a new online direct sales service adopting a model similar to rival JD’s, but says Maoxiang is just an “exploration project” within Tmall app.

    I don’t think Alibaba would rebrand Tmall. The Tmall brand is also tied to Alibaba’s smarthome, the Tmall Genie. The Tmall brand has established itself as a badge of trust and authenticity on Taobao.

    Alibaba has been pushing Tmall to rival JD in terms of providing ecommerce sold by good brands with quality customer support and after-sales service. They need a special D2C app or brand to compete with JD.

  • Google Search is Dying

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    Michael Tsai:

    I’ve noticed two separate things:

    • If I know the right Reddit or Stack Exchange to search, or if Amazon or Hacker News applies, I get much more useful results than searching Google (or any other general search engine). This avoids SEO spam issues and can surface posts that don’t seem to be accessible otherwise.
    • Google results, at least for me, are no longer trustworthy, in the sense that I always wonder whether something is missing. Sometimes it does a great job. But sometimes the page I want will not be in the results at all, whereas it’s at the top of the list in Bing.

    So, whereas I used to rely almost exclusively on Google, I now do site-specific searches where possible. Otherwise, I use Bing by default and Google as a backup.

    For me DuckDuckGo is the go to, but if I’m searching for coding topics, I would use Stack Overflow. I’ll have to try using Stack Exchange and Reddit more.

    This is a very interesting trend, especially how it is very similar in China. Due to the closed nature of manu platforms in China, Chinese users actually search in different apps for different topics. But a popular place for finding answers to certain questions would be Zhihu, the Chinese equivalent of Stack Exchange and Quora.

    Douban is very popular for movies, drams and books. I’ve personally found movie and drama ratings to be very accurate on Douban. This is similar to Rotten Tomatoes.

  • Privacy Sandbox on Android

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    Google:

    While we design, build and test these new solutions, we plan to support existing ads platform features for at least two years, and we intend to provide substantial notice ahead of any future changes.

    So it’s being built and tested. Android users will still be subjected to ads tracking for the next two years.

  • Spotify is acquiring two major podcast tech platforms

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    The Verge:

    Spotify is making more podcast acquisitions. The company announced today it’s acquiring both Chartable and Podsights — two of the most prominent podcast marketing and ad attribution companies. The deal price hasn’t been disclosed, but this marks the first major acquisition the company has made this year in a long line of audio purchases.

    We’ve seen how Spotify has been strengthening its position in the podcasting world.

    Spotify has been on a podcasting acquisition spree in recent years, spanning across advertising technology, audiobooks, and top creative talent. Last year, the company bought Whooshkaa, Podz, Findaway, and Locker Room to offer and promote more spoken audio content, which followed its purchase of the major podcast ad platform Megaphone in late 2020. At the same time, Spotify has been scooping up major talent and shows to run ads on, including Joe Rogan’s podcast, as well as Gimlet, Parcast, and The Ringer.

    While it is great that good content creators get to benefit from this, it is also important that podcasting remains an open ecosystem. Remember what Google did to RSS?

    Independent publishers and loyal readers have kept RSS feeds alive, but it is a shadow of how vibrant the ecosystem was. I hope RSS would recover and become used more widely as people start to move away from closed platforms. Likewise for podcasting.