June 24, 2015

The Price of Music

David Pakman in a guest piece for Recode:

The data shows that $120 per year is far beyond what the overwhelming majority of consumers will pay for music, and instead shows that a price closer to $48 per year is likely much closer to a sweet spot to attract a large number of subscribers.

For this reason, I believe the market size for these services is limited to a subset of music buyers, which in turn is a subset of the population. This means that there will be fewer subscribers to these services than there are purchasers of digital downloads unless one of two things happens:

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June 22, 2015

President Obama’s Interview on ‘WTF’

I agree with my friend Carl Holscher: This was a fantastic, humanizing interview. As someone who’s been in mainstream radio for the past eight years, I will also add that a well-tamed radio host would have never been able to achieve the level of intimacy Marc Maron did. Never. Even if his editor didn’t remind him about nailing a sync for the bulletin. Even if her Editor in Chief told her to forget about the ratings.

This one could turn out to be a nice growth stimulant for the medium that is podcasts,1 but regardless: it’s great to witness the rise of doctrine-free radio.

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June 22, 2015

Gmail in a Box

For me, any service that deals with text has to meet an additional criterion: right-to-left support. Luckily, this just happens to be the case with my most valuable app (Drafts). I say luckily because the huge segment of RTLers is consistently left out by most app developers, including those of desktop email apps. You can imagine the tediousness in loading Gmail in a browser.1

This is what Go for Gmail aims to solve: it’s a free Mac app that sits in the menubar and can instantly display your account inside a web-view. You can customize notifications and configure shortcuts to toggle the inbox and compose windows. Clearly, most of this website’s readers only write LTR, but I can see other benefits to having the full web interface available.

By the way, a supposedly supercharged compeer of Go for Gmail is coming out tomorrow, called Kiwi for Gmail. It costs $5 if you pre-order ($10 otherwise) and supports gestures, direct Drive access, and streamlined account switching.

I ordered Kiwi and will do a write-up soon. But if you simply want Gmail inside an app, GfG does the job. (via Matt Gemmell)

  • Please don’t bring up the native Mail app. ↩︎
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June 20, 2015

A Better OS X Dictionary

James Somers read an essay by writer John McPhee in which the latter mentions how he employs the dictionary in his editing process. The problem was — as Somers details in his own piece — that he and McPhee appeared to be using very different kinds of dictionaries. None of the dictionaries Somers had been using offered the richness that McPhee’s one seemed to. So he went out to find out which dictionary that was, and added it as his default dictionary on OS X.

Being a non-native writer, I followed Somers’ instructions at the end of his post and did the same. The second quoted paragraph below reminded me why I’m so fascinated with English as a language. Emphasis mine:

Recall that the New Oxford, for the word fustian,” gives pompous or pretentious speech or writing.” I said earlier that that wasn’t even really correct. Here, then, is Webster’s definition: An inflated style of writing; a kind of writing in which high-sounding words are used, above the dignity of the thoughts or subject; bombast.” Do you see the difference? What makes fustian fustian is not just that the language is pompous — it’s that this pomposity is above the dignity of the thoughts or subject. It’s using fancy language where fancy language isn’t called for. It’s a subtle difference, but that’s the whole point: English is an awfully subtle instrument. A dictionary that ignores these little shades is dangerous; in fact in those cases it’s worse than useless. It’s misleading, deflating. It divests those words of their worth and purpose.

(via Brett Terpstra)

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June 18, 2015

Logitech K480 Keyboard: A Review

To be fair, I’ll prelude this review by pointing out that I only bought the K480 because my first choice, Incase’s Origami Workstation, doesn’t ship to Israel. This isn’t to say I didn’t have expectations: Logitech’s keyboard boasts an average rating of 4.2 stars on Amazon and has received generally positive verdicts in other reviews.

The goal with an iPad setup was being able to leave the expensive, heavier MacBook at home on most days. Already in my arsenal were Rain’s mStand and Apple’s wireless keyboard. After crossing out the Origami, it was time to find a different keyboard-compatible case, or a combo proposition.

The criteria (in this order) were weight, comfort, size, and look. If you’ve read other reviews on here, then you know I also aim for pragmatic setups: those independent of future purchases.

On Paper

The Logitech K480 debuted in September 2014 and was marketed as the computer keyboard that also works with your tablet and smartphone”. It’s an agnostic’s wet dream, promising to not only work flawlessly on Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS — but also make switching between devices frictionless.

It currently retails on Amazon at $48, available in white or black.

Weight & Portability

The first thing you notice about the K480 is its weight. As I removed it from its package, my hope was that the cartons accounted for most of what I was carrying.


The K480 weighs 820 grams, or 1.81 pounds.

One could argue I should’ve known this by looking at the specifications. And I did. But like most people, not only could I not translate that number meaningfully, I also did a poor job in estimating its significance by testing against lighter or heavier objects.


Weight (grams)

Weight (pounds)

iPad mini



Logitech K480



iPad mini + K480



13″ rMBP (late 13)



The iPad-K480 carry is 419g lighter than the MacBook. While this difference isn’t insignificant, there are two factors the calculation above excludes: the additional weight of an iPad case (if one is used), and the fact that the rMBP is among the heavier laptops within Apple’s current lineup.

There is one very valid argument to be made for this keyboard’s weight: it needs to bear the weight of at least one iPad without things getting shaky.


Reading other reviews, you may notice some complaints about this keyboard’s appearance. Indeed, compared to Apple’s, this one looks a bit…economic. But in fairness, how many other keyboards don’t? The K480 isn’t a sexy device, but I think cheap” is a little harsh here. Its plastic build might make it look a bit toy-ish, but this doesn’t translate to inconvenience, or ostracism.

In hindsight, I would’ve gone with the black version of the K480 instead of Logitech’s definition of white,” as I find the latter to be somewhat dull. No biggie.

The Dock

The dock is about 27 centimeters (10.62″) long; enough to fit both an iPad and an iPhone in portrait mode. The device-slot is deep enough to hold any iPad without completely covering its home button.1 The rubberized inner edges mean you can plug the iPad quickly and firmly — fearing neither a fall or a scratch. However, this also dictates that you’ll have to remove most cases if you want to be able to dock it.

side-view of an iPad docked into the K480 keyboard by Logitech

Because multi-device support is one of this keyboard’s biggest selling points, the slot’s width isn’t ideal for the iPad. In portrait mode — my preferred for writing — I feel the mini leans back a little too much, which doesn’t allow me to lean back comfortably enough. I’m not sure why, but when the iPad is docked horizontally, things get much better.

The viewing angle isn’t as bad as I’m making it sound — it isn’t bad at all — but neither is it perfect.

Ergonomics & Key Build

The above becomes more of an issue when you take into account one additional factor: the flat K480 sports an unadjustable base that sits 20mm above surface, providing a somewhat problematic typing angle.

But the keys..

The keys are where Logitech messed it up.

The first thing you should know about these keys is that they are loud. Not typewriter loud, but definitely the closest to that that I’ve heard from a keyboard. This can be good or bad depending on your taste, but I wouldn’t use the K480 in a classroom or bedroom.

More importantly, the keys are excessively round. If this was a stylistic decision, then may the Lord have mercy on Logitech’s designers. But stylistic or not, there are practical ramifications: keystroke misses and mistypes. The keys seem too far apart, and the space between them is often disorienting. I can’t tell with certainty whether the travel distance is longer compared to other keyboards, but the fact the keys protrude as far as they do makes me instinctively press harder.

The ergonomic experience with the Logitech K480 isn’t great. I don’t know how it compares to other iPad keyboards — and this is important to keep in mind — but while using it, I can’t help but feel I’m adjusting either my neck’s or wrists’ posture uncomfortably.

Button Placement

The switch dial is well-designed and offers just enough resistance to avoid accidental switching. I would’ve liked it to the right side, in-place of (or near) the pairing buttons, but I figure lefties would say the opposite.

What isn’t up for debate is the power switch location: Logitech has decided to put it on the back of the keyboard. It’s somewhere around the upper left side, not overly perceptible. If you’re energy conscious, you may find yourself a little annoyed by this.

Battery Life

But you have to be especially energy conscious to care about the power switch. Logitech claims two AAA batteries should last two years assuming two million keystrokes/year in an office environment”. Eight months in, and my K480 isn’t showing any kind of slowness associated with battery drain. Take this testimony with a grain of salt though, because these days I rarely couple it with the iPad, and instead use it daily with my HTPC.

Pairing and Multi Device Support

This is where this one shines.

Thanks to its pragmatic key-mapping, which was well thought out, the K480 makes for an excellent cross-platform device. It does so without overly sacrificing cleanness or creating confusion.

Pairing new devices is a breeze on all operating systems; so is switching between paired devices and replacing paired slots. OS X and Windows controls work just as expected, and more importantly, so do the iOS controls on the top row. This makes multitasking on the iPad more plausible.

This section isn’t brief because it lacks importance, but I simply have nothing but positive things to say. Logitech gets an A+ here. Period.

Final Thoughts

I’m much less romantic about tech gear nowadays, so when I’m writing about one, I tend to focus more on aspects that I dislike and assume you’ll deduce that everything else works fine.

The Logitech K480 is an excellent multi-device keyboard. Those who use different operating systems will appreciate what it has to offer. Strictly as an iPad companion, however, this keyboard isn’t exactly a match made in heaven. I’m not sure whether I stopped carrying it because of its ergonomic shortcomings, or due to my own unrelated challenges with writing.

  • The home button shouldn’t be of concern anyway, since it’s one of the custom-mapped functions on the top row. ↩︎
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June 16, 2015

A Brief Thought on Common Sense

People find it intrusive for someone to rummage through stuff they already threw in the trash, but don’t mind Gov & Corp systematically examining their most intimateautobiographical items.

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