Archive for April 11, 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Apple Podcasts on the Web Gets a Fresh New Interface

Chance Miller:

The old Apple Podcasts web interface was akin to the iTunes web design that was dropped back in 2017. It was a simple list of podcast episodes, showing you the episode title and description. If you wanted to play an episode, you’d be kicked to iTunes. You also couldn’t view full show notes and other episode details.

With this week’s overhaul, however, Podcasts on the web is a much more usable experience. Episode titles are bolded and feature their full description below. There are also new dedicated pages for individual podcast episodes. Here, you can view full show notes and other details about an episode.

Previously: macOS 10.15 to Break Up iTunes.

Amazon Employees Review “Small Sample” of Alexa Audio

Timothy B. Lee:

Most of the time, when you talk to an Amazon Echo device, only Amazon’s voice-recognition software is listening. But sometimes, Bloomberg reports, a copy of the audio is sent to a human reviewer at one of several Amazon offices around the world. The human listens to the audio clip, transcribes it, and adds annotations to help Amazon’s algorithms get better.

“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously,” an Amazon spokesman said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg. “We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] improve the customer experience.”

Bloomberg hints at a significant workforce doing this kind of work. Bloomberg says Amazon has employees listening to audio clips in offices in Boston, Costa Rica, India, and Romania. Employees interpret as many as 1,000 audio clips in a 9-hour shift.


Bloomberg says that Apple’s Siri “also has human helpers.” The company points to an Apple privacy white paper that describes how Apple uses audio captured from customer devices.

I wonder whether Apple’s standard opt-out covers this.


Update (2019-05-10): Alfred Ng:

Amazon lets you delete those voice recordings, giving you a false sense of privacy. But the company still has that data, just not as a sound bite. It keeps the text logs of the transcribed audio on its cloud servers, with no option for you to delete them.

Amazon said it erases the text transcripts from Alexa’s “main system,” but is working on removing them from other areas where the data can travel.

Google AMP Lowered Our Page Speed, and There’s No Choice But to Use It

Walid Halabi (via Hacker News):

Google puts the onus on publishers to, effectively, rejig large tracts of their websites layout, content, and functionality, in return for preferential treatment. Google promotes AMP as a way to make websites faster. That’s supposed to be the primary benefit, and the reason Google is pushing AMP so forcefully.


We here at unlike kinds decided that we had to implement Google AMP. We have to be in the Top Stories section because otherwise we’re punted down the page and away from potential readers. We didn’t really want to; our site is already fast because we made it fast, largely with a combination of clever caching and minimal code. But hey, maybe AMP would speed things up. Maybe Google’s new future is bright.

It isn’t. According to Google’s own Page Speed Insights audit (which Google recommends to check your performance), the AMP version of articles got a performance score of 80. The non-AMP versions? 86. Mind you, the AMP versions are hobbled - unauthorised javascript interaction is forbidden by Google, so you can’t vote or comment in place - it’ll kick you to the full version of the page. This is the fruit of weeks of labour converting the site: a slower, less interactive, more clunky site.


Update (2019-04-12): Nick Heer:

This power grab is disgusting and should be treated as an attempt at a hostile takeover.

CloudPull Discontinued

John Brayton:

In an effort to tighten security, Google is no longer allowing apps to get permission to write to a user’s account if it cannot provide justification for having write access. Since there is no read-only permission level for OAuth access via IMAP, this means that CloudPull will be unable to access Gmail via IMAP. I appealed Google’s decision, but my appeal was rejected. I carefully considered options for updating CloudPull to keep it working, but every available option will require more time and effort than I can justify. Therefore I have removed CloudPull from sale.

What a crazy situation.

Quantum Computing and APFS: Free and Used Space

Howard Oakley:

In APFS, snapshots are made as part of Time Machine backups, on some occasions such as prior to installing a macOS update, and when the user initiates them. What happens when an APFS snapshot is made is that a complete copy is made of the file system metadata, which is very quick indeed and doesn’t involve the copying of any other file data.

However, to preserve all the files at the moment that the snapshot is made, as those files subsequently change, their original data are retained so long as the snapshot is kept. Let’s say that, in one snapshot, there’s a certain file of 1 GB in size, which then changes completely so the whole 1 GB is rewritten. So long as that snapshot is retained, its original 1 GB of data is retained, as well as its new 1 GB. So although the snapshot itself doesn’t take up much space, it stops a lot of old data from being freed up for reuse.

Time Machine purges old snapshots automatically, but by default retains the last 24 hours of hourly snapshots, which will take a total space similar to the amount of data backed up over that period. In my case, that’s typically around 30 GB at any time, but if you manipulate large media files, or old snapshots aren’t purged properly, it could easily require hundreds of GB.

I find the whole idea of free space confusing with Mojave and APFS. Last week, after updating Xcode, I started getting warnings that my MacBook Air’s SSD was almost full. I deleted about 20 GB of files but saw little improvement in the amount of available space reported by Finder. And I continued to get the warnings. As far as I could tell, based on reports from OmniDiskSweeper and trying to figure out which files had been deleted and added, I should have netted about 14 GB more free space than I started with, yet Finder showed about 6 GB less.

My first thought was that the culprit was snapshots, but Disk Utility showed no purgeable space, and tmutil listlocalsnapshots showed no snapshots. I guess this indicates that the disk really is almost full, but I can’t figure out why.

My current theory is that the problem is due to a 20 GB proxies folder in Photos’s library (which is strangely not included in Manage Storage’s report). I don’t have a measurement of how large this was before, but I suspect it used to be much smaller. It’s not clear how I might compact it or why Photos isn’t automatically deleting old data now that it can tell that the disk is almost full. I will probably end up deleting the Photos library and syncing a new one down from iCloud. But that’s only a potential solution because this Mac doesn’t contain any Photos projects; those are not stored in the cloud and so would be lost if I were to attempt this.


Update (2019-04-11): My iMac does show Time Machine snapshots, yet Disk Utility still says there’s zero purgeable space.

Update (2019-04-23): Tricertops (via Peter Steinberger):

I have 40 GB of free space, but Xcode cannot be updated. Maybe the next macOS will finally fix things? Or the one after that?

I just had the same problem updating Xcode on a Mac that purportedly had 30 GB of free space, with the expanded .xip file needing less than 10 GB. After waiting a while, the displayed amount of free space didn’t change, but expanding the .xip no longer reported a disk space error.

Update (2019-04-28): Matt Birchler:

iPad: You have about 70GB of free space
Me: I’d like to download this 2GB file from iCloud
iPad: I don’t think so, chief
Me: Ok, I’ll remove some stuff manually, can I see what files are taking up space?
iPad: What sort of agreement do you think we have?

Update (2019-05-09): Lloyd Chambers:

The purgeable space concept on APFS is mystifying.

Update (2019-07-29): I recently encountered a problem where I couldn’t back up via SuperDuper because the destination drive had 250 GB free, but it was all purgeable. Both tmutil and diskutil reported no space consumed by APFS snapshots, so it’s not clear how I could ever purge that space. I ended up having to reformat the drive.

Update (2019-09-17): Tom Harrington:

I have 78GB free on this Mac according to Finder but I can’t decompress Xcode because there’s not enough space. I know it’s APFS stuff and can fix, but how do non geeks deal with this kind of thing?

Update (2019-12-20): Oluseyi Sonaiya:

32 GB free.

Update Xcode to 11.1

20 minutes later: “This application can not be installed. Insufficient disk space.”

20 GB free.

It’s insufficient because YOOOOOOUUUU took up 12 GB?!