Serial podcast returns for season 3

The first season of Serial was a cultural phenomenon in 2014 that had a lasting effect on its subject in the real world right up until today. Show producer and former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig took a deep dive into the story of Adnan Syed, who was accused of killing his girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. Koenig’s investigation eventually contributed to Syed’s conviction being overturned (with the intention of sending back for a retrial) and the question of what happens next is currently in the hands of Maryland’s highest court.

Season 2, with its focus on Bowe Bergdahl’s charges of desertion from the Army, was solid but didn’t grab me the way Syed’s story did. The setup for the third season was just posted on the official Serial site:

Serial is heading back to court. This time, in Cleveland. A year inside a typical American courthouse. This season we tell you the extraordinary stories of ordinary cases. One courthouse, told week by week.

There’s an 8 minute audio trailer available now.

Comcast and Netflix strike a deal

Netflix will pay Comcast for access to their broadband network. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan reporting for Gizmodo:

What does this all mean for you? For one thing, Comcast customers are due to see some serious improvement when it comes to streaming video. But it’s an ominous sign for the ongoing battle for net neutrality—a far more complex issue at stake here. In January, a federal court dealt a death blow to net neutrality when it struck down the FCC’s open Internet rules, which demand, essentially, that all data be treated equal.

FiOS customers have been complaining loudly about alleged throttling of Netflix by Verizon, so today’s announcement carries quite a bit of weight.  One thing is for sure: the days of “open” internet are behind us.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to buy The Washington Post

Paul Farhi for The Washington Post:

The Washington Post Co. has agreed to sell its flagship newspaper to Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, ending the Graham family’s stewardship of one of America’s leading news organizations after four generations.

Apparently this isn’t an Amazon acquisition- Bezos will be the sole owner of the paper and The Post Company will rename itself and continue without The Washington Post under its wing.

WWDC 2013

After half a year of almost total radio silence, Apple came out swinging this week with a two hour keynote that had a lot to prove.  The bullet point recaps are everywhere online, so instead let’s look at a few major themes from the presentation.

Design

Mobile and desktop technology have evolved in the mainstream to the point where the term “fashion” can be used with a straight face.  Apple’s message this week was that the current version of iOS looks dated, inconsistent and, well, out of fashion.  What’s interesting here is that Apple also seem to acknowledge that they may not always be the trendsetter in this regard.  There’s a lot of the Google+ aesthetic throughout the new mobile OS, and certain navigation elements have a Windows Phone feel to it.  Functionally iOS 7 borrows some tricks from all the competitors (not to mention iPhone jailbreak hacks and WebOS) and tries to refine and redefine them into a cohesive experience.  It will be interesting to see how this new iOS evolves by the time it ships.

On the hardware side, Apple released the long awaited Mac Pro.  Say what you will about its lack of expandability or the trash can/R2-D2/Pringles can look- this machine is unlike anything anyone else has ever released.  It represents everything Apple stands for- it’s bolder in design than the 2000 Cube as it breaks with the past more than the original 1998 iMac.  This is a machine that virtually anyone would recognize from 20 yards away.

Secrecy

Seriously, how did Apple manage to keep the lid on the Mac Pro considering how long it’s been in development?  Last year Tim Cook claimed that Apple was going to “double down” on secrecy, and it looks like he was successful in that regard.  Across the board Apple was able to keep a lid on things like no keynote since the original iPhone.

Apple after Jobs

Not to dwell too much on the Mac Pro, but it struck me that this could very well be the first major piece of new hardware to emerge in an Apple after Jobs.  It’s possible that the iPad mini beat it to the punch, but this is more than just a shrunken-down version of an existing product.  If anyone was wondering whether Apple still had the ability to push the norms than this box puts that to rest.

In many ways I feel like this was truly the first post-Jobs keynote, even though technically it was not.  There was a confidence in the presenters that seemed to stem from new ideas and new creations, ones that originated after the company’s founder was gone.

Tim Cook

Speaking of confidence, Tim Cook has come into his own as Apple’s leading persona to the world.  I think back to the iPhone event in the fall of 2011, just before Jobs died.  I thought his performance was admirable under the circumstances, but it took him a while to really own it the way he did this past Monday- he was comfortable in the role and you could tell he was ready to swing back at the “Apple has lost its mojo” press stories swirling around his company.

Cook has also forged a new path that his predecessor might have disagreed with.  The firing of Scott Forstall and promoting Jony Ive to head up both software and hardware design is a clear break from the past.  Forstall was a brilliant but caustic personality that Jobs admired, and he was a strong proponent of the skeuomorphic touches of green felt and leather stitching that have been scrubbed from the new versions of OS X and iOS 7.

 

Apple has kicked off the second half of 2013 with what looks like an accelerated schedule of new releases and updates across most of their major projects, both hardware and software.  But perhaps more importantly we are starting to see signs of Apple transitioning into a post Steve Jobs existence.

Roger Ebert, never once to mince words

Ebert’s review of Vince Gallo’s “The Brown Bunny”:

I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.

When the movie’s director responded by mocking Ebert’s weight, Ebert said, “It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny.”

Courtesy of Stacy Conradt at Mental Floss. She has some other choice Ebert quotes worth checking out.

Apple’s Mac Pro mistake

This past Monday, June 11, I was able to attend the Adobe CS6 Roadshow in Washington, DC.  I spent the day in training sessions for editors considering a move from their current editing platform to Adobe’s offerings of Premiere Pro and After Effects, along with a whole slew of Final Cut Studio-like tools that come in the package.

The event was sponsored by HP, so it was not surprising that the day had a decidedly PC slant.  There was much talk from the presenters about throughput, processing speeds, expandability, and performance.  But when the first instructor asked for a show of hands from those of us who use PCs in our workflow, less than 10% of the hands went up.

Coincidentally, June 11 was also the day of Apple’s WWDC keynote, and Tim Cook and company spent several hours talking about their wildly successful lineup of Mac and iOS devices.  The signature unveiling was the new MacBook Pro with a Retina Display, slimmer form factor, and a simplified design that removed the optical drive and many ports.  The runner ups for the spotlight were OS X Mountain Lion and iOS, both of which show off some very nice features and move closer to each other in terms of look and feel.

What was not mentioned in the keynote was any improvement to Apple’s long-languishing Mac Pro desktop, whose current model is about to hit its second birthday.  The rumor mill was fired up just prior to the event after some new model numbers for the Pro were leaked, prompting many to wrongly assume that big changes were coming.  Instead, Apple quietly bumped the specs on the two year old model with slightly faster processors and adding a server configuration in the same form factor.  The Mac Pro still stands alone as the only Mac without a Thunderbolt port.

After a day of training sessions at the Roadshow, I took a spin around the exhibitor hall to see what the vendors had to show.  Most presentations were running on PCs (don’t forget who the event’s primary sponsor was) but virtually everyone working there had an iPad or a MacBook Pro behind the table with them for their use.  That’s when it really hit me: many pros running Windows PCs do so because they have to, but use Macs because they want to.

And I would say that if you asked my fellow attendees, most would say they would want to be using a new Mac Pro to make their living.  The irony here is that the Mac software at the high end has never been stronger.  Autodesk just released the first Mac-only preview release of Smoke 2013, and both Avid and Adobe have bent over backwards to achieve feature parity for the Mac versions of Media Composer, Symphony, and Premiere Pro.

I see shades of last June in the headlines this week: Apple was expected to release something new for the professional market (last year it was FCP X, this year it was the Mac Pro), the “release” raises the ire of the faithful, and Apple backpedals slightly.  This year the backpedaling comes in the form of an email from Tim Cook, who assures a customer that great things are coming for Apple desktop workstations…at the end of 2013.

Apple must truly believe that a slim portable or iMac with a Thunderbolt port really fits the need of almost everyone who uses a Mac, and they are buying themselves some time for the rest of us to realize that.  As a result, Apple will probably lose an extremely small fraction of their user base, mostly comprised of people who bought their clunky (in retrospect) gear in the 90s in the hopes that Apple would stay afloat.  At the same time their worldwide market share looks poised for more explosive growth.  It’s Apple’s world now, and the pro market just lives in it.