Monthly Archives: May 2011

Photosynth for iPhone: capturing the unphotographable

We are having some unusually fine weather in the UK and I went for a walk in the Derbyshire Peak District yesterday. I was reflecting how hard it is to photograph wide vistas of countryside when I remembered that I installed the Microsoft Photosynth iPhone app a couple of weeks ago.

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It really is easy to use: you just fire up the app, tap to start a new picture, and turn the iPhone to new positions guided by on-screen markers. When the iPhone beeps, hold it still and a new photo is added.

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Panoramic photography is not new of course; my old Canon Ixus has a panorama feature. However, you have to navigate several menus to get the mode engaged, manually position the camera, and then use a separate application to stitch the images together.

The Photosynth app by contrast is great to use, and I have taken a landscape picture which I would never have bothered with before. My only complaint is that the beep can be hard to hear, but even if you miss it, the app does a reasonable job, especially in bright sunlight.

There are plenty of interesting images now turning up on the official Photosynth site – check the Mobile Panoramas section.

For more information see the official announcement post and video.

The point to ponder is why the app has come out first for Apple’s iPhone, rather than the company’s own Windows Phone7? Apparently a Windows Phone version is in preparation.

First encounter with Spotify sixth play bar – but what is the reason?

When I fired up Spotify today I was greeted by this large banner:

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Free listening has gone, unless you are happy not to have repeat listens. After five times, that’s it.

I sacrificially endured playing Winchester Cathedral by The New Vaudeville band five times over. I discovered that simply starting a track does not seem to count. On the sixth attempt to play the full track though, I got a slightly modified version of the above banner, and then a message along the top of the Spotify app:

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As a point of interest, this particular track is on a large number of different compilations of 60’s compilations. Spotify seems to consider each appearance a different track. So I was able to endure a sixth play of the track by picking a different compilation.

Why has Spotify made this unpopular change? The suggestion in the official blog post is that it was forced upon the company, either by financial necessity or the insistence of the music industry:

It’s vital that we continue offering an on-demand free service to you and millions more like you, but to make that possible we have to put some limits in place going forward.

There are over 9000 (mostly negative) comments post, but as far as I can tell no further official comment there.

Spotify’s chief content officer Ken Parks was available for interview and quoted by various sources; for example he told the Reg:

We’ve shown that the model is doing extremely well, but as things stand we need to tweak the service to ensure everyone has access to legal music in the long term.

Similar tone, but still no hard information. As for CEO and founder Daniel Ek he tweeted:

Things are not always what they seem…

which if it means anything means “watch this space” I guess.

The affect of the change is easy to predict. There will be more subscribers, but fewer users. Spotify will be less attractive to advertisers, but will get additional subscription income. Since it is still a good deal with the basic subscription, I would expect income to increase overall, but that is only a hunch.

I like Spotify’s performance and usability. The one thing I have against it is the annoying tendency of tracks to disappear suddenly. I played Paul Simon’s latest, So Beautiful or So What, on the service and enjoyed it. Then the next day it had disappeared. Even subscribers to the unlimited service do not get everything, only those tracks which the various rights holders permit.