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CDs Receive Wave Of Support From Music Lovers As Sales Decline

Many major retailers have ceased selling CD’s as a physical format for albums. Tesco recently became one of the larger retailers to announce they would be clearing the shelves of all CDs, sparking a major wave of support online from music lovers who appreciate the versatility that compact discs offer.

In 2007, the CD market was at its peak, with more than 2 billion physical copies of albums being sold globally. The digital music streaming platform, Spotify, was then launched in 2008, revolutionizing the way we consume music. CD sales began to immediately decline with the launch of the platform.

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Last year, however, CD sales saw an unexpected rise in sales thanks to Adele’s ‘30’, ABBA’s ‘Voyage’, and Ed Sheerans ‘=’.

Rob Sheffield also published a love letter to CDs in Rolling Stone last month: “Compact discs were never about romance – they were about function. They just worked. They were less glamorous than vinyl, less cool, less tactile, less sexy, less magical. They didn’t have the aura that we fans crave.

“You didn’t necessarily get sentimental over your CDs, the way you fetishized your scratchy old vinyl, hearing your life story etched into the nicks and crackles …. But CDs work. They just do. You pop in the disc, press play, music booms out. They delivered the grooves so efficiently, they became the most popular format ever.”

“Things like CD box sets, bootlegs, mixes from friends old and new, young bands whose albums I buy from the merch table at live shows and lamented the ephemeral nature of streaming culture.

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A recent article in Wired magazine also praised the “CD format, and its ridiculous affordability. Streaming was for the masses, vinyl was for hipsters, said the author, but his experiment in CD listening had brought unexpected joys.”

Some music fans just prefer the tangible aspect of having their favorite artists work in a compact physical form. Adele’s album was able to help aid CD sales after she gave an interview where she discussed how albums “tell a story, and those stories should be listened to as we intended,” meaning in order of the tracklist.

“We may be seeing the end of CDs as a mass-market product, but we could also be seeing the beginning of the repositioning of the CD as a more fetishistic item,” Bassett said.

“It’s unlikely to match the vinyl revival of recent years. There is not the same romance, the magic of dropping a needle on to vinyl. The plastic cases cracked easily. I remember listening to Nirvana’s Nevermind on the school bus and every time that the bus went over a bump, your CD would skip,” he added.

Sean Jackson of Reckless Records in Soho said “some customers insisted that the quality of analogue sound was superior to digital. But unless you’re really concentrating, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference. There’s a market for everything – vinyl, CDs, cassette tapes. Formats go in and out of fashion, but music doesn’t.”

Holiday Zoom Call

Using Technology To Keep In Touch Over The Holidays 

The holidays are obviously going to be much different this year. As most of us have already experienced with Thanksgiving, taking advantage of the multitude of digital tools out there that keep us connected with our loved ones has been the best way to keep the holidays alive this year. Since we won’t be able to celebrate Christmas and all the other holidays normally this year, it’s time to start planning some digital festivities to keep the positive spirit up!

First, choose a good medium to use to connect you with your loved ones. As most of us know at this point, Zoom is one of the best platforms for video-chatting with multiple individuals at once, however, for most users they’re limited to a 40-minute time-stamp for video calls which then prompts users to create a new room and send out the link again. On Thanksgiving, Zoom removed the 40-minute limit so that families could talk for an unlimited amount of time, and while they will likely do this again at some point for Christmas, there are other platforms one could easily use too. 

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Google Meet doesn’t require any additional software to be downloaded onto your device, you just need a Google account. FaceTime also allows for over 30 individuals to be in a call at once, so if you and your loved ones all own Apple devices this is another great option for you to connect. 

Next, make a nice set up for your device. Chances are you don’t want to spend the whole night sitting at a table or desk and talking with your family, so set it up in a comfortable spot in your home that makes it feel as though your entire family is in the room with you. If you have a smart TV or streaming box of any kind, you likely will be able to stream your device’s screen onto the television. By setting up your computer where the TV is as well, it will seem as though your entire family is at the center of your space.  

If you’re alone for the call, or can manage it with multiple people, wear headphones for the call. This way you’re able to move throughout your space and still hear everyone clearly, assuming you own wireless headphones. Additionally, most video-chatting platforms work better when the users wear headphones in terms of audio feedback. 

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For most platforms, when one individual is speaking, everyone else’s mics are typically muted, so sometimes the audio can sound really choppy when multiple people are trying to speak at once. If everyone’s wearing headphones, this problem is much less persistent. 

Make it a full on event and sync up a cocktail hour, appetizer, and dinner time with your family. By having and sticking to a schedule, it will really feel like you’re all together and celebrating at once. If you want to take it a step further, try to sync up the entire menu so that everyone is eating and enjoying the same meal. This is a great way to keep any holiday traditions alive in terms of the meal and what you and your family tend to create together. 

Finally, have fun with it. Maybe set up some digital holiday games that everyone can enjoy within their living rooms, or set up a secret Santa drop off so that everyone can open their gifts to one another on screen in front of the individuals who got them the gifts. Just because our holidays are looking different this year doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice any of the joy and spirit that makes this time of year so magical.

Apple Software

Apple Announces New Software Updates With Pandemic In Mind

Apple held their annual developer presentation this week and brought a slew of new products to make users’ lives much easier while they’re stuck at home. Overall the company announced a brand new set of wearable devices, a new iOS software interface, new Mac software and so many more updates for the devices we find ourselves using even more now that most of us are still enduring statewide lockdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

This event is one of the few major keynote presentations that comes from the company every year. Typically these events happen in person, but for obvious reasons this year it was purely digital. The spring developer conference that took place this week normally debuts a wide range of internal updates, which for fellow tech nerds like myself is just as exciting as a new iPhone launch, which typically occurs during Apples fall keynote conference. 

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This developer conference was no different, as one of the biggest upgrades that Apple announced was the ability to use multiple products at once with the least amount of lag or technical difficulties. The goal was to make using every device within your home as smooth of an experience as possible, especially considering the world will continue to be staying home indefinitely until this pandemic is over. 

According to Gizmodo Magazine, “the big push here was the ease with which you can use multiple products with the least amount of trouble. Apple says it has open-sourced HomeKit/the Home app to prioritize privacy and ease of use, so that when you add a smart device and set it up through the iOS 14 Home app, it’ll automatically suggest various automation options.”

If you’re a smart home fan you may already own smart bulbs that connect to your phone/Bluetooth devices, and now, Apple is rolling out a new feature with iOS 14 known as “adaptive lighting.” This will allow users that own smart bulbs to change the colors you see in specific rooms automatically based on user preference. 

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In terms of home security Apple is also stepping up their game and releasing a brand new system that will allow users to specifically designate zones of their property that they want to closely monitor while excluding all other areas. This way users will be notified right away of any activity that’s taking place in those specific areas of the home. Users can also use facial recognition features for close contacts that have been tagged in photos to allow your security system to recognize when certain family or friends arrive at your house. 

If you own an Apple HomePod, it will be able to notify you with who’s at the door, while your Apple TV can then display a video overlay of the security camera located at the door to show you a live feed. 

Apple TV in general is getting a few software updates as well which will support multi-user functionality for Apple Arcade. Apple TV will also begin supporting Xbox controllers for Apple Arcade and will provide picture-in-picture support for multi-player gaming. 

Besides that all new Apple device announcements are still projected to be made in the beginning of September as usual, but users will be able to have access to a majority of the upgrades mentioned above within the coming two months. 

Smartphones

How to Take Advantage of Smartphones’ “Digital Wellbeing” Tools

It’s no secret that over the past several years, smartphones have taken over nearly every aspect of most of our lives, as we use the versatile devices for everything from communicating with friends to catching up on work emails to consuming entertainment. As smartphone use is on the rise, many are concerned about the negative impact that device addiction may have on our lives, interfering with our engagement with the real world. This concern is shared even by developers of smartphone software, who have introduced tools to allow users to limit their exposure to their devices, which are categorized under the umbrella term “digital wellbeing.” Such tools are available on both Android and iOS devices, and while their presence may not be obvious, digital-wellbeing features are built into the operating systems of many popular smartphones.

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While digital wellbeing features have existed in Android for some time, their functionality has been expanded for Android 10, the latest version of Google’s operating system. While Android 10 is currently only available for Google Pixel devices, the software update should roll out to other smartphones soon, as manufacturers work to optimize the software for their individual devices. Digital Wellbeing is one of Google’s prioritizes for this version of the operating system, and a number of landmark features have been introduced. For instance, users can enable a so-called “Focus mode,” which disables certain apps deemed to be distracting, and users can also set a maximum amount of time they’re allowed to use each app per day. Additionally, Android 10 introduces a “wind down” mode, which is designed to help users fall asleep at the end of the day by switching the screen to a less-engaging grayscale mode and turns on Do Not Disturb. Android 10 users can also view the amount of time they spend using each app in the Settings menu, and see which apps are occupying the most of their time.

iPhone users, too, have access to tools that are meant to improve their relationship with technology. iOS 12 includes a mode called “Screen Time” which, like its Android counterpart, allows users to view statistics about how often and for how long they use particular apps. This mode also allows users to view the number of times they’ve picked up their phone as well as the time of day they’re most frequently active on their devices. Both operating systems allow users to create limits on how long they use their phones, but whereas Android allows users to set limits on an app-by-app basis, iOS users are only able to set limits by category. iPhones running iOS 12 also have a “Bedtime mode” feature, which dims the display of the lock screen at night to prevent your phone from waking you up when it’s on your nightstand.

Both operating systems allow users to create limits on how long they use their phones

In addition to specialized tools built into their operating systems, Google offers advice for how to ensure the way you’re using your devices is healthy and positive. The company has a page inviting users to reflect on their technology habits, encouraging them to “take the first step toward understanding your relationship with tech, and get tips and tools to help your digital well-being.” This page presents visitors with a quiz, asking them questions about their usage of technology and whether it interferes with their other obligations, whether those are related to work, family, or friends. The company recommends users take advantage of the Google Assistant, which allows people to interact with their phone using only their voice, to spend more time away from the device’s screen, and also suggests users customize the notifications they receive on a per-app basis to prevent them from becoming overwhelming.

While it may seem counterintuitive to rely on our phones to provide us with ways to limit our engagement with technology, the integration of smartphones into our daily lives is a fact of living in the modern era. As such, these tools are a welcome addition to the smartphone ecosystem, and as developers continue to compete for our attention with ever-more engaging apps, the prospect of enforcing self-imposed limits on smartphone usage may become increasingly enticing.