Twitter for Mac is Not a Good Mac App

I don’t know how to blame here, Twitter or Apple, but the Twitter app for Mac is really rough in its current form. Text editing specifically is really hard to justify and is not what I would expect from any app on the Mac.

My 10 Favorite Albums of the Decade

It’s the end of the decade and I love lists, so today I’m starting a series of lists about my favorite things. Today we’re looking at my favorite albums of the past 10 years. What I learned more than anything with making this list is that 2010 and 2011 were more amazing than I gave them credit for at the time. 7 of the 10 albums below came out in those two years!

Alway, I hope you like the list and check out one or two of these that you haven’t listened to yet.

1: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West (2010)

Audacious, bold, confident, vulnerable…there are a million ways to describe this record, but to me it’s an artist at his peak in terms of talent and fame getting so many things to fall into place perfectly.

It’s been almost 10 years since I first heard this album and it just has countless moments that still haunt me. Nicki Minaj’s opening poem on Dark Fantasy, the horns at the start of All of the Lights, the energy behind Power, Nicki Minaj again with an absolutely killer verse on Monster, the quiet piano and drop on Runaway, Bon Iver’s crooning on Lost in the World, and more.

For all the hate Kanye gets for being an egomaniac (and he is one) he’s also an amazing collaborator who gets the most out of his partners. It wasn’t just this record, it’s basically all of them, but this one stands out to me as a simply untouchable record on every front.

Even the lead up to this album was perfect! Kanye had a thing called “G.O.O.D. Fridays” where he dropped a couple songs each Friday for months leading up to the album. Some of those songs were b-sides, others were straight from the album, and others were alternate takes on album tracks. It was a great build up to the full album which exceeded my already lofty expectations.

This isn’t just my favorite record of the decade, it’s my favorite record of all time.

#2: The Suburbs – Arcade Fire (2010)

The Suburbs won album of the year at the 2011 Grammys and it was a bit of a shock to a lot of people, but the award was well-deserved as the band put out an epic and beautiful record that was so good that it refused to be ignored.

2003’s Funeral might be the best album of the 2000s and The Suburbs was a remarkable way to kick off this new decade. I wouldn’t count these guys from putting out another classic in the next decade either.

#3: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – M83 (2011)

This album would almost make the list for the first 30 seconds of Midnight City alone. But M83 delivers over the 22 tracks here with an experience like none other. It’s a perfect double album that ebbs and flows perfectly through its 73 minute run time. If you’re taking a long drive at night, put this on and listen from start to finish.

#4: Bon Iver – Bon Iver (2011)

Justin Vernon has evolved throughout his career and his 2 albums after this took a different tone, but his self titled sophomore album holds a very special place in my heart. As opposed to the three relatively epic albums above, the 39 minutes on this 10 track record are decidedly intimate.

#5: Departing – The Rural Alberta Advantage (2011)

Speaking of smaller, more intimate records, the 33 minute Departing by The Rural Albert Advantage is hit after hit after hit. This is a perfect winter record about small town life.

#6: Trouble Will Find Me – The National (2013)

This album wasn’t necessarily one I knew would be on this list when I started making it, but the more I listen back to this record the more I adore it. I can’t quite explain it, but the instrumentation, writing, and vocal delivery, all come together in a perfect album.

#7: E•MO•TION – Carly Rae Jepsen (2015)

So I was a little late to the Jepsen train. Despite coming out in 2015, I never really listened to this until 2018 and holy shit this is amazing! The singles are some of the best pop songs of the decade and even the deeper cuts like Boy Problems and Warm Blood hold up as pop masterpieces on their own. You can’t really count it, but the 8 tracks on E•MO•TION Side B released one year later just adds to an artist who was just on fire. 2019’s Dedicated is pretty great too…

#8: The Winter of Mixed Drinks – Frightened Rabbit (2010)

Frightened Rabbit songs have always had dour lyrics surrounded by celebratory music, and 2010’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks leans into this perfectly. Sadly, the sadness and desparation expressed in this music was not just an act, as frontman Scott Hutchison committed suicide in May 2018 which makes you look at their entirely discography in a new light. It’s hard to listen to this music today, but it’s impossible to forget.

#9: Celebration Rock – Japandrois (2012)

When your album is 8 songs, each one needs to hit and Japandroids have nothing but hits on this record. In fact, I’d say the last 3 songs (Younger Us, The House That Heaven Built, and Continuous Thunder) are the best 3 three song stretch on any record of the decade. This album is pure joy for all 35 minutes of its short runtime.

#10: This is Happening – LCD Soundsystem (2010)

The drop on Dance Yrself Clean, the wailing guitar riff on All I Want, the desperation in I Can Change, the meta brilliance of You Wanted a Hit, and the “AhhhhAaaaaaaaaa” on Home, there are tons of moments I can’t forget from LCD Soundsystem’s first “last” album.

Honorable Mentions

Cutting down a decade of music into 10 albums is incredibly hard and it necessitates omitting some of your favorites, so here are some of the other albums that just missed the list but I also think you should check out:

  • Here and Nowhere Else – Cloud Nothings (2014)
  • Care – How To Dress Well (2016)
  • To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar (2015)
  • Belong – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (2011)
  • Random Access Memories – Daft Punk (2013)
  • AM – Arctic Monkeys (2013)
  • Sound Kapital – Handsome Furs (2011)
  • In Our Heads – Hot Chip (2012)
  • Evil Friends – Portugal. The Man (2013)
  • They Want My Soul – Spoon (2014)
  • Heard it in a Past Life – Maggie Rogers (2019)
  • Assume Form – James Blake (2019)

When it Comes to Performance, iPhone is Still King

Finding things you can test on iPhones and Android devices is kinda tricky. App launch times, while relevant to overall sense of speed, does not really test performance, and many of the apps that I could use to test an iPhone’s performance don’t run on Android.

Given this, there are 6 total tests I felt I could run that were a fair comparison of speed. I broke the tests in to 3 segments:

Segment 1: I ran 3 browser benchmarks back-to-back, and then immediately ran Geekbench 5’s CPU benchmark. This was in an effort to get a sustained load on the phones and see which held up better.

  1. Run JetStream 2
  2. Run MotionMark
  3. Run Speedometer
  4. Run Geekbench 5 CPU benchmark

Segment 2: Take 10 HDR photos in Adobe Lightroom, add a preset profile to each one, and export the photos to the camera roll. I only timed the export part.

Segment 3: Export a 31 second video in Adobe Rush using all of the sample clips included in the app when you first download it.

Segment 1: Benchmark apps

In all cases, the iPhone 11 Pro demolished the Pixel 4. I’ll also add that the Pixel got noticeably warm by the third run, while the iPhone never felt like it was breaking a sweat.

Also relevant info, I let both phones sit for a while after this test run and then tried the Geekbench test again. I wondered how much better they would be if they were running that benchmark from a cool state. The iPhone was less than 1% better, and basically within the margin of error, while the Pixel was 21% faster in single core and 10% faster in milticore.

Segment 2: Lightroom Export

The process for this was:

  1. Take 10 photos in Lightroom using the HDR camera mode
  2. Let those process and apply one of my presets to it, which will apply about 15 sliders to each photo
  3. Export to the camera roll

The export was 2x as fast on the iPhone, and the processing of the HDR photos was at least 2x as fast, but I didn’t time that so I’m not sure of the exact number.

Segment 3: Adobe Rush Export

And finally, I installed Adobe Rush, selected all 5 of the sample videos and exported the resulting 31 second video. Again, the iPhone destroyed in this test, exporting 3x faster than the Pixel.

Takeaway

This is nothing we already know, the iPhone continues to have a massive lead in CPU and GPU performance over the competition. And while tests like this can be dismissed as not representative of real world use, I think the differences can be seen throughout the phone experience.

Take night mode on each phone as an example. These phones take very comparable shots, but the Pixel requires you to hold the camera still for 2-10x longer than the iPhone. Similarly, the iPhone previews portrait effects while you align your shot and the photo is ready immediately. Meanwhile, the Pixel can’t preview the effect in real time, and after you take the shot it requires a good3-5 seconds before the effect is rendered. And finally, there’s video where the iPhone can do 4k HDR with 120 samples per second at 60fps, all while the Pixel caps out at 4k30 and doesn’t get HDR in that mode.

Obviously, many of the things we do on our phones don’t take advantage of all the power we have today, so many things are just as fast on either phone, but if you’re looking for a device that will last you years and still feel good, then the more headroom you can have on day one, the better.

BirchTree is 9! (belated)

I’m so bad at celebrating BirchTree’s anniversaries, so this post on a Tuesday night 12 days after the actual anniversary is gonna have to do it this year.

At this point I have written at this site for over one quarter of my life, which is nuts. This doesn’t even count the 2004-2009 period where I started blogs and abandoned them after sometimes one terrible, terrible post! Seriously, they were bad, and if I thought that when I was a dumb 20 year old full of unearned confidence, I can’t imagine how bad it actually was.

Sadly, because I’m a tinkerer and a “let’s try all the platforms!” sort of person (see my Android endeavors to this very day) I don’t have all the things I’ve posted since October 17, 2010. The earliest post is the first one that ever got over 100 people to read it: Finish the Job (Because Nobody Cares What You’re “Going to Do”)

I finished that piece like so:

The trick is getting yourself to finish that last 10%. That’s where the magic happens; the part where you finish those little details that separate good work from great work. I have no tricks for how to get there; how you do that is completely up to you. Finishing is the difference between talking about what you want to do (which is interesting only to you) and showing off what you have done.

One of the great pleasures of working on a project like BirchTree is that I’m constantly in that last 10%. This site will never be “done” (well, I guess technically it inevitably will, but let’s not get too deep on that…) but I get to show you my work on a nearly daily basis.

Oh, and that project I was talking about in that post was a website called AltStock that I wrote to be kind like The Wirecutter but for iOS software. I built it on Squarespace and it was not amazing (although I stand by my app picks at the time). Shawn Blanc and company took that idea further and better with The Sweet Setup, which I just so happen to write at semi-regularly today, so it’s interesting how that all goes full circle.

Thank you so much for being a part of this with me!

Here’s to next year’s big one zero and many more 🍻

Deep Fusion is Legit

Apple released iOS 13.2 to the world today and it includes a great new bit of tech that will make your low light photos look even better (as long as you have an iPhone 11 or 11 Pro). It’s called “Deep Fusion” and while you won’t see this as a new mode in the Camera app, you’ll start to get better looking photos in medium to low light.

As an example, take a look at the photo at the top of this post; that was taken with iOS 13.2 and Deep Fusion. It might not look wild to you yet, but here’s what a 100% crop on my precious, in-between-the-pillows-sleeping dog’s fur without Deep Fusion (shot in RAW with Halide):

And here’s that same shot moments later with the Camera app and Deep Fusion working its magic:

And because I know you want to know, here’s the Pixel 4 doing the same shot:

The difference is pretty remarkable and even the mighty Pixel 4 can’t keep up with this level of detail (although it does fine in its own right). It’s a relatively subtle update that you might even notice all the time, but when you do, it’s pretty remarkable.

Oh, another reason you might not notice it is because it’s probably off for you! Go to the Settings app and then camera settings. Turn off the “capture outside of frame” option for still photos and then this will work. Here’s to hoping next year they don’t make you choose one of these features or the other.