Dandy Cat

I strive every day to be more like my fancy bed frame: Light, sturdy, expansive, aesthetically pleasing, and tightly assembled with fine Japanese joinery.

A fancy bed frame headboard featuring great Japanese joinery

Title Card: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

The title card for the film, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Brussels.

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles was written and directed by Chantal Akerman. It was released in 1975.

The film was produced by Guy Cavagnac, Alain Dahan, Liliane de Kermadec, Corrine Jénart, Evelyne Paul, and Paul Vecchiali along with Paradise Films and Unité Trois. 🎞

Tales of Castro Woe

Castro, the podcast player app, is the third-party iPhone app I use the most. Podcasts are a major part of my life, and Castro presents them in a way I find most pleasant. I’ve played around with the others,1 but this one has stuck the longest.

Unfortunately, over the last year, Castro has become one of the buggiest apps on my phone.

The quality of the app, its relentless pace of innovation and keeping up with modern iOS technology, and the communication from the development team have become lackluster. I was disappointed to find myself casually looking for replacement apps and just as disappointed to discover that none of them manage podcasts in quite the same way.

I have a few glaring issues with the app. I’m sure I’m not the only one with issues, so this list isn’t exhaustive and may not be typical.

Lack of developer communication

On the company’s Twitter page, which had long been a reliable source of information, you’ll find that their last communication was on March 29. Well over a month ago, as of this writing. Their support account is similar.

Their last app update was released four months ago, according to the version history of their App Store page. It was a small bug fix update (which is, of course, always welcome).

I understand that app development is inherently complex, time-consuming, and challenging. Their lack of communication is surely attributable to the upcoming iPad app and sync service. I imagine (and hope) that they’re hunkered down and making it happen.

However, to allow the currently released app to quietly degrade and not manage the growing number of issues is disheartening. To stop communicating with their users borders on unacceptable. It makes me feel like I’m paying a subscription for an app that’s been abandoned.

This is an unfortunate turn and makes talking with them feel like shouting into a void.

Missing podcast artwork bug

Over the last several months, the main artwork for a growing handful of the podcasts I subscribe to has disappeared. What started with a single show has now infected three. I counted seventeen podcasts with missing artwork while browsing through my History page in the app.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a free show or if I’m paying for it. There was no warning, and there appears to be no way to fix it. I’ve tried power cycling my phone. I’ve tried unsubscribing and re-subscribing to the shows. I’ve tried deleting the app and downloading it again. All that greets me from some shows is missing artwork.

Other podcast players don’t have this issue. Overcast, for instance, shows the artwork in all its glory; Castro only shows a dark square.

A side by side image of the player windows in Castro and Overcast.

Disappearing episode/settings toggle bug

At the top of the playing screen, there’s a toggle to switch between the playback controls and playback settings for the current episode. It’s an easy way to travel between those two screens.

While a podcast is playing, slowly pulling down the shade to show the Queue/Inbox/Library/Discover pages will cause that toggle to shift itself upwards, hiding and making it difficult to interact with.

Pulling the shade all the way down and then moving it back up to show the playing screen again will put the toggle back in its place.

Spacing issue with icons in the top bar of the Inbox screen

At the top of the Inbox screen, there’s a handy row of shows that have episodes awaiting triage. Several of those shows have shifted themselves to the left, obscuring a portion of the small artwork icon. It’s as if the margin between those items isn’t being respected.

This also happens, and more egregiously, in the History screen of the app.

This has been a long-standing issue with the app, or at least my downloads of it, and has followed me over several new devices. I’m beginning to lose hope that it’ll ever be remedied.

A pair of images of an icon margin issue in the Castro app.

Slowing development pace

I mentioned earlier that app development is a complex and time-consuming process. I don’t expect large-scale updates or even small issues to be completed in an unreasonable amount of time.

I want the developers of Castro to live full lives outside of their app work. They shouldn’t be tied to their computers all day, every day.

However, it’s hard to look at an app like Overcast, which received a major redesign a couple of months ago, and not feel a bit envious. While the developer, Marco Arment, has made major improvements and continued fixing bugs, the team behind Castro has done neither and not talked about it.

According to the Credits page in Castro, the development team currently has three people working on the app. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to imagine that three people should be able to accomplish things faster than a single person.

I wouldn’t think of demanding anything from the developers of the apps I use. They’re human beings and deserve time and respect in their work and personal lives. They will never owe me service, coddling, or even a development timeline, even if I am paying for their app.

What I’m ultimately asking for is better communication from the developers of Castro. If it’s slow going with the sync service, fine. Let us know. If the iPad app is proving troublesome, fine. Let us know. If there are bug fixes on the way, fine. Let us know.2 If you’ve got a cool idea for the app or everything is going swimmingly, great! Please tease us with some scant details.

A vaguely passive-aggressive tweet shouldn’t be sufficient. A company that deals with the public shouldn’t be averse to sharing with the public.

I love Castro and I want to continue using it, especially on all of my devices. In the meantime, I feel that many of its users, myself included, would appreciate, at the very least, bug fixes and some sort of indication that it’s not going to be left to wallow in the Museum of Once-Amazing iPhone Apps.

  1. Special shout out to Overcast, the app that got me loving podcasts for their potential. ↩︎

  2. Receiving only an auto-reply email and then silence after reporting a bug is discouraging and unsatisfactory. ↩︎

Title Card: Hot Fuzz (2007)

The title card for the film, Hot Fuzz.

Hot Fuzz was written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg and directed by Edgar Wright. It was released in 2007.

The titles were designed by Oscar Wright and done by VooDooDog.

The film was produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Nira Park, along with StudioCanal, Working Title Films, and Big Talk Productions. 🎞

Title Card: Tampopo (1985)

The title card for the film, Tampopo.

Tampopo was written and directed by Juzo Itami. It was released in 1985.

The titles were designed by Shintaro Ajioka.

The film was produced by Seigo Hohogoe, Juzo Itami, and Yasushi Tamaoki, along with Itami Productions and New Century Productions.

Not just one of the best films about food ever made. One of the best films ever made. 🎞

Title Card: Good Omens (2019–)

The title card for the tv show, Good Omens.

Good Omens was created by Neil Gaiman. It premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019.

The opening titles were done by Peter Anderson Studio.

The show was executive produced by Douglas Mackinnon, Rob Wilkins, Rod Brown, Neil Gaiman, Chris Sussman, Simon Winstone, Josh Cole, John Finnemore, and Caroline Skinner, along with Amazon Studios, BBC Studios, Narrativia, The Blank Corporation. 🎞

Title Card: Casino Royale (2006)

The title card for the film, Casino Royale.

Casino Royale was written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis and was directed by Martin Campbell. It was released in 2006.

The film was produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, along with Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, and Columbia Pictures.

Arguably the best Bond film ever made (so far). Yeah, I said it. 🎞

Title Card: Pushing Daisies (2007–2009)

The title card for the tv show, Pushing Daisies.

Pushing Daisies was created by Bryan Fuller. It premiered on ABC and ran from 2007 to 2009.

The show was executive produced by Bruce Cohen, Bryan Fuller, Dan Jinks, Barry Sonnenfeld, Peter Ocko, and Brooke Kennedy, along with Jinks/Cohen Company, Living Dead Guy Productions, and Warner Bros. Television. 🎞

Title Card: The Batman (2022)

The main title card for the film, The Batman.

The Batman was written by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig and was directed by Matt Reeves. It was released in 2022.

The main titles were done by Elastic.

The film was produced by Dylan Clark and Matt Reeves, along with 6th & Idaho and Dylan Clark Productions. 🎞

Title Card: Rififi (1955)

The title card for the film, Rififi.

Rififi was written by Jules Dassin, René Wheeler, and Auguste Le Breton and was directed by Jules Dassin. It was released in 1955.

The film was produced by René Bezard, Henri Bérard, and Pierre Cabaud along with Pathé.

The 32 minute heist sequence in the middle of the film is astounding and masterful. 🎞

Title Card: The Great Escape (1963)

The title card for the film, The Great Escape.

The Great Escape was written by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett and was directed by John Sturges. It was released in 1963.

The film was produced by James Clavell and John Sturges, along with The Mirisch Company. 🎞

Title Card: Boogie Nights (1997)

The title card for the film, Boogie Nights.

Boogie Nights was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It was released in 1997.

The film was produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, Lloyd Levin, John S. Lyons, and JoAnne Sellar, along with Lawrence Gordon Productions and Ghoulardi Film Company.

This was the first P.T. Anderson film I ever saw and what an introduction that was! 🎞

Title Card: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

The title card for the film, Shaun of the Dead.

Shaun of the Dead was written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg and was directed by Edgar Wright. It was released in 2004.

The film was produced by Nira Park, along with WT2 Productions, Big Talk Productions, Inside Track 2, and FilmFour.

The titles were designed by Oscar Wright.

My first introduction to Edgar Wright’s films and probably still the most memorable for me. 🎞

Title Card: Phantom Thread (2017)

The title card for the film, Phantom Thread.

Phantom Thread was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It was released in 2017. The main titles were done by David Midgen.

The film was produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison, Daniel Lupi, and JoAnne Sellar, along with Annapurna Pictures, Ghoulardi Film Company, JoAnne Sellar Productions, and Perfect World Pictures.

I saw this one at a pre-release screening out in Los Angeles and was able to meet P.T. Anderson after the movie. It was an awesome experience. 🎞

Title Card: The 39 Steps (1935)

The title card for the film, The 39 Steps.

The 39 Steps was written by Charles Bennett and Ian Hay and was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was released in 1935.

The film was produced by Michael Balcon, along with Gaumont British Picture Corporation. 🎞

Title Card: Funny Face (1957)

The title card for the film, Funny Face.

Funny Face was written by Leonard Gershe and was directed by Stanley Donen. It was released in 1957.

The film was produced by Roger Edens, along with Paramount Pictures.

Like many musicals of the time, this film is joyful, exuberant, heartfelt, and silly. 🎞

Title Card: Animaniacs (1993–1998)

The title card for the tv show, Animaniacs.

Animaniacs was created by Tom Ruegger. It premiered on Fox Kids in 1993 before moving to Kids’ WB! in 1995.

The show was executive produced by Tom Ruegger and Steven Spielberg, along with Warner Bros. Animation and Amblin Entertainment.

The opening titles are iconic and always worth watching. 🎞

Title Card: Breathless (1960)

The title card for the film, Breathless.

Breathless was written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard. It was released in 1960 and the French title is À bout de souffle.

The film was produced by Georges de Beauregard, along with Les Films Impéria.

Breathless blew my young mind when I saw it in my 20s and it continues to be an influential work of independent film art. 🎞

Title Card: Her (2013)

The title card from the film, Her.

Her was written and directed by Spike Jonze. It was released in 2013. The titles were designed by Geoff McFetridge.

The film was produced by Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, and Vincent Landay, along with Annapurna Pictures and Stage 6 Film. 🎞

Title Card: Ikiru (1952)

The title card for the film, Ikiru.

Ikiru was written by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni and was directed by Akira Kurosawa. It was released in 1952.

The film was produced by Sôjirô Motoki, along with Toho Company. 🎞

Title Card: Dr. No (1962)

The title card for the film, Dr. No.

Dr. No was written by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, and Berkely Mather and was directed by Terence Young. It was released in 1962. The main titles were designed by Maurice Binder and the animation was done by Trevor Bond.

The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, along with Eon Productions. 🎞

The band that has impressed me the most over the last few years, Big Thief, just released their new album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You.

There’s some brilliance, both expected and surprising, in there. I love it.

The cover for the Big Thief album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You.

Two free FDA provided COVID tests.

I got my free COVID tests in the mail today! I’m thrilled to have them on hand.

Getting them couldn’t have been simpler and took me all of a minute to do. U.S. residents can order four free tests for their household at COVIDtests.gov.

Apple will charge 27% commission for app purchases made using alternative payment systems in the Netherlands


A quick sampling of the most egregious aspects of this new entitlement:

  • This meager dip in commission is a complete negation of the benefits of sending out potential payers/subscribers to external destinations for purchase.
  • There is no ability to also support In-App Purchases using Apple’s payment system.
  • Developers must provide a report to Apple recording each sale facilitated through the App Store within 15 calendar days following the end of their fiscal month.

This all feels childish and despicable, but there’s a clear reason why they’re doing it. Let’s couple this story with a look at the Services revenue from the financial results they published on January 27.

A bar graph of Apple's Services revenue over the last thirteen quarters.

(Image from Apple Q1 2022 Results - $123.95 Billion Revenue by John Voorhees at MacStories.)

Notice how Apple’s Services revenue has only ever gone up, save for the most minor of dips in Q3 2020.1 This is a 26% increase year-over-year. It’s the largest growing part of the company and a booming business all on its own!

Q1 2022 has been their most successful quarter ever. Quite a feat when the world is still stuck in a COVID mess.

I see the motivations behind Apple’s reaction to the order by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) in two ways:

  1. They’re trying to see what they can get away with in the face of mounting regulatory pressure to change how they run their business.
  2. They’re terrified of seeing those bars in their Services revenue start to go down.

A bonus third motivation:

  1. When the chips are down, their money is vastly more important than the developers that helped those bars go up in the first place.

Talk about short-sighted and hostile, but then, no company has ever been accused of being sensible, generous, and kind when they’re working with the sort of money Apple makes. This isn’t surprising—Apple’s long been dragging their feet and expending massive amounts of resources to avoid doing anything that will get regulators off their backs. However, it is a disappointing development.

I’m not interested in sideloading apps onto my phone or any of the other potential demands that regulators may make. I’m on Apple’s side when they say those changes will make their devices less secure. There’s a line in the sand to be drawn somewhere.

On the other hand, it’ll be less painful for all of us if they would extend an olive branch and allow apps to link out to sites where payments can be made, sans required commission. I feel confident that would do wonders to help alleviate their increasing and well-earned problems with world governments, even if it may hurt their bottom line.2

But I guess developers of their apps and users of their products aren’t the most important thing to them, and that’s coming from someone who otherwise values this company.

  1. But wasn’t everything crazy and unusual during the middle of 2020? Regardless, they made up their losses in the next quarter by an impressive amount. ↩︎

  2. But perhaps not as much as they fear? Their In-App Purchase system is well-designed and trusted. It’s far easier to use than any alternative. Maybe they should believe in themselves more. ↩︎

Title Card: There Will Be Blood (2007)

The title card for the film, There Will Be Blood.

There Will Be Blood was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It was released in 2007. The titles were done by Pacific Title and Art Studio.

The film was produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Lupi, and JoAnne Sellar, along with Ghoulardi Film Company. 🎞