29 April 2015

Technology Musings: “My rocky first 24hrs with the ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ”

Wearing this watch in a movie theater is not a great idea. Any time you shift in your seat, your watch awakens. When you get a notification — if you look at it — you’ll learn some are small fonts on black backgrounds and not that bad while others have notifications with big white icons and light gray backgrounds that light up a room. My favorite unknown feature was the Apple Activity app informing me halfway into a movie with a forceful haptic jolt and message demanding I needed to stand for one minute out of every hour to remain healthy and I should do so right now because I hadn’t stopped sitting since the movie began. Also, when the watch comes to life unexpectedly in a dark theater, or you know, any other location you might be in that might be dark, there’s no way to instantly darken it besides covering the watch face with your other hand which you should hope is free to cover your expensive wrist computer.

Matt Haughey

I think movie theatres should introduce a mandatory 5-min break every hour so that people can attend to their digital watches. Health is more important that a movie after all!

24 April 2015

Mac Rumors: “Apple offers Developers a Chance to buy Apple Watch Sport”

Apple today began sending out emails to iOS developers, offering them a chance to purchase a 42mm Apple Watch Sport with a Blue Sport Band that has a guaranteed shipment date of April 28, 2015, in order to get them a device to begin testing apps on. Quantities of the watch are limited, and developers eligible to purchase a watch will be chosen by random selection.

Juli Clover
expedited Apple Watch orders for developers

It’s certainly in ’s best interest to get developers working for its newest device as soon as possible, but the reverse is not necessarily true, especially for small companies or independent developers. Spending hundreds of dollars on a device to rush an app without a clear business strategy is not a recipe for success. With a smaller display and different interaction models, the prospect of making money off Watch apps is far from clear. This is likely one of the cases where developers should aim for having the best Apple Watch app rather than the first.

20 April 2015

stratechery: “Tidal and the Future of Music”

This is why, by the way, I’m generally quite unsympathetic to artists belly-aching about how unfair their labels are. Is it unfair that all of the artists who don’t break through are not compelled to repay the labels the money that was invested in them? No one begrudges venture capitalists for profiting when a startup IPOs, because that return pays for all the other startups in the portfolio that failed.

In fact, this gets to the first reason why labels are still relevant: although the distribution function has gradually gone away (although, CDs still made up over 50% of all album sales in 2014), the venture capital function of record labels remains. Apple, Spotify, et al are not interested in discovering and speculatively funding new artists; it’s a difficult and specialized job and the labels are quite good at it. And, like the best sort of VCs, record labels don’t just provide money but also guidance in both an artist’s sound and their business dealings.

Ben Thompson

Interesting analogy: music labels invest in a wide range of artists in the hope some (maybe even one) will become the big breakthrough that will cover the costs for the rest.

19 April 2015

R. Scott Bakker – The Warrior Prophet

in Bucharest, Romania

R-Scott-Bakker-The-Warrior-ProphetDupă înfruntarea de la curtea împăratului Xerius al III‑lea, Războiul Sfânt începe în sfârșit lungul marș către Shimeh prin teritoriul Kian. Dar, odată ce opoziția împăratului rămâne în urmă, orgoliile se reaprind printre conducătorii Inrithi și rândurile lor se sparg. La prima încleștare cu armatele Fanim, prințul Saubon, la sfatul ‘profetic’ al lui Kellhus, atacă de unul singur și smulge o victorie neașteptată pe câmpiile Mengedda, locul în care fusese distrus Non‑Zeul în urmă cu două mii de ani. Cu fiecare etapă, Oamenii Fildeșului avansează cu pierderi mari și își varsă furia divină asupra orașelor cucerite, trecându‑le prin foc și sabie. Iar în rândurile lor, Kellhus își extinde neîncetat influența, atât asupra războinicilor de rând cât și asupra Numelor Mari care‑și pleacă urechea la sfaturile lui, adoptând cu umilință aparentă supranumele de Profet-Războinic.

Continuând imediat evenimentele din The Darkness that Comes Before, a doua parte păstrează ritmul alert și răsturnările de situație, în timp ce nivelul de violență crește semnificativ. Devin ceva obișnuit scenele în care protagonistul moare la final, inclusiv personaje secundare destul de importante până atunci. Pe lângă aceste morți personale, fiecare bătălie redată în abundență de detalii curmă la rândul ei mii de vieți din ambele tabere. Dacă înainte raportul de forțe magice între Școli rămăsese la stadiul de aluzie și amenințare, acum avem parte de înfruntări deschise între magi, însoțite de distrugere la o scară fără precedent.

17 April 2015

Google Chrome Blog: “Search and browse faster with the latest Chrome for iOS”

Chrome 42 for iOS new pull-to-refresh action

Many people whip out their phones throughout the day to check something quickly—get a weather forecast, check what time the Giants game is, find out who guest starred on Mad Men last night. And that’s true for the many millions of you who use Chrome on iOS, so we’ve made our latest version even faster for the things you do every day.

Just pull down on any page to reload, open, or close tabs with one swipe. Pull straight down to reload, pull down and left to open a new tab, or pull down and right to close a tab.

AbdelKarim Mardini

An interesting extension of the pull-to-refresh gesture that has become so common-place on iOS. It reminds me a little of the mouse gestures originating from and later adapted by several extensions. On the other hand, I found this feature confusing: my mobile habits told me to release the trigger vertically (refresh) or to tap the new buttons (nothing happens), not to swipe left/right while dragging. I figured it out only after watching the animation from the blog post. It’s not good design if you have to explain it…

14 April 2015

Official Gmail Blog: “Google Calendar for iPhone. It’s about time”

Today we’re bringing the new Google Calendar to iPhone.

Just like on Android, you’ll get the following features:

  • Events from Gmail, which turn emails into Calendar events automatically
  • Assists, which make suggestions that save you time creating events
  • Schedule View, which makes your calendar easy to scan and lovely to look at
Robin Züger

Google Calendar for iOS birthday notificationThe Twitterverse welcomed this announcement with a small burst of enthusiasm about a month ago, so that I reluctantly decided to test the app for myself. It offers some advantages over the stock app, but those are relatively few and of small importance. The default ‘Schedule’ view shows a beautiful list of upcoming events, color-coded by source calendar and complemented by external images – for example pictures of your destination, if you have a trip planned. You can set custom reminders for all-day events in the settings, something still hasn’t managed to offer after 8 (!) versions of iOS. Birthday notifications also include the person’s age – probably only when his or hers year of birth is added to the contact. And the wide selection of colors available for calendars is a very nice touch, giving the app a playful tone so like Google.

Nielsen Norman Group: “Icon Usability”

Icons Need a Text Label

To help overcome the ambiguity that almost all icons face, a text label must be present alongside an icon to clarify its meaning in that particular context. (And even if you’re using a standard icon, it’s often safer to include a label, especially if you slightly altered the icon to match your aesthetic preferences or constraints.)

Icon labels should be visible at all times, without any interaction from the user. For navigation icons, labels are particularly critical. Don’t rely on hover to reveal text labels: not only does it increase the interaction cost, but it also fails to translate well on touch devices.

Aurora Bedford

I remember when, a while back, Gmail introduced a new design replacing the text labels on the buttons with icons. Suffice to say, people were not pleased! So much so, that the Gmail team was forced to add back the option to show text labels in the web interface. Even so, some ambiguity persists in the all-too similar icons for ‘Back’ and ‘Reply’.Gmail buttons icon vs. text

13 April 2015

The New York Times: “Apple Watch Review: Bliss, but Only After a Steep Learning Curve”

What’s more, unlike previous breakthrough Apple products, the Watch’s software requires a learning curve that may deter some people. There’s a good chance it will not work perfectly for most consumers right out of the box, because it is best after you fiddle with various software settings to personalize use. Indeed, to a degree unusual for a new Apple device, the Watch is not suited for tech novices. It is designed for people who are inundated with notifications coming in through their phones, and for those who care to think about, and want to try to manage, the way the digital world intrudes on their lives.

Finding nirvana with the watch involves adjusting your notification settings on your phone so that your wrist does not constantly buzz with information that doesn’t make sense on the Watch — like Facebook status updates, messages from Snapchat, or every single email about brownies in the office kitchen. Apple’s notification settings have long been unduly laborious; battling them while your hand is buzzing off the hook is an extra level of discomfort.

Farhad Manjoo

So the Watch’s main selling point is that it will force people to adjust their notification settings, to not be overwhelmed by the constant buzzing on the wrist? What an indispensable device!

11 April 2015

Lefsetz Letter: “More Tidal”

Tidal’s flaw is it is not user-friendly. All it’s got is a bunch of stars crowing about getting screwed and taking power and a few exclusives which are readily available where people now consume music, i.e. YouTube and BitTorrent. We’ve already seen this movie before. Put the content in a walled garden, tell people to be honest and support rich people, and they ignore this willy-nilly and steal to their hearts’ content, assuming they’re paying attention at all.

And the disconnect is…

We’ve got uber-rich artists complaining they’re just not making enough.

And a plethora of unknown wannabes saying the same thing.

And you wonder why people are confused and turned-off.

Bob Lefsetz

Tidal high fidelity music streaming

Fragmenting the streaming offering by launching exclusives on Tidal and pulling back music from competing services will only push people back to pirating music. Tidal is like bankers saying to people: pay your interest on time so that they can get fat bonuses and buy more yachts.

08 April 2015

Going mobile – ‘Bigger is Better’ edition

As my first was quickly approaching old age (three years is probably about fifty in mobile years), it was high time to get a replacement. I still don’t like Android, mainly because of the jarring design that doesn’t look any better after going Material. And Windows Phone, while appealing, still lacks the high-quality multitude of apps I’ve come to enjoy as iOS user. The choice of ecosystem was made, but what about the hardware? Spoiled by rumors of a larger iPhone, I skipped buying the 5S and waited until the launch of the 6 line last autumn. I wasn’t overly excited about the new look of the iPhone, especially the protruding camera and the weird stripes along the back, and many shared this critique. Even so, wanting a larger iPhone left me with little choice, so, after a long wait as the constrained supplies made their way to my carrier in Romania, I purchased a ‘space grey’ iPhone 6.

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 4 box
The iPhone 6: larger than the box of the iPhone 4S

04 April 2015

The Atlantic: “What ISIS Really Wants”

Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy. But Zarqawi and the state he spawned take the position that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. Being a Shiite, as most Iraqi Arabs are, meets the standard as well, because the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. (The Islamic State claims that common Shiite practices, such as worship at the graves of imams and public self-flagellation, have no basis in the Koran or in the example of the Prophet.) That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.

Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.

Graeme Wood

Complementing the report on how ISIS started, this long and well-researched article goes the other way, searching for ISIS’ ultimate goals and fate. Short answer: to bring about the End of Days in a final battle with the armies of Rome.

03 April 2015

Google Chrome Blog: “More Chromebooks, for everyone”

A little bit more...

This summer, ASUS will launch a new type of Chrome device: the Chromebit. Smaller than a candy bar, the Chromebit is a full computer that will be available for less than $100. By simply plugging this device into any display, you can turn it into a computer. It’s the perfect upgrade for an existing desktop and will be really useful for schools and businesses.

Katie Roberts-Hoffman

An interesting idea, that would (almost) tempt me to try ChromeOS. I suspect the prices will go down even more and, probably in a couple of years, will simply offer Chromebits for free (ad-supported, of course).