Why Force Touch Matters for Accessibility

Steven Aquino for MacStories:

The part that struck me about using Force Touch was how useful it was in alerting me that I clicked something. Clicking a word did two things: (1) it showed me the definition; but (2) more importantly, I felt the click at the same time. Feeling my action was key because it let me know that I’m clicking without me having to rely solely on my vision to know that I clicked. And that’s the accessible part – the Force Touch trackpad gives me yet another cue (beyond the popover animation and sound of the click) that something happened.

This is an extraordinary invention for those who don’t have the greatest eyesight, but it’s something that will enhance the user experience for all of us. Even if you have all of your senses more or less intact, think of the number of times you’ve mis-clicked a button, or dragged a video clip by the wrong amount. The horizontal-to-vertical translation of axes, combined with the abstraction created by a mouse or a trackpad demands a high level of hand-eye coordination. Any improvement towards making this as natural and intuitive as possible is a win for everyone.

Goodbye, IFO Apple Store

Gary Allen is going to stop writing the venerable IFO Apple Store, but he leaves us with one final, beautiful thought:

My final advice is: don’t overthink Apple. Instead, remember Steve Jobs and his boundless enthusiasm and joy—especially  on stage—for what the products can accomplish and make possible. It’s fine to speculate on sales numbers and stock price. But it’s more pertinent to wonder how FaceTime or other Apple product feature can bring distant people together, to help diverse cultures understand one another to make a better world.

I’m glad that Allen has been able to spend so much time doing something that he truly loves, and grateful that he’s shared it with us for so long. But I’m going to miss the site. I read it daily, and it’s a brilliant and well-written resource. Thank you, Gary.

Meerkat and Periscope

Mat Honan, Buzzfeed:

“We want you to see the world through other people’s eyes,” says 26-year-old Periscope founder (one of two) Kayvon Beykpour. “It’s a two-way teleportation device, and interactive enough that viewers can affect the experience.” […]

“The magic moment in Periscope is when you realize you can affect what you’re seeing,” he argues. “This isn’t live-streaming — it’s teleportation.”

It’s amazing that it’s taken this long for this concept to return. Remember Qik? It was an app for jailbroken iPhones that allowed live video streaming and broadcasting to Twitter, albeit without the in-app chat that’s so crucial to the experience of Meerkat and Periscope. What happened to Qik? Skype bought it in 2011 and “pivoted” it away from where the puck was going. Oops.

Making Instapaper’s Tweet Shots

From an engineering perspective, the automatic sizing and spacing is pretty cool. From a user perspective, everything about making a tweet shot in Instapaper is completely invisible and easy. A very clever design.

On Goodwill With Apple, as Currency

Daniel Jalkut has, as usual, a very intelligent take on that ridiculous controversy about whether developers and commenters withhold criticisms of Apple in order to stay in their good graces. But I found this part most telling:

As a company, Apple doesn’t care about individual developers. This works both ways of course: they don’t go out of their way to help, but also don’t go out of their way to harm. When a developer benefits or suffers at the hands of Apple, I believe it’s always thanks to either a wide-sweeping corporate policy that affects all developers, or to an individual at the company whose everyday choices on the job can have a profound impact. An editor who chooses to feature an app on the store, for example, or a reviewer who chooses to notice and raise a fuss about a slightly non-compliant behavior in an app.

There are at least two ways to look at this, and neither are incorrect. On the one hand, it’s great that Apple is made of people who, collectively, generally support developers as a group, but don’t pick on particular developers.

But then there are enough cases where a single individual can make decisions that are so maddeningly inconsistent with precedent that it can ruin any developer’s day. Sometimes, it’s when they reject an app from an indie developer for breaking rules that don’t exist. Other times, it’s when they allow apps from massive developers that fly in the face of actual rules.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: it isn’t the App Store rules themselves that are frustrating for developers, but the inconsistent way in which they are enforced. If Apple wanted to disallow buttons or other interactivity in Notification Centre widgets, that’s fine, as long as it’s in writing and enforced consistently. It obviously limits what developers are able to do, but if there are an agreed-upon set of rules, it’s easy for them to know what to invest their time into building. When a rule is not written, and when it is only sometimes enforced, profoundly stupid things happen.

Beats Gets Even Deeper

Ben Sisario and Brian X. Chen, New York Times:

Almost a year after agreeing to pay $3 billion for Beats, the maker of hip headphones and a streaming music service, Apple is working with Beats engineers and executives to introduce its own subscription streaming service. The company is also planning an enhanced iTunes Radio that may be tailored to listeners in regional markets, and, if Apple gets what it wants, more splashy new albums that will be on iTunes before they are available anywhere else, according to people briefed on the company’s plans.

If I’m reading this right, that basically means there will be three iTunes services available: purchasing, streaming, and “radio” streaming. That doesn’t seem right; I would imagine the radio component would be integrated into the streaming component. I also wonder how soon they’ll be able to offer any streaming service outside of the US.

It’s odd to see Apple in a position of trying to make up lost ground in the online music space. That was the space in which they used to lead; now, they’re playing catch-up to far more established companies. However, the big iTunes brand has already allowed Apple to become an established player in the streaming space in the US, even with their relatively limited offering.

Sisario and Chen, continued:

In a sign of how important Beats is in reshaping Apple’s digital music, the company has made a musician a point man for overhauling the iPhone’s music app to include the streaming music service, as opposed to an engineer. Trent Reznor, the Nine Inch Nails frontman who was the chief creative officer for Beats, is playing a major role in redesigning the music app, according to two Apple employees familiar with the product, who spoke on the condition they not be named because the plans are private.

This, though, is very exciting. I use the Music app all day, every day, and it has remained basically unchanged since iOS 1.0, aside from the addition of iTunes Radio.

Instapaper 6.2 Is Out Now

From their blog:

On iOS, you can enable Instant Sync in Settings to allow Instapaper to send you silent push notifications when you save a new article. The silent push notification allows the iOS app to download the new content from the server immediately, and the result is better syncing between your iOS devices and our servers.

[…]

Saving with the iOS extension just got a whole lot faster! We reworked the iOS extension (again) to shorten the time it takes to save an article to just a fraction of a second. The extension will still show for an additional two seconds in case you want to save to a specific folder, but you can dismiss it by tapping anywhere on the screen.

I’ve been using this for a little while now and it’s completely changed the way Instapaper works for me, for the better. It feels completely seamless. I remember being a little worried when Betaworks bought Instapaper, but they’re doing great stuff with the service and its companion apps.

The Full FTC Report on Google

The Journal has been steadily drip-feeding stories based on reporting they gleaned from a leaked FTC report. Now, they’ve just dumped the whole 160-page document online, for your reading pleasure. Knock yourself out with these barely-refined internal communications written by employees of an agency that regulates marketplace competition. Oh, the narrative arc that awaits you.

If you’re not the type to go spelunking in long-ass internal reports, Danny Sullivan has found the juicy tidbits for you.

The Tragedy Tag

Parker Higgins:

I was looking at the HTML source of a recent New York Times story about a tragic plane accident — 150 people feared dead — and noticed this meta tag in its head:

<meta property="ad_sensitivity" content="noads" />

There are no Google results for the tag, so it looks like it hasn’t been documented, but it seems like a pretty low-tech way to keep possibly insensitive ads off a very sensitive story—an admirable effort. It’s interesting in part because it’s almost an acknowledgement that ads are invasive and uncomfortable. They cross over into the intolerable range when we’re emotionally vulnerable from a tragic story.

Fantastical 2 for Mac Is Now Available

Federico Viticci of MacStories:

Today, I feel comfortable saying that Fantastical 2 is the best calendar app for Mac I’ve ever used. It’s really simple as that, and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t recognize the effort that went into this new version of the app. No other calendar client – not Apple’s Calendar, not Sunrise, and certainly not the original Fantastical – gets close to the masterful blend of simplicity and power of Fantastical 2.

Fantastical 2 fixes my biggest complaint with Fantastical 1: that I couldn’t use it enough because I had to open Apple’s comparatively crummy stock Calendar app to see a full window view. I can’t wait to take this for a spin.

This isn’t a free update, which seems to have rankled a few people on Twitter and Designer News. At $50, it’s definitely not for everyone. But when a company is trying to build sustainable software, that typically requires going against the relentless tide of free or “freemium” apps. Whether it’s worth $50 is up to you to decide. Me? This is an easy buy.

Hagiography, My Ass

Emma-Kate Symons of Quartz wrote a truly abysmal op-ed today, in which she dusts off the tired old Apple-as-religion/cult metaphor for another go-around, this time related to the published-today Becoming Steve Jobs bio. Normally, I wouldn’t link to something so awful, but this bears special exception because not only is it spectacularly unclever, it gets downright offensive:

In the new biography Cook even expands on the theological notion of one body, one flesh, linking himself to Jobs, by giving the startling tidbit that he offered to give a part of his liver to the pancreatic cancer sufferer back in 2009.

There’s nothing anyone can really say to such an article that doesn’t presuppose an adherence to the supposed cult. That is, if I find this article offensive or mean-spirited, it is assumed that I am taking offence because I am part of the religion. Denying that only fuels the premise of the article. It’s the style of writing they teach at the “when did you stop beating your wife?” school of journalism.

But this one sentence could only be penned by someone with a truly profound lack of empathy. If all Symons wanted to do was rabble-rouse, I’m sure she could have accomplished that without resorting to extraordinary personal attacks. Shame on Quartz for ever allowing this to be published.

By the way, if you want a far more clever barb at Apple, John Oliver has you covered.

33733

You may have seen on last night’s Daily Show that presidential hopeful Ted Cruz gave a speech at Liberty University in which he implored the attendees to text “constitution” to 33733, with little context. It wasn’t just selective Daily Show editing, either; publications covering the event didn’t offer any additional context, and Cruz’ official Twitter account didn’t either.

I did some digging after watching this and it turns out that 33733 is the vanity number for a company called Tatango:

Tatango comprises of a team of seasoned retail SMS marketing experts located in both Seattle & San Francisco. Our passion at Tatango is to help retailers solve their SMS marketing challenges, while at the same time building easy to use, yet powerful enterprise-grade software to manage the scale of even the largest and complex retail SMS marketing campaigns.

(My, they sure do want to rank well for “retail SMS marketing”, don’t they?)

So they’re a company that provides SMS spam services, something which Cruz didn’t disclose. Nor did Cruz disclose how to opt out of his SMS spam. Tatango, however, does:

Msg&Data rates may apply. To opt out, text STOP to 33733 and 68398.

Not only do you have to text “STOP” to the number you’re receiving texts from, you also have to send it to a completely different vanity number. Seems sleazy for this company, and irresponsible for Cruz not to disclose any of this information.

A New Way to Display

In the Watch HIG, Apple recommends using black backgrounds for application UIs:

A black background blends seamlessly with the device bezel and maintains the illusion of no screen edges. Avoid bright background colors in your interface.

This doesn’t tell the entire story, though, because it’s likely that the Apple Watch uses an (AM)OLED display.

Craig Hockenberry:

One of my first impressions of the [Apple Watch] user interface was that it used a lot of black. This makes the face of the device feel more expansive because you can’t see the edges. But more importantly, those black pixels are saving power and extending the life of the display. It’s rare that engineering and design goals can align so perfectly.

And from what we’ve seen so far of the watch, that black is really really black. We’ve become accustomed to blacks on LCD displays that aren’t really dark: that’s because the crystals that are blocking light let a small amount pass through. Total darkness lets the edgeless illusion work.

As with iOS on the IPS LCD displays of the iPhone and iPad, the Apple Watch uses the inherent qualities of the display technology to define the choices behind the UI. Black doesn’t show quite as well because, as Hockenberry says, a small amount of light still gets through. There’s no hit to power consumption when the display is entirely white because the backlight is always on, and the subpixels merely change the arrangement of the crystals to vary their brightness. That’s one reason why iOS is basically made of white.

On the flip side, subpixels of (AM)OLED displays are also its backlight, as it were. The colours used in the onscreen content determine how much power is being used; when white is used, it means all of the subpixels in the white area are turned on, which makes the display use far more power than it would outputting darker colours.1 Therefore, the Apple Watch’s UI is mostly black. (AM)OLED displays also typically display colours with far greater saturation than LCD displays, so Apple is also using a lot of very bright colours in the Watch UI.2

I’d love to see the Watch display under a microscope. Can’t wait until the Anandtech crew get their hands on one.


  1. Most Android phones use (AM)OLED displays, so I find Google’s “Material” design language and its use of all-white backgrounds incongruent with its likely deployment. 

  2. In hindsight, this also explains the greater use of bright colours in iOS, and Apple’s focus on making iPhone displays that have a full sRGB colour gamut to reproduce those colours as precisely as possible. Apple likes consistency. Sometimes. 

“He Could Be a Jerk, but Never an Asshole”

Steven Levy read an advanced copy of Becoming Steve Jobs and he seems impressed:

In their new tome, [Brent] Schlender and co-author Rick Tetzeli capture the thoughts of the people closest to Jobs in rare interviews seemingly granted to get the record straight. The subjects include [Jony] Ive, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple’s former head of communications Katie Cotton, Pixar CEO Ed Catmull, and Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs. Others who were otherwise uninclined to cooperate did so at the urging of some of the aforementioned insiders. The implicit message seems to be that although almost all of those people participated in the official biography, they very much feel that the Steve Jobs they knew has still not been captured. Catmull’s authorized quote about the new book is telling: “I hope it will be recognized as the definitive history.”

Becoming Steve Jobs is the anti-Walter.

Walter Isaacson’s authorized bio didn’t just over-emphasize the negative aspects of Jobs’ personality, it grossly misrepresented the way Apple works and thinks. Consider the amount of times in the book where Isaacson portrayed a battle between “design” — as an aesthetic pursuit — and “engineering”:

“Before Steve came back, engineers would say ‘Here are the guts’ — processor, hard drive — and then it would go to the designers to put it in a box,” said Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller. “When you do it that way, you come up with awful products.” But when Jobs returned and forged his bond with Ive, the balance was again tilted toward the designers. “Steve kept impressing on us that the design was integral to what would make us great,” said Schiller. “Design once again dictated the engineering, not just vice versa.”

On occasion this could backfire, such as when Jobs and Ive insisted on using a solid piece of brushed aluminum for the edge of the iPhone 4 even when the engineers worried that it would compromise the antenna. But usually the distinctiveness of its designs — for the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad — would set Apple apart and lead to its triumphs in the years after Jobs returned.

  1. The iPhone 4’s edge was the antenna itself, and it was made of stainless steel, not aluminum.
  2. The “antennagate” thing was overblown to begin with.
  3. This wasn’t some kind of battle between hardware engineers concerned only with functionality, and designers only concerned with the way the product looks. Both designers and engineers at Apple are obsessed with making great stuff. I have no knowledge of how the company arrived at the use of external antennas, but what I do know is that the iPhone 4 came with a much larger battery and a tightly-packed set of internals. Maybe the antenna drove the size reduction; maybe what seems like cause was actually effect. Maybe, therefore, it was an engineering decision that allowed the company to achieve their hardware goal of near-impossible thinness. But we don’t know this because Isaacson doesn’t explain it, or even really acknowledge it.

    Isaacson did not fully grasp this core, fundamental thought: that design is not purely aesthetic, but an all-encompassing term to define how a product works, feels, and — yes, sure — looks. It’s not the thing that happens last; it starts, ends, and accompanies a product throughout its entire development cycle. Beyond Jobs’ personality, that’s what Isaacson’s bio failed to capture.

If Isaacson could not understand what design meant to Jobs, how could he write the book of record about Jobs’ professional life? Correcting that fundamental flaw is what I hope Becoming Steve Jobs achieves.

Update: In his own words (via Steve Troughton-Smith).

With Great Power Comes Great Assholery

The Wall Street Journal (accidentally) got their hands on some internal FTC documents surrounding the Google antitrust case, and they’re amazing. Brent Kendall, et. al., reports:

In discussing one of the issues the FTC staff wanted to sue over, the report said the company illegally took content from rival websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor Inc. and Amazon to improve its own websites. It cited one instance when Google copied Amazon’s sales rankings to rank its own items. It also copied Amazon’s reviews and ratings, the report found. A spokesmen for TripAdvisor didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

When competitors asked Google to stop taking their content, Google threatened to remove them from its search engine.

From a separate report by Brody Mullins:

One way Google favored its own results was to change its ranking criteria. Google typically ranks sites based on measures like the number of links that point to a site, or how often users click on the site in search results.

But Marissa Mayer, who was then a Google vice president, said Google didn’t use click-through rates to determine the ranking for its own specialized-search sites, because they would rank too low, according to the staff report. […]

Instead, Google would “automatically boost” its own sites for certain specialized searches that otherwise would favor rivals, the FTC found. If a comparison-shopping site was supposed to rank highly, Google Product Search was placed above it. When Yelp was deemed relevant to a user’s search query, Google Local would pop up on top of the results page, the staff wrote.

Everyone suspected this. Now we know.

I would never argue that Google is an altruistic organization, or that what they’re doing here isn’t in their obvious business interest. But Google has huge market share, and any company that has a vastly dominant market share has a responsibility to not be an anticompetitive dickhead.

The 160-page critique concluded that Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.”

Exactly. So why did this case — which, by the way, recommended a lawsuit against Google — result in no charges and no suit?

Google was the second-largest corporate source of campaign donations to President Barack Obama’s re-election effort.

Yet another example of just how well the system works.

Russell Brandom Is Contradictory and He Should Feel Bad or Maybe Good Probably

The Verge’s Russell Brandom thought the New York Times was rather harsh on smartwatches:

Could your smartwatch be GIVING YOU CANCER? That’s the claim made by a new article in The New York Times by Nick Bilton, originally titled “Could wearable computers be as harmful as cigarettes?” Editors have already changed the headline to the more anodyne “The health concerns in wearable tech” in the face of substantial criticism, but the problems with the piece go much deeper than a bad headline.

[…]

Bilton quotes a single qualified physician before moving on to an osteopathic physician named Dr. Joseph Mercola who “focuses on alternative medicine.” Mercola has been outspoken on the link between cell phones and cancer, occasionally as a guest on the Dr. Oz show, and has a lucrative side business selling homeopathic products on his website, Mercola.com. He has been the subject of four separate letters from the FDA for mislabeling products or promising health benefits that are not supported by the medical literature. The fact that he’s being quoted as a health expert by The New York Times is astounding, as some have already noted.

Brandom thought Bilton’s article was so bad that he titled his debunking article “The New York Times’ smartwatch cancer article is bad, and they should feel bad”, and subtitled it “Cram it, Bilton”. Cute.

But what about if the Verge was able to gin up page views with its own hyperbolic and poorly-reported story? And what if Russell Brandom were the author of said story? How would that look? Well, how about a similarly snappy headline for starters?

The new MacBook’s single port comes with a major security risk

Perfect. Brandom, or his editor, was able to tie a potential security risk in USB ports to Apple’s hot new product. That’s a guaranteed win for page views.

So, Russell, tell me more about this security risk:

But while the new port is powerful, it also comes with serious security problems. For all its versatility, Type-C is still based on the USB standard, which makes it vulnerable to a nasty firmware attack, and researchers are also concerned about other attacks that piggyback on the plug’s direct memory access. None of these vulnerabilities are new, but bundling them together with the power cord in a single universal plug makes them scarier and harder to avoid. On a standard machine, users worried about USB attacks could simply tape over their ports, but power is the one plug you have to use. Turning that plug into an attack vector could have serious security consequences.

The biggest concern is the BadUSB vulnerability, first published last year. The attack lives in the firmware of a USB device and infects computers during the earliest stages of the connection, long before users get a chance to see what’s on the device or decide whether to open it up.

Judging by its permalink, that link goes to an article, also by Brandom, that was originally titled “This published hack could be the beginning of the end for USB”, but which has been retitled with the more tame “USB has a huge security problem that could take years to fix”.

Now what if the “MacBook” article was found to be wildly inaccurate?

These articles are pure clickbait. The main exploit in question, called BadUSB, was discovered 8 months ago. In theory, it could be used to attack most USB devices, including Macs, iPads, Windows PCs, and more. But making it seem like the new 12-inch MacBook, and to a lesser degree, the new ChromeBook Pixel, has some sort of new vulnerability because of using USB-C is disingenuous at best.

[…]

Gizmodo seems to believe the 12-inch MacBook is vulnerable to this direct attack, even going so far as to suggest that the NSA will distribute hacked USB-C power adapters designed to take over your notebook. But unlike Thunderstrike on vulnerable Macs (see “Thunderstrike Proof-of-Concept Attack Serious, but Limited,” 9 January 2015), the USB port uses Intel’s xHCI (eXtensible Host Controller Interface), which can’t be placed into a DFU (device firmware upgrade) mode to overwrite the MacBook’s firmware. Thus the MacBook itself can’t be infected with BadUSB, so plugging in an unknown power adapter can’t give someone control of your MacBook.

If I were an asshole, I’d use Brandom’s “cram it” subtitle against him, but I’m not, so I won’t. I will, however, point out that staffers at the Verge seem to have internalized clickbait. They’re pretty good at writing it themselves, and pretty good at calling it out. But which side they’ll take seems to depend on the kind of page views they can expect.

Update: The difference between the Times and the Verge is that when the former screws up, they usually admit it.

An Extensive Interview With Tim Cook

I’ve noticed that Cook does a lot more interviews than Steve Jobs typically did. It feels like an extension of his unique style. Jobs was a showman, and enjoyed doing entire keynote presentations on his own; Cook is slower, quieter, and more deliberate in the way he speaks. An interview format suits Cook’s style really well.

Unscrupulous Website Adverts Again Redirecting Some Users to App Store From Safari

As long as App Store links opened from Safari automatically open the store itself, scummy advertisers will find a way to abuse it. Perhaps the elegant solution would be to open Store links from iTunes, iBooks, or the App Store in a sheet, instead of redirecting to the stores themselves. It would certainly feel less jarring than being thrown into a different app entirely.

Force Touch

Thomas Brand:

This weekend I had the opportunity to try out the new Force Touch trackpad on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. The sensation of a physical click is so good I had to turn the computer off, disabling the haptic engine, just to make sure I was using the new trackpad. With the MacBook Pro turned off the trackpad doesn’t move. (Clicking on it gives you the same sensation as pressing on the palmrest.) But after turning the MacBook back on, clicking the trackpad gives you the same sensation as the old trackpad where the surface is depressed.

This sounds almost impossibly good. I can’t wait to try one of these.

Welcome to Macintosh

About a year and a half ago, a few notable writers started to give the vibe that they were a little disillusioned with the state of tech podcasts. First, it was Harry Marks; then, Ben Brooks. And I agreed with both of them: I think tech podcasting was in a pretty serious rut that it has had a hard time climbing out of. The genre has largely consisted of lightly-edited conversations about the week’s tech news between people whose blogs you already read. Yours truly:

I appreciate the craft that [Myke] Hurley and others bring to the space. But a time commitment of two hours per podcast per week is arguably a lot, and I often don’t get the sense that podcasters respect listeners’ time. I will sit through an album from start to finish, and it will take about an hour; a podcast can be twice that length, and if it’s unedited conversational rambling, I will struggle to finish the episode. It’s simply not worth that amount of time.

Happily, I think the tech podcasting space is finally starting to get interesting.

First up is the recently-reimagined Inquisitive from Hurley. The episodes marked “Behind the App” offer a well-crafted, succinct look at the challenges and rewards facing app developers today. It’s wonderful; you should check it out.

But Mark Bramhill’s podcast “Welcome to Macintosh” is in a league of its own. There have been two episodes so far, and both feature great interviews with people you know and trust, edited and put together in a really slick package.

Both of these shows are fantastic. They feel like the This American Life of tech podcasts, insomuch as they’ve both raised the production value to an all-time high. I highly recommend them both.

New NYT Style Guide Now Available

This is the first update to the Manual of Style and Usage since 1999 and, naturally, the vast majority of the updates reflect the changing ways in which we use the English language, and the addition of brand new words created since then. Some highlights, courtesy of Benjamin Mullin of Poynter:

friend. Do not use as a verb, as in friended, except for special effect when writing about social media.”

web, the. This form (lowercase) is acceptable in all references to the World Wide Web.”

iPad, iPhone, iPod. But uppercase as the first word of a sentence or headline.”

abbreviations “…abbreviations popular in online and texting slang should be used only rarely, for special effect, and should be rendered as readers most often see them: BTW, FYI, LOL, OMG, tl;dr, etc.”

Some of these fly in the face of the way language is actually being used, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s particularly interesting that the Times will continue to capitalize camelcase brands at the beginning of sentences; to my eyes, “IPod” looks less correct than “iPod”, even following a period.

This is also the first time the Manual of Style has been available in digital formats. If you’d like to support the site, you can buy it in Kindle or iBook formats using the magic of affiliate links. If you’d rather not give me a slice of your purchase, you can find those books yourself. Jerk.

Google Has Added Human Reviewers for Apps

Sarah Perez, TechCrunch:

Google Play, Google’s marketplace for Android applications which now reaches a billion people in over 190 countries, has historically differentiated itself from rival Apple by allowing developers to immediately publish their mobile applications without a lengthy review process. However, Google has today disclosed that, beginning a couple of months ago, it began having an internal team of reviewers analyze apps for policy violations prior to publication. And going forward, human reviewers will continue to go hands-on with apps before they go live on Google Play.

The most incredible part of this? Nobody seems to have noticed. The only comment I could find about any kind of delay in the approvals process was this tweet, and I’m not even sure it’s directly related. That’s really impressive. I’m not sure how Google is doing this — whether they’re just throwing a lot of people at this, or if it’s mostly automated with a slight human touch — but it’s a target that Apple can aspire to with the App Store.

Bumpy Pixels

Alex Gollner:

When I dragged the clip to its maximum length I did feel a little bump. Without looking at the timeline and looking at the viewer, I could ‘feel’ the end of the clip.

This feature presages the ability for UI pixels to be ‘bumpy’ – for user to feel the texture of application UIs without having to look at where the cursor is. This means that seemingly textured software keyboards and control layouts will be able to be implemented on future trackpads, iPhones and iPads.

This is a game-changer. Imagine how this can be implemented as an accessibility feature, too.

Update: Craig Hockenberry:

The iPhone showed us how amazing touch could be as an input device, [Apple Watch] will show us how awesome it can be as an output device.

To Pimp a Butterfly

I promise this has a tech angle.

One of the most-anticipated new albums this year — Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” — was released a little earlier than anticipated: today, instead of the scheduled March 23 release date. I had preordered the album earlier this month, so I downloaded it right away. Apparently, this was accidental, according to reporting by Lars Brandle of Billboard:

Seems the early release also came as a surprise for some of Lamar’s inner sanctum. Anthony Tiffith, the CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment, which represents Lamar, was less than impressed. He tweeted. “I WOULD LIKE 2 PERSONALLY THANK @Interscope FOR FUCKING UP OUR RELEASE… SOMEBODY GOTS 2 PAY 4 THIS MISTAKE !!!! #TOP”

Tiffith has since deleted that tweet, but kept a few others indicating that he wasn’t happy with the early release. A few hours later, Apple switched the album back to preorder status, and Spotify buried the album deep inside search results. Then, another couple of hours later, I guess all parties involved figured the album was as good as released, so the iTunes copy was put back on sale, and Spotify stopped deep-sixing it.

This debacle revealed why I choose Spotify as a way to augment my local library instead of replacing it. Instead of hiding the record, Spotify could entirely revoke access to it, but Apple can’t remove my local iTunes files. Score one for the old-school local library.

However, this situation also reminded me of just how maddening the iTunes preorder experience continues to be. I’ve preordered a fair amount of albums — because I am apparently an idiot — and something goes wrong every time. A few years ago, I didn’t get the notification that my album was available to download until nearly a day later. On another preorder, I had to do the repeated sign-out-restart-sign-in-reauthorize dance to get it to download.

With today’s release, I am unable to download “The Blacker the Berry”, which is odd because it’s the first single from the album and was made available for download when I preordered. It simply says “Purchased” beside the song, in place of the “Download” button, and does not appear in my purchase history. I’ve tried every trick I can think of, and nothing is working, so I’ve put in a request with iTunes support.

The iTunes Store was supposed to be the saviour of online music. It was supposed to be the legal version of Napster: easy access to millions of songs that can be bought and downloaded with one click. But it’s this kind of shoddy user experience that makes it needlessly difficult to keep supporting artists.1 What’s particularly bizarre is that iTunes is Apple’s most prominent software product for Windows. One would assume Apple would work their hardest to bring the best user experience possible to these potential customers, but the results don’t support that.

By the way, the album is fucking great. You should buy it.


  1. I also recently purchased a few gifts for some friends that didn’t use the credit I had on my iTunes account.