Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for July, 2011

Researchers Expose Cunning Online Tracking Service That Can’t Be Dodged

Researchers at U.C. Berkeley have discovered that some of the net’s most popular sites are using a tracking service that can’t be evaded — even when users block cookies, turn off storage in Flash, or use browsers’ “incognito” functions.

This is super sketchy. Spotify and Hulu have both cut their ties with KISSMetrics (the company responsible), but more sites almost certainly use it.

Sip, Spit, Grade

Frederick Kaufman, writing for Wired:

Trujillo, Watts, and 18 other coffee connoisseurs will soon sample the 29 brews that have made it to the semifinals. Ten of these sit in front of each judge, in identical white cups with only a number to identify them, meticulously arranged in 20 straight lines on six broad tables. Each cup holds 11.5 grams of ground beans, measured out to the hundredth of a gram.

Austin Citizens Vote To Name Solid Waste Dept. After Fred Durst

According to the Austin Chronicle, Solid Waste Services hoped to re-brand itself by focusing less on wastefulness and more on environmentally-friendly, sustainable practices. In the Austin spirit of innovative thinking, the department opted to crowdsource a new name for the public utility using a web poll. […] The most votes by a wide margin were cast for 24-year-old Kyle Hentges’ submission, “Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts.”

Perfection.

MacBook Air 13″ Mid 2011 Teardown

Such a great teardown.

An aside: I initially thought that the then-rumoured MacBook Air would not carry that name to production, as it seemed like a stupid name at the time. It didn’t fit with Apple’s naming philosophy at the time. Now, though, I’ve changed my mind. It’s a great name that really emphasises two aspects of the product: it’s very light and thin, and it gets much of its content over the air, with no ethernet port, nor an optical drive. It also ties into Apple’s AirPort line.

A Word About Unsolicited Redesigns

Khoi Vinh, former NYTimes.com lead designer, responds to this unsolicited redesign:

It’s a redesign that contains some genuinely good ideas and is executed professionally. But the argument that the redesign’s author makes is not quite so persuasive, mostly because it makes some rash assumptions, misses some critical realities and, perhaps worse of all, takes a somewhat inflammatory approach in criticizing the many people who work on the original site.

Paul Scrivens responded to news sites in general, with Rutledge’s design in mind:

Seriously though, how often do you go to a news site looking for one particular headline that is crammed 2400px down the page? I know I don’t and I can’t remember finding any hidden gems either. […] Newspapers always have one front page article that receives the giant headline treatment. The rest of the articles the readers have to “scroll” and find. Why can’t their online counterparts work in the exact same way?

Via Daring Fireball.

Teaching Your Customers

James Hoffman:

The next time that you complain about your customers it might be worth checking whether they might just be acting in the exact way you’ve trained them to.

Via Alex Beecher, who added this:

Some people are going to be assholes, because some people are assholes. But no one should feel that they need to be.

Wise words.

Whither the Foreign Bureau?

Despite every story making it clear high up that the prime and only suspect was Norwegian, both nationally and ethnically, and several eyewitnesses accounts of a blond man speaking Norwegian being the shooter on Utoya, the Post devoted six paragraphs and the Star a whopping nine over the course of their stories to Islam, Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, etc.

Yet Another Entry in My Series of Poorly-Considered and Ill-Advised Bullet-Point Thoughts

On OS X Lion

  • I haven’t installed Lion yet owing to an out-of-date backup. I’m waiting on a hard drive from NewEgg before I tempt fate.
  • Think of the new default scrolling direction as “I want to push the content this way”. It makes more sense.
  • Many of the transitionary changes in Lion (scrolling direction, dock indicators, scrollbars) all have ways to revert to the functionality of prior OS X releases. This is an odd choice for Apple, as they tend to make changes that they view as improvements, leaving in the dust people used to the legacy methods.
  • The new login screen is bordering on hideous, but the unlock screen (which uses the user’s desktop picture instead of the ubiquitous linen pattern) is beautiful.
  • I dislike the new iCal for how horrible the faux leather texture looks, but I dislike Address Book even more. It doesn’t resemble any real address book I’ve ever seen. It’s a usability nightmare. The stack of pages on either side never changes, the hanging bookmark is a button to show groups (as one would, of course, expect), and one can’t actually flip through the “book”.

On Google+

  • Google+ is an odd rethinking of the typical user privacy model. Usually, person A requests permission to see person B’s information. Person B can accept or deny this request. On Google+, it’s almost the inverse. Person A adds person B to their whitelist, and person B gets a notification that person A is now sharing their content. Person B can choose to share their content with person A or not, but person B can now view person A’s content without requesting it.

The Siracusa Review

Doesn’t get better or more detailed than this, folks. The whole review is a must-read, but I’ve pasted in some of the best segments:

Lion no longer includes Rosetta, even as an optional install. […] [I]t’s hard to understand why Apple would remove an existing, completed feature that helped so many people.

Putting it all together, Apple says you’re allowed to run up to three copies of Lion—one real, two inside virtual machines—on every Mac that you own, all for the low, low price of $29. Not a bad deal.

Address Book goes so far in the direction of imitating a physical analog that it starts to impair the identification of standard controls. The window widgets, for example, are so integrated into the design that they’re easy to overlook. And as in iCal, the amazing detail of the appearance implies functionality that doesn’t exist. Pages can’t be turned by dragging, and even if they could, the number of pages on either side of the spine never changes. The window can’t be closed like a book, either. That red bookmark can’t be pulled up or down or removed. (Clicking it actually turns the page backwards to reveal the list of groups. Did you guess that?) The three-pane view (groups → people → detail) is gone, presumably because a book can’t show three pages at once. Within each paper “page” sits, essentially, an excerpt from the user interface of the previous version of Address Book. It’s a mixed metaphor that sends mixed signals.

One of the first things experienced Mac OS X users will notice upon first using Lion is that running applications no longer have a dot below them in the Dock. As with nearly all potentially upsetting interface changes in Lion, there’s a conciliatory preference to restore the pre-Lion behavior. [Apple seems to have added preferences for many of the UI changes as a quasi-transitional tool. — Nick]

12 Features Android Handsets Have that iPhone 5 Will Not

More crap from the International Business Times, beginning with item number two:

Over-The-Air Updates

I should point out that this was posted today, well over a month after iOS 5 was first previewed.

Android OS

Well, duh (later in the list, another item is “Open Source”).

4G LTE

I actually agree with this, but not for the reason they cite:

Any phone coming with 4G technology has to bear the highest component costs than any other smartphone coming without it. In fact, 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless chips required for the faster speeds in Thunderbolt cost an extra $39.75, according to industry researcher IHS.

Between its display, use of glass, and its precision construction, Apple hasn’t exactly skimped out on component or manufacturing costs with the iPhone 4.

Many of the remaining features in this list are the sorts of things Apple wouldn’t include with the phone unless there were a built-in function for them. Take a front-facing camera for starters. Apple didn’t add it until the fourth-generation iPhone because they didn’t have an out-of-the-box use for one.

The (anonymous) authour of this story also clearly doesn’t read the International Business Times, because many of the points in the post are in direct contradiction to those published yesterday by another anonymous writer.

Utter crap.

Chosen

“A Javascript select thingy”. In the developer’s words:

Chosen is a javsacript plug-in makes long, unwieldy select boxes much more user-friendly. It is currently available in both jQuery and Prototype flavors.

Via Jesse Dodds.

Clarendon Text

An all-new redraw of one of my favourite typefaces. Canada Type did this one; they’re particularly good at this sort of thing, having redrawn Signum (1955), renamed Trump Gothic. Starting at just $25, too (but that’s for the weak TrueType versions; it’s $40 for each weight in OpenType, which you want).

Via Khoi Vinh.

Survival of the Flattest

Last.fm’s data shows that the loudness war is compressing music far beyond where it previously has been. Some artists are bucking the trend — their data shows that both Moby and Beyoncé have become more dynamic over time, not less.