Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for October, 2011

RIM Delays PlayBook Update

Research In Motion Ltd. has delayed the launch of an updated operating system for its PlayBook tablet until February 2012, […] Many have been looking forward to the updated PlayBook OS 2.0 because it was expected to include the native e-mail application and other features that were notably missing when the PlayBook launched

It’s just one thing after another for RIM. Their stocks have dropped over 60% since the beginning of the year.

RIM said that not only will the updated OS not be released until early next year, but the update will not even include one of RIM’s signature products: BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM.

Seriously?

RIM Faces Lawsuit Over BlackBerry Outage

The Globe and Mail:

Based on his data plan, which costs $25 a month, the lawsuit claims he is individually owed $1.25 for the one-and-a-half days he did not have service. Potentially hundreds of thousands of others are owed similar amounts across Canada, the lawsuit claims.

On the one hand, suing for $1.25 apiece in a potential class lawsuit seems frivolous. On the other, there’s no way he could ask for more unless he could prove the outage caused a loss of a certain monetary amount.

At this point, a keen observer would note that routing all cellular services through a third party has significant downsides.

Mike Elgan: Idiot

Ben Brooks points out that Mike Elgan thinks “the iPhone 4S kind of sucks”, but that Elgan fails to come up with valid reasons why.

Ben Brooks: smart cookie.

Mango Tango Skype Hype

No seriously, Microsoft’s purchase of Skype seems to have evolved into a video calling product dubbed “Tango”, incorporated into Mango. In a glaring oversight, the Lumina 800 (dubbed “the first real Windows phone” by Nokia) does not have a front-facing camera.

Nokia Announces the Lumia 800

This is one incredible looking phone. I’m a massive fan of Windows Phone 7 and Nokia’s industrial design. To see them together is an exercise in minimalist beauty. I do have complaints, naturally: the use of plastic instead of anodized aluminum makes sense from a reception point of view, but it doesn’t feel as nice. Also, the Nokia logo silkscreened on the front is distracting and unnecessary.

Those minor quibbles aside, if you’re looking for a smartphone that isn’t an iPhone, take a look at one of these.

Slide to Unlock? Patented!

The United States Patent & Trademark Office this morning issued a patent grant to Apple pertaining to the familiar Slide to Unlock gesture. Remember, the now ubiquitous sliding move debuted on the original iPhone as a fun way to keep your device secured while in your pocket.

A Most Serious Problem

Yes, another post about how we are failing as an industry. Awesome.

Chris Tellez, also known (to me, at least) as “the guy who often makes my cappuccino”, presents his take on the coffee community. Some of you may remember Alex Beecher’s post from a couple of weeks ago. This is along similar lines, but with unique observations.

The word cappuccino among many of us automatically denotes a drink around 5 oz. made of espresso and steamed milk. […] Yet, if you walk into a coffee shop and see a cappuccino in various sizes, as well as a traditional cappuccino on the menu, there is a subtle change in your opinion of that establishment. If they know what is “right”, why do they bother to serve the “wrong” drink?

This echoes (in a different context) Marco Arment’s post on design:

Aggressively pursue simplification, elegance, craftsmanship, and the highest-class user experiences in the product line. Ruthlessly cut or hold features or entire products that aren’t good enough.

For some reason, this step gets missed all the time across a wide variety of disciplines.

iOS on the Desktop

Neven Mrgan, on where iOS and the Mac go from here:

Processing power will grow, soon and impressively. It’s possible that Apple will consider non-touch-based input methods for creative work as well, though this is a riskier bet. Larger screens on iOS devices? This is the trickiest question, and the one that interests me the most.

I agree. I think Apple sees iOS as their future platform (though in the fairly distant future of, say, 5 years from now). It will be interesting to see what form factors Apple can dream up with iOS as a base.

The Metaphors Breaking The Future

Jon Gold:

But I’m pretty sure there’s not a thing in my physical living room called a ‘Find My Friends’. The metaphor is empty. It’s not referring to anything. It’s just a leather texture.

Agreed, apart from the “just”. I suppose it’s indirectly referencing a paper and leather address book.

I wholly disagree with Gold’s complaints about newspaper apps on the iPad that mimic real-world dailies:

You like your columns and smudged ink. You don’t want to put any design thought into this newfangled iPad business.

I don’t think it’s out of laziness, but that it’s a metaphor that can work. Where this doesn’t work is, in many cases, not the fault of skeuomorphic ideas, but rather a failure in execution.

Gold’s complaints about Newsstand are simply ridiculous though.

Forcing that content into another outdated metaphor—in this case a wooden shelf of printed media—is wrong.

Why? He says it’s because some apps (like The Guardian) are using new metaphors, and forcing those apps to sit on a virtual shelf is shoehorning them. I disagree, purely because the shelf metaphor works brilliantly here. It’s familiar, it works for periodicals (yes, including The Guardian) and clearly articulates its purpose. You know what Newsstand is for the moment you look at it. Angry Birds doesn’t belong on a shelf, and neither does Instagram. But Wired, GQ and The New York Times are all appropriate for the metaphor.

Of course, if the team at The Guardian felt that their publication was unsuitable for the metaphor, they are welcome not to use it. They will be unable to perform background downloads, but they can still send push notifications when the newest issue is available.

He concludes by saying that it’s imperative for designers to “out-innovate skeuomorphism for [the generation] who will never pick up a printed newspaper or magazine.” It’s a valid opinion, and one that (presumably) the designers of Ice Cream Sandwich share. But I disagree that print metaphors cannot continue to work in the future. The phone app icon on every smartphone looks like the handset of telephones of yore for a reason: some metaphors are less timely than others.

Update: Robert Padbury replied to the linked article via Twitter:

It’s like arguing that serif fonts have no place in type [because] the serifs are unnecessary to communicate the letterform

(via Ben Brooks, via Mike Rundle)

Trust Issues

Paul Collins, writing for Lapham’s Quarterly:

Because thanks to an eccentric New York lawyer in the 1930s, [Hartwick] college in a corner of the Catskills inherited a thousand-year trust that would not mature until the year 2936: a gift whose accumulated compound interest, the New York Times reported in 1961, “could ultimately shatter the nation’s financial structure.”

I promise this is a fascinating essay. Grab a mug of coffee, plop yourself on the couch and spend a while reading.

Ten Years of iPod

Apple Computer introduced a portable music player today and declared that the new gadget, called the iPod, was so much easier to use that it would broaden a nascent market in the way the Macintosh once helped make the personal computer accessible to a more general audience.

The now-famous Slashdot post:

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

Smokeshow

It turns out that I am really not in the loop. E-603, one of my favourite mashup artists, has a new mixtape out as of a month-and-a-half ago. So hop in your time machine and set it to September fifth to be one of the first to download it.

May on Motoring DIY

The always entertaining James May:

But I’m getting slightly bored with old giffers saying things like: “Well, of course, in my day, when your car went wrong, you knew how to fix it yourself.” What they forget is that in their day, the car went wrong every 15 minutes.

This applies equally well to tech. The idea that anyone should be able to fix their computer is nonsense. As more consumers have more digital items in their lives, the likelihood that someone will be able to fix them dwindles. Is that a bad thing? I’d argue that it isn’t.

Dead Kennedys Art

A collection of album artwork and promotional flyers created by Winston Smith for one of my favourite bands. I didn’t realise that he was behind the Dead Kennedys logo; I doodled “DK” in my notebooks all the time in high school.

Followup to Steve Yegge’s Google+ Rant

Remember this rant regarding Google+ and Amazon from a week or so ago?

Everyone just laughed at me a lot, all the way up to the top, for having committed what must be the great-granddaddy of all Reply-All screwups in tech history.

I’ll say.

There are some great stories in this followup regarding Amazon and Google alike.

Train to Nowhere

Yonah Freemark:

The fact that the House and Senate have yet to agree on a long-term transportation bill, and the fact that Republicans have shown no interest so far in funding more intercity rail programs using the public purse, suggests that the situation is unlikely to get better for now.

This is likely to put a dent in plans to open the new [California high-speed] rail line by 2020.

Yet another blow for reasonable discourse to the detriment of the public.