Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for February, 2012

Andy Rubin is Kidding Himself

Marco Arment, summarising Andy Rubin’s comments on the state of Android tablets:

His other remarks about “education” and “hoping” sound like he believes that “other platforms” are winning because consumers just need to be “educated” about software ecosystems.

Translation: people are buying iPads because they’re stupid. Nice, Rubin.

Siri, Update This Headline

Apparently Siri is not being licensed — that was a misunderstanding of the actual circumstances. What is happening is that your iPhone will become the brains of the in-car communications and entertainment system, controllable via Siri.

What this article does confirm, however, is that the Siri experience in a Mercedes will be different than the currently-shipping iteration in the iPhone.

Apple Loophole Gives Developers Access to Photos

Whereby “loophole” they mean “unclear permissions prompt”. It’s a good point though: the same dialogue is used to allow access to both location data and the photo library. The solution is not, however, another prompt, but rather a redesigned way to grant (or deny) permissions.

I think a first launch toggle menu with explanations of what the app would like to access and why would be a dramatically preferential solution. Furthermore, inserting a standardised area in Settings to adjust these permissions when desired would also be beneficial. It would be clearer and more approachable than the current implementation.

Mercedes-Benz Brings Siri To Their Cars

This is a surprising move from Apple. I didn’t think they’d license Siri out. The most interesting nugget is this, though:

The Drive Kit Plus will come preinstalled with popular apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and Aupeo Personal Radio. Users can then add and control other apps via their iPhones. Another exciting feature is the integration of a Garmin navigation system that is operable through Siri as well.

I doubt this is something that the Drive Kit Plus enables, but rather is a part of an upcoming update to iOS, since it describes it as something that users can modify. Very cool.

Dodging Regulations

Alastair Coote:

We’re living in the twenty-first century and we’re still getting taxis the way we did in the 1940s. […]

I made an app with the express aim of making every part of a yellow cab journey in New York better. It helps you find destinations, estimates costs, tracks your journey and lets you share the information with your friends. It doesn’t find you a taxi. Because it can’t. You can’t book yellow cabs — the city doesn’t allow it.

We live in the twenty-first century, yet we have to dodge around regulations set around the time of the second world war. This, by the way, is pervasive. Many laws are contextual (think patent laws), and are not future-proof, whereby “future” I mean the time in which we currently live.

Imagine My Surprise

I can’t believe it, but I agree with Stuyvesant Parker:

At the end of the day, to the user, there is no difference between YouTube and Vimeo. Except that Vimeo has always been nicer overall than YouTube in order to differentiate themselves, and now they might be getting recognized for that. Only problem is the more interesting story is the Google/Apple rivalry, so no one is talking about Vimeo.

Good analysis. I disagree that a user doesn’t care one way or the other, mostly because YouTube is synonymous with video on the web. But everything else is spot-on.

Right Versus Pragmatic

An edition of the oft-poignant webcomic The Oatmeal has been circulating like crazy lately. It depicts the difficulties one faces when trying to find a way to legally purchase media. Most people want to pay others for their contributions, but television, music, and movie distributors inexplicably make that process painful.

Andy Ihnatko made an excellent counterpoint (over-emphasis removed):

The world does not owe you Season 1 of “Game Of Thrones” in the form you want it at the moment you want it at the price you want to pay for it. If it’s not available under 100% your terms, you have the free-and-clear option of not having it.

This is absolutely correct. Just because something exists is not argument enough to entitle you to it. But we don’t live in an era where that becomes impossible. Marco Arment has the level-headed response to this:

Relying solely on yelling about what’s right isn’t a pragmatic approach for the media industry to take. And it’s not working. It’s unrealistic and naïve to expect everyone to do the “right” thing when the alternative is so much easier, faster, cheaper, and better for so many of them.

Precisely. What the iTunes Store proved is that, while there are people who are cheap and refuse to pay for anything, there are those who just wanted a simple way to buy music online. Most people don’t mind paying for something, especially when they can get it at their convenience for a reasonable price. End-of.

Followup: BookBook for iPhone

It’s been precisely 197 days since I wrote my original BookBook review, and that seems as good a timeframe as any to follow up with some more thoughts. If you don’t like reading a few more paragraphs, here’s the short version: I abandoned my BookBook.

A short time after writing my review, the first problems started to occur. Its tech specs suggest a 3-4 card capacity, plus a small stack of paper-based products in the inner pocket. Even though I remained comfortably within those specs, the seam between the card sleeves and the inner pocket tore wide open. This did not cause the cards to fall out, but it did impair usability. Pinching into the inner pocket for a bill would often require nimble finger work to avoid grabbing my bank card instead.

Torn seam in BookBook

In addition, the stitching above the clear identification card pocket left a strange, gooey residue on my iPhone’s screen when the case was closed. It could be removed with a quick wipe, but it required removal every time the case was opened.

Finally, the plastic used for the ID card window remained wrinkled, and the case itself was too large to comfortably carry at all times. It fit in a skinnier pair of jeans, but it wasn’t the most comfortable feeling when seated.

I remain sold on the concept. The idea of a phone case with a wallet is a smart one, and Twelve South has executed theirs the best out of the ones I’ve tried or seen. However, I can’t use the BookBook every day. It’s not a finished product yet.

Update

This seems to be an never-ending saga:

We’d like to send over another BookBook for iPhone to replace the one that underperformed. Would that be OK?

My replacement arrived today, and it seems much more substantial than the first one I purchased.

The Markdown Mindset

Today’s theme is future-proofing. In that frame of mind, Hilton Lipschitz:

Markdown is text, just plain text. Its the one format that has not changed over all the years. Oh sure, we’ve gone from a 7-bit ascii code to UTF-8, but all text editors happily handle the old text formats. And when they stop, a small C program will fix it.

Writing in a proprietary format, no matter how popular it is right now, is still proprietary. Any program can open a plain text document, but only some can open a Word file. I’m not opposed to proprietary formats as a rule, by the way, but interoperable formats are more desirable when appropriate.

iBooks DRM Has Been Hacked

Nate Hoffelder:

Reports are coming in today that the latest version of Requiem, an app that removes Fairplay DRM from music and videos sold via iTunes, will now also remove the DRM from iBooks ebooks. It may have taken a couple years, but Apple is now as safe to buy from as any other ebookstore. You don’t have to worry about losing future access to content that you buy there.

I approve of this, not for reasons of piracy or evading purchase, but because it future-proofs iBooks. I don’t think Apple will be shutting down their DRM servers within the next year, or even five years. At some point, though, those books would become unusable.

Every Mobile Social App Site, Ever

The pseudonymous Visual Idiot [1]:

Connect with friends you don’t like, take vintage photographs, read illiterately-authored comments, and much more. This is the app you’ve been waiting for.

Vague comment on innovation, despite never committing to using it.

  1. I cannot find this guy’s real name anywhere to attribute this to.

Please, Keep It Simple

Ben Werdmuller:

In other words, differentiate your product by making it the best damn product of its kind. Anything else is disingenuous.

Precisely. In the update, Werdmuller clarifies that he doesn’t have a problem with brands—Google doesn’t need to be named “Search”, for instance—but the overuse of branding. Differentiation for the sake of creating something different is stupid. Differentiate to create something better.