Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for April, 2012

Adaptation

Om Malik:

The $300 million investment in the  Nook subsidiary of Barnes & Noble gives Microsoft about 17.6 percent ownership of this business unit. That values this part of the business at about $1.7 billion. Before the markets opened this morning, the Nook business was valued about $900 million more than Barnes & Noble itself.

Barnes & Noble looks like they learned how to adapt in a changing market, instead of fighting it. Contrast this approach with that of film studios, television networks, or Borders.

Quasar

Over a year ago, I wrote a long thing about multitasking. I pointed out the difference between multitasking as perceived by the OS and the multiple functions human beings incur to accomplish a single task, and noted that this works fine on a large display, but multiple windows are hard to use on a small display:

Multiple OS tasks may be one user task on that kind of device, and iOS only supports single-window tasks. Viewing only one app at a time is inelegant and inefficient. If you have an Android tablet, a Finnish company has developed an application called Ixonos, which allows you to have multiple windows open at once. But if you watch the video, it also proves itself as inelegant and clunky. The controls are far too small on a 10″ screen.

Now you can have that same clunky experience with tiny controls on iOS. Also, no apps in the demo video use a keyboard, so it’s hard to see how that will integrate. My guess is that it runs within each application’s frame, reducing the size of the keys.

I don’t want to belittle the accomplishments of the developer of Quasar—this is one hell of a hack. But my point stands: controls become too small, and it’s an inelegant way of working.

“Open”, I Guess, Kind Of

Florian Mueller:

Then Google goes on to complain that “Apple’s request would reveal critical Google trade secrets”. Yes, the Galaxy Nexus source code is described as a “trade secret”:

“Although Google releases some versions of Android through the Android Open Source Project, the internal functionality of Android running on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is Google’s trade secret.”

In other words, Google will publish whatever it publishes on open-source terms, but the software running on the lead device for the current generation of Android is a secret.

Always With the Negative Waves

I resisted posting too many of the dumb analyst reports in the wake of the earnings call because I was trying to contextualize it. The Macalope did it for me:

Long story short, the number that Apple “missed” is the average of Wall Street analysts’ made-up numbers. They have no real idea what Apple’s going to announce; they’re making a guess based on second- and third-hand information. In a rational world, no one should have to explain that Apple is under no obligation to meet Wall Street’s estimates. What people should be concerned with is whether Apple improves on its own numbers. Which it did. Handsomely.

Woz Likes His Lumia

Quoting Steve Wozniak:

“I’m kind of shocked. Every screen is much more beautiful than the same apps on Android and iPhone.”

No surprise there. Windows Phone is rightly lauded for being beautiful, while being criticized for its relatively dated functionality. Woz notes that he still prefers the iPhone overall, and probably for that reason.

Improvements to Permalinks and Citations

As some of you may have noticed, I recently rolled out two small changes to the website.

Citations and footnotes have been improved. This has been made possible through Michel Fortin’s quite excellent PHP Markdown Extra plugin, with a slight modification to change his <sup> tags into <cite> ones. I really am quite the pedant. They should also render more correctly in RSS readers, in theory, and they improve my writing experience because Fortin’s plugin automatically creates backlinks.

The second improvement concerns permalinks. For the longest time, any link log item used the permalink from the day with the post ID hashed onto the end, in the form http://pxlnv.com/2012/04/24/#post-3667. This isn’t bad—it’s certainly usable—but it wasn’t up to my satisfaction. This is changing effective immediately when I begin using the Daring Fireball Linked List WordPress plugin, instead of Page Links To. This has allowed me to create proper permalinks to link log items.

Neither of these changes are retroactive, as correcting the thousand-or-so links I’ve posted in the past year would be a tedious task, to say the very least. However, going forward, all permalinks and citations will be much improved.

If you’d like to find out more about the madness of creating a link log or linked list in WordPress, I’ve written a brief “how-to” guide.

Firefox: Not A Good Citizen on OS X Lion

Alex Knight:

Lion is not a new operating system, so the people at Mozilla have had plenty of time to support some of these innovative features that other third party developers have long embraced. How many more versions of Firefox do we have to go until they build a proper Mac browser?

The biggest problem Mozilla faces is that Firefox is cross-platform, and they’d like to reduce the amount of unique OS-targeted code they have to write. As long as this is the case, Firefox will always lag behind native browsers. It seems Google has done a better job at managing a cross-platform browser. Chrome uses the native scrolling and full-screen APIs.

More Historic Photos From the NYC Municipal Archives

On Tuesday, I linked to a collection of photographs harvested by the Daily Mail from a recently-released cache of 870,000. Now, Alan Taylor of The Atlantic has picked out 53 stellar examples. There’s some overlap, but I trust you’ll love the chance to explore this history. Do yourself a favour and switch the viewer to 1280 pixels wide.

10 Years of Touts

Panic, the raddest little software company on the planet, has launched a new landing page. It’s pretty great, and it includes retina display support. In the process of moving files around on the server, Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser found a bunch of rotating banners for the top of the site dating as far back as 2002.

Book and Volume

If you like the idea of the Dodocase, but find it perhaps a bit too clichéd or fragile, Scott Nedrelow has a couple of great cases that are now in production for the new iPad. In an enhancement over the Dodocase, Nedrelow’s cases include magnets on the lid which help keep it closed, and activate the Smart Cover features. Nice.

Apple Analyst

Apple’s past two quarters have been its most profitable ever. Tim Cook must step down, or Apple is DOOMED!!

This is probably my new favourite novelty Twitter account.

New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant To See

Next week marks the publication of Françoise Mouly’s “Blown Covers,” a book whose subtitle says it all: “New Yorker covers you were never meant to see.” Mouly, who is the art editor at the magazine, describes how iconic New Yorker covers came to be, and also, how some covers never came to be.

These covers are razor sharp. It’s a pity they were a little too risqué to be completed—I’d love to have posters of a few of these.

Optical Lamination, or the Lack Thereof

When Apple introduced the retina display on the iPhone 4, they explained that it wasn’t just about the pixel density. They noted that the panel was laminated to the glass, transforming it into the effect of pixels on glass, rather than under it.

During the months preceding the new iPad’s launch I, like many others, assumed this process was an integral part of what Apple considered a “retina” display:

The second improvement comes from the lamination process they will presumably use to place this panel under the glass. It’s going to look like a live magazine.

Therefore, you can imagine my surprise when I found out that the new iPad’s display is not laminated to the glass. It was one of the only things I complained about after using it for two weeks. Why isn’t the new iPad’s display laminated?

I emailed a few people at Apple in the hope that one would reply. Of course, none did. Idle speculation probably isn’t productive, but I can think of two reasons why the new iPad doesn’t have a laminated display.

The first regards replacement iPads. Since Apple replaces damaged iPads with refurbished ones at low cost to the customer (sometimes even for free), Apple likely takes a small hit per unit. After consulting with a few Geniuses, one of the most common replacements is due to screen breakage. To create refurbished units, Apple usually only has to replace the glass. But if the glass and a very pricey display panel are laminated, the cost of creating a replacement unit is dramatically higher.

The second possible reason concerns the manufacturing process. From what I know about optical lamination, the process is made riskier with a larger surface area. The iPad’s display is significantly larger than the iPhone’s, and with that size increase, the lamination process has a higher potential for failure. Since the new iPad’s display is one of the most expensive components of the device, this is a point where Apple does not want the process to fail, since an unsuccessful lamination would render a panel useless.

Why Has Forrester’s CEO Become an Apple Doomsayer?

Good question. Josh Lowensohn thinks he’s probably just drumming up controversy:

“Without knowing them personally, I would look to Apple executives Jon Ive or Scott Forstall to be CEO,” [Forrester CEO George] Colony wrote. “From on far they appear to have some of the charisma and outspoken design sense to legitimately lead the company.”

Colony, of course, is not the first person to suggest that either of those two execs as potential successors would be a good fit at Apple’s top spot. The big question of course is where this idea that Cook is seemingly not fit for duty came from, and why that’s the question to ask now?

Google Needs to Be Clearer

Matt Peckham weighs in on Google Drive for Time:

If any Google service warrants privacy firewalling, it’s Google Drive. This isn’t YouTube or Calendar or even Gmail — the potential for someone’s most sensitive data to be snooped, whether to glean info for marketing or otherwise, is too high. Mark Zuckerberg may not be entirely wrong when he suggests the age of privacy is over or that privacy is no longer a “social norm,” but we have to draw a line somewhere.

Absolutely. It’s odd, but I trust a small startup like Dropbox not to poke through my data more than I trust Google, because they have so much more to lose.

Steve Jobs’ Plan for the Millionth iMac

Ken Segall:

Steve had already instructed his internal creative group to design a prototype golden certificate, which he shared with us. But the killer was that Steve wanted to go all out on this. He wanted to meet the lucky winner in full Willy Wonka garb. Yes, complete with top hat and tails.

Be sure to check the comments for a mockup of what Steve Jobs in a Willy Wonka suit would look like.

Does Your Dock Reflect Your Priorities?

Proud member of the two-first-names club, Brett Kelly:

For me, the Dock represents a balance between two things:

  1. What I do most
  2. What I want to do more

Left-to-right in my iPhone’s Dock is Safari, Messages, Mail, and Music. That seems to be a pretty good summary of my priorities.1 Via Patrick Rhone.


  1. Tweetbot 2 lives in the top row on the first page, second-from-left. I’m left handed, and it’s where my thumb rests. ↩︎

  2. Yes, I’m back to Tweetbot now, after a brief fling with Twittelator Neue, and a long relationship with Twitterrific. Something about the user interface of the iPhone version of the latter doesn’t sit right with me. ↩︎