Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for August, 2012

Money Is Only Valuable if It’s Honest

Peter Nguyen:

Last night my mom calls me and we do our usual catch up.

I ask how she is, how everyone else is and she asks me how my work is going.

“I have to tell you something” she says.

Yesterday while picking up some food at a local restaurant, my mom noticed a large bag sitting at a back table with no one around it.

She waited for her food and watched it. Nobody came out of the bathrooms. The tables were empty.

She decided to take a look.

Upon opening the bag she noticed a pile of bank and business related papers stacked on top of neatly wrapped $10,000 stacks.

The slips read the total count.

$600,000

If your heart doesn’t skip a beat after reading this, you need to check it and make sure it still works.

Tweetbot for Mac Beta (Sort Of)

Paul Haddad updates you about an update:

A lot of our Tweetbot for Mac Alpha users have worried about what’s going to happen to them now that the Alpha has been pulled. A few folks have suggested that we release a new version but without the ability to add any new accounts, we thought it was a good idea and have done that.

Good workaround on the part of Tapbots. Also, there are a bunch of nice updates that go with this beta. I’ve been switching between Tweetbot and Twitterrific for Mac for a while now, and they’re both very strong apps.

The Digg Archive

The team behind the new Digg have just released a tool to download user data from the old Digg in json or csv format. I have to say that, despite some initial hesitation, I’ve really been enjoying this new incarnation of the site. I’m still concerned about its future, but I think it’s one of the best aggregation sites running right now. It hits the spot between Google News, Evening Edition, and the Next Draft newsletter.

“Well That’s Interesting”

Speaking of Marco Arment, he tweets thrice:

Well that’s interesting, iPad2,6.

I’m guessing iPad2,5 is the Wi-Fi iPad Mini and 2,6 is a 4G model. And it’s based on the identical SOC and other guts as the 32nm iPad 2.

It makes a ton of sense that the iPad Mini would be an iPad 2 with a smaller (non-Retina) screen and case. And it’s very Apple.

The iPad 2,4 model is the current $399 iPad 2, with the 32nm process A5 chip.

Update: On that note, Arment fleshed out his speculation:

The much more likely explanation is that iPad2,5 and iPad2,6 are the new “iPad Mini” in Wi-Fi and GSM, and I haven’t recorded the likely iPad2,7 CDMA version yet.

If so, this suggests that the iPad Mini is, effectively, an iPad 2: an A5 with 512 MB of RAM and enough GPU power to drive the Gruber Display, but not a Retina Display.

27” Retina Math

Marco-Dot-Org reader Adam Lacy writes to Mr. Dot-Org:

I was reading an article about the new 84” Toshiba 4K TV and it got me thinking about how 4K relates to Retina Display PPIs. I wanted to speculate on the possibilities for the future iMac/Cinema Displays. In doing so I came across some interesting math.

4K = 3840 × 2160

If you work out the PPI for 4K at 27 inches it conveniently comes out to 163 PPI.

If 163 pixels per inch sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s the pixel density of the original-through-3GS iPhone, and the rumoured iPad mini. How convenient.

Since the current Retina MacBook Pro can drive its internal display in addition to two Thunderbolt displays (12.5 megapixels), 4K video (8.3 megapixels) would already be possible in lid-closed mode. A 27″ Retina iMac would be possible at this resolution.

Marco Arment concurs:

It would barely qualify as “Retina”, but if it had a scaling mode to give me the same space as 2560 × 1440 (much like the Retina MacBook Pro’s simulated 1680 × 1050 and 1920 × 1200 modes), I’d take it.

I agree that it’s enough to qualify as a Retina display, but the last time I speculated about a non-pixel-doubled resolution, it proved to be wildly inaccurate. A 4K display at 27″ is both feasible and technically a “Retina display”, but it’s not doubled in both dimensions. That would make a lot of designers pretty miserable, since they can safely assume today that most Retina displays are used at precisely twice the resolution of their non-Retina counterparts, and therefore don’t have to deal with odd scaling anomalies.

Cloud Computing for the Poorest Countries

Quentin Hardy, for the New York Times’ Bits blog:

Unlike the developed world, where speed, agility and cost are factors that make Amazon Web Services attractive, in the developing world it’s good to be on battery-powered phones and servers in California, instead of relying on an often-brittle electric grid. “For Westerners,” Mr. Shaw says, “the whole thing is a little bizarre.”

It’s fascinating to see what advantages these emerging technologies can have in some of the poorest countries on Earth.

Action Movie Gun Clips

Charles Babington for the Associated Press:

Republicans have strengthened the pro-gun-rights portion of their party platform, including a new call for unlimited bullet capacities in guns, in a defiant response to criticism that followed recent mass shootings at a Colorado cinema and an Arizona congresswoman’s gathering.

Two things:

  1. This will make the seemingly bottomless machine guns in action movies a lot more believable, and
  2. Is it backwards that the Republican platform considers gun ownership to be a right, but education and health care to be privileges?

Sticky Positioning

Edward O’Connor writes in the W3C’s www-style mailing list:

Many web sites have elements that alternate between being in-flow and being position:fixed, depending on the user’s scroll position. This is often done for elements in a sidebar that the page author desires to be always available as the user scrolls, but which slot into a space on the page when scrolled to the top. It can also be done for table headers which remain visible after the top of the table has been scrolled off-screen.

The effect O’Connor describes is similar to the always-visible letter banners when scrolling through table views on iOS, and it can only be implemented on the web with a bunch of javascript.

It should be much easier in the future, as Monday’s WebKit nightly build included a brand new position: -webkit-sticky; syntax:

A stickily positioned element behaves like position:relative (space is reserved for it in-flow), but with an offset that is determined by the sticky position.

I love stuff like this. Via Dave Rupert, via Chris Masterson.

Before the Fall

John Moltz reacts to today’s Samsung and Sony tablet announcements:

It’s nice to have choices, but it’s not nice to have confusion. This, I’m sure, will sound like Apple apologist bullshit but while Apple’s derided for not providing choice, it’s very clear what they sell. You want a phone, you get an iPhone (3 models in varying capacities). You want a tablet, you get an iPad (two models in varying capacities). Etc.

There’s a really fine line between providing choice and creating confusion. Apple leans toward simplicity, sacrificing customers who absolutely must have a phone with a five-inch display. Samsung tries to play all the markets. Both companies have found success in their particular strategies, but only one of those is the most successful company in the world by market cap.

Also, is it weird that we know precisely how many milliamp-hours the battery capacity of the Ativ Tab is, but we don’t know the price?

Grasping at Straws

Steven Blum of Android Pit (not to be confused with):

One juror had a very profound affect on the outcome of the Apple vs. Samsung trial – and he may have been biased towards Apple all along.

Woah, this has got to be interesting. Does he have a few hundred shares of AAPL? Is he a former employee still on the payroll? I mean, that’s a big claim.

Meet Velvin R. Hogan, the foreman of the jury which decided Samsung’s fate in one of the most closely-watched trials in all of tech history. […]

A 67-year-old engineer, Hogan has three civil cases under his belt, a 35-year career in hard-drive technology (Memorex, Storage Technology, Digital Equipment) and even a U.S. patent to his name. It’s that U.S. patent which is currently causing a lot of controversy, as it covers a “method and apparatus for recording and storing video information.”

Well, that’s certainly interesting, but I don’t see the connection. Spell it out for me, Steven Blum.

The apparatus also has the ability to offload the video files to an internal removal storage device (like an SD card, perhaps). Filed in 2002, the patent came 3 years before the first iPod to integrate video, which means it could be used in an Apple device.

“Could”? Someone is spitballing here.

It could also have been used in a Samsung device as well (we really don’t know).

Well played, Steven Blum. Toss something at a wall and see if it sticks.

If Blum had taken even the most cursory read of patent number 7,352,953, he would have noticed that it’s a patent for, essentially, a kind of PVR cum smart TV. If he’d read the claims, he would have noticed the inclusion of removable storage media, a TV tuner, and a keyboard. I wasn’t aware that the fifth generation iPod had any of these features.

By the way, Steven, what source did you use for this information? Ah, yes.

Free tip, Steven: if you’re going to source information from Reddit, it’s in your best interest to double-check it before publishing.

Nine Eyes

Tomas Banišauskas for Demilked:

Canadian artist Jon Rafman is an unusual photographer – he explores Google Street Views and takes screenshots of the most incredible sights here. From a toddler left on street to a tiger roaming near a convenience store – “with its supposedly neutral gaze, the Street View photography had a spontaneous quality unspoiled by the sensitivities or agendas of a human photographer,” says Jon.

Banišauskas has compiled thirty favourites from the artist’s collection, but Rafman’s site is full of interesting examples of great images captured on Street View. This isn’t your typical collection of odd Street View photos.

Canada Will Beat the U.S. to a Cashless Economy

Marcus Wohlsen writes for Wired:

Single-payer health care may make Canada a socialist pariah in the eyes of U.S. conservatives. But when it comes to keeping money flowing out of consumers’ pockets and into merchants’ coffers — a key characteristic of any thriving capitalist economy — Canada has its neighbor south of the border beat.

Few in the U.S. likely know, or would seem to have any reason to know, about Interac, Canada’s nationwide not-for-profit debit system. Interac accounts for more than half of all purchases Canadians make using any card, credit or debit — about 4 billion transactions annually. And it puts Canada ahead of the U.S. in the push to create a truly cashless economy.

As a Canadian, I rarely carry cash, since almost everywhere takes Interac payments. The system also works online—it costs me just $1.50 to send a payment of any size, like a wire transfer, but cheaper.

Pinch-to-Zoom FUD

If you were to follow just the standard news cycle, you’d think Apple won a victory in Apple v. Samsung for a patent for pinching to zoom. Matthew Yglesias for Slate:

What troubles me is the verdict upholding the US Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to say that, for example, Apple should have a legal monopoly on the pinch-to-zoom feature which I think is a great example of how the modern-day patent system has gone awry.

Austin Carr for Fast Company Design:

In Apple’s $1 billion patent lawsuit against Samsung, which the company won last week, a jury decided that a slew of Samsung’s mobile devices had violated a number of Apple’s utility patents for interaction designs, including the pinch-to-zoom gesture.

Jeffrey Van Camp for Digital Trends:

Two of the key patents that the jury just upheld were for “pinch to zoom” and “double tap to zoom.”

The problem with these stories is that Apple simply didn’t win a patent victory for pinch to zoom. In fact, Apple probably doesn’t even have a patent for it.

Nilay Patel explains in a series of tweets, which I will quote and link to in flagrant disregard for Twitter’s new rules:

None of the three Apple patents in the Samsung case were about pinch-to-zoom. Let’s all remember that. A lot.

The three patents were bounceback scrolling, tap-to-zoom, and detecting a one-finger scroll vs a two-finger translation.

[The] patent is on detecting a one finger scroll vs a two finger translation. Not the translation [itself].

Patent[s] narrow in scope as they go through the application process. This is what the USPTO let Apple have.

To be fair, Apple could potentially use in a case the detection of one or two fingers to determine behaviour. But if their opposing lawyers are worth their salt, they should be able to defend against that angle. In any case, there simply isn’t a patent regarding the pinch-to-zoom gesture at stake here.

New iPhone Won’t Receive an NFC Chip

Remember these photos, which show a new chip presumed to be one for near-field communication? Anand Lal Shimpi has the technical know-how as to why that likely isn’t the case:

Given the primarily metal backside of the new iPhone, it’s highly unlikely that NFC is in the cards for this generation. In fact, given the very little space at top and bottom dedicated to those glass RF windows, you can almost entirely rule it out.

For double confirmation, we turn to Jim Dalrymple:

Yep.

No need to use any more syllables when Dalrymple confirms or destroys a rumour.

Diagnosing an Oft-Dropping AirPort Extreme Connection

As I noted last week, I purchased a MacBook Air to replace my ageing MacBook Pro. As part of the transition process, I’m trying to lose legacy, unnecessary files as much as possible. To make this process as easy as possible, I have turned on file sharing on my Pro to connect to it over WiFi for a la carte file transfers. Right now, it works great. But if you’d asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would have snapped.

After upgrading my Pro to Mountain Lion on July 25, I noticed that it dropped my otherwise perfectly stable WiFi connection every few hours, inconsistent with any previous task. Even worse, it wouldn’t automatically reconnect to the network. This is a behaviour I had not seen in any of the developer builds of Mountain Lion, nor any version of Mac OS X prior.

I kept track of each of the console messages for every incidence of this. Every single one looked similar to this1:


2012-07-25 5:24:59.000 PM kernel[0]: AirPort: Link Down on en1. Reason 255 (unknown reason).
2012-07-25 5:24:59.000 PM kernel[0]: en1::IO80211Interface::postMessage bssid changed
2012-07-25 5:25:00.402 PM configd[17]: network changed: v4(en1-:10.0.1.40) DNS- Proxy- SMB
2012-07-25 5:25:00.440 PM com.apple.usbmuxd[23]: _SendDetachNotification (thread 0x[REMOVED]): sending detach for device [REMOVED]:5caa._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.: _BrowseReplyReceivedCallback got bonjour removal.
2012-07-25 5:25:00.442 PM iTunes[1364]: _AMDDeviceDetached (thread 0x11708a000): Device 'AMDevice 0x[REMOVED] {UDID = [REMOVED], device ID = 21, FullServiceName = [REMOVED]:[REMOVED]._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.}' detached.
2012-07-25 5:25:01.419 PM awacsd[58]: InnerStore GetWakeInfoForZone: zero address for [REMOVED].members.btmm.icloud.com.

[TRUNCATED]

2012-07-25 5:25:36.000 PM kernel[0]: en1: BSSID changed to [REMOVED]
2012-07-25 5:25:36.000 PM kernel[0]: en1::IO80211Interface::postMessage bssid changed
2012-07-25 5:25:36.000 PM kernel[0]: AirPort: Link Up on en1
2012-07-25 5:25:36.000 PM kernel[0]: en1: BSSID changed to [REMOVED]
2012-07-25 5:25:36.000 PM kernel[0]: en1::IO80211Interface::postMessage bssid changed
2012-07-25 5:25:36.000 PM kernel[0]: AirPort: RSN handshake complete on en1
2012-07-25 5:25:36.612 PM configd[17]: network changed: v4(en1+:10.0.1.40) DNS+ Proxy+ SMB
2012-07-25 5:25:36.660 PM UserEventAgent[11]: Captive: en1: Not probing 'Free Public WiFi' (protected network)
2012-07-25 5:25:36.681 PM configd[17]: network changed: v4(en1!:10.0.1.40) DNS Proxy SMB

The first half of that block represents my Mac instantly dropping its WiFi connection, and iTunes disconnecting my WiFi-synced iPad. Note that the iPad WiFi connection did not drop—it was just ejected from iTunes since the host WiFi connection was lost.

The second half of that block is my manual reconnection of the signal2.

Since I intended to create a small local file server with my MacBook Pro, its WiFi connection needed to be as reliable as possible. I began with the basic troubleshooting steps: doing a quick Google search to see if anyone else saw the same message. I didn’t expect to find many results, but I thought there would be a few. I was shocked when I discovered that nobody else saw the same console readout for their dropped connection as I did (or, at least, nobody complained about it with that same “Reason 255” code)3.

Even though no other computers in my house were exhibiting the same behaviour, I thought it might be a good idea to examine the AirPort Extreme base station logs to see if there were any clues there. However, this was made more difficult than it needed to be because Apple removed much of the functionality of AirPort Utility with the more user-friendly version 6.0.

You would think that I would be able to download AirPort Utility 5.6 for Lion and install it on Mountain Lion, given that the latter is a newer OS. Alas, the installer for it has both a minimum and maximum OS version. I used the excellent Pacifist to pull the app out of the package and run it. To my dismay, there were no relevant log entries.

I rarely install beta software on my main partition, just in case something goes wrong. However, I decided to bite the bullet and install the then-latest build of 10.8.1, 12B17, just in case something was fixed. Comically, a minute into using it, it disconnected. Same reason. Obviously, it wasn’t going to be fixed in 10.8.1.

I decided that the best course of action would be to pull old copies of the drivers and compare them. From my Time Machine drive, I grabbed the IO80211Family kernel extension from a version of 10.7, an early developer preview of 10.8, the GM version of 10.8, and the 10.8.1 copy I had just installed. My hope is that something in the AirPortAtheros40 driver for my AirPort card would be relevant.

Jackpot.

Mac OS X 10.7.x displayed a bundle version of 504.64.2, and the bundle version for the 10.8 developer preview was 600.65.1. Neither of these copies were faulty. The connection dropping began with the gold master version of 10.8, and continued with the 10.8.1 preview. Not coincidentally, both of these operating systems showed an AirPortAtheros40 driver bundle version of 600.70.23.

I restored the kernel extension with a known working copy, and rebooted. My WiFi connection has been stable ever since.

As one should, I have filed two related bugs. Radar number 11960274 concerns the faulty driver, with a system configuration report and all referred-to kernel extensions enclosed, while radar number 12129328 notes that it is impossible to extract logs from an AirPort base station using AirPort Utility 6.0 or newer.

I posted this for a few reasons. The first is to gain at least one hit for this specific issue. As I mentioned, I haven’t seen it discussed anywhere else. The second reason is a reminder to keep a backup, just in case. Finally, I was surprised that this would continue to persist, despite filing that bug (as you’ll note by the console log above) the day Mountain Lion shipped. As far as I know, my radar hasn’t been looked at, and therefore this problem will not be fixed in 10.8.2. My old-ass MacBook Pro simply isn’t relevant enough any more.


  1. I have removed MAC addresses and identifying information, but it’s representative else wise. ↩︎

  2. Yes, my AirPort network is named “Free Public WiFi”. What of it? ↩︎

  3. It’s worth noting that my MacBook Pro is the single oldest model of Mac that Mountain Lion will run on. In other words, it’s unlikely that many people are still using that model, having upgraded since it was released in 2007. ↩︎

Bob Mansfield to Un-Retire

Apple PR:

Apple today announced that Craig Federighi, Apple’s vice president of Mac Software Engineering, and Dan Riccio, Apple’s vice president of Hardware Engineering, have been promoted to senior vice presidents. Federighi and Riccio will report to Apple CEO Tim Cook and serve on Apple’s executive management team.

Well-deserved promotions, from what I’ve seen of both of them. Riccio takes over the responsibilities of Bob Mansfield. Speaking of whom:

Apple also announced that Bob Mansfield, who announced his retirement in June, will remain at Apple. Mansfield will work on future products, reporting to Tim Cook.

They always bring them back for one last job, don’t they?

It Begins

Paul Haddad:

As some of you may have already noticed the download link for the Tweetbot for Mac alpha no longer works. Twitter’s latest API Changes means now we have a large but finite limit on the number of user tokens we can get for Tweetbot for Mac. We’ve been working with Twitter over the last few days to try to work around this limit for the duration of the beta but have been unable to come up with a solution that was acceptable to them. Because of this we’ve decided its best for us to pull the alpha.

Remember: this “consistent experience” is definitely best for users.

Who Inherits Your iTunes Library?

Quentin Fottrell for MarketWatch:

Someone who owned 10,000 hardcover books and the same number of vinyl records could bequeath them to descendants, but legal experts say passing on iTunes and Kindle libraries would be much more complicated.

And one’s heirs stand to lose huge sums of money. “I find it hard to imagine a situation where a family would be OK with losing a collection of 10,000 books and songs,” says Evan Carroll, co-author of “Your Digital Afterlife.” “Legally dividing one account among several heirs would also be extremely difficult.”

These are good questions, but I think that one of the most notable ones regards the concept of ownership:

Part of the problem is that with digital content, one doesn’t have the same rights as with print books and CDs. Customers own a license to use the digital files—but they don’t actually own them.

I think this concept is more contrived than it needs to be. In physical media, one is also given a license to use the files. You are allowed to do many things with a CD, but the music on it is subject to certain rules (copyright law), with certain restrictions. You own the media, but you license the content. One cannot own “Abbey Road” because the ownership of that music belongs to the label.

Since most music sold online today is DRM-free, one can easily transfer that content to their loved ones (though perhaps not according to the license terms, strictly speaking).