Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for September, 2012

Paris is Brewing

Two years ago, Oliver Strand lamented the lame-ass coffee scene in Paris. For a city so known for its cafés, it was truly dreadful:

Maybe it’s because Paris cafes do all the little things wrong: old beans, over-roasted beans, second-rate machines. Coffee is ground in batches, not to order. Ask for a café crème or noisette and out comes a box of U.H.T. milk, a shelf-stable dairy product.

That sounds nasty. But Strand doesn’t give up, and he recently returned from Paris with better news:

It happened. This year, three cafes opened that treat coffee as if it’s a part of the world of gastronomy, a drink to be crafted and savored, rather than a commodity, sold as if it’s fuel.

Three excellent-sounding cafés. Next time I visit Paris, I will have to try them (the one in the First Arrondissement sounds particularly great).

On a related note, The Wirecutter has assembled a collection of the best gear for making coffee. They’ve cut through the crap, and I generally agree with their choices. I have one of the Clever Coffee brewers and it brews a good cup, but I still prefer espresso over brewed coffee. A double shot of 49th Parallel’s Epic Espresso paired with about five ounces of hot water and about two teaspoons of 18% cream is just about perfect.

Dear Chrome, Slow Your Roll

MG Siegler:

This morning, I mentioned that with each new build, Chrome for OS X seems to be getting a bit less stable and a bit more bloated. No big deal, I tend to send such bitchy tweets before I’ve had any caffeine. But I noticed something a little odd in the responses: no one disagreed with me.

In fact, nearly everyone said they had been noticing the exact same thing recently. And it apparently isn’t just with OS X, it’s the Windows build of Chrome too. As the product progresses, for many of us, it’s getting worse.

I switched back to Safari when the developer build of Safari 6 was posted back in February, so I haven’t used Chrome for a very long time in Google version numbers. Last night, I had to download a copy for an art installation I’m working on1, and I came to the same conclusion as Siegler. Typing in the omnibox is slow, scrolling is jerky, and the fakey Safari-esque back/forward swiping gesture is horribly hacky. All told, it simply feels cumbersome and slow. It’s the Firefox story all over again.


  1. I’ll let you, dear reader, know more soon. ↩︎

Naming iPhones

Louie Mantia imagines the conversations that have led to the naming of each generation of iPhone. They should drop the suffixes.

Brace Yourself

Shawn King sounds the alarm:

October 5, 2011 is the day Steve Jobs died. On or about October 5th, 2012, we will be inundated by stupid, pointless, poorly thought out, poorly written articles about Jobs, his death, the anniversary and Apple.

There will be countless articles telling us how different the year would have been had Jobs lived. Remember: only one person knows how, and he’s quite dead.

“Bullshit”

Peter Cohen responds to this particularly stupid piece from Gina Smith:

I’m sick and tired of pundits saying “This is something Jobs never would have done.” There’s ever been precisely one person on Earth who knew what Jobs would have done, and he died last October.

Lewis Hamilton to Join Mercedes

It’s a strange move, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it pays off in 2014 when the new V6 engine requirements take effect. Hamilton’s crew has failed him in the past couple of years, with slow pitstops and clunky strategies. However, he’s been doing very well this year, while the Mercedes vehicles have been unreliable.

Sergio Perez will be replacing Lewis Hamilton at McLaren. And, for those who think this was all about money, McLaren offered him more to stay.

Neil Young Reveals Pono Music Player

Neil Young has appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman to promote Pono, a high-quality digital music service that will launch next year. Rolling Stone reports that Pono will be comprised of a music downloads store, a tool that converts digital audio files into analog-sounding recordings, and a series of audio players. Young showed off a prototype Pono player to Letterman, and the design is nothing if not unique — it’s a bright yellow triangular prism with a small screen and simple controls. The player will, according to Young, play back Pono master files with “the best sound anyone can get.”

If you want to be That Guy, you can pair it with Beats headphones.

Yahoo Products Must Now Ship In 6 Months

According to Nicholas Carlson of Business Insider, Marissa Mayer is laying down the laws at Yahoo1:

Mayer’s rule: If a new product can’t be shipped in six months, and if it doesn’t have a realistic shot of reaching 100 million users or generate $100 million toward the company’s top line, then Yahoo will no longer bother.

That’s a steep goal. I’m assuming that this means that there will be no more new products from Yahoo in the near future, only big updates to current high-ranking products.2


  1. Punctuation in brand names other than periods can bite my ass. ↩︎

  2. I sincerely hope this means that Flickr will be getting a huge overhaul. I’ve tried 500px, but I still prefer Flickr. ↩︎

Gotham Logos

New(ish) Tumblr from Under Construction, the guys behind the Brand New logo blog:

A repository of logos that use any style and weight of the Gotham type family by Hoefler & Frere-Jones. The purpose isn’t to mock its ubiquity, belittle the results, or pigeonhole the designers that use it but to demonstrate its flexibility and adaptability to any number of graphic approaches and executions.

‘Scuse Me While I Fix This Tripe

Matthew Panzarino nukes the idiotic rumour going around that the iPhone 5 camera’s lens is broken because it shows lens flare:

This is an optical effect sometimes called purple fringing, which can be related to a variety of things including stray infrared light, stray UV light, anti-reflective lens coatings, image processing or bloom from overexposure. These effects are exacerbated in very bright light and with lens flare. […]

The iPhone 5′s image is better by far and actually produces reduced flare, so I’d call that an improvement.

Hence my stupid link title.

Robots Versus Journalists

Hugo Macdonald for Monocle‘s Monocolumn:

“Content provider” is one of the uglier terms to have slipped into everyday vocabulary. It stems from the internet referring to a person or organisation that delivers the content to fill the software; the meat to go on the bones. But thanks to the surge of online media, content provision has alarmingly become synonymous with journalism.

Why Ads Are Looking More Like Smartphone Photography

Katherine Rosman for the Wall Street Journal1:

Over the summer, Google hired documentary director David Gelb to shoot a TV commercial for Google Fiber high-speed Internet access. Mr. Gelb interviewed residents of Kansas City about how better Web access might change their lives. The client requested that he shoot more and more with a smartphone.

At first, he was reluctant. But after examining the smartphone footage, he says, he understood.

“User-generated content—the feel and the actual images—is very intimate, and that visual language is very familiar to people,” he says.

The inherent irony of this is that despite their efforts to make these ads feel more genuine, they cost about the same as a campaign shot with pro photo gear, thereby becoming less genuine as a result.


  1. Since the article is behind the WSJ’s paywall, you can view it with via a Google referral↩︎

VSCO Cam Update

Adds support for the iPhone 5, and fixes a few nasty bugs. This is still my go-to app for post-processing on the go. You should check it out.

iCloud Backup

Marco Arment:

The other day, my grandfather asked me if he could get rid of the who-knows-what PC for good, but he wanted to make sure that he could transfer his stuff to a new iPad in the future if this one ever broke. (Good question.) I told him to bring it to the nearby Apple Store and have them set up “ICLOUD BACKUP” for him. (He wrote that down.)

I figured that a “Genius” would quickly figure out whether it still had iOS 4, and if so, would just update it to iOS 5 or 6 and then set up iCloud backup.

But instead of doing a routine update, the Genius did a restore. And, apparently, didn’t explain what that was going to mean.

Communication of finicky technical stuff is still a challenge to those less-versed in it, but there’s no excuse for stuff like this.

I spend a while every month helping both of my parents with their respective computer problems (which have decreased since they both got a Mac, for what it’s worth). I set my father’s iMac up with Time Machine, and most things chug along normally. But every so often, something goes awry, and the things I end up fixing tend to be aspects of normal computer usage. They’re problems that you and I have managed to work around, but they’re frustrating behaviours to most people.

There’s a long way to go.

HP Envy Spectre XT

Sean Hollister reviews the HP Spectre XT for The Verge:

While the Spectre XT isn’t a complete clone of Apple’s [MacBook Air] — with rather different lid, hinge, speaker, and trackpad designs — the overall effect is clearly crafted to attract people who want a MacBook Air with Windows on board. […] [W]hile the earlier Envy 14 Spectre felt like a breath of fresh air, the Spectre XT honestly comes off as derivative

This looks like a MacBook Air that’s been hit with the ugly stick. As I wrote earlier this month:

I don’t protest against ripoffs from a lawyerly perspective (that’s Nilay Patel’s job), or even an art student’s perspective. It’s a simple fact that one cannot produce a better product by copying a current one.

Another missed opportunity.

Another Edition in My Ongoing Series of Articles Wherein I Attempt to Translate the True Meaning of Comments Related to AT&T’s Blocking of FaceTime Over 3G

The FCC has yet to comment on AT&T’s decision to limit FaceTime over cellular connections, but in remarks made today at Vox Media’s offices in Washington, DC, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski suggested that the agency would review complaints about the service. Genachowski said that he couldn’t comment specifically on AT&T at this time, but that if a good-faith effort to resolve the issue “doesn’t lead to a resolution and a complaint is filed, we will exercise our responsibilities and we will act.”

Translation: “In keeping with our usual level of effectiveness and AT&T’s expected level of customer service, we do not intend to force them to do a damn thing.”